I get asked a lot what it was like bringing a baby into our home where our dog was for so long the center of our world. I always just shrugged my shoulders and answered with a sleep-deprived, "I dunno. Fine?" until I realized I actually have some solid pointers. I feel this is a perfect moment for me to tell you something: a lot of the time I have no idea what I'm talking about. That's fair, right? Take or leave my advice. All that matters is that after you have a baby you do what you can to feel sane. And if that means cloth diapering and breast feeding for a year, BRAVO. And if it means using formula so you can sleep and looking forward to your maternity leave being over, than GOOD FOR YOU, too.
Without further ado, my Top 5 Tips for Bringing a Baby into a Home where Dog is Queen (or King, woof)...
1. While you're still at the hospital, send home one of the baby's blankets with a friend/relative/delivery boy that your dog feels comfortable with.
Here are my two munchkins meeting for the first time, fresh from the hospital. Because we did the blanket trick, Rose's scent was already somewhat familiar to Olive. At least, I assume. It's not like she told me.
2. As much as you want to protect your baby, let your dog explore.
You have to trust your gut and use your judgement. But, within reason and while keeping a close watch, let your dog sniff and hover and lick and explore. The only way your pooch is going to feel comfortable with this screaming alien that's taken over your lives is to let him try to figure out what the hell is going on.
3. Get Fido involved! Make sure he's still part of the action, even if he's timid and you have to invite him to snuggle up.
Olive wanted nothing to do with Rose in the beginning. Not because she didn't like her, but because I don't think she really cared. She's 7 years old, and all she really wants to do is sleep in her bed and "EXCUSE ME, if you don't have a treat and you're not going to play with me, you can please go away, THANK YOU."
We made it a point to call Olive from the depths of her slumber and politely command her to lay down next to Rose. Just including her in the family fun (my words, not hers) helped with the adjustment period.
4. Let your baby get all up in that dog's business.
This is something we're still working on, because as Rose gets older (she's almost 10 months now!) she gets more aggressive. The key to this one is to start early, and as your baby grows older and stronger, teach them how to "pet nicely" and "be gentle." The more you can let your kid get to know your dog, the more your kid will respect and understand that your dog isn't just a dog -- she's a family member.
5. Play together!
Rose just recently started walking. Whatever. It's nowhere near as exciting as two days ago when I saw her THROW A BALL TO OLIVE. You guys, it was probably the cutest thing I've ever seen. And when I say "throw" I mean "let the ball fall into her lap and roll onto the ground, where Olive pounced on it." But what got me was that Rose totally knew what was going on. She knew Olive was waiting for the ball, and she knew how to interact with her. Encouraging your first and second born to interact from the very beginning will foster a relationship built on trust. Or some shit.
So, that's it. Like I said, do what feels right. Everyone's dog is different and certainly babies range from total spaz to perfect angel. As long as you're teaching your kids how important it is to treat the animals on this planet with respect, you're doing just fine, Mama.