According to the Telegraph News in the UK, humans love their pet dogs in the same way as they do their children, and, scientists have discovered that the feeling is mutual!
Researchers found that the same hormone, oxytocin, spikes in both human and canine brains when a dog is gazing at its owner. Oxytocin is known to play a strong role in triggering feelings of unconditional love and protection when parents and children look into each other’s eyes or embrace.
These findings suggest that owners love their pets the same way they love family members, and dogs return their person’s devoted affection. Talk to any owner of a “fur child” and they will confirm that this discovery is no surprise to them!
(They don’t call it “Puppy Love” for nothing!)
I will be the first to admit that I am totally in this group of pet owners because we refer to my Belle as our oldest child, followed by my son, her little brother.
So, what happens when you go from a single “fur baby” to bringing home a real baby?
How do you prepare your dog for this?
This was a huge concern in our household, as Belle (my “fur child”) had already been with us for five years before my son joined us. Belle–being very well socialized and trained–even had her own room with a twin bed (and matching curtains and bedspread, because that’s how I roll) before the baby came home, and then it became his room.
Most of my friends already had children, so she was used to kids sitting on her, playing in her water dish, and going down slides at our park with the neighbourhood children – but now Belle was being knocked down from number one to number two. I wondered if I would have to worry about jealousy or aggression towards the new baby?
To prepare, I had a long meeting with my vet, and she gave us tips to start working with her long before we brought home baby.
Hopefully this will help your family transition as well, and I encourage you to go ahead and book an appointment with your veterinarian for advice and, frankly, peace of mind.
Tips for Preparing Your Dog for the New Baby
1) Address Any Behaviour Problems Now!
Establish boundaries around the nursery. Start with making the nursery off-limits. Train your dog to understand that there is an invisible barrier that she may not cross without your permission. Eventually, you’ll be able to allow your dog to explore and sniff things in the room with your supervision. Then you decide when she needs to leave. Repeat this activity a few times before the baby arrives. This will let your dog know that this room belongs to its pack leader/owner and must be respected at all times. (Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby | Cesar’s Way)
2) Establish A New Schedule
Caring for a baby is hard work, particularly in the first few months. Parenting a newborn leaves a lot less time for your pets, and will disrupt their normal schedule. Get them used to adjustments that you can anticipate now. For example, if someone else will be helping out with walks or feedings, consider having them start doing that now before Baby arrives.
3) Invest in a Carrier or Stroller Now
You and your dog can maintain your walking schedule, all you’ll need to do is take the baby along with you! For Mama, this has an added benefit of exercise, and exercise can help boost Mama’s postpartum mood and wellness. *Be forewarned: it will take some time for your dog to get used to walking behind the stroller and for you to manage a leash, the stroller, the dog, etc. Be patient, you’ll figure it out! Practice in advance, so you’re both masters by the time Baby is there!
4) Play the sounds of a baby’s cry
Find a recording of a baby crying (try YouTube or Soundcloud), and play it as loud as possible as you go about your day. Cesar Millan suggests that while it won’t be the same as the real thing, it can help get your dog accustomed to the sound and may help you identify (and address) any problem behaviours that it elicits.
5) Bring Something from the Hospital
Show your dog something that smells like Baby – just like with the boundary exercise in the nursery (tip #1), let your dog smell the new item, allowing him or her to get used to the smell of the baby so it will be less of a strange smell.
Start Now, don’t wait and by the time your baby comes all these changes will be the new normal.
Dominica AKA The Dog Doula
Dominica is mother to Connor, and incredible 9 year old, and several "fur-babies". She is also the owner of Dog'n'Jog, specializing in individualized or small group adventure programs for your K9 including not just physical exercise but mental exercise, using all their senses with customized games and training.
Find out more HERE!
I'm Kaya, the owner behind Cowichan Doula. I offer birth & postpartum doula services as well as prenatal classes in the Cowichan Valley area on Vancouver Island.