Kids and dogs .... it can work
Miranda Wimbush and Mike Bourque were both Animatch Volunteers – we like to say they are taking a “leave of absence”. Since so many dogs are given up as soon a baby is on the scene, Animatch was interested in how this couple made it work. Miranda shares her experience.
When my husband and I found out that we were expecting a child we were overjoyed, but like many new parents we had a lot of questions. One of the concerns that was forefront in both our minds was, “How will Tulip, Roxy and Nelly react to the addition?.” Our dogs had always been like our kids, we spent all our time with them and planned our weekends and vacations to include them. We both wanted to make sure that the transition to parenthood was as smooth as possible for them. I am trained as a vet tech and dog trainer, but I wanted to make sure we had as much information as possible and that we were both on the same page, so we enrolled in a seminar that covered how to prepare the dogs for the baby’s arrival as well as how to help them adapt once the baby is a toddler. We played sounds of crying babies, placed baby toys and furniture around the house for the dogs to get used to and helped the dogs get used to being separated from us by baby gates or tethers. We also planned out who would care for the dogs while we were in the hospital and hired a dog walker for the first few months to ensure the dog's exercise requirements were met.
When our son, Alfie arrived I was pleasantly surprised by how relaxed they were around him. They seemed to take everything in stride and adapted to their new life. Though they certainly did get less attention in the beginning they still enjoyed having company all day. My husband would walk them in the morning and then the dog walker would come and take them out and then they would sleep by me while I cared for the baby. Once the weather warmed up I started to go out for daily walks with them, and Alfie would ride snuggled up in his carrier. This soon became our new routine that all of us looked forward to.
Now that Alfie is almost 18 months old he is very active and the dogs have had to adapt to that as well. Unless an adult is actively watching them the are separated by baby gates, as Alfie is at the stage that he runs towards them and I want to ensure that they don't develop negative associations with him. When he is sleeping they have full access to the house, and enjoy sleeping in the bed. We supervise any interactions by holding Alfie and guiding his hand to help him pet as he tends to grab hair. We still take daily walks and the girls have adapted to walking with the stroller. They love our morning trips to the park and backyard playtime together.
With some effort and planning I feel that we helped make the transition better for our dogs. Although their lives are different now, they still have excellent quality of life. With a few adaptations it is possible for dogs and babies to cohabit safely and peacefully. The joy it brings us to watch our son grow up surrounded by animals and learn how to care for them makes it all worthwhile