Considerations for those thinking about getting a dog before the baby.

After we got married, my husband and I decided to bring in our first edition to our family: our lovable goofball of a dog Charley. We were married for about 3 months before we brought him home, and he forever changed our lives. Thinking back to those days, I certainly wouldn’t say I regret getting a dog before I had kids. He’s a big part of our lives now, and there’s absolutely nothing I would change about the make up of our family. But, now that we have a rugrat running around, there are certainly things I never considered before  my daughter came along, and I decided to bring a dog into our family.

First off, having a dog, especially a young dog (Charley was about 2 when my daughter was born) makes raising your first child a lot harder. The needs of your pup never go away, and the stress of a newborn and being a first time mom coupled with the needs of a dog can be very overwhelming. The first week of my daughter’s life, I had to send my dog to my parents so that I could handle everything going on with my newborn. My daughter had some small hurdles in the beginning of her life that required me and my husband’s round the clock attention. We weren’t exactly equipped to address our dog’s needs too, and his needs didn’t miraculously disappear now that a baby was around. I recognize now that it wasn’t the most fair situation to the dog. He acted super strange for about 2 weeks after she was born. He also started misbehaving terribly due to his need for attention. I think he destroyed ten toys and six pacifiers in his quest for some TLC.

Further, we had to watch him like a hawk. We still do, but to a much lesser extent. I’ve always taken the position you should never fully trust your dog. He is an animal and will react the only way he knows how: instinctively. But, the beginning was definitely the highest stress. Charley is an absolute sweetheart. He’s never bitten or nipped anyone, and he spent a fair amount of time with my niece  before my daughter was born so I knew he was alright with kids. But, this was different. My daughter just entered his domain, and had turned his world upside down. I was worried he might not take too kindly to her. Constant vigilance to ensure he was behaving appropriately and safely was a requirement. It added a lot of stress.

As I said earlier, he also started to misbehave, which was due in part to the lack of attention we were giving his and his reduction in exercise. We really didn’t have the time to walk him or run around with him. Me and my husband were exhausted, and eventually my husband went back to work. So it was just me, the baby, and him, and sometimes he drove me crazy with his need for attention. What helped us tremendously here is our decision to up the amount of times he went to doggy daycare. His daycare is great. He gets plenty of exercise and socialization there, and that helped reduce his incidents of poor behavior. But, if you don’t have this option you will need to find a way to get some exercise in for your dog, or you might be dealing with a bored terror on your hands.

When you decide to get a dog you aren’t exactly thinking about the details that will make a huge difference when you decide to have kids. You just assume everything will be fine. You don’t consider the added stress, the need to continuously train your dog to be a good citizen of your house, and the possibility there will be difficulties along the way. If you are considering getting a dog before you have kids, I recommend you do so well in advance of your first child so that you can properly train him or her. I don’t know how people get puppies, then immediately have a baby.

If I were to make the decision again, I would have waited until after we had our baby to get Charley.  I know my life would have been a lot easier if I wasn’t required to split some of my focus between my daughter and my dog. It was a huge adjustment. But, I don’t consider this an admission of regret for getting my dog. I’m just now blessed with the gift of hindsight. For us, it worked out. Charley didn’t have any major problems with my daughter besides some minor behavioral issues. I can’t imagine if things went south, and we had to face a situation where we had to choose between the dog or the baby (obviously we’d choose the baby). That is something you have to consider before you get a dog and have a kid: what if the dog presents some serious issues? Are you prepared to make a tough decision?

Where Charley and my daughter are now is an absolutely beautiful place. She adores him, and he is finally starting to appreciate her. It’s the most heartwarming thing to watch them together and know she gets to grow up with him. But, it took a lot of steps to get there. Also, if you think that getting a dog will somehow prepare you for having a child, you are very mistaken or an insane person. Caring for a baby is like caring for dog times a million. And last I checked it’s frowned upon to put crying babies in cages. Don’t use some lame excuse like that to justify getting a pet. They are in no way even close to being the same. If you are planning to have a baby soon or are currently pregnant, just take the time to seriously consider whether you would be ready to care for a dog and a baby before you take the plunge.

 

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