Having a Baby and a Dog

Our lab, Mackie was 13 months old when our daughter, Elizabeth, was born. Since my husband was deployed for most of my pregnancy, Mackie became very protective of me. He slept at the foot of the bed, was always next to me, and became very accustomed to daily trips to the dog park, as well as long walks and basically having my undivided attention for seven months straight.

Hubby returned from Afghanistan about six weeks before Elizabeth was born; to say Mackie had a major shock to his comfortable lifestyle would be an understatement. After Elizabeth arrived, we had my parents take Mackie a hospital swaddle for Mackie to smell, but not play with. We hoped that by smelling both Elizabeth and my scent, Mackie would recognize Elizabeth when we arrived home from the hospital.

When that day arrived, Mackie was more excited to see his ‘mom and dad’ than anything. He more or less ignored Elizabeth for a few hours, despite us allowing him to smell her. That evening we put up a baby gate and blocked Mackie out of Sister’s room. This accomplished three things. First, it allowed our pup to see the three of us and know that we were ok. Second, it prevented him from trying to jump up on us while we cuddled Elizabeth. And lastly, it allowed Hubby to safely let Mackie to sniff Elizabeth while holding her down at his level.

For the first 3 months, Mackie was rarely allowed to be in the same room as Elizabeth while she was having tummy time. As gentle and kind as our pup is, he was not very aware of where his whole body was at any given moment. He also has a habit of needing to be practically sitting on me if I was on the floor. This made it difficult for me to be close to Elizabeth while fending off a hyper puppy. When I would allow him to smell our sweet baby, he would ‘nose’ Elizabeth and essentially roll her from her tummy to her back. Again, he was incredibly gentle, but we were so terrified that he would accidently step on her!

During those first few months I made an effort to play with Mackie every day, even if only for five minutes. I would buckle Elizabeth in her swing and play fetch in the back yard, or wear her in the Ergo and go on walks. Sadly, the days of the dog park are over since it’s just not safe to wear a baby and try to wrangle playing dogs away from one another. It was also very difficult to walk Mackie while Elizabeth was still in her infant seat stroller attachment. Actually, it is still quite the work out to push a stroller and walk Mackie at the same time!

I won’t lie and say I have never wished we didn’t have a dog. There are days that I am so fed up with his antics (for example, the time he caught a bird and killed it on our couch while I was out running errands) that I just want to give him away. But in my heart I’d never seriously consider doing such a thing. He got me through my first deployment and he is a wonderful playmate for Elizabeth. Now that she is mobile, they are always right next to each other. Mackie lets her climb all over him, pull at his ears, and stick her hands in his mouth. We are teaching Elizabeth to be gentle with her dog, and to not take his chew-toys, play in his food dishes, or feed him from her high chair. They actually will share toys and pass them back and fourth between one another. And when one of them is engrossed in something, the other goes right up to them and starts checking out the object of attention.

Mackie has come a long way from stealing the socks off of infant Elizabeth’s feet while she napped in her swing (now he goes for her hair bows). It took more patience than I knew I had, but we would not trade having a dog and baby for anything in the world.

4 Responses to Having a Baby and a Dog

  1. Seriously so cute! We had two big and super active dogs before we had Tenley too. And we too were super nervous they were going to play too rough around her. Or not know she was there and trample her. But we were so amazed at how well they adapted and how gentle they were with her. We don’t have them any more because with the hours Tom was putting in at work I just couldn’t take care of ten and give them to attention and exercise they needed. (Totally there with you with not being able to walk them with a baby in a stroller). So we found them new homes. But I do still miss them like crazy and hopefully we will be able to manage another dog down the road. That pic of your dog and Elizabeth is so adorable!

  2. The truth of this article makes me cry. We had 2 boxers for 6 years before we had joie and their lives drastically changed once kids started showing up. Sadly they have both passed away but they helped our children in so many ways. I strongly believe in having a family pet. They bring so much joy and love. Although throughout their 10 years I wanted to strangle them more than a few times ;)

  3. Wonderful article. I have such happy memories of the beagle-mix that was in my parents’ lives when I was born. And I know the hard times that come with having a dog and a baby are why they didn’t get another dog until they were done having kids and none of us were babies anymore. I adore the photos of Mackie with your little girl!

  4. So cute and great read! When I was pregnant with my first child, Sara I used a book called Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby. It was really helpful and came with a baby sounds and toy noises. Max (my fur child!) took some time to get used to the sounds but the book helped on how to do it. It gave me advice on what changes will occur and how to prepare my Max for them. It also talked about the causes for aggression and why it might occur and how to avoid it. It is written by a vet behaviorist too so it cover health issues as well - mayb that will help someone else!

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