My husband and I partially think of our pet dog as our first child. She came to us as a baby puppy and we trained her to behave, to learn commands, and even to know a fairly extensive vocabulary. She is our companion at home and even on some of our vacations. We love her and think of her as 100% part of our family. Of course, now that our daughter is here, our pup takes a back seat sometimes. Sometimes her wants and needs are satisfied a few minutes later than they did previously. Sometimes she doesn’t get the same amount of attention as she used to get. Regardless, we do everything we can to ensure our dog knows just how much she is loved.
When you bring a new baby home, your life can turn upside-down in more ways than one. Sleep schedules are off, eating may consist of lots of takeout and anything else you can find in the cupboards and freezer…. Your dog may immediately sense that something is different. He or she may make an additional effort to spend more time with you, practically on top of you, even, showering you with more love and affection than ever before.
Our dog is a border collie and obviously loves to play, so she always has a toy of some kind in her mouth or nearby. It gets a bit dangerous when get gets underfoot with her ball, especially when I am carrying the baby. It makes me nervous, but I am careful not to scold her, as I know she just wants the attention and wants to be loved as much as she was before the baby came. We are very careful with keeping the ball out of reach when we are not actively playing with it, for our own safety and our daughter’s.
Here are some things you can do to help your dog remain a very important part of the family despite you and your spouse having your attention pulled in new directions:
· Maintain a special routine of playtime with the dog, either in the morning or in the afternoon or early evening after work.
· Give your dog treats and practice his or her tricks on a daily basis. Even for just a moment or two, this kind of attention can go a long way.
· Make the time to sit on the floor and pet your dog or hold him or her in your lap. Our dog is medium sized, about 40 pounds, but she still loves to pretend she is a lap dog.
· Do things together with the dog and the baby. Go for walks around the neighborhood or over to the park.
· Teach your infant to love the dog, too. Practice gently petting the dog’s head or back. (Be sure your dog is friendly and would never bite your child. Avoid leaving the baby alone with the dog just to be safe.)
· Play fetch with the dog and encourage your child to watch as the dog retrieves the toys and comes running back to you. You’re sure to see your little one break into huge smiles in no time!
Remember, your pet may feel a little out of place or a bit replaced, so it is important to make that extra effort to show your pet you still care very much. Rather than shooing the dog away when he or she wants to play but you feel too busy, take a moment to toss the ball or scratch him behind the ears. Your pup may be feeling a little bit left out right now, but just wait until your son or daughter is big enough to run around and play. You can definitely look forward to those days and how cute they will be, playing together. Of course, your dog probably wouldn’t understand even if you tried to explain it, but the shared joy will be well worth the wait.