Before I had a baby, I loved my dogs. Not just loved, but actually enjoyed my dogs. Before I had a baby, I found the crazy antics of my dogs endearing. Although I would have preferred to have the perfect dogs who listened all the time, I really didn’t mind having to wrestle them for laundry or trash that they dug out of the garbage. I didn’t mind having to constantly search for their toys that were lost in the couch or that they knowingly took outside, although it was forbidden. The barking was a little annoying, but eh, I could handle it. My husband and I would spend a wealth of time thinking of different dog friendly family outings. We would drive further to go hiking at a more dog friendly location. We would spend hours trying to get them acclimated to the scary lake water at the dog park. And, most importantly, if we were seated on the couch, they were cuddled up with us.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a day would come where I wasn’t completely enamored by my dogs. I had seen and heard friends complaining about their dogs after having kids. I had even seen several friends re-home their dog after having kids, but I never envisioned that I would be one of those people.
Now let me be clear, I have never once considered re-homing my dogs. I simply do not believe in it. But, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t spent many a day, since giving birth, utterly disgusted by the sight of their furry little faces.
Having a baby brings on a whole new set of aggravating dog challenges. For starters, babies come with lots of things. Colorful things in funny shapes that are just small enough to fit snugly into the gaping mouth of a Labrador or Catahoula. My dogs are so insistent on destroying things, they even managed to steal and chip a glass baby bottle. If you think any of your baby items are indestructible, think again. When there’s a will, dogs will find a way.
In addition to things, babies also come with deliciously tasty poopy diapers that always seem to be just within reach, no matter how far you push them down into the trashcan or how tightly you close the lid.
Then, there’s that barking that I mentioned before. Now, it seems as though cars only pass my house immediately after my nap-resistant infant finally dozes off.
In that first month after I brought baby A home, I was totally overwhelmed and my dogs received the brunt of my discontent. Everything they did was just a little more aggravating than it had ever been before, to the point that just smiling in their general direction became a chore. That’s when I started to feel like a horrible person.
Although I still loved my dogs, I had stopped loving the time we spent together. That needed to change. My dogs were my first babies. They have loved me and protected me every day since I brought them into this household. Their unconditional love is totally deserving of a more patient mommy, a mommy who isn’t easily frustrated, doesn’t constantly raise her voice and a mommy who focuses on all the wonderful training techniques we learned together in doggy class. They deserved the mommy they had before baby A’s arrival or at least as close as I could get. Because honestly, once you become Mom to a human baby, there’s no going back.
Here are some strategies I used to the breathe the love back into the mommy-dog relationship:
- Breathe – Just like you do with aggravating people, when you feel yourself losing it, just breathe. This is one of those easy to say, harder to do kind if things. So, it will definitely take practice.
- Put things into perspective – Realistically, this is the same dog. The dog has not changed. You have changed and that is okay. You just had a baby! That being said, these issues with your dog are 100% without a doubt your problem, not the dog’s. The good news is that, as you and your baby settle in to a routine, which will take time, you will be in a much better place emotionally. This means your dog will become much easier to handle. Have a little faith and patience.
- Train yourself – This one was hard for me. It will probably be hard for you too. The truth is, if the dog is eating your baby items or diapers, that is 100% your fault. Let’s just own up to that right now. Now that you have a baby, you need to dog proof your house more than ever. Make a doubly conscious effort to put all items out of your dog’s reach . This includes toys, binkis, blankets, bottles, everything! And as for those freaking diapers, bungee cord your trashcan or move it into a cabinet. Keep all of your dirty diapers in the bathroom trashcan and shut the door religiously. Do whatever it takes to save yourself the hassle of scrubbing smeared feces off the floor.
- Train your dog – Most of us have already trained our dogs, but now is the time to hone those skills. Take a few extra seconds each time you interact with your dog to build in simple obedience practice. For example, making them sit and wait before eating their dinner or crossing the threshold of a doorway is a great and simple way to build self control.
- Focus on the positive – This is probably the most important of all the tips. It really helped me tremendously. I would repeat these basic things to myself multiple times each and every day. Doing so really remind me of the wonderful gifts my dogs are to my family.
- For starters, science has proven that people with pets tend to live longer, happier lives. My dog is literally giving me the gift of life. Amazing!
- Science has also proven that children who live with pets in the home have stronger, healthier immune systems. Each and every day, the mere presence of my dogs is helping my sweet little baby kick the butts of tons of nasty germs. A dog is truly baby’s best friend.
- When it comes to home protection, dogs also make a great first line of defense. Whether large or small, dogs let no jogger go unnoticed.
- And of course, when you do have the time, they really do make excellent cuddle buddies.
Now that I am 4 months in, I can officially say my puppies and I are back in the love zone. The bottom line is, although it may be overwhelming at times, remember that you do actually love and enjoy your dog. With time, patience and a little effort you will get to a better place. A place where dog and baby gleefully co-exist. A place where you effortlessly exist as the loving dog-mom of your glory days. A place where you thrive, not just survive.
Here’s to adjusting! Here’s to thriving! Here’s to loving our dogs! Forever.