Parenting

How Do You Get Your Dog Ready for Baby?

Jenny Benjamin
27

dog and belly
Ruby and the belly
About a year and a half ago, my husband and I adopted our first baby: a big, shiny, beautiful black Lab that we named Ruby. Ever since then, we've been loving her and doting on her and spoiling her rotten. Although initially we swore we would never let her on the furniture, I will now literally drag my pregnant body up and to another seat so that there's room for Ruby on the couch. We also swore she'd never sleep with us, and we kind of enforce it ... until 2 a.m. when she sneaks up on the bed and wiggles her way between us. Oh yeah, and we held on to the "no people food" rule for a long time ... until my pregnancy rendered me super-klutzy and food scraps started bouncing off of my belly and onto the floor, where they remained. So, yeah, now she eats people food, too.

Now, with two babies on the way, my husband and I are a little concerned about what poor, spoiled Ruby is going to think about all of this. Our sweet pooch, the first baby, is about to be usurped.

If you've ever rescued a dog, you know that they are often the sweetest, most grateful little furballs on the planet. But, you don't really know their background, so you often find yourself piecing together certain canine behaviors, looking for clues that will reveal their history. (Side note: this is when a Basset Hound detective in a tweed coat would come in handy, no?)

Anyway, here's what we know about Ruby: she and her brother were found wandering the streets, without their collars, but totally healthy and people-friendly and well-trained. Not only did Ruby come ready-made and housebroken, but she also knew how to fetch, sit, and shake and seemed a little slutty when it came to showing people affection. We've brought young children and babies around her, and the way she'll gently take a treat out of a 2-year-old's hand, or walk gingerly around a toddler, leads us to believe that she must have been with children in her last home.

Anyway, ever since my second trimester, Ruby's been acting just a little bit differently. While she used to always lie with my husband on the couch, a few months ago, she started snuggling up with me instead, scooting her head against the side of my belly, where one of my boys is nestled. She's also started to sniff at me strangely in the last couple of weeks, like I've got some kind of foreign baby smell coming off of me. She'll get her face right in my face, or stick her nose in my belly, or run her snout up and down my arm, but instead of licking me, she'll just sniff all around like, "What IS that peculiar scent?"

But, in the nursery, she goes kind of bonkers. Over the last few weeks, as we've been assembling baby furniture and putting up decals and filling baskets with swaddle blankets, we've noticed that Ruby has reverted to puppy behavior. She'll jump in the air to lick our faces, try to sit on top of us when we're on the floor, or throw her body against our legs and turn herself around and around, desperate for tummy rubs and affection. And, ultimately, after she's worn herself out with all of the "Hey, what about me?" shenanigans, she plops herself down in the middle of the room, with a forlorn look on her face. (Of course, I'm reading it as depression when, in fact, she's probably just bored).

The thing is, I know that she's not sensing the babies in the nursery -- right now, I'm their mobile home! I'm wondering though what she is sensing. Is it our anxiety? Is it the impending change? Or could it just be that the sight of boxes being packed or unpacked is making her nervous -- did her old owners move and leave their two dogs behind? I've kind of determined that maybe the smell of Dreft coming off of all the newly-washed baby clothes and crib sheets is triggering some kind of sense memory in her. As soon as I pull those little onesies out of the dryer, she's got her face all up in them, tail wagging like crazy. Could it be that she's been down this road before? 

She has been our #1 for a long time now, and as much as she loves a house full of people, I don't want her to feel abandoned or resentful when the babies arrive. So, I've been gathering as much information as I can on how to get a dog ready for babies. I've heard it's smart to let the dog sniff your baby's receiving blanket, before he or she gets home, so that it can get used to the little one's scent. I also heard that once the baby is home, you should have the dog smell the poopy diapers, as some form of imprinting that will help it accept your baby into the pack. My husband spoke to a trainer, who recommended making the baby a positive for the dog. So, rather than run her out of the nursery, you acknowledge the dog and show her love and give her some "good girl" talk while you're nursing or snuggling the baby. (And for the record, I have no issue with letting my dog around my babies. I believe in the "barnyard theory" that a little bit of dog hair and dirt actually helps boost children's immunities.) 

So, it all sounds worth a shot to me, and I'm thinking that as long as she's still getting walks with my husband and snuggles on the couch, she might not care about having to share her parents with two new pups. Still, I'd love any suggestions.

What have you found (or heard) helps introduce your dog to a new baby? 

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