Fur babies. That’s what we call our pets before we have little human babies of our own. As a pet owner, I would post pictures of my dogs like they were kids. There were trips to the park, special birthday cookies, birthday hats on occasion, couch cuddles, and so many more special bonding things. There was even a time where the dogs were actually allowed on the bed! For all intensive purposes, pets are our babies especially if we have them from puppyhood (or kittenhood, for you weird cat owners).
Then life changes. It’s a slow change, starting with a growing belly and buying some baby things. Pet are curious– sniffing around, nudging your belly, being the extra shadow (and the constant tripping hazard) you didn’t know you even needed. Picture that scene from Lady and the Tramp when Lady starts wondering, “What is a baby? I just can’t understand. It must be something wonderful… ’cause everybody’s smiling in a kind and wistful way. And they haven’t even noticed that I’m around today.” One question runs through every pet parent’s mind: How do we prepare our fur baby for our human baby? Worlds colliding.
There are different schools of thought on this, really.
Some parents make sure to prepare their pets for the baby from day one. After the birth of their new bundle, they may send dad home with a baby scented blanket for the pets to sniff and explore. Other parents may set up a gate to allow their pets visual access to the new addition for a short period of time before the real introduction. There are parents who don’t allow the baby and pets to have much contact, if any.
The other way is to just dive right in. I intended to be in the first camp of a slow introduction with my pets and little guy, but I turned out to be more in this second camp. My husband wasn’t able to run home before we returned home for good (mostly because of exhaustion and not wanting to be away from our new kid). The first time our dogs got a whiff of their new baby brother was when he strolled in the door. This can be an iffy way to introduce your pets and kid, but it all comes down to how much you let your pets interact with your child.
After introduction comes the real challenge: Living together. Everyone has their opinions when it comes to letting pets interact with children. If you’re like me (who has two big dogs), people were not shy about giving their opinion. “Your dog could bite your baby. You don’t want them too close. Don’t let them lick your baby.” and on and on and on.
With any pet there is always a risk of injury to any person. They are animals, after all. They do have teeth and are definitely capable of biting. But one thing to remember is that you know your pet(s). You know their limitations and their reactions. You understand how they tick. You know if they can handle a baby pulling on their face or if that will cause anxiety for the pet. Everyone will have opinions on your pets and kid(s) interacting but all that matters is how you feel about it. If you teach your child proper pet handling and boundaries (how you treat your pet) then the chances of any physical harm in the future will be the furthest thing from your mind!
And some pets just aren’t great with kids. This happens sometimes. Parents are able to navigate those waters by putting up baby gates to keep pets separate when it’s time for some floor play for their little one.
Just keep reminding yourself that you know your pet and what they can handle. The words of outsiders shouldn’t impact how your child(ren) and pet(s) interact. Someone will lose some fur at some point. Someone may get knocked down a time or two. Things happen when worlds collide. But bonds are also formed. Love grows and cuddles multiply with our fur babies and human babies. Watching my son squeal at the sight of our german shepherd makes me laugh so much. Our pit bull mix is a big cuddle bug and just wants to kiss W all the time. He loves his pups.
And, let’s be real, a little dog slobber never hurt anyone.