Dogs and babies have the potential to go together like peas and carrots. (We’ve all seen the toddler napping with his puppy.) But in between adorable photo-ops, it’s not uncommon for your four-legged firstborn to feel left out while much of your attention is devoted to the newest family member.
With a bit of extra care, however, you can include Fido in new family rituals and create mom-and-pup moments between diaper changes and tummy time. Here’s how:
Dogs are routine-oriented, says Heidi Ganahl, founder and CEO of Camp Bow Wow, and keeping consistency after a new baby helps them adjust to changes in the household. “Parents will want to make sure that, once the baby is home, they take at least 15 minutes a day to do something with the dog,” she says. “Whether it’s a going on a walk, playing ball in the backyard or doing some other activity that the dog enjoys, it’s important to spend some quality alone time together.”
Try leaving your partner with the baby and taking the dog out for exercise and some quiet time away from home. You’ll benefit from a parenting break and some fresh air, and daddy will get a few extra solo snuggles with baby while you’re away.
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Amanda McKinley, one of our Adventures in Motherhood bloggers, shares, “[My husband and I] switch off, so one of us can watch the baby, and the other can take our dog for a one-on-one walk or play fetch.”
If your budget permits, consider enlisting the services of a local dog walker. Fido will appreciate the extra attention and time outdoors—and you’ll be relieved of your guilt.
Sit, stay, relax
After a fun-filled day of pat-a-cake and baby kisses, there is nothing better than collapsing on the couch with a glass of wine or cup of tea—especially when your fur ball curls up next to you.
Former Adventures in Motherhood blogger Charli North even finds a few opportunities for puppy lovin’ throughout the day: “When baby Rowan’s down for a nap, [our dog] Finn and I spend some time on the couch together like we used to do before baby.”
Time with your dog contributes to a better overall mood and health, notes Ganahl. In fact, studies show that pets help to lower blood pressure and that people with pets make fewer visits to the doctor and are less likely to suffer from depression.
New leash on life
Even with a baby on board, your canine companion can accompany you on leisurely walks and trips to the bank, dry cleaners or coffee shops with pet-friendly patios. “Each morning, I take both boys out for a walk around the neighborhood,” says North.
If you have friends with dogs and babies, consider bringing your pup along for playdates. Dogs are very social creatures and being isolated from humans is devastating for them, warns Ganahl. Not only will your pup and peanut get to enjoy the company of their own kind, but you’ll also get catch up with your mama friends. Everybody wins!
Sniff it out
Although dedicated dog time is important, so, too, is allowing your babe and pup to get to know each other. “Finn’s been welcome to observe and join in on our baby tasks from the beginning,” shares North. “We didn’t want him to feel replaced or excluded, so we did our best to make him part of the new routines. Finn lays next to the chair during storytime and feedings, and he’s often right by my side when I go in to get Rowan out of his crib.”
The benefits of allowing your baby to interact with animals are numerous and include building your child’s immune system, teaching him compassion and respect for others’ boundaries, and creating exposure for children who might otherwise be afraid of animals.
“Children who grow up with pets have a lesser risk of allergies and asthma,” Ganahl says. “Having a dog in the household helps children learn how to be responsible because of all that goes into keeping a pet healthy and happy. Children look to their parents on how to treat others, including animals, so having a dog helps to teach compassion as well.”
Mom’s best friend
“A dog’s love is unconditional, and that absolute commitment is wonderful for a new parent,” attests McKinley. “Even on the days when I feel like nothing is going my way—the baby is screaming, laundry is piling up, I haven’t seen my husband in a week—our dog is always there to offer a sloppy kiss of encouragement. She thinks I’m awesome even when I feel like I’m at my worst!”
Your furry friend was your first baby and continues to sit faithfully at your feet. Take a moment each day to let him know you think he’s awesome, too.