Why would anyone expect a dog to readily accept a tiny new pack member who hogs all the attention and generates weird smells and sounds? Countless dogs are given up by new parents worried about their baby's safety, and we didn't want that to be our story. When I was pregnant with our first child, we hired a trainer to help us ease the transition for our dog. I remember a few smirks and giggles from friends and family, but several years and a few kids later, I still say that it's some of the best time and money we ever spent.
We worked with Janice Triptow, a Chicago-based trainer who teaches a popular Rover Meets Junior class. Janice came to our house, met our dachshund, Hirschl, and asked us some basic questions about H's place in our lives and how we envisioned our daily routines once we brought home our baby. We weren't just worried about the baby's safety; when I got Hirschl, babies weren't even on my event horizon, so of course I ended up with a dachshund, a breed with a delicate spine that doesn't always do best in families with small children. Still, he was here first and setting him up to succeed with a baby was part of our ongoing commitment to him.
In consultation with Janice, we designated spots in the nursery and kitchen where Hirschl would go on command to be close to the action, out of harm's way and out of our way. We talked about strategies for walking with a dog and a baby and even planned for my return from the hospital, when my husband held the baby so that I could happily give Hirschl a few minutes of my undivided attention before slipping off one of my son's tiny socks for a feet-first introduction (he already knew his scent from a baby hat that we had sent home from the hospital). When we brought home twin girls two years later Hirschl was equally amazing and gentle, and every day I am grateful for my furry firstborn, our kids, and their mutual affection, respect and devotion.
For expectant parents who don't have access to a trainer or a class, there are some great books out there. The one that I always send to friends is Barbara Shumannfang's Happy Kids, Happy Dogs, which has excellent advice for families with kids and dogs at all ages and stages.
(Image: Rachael Michael, 2000/Metropolitan Imageworks, used with permission)