Posts Tagged ‘Dogs and New Babies’

Human Babies and Furry First Children: Creating Good Beginnings

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Remember what happens in Disney’s 1955 animation “Lady and the Tramp”? A sweet, little Victorian family has a gentle, pampered dog. Then they have a new baby. Lady the Spaniel is delighted about the baby, but the self-absorbed couple begins to ignore her. Aunt Sarah, who dislikes dogs, comes to watch baby and, eventually, Lady herself is on the street. Fortunately her walk on the wild side draws her to a real dog who lives by his wits. When push comes to shove, Tramp is a champ. He saves the baby from a rat, even though he almost ends up in the doggie gas chamber. The young father saves Tramp in the nick of time and finally, the reconciled Victorian household includes cute new baby, Lady, Tramp and the inevitable puppies. Nasty Aunt Sarah has been sent packing for fermenting trouble between people and their loyal pets. Disney’s mid century theme was timeless: an interspecies family can thrive.

In July 2012, I read “Prep Your Pet for Baby” in “Martha Stewart Living.” Our family was then expecting a new human baby. I wondered what Martha would have to say about the first meeting of interspecies family members. I was disappointed with the article on several significant points. “Martha Stewart Living” advises:

. Make a chart of needy behaviors your pet has developed and ignore them.
. Begin spending less and less time with your dog so you can reduce his playtime to two half hour sessions daily.
. Crate your dog while you play with the baby.

I think following these three points will guarantee a sad, disaffected dog that will dislike the baby and hold her responsible for his fall from grace.

I know what I’m barking about. When I had my two human babies, I had a Shih Tzu baby named Yang Kwei-fei. (OK, from her name, you can guess she was treated a if she was still in the Summer Palace.) When the human babies came along, we didn’t cage her, ignore her or fail to take care of her “needs.” Nobody growled or bit anybody. Everybody got along just fine. Kwei-fei didn’t learn to sulk or to resent anybody. The new babies learned that we are all born into a community where everybody is important.

Raja’s and my point here is that mistreating and alienating a gentle and good pet is asking for trouble when baby arrives. Just as dogs have integrated themselves into human lives, dogs can easily accept new family members. So, before any babies come on the scene, work with your dog to make sure he is gentle, sociable, trusting and calm. Make him feel he’s an important part of the family, a being who has status and respect. As baby approaches, don’t scare him into a panic attack by changing the best aspects of his daily life. Maintaining your pet’s social standing and sense of self worth means you can expect your canine family member to treat the new human with love, respect and gentleness because that’s all he knows in his own experience.

Raja wants to bark out his welcome to our new family member! He doesn’t mind having had to give up travel for a few months and he’s very excited not to be the smallest family member any more (for now). Plus, he can’t wait to help show the little one around the world!