Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When Having a Baby Makes Your Relationship Go Sour... With Your Dog

I'm surprised I've never read a blog post or magazine article about this.

You probably wouldn't know it just by reading this blog, but we aren't just a family of three.  Nope, we are a family of four.  The fourth member of our family is a four legged Yorkshire terrier named Max.

I adopted Max in the fall of 2008.  At that point in time having a baby was the furthest thing from my mind.  I had broken up with my partner at the time and decided dating was for the birds.  So what did I do? I got a dog.

Aside from my career, Max was the centre of my life during that time. He came to work with me, he was there for me when I went home, and he slept with his head on my pillow at night. We went on long walks on the beach and at the park, had late nights snuggling, and watched movies together on the couch.  Max joined me wherever he was allowed.  No treat was too expensive, no walk was too long. 

When I met Morgan, it was crucial to me that he got along with Max.  Luckily not only did Morgan get along with Max, I think they liked each other more than they even liked me!  Max immediately became Morgan's dog but luckily they both still wanted me around.

When we found out we were having Aias, we were a little nervous about how Max would feel about this.  We also promised ourselves that our relationship with Max would not change as he had been in our family longer.  We promised ourselves we wouldn't make Max feel bad or treat him any differently once Aias arrived.  We saw people around us giving away their pets when they had new babies on the way, and we judged them harshly in our minds and to each other. We'd never do such an awful thing, we thought. 

When we took Aias home from the hospital, things changed a little.  When we walked through the door Max was beyond excited, jumping, barking, etc.  We were immediately terrified that Max would hurt or eat him.  We didn't realize how small and vulnerable our baby would be. For about 48 hours, Max drove us nuts.  He wanted to lick our baby, he would bark, we had to take the time to walk him when it felt like there was no time, etc.  Suddenly our "first child" felt like a burden.  We could suddenly sympathize with people who gave their pets away for fear their pet would hurt their child or for fear that they wouldn't have time to care for their pet.  While it never crossed our mind to give our pet away, we suddenly understood 100% why someone would. 

We caught ourselves in this mindset immediately and we made an effort to give Max extra pets, take him on walks that were a bit longer than usual, and to involve him when we could. Still, the constant demands of a newborn made us tired and we found ourselves feeling less enamoured with Max and more annoyed at times.  Suddenly Max didn't seem like such an awesome guy... here we had our new little son who would grow up and learn new things and be an extension of us, and Max... well, Max would stay the same way forever.

Needless to say, our relationship with Max changed.  Luckily after about 48 hours he calmed down, and immediately took on the role of protector.  He laid next to Aias when he could, he would lick him from time to time if he could get away with it, he sat at our feet while we held him.  When he cried, Max whined until Aias got our attention.  As Aias grew, Max played with him, putting up with hair pulling, shrieks, and the occasional toy-stealing.  Never once has Max so much as growled, nipped at, or shown any animosity toward Aias or any other child.  Aias has literally taken Max's most cherished items (pizzle sticks!) or treats and Max wouldn't dare so much as nip at him to get it away.  Now that Aias is 2.5 it's no longer "Max, be careful with the baby!" but rather it's "Aias, you better be careful with Max!" 

Basically, Max is the best dog in the world.  He's chewed a total of 2 toys (ever), you could leave a raw steak on the kid's snack table and Max wouldn't dare touch it, and when Aias cries he's always there to help.  And despite all that, we can't help but feel he's under-appreciated for how great he really is. 

So how do you get things back to how they were with your dog before your baby came along?  Here are a few tricks I've used to try and make the little dog feel as appreciated as his human sibling:

1.  Always greet your dog when you get home; teach your child to do the same.

2.  Take your dog with you when you can; dogs love the park as much as kids do!

3.  If you don't want your dog playing with your child's toys and  you insist the dog respect this, don't let your child play with your dog's toys and insist your child give the same respect.

4.  Take walks and little trips with your dog WITHOUT your child if possible, so the dog can have your one on one attention for a little while.

5.  Make sure you keep up with your dog's essentials and don't let taking care of a child make you forget; fresh water, healthy and delicious food, teeth cleanings, groomings, walks, etc.  A treat or toy here and there doesn't hurt either ;)

6.  Teach your child to treat your dog like a family member and to treat your dog with respect

7.  Remember, at one point your dog was your baby.  Your dog is a forever family member through thick and thin, so try and remember that when they steal your kid's cheerios or chew a puzzle piece or something. We all make mistakes!

8.  Let your dog and your child bond; after all, your dog will likely be your child's first best friend!

In conclusion, I have to say I was very surprised to see how much having a baby can change the dynamic of every relationship in your life, the one you have with your pets included.  As with any other relationship, these means you may have to put in some effort and a little extra tender love and care.  In the end, it's always worth it.


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