Oh, dogs and babies. As an expectant parent, it was one of my biggest stresses - how will our dogs do with the baby? How should we introduce the dogs to the baby? What if they hate each other? What if the dogs love him TOO much?
We had a lot of worries when it came to our dogs and bringing a baby home. Our dogs are super spoiled and were our only babies for a very long time – we’ve had Cullen for five years, Ranger for four, and Hadley for a year and a half, and they’re all very used to being our primary focus when we’re at home. Lots of cuddles, lots of play time, and they pretty much never got ignored.
Until this little guy joined the family. And then? They had to come to a pretty quick realization that they weren’t the most important things in our lives anymore. For the first couple of months with Jackson, it was almost impossible to give them any attention. We were so focused on him and figuring out our new normal. Now that we’ve settled into a good routine, the dogs get much more love than they were getting, but they still aren’t quite as prioritized as they used to be.
When I was pregnant, we were pretty sure we knew exactly how the dogs would react. We thought Ranger would pout for a few months (like he did when we brought Hadley home) and that he’d pretty much hate the baby. We thought Cullen would be totally and completely obsessed with him, and we thought Hadley would be somewhere in the middle – wanting to love on the baby, but also slightly jealous.
We were wrong. Well, not completely. We were dead on with our predictions about Cullen. He is absolutely 100% obsessed with Jackson and would spend his entire day licking Jackson’s face if we’d let him. When we get home and are taking Jackson out of his carseat, Cullen runs around us and does everything in his power to see the baby and make sure he’s okay. He loves snuggling with us when we’re holding Jack, and basically can’t spend enough time right next to him.
The other two surprised us, though. Hadley did not like Jackson when we first brought him home. He stole our attention from her, he made annoying sounds, and she was just generally not a fan. We never were afraid that she would get aggressive, but we watched her extremely closely anytime she came near him. She would often act like she was trying to bury him by pushing pillows or blankets toward him with her nose, which made us nervous, and she was just uneasy around him in general.
Now that she’s used to him, she doesn’t do that anymore and she ignores him for the most part. Sometimes she’ll sniff at him, but usually if she’s near him it’s just because she’s trying to get close to me or Corey. We’re both very confident that as he gets older and is able to actually interact with her, she’ll grow to love him. For now, though, she’s pretty uninterested.
Ranger is probably the one who surprised us the most. From day one, he accepted Jackson as part of our “pack”, and has been very protective of him and very gentle. If Jackson cries, Ranger has to make sure he’s okay, and he’s constantly checking in on him to make sure he’s not in trouble. When we give Jackson a bath, Ranger always comes into the bathroom and watches, and he’s just been so much more accepting than we ever thought he would be. It’s so sweet to watch, and we know he’ll love Jack even more once he gets bigger and can actually play with him.
So, what did we do to prepare the dogs for the baby?
First off, when I was pregnant I made a conscious effort to start giving the dogs slightly less attention so it wasn’t too much of a shock. I didn’t totally ignore them, but I’d make them wait several minutes after I got home before I talked to them, and I just generally started to try to decrease the amount of direct attention they got.
The biggest (and I think most helpful) thing we did was when we brought him home. We had the dogs boarded at the vet while we were in the hospital, and we got ourselves home and settled before we went to get them. I stayed home with Jackson and Corey went to get the dogs, and he brought some of Jack’s clothes from the hospital with him. When he picked the dogs up, he immediately let them smell the clothes, and kept the clothes with them the whole way home. While they were out, I got Jackson settled in his room so that we could spend a few minutes with the dogs before introducing everyone.
When they got home, I closed Jackson’s door and came downstairs, and we spent a few minutes just us and the dogs, giving them as much love as we could. We also gave them a few more things that smelled like Jackson so they could be very familiar with the smell. When we were ready to introduce them, we headed upstairs with the dogs and brought them into his room. We let them check him out through the crib for a few minutes, and took it all very slowly. We just left him in his crib until the dogs started to lose interest, so we could be sure they weren’t too excited when we got him out.
When I grabbed him out of his crib, the dogs were curious, but calm. I let them sniff at him and was careful to stay quiet and not yell at them – if they got too close or started to get riled up, I’d calmly tell them to stop and would move away. They quickly learned if they wanted to see the baby, they had to do it gently.
After that initial introduction, it has been pretty smooth sailing. The dogs definitely love him and they know he’s a part of the family, but they leave him alone for the most part and have all been very gentle with him. We never leave Jackson alone in a room with them, and we never let ourselves get too comfortable with them together – we know dogs can be unpredictable, so even though they’ve been awesome so far, we never take that for granted.
I’m excited to see how they all do together as Jackson grows and begins to be able to interact with them. I think they’re going to love having another human in the house who can give them attention, and I’m glad Jackson will grow up with three amazing dogs who already love him.
Do you have pets and kids? Any other great ideas on introducing them and helping everyone get along?