Even before my husband and I moved in together, we had adopted a dog. I searched Craigslist high and low in three different states for the perfect rescue opportunity — finally choosing a dog from a recently burned-down shelter, who was in foster care. I was super proud of my find, he was going to be my husband’s first dog — his very first real pet.
Unfortunately, Cody Cornelius met and bonded with me first, and suddenly he was my dog. Six months later I decided that in order to bring Cody out of his doggy melancholy we should adopt another dog, which is how we came by Molly-Gator. We thought kids were a long way off and that these dogs would have crossed the rainbow bridge by the time is was even discussed. We were wrong.
Six months after adopting Molly-Gator, a new baby herself, we were pregnant and realizing that my refusal to part with my animals was an anomaly among new parents, and relinquishing one’s pets was just a normal part of the nesting process.
Suddenly, people were barraging me with questions about how I was going to find them new homes. “They don’t need new homes — they already have a home.”
So, if you are a pet owner and expecting a child, fear not! It can work. Don’t let pressures from friends, family, or the man on the street tell you any different. There are just some things you must keep in mind…
1. They can be unpredictable
Even if you have the sweetest dog/cat/ferret/potbellied pig, remember that your pet is an animal. Always keep a watchful eye on your pets when they interact with your child. Keep your eyes open for any signs of aggression, and respond accordingly. Animals get frustrated, and time outs are okay.
2. Crates are your best friend
If your pet is not crate trained, start now. If your little whipper-snapper gets on Fido’s nerves, he may need a safe haven to escape to. Crates should be a safe place for animals, not a punishment.
3. When you bring your baby home, do not shut out your pet out of the proceedings
Let them see the baby, smell the baby. Leave the nursery door open, but remember #1: keep an eye on things. Before your baby comes home, allow your pet to acquaint itself with the nursery, baby clothes, and toys. You want your pet to be calm, and the best way to do that is to let them be involved in the whole process.
4. As your child grows and becomes mobile
Teach them that your pet is a part of the family, and should be treated as such. We do not hurt family, so stop your child immediately if they begin actions that could hurt your pet. Poking eyes and tugging on ears and tails immediately come to mind. Animal retaliation can be nasty and it would be a shame to euthanize an animal or endanger your child’s safety when you could just as easily use early intervention to teach your child how to treat pets.
5. When you’re baby proofing your home
Baby proof you dog supplies as well. A water bowl is a potential drowning hazard and unsecured food could be choked on by a toddler, or at the very least be spread all over the house by industrious little hands.
6. Keep children away from animals during feeding times
The only time Cody has ever snapped at my daughter was when I fed him before her bedtime and she got too close to his food.
7. Maintain proper hygiene for your pet
Bathe dogs regularly. Keep kitty litter boxes clean and away from little hands.
8. Stay on top of medications and vaccines
Worms are just bad news, and God forbid your pet bites your child, rabies is not something you want to be worrying about.
9. Accept that your house is going to be full of dirt and hair
You can either clean more or designate “pet free zones”.
Making a successful transition has several added benefits:
You can know you’re setting a good example for your kid about really important issues like compassion, trust, patience, and what it means to be a family. As your child grows, they will have a great friend and your pet will eventually have attention and snuggles than they know what to do with. Parenthood does not have to be the end of pet ownership.
If you still find you need to re-home your pet:
If you find your child is allergic to your pet, or that your pet is not coping with the addition of a new family member, there are lots of great no-kill options out there for re-homing your pet. If re-homing your pet is your only option, please make sure to find a good, loving forever home. No animal should have to die in these situations when there are agencies out there to prevent it.
And remember, you can control the pet populations by having your pet spayed or neutered. For more information about cost-effective sterilization, visit: nutscut.com.
Yes, sometimes pets and children don’t work out, but I believe most pets can become kid friendly if the pet owner is committed to making it work.
How do YOU make your pets and baby living situation work?