Guest post: On babies and dogs

We are THRILLED to bring you this guest post from the adopters of our very own former foster sweetheart, Little Zee (now Medivka). If you have  a dog and a baby — or are thinking about kids in the future — you’ll find some great tips here for setting your family up for success. And the darling photos of Medivka and her human sister? Just a sweet little bonus!

“Knowing we were going to have children definitely played a part in chosing a dog to adopt. We didn’t want him or her to be nippy or resource-guarding, or sensitive to strange or loud sounds. Fortunately, we found Little Zee, now Medivka, and felt she would be a good furry sibling to any baby. 

We wanted to get her used to our family and house without her suddenly having to change her habits and expectations when a baby arrived. So that meant not getting used to climbing up on people or couches or beds, which wouldn’t be polite without asking first anyway. As first time dog owners, training was a huge priority for us, and I think immensely helped all of us communicate. The positive reinforcement methods were, well, positive, instead of a “no no no” stressful experience. And we’ve carried the “leave it,” “go to bed,” and “down & stay” to situations around our baby. They are not perfect by any means, and that is purely due to our lack of practice with Medivka in various situations, but for the most part she knows what we expect, and it’s no different from when we started training with her about a year ago.  

What we didn’t anticipate was excitement leading to an undesired interaction between dog and baby. Especially a sweet dog like Medivka. Before we had our baby, we had friends visiting with a less than 1 year old who had already had a positive interaction with our pup. So we all made the mistake of having them say hello to each other as soon as they arrived, and not setting them up for a safe greeting. Medivka was sitting and did her happy/playful paw motion, and our little friend was too low and got a scratch right on her face. It did not break the skin, but on such young skin looked like a gash and was obviously an unpleasant shock for her. We felt very fortunate that our friends had met Medivka before, the scratch was accidenta, l and they also felt the incident was due to a poorly set up situation for dog and child. I felt especially irresponsible for putting both of them in that situation and not thinking ahead about how to set her up for a successful greeting with such a small person. So with that experience in mind…  

We wanted to support the comfort of both Medivka and our Baby, who’s now 6 mos old, so we’ve taken a slow approach to introducing the two of them. I read some information about introducing dogs and babies and followed some, but not all of them. For example, we prepared Medivka for staying out of the baby’s room for now, especially because she is off balance and it’s a small room. She became used to that rule before the baby came home and it wasn’t a sudden negative association w/the baby. I did not, however, carry a doll around in a sling or stroller. Medivka is mostly flexible to new people and things, so I did not see that being an issue. I did give her time to get used to me carrying the Baby K in a sling and was careful not to lean over her with it, but to squat next to her to say hello so she wouldn’t think the baby was falling on her.

The morning before we brought our baby home from the hospital, Dad took a blanket that smelled like the baby for Medivka to smell, as a way to give her a heads up of a new smell to become familiar with. I came in alone to greet Medivka without the baby, so she could comfortably say hello to her Mom in a familiar way. Overall she seemed curious about the new little bundle of human, but did not seem too bothered by her crying, except a few times she came over to see what the heck was going on.  As we all spent more time together, we let Medivka sniff the baby’s feet more to greet her in the morning and I would spend some time petting Medivka with and without the baby. We try to go on “pack walks” most nights, as well as giving Medivka a good greeting and petting throughout the day.

Our approach has continued to be a process of the two of them getting to know each other. We watch Medivka for signs of discomfort when close to the baby, and we model “gentle petting” to the baby while we hold her. We also reward with words or treats when Medivka interacts with baby in positive ways. Right now, Medivka has the advantage of  being able to walk while our little girl can’t yet crawl – she can chose how close she gets to our little shrieker. We plan on teaching Baby K to let Medivka have her do-not-disturb space in her beds so she can take a break.
It is so fun to watch their blossoming relationship! Medivka will frequently come by for a sniff or lick at our girl and carry on her way. Baby K lights up when she sees Medivka. The other morning, as I was making breakfast, Medivka chose to stand right next to the Baby K who was shrieking in a most unpleasant high pitched voice – but in delight at seeing The Dog – in her little activity center. As little hands reached out for Medivka, she sniffed them looking for food, and then laid down next to the loud baby & shaking/bouncing contraption waiting for treats to come from larger hands.  

This past weekend we had the same repeat little visitor friend, who is now walking and talking, and they had a great meet and greet, Medivka generously shared her toys, and was treated with some dropped apples. I noticed she laid down on her own when the little visitor was very close, which I have been rewarding her for doing with Baby K. Medivka also played hostess dog to several costumed kids from 6 mos-4 years who took over her backyard and ran around shrieking. We put her on leash for the bigger crowd of little people, and gave her the job of cow bone chewer with breaks for getting petted and sniffing around.  She did a great job and stayed up late partying until 11pm!”

**Thanks to Medivka’s forever-family for the great write-up and the three photos of Medivka with tiny humans**

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13 responses

  1. Thanks so much for this post! We are expecting our first grandbaby in January and baby’s momma has concerns about our furbabies and their reaction to the baby. I think that I am going to try these tips to set our furbabies and grandbaby up for success.

  2. Thank you so much for giving Medivka the courtesy of attention and successful interactions. She looks beautiful and loved.

  3. We did many of the same things when preparing for our Granddaughter’s arrival since she and my daughter would be living with us and our rambunctious 8 month old Pit Bull type puppy. One other thing we did was desensitize him to the sound of a baby crying. We did purchase one of those crying dolls and every time we got it to cry we treated him with jackpot. Also before the baby came home, I made a sound recording of her crying and played that while holding the doll and also jackpotted him, treat-wise. It seemed to work really well. Also, at 3 months old, we still only do brief sniffs through the gate. I want to keep the intros as brief and positive as possible until they are “boring.”

  4. These people are wonderful. So many people don’t prepare like this and set their dog and baby up for positive experiences. You can tell they love their whole family – dogs and babies alike. Made my day!

  5. Really great advice. Too many people think children and dogs don’t mix and end up surrendering their pets when they find out they are going to have a little one. It’s great to have this post as a resource to suggest when talking to people about such an important subject.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  6. Very good post! I have 2 dogs and always have a foster now and I am recently married. Bringing a baby into our crazy little house always seems very daunting! Can’t wait to have “Pitbull and Baby” pictures someday tho!

  7. Pingback: Reuniting Two Years Later | Peace, Love, & Fostering

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