“I feel like I’ve neglected my dog since the baby came along, do I need to start thinking about rehoming him?”
This question is one that, if they’re honest, all new moms have faced at one time or another. You are over-exhausted from the demands of tending to a newborn and trying to return to life “as normal.” That can be extremely difficult for moms to keep up with the attention they gave their dog pre-baby. Knowing this, and feeling as if you aren’t doing enough, can bring up the worry that your home may no longer be the best place for your four-legged friend. If you are facing this dilemma right now, please know that you are not alone and that you should NOT feel guilty!
When my clients call me, exhausted and overwhelmed, they often are at the point of hysteria as they confess how terrible they feel for “neglecting” their dogs. However, these phone calls are precisely the ones that let me know the opposite is true. Don’t ever let someone make you feel guilty for facing this decision head-on. The fact that you are forcing yourself to face this decision shows that you have the best intentions for your dog and that you are selfless in your care for them. However, no matter how stressful times might seem right now, I promise that there is hope.
I went through many of these same emotions when I became pregnant with my second daughter. Unlike my first pregnancy, baby number two brought the works! Morning sickness, dizzy spells, motion sickness, I had it all. My goal of taking Genghis to the world competition in Belgium took a considerable toll. I still vividly remember what I now call my lowest moment. I knew in my heart that my physical limitations were holding Genghis back from reaching his full potential. I was struggling to make the selfless decision to release control of his training to someone else. Then, there was a moment when we were driving home, and Genghis was sitting in the front seat with me. As I was busy navigating the roads and feeling miserable about what I saw as my shortcomings, he laid his head on my lap. He looked at me with the sweetest chocolate eyes. It was then that I knew that I couldn’t make that choice to send him with someone else. That moment told me that I was still somehow the right one for him. We went on to qualify and compete in Battice, Belgium, to represent the United States at the Mondioring Worlds. All while I was 4 months pregnant and attempting to keep up with a 2 year old. Overcoming that emotional roller coaster has made that competition the most significant accomplishment in my dog training career. My love for my dog Genghis brought out a strength in me, and we will always share that memory.
I suppose the moral of this story is that you don’t have to be perfect to be a good dog mom. Life changes, but our dogs are capable of adapting with us. We need to remember that as we go through different phases in our lives, we might have to adopt new management techniques so that our dogs can successfully go through these changes with us. Nothing is going to be as it was pre-baby, but that’s OK!
Set your dog up for success in your now ever-evolving household environment. Accomplish this by setting up baby gates or closing the door while the baby is napping. Make sure to create spaces that the dog knows to be his/her place, but do so while establishing a defined area that belongs to the baby as well. When the baby starts crawling, absolutely break out your phone to video the event! But also remember to relocate the dog’s food and water bowl so that the baby doesn’t invade their space. If you genuinely can’t find the time to give your dog exercise, consider a doggy daycare or training program so that they can expend that extra energy. If you need more ideas, take the Dogs to Diapers online video course.
The only exception to this would be if your dog’s “extra energy” is manifesting in the form of aggression towards your baby/toddler. If this is the case, you should immediately separate them and evaluate the situation. Though we all love our dogs, our babies are our priority. However, in the majority of cases, consciously planning for these lifestyle changes and creating a behavior management plan for your dog will go a long way in making the transition easier. Yes, there will still be days that you feel stressed and overwhelmed. There might even be days that you don’t feel good enough. Just remember, this is a phase and a time of growth for all of you. It will get better; you will adapt, and always remember that you are not alone. Your dog is right there beside you and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Good job, Mamas! You are the person your dog needs! When you get that free moment, give them your love, and they will understand.