How Having a Baby Changes Your Relationship With Your Dog

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Our Dog, Our World

When we started telling people we were pregnant, one of the most common reactions we got was: “Jim is in for a rude awakening!” For two years, Jim, our dog, was our everything. Our sweet, feisty Airedale terrier was, in a lot of ways, our firstborn. We took a week off when we adopted him as “pup-ternity.” We took him on Easter egg hunts and got him a stocking at Christmas. He went to doggy daycare multiple days a week, necessitating many phone calls with my husband about who had drop-off and pick-up responsibilities. He was the darling of social media feeds. He even kept us up all night by crying non-stop in his crate.

family dog
Jim was our world!

And then we found out we were actually expecting our firstborn.

“You won’t have time for the dog once the baby is born.”

“You’ll never love Jim the same way once you meet your little guy.”

“Looks like someone is about to drop to #2 in your house!”

A New Baby In The House

The night Henry was born, my dad stayed at our house. One of the few moments I can remember laughing in the hospital was when we turned on our Nest camera and saw Jim chasing my dad all around the house, trying to eat a sandwich my dad was trying to hide from him. 

I took a video when we brought Henry home. Jim sniffed him up and down and tried to jump over the baby carrier. Henry slept. My heart melted. Somehow I loved the dog even more.

I struggled at first with how I was supposed to feel about the baby. I worried about him and wanted him to be happy and knew I was starting to love him but everything I felt about him was new and confusing and challenging. Jim was the easy one, the one who still jumped up and down when I walked in the door, the one who was happy every time I came into the room. The baby couldn’t even see colors yet.

dog and baby relationship
The relationship was questionable at first!

The first time Jim ate a poopy diaper, I blamed myself for leaving it out on the changing table. The second time, after I was done wiping up the floor and vacuuming, I put him outside for an hour.

When Henry started to wake up more and take up more of my time and attention, Jim noticed. If Henry was on the floor, Jim would plop himself squarely between us. He became obsessed with chewing on Henry’s toys. Jim constantly rubbed his head against my hands, begging and begging to be scratched.

The days Jim was at daycare were easy days. The others were starting to become much harder.

Was this what everyone talked about? Was I starting to love my dog less? I was loving Henry more and more with each smile and coo. Maybe there was only so much love one person could contain.

Friends For Life

And then, without warning, Henry and Jim became friends. Henry would steal Jim’s stuffed duck and Jim would stare at him expectantly while I ran over to keep it out of the baby’s mouth. Jim became Henry’s favorite thing to climb, no matter how much I tried to prevent it. Henry tried to pet Jim time and time again, even though it usually resulted in Henry holding a handful of fur. No matter what Henry threw at him, Jim had a happy tail and nothing but love for Henry. We’d hoped Jim would be good with kids. We were shocked when we found out he was the best companion Henry could have.

baby and dog
Best pals!

Our friends weren’t wrong – Jim had been in for a rude awakening. He’s still trying to figure out this new normal and it’s almost been a year. But did it change the way we felt about him? We definitely don’t post about him as much online because we have so much to share about the baby. We leave Jim home a lot more because it’s impossible to manage a baby and a dog on a restaurant patio. We did get Jim a lot of Christmas presents this year, but it’s only because we forgot until Christmas Eve so everything at the pet store was half off. The biggest change has been time. We just don’t have the same amount of time to worry if the dog is acting depressed or to think of new enrichment activities. But how we feel about him? The amount we love him? It hasn’t changed a bit. It’s amazing how love isn’t something you have to worry about dividing because it multiplies so easily.

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Sarah is a new mom to 6-month-old Henry. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, she graduated from the University of Illinois in 2013 and moved to Columbus to pursue a career in retail. She currently works at the Victoria’s Secret PINK Home Office. She lives in Clintonville with her husband, son, and dog who very much misses his days as an only child. Outside of work and family she enjoys reserving books at the library and then forgetting to pick them up (but somehow still reads a few books a month), exploring Clintonville by foot and bike, and oversharing on Instagram stories (add her at @Sarah_Kaechele). She enjoyed traveling prior to becoming a mom and is hoping to get the hang of it again sometime in the next five years.