Should You Get a Dog Before You Have a Baby?

Should I get a dog before having a baby?

When I was pregnant with K-Pants, a co-worker stopped by my cubicle.

  • Her: Are you getting a dog to prepare for the baby?
  • Me: No.
  • Her: Don’t you want to see if you’ll be able to handle having a baby?
  • Me: Then we’ll have a dog AND a baby.

Common advice says: Get a dog before having a baby to test your parent responsibility levels. But no one talks about the fact that once you get the dog it doesn’t go away. Here’s what happens:

Your four-week-old baby wants to be fed. The dog wants to be walked. You want a shower and some sleep, but you would settle for a bagel. Your husband/wife/lover is not around to help with the baby or the dog. Also, it’s raining. Now the dog is whining and scratching the door, and the baby is screaming because a) your milk let-down is too strong, b) you can’t get a bottle ready fast enough, or c) she has colic. The dog is so mad that the baby won’t go away that he pees on the floor and then eats a rock–a big rock. The dog’s whine is like a high-pitched dagger in your eardrums, and he needs to go to the vet. So you have to load the baby and her 40 pounds of gear, the dog, and the dog’s crate into your car and drive to the vet while everyone screams.

0“You’re exaggerating,” you say.

No, I’m not.

Couples saving dogs from the pound for the purposes of pre-parenting should be required to do a house visit with a family who has a dog and a baby.

Even if the new parents put on a brave face, Drisket (the part-Lab, part-Rottweiler, part-Weimaraner mix) will be barking like a madman in the backyard, peeing on the kitchen floor, or trying to hump the couch cushions again. And again. And…

Or maybe they’ll have drugged Drisket. New parents are crazy.

Given, the pro-dog-as-preparation-for-baby people have their reasons: Puppies and babies both make loud noises, can’t control their bowels, have regular feeding times, and need constant attention. Plus, dogs and babies require planning. You can’t just leave a dog or a baby at home for the weekend with a bowl of food and some water while you head to a quaint bed and breakfast. (Cat people, point for you.) And you can’t meet co-workers for drinks without figuring out who will take out the dog or pick up the baby from daycare. Life gets complicated. Fast.

Dogs and babies will do that to you.

So I say: Why bring it on early?

Enjoy your last baby-free months without a furry pseudo-baby.

I hear that some people like dogs.

Awesome! That is a fine reason to get a dog. You should get a dog because you want a dog.*

 You should have a baby because you want a baby./

*Also, some dogs are really good with babies, and dogs eat all the food that your baby drops on the floor–although I always just let K-Pants eat off the floor so that solves that problem.

So if you’re looking at your future and thinking, I want to have kids someday, but I don’t know if I can handle all the changes (the not going out at night, the extra gear, the fact that my fun-stuff budget will become anorexic), then why not just babysit someone else’s kids for a week while their parents go on a much-needed vacation to Hawaii? We’re flexible on the timing, but I’m thinking April.

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18 responses to “Should You Get a Dog Before You Have a Baby?

  1. Dogs are not children. A dog should not be a substitute for a child. Children and dogs might be cute and playful and naughty as hell sometimes, but ought not to be confused. Only clothe, diaper, push in a stroller, and feed from your plate members of your own species, please. We are guardians of dogs. Not owners. Not parents. Guardians. Like children, dogs are a lot of work, and a lot of thought should go into whether you are prepared to care for a dog. But dogs grow up in around 2 years. Yet you will never be able to reason with them. (Oh, and those sleepless nights with multiple feedings? Over in two months. See? You can’t compare.)

    I’m going to say something potentially even more controversial now. If someone needs a dog to see whether they are a good parent, I doubt that they are ready to be a parent. The first rule as I (guardian of dog, no kids) understand it: nothing can prepare you for parenthood!

  2. This just made me laugh. We had dogs before having a baby because we wanted dog(s). After we had the baby, the dogs left us. We wanted the baby more :). Everything you said is very, very, true. And, to those people who think dogs are good training, I’m happy to say that I do know lots of people who treat their kids much better than their dogs. If dogs were the barometer for childcare, I don’t think we’d have any children ;).

  3. While we didn’t get the dogs to prep us for parenthood, I will say it did a good job in preventing us from having kids till we were really ready. That being said, I wouldn’t wish 2 large dogs and 2 little kids on anyone. My poor dogs get the short end of the stick all the time and because of that, they misbehave. I don’t blame them, but don’t really know how to fix it right now either. So we do the best we can. We contemplated getting rid of one or both dogs, but we feel like we have survived this far, it can only get better. We also know that the kids will really love playing with them once they get to be a little older (and getting rid of dogs now, only to replace them when the kids get older seems wrong).

    Anyway….I guess my point in all of this is that I agree with you. And if anyone is thinking about getting a dog and wants to have kids someday, please feel free and come to my house to see what that really looks like.

    • Great! So we have one child/dog family signed up! Just contact Mommy C to work out a time. LOL. Seriously, you are right about babyhood/toddlerhood being the most intense in having to care for everyone. I know there will continue to be challenges, but the kids will be able to help with dog chores, play with the dogs, and communicate their needs. So here’s a toast to the future!

  4. Haha. I got the dog five years before I got sperm for making a baby, but this is so true. Sure, take the babe in the ergo for the dog walk… Except I still can’t put the damn thing on by myself nor is it really possible to scoop the poop while baby wearing. Ok, use the stroller, tho she is still too small for the regular one, so that means infant seat in the snap n go. That monstrosity takes up the entire damn sidewalk and freaks the dog out. There is no way to win.

    I say, get a dog. Skip the baby. 😉

    • Enjoying a good laugh as usual from your comments, Kate!!! 🙂 My husband tried to put on the Ergo by himself one time and told me he had no idea how I did it on my own. I thought he was just motor-skill challenged until I realized I have double-jointed shoulders and that’s how I can do it by myself. So I recommend trying to pull one shoulder out of joint, then you can walk the baby in the Ergo with the dog.

  5. My oldest child has severe pet allergies. This is not something we could have predicted (neither my husband or I have allergies). If we had pets before children, we would have had to choose between the baby and the dog. Obviously the baby would have won, but that’s mighty unfair to the dog all the same. Because of this, I would never recommend having a pet before you have children (assuming children are in your life plan).

    • Interesting point. Had not thought of this! Although My husband has allergies to both cats and dogs, so he would have brought it up had I mounted a pro-pet campaign. 🙂

  6. This was hilarious, I laughed out loud and love it! You have a very good point, and April sounds like a perfect time to head off to Hawaii!

    Though your piece seemed mostly in jest I will say that having a dog with a newborn wasn’t all that bad for us, but we did have our dog for a couple of years before any babies were born. On the positive, he helped me to go on walks regularly which I credit for helping me to feel connected to the world after the enormous life change of becoming a parent. I met neighbors who were new moms that way. Also, both of my children love animals which I think has something to do with seeing our dog all day. And lastly, for anyone with a little or a lot of post partum anxiety, barking guard dogs really give you a kind of peace of mind that even an alarm can’t quite compete with. So, you know, it’s not all madness!

    • Thank you for your well-reasoned and experienced response here! It also sounds like your dog is well-trained/amiable, which I think makes a huge difference for the new parents’ stress levels.
      Sara, you are so right about having a way to meet new parents and also the peace of mind (though a chihuahua might not be so good for that). In the rain in Oregon walking the dog can be a bit of a chore, though. I guess that’s why we don’t have one! 😉

  7. Oh, I could say so much about this topic. I love my dog (adopted 2 years before our baby was born), I really do. But life would be so much easier without him. I will agree that one upside is that he makes me get out of the house, every. single. day. rain. or. shine. But there are some days that I would really just prefer to stay in the house, thank you very much.

    Our first night home from the hospital with BabyC, every time she cried – our dog barked. He freaked out. He tried to jump up to see what was going on on the changing table that was making so much noise. He would bark, and she would cry louder. It was a disaster. Before I had the baby, I laughed at the advice to play recordings of babies crying for your dog. He’d heard our friends’ babies cry before – I figured he’d be fine, but I was wrong.

    One other thing: A dog makes your house so much dirtier. They can’t take their shoes off at the door.

    The greatest gift given to us after BabyC was born was that our neighbor came over to walk our dog every single morning for the first two months of baby life. I gave her a key to our house, and she stopped by before work to take him out. I really don’t know how I would have survived without that.

    Thanks for your words of warning to all parents-to-be:)

  8. I always thought of myself as a pet person. But when our cat died (of old age!) while my second child was still a baby …I was happy to take many years off and not have to worry about one more being to take care of and worry about. Now my kids are 6 & 8 and clamoring for pets…and I think I am finally ready again (plus I have this crazy idea they can really help at this point!)
    If taking care of my very cool, low-key cat still added to the load…I can’t imagine what a dog does to Mom’s with young kids!
    I must admit though – I loved how having our cat really taught my children to be loving and GENTLE with animals- even at a very young age. My daughter’s first word was our cat’s name.

  9. I am glad that my sons are grown. We didn’t have many pets when my children were young, but Buddy has been around for 13 years. My youngest is 23 now. I agree that we are guardians of dogs, like Lauren said, but to be honest, I’ve had more intelligent conversations with Buddy than I have with some of the people I used to work with in the corrections field, and he made a lot more sense! 😉 Wouldn’t trade him for a thing, but I won’t get another pet when he is gone.

    Getting a pet to prepare for parenthood is like painting up those eggs we used to have to carry around in home and family living class when I was in the 8th grade–and we made “baby beds” for them. If the egg broke, we failed the project! We had to carry it around 24/7. If we were spotted at the market and didn’t have it with us–automatic “F”… If we left it in the locker at PE–automatic “F”. It did no more to prepare me for motherhood than having a pet would have…I think those crying baby dolls that wake up screaming all hours of the night work better to give young people an idea of what having a baby is like than carrying around a raw egg for a week would. Have a good one! 😀

  10. Laterzas Lots of Boys

    We had our 16 year old beagle many years before our family. Luckily it has worked out well, but my sister is having a tough time getting her lap dog into the spirit of having a newborn around. Everyone is different of course, but when you have the baby it certainly puts the poor doggie in perspective and I am a crazy dog lover. No more trips for the furry friend to get a photo with Santa or go to “doggie play dates” in the park we are just too crazy busy which I guess is the way of the world. BTW am not sure if it really does prepare you – we have found little boys a whole lot harder to potty train…. XOXO

  11. Pingback: Two or Three Kids? | momsicle

  12. Oh man that is too good!!!!!

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