Anyone who has known me for more than .02 seconds knows that I am one of those people. My dog, Ellie, is my child. She’s my baby. My first-born. She doesn’t go to “doggy daycare” — we call it “school.” And the people who work there are her “teachers.” Ellie completes me. She is my best friend. She brings me a level of joy I never knew before. If I’m invited to something that isn’t dog-friendly, I’m less likely to go. I know, a lot of people find those people, my people, annoying! But I cringe at the word “pet.” I’ve never considered Ellie to be our “pet.” She’s a member of our family. A crucial one, at that. So when I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I pictured and dreamed about was the baby-on-the-way bonding with Ellie.
I pictured them playing together and running around together and being best buddies. I pictured us all cuddling in bed together on Saturday mornings. I definitely pictured the baby being old enough to carry the leash, walk Ellie, and pick up her poop. Aw!
Ellie is the first dog I’ve ever had. Annie is the first baby I’ve ever had. So like everything else, getting the two acclimated to each other has mostly been trial and error — but I’m pleased so say there hasn’t been much error.
I got a ton of questions when I mentioned I was going to write a post about Annie and Ellie. Lots of people nervous about introducing their own baby-on-the-way to their own first-born (the dog). Annie is only 4.5 months old, so we have plenty of learning still to do, but I think the key to Ellie reacting really positively to Annie was that we treat Ellie like a little human, not a dog.
She does dog things — chases the ball, eats food that falls on the floor, sheds, takes long naps — but Brian and I have always communicated with Ellie as if she can understand exactly what we’re saying. Because I think she can! So I think that’s really important, that before you bring a baby into the family, your dog is already well behaved, well trained, and responsive to you.
Q&A is easier to read, right? So here are my As to your Qs!
Did you do anything specific when you brought Annie home from the hospital for the first time?
Not really! So many people suggested having a family member bring one of Annie’s swaddle blankets home from the hospital so Ellie could smell it, but we didn’t do that. We talked to Ellie a lot as soon as I was pregnant, and we talked about “the baby” to her. (I know, non-dog people are probably rolling their eyes so hard right now.) I’m still convinced Ellie understood everything completely. Before I even knew I was pregnant, Ellie started sleeping with her head on my stomach. I mean, come on! She’s a genius! She was extra attached to me throughout my pregnancy, too, which I loooooved. We snuggled a lot!
Before we left for the hospital, we explained to Ellie that we were going to get her sister and that we’d be home soon. Ellie stayed at the house — one night with her favorite “teacher” from school, and the second night my parents were here with her. She was never in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar place. She was at home, with people she knows and loves!
When we brought Annie home, I came in the apartment first and gave Ellie lots of love and attention. Then, Brian came in with Annie in the car seat. We put Annie in the car seat on the floor in the living room (where there was lots of space, vs. in the hallway), and Ellie sniffed around and checked her out and seemed excited! We also gave Ellie a new toy that we told her was from the baby. So basically, we treated Ellie like an older sibling!
She was very curious about Annie and sniffed her a lot, but in the first few weeks, she never got TOO close. It wasn’t until Annie was around three weeks old that Ellie really seemed to wake up to her, realize she was sticking around, and get super excited about it. It was really cute.
Any tips for introducing dog and baby? Or for getting dog ready for baby before they arrive?
Like I mentioned before, for us it was all about communicating with Ellie like she’s a human and like she can fully understand what we’re saying. Because, based on how she responds, I think she can. I don’t think people give dogs nearly enough credit for their communication skills. (Listen to them, pay attention to them, really learn their cues and how they communicate with you!) You know your dog best, so take it slowly. If your dog is super energetic and jumps a lot, plan accordingly. We thought it was best to put the car seat on the floor (while Annie was still in it) where Ellie could look and sniff and check her out. If you hold the baby up high, the dog is more likely to jump to try to check him or her out. Get down on the dog’s level, don’t make sudden movements, and give the dog time to explore and smell. Their sense of smell is so strong, so give the dog time to acclimate. Don’t rush the introduction.
What tips do you have for the first few days home?
Keep giving the dog lots of love. If you have a partner, try to split things up so it’s not always the two of you fawning over the baby and ignoring the pup. Brian and I tag-teamed a lot in the early days, and still do. Many nights, while Brian would feed Annie, I’d pump and then take Ellie for a nice walk. And then in the morning, I’d tend to Annie while Brian would take Ellie out to play. And whenever we have family visiting, we both take Ellie out together, so she gets some quality, uninterrupted mom and dad time. And I sometimes ask our visitors to give Ellie extra love! When my parents visit, they both spend a lot of time on the floor playing with Ellie, which she loves! It’s really important to me that she doesn’t feel neglected when people come to visit. She gets so excited by visitors, and I like it when they give Ellie attention, too, even if they’re visiting mostly to see Annie.
Did Ellie love Annie right away? Or was it like, “What is this object that squirms and why can’t I lick it?”
Haha. Ellie was curious at first, and she definitely loved that with Annie meant Brian was home from work for a week straight! We were able to go for lots of family walks that week, and Ellie actually got extra attention! But I wouldn’t say she fell in love with Annie right away. She never disliked her, but there were definitely a few dramatic heavy sighs at 2 AM when we would be up with Annie and Ellie wasn’t thrilled her sleep was being disturbed. (Same, girlfriend!) Usually, Ellie sleeps in our bed, but in those early days, she would sometimes end up moving to her bed in the living room to get a better night’s sleep.
Now, 5.5 months in, Ellie and Annie are obsessed with each other. Annie seemed to really start noticing Ellie around the three-month mark, and it has been SO FUN since then! She shrieks and laughs and smiles when she sees Ellie, and she loves sitting in her Baby Bjorn or high chair and just watching Ellie bop around. Ellie loves bringing her ball to Annie and hoping she will throw or kick it for her. We’re still working on that one. But they are very cute together!
Does Ellie ever lick Annie?
Yes. We always say “gentle,” and usually she just licks the top of her head, which I’m fine with. We try not to let her lick Annie’s face or mouth!
Did you feel safe leaving Ellie and Annie in the same room alone? Did you right away, or did it take time?
It’s pretty rare that they’re ever in a room alone! I mean, maybe with Annie the jumper or bouncer in the living room and if I have to run to the bathroom or to grab laundry or something, but Annie is pretty much always supervised by an adult human. That being said, if and when I do have to run to another room or pee or something, no, I don’t worry about them being alone for a few seconds. I also wouldn’t leave Annie on the ground unsupervised (like on her play mat).
Do you take any precautions with Ellie around Annie? She’s so sweet, just curious.
She is so sweet, you’re right! By now, they seem pretty used to each other, and Ellie knows to be really gentle around Annie. In the earlier days, we were mostly just extra careful if Annie was on the floor (on a blanket doing tummy time or in her play gym), for fear of Ellie accidentally stepping on her or kicking a ball too close to her face. That never happened, and I’m not nervous about it anymore.
How does Ellie know which toys are hers and which are Annie’s?
This is a great question and one I ponder often. How does Ellie know?! But somehow she does! Annie even has a few toys that could definitely be mistaken for dog toys in that they’re round and squeaky, but Ellie has no interest in them. It’s wild. Ellie has never stolen or even attempted to play with any of Annie’s toys, and she very easily could!
Did you feel guilty when you first brought Annie home, that Ellie was no longer the only one?
I did then, and I still do now. Yes.
How do you juggle time with both of them?
It makes my heart really happy that people are asking these questions, and to know that other people out there care about and value their dogs just like we do, and like dogs should be loved and valued! The truth is that it is hard balancing time and energy with a dog and a new baby. Sure, it’s different than, say, a toddler and a new baby (right?), but certainly there are similarities. Ellie got 100 percent of our attention for three years. Everything revolved around her for three years. And now it’s mostly revolved around Annie.
As the weather starts to warm up, it’s already so much better. We were cooped up indoors all winter because it was too cold for Annie to be out for too long. We do lots of family walks to the dog park so Ellie can play, and we try to make any outing Ellie-focused, so she feels special. A few weeks ago, I actually planned for a few of Ellie’s favorite teachers who have since left to come visit, and they spent two hours here showering her with attention and love and it was awesome. Ellie was so happy. And I already have her Easter egg hunt ready to go! Annie is so young that it’s not like she cares what we do, so soon we’ll be going for lots of family hikes and walks and trips to the beach, which are all about Ellie!
In terms of juggling time, we just do our best. Some days, Ellie doesn’t get enough exercise. Other days she goes to school. It’s much easier to have Ellie home now, though, so it like it when she’s home with us!
Any tips for dealing with dog mom guilt?
I wish I had some. It’s hard. If we had a house with a big, fenced-in backyard, I think it would be easier. I could let Ellie run around in the backyard while Annie and I hung out and threw the ball for her. But since we’re in an apartment building, it’s a little trickier to get Ellie the exercise and attention she needs, especially during the winter. Ellie used to love going for runs with me, but now she won’t. She just wants to come back inside to be with Annie — which is very sweet! But…she’s gained like 10 lbs., which isn’t great. (The dream: Family runs! Me, Brian, Annie in a jogging stroller, and Ellie on the leash!)
I feel guilty when I bring Ellie to school, but also feel guilty keeping her home and not being able to take her out as much as I’d like. I like to think she gets it and understands and knows it’s temporary, but it’s still hard.
Is Ellie jealous at all about the attention shift? Has she regressed or acted out due to sharing your attention?
She hasn’t acted jealous, and she hasn’t acted out at all. Thank goodness! When I’m walking Annie and Ellie at the same time, Ellie doesn’t like when other dogs come near us. She’s never aggressive, but she’ll bark to let them know they are not to come near the stroller! She’s ridiculous. I always let the other humans know that she’s not going to do anything, and I keep her tight on the leash, but let them know she’s being protective. They usually laugh, which I appreciate.
Around the house, if Brian and I are both fawning over Annie at the same time, that’s when Ellie tends to go to the door to want to go out, or brings us her ball to play with her. When we’re both giving Annie a bath, especially, Ellie becomes particularly needy! (I think that’s because we bathe Annie in the sink, up high where Ellie can’t quite see or be involved in what’s going on.)
What’s been the biggest challenge being a new mom to a baby and a fur mom?
Nights. Annie’s bedtime routine starts around 6:30 PM. I give her a bath, feed her around 7, and try to have her in bed by 7:30. But Ellie still needs to go out! So on nights when Brian works late, it’s hard to manage getting Ellie out and getting Annie to bed. I’ll usually take Ellie out as late as possible before starting Annie’s bedtime stuff, and then Brian will take her out whenever he gets home. When Brian travels and it’s just me and the girls, I finish feeding Annie, then put her in the stroller real quick to take Ellie out. It means Ellie’s last walk of the night is around 7:30, which is on the earlier side for her, but she hasn’t seemed to mind it. She just takes an extra long pee in the morning!
Do you find yourself mad at your dog for no reason after having a baby? Because I do.
For no reason? No. The only times I get frustrated with Ellie are when she barks! She doesn’t bark all that much, but she barks when someone comes to the door. When Annie’s bedtime was later, she’d be napping in her swing in the living room, and we’d order delivery, and when the delivery person came to the door, Ellie would go apeshit and, inevitably, wake Annie. It was frustrating, but she thinks it’s her job to protect us, so I try not to get worked up about it.
How different is the love you feel for Annie than the love you feel for Ellie?
Good question! It’s similar. I am obsessed with them both, I would do anything for both of them, and I’m incredibly protective of both of them. It’s an all-consuming type of love. They’re my babies, and together they complete our family. And I’m so glad they love each other.
Will there be more coordinated costumes and clothes for the girls? The pineapples were adorable.
Yes, and for the rest of their lives.