Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How Having Dogs Prepared Me for a Baby

Couples often get a puppy before having kids as “practice.” Shortly after we got married and moved to California, my husband and I got not one, but two puppies. (They weren’t from the same litter, by the way. We got our first one and then a month later brought home the second one). It really helped curb our baby fever and satisfied my maternal drive.

I thought with all the pain those wonderful dogs put us through, a baby would be a piece of cake. I mean, there’s no way a baby would be chewing chunks out of the counter, scratching massive holes in the wall, eating my leather jacket, or throwing up all over the carpet in the middle of the night. Hopefully, I’m not the only delusional parent who thought that dogs would in any way train me for a baby.

That’s not to say that they didn’t prepare me a little. Here are some of the ways that having dogs helped prep me for having a baby:

1.     Having dogs got me used to handling/seeing/smelling poop. Living in an urban environment, we have to pick up our dogs’ leavings in little baggies, and one of our dogs always seemed to get some stuck in his fur on his backside. So he certainly got me used to having to wipe behinds. 
2.     I became adjusted to having to spend money on living creatures other than myself (and my husband). $40 a month on two dogs is chump change compared to what a baby costs. But at least we kind of eased our toes into the spending pool. Plus, I liked spoiling my dogs with new toys and treats and now I can transfer that desire over to my own flesh and blood (much to my husband’s dismay).
3.     I was never much of a clean freak, but once we got dogs (and two big ones at that), I was kind of forced to vacuum more frequently. In a small apartment, it’s astonishing how quickly the carpet gets saturated with dog hair. A baby doesn’t exactly contribute to all the hair in the carpet or dirt in general (they’re so tiny!), but at least it got us into the habit of cleaning, which helped create a healthier environment for our little boy.
4.     Two dogs produce a lot of noise, and therefore got us used to noise in general. Granted, our dogs bark only on occasion - and usually out of excitement - whereas a baby screams and cries, and aside from hurting your ears, it also breaks your heart! Plus, we trained our dogs to “quiet” on command, and though they don’t always listen, they do sometimes. A baby on the other hand… good luck getting one to just stop crying just because you said so. 

And… here’s how dogs did absolutely nothing to prepare me for a baby:

1.     I thought having to take the dogs outside to go potty and house-training them as puppies would help prepare me for diapers and eventually potty-training. But in reality, dogs, even puppies, go to the bathroom much less frequently than a baby. An 8-week-old puppy can go at least one hour between potty breaks (and adult dogs can hold 8 to 12 hours on occasion!) so I was taken aback when I changed my 8-week-old boy’s diaper four times in a 15-minute span.
2.     Dogs, from a very young age, are able to walk on their own. You don’t have to hold them all the time, and if you have to go to the bathroom, you don’t need to worry about what to do with them because there’s pretty much no chance that a dog will accidentally roll off of the couch.
3.     Though not as self-sufficient as cats, dogs are still more independent than a human baby. If you leave the house, just leave a bowl of water for them and they’ll be fine. If you leave the house once you have a baby, you kind of have to take them with you (or get a sitter). A baby is 100% reliant on you, and if you are breastfeeding, then they’re also pretty much attached to you all the time.
4.     Dogs don’t need help going to sleep - even young puppies fall asleep on their own. Babies, on the other hand, as I’m sure any parent will tell you, often will not go to sleep unless you hold them/rock them/swaddle them/feed them/sing to them/shush them/walk them/drive them around in the car/etc.

Well, that’s my list. How did dogs prepare you for a baby? (Or, how did they not prepare you?)

Note Feb 04 2016: This post was originally published online at Family Culture Magazine, but it seems to no longer be active. I previously had only a snippet here on my blog, but because the link to the full article was defunct, you can now read the whole thing right here at Prego to Legos!

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