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The Dad Diary:

8. Babies and Pets

By Luke Edwards

Having wanted a dog since forever, new dad Luke Edwards was a bit worried that his beloved pooch and baby daughter wouldn’t get on.

Certain types of dogs will rip your baby’s head off. That’s what some newspapers would have you believe, anyway. Even cats are a threat, sleeping on babies’ faces and suffocating them. All very grim, right? So who would have a pet and a baby in the same house, let alone the same room? Me.

Babies and pets can co-exist. They’ve been doing it for generations quite happily. And quite frankly, without them doing exactly that the internet would be a far less entertaining place. Gone would be the videos of babies riding dogs and no more would we laugh and share clips of children scaring cats with cucumbers.

In fairness, though, I am very cautious around our pets. We have two cats and a German Shepherd. Since Ivy’s birth the second question, after “what did she weigh?”, is usually, “Does the dog get on with her?” She does. But that isn’t to say it would be the same for everyone.

Pet training

We have friends whose little dog was their world until their firstborn son arrived and it became territorial, even growling at the baby. In the end they had to put the fluff-bag up for adoption. They were crushed at the time. But as is the way when a new baby arrives, their world changed and developed so they could move onwards and upwards.

Our dog, Khaleesi, is only just two years old and we’ve had her from a pup. She’s our first dog. I’ve wanted my own hound since I was a boy, but my dad always said no. So when my wife and I finally managed to move to a house with a garden I was more than ready to welcome the new addition. I’d read every book, seen every YouTube video and talked to countless dog owners about having my own pooch. As such I knew a German Shepherd was a big responsibility as they’re super smart and love to work. So I trained her every day, ran her regularly and always made sure she was a calm, submissive dog. All that work paid off when baby Ivy arrived.

"She turned and looked back, telling me to follow her. It was like I was in an episode of Lassie."

Dog as babysitter

We always said we’d never leave the baby alone in a room with the pets for a second. I confess, after seeing how good they were with her I did exactly that. I went to grab something from the kitchen with the baby in her bouncer and the dog lying close by. No cats were around – they sniff a bit too close so we always shoo them away to make it clear the baby isn’t for them. I knew the dog was good and never even got close enough to lick the baby, always keeping a respectful distance. So I ran out.

The next thing I knew the dog was behind me, nudging my leg and crying. She turned and looked back, telling me to follow her. It was like I was in an episode of Lassie. I dutifully followed and as we got closer realised the baby was crying. The dog led the way into the room and sat next to Ivy looking at me, waiting for me to fix the crying baby. That was when I knew she was not only going to be good around the wee one, she was actually going to help out with the parenting.

We now go for walks as a pack with Ivy strapped to my chest and the dog by my side, or Ivy in her pram and the dog staying close to her. Once, in a park, a dog got close to the pram as if it was going to sniff inside. Khaleesi, who usually sees other dogs as playmates and only ever gets excited to play chase with them, stepped in barking to make the other dog back off. I’m sure the baby would have been fine, but it’s nice to see the dog protecting her as part of the family.

That said, one of the cats has been odd since the baby arrived. She’s come on a walk around the block with the dog and I several times. She even runs when I throw the ball. I think she may have gone full dog.

But not all dogs, or cats, are the same. Even though I’m confident Khaleesi is fine with baby Ivy, I still allow my mind to doubt that. They’re still animals, they still have instincts, no matter how well trained to ignore them they are. As such I won’t ever trust my dog or cats with the baby. Why should I? They won’t be emotionally hurt by my lack of trust either way. And if even once there is a misunderstanding I’d never forgive myself.

  So, pets and babies can get along fine. But we shouldn’t ever presume that’s always going to be the case. Like all things with baby, keeping the guard up is always the safest bet.

Luke Edwards

Luke Edwards is a writer who specialises in technology,
he’s looking forward to buying his new daughter lots of gadgets.

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