With many celebrities being dog owners before they are parents, it seems there is a new phenomenon – mutternity– as couples such as David Walliams and Lara Stone, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge and Rochelle and Marvin Humes try their hand at furry parenting before they go for the real thing.
As most dog owners will tell you, sharing your life with man’s best friend is deeply rewarding. Yet, what happens when this harmonious balance is disturbed by the tiny patter of baby feet? A new survey* released today by Dogs Trust and NCT reveals that almost half of new parents (46%) found it challenging to cope with their dog and a new baby and one in six (17%) had considered giving up their dog when the baby arrived.
To help parents feel more confident about dealing with their dog alongside their new baby, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, Dogs Trust, and the UK’s leading charity for parents, NCT, have joined forces to create a new leaflet aimed at preparing dog owning parents-to-be.
Dogs Trust Chief Executive, Clarissa Baldwin OBE, explains:
“We are seeing many perfectly happy and well behaved dogs being abandoned at our rehoming centres once their owners become pregnant or a new baby arrives. Yet, by being prepared before the baby arrives, many of these worries can be dispelled and the family dog can continue to be a part of the happy family.”
NCT Chief Executive, Belinda Phipps, adds:
“All parents want the best for their new baby. Some may think this means giving up their dog, but by following some simple steps, new mums and dads can feel more confident about preparing themselves and their pet for their new arrival”
Unsurprisingly, there are different views between expectant and new parents. Only 2% of expectant parents have considered giving up their dog whilst this rose to 17% when the same question was asked of new parents.
The survey also shows a need for health professionals to give clearer advice to expectant and new parents who own a dog. Of the 1,000 expectant parents surveyed, nearly 1 in 5 (18%) had been told by family, friends and health professionals to give up their dog before their baby arrived but very little advice was given. Over 52% said they would like to see more guidance from health professionals on to how to introduce their new arrival to their current pet dog.
TOP TIPS FOR PREPARING YOUR DOG FOR BABY’S ARRIVAL:
- Dogs like routine so it’s never too early to get your dog used to changes BEFORE the baby comes home. By making changes while you or your partner are still expecting, your dog won’t associate the baby with upheaval.
- It’s essential that your dog associates the baby with positive feelings, so if you’re intending to make some rooms ‘dog free zones’ and using baby gates then start doing this well before your baby is born.
- Now is also a good time to get Rover used to staying in a safe place with his bed and tasty chew for short periods of time every day. There will be times when you’ll be busy with the baby, so training Rover how to be happy on his own for a short time is going to help him cope with the changes ahead.
- Members of your family or health workers may put pressure on you to part with your dog thinking they are making life easier for you. If your dog is friendly with people then you should be able to introduce your new baby to the family dog quite happily.
- Involve your dog in as much family life as possible so he feels included and his nose is not put out.
- Think about how you can make dog walking as easy as possible - a sling might be easier than a pram as it leaves you with your hands free to hold the dogs’ lead.
- Dogs love cuddly toys but can find it tricky to differentiate between their toys and the baby’s, so keep the dog’s toys separate and perhaps smear a tiny blob of peanut butter on them.
- Being a new parent is time consuming, but always make time to stroke or groom your dog, so they have your undivided attention away from the kids
You can download a copy of the “New Baby” factsheet.
*NCT survey of over 1,000 expectant parents and 1,000 new parents, December 2012.
Case studies of dog owning families are available, by contacting Jennifer Blaber on 020 7833 7657.
Photo credit: Andy Catterall
Dogs Trust works with Primary School across the UK to educate children on how to stay safe around dogs visit www.learnwithdogs.co.uk for more information and practical advice.