Is It Worth It to Get a Dog When You Have a Baby?

Today marks a year since we brought our dog Wally into our home. Reflecting on our decision to get a puppy with a 6 month-old baby, I’m so happy we did it. Yes, there have been some growing pains like teaching him the house rules and learning how to set him up for success. But he’s become a part of our family and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect fit for us.

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Wally and Sadie are like siblings – he’s taught her to love dogs, how to behave around dogs, and how to share. She’s taught him to be protective, to be kind and patient, and to stay quiet in the house (he doesn’t bark).

Sadie will come home from an outing, immediately run to Wally’s crate and then wait there until you let him out. She loves taking him outside with me, giving him treats, and getting kisses. She’ll walk around holding out her hand saying “Nine, nine, nine,” – that’s her word for Wally – because she wants him to come lick her hand. She will bring Wally his toys and can throw them for him too. She runs around the house with him, giggling the whole time. She looks for him when she wakes up, she always wants to know where he is (and usually he’s close by), and she pets him goodnight. Their relationship makes me so happy it makes the whole thing more than worth it.

Wally is also very attached to me. If I were to describe him in 2 words, I’d call him attentive and loyal. He’s always so happy to see me and will sit as close to me as possible. When I settle down for the night and finally sit on the couch, he’ll come over and rest his head on my lap or sleep at my feet. It’s a comfort to have him around, especially when it’s just Sadie and I.

Even though we still have challenges as our home life continues to change, Wally consistently gives us as much love as he can – I’m really grateful to have him in my life.

Growing Up Together

I was going through our pictures the other night and I started to notice a theme – our dog, Wally, is always as close to baby Sadie as he can get. I wanted to share these pictures as something to consider if you are thinking about getting a dog when you have a baby: the precious bond they can develop.

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New Homes

This past week, our family moved to a new home. My husband and I decided to find a new place instead of renewing the lease on our current apartment. We actually started looking so early, that some places wouldn’t give us a tour! We learned that when renting in Atlanta, you have a lot more luck if you look 30-60 days out from your expected move-in date and you have to jump on something you like right away (otherwise it will get snatched up before you can even go look!). We finally found a condo for rent that we loved and decided to commit to for the next year.

When looking for a home with a toddler and a dog, here are some good must have’s to consider:

  • Good places to go outside and walk/play
  • Easy access for any at-home care you plan to keep
  • A layout that gives your toddler a nice quiet space (i.e. away from loud noises like washer/dryer)
  • A bathtub
  • Easy way to carry car seat and/or groceries from car
  • Cabinets that can be baby-proofed

We decided to move-in a month before our current lease ended so we could slowly bring our things over and get our toddler, Sadie, and our dog, Wally, used to the new place. If you have the ability to do this, I highly recommend it. The transition went very smoothly for both Sadie and Wally because they already felt comfortable and at home once we officially moved.

Our official move was low-stress because we only had to focus on the big furniture since all the small/breakable/other things like dishes and clothes were already at the new place. We also were very lucky to have my sister watch Sadie the day we moved — thank you!!!  This allowed Sadie to get the attention she needed and made it so I could be a true partner to my husband during the move.

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A tired Sadie after moving

Moving takes a lot of work and is tiring for everyone. It’s frustrating but can also make you appreciate things you haven’t in a while. It made me grateful for how excellent my husband is at packing (must be all the Tetris). It made me proud of how well-behaved Sadie and Wally were during the whole process. And most of all, it made me excited to share this wonderful new place with my family.

 

Please share your thoughts below! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Being Proactive

Despite our efforts to prevent our puppy, Wally, from pooping in the house (detailed here), he continued to do so for a couple more weeks. He almost always went at night and in the same spot.

I decided to take him to the vet just to make sure he was not sick. First, when I dropped him off, I got what I can only describe as a judgy scolding for not having him on a heartworm preventative or flea medicine (whoops). Then, once they performed all of their tests, we discovered Wally had hookworm. We put him on dewormer right away. I felt really terrible Wally had been sick for weeks and we hadn’t realized it. Once the medicine took effect, his behavior went back to normal. I still block off “his spot” at night because I think he can still smell his scent there despite all the bleach and cleaner I used – I’d rather be safe than wake up to poop!

We also started Wally on preventative medicine our vet recommended to protect him from getting any more worms (heart or intestinal) or fleas. This is the second type of intestinal worm Wally contracted in less than a year so I strongly believe being proactive will be worth it. Deworming is expensive and not fun for anyone – although neither is getting worms in the first place!


When Wally was sick and had an accident, I’d always completely clean the affected area before my toddler, Sadie, came into the room. I used bleach but my vet told me any disinfectant would have prevented harm from coming to Sadie. I was lucky to have my husband to keep her busy and happy while I cleaned up the mess. If he had not been there, I probably would have stuck her in the playpen; I have no doubt she would have tried to get into it (yuck!).

I highly recommend keeping your dog on preventative medicine for worms and fleas. It will keep them healthy and happy and make you feel secure that they are ok! 

Budget

When we considered getting a puppy, it was very important to ensure we could afford one. Our expenses had already grown after baby Sadie was born and we were still getting used to our new budget. We looked at both the upfront costs and the long term costs of getting a puppy before we decided we could handle it financially.

Here is how the costs actually turned out:

Upfront Costs
Paid in the first month
-Adoption Fee $0
-Micro-chip installation $5
-Bowls $15
-Collar $20
-Leash $30
-Bed $50
-Vaccines $75
-Deworming $80
-Spay/Neuter $100
-Crate $140
-Total $515

“Long Term” Costs
Paid so far this year 
-Training $0
-Flea Control $40
-Grooming $40
-Vaccines $50
-New Shoes (he ate mine) $100
-Toys & Treats $100
-Boarding $200
-Food $350
-Total $880

I also recommend checking out Pet Education for a more detailed breakout. Although we probably underestimated how much Wally would cost, he makes up for it in love and cuteness.

Eating

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Due to the way baby Sadie got her start in life, her eating has always been a concern for me. For some background, Sadie was born with Gastroschisis, a defect where the intestines are outside of the abdominal wall. Once her intestines were surgically placed back inside of her and started functioning, we had to teach Sadie how to eat. There was a point where it was a big deal for her to take 3 ml of breast milk in a day (30 ml is 1 oz).

Fast forward to today, Sadie is 8 months old and taking 4 bottles of about 5-8 oz of milk for an average of 20-22 oz total plus 4-6 tablespoons of food every day. Today is the first day where she will be completely on formula – woohoo mommy freedom! I pumped breast milk for her up until 8 months in hopes that it would help her catch up on the growth chart. Now that she’s also eating (a lot of) food and taking formula well, I’m cutting off the teet. I will say I’m a little nervous because pumping breast milk is an amazing way to burn calories and I’ve essentially been eating for two for 16 months now. Time to start working out again!

 

For any other preemie moms out there who have babies on the smaller side, try not to stress too much about the total recommended ounces of milk per day. Once Sadie was discharged from the NICU, I would get so worried reading baby books and baby sites that said 4 month olds should be taking 24-32 ounces. There were times where getting Sadie to take 23 ounces in a day was a struggle. We would both be miserable during mealtimes because at some point around 4 ounces she’d spit the bottle out, I’d keep running the nipple by her mouth and she just wouldn’t take it. Even increasing the frequency of feedings just made her take less and less milk. Then, I met with a nurse practitioner and she said something that really helped me. She said “Well it’s like the chicken and the egg. You increase the feedings and she will take less each feeding or you decrease the feedings and she will take more. Either way she’ll take what she needs.” Since then, I have tried to let go of the recommended total ounces per day and have kept track of Sadie’s typical total ounces per day instead. Meals are much happier and although I still worry, I feel a lot better about her eating. If your baby is taking less than the recommended amount, track their intake to make sure it’s consistent and try to weigh them every week to ensure they are still gaining weight.

 

Even though I’ve given up the struggle to get Sadie to the recommended amount of milk, I still try to ensure she takes as much as she can. Sadie is a very easily distracted eater on the bottle. To help her be her most successful, I give her the bottle in a quiet room with low light. This way she can focus on eating and doesn’t have any distractions. That includes keeping our puppy, Wally, outside of the room.

 

Puppy
As we considered whether to get a dog, we really looked out for food aggression. Especially because we have a baby – once Sadie is mobile, the dog’s food is probably something she will want to explore, or maybe even sample. Wally did not have any food aggression. We could even take away his bowl while he’s eating and all he would do is look confused.

 

When Wally first came to us, he would chow down all of the food in his bowl the minute it was set down. We think this was a result of him being used to not knowing when his next meal would be. Once he realized the meals would be coming consistently, he started to graze on his food throughout the day. I think this is preferable because it’s a lot easier on a dog’s digestive system and shows they are comfortable in your home.

 

To note: We only fill up the bowl twice a day for breakfast and dinner. Once it’s empty, we do not fill it again until the next meal. This is also called amount limited feeding.

Training

When we started looking for a dog, one of my big must-have’s was a dog that was potty-trained. I knew I would not be able to potty train a puppy and take care of baby Sadie at the same time. It was also important for the dog to be potty-trained in our apartment; during the week we fostered Wally, I watched for accidents and made sure he knew how to show me when he needed to go out. Luckily he has been accident-free since day one!

Wally also came to us with the ability to sit on command, he was crate trained,  and he rarely barks or jumps. (And when he does bark or jump he will automatically stop with a “no.”) It may be a lot to expect a dog to have that much training right off the bat, especially a puppy, but if you can find one and you love them – don’t let that dog go!

IMG_8118I also highly recommend waiting to get a dog until your baby is sleep-trained (so about 6 months). It will make it so your new dog spends less time alone and if your dog accidentally wakes the baby up, it’s lot easier to get them back down. I did not intentionally plan to do it that way but I am very glad we did!

Lastly, you should also consider your own “training” with dogs. If you’ve had a dog before or have lots of experience watching dogs then it should be relatively easy to take care of a dog. My husband and I both had dogs growing up so we’ve been able to pull from our own experiences as we raise Wally. Even so, I’m still always researching new tips and asking friends for advice on how to be the best doggie mom I can be.