Guest Blogger Jennifer raymond on adding a baby to a pet-centric household

Our home was always full of animals. Our pets are part of our family. We have two cats and two Duck Tollers named Cadi and Linden.

We expanded our family in August 2013.  While I was still in the hospital, my husband would bring home one of the blankets that our son had been snuggled up in.  I don’t think the dogs really knew what was going to come but this would at least give them a chance to become familiar with the newest member of the Raymond household. 

 Toddler James Raymond with one of his family's dogs, Cadi who they got from Daintree's Space and Heavens litter.

Toddler James Raymond with one of his family's dogs, Cadi who they got from Daintree's Space and Heavens litter.

A few days later, we brought our son James home from the hospital. We sent one of our dogs outside while the other one would stay inside.  This would allow each dog a chance to smell the car seat and get used what was in the car seat itself.  They examined every little spot on the car seat as well as James.  What was this little squirmy thing?  Does it bark like us?  What exactly does it do?

Over the next year as James begins to develop and become more mobile, our dogs adapted right along.  It was crucial for us to teach James to be gentle with any dog.  With that being said, we were also cognizant of how we acted with our dogs because children copy actions they see from others.

We have learned over the last year that providing a patient, calm and positive environment between the child(ren) and dog(s) helps enormously for both parties.  Adult supervision along with some basic understanding of dog behaviour goes a long way.  I’ve found that kids don’t always understand the concept of personal space so when introducing them to dogs, it’s a good idea to approach slowly.

If the dog appears to show signs such as:

  • are the dog’s eyes wide (the whites may often be visible),
  • is the dog trying to avoid the child or how is its posture?
  • Is it stiff? It’s often a sign that the dog needs a little space.  In my experience, I have found that if this is the case, it sometimes works if you try again another day. 

Perhaps the dog has been agitated by something else? We all have bad days so it’s not that the dog doesn’t like children but that it’s sometimes best to give it a little space and try again later.  If the dog feels cornered, the outcome won’t be positive.

When approaching a dog (with a child) and its behaviour appears to be friendly, its posture is relaxed / happy and appears to lean forward to sniff, those are all great signs.  Allow the child to put their hand out so that the dog can sniff it.  If the dog is comfortable in doing so, allow it to approach you (and not the other way around) and let it sniff you and/or the child.  

In general, be patient and don’t force the child to bond with the dog (or vice versa).  It will happen.  If you treat dogs with respect, they will most often return the favour. 

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Jennifer Raymond is a graphic designer, mom, and lover of all animals. Eager to use her creative talents, Jennifer founded a pet photography business, where her passion for photography and animals were united. She was able to use both interests to help the Brooks Animal Protection Society, Pincher Creek Humane Society (SPCA), HeARTs Speak, and Prairie Pit Bull Rescue. She donated her photo services to these establishments by photographing animals ready for adoption, which were uploaded on social media. The experience created many happy memories, but Jennifer closed her business in 2013 when she gave birth to her son, James.

Jennifer’s passion for animals eventually led her to enroll in a Veterinary Assistant program in June 2014, which will be completed by end of 2015. When she isn’t playing with her son, two Duck Tollers, and two adopted cats, Jennifer can be found photographing the environment around her or happily typing away at her computer.