Bringing home baby to meet your dog - Sunny and Felix
Sunny is a lucky Singapore special, who was adopted by an animal-loving couple and former fellow volunteer, Ina Lehmann and now lives in Germany. Sunny has shown true Singapawrean adaptability, adjusting to a new country, changes in the weather, and most importantly, smoothly taking on the role of becoming a big fur brother!
On Mother's Day, we celebrate all caregivers to both animals and humans and we decided to have a candid chat with Ina on some crucial questions that may pop up in the minds of any expectant couple, who already have a dog.
LD: You had adopted Sunny before you got pregnant, did you do anything special to introduce Sunny to his new human baby brother Felix? What are your top tips to help expecting parents welcome their dog to their new family member?
Ina: Actually Sunny's behaviour already changed heavily during pregnancy - whenever we cuddled or I took a nap, he put his head on my belly. We also noticed that he became much more timid on playing with me compared to with my husband.
When we came home with the baby, he of course was curious and confused at first. We made sure that he got to sniff, see and lick (feet only) the baby and tried to keep them around each other (without leaving them alone) often so that they get used to each other.
As Sunny needs his beauty sleep, we keep the baby in our bedroom for the night and sunny in the living room. We also made sure that we show Sunny affection & attention, even during those stressful first weeks and months. This way he's not jealous of the baby, but rather sees him as a little brother / puppy.
My top tips are:
1. Make sure the dog's needs as a dog and family member are still fulfilled - cuddles, playtime, long walks, peace, and quiet.
2. Let the dog interact with the baby - sniffing, observing, licking the baby's feet (just make sure to wash them after, because the baby may put his/her feet in his/her mouth) - be careful (because they can hurt or scare each other), but not afraid.
3. Make sure you have basic obedience training done with the dog - you need to be able to verbally control your dog & he/she should know instinctively what kind of behaviour is expected/acceptable.
LD: How did Sunny adjust to the change in routines and baby stuff around the home?
Ina: Sunny adjusted very well! His routine actually didn't change that much and he still goes on 3 walks a day, we just have the baby tag along. The first walk just shifted to later, so he gets to sleep in more often. Sunny may actually think the baby brings two main benefits:
a) feeding a baby often results in leftover vegetables and crumbs - something that he gladly will help us clean up
b) Sunny is a bit scared of other dogs - so having a stroller that he can hide behind is great.
While he has some interest in the baby's things, we'd say that the baby is a much larger threat to the dog's things!
LD: Did you notice any change in Sunny after Felix came along?
Ina: Not much in general - at least not outside his interaction with Felix. I'd say he became a bit more balanced and for some reason developed a 5-minute zoomie when it's close to bedtime for Felix (so watching the dog go haywire is Felix's good-night-entertainment)!
LD: What do Felix and Sunny enjoy the most together and is there anything either of them does not like doing together?
Ina: Watching Sunny play is one of Felix's favourite things. In fact, he's a little bit obsessed with the dog and always tries to get close to him and touch him. Since the baby can also hurt the dog (he once bit into Sunny's ear), we actually spend more time keeping the baby away from the dog than the other way around these days.
The most fascinating thing is the responsibility that Sunny sometimes takes - if we leave Felix on his chair or playpen and leave the room, you can be pretty sure that sunny will get up from his bed and watch the baby. Once we're back, he goes back to his bed.
We also realized the calming effect Sunny has on Felix (he usually stops crying when he sees the dog). We've seen Felix starting to cry a little bit and before we could react, Sunny gave a huge sigh, got up, walked over to the baby, sat in front of it until he stopped crying, and then went back to his nap. He also started bringing kibbles to the baby, trying to feed him, which of course is very sweet but we had to try and stop Felix from taking it (the baby was upset with us for that!)
LD: Does Sunny seek or enjoy "me time" for old times' sake and how do you manage that?
Ina: Yes, Sunny does enjoy his "me time/alone time" with us. We usually have 30 minutes of intensive playtime with one of us. Felix usually is in bed by then or is watching with glee. He also often comes by for cuddles. But apart from that, we feel that the dog actually enjoys being part of a larger family more than before. He joins family naptime, going on walks together (he usually tries to cut them short if not all of us are out with him) and even checks in on us when my husband comes to bed after Sunny's last walk at night (which is special, because he doesn't go into the bedroom without being invited in - but if he doesn't get to check that everyone's in bed, he doesn't want to go to bed).
Thank you Ina - we love how you have allowed Felix and Sunny to find their bond naturally and we wish both brothers the very best as they grow up together! Happy Mothers Day!