Getting Our Dogs Ready for a Baby

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, baby, chicago, marking our territory

“What if our kid is allergic to dogs!?”

Emily’s sudden question pierced the sunny serenity of a quiet Saturday morning. We sat in our front room, basking in the bright spring light, each of us with a dog in our lap. Between a growing pup and a growing belly the fit was snug for Emily and Zero, but both were quite content.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, baby, chicago, marking our territory

Until Emily’s sudden question.

“Don’t worry,” I calmly replied. “We can always get another.”

“Another dog?”

“No, of course not! Another kid, obviously.”

Emily gave me The Look™. The one which means she loves me not because of my jokes, but despite them.

And despite my joke, I shared Emily’s concern. Not about allergies, but about all the potential problems that could arise when we added a kid to the mix. A number of people have asked me about how we prepared the pups for the new arrival and how they responded to their baby brother, so today I thought I’d answer both questions.

The lion dog’s share of the work was nonspecific to Lincoln. Extensive socialization is part of the standard training repertoire with any of my dogs, so both Penny and Zero had early exposure to all types of people, including kids. We practice obedience work at every meal, so I’m confident my dogs will follow directions in the apartment.

I’ve discovered the two most useful commands are “Leave it” and “Get to your bed!” The former is always helpful in a multitude of situations, and the latter lets the pups know when I need them to clear out to their safe zone.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, baby, chicago, marking our territory

As it specifically related to Lincoln, we attended a dog-and-baby workshop which covered a lot of common sense techniques to help keep everyone safe and happy. As many recommend, I also brought a Lincoln-scented blanket home from the hospital for the pups to sniff ahead of time, but neither of them paid it much mind.

The same proved true for Penny when she met her little brother in the flesh. His arrival was hailed with regal indifference and she calmly returned to the couch. Zero, on the other hand, was love struck from  the start.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, baby, chicago, marking our territory

“Can I hold him next?”

Our guiding principle is a simple one – we don’t put Lincoln in the dogs’ space, and we expect the pups to steer clear of his. This means we never place Lincoln on top of, next to or near the dogs. And when Lincoln is hanging out in his rock ‘n play we’re training the pups to give him room. Penny picked up on the rule right away, while Zero needed a bit more time to learn to let sleeping babies lie. We’ve reached a happy compromise where Zero is allowed to keep an eye on Lincoln as long as he doesn’t poke his nose into his little brother’s space.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, baby, chicago, marking our territory

As always, the dogs are welcome to share space with all of us on the couch.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, baby, chicago, marking our territory

I’ve also made a concerted effort to make as many trips to the dog beach as possible. Tired dogs make much better siblings than ones with pent up energy.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, baby, chicago, marking our territory

In short, I’m happy to report that parents, pups and baby are all slowly figuring out this new routine. Together.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, baby, chicago, marking our territory

And the good news for Lincoln is that things are going so well with the pups that we’re pretty sure we’re going to keep him!




OMGosh Will & Emily, big congratulations on the arrival of baby Lincoln. Look at all that dark hair! What a wonderful and momentous occasion. I’m so happy your family hasn’t had the growning pains some experience. Needless to say, I enjoyed your post down to the last morsel 😀 All your diligent dog training will ensure harmony for years to come as you watch your boy grown with his two best friends. Wonderful news!

Congrats on the newest addition — great tips for adding the 2-legged family member to the household 😉 ! And thanks for the product recommendations .. just ordered 4Knines covers for our backseats, and appreciate the reference from someone else with adventuresome canines!

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