If you have finished your baby registry and written your birth plan, then you are probably feeling pretty smug right about now. You made your birthing playlist. You preordered your scented candles. You might even have your hospital bag packed. But you’re missing one important step that could make or break your birth experience — including your dog in your birth plan.
At face value, this may seem like a ridiculous idea. Your friends and family will probably laugh at you. But you don’t have to tell anyone that your dog — your first baby — is still a priority with a new baby on the way.
Yes, there it is — the age-old debate about whether you can love a pet as much as a child. Pet parents hate to be patronized by new parents. Expectant parents hate to hear they won’t love their pooch as much when their human child arrives.
But science proves otherwise. For all the glowing, beatific new parents who claim you never know true love until you hold your baby, research states you can love your dog as much as you love your child. Calling your pet your baby is “alloparenting,” or the adoption of a different species.
When Massachusetts General Hospital compared the human-pet bond with the mother-child bond, researchers found commonalities in brain network responses regarding reward, affiliation, emotion, visual processing and social cognition.
So what does this mean when you are expecting a real baby and already have a fur baby at home? You may join a growing number of parents who plan accordingly to ease the transition of the older “pet sibling” when bringing the new baby home from the hospital. To fill this specialty niche, there are doggie experts waiting in the wings. For example, a doggie doula can advise expectant parents on how to prepare their pet for labor and a new infant.
Surprisingly, preparing a dog for a new baby can be just like preparing an older child for a new sibling. Dogs have a routine too. Dogs can respond with aggression or anxiety if their familiar territory is taken over. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Dog Whisperer, then you know how important it is to create harmony between a new arrival and an existing pet. A dog that isn’t properly acclimated could be dangerous.
Your friends might laugh at you when they find out about your doggie birth plan, but stand your ground. It’s not crazy to put special focus on helping your dog adjust to a new baby, for your pet’s sanity and your child’s safety. As Spot Experience doggie day care CEO Mitch Marrow puts so well: Your dog was there first.