Uh oh. I’ve turned my dog into my baby.

Last weekend a friend of mine came round with her baby. Cleo is adorable; not yet walking but crawling, curious and chatty, accompanied by cheeky smiles 🙂 Before they came round I hadn’t given a second thought as to how my dog and baby would interact, not because I’m an ignorant dog owner and just assume everything will be ok. But because I have always watched and monitored how my dog interacts with children, and today I would be the same, normal, attentive dog owner who has a young child in the house.

To give you the background on my dog, she is a staffie bitch, about 6 years old and came from Battersea Dog Rescue, London 3 years ago. We did immense research into getting a dog as I’d not had one before, and my daughter was 12 at the time so we knew we needed a family dog with no issues with kids. We joined nearly all our local dog rescues and even volunteered to walk dogs at weekends to gain confidence and experience. We watched Cesar Millan (aka The Dog Whisperer) repeatedly and we all fell in with him as a person, as well as our dog trainer. So when we finally went to get our dog, we felt confident that we had done as much as we could in order to get what we all needed, dog included.

So we knew that staffies are good with children (yes it’s true, the media portray a different story most of the time, and of course bad things happen with all breeds, but look into it, you’ll be surprised) and when we got our Shima we couldn’t wait to get her home. As soon as she had sniffed out her new pad we gave her some food…..and then I bravely (foolishly?)  put my hand in the bowl whilst she was eating to see how she would react. She just stopped eating and looked at me, waiting for me to let her continue. And that is our dog pretty much; she isn’t aggressive, she’s very soppy, she’s good around other dogs and doesn’t get bothered by children, even a newborn.

Anyway, back to Cleo. When they arrived Shima sniffed the feet and then sat down. The baby of course was curious, and started slowly crawling towards Shima (occasionally going ‘quack quack’ as that was the noise of the day, bless her). Shima simply got up and moved away, then sat down again. Every time Cleo got too close, Shima just moved. It became quite comical! I was watching Shima’s body language and she appeared to just not want to be near the baby, her hackles weren’t up, her ears were up, her tail normally dangling mid mast and her behaviour perfectly normal. But still I didn’t understand why she didn’t want to be near to the baby, it was as if she was apprehensive, not scared, but wary of what would happen if the baby actually got her. So I sat on the floor between them, to reassure Shima and to also play with Cleo….and this is when it got amusing.

I would say to Cleo something like ‘what’s this?’ holding a toy, and both Cleo and Shima would face the toy and look at me, both wanting to put it in their mouths.
I would say to Cleo ‘a duck goes “quack quack” but a dog goes “woof woof”, can you go “woof woof”?’ and immediately Shima would start barking.
If Cleo picked something up, or went too far from us I would say ‘Cleo come here’ and … you’ve guessed….trotting along would come Shima.
If I said ‘no!’ then both would stop in their tracks and just stare at me! Hilarious!
Throughout all this interaction you need to bear in mind that I am only addressing Cleo, and not even looking in Shima’s direction.

They're dogs!!! Make them walk!!

I know this isn’t that amazing in the respect that dogs follow and understand simple instruction, which is also how we talk to babies and young children, but I realised that my voice was the same. I literally felt like I was talking the same to both of them; using the same words with the same grammatical structures and same tones. It hit me that I had absolutely been treating my dog as a baby! Now I’m actually quite matter of fact when it comes to dogs, I don’t believe that you should put stupid outfits on them (unless it’s Christmass and then it’s just hilarious), I don’t believe you should carry them everywhere and I certainly can’t stand seeing people who humanize dogs to an extreme point (we’ve all seen the weirdos on tv programmes). So I felt like this had sort of crept up on me, that slowly I had turned my dog into a substitute baby, or at least an outlet for all my baby talk!

I quite often bury my desire for a baby, as it can be too overwhelming to admit to myself just how much I want one, so sometimes it’s just easier to think ‘hey ho, not that bothered if I have a baby really, they’re smelly and expensive etc..’ but quite clearly my actions speak louder. I found it fascinating to look into my dog behaviour from that day on, and I realised I do the following;

  • I sometimes refer to my dog as ‘baby’, ‘my girl’ and ‘baby girl’
  • I cuddle her often and she knows to give me a lick when I say ‘ give Mummy a kiss’
  • Shima knows that Simon is referred to as ‘Daddy’
  • I’ll tickle her tummy saying ‘is that nice? ticky-ticky’

Ok I’m sufficiently embarrassed now by what I’ve shared with you, and I’m hoping that your reaction is ‘Jeesh, she’s a nutter!’ because I’ve realised it too.

So am I an emotional wreck who has leaked baby love onto our pet dog? Or am I perfectly normal, and reacting to my situation to the benefit of my dog? Either way I shall be looking into it, just in case I become a truly weird dog owner! lol

On the plus side, I think I have one happy dog! Which is the whole point if you’re going to rescue any animal, surely? I would like to just take a moment to thank Hilary Collis who cared for Shima before she came to us from Battersea. People like Hilary do an amazing job caring for abandoned animals, and I actually find so inspiring that it leads me down the fostering thought path again….



3 responses to this post.

  1. As long as you don’t have one of those doggie strollers, I think you are perfectly normal. I know perfectly well that my dogs are stand-ins for a future baby. I talk to them the way you talk to Shima, I call them “my girls” or “my babies”, and I beam with pride when the do something clever or cute. I hate to admit this one…..but my Yorkie does have t-shirts. I always said I would never dress my dogs up, but as it turns out Yorkies get cold! My book about Yorkies even suggests buying them a sweater. When it gets chilly, Lily visibly shivers! Plus, she is sort of cute in her shirts.


    • Lol! It’s good to know I’m not the only one 🙂
      I don’t mean to judge on the outfits, mainly as I am fully aware that I don’t know everything, but I have heard that the smaller doggies need an extra layer during cold months. I think it’s the owners who have wardrobes for their dogs that co-ordinate with theirs for example, or let their dogs get married with a full ceremony, they’re the owners who scare me 😉


      • Lol- about the dressing your dog up part. I totally agree with you! Mine doesn’t have a “wardrobe”, but she does have few t-shirts she only wears when it’s cold outside. Dressing your dog up and having “outfits” is a bit too much even for me.

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