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Protecting Your Baby’s Health is a Bad Reason to Get a Dog

Protecting Your Baby’s Health is a Bad Reason to Get a Dog

This week two of my colleagues wrote about studies linking dog ownership to healthy babies. Kristina Chew wrote that having a dog may help prevent your baby from developing asthma and Cathryn Wellner wrote that babies in homes with dogs have fewer respiratory tract symptoms and infections, fewer middle-ear infections and fewer courses of antibiotics.

That is, of course, great news for dog lovers who worry about their dog licking the baby. It also provides excellent ammunition for parents who want to respond to judgmental or concerned comments about the effect of their “dirty dog” on the baby’s health. These studies are not, however, a good reason to go out and get a dog.

Dogs need a lot of attention and care. They need to be walked, fed, played with, bathed and loved. Babies need a lot of attention. They need to be fed, changed, bathed, and loved. Even in families that already have a well loved dog when baby arrives, this can be a challenge.

On babycenter,  Jennifer Borget wrote a letter to her dog Snoop:

I witnessed a sad scene with some of my friends and their pets. They’d start out overly loving to their fur babies, but it would all change once a human baby came along. The pet became an annoying hassle. I saw many friends give their pets away and tell me someday this would be me. I swore up and down nothing would change when a baby came along. We’d still love and treat you just the same.

Well, that was a lie.

The dog did, however, get more attention a few years later once the child was old enough to be a playmate.

On The Stir, Nicole wrote about the adjustments they would have to make to their “spoiled puppy’s” comfortable life:

My husband has already suggested putting him on the floor in his dog bed at night, as opposed to in our bed, since there will be a baby in our room, also. That’s not happening. But things are about to get a little crowded. I know Onion. He’s a curious guy. And when I’m up feeding my daughter in bed in the middle of the night, he’s going to want to know what’s going on and whether or not he can, somehow, turn whatever I’m doing into a game. A tail-wagging, barking game.

On Offbeat Mama, Rodrigues wrote about the way that her dog, Sarah, took a backseat to the baby even though she hadn’t intended it that way:

When I became pregnant for the first time, I promised myself that Sarah would still be a cornerstone in my life; no matter who else entered. At first I kept my promise. I took Sarah and baby Jonah on a walk every day. I sat on the living room floor and played with Sarah and Jonah. I tied Sarah to a tree and put Jonah in his bouncer outside, and we all enjoyed our yard together. But somewhere between a cross-country move, another baby, and two college degrees, Sarah took baby steps toward the omega position.

While I wasn’t neglecting Sarah on any grand scale, I knew I was neglecting her in my own standard of care. Not only that, but she had traveled through rough waters with me; she deserved to spend the last years of her life enjoying my appreciation. I sulked for while over what a terrible dog-friend I was.

These parents concerns were not about germs or dirt that the dogs might pass on to their babies. Their concern, and their experience, was that the dog simply got neglected once the baby arrived. Their human baby took precedence over their fur baby.

My advice to parents: If you have a dog that you love, great. I’m sure you’ll find a way to get past the concerns that these dog owners expressed and find a way to balance the role of your baby in your life with the role of your dog in your life. But if you don’t have a dog, please don’t rush out and get one just for the health benefits for your baby. That isn’t likely to work out well for anyone.

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Photo credit: Aaron E. Silvers on flickr

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7:08AM PDT on Mar 20, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

1:58AM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Very interesting!

10:04PM PDT on Aug 4, 2012

I think this is a well balanced article. People who already have dogs don't necessarily relegate their animal(s) to second class care. It is the stupid pet owners (Dare I mention Paris H) who acquire animals as accessories or fashion statements or other idiotic reasons who seem to reject, demote or withdraw from their pets.

Not only have the health claims made for pet ownership been validated (even if it is a goldfish in a fish tank which can pacify and lower blood pressure) but there seems to be some correlation between well adjusted children growing up in households where there are pets for whom they are responsible. (Yes, I acknowledge psychopathic children killing and torturing pets but that should be an early warning signal to adult insanity).

In short, people should NOT acquire a dog as some sort of health protective theory but only if they really want and care for a dog. Otherwise sticked to stuffed animal toys.

11:26PM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

In a world so obsessed with germs and anti-bacterial sanitizers, is it any wonder that we are all getting sick, more often, than "in the good old days"?

As a youngster, I ate dirt, drank gutter water, drank out of the hose, was around horses, cows, chickens and feral cats. With all this exposure to germs, I get sick maybe once every few years. I was exposed, my body built up a resistance, and I am a healthy 54 years old broad.......... I highly reccommend it!

4:12AM PDT on Jul 13, 2012

What I want to know is, how do couples who let a dog lie on the bed ever conceive children..............?

8:28PM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

If you want a dog, get one after you get your babies and after they're a bit older so the dog won't be neglected. Then the kids can help take care of the dog and play with it too.

7:47PM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

What buffoon came up with this stupid idea? I swear we are inundated with fools. I suppose getting medicine for your baby's health is a bad idea too, huh? What a joke some people are.

If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ---St. Francis of Assisi

12:22AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

This is a bad headline, and is not true. If it is the ONLY reason for getting a dog, they it may not be a good idea, although many people learn that they love their pets far more than they thought they would, and discover how much more than immune strength pets can bring to their families, including bringing families closer together by loving everyone, providing comfort in times of stress and sadness, getting people out walking and socializing with their dogs, and guarding one's home and family members.

As one of several good reasons to have pets, doing it for immune stimulation is a GOOD idea.

9:49PM PDT on Jul 11, 2012

Bad idea

7:51PM PDT on Jul 11, 2012

Having companion animals in the family boosts our immune systems. It is a fact that babies and children raised in an animal friendly home are far less sickly than those brought up in a sterile house.

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