What is a Doggy Doula?
One Of The Most Common Questions I Get Asked Is, “What Is A Doggy Doula?”
Many already know that a doula is a trained professional who provides mothers with continuous physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and shortly after childbirth, so it’s common (and unsurprising) for many to think that a doggy doula provides support to an expecting dog, or even that a doggy doula is a dog that provides this support for her expecting human mom! However, in this article we’ll use the term “doggy doula” in order to describe our special service, designed to help prepare expecting families who own a dog for life with a baby.
“Wait, So I Need A Doggy Doula Too?!”
Our Doggy Doula℠ service stems from the need to provide information and management strategies for expecting and new families who plan on integrating a home with a dog and a baby (or a toddler).
This need came about because it’s all too common for many expecting families (with the best of intentions) to believe that their dog, particularly one that they’ve had forever, and their newborn, will magically become best friends, or that a new dog will seamlessly and effortlessly integrate into a home with a toddler.
It’s not hard to understand why. For many expecting parents, they do not know that prepping their home for a life with a dog and a baby is something that they need to do, due to a lack of widespread awareness and education. For example, even a cursory search of some exhaustive “baby to-do” lists, such as this, and this, don’t even mention if, or how, you should prepare your dog for your baby’s arrival.
And even if they are aware, even the most diligent of expecting parents can wilt under the pressure of doing everything perfectly on their “baby to-do” list, It’s not surprising, then, for some to-do items like this to get de-prioritized, or fall off altogether.
It also doesn’t help that families might have a few friends or family members whose dog and baby (or toddler) seemed to happily coexist without incident. Added to that is the outdated and widespread cultural belief that dogs are naturally protective, careful and loving with a newborn, and therefore not something to worry about.
A number of organizations and non-profits have taken on the goal to provide the much needed education, resources and support to families with dogs and babies/young children.
For example, our founder Tanya Lim, is a licensed educator and presenter for the Family Paws® Parent Education (FPPE). FPPE is the parent organization of two Internationally-licensed programs: Dogs & Storks® and Dogs & Toddlers™. FPPE provides specialized programs for new and expecting families with dogs and offers a wide range of support to achieve success between babies, toddlers and family dogs.
Another example is Doggone Safe, a non-profit organization whose goal is the education of safe human-canine interactions in order to prevent dog bites.
For more resources on babies, toddlers and the whole family, please check out our Resources page!
A Dog’s Perspective
The fact is, the introduction of a newborn into the home could be a very stressful event in a dog’s life. Think about it: everything that a dog has known, particularly the attention she gets, the space that’s hers, and the routine that she’s become accustomed to, will, literally, be turned upside down.
This is why our doggy doula℠ service provides expecting parents comprehensive information about dog body language and behavior so that they will be able to timely spot when, and if, their dog is uncomfortable. Most dog owners think that they know their dog intimately, however, studies show that canine body language is often badly misunderstood by adults, as well as children.
Consequently, many parents are woefully unaware of the subtle body language cues that indicate a dog’s growing discomfort, such as looking away, yawning, lip licking & tongue flicks, giving the whale eye and “kiss to dismiss™”, which can naturally lead to more defensive, and obvious, behaviors such as tensing, moving away, growling, nipping, and potentially biting.
This lack of knowledge can, and does, have dangerous consequences. Children are the most common victims of reported dog bites to people, with The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that half of all children 12 years-of-age and under have been bitten by a dog.
Furthermore, in a study about facial dog bites of children at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, 68% of those bites occurred in children 5 years or younger, with the highest incidence in 3-year-olds. And in both of these studies, the dog is overwhelmingly a family dog, or another dog known to the child or family, and the bite commonly occurs in the home.
While these stats are sobering, the overall goal of understanding your dog should be to ensure that she leads a stress-free, happy, and comfortable life in your home, just like any other member of your family, and if you make the effort to understand her subtle body cues, you’re making a commitment to her long-term happiness.
Making An Assessment Of Your Dog
The first step in making an assessment of your dog is to start by asking yourself these questions:
Has your dog been around infants and babies before?
How does she act around children?
Does your dog listen to you and do what you ask consistently?
Does your dog sleep in your bed?
Do you think that might need to change as your baby arrives?
Is your dog used to relaxing in a private area, even when you are in the house?
How does your dog get your attention?
Is your dog sensitive to noises, sudden movements?
Does your dog get overexcited?
Do you have an idea how you can plan your dog’s care during your labor day?
Do you know how the 1st day at home with your dog and baby is going to go?
Have you thought of any type of management strategies once you live with your baby and dog?
If you haven’t considered the answers to some or all of these questions yet, or feel overwhelmed that this is yet another thing to think about, a doggy doula can help by tailoring, and helping you execute, an action plan that works for you and your household.
So...What Is A Doggy Doula?
Our doggy doula℠ service provides expecting families the tools and knowledge needed in order to prepare with their dog for the arrival of their baby.
The service includes creating a highly personalized training plan, based on the needs of each family and their dog(s). Our goal is to help expecting families feel confident and relaxed in a wide variety of situations, such as prepping a dog to respond to cues, creating a safe dog & baby home environment, getting the dog accustomed to new and unfamiliar sounds that will come from the baby and toys/gadgets, creating a homecoming plan (introducing the baby to the dog over time) and managing everything else in between.
Why Hire A Doggy Doula?
The first months and years of parenting can be challenging (but very rewarding) for the family and the dog, but knowing that you can receive professional support throughout every developmental stage of your child’s life can make all the difference in your life, and the life of your dog.
Besides, is there anything better than enhancing your relationship with your dog, improving your communication, and exploring new ways to bond and have fun, right before a huge life change is bound to occur?
Positive Reinforcement Dog Training
When choosing a professional dog trainer, it’s important that you understand their training philosophy and methods.
Choosing positive reinforcement training services provides you with the most effective and up-to-date training information that focuses on enhancing your relationship with your dog through communication, instead of relying on punishment and suppression.
Be The Change You Want To See In The World!
All too often, I see “cute” videos on social media of baby/toddler-dog interactions, which are shockingly inappropriate and potentially dangerous. I find myself screaming and wincing at these videos, not because I think these parents are knowingly putting their child in danger, but because they do so unknowingly.
So let’s teach our children (and ourselves) how to be respectful, kind, and unassuming, not just for their personal safety, but to show all dogs, including their own, the respect they deserve.
To learn more about this service, please check out our “Expecting Families” page here.