Ep 89: Making Sure Your Dog and Your New Baby Get Along Well with Michelle Stern of Pooch Parenting

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I cover a lot of medical topics on the show, but I also love to mix in other information about pregnancy, birth & parenting that I think may be helpful for you. This week I have a wonderful episode for all you dog lovers that will help ensure that your dogs and your new baby get along well!

Michelle Stern is a mom, certified dog behavior consultant and trainer, and a former teacher of 16 years. She uses positive-reinforcement based methods for training based on the latest science of animal learning and behavior, and she loves helping families create safe, loving and thriving homes for dogs and humans alike.

Michelle and I talk about why you absolutely need to have a plan for bringing your baby home and introducing them to your dog. We discuss ways to prepare your dog for baby's arrival, how to nip any potentially troublesome habits in the bud, and why it's important to protect your relationship with your dog even as your family changes.

We also chat about dog breeds and what you should look for when you're considering adding a dog to your young family. Michelle is so knowledgeable, practical and fun - I think you all are going to love hearing her expertise!

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • Concrete things you can do to prepare your dog for the arrival of your new baby
  • Why you need to make sure your dog is comfortable being behind a barrier before you bring baby home
  • What should happen on the day you bring the baby home and how to keep everyone safe & happy
  • Michelle's thoughts on dog breeds and young kids and what you should consider for when thinking about getting a new dog
  • What the best time is to bring a new dog into your family
  • What to think about when getting a dog from a breeder versus from a shelter

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I want this podcast to be more than a one sided conversation. Join me on Instagram where we can connect outside of the show! Through my posts, videos, and stories, you'll get even more helpful tips to ensure you have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. You can find me on Instagram @drnicolerankins. I'll see you there!

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Ep 89: Making Sure Your Dog and Your New Baby Get Along Well with Michelle Stern of Pooch Parenting

Nicole: When this episode of the podcast, you're going to learn how to ensure that your fur baby and your human baby get along well.

Nicole: Well, welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Callaway Rankins, a board certified OB GYN who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it. Well, hello there. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 89. Thank you. Thank you for spending a bit of your time with me today. Now, of course, on this podcast, I talk about a lot of quote unquote medical things, but I also love mixing in nonmedical topics that I think may be helpful for you. And this episode definitely falls into that category. On this episode of the podcast, I have Michelle Stern. Michelle is a certified professional dog trainer, a dog behavior consultant, a mom, and a former classroom teacher. She has over 16 years of teaching experience and she loves both the human and canine members of families. And this definitely shows in her warm and supportive demeanor with her clients. She specializes in working with families who are expecting babies, and those who already have children and dogs. She's on Facebook, Instagram, and her website is Pooch Parenting.

Nicole: And she'll talk a little bit more about that and what she offers in the episode. Now, Michelle and I have a great conversation about things like for families who already have a dog and are having a new baby. She gives an outstanding overview of how a family should approach making sure the dog and the baby get along, some really concrete, actionable tips that I know you'll find helpful. We talk about things to be on the lookout for, with the dog once the baby is home, we discuss different breeds of dogs and how they work with families. And then also how to introduce a dog into a family, if you already have children. Now I had dogs growing up. My favorite was a beautiful German Shepherd we had named Heidi and we go back and forth right now in our family about getting a dog. Two of us want a dog two of us want a cat.

Nicole: So I learned a lot from this episode that I think will help us make that decision. And I know that those of you with dogs will learn a lot from this episode too. Now, before we get into the episode, let me say a quick word about birth plans. If you were thinking about making a birth plan, that is a great idea. It's a fantastic way to help communicate your wishes for your birth with your care team. However, when you make a birth plan, I bet you want your doctors and nurses to actually pay attention to it. Well, I have a free online class that will help you learn exactly how to do just that. It's called How To Make A Birth Plan That Works. And in that class, you learn some things in order to make sure your care team actually pays attention to your birth plan, but that's not all you learn in the class.

Nicole: You learn some key questions that you must ask before you write a single word of your birth plan, what to include in your birth plan, as well as the best way to approach the process of making a birth plan. This class, How To Make A Birth Plan That Works is completely free. It's on-demand. You can sign up for it at drnicolerankins.com/register . Uh, people really love this class. So definitely check it out. If you are thinking about making a birth plan, which you should. All right, let's get into this episode with Michelle, from Pooch Parenting.

Nicole: Thank you, Michelle, for agreeing to come onto the podcast. I am so excited to have you here. And my husband and we have two girls, two of us want dogs, a dog, two of us want a cat I'm in the dog fam I'm in the dog family. So, so why don't we have you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work and your family. If you'd like,

Michelle: I am a certified professional dog trainer. I'm also a mother of two. My daughter is 20 today.

Nicole: Happy birthday.

Michelle: My son is 18. I know it's I can't believe I have a 20 year old, that's insane. Um, I'm also a teacher with 16 years of experience. I taught high school for eight years, and then I founded and ran a cooking school for children for another eight years. And I did a lot of work in those times with toddlers and young children working on developing really good eating habits. So have been all over the place, but what's really, really wonderful about my new, I say new, but it's really been a lifelong love of dogs is that I am now basically focusing on my passion of animals, but combining it with my life experience as an educator and as a mother. And it's really, really special because I understand child development, both from education perspective and a parenting perspective. And as a mom, I get it. I get the daily struggle. And I think that a lot of dog trainers who don't have kids, don't always fully understand the day-to-day challenges of what it's like for parents who have kids or who are expecting to just get through the day, living with a dog.

Nicole: I think that is so amazing that like, we all want to find our sweet spot of combining all the things that we're interested in in doing that as our work, um, in our day to day life, it takes some time to get there, sometimes.

Michelle: It sure does. I have this very winding path. But the journey brought me here. I started with animals, studied animal behavior in college, left it, and even teaching high school biology. I still brought in a lot of animal behavior into the classroom, but now I really feel like I've taken all of my experiences and put it together in a really efficient way that will help parents. Um, and I don't waste any time, you know, we're all so busy. Everybody's working and juggling.

Nicole: Exactly. Exactly. So how long have you been a dog trainer and then what does that mean? That you're certified.

Michelle: I love that you asked that question because I think that people just assume that any dog trainer knows what they're doing. That's entirely true. I mean, even if you get your nails done, you have to get your nails done by somebody who has some type of, of credential. Um, so I took a lot of classes and did a lot of book learning in addition to apprenticing with a mentor and working at a animal shelter for many years. And I also, you can hear my puppy also. Um, okay. This is reality though. This is what life is like. Let's just keep, I'm always going to keep it real. That's the other thing too, is that there's no need to sugar coat things. Let's just get to it anyway. And so I, I did a lot of book learning and then I took an actual test. So my certification is called knowledge assessed, which means that I had to go to a testing center.

Michelle: You guys are gonna have flashbacks to like the SAT days where you had to go to a place and there was a proctor and it was very intense. I studied for several months and made sure I knew what I was talking about. And I had a big thorough exam, all about the principles of not only dog training and dog behavior, but also how to work with clients, how to be compassionate and how to use strategies and training dogs that rely on using rewards to get behavior that you want repeated. It's a lot like parenting. So for your audience, it's probably a lot like how they plan to parent that, you know, we like to reward behavior that we want our kids and our dogs to do again in the future. And so that's actually, science has suggested that that's the best way to learn whether you're human or whether you're a dog.

Nicole: I love it. So you are serious about your work. This is not like some passing sort of fast. Yeah,

Michelle: Seriously. So it's, it's really fun, but it's also super cool because with my history as a high school biology teacher, we can look at the field of dog training. Um, now there's a lot of scientific data that supports, uh, how training is most effective.

Nicole: Love it, love it. That's super fun. Yeah. So let's, let's go ahead and get into some of your work. So my audience is mostly folks who are having their first baby. So let's talk about if they already have a dog and they're going to bring a new baby home, give us an overview of how they should approach making sure that that is a smooth transition and smooth relationship.

Michelle: Oh my gosh. I mean, that's something I could talk about for two hours or three hours just in and of itself. So I'll have to pare this down a smidge.

Nicole: Sure. And I know I saw on your website, you have this lovely, like infographic of six things that you can kind of do. Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah, I do. And people can go and grab a copy of that. It's totally free. Um, most of the content on my website is free. I just really want to empower parents to get whatever resources they need. Do have a class, an online class that is not free called Preparing Dog For New Baby. And that actually goes into all the details of how I would want to answer this question, but I want to address a couple of things. So first of all

Nicole: Give a top, top couple of things, huh?

Michelle: Yeah. So the fact that your audience is listening to this right now is the number one step, right? Which is to say that we can get our dogs ready before the baby even shows up. And there is a lot that people don't even realize. So for example, your dog may have some bad habits or maybe asks for attention inappropriately. Like I was working with a client just the other day and she was saying her dog, when it wants attention, it goes up to her and it hits her with its paw. Now that's fine. Maybe if you have a three pound Chihuahua, but there's not fine if you have a 90 pound Labrador with sharp nails and it's especially not fine, if you're trying to nurse your brand new baby and you're struggling at mealtime, the last thing you need is a dog to get up in your business and get in your way and prevent, you know, feeding or bonding or any of the special moments that a mom has with a new baby.

Michelle: So, um, what is really a great thing to think about is if it's sort of doing an assessment, let's be honest, let's be realistic. Does my dog have any bad habits that I would love to nip in the bud before baby even shows up? Um, and so that's one thing that I would love for people to evaluate is just really being real about, okay, is my dog as perfect as I think, are you, is there any time when I bang my head against the wall? And I'm like, oh my gosh, it's so annoying when my dog does X, Y, and Z. So let's deal with that now. Right? And so I can help deal with that. A lot of dog trainers don't, you don't need any special parenting stuff for that part of it. Um, however, there's a lot other things that you can before baby comes.

Michelle: So for example, non pregnant spouse, okay. Unless they sympathy eat with you, their body doesn't generally change very much during pregnancy the way that the pregnant parent's body does. Right? Obviously we change, we have hormones, we have pheromones, we have moods. We have all sorts of different things going on with us when we're carrying a baby. I know this I, one of my children is biological and one of them is adopted. So I've added kids all sorts of ways, but the end of the day, um, the dad or your partner, whoever, um, doesn't necessarily look any different right now. Here's the problem though, once the baby comes along, both parents are probably going to be wearing the baby at any given time, right? You're wearing a sling or you're wearing a baby carrier, you have a backpack on, or you're pushing a stroller. And that changes your body.

Michelle: And the dog may not be comfortable with that in the non-pregnant parent because their body has looked the same the whole time. Does that make any sense? Kind of getting women thinking. So this is just something that not very many people would even think about, but so here's the, so this is sort of the point is that if we don't practice asking our dog to do normal, polite behaviors when we look different, then suddenly, we will look different and need our dog to let's say, lay down so they don't jump into the diaper pail. For example, the dog may not listen to us the same as they did before. Right? So what I love to have parents do, and this is one of my favorite activities, and it's really super fun is, this is back before the pandemic, when I could go to people's homes, but now I work with families over video, is I ask them if they're comfortable. And if their culture allows such a thing as to open some of the gifts that they've received before baby comes such as a baby carrier or a sling or something, or even the stroller, and to take it out and to have the non-pregnant partner, put it on and stuff it with pillows or a stuffed animal or whatever, and then ask the dog to do the normal things. Maybe even go on a walk with your dog and see if your dog still listens to you. See if the dog is comfortable with you, even though now we look different, right? So it's really interesting to see how different dogs react to this. Some dogs are terrified now of that parent, some dogs don't even bat an eye, but you need to have a baseline data of how your dog tends to behave when suddenly the whole family is going to be shifting now.

Nicole: That is really smart.

Michelle: Yeah. And it's not something that a dog trainer who hasn't had children or who doesn't specialize in this, they would have no idea to even think about that. Um, and then the last one, before I talk about actually bringing the baby home, cause I think that's important to talk about, but the last behavior that I think is really worth talking about is getting your dog comfortable to be behind a barrier before baby comes home. Okay. So what I'm talking about is setting up a baby gate or a playpen or something like that and having the dog be on either side of it. So what I love about pens for example is that the dog could be in the pen or the baby could be in the pen. And what that allows is a little bit of breathing room because you cannot always have your eyes on both the baby and the toddler.

Michelle: I mean, you still have to function. And that's the hardest part, I think. As we are adapting to this new life, with this new human in it is how do we use the toilet? How do we cook meals? How do we fold laundry or just wash it in the first place? We may not fold it anymore, but you know, all the, you know, we have to be flexible about certain things, but, but legitimately, like how do you make dinner? How do you feed yourself? How do you even check your phone? Because doing all of those things requires you taking your eyes off the baby and the dog. And so by getting our dog used to being on one side of a barrier while we are on the other is huge because you're going to have to use one for your sanity and for the safety of your new baby.

Nicole: That's another smart idea. I love it. Love it, love it. So then let's talk about, oh wait, and just to summarize, so you said get the dog used to being behind a barrier?

Michelle: Yeah. And practice with wearing equipment for the non-pregnant spouse or partner.

Nicole: Yes. Yeah. And just even, and then the other one was just think about, are there any bad behaviors that you need to nip in the bud before the baby comes?

Michelle: That is exactly right. Cause honestly, I mean, seriously, your, your patience is going to wear thin. You're going to be tired. You're probably going to be somewhat cranky at some point, you know, and it's really hard to be as patient. You know, if your dog is barking, you may snap at your dog, knock it off, cut it out. And that's not your normal self. You may not normally handle things that way. And so we don't want to start changing how we treat our dog just because we have less patience. Um, and we can address that by practicing those kinds of things.

Nicole: Love it, love it, love it. So let's transition then into what happens when you bring the baby home, what are two or three things to do then?

Michelle: Ooh boy. So I, first of all, we need a plan. We need a plan beforehand and I don't want to just see glowing parents bringing the baby home and hoping for the best that is not the strategy that's going to be effective. So instead we've definitely want to plan. So for example, is the dog staying home? Like, do you have a house sitter? Do you have somebody staying with your dogs? Will the dogs, where will the dogs be when you get home? So some people ship off the dogs to the in-laws or they bring them to a boarding facility for birth or a variety of different things, but the dog needs to be somewhere. And what I like to do is have a plan in place for when mama walks through that door so that the dogs are not all over her because a big dog is going to knock into her.

Michelle: She's going to be sore and we need to protect mom at all costs. I recommend typically that mom enter the house separate from the baby. So maybe the other partner or relative carries the carrier into the house, but I'd like to see the dogs on leashes, if the dogs are home. If the dogs are not home, come home, get used to the house, walk around, do your thing, find your comfortable places. And then when the dogs are allowed to come back home, then I think it would be super for mama to say hi outside without the baby. So that the dogs are going to be so excited to see mama again, because they've been apart for a couple of days or a couple of weeks, depending on her recovery and her birth and all of that stuff. So we need to be really sensitive to the fact that they may just be out of their mind, excited to see mama again. And we don't want the baby to be any part of that excited encounter because dogs do all kinds of things when they're excited. And I'm not worried about safety necessarily, but accidents can happen in terms of like one of my dogs, for example, has a tail that can clear the coffee table. You know, she wags it too hard. She'll clear off everything on there.

Nicole: Right. Gotcha.

Michelle: Um, and it hurts. It really does. We don't want to, you know, we don't want to do that. Some dogs jump, we don't want the baby to get knocked out of it, out of arms or out of a carrier or anything else. So when mama or the dogs do come in the house, baby should be in a carrier and ideally elevated maybe on the couch next to mom. And I'd like the dogs to be on a leash. And I'd like mom to be between the dogs and the baby. And honestly, this is going to sound so weird. I would prefer, we act like you just bought a new lamp or a new side table. And that's the new item in the house and not this whole big, oh, you have to meet the baby, come see the baby. I, I would much prefer we make it a non-issue and not focus on the introduction because they have a lifetime to get to know each other. And there's absolutely no rush. And the dog is going to already smell the baby on you, that you don't need to make a fuss about sniff the baby, smell the baby, because the smell of the baby has already permeated the whole house. So that's a non-issue for the dog. Um, but honestly it'd be so much better to just almost as if you sat down a bag of groceries and mamas please don't be offended. Cause I know your baby is like this amazing treasure. And for me to call your baby a bag of groceries is horrible. But I think what you're understanding though is the idea that yes, there is a new creature here and it makes noise and it's often carried around in a bundle or whatever, but you're not going to be friends with the baby, the dog and the baby are going to live together and cohabitate together. And they're not going to be friends for a while. Right. And it is up to us to make sure that nobody makes a mistake. And the way we can do that is by not turning the baby into a magnet for our dog to just be fuss, fuss, fuss, fuss, fuss over this baby because the dog isn't going to interact with the baby, the dog should not. Um, and a common problem that happens is the dog either is very anxious or very excited and wants to lick the baby all over. But licking, we think of licking is kissing, but in many cases, licking is actually an outward sign of stress and the tongue is really close to the teeth. I mean, let's be honest. So I'd rather that not happen.

Nicole: Makes a lot of sense. Makes a lot of sense. So anything else to be on the lookout for once baby comes home?

Michelle: No, no. I mean, I think really just, um, again, using gates, using separation, making sure mama is always in-between dog and baby and making sure someone's always awake in the room, awake and alert, you know, in the room when, um, the dog and baby are not confined in any way, because if you fall asleep on the couch and the dog is loose, then nobody's watching the baby and the dog.

Nicole: Gotcha, gotcha. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. So let's talk about briefly, um, or however much you want to get into it. Like I'm curious about breeds of dogs and how they work best with babies or young children. Does it make a difference? So maybe we can start with what breeds of dogs don't work well with young children. And are there any breeds that people should say, maybe we should rehome this dog because it's just not a good fit?

Michelle: Yeah. I, you know, that is a really sensitive question. Um, and a lot of people can be super triggered by that question. And what I would say is that it all boils down to the individual dog and that we do not make generalizations necessarily based on breed. Right. Um, so I am trying so hard not to make

Nicole: I was gonna say, I can, I can feel it. You're like, I don't want to say like, you know,

Michelle: Oh, here, okay. Here's the thing. There are people in the world who are racist and there are people in the world who are breedists, right? It's, it's a very similar thing. And I don't think that making any generalization about any group of anybody tends to be appropriate because there are individuals within every kind of living creature that defy generalizations and that satisfy gen. So you can find information that you want to find or that you, the opposite of that, if that makes any sense. So here's what I would say though. There are breeds of dogs that have been bred for hundreds of years to do certain jobs. Okay. So let me give you an example. An example of that let's say would be a Border Collie. Okay. So a Border Collie is a herding breed. You've seen them, you've seen them on TV. They herd sheep around like, like it's air, they breathe it. It's how, it's what they know to do. Now. A Border Collie is going to chase your children. It's going to nibble them on the ankles when they run and play, it's going to happen. Why? Not because the dog wants to hurt your kids, but because the dog wants to move your kids because that's what's in its DNA, right? Some Border Collies are incredible with children, but they have a lot of energy and you need to know, am I capable of giving this dog enough work to do so that it can do appropriate behaviors instead of inappropriate behaviors? God, is that, is that making any sense?

Nicole: Yes, it makes perfect sense.

Michelle: So let me give you another example. There are breeds of dogs that have been bred to guard and protect. So let's say, um, a Malinois, for example, Malinois, are, um, often used as police dogs. They can be lovely, but they are bred to work. So a Malinois is going to take an experienced handler to really know their dog, know what their dog is like and be capable of having the appropriate skills to handle a Malinois in whatever circumstances life is gonna throw at you. Just because you have a Border Collie or a Melinois, is that inappropriate with kids? Absolutely not, but every individual dog is different. And so I think what it boils down to is sort of looking back at the behavior assessment that we talked about at the beginning, which is that does my dog have good behavior? Is my dog a good citizen? Is my dog somebody who is pleasant to be around? Does my dog have fear and anxiety? Does my dog try to bite people because it's nervous or has past trauma, right? So it's not even just a breed thing, but often it's a genetic or past experience thing. So I'm gonna kind of try to take a pass at answering any more detail than that, just because I think we really just have to know who we're talking about.

Nicole: No, I think that makes a lot of sense. You just have to look at the individual dog for sure. Would you be willing to talk about a couple other breeds if I asked about?

Michelle: Absolutely. Yeah.

Nicole: So what about like German Shepherds?

Michelle: So German Shepherds these days in my experience are either remarkable or they're very anxious and I've, I've seen a lot of German Shepherds who have a lot of anxiety and have really bad hips. And those hips at some point in their life can cause a lot of pain. And a dog that's in a lot of pain is going to be less patient around young children just as an older person might be, or, you know, if you're crotchety for one reason or another, um, you know, but, but that would be any dog whose body hurts, right? It could be an older dog that's body hurts, right? It's not just a German Shepherd, but a German Shepherds can be amazing. They do need a job. You know, they, they are a combination of both herding dogs and protection dogs. And so, um, just knowing what you're getting into, I would not recommend a German Shepherd if you've never had a dog before. Just because there's a lot of subtlety, um, and making sure that you're meeting their needs.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And I asked about German Shepherd. I had a German Shepherd when I was growing up named Heidi and I loved her so much and she was definitely a protector for sure.

Michelle: I can tell, you know, sometimes it boils down to the individual dog. Um, a lot of times, you know, there are characteristics. If people get a dog from a breeder, I really recommend meeting the parent dogs because you're gonna know a lot about the behavior traits that you're going to get in a dog when you meet the parents or the siblings.

Nicole: Gotcha, gotcha. Now what about some of the smaller breeds of dogs like Chihuahua or I think some people may think, oh, it's a little tiny dog, I don't necessarily have to worry as much is that. That's probably not true. I'm guessing.

Michelle: It's funny that you mentioned Chihuahuas of all breeds because a lot of dog trainers think Chihuahuas are more dangerous than Pit Bulls because they just, you know, they have been bred you, do you remember those silly Taco Bell commercials? You know, so because of those, they got so popular and even, even movies like Legally Blonde, where Bell, where she was carrying around her Chihuahua and Chihuahuas can be amazing and they can be wonderful, but some of them have no hesitation to bite. So, um, I would say that smaller dogs can be really easy and wonderful pets, but because of their small size, they can feel vulnerable. And if they feel vulnerable, we have to just make sure that they don't use their teeth as a way of protecting themselves. So if you have a small dog and the kids want to scoop it up and carry it around all the time, that's going to be a problem because kids, first of all, aren't going to be coordinated enough to make that dog feel safe when it's being picked up.

Michelle: So imagine being picked up and feeling like you might fall at any moment, you're going to probably start to resist being picked up. And eventually you might use your teeth and say, hey, can you back off and stop doing that? So that is going to sort of make the parents need to step up the boundaries and say, you know what? We have a rule in this house that you do not pick up the dog. And if you want to hold the dog, then we can sit on the floor and you can invite the dog to choose. The dog gets to consent by the way that the dog can choose to come and sit in your lap or not. But we are not going to pick up the dog or approach the dog without its consent, because then you're setting yourself up to get your kid open.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Wow. You just have such great information here.

Michelle: Well that's good. I'm glad to hear that. I do have to say there are some breeds of small dogs that are just so incredibly wonderful. Like I'm a huge fan of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They're very sweet. They tend to have some heart problems, which are alarming and scary. So you have to be very careful getting one from a breeder that tests for all sorts of things. Um, Shih Tzus are lovely and sometimes Yorkies are lovely. There are a variety of dogs. Like I said, they're individuals of every breed that are going to be lovely. And there are tons of mixed breed dogs that are totally lovely, but you know, Cavalier King Charles and even Bichons and, um, Havanese are lovely family dogs.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Love it. Love it. What about Dobermans? And this is totally personal. Cause my husband wants one. So

Michelle: Dobermans are amazing. I mean, they are smart. Now what I would recommend, and this is like my wishlist, right? This is if Michelle could rule the world, which is the breeders of Dobermans and if, and you might be able to work with a breeder who's willing to do this and say, Michelle says they, that they do not cut the ears and they do not cut the tail. Now those are things that are cut. I want you to imagine that, first of all, from the dog's perspective, that's a pretty lousy situation. Part of your body hacked off against your. But the tail and the ears are two of the parts of the body that communicate how a dog is feeling more than any other part of the body. And when a dog loses that part of the body, it's much harder to read body language and understand is the dog stressed?

Michelle: Is the dog worried? Is the dog relaxed? Is the dog happy? So when a dog has its full ears and its full tail, then you, as the parent are going to have a much easier time of noticing how your dog feels. So that is something that I would aim for. And there is a movement and a lot of breeders at keeping the dogs what they say is they call it natural. And in Europe, in fact, it's banned to do those things to dogs, um, even in the competition circuit. So Rottweilers do not have cut tails or ears, same with Dobermans. So it's, it's for communication. I think all of us as parents, we want to know how our family members are feeling. And so we want to try to keep as many body parts intact as possible. Dobermans are bred to be a working dog and they do need an outlet for mental and physical stimulation. But I think they can be really lovely dogs if you, I would not get a working line Doberman. So, um, you wouldn't necessarily get it from a breeder who provides protection dogs. You would get it from a breeder who provides pet dogs. And there is a big difference in the types of dogs that different breeders produce. So you need to do your homework.

Nicole: Okay. Okay. Love it. Love it. Love it. So last question then is actually a couple of questions. If a family is considering a dog and they just got pregnant, they were thinking about getting a dog, or they've already bought the baby home, like when's the best time to bring a new dog into the mix?

Michelle: Oh, you know, for so many families and for a lot of your listeners, their dog was their first baby. You know, a lot of them have dogs already. I would predict. And so then that begs the question of, have I made a mistake? Is it going to be really hard having a dog and kids at the same time? But if you were trying to think about when to add a dog, you know, I think again, it's time to assess what you personally are capable of doing? Is your partner on board? Is this something that only you want to do, or that is a full family decision, which it should be because it's really hard to parent everybody without help. Um, it's totally possible, but it can be a lot harder. You know, having a puppy is very different than adopting an adult dog also. So if you have a puppy you're going to be doing middle of the night potty runs and all the things that you do with a new baby and they can be destructive like a new baby, you know, they can tear things up and do weird things and steal your shoes and things.

Michelle: So honestly, I think it really depends on what you are capable of doing. If you have a toddler and then you're planning on adding another child to your family, then you'll have a couple of kids under three or four years old at the same time. So it is a challenging time to have a dog. If you haven't had one before, you can add a mature adult dog to the family and know a little bit more of what you're getting. But if you want a puppy, a lot of times people want to get a puppy because they want their puppy and kids to grow up together. And that is fine if you know, really what if you're working with somebody like me or it doesn't have to be me, but anybody who can really guide you to make sure that everybody is set up so they don't make mistakes. We don't want the toddler ever climbing on the dog. We don't want the dog ever, you know, getting in the way or putting teeth on your baby. Right. So we need to make sure that there are systems in place to prevent accidents from happening. So whenever you feel like you have the bandwidth to put management systems in place to do a little training with the dog, that is what I would say is, is the right time is when you have the bandwidth to handle it.

Nicole: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. I mean, it's like adding a whole new element for them.

Michelle: It is. It's like having another baby. Right. You're you know, you're not gonna have a brand new baby when you have a three-month old baby, like, oh my gosh, you're trying to still figure out how to sleep and get dressed and how to take a shower. So it's just another to juggle, but it's a wonderful thing to juggle and it's super fun. But, um, you just, I'd rather people go in with their eyes open than be suddenly surprised with the amount of work that it is.

Nicole: A hundred percent. And then I guess that brought up another question for me. What are your thoughts, and I'm guessing this may be controversial as well, your thoughts on like getting dogs from a breeder versus say a shelter.

Michelle: Yeah. You know, it's a really super question actually, because my parents, when I was a kid, they always got their dogs from a breeder. And then I spent years volunteering and then working in a shelter and I have one dog adopted from a shelter and my newest dog who will be a year old in about a week. He's from a breeder. I've never for myself, I've never had a dog from a breeder before. Um, but I have had a couple of dogs that didn't turn out to be the dogs I thought I was getting, as I say diplomatically. Right. And that's partly another reason I became a trainer is because I needed to develop skills, to cope with my own challenges in the dogs that I had. And I got a dog from a breeder because I was hoping to stack the deck in my favor, which you often can do.

Michelle: But even then my puppy still has severe separation anxiety, which I was not bargaining for. So kind of like whether you adopt a child or have a biological child, there are going to be things that come up that you don't necessarily anticipate. They could be developmental. They could be physical challenges or whatever. And we still, we parent through them because that's who we've got. Right. We parent the dog we have and we parent the child we have. And I think if you wanted to adopt a dog, I love that, there are so many dogs that need good homes, but here's some advice that I would give. I really love when families with young kids especially can adopt a dog who has been in a foster home situation because then you know, more characteristics about what the dog is like in real life, because it's living in a home with a foster family.

Michelle: So a lot of rescue organizations have their dogs in foster families instead of in a kennel type of environment. And so when a dog is living in a home, you're going to know about things. Does the dog bark when the doorbell rings, does the dog try to escape? Does the dog growl if I come near its food bowl and there's all sorts of information that you want to know as a parent bringing a dog home. So foster families give a wealth of information, which I love. Um, some shelters are incredible and have a really devoted staff and behavior people on board. And they know their dogs really well as well, but you need to know what kind of shelter you're looking at. So doing research will help you with that. And also getting referrals from people. Like if you ever meet somebody with a dog that you love, whether it's from a shelter or a breeder, I would ask lots of questions.

Michelle: Where did it come from? What was it like? Because a good dog from anywhere is an indicator that that's a source of potentially really good dogs. And so I think that there is something for everybody. And I really find it unfortunate when people shame someone for getting a dog from a breeder, because they may have a reason for getting a dog from a breeder. They may need something that doesn't impact their allergies, for example, um, or whatever the situation is. And I am not going to judge somebody. I mean, I have a dog from a breeder and I, would I do it again? Possibly. Would I get a dog from a shelter again? Yes, I would. I would. I'm not, I'm not going to be black and white for myself because I'm going to try to pick the dog that's right for me and the dog that's right for my family.

Michelle: And that might come from either location. So one thing to think about, I just want to throw in there because it's important is to know the kind of lifestyle that you have, right? Because I see it a lot where families get a dog because it's quote, supposed to be a good family dog, but that individual was not, or another example would be that, um, that, that they get something that's cute from a lifestyle perspective, that dog needs so much more exercise than you can possibly provide. So if you're the kind of family that would, that is more likely to have a game night at home, then the type of family who is going to be to climb to the top of the mountain, you need to bring the dog that suits that lifestyle into your family and not just get something that's the opposite because you like how it looks.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Excellent. Excellent advice. So just to wrap up, what is your favorite piece of advice that you would give to an expectant family who is bringing a new, bringing a baby, a new baby home, and they have a dog?

Michelle: I think I'm going to go back to what I said before is to have a plan in place. And I like to have a plan in place for everything, because then it's, those are fewer decisions that you need to make when it is hard enough to just figure out if you're going to get a shower. So honestly have a plan in place just like you may have a birth plan in place, have a backup plan, have people who want to help you. And you know, let's say you have all these people wanting to, they stop by, or they want to do things for you. Ask them to walk your dog, ask them actually to hold the baby so you can walk your dog. You know, don't forget that your love for your dog is important to preserve. And it is absolutely okay to accept help, because as a new mom, people are going to be very generous with, but they can help with the baby or they can help with the dog. And it's okay to say yes to both of those things.

Nicole: Love it, love it, love it. So Michelle, where can people find you and find some of the resources that you have? I know you have online classes, all that free resources, all that good, great stuff. Yes.

Michelle: So all of those, well, most of those are found on my website, which is poochparenting.net. I also have a free Facebook group that has a lot of expecting parents on it. And that is called Parenting Kids and Dogs. And that's on Facebook. And you can just request and say that you found me here through this podcast. I do have some membership questions. I tend not to let people in who don't answer them cause I just want to make sure that it's a supportive super group of, of mamas and it's mostly mamas. Um, and then I have a membership program that's sort of one part parent coaching and support and one part dog training. And that information can all be found at safekidsanddogs.com.

Nicole: I love it. Thank you so much. Those are excellent resources. And guys, I poked around on her website. She has like blog posts and downloadable things. And of course there's the Facebook group, which is always lovely. So I appreciate you coming on. This was really informative for me and I know that folks are going to find it helpful.

Michelle: Good. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.

Nicole: So, wasn't that an informative episode? I really enjoyed our conversation and I also really loved her clear and obvious passion and commitment to her work. Love it, love it, love it. Now, you know, after every episode, when I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's Notes, where I talk about my top two or three takeaways from the episode in the conversation. So here are my Nicole's Notes from my conversation with Michelle number one, in order to make sure that things go smoothly when you have a dog at home and you're bringing home a new baby, it's going to require some preparation and planning. Now that doesn't necessarily have to be extensive, but it does require some planning. You don't just want to kind of leave it up to chance and sort of see how things work out. Now, when you hear that, I know in some ways it may make you feel like, oh my God, I gotta prepare for so much.

Nicole: I got to figure out what we're going to do. Now that we have a dog, I got to get ready for birth. I gotta get ready for the postpartum period. I got to do a nursery. I got to figure out how to take care of this baby. And that can seem like a lot and it can seem overwhelming. Well, it is totally okay to feel overwhelmed because it is a lot. Okay. It is a lot of things that you have to learn, but it doesn't to be scary. And it is totally manageable. I really think that if you like put a time limit or a time estimate on how much time it takes to really get yourself ready for birth, honestly, I think all of the content and things that you need to know, you can probably get it covered in a week's worth of time.

Nicole: And by that, I mean, a week, if you were like doing it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So at the longest, and you just kind of spread that out over the course of your pregnancy, break it down to a little bit here a little bit there a little bit here, a little bit there, and it makes it more manageable to give yourself some grace. You may not figure out everything or learn everything, or remember everything ahead of time. Just give yourself some grace and do the best that you can, also don't feel like you have to look at every single thing. There are tons of resources that are out there for pregnancy and birth. So just from three or four things that work for you for pregnancy, birth, postpartum, um, taking care of a baby for like three or four, maybe five top resources and stick to that, don't feel like you have to look at every single blog post or Facebook page.

Nicole: Find what works for you. Stick with it, get educated a little bit at a time, a little bit at a time, and everything will be just fine. And that's just fine. Everything will go well. Okay. And go. Great. All right. And the second thing I took away from this episode is I really love what she said about not making generalizations about dogs based on the breed. It really comes down to the individual dog and this same exact thing applies to pregnancy and birth. Each pregnancy and each birth will be different. It'll be different between two different pregnant and birthing people. It'll be different for the same person from one pregnancy to the next pregnancy. Now, of course, there are some things that are some generalizations and some general things that we can say, but when it comes down to it, every experience is different and you have to be open to that possibility of every experience being different.

Nicole: So although you can get information and it's important to get information about other people's experiences and learn from that, you have to recognize that ultimately each experience is unique and in some ways it's what you, you make it, so to speak and you have to be open to the possibility of different things happening. There's no one right, or best, or single way that pregnancy or birth will happen. You just have to keep an open mind. Alright. So that is it for this episode of the podcast, be sure to subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcast or wherever you're listening, Google, Spotify. And I would love it if you leave an honest review in Apple Podcast in particular, that helps the show to grow. It helps other women to find the show when folks leave reviews, uh, Apple will show that to more people. So it helps to increase that reach helps other mamas get this great information that you are getting too.

Nicole: So I would appreciate you leaving those reviews on Apple Podcasts in particular. Also, don't forget to check out that free online class on How To Make A Birth Plan That Works women really love. This class is really, really useful. You can sign up for it. It's completely free on demand. It's drnicolerankins.com/register. And the next week on the podcast, I am talking about perineal tears. Those are the tears that you can have after having a vaginal delivery. So do come on back next week. And until then, I wish you a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast, head to my website, drnicolerankins.com to get even more great information, including free downloadable resources on how to manage pain and labor and warning signs to look out for after birth. You'll also find information on my free online class on How To Make A Birth Plan That Works as well as everything you need to know about my signature online childbirth education class, The Birth Preparation Course. Again, that's drnicolerankins.com and I will see you next week.