Adopting any pet is a huge commitment, and dogs in particular require lots of attention from you, their favorite human. In general, I'm all for pet adoption when you have the budget, space, and time — after all, there's nothing better than coming home to a furry bundle of unconditional love. But should you adopt a dog when you're pregnant? As exciting as it sounds, and as loving as you feel, you'll want to consider all the pros and cons — not just for your sake, but for Fluffy's, too.
Unfortunately, the cons are pretty serious. Pregnant women don't have boundless energy, except maybe in the weird Twilight Zone of the second trimester. And especially in the beginning, an adopted dog needs a lot from you. For Kayla Fratt, an Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant of Journey Training, who also works at an animal shelter, introducing a canine friend into the family when you're expecting is always a gamble. "Dogs need lots of exercise, enrichment, and attention. If you're feeling under the weather due to pregnancy, this will be more of a strain than support," Fratt writes in an email to Romper.
Generally speaking, moms-to-be can either choose to purchase a puppy, or adopt from a shelter. A puppy requires a lot of work up front, in terms of potty training and socialization; on the other hand, shelter dogs may come with behavior problems that take time to work out. Either way, adopting while pregnant might mean biting off more than you can chew.
Remember too that if you're not able to handle socialization and training during your pregnancy, the consequences can be serious once your baby's born. An undersocialized or aggressive dog poses a risk to your infant, according to Fratt. But even if aggression isn't an issue, a teenaged dog might simply prove too much for you during those newborn days, when you are chronically sleep-deprived and overworked.
Sadly, Fratt sees hundreds of dogs each year coming into shelters because the dog doesn't get along with their child. "Don't try to take on everything at once, and skip the new pet while pregnant," Fratt advises.
Not every dog expert shares Fratt's point of view, however. Megan Marrs, Senior Editor of K9 of Mine, explains in an email to Romper that having a dog around while you're pregnant and while your child is very young has been shown to reduce allergies in children. In fact, "exposure to furry friends is especially beneficial to babies in their first three months of life, and even while they’re still in the womb," reported Health. Beyond that, she notes, dogs can lower stress levels in their human friends — and what pregnant woman couldn't use a cortisol-lowering walk in the park?
Yes, Marrs admits that caring for a new animal during pregnancy is difficult, but she offers an interesting suggestion: putting friends on standby in case you need help. "When it comes to adopting a dog while pregnant, make sure you have a solid understanding of a dog's history and background," Marrs adds. "You'll definitely want a dog that has shown a history of getting along with kids — you might want to consider opting for a breed that is known for playing nice with children." Keep in mind, however, that there are no guarantees when it comes to animals. Even with the best preparation, it's still a gamble.
Zaida Khaze, a mom of two and creator of the Wiggletot Diaper Changer, adopted a puppy a few days before she found out she was pregnant. Realizing how much attention her puppy needed, she decided to adopt a second to keep the first dog company, leading to a chaotic forty weeks.
On the plus side, she says she was forced to walk with her dogs three times a day, which was great for her health, and today, neither of her kids have allergies or a fear of dogs. Plus her pets made great companions during the long months of pregnancy. "My Yorkie used to lie on my bump while I was sitting or sleeping, and I know my baby must have felt the love," she tells Romper in an email. On the negative side, caring for her new companions was exhausting — and bad morning sickness prevented her from enjoying her dog's puppyhood to the fullest.
Especially when you're pregnant, you should think carefully about how a new dog fits into your life. Are you willing to train a new dog while you're potentially nauseous and fatigued? When your baby arrives, will you have time to properly care for him? And have you considered what you'll do if your new best friend doesn't behave well around your baby? While a dog can be an incredible companion during pregnancy and new motherhood, there's also nothing wrong with choosing to wait to add a pet to your family.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.