Is it better to have a dog or baby first? Let’s Explore

On having a baby before you get a dog

Getting a dog after you have children can also be the right choice for families — especially if even the thought of managing a house with kids and pets feels overwhelming to you. Also, many couples choose to have children first because they want their kids to have the experience of learning to care for a dog from the beginning or want it to be a family decision to get a dog.

Waiting until your children are older to get a dog means that there are more hands on deck to help with doggie care as well, especially because it’s likely that your kids will be begging for a dog and promise to help out with walking, feeding and playing with the new pup.

A downside to waiting until your children are older to introduce a dog into the household is that children who don’t grow up around dogs from the get-go can develop a fear of dogs, simply due to lack of experience with them. Also, recent studies have shown that exposure to dogs and cats in the first-year of a child’s life helps protect against allergies.

A dog prepares you for non-stop action and interrupted sleep.

I was overwhelmed in the beginning and wondered how people did anything other than take care of their dogs. It felt all-consuming and energy-zapping. The same feelings easily apply to the first three months of living with a baby. With the dog, there was a constant investigation into whether he was hungry, scared, in pain, needed to go to the bathroom, or had already gone to the bathroom in some mysterious corner of our home. With the baby, it was cracking the code on whether her crying meant she was hungry, gassy, tired, cold, in pain, or needed a diaper change. We learned the steps of deciphering a living creature’s distress call when delivered nonverbally. We also became familiar with functioning on very little sleep.

A puppy and a newborn almost guarantee that nobody in your household will sleep consistently for months. The dog makes you more at the ready for those late night feedings and stretches your capacity for patience beyond anything you ever dreamed imaginable.

Getting used to another life being dependent on you.

We spent our 20s and early 30s only being responsible for ourselves. Once we got a dog, our independent lives as we knew them were over. Being home more often and planning for the daily needs of another creature was a big change. The shift only got bigger when the baby came along. We went from last-minute travels and going out for dinner most nights to needing to be around for our dog and saving our travel budget for dog food and vet visits. Since we had already adjusted our lifestyle, it wasn’t such a huge shock to be home more often for a baby. We’ve curbed any frivolous spending habits and are content with being at home with our babies.

Should i have a Baby if i have Beagle dogs?

Young couples! Newlyweds! Hark, before you visit that dog kennel—you are making a grave mistake, at least if you plan to have a baby. So says Allison Benedikt, an editor at Slate—the undisputed holy land of strongly held, contrarian opinions—in a recent personal essay that has courted the passion and wrath of the animal-loving Internet. This article is from the archive of our partner .

Young couples! Newlyweds! Hark, before you visit that dog kennel—you are making a grave mistake, at least if you plan to have a baby. So says Allison Benedikt, an editor at Slate—the undisputed holy land of strongly held, contrarian opinions—in a recent personal essay that has courted the passion and wrath of the animal-loving Internet.

“A friend of mine once told me that before he had a kid, he would have run into a burning building to save his cats,” Benedikt relates. “Now that he has a kid, he would happily drown the cats in the bathtub if it would help his son take a longer nap.” Then she jokes about killing her beloved puppy and shares her sordid story, which involves neglecting to pay adequate attention to the dogs health issues because she is so caught up in her three young sons:

Judging by the 4,000 comments and dozens of tweets (which, in many cases, seem to be hate-shares), Benedikts piece has touched a nerve. It certainly did for The New Republics Chloe Schama, a soon-to-be mother who today argued that getting a dog is “the best thing you can do before you have kids.” Schama points to the myriad ways her dog reassured her that her husband was ready to tackle the challenge.

The essay certainly resonated with me, too. Not because I love my dog (I do) or because Im planning to have kids soon (Im not). Actually, its because Im the baby.

In 1985, before they were married—and well before they carved out space in their starter home for a crib—my parents got a yellow lab. They named her Mrs. Cooke, after a sweet old woman who owned a bakery in town. And they loved her, welcoming her in every fashion as their four-legged baby.

“Mrs. Cooke slept on our bed,” my dad told me today in an email, though of course I already knew this, “and we took her to family gatherings and functions. We had birthday parties for her, whereby wed invite other dogs in the neighborhood. We had party hats for the dogs.” (My parents have the photo album to prove this, yellowed and torn.) “When we went away on vacations,” he added, “wed call Mrs. Cookes governess to see how she was doing.” Even when she behaved with staggeringly canine abandon—clawing right through a wall and into a neighboring room, in one instance, and chewing up the better part of a couch—she was still the object of their undivided affection.

Actually, they changed while I was still in the womb. That was when my mother caught wind of a Lyme disease scare and decided she didnt want deer ticks infiltrating the bed. By the time I was born, Cooke had been comfortably demoted to a dog bed on the bedroom floor. She would no longer receive baths in the bathtub (that was for me) or be photographed in festive birthday regalia (also me) or be welcomed on furniture (me, me, me). And around the time my brother came home from the maternity ward, she was bumped to the kitchen. Then, another baby. “The more kids, the more commotion, the more Cooke was moved further and further away—physically, mentally, emotionally,” my dad frankly conceded. Cookes old age by this point was causing her to leave accidents around the house. So she began sleeping in the garage.

But by this time my parents had moved to a larger house and could afford to heat their garage, and my mom still doled out Cookes daily epilepsy medication. And thats precisely the point: just because you begin to expend more energy, resources and, yes, affection on the kids doesnt mean you stop loving or caring for the dog. Really, dogs dont demand 24-hour devotion and attention the way newborns do—nor do they need party hats or bubble baths to be happy (its true!). But they are living creatures, with health problems and regular needs, so you make compromises and find balance, because thats what parenting is. In fact, if you cant find the time to care for your dog—as Benedikt unscrupulously confesses to be true in her case—you make a tough decision and give the dog to someone who can.

Not that I, a mere millennial who hasnt touched a baby since probably 2004, am in any position to lecture you on parenting. So take it from The Atlantic Wires culture editor, Alexander Nazaryan, a dog-lover and recent dad.

“My wife and I had a dachshund for several years before having a baby,” Nazaryan related via email. “Dachshunds are not very compatible with babies, so once our daughter was born, Pookie was exiled to my parents house in Connecticut. Its sad, of course, to have her far away, but she visits Brooklyn often.”

Allie Jones, another Wire staffer, shared a sadder story. Her parents had a black lab named Murphy before she was born. “He kept running into me when I was learning to crawl,” she explained, “so they gave him to a farm.” Surely its not an easy decision to make—but when you recognize that you arent in any position to care for your animal, why not think of the thousands out there who are?

Curious for another perspective, I contacted Steve de Eyre, a friend several years older than myself who is in the same position my parents were in some decades ago. He and his wife Emily have had a wonderful lab for six years. They take Lily for long hikes on weekends, snuggle with her on the couch, offer first-class medical care. And now theyre expecting their firstborn in October.

“We’re trying to be proactive with preparing Lily for our son’s arrival,” de Eyre wrote me. “We even bought an e-book from Australia that gives you a step-by-step plan on how to prepare your dog for the baby’s arrival. We played through the CD of baby sounds that comes with the book, watching Lily to see how she reacted. True to her (mostly) lab lineage, she basically slept through the whole thing.”

Plus, Lily was adopted from a summer camp, so shes well-prepared to socialize with kids. And like Mrs. Cooke, she has matured since the puppy years.

“Lily will undoubtedly get less attention from us after the birth, but at six-years-old she’s already starting to slow down and is often content to spend much of the day sleeping anyway,” de Eyre explained. “We’re so attached to her right now that if we were ever at the point where we could no longer satisfactorily care for her, we’d feel an obligation to make arrangements for her to go stay with someone who could. My mother-in-law is a dog whisperer and I’m sure would happily take in one of her granddogs if we needed a break.”

But will it really get to that point? What Benedikt neglects to mention is that with some supervision, dogs are great with kids—especially labs. As my mom put it, “the dog usually loses some attention from the adult but gains attention from the kids”—and even as a baby, I adored Mrs. Cooke. My earliest memories are of gazing down at her lovingly from a highchair as she waited patiently for glops of food to fall. I dont know if I ever sobbed harder than I did when my mother told me she had died (I was nine at the time). Sure, my brothers and I were never old enough to shepherd her to the vet or handle her pills, but we were perfectly suited to run her around in the backyard and help her get exercise.

The point, then, is that my parents have been where Benedikt is now—not one kid or two, but three young boys and a dog under the same roof—and, despite banishing Cooke from the bedroom, are still appalled by such flagrant animal neglect. So are my friend Mickey Cappers parents, whose story bears some loose similarities. Before Capper—their oldest—was born, they had a short-haired Chihuahua, who “brought them together.”

“My parents have told me that the whole process of caring for the dog in her last hours was an early defining moment in their marriage,” Capper told me, echoing Schamas essay. But the dog was bit by a spider and died before the baby was born, so they named the baby after the dog—”Mickey,” like the Disney character!—and took it as a sign from God that they wouldnt be able to love a dog while caring for a baby.