I’m the new mum of a 10 weeks old golden retriever who came to live with my family about a week ago. I feel a lot of similarity with someone who just had a baby. I’m tired. I’m in love. I’m overwhelmed. I’m not sure I’m doing things right and I’m second guessing myself. 

I’m also fascinated by how much I’ve grown and learnt in my ability to trust myself, and I’ve marvelled at how much more relaxed I am about it all than when I became a mother for the first time 16 years ago.

In this post I am dividing the topics in the cycle of pregnancy.


Just as when one starts considering the idea of having a baby, I have had a slow process into deciding to bring a dog into my family. I even got to try it for size, which isn’t something that most parents get to do! My daughter has been begging for a dog for years, and with my doula work and my husband working full time outside the home, it didn’t feel possible. However, with lockdown, my husband working from home, my daughter suffering from severe anxiety, it seemed like something we’d like to try. Last summer a friend had to go abroad for several weeks so I offered to look after her dog. Incredibly my husband agreed (he was really against the idea of getting a dog). We looked after this dog for 5 weeks, and within 48h my husband admitted that he was convinced that having a dog was lovely. It helped the whole family enjoy nature and time together more. 

I set the intention of getting a dog after that. For a while it looked like we might get a puppy from the dog we looked after, but it didn’t happen. I hired a dog behaviourist to come to visit us and make suggestions of breeds based on our family’s needs. This reminded me of times when I had been hired as a doula prior to conception, by people who felt anxious about pregnancy. I too felt excited but anxious about certain aspects of having a dog, in particular the fact that I knew the brunt of the work would be mine and that my family would help but not take charge of the whole thing. 

The dog behaviourist suggested we get an adult rescue dog. I had misgivings but he reassured me. So I put the wheels in motion in contacting a local shelter and started looking at the dogs they had.

I’m a knowledge freak and I like to acquire a lot of information whenever I’m embarking on something new. I started asking everyone I knew about their experiences of older rescue dogs versus puppies. This convinced me that, despite the extra work involved, having a puppy was the right thing to do.

The universe heard my intention loud and clear. In September as I was going swimming at my usual river spot, I met a gorgeous female golden retriever, who felt extra special. As I petted her and chatted to the person walking her, and expressed that this was my favourite kind of dog and I would love to have one, the person walking her told me that she the owner was planning to breed her. I gave her my card. Two months later I got a text from the owner telling me her dog was pregnant.


Once we committed to getting this puppy, I felt a similar sense of excitement and anxiety as I had during pregnancy. There was so much to know, I wish I had a dog doula. As I started to read books and articles on the topic, ask questions to many dog owner friends, and to people on social media, one thing soon became clear: just like for all things birth and parenting, there is a plethora of conflicting advice from everything from food to sleeping arrangements.  I discovered the breadth of the topic, which was entirely unknown to me until then, I felt quite overwhelmed by all the options available and how to choose.

 As I explored options, I was fascinated by the parallels between them and perinatality. As my Facebook feed filled with ads for dog products, I noticed how products were marketed similarly to baby products, by subtly implying that you weren’t a good parent if you didn’t buy said product. 

Searching for weaning advice for puppies returned links for dog food companies at the top of the google page, as opposed to balanced overview pages (just like searching for weaning for babies returns the links of baby food companies).

I felt quite overwhelmed, and this gave me a whole new respect for what I do for pregnant women as a doula. I realised that, by offering my experience and curating information tailored to the person, I saved them a whole lot of research and helped bring calm instead of overwhelm. As I thought to myself, I need a dog doula, I also realised how much work I do to help empower people to make their own choices, as opposed to being led by others.

I reflected on my own growth and ability to follow my instincts. It’s like I had my own doula in my head reminding me that I would muddle through, find my way, and that there wasn’t such a thing as the perfect right choice.

Getting ready (aka waiting for the birth)

About 6 weeks before we got our puppy, we started the long overdue process of clearing our entire house, and puppy proofing it. This was a welcome impetus and our house hasn’t been this tidy in years!

I also bought a fairly large amount of kit, and it reminded me of the first trip we took to a baby superstore when I was pregnant with my son. Now the puppy is there I realise I got convinced to buy some stuff that isn’t actually working for us or our dog. 

I’m hearing myself ask similar questions to what new mums ask: what’s the best product for xyz? I am hoping for a magic wand solution to everything. Only there is no such thing…I have to constantly remind myself of my own doula wisdom.


Obviously I didn’t give birth to my pup, and I wasn’t on call for the mama dog either, so this wasn’t the same as what I normally do as a doula. However, I received pictures and videos of the litter, and it had a similar flavour to new baby pictures and videos I receive from parents.

We were lucky that the family who bred our puppy’s mother lived locally, so, from 2 weeks post birth onwards, we visited weekly or more and were able to start developing a bond with our pup. This was extra lovely and the visits were the highlight of my week.

I had interesting conversations on the idea of carrying my puppy in a sling, in that, just like for babies, people had different opinions on whether this was right or not, and which was the best carrier to use. Researching dog carriers online brought back terribly unergonomic carriers, just like for human babies. Marketing over quality was a theme that ran through my research on doggy stuff, like it does for baby stuff.

Another similar aspect to birth was the unpredictability. We were supposed to get our pup when he would be ten weeks old, just before half term. However the person looking after the litter had a bereavement and we had to take the pup home a week earlier than planned. This at first made me feel quite stressed as it added pressure on finishing to get the house ready in time and on my work. I had planned to slow down a week later, and I was busy preparing for the launch of a new online course when the puppy arrived.

My anxiety rose as the deadline of the puppy’s arrival loomed, very much like when I was pregnant. I worried about the change of lifestyle, about house training, about how we’d cope with broken nights etc. I worried about a lot of “what ifs”. I mentioned it to my husband who didn’t share these anxieties. He asked me if any of the ones I had whilst pregnant had come true, and I said “no but others that were just as bad happened!”, and I realised I was worrying myself for no good reason. Isn’t it funny how we try to manage future emotions ahead of time, despite not having any idea what they’ll be when the times come?

I like to make plans, but like I tell expectant parents, I reminded myself that I didn’t know how things would actually go and what kind of personality my puppy would have. So flexible plans were needed.


The dog came to live with us about 10 days ago. It’s been a hectic ride, and so many aspects are similar to having a new baby: the puppy needs constant supervision and confinement to an easily cleanable surface, so I’ve been mostly living in the kitchen. 

Like new parents I discovered that some equipment that seemed a good idea in theory just didn’t work for us.  Many families I support often discover with dismay that their new baby refuses to sleep in the cute cosleeping cot they bought (an idea that works in theory, but in my experience the majority of these cots end up being used as a bedside or changing table), I had this idea that I would put my puppy in a portable playpen and carry on with my work in my office when he was asleep (after all the books I read said that new puppies sleep as much as 20h a day). Except the puppy hates the playpen, barks, jumps and topple it up!

I should have heeded my own wisdom and plan to take immediate pupternity leave! Making some kind of postpartum plan to slow down and look after myself more wouldn’t have gone amiss either.

My morning routine has been turned upside down. I’m used to getting up at 6 and swimming/swinging some kettlebells/drumming in the woods. These things have had to take a step back for the time being. Instead I wake up around 6 with the sounds of the puppy waking, and take him to do his business in the garden immediately. As he needs regular trips there in order to teach him not to do said business in the house, everything I do is done in short, interrupted chunks, which reminds me of babyhood. Even getting washed or going to the toilet is a challenge, unless someone else is available to look after the puppy.

My sleeping habits have changed too. In order to ease the transition from leaving his mum and littermates, I am sleeping on the sofa bed downstairs with the dog in his crate nearby, to ease the separation from his mother and littermates, until he is used to living with us and feels safe enough to sleep alone.

There has been some nice surprises as well as challenges. Every book I read told me to expect to need to get up in the middle of the night for pee trips in the garden, but my pup has slept in his crate from 10h30 to between 5h30 and 6h30 am since he arrived. I’ve had to take a nap of two in the afternoon to make up for the reduced sleep, like when I was a new mum. All in all, though, it’s been much less tiring than waking up at night to care for a baby.

I have carried my puppy in a sling on short walking trips in the neighbourhood to expose him to as many sights and sounds as possible (there is a window during which this needs to happen, lest the puppy becomes fearful later of things he hasn’t been exposed to). He’s about over 5kg so I’ve found myself avoiding to carry him more than once a day as my body isn’t used to carrying a child anymore. It has brought back a lot of memories of carrying my kids in a sling as babies and toddlers.

Overall, whilst the intensity was a shock for the first 2 or 3 days (and because of mismatched expectations), I’ve also been pondering how I’ve been able to accept the change in routine without feeling too upset about it. This wasn’t the case when I became a mother for the first time, and I battled against it at the time. 

This time, something in me is surrendering to the flow of my new rhythm, dictated by the intense needs of this new tiny being. There are frustrating moments but I am mostly trusting that things will work out, and learning to adapt my work, as I type this blog post from a laptop in my kitchen, with the pup asleep by my feet.

As with new babies, having this little pup in our lives has also brought me and my family a lot of joy. He truly is a bundle of unadulterated love and joy, and I really appreciate how caring for his needs is utterly grounding and a useful lesson in presence living in the now. It is, as I hoped, increasing connection within my family, and we spend more time outdoors and sharing the fun moments together. My daughter’s anxiety is being helped by his presence.

I also look forward to quieter days and to the joy of seeing him grow into a calmer adult dog (which, mercifully, is a lot quicker than with babies).


Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!