Dogs are supposed to be a kid’s best friend, right?
When I think about “man’s best friend” the image I have is always of a little boy frolicking in the yard with his fluffy golden retriever puppy running by his side. Pure joy on their faces. Best friends forever. Perfection.
Then I snap out of it and look around my house: the real image is usually of my two dogs circling my daughter like blood-lusting sharks waiting for food to drop. A constant argument between canine and toddler: “Woof, Woof” “No Chica…ANNA’S.”
My dogs and my daughter are definitely not BFFs. If food is not in the equation, my dogs do not want anything to do with her. One socially inept Papillion and a nervous Husky-Shepherd mix were not raised with the idea of one day adding a baby to the family. They never liked kids, and we had them a long time before baby came along.
I could never forget the evening we came home with Anna from the hospital. It was terrible! I was sleep deprived and so nervous for having to take care of a newborn without the assistance of nurses, and the dogs would not shut up. They had no clue what that thing in my arms was. A few days earlier my husband brought home the blanket she was wrapped in after she was born for them to get used to, but they just barked incessantly that night, and I cried.
But things are getting better. Just the other day I let Anna hold Chica’s leash in the yard and Chica actually let Anna walk her — she didn’t even try to bolt or drag her across the lawn. Recently, Sasha took Anna’s little plush bunny and set it down in front of her life she wanted to play. That’s improvement in my book.
I know we could’ve planned this situation out better than we have but we didn’t. We’re figuring it out as we go. A few tips I wish I had read up on before the baby was born is:
Begin way in advance. Start adjusting your dogs to new rules and minimize changes in attention a few months before your due date. The ASPCA says that any new rule, like sleeping in a different room or staying away from the couch, should be thought out and taught in advance. That goes for changes in attention, too. Start shortening your dog’s love fests so they’re not starved for attention when baby comes home.
Control the introduction: Dog guru Cesar Millan explains in an article that dogs should be in a calm state, preferably after a nice long walk before meeting the baby for the time. Parents should also be calm. I think we did the opposite on this one.