Sunday, February 13, 2011

A new member of the pack

When Jon and I decided to have kids, we knew that we would have to spend some time and effort working with our dogs to make sure that they would accept a new member of the pack.

The training started early.  In fact, knowing that I wanted to have kids, I've always trained the dogs to be "kid" friendly.  When they were puppies, our pack members were poked and prodded daily (gently) to make sure they would tolerate a kid pulling their tails or grabbing their fur.  During meal times, I stuck my fingers in their bowls to assure that if any child fingers made their way into the dog food, they would make it out alive and with all limbs intact.

Once we were pregnant, we upper the ante.  We knew that we had 9 or so months to concentrate on the pups before a new member of the pack arrived.  We practiced being calm, not jumping up on people, and the basic commands.  Although I love teaching my little monsters cool tricks, we zoned in on the basic "sit", "down", and "stay" instead to make sure that we wouldn't have to repeat ourselves over and over again in order for them to obey.  We also took daily walks, allowing the dogs to "greet" kids or other dogs only when they were calm.  Working on these very basic behavior issues was incredibly important to us since we knew that a baby wouldn't ask our dogs to roll over or give them paw, but would benefit from the dogs staying in their place or being calm.

We also prepared them for the baby's arrival.  Once the back room became the nursery, the puppies weren't allowed to come in.  We practiced spending a few minutes in the room while the dogs waited patiently in the hallway.  This would teach them that the room was no longer their space.  Once Peanut arrived, we would spend a few days following the same rules so that she can "claim her space" and then allow the pups in.  We also "reclaimed" the couch, only allowing the dogs to jump up if they were invited.

Then the big day arrived.  While we spent a couple of days recovering at the hospital with our little Peanut, our family and friends took care of our dogs.  When we came home, we had about 30 minutes before our friend Kari dropped off the 2 excited monsters.  We got ready for their arrival.  This was the game plan:

First, one of us took Peanut into her room and fenced off that area so the dogs were limited to the kitchen and dining room.  The other person waited to greet the dogs.  When the dogs arrived, Jon spent some time greeting and petting them to wear off some of their excitement since they haven't seen us in a couple of days.  Then we switched.  While Jon stayed with Peanut in the back room, I gave our dogs some attention and let them act excited for a couple of minutes.



Once they seemed calmer, I pulled out a receiving blanket with Peanut's scent and allowed the dogs to get used to the new smell.  Once they lost interest in the new smell, Jon brought Peanut out into the dining room to introduce the new pack member to our existing family.  He lowered down with Peanut, letting the dogs smell her without touching or jumping up on her.  They only received pets and treats when they were calm around her.


After a few minutes, the introductions were over and Cailey and Travis went on their merry way.  But our work wasn't done.

For the next couple of weeks we continued to spend a few minutes each day practicing being "calm" while the baby was within reach.


The same rules applied- Travis and Cailey were only rewarded if they were calm in her presence.  We kept treats nearby to reward any "accidental" good behavior.  That means that if we were practicing "tummy time" with Peanut and Cai and Trav layed down without sticking their nose into her diaper, they got treats.


We kept the dogs out of the nursery for the first week or so to let them know that it was Peanut's space and then started letting them in by inviting them.

So that's the basics of how we introduced our new member to the existing pack.

For now, Cailey and Travis have limited access to the baby as they are still learning to keep their tongues and paws to themselves and we continue to practice their good behavior daily.  Peanut is with us when we feed the dogs.  She's "given" them treats (I held her close while I gave the dogs their rewards for good behavior), she's given them "pets" (Jon held Peanut's hand out to pet the puppies).  Travis and Cailey seem to be adjusting really well, although Travis is still waiting for us to bring her back to wherever she came from.

But in reality, they've become second class citizens in what used to be their territory.


9 comments:

  1. When I brought our Peanut home from the hospital I sat on the couch with him and let my cats sniff him. One of them started to lick his head to give him a bath. :) They, too, have become second class citizens. He can now lay on them and pull their tails. I've been pleasantly surprised at the amount of patience they have with him.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a really helpful post! My husband and I absolutely adore our black lab and she is - for now - our pride and joy. But we want kids and it'll be really interesting to explore that dynamic. Sounds like you're doing all the right things. Keep letting us know how it is going!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've always wanted kids and lately I've had puppy fever, but I'm doing a lot of research because I know that if I get one now, he or she will likely still be around when I have kids. So, to prepare, I've been doing a lot of research on what kind of breed to get. One of my main requirements is that they are a family dog who is good with children.
    I'm glad to see that you aren't having and real troubles with the pups getting acquainted!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sounds like we're pretty much following the same pattern. Harper and Monster have been banned from the Lion's room...but we're still working on the couch. Not sure if it's going to be successful in time at this rate.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post. We are years away from having a baby but I often think about how our 11 month year old fur child will react when that time comes. He is exposed to our nieces now so all these tips are helpful even for that!

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  6. If TNT and I decide to have kids Tails will be so jealous cause he loves to snuggle and sit on your lap. And since he loves to snuggle I'd be afraid he'd snuggle with the baby. However when the niece and nephew come over he loves them. I really think he forgets how to walk when they are around cause they carry him everywhere. Great post and Peanut looks so tiny in that first picture.

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  7. uhhh. yall wanna come train my dog?? he loves AM SOOOO much but likes to get too close and doesnt understand to stop licking her face!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've always wanted kids and lately I've had puppy fever, but I'm doing a lot of research because I know that if I get one now, he or she will likely still be around when I have kids. So, to prepare, I've been doing a lot of research on what kind of breed to get. One of my main requirements is that they are a family dog who is good with children.
    I'm glad to see that you aren't having and real troubles with the pups getting acquainted!

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is a really helpful post! My husband and I absolutely adore our black lab and she is - for now - our pride and joy. But we want kids and it'll be really interesting to explore that dynamic. Sounds like you're doing all the right things. Keep letting us know how it is going!

    ReplyDelete

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