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.
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