Friday, September 6, 2013

Having a Baby in a House Full of Dogs

*apologies for any typos... will proofread later and revise*

So much has been happening the last couple weeks, I haven't had time to blog, but I really want to get some important posts in! This past Tuesday, Jason and I came home a little early from work to have a special private session with our rockstar dog trainer, Tara (can't recommend her enough, she has helped us and our pack so so much!) at our house to go over the basics of how to safely bring home our baby in our house of dogs, and how to keep our boundaries firm while I am home with her.

Here is my homework (also so I don't forget):

Before Baby Arrives:

  • Buy baby formula (even if you plan to breastfeed). Heat up the milk and set out in the open and do not let the dogs near it. They need to know that it is off limits, and it will be a very interesting smell for them (breastmilk especially), so they need to know ahead of time its a delicious smelling treat NOT for them.
  • Keep a 10 foot radius around me and my my space. If they come into my space, point my finger away and tell them, "OUT". They were extremely good at obeying this command (we realized later since we use it daily to tell Holden to get, "Out of the Kitchen" when we cook. He's so food driven, he knows if he leaves he will get the kale stems or ice cubes, so this is one of his easiest commands. Zombie of course does whatever we tell her.
  • Sit down and practice giving them commands from 10 feet away. Get them "OUT" of my space, and then tell them to sit, and to lay down etc... be sure that I am enforcing these commands while seated and far from them (if they are not listening, this is where Jason will step in and stand up if needed to re-enforce my authority by telling them again to move "OUT" or sit, down, etc).
  • Buy a short (1-foot long) leash for Holden, and keep hanging off his neck, so we can easily hold him, or move him when baby comes, and if he needs more than our words to listen to commands to give me space.
  • Baby room is off limits to dogs. They should never be allowed to go in there.
  • Do not let them sleep in our room with baby (since we knew we were pregnant and stopped letting them up on our bed, but now they shouldn't even be in our room - or where our baby is sleeping). Move their beds into the hallway or downstairs (this one is difficult since they will bark all night at the sliding glass door if we do not bring them up to bed with us. Still figuring out this solution.
  • Take one thing out of baby's room each day, and hold in my lap, and do not let them sniff it up close, or get within my 10 feet radius. They can see different things coming and going from that room, and know that they do not belong to them, they are mine/baby's
  • Start playing tv shows during the day with lots of different baby noises, sounds, and crying. Get them used to hearing these sounds before she starts making them. Let them react, do not correct them if they bark at the sounds, just ignore. They need to hear and get used to it, and they will. Do not try to "coo" or comfort them if they are reacting to the sounds.
  • Get Holden used to being in his crate for an hour each night while we are home. He already eats breakfast and dinner in his crate, but in case we need him to go take a nap (and to prepare him for the confinement that will be required for his surgery), we need to start getting him in there for longer periods.
Bringing Home Baby:
  • When we come home, this is how we can bring her inside.
    • Jason enters the house with one of her blankets from the birth, by himself. Do not let the dogs sniff up close or touch, keep them at the 10 feet radius from the blanket - their noses are great and will smell plenty of what happened at her birth, and get to know her smell before she comes in. He keeps stays for 10-15 minutes with them to smell the blanket.
    • Jason goes back to garage and watches baby while I come in alone and greet them. Give my usual pets and let them smell me. When they calm down, give them each a brand new toy of their own. Something new, and exciting, that they have never seen before. 
    • I leave and go back to Jason and baby. Jason comes in first to help me enforce my "OUT" (10 foot radius) while I have baby. 
    • Do not let the dogs touch, smell, lick, or get close to her FOR TWO YEARS. Haha, Tara admits that she is the strictest when it comes to dog training and babies, but again, her background is training with aggressive dogs (and she's down SO much with Zombie's Dog Aggression, I will listen to whatever she says and try to be the best students we can be, she knows what she's talking about). 
    • The only time that we can allow our baby to touch our dogs, is if the dogs are faced AWAY from her (never let them have their faces to her face), and she can pet their backs. This is probably going to be the hardest part to strictly adhere to, especially for two whole years! But we will try. 
Setting safe boundaries for our little one is first and foremost. Especially when we have two 100lbs dogs. As it turns out Holden may be in the middle of recovery from a hip and knee surgery during this time, which will make some things easier, and some things more difficult after having our baby, but regardless, we are so grateful for these tools and wealth of knowledge from Tara to help us have a safe space for our lil one for the years to come. We will know more about Holden this Monday when he goes in to see the orthopedic surgeon.

Most of the boundaries and rules that Tara has gone over with us, are to establish that our dogs DO NOT HAVE NANNY RIGHTS. In the dog world, when puppies are born, the mama dog fiercely protects her pups and doesn't let anyone near them (10 feet), but she also assigns ONE other dog "Nanny rights." By this, that other dog can get close to her pups (within the 10 foot bubble), but also, like the mama they can "correct" her pups. In the dog world a correction is a nip, or a quick bite, to put them back into line. This is exactly NOT what humans want their dogs to do to their babies, but unfortunately what a lot of dog owners with new babies end up doing when they allow their dogs within the space of the baby (10 feet radius). This doesn't mean that every baby the interacts with their dog will be bit, but it does put a lot of pressure on the dog to feel the obligation to have that responsibility as a "nanny"... To completely avoid this from happening, we do not let them in the 10 feet radius, and establish that they do not have Nanny rights. 

That was really interesting for me to learn, because I didn't realize it was like that in the dog world, but totally makes sense! Tara did also say that though she gives us all of these rules, and teaches us the proper way to have our baby in our household of dogs, only one of her students (who is also one of her trainers now) has actually been able to follow through with all of these strict rules. I told her, that I will definitely take everything to heart, and we will try our best, but honestly we are aiming to be B/C+ students, and most importantly to make sure we can have a harmonious dog/baby house. 

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