Throughout pregnancy, we had friends and family continually ask us how we think our dog, Dax, will be when the little bundle of joy arrives into the world.
The truth is that we didn’t really give it much consideration. He has such a chilled out temperament and hasn’t shown signs of jealousy or aggression before, so we didn’t think it would be much of an issue.
Oh, how we were wrong and this week we had to send him away…
Only kidding! I had to try and get some sort of tension or emotion into the article, didn’t I?
The truth is that after a week and a half of having Baby L in our lives, Dax has settled perfectly with a screaming, stinky baby in the house, just as we had hoped.
He has noticed her presence though and has been intrigued by the car seat, push chair and other baby related things in the living room. He also spent the first few days following us around very closely whenever we carried Baby L anywhere, or he would sit on the floor in front of us and just stare at what we were doing when we were sat on the settee. But then again, I probably would have done the same if the missus started to whip out a boob to feed the new thing in the house.
The original plan was for Dax to stay with friends (ours, not his) for a couple of days to give Hay and I ample time to settle into life as parents. However, as L decided to come very quickly in the early hours, we were unable to finalise the dog’s holiday arrangements. This meant that we either kept him with us or introduced the two then kicked him out. We decided on the first option and it seems to have been the best decision.
A week and a half in, he has become accustomed to Baby L being around and has realised that she is now part of the family. He is also starting to display protective and caring behaviour which is great. For instance, if she cries or makes a noise he comes running over and if she is crying when being changed upstairs, he waits at the bottom of the stairs until she returns.
Our hope is that they become close ‘friends’ and develop a special bond as she grows older. From a purely comical perspective, I can’t wait to see a toddler wandering around causing trouble with a sausage dog as her accomplice! I’ll continue to update you as to progress with this blossoming friendship.
As things have gone pretty well, and knowing that many people have dogs and kids, I thought I’d pen a few points on what we’ve done to try and establish this beautiful relationship between girl and dog.
1. Slowly introduce Baby L and Dax: Dogs, particularly our sausage, is very inquisitive and keen to be involved in everything. Not that he is needy, but he likes to be around and know what is happening. We therefore thought it was essential to introduce the two straight away and in a slow, calm fashion. During the first few days, we would get Dax to sit, then whilst cradling our spawn, lower her to Dax’s level so that he could have a sniff. Once we knew he was OK with this, we would allow him onto the settee when she was with us so that he could have another sniff and get used to her being around. It goes without saying that dogs and babies don’t always mix and that you need to be extremely careful as a dog is still a ‘wild animal’, but just use common sense and everything should be fine.
2. Continue to pay him attention: Rather than banish him outside or ignore him completely, we have ensured that, where possible, we have continued with normal life. This means that he gets fed at the same time, continues to go out for a walk and still gets played with. Dogs like routine and knowing what is expected of them – change this completely and it creates uncertainty and confusion about how to please their owners. I imagine that if you go from getting attention to getting very little, this is where behavioural issues arise. I think that this is true whether it is with a dog or with another sibling – my mum has told me on numerous occasions that I was a jealous toddler when my brother was born! Dax has never been a spoilt dog – yes, he is sometimes allowed on the settee (as I write this he is actually asleep next to me!) and gets treats, but we have always ensured that he is not treated like a baby. By setting these expectations at the start, we have not had to take away attention which could negatively affect his behaviour.
3. Establish the pecking order: We, or should I say I, have trained Dax ever since we got him. This is to not only ensure he understands what is expected of him, but also so he knows he is the bottom of the pecking order. Any negative behaviour, such as barking, pulling at clothes or jumping up, have been met with no praise and a stern warning, whilst good behaviour has been rewarded – sound like kids? This has resulted in a very nice natured, well behaved sausage dog. In introducing a new member of the family, Dax needs to know that he is still bottom of the food chain and that Baby L is above him – this way, he will not attempt to dominate her etc. We have done this through things like getting him to wait until last whenever we enter or exit the house. Similarly, if we are out for a walk, we ensure he is not leading the way and therefore thinking he is dominant.
4. Keep the pack together (when possible): Dogs are pack animals and can become distressed and uneasy when the pack is broken up. Ever heard the neighbours dog bark when they are out? Well, that’s due to separation anxiety and the fact that the owners have gone out and the pack is separated. I don’t know whether this is true or not (but I like to think it is), but I once read that dogs bark and howl to alert the other members of the pack that they have been left behind, which stems from them being descendants of wolves. Where possible, we have ensured that all four of us are in the same room and that we are all together if we go out for a walk. This has been fine, apart from at night – Dax is a “downstairs dog”, so for the first few nights he whined and moaned a bit because the pack was separated because Hay, the baby and I were upstairs. However, we didn’t pander to him by going downstairs or making the fatal mistake of letting him upstairs, so he soon learnt that barking and whining would not bring the pack together. He now goes to his bed at night and sleeps as he did before Baby L popped out.
Have you managed to successfully integrate a newborn with a dog, or vice versa? If so, how did you ensure that everyone got on? If not, what did you have to do? If you have animals and kids, what relationship do they have?