Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Puppy Love

When Daddy B. and I were expecting our daughter, Baby L., we received tons of advice about how to help our dog, Indigo, adjust to his new life. Anybody who knows us knows that Indigo was the center of our attention. He pretty much ran our household, controlling everything from what time in the morning we woke up, to our weekend activities, to how late we stayed out with friends at night. He seemed to need constant cuddling, snuggling, playing games, tugging on his favorite rope, fetch, doing tricks...

When we moved all the office furniture and books out of Indie's "bedroom" to turn it into Baby L.'s bedroom, Indigo was incredibly upset by the change. He cried and moped around for days during the switch. That room had always been "his," from the time he was a puppy. So, during the months leading up to L.'s birth, we made sure to play with Indigo as much as we could in the baby's new room. We even gave him treats in there so that he wouldn't think of the baby's room as a bad place in the apartment, and when L. was born, Daddy B. brought home a hospital blanket for Indigo to sleep on before Baby L. and I came home from the hospital so that her scent would be familiar to him.

I'm and avid reader of doggy-lit. I read dog-centered websites and books. I watch dog-related shows and movies. You name it. From all this research, I've pulled out four essential things you can do to help your doggy and baby love each other:

1. Right from the beginning, teach your dog to always stay calm near your baby. That means no playing with the puppy near her when she’s in her play-gym, no tug-of-war next to her while she swings. And no more playing with baby with one hand, and throwing the ball to Doggy with the other. While it might seem perfectly safe to get your pup all excited while you're holding your three month old safely in your arms, you may want to reconsider. By keeping the dog calm near the babe, you can establish a routine that will keep your baby safe as she grows older and you can't be right next to her and the dog every minute.

2. Give your pup his own special place(s) around the house. It could be a dog bed, the rug he likes to curl up on for naps, or his favorite spot on the couch (or all of the above). Don’t allow the baby (or her toys) in his spots, so that they don't have her scent. We keep Indigo's dog beds baby-free (yes, he has several dog beds around the house - though he sleeps in ours at night).

3. Early on teach your child to be gentle to your dog, so he can trust her. Be especially careful when your baby and dog are new to each other. Over the years your doggy will learn to put up with more and more poking and fur-pulling, but let him learn to love your baby first – that way he’s more likely to be patient with her later on.

4. Doggies love routines – just like babies! Make sure that there are times in the day that you give your dog some attention. Maybe you always do a couple tricks with your dog when you come home from work, or maybe you always snuggle with him after his morning walk. Our dog knows that after Baby L. falls asleep, we’re all his. He comes looking for some extra lovin’ as soon as she’s asleep, and sticks to us like glue for the rest of the night.

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