We are very fortunate to live close to my folks and doubly fortunate that they are also dog people. As the big day of Jacks arrival approached my parents were good enough to offer to take Ned the Border Collie in for the few days we’d be in the hospital and a few days after to let us get settled in. At first we didn’t think it was necessary but then again we had no idea what we were in for with a newborn. Take this advice: if you are going to have a baby and someone is good enough to offer to take your dog for a few days you say “Yes please!” The amount of confusion and lack of sleep that first week was crushing, way beyond what we were prepared for and I think Ned was better off with my folks for those few days than he would have been with us. There was very little patience or time to spare.
The big question we had was how would Ned react to a new addition into the pack? As mentioned in the last post we were not overly concerned with aggression or anything along those lines but we wanted Ned to be happy with our new family member and cause him as little stress as we could. With a lot of reading and asking around we came up with three points that we followed.
Everyone told us about this one, even the nurses in the maturity ward, and it seemed to work well. Take the little hat they put on the newborn as soon as they are born and let the dog sniff it to get familiar with the scent for a few days.
We let Jack wear it for a day or two and then gave it to my folks who in turn took it to Ned. They would have him check it out a couple times a day for a few days so when he met Jack he’d already sort of know what the deal was.
Everyone told us about this one as well and we avoided the worst of it by having Ned with my folks. The addition of a newborn (especially the first I’d guess) into a home with a dog is a stressful event for everyone….dog included. There are all sorts of new noises, new stresses, new smells for sure and so on. The first week is harsh…at least it was for us. Multiple days without sleep, screaming infant, fumbling with diapers, frazzled mom and dad…it’s like a little bubble of high intensity insanity. Now it gets better but the dog is not stupid. He’s going to equate the new addition with the sudden change in pack attitude and stress level. This in turn can stress the dog out. What we did not want to happen was for the dog to equate the kid with stress…not sure if that’s a “thing” or not but we thought about it.
Once we had a few days under our belt with Jack in the house we decided it was time for Ned to come back home from his “vacation” with my folks. We had read a bit on the topic and, to be honest, a lot of the stuff on introducing your dog to your baby seemed overly complicated. We decided with a direct “no big deal” approach that worked pretty well. No idea if this is the best way to do this but it worked for us.
We arranged for Ned to make his grand return in the early afternoon when Jack seemed to be sleeping more often than not. I had Jack in my arms on the couch in the family room and my wife met Ned outside to do the reunion thing with him out there. Once he settled down a bit she let him in the house without any fanfare or anything out of the ordinary. As soon as he entered the house he knew something was up. His nose was up in the air, tail alert, lots of sniffing. He saw me, started to wag his tail and come over to say “hi” but he paused. His eyes got wide when he saw Jack, his ears went up and he slowly walked up to us sniffing the floor and air like crazy.
We did not make any sort of fuss, or hold his collar, try to slow him down or anything “weird” along those lines. Ned walked very gently up to Jack and very carefully sniffed his head. He then looked at me then sniffed Jack again. He backed away a bit and looked at my wife apparently for some sort of reassurance. Then looked over again and started to wag his tail like crazy and dropped his front down into “play” position and went off to grab a toy and bring it back over. Ned seemed pretty happy with the new addition…or at the very least not upset!
For the first several weeks Ned didn’t get very close to Jack or linger close very long. He’d come in for a quick sniff and then he’d be gone again. The biggest and most noticeable issue Ned seemed to have was with all the crying. Our home had always been pretty quiet I guess and now there was a little scream machine living with us. When Jack would get crying and hollering Ned would drop his ears and tail and slowly leave the room with an odd guilty sort of look.
Next time we’ll go over the first few months of Jack and Ned loving together and how it went. Let me know if you’ve got something to add here as far as advice or other suggestions on the dog & new baby thing. Thanks!