I’m happy to announce my wife and I are now the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy, Jack! He’s just 4 months old at the moment and we are learning that all sorts of things that we thought we knew are, in fact, totally wrong. Raising a Border Collie puppy together was a good primer…obviously it’s a million times more complicated with the infant but it was a help. Anyway we’re beyond thrilled at our new addition and are having a total blast…a sleep deprived, spit-up covered, knee deep in baby poo blast…but a blast nonetheless.
After we completely freaked out at the news for a good bit and sort of settled into the idea our thoughts turned to how we would deal with Ned and how Ned would deal with the baby. He had been our only “child” for over 4 years and therefore the center of attention and the focus of much of our free time. Things were about to change for poor Ned. We wanted to make sure we handled this as best we could, for both our sake and Ned’s, so we set about dealing with three main points that were a concern.
Our major concerns were as follows: First was a fear that our upcoming lack of time and attention would cause some behavioral and/or health issues (aka Ned gets fat). Secondly was the unintentional rough housing causing a problem or injury. Lastly, and maybe most concerning, was little stuffed animal toys.
Time & Attention
Over the past 4 years we’ve spent a ton of time with Ned…a ton. My wife especially. Training, walks, playing ball, going to the beach, going on trips to the store and all of that. It’s fun stuff and Ned loves to be on the go and occupied (surprise, right?). We have a ton of friends and family with young kids that all warned us about the amount of time and energy our new addition was going to require. We knew things were going to change pretty drastically for Ned, at least for the first 6 months, and we wanted to ease him into it rather than have a massive change all at once. We were warned that life with an infant is dependent on a schedule and Ned was certainly not on one.
We started out by normalizing his “standard” schedule. Sure, he’s always gone out first thing, early evening and right before bed but it’s always been sort of when we felt like it or the need arose. We nailed down actual times for his walks and play times and stuck to them. He actually seemed to enjoy the new regime. We not only wanted to normalize it for sanity sake but also to make sure we got Ned out and exercised him at least a minimal amount…even on crazy days with a newborn. The last thing we wanted was an overweight, under exercised Border Collie…because that’s just asking for trouble.
Ned has never been an aggressive dog but he does like to mix it up a bit and rough around. He’ll get that little twinkle in his eye (seen that in yours?) and you can just tell he wants to horse around. He and I get going pretty good sometimes with wrestling and pushing and that sort of thing – he loves it. The problem was I started to envision a tiny baby in the house and decided it was time to cool off. I would feel like a real jerk if anything happened to our baby because I was horsing around with the dog. We cut out all rough play using a “Gentle” command when he’d get riled up and a stern “No.” with the flat hand out in front (the “Stop” gesture) when he really got running around. When he exhibited a decided change from rambunctious behavior to gentle behavior we’d reward him with some calm praise and extended petting/scratching times. He was confused at first to be sure but got the idea pretty quickly. We were never worried about Ned intentionally hurting the new baby but he’s a high energy dog that does not know his own strength nor has he been around babies or other fragile “things” he had to be careful of in the past. Going back to point #1 above we make sure to exercise him each day without fail to burn off some of that Border Collie energy.
This was actually my biggest fear. Ned loves those plush stuffed animal toys and like idiots we’d been giving them to him for years as chew toys. Looking back this was immensely stupid on our part but hind sight is, as they say, 20/20. I mean he really, really loves these things. He never tears them up or pulls the stuffing out but loves to chew them, play fetch with them, sleep with them and all of that stuff. When all the stuffed animal toys started showing up as gifts from friends and family for our impending newborn we realized just how foolish we’d been. My biggest fear was our child holding a stuffed toy and Ned innocently going to grab it or the child going for a toy that was Ned’s. Again, I was not worried about Ned intentionally hurting the baby at all…my concern was Ned thinking the baby was “playing” with him, going for a toy and accidentally getting a tiny finger or the face or anything else. It freaked me right the heck out.
As mentioned somewhere earlier Ned is a very gentle dog in general with a very soft mouth due in large part to my wife working on bite inhibition with him. All the same we wanted to avoid an issue. We had to started to define a few stuffed toys that Ned had as “his” and all other toys as not his. This was pretty confusing for poor Neddy at first as, up until this point, every little stuffed toy that came into the house was for him. We were pretty vigilant for several days on this watching to see when he’d go for some toy that was for Jack and correct with a “No, Ned. Not yours.” It took a bit but like everything else he puts his mind to he figured it out pretty fast. Within a week he’d look at a new toy in the house, then look at us as if to ask “That one for me?” we’d shake our head and say “No.” Now all we need to do now is shake our head and he understands (which is actually a pretty fun party trick). I doubt we’ll ever get to the point where he knows the names of all the toys (like Chaser the Border Collie) but he now “gets” the point that some things are his and some are not.
So, was it worth it?
It took a bit, especially with everything else that goes on leading up to the birth of your first child, but it was time and effort very well spent in my opinion. At the very least it made us feel better and forced us to spend some time extra working with Ned on some new stuff…which he always likes. At best we’ve worked to avoid a future problem or, God forbid, an injury.
Looking back over the past 4 months I’m glad we spent the time. We still are pretty vigilant of Ned around the baby “just because” and I don’t see that changing until Jack is a bit older and has some more weight to him. We’ve all heard or read horror stories about the family dog and babies out there, and I’m sure we won’t have any problem, but my eyes are open. Our fear is not an intentional attack or event but an accidental bump, nudge or nip.
Next time I’ll tell you how we planned and executed “The Introduction” between Ned and Jack and how it went. What I’d love to hear is if you have any advice, stories or lessons learned in bringing a baby in a Border Collie home? Thanks for reading