Since the day Hunter arrived home from the hospital I started receiving messages about the dogs and their reaction to him and I totally get it – anyone with a dog knows this is a huge deal, wondering how your fur baby is going to adapt to your new baby. Well, let me tell you, these guys, Mr K and Tux, they deserve an award.
I was delighted when James Wellbeloved invited me to partner and share our very own Crufts category, one that my dogs would definitely win. Firstly, our dogs have been enjoying this brand of dry food for years anyway (seriously love it when collaborations like this come about) and, secondly, I knew this would give me the perfect excuse to answer some questions about dogs and babies and how they fit together, in our experience at least.
So I will call my special category ‘Adaptability and Patience with a Baby’ and I will tell you why these guys are my winners…
I remember asking the midwife (at the one and only antenatal class I managed to stomach, boy those things made me anxious) if she had any advice for us about introducing the dogs and her answer was cut and dry – ‘Do not let the dogs anywhere near the newborn, absolutely do not let them lick the baby and under no circumstances should you leave them alone with the baby.’ Turns out a newborn baby has zero immune system and a dog’s tongue, well, it is basically a breeding ground of bacteria. Brilliant.
Talking to our dog trainer the advice was somewhat more focussed on the welfare of the dogs in this scenario. He said – ‘As long as nothing changes for the dog then you will not run into trouble. For example, if the dog was not allowed on the bed before, then it will not be a shock to him that he is not allowed on the bed with the baby.’
And so we essentially blended these two nuggets of information and came up with a formula that worked for us. Fortunately our dogs were not allowed upstairs or in the bedrooms, they were only rarely granted couch privileges and those were swiftly reneged during the later stages of my pregnancy, they were loved so very much but never pandered to – no whimpering or pawing for attention was tolerated and perhaps this was in part due to the fact that Tux has not been the easiest dog in the world (understatement, cough cough) and we need to keep the upper hand with him at all times to maintain respect and calm. So the fortunate thing from their side was that not much was set to change… other than the imminent introduction of a tiny, little, hairless puppy.
The first day we brought Hunter home we had the dogs come home too because we did not want to fall into the trap of omitting them from any part of this journey, they are our family too. We ‘introduced’ them to the baby. And by that I mean that I held the baby down to them whilst the husband brought the dogs forward one by one, keeping a hold of them, to have a respectfully distant sniff. And we popped Hunter into the bassinet and the dogs more or less lay down and their lives went back to normal (see exhibit A). Now and again strange noises and wiggles would come from the bassinet and Tux would show an interest but a quick reminder of what was inside, I mean a momentary reintroduction, and his curiosity was satisfied. Any further interest was met with a firm ‘Away’, a command we have taught them since they were pups – initially to avoid mooching at the dinner table but it turned out to work extremely well for bothering a newborn too.
And for a full year we lived in a blissful state of family harmony. Then Hunter started walking…
The reason this has proven to be such a challenge is that he is obsessed with the dogs – I mean they are his BEST friends. When I have been at work for the day and have not seen him for eight hours solid, is it me he runs to? Nope, it is those darn dogs. And the poor dogs do not get granted a moment’s peace. They are vigorously patted and enthusiastically hugged on many, many occasions throughout the day. Hunter would happily just do circuits, going from one dog to the other – he is besotted. But the dogs, understandably, get weary. Now it is our turn to protect THEM from HIM. We are firm with Hunter and let him be affectionate with them but try to limit this to one round of pats before telling him ‘Enough’. And if he will not stop, we remove him or the dogs from the situation for a little time out. The dog beds are completely off limits; this is their safe zone and, whether they are in there or not, Hunter is barred.
But of course we are delighted he shows such affection and interest in his ‘brothers’ and try to find as many ways as possible to let him get involved in a safe way. He can just about roll the ball along the floor for them now and they will retrieve it for him and his all time favourite chore is to feed the dogs, taking their bowls to the food cupboard and carrying them back, placing them down for them and watching them eat. He even puts the measuring cup away and closes the cupboard door every breakfast and dinner time and he is duly rewarded with a high five and a ‘Good job’. He loves it. (I should probably add some kind of disclaimer here that my dogs have been trained to have no possession issues with their food ever since they were puppies so whilst this is a safe way for Hunter to be involved in their care, it might not be with other dogs).
And so you will gather that the dogs’ welfare and health are very important to us. And that is why I am proud to say they were fed James Wellbeloved for years, recommended by my breeder, because it contains no nasties (just have a look at your current ingredient list and if you see ‘derivatives’ on there then you should know that those are the bits that are literally not good enough for anything else). James Wellbeloved food has all the goodness pets need and nothing they don’t. And to minimise the risk of adverse food reactions, it’s naturally hypoallergenic. Best of all, you can be sure they’re enjoying a balanced diet; one that not only tastes good (confirmed by my two), but does them a world of good too, bursting with essential vitamins and minerals and containing high quality, single source protein. Last year Tux suffered a series of health issues and we switched him onto grain free dog food for a few months and if your dog also needs a special grain free diet then know that these guys have you covered there too. Basically this is a high quality food that you can feel confident in and I love that.
And just a foot note – whilst newborns have a poor immune system, toddlers that grow up with dogs no doubt have an excellent immune system if you ask me. Hunter and Tux think it is hilarious to kiss one another and I currently spend most of my afternoons shouting ‘NO’ over Hunter’s infectious giggles as his face gets bathed in dog tongue… You win some, you lose some.
In collaboration with James Wellbeloved
This post is a paid collaboration with James Wellbeloved but all thoughts are my own.
Shot on location at Old Mill on the Spey