A couple of weeks ago we welcomed home our newest addition, Toby! He's our third little boy and I'm sure will be all too quickly tailing his big brothers around the house. Being a family with two cats, two dogs, a three-year-old boy, a two-year-old boy, and now a newborn definitely provides plenty of opportunities for my husband and I to practice our management skills! As a family that has experienced bringing home newborns a couple of times in the last few years, made it a little different for us in terms of preparing our dogs for this latest change. I now know that our dogs are fine with baby swings, baby chairs, diapers, music, white noise, crying infants, etc. Most of the things that we worried about preparing them for in the first (and even to some degree with the second pregnancy) were not really concerns for us this time. Some things, however don't change.
1. Furniture changes - even though Beskow and Kaylee have dealt with all of the infant furniture before, it was still a big change when we started bringing out the baby furniture and toys, so we made sure to do this well before the baby was due. Our crib, changing table, and everything else were old news once again by the time Toby made his appearance.
2. Sleeping arrangements - as noted in my last post, the dogs (and cats) typically sleep on our bed. With a newborn in the bedroom and us moving around at night, this was not an option anymore. In the last couple of weeks before Toby was due, we started crating the dogs at night again. This is something that they don't mind, but it was something they hadn't had to get used to since Felix was born two years ago. The first couple of nights Kaylee whined a bit and when we got up during the night Beskow would perk up and decide she should wake up, too - but after that they settled right into the new routine. This meant that by the time the baby came, they were used to going up to bed in the crates and, just in case the crates were something they considered less desirable, they were in no way associated with the arrival of the baby.
3. Refreshing training - there are some behaviors that I don't mind (my dogs jumping on me when I come home being one of them...) that aren't okay when we're carrying and caring for a newborn. So in the last two months of my pregnancy, we refocused on the jumping on me at the door. They're now past it (at least for now!) and I feel confident they will keep their feet on the floor when I'm coming in and out of the front door carrying or wearing a newborn. We also reviewed their drop its, leave its, go to bed, and "off" of the couch. Since they have had good training in the past, this was pretty straight forward but a few treats thrown at behaviors tends to make them stronger again!
4. Lastly, space management. Now, more than ever, we have to know where the dogs are all the time. Our older two are not old enough to be trusted alone with them and our youngest can't be left out of sight with them. Our house has gates at the top and bottom of the stairs, crates in our bedroom (which has a door the kids can't quite open yet), and cribs for the kids. There's a fair amount of coordination required, but we very much define our parenting of kids and dogs at this point by the Family Paws concept of Success Stations. When the older kids are home the dogs are frequently gated upstairs or downstairs away from them. This still leaves them lots of time with me during the day since I'm on maternity leave, and time with us in the evening after the kids are in bed, but during "flash points" in the day- breakfast, dinner, bedtime- we can keep everyone safe, happy, and in an environment that is as minimally stressful to them as possible.
My priority at this point is in preserving everyone's relationships until my boys are old enough to truly engage successfully with the dogs. I love all five of them (and the two cats!) but at this point, so much of our life revolves around managing the dogs and kids successfully so that they can't accidentally hurt each other or make each others' lives more stressful. Introducing another new baby adds an extra challenge, but also reminds me of how truly awesome my dogs are and how happy I am that my kids will have their early learning experiences in canine companionship with these two pups!