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Blended Families (Part I)

The first book I bought when the pregnancy test revealed two lines instead of one wasn’t “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (aka “What they never told you about pregnancy that you wish you’d known before you got yourself into this state”).

It was a small tome called Happy Kids, Happy Dogs. Giehl and I share our home and lives with two wonderful dogs and two very cat-like cats.

Clyde and Emma are both around 3 years old, and they’re full of enthusiasm for life (and food). While kids and dogs are often a great combination (I loved the dog we had growing up more than I loved most of my friends and family, I think), too often, the dogs in the house get the short end of the stick after the baby arrives—and bad things can happen as a result (e.g., neglected dog starts acting out, neglected dog then becomes neglected and yelled-at-a-lot dog, then neglected and yelled-at dog gets dumped at the local animal shelter).

Happy Kids, Happy Dogs talks about how to ensure that your human baby and your canine child grow up to love and respect each other, starting in pregnancy and all the way through adolescence. So just as you’d prepare an older sibling for the arrival of a baby brother or sister, Giehl and I started to prepare our dogs early on for the arrival of a baby boy. We bought a doll and started carrying it around in our Ergo carrier, sitting on the couch with it pretending to feed, putting it in the swing … things that will become part of our routine when the real baby arrives.

The trick is to make sure that the experiences the dogs have with the fake baby are positive (e.g., while I’m sitting on the couch feeding the fake baby, I’m also giving Clyde and Emma little bits of treats while they sit or lie quietly next to me). We also spent a lot of time working with them on some basic training.

As Karen P., PETA’s resident dog expert, will tell you, dogs like to have a job! Our dogs’ only job is to sit nicely before they ask for something, but it makes a big difference in their overall mental health (and, therefore, in our sanity). There’s just too much good stuff in Happy Kids, Happy Dogs to put in one post, so look for more later.

And once B-Day (that’s Birth-Day) comes and goes, I’ll be sure to let you know how it all plays out in real life!

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  • E. says:

    Love the article, as it reminds me of my great friends’ worry about their own dog when they became pregnant with their first (who will be 18 soon). They had a high strung weimereiner who was used to being top dog. They too brought home a doll for practice… the problem? The doll’s head was made of the same rubber as many of the dog’s toys, and the dog promptly chomped down on and tried to eat the doll’s head! The grandmothers were horrified.

    No worries though.. lots of attention and treats when he showed positive behavior towards the baby meant that he thought that baby was his own pup… and they were the best of friends.

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