Real Life: 4 Dogs, 1 Baby
Ha, well it has been nearly a year since I made a post called "Babies and Dogs." I wrote that post when I was pregnant with my first child and I can almost remember the wonderful nights of uninterrupted sleep (hahahahahhahahasendhelp) that accompanied that lovely time period. But seriously, that post was about people doubting my ability to give my dogs the love and attention they deserve when a baby came into the picture. This post is not going to be about love. Someday maybe I will post an update about the utter chaos and destruction that rains over my house day to day with one baby and 16 animals but today is not that day.
Today I want to talk about protecting your pup. From your baby. Cute as they are... babies are energetic, not so gentle, screaming little bundles of love and you may need to protect your dog from them. Please know that I'm saying this with all the love in my heart. I adore my daughter more than life itself but there is no doubt that my dogs need protection from her and from the myriad of other tiny humans running around our property these days.
At only 9 months old my little human is not quite mobile enough to do much damage but she is certainly interested in the dogs, dog bowls, the kennels, and various dog toys that are scattered throughout the house. Now here's the kicker... she doesn't get to enjoy all of these things 100% of the time. I, as the adult, have established something called boundaries.
That means if one of the dogs is sleeping, she doesn't get to crawl over and start bugging them. She is not allowed to play in their food bowls during dinner time. She doesn't get to use their kennels as a special little fort to crawl into.
Now I bet you're saying... but how am I supposed to be supervising that shit 24/7?! That's hard! Kids get into everything!
I'm right there with you mamas and dadas. This shit is hard. Kids are like tiny, very destructive ninjas. They can practically teleport from one place to the next. I understand you are trying your best and I'm right here with you to sympathize cause OMG kids will suck the very life and soul out of you. Sometimes you want to do whatever you can to get 2 seconds to yourself and if that means letting your kiddo crawl into the dog kennel then whatever, mama needs a cup of tea and 2 seconds of quiet.
But... what about your dog? Just as much as you have a responsibility to your kid, you have a responsibility to your dog and it is YOUR JOB to protect that safe space that their kennel is. You need 2 seconds of quiet? Yeah, they do too! They need that kid-free zone and it is your responsibility to give it to them. It is not their responsibility to tolerate the kid. See how that works? You are the adult. You set the boundaries.
This means management and management takes planning and time. Trust me, I have four dogs, I truly get that. I have a total of six dog kennels in various places in my house. I feed two of my four dogs in their kennels and when my daughter is more mobile I will feed ALL the dogs in their kennels. Why? Because my dogs deserve to eat their food in peace.
When my nephews (2 and 5) come over, 3 out of 4 dogs are put away in their kennels with frozen Kongs. Why? Have you ever spent any time with a 2 and 5 year old? Those kiddos are loud and unpredictable and while my pups are tolerant, they aren't thrilled at their quiet little oasis home turning into a full on circus. And that's ok. I don't need them to love screaming children. I need them to feel safe and secure in their kennels so I can enjoy my gorgeous, handsome nephews. This is a win-win for everybody. I get time with my family and I don't need to worry about the dogs knocking over kiddos or kids invading the dog's kennels. Meanwhile my dogs get delicious treats and some quiet time hanging out in their cozy little kennels. Are you getting the idea? I protect my dogs (for my dogs this means they get their own space that kids don't invade) and everybody has a great time!
As a society we seem to have this idea that a "good dog" tolerates everything. A "good dog" is great with all kids and all dogs and all humans and the list goes on. *Cue eye roll* This is definitely an entire post of its own but for now all I want to say on this subject is that a truly "good dog" is in the eye of the beholder. My dogs are good dogs and they don't need to tolerate the chaos that comes with multiple kids under 6. That is ok. Them tolerating kid chaos is ultra low on my list of good dog requirements. Them tolerating my daughter, waiting at doorways, having a good recall, walking well on a leash, these are all things I care about. Bottom line, a "good dog" has a lot of different definitions and that's ok!
Fun fact: My daughter does not get an all-access pass to my dogs 100% of the time. If they come up and interact with her, hell yeah, let the games begin! By games I mean her playing with their collars (because omg, this week shiny things are THE BEST THINGS EVER), getting licked all over, and generally squealing at them. If they move away, the game is over. If they are anxious, annoyed, or uncomfortable in any way, the games stop. End of discussion. No negotiating.
I can confidently say that all of my dogs have a great relationship with my daughter because of these rules. We protect them from her. They deserve just as much protection as she does and this way, everyone wins. We have a very happy baby and four happy, relaxed dogs who can escape to their kennels whenever they need a quiet space to curl up. God knows I would love a kennel of my own some days.
So here's the bottom line... Your dog and your kid can co exist happily if you just set a few boundaries. It is not your dog's job to tolerate the kiddo. We know you would always protect your kid from your dog and your dog should get the same consideration. Get some kennels, use those kennels. Maybe get a baby/puppy gate or two and your life could get a whole lot simpler and happier.
Now I must go because my daughter has sensed that I was about to finish this blog post and have time on my own and so, of course, she has woken up from her nap an hour early. >_<