First things first, let’s get the serious bit out-of-the-way… NEVER leave a dog alone with a young child. No matter how docile, small or seemingly harmless old Rover is. The effort it takes to remove either from the room as you leave it is tiny in comparison to the unthinkable alternative.That may sound a bit extreme, especially to people already wary of dogs, but you can’t be too careful.
They say ‘never work with children or animals’, but so many of us live with both! I wrote previously about the myths of Dobermans and babies and I’m glad to have been proved right with my experience.
I grew up with dogs. A Labrador, a Heinz 57 (a good name for a mongrel) and then a Golden Retriever of my own. I am currently raising my daughter alongside a Dobermann, so I’ve got some experience to share. Lupo had just turned three years old when we brought a smelly, crying, tiny human into HIS living room. I did the whole giving him a piece of her clothing to sniff before we brought her in, but I’m not sure that made any difference to anything. A bit pointless if you ask me. As then this six stone of muscle dog ran to cower behind my partner, tail between his legs and looking at us as if to say, ‘why have you brought that noise home and when is it leaving?’
As the weeks went by, I’d catch him looking at the baby as she had taken over his beloved sofa, our comfy bed where he used to lie and as her bouncer chair took over his spot on the rug. He began to show more interest, licking her dangling feet at any opportunity but if he could talk his look to us would say, ‘ok, you’ve had your fun now, let’s get back to just the three of us.’ The guilt as a parent of a dog before a baby is horrendous!
As I slowly recovered and got back on my feet, walking the dog with my partner carrying the baby in a carrier, was the only time I’d get out of the house at one stage. Lupo was patient as I walked very slowly and truly went for it, burning off energy when he was let off the lead for a short while, as if he knew I’d need to turn around quite soon.
Our daughter is 4 months old now and we’ve settled into a (mostly) happy harmony. We kept our dog walker coming even when we were both at home, just so Lupo had some normality and got exercise when we were too tired. He’s had to learn that he just got put down a peg in the pack and the result of that training will probably mean our daughter’s first word is ‘Off!’ due to the frequency we use it to save her from being slobbered on. So far he’s only stolen one of her toys and sucked it to within an inch of its life. A quick wash and keeping things on higher shelves did the trick for that habit.
Everyone was amazed when they saw our baby didn’t wake up when Lupo barked in the house. I read that’s because she got used to the sound when i was pregnant? I’m not sure, but there may be some truth behind it. He can make her jump if she’s not expecting it, but then I jump as well as his bark is so loud. It’s something we can live with anyway as he really doesn’t bark that often.
Lupo now greets our baby in the morning with the same enthusiasm as he greets us. The feet licking hasn’t stopped, but we think it’s quite sweet (and are always armed with wipes). As our daughter grows, she watches him and has started to smile at him. I really can’t wait for her to interact with him. I just know he’s going to be a brilliant big brother as she grows up. And thank god there will be someone else who will throw his toy to him, for the millionth time…