How To Get Your Dog To Accept Your Baby

Been meaning to write this for some time.  For all the times she was there when I came back from a bad day at work, when I slink off for a quiet cry, then when I open the door/ look up/ turn around – there is a dog napping discreetly as close as she can get to me.

JD had been my best friend for 4 years before Rockstar was born. We were inseparable. We participated (and sometimes won) Hong Kong Canine Agility Championships events. We had our pictures published in Pet Pet magazine.  In Hong Kong dog owner circles people know her, not me. Then I got pregnant and we started getting “well-meaning” remarks from family/ friends of family about the “dangers” of a “large” (she’s actually a very average-built Border Collie) dog around a new baby.  My gynea Dr Liang Shuk Tak, a big dog person herself, was a comforting source of reassurance. “Sometimes animals understand. They know what to do.” She’d of course seen mums give up their dogs before.  She’d even adopted one of them.

For being my long-suffering best friend, JD, this one’s for you. Thank you for putting up with the constant assault of noise, weird smells, various strange visitors trooping in and out, the removal of the spotlight as the only child in this family. I hope all the baby food handouts make up for this a bit.

JD and I during our Agility days… both of us were much erm, leaner then…

How To Get Your Dog To Accept Your Baby:

Begin moving your dog out of baby areas asap. We started when I was about 4 months pregnant. What would be the baby room became an off-limits-to-JD guest room so she was used to strange smells coming from there all the time. I even saved a spot on the sofa for where I wanted to put the baby stuff. We did it early so it would never occur to JD she lost territory because of the weird smell coming from the guest/baby room.

Someone told me about this dog psychology thing whereby Mum shouldn’t be the one to carry the baby into the house for the first time the dog is around. We went one step further:

While I was at Hong Kong Sanatorium, JD boarded at the “Five Star Dog Hotel” (sounds cuter in Cantonese) in Tuen Mun. It has playgrounds, air-conditioning, a big-dog pool and a little paddle pool for the smaller pooches. Also walks and socializing among other similarly spoilt dogs several times a day.

Before Rockstar and I left the hospital, Kingston dropped JD home first. She has a home-coming ritual that includes inspecting her basket and all her toys.

When we got home, Kingston stayed downstairs with Rockstar while I went in and threw the ball around for JD for about 20 mins. Then when she was settled, my hub casually walked thru the door with the baby basket and put it in the baby room. JD didn’t even blink. About an hour later, when she realized there was a strange smell coming from the guest room, we deadpanned “but it’s in the guest room, nothing to do with you.” JD gamely agreed.

That first week, JD got all her favorite foods – smoked salmon, roast chicken, pizza – so she would associate the new smells with “good things”.

(Yes, we know she can swim.) The jacket is for pulling her back in the boat after she sneaks the occasional dip in between wakeboarding practice runs. We hope to bring Rockstar along for the first time this summer. More stuff for him to be impressed with JD about.

Interestingly JD was always the first to know when Rockstar was about to start crying – she would run and tell us, hoping to preempt the crisis, then when the storm hit, she would prod us to “make it stop, make it stop” before hiding.

Today, dog and toddler are partners in crime. You steal my toy, I steal your toy. (Yes mum, I have baby sanitizer foam all over the house.) Rockstar likes veggies and carbs, doesn’t like meat, you do the math. Rockstar’s childhood is so much better for having JD in his life. He crawled / walked early because he was desperate to play with JD and practiced constantly. Other mummies borrow JD for their kids. Rockstar and JD have worked out a neat arrangement – he’ll share his cheese and cookies, she’ll let him hold her leash and walk her, thereby upping his “cool” factor among the bigger kids.

The Partners in Crime

Two years down the road the “well-meaning” anti-dog remarks look so completely off the mark. Thank God I stood my ground with the manic planning because no one else even remembers now. I would have been the one who had to live with betraying my best friend, long after all the “well-meaning friends” went back to their own lives. Now, if I could just keep JD from getting fat from all those cookies and cheese…

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Rockstar’s on a good day.  I think.  When Sam, 19 months, was upset she’d taken a bad fall, Rockstar presented her with a toy fish to distract her from crying.  Sam’s mum was satisfyingly impressed – “Oh, he’s nice.  He’s a really nice kid.”  One would have thought bullies are natural products of such a driven personality.  (If he decides he wants something woe betide any parent who tells him differently – when trying to breastfeed I could not distract him (not even with quite a few nurses’ help at the Sanatorium) from a bottle long enough for my milk to come in after my hurriedly scheduled C-section so I had to use a big old hospital pump we rented for the entire almost-year I breastfed.  I continue to be peeved at the loss of bonding time while I was hooked up to the pump but at least he got my milk.)  But one would be wrong. Then at music and singing time, Rockstar gets his musical instrument stolen by an older toddler (infuriatingly, her mother does NOTHING. She sits on the outskirts of the group, not even near her toy-stealing child, a smile frozen on her face.)  When he offers to exchange another one to get his own back (he wants the blue), he gets the new toy taken from him as well.  Rockstar looks at me with a shrug as I attempt to get one of the two toys back but the other child refuses. Then he whispers “Starbucks?”  We leave the music ring mid-song.  I praise him for sharing and tell him he can order anything he wants (his worse vice is the occasional orange juice which he goes to town on this morning.)

Rockstar gives things away.  All the time.  I try to rationalize it but truth is he’s forever sharing until I wish he would stop because at this age other kids almost never, ever share back.  When another child actually shows appreciation (Rockstar on the other hand, says thank you and no thank you almost automatically like a robot), I feel like waving pom-poms or doing cartwheels.  Immediately I want to hook up playdates, except I worry about coming on too strong – “not sure you should play with Rockstar darling.  Nice kid, he shares, but his Mummy is a Fruitcake.”  I constantly wonder if I should be doing/saying something to prepare him for Real Life:

“Rockstar, in Real Life, there is Give and there is Take.”

“Rockstar Real Life isn’t fair – in some restaurants you can get two balloons.”

At some point in the journey between baby and toddler-hood, Rockstar has morphed into this magnanimous, I-can-give-anything-away-because-my-own-needs-don’t-matter Sharing…. Monster.  He’s still got the tough personality in him, we fight passionately and constantly about mealtimes, bedtimes, tooth-brushings, dog-head-butt-ings, so I’m baffled – how is it possible he can be both Sharing Monster and Diva Rockstar?

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Roulette Table

Placing a bet on a roulette table; haha no he’s not - it’s a gemstone for his Egyptian bib at Island ECC’s Vacation Bible Study: Joseph’s Amazing Journey.

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