Preparing Dogs for Baby Twins

Three miniature schnauzers

Dinky, Arthur and Pippin

The three Miniature Schnauzers have been the centre of the couple’s family life for years – the oldest, Albert, is now ten years old. The little dogs’ lives are soon to be turned upside down because they are expecting not one, but two babies in October.

The dogs really are the sweetest, most gentle little things, each with their own traits. Albert is probably the most sensible – he is the oldest. Nine-year-old Dinky, the girl, is a little more sensitive. Pippin is the youngest at just three and more challenging than the other two. He likes to be ahead of the others and wants to control what they have and do – which is no problem. They give in to him.

It’s because of Pippin that I was called. There has been a very recent incident, particularly worrying with the coming arrivals in mind. He nipped a toddler. The child was sitting on the floor at the dog minder’s house where the dogs stay from time to time, ‘doing nothing’. The lady and gentleman were in the room with the baby grandchild.  We don’t know where the other dogs were, but for some reason (we will never know what), Pippin just came running into the room and bit the child through its nappy, resulting in a bruise. One could speculate. Maybe a toy was involved. It was certain that at the time Pippin was already highly excited and stressed with a lot of comings and goings to the house and he’s not used to children. What the trigger was we will never know, but it was certainly completely out of his usual character.

Miniature schnauzers sitting on sofa

Arthur in front, Pippin then Dinky

The minders are fortunately still happy to look after the dogs and say they will keep them and their grandchild apart now. Pippin apparently was following the child around ‘quite happily’, or so they thought. Perhaps the incident was over a toy. Anyway, I suggest the couple carefully weans him into wearing a soft muzzle just in case, so nobody need then worry.

They have about four months to get their dog used to living a rather different kind of life. The couple will stop stirring them up unnecessarily with things such as feeding into Arthur’s toy-chasing obsession which winds Pippin up too, not pumping them up with excitement when it’s food time or when they come home from work.

There will be lots of visitors after they have had the babies, so from now on people coming to the house should be less exciting. They can gradually tone down their own greetings over time so it’s not a shock. Callers will become more mundane if they don’t take too much notice of the dogs initially – so they need training too. Sometimes the dogs are so hyped one may pee.

Several things that happen and cause no problems whatsoever now need to gradually change before the babies come. They have plenty of time. It’s so much better than several cases I have been to who haven’t considered how their dog might feel and its extreme reaction has taken them completely by surprise.

They can buy a puppy pen and teach the dogs that this is their special den, a place where only good things happen. When the babies arrive either dogs or babies can be in the pen – a perfect way to keep them safe and the dogs included in family life.

Looking ahead to when the babies are in high chairs with food (and dropping it deliberately!) they can already start teaching the dogs to keep their distance while people eat.

In the car the dogs won’t be able to jump freely all over the back seat when the babies are on it, so best to get them used to being contained behind a barrier in the back now.

There are plenty of YouTube clips of babies crying and screaming. They can expose the dogs to short sessions, starting soft, pairing crying with food so the sound of babies screaming becomes good news! They can do silly baby talk to a cushion or toy – feeding the dogs at the same time (that would make a good YouTube clip itself!). They can introduce the dogs to the smell of babies. Whenever the dogs see, hear or smell babies – the ‘food bar’ opens.

Bringing the twins home can be planned to avoid easily predictable problems. The dogs will have been staying with the dog minders for a while beforehand, so the babies will already be home. My advice to the couple is try to choose a time when infants are asleep and quiet, safely in the dog pen or behind a gate if it looks like the dogs might be territorial over the pen – so they aren’t being cuddled and so that the dogs can have the couple’s full attention. They should be given time to calm down before everyone goes to the babies. Then the ‘food bar’ opens.

It is very likely that the dogs will take two noisy, crying, sniffling, grunting and deliciously smelling infant humans entering their lives in their stride as so many dogs do, but preparing these dogs for baby twins after years of being the centre of attention is kindest on them – and safest all round.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Pippin, Dinkie and Arthur, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Thank Goodness Chihuahua Twinkle Isn’t a Great Dane!

Chihuahua Twinkle is a clever little dogThey are expecting a baby in six weeks’ time, and have left it a little late to do something about little 8-month-old Chihuahua Twinkle. He flies all over the place and it is impossible to check him. He may grab hair and nip. They see him as exuberant and happy; I saw him as highly stressed and anxious, with too much stimulation of the wrong sort – exciting him and winding him up – and not enough constructive stimulation and doggy stuff. He has quickly learned to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ for the lady. He is a clever little dog and she will enjoy teaching him new things – the right way.

Twinkle never goes for a walk. He is carried everywhere, so no doggy sniffs and no socialising of any sort. He is house trained in a way, but to do all his toileting indoors on newspaper (not something that would be happening if her were a Great Dane I’m sure) and this won’t be good when Baby is crawling about. When he is taken out, it’s in a carry bag.

I noticed how he merely tolerated being cuddled. The lady says he’s ‘had to learn to let me love him’. She felt it was important to make him accept it even though he doesn’t like it (which I’m not sure is my definition on love). As she held him up like a baby under his arms to kiss him, his little head was turning away from side to side and he was licking his lips – both strong signals that he was not happy with it.

Recently he nipped a child which isn’t a good omen. Unfortunately he was smacked – a very common human response when people don’t know what they should do and guaranteed to make things worse. It is very clear that he barked and warned them ‘I’m scared, I’m scared’ and he was ignored. The child approached him with a treat and he nipped.

So, my ‘preparation for baby’ plan is first for Twinkle to be treated a bit more like a dog and not only given a few rules and less over-exciting play from the man, but also for his dog-language signals to be respected. Secondly, his world needs slowly opening up a bit.  I suggested starting by standing in the garden for five minutes with him on lead to let him get used to it, and gradually increase the size of his world as he relaxes. Thirdly, Twinkle needs to get accustomed to the lady cuddling a baby and talking baby talk to it, so amongst other things I suggest a doll and screaming babies on YouTube!  Finally, When Baby does come home Twinkle needs some sort of restraining and I feel a puppy pen would work best. There is no way realistically they will ever be able to teach him to stay on the floor and nor would they want to.  Baby could even sometimes go in the pen instead! Twinkle needs to get used to being in it well in advance so it becomes his ‘safe den’.

All in all they have some hard work to do and it’s fortunate the lady is on maternity leave. As soon as Baby arrives I shall call again, because we can only guess at how Twinkle will actually react when it happens.

Ollie Needs Help in Getting Used to the New Baby

Border Terrier is worried and chewing helpsOllie has to get used to the new babyWe need a plan for integrating Border Terrier Ollie happily back into a new family life which now includes a baby who cries, grunts, smells interesting, that is carried and who is cuddled and kissed – like Ollie himself used to be.

I originally visited Ollie over four years ago, long before I started my ‘stories’ on this website.

His young lady owner was in hospital for a few weeks with her baby and her parents had been looking after Ollie. A couple of days ago he was dropped back home.

Ollie was very uneasy, especially when the baby cried or was cuddled and they feared Ollie might jump on him or nip him. Their anxiety will have been picked up by Ollie, only increasing his stress. So, the parents had taken him back home with them again. They realised they needed help.

Ollie must get used to the baby and the baby must be kept safe.

Yesterday, in advance of my visit, he was brought back again. When I arrived baby was asleep in his pram and Ollie was quietly behind the kitchen gate which led off the sitting room. All was peaceful.

I brought Ollie into the room on a longish lead, keeping it as loose as possible.Each time he looked in the direction of the pram, I treated him. The lady then lifted her baby out and sat down with him – and treats for Ollie. Each time the baby stirred or Ollie looked at him, the lady gave Ollie a treat. Ollie’s lead stopped just short of allowing him to reach baby. Everyone could relax.

We hooked the lead over something so that no emotions could be transmitted down it – and then baby started to cry. Ollie didn’t like this at all and gave some loud ‘yips’, lunging in the direction of the baby. As the lead was only attached to a thin collar, this unfortunately will have been very uncomfortable to his neck.

Before they can go further they need a harness so that Ollie never associates baby with any  discomfort. Only nice things must happen for Ollie around the baby. He was reasonably relaxed so long as baby wasn’t crying. I gave him a Stagbar to chew whilst the baby was awake but not crying and he chewed it fervently like he was shutting out baby noises – see the picture! Our strategy is to walk him back to the kitchen if something obviously bothers him like when baby cries, and to work slowly. No scolding. Encouragement only. It was quite clear when he was worried as he would lift a paw and lick his lips, so they need to watch for these signs.

The couple were very surprised at the progress we had made in such a short time. Fortunately the parents live nearby and can take him back home so that he can be exposed for an hour or so at a time while the hustband is at home also, until a crying baby is just a normal part of his life – something to be ignored.

Ollie was himself, until recently, their baby!

To be Calmer Dogs Before the Baby is Born

Kiera and Snoopy, brindled Staffies (Snoopy has a little something else in the mix). They are seven and six years old respectively, and male Snoopy joined Kiera a couple of years ago.

There are no major problems with these friendly dogs, just various things that need dealing with before the baby arrives in about six months’ time.

The couple needs to be able to trust the dogs not to jump on people; they need to be able to walk the dogs safely with a buggy – they can no longer be pulling on lead, and barking or lunging at other dogs! They need to have their bedroom to themselves, so the dogs need to be introduced to sleeping downstairs gradually, well in advance, so that they won’t feel ousted by the baby. The dogs don’t have toys any more because of the potential trouble caused by Kiera who is possessive – and this must be resolved before the baby starts to leave toys about. They had one full-blown fight over food, so they are not left with chews or treats.

When visitors come they are so excited that Snoopy tears around the furniture and not only do they both jump up, they may start to redirect their excitement onto one another which very nearly degenerates into a spat.

At the root of most of the problems is over-excitement. Kiera before food, Snoopy around sounds outside, both dogs before walks and both frantically excited when people come.

In the evenings when all is quiet and calm they settle down a treat, as you can see from the picture.

One month later: “Yesterday they settled in the office laying next to each other on the floor and fell asleep and later that day again they were laying on the sofa asleep with each other! So massive progress I was so proud of the both of them. It has all took a massive turn but we still have a way to go but the difference is amazing I am actually excited to come home and see them rather then dreading it! In the evenings when we get home Bella is so much more chilled and relaxed and Stonker in crate less now! Even though I still know that there is still improvement to be made I feel like we have come on leaps and bounds and being at home is so much more relaxing then what it was and seeing where we were and where we are now I know it will only get better and seeing that gives us even more motivation to be persistent and patient and continue with everything!”
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.