There’s a lot to be said for being prepared for when you bring your baby home. We read lots of books, bought way too much gear, and signed up for a college semester’s worth of childbirth classes. In reflection, the best investment my husband and I made was taking the Barks & Babies class at The Pawsitive Dog.
We have two pure-bred American Shelter Dogs (aka rescue mutts) who came to us with their own personalities; one is afraid of people, the other is aggressive with other dogs.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew their reality was about to shift in a big way. I was anxious for advice on how to manage the changes for them -AND most importantly, have a safe environment for the new baby.
In comes Jen Vickery, a canine-human relationship guru who helps families manage the “new baby transition.” She’s the founder of The Pawsitive Dog, in Boston, MA. In Jen’s Barks & Babies class, we gained a whole new perspective on what bringing baby home would be like through the eyes (ears and nose!) of our dogs.
I was six months pregnant when we signed up for Barks and Babies. I learned there was no time to waste. It turns out there was a lot we could do even before the baby arrived! Jen promptly gave us our marching orders, and here was some of her best advice:
- Start walking the dogs while pushing your new stroller—they need familiarity with the new gear. (Yes, you will look a little strange because there isn’t actually a baby in the stroller yet.)
- Channel your inner toddler by pinching and poking the dogs and then reward them with a treat. (Yes, pinching, poking and pulling WILL happen in the toddler years. Best to desensitize your pup early on.)
- Start giving your dogs commands with your feet, not your hands. (At first I thought this was odd, but Jen was so right. Once the baby arrives forget using two hands for anything! And, if you have a sleeping baby in you arms, the last thing you want to do is utter a word that might disturb the peace. )
- We also established a gated community with a play yard for our son. We used the North States Superyard. We also made sure to have dog crates on hand for the girls. Our favorite crates are the Midwest Life Stages Double-Door Folding Metal Dog Crates.
- Last but not least, FORGET to feed the dogs now and again. They need to get used to unpredictability. (This has happened on more than one sleep-deprived occasion, I’ll confess.)
Jen’s been running Barks and Babies for over 20 years. Her advice was solid, effective and helped tremendously in those early blurry days when we were overwhelmed with our newborn. We found comfort in her advice and reflected back on our learnings well into toddlerhood. Now, in large part thanks to Jen, we are now one happy, harmonious pack.