Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Introducing Mr enthusiastic to Kelsyann

Meet Windsor, Windsor came from rough circumstances and has no reason to trust people but...he oozes love for all of us!

I refer to him as Mr. Enthusiastic. We adopted Windsor several months prior to finding out I was pregnant. I was ready for his energy and his challenges from his past. Well, he is all I wanted him to be and sooo much MORE! Windsor is the happiest dog in the world who never seems to keep all four paws on the floor at any one time. He dances when he walks and wiggles and waggles with glee. That said, he is also very strong and his energy can be overwhelming even on my best day. He is always learning and has come a long way in self control but...coming home with a baby and having his energy was a bit much. Needless to say we took it very slow with Windsor. We also did not know how he would respond to the baby in general as he came from a rough background.
We had prepared ahead but ...we knew this had to be a slower intro and I needed to be ready for it. So, for several days as I adjusted to being home and was recovering, Windsor was kept on leash and tethered in our home for periods of time so that he could observe Kelsyann and become familiar with her smells, actions and sounds, but so that he was not too much in my space. Windsor was used to the indoor tether and knew that there he could have his toys or treats. Windsor is on leash while I hold Kelsyann. He is being reminded to lie down on his bed.
At first he observed intensely and several times barked when Kelsyann cried during diaper changes but intense eyes turned soft after being able to observe and be included in daily activities. Dogs become comfortable and the baby becomes less novel when they are included from the beginning. It was so important that I only included him when I was patient and able to handle his energy. If I was not in the mood or able to handle him patiently then he was crated. Windosr began becoming familiar with Kelsyann by:
1. Tethering by his bed
2. Tethering in the room where I nursed (4 foot tether then 6 foot when calmer)
3. Loose when I had Kelsyann in the Sling
First photo Windsor sniffs Kelsyann through the sling. 2nd he receives attention from me. 3rd he relaxes at my feet.Using a sling allowed me to be hands free but also kept Kelsyann contained. Legs, arms all tucked in drew less attention due to less stimulation. I felt confident and comfortable with Kelsyann in the sling and Windsor loose. Windsor never jumped up and listened well to directions while I held her. He quickly acclimated to this and was able to be included for longer times like the other dogs.
In a short time Windsor adjusted well to having Kelsyann in our lives. As seen in the photo below...he is no longer reactive to Kelsyann's crying. Time, patience and safe comfortable expossure allowed him to adjust to Kelsyann at this stage. Does this mean happily ever after? No, it means that we have done well for this stage. Living with a baby and dogs means constant adjustment, managment and planning. We have many more successes to support all of our dogs through. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dogs & Storks: Halloween safety....changes in appearance

Dogs & Storks: Halloween safety....changes in appearance

Halloween safety....changes in appearance

Pets & Kids.....Establishing, building and maintaining relationships through respect and education.: Halloween and dogs#links

An interview about Dogs & Storks

Tune in as I chat with Cindy Bruckart, CPDT on her podcast I always welcome questions about how to prepare before and after with our family dogs. Listen in!


Wow, jumping back into things is fun and tiring. Taught a full class at Wake Med this past weekend. Those classes fill up which means folks are learning how to prepare and include their dog with baby. I love that!
Dogs & Storks has a new presenter in GA! This is great. Several of our presenters are in CA at the APDT (Association of Pet dog trainers ) conference in Oakland. Have a safe, fun and educational time! Kim Brophy our presenter from Asheville won the APDT Dog trainer of the year award. Congrats Kim. Great things happening!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Be your dog's expert

Duke reads up on baby games & behavio
Each of our dogs has very different personalities and quirks. I say quirks with affection. The more you embrace your dog's unique characteristics and the more aware you are of how they learn and take in their environment the better you can include them as your baby grows. For example if your dog is very reactive to motion then you can plan and prepare for some level of arousal with different equipment and possibly intense intrigue when your baby moves in your arms or is passed from one person to another. If you expect the response then you can plan and prepare as to how you will handle this. r

Duke may be large but he listens well to direction and I trusted him this close. Putting a pillow between the dog and baby often for more comfortable for Moms. Duke would sniff and I'd say..."it's kelsyann" and then tell duke " good boy, now go lie down."
Ex. Duke was highly aroused at Kelsyann's crying at first. We reminded him what to do and that helped him settle down. Things like "Duke, go get your toy." "Go get your bone." " Go lie down." Anything that he knew to do and that he would be successful with. Some dogs need this more then others. You know your dog best and with some planning can make this an easier transition. You are the expert of your dog. Study your dog's behavior and responses and make mental notes or keep a journal of how they respond to new experiences and transitions in your environment. This can be very insightful as you enter this new chapter of your lives.
Our first days home were hectic and tiring but it was great to see the dogs and cats and to be home.
Duke relaxes while our son holds Kelsyann.
Duke chilled out quickly as he was able to follow me and listens well to directions... he was easy to include. The excitment faded for him quickly and he settled into a new comfortable pattern. If you have lived with a shepherd you know how it feels to have a constant shadow that is "just there" all the time. You look down no matter where you are and there is your shadow I never even am aware of when he arrived...he just is always there. I love that! Here is a photo of Duke in his spot while we nurse. He picked it and every time we sit in this chair....there he is. It is funny as this is my office and he lies down in a different spot when I am on the computer. Different activity different routine. Love it!

Here is a photo of Duke in his spot while we nurse. He picked it and every time we sit in this chair....there he is. Gotta love that!

Our female Mal/shepherd mix (12 yr old) Carin is used to the many changes in our home. Having fostered well over 70 dogs over the years and being in our home for almost 10 she pretty well rolls with the punches.

Carin waits patiently for some attention.

Good girl Carin!
Carin also follows our direction and is very easy to include. Her only challenge now is older age and this will be taken into consideration as Kelsyann begins to move on her own. Carin is a bit of a moody girl to other dogs and is known to resource guard. Even though Carin has only guarded items from other dogs in the past, as she ages and with new dynamics we must be observant of any possible shift or changes in her behaviors. New patterns can sometimes creep up with changes in the health and home dynamics. With this in mind and despite her age we continue to reward her sometimes when she makes a "good choice" that avoids a potential conflict. We all need incentives sometimes to stay on track....right? Or at least it helps.
Paying attention is essential with the great kid/baby and dog combo. If you need help with your dog or have questions about any of their behaviors don't hesitate to contact one of our presenters for support. Never wait if you have concerns. We are ready to listen and offer help.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

First day home after breakdown. :)

It is amazing how 2 hours of rest can refresh you! I felt human and eager to face the challenge of including our dogs with Kelsyann but I needed everyone in our family to be completely on the same page. We had a family meeting and again discussed boundaries and what was needed. We have a high level of managment in place with crates, gates, tethers and outside time anyway so the routines are pretty familiar they had to be solid! Supervision being the priority. I felt much better. Our goal for the day was to help Duke relax and adjust to Kelsyann's noises. Duke does not handle separation well and so he would be included all the time. He was up for the challenge and within several hours became more relaxed.
Giving clear and calm directions allowed Duke to adjust and follow our lead. Taking time for me to unwind was important so that I could be calm while including him while caring for Kelsyann and adjusting to home. This is important for all new Moms to keep in mind. When you come home you feel like doing all the things you could do before the baby. Coming home from the hospital can be hard and I encourage you to pace yourself and surround yourself with support. You need to focus on your recovery and the baby. Even more important if Mom is breastfeeding. Take your time and go it at your own pace. It will work out.
In our next about the other dogs? What helped with them in the first days? Stay tuned!

Here is Duke during while my husband changes Kelsyann's 2nd diaper at home.

Coming home (our experience)

I am sharing this as I feel many will relate and I want to offer a real look at how things can work with patience, supervision and planning.
Our four dogs waiting their turn while Jack the cat gets a piece of turkey.
Everyone looks forward to the arrival of a baby. Mixed emotions are natural whether it is a first or 4th baby...change = stress good or mixed. We have experienced this stress and having 4 dogs also brought it's own element. Our birth did not go at all as planned but the end result was fantastic.
I spent several days in the hospital before returning home. The hospital is NO PLACE for sleep. People in and out of the room, new baby to care for, pain from delivery etc.....I had a total of 4 hours in 3 days of sleep and to say I was exhausted and running on crazed hormones is no understatment.
I arrived home and we immediately were greeted by Duke our GSD.

All of our dogs are rescues and Duke is quite the special needs boy of the group with severe generalized anxiety. We put Kelsyann in her carseat on the kitchen table and put the chairs up against the table. I sat and greeted Duke. We then allowed 2 of our other dogs in to sniff the air and view the new addition. I loved this as Kelsyann was up high and secure. The dogs could smell me and see the baby who was sleeping soundly in her carseat. It all felt overwhelming. Despite our planning and my speicalty being dogs and babies...I was overwhelmed at that moment. They are so big....she is so small. I once again felt the vulnerability that I believe most new Moms experience. Dads too! This tiny new being is my responsibility and I have a chaotic home with 4 dogs, 5 cats and 3 other children. We all needed to be on the same page. It was overwhelming! Our dog Carin (11 yr old mal/shepherd mix) and Bailey (siberian husky) had sniffed and moved on but Duke was quite aroused by the noises and smells. I had the protective mama knee jerk reaction to tell him NO and ban him from the area as we changed the crying baby's diaper. Just as I felt the urge to snap at him...I quickly reminded myself of what he needed. He needed to be given something to do. "Duke go lie down." And he did. "Diaper downs" are helpful as they give the dog something to do and allow them to observe the activity and baby in motion. This is essential from the beginning to develop familiarity.

Afterwards Duke investigated the changing table. We told him it was Kelsyann and allowed him to sniff and explore. He then followed us out of the room.

Although this went well, I was surprised at the extent of his arousal towards Kelsyann. It made me uneasy and I knew I was completely exhausted and overwhelmed and not able to handle it at the moment. Coming home brings on the normal everyday taska and household duties and I was on overload. So, what did I do.....I sobbed! Yep...I totally lost it. I knew we had a long road ahead of us with our 4 rescued dogs with completely different personalities. I also knew I could not handle it on only 4 hours of sleep in 3 days so...I headed for a nap to regroup.
To be up from nap!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back to blogging

Wow! Time flies when you are taking care of a baby and 3 other children! I am eager to get back to posting and sharing tips and stories about life with a newborn, 4 dogs, 5 cats and 3 older kids. Boy, have we learned and refreshed ALOT!
First off I am amazed at how adaptable dogs and cats are to such changes. It is amazing how well they follow our lead. That is one of the biggest lessons I have revisited. Our companion animals look to us for guidance, comfort and security to know that all is well. Living with a very anxious German Shepherd I have had to remind myself over and over again (along with the others in our home) of how important it is for us to calmly direct our dogs while including our baby Kelsyann. Calm and steady direction is not easy when you are tired and overwhelmed...did I say overwhelmed!?! Yes, even having done this 3 times before...I have to say that there is nothing more exciting, exhausting and all consuming as bringing home a newborn. Dogs & Storks helps to ease this transition and build safe bonds. Stay tuned for more posts as I share what worked and helped us welcome our newest addition.