Friday, August 13, 2010

Baby prep in an unanticipated quarter

A lot of people scoff at the idea of prepping a dog for a baby.  If the dog is well-trained it shouldn't be a problem, right?

Not really.

When you think about what a fundamental shift a new infant is for just the parents, who definitely have forewarning that this little tyrant is about to completely reorganize the running of the household, it should be no surprise that perhaps the dogs might need some time to get used to the idea as well.  Prepping a dog for a baby isn't just about making sure the dog doesn't eat Junior, it's about making sure the dog is comfortable and able to adjust to all these changes with the least amount of stress possible.  Also, every dog reacts differently to stress when they're overwhelmed by change.

Case in point - we purchased a new car.  We knew that once Junior made his arrival we wouldn't be able to transport two dogs and an infant in either of our small cars.  So we've been researching and shopping around for months now.  We settled on a 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe as an excellent car for our needs.  The idea is the dogs would ride in the far back, leaving the back seat for car seat and baby gear.

Both dogs have ridden in SUVs before with no problems but I know a new car means new smells and that's a party for a dog.  So for the first trip I let the dogs take their time, sniff the exterior of the car, check out the interior, get comfy, etc.  Once it seemed like they were relaxed in the back, I closed the tailgate and hopped in the front.

I got maybe a mile or two away before I had to pull over.  Lucky - my rock solid, never met a car he didn't like, dog - was having a full-blown freak out, crying and scrabbling at the floor.  He was a hot mess.  I was the only person in the car, so I loaded them into the back seat and he was fine.

Next ride out The Spouse was driving.  I put the dogs in the back and then I sat in the back seat with a pouch full of super-delicious treats.  Lucky was taking cookies while the car was still, no problem. The Spouse started driving and Lucky tucked tail and refused to eat even dehydrated chicken breast.  But this time I could see the problem - the back, even though it's carpeted, is too slick for him to get a grip on.  He's the sort of dog that lies down and goes to sleep in the car and, without purchase, he was sliding all over the place.  And it was stressful enough that he was completely shut down, refusing food.  For any dog that's a bad sign.  For an Addison's dog that's a recipe for disaster.

And this was a problem I hadn't anticipated.  Certainly not from Lucky, who has never so much as whimpered in the car before.  Not even the day we drove him home from the breeder's!  Fortunately we have 4 months to address the problem and fix it and, in the interim, I have the option of driving with them in the back seat if I need to get them somewhere.  It would be an absolute nightmare to try and address this if I had an infant to juggle, was sleep deprived, and no options.

This is what I'm talking about when I say "Yes, you absolutely should prep your dog for the baby."  They may have a problem, they may not.  But it's better to figure that out beforehand.

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