Thursday, July 29, 2010

How are the dogs doing?

One of the questions we get all of the time, is about how our two fur-kids have adjusted to the newest addition. From the time that we brought Bridget home three years ago as a puppy, we have been trying to prepare her (and later, Jack) for the day that there would be a new kid in town. I remember reading article after article, and book after book, trying to do everything we could to 'childproof' our dogs way ahead of time. We never wanted to be faced with a choice between our child and our furry friends.

Daddy's Helper

As many of you know, Jack has been our greatest challenge as dog owners. We got Jack two years ago from a ranch in Reno when he was 14 months old. He had never been trained, never been on a leash, never been inside, never been in a car, wasn't neutered or crate trained, and didn't really even know his name. (That last bit turned out to be a blessing in disguise though since his name was Pretty Boy. We still call him that because he sure is pretty, but we were happy to change his official name to Jack!) Jack was a challenge to work with when we first brought him home. What we had done with Bridget proved more difficult with Jack, if not simply because he was already a 45 pound dog and not as easy to maneuver around as the little 8 pound furball Bridget had been. I remember when Joel went back to work after we had first brought him home. I couldn't go anywhere! I couldn't get Jack on a leash, let alone in a crate. I couldn't even get him in the car fast enough to close the door before he jumped back out. I remember literally tossing him across the backseat and shutting the door as fast as I could just to get him to the vet to get his shots and be fixed! I didn't know what we had gotten ourselves into, but I did know that Jack seemed to really trust us. He didn't always like what we had in mind, but he never reacted with aggression once despite all of the times I had to literally force him into a crate or the car so we could leave the house. (Ironic, since he now opts for his crate over the couch and can't wait to go for car rides now!)

After a quick beginner's obedience class, of which Jack was the star pupil, we were off and running! Or so we thought. As it turns out, Jack was not well socialized as a puppy. He lived on the ranch with at least 15 other (also not well attended to) Aussies, some livestock, and horses that were the primary focus. We came to find out that Jack will probably always have some problems stemming from this lack of proper socialization. Of course, this has proven to be rather inconvenient when it comes to having guests over or wanting to do off-leash activities. Jack can't handle this and we've learned the hard way unfortunately.

With all of this in mind, I'm sure a lot of people would think it's not worth it to have this dog that makes things so tough. But when there have been moments where we have thought that re-homing Jack was the answer, it has absolutely crushed us. He is, by far, the sweetest, most loving dog we have ever known. Jack trusts us. We promised to be his "forever" home and I don't doubt for a second that he knows that. We have invested a lot of time and money to make it possible for us to keep Jack because of that promise. I can't imagine us doing it any other way. He deserves it. As the behaviorist at the UC Davis Animal Clinic told us, Jack may never be the dog that can hang out during a family gathering or a birthday party. While we see it as a punishment to put him away in an upstairs room, he appreciates it! Jack won't ever be "that dog" that can be around a lot of other people, and he needs us to give him boundaries sometimes, like being in his crate or wearing his muzzle. (Side note, if you ever see Jack wearing his muzzle, please don't feel bad for him. He LOVES his muzzle. Perhaps it's because the behaviorist paired it with CheezWiz as part of his treatment.)


Both Jack and Bridget have enriched our lives with so much unconditional love, so many laughs, and so much pure joy, that we would do anything within reason (and maybe beyond) for them. So when we came home with this new bundle of joy, and the attention shifted, we were unsure of how things would go. At first, it was very stressful. Bridget seemed intrigued, but really just wanted someone to pay attention to her. (You'll notice that I don't mention much about Bridget in this post. She really is a great dog, and will always be our little 'puppy'. She is happy as long as someone will throw her the frisbee and there is a spot for her on the couch. Bridget is very much the princess and her reign continues.....) Jack, on the other hand, barked at Noah. He barked every time Noah cried, which for a day old baby, happens often! We were pretty freaked out needless to say.

Thankfully, after some time burning off steam for a few days at the Animal Den (the best pet resort in Sacramento, owned by our good friend Lisa!), we started working on desensitizing the dogs to the baby. Over the next few weeks, with the help of baby gates, stuffed Kongs, food dispensing toys, and a lot of praise and direction, we noticed that Jack wasn't barking at Noah's cries any more. He actually didn't seem fazed at all. As with everything it seems, Jack adapts pretty well when he's given the opportunity and a lot of structured support. Nowadays, Jack could care less about the constant babble coming from Noah. He doesn't get stressed when he cries, and hasn't barked in regards to Noah for months. Jack even enjoys lying down next to us during tummy time or play time on the floor, he just wants to be where his people are.

It has been a long four months when we think of the progress that has been made with the dogs, but at the same time, it seems like just yesterday that we were welcoming our baby boy into our lives. Jack and Bridget have really adjusted well to life with a baby in the house, and we couldn't be happier. We know that there will be many challenges ahead with the next stages as Noah becomes more vocal and more mobile. But, we also know that we are equipped with the motivation and the support to handle it. Life with dogs and a baby may not always be easy, but we wouldn't trade it for the world.

Here is a recent favorite of all three of our 'kids' that Joel took. Yes, Bridget is licking Noah's foot. Apparently she thought he was in need of a bath. He probably was. :)


On this topic, the Babies and Beasts blog that I have linked is a GREAT resource for anyone who has kids and dogs, or ever plans to! We followed many of the tips and tricks she used to prepare the dogs for a baby, and we think it has definitely helped overall. I highly recommend reading "The Most Important Post on Here" and please share it with all dog-loving parents!

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