You know when you see blogs that start, "Oh my gosh, it's been however so many weeks since my last blog and I'm sorry!"? Well, it's been however so many weeks since our last blog, and i'm not sorry at all!
Well, We've been a bit busy, you see..
That's right - Happy Home Dog Boarding just got a whole lot happier! Earlier this year we welcomed Sam to the club, and he's fantastic.
Of course, the best way to bring a baby into a house full of dogs is something we thought long and hard about, as we wanted to not only make sure Sam was happy and safe, but also that our resident dogs, Sprocket and Indiana, would be comfortable, stress-free and welcoming.
Preparing to bring a baby into a house of dogs
1. Familiarising our dogs with babies
The main way we prepared our dogs for Sam's arrival was to ensure they had met - and had good experiences with - babies beforehand. Luckily, they must have put something in the water because a lot of our friends had recently given birth to beautiful tots, and were happy to come round and spend time with us.
It's important to make sure the baby isn't a scary thing, or something your dogs see as a threat. Some people don't want their dogs anywhere near babies, and we can understand that. But if you are in a calm environment, your dog will more than likely want to sniff the baby - it's how they find out what they are.
Making sure the baby was at all times protected from anything that could be harmful, we allowed our dogs a good sniff - often the head, regularly the bum! - until they were satisfied that it was nothing to be worried about. What we then found was that they our two became bored of the babies, and just ignored them and left them alone.
This was exactly the response we were after. We want our dogs to think of Sam as they might a cupboard or a pretty painting. Something that exists, but has no intrinsic value to them. They are happy to be around Sam - and anyone who knows our two will be well aware how they like a cuddle - and are happy to have Sam near them, accepted as part of the family.
We made sure that they were not neglected, even when Sam took up 99% of our time with feeds, changes, and everything else a wee baby needs. All our other time went to making sure the dogs were cuddled, walked and not made to feel left out. This is why we can manage lovely shots with us all, like this!
2. Using Adaptil plugins
We also used Adaptil home diffusers. This is the stuff you might use if your dog gets anxious and scared on fireworks night, for example.
We plugged one in for a few weeks before sam was due, with the idea that it would help the dogs feel calm and relaxed, and so the upcoming change wouldn’t faze them much. They were bound to be picking up on our new-parent anxiety, so we hoped the plugin would negate this.
Adaptil works by releasing calming pheromones which supported out dogs to be more accepting to change. We think it worked, and are happy with the way the dogs behaved. Of course, it’s impossible for us to know for certain how effective it was - would the dogs have been okay without the plugin? We’ll never know, but this is one instance where we were glad to spend the money and just doubly make sure we were doing everything we could.
3. Time and patience
Some dogs - like some people - don't like change, and it isn't something they all like to be thrust upon them. That's why it's a good idea to start familiarising them with babies and a change of environment as soon as possible in a gradual and positive manner.
Don't wait until the labour contractions start! Weeks and months in advance, if their walking or sleeping routine is going to change, start teasing into the new routine when you have the time to manage their reactions and provide comfort.
This way, by the time the new routine has to kick in with baby's arrival, it will be the familiar old routine, and life will be so much easier for everyone.
Boarding dogs with babies
Bringing a baby into your home with dogs is one thing. Bringing one into a home that will be boarding dogs is another - but it's perfectly manageable if you understand dog behaviour, and take all the appropriate precautions.
The biggest and most important rule is never leave the baby alone with other dogs. This is basic stuff, but the top, most important rule of all. No matter how much we trust boarders - and there are plenty we love and trust a huge amount - Sam never gets left alone with them - dogs aren't babysitters!
We have a high sided cot which allows the dogs to see inside and smell Sam, so their curiosity can be satisfied very quickly about what's making those unusual gurgling sounds. The cot also has a mesh meaning they can't get a claw in and, seeing as we only board small dogs, they are unable to leap in over the top.
We also go through the same motions with boarders as we did with Sprocket and Indie. We let the dogs sniff Sam until they lose interest, they understand he's just a part of the family, and generally, there's no more to be done other than eat some food and sleep.
Of course, some dogs may be nervous around babies - they may have had bad experiences previous to staying with us. We're mindful of this, and take measures to ensure no harm can come to anyone. This is why we insist that all new boarding dogs come for a one-night trial before their big stay, and we don't make any exceptions. We need to make sure we are the right environment for every dog, and that they are happy here.
We're loving this new chapter in our life, and would like to thank all our customers for being so understanding whilst we took some time off to settle in. We're back, and the journey continues!