Our sweet little scruffy terrier (Rio) was competing for attention once his little human brother (Vir) arrived to be a part of his pack. Rio was so sad for the first few weeks that he wouldn’t even look at Vir nor accept sitting next to him. We knew from there on that Rio needed time and space to realize that his baby brother will be his new playmate very soon and so we laid out the groundwork to build a loving relationship between both our babies.
In my previous post When Our Fur Baby Met Our Son I spoke about our relationship with Rio and how we introduced him to our new born. I also discussed how he reacted with the presence of a baby in the house in the initial months. Fast forward 6 months, today Rio and Vir have come close to forging a friendship. Getting them off to a good start took some work! And in this post I will be discussing about how it was all worth it.
Vir loves Rio, he is obsessed with him. Even before he could really start looking at books, stories, movies, music and toys with imaginary critters in it, Vir built a fondness for animals. He is always mesmerized by Rio’s presence in the house and follows him everywhere smiling and babbling. I believe this fondness also led, Vir to crawl faster than expected. Our high on energy 10 month old is always looking forward to touch Rio, pull his fur or bite his tail. It is amusing to watch his excitement when he sees Rio play tug with us. And honestly it is very entertaining to watch them run around like cat and mouse in the living room
On the other hand our 6 year lazy furbaby is a calm and obedient dog; he is very gentle with Vir and has never shown any sign of aggression. That is one of the biggest reasons why Vir is so comfortable around him. We never have to worry about him pulling Rio’s tail or playing with his favorite chew toy when we are out of sight for a second. Rio has realized that there are three food sources at home now mom, daddy and baby and he couldn’t have been happier. There is a lot of baby food now flying around the house courtesy Vir and there is always someone to catch and clean the floor courtesy Rio. His presence is often a calming source for our kid especially when there is too much crying involved. I just have to command Rio to “Roll”, “Twist” and “Woof” and my inconsolable baby just forgets he was crying. (While Rio is showered with treats)
Its true kids love their pets; these creatures large or small teach, delight and offer a special kind of companionship. If you see my amusing Instagram stories, you know how both of them play around the house, compete for attention when daddy is back from work and laze on the couch or bed looking at story books.
Vir is still young to understand his boundaries with the dog, and we are glad that Rio can handle the exciting little monster rushing behind him. I know over time both my babies will learn to respect each other and there is a good chance they will be best of pals. But this loving scenario is only possible by doing your best to foster a relationship between them.
Below I am sharing few of my Tips and Tricks on how we worked on our child and dog’s relationship. I hope this helps all parents who are either planning to get a dog for their children or are looking for some advice on how to handle their dog when their new baby comes home.
Our Preparations for Rio in the earlier months
- We started to socialize Rio with kids at the park so his fear of them goes away. Often kids tried to pet him but he would run away. But, with time his fear ran away.
- While I was pregnant I started to say the word “Baby” to Rio so he gets used to it. I often pointed towards my tummy and asked him to put his paws on my belly.
- When I returned home with Vir for the first time, I first met Rio and greeted him for 10 minutes until he was relaxed. Post that I took Vir in my arms and allowed Rio to smell his feet.
- We included Rio in our day to day activities with Vir, from going on walks together, to allowing him to sit between me and my husband while I was holding the baby. This way we habituated Rio to our new born’s routines, smell and our new habits
- As mentioned earlier we kept a close watch on Rio when he was in the same room as Vir. We never left him alone with the baby especially for the first month.
- To avoid jealousy and dullness, we ensured to have some playtime with Rio whenever we could. We also got him new toys and gave him more treats and ensured to take him out for longer walks so he stayed exercised and stress free
- I ensured that Rio still had his space as before. He was sleeping with us in our bed as always. (Vir slept in the crib next to our bed) He was allowed in the nursery and if there was no room on the couch for him or anywhere next to us, we would let him find his own space. I didn’t want to confuse him and at the same time didn’t want him to lose his discipline around the house.
Once Vir started getting mobile
- I kept a watch out for any signs of aggression from Rio, especially when Vir is around trying to chase him.
- I always reward him with treats for all positive reactions and firmly say “NO” in case there is any unwanted behavior.
- When Vir started to sit we use to leave a treat on Vir’s lap or make him hold it out for Rio. This truly helped develop a bond between them as Rio was happy to realize the baby is also a food source
- At least once a week we take Rio for his outing with the family in the car to a dog park, coffee shop or even at our friend’s place so that he feels loved and secured.
We had success in training Rio to respect the baby, his toys, his food and his space. Yet I have more work to do with Vir, to teach him to respect animals. Our son is too young to understand this concept, but we ensure that he doesn’t hurt Rio by poking him or hitting him. In time I look forward to teaching Vir to stroke Rio gently and explain that Rio’s tail is not a toy to pull. Once Vir starts to walk and carry tiny objects in his hand, I want him to start caring for Rio by offering him water and food in his bowl.
I am aware that the learning process involved for both Rio and Vir in building a friendship and lifetime bond will take some time. But the thought of Vir and Rio playing with a ball or strolling at the park together while enjoying each other’s companionship melts my heart and makes this wait tad bit harder.
In the mean time I plan to give my dog and the kid the best chance for a successful relationship by taking deliberate steps to create a kid-loving dog and develop empathy and respect in Vir.