See the update to this post right here, our experience after the stork arrived.
A while ago, we shared on Instagram that we’ve been working hard to prepare Jack and CC for the upcoming arrival of the newest little. So many of you left comments and messages with your own helpful tips, and we’ve been taking notes ever since! We also had a handful of requests to share what we’re doing to set their expectations, and while our experience is unique to us based on our specific needs, we’re glad to dive further into what we’ve been doing, how they’ve been responding and further the conversation with all of you. It’s no secret that our pups (and Libby!) clearly rule this roost, and they’re the lights of our lives on a level that cannot be considered normal (and we’re A-okay with that). Our goal is to always, always, always set them up for success, which is why we’re mindful to enforce rules around the home; the systems we’ve put in place thus far work for our family and keep everyone feeling safe, comfortable and happy.
But! When it comes to a baby, we are by no means experts on the topic, which is why we hired a trainer that specializes in child and pet adaptation. Here’s how that worked: We received a recommendation from our friends who had their first baby last year – and also have two Pitties! – to set up an in-home training session. For our Chicago friends, they (and subsequently, we) worked with Rendy from Anything is Pawzible. Rendy came to our home for an hour and a half to meet Jack and CC and talk through any worries we might have. She answered our countless questions, watched how we interacted with our pets and she talked us through a list of action items. The next day, she emailed us a neat, tidy packet that outlined our meeting, including our homework. This is where the real work began!
Homework 1 | Greet Friends + Family
Let’s just get this out there – Jack and CC love meeting new people, and their overexcitement has always been a struggle when we welcome visitors into our home. This is especially true with Jack, who is incapable of greeting people without jumping on them, which is a definite no-no with his large size. Along the same lines, toddlers make Jack especially anxious, as he wants nothing more than to give them a good, strong sniff from head to toe. This, in turn, terrifies parents, and so we begin the vicious cycle of completely separating him from littles and he loses his mind – yelping and crying from behind a closed door – until the family leaves. (Maybe not surprisingly, CC is a complete angel and is therefore out and about, sashaying around the home with her nose in the air.)
We knew this would be an even bigger problem after the baby is born, as we’ll have more visitors coming and going than ever! For this reason, we’ve been practicing a new way to greet visitors, and it looks like this:
Their safe zone is the nook off our living room, which is only a few steps away from our front door. Scott will knock on the door or ring the bell, and I’ll have them ‘go home,’ rewarding them with high value treats as they sit and stay. (We use these training rewards, and both dogs love them!) As guests enter the home, we continue to give treats as long as they continue to stay, and only after we’re all settled into the home do we release them for good behavior.
After the initial excitement of new people in the house, Jack is typically pretty calm. He’s been doing really good, so much so, that our guests have complimented the change in his reactions and good behavior! Even still, this is our biggest challenge and the one we’re practicing the most.
Homework 2 | Work On Blanket Boundaries
The floors in our home belong to Jack and CC; they’re free to roam where ever they wish, as long as they allow Libby to have free reign of the furniture and they keep their paws on the ground. However, they’ll need to know their limits once we introduce a baby into the mix! For this exercise, we lay a blanket on the floor, and we’re teaching them the command not yours. Their paws are not allowed to touch the blanket, and as long as they keep their bodies off of the enticing hot lava, they’re rewarded with treats. We’re still in the beginning stages of this command, but a handful of minutes every day-ish is already making a big difference.
Homework 3 | Introduce the Bassinet
Where do the dogs sleep? This was one of the first questions Rendy asked us. Both dogs sleep in our bedroom with us, and for that reason, she stressed the importance of setting up the bassinet right now, giving our buddies time to get used to the change. After several friends recommended the Rock ‘n Play, we picked up this one to use for the first several weeks before transitioning her into the nursery. Maybe it’s because we’re always switching things up around the house, but luckily, the dogs could have cared less. Change shmange.
Homework 4 | Take (More) Frequent Walks
It’s been way too easy to let the dogs go potty in the backyard gravel pits, and although we do still take them on walks, Rendy told us that more frequent – even shorter – walks were better than less frequent long strolls. It makes all the sense in the world, but by removing them from their fish bowl, so to speak, they’re more likely to become desensitized to sudden noises and distractions while also creating much needed social stimulation. Done and done (and we’re all happier for it)!
Homework 5 | Set Them Up for Car Expectations
With the addition of Tree House in our lives, they’ve been getting treated to more car rides than ever! As a result, we spent a few weeks this late summer determining the safest options for ride alongs with them in tow – especially since we’ll soon be adding a carseat to the mix. While these tangle-free tethers have been a game changer for our fidgety pups, we knew we needed to ultimately separate them from the baby completely. We finally broke down and purchased this gate guard made for our model of vehicle, and oh my goodness, it has changed everything. We use it in conjunction with the tethers, and although being in the way back of the car was difficult for CC at first, they’ve had time to adjust and are doing great (despite what her face may say, below, ha!).
Homework 6 | Allow Them to ‘Help’ Us
This was a suggestion from a reader, and it’s been one of our favorites to practice! Essentially, when we work on updates in the nursery, we allow them to ‘help’ us. We say, Thank you for helping us install the curtains (paint the closet, build the bookshelf, dress the crib) in your puppy’s new room! We don’t want this room to be a mystery to them, which only creates more curiosity and anxious feelings. Instead, we invite them to lend a paw, and they absolutely love it. We allow them to sniff the freshly laundered clothes and roll on the rug, but we’re quick to say not yours should they pick up a building block or stuffed toy.
Rendy’s list of action items included a handful of small, everyday things we could do as well, all of which the pups have responded to with not a care in the world. For example: We’ve played YouTube clips of babies crying while swaying our arms back and forth and we’ve gently pulled on their ears and tails. They’ve been completely tolerant of these practices, as their focus has been more on the reward-heavy homework (of course!).
The time investment we’ve put in has us hoping for a more seamless transition for the entire family, especially when we’ll likely be in a hazy fog those first few weeks after meeting our girl! We’ve also found this blog series to be extremely helpful, as well as this Instagram account (so many great videos!). What are other things you’ve done that has worked for your growing families?
PS! See the update to this post right here, our experience after the stork arrived.
PPS! Items from our home can always be found on the Shop Our House page, including wall colors.