Puppies Vs. Babies – Potty Training

How many times have you heard “Dogs are a great way to prepare for having kids!”

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This statement inevitably divides a room – on one side you will find those who completely agree…and on the other side you will find those who are snickering, rolling their eyes, and insisting that babies are babies and dogs are animals.  Apples to oranges.

Now that I am a mom to both two-legged and four-legged, I can say I strongly agree with the former.  Exhibit A – “Potty” Training.

I think Buffy was possibly the hardest dog to house train EVER.  (I’m sure many of you would argue that your dog can claim that title.)  She simply refused to potty outside.  I tried EVERYTHING – I read every book; I took her out constantly; I rewarded with praise, rewarded with treats, rewarded with play.  I took her out at all hours.  I crate trained.  Nothing worked.  NOTHING.  My husband and I were at our wit’s end.  (Did I mention we lived on the second story of an apartment?  This meant leashing Buffy up and crossing the parking lot ever trip outside…and then walking back and forth in a small patch of grass while being watched by neighbors and passing traffic.)  Months and months on my hands and knees – patiently sopping pee up out of the carpet.  Countless shopping bags full of poop.

Flash forward 5 years.  Sebastian is of potty training age.  Don’t get me wrong, we have had accidents.  (I learned very quickly that the fact that he JUST pottied in the potty does not mean he will not potty again…right next the potty…before you can even get him re-diapered!)  I know we are a long way from being done with this chapter in the parenting book, but this has been nothing….NOTHING! compared to the potty drama with Buffy.  (The fact that Sebastian wears diapers that catch the messes does make a big difference!)

I like to think that Buffy was preparing me for Sebastian.  Buffy and her house training was the first “parental” challenge I had to face in my life.  The first instance where I was responsible for shaping another creature’s behavior.  The first time in my life where I had met someone who I could fill my heart with so much love while at the same time inducing such hair-pulling frustration.  I might have taught Buffy where to “do her business”…but she taught me the most important quality that every parent (no matter how many legs their baby has) must possess:

PATIENCE.

 

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How My Baby Is Like My Dog – The Power of “Calm”

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Baby Boy Sebastian survived his first Thanksgiving last week.  Being the cutest kid to ever be born (I might be bias), everyone wanted to take a turn holding him.  As he was passed from relative to relative, I quietly watched his facial expressions change as he was safely deposited in each new set of arms.  (If only he would have screamed and cried for everyone equally, my job would have been much easier).  I soon realized, though, that there was a definite pattern to his mood swings.

Call it confidence, call it “calm, assertive energy” (if you are Cesar Millan)…call it what you will.  But babies and dogs alike can sense when someone is relaxed.  More accurately – they can sense when someone is tense.

Dogs and babies don’t really know what the heck we “grown ups” are doing most of the time.  The way we move and how we vocalize are virtual mysteries to them, but they both are acutely and instinctually aware when we are tense.  If you reach out to Sebastian like you’ve been raising babies your whole life, he will mirror your calm and go to you with a coo and a smile.  If you come at him with a secret fear that you are going to cause him a massive head injury (no matter how sweet and eager to hold him you are), he magically transforms into the screaming baby from hell.

Dogs are the EXACT same way.  If you approach a  pooch with body language that broadcasts how scared you are – they are going to be confused.  Not only are they NOT going to trust you…they are going to be on edge trying discover the source of your anxiety.  If you  walk up to that same pup like you are the dog whisperer himself, that dog will take a cue from you and know that he can chilax.

It am truly amazed at how often I find myself using similar parenting skills with Sebastian as I used with Buffy.

(I think being calm, cool, and collected helps when dealing with other “grown ups” too.)

People & Pups – Welcome Baby Boy, Sebastian!

On April 29 at 8:08 in the morning, this dog-lovin’ family welcomed its first baby of the human persuasion into the world.  Sebastian MacArthur changed our lives forever – and we couldn’t be happier.

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Sebastian!

Well…maybe we should ask Buffy & Amigo about that!

As a woman who considers herself somewhat of a dog expert, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how each of my pups would react when Sebastian came home to join our family.  I thought wrong.

Amigo – who I thought would have issues with jealousy and loud baby noises – was immediately curious and quite enthralled with our new bundle of joy.

Amigo keeping a close eye on his new brother

Amigo keeping a close eye on his new brother

Now, three weeks after Sebastian arrived on the scene, Amigo is still the first to react when the baby cries or makes any new baby noises.  (And by react I mean run to Sebastian to check on him…and then look to us to see if we are properly responding!)  Instead of trying to nudge Sebastian out of our laps to commandeer prime petting position, he seems to enjoy snuggling up next to him and snoozing side by side.  I don’t know if it’s mommy hormones or if I’m just a sucker for dogs and babies – but it is a sight that has reduced me to tears more than once.

Buffy – who I thought would instantly bond and feel protective over her new little brother – has not shared Amigo’s enthusiasm.  For the first few days, Buffy treated Sebastian like he was the scariest monster she had ever laid eyes on.  Rarely wanting to be in the same room, she would cautiously peek at the baby from behind a chair or behind a visiting family member.  My attempts to bring the baby closer to her so she would become familiar with that foreign “new baby” smell sent her (literally!) running for cover.  She looked positively offended the first night I took Sebastian out of his bassinet and brought him to the bed to nurse.  Anyone who thinks dogs cannot feel emotions should have looked into Buffy’s eyes at that moment.  I couldn’t have been more sure of what she was thinking if she had opened her mouth and told me herself!

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Buffy liked baby boy more when he was still in my tummy. (Note the dog-themed nursery!)

I am also glad that Sebastian is living with dogs from day one. Already he is completely unphased by dog barks.  (Let me tell you…some of those barks startle me!)  And while my mom things it boarders on bad parenting – I don’t see anything wrong with him getting a puppy kiss every now and then.  (From reading the above paragraphs, I bet you can guess who does the kissing!)  Logically, I know that Sebastian isn’t going to remember these first experiences with his canine siblings, but I can’t help but think that on some level it will make him feel more comfortable around dogs for the rest of his life.

Because what’s the point of having a baby if you aren’t going to raise him as a dog lover.