When Mike and I found out we were pregnant, we realized the time had finally come to reign in the bad behaviors of our first baby, our American bulldog Abita. We had adopted her when she was two from a college friend who had already trained her quite well. Naturally sweet-natured, Abita came to live with us with the perks of also being house-broken, aware of her name, and able to "shake" on command. We affectionately came to call her "the girl," as her loyalty and affection broke us of ever establishing many house rules. Instead, she slept where we slept, sat where we sat, and more or less walked us around the neighborhood.
We met Jenn of 2SpeakDog at the monthly Birth Talk meetings that she facilitates and soon decided our girl could use a refresher on dog manners and some tightening up before baby. What we didn't realize was that we were the ones who needed the discipline! We first attended 2SpeakDog's Dogs and Babies: Fostering a Healthy Pack Part I class and learned that if we wanted Abita's behaviors to change, we needed to first change our own. So our first assignment was to ditch the baby-talk and constant questions (questions like, "Abita, do you want to go for a walk? Do you need to go pee pee outside? You want a treat, girl?" to which Jenn wisely asked, "Does she ever say no?"); establish proper "door etiquette;" and once and for all, create some furniture boundaries. She also talked us through ideas for introducing our skittish girl to unfamiliar baby items like the car seat and stroller and suggested ways to later best introduce her to our baby when we all came home from the birthing center together. It was so helpful to have a plan in place that would honor our relationship with our dog during this big, family transition. We later took the walking workshop to establish a better routine for our girl. She was notorious for stopping and sitting, chasing after squirrels, and pulling us harder than we could handle. After trading in her old harness for a new collar and practicing our new walking techniques, we finally began to make some headway, creating confidence in us to later successfully walk her alongside the stroller.
Aside from the practical tools learned, Jenn also taught us these lessons: when baby comes, your dog will simply become your dog and that's ok, and there's no room for guilt in parenting - both babies and dogs.
Abita has eagerly welcomed home our son, greeting him with excited licks every time we return home and seemingly guarding him from our bed as he naps in his nearby bassinet. She gently joins him for tummy time on the floor and snuggles the three of us on the sofa - from her designated, blanketed area, of course. As we settle in as a new family of four, we are grateful for the lessons learned through 2SpeakDog's baby-specific classes. It was a worthwhile investment and opportunity to focus on our dog during those final months of the pregnancy so that we can now invest our energy into getting to know our child.
Catherine & family