Dog & Me & Baby Makes Three - Chapter 1: Conception
It’s positive. I’m going to have a baby!
I hug Dog.
‘What’s with humans and all the hugs?’ thinks Dog.
‘Sorry’ I think back.
I take Dog for a walk to settle myself. As we sniff our way to the creek I look around for the mute button in my brain. ‘Oh my God this is amazing!!! Oh sh-t! I can’t believe it. Oh sh-t. How should I tell Jack? I said Oh sh-t. I wish I didn’t have to take time off work. This was Jack’s idea - why do I have to sacrifice so much? I’m lucky I can stay home with the baby for a while’. Etc.
‘What is wrong with you?’ asks Dog. ‘You’re nervous and you smell weird. Try sniffing this poo - that always helps me focus.’
Jack is delighted. Then cooks dinner and laughs at the TV. This reaction fascinates and impresses me. His mute button may be in a more obvious spot than mine.
I need the loo quite frequently. This is worrying as it’s only been a few weeks. More worrying is Dog busting down the toilet door every time I go.
‘I’m sorry. I’m just a dog and I care about you. I know something’s going on with you. If you’ll just let me smell your wee, I think I can make a diagnosis.’
‘Did you know the pharmacy has these little sticks that do that?'
Dog and I make an uneasy agreement. If he gets his head out of the bowl and waits at the door, I’ll let him sniff the room - after I finish. This seems to relax him a bit. He sniffs, stares at me, sniffs, stares at me, sniffs, stares at me, and walks off.
Then he starts howling when I leave the room. He’s also bullying other dogs at the park.
‘I’m a bit nervous too mate, but you do you see me eating the couch?! I know you did it - there’s no-one else here and you look guilty.’
‘This isn’t a guilty face. It’s a stop yelling at me face.’
‘You’ve got stuffing on your nose.'
I decide to act like an adult and sit down with a notebook.
Things I can do to make Dog feel better and stop being a dickhead:
Pretend he’s a puppy. When you go out, you’re supposed to leave puppies in a place where they can't eat couches. (‘Yeah mate - I’m looking at you!’)
Try an Adaptil collar. I read that these pheromones help some dogs feel more safe and relaxed. A bit pricey, but cheaper than couches.
Try not to be a dickhead myself. It takes one to know one. Might be a good time to start that meditation course…
Chill out together. I’ll stop being rude to Dog, take him to the beach this weekend, give him a massage and brush his back. That does the trick when Jack’s stressed.
Facts, resources and tips:
Do dogs like being hugged?
Dr Stanley Coren looked at canine body language in images of dogs being hugged and saw signs of discomfort, stress or anxiety in 81.6% of cases. Can you think of any less grabby ways to show your love?
Can our dogs tell that we’re pregnant?
There is no peer-reviewed study testing this, but they can detect a range of illnesses and react to our moods. So they probably do spot some massive hormonal and behavioural changes in their pregnant owners. But does this mean they understand a baby is about to ruin their peace, or how to be model citizens around an annoying toddler? We do our dogs a favour by preparing them properly.
This blog provides a summary of what we know and a few tips to get you started.
You can get a complete and personalised plan from the Dog & Baby: Safe Start program.
Dogs feel better when they can use their noses
This study compared nose work to heel work and found that dogs become more optimistic when they do nose work! You can find an easy to read summary of the research here. (Did you know you can enrol your dog in nose work classes?).
For a great insight into what we humans are missing, check out this short TED-Ed talk, 'How do dogs "see" with their noses?’ by canine cognition researcher Dr Alexandra Horowitz.
Does your dog know when he’s done something wrong?
In this study researchers basically lied to people about whether or not their dog did something wrong. Turns out what we think they did is more relevant than what they actually did - the ‘guilty look’ is a response to our behaviour and a reaction to being told off. Maybe our homes would be more peaceful if we used training and management to prevent a repeat instead of ranting just because we think our dogs know what we’re on about. You can find an easy to read summary of the research here.
Is training the only way to solve problems?
Sometimes simple strategies can prevent mistakes and make our lives easier. This blog has a good explanation of when it can be appropriate to use management instead of training (i.e. when to leave Dog in a place where he can’t eat couches...).
Adaptil collar information and tips:
The Adaptil pheromone can sometimes be helpful when unwanted behaviour is caused by dogs feeling unsettled or nervous. Try just one collar first to see if your dog responds or not, then get more if you think it helps - it is widely available through vet clinics, pet shops and online. A collar is more effective than a diffuser on walks, if your dog spends time outside or if you have a large or open plan home.
Don’t forget you can seek support from a qualified behavioural trainer or veterinary behaviourist, especially for issues like destructive behaviour and aggression. A private behaviour consultation can help you to properly identify the cause of the problem and plan a safe and effective solution.