In our house first came canine then came man. Well boys. Our beloved westies Mabel and Moose were our babies for 2 years before the first of the Heath brothers was born.
They adapted really well the first time, as big boy didn't take a huge interest in them and they soon realised that if you wait patiently under a toddler's high chair, eventually a soggy treat will head your way.
However, small boy thinks they are the world's best walking toy. Something to pounce on when they are sleeping on the sofa, has a tail that must be asking to be grabbed, if it's waving so joyfully at his chubby hands. Something that will quite happily tickle you with slobbery kisses if you have leftover jam on your face.
I have always been cautious. After all they are dogs. I am always aware that in a second a harmless playful situation could turn ugly, even with the gentlest of dogs.
A way that we have encouraged our 4 babies to play in harmony is role play. Welcome to the Heath Veterinary Centre!
A simple game of vets under my watchful supervision has led to the dogs being more used to being closely handled by the children and reinforced gentle strokes and smoothes from the boys.
I show the boys how grown ups check their ears, mouths and feet and then we brush their coats, a productive activity all 4 enjoy. We use our toy vet set and talk about how some people's dogs might not like to be stroked and that you always have to ask the owner's permission.
We retell the story about Moose being so poorly as a puppy with a shunt and draw X-rays to hold up as if we are at the vets. How Moose had to be very brave and have an operation, thank goodness for our pet insurance, it saved us, and how funny he looked with his tummy all shaved.
It has helped big boy's understanding and fear of operations and emphasises the need to be gentle.
We read all sorts of books and helpful information online about which breed was most suited to a family environment but the supervised physical interaction between them has undoubtedly help strengthen the relationship between the children and the dogs, plus the dogs feel included! It is so easy for the pets to feel left out when babies come along.