Suddenly Parents

Keeping Our Sanity During Baby's First Year

The Dog Days Are Over

Before we had our human baby, we had two canine babies, Nessie and Fozzy.

Nessie is the schnauzer on the left, Fozzy is the cockapoo on the right. Nessie was a rescue dog we saved in 2006 and is a sweetheart. Unfortunately, she is also very skittish and anxious, especially around men and children. She would often growl at children at the park and she nipped at our friend’s one year old. We knew she might have issues with the new baby but we were hopeful she would realize the baby is a part of the family and love her as much as she loves me and Rich.

When we had Eliza, Rich’s parents were sweet enough to take the dogs for a couple weeks so we could focus on the baby. During this time, Rich visited the doggies and let them smell and sleep with the baby’s blankets. Rich also spoke with several area dog trainers to get their advice. One trainer conducted an assessment of the dogs while they were still at his parents’ house and the results were not good. Fozzy was fine but Nessie was frantic around the stranger and when the next door neighbor’s children came outside, she went berserk. The trainer did not give us a sunny assessment.

When it came time to bring the dogs home, the trainer brought along a schnauzer “expert” to help with the introductions. Unfortunately, the trainers ended up being completely unhelpful. They spent most of the time reprimanding us for our dog training (we follow Cesar Millan) and then told us we would have to keep the dogs separated from the baby for at least 2 months while we taught Nessie relaxation techniques (pretty impossible in a 1300 sq ft house). In fact, they refused to do any introductions that day so we said goodbye and did our own introductions when they left.

We let the dogs sniff the baby at a safe distance. Fozzy sniffed her for a few minutes but then lost interest and went to play with his toys on his dog bed. Nessie was a completely different story. She was frantically crying, pacing and did not take her eyes off the baby. When I went to change Eliza’s diaper, Nessie tried to jump up to the changing pad so I closed the nursery door but she clawed at the door, crying and barking. At night, Nessie continued to cry and bark whenever Eliza made a noise. Their kennels were in our bedroom so we moved them to Rich’s office but that only made Fozzy start to cry too. 

When I walked around the house with Eliza, Nessie would jump up and try to lick? nip? her leg. I couldn’t put Eliza in her swing or feed her on the couch without putting the dogs outside or in their kennels which just made Nessie bark even more. We were already stressed taking care of our new baby, now the environment felt unbearably tense.

We tried a muzzle, thunder shirt, changing her food, even Prozac. Nothing helped and Rich was heartbroken. Nessie is “his” dog and he felt like he let her down because he couldn’t train her or find a fix for her anxiety. We knew she couldn’t stay at our house anymore but we didn’t know what to do.

Rich’s parents agreed to foster her for a few weeks while we searched for her new home. When Rich took Nessie to their house, they surprised us by agreeing to a two week trial period to see if they would keep her permanently. After one week, they called us to say they would keep her. We were so relieved – it was the best possible scenario. We still get to see her and Fozzy still gets to play with her but she isn’t a danger anymore to the baby.

Although it was a difficult decision, having Nessie live with Nana and Grampie was the right decision. We could not have Eliza in a dangerous situation and it wasn’t fair to Nessie to make her live in an environment that was obviously stressful for her. Rich’s parents tell us she seems happy and content and Fozzy and Eliza get along just fine.

Ah, peace again. So nice.

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