Being the sole dog in the household is a big responsibility. You are the one to wake up your owner when you think hes been sleeping for too long on a Saturday morning. You are the one who gets to run to the front door to greet him when he comes home from work (no slacking on this one…. even in a deep slumber its important to make the effort as humans can sometimes easily have their feelings hurt if you dont run to greet them straight away.) If someone is at the front door… or maybe standing in the street near your house for a little bit too long… its your job to alert your owner to the potential grave dangers that may lie ahead (for dogs, every opportunity must be taken to pretend they’re in a big blockbuster action movie. Life is just that exciting at times!!) There are serious jobs to be done as the only canine in the pack, but there is also serious companionship and love to be shared and enjoyed. So it could be a potential confusing, upsetting and anxious experience for your dog when one day a new little creature enters the home….. they arent furry and dont have four legs, so the normal way of organising hound-to-hound hierachy doesnt work on them. I had a chat with my friend Eleanor, long time dog mama to an old boy called Rags, and newly a mum to a little girl called Carys. Q1. Tell us a little bit about your dog Rags. How long have you had him, and how did you come about ‘finding’ him? Rags is a tri colour collie, and is about 13. I found him on dog pages, at a rescue centre in Bristol, in 2006. He was a stray, with no name, saved from the council pound. It was love at first sight for us both! He’s a very people focused dog, with one modus operandi – to be near me or my husband. He sees himself very much as our guide in life – never goes round a corner without us, never goes to bed until we’ve put the lights out. He’s a very typical collie. Q2. They say that dogs know when a human is pregnant even before they do….on discovering you were pregnant, did you notice Rags behaving particularly differently toward you? Not at all. He’s not that sort of dog. He reacts to the way you behave, and aside from not being so mobile towards the end, physically I didn’t do anything differently. We did start preparing him for being separated from the baby by taking him into the kitchen and putting up a baby gate. He’d previously had the run of the entire house, but we didn’t want to go too far and make him feel unwelcome, so we made sure he had areas where he could still be happy. Q3. What did you do to prepare for the first initial meeting between the new baby & Rags? Were you at all nervous about their initial interaction? We were far more nervous of what his overall behaviour would be like with the baby long term than their initial meeting. He hates any kind of fast physical movement in his direction and loud noises. His reaction to other small children was nervous, so I have never let children pet him or be on their own near him. As a stray, I didn’t know his history and had no intention of finding out the hard way. Q4. What did you think were Raggie’s first impressions of the baby? Did he investigate straight away or give you space of his own accord? The baby was asleep when we came home so we put her car seat on the table and gave him a lot of fuss. We all forgot she was there until she cried, at which point Rags actually jumped up and spun round in a comical ‘what the hell is that?’ motion. After that, he just continued to want to be where we were, so at my feet when I fed her, or by our side when we sat down. Q5. Sometimes a babies noises can make a dog feel a bit confused and anxious. Did you notice any of this behaviour with Rags? Yes, we did. He was very anxious when she was on the floor on her playmat. Kicking her legs made him worry, he would growl and try to move away. From then on, we separated him from her when she was on the floor. Later on, when she started eating, they became the ultimate tag team. She throws him food. He sits for hours waiting for her scraps and takes food from her open hand as she laughs her head off. She’s his food boss now! Q6. What did you find were the initial hurdles faced when alone with baby & dog – by this I mean, anything really, even if its just juggling pushing the pushchair, holding a lead & a coffee all in one hand Walking a dog with a newborn, as long as the weather isn’t awful, is one of life’s incredible pleasures. Rags is great off the lead, so we would go for longer walks than ever. Me trying to get fit and get the baby to nap, Rags getting lots of fresh air and attention. Of course, the evening walks were harder, as newborns tend to really dislike the hours between 5-9 for some reason, so Rags had a little change in schedule and me and my husband took turns with those walks. Q7. Are you friends with many other mums have faced any similar difficulties introducing their newborn into the family? I know people who’ve laid their newborn down with their family pet on the same rug, and people who’ve had to give their dog away because the animal became so stressed with the routine changes. People have a lot of love to give, you just need to be sensible in how you use it. If you really love your dog, don’t put them in a scenario where you could potentially lose everything. Until a child is old enough to be taught how to treat an animal, don’t leave it up to the animal to set the tone. Make sure they have space to learn to love your child as part of the pack, from afar, for as long as it takes.