Living with dogs and babies - the toddler stage.

As I say about pretty much everything, I'm not an expert. But as our Wee Monster gets close to 2 years old, I can reflect back on what has worked so far, and what hasn't, as we've integrated him into the dog's lives. The key for us, has been having the ability to separate the dogs and child when necessary. Sometimes, it feels like our house is just full of fences and gates. 

IMG_7538.JPG

These baby gates were put in as part of our slowly, slowly approach to bringing a baby home. We found out we were pregnant in August, moved house in October, shifting the dogs' beds out of our bedroom at the same time. Over the summer we installed the baby gates to the bedrooms and set up the nursery. For the last month or so of my pregnancy we banned the dogs from the couch (even though I was sorely tempted to cuddle them a lot) and played baby crying sounds to them. We tried the traditional "bringing something that smells like the baby home from hospital before the baby" technique too. Not sold on either the sounds or smell thing personally, but we'd tried everything. By the time the baby came home in March, the dogs were well accustomed to the new regime and I think this minimized any jealousy issues that sometimes occur when a new baby takes over the household. It'd be nice to feel like we didn't have to oust the dogs from their role as treasured fur kids, but it was inevitable for us. We needed them to give us space and not to feel upset about being banned from the bedroom or the couch.

IMG_7536.JPG

These days, the only dog beds in the house, are the ones in their crates in the living room. Most of the time, the doors stand open. Bolo and Frankie both like to lounge in their crates with their heads hanging out. Czar likes to be a draught stopper in the front hall. But, when there are treats to be handed out, when we're cooking or eating, when the dogs are eating, the dogs get shut in. Because they associate it with food and treats - oh the yumminess of toast crusts! - they are happy to comply. Crate training 101 - make the crate a happy place for the dog, like a kennel or den.

IMG_7537.JPG

The Monster play pen meets the same purpose for the toddler. It's a happy place for him when we're cooking or packing the car or a dozen other things. We've been pretty lucky that, so far, only one of his toys has been significantly chewed by the dogs, because I'm quite pedantic about dropping them into the play pen when I tidy up.

A lot of the interactions between the dogs and the toddler happen through the bars of either the crates or the play pen. Which is not to say that we don't let them interact at all.

IMG_7320.JPG

But, as you can see, the toddler is pretty enthusiastic about his puppies at times and it's not fair to let him annoy them constantly. So supervision is routine. We watch closely for laid back ears, bared teeth, showing whites of eyes and other signs of nervousness. At the first sign that the dog is getting upset, the two are gently separated. Importantly, the dog is not punished for any growling or other signs of unhappiness - a dog that is punished for growling is more likely to snap without warning. Warning adults and children that the dog feels distressed is NOT bad behaviour.

We've got a similar situation in the back yard. 

IMG_7539.JPG

Space for the dogs, which this summer has had a mister system installed for hot weather. Brick floor and tall steel mesh walls are fairly husky escape proof. Water plumbed in to drinking bowls and optional wading pools. Security cameras allow J to keep an eye on the dogs in the pens from work too. 

With a toddler around, wading pools can be a hazard, (especially for teddy bears, as we found on the weekend) but the door to the pen can be latched. Wee Monster has shown that he can and will climb in, fully dressed, even on very cold mornings, and slip over in the wading pool. If he hit his head, it could be a disaster. Remember, babies and small children can drown in as little as 2cm of water. 

IMG_7540.JPG

Wee Monster's play equipment doesn't get sprayed or chewed by the dogs, and there's no dog poo for him to land in when he comes down the slide. He has a safe place to watch the dogs zoom around the back yard when they're being silly. Generally they're very good with him, but sometimes they forget that they have a rear end, swinging around and swatting him with a tail or crashing into him with their hind legs.

These measures aren't for everyone. We have friends whose young Sibes would jump the indoor or outdoor playpen fences without any trouble. Other friends have dogs that aren't crate trained and wouldn't tolerate being shut in. But we've worked to create large, clean, safe spaces that are appropriately cool/warm/dry for both our child and the dogs. They help us enjoy each other's company without anyone feeling harassed or overwhelmed. Neither dogs nor children should be locked up endlessly in inappropriate spaces. We are always working towards our toddler treating our dogs appropriately, but are also mindful that our dogs are getting older. They have aches and pains like all middle aged folks, and may not tolerate the exuberance of a child who can't predict the consequences of his actions yet. So these separation measures help us keep everyone safe and happy.

Sixteen feet no longer. Goodbye Ishka.

Today we had to make a devastating decision and say goodbye to Ishka.

Things had been deteriorating for a little while, but when it arrived, the final moment was a shock, a swift jerk to understand her reality. Ishka has always been a tough animal, hiding her pain in her drive to work. But now she is painfree.

IMG_0090.JPG
IMG_7348.JPG

Things will never be the same. She was the dog that started it all. She was J's heart dog. He is devastated. Ishka has been by his side for 11 and a half years. So many of my photos of her show her on the couch, cuddled up next to him. But it's not just her physical presence that meant so much to him. It has been her loyalty, her love. Her devotion to him was obvious and it has been an anchor in his life. When we met, they were a package deal. I quickly realized that these dogs and the lifestyle they required, were a wonderful part of the lovely man I was getting to know. When we got married, Ishka was our ring bearer. I think she would have referred to herself as our Best Dog.

IMG_7344.JPG

We are indebted to Australian Sleddog Tours, who trusted Jamie with Ishka as a puppy. She will be held forever in our hearts, our beautiful brown eyed girl.

IMG_7345.JPG

Buying a puppy? Beware of scammers.

So, you've decided that you'd like to buy a husky puppy. You've seen them around and they're super cute and you really really want one. Where do you go? Well, most of us would probably do an internet search, but how do we interpret what we find? 

IMG_6382.PNG

This is a "puppy for sale" ad a breeder/rescuer friend found tonight. It does NOT meet what most responsible breeders would consider a minimal standard that guarantees puppy buyers a happy healthy dog.

It doesn't talk about basic health testing that should be done on all dogs before being bred - what are their hip and eye scores? It doesn't talk about the breeder's intentions - are they being sold as pets, as racing dogs, as show dogs? Will the breeder take them back if the buyer can no longer keep them, or will they end up in a pound? It also doesn't mention a microchip - which is a legal requirement for all puppies and kittens born in Australia. And it's vague about paperwork - will you get a piece of paper generated by the breeder, or will you get a proper ANKC registration (which would mean the dog is properly "pedigreed")?

But then it gets worse. 

IMG_6383.PNG

Yep, that's the same ad. Same (badly spelt) text, same click bait photos. Different name, profile pic and state. Probably not real names or real photos - people OR puppies. Because this isn't looking like a backyard breeder or puppy farmer any more. This is looking like a straight out scammer.

Its not clear what this person (whoever they are) is after. Maybe they want to access personal Facebook pages to mine them for information that can be used for identity theft. Maybe they'll ask for a deposit for a puppy and then disappear. Given that puppies have been known to sell for over $1k, (much to the bemusement of many breeders whose very well bred puppies sell for much less) a bunch of 30% deposits could net a sizable amount. 

So, I guess this is where an old saying comes in handy - "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is." The chance of a responsibly bred, high quality puppy (of any breed) being immediately available on your first internet search, is actually pretty low, because most of the top breeders don't advertise their litters - they have waiting lists and many puppies are already spoken for at birth. To get on that waiting list takes time, research, communication and more time.

Its bad enough when we pay puppy farmers and backyard breeders money to "rescue" puppies from pet store windows or other situations. That cash flow keeps those despicable bastards going. But what if the puppy we're paying a deposit for isn't even a real puppy, just a stolen photo, and the "breeder" at the other end is a fraud who is just going to take some money and vanish?

As always, do your research. Buyer beware.