So I made it my mission to find a better approach, because after all he had endured, Gabbey deserved a second chance. We started by greeting the neighborhood kids one at a time, in a very gentle and calm matter. He would nervously lick their hands, and we would slowly administer treats, creating the positive association. Little by little, the anxiety would fade and Gabbey had no reason to fear children and their unpredictable energy. It's a beautiful thing to see curiosity emerge over fear. Now Gabbey was actively seeking out children on our walks, longing for the friendly pats and kissing tiny hands, unafraid and totally at ease.
Bringing Home Baby
I had to admit that despite all of our efforts, I was still harboring a bit of doubt in our Jindo's ability to accept a new baby into our home. My husband and I were nervous bringing our son home, so we did the little things that gave us peace of mind, like sending the baby's blanket home, letting our dogs know there's a new smell in town. So after the initial tail wagging, excitable kissing and whining died down, we let the dogs know there were a few boundaries with our new bundle of joy. Of course, these were toughest for Gabbey to understand because he went into extreme protection mode, not to be confused with claiming or ownership type behavior. There was a heightened awareness about his environment and he became much more vigilant about strangers and noises outside of our door. He always chose to guard the doorway of whatever room the baby was in, even if that meant waking up every 2 hours for night feedings. I never imagined our Jindo would share in our exhaustion as new parents; He took his duties very seriously and seemed to understand the fragile nature of our newest pack member. Although I'm not a dog trainer or behaviorist, I'd love to share some of the steps we took to make the transition easier for our Jindo:
1. Help your Jindo get use to the stroller. Before baby arrives, introduce your dog to the stroller and help ease his anxiety. Take a walk while pushing the empty stroller, so he understands the difference in your gait and gets use to the sounds and movements of the stroller. Give praise and reward him for his calm behavior and soon he'll look forward to family walks.
2. When baby comes home, create some healthy boundaries to ensure safety. Understand that you control the amount of access that you feel comfortable with. Make sure you never leave baby unattended with your Jindo and supervise all interactions. Be aware of your dog's calming signals and never put baby in his face, making him feel threatened or trapped. Your dog should always have a safe, quiet place of retreat available at all times.
3. Create positive associations and eliminate anxiety. Your Jindo will be very excited with the arrival of you newest pack member and it's up to you to try and make this transition as smooth as possible. Remember to keep calm, as this is an exciting experience for the entire household. Give gentle commands while holding baby, like "sit" and "stay." Administer treats to reward and encourage calm behavior. Jindos are incredibly intuitive, so use their primitive nature to your training advantage, creating the foundation of a healthy relationship. Taking your Jindo for a walk with the baby carrier is a great way to relieve stress and help Jindo understand and appreciate those positive experiences with you and baby.
Keep in mind that despite our attempts to infuse human emotions into our pets, dogs don't get jealous or resentful when they aren't the center of attention. There's no existing competition for your affections between your Jindo and baby. It's up to you to recognize undesirable behavior and address it in a manner that will not create a negative, anxiety-ridden association with children. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unsure, please reach out to an experienced behaviorist/trainer who has had success with this type of integration. With a proper introduction and healthy boundaries, you are laying down a solid foundation for a beautiful future relationship between your Jindo and child.