Development Is For Parents AND Babies!
Mike: Definitely. They come both pre-natal and post-natal, right? So, pre-natal is not really a developmental issue – you just have a ticking timer going between the time you find out that you’re pregnant, and then the time that you actually deliver the baby.
And that’s the phase, in terms of a developmental period, where you really have all the time to focus on your dog.
Mike: Well, not all the time – you’re buying your cribs, you’re setting up the room. But you have time to focus on the dog, and do a lot of the preparatory work that the book is about, and my video course is about.
Morgan: Yes, definitely – compared to afterwards.
Mike: Compared to afterwards, correct. Then, afterwards, the first developmental period is the first month and a half after the baby arrives.
Again, when I use the word “developmental period,” I’m using it very loosely, more to describe a developmental period in the person’s life – as well as for the child. But in that first developmental period, in the broad sense, mom is just dealing with the shell shock of having a baby.
Mike: The baby is a tiny little infant that basically needs to be cleaned and fed, and that’s about it, right?
Top Tips During The ‘Larval’ Stage
Mike: So, during that period, we want to set all those structures in place that allow the dog to develop a positive association with the presence of the child.
For example, a lot of times when parents put their baby down for a nap, they’ll go and pay attention to the dog, right? And then, when the baby’s up again and needs attention, then the dog gets a little bit cold-shouldered. So, this is one of those periods where I actually say: “Just reverse that.”
So, when the baby goes down for a nap, put the dog away somewhere. And then, when the baby comes out for nursing, then you’ve taught the dog a routine: that it can participate in that whole process, by lying at your feet or something like that.
So right away – from the beginning, when the baby is in what I sometimes jokingly refer to as the larval stage [laughter] – we use that to develop.
Instead of creating a situation of: “Oh, when the kid gets attention, I get kicked to the kerb,” it’s the other way around. “When the kid comes out, we’re all part of a family together.”
So, in that first period there – usually in the first 6-7 weeks, you want to establish those templates. That’s when you can still pay a decent amount of attention to the dog, because the baby’s still so small, right?
Getting Your Baby Involved From The Get-Go
Mike: But at a certain point, they get bigger. There’s so many little developmental periods that happen for the child.
I think the next main relevant milestone is when the child is old enough to be put into a BABYBJÖRN – both mom-facing and outward-facing baby carriers. Because then, as I demonstrate on Module 1 of my video course, there’s a way to use BABYBJÖRNs to start getting the dog prepared for close, unexpected contact with the child, in a way that’s hard to explain on a podcast. But that’s just a little plug: go buy the course.
There’s a way you can use BABYBJÖRNs – so, you basically have the baby strapped in but outward-facing, and then you can kind of handle the dog a little bit roughly.
Continue with preparing the dog for childlike-handling, as you’ve been doing since before the baby arrived – but now, you’re doing it with the BABYBJÖRN on there.
So basically the baby, from the perspective of the dog, is part of you, in a way. And you’re just doing what you’ve been doing, but now bringing the baby into the mix. So, developmentally, that’s something that can start happening.
Mike: And I think that’s really important. And then, of course, as the baby continues to become more mobile, and then you find yourself on the little playmat and all that stuff, these are all opportunities just to incrementally increase the kind and the variety of interactions that your dog has with you and your child – all the way up until the very critical 8-month threshold, at which point the baby tends to start crawling.
And that’s, really, when we find out whether we’ve done all the preparatory work. So, there’s a lot of little stages between the day baby arrives – or even before birth – way up to that critical 8-month mark that are what I consider developmental periods, in the broad sense.
The Optimal Window
Morgan: Yes, right – so, you’re contextualising that developmental periods are all in that arc between when you find out you’re pregnant and when the baby hits 8 months. Because that, in your definition in your book and in your course, that’s really the window.
That’s the primary window, and the optimal window, for getting your dog ready for childlike-handling – which after 8 months is just going to start coming.
Mike: If you haven’t done that work by 8 months, and you’ve got a dog that’s concerned about being touched, or fearful about the unsteady, unpredictable movements of a baby, and your dog is nervous about it, you have a very big problem on your hands.
Because there’s a really good chance you’re not going to be able to get past it – you’re just not going to have the time.
And now, at this point, mom is going to feel scared – because the dog is backed into a corner, it starts snarling and giving stink-eyes to the kid, then mom is now going to feel like: “My child is not safe.” And that’s where – as you’ve heard me say before – dogs get rehomed.
What About After 8 Months?
Morgan: Right. OK, so then, I have a question: so, you’ve gone through that arc – then what about the developmental period after 8 months?
Mike: Well, after 8 months everything picks up steam, right? So now, the baby’s crawling, and is also a lot more engaged and interactive. So then, for example – and again, this is a little hard to explain – but you can start teaching the baby, even, how to be a little bit gentle with the dog. And these are actually a couple of tricks I learned from my clients.
One is: babies grab, and pull, right? So, the first trick is: whenever your baby grabs your dog, it’s good to take your little pinkie and stick it in the middle of its hand while it’s grabbing the dog.
And as its little hand closes down on the dog and your little finger, just push up a little bit, so that it’s not grabbing so tightly on the dog, and say: “Gentle. Gentle, gentle.” And just keep pushing up.
Because babies, as you know – you’re a dad, I’m not – they pick up a lot more than they can communicate back, right
Morgan: Oh, yes.
Mike: So there’s a lot more cognition going on in that little head than might be obvious from the outside. So, just in doing that “gentle, gentle” every time the baby grabs the dog, that starts to go really deep into the child. And over the course of some months, the baby can start to be a little more gentle with the dog.
So, right from the get-go, you can start teaching the baby a little bit about appropriate behaviours with the dog.
And the other one that goes with that – and again, you know this – but babies at that young age, they’re not on their feet yet, but they’re so unstable and they do grab. They tend to lean in and grab with both hands.
So, you just start teaching them: “When you touch doggy, one hand only – one hand only.” You know? Like that.
Mike: And as you start doing that kind of stuff, you can continue to build on the whole roughhousing thing. You can have your child in your lap with you, and then crawl around on the floor with the dog, again, so the dog gets more and more used to the mobility of the child, and there’s more and more opportunities for fun interactions, playful interactions.
And then, of course, the next development threshold is when the baby actually starts to become a toddler, and starts walking and running, screaming and throwing [laughter], and all the stuff toddlers do, right?
Morgan: Oh, yeah.
Have Fun With It!
Mike: And you know, the thing is: by that point, a year has gone by – and if somebody has really been doing all this stuff, there shouldn’t really be any issues. If things have gone well up to this point, it should be kind of a cruise from there.
Because the cool thing, then, is: baby starts to become 2 and 3, starts to become more communicative, can learn more, and there’s more games you can do.
There’s some cool videos on my blog, where there’s like a 4-year-old kid, and then a Dobermann and the dad. And I show them how to play some games together, that help the dog to understand that the child is not exactly a source of authority, but that’s it’s backed up by my authority – or by dad’s authority or mom’s authority.
Mike: And I encourage people to look. You have to scroll down – I think I put those up about a year ago. But there’s two nice videos, there, of working with this little girl.
Morgan: Yes, you just keep scrolling down, and you’ll hit them.
Mike: Yes. And that’s worthwhile for anybody who’s got a toddler, basically. So, there’s just a whole host of different stages.
There’s other fun games to play, but once you get past that year, year and one or two months mark – if you’ve been doing well, like I said – you’re pretty much on a roll, and it gets a lot of fun. It can be a lot of fun before then, too – it can be a whole lot of fun before then, too.
When parents play with their little kids on those mats – you know what I’m talking about, you kind of fold them out on the floor, with all the toys and blocks and stuff – to teach the dog that it can hang out, right on the edge there. And then, maybe, we do some little tricks with the dog while we’re playing there.
Again, the idea through all those periods is to continue to create positive associations for the dog with the presence of the child, through various types of interaction.
Rather than the opposite, which is what most people inadvertently do, which is: when the baby gets attention, the dog gets kicked to the side. And then, when the baby’s not so much in the picture, then we have a little more time for the dog.
Dogs aren’t stupid – they’ll pick that dynamic up super-fast, and develop jealousy and all the problems that go with it.
The Key To Success
Morgan: Totally. Alright, well that sounds good. I think we hit it here. Are there any last points you want to make, in terms of outlining these developmental periods?
Mike: Not so much – I think the main point is the same one I always make: wherever you’re at, start now.
If you just found out yesterday that you’re pregnant, start now. If you’ve got two weeks till your due date, just start now.
Start now – because in terms of the overall arc, you find out you’re pregnant and you have eight months till you deliver. Then, you have another eight months until the baby becomes eight months of age.
So, you have 16 months, in a perfect world. That’s kind of the developmental arc – when I talk about developmental periods, I’m really talking about the development of the whole relationship, not just the child.
And that’s a lot of time. So wherever you are in those periods, start now.
Morgan: Yes. Got it. And everyone, if you do want to start now – if you are in a position anywhere along that spectrum that Mike’s talking about – then I definitely encourage you to go to gooddoghappybaby.com, and pick up Mike’s video course, which he mentioned early on.
It basically will help you deal with all of this – everything that Mike’s been talking about, all these different developmental periods. It really gets your dog ready for childlike-handling.
And you are going to feel so empowered to do that, and you’re not going to have any questions when you do that. And, likewise, with Mike’s book.
A lot of the same material he covers in the book – but the course is obviously a deeply-condensed version of the lessons in the book. And Mike really holds your hand, and takes you step by step through the preparation. So, you can get that over at gooddoghappybaby.com.