I've simplified our life at home. I'm not trying to cram too much into a day, I'm making nap time a priority, and I'm trying to get as many healthy fruits and vegetables into our diet as possible – this goes for Jasper too....he hates his green vegetables!
Settling into our new routine with an active toddler, it was clear that a few simple rules were creating a great foundation for a stress-free home. I was getting to spend quality time with Jasper, he was looking a lot more relaxed around Georgia, and I wasn't feeling like I was being pulled in a hundred different directions.
Don't get me wrong, there's still chaos at times, but it normally involves paint or hummus, not the dog!
Here are my five dog friendly rules that will help you to increase the level of calm, even in the most chaotic of family homes:
#1. If You're Distracted, Get Proactive!
This rule has been huge for me, and was a real game changer for Jasper. What it involves is setting up a child-free-zone, through the use of a baby-fence or gate. In our apartment we use the Summer Infant Custom Fit Gate as a room divide, providing Jasper with a safe child-free-zone anytime I'm distracted with the unending tasks involved in being a Mom while running a business from home.
If I am not actively (or mentally) present in what my daughter is doing, I want to make sure she is in as safe a space as possible. That goes for Jasper too.
Jasper loves his child-free-zone, and will often ask for the gate to be opened even when Georgia is napping – more on this coming up.
# 2. Nap Time = Fun Time.
I make the most of every minute Georgia is napping, and so does Jasper.
This is our time to cuddle on the couch, hide treats around the apartment for him to find, and engage in all the physical activities that I don't want to be modelling in front of Georgia, such as rough-housing, kissing, and general hands-on play that is not appropriate for a young child to copy.
I also use this time to clip Jasper's nails (which he hates more than green vegetables), and groom his coat, which despite being short, gets everywhere. It's our time to relax, drink coffee, and cuddle some more.
#3. Play Time For Everyone.
The key to creating a calm home is inclusion.
Keeping your dog behind a barrier in a child-free-zone is great for when things are a little chaotic, but your dog needs to be able to adjust to all the different developmental phases that your child is going through – and they can't do that from behind a baby-gate.
Inclusion can be as simple as having your dog quietly settle on their bed next to you while you're nursing or feeding, to playing gentle games that both your toddler and dog can enjoy, like throwing a ball, or tossing kibble in the grass for your dog to find.
The key here is to be fully present, keeping excitement levels low, and always have an adult in between your dog and child. Any interactions between your dog and toddler should be carefully set up by you, and should never include hugging or climbing on the dog.
I like the saying “One hand just enough. Two hands too rough.” when allowing your toddler to stroke the dog, and “Pat, Pat, Pause” is always a good practice to get your child into, allowing the dog to move away if they are feeling uncomfortable.
Disclaimer: If your dog is easily excitable, likes to jump up, or has poor basic skills, I would recommend contacting a Dogs & Toddlers™ Educator in your area who has experience working with young families before attempting Play Time.
#4. Leave An Escape Route.
This is an escape route for your dog, not you!
It's very easy for your dog to feel overwhelmed, especially when there's a quick moving toddler on the scene, and you may not always pick up on the subtile communication signals your dog is broadcasting, asking for space.
When including your dog in family activities try and do so in an open area. Avoid cornering your dog, or trapping them in tight spaces such as between the couch and coffee table. It's best practice to invite your dog into your area, as apposed to encroaching on theirs, this way they can choose to ignore the invitation if they need some toddler-free-time.
#5. Lets Eat Cookies In Bed!
This is Jasper's favourite addition to our list of House Rules.
Jasper's bed is set up behind the baby barrier in the “child-free-zone”. To help make this his Happy Place, and not an area he feels he's being banish to, I'm frequently tossing tasty cookies into his bed for him to find.
He loves this game, and regularly asks for the gate to be opened so he can hang-out in his favourite zone. This has been a huge change for us. Prior to Georgia's arrival Jasper was a bit of a Mamma's boy and would follow me around the house. Now, he still like to keep an eye on me, but he's happy to do so from the comfort of his child-free-zone.
We should all eat more cookies in bed!