Children and Dogs

During our blip one of the minor reasons that was first suggested as to why we wouldn’t be a suitable family for our children was that we had two dogs. For the time being I will ignore the fact that this was stated in our Prospective Adopters Report and that we were initially approached by Social Services about the children and not the other way around.

We were told that our oldest child was frightened of dogs and whenever dogs were mentioned he would say that they would “bite me”. This was then added to the long list of unsubstantiated reasons behind dropping us without giving us a proper chance to tell them our plan around it.

Due to our initial meeting right at the beginning of our adoption journey when we were told that we might have to give up our dogs in order to adopt, we’ve always had a plan in mind on how to deal with the situation if having them ever became an issue.

My parents are dog people, my whole family have dogs, I grew up with dogs. The longest period of time I went without living with a dog was when I first moved out of home, which lasted about 18 months before I got a dog of my own. My parents volunteered to have our dogs for the transitional period when we first brought our children home and help with the introductions between them. This had always been our plan. If things didn’t go well we always had in the back of our minds that my parents would keep the dogs for a prolonged period until our children got used to them, however long that would take.

Once we managed to actually put that plan across to the “powers that be”, us having dogs mysteriously disappeared from their “List of Unsuitability” as they could see that we would put the needs of the children above the dogs, though we didn’t really think of it like that – if anything they get more attention and longer walks when they’re there, plus they love visiting my parents.

We truly hoped we wouldn’t have to trigger the prolonged period plan, and once we started our own introductory period with our children it started to become clear that we likely wouldn’t have to. Our foster family had started to redirect our oldest child’s “bite me” fixation with “lick me” instead, almost as if they had met our dogs who are both very licky and would happily attempt to lick a burglar to death in preference to actually stopping them from stealing our belongings. That preparation was very important as, of course, one of the first things our oldest dog did when they first met was lick our oldest child on the face. At least he knew we were all telling him the truth!

But things didn’t necessarily go as smoothly as we had hoped. Our youngest dog is a lot more nervous than the older one, and a nervous dog is a dangerous dog. Out and about in the garden and in fields where everyone had their own space both dogs got on really well with both children, it was when we first brought them all together indoors at home that we had a problem.

Mitchell Orr

Oldest dog was fine, if he doesn’t like a situation he’ll just disappear into a quiet spot somewhere and sulk or sleep. He’s quite content being on his own and that’s what he did, the children were being noisy so he left them to it.

Youngest dog isn’t like that. He needs to be where we are which means being where the children are. The first time he met the children at home didn’t go well. The children got over excited and screamed a lot. This upset our youngest dog a lot, who backed himself into a corner and when he realised he had nowhere to go started to bark.

The barking then upset the oldest child and it all degenerated from there until we let the dog escape into the garden. It was at this point we thought that perhaps my parents would have to keep our youngest dog for a while longer, possibly even permanently as he clearly didn’t like the attention from the children.

We slowed the doggy introductions down a little bit, allowed the children and the dogs to see each other in a more controlled and open environment, allowing each to get used to the other. Eventually the children stopped their excited screaming, thereby no longer scaring the youngest dog. This didn’t take all that long and within a few weeks of us bringing our children home both dogs were living with us again.

So, how is their relationship now? Both dogs have happily accepted both children as part of the family, though they still consider them as puppies and therefore beneath them in the hierarchy of the family, but we’re working on that by letting the children feed the dogs.

Oldest dog likes to lay in the hallway on his own while the children are in the lounge. He has learnt that meal time is brilliant as there are always scraps all over the floor due to messy eating. He loves being cuddled by the children and “kisses” them regularly to show them they’re his.

Youngest dog will do everything he can to be in the SAME ROOM as the children. Regardless of how noisy, boisterous or playful the children are being he has to be with them. He’s been pulled, prodded, poked, patted roughly, cuddled and screamed at (all under our supervision) and he just takes it without any protest. Our once obedient little spaniel now refuses to leave the room when told to if the boys are in there with him.

Oldest child has no fear of dogs. We have to actively remind him that not all dogs are friendly and he can’t just go up to them and hug them whenever he wants to. He has stopped getting over excited, and alternates between oldest and youngest dogs being his favourite.

Youngest child adores the dogs, his first word that was said in context was the name of our oldest dog. He happily calls the dog up at night to say good night before we put him in his cot and will point out any dog he sees with a scream of delight.

When I cuddle one child, the other one gets jealous and wants a cuddle too. The best thing that has happened is when I was giving youngest dog a cuddle, youngest child acted all jealous. So like a good Dad I told the dog to get down and went to pick the child up. Nope. Didn’t want me, he rejected me and grabbed the dog for lovely cuddle, and the dog looked at me and he gloated.

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