When we stayed with my in-laws for two weeks in Idaho during our vacation, our son had his first experience of living with dogs. Grandma and grandpa have not just one or two, but three big dogs. Before we went, we had tried to prepare him as much as we could about dogs, putting up pictures of the dogs on the refrigerator, saying hi to the dogs that we meet while taking a walk, etc. Despite these efforts, when we first arrived, our son was still nervous around them. You can’t really blame him. All of the dogs are bigger than him. So we were protective of him and tried to keep the dogs at a healthy distance. However, he got to watch how we–especially how grandma and grandpa–interacted with them. We patted them, played with them, fed them, and loved them. And the dogs showed their affection by sniffing, licking, or just laying next to us to receive a tummy rub.
This “easing-into” method must have worked, because after less than a week, our son was much more relaxed around the dogs and developed a special liking to Patches, a female sheep dog with long white hair and back patches. He loved to have Patches lie next to him and pat her gently. Mazy is the biggest of all the three dogs, but the most timid, so our son knows that she will stay afar and not bother him. Gradually, he learned that you can order dogs around, saying things like, "Stay there, Shadow," or "Lay down, Patchie," which was kind of fun. Our son started to imitate the dogs and would crawl on all fours with a toy in his mouth. He would lie on the floor and demand you give him a tummy rub, or would not stop licking your hand and arm. The most memorable moment was when he sneaked out of the house while his dad was taking a nap, and when nobody was noticing, and did his business in grandma’s and grandpa’s backyard, just like the dogs. Then he got stuck pulling up his underwear and had to call grandma to rescue him. Mazy tried to help too by giving his buttocks a lick or two. Now that he is not intimidated by the dogs, he chases them or pulls their tails. The table turned, and we spent the last part of our time at grandma’s house trying to keep him away from the dogs.
All in all, we are glad that our son got some much-needed exposure to dogs, much to his father’s relief. Now if he could just learn how to swim.