Interview with Dr Lewis Kirkham: Dogs and Babies

Giveaway

Dogs and babies: Can they live in Harmony?

Introducing a new baby to the home can be daunting enough for the parents (I know, I’ve been there. Twice), but imagine how confusing and anxiety-provoking the appearance of this strange little creature and all the associated changes can be for the family pets!  When we brought home our son Liam, who is now two and a half, I really didn’t have much of a clue what the impact would be on our dogs Anika and Billy.  And I’m a veterinarian.  We muddled our way through it and did our best, but how I would’ve loved to have had a resource like Dr Lewis Kirkham’s book, “Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant.”  With the clarity and wisdom that comes with hindsight, I now see that more than anything, we were just lucky.

I discovered ‘Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant’ second time round, prior to the birth of our other special little guy, Cameron, who is now five months old.  The practical, sensible and very effective advice for managing dogs and babies within it’s pages made a world of difference in how comfortable my dogs were with the whole situation.

 dogs and babies

My little dude Cameron showing off our well used copy of “Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant”

Who is Dr. Lewis Kirkham?

Dr Kirkham is an Australian veterinarian with post-graduate qualifications in animal behaviour.  He has worked in various veterinary practices in both Australia and the UK, and in 2004 founded Animal Behaviour Solutions, a company that provides at-home consultations and behavioural advice for pet owners.  He has assisted many pets and their people in assessing and managing behavioural problems, and features regularly on television, radio and online media.  He is also a father and pet owner himself.  For more about Dr Kirkham click here.

I’m lucky enough to have had the privilege of asking him a few questions about his wonderful book, and he has generously offered up THREE signed copies for me to give away to my amazing, animal-loving readers.  Keep reading to see how you could score a copy!

 

Image: http://babyandpet.com.au

Image: http://babyandpet.com.au

 Dr. Lewis Kirkham

Dr. Lewis Kirkham Talks to Creature Clinic about his book, ‘Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant.’

Thank you so much for your time Dr Kirkham!  The first question that comes to mind is why should families put in time and effort preparing their dog for baby’s arrival?

For many couples, their dog is their first baby and they would like to be able to raise their children and dogs together so they can grow up as best friends.  The idea of the book is to allow the dog to be inclusive in the expanding family and not exclusive.

 

And when is the best time to begin preparations for the potential chaos that is dogs and babies?

Preparing your dog for the changes that will occur with the arrival of a baby should commence as soon as possible.  The more time you have to make the necessary changes, the better prepared your dog will be.  Making changes early also allows you to identify any issues your dog may have and rectify these.  It also highlights to owners that it may be a change in the household that is causing a behavioural problem and not the actual presence of the baby.

One of the things I loved about your book was the practical way advice was presented. Who do you think can benefit?

The book is aimed at any dog owner who is likely to have a new baby in the house. Obviously expectant dog owners, but also grandparents, relatives and friends who own dogs and are going to have the baby visit them. It makes a great gift too ;)

 

Speaking from personal experience, I know my two dogs were my children before the two-legged ones came along.  I never thought the relationship I had with them would suffer when our family expanded (I guess I didn’t give it much thought at all!) But in reality, it’s inevitable that such a huge change would rock the boat a bit.  Do you find a lot of people simply don’t realise how much of an impact the introduction of a new family member will have on their pets?

Being a parent myself, I heavily underestimated the impact a new baby would have on my lifestyle and the same can be said for a dog. Parents are usually very time-poor in the early stages and this can heavily affect the dog too. As well as that there is this new ‘thing’ in the house that everyone is fussing over and paying less attention to the ‘fur’ child.

 

What are the most common problems families face with their dogs when they bring home the new arrival?

The most common problems are an increase in attention seeking behaviours (e.g. barking, jumping up etc), anxiety towards the baby or the changes that occur, and unfortunately sometimes aggression. Aggression can be serious and unfortunately dog bites do occur to babies. Advice should be sought from an appropriate veterinarian if your dog shows any signs of aggression

 

Absolutely, aggression is something that should be taken very seriously.  People often believe that when their dog does something ‘bad’ like peeing inside, that the dog is being spiteful or trying to get back at them for something.  I assure them that this behaviour is caused by anxiety and there is no malicious intent.  What would you say are the most common myths or misconceptions people have about dogs and their behaviour?

This biggest one is that the dog will be jealous of the baby – they will get their noses out of joint. This is not the case. In my experience changes in the dog’s behaviour can always be attributed to something that the owner has altered which had just made the dog anxious or uncertain.

 

And what are some of the mistakes you have seen people make when trying to manage their dogs’ behaviour?

This is difficult to say – I have seen them all I think! Perhaps owners not being able to read their dog’s subtle body language. That is why I included a chapter in the book highlighting these so owners are better equipped to understand that their dog is uncomfortable in a situation and able to act early to rectify it before a serious incident occurs.

 

Your book also comes with a CD or downloadable MP3 tracks. One might think when accompanying a book designed to help dogs that it might be some sort of canine self-help (you could call it “Awaken the Wolf Within” or “how to win food and influence owners”), or perhaps a compilation of relaxing doggy meditations.  Nope.  It’s a collection of baby-related noises.  How does this work to help prepare dogs for the imminent changes they are facing?

The baby sounds and toy noises are designed to prepare the dog for the varied sounds of the new arrival. There are many references on the internet about playing baby sounds and as a vet I always told owners to play baby sounds to prepare their dog. What I didn’t realise is most people were doing it incorrectly and sometimes making the dog worse and also just focusing on the screaming and crying – but a baby makes many more sounds than this and dogs need to be prepared for all of these sounds. That is why the book includes a collection of real-life sounds that a baby makes (in fact they are my daughter’s baby sounds……) to help prepare a dog as much as possible for the new arrival. When playing the sounds many dogs become excited, bark and sometimes even growl and we need to ensure that they don’t do this when the baby is born. Many dogs also react to toy noises, especially squeaky toy noises by getting excited. We don’t want this to occur when the baby has a toy and the dog tries to grab it off them. This is why I also included a couple of tracks of common baby and squeaky toy noises to help these particular dogs.

 

So I’m sure with a bit of careful preparation, most dogs will cope really well with a new baby, but what are some warning signs that it just might be time to consider seeking advice from a veterinarian with a professional interest in animal behaviour?

There are many warning signs and the book covers these in depth. The biggest red flag though obviously is any sort of growling, lip lifting or biting, especially directed towards humans in any situation. These sorts of situations often require a house call consultation with a vet with a professional interest in animal behaviour.

 

Thank you so much for your time Dr Kirkham! 

Dr. Lewis Kirkham’s book, ‘Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant’ really is a fantastic resource for expectant parents, new parents or other family members such as grandparents who will be spending time with baby.  If you know someone with pets who is expecting it would make a great gift.  The book is available from www.babyandpet.com.au and you can follow Dr Kirkham on Twitter or on Facebook

 top tips

 

And Now for the GIVEAWAY!!!

If you would like to win one of three copies of Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant, all you need to do is pick out a photo of your dog(s) and tell me what makes them such an important part of the family.  Then just email it to me at vet@creatureclinic.com   I will put all of the wonderful entries together and showcase them as a subsequent post.  Winners will be notified by email as well as featured in the followup post.

Giveaway

Terms and Conditions

Entries open Sunday 9/3/2014 and close Wednesday 19/3/2014.  The competition is open to Australian residents only.  Three winners will be judged by Creature Clinic.  The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.  Winners will be notified by email by 21/3/2014 and will have a further 48 hrs to respond.  Prizes are nontransferable.

Disclosure

Dr. Lewis Kirkham provided me with 3 copies of his book to giveaway.  Having purchased my own copy some time ago I was not compensated for this post in any way and all opinions expressed are my own.