From the moment my hubby and I found out we were pregnant, we knew we would do anything to make sure Kafka the bulldog and baby got along. Kafka, we have always said, was in his forever home. Even so, there was one exception to this.
My husband once said that if, worse comes to worse and they really didn’t get along -- and Kafka acted aggressive when she was around, we could just kennel him more often. I disagreed. What kind of life would that be for him? He might be a lazy bulldog 75% of the time, but that was no way for him to live. I wanted him to have a positive relationship with her. I wanted him to be her protector, her best friend. And now, after nearly five months together, that’s fortunately the path they’re headed toward.
While Kafka started off on a rocky road when she first arrived -- squeals and sounds of excitement suddenly startled him -- being around our LO 24/7 naturally helped. Then, around 3 months -- just as our baby girl was getting into a routine herself -- it was like a light switched on for Kafka too. She was here to stay, and, it seemed, he realized that she was actually kind of entertaining.
He discovered that if he very gently licks her hands and feet, we’ll praise him. He’s also learned that if we’re playing with her, he can go to his bed, hang out there, and get a treat. And if mama is nursing baby? He knows to leave us alone, even if no one else is home to give him attention (other than me saying 'good boy'). In other words, every time he did something good, he got loaded with praise. Sure, he’s heard his share of ‘no’s, especially in regards to her toys, and he’s now the best he’s ever been with the command ‘leave it,’ but it’s the positivity we’re trying to focus on the most. And being positive is paying off.
For starters, Kafka seems to be totally infatuated with her now. He’s already become protective (admittedly almost too much so; he now barks at every dog, something he never did before). And he’s become her friend. There have been times she’s cried, and I haven’t reacted immediately; and when that’s happened he’s stood beside her and looked at me like, ‘hey mom, come on now.’ And the other day he brought one of his toys over and dropped it in front of her… something he never even does with me or my hubby (rather, he shoves it at our legs).
As if that doesn’t thrill me enough, baby girl is pretty much obsessed with him too. She’ll be in her jumper and suddenly she’ll stop playing just to watch how he sits and scratches himself behind the ear. Or, when he's playing with his favorite toy light saber, she'll giggle (see the video). Or, when we’re holding her in our arms, she’ll try to lean over to watch him walk across the room.
Now that she’s reaching for everything too, if he’s anywhere nearby, you can bet she’s reaching her hands out to touch him. Not everyone will agree with this, but we let her touch him, and then we praise him for hanging out calmly while she does. She’s even tugged his ear and cheek before, and he didn’t even flinch. The way I figure it? The more used to it he is now, the better he’ll handle it when she’s a toddler.
Even knowing all this, I still recognize that Kafka is a bulldog, an animal. And as such, I’d never leave them alone in a room together, no matter how much I trust him, or their relationship.
That caveat aside, staying positive is the best thing we could have done for both of them. Every day baby girl sees us praising him and telling him ‘good boy’ -- and one day she’ll utter the phrase ‘good boy’ too. And when that day comes? It’ll be music to my ears.
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