It’s almost like you could read the panic on Siena’s face the first time Gwen crawled.
I got used to this little creature … and the crying and the waking and the throwing food (yay — bonus!) and all that. But now she’s moving. TOWARDS ME? Oh, hell to the no.
That’s pretty much how it went. And, to an extent, continues to go. Our beloved Siena was getting so good with Gwen. So good! We were such a happy little family and no doubt looked extra cute together, all laughing happily and covered in warm sunshine with beautiful leaves falling down from the tall oak trees (right out of Pinterest, folks).
But now that Gwen is 9 months old and crawling at things and pulling to stand like whoa, things have changed. And while the newborn cries are far, far behind us, the barking is not. And Siena has truly become our second — ridiculously cute and sweet but fairly unruly and high-needs — furry child.
It’s almost like we’ve been put back at square one. And if my husband and I are at home at the same time (yay weekends and evenings!), it’s pretty much man-on-man (or man-on-baby/man-on-dog) coverage at all times. If one of us is rolling solo, it’s kind of a stressful situation of a) making sure Gwen isn’t trying to nosedive off the couch or get into something she shouldn’t or — and this is the most fun one — bum-rushing the dog; and b) making sure Siena isn’t getting into too anxious of a place.
Most of the time Siena just wants to play and doesn’t know how to appropriately with a baby. Other times, Siena needs more attention and has too much energy and it needs somewhere to go. And then there are the times she just gets plain scared by Gwen — tail- and ear-pulling seems to do that, you know.
This is when it helps to know your dog. And be vigilant. Extra vigilant for all the signs of a dog who’s had too much and to make sure you’re supervising your crawling baby at all times.
As we’ve learned, it’s oh-so very much worth the extra effort to set Siena up to win. To give her regular breaks, to give her the one-on-one time even if we’re exhausted, to make sure Gwen is far, far from her food and petting nicely when Siena is up for it — and to work her brain out. Hard.
Because what makes a crawling baby plus a high-energy dog situation even crazier? When said dog is recovering from ACL surgery (ask me how fun that is — 10 weeks of recovery!) and has limitations on her physical activity. That’s why the BUSTER ActivityMat ($69.99) has been a lifesaver. It’s like a to-go gym for dogs. (You can see it in action here.)
You simply put the mat down, snap on the different puzzles (it comes with three and you can buy harder ones to add-on), hide treats in the puzzles and then let your dog go to town figuring out how to get the treats out.
Siena has had so much fun getting the treats out and has learned how to pretty much dominate the board. (Looks like we’ll be trying the level 3 add-ons SOON.)
This little mat plus your usual treat-dispensing dog toys have done wonders for burning off her mental energy. And it’s pretty much become an evening ritual. As soon as Gwen gets dinner (a time when Siena seems to become particularly high strung, even if she’s already had her food), Siena gets playtime.
Siena has been pretty rough on the mat — completely unsnapping puzzles off — but it’s held up pretty well with supervision.
This is just one of the small tweaks we’ve made to our day to keep our entire family happy, mentally healthy and, honestly, safe. Now, when we can give Siena this AND take her for a run? Well, that’ll be like the best day ever. For all of us.
How do you make sure your dog stays physically and mentally active and engaged? This activity mat even comes with a little bag to carry it so that you can take it with you everywhere you and your fam goes. So smart. —Jenn