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Advice about a baby and a retired greyhound

(8 Posts)
ShadyLadyT Wed 13-May-15 13:20:07

I wonder if I might ask some advice? My PIL have just got a retired greyhound bitch. My MIL is late 70s, my FIL early 80s. They live 100 miles from us but do come to stay for a few days every couple of months. I have got three DDs, aged 6, 4 and 7mths. Eldest DD is scared of most dogs. Middle DD loves them and isn't scared. Youngest obviously a baby.

I love dogs and we always had dogs growing up, and am always pleased when someone takes on an adult dog particularly, but they are coming to visit this week and want to bring the dog. They are supposed to be babysitting tomorrow night and Friday night.

I am sure the dog is lovely but I have never met her. I have no idea how she is with kids. We have no stairgates, the baby isn't crawling yet, and my MIL waits on my FIL hand and foot and I am just not convinced she will have her full attention on the dog or the kids. Also, the dog is only just settling in with PIL after all.

i am just not comfortable leaving the baby, particularly, in this scenario. in fact, I am going to take her with me tomorrow night (I have to attend a work function and DP is out). It has been suggested (due to my concerns) that FIL drops off MIL, stays for a few hours then drives himself and the dog home whilst she stays until Sunday, but it has also been made clear that everyone (inc my DP) think I am making a massive fuss over nothing and the dog and the kids would be fine. I don't have a fantastic relationship with MIL anyway.

Further down the line, I am still worried (the girls are all meant to be staying with PIL for a few days in the summer). I know they will be left unattended with the dog at times (even just for fifteen minutes here and there whilst MIL bustles about. I want to say they can't go, as I don't think it's fair on the girls or potentially the dog! Living with two elderly pensioners is different to suddenly having to deal with three small children.

Erm...tell me honestly, am I being silly about this? Any tips?

Scuttlebutter Wed 13-May-15 15:05:19

OK, first some general points about greyhounds. They have the lowest incidence of virtually any breed (along with whippets) of bite aggression to humans (small furries, a different story). Your PIL's dog will have been bred for and trained for being handled routinely by a vast number of strangers in their working life on a racetrack. Bluntly, greyhounds who are vicious/snappy in that environment are ejected almost immediately and are almost never bred from. This means an ex racer is temperamentally almost always gentle and placid.

However, your IL's dog may never have met small human children and will have been matched to their home on the basis of no small DC living there. So, like any dog who's not used to them they may well find small DC noisy, frightening and unpredictable.

My experience of parents is that they always underestimate the noise and shriek factor of their DC - probably because you are used to it.

Here's how I'd proceed - we don't have DC ourselves but regularly have visiting DC with our greyhounds.

Firstly, do some work with your DC on behaviour around dogs (this is good, useful stuff anyway). Explain the basic rules. No pulling, pinching, teasing, etc and bear in mind that sleeping dogs should never be disturbed. Greyhounds often sleep with their eyes open so bear this in mind. There are some excellent resources on the net about dog/child interactions - Dr Sophia Yin and others e.g. Liam J Perk Foundation all worth a look. With our DNs, I have never, ever got involved with any aspect of their behaviour etc. BUT I will (and have) reinforce dog rules with every visit to our home and will be VERY firm if the boys forget e.g. running or shouting in the house. The key is to get all adults in the house on board with what standards you will expect and the rules you will adhere to. This ensures both humans and dogs can co-exist happily.

Secondly, I'd certainly review physically separating them. You say you don't have baby gates, but have you considered getting one so that at least one room can be segregated for the hound to have a safe refuge. Get a tall gate, as most greyhounds can pretty much step over a normal size one.

Thirdly, most greyhounds wear lightweight muzzles for racing and are used to them, and often wear them when out. One of ours does. They are light and comfortable, and the dog can eat, breathe, pant, drink etc - the dog could be muzzled for at least part of the day.

Fourthly, discuss, discuss, discuss with your ILs. I'm bonkers about our dogs but I'd be the first to realise they are not everyone's cup of tea. We don't take them to visit certain family members and that's fine. Have they had any advice from the rescue on the dog's suitability around DC? Are they willing to work with you sensibly? Does the dog have a crate that could be used as a safe refuge? Most greyhounds are absolutely superb around DC and there are several MNetters on here that have a small DC/greyhound combo very happily, but like any dogs, there needs to be good management from adults involved.

Good luck - in reality the worst that's likely to happen is that your sofa will be colonised and you might suffer the Greyhound Toxic Fart but I understand your concerns, and the fact that youare concerned means that you are in fact preparing thoroughly for this. smile

ShadyLadyT Wed 13-May-15 16:07:31

Thank you, Scuttlebutter, for taking the time to give me that long and helpful answer.

I do not know whether she has a crate that could be used as a safe refuge (will ask). I don't know, either, whether there was any discussion of suitability around children (I doubt it). I hadn't thought about a lightweight muzzle for part of the day, and will mention it.

I think your idea of a plan for everyone is a good way forward. I am still worried about this weekend but I think I will insist that FIL does take the dog back after dropping off MIL this time, then it will give everyone some time to get some things in place for next time.

I just do not find my PIL very reasonable or easy to discuss things with. My sister has a rescue Jack Russell which she has very successfully rehabilitated (the dog had bounced from three homes and had been ill treated) - this dog does not like children and we are very very careful in how we handle this, so I know it can be done. Just not sure it can be done with my PIL...

Sorry to drip feed but we also have a field of sheep and lambs at the bottom of the garden over quite a low stone wall...another reason why we don't have dogs to visit very often...

Anyway, retired greyhounds do sound like lovely pets in general. I just don't want anything to go wrong.

AddToBasket Wed 13-May-15 22:55:30

I think this will be fine and I also thin you should consider accommodating you PILs wishes to have the dog with them. Greyhounds are super easygoing dogs and this one is likely to just sleep. For DC who are scared of dogs, a greyhound is perfect: very gentle. Much less work than a jack russell.

ShadyLadyT Wed 13-May-15 23:42:14

I guess I am mainly worried about the baby evoking some kind of 'prey' instinct in the dog.

The new plan is for FIL to drop off MIL, stay with the dog for two or three hours to gather strength to drive him and the dog home again (he is 81) then return on Saturday night with the dog and stay the night and take MIL home on Sunday morning. I don't mind the dog staying on Saturday night as both me and DP will be around to supervise. I do still wonder if it all might be a bit too hectic for the dog though.

AddToBasket Thu 14-May-15 14:42:07

Well, if he's 81 then definitely he should stay and the dog. Seems mad to do all that driving.

Scuttlebutter Thu 14-May-15 15:56:00

Greyhounds can definitely tell the difference between a fast moving small furry creature such as a rabbit and a small, naked human that doesn't go above 2 mph.

A short initial stay will give you all the chance to see how things go. If it helps, here are our house/children rules. This is what we reinforce whenever our DNs (or any other DC) visit, and in fact we mention all but the runniing/shouting to adult visitors too. Many people don't know about the sleeping with eyes open, for instance.

Never disturb a sleeping dog (and they may have their eyes open while they are sleeping).
Meals and food are only to be taken at the table - no snacking. No feeding of dogs from the table. Small children are hound height and can often get their food pinched.
Do not disturb the dogs while they are eating.
Children - no running or shouting in the house. No arm waving or sudden movements near the dogs.
All visitors (adults and DC). Before you open the front door, always check with us where the dogs are so we can ensure they cannot get out.

We already have our own rule in place that we never leave unattended food on worktops/tables/counters - greyhounds can easily reach them and countersurfing is one of their favourite sports.

I'd also recommend that FIL doesn't allow the dog to use the garden unattended if there is a low wall between you and the sheep - that is asking for trouble, though I'd say the same to any large dog owner about that.

ShadyLadyT Thu 14-May-15 22:03:34

Thank you again. Very helpful. All those rules have been noted. My 6 and 4 yr old DDs are quite sedate as little kids go so that's a good start. Also they will listen.

Well, the dog came and we met her. She was smaller than I had expected and for the couple of hours she was with us she was wearing a soft muzzle (they had one). She was very quiet and meek. I felt sorry for her, I think things must have seemed quite strange for her.

Anyway, she will be back on Saturday evening with FIL to stay the night and we will all (including her I expect) slowly feel our way. But I feel a bit less concerned that she is going to eat my baby now I have met her...However, my 6 yr old is so obviously terrified of her that we are going to have to go slowly in every way. They are certainly appealing dogs. My PIL are besotted with her, and I think she will have a loving home with them.

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