1. I am SO imperfect. Because I was a new mom who didn’t ever do a good job of figuring out how to handle carrying a tiny baby with two hands and a diaper bag and hold on to a dog leash (my handsfree leash was not usuable at this time- I was too big from pregnancy!), I actually opted to have my husband be my ears in public for awhile. This is NOT recommended for maintaining SD public access skills, folks. I should have spent more time trying to work through it. Praise God, Callie girl is a better dog than I am a SD handler.
2. I thought I could teach her to alert me to the baby’s cries. It didn’t work past the first week or two. Why? Because there was no “off” switch. He cried. I picked him up. I fed him. I changed him. I rocked him. I sang to him. I loved on him. Pud still cried. After awhile, she and Bandit just learned to ignore it. Unless he started crying when he woke up from a nap, and then it was 50/50 that they would tell me. So I became even more hands-on and practiced even more attachment parenting practices than we originally intended. For Pud’s benefit, so I don’t have any regrets!
3. Skip the diaper bag. Go straight for the backpack. And use the dog’s backpack, too. We didn’t even have to carry bottles, for crying out loud, but tiny new babies require so many contingency supplies: diapers, wipes, blankets, bibs, burp cloths (we especially needed lots of these, with Pud’s GERD).
4. Skip the baby carrier carseat. Can you imagine trying to carry this heavy thing and… even worse… being the dog next to the swinging heavy thing? I am glad we skipped these (Pud was a big baby from the get-go, so I knew I wasn’t going to use it long enough to invest), because poor Callie got hit in the head/face/back more than once with other baby stuff. Accidentally, of course! Go for soft baby carrier that can be opened and closed quickly in public. A sling would have been the best thing, but I didn’t have one when he was little… if there is a “next one”, this will be item numero uno on the registry.
5. No one will ruin your service dog’s manners like your baby… if you let him. Free treats when he climbs up and gets the whole box out and opens it. Dropped food at the table- or not even dropped- handed down with glee! “Clicks” of reinforcement when the kiddo finds the clicker and presses the button repeatedly until Mama gets it back. Squeals of delight and lots of petting when the dogs woof in excitement, prolonging the attempts to calm everyone down to quietness again…. the list goes on. Praise God we trained the dogs before the baby came. We constantly have to go back and brush up, like we did even before he came, but I can’t imagine trying to get them up to any solid level of professionalism with the baby’s “help”. More power to those of you who manage to do so successfully!
On the other hand:
Having a service dog in tow means people tend to give you and your baby more space and leave him alone (unless said people are dog and baby crazy, and then… I’m sorry).