When your nanny family gets a puppy…tips for coping
Any nanny who is super excited for their nanny family’s plans to get a puppy either have some strong boundaries, or they’ve never actually looked after a puppy that’s not theirs before! Believe me, it’s a minefield, although with some careful negotiation it can be made a much more pleasant experience for all involved.
I clearly remember the day my nanny family brought Milo home. They called me to meet him, handed him to me, and he promptly fell asleep on my lap. I loved him instantly, but I did not enjoy the grenade he dropped in my otherwise blissful nanny existence. My nanny family are the considerate, generous sort. They duly discussed puppy care with me when I started the job, and double checked before picking their little bundle of joy from his adorable littermates. I thought I was fully prepared to supervise a hairy third charge, but I was wrong…
My charges are at school all day, so theoretically I have plenty of time to look after a pup. I was quite happy to take on the extra duties like dog walking and house training, but obviously this is something you should discuss before the pup arrives. It’s not a given that all nannies will take to dogs as they do to children. Despite having plenty of time I also have cooking to do, laundry, and errands to run though…none of which are easy when a puppy needs letting out into the garden every twenty minutes. Not only that, you need to be sure the puppy has actually done their business, otherwise the minute you bring them back into the house they piddle on the floor. This stuff was all consuming! Every time I left the kitchen (the only room with a wipe clean floor) he would cry and cry. I reached the end of my tether pretty quickly!
A few things which helped:
- Boundaries. I can’t stress enough how important it is to discuss what you’re comfortable doing and what you’re not with your bosses – about everything. If you are surprised with a pup you knew nothing about one Monday morning, then you need to work harder to implement boundaries with your nanny family. This is not the puppy’s fault.
- Communication. Keeping an open line of communication with my bosses and letting both of them know if I was finding things tough was really helpful. By bringing potential solutions to them as well as problems, it showed them I wanted to fix things instead of complaining endlessly. Discuss everything in advance! I’m fairly open, and have already let them know that as much as I like Milo Dog, I won’t be raising another puppy here.
- Barriers. Plenty of baby gates and doors to corral the pup to wipe clean flooring, and so it doesn’t follow you everywhere. That being said, carrying the puppy in a sling can be super helpful in the early days for acclimatising him to his new home and strange people. I have vivid memories of folding laundry with Milo asleep on my front! Baby-wearing for pups – this nanny had it covered!
- Enrichment activities. Even though this dog doesn’t belong to you it will pay off massively to educate yourself on activities to keep the pup busy and mentally worn out. A tired puppy is a happy puppy (and one which won’t nip at your feet or bother the children too much because it’s bored).
- Develop a good relationship with the pup. To this day all the dogs I’ve ever worked with have associated the way I call their name to something wonderful happening (usually chicken or ham appears). Be the bearer of good things, and the influence you hold will be powerful. This is especially useful when one of your nanny children is screeching that the dog won’t leave them alone, and you can easily call them off.
- Socialising and thinking ahead. I knew that in future I wanted this little guy to be able to do our day to day things with us, which meant thinking ahead to things I wanted him to be comfortable doing. I took him on the bus, socialised him with other dogs, and made him watch the hoover over and over again during his crucial socialisation window. I did this independently of all the socialisation activities my employers did with him because their life on the weekends was a little different to mine during the week with the children.
- Training. Even if you’re not a dog trainer extraordinaire, there are plenty of fun tricks to be found on YouTube which you’ll be able to teach the baby pooch with your charges. Bonding time for you and the kids, enrichment time for the dog.
- Routine. For your own sanity, develop a routine with the dog and confirm it with your boss. Walk and feed the dog at roughly the same time every day and soon you’ll be able to predict things like when he needs the loo, or when he’s about to have a crazy half hour. This removes unpredictability from your day, which when you’re chasing kiddos, is definitely welcome.
- Remember, he’s not your dog. I have some very strong opinions about how I like dogs to behave, it took me far too long to realise that none of that matters to my nanny family. It’s important that you pay attention here, and drop the rope over inconsequential things. There are lots of things which you might worry about, but ultimately they are not your responsibility.
Milo is very much the dad’s dog, they’re the only men in the house after all! That being said, he knows the sound of me chopping red peppers (his favourite) and will come and sit patiently and wait for the offcuts, he knows a bunch of tricks thanks to YouTube and a massive bag of treats, and he often comes and visits me in my room on the weekend. We have a decent relationship, and he’s a good dog and he loves the children, which at the end of the day is all that matters.
Written by Kitty Formston, a live in nanny in London.
Image Credit: What Kitty Did