Days out in NL with your dog and toddler

Before we get into the Dutch destinations and activities, a little background preface….

Did you know, statistics suggest many dogs will be rehomed after a baby enters the fold? Even the most committed dog guardians can find themselves questioning their dog’s future in the home once cradling their first child. Now, let’s please avoid assumptions and passing judgement on new parents. When it comes to parenthood, it really is baptism by fire. Nobody truly knows what it entails until they experience it. I jokingly salute my pre-natal self for thinking I could even compare or comprehend how sacred sleep really is…

When a parent to both the two-and-four-legged kind, you’re often stretched to meet the needs of both dependents, your dog perhaps drawing the short straw, especially in that first year . It’s not a nice truth but nevertheless, candid it is. As a professional dog trainer, I struggled like heck to maintain my dog’s daily structure in our post-partum period. My shiny new identity as a Mother took over and I am so proud our training paved the way to our success. During pregnancy, I made a promise to myself and to our German Shepherd that no matter what, we would continue adventuring with our new addition. Even though our lives would be changing, I would continue taking hiim out to those cool places as often as I could. Just as we successfully introduced our awesome Ninja of a cat (Zoro) all those years ago (you can read all about our feline family addition here) we would prevail with our son. I imagined the days with our boy and dog, adventuring and exploring together. I wanted my child to grow up with a dog at his side, to know what it means to have a dog as a member of the family. Equally, I wanted my dog to feel comfortable and confident in the presence of my child, blissfully ignorant to the tantrums, a gentle giant when connecting and to know that I will advocate whenever needed. Our training preparation began the day those double blue line appeared…Thanks to my career choice, I had a good idea of what challenges might lay ahead with a baby on the way and left nothing to chance when it came to my boy’s interactions. In fact, I created a specialized training programme with the aim of passing this tacit knowledge on to parents and parents-to-be. Many of my NeroNatal clients hire me when they find out they are pregnant, providing plenty of prep time to make it a fair and easier transition once baby makes their debut. Others experience significant behavioral change in their dog after birth and are at a loss of how to help rebuild confidence and relationship. Some realize that their child and dog’s relationship is far from ideal and in the odd case, potentially dangerous. I do not mess around when it comes to kids and canines. A dog is NOT a baby and a baby is NOT a dog. I preach how parents must set clear boundaries between the two, supported by strong foundations so we can in turn, have expectations. Predictable patterns, creating mutual respect between two different species and plenty of reward based set-ups are at the core of my approach.  

Anyway, back to the reason behind this blog entry: it’s been a long minute since my Dog Days Out: NL blog entry. Much has changed since then, the most significant of which (obviously) being the birth of my son in 2020 – a time as I am sure you will recall we were in the midst of the Covid pandemic that changed the world as we know it. Our son’s first year of life was spent mostly in lockdown, a seemingly endless chapter… Admittedly, I certainly found some peace in life slowing down during my fourth trimester but after recovery, I craved nothing more than to get out and about with my boys. Teaching my GSD to settle at my feet whilst I nursed my babe and flank the pram whilst on the move were all pre-trained skills that required tweaking almost monthly. Once my son started being more mobile and taking those first steps, our outings changed format again. A word to the wise – just as you’ve cracked the code of how to breastfeed in public or walk in a relaxed manner with your dog and baby, it all changes, your child hits another milestone and you’re back in the trenches adjusting your well rehearsed rituals.  😉

So without further ado, here we have it, a selection of things to do in The Netherlands…for dogs and todds. 🙂

KASTEEL BREDERODE

Can I just saw how much I adore this quaint yet royal ruin? It captivates my imagination and feeds the history geek within, plus it’s just up the road from us. You can read more about our first visit to Brederode in another blog post here: Dog days out: The Netherlands

How beautifully scenic is it for a boy and his dog to roam the old rooms of a 13th century castle?! I love how much freedom they have. Just to be crystal castle clear, I mean we have lots of space to move and play. Your dog must (legally) be on-leash but you can afford to be lenient with the length, provided you have decent recall training in place and are mindful of other visitors.

Tips:

There are multiple bridges to cross the moat and a winding, spiral staircase if you wish to climb the turret reach the top of the castle. If you have a large breed of dog, they should be pretty confident on their feet to conquer these challenges. There is a cute little cafe situated just before the entrance to the castle where you can grab a drink and light snack. They also have castle themed playroom within the walls and a dress-up box for the kids near the gate – both of which were a big hit with my three year old!

CAMPING IN NOORD BRABANT

We all loved camping on this 2.3 hectacre of woodland. We found Sam via Campspace and thoroughly enjoyed our two night stay. This gem boasted not only a private plot to pitch your tent but an open fire (you could collect your own firewood from the forest floor) a clean compost toilet a short walk from camp, a herb garden and perhaps best of all, a full scale climbing and adventure course! We had a BLAST and spent hours on this impressive invention after breakfast in the morning and before dinner in the evening. I highly recommend this place for those who like a physical challenge. Sam is a wonderful host, lovingly passionate about her project and helpful since the moment of contact. Our dog and toddler adored the whole concept of camping and it was the perfect way to not only connect with nature but as a family unit. Fancy checking it out? Here is the link…you’re welcome! 😉 

Tips:

There is a supermarket not far from where you will be staying – a short drive so if like us, you forgot many things, you can always jump in the car and collect what you need. (Yeahhhh, I hear you seasoned campers sigh but hey, this was my first time.) Take a long line with you if your dog is prone to following their nose. We took one with us but Kygo ended up spending almost the entire time off-leash. There is wildlife (birds and rabbits of course) and when we stayed, a flock of sheep were residing opposite the front entrance. You are surrounded by a small fence but if a dog was very determined or highly prey driven, I would want management in place. If you have any doubts in your dogs ability to listen when things get interesting, don’t risk it.

BOAT RENTAL IN HAARLEM

Greenjoy is a wonderful company! Having used them many times since our arrival in The Netherlands, I love how easy and straight forward their booking process is. You simply reserve your electric boat online and provided with a code and instructions so you can activate the vessel yourself. No need for queuing or interactions, just get in and go! They offer a discounted rate on week day mornings too and they welcome four paws aboard!

Tips:

Take plenty of dog treats, a bag for rubbish if you fancy lunching on the boat, an umbrella for shade, a potty for your toddler and note that from pavement to boat, it is quite the jump – in terms of height, not distance. Kygo had no problem jumping into the boat but I had to really engage him to get him to willingly jump up and out – much to the delight of the folk next to us! He was such a brave boy and was handsomely praised for his launch.

DIERENPARK AMERSFOORT

This was Kygo’s third expedition to this particular zoo. He was far less phased by the animals compared to our first experience (understandably, it’s A LOT for a dog to process.) Making this trip with a mobile toddler was definitely interesting. When my son wanted to head towards the big cats, my dog put the brakes on. Having a second handler or parent present makes it much easier. I did not want to drag my dog towards an area he was uncomfortable nor did I want to deny my son his desire to see the lions – after all, we’re at the zoo. So we found a happy medium and Dad took little man to see the ”Simba’s” whilst I stayed with my dog rewarding him for less hesitations towards the fierce felines and honoring his instincts to maintain space. 

Tips:

Be mindful of your intimate space when moving through the zoo. There are many excited children moving fast and as it was fairly busy during our visit, lots of human ”traffic jams” where your dog will likely need extra guidance. Think of a close heel through a crowd of people, with ice cream and food on the floor, flamingo’s to your left and giraffes to your right.  Oh and if you have a large dog and need to do a toddler potty run or nappy change, it can be quite tight in some of the toilets so again, a second handler comes in very useful! We didn’t get many photos this time round as we were too busy tending to the needs of our 18 month old. We will be heading back again later this year so will update this post after our visit. 😉

 

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