September 2, 2015

Issues

Posted in: Dog

The other day Toby sat right up against Thomas on his play mat and let Thomas bang him over and over again on the head. Toby stayed there, he didn’t seem to care. It made me laugh because Toby has come a long way. From being totally scared of Thomas to always wanting to be by his side, he has really done a 180.

When I was pregnant, we thought the transition from a family of 3 to 4 would be pretty easy for Toby since he is such a relaxed pooch. However, Toby wasn’t too keen on Thomas at the start which surprised us as we didn’t expect there to be any issues. It took a few months for Toby to get comfortable, adapt to new routines and learn how to behave around Thomas.

Toby’s behaviour made me realise that you can’t rely on a dog’s personality or breed to predict how they will behave in new situations or with new people. Some dogs will be totally nonchalant with a new baby while others can have issues. Toby had issues and these are the ones we have come across over the last 6 months:

The smell of Thomas 

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Toby didn’t like that there was a new human smell in the house. The rooms Thomas had spent time in, Toby would go in smelling the air like crazy, showing signs that he wasn’t happy. To get him used to Thomas’ smell, as Toby sleeps in our bed, we took some of Thomas’ clothes into bed with us. This definitely helped him understand that Thomas’ smell was now part of the family’s scent and not a smell he needs to feel threatened by.

Toby not being the centre of attention

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One thing I found hard at the beginning was feeling guilty about giving Toby less attention. If I had my time again I would change the amount of attention I give to Toby while I was pregnant. That way Toby wouldn’t have had to deal with so much change at once. I would have cut down his walks from 2 to 1, I would have given him less cuddles and affection during the day and I would have said, ‘Good boy!’ to Andrew a lot so that Toby knew this comment wasn’t just for him. The amount of times Toby got up from where ever he was and come to my side when I said, ‘Good boy,’ to Thomas, my gosh!

Toby growling at Thomas

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At the beginning, when Thomas made baby noises Toby would growl at him, he seemed upset and confused. We tried to curb his distress by associating the sounds Thomas made with treats. When Thomas cried, we gave Toby some cheese right after. We did this until Toby understood that Thomas’ sounds didn’t mean anything bad was going to happen.

Toby too close to Thomas

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As Toby became more comfortable around Thomas, he would spend more time closer to him. Even though we think Toby is a very intelligent dog and wouldn’t intentionally hurt Thomas, he is still a dog and doesn’t understand many human rules. One rule being you don’t sit on babies. It was (and still is) so important that we didn’t leave Thomas and Toby together unattended. There were times where Toby would sit on Thomas, walk over him or plonk his head on Thomas’ head. We had to teach Toby not to do these things by saying a firm, ‘No’ whenever he got too close to Thomas. When he listened to us say ‘No’ and he moved away, he got a treat. Also, when Toby sat a good distance away from Thomas, we would reward him.

Thomas grabbing Toby

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Thomas is becoming more mobile and poor Toby is getting grabbed and pulled from all directions. When Thomas is old enough to understand how to behave properly with Toby, we will teach him how to be gentle. But for now, we can’t do much except teach Toby to deal with it. We have been getting Toby used to different types of touches. I’ll gently grab, poke and pull Toby and when he reacts I say, ‘What was that?’ and reward him with cheese. By doing this, when Thomas grabs him, I say, ‘What was that?’ and he will associate that question with cheese and tolerate Thomas’ interactions and not get angry.

Toby taking Thomas’ Toys

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Toby is a toy lover and funnily enough, dog and baby toys look the same. Toby was having a field day with the amount of toys he found lying around. We had to quickly stop him from playing and slobbering over all of them. We did this with cheese, of course! When Toby went for Thomas’ toys we would say a stern, ‘No,’ and when he walked away from it we rewarded him with cheese. We did this for a few weeks until he understood which toys didn’t belong to him.

There are many factors you need to consider when your pooch starts living with your baby. All dogs are different, some won’t have a problem with their new family member while others may. Here are some other factors you may want to consider before and after baby comes home:

  • If your dog isn’t too good at listening to commands, practice before the baby arrives. It’s a good idea for them to understand sit, wait and no
  • If you have a Furball who is full of energy and doesn’t know how to channel this energy or displays bad habits you are concerned about, it’s a good idea while you are pregnant to try and fix them. This can be done at home with training or you can get professional help
  • Set boundaries before the baby arrives if you don’t want your dog going into baby’s nursery or parts of the house
  • Don’t forget about your pooch when the baby arrives! You don’t need to give them any special attention or more toys, you just need to maintain their routine. That means taking them for their daily walks and continuing to be a good pet owner
  • And get help if your pooch shows aggressive behaviour towards your baby