This is just the start of the story of beautiful Labradoodle Byrne and the new baby.
When they brought their baby home just three days ago, Byrne barked frantically at him and they didn’t know what to do. In desperation they phoned me but I couldn’t see them until today.
I suggested they got someone else to have Byrne for a couple of days until I could come.
He came back home just ten minutes before I arrived.
For the dog to be relaxed around the baby requires him to be driven by different emotions. Currently fear, arousal and probably a mix of other uncomfortable things are flooding him – it’s been proved that dogs feel jealousy. Scolding and commands, due to natural human anxiety, can only make things worse.
Just home with a new baby is not an easy time for very worried people to be calm..
Helping Byrne to feel at ease will be a gradual process – a gradated or incremental plan – aiming at keeping him (on lead of course) within his comfort threshold all the time.
We worked with a clicker and the baby asleep in his pram, occasionally making little noises as babies do. Byrne looked at the pram, the man clicked. As Byrne looked around the man fed him.
The dog was fine.
Next we took it to the next stage. With Byrne out of the way in the garden, mum picked up her new baby and settled down to feed him – well away from the door.
Byrne was brought in. While the baby was still, quiet and feeding, the dog was fairly relaxed even quite near to him. He was repeatedly clicked and rewarded.
We then removed Byrne from the room again while the lady lifted her baby against her shoulder. He was brought back in.
This was too much for him. He began to bark.
I feel he’d actually done very well indeed for his first day, particularly as the original encounter a couple of days ago had been so distressing for him.
An incremental plan and the new baby
In order to build Byrne’s confidence and acceptance of the baby they need to work a step at a time. This is how I see these steps at the moment, but some more may need to be added. Each step has to be achieved before embarking on the next. Calm with……..
- Baby in pram in the same room – making sounds
- Baby being fed
- Quiet baby in seat and not held.
- Doll held in arms and moved about and talked to – using a doll to mimic the lady’s behaviour with the baby. It could even be dressed in used baby clothes.
- Quiet baby being held in arms – maybe the man holding him initially
- Noisy baby in pram
- Noisy baby in seat
- Noisy baby in arms
Whenever baby moves or Byrne is aware of him, they should give the dog food. The new baby triggers chicken!
It is vital, if Byrne’s emotions towards the new baby are to be resolved, that positive methods are used. It’s too tempting to discipline and try to teach the dog what he must NOT do instead of what he should do.
If it were a snake and not a baby, for instance, and if Byrne could die if he touched it, then there may be justification in sudden shouting or punishment because they would want him to hate and to avoid snakes forever. The opposite is the case here with a new baby.
Too many changes
Poor Byrne is unhappy if not in the same room as the young couple, so will no doubt complain behind the gate.
He sleeps in their bedroom – and this is where the baby’s crib now is. He may need to sleep somewhere else and this could make him unhappy too.
Hindsight always being so easy, this is a good example of where thorough preparation can prepare the dog. Weeks before the arrival of the new baby Byrne could have been introduced to being left behind gates and sleeping somewhere else at night. He could now feel pushed out just when the opposite is needed.
This has all come as a very sad surprise for the young couple who adore their beautiful and very well-trained dog and assumed he would be fine.
New unforseen challenges will no doubt occur but overall, if they can be patient and never push ahead too fast, Byrne should learn accept the new baby.
The story has just begun.
Four weeks have now gone by. Byrne is back on their bed again at night, peaceful, happy and calm while the lady feeds her beautiful month-old baby.
From email three weeks later: Things are going better with Byrne each day.