Rottweiller Agitated by New Baby
Rottie Koda is a very fit 8-years old and the baby is under 6lbs in weight. You can see from the panting the stressed state Koda is in. He only relaxed very briefly in all the time I was there – four hours.
Because he is such a well-trained, obedient dog they hadn’t considered him having difficulty accepting the baby. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but things would now be a lot easier with preparation over several weeks or months.
Koda has to keep the new baby in sight all the time. Fortunately he is able to stay temporarily with the lady’s parents, and they are taking baby around there for just an hour every day.
Koda wants to put his big head under the pram hood. He wants to jump on the pram and on the occasion he succeeded it was to give the baby a big slobbery lick. His intentions may well be good, but the sheer weight of his head would be several times that of baby and the natural anxiety of his humans isn’t lost on Koda. With a small dog they wouldn’t need to worry too much.
Not only does he want to get at baby, he constantly barks at family members as though to tell them to give him the baby. Barking to get things he wants has always worked in the past – in fact it is one downside to a well-trained dog being taught to bark for things. Koda goes frantic when baby is picked up. When baby is taken out of the room or back home, Koda is almost in meltdown.
I believe that this is a sort of resource-guarding issue, the resource being the baby.
I imagine that in the past, Koda being their ‘baby’, anything exciting (noisy or smelly or cuddly) that has been brought home has been for him. I wonder whether he feels baby belongs to him and it seems like he is increasingly frustrated because despite all the barking nobody will give baby to him.
Quite a few changes need to be made in Koda’s own behaviour and his family’s behaviour towards him. As he’s used to calling the tune, he expects his persistent barking to get what he wants – the baby. He is obsessed, poor dog.
With a bit of experimentation we worked out a plan, stopping negatives like scolding and using clicker and reward instead. We had Koda on long lead.
With baby quiet in his pram, Koda began to realise that if he pulled the lead tight to touch the pram with his nose he could go no further. There was no scolding. As soon as the lead relaxed click and treat. He was learning! He was also learning for himself that lying down was much more rewarding than pulling towards baby or barking.
Soon Koda was responding even when the baby was crying in the pram. He began to find it harder when the young lady stood up and went towards the pram, so we worked on that. Then she touched the pram. Then she touched baby. Still we clicked and treated. When she lifted the baby, Koda was well over his threshold and no longer reponsive to clicks and treats, so the lady put baby back. We need to break it down into even smaller increments.
I suggest that they start their routine with a doll wrapped in baby-smelling blankets before going on to the real thing.
With patience I’m sure Koda will begin to lose interest in the baby and they will be able to settle down to normal family life with their lovely baby and beautiful dog.