We need a plan for integrating Border Terrier Ollie happily back into a new family life which now includes a baby who cries, grunts, smells interesting, that is carried and who is cuddled and kissed – like Ollie himself used to be.
I originally visited Ollie over four years ago, long before I started my ‘stories’ on this website.
His young lady owner was in hospital for a few weeks with her baby and her parents had been looking after Ollie. A couple of days ago he was dropped back home.
Ollie was very uneasy, especially when the baby cried or was cuddled and they feared Ollie might jump on him or nip him. Their anxiety will have been picked up by Ollie, only increasing his stress. So, the parents had taken him back home with them again. They realised they needed help.
Ollie must get used to the baby and the baby must be kept safe.
Yesterday, in advance of my visit, he was brought back again. When I arrived baby was asleep in his pram and Ollie was quietly behind the kitchen gate which led off the sitting room. All was peaceful.
I brought Ollie into the room on a longish lead, keeping it as loose as possible.Each time he looked in the direction of the pram, I treated him. The lady then lifted her baby out and sat down with him – and treats for Ollie. Each time the baby stirred or Ollie looked at him, the lady gave Ollie a treat. Ollie’s lead stopped just short of allowing him to reach baby. Everyone could relax.
We hooked the lead over something so that no emotions could be transmitted down it – and then baby started to cry. Ollie didn’t like this at all and gave some loud ‘yips’, lunging in the direction of the baby. As the lead was only attached to a thin collar, this unfortunately will have been very uncomfortable to his neck.
Before they can go further they need a harness so that Ollie never associates baby with any discomfort. Only nice things must happen for Ollie around the baby. He was reasonably relaxed so long as baby wasn’t crying. I gave him a Stagbar to chew whilst the baby was awake but not crying and he chewed it fervently like he was shutting out baby noises – see the picture! Our strategy is to walk him back to the kitchen if something obviously bothers him like when baby cries, and to work slowly. No scolding. Encouragement only. It was quite clear when he was worried as he would lift a paw and lick his lips, so they need to watch for these signs.
The couple were very surprised at the progress we had made in such a short time. Fortunately the parents live nearby and can take him back home so that he can be exposed for an hour or so at a time while the hustband is at home also, until a crying baby is just a normal part of his life – something to be ignored.
Ollie was himself, until recently, their baby!