Unpredictable Aggression. New Baby, New Dog.

 

Unpredictable aggression?

Unpredictable only because they can’t see inside Banjo’s head. If they could, and if stress was visible, they might see a little pressure cooker in there; they would see how over the past five months or so things have simply become too much for him.

Unpredictable also because they don’t realise how small a final trigger has to be to make the pressure cooker blow.

Frenchie Banjo is eighteen months old. He has what sounds like the perfect life, full of people and action.

A new baby – and another dog.

Banjo lives with a young couple and their large family – three generations. There are two or three children. With the couple’s baby born five months ago, Banjo was now no longer their number-one baby.

Unpredictable due to stressShortly after this another family member moved back home with his one-year-old Labrador, Ellie. So now Banjo was no longer number-one dog either.

Life now became a lot more arousing with endless play. Banjo carries on long after Ellie would like to stop.

Then Ellie came into season. They were kept apart, causing Banjo great frustration.

Things now escalated with Banjo growling and flying at and grabbing the sleeve of a family member who was playing excitedly with one of the young children. He became aggressive when she was playing tug with Ellie.

Banjo had got on very well with the cat but now was going for him too.

He was becoming increasingly possessive around chews and food.

Banjo attacked the man’s foot.

It came to a head a few days ago when Banjo was on the floor by the grandfather. Beside him was a chew – a chew that Ellie had left. The man moved his foot towards it and Banjo flew at him.

At that moment this small act pushed him over the edge. He would have bitten repeatedly had the young lady owner not grabbed his collar.

Another contributing factor will be that with each show of aggression the little dog has been misunderstood. It’s understandably been met with a strong reaction. Meeting aggression with aggression can only make things worse.

The vet recommended they re-home Banjo. The thought of this upsets them greatly.

Vets only have what the owners tell them about a dog’s behaviour and what they can see in the unnatural environment of the surgery. A good behaviourist will go to the dog’s home and see the whole situation in context. It is impossible for owners to relay a clear picture of what is happening. They are too close to it.

Going to the little dog’s home and seeing him and the whole set-up for myself, I believe that his continually topped-up stress levels are the cause of his behaviour.

Reducing stress is the place to start.

Banjo won’t understand games like ‘Peep-Bo’ and ‘BOO!’. If someone is playing excitedly with one of the small children or Ellie, instinctively he may try to break up what he sees as ‘potential conflict’. Similarly, when someone dangles the baby he may become concerned. A third dog will split up worrying behaviour between two other dogs.

Banjo stares. Banjo watches.

Baby’s dad buries his face into the baby’s neck to kiss him and Banjo growls. After all, if a dog grabs another dog by the neck, this can be potential trouble. Is he intervening?

They will learn to understand Banjo better. This includes learning to read read him – though a Frenchie’s face may be a bit harder to read than some. Staring with hard eyes will be watched for. Stillness can be a warning.

Looking at things through Banjo’s eyes without our own human interpretation they can look quite different. He’s not an ‘aggressive’ dog at all. He is simply responding in an aggressive manner to things that confuse and upset him in some way.

Work to do! They will work on Banjo’s possessive behaviour around food and chews. They will be doing more to enrich his life. Getting his brain to work and letting him work for some of his meals by foraging and hunting will help him to adjust. They will control the play between the two dogs. 

Unpredictable?

Possibly Banjo’s behaviour is, actually, quite predictable. Too much has changed in the Frenchie’s life. The baby. Another dog. Too much uncontrolled play. Ellie coming into season. Add to this people coming and going. Excited play. Excited homecomings. People winding him up before walks…..

Life has changed in another big way recently with poor Banjo no longer sharing their bed as he has done for the past eighteen months. Might he feel pushed out? He has never shown any aggression whatsoever with baby but they have done this on advice because the dog is ‘unpredictable’. It’s a shame because it was a good baby-bonding opportunity but it’s always best to err on the safe side.

My prescription? A big dose of much less excitement, more quiet and more calmness from all the humans around Banjo. Learn to read him for warning signs of stress – and stop what they are doing if it’s troubling him. Then work on getting him to feel differently about whatever it is.

A calmer dog is unlikely to show unpredictable aggression. A calmer dog will be a lot more tolerant. There are no guarantees, but with work and with the whole family pulling together, Banjo should hopefully get back to being his old self.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Banjo because neither the dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’, finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where aggression are concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Preparing Dogs for Baby Twins

Three miniature schnauzers

Dinky, Arthur and Pippin

The three Miniature Schnauzers have been the centre of the couple’s family life for years – the oldest, Albert, is now ten years old. The little dogs’ lives are soon to be turned upside down because they are expecting not one, but two babies in October.

The dogs really are the sweetest, most gentle little things, each with their own traits. Albert is probably the most sensible – he is the oldest. Nine-year-old Dinky, the girl, is a little more sensitive. Pippin is the youngest at just three and more challenging than the other two. He likes to be ahead of the others and wants to control what they have and do – which is no problem. They give in to him.

It’s because of Pippin that I was called. There has been a very recent incident, particularly worrying with the coming arrivals in mind. He nipped a toddler. The child was sitting on the floor at the dog minder’s house where the dogs stay from time to time, ‘doing nothing’. The lady and gentleman were in the room with the baby grandchild.  We don’t know where the other dogs were, but for some reason (we will never know what), Pippin just came running into the room and bit the child through its nappy, resulting in a bruise. One could speculate. Maybe a toy was involved. It was certain that at the time Pippin was already highly excited and stressed with a lot of comings and goings to the house and he’s not used to children. What the trigger was we will never know, but it was certainly completely out of his usual character.

Miniature schnauzers sitting on sofa

Arthur in front, Pippin then Dinky

The minders are fortunately still happy to look after the dogs and say they will keep them and their grandchild apart now. Pippin apparently was following the child around ‘quite happily’, or so they thought. Perhaps the incident was over a toy. Anyway, I suggest the couple carefully weans him into wearing a soft muzzle just in case, so nobody need then worry.

They have about four months to get their dog used to living a rather different kind of life. The couple will stop stirring them up unnecessarily with things such as feeding into Arthur’s toy-chasing obsession which winds Pippin up too, not pumping them up with excitement when it’s food time or when they come home from work.

There will be lots of visitors after they have had the babies, so from now on people coming to the house should be less exciting. They can gradually tone down their own greetings over time so it’s not a shock. Callers will become more mundane if they don’t take too much notice of the dogs initially – so they need training too. Sometimes the dogs are so hyped one may pee.

Several things that happen and cause no problems whatsoever now need to gradually change before the babies come. They have plenty of time. It’s so much better than several cases I have been to who haven’t considered how their dog might feel and its extreme reaction has taken them completely by surprise.

They can buy a puppy pen and teach the dogs that this is their special den, a place where only good things happen. When the babies arrive either dogs or babies can be in the pen – a perfect way to keep them safe and the dogs included in family life.

Looking ahead to when the babies are in high chairs with food (and dropping it deliberately!) they can already start teaching the dogs to keep their distance while people eat.

In the car the dogs won’t be able to jump freely all over the back seat when the babies are on it, so best to get them used to being contained behind a barrier in the back now.

There are plenty of YouTube clips of babies crying and screaming. They can expose the dogs to short sessions, starting soft, pairing crying with food so the sound of babies screaming becomes good news! They can do silly baby talk to a cushion or toy – feeding the dogs at the same time (that would make a good YouTube clip itself!). They can introduce the dogs to the smell of babies. Whenever the dogs see, hear or smell babies – the ‘food bar’ opens.

Bringing the twins home can be planned to avoid easily predictable problems. The dogs will have been staying with the dog minders for a while beforehand, so the babies will already be home. My advice to the couple is try to choose a time when infants are asleep and quiet, safely in the dog pen or behind a gate if it looks like the dogs might be territorial over the pen – so they aren’t being cuddled and so that the dogs can have the couple’s full attention. They should be given time to calm down before everyone goes to the babies. Then the ‘food bar’ opens.

It is very likely that the dogs will take two noisy, crying, sniffling, grunting and deliciously smelling infant humans entering their lives in their stride as so many dogs do, but preparing these dogs for baby twins after years of being the centre of attention is kindest on them – and safest all round.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Pippin, Dinkie and Arthur, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Baby Grandson and Their Much Loved Dog

Springer Spaniel gets excited and stressed around the babySpringer Spaniel Danny gets very excited around the five month old baby. He may pull off one of baby’s socks (he actually ate one and it passed through!). He has also grabbed the little one’s leg.

The baby is held high, out of his reach, and this merely makes Danny want to jump up to get to him.  This then leads to Danny being told off and pushed away. Although he shows no aggression at all, only fascination and maybe a little anxiety, the baby’s mother in particular is understandably anxious.

To banish their precious dog?

This is quite a common a situation that I go to from time to time, that of a dog and baby and particularly that of grandparents. The grandparents have a dog and their son or daughter is understandably anxious about bringing their baby to visit.

The grandparents are torn between banishing their beloved dog which seems like betrayal (he’s a family member after all) or being less involved with their new grandchild.  Danny sleeps in the couple’s bedroom and he is never far from their side. They can’t simply banish him and nor would they want to.

A dog den

I have four dogs and have had four young grandchildren myself in the past few years. It was easier because of the way I arrange my environment. My dogs are used to being behind a barrier for periods of time (with five dogs and just one large room I find a ‘dog den’ is necessary). I simply kept dogs and baby separate unless under close supervision. I let them in one dog at a time and only if the dog was relaxed and easy with this.

My dogs gradually simply accepted the babies and toddlers from a safe place and nobody had to be anxious.

8-year-old Springer Spaniel Danny is more sensitive than one might think. You can see that having his photo taken, above left, made him uneasy. He is very good with children, but babies are something he’s not used to. If his people are showing anxiety too, that will be adding to his unease.

Associating baby with good things

This is another situation where the environment needs to be managed while the work is done. A gate is needed and Danny gradually introduced to a place behind it where good things happen – food and toys.

If baby is one side of the gate and Danny the other, everyone can relax. Danny can then be desensitised. When Danny is in the same room, he should be on a long loose lead. He must not pick up on any anxiety.

Every sign of relaxing, looking away from the baby or settling should be rewarded. If the baby moves or makes a noise, Danny should be fed. The baby should be associated with only good things. Every small indication of calm from Danny should be reinforced.

In order to prepare him, Danny should be introduced to short times the other side of the gate for several days before the baby next comes, so the two aren’t associated in his mind. Then, instead of coming just once a week for maybe a day, for a while the baby should be brought several times a week for a short visit so as not to put too much stress on Danny.

Given more meetings the baby should become less of a novelty.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Danny, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good – most particularly where the safety of young children and babies is concerned. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

A Dog and a New Baby

WestieAlfieNine-year-old Westie Alfie’s predictable life has been turned on its head – the couple’s first grandchild has arrived on the scene.

The new baby grunts, snuffles and cries. The family that previously saved all their cuddles for him, now instead cuddle and hold this strange-smelling alien – an animal maybe?

Alfie is fixated with small prey, and squirrels live in the trees by their home. He spends much of his day on ‘squirrel-watch’ when not watching out for the disembodied human heads that pass behind the fence at the back of the garden.

Alfie barks and he barks. Squirrels and people always go away when he barks. It works in the end. But barking doesn’t work in driving away this new being – and it’s not for lack of trying.

If the people don’t do something, they will lose out on visits with their baby granddaughter whose mother is understandably concerned. They initially tried ‘comforting’ and spoiling Alfie which made no difference at all, and now they scold and put him out of the room.

Alfie is part of their family and they don’t want to exclude him. They don’t like to see him so distressed.

Actually, little Alfie normally calls the tune and this has been no problem at all – until now.  He now needs to dance to their tune a little! He needs to cooperate willingly and be taught happy things to do that are incompatible with barking at baby.

We chopped up small bits of cheese.

Alfie morphed into a focussed and willing little dog when he realised there was something in it for him! You’d never believe that he hadn’t been asked to do things for years. He loved it.

They have foundation work to put in before actually working with the baby. The brainwork, the exercises and the food rewards will together help him to associate baby with good stuff.

He also needs to be prevented from so much ‘go-away’ barking in general. They need to keep him away from squirrel-watch (which he ‘enjoys’) and boundary barking as far as possible, and when he does break into barking they will deal with it immediately in a positive fashion. After all, barking at the baby isn’t so very different.

We have a plan broken into small increments to get him accepting the baby, starting with a crying doll that they have. He shouldn’t be pushed beyond what he can cope with. It takes as long as it takes. The baby lives nearby and can be introduced very slowly for very short periods – starting when she’s asleep and in her pram.  Nice things will happen when Alfie is near the pram with the sleeping baby, thus building up positive associations (anxiety and scolding having done just the opposite).  As soon as the baby stirs they will implement those exercises that they  have been working on.

They need to keep Alfie under threshold, meaning that they do their best to pre-empt any reactivity by separating baby and dog. He won’t be ready for the baby to be carried around or nursed – or crying – for a while, but they will get there with patience.  Whilst playing safe, all humans must remain relaxed or Alfie will pick up on their anxiety.

Slowly slowly, little and often should do the trick.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Alfie, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good – most particularly where babies or young children are involved. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Rottweiller Agitated by New Baby

KodaMy last visit was to an older dog being introduced to a new puppy. Today it was another older dog and a tiny brand 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.

Ollie Needs Help in Getting Used to the New Baby

Border Terrier is worried and chewing helpsOllie has to get used to the new babyWe 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!

How Can Molly Protect Herself From the Unwated Attentions of a Toddler?

Molly, a five-year old Goldendoodle – cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle, is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dog, and seems to have fitted in remarkably well with being effectively sidelined by the arrival of baby Thomas a year ago. Recently, however, wi Goldendoodle Molly is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dogth his increased mobility, Thomas has been falling on her, lying on her and banging her with toys.

The problem came to a head yesterday. She had started to growl when she had had enough. I’m sure there were other signs that another dog would have recognised immediately that were ignored before she resorted to growling. When she did growl, as had happened one or two times previously, Thomas was immediately whisked away and Molly was told NO. What had she learnt from growling? That it was the only way to get rid of the ‘problem’ (so growling achieved its aim). Yesterday the ‘problem’ – Thomas – came straight back to her and Molly had no choice but to take it one step further; she opened her mouth and slightly caught the baby’s head.

Watching them today, I was surprised at just how much she will tolerate, though she is obviously uneasy. When I first arrived the baby was in bed, and Molly lay relaxing on the floor. As soon as Thomas was brought down she started to show signs of stress which her owner hadn’t noticed before. Sometimes they need pointing out to people.Goldendoodle Molly is a tolerant, gentle, friendly and stable dog

The sitting room is only small, with a gate in the doorway. I watched Molly carefully as she started to pace about, she then licked me which she hadn’t done previously. Then she found herself a bone to chew (chewing releases calming pheromones). She was working so hard at calming herself. Thomas went to touch the bone, but Molly didn’t flinch. What a good girl. She was doing all she possibly could and this was only about fifteen minutes so far of Thomas being in the room. She probably had been enduring this for a long time, doing all she could to both tell him to give her space whilst calming herself, before being driven to snapping. She was probably pushed beyond endurance.

Molly needs to be given sanctuary out of reach of Thomas, the other side of the gate where she still can see them, immediately she shows signs of unease or when Thomas goes to lie on her or to bang her. It’s essential Molly has a means of escape. This isn’t banishment. It has to be done kindly and she can be given something nice to do – like a bone to chew. Children with animals must learn to treat them with respect – as I’m sure Thomas will as he gets a little older. The young lady needs to act appropriately now. The wrong responses in this sort of situation can only make things go downhill, and where does that leave the poor dog?.

 

 

To be Calmer Dogs Before the Baby is Born

Kiera and Snoopy, brindled Staffies (Snoopy has a little something else in the mix). They are seven and six years old respectively, and male Snoopy joined Kiera a couple of years ago.

There are no major problems with these friendly dogs, just various things that need dealing with before the baby arrives in about six months’ time.

The couple needs to be able to trust the dogs not to jump on people; they need to be able to walk the dogs safely with a buggy – they can no longer be pulling on lead, and barking or lunging at other dogs! They need to have their bedroom to themselves, so the dogs need to be introduced to sleeping downstairs gradually, well in advance, so that they won’t feel ousted by the baby. The dogs don’t have toys any more because of the potential trouble caused by Kiera who is possessive – and this must be resolved before the baby starts to leave toys about. They had one full-blown fight over food, so they are not left with chews or treats.

When visitors come they are so excited that Snoopy tears around the furniture and not only do they both jump up, they may start to redirect their excitement onto one another which very nearly degenerates into a spat.

At the root of most of the problems is over-excitement. Kiera before food, Snoopy around sounds outside, both dogs before walks and both frantically excited when people come.

In the evenings when all is quiet and calm they settle down a treat, as you can see from the picture.

One month later: “Yesterday they settled in the office laying next to each other on the floor and fell asleep and later that day again they were laying on the sofa asleep with each other! So massive progress I was so proud of the both of them. It has all took a massive turn but we still have a way to go but the difference is amazing I am actually excited to come home and see them rather then dreading it! In the evenings when we get home Bella is so much more chilled and relaxed and Stonker in crate less now! Even though I still know that there is still improvement to be made I feel like we have come on leaps and bounds and being at home is so much more relaxing then what it was and seeing where we were and where we are now I know it will only get better and seeing that gives us even more motivation to be persistent and patient and continue with everything!”
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Big Changes in Miniature Schnauzer’s Life

Miniatures Schnauzer Max isn't the happy dog he once wasMax is four years old and for the first two years of his life he was the most important thing in his owners’ lives. He had three long walks a day and they took him everywhere with them.

Then they had their little girl and now a four-month-old baby. They have also moved house.

Max now is not the happy little dog as he used to be and this is demonstrated by his change in behaviour. Because of his behaviour, his owners are not enjoying him any more, to the point where he’s almost too much trouble. Consequently their own behavour towards Max has changed. It’s Catch 22.

Max barks excessively. He has become touchy. He snaps at the little girl and he snaps when he’s disturbed. His walks are no longer so enjoyable and he is unpredictable with other dogs.

In response and in order to try to do something about the situation, they have watched Cesar Millan. Cesar makes things look so quick and easy on TV. Copying some of the dominance techniques on our own dogs can cause much more harm than good. Humans trying to act like ‘Alphas’ have caused defiance and an escalation in aggression. I would ask people – is this the way you would treat your child if he was frightened, misunderstood and unhappy?

In no time at all, this little dog quickly became eager to cooperate with me. He came alive. He looked joyful and attentive. And all because I showed him just what I wanted of him – in ways that he understood; I encouraged him and I rewarded him.

I hope Max’ people can now see that if they treat him with understanding, patience and encouragement they will see a huge difference.  At the same time they must play safe. I suggested a small dog pen for their big sitting room with his bed in it, a child-free area where he can come and go freely but shut in when necessary, so that children are always safe but at the same time he can remain part of the family.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Jack Russell and New Baby

Jack Russell Becky is easily stressedThis is Becky, a four-year-old Jack Russell. She is a superb little dog – very biddable – perhaps a little spoilt!

Becky is, however, easily stressed. This was evident by her excessive nose-licking. Her family hadn’t realised that this was a sign of anxiety – of Becky trying to calm herself.  She can be thrown into a hyper state very easily. In the past this has unwittingly been encouraged. For instance, she will go over the top when she sees a bird or squirrel out of the window and start running from door to door, barking frantically. They let her out. Once outside she has to redirect this overwhelming stress onto something else so she attacks a toy instead. Rather than dealing with this so that Becky can calm down which would be a lot kinder, they believe that doing what Becky is demanding is kind – letting her out to deal with it herself.

As a dog she is naturally on look-out duty, but she shouldn’t then feel it’s her responsibility to deal with the problem. Imagine you have a child and you tell him – ‘keep an eye open for the lion that has escaped from the zoo’. Then, at the window, he starts yelling, “The lion! The lion! It’s in the garden”. What do you do? Let your child out to deal with it? Or do you tell him to shut up? No – I think not!

However, this is not the reason I was called – but amongst other things contributes to how she’s reacting to a new baby in the family. The have a tiny grandchild now, weighing less than Becky. Becky is fixated. In the same room as the baby Becky is very anxious as one can tell from the nose-licking and paw-lifting. She whines. She had tried to grab the baby’s foot. She’s not being aggressive, but here is something that smells fascinating and that makes noises she simply doesn’t understand which she can’t control. And Becky is accustomed to controlling the people around her!

While I was there we worked at stress relief around the baby and associating Becky being relaxed around her with nice things. We watched out for and respected Becky’s stress signals.

I happened to call later in the day and they had been making such good progress that they pushed ahead too fast, letting their guard down and putting Becky into a situation she was not ready to cope with. This was a warning that these things take time. Becky needs to be well within her comfort zone, on lead around the baby whilst out of actual reach before getting near enough to sniff her, and then only when she’s asleep and quiet  – long before removing the lead. This will take days, maybe weeks, not just a couple of hours. One thing at a time!

The whole process needs to be against a background of general de-stressing and Becky learning that she doesn’t actually need to be in control of the humans in her life. What a relief that will be to her.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.