We can’t have eyes in the back of our head, so where dogs and toddlers are concerned the environment needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Jack is a five-year-old Fox Terrier and they have had him since he was a puppy, well before their little girl was born. They have put in a lot of loving training, he is given plenty of exercise, but still Jack is a very stressed dog; very possibly genetics play apart.
They also have a toddler and now they are expecting a new baby. When the little girl runs about Jack can become quite aroused. He grabs her clothes and sometimes lightly nips her. They need to keep a close eye on him. The temptation then is to tell him off rather than to call him away and reward him for doing so.
The lady is expecting the baby in seven weeks’ time so she may not always be able to watch Jack, and they can’t shut him out of the room they are in because of the fuss he makes.
The kitchen leads off the sitting room. When Jack is shut behind the glass kitchen door he becomes very agitated and very noisy.
I suggest a gate for the kitchen doorway so that Jack is less isolated from them and more part of the action, and that over the next seven weeks they get him used to being happily behind the gate. This can only be done really slowly and needs to be worked on several times daily.
The plan goes a bit like this: Call him briefly into the kitchen behind the barrier and reward him, then go and sit on the sitting room sofa nearby. Wait for a couple of minutes – or maybe less, making sure they let him out before he starts to stress and bark. Gradually increase this length of time and the distance away from him. They give him something good to do or chew when he is in there. By the time baby arrives Jack should be happy in the kitchen with just a barrier between them when mum has her hands too full to be watching him and the little girl.
We discussed all sorts of other strategies to help Jack to become less hyped up and gain some impulse control. His stress levels are at the bottom of the behaviours they want to change, his excessive barking in particular.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Chauncey, 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 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).