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 th 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.
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?.