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Dog behaviour changed since baby arrived-help!(25 Posts)
I have an 18m old doodle, a toddler and a 6 week old baby. Dog is high energy but very good with toddler. I spent my whole pregnancy worried about how the dog would be with the baby, jumping etc and he’s been wonderful. I can play with baby or change him on the floor, dog will sit next to me on the sofa rather than on the baby and I’m so happy about this.
However there are 2 new issues which are driving me nuts.
1) Barking. He will bark excessively at every bloody thing. The door (fine), a garden wall (no idea), the wind, shadows, birds, aircraft (I know🤦♀️). It doesn’t bother the baby but I’m tired and it’s driving me mad. My guess is that it’s a mixture of attention seeking and perhaps he thinks he’s protecting the baby? If I knew what he was barking at I would try to manage with distraction/positive reenforcement techniques but I have no clue 90% of the time. He was not a barky dog particularly before.
2) Stealing. This is quite specific-he waits until I’m feeding/hands tied up with baby and goes on a rampage stealing my older sons toys which he often chews. He doesn’t resource guard them, this is clearly sport for him and I realise attention seeking but have literally no idea how to train him not to while I’m holding a baby. He’s always been a bit of a thief, making off with washing etc, but he was growing out of it until baby came along.
This is not an exercise issue, we kept on dog walkers incase it was a struggle after baby was born, so he gets his usual walks, and then most days I walk him too.
I understand his behaviour (I think) and try to give him lots of love and attention when he behaves but my hands are often tied and he’s behaving less and less...
I plan to find a behaviouralist after lock down, but does anyone have any ideas in the mean time? Anyone else experienced this?
I’m so pleased that his jealousy hasn’t manifested in aggression, but I want my nice quietish dog back!
I would honestly think about rehoming the dog.
Are you around more due to the lockdown or maternity? My dog has changed since I've been home all the time, he is alert and more sensitive than before.
I know it's not an exercise thing but do you have a doggy daycare he could go to once a week or so? That would provide him with mental as well as physical stimulation.
Could you have baby in a sling so your hands are free to instantly reward good behaviour?
These are just ideas. You sound like a good mum and dog mum. Definitely doesn't sound like you're near to rehoming him!
Does he have anything to keep him mentally stimulated at home (stuffed Kong's, puzzle trays etc), and are his walks stimulating (different places, time to sniff), rather than purely exercise focused? The stealing sounds like a game / way to get attention, so he may be bored. It may be worthwhile rotating his toys (if you don't already do so) so he doesn't try our your toddler's toys too.
Physically enforce with a boundary. So the dog gets locked in the kitchen or the dog goes to doggy day care.
A friend had success with a metal chain which she dropped on the floor to condition her dogs not to go in the kitchen. It just made a noise which the dogs hated and it worked. That sort of training would not work on every dog though.
You have 3 DC, it's lockdown. Honestly you need to not have a possibly dangerous dog in the mix. And yes, getting the children's toys in its mouth is dangerous. The children could get very ill as I'm sure you know already.
Thank you (mostly) for responses. I don’t think he needs a new home (although have multiple family members desperate for him). I was just hoping for advice on helping him (us all really) to adjust. If this was a aggression issue then it would be very different. Likewise my house is not a dog saliva free for all, dog and toddler are not unsupervised, toys are washed etc.
Lockdown is an interesting one, the baby was born near the start, so I assumed it was that, but his routine has changed dramatically with us all here all day. Husband is normally wfh but at the top of the house, so dog is normally alone for a large part of the day with walks and husband coming down for cups of tea etc. Now he’s with us all the time. ‘High alert’ is exactly right! Maybe I should try some enforced down time in another room with a treat.
We have kongs but I will buy some more puzzle toys, good suggestion. Baby is in a sling some of the time, but as I never used one for my first born I’m still getting used to doing things with him there, I’m very slow!
We had a daycare, but this seemed to stress him and his behavior improved dramatically when I stopped taking him. I may look into another one though at some stage.
Rotating his toys is a great plan, the other day I unearthed a carrier bag full of old dog toys when having a clear out and we had a lovely day! You are right, toy stealing is 100% a game, just not one I want to play right now!
The toddler is going back to nursery a couple of days a week, my gut feeling is that this may benefit the dog as much as the rest of us. 🤞
Babygate the kitchen or utility or get a crate.
When you need to feed baby put dog in there with a puzzle toy or frozen kong. The downtime will be good for him and he won't be able to get up to mischief.
Sorry meant to say reward him with 2 minutes of positive attention just on him when he's done.
You need to be treating dog like another toddler. Naughty actions are just attention-seeking.
Thank you-I think more down time may be some of the answer. Can I also crate the toddler who plays up massively when the baby’s being fed 🤣
There is a really good advice group on Facebook called dog training advice and support with trained behaviourist giving advice. They have heaps of resources too
Yes! I am a member-signed up in puppy days but forgot. I will post, thank you!
I haven't read the full thread, but with any change there is time needed for adjustment. This is a big change for your dog. Hopefully with tips in place and time he'll be ok. Please don't rehome in a heat of the moment decision, it can work out ok and a lot of the time children and pets grow to have a special bond. Good luck
Sounds really tricky OP. I'm a dog walker, so not a behaviouralist but I've a few thoughts:
Dogs need sleep. Loads and loads and loads of it including during the day. They also need to be relaxing for plenty of time too. Think roughly 50% of the day asleep, 30% resting and 20% being active. For some dogs (especially those who are very alert), lockdown has meant reduced sleep because there are people around all the time, things to investigate, people to play with etc etc
This feeds into my other thought that daycare may not be a good solution. It will only be during the day and the dog will be likely to still exhibit these behaviours when he comes home. Also, more importantly, day care can be tricky as it often produces an over tired dog unless they manage a lot of sleep whilst there. Daycare is often way too exiting for sufficient rest and sleep- particularly for a young dog. You get an overtired dog and behaviour becomes problematic. This is not the case for all dogs- some will sleep at daycare and not be overtired, others will cope better with being exhausted (just like some humans are more grumpy than others when tired).
If all the specialists in dog behaviour that I know every single one will be interested in the amount of sleep that a dog is getting (including in the day).
I don't know your set up but maybe you could try to find solutions whereby your dog can chill out and relax during the day.
Ideally with the toy stealing you need to remove the problem- ie the dog should not have access to the toys so he can not rehearse the behaviour. However with a toddler and a baby I realise this is probably impossible. As you've said this is likely to be a fun game to him, reinforced by your and your toddler's inevitable reaction to it.
I'm sure you are flat out busy but if could fit in some playtime with your dog with his toys that might help. Stay animated, and fun, and let the dog 'win' more often then not.
It's also really important that your toddler learns not to try to remove a toy from the dog. In case resource guarding becomes an issue.
Finally, many behaviouralists are working remotely during lockdown. They can offer phone or zoom consultations and I've seen that these can be remarkably effective especially if you've been able to video the behaviour.
Good luck OP
Never make a fuss of your child in front of the dog
That is not a suggestion a qualified behaviouralist would make, and it's not very practical either.
OP I have another suggestion. When you feed the baby could you give your dog a chew, lucky mat, stuffed kong or frozen kong something long lasting like a yak milk stick? Or offer a scatter feed in the garden?
Sniffing for a scatter feed or licking is very soothing and calming and may help relax him. This could change the trigger that he has currently created of baby feeding = zoomies and stealing toys.
You can reduce his food at meal times to make up for any food given in this way.
Finally is there anything that happens during or after feeding the baby that the dog May find stressful? Even if this has only happened once he may be making an association and getting stressed. If you can change this to a pleasant association e.g. frozen kong that may help.
So for example as an adolescent dog my dog became terrified every time my DH went into the shed. We realised that this was following a time when he had gone into the shed, got out the lawn mower which made an almighty crash when he turned it on and terrified the dog. For weeks he refused to go into the garden for hours if DH visited the shed. We reconditioned this by offering treats when DH went into the shed, starting with the dog in the house and gradually moving into the garden.
Hope that all makes some sense!
I don't think the stealing is necessarily anything directly to do with the baby - he has just learned that you can't do much to stop him at that point and you are otherwise distracted. They learn these things very quickly! I have an opportunist thief - I dont see it as attention seeking. He just wants the food or the toy and acts if he thinks he can get away with it. Behaviourist can help with training impulse control and physical boundaries - crate etc and putting things out of reach so it just isnt possible.
I can't really advise on the barking, but for the stealing:
- environmental management is the best thing here. If the dog can't be trusted around the toddlers' toys then the dog needs to go into another room or his crate while you're busy. You need to stop giving him the opportunity to practise the negative behaviour if that makes sense.
- unless your toddler is playing with the toys, then keep them away and out of reach. Lockable toy boxes or up on high shelves etc. so the dog simply has no way to access them. My dog was a stealer/chewer at that age and the only thing that stopped him was restricting his access.
The other thing - is he getting plenty of exercise and plenty of sleep? I imagine things are pretty hectic with a toddler and a baby - an 18m old dog needs at least 60-90 minutes of exercise a day, ideally with a chance to run about off lead (if not daily then a few times a week) - is he getting enough exercise?
And does he have a safe, quiet space to take himself to so he can sleep during the day? A crate or bed in a quiet corner where he can't be disturbed? My dog is two now and he still gets silly if he's over-tired!
Thanks everyone for your thoughts. Today he had an extra Kong, a treat dispensing toy, some clicker games and a few more hugs. It may just be a co-incidental ‘good day’ but his behaviour is much much better, I’d say the barking reduced by at least 50%. My husband who was upstairs working commented unprompted that he hasn’t heard the dog much today. He’s only pinched a few things (one was some pants which is quite amusing!). I guess maybe he just needs reassurance that everything is ok and he’s still part of the family? Most of the ideas on here seem to have really helped so thank you.
Down time for him difficult as he’s always with us unless we are out and if I shut him away even with a treat he seems to think he’s being punished/missing out. I think the nursery days and hopefully some more lock down restriction may help there though-in normal circumstances we are never there all day.
He is exercised enough, he gets at least 2 45 min walks with walkers who take him all over the place, sometimes with other dogs, he gets taken for jogs etc. I also walk him most days but this is slower pace with a buggy.
I don’t post much, but have read threads on here a bit, and I get very frustrated with all the ‘you need to rehome the dog, the dog is dangerous‘ comments. I clearly stated in my post that I have no concern about the dogs behaviour to the children. I would not leave them unsupervised, and I know that ALL dogs have the potential to turn, and if mine did I would have to reconsider, but I just wanted advice on his behavioural adjustment from people who may have experienced something similar.
If I wanted opinions on re homing him I would have asked that.
That sounds encouraging progress, hope you can keep on with it.
It doesn’t say what poodle mix he is but if he’s part gun dog that could account for the stealing or retrieving.
I’ve got an elderly lab who used to disappear dropped dummies and still will take toys, if dropped not from the toy boxes. Doesn’t do anything else but he is a retired gun dog and he retired early because he stopped picking up.
Cockapoo! So explains a bit. Bring the stuff back would be a start 😂
The cocker part was probably working stock. If he’s not guarding what he takes then it’s just what he does. Ours always gives the item up when asked to and it’s never anything with feathers or fur as he loves the cat. He might enjoy the gun dog games where you throw something and he has to find it and bring it back. Not all gun dogs like to fetch things though!
I'm really glad you had a more positive day!
I would really try and enforce some downtime though - even adult dogs still need a fair amount of sleep and rest. In fact, training him to be in a room on his own is actually a really positive thing to do. Dogs being attached to 24/7 isn't healthy for either of you.
I know cockers are clingy so even with a mix you'll have that side coming through but it could be something positive to work on so you can leave him unattended while you get on with stuff.
So glad you've had a good day - definitely sounds like it's a case of that while his body is well engaged, his brain isn't, that's where all the puzzles and games come into play. These will be easier when the toddler is older and can set up and play these games, maybe even a bit of garden agility, with the pup.
Has he been taught "settle" much?
We’re currently doing some online training with our dog trainer about leaving food. We’ve got to the stage where we can work for a whole lesson with plates of food all around him and he won’t touch them. We’re also working on leaving him with the plates and going out of sight for a couple of minutes. Again he doesn’t touch them because he is rewarded afterwards. It’s all about the conditioning. It takes a lot of time and practice but he has to learn that some things are off limits. Once he gets used to being rewarded for the right behaviour and gets used to the idea that they’re not his it’ll become second nature. Does take some time though which I appreciate is tricky with small ones about. Also your Dh needs to be fully aware and on board with the training regime too.
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