How Will Our Older Dog React to a New Baby?

Jennifer Shryock's picture

QUESTION

Dear Pet Expert,
A year ago my husband rescued a dog approximately 6 years old from an ice storm. She seemed to have been neglected when he found her. She has been a well-behaved dog except occasionally getting in the trash. Within the past month she has began to get into the trash within seconds of us leaving and her new trick is to get into the freezer and eat a pound of ground beef.

We have tried different techniques such as giving her more attention, giving her more food, making her stay outside, spanking her, I feel like we have thought of everything and she doesn't seem to be getting better. Nothing has changed in her surroundings. We have continued to feed and walk her the same, the weather has been the same, since this new behavior we have taught her a hand signal to sit and calm down, which shows me she is capable of learning.

She seems to be sad when punished but follows up with worse behavior. When not punished behavior is repeated.

I am due in a month and I am nervous about her response to the new baby. She has been around a really young baby and she reacted by hiding under a table and quietly barking occasionally. Do you have any advice?

It is to the point my husband would like to give her to a friend. I am not sure if I am ready for this because she is sweet and a good protector.

ANSWER

Congratulations and how exciting your due date is so close. I remember feeling overwhelmed and excited all in one right about now.

Digging in the trash
You bring up several good questions that I wanted to address. The first one is the trash issue. This one is very common and quite honestly...dogs do what works for them. She knows that she CAN get to the trash when you are not there. It is way too reinforcing for her and so she will give in to the tempting smells and treats she might possibly find.

The best way to remedy this is to not allow access to the trash. Put it in a closed area when you leave the house. Do not tempt her by keeping it available. When you are not there...it is available.

Now with that said, there may be a bigger issue here. She may just be bored or anxious when you leave. Try offering her a kong with some kibble in it that she only gets once you close the door. Many dogs do well when they have a "puzzle" to do when their people leave. This may be helpful for her.

Begin this with the trash can NOT accessible and then bring it back into the picture after she has made the association that you leaving means she gets some kibble or another good thing. Let me know how that works for you.

Preparing for baby
This one is more complicated. There is a great deal to do before baby arrives. I encourage you to visit Dogs and Storks Blogspot as there are many helpful tips and ideas on there about first days home and preparing. With you being due so soon, there are a couple of things to do.

  1. You and your husband decide on the boundaries you want set and begin to reinforce them now. For example, where she will be at night? Do you want her in the nursery by invitation or not at all? Deciding these now can save stress later on between you and your husband. It will also make it easier for her.
  2. Get a baby sounds CD to practice how you will respond to her when and if she reacts to baby. If she reacts interested, I suggest saying "Thank you...now go lie down." calmly and nicely. If she shows any concerning behaviors or you are uncomfortable then I encourage you to seek the help of a dog behavior consultant or trainer who specializes and dog and baby interaction. Dogs and Storks.com has many presenters who specialize in this area.
  3. Plan where your dog will be while you are at the hospital.
  4. Think about your coming home. Take your time and only introduce when you are comfortable. There is no hurry for this.
  5. SUPERVISE AT ALL TIMES. This means no access to the baby by the dog anytime without you being awake and aware of what is happening. Inside leashing, crating, and gating are all good options to implement first months home.

You mentioned your dog was uncomfortable around a young child. You will need to be very careful and observant with your baby. It is important that your dog is exposed to your baby as much as possible in daily routines to develop a familiarity with your baby. This helps many dogs adjust easier vs. keeping the dog and baby apart from one another.

Again, supervise at all times and if you have concerns get help! We are always happy to support families.

Good luck and let us know how things go!
Jen