This is something that is very hard for me to write about because I’m so invested in it emotionally. However, I’ve decided that it’s more important that I share what I’m going thru and perhaps help someone else out than to be slightly embarrassed as a trainer and Mom.
Things with dog and baby are not going as well as I’d hoped. The last few weeks have been stressful for Miss Evey. We’ve had several other dogs in the house (whom even if she likes them she worries), and we’ve also had several visitors, some of whom were toddlers. I may have mentioned this in my previous post but Evey has never been a huge fan of children but she’s always made good choices. These choices have included retreating, coming to me, and taking treats from me or the toddler.
However, with Baby Amelia, Evey’s choices are limited. Amelia sleeps in our bedroom, so does Evey. Their beds are on opposite sides of our bed but it’s not really a safe zone for Evey any more. I’m usually holding Amelia so when Evey comes to me Amelia is there, again foiled in her attempt to seek comfort. Amelia isn’t eating a lot of people food yet, so she’s not dropping yummies for Evey yet so Evey doesn’t realize what a jackpot Amelia is yet.
So what has me so concerned? Well, Evey hasn’t growled, snapped, or bitten Amelia. Her signs are much more subtle. Her mouth is closed, her forehead is wrinkled, her tail is tucked, and she often puts herself in between Amelia and myself (especially when it gets noisy). You might argue, “she hasn’t done anything” or “she’ll just get used to it”. To be honest, there are two reasons I don’t agree with those statements: 1) Evey has snapped and scratched children who got in her face twice so I know she will “go there” and 2) I don’t want anyone in my family (including my dog) to have to feel stressed out while living at home.
What are my options? Because I’m so close to the situation and it’s so emotional for me I did seek professional counsil from two trainers I really trust and respect: Lindsay Wood, ACAAB (animal behaviorist) and Aimee Bonnain, KPA-CTP.
- This thought did cross my mind and it brought me to tears: Rehome Evey. Lets be honest, this really isn’t an option for me! I love my dog, and I would feel like a failure as a Mom, trainer, and dog guardian.
- Continue doing what I’ve been doing, supervising and cuing Evey to go to mat, which has become harder to do as Amelia gets more mobile and Evey gets more anxious, and hope that a bite does not occur. Again this is not working, so while I will keep it as a tool in my box, I’m not going to continue that as a primary strategy.
- Classical Counter Conditioning: Pairing something Evey wants with something that worries her. For the last 3 days Evey has not received a single piece of kibble from a bowl! I’ve mixed her kibble with some hot dogs (to increase the value) and when Amelia is out and around I am constantly dropping “treats”. This was working well. I feel better and Evey is starting to realize that Amelia brings her good things.
- Number 3 was working well until this morning (a grand total of 3 days). For whatever reason Evey stopped eating the treats I dropped and started putting herself closer to Amelia again. This makes me really uncomfortable and nervous and I start to lose my patience. I start to cue Evey to leave and when she hesitates my cue escalates and she gets more nervous and I get more nervous – you can see the vicious cycle can’t you? So I’m implementing barriers! I have an exercise pen and a baby gate both of which Evey respects as long as I’m home. So I have now made a huge room where I can feel safe that Amelia can get important floor time while Evey can’t get near her.
So in all honesty, right now, I’ve implemented option 2, 3, & 4! And I’ll keep doing it until Evey and Amelia can respect each other happily. Eventually, the exercise pen will probably need to be changed to something sturdier as Amelia starts to pull up on things and walk but for now it’s serving it’s purpose; keep Evey out and Amelia SAFE.