Pets and new baby: advice?

Well, as many Dopers know, I have a new baby in the house. “Dylan Small” is almost 2 months old (tomorrow!) and we are beginning to have some problems. For the last two years, we’ve had a pug mix and she’s been wonderful. We knew the baby would be a big change for her, but she’s done well with him. She seems to be misbehaving toward us though. Nothing severe, just small things that make you mad.

For example, today I took the baby in the back bedroom to change his diaper, which didn’t take me more than 5-10 minutes. I had warmed up two pieces of chicken left over from last night after the ballgame (which we had to leave early - stupid lightning) and had left it on the table by the armchair. When I came back into the front room, my chicken was gone. She had climbed across the chair, across the table, and taken it. I wouldn’t be angry, but it was buried under my bed.

I know she would have never done this before. That sounds a little weird, but she was always a wonderfully behaved pet. We haven’t used the cage as punishment in over a year, but I feel I may have to drag it out of the basement so she knows the rules are still the same. She also will run around more than usual, going out open doors when we are coming in. I thought this was because of the time spent at our family’s house when the baby was first born, since they have a fenced in yard and the dogs go in/out as they please. It seems she behaves like she knows we can’t stop and punish her because usually it is just one of us and the baby.

So, Dopers, what do I do? I’m not looking for specific things, but just tips on how to help a pup adjust. Getting rid of the pup is not an option, she’s a family member. We just want to make things easier on her and us as soon as possible.

Brendon Small

I would try to spend some extra time playing with her, giving her treats, walking her, that sort of thing. I’ve always thought dogs know a lot of what was going on (I’ve seen a dog guard a bedroom where my son was sleeping, as if she was keeping anybody from disturbing him, and I’ve seen a dog pace back and forth between a crying baby and a person warming a bottle, as if to say “Don’t you hear that? He’s hungry! Do something!”) and it could be she’s jealous of the attention.

Have you “introduced” the pug to the baby? Does it she recognize the baby is one of the family?

I will tell you, my in-laws had to get rid of one of their dogs because it would not accept the new baby…tried to bite it, in fact. Just keep that in mind in case you can’t get your pug to accept the new arrival.

Never punish a dog for something it has done - but if you can CATCH it in the act, then definitely respond appropriately at the time.

Give your dog as much love and attention as possible. That is what she is looking for - she is telling you she is unhappy and she needs you.

If you need to put it in its cage/kennel, then don’t do it as a punishment, do it as a preventative measure - for example if you need to leave the house and you’re worried about it running out the door, before you even START getting ready to leave, put it in its kennel with a favourite toy and a treat. Make it a routine if you can.

Good luck, and congrats on the new baby!

In general you want to use positive reinforcement whenever possible.

Also, I have read that unless you catch the dog in the act punishing them later for something or other doesn’t really work because the animal cannot link the punishment with the “crime”. Personally I do not totally buy this as my dog could have done something hours before and when I get home she acts sheepish knowing she is going to get busted. Nevertheless something to keep in mind…especially if it is something the dog didn’t likely identify as “wrong”.

Perverse as it may seem animals (and people) will misbehave just to get attention even if it is negative attention. Punishing the dog may encourage more misbehavior.

Far better to praise the dog when she does something good. Mild rebukes if you catch her doing something wrong with praise following when she shifts her attention to a more appropriate avenue. You can even help it along. For instance, you see her stealing the food. Catch her, take the food away and give her good "no’. Then ignore her for a bit. Later give her a ball or other toy of hers and play with her and praise her for playing with stuff that is ok.

I’d also try and spend both some alone time with the dog but ALSO spend together time with you and the baby and play together. Let her see the baby as fun time and part of the family. Maybe take the baby and dog out back and plop on a blanket in the yard and all play together. Granted the baby will not be very engaging at this point but do what you can. If the baby starts crying and demanding more attention of course deal with it but also do not ignore the dog…call her back, give her a good butt scratching, praise her then deal with the baby and let the dog follow.

In short do not create an adversarial relationship in the dog’s mind where it is the dog OR the baby. Make her part of the clan. Make the baby a fun thing and something she looks forward to. Everyone will be a lot happier.

She’s jealous. You can’t blame her- she’s had you all to herself forever. She’s acting out, kind of like a kid would.

As posted above, spend lots of time with her, pet her a lot (especially if you’ve got the baby in your arms too), make sure that she knows she hasn’t been forgotten in all this madness!

My parents had a pound dog when I was born (he WAS kind of an ass, looking back- the dog, not my dad), and he was NOT pleased with the funny-smelling new arrival that took up everybody’s time and energy, and who got all the petting… Eventually he accepted me, but then three years later the birth of my brother had him totally demoralized- “What?!? Another one?!?” :smiley:

Well, wouldn’t you act timid if somebody walked into your house, took a look around, and started yelling at you for no apparent reason?

Wasn’t like that at all. Walking into the house I had no reason to suspect anything amiss till I saw the dog. Ordinarily she’d be running up to me wagging her tail all happy. If she had misbehaved she’d be slower coming and sort of sheepish. Then I knew to start looking.

Mind you I do not physically punish my dog and very, very rarely even raise my voice beyond a stern “no” to her. But when she does something bad she picks up on my obvious displeasure at the chewed shoe or shepherd bomb on the carpet or whatever. She is a great dog and has a clear sense of right and wrong and bad behavior is rare but like anyone she has her moments. She definitely gets it (she is shockingly smart) all on her own when she goofs.

I didn’t mean to imply that you’re mean to your dog, btw; my wording was not the most diplomatic. But I bet she picks up on something from you. Dogs are way better at reading us than we are at reading them.

I wish I had something to say on topic here, but I don’t know much about how to go about introducing dogs to babies.

Yes, but knowing you are going to start yelling when you get home is different than knowing she is being yelled at because what she did is “wrong” and that your anger is a direct result of her earlier actions.
I know, it’s a tricky distinction to make, and one that was awfully hard for me to grasp, but it’s absolutely true.

Maybe it is semantics but I am not seeing the difference. We all learn that what is “wrong” are the things we do that get us into trouble. We all want to avoid getting into trouble so we do not do it.

Being a dog she may not think, “Hey, if I chew this shoe I will get in trouble but I’ll do it anyway” but certainly after she is done she must have an “oh shit” moment and know trouble is looming. Generally though she learned at a young age that chewing shoes it not a good thing and most times that is working in her mind and she opts for her chew toys instead. As with all of us she has her lapses in judgment but most times it works and she knows where the boundaries are between good and bad behavior.

When I come home with no idea yet that my shoe is in tatters my dog still knows that what she did will get her in trouble. At some point it clicked to her that she did wrong and then worries at what is to follow.

And FTR I have never hit my dog…ever. Worst she has ever gotten is a tap from my finger on her nose and I do not yell at her (what would be the point?). My displeasure and her being ignored for a bit while I calm down seems more than sufficient to upset her. She is far happier getting tummy rubs and ear scratches.

I appreciate all the responses. I know that this is rough on her, and she’s doing well. One of the biggest issues (other than what I mentioned) was walking. She would walk across the bed or couch of wherever and step right on the baby. I slept on the couch for a good 2 hours today with the baby on my lap and my wife said the dog would walk around but not on him. She’s learning, and we’re happy. I did put up the cage, but I left it open, with food and water, and her blankey, so that it is kind of her personal space, not a punishment. She slept in it for well over an hour, but I never have shut her in this time (it was for when we left the house when she was a pup, but we hadn’t used it in a long time)

I’ll keep everyone updated if there are any more happenings.


Hopefully this will all work out fine and in years to come your child and your dog will be best of friends. But just to keep you on your toes, here’s a story from my childhood: I was adopted at age 3, and my parents already had a dachshund. In some ways I was probably easier to accept than a baby, because I didn’t need the constant fussing over that a baby does. However, small children don’t know how to behave with animals. One day I reached over to the dog to pet it, and it sneezed on me. Not understanding that this was not deliberate behavior, I pulled the dog’s tail to let it know I didn’t like getting wet with the sneeze droplets. The dog promptly bit me on the nose. I guess it didn’t start hurting right away, because I looked at the dog saying “doggie, why did you do that?” It took advantage of the opportunity to bite me on the chin.

45 years later I sill have the scars (although they are practically invisible - not disfiguring at all), but 24 hours later, that dog was GONE.

So do take care.

The dog folks say she may realize that you will act upsettingly if you see pieces of shoe, and slink around because she knows it’s coming, but she cannot make the mental leap that an action is “wrong” by human standards and that she should “feel guilty” for doing it. Their thought patterns are not that complex. Like I said, it’s hard for me to grasp, too, but this is what they say.

The NajaHound used to raid the garbage in the kitchen downstairs. At first he’d do it at night when we were sleeping, then it got to the point where he’d go downstairs during the evening when we were watching TV or reading, I’d come down to use the bathroom and the whole downstairs area would be covered in garbage. I had never actually caught him in the act, so I never punished him for it or even said a word to him. I would just clean it up and resolve to keep a better eye on him, but a week or two later, the same thing would happen.
One day I did catch him in the act, buried to his tail in the garbage can and I verbally whaled the crap out of him, gave him a scruff shake and banished him to his crate before cleaning up.
A week or two later, we were sitting around playing on the computer and he comes slinking up the stairs, groveling on his belly, licking his chops and basically wearing a name tag saying

I went downstairs and sure enough the garbage had been overturned and rooted through. I didn’t say a word to him, just cleaned it up. It happened a couple more times and he’d always slink around. The anthropomorphizing part of me says he feels guilty for doing something he knows is wrong. The dog folks say he is acting submissively because he remembers getting yelled at while rooting, but is incapable of making a connection between “knocking over the garbage can” and me yelling at him. Once the garbage is on the floor, of course he’s going to root through it, it’s food! It’s a self-rewarding behavior.
At some point in the midst of all this, thinking about how I might be able to time a correction for the actual moment of his flipping the lid off the can, I seized on the idea of booby trapping the thing. I stacked a bunch of cookie sheets on the lid, turned off the light and went to bed. That very same night we heard a crash, I ran downstairs and Mr. G. McF was slinking around under the kitchen table, practically oozing with submission. The lid was off but no garbage on the floor. I didn’t respond to him, just replaced the cookie sheets. It happened exactly the same way a week or so later, and he hasn’t touched the garbage since, even if we forget to put the puppy-trap in place.

The point is, while he slunk around displaying avoidance behavior in connection with there being garbage on the ground, it took a well-timed correction at the exact moment of the behavior I wanted stopped to get the message across.

We had much the same problem with our dog. He’s 12 years old now, so he had 11 blissful years of being the baby. He started off ok, but over time he gradually got more and more depressed, and I was so busy with the baby it wasn’t totally obvious at first. He quit playing with his toys, and slept all the time, and stopped coming around for petting from us. He never acted aggressively to the baby, he was actually extremely submissive. Once she started squealing loudly he would bolt upstairs or as far away as he could get and shake. He progressed to stomach issues, and obsessively chewing his leg until it was totally raw.

We’ve been trying to pay him more attention, make sure to play with him when she’s around. Once his nerves were shot though, he wouldn’t even come near enough to let us pet him while she’s around. I work at home, so he does get time with just me to go outside, and I’ll try to stop and pet him at least a few times a day (he spends most of the day asleep).

Some people may not agree, but the vet suggested we try Prozac. It has actually worked wonders, it’s been just enough to take the edge off. It has taken awhile to build up in his system, and we’re still working on the positive reinforcement – but now his his leg is healing (although he still has to wear a baby’s pajama shirt to keep his leg covered up or he’ll still go after it), tummy issues are solved, and he’ll even come around more now. And it helps that she’ll throw her food in the floor now, he’s become a scavenger!! :slight_smile:

Sometimes it can take awhile, but it will improve!

Also - don’t set the dog up for failure. Resist your chicken, right there where I can get my puppy paws on it? Nearly impossible! My dog is pretty well behaved, but I definitely don’t leave my lunch out at snout level.