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Good morning, Chihuahua People!

Anyone have any advice about an older dog reacting unfavorably to a new toddler?

This is Taz (now 6+ year old shepherd mix.) He's my sister's dog.


He reminds me a lot of our dog, Bear:


Last year my sister had her first son, Zane, with her boyfriend, Colton.


Taz and Colton got along great, too. Taz moved out of the house with the family once Zane was born.



Everything was going great until a few months ago. Coupled with my sisters now second pregnancy, lots is changing for Taz. After Taz left our house pack he became the only one using anything from the doorknobs down so he didn't have the "pressure" or "activity" that comes with sharing a world with other dogs and having a back yard. He was always a very shy yet well behaved dog to begin with, so he thrived when he left my parent's house to just be with his master, his best friend and their "stinky new human thing."

I'm not exactly sure what happened, but since Zane has become more mobile/human/louder/whatever & McKinsy is now pregnant again...Taz has snapped at Zane more than once. Colton is rightly becoming furious, as a new father and a good man he is very protective of his son. They're now set for another kid next year which is catalyzing the anxiety about Taz's strange and startling new phobia... the toddler.

The tension grew and now Taz has been taking "mini breaks" back at my parent's house (he's not pictured but here is a great pic of their pack as it was: )

(Looks a bit like my pack, eh? I did grow up there! :laughing6: )

... but that may be it. This next one may be his last one, and he may stay at my parents house, where he would have to adhere back to "pack rules" and get his back yard back.


Although I'll say that I think Taz is better off at my parents house: sun, a yard, other dogs and challenges (he also has demodectic mange and needs constant treatment for that, another thing new parents are hard pressed to maintain) I want my sister's family to be whole. A family's life is not whole without a dog! She really does love Taz very much, so I tried my hand at trying to help:

I suggested games that both Taz & Zane can participate and get exercise with together as to relieve the pressure that Taz feels when he's not given direction around the toddler (and the toddler can't fully understand yet, either.) Currently, the toddler means "anxiety" which is fueling the downward spiral, but when you give both "nervous" parties something to participate in AROUND each other, not necessarily WITH or AT each other, it relieves pressure and opens the mind to other less terrifying scenarios. I suggested the "Sit, Stay & Come" game with both Taz and Zane... but she thought I was trying to compare her child with a dog and got upset with me. (You know, because I have 0 idea how a child works, dogs are NOTHING LIKE CHILDREN :rolleyes:)

Any suggestions to help this situation? Experiences? Advice? Anything is appreciated! I don't have children so I have 0 experience. Should Taz just go live with my parents, or can this be accomplished?

Thanks for your help!
 

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In cases like this it absolutely vital that the child is trained how to behave around the dog.
I have seen so many families who are surprised at how their normally friendly dog reacts to their toddler, but they allow the toddler to touch the dog and get right in its comfort zone.
I would start by making sure the dog has a safe place he can retreat to, ideally a crate, that the child is never allowed near whilst the dog is in residence. I wouldn't allow the toddler to touch or pet the dog at all for now, and would give the dog the option of being in the same room as the child or not.
The loud noises and uncontrolled movements of a small child are often scary to dogs. When Zane is older, Taz is more likely to see him as a person, but for now I think it should be up to Taz to decide how much contact he can cope with. I think it is important that Taz is allowed to feel comfortable in his own home, he needs to get his stress levels down before he can view the child as a positive thing.
 

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In cases like this it absolutely vital that the child is trained how to behave around the dog.
Completely agree. 1,000%. But the problem is, they didn't do much training with Taz to begin with. He was always naturally laid back, so they assumed that was "enough." He also began to have toilet troubles once they moved out, but they never really addressed it. So, how are they going to train the toddler? :/

I have seen so many families who are surprised at how their normally friendly dog reacts to their toddler, but they allow the toddler to touch the dog and get right in its comfort zone.
This is true. In attempting to "desensitize" poor Taz to the baby, Colton misunderstandedly tried to make them CLOSER MORE OFTEN, heightening Taz's anxiety, I'm sure. Colton also physically disciplines Taz when Taz lashes out at the baby.

I would start by making sure the dog has a safe place he can retreat to, ideally a crate,
I'll let her know. Maybe baby gates, too, if they don't have them.

... for now I think it should be up to Taz to decide how much contact he can cope with. I think it is important that Taz is allowed to feel comfortable in his own home, he needs to get his stress levels down before he can view the child as a positive thing.
They've just started putting him outside.

I'm just trying to find a plan for them to adhere to altogether that doesn't "inconvenience" everybody too much (or ask what they cannot give)... and it doesn't look like it's rounding out in the favor of Taz being at the apartment. The way she's raised her dog has actually splintered our relationship a bit because of how passionate I am about the care of dogs, but I'm hoping to use my expertise somehow to HELP this time, not just tell her "I don't think you have the faculties or resources to care for Taz right now."
 

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It is so hard with families. Try not to let this drive a wedge between you.
I would suggest trying the new rules for a week or some other fixed period, to see if it works for them.
1. Taz always has access to his crate, and has the option of getting away from the baby.
2. Zane is not allowed to approach or touch the dog.

I think just these small changes will make a huge difference. When Taz is walked, Zane should come too in his stroller to help make a positive association. Try and reassure them that things will be better when the kids are older, it isn't crucial that the dog interacts with the baby now. Taz is clearly showing that he is not happy with the baby near him, and by giving him the option to remove himself they will avoid any potentially dangerous situations.
 

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It is so hard with families. Try not to let this drive a wedge between you.
I would suggest trying the new rules for a week or some other fixed period, to see if it works for them.
1. Taz always has access to his crate, and has the option of getting away from the baby.
2. Zane is not allowed to approach or touch the dog.

I think just these small changes will make a huge difference. When Taz is walked, Zane should come too in his stroller to help make a positive association. Try and reassure them that things will be better when the kids are older, it isn't crucial that the dog interacts with the baby now. Taz is clearly showing that he is not happy with the baby near him, and by giving him the option to remove himself they will avoid any potentially dangerous situations.
Thank you so much, Stella. I'll be sure to tell her this.
 

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I'm sorry, but the child is really too young to understand, and Taz could potentially really hurt this baby. I'd go along with relocating him to the parents house. Training Taz to 'tolerate' this baby is going to take alot of time and patience. Also he should NEVER be punished for snapping, or growling. If you punish his for this behavior, he MAY decide, "oh well, I'll just nip him, since I get punished for growling and snapping". It is his way of telling you he's really stressed.
 

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IMHO toddlers are so unpredictable and unreliable, my advice would be to keep them somewhat apart. While some toddlers are loving and gentle, so many want to 'smack' the dog and other actions that would bother many dogs. Forcing a dog to put up with a toddler is a recipe for disaster and hardly fair to the dog. In a year or so he can be taught how to be kind and respectful to the dog when he's able to understand the feelings of others. That being said, most toddlers can be taught to be gentle, but it's time consuming and takes effort.
 

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... Training Taz to 'tolerate' this baby is going to take alot of time and patience. Also he should NEVER be punished for snapping, or growling. If you punish his for this behavior, he MAY decide, "oh well, I'll just nip him, since I get punished for growling and snapping". It is his way of telling you he's really stressed.
You're very right, Susan. When she asks me about this again (because you know, I'm "crazy dog lady" and most of my family asks me about dogs whether they wanna hear the truth or not) I'll let them know. They aren't complete idiots so they know that Taz could really hurt Zane, and from what you all have said, I now know that going to be with my parents is best for Taz. He is a shy dog and they are quickly making him "fear reactive." I train a lot because I love to and it's in my heart and if I didn't have my dogs around and happy I'd be dead, but I forget that sometimes people "just don't want to train" or "my dog's too stupid/shy/ect. for training."

On the note of aggression punishing aggression, yes. It's an awful cycle. I completely agree. If a dog is punished over aggressively, he will in turn learn that THAT'S the type of correction to "give," and there you have it: You've just made your dog that dog that "overcorrects" and is in danger of miscommunication or pain toward himself or others. Not to mention a dog with low self esteem and poor coping skills.

The only other option is a positive trainer NOW.
They don't have the money or the time. I'm usually everyone's "first step" and if they don't like what's comin' outta my mouth they know what they'd be in for with a trainer :laughing6: My mother and sister have big hearts, but my sister has nowhere near the dog and training experience I do. My mom on the other hand has owned many dogs over the years and was even considering getting into show with Swissys. She may still be a "mushy" woman (God love her) but she knows how to give a dog boundaries and expectations so he can thrive and feel accomplished... not just leave him in an apartment and be upset when he's "doesn't speak English."

This is actually a great idea, as they are more likely to listen to an unbiased professional than a family member.
I think that's a great idea, too. Instead of telling my sister anything anymore, I'll end the conversation with a terse "You need a professional trainer" and that will be that. It'll save me REAMING her a new one (yet again, originally I was upset because when she visited me on her way back down to move in with my parents, she brought Taz. He was overweight, had fleas, earmites, his mange was flaired up and he pottied everywhere he wasn't supposed to... needless to say I had a "talk" with her. I WAS PISSED.)


...Forcing a dog to put up with a toddler is a recipe for disaster and hardly fair to the dog...
I agree, Zellko. Not fair at all. And now they've come so far in that there needs to be a TON OF TRAINING. Training, I know in my heart, they're too busy to do now.


Thank you so much everyone for your input. It hurts my heart this is happening. Dogs are so beloved to me and when it's my family it just rips me up inside. They're in a different state, you see, so I could have maybe... you know what? Nah. She's an adult now. She can make her bed and lie in it, and luckily Taz has his real home to go back to.


Thank you again. Taz thanks you, too.
 
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