This is the first post in a series about dogs and babies. I’m not sure how many posts there will be, at least three more after this one, and here is why… Jeep has been growling at Lynley and Corbin, and we are enrolling him in Dog School to teach him how to relieve the stress they cause him. First, here’s a little background information.
Jeep is our beautiful chocolate lab, who we adopted almost four years ago at the age of two. He’s always been a loving, laid-back guy and very obedient, but he also has an alpha syndrome. We’ve had to work with him a bit to make him understand that Derrick and I are in charge, not him. He understands this completely now, and the only issue he has is around other large male dogs. He is aggressive, big time! But he has never expressed that behavior toward a human.
When you have a dog and a baby on the way, there are a few “tests” you can do to see if your dog is going to be comfortable with children. For example, pull on the dog’s tail and ears, pet the dog when he/she is eating, grab the dog’s fur, etc. Jeep passed all of these tests when Derrick performed them. We did this while I was still pregnant because I always had this uneasy feeling about how he was going to be around children.
I wouldn’t say that my fear came to fruition, but Jeep has been expressing some warning signs to us that he is not okay with the babies. Everything has been fine, until little miss thang and Mr. grabby hands started getting mobile. If Jeep is in the room, they immediately crawl over to him and try to climb up him and pull his fur. A few times, he has gotten up and walked away. Perfect reaction! But, other times, he has growled at them. Not okay! And this is not an aggressive growl with teeth showing, but a clear expression from Jeep that he does not want to be bothered. I get it. I don’t like it when the babies climb all over me and pull my hair either, so why should he be expected to sit there and take it?
We called a trainer out to evaluate the situation because we want every member of our family to be happy, and we would hate to have to find Jeep another home. So the trainer came out, and she thinks Jeep is totally workable. In dog world, his behavior is completely normal, but in baby world, it is not. The babies do not know what a growl means, so if they ignore his warning, the next communication tool Jeep has is to snap at them. We want to 1) Teach Jeep to go to his “place” when he is feeling uncomfortable with the babies. (this will be a safe zone with a comfy bed that the babies are not allowed around) and 2) Teach the babies that Jeep is not a toy or entertainment source. When the babies get older, they will be allowed to interact with Jeep. Right now, he doesn’t understand their language.
More on this to come. Jeep’s first training session is next Thursday. We will be learning the command “Go to your place.” Please check back on the blog, so you can learn how to teach your dog this command too.