Goose’s love for food, people over the age of 3, and the words “hello” and “pancakes” would send the 6-year-old dachshund barking with excitement. But as Goose’s family welcomed a baby into their family a year ago, his parents knew that creating a positive association between their newborn and Goose would be imperative.
Goose’s parents were extra cognizant and when they held their newborn in their arms, they began to notice “kiss to dismiss” behaviour- a term used to describe Goose’s frantic licking of his little sister’s face. This was his way of telling the new baby to move away from his parents. Goose was a velcro dog and was not okay with sharing his humans.
As soon as Goose’s parents saw this, they began to redirect him with treats and encourage alternative behaviours. Over the next 5 months, Goose was calm with his sister, and his parents were able to put away the baby gates because his behaviour improved – temporarily.
As his little sister started to become mobile, his behaviour changed – again. Goose began to leave the room when she was around, and one day when his mom’s back was turned, Goose growled and snapped at his sister!
This prompted Goose’s family to reach out to our certified training team for a problem-solving behaviour modification and additional support package.
They were paired with Louise Lawrence, certified dog trainer. Together, they identified Goose’s triggers and set up a management strategy that would remove interactions with Goose and his sister. He was also taught what to do (either go to bed or leave the room) when his sister made him uncomfortable. Then, they were slowly reintroduced.
It was important to manage Goose’s parent’s expectations as well. Since Goose was uncomfortable with children between the ages of 1 and 3, he might have only show cordial disinterest to his sister. Although he may become more comfortable with her as she gets older, management in place was needed to keep everyone safe.
Toddlers can make dogs uncomfortable, especially during the transition from being a little burrito to a wibbly-wobbly-uncoordinated-handsy mobile being. Babies explore the world with their hands, and they don’t know how to move their bodies as adults do. This can be unnerving for dogs who can’t understand what’s going on. As Jennifer Dawson Shyrock, founder of Family Paws LLC, says “Babies grow, dogs adjust at every stage.”
The first obstacle to adjusting Goose’s behaviour was around management. Goose had not been desensitized to barriers, so he was provided with mental stimulation as he was taught how to relax while his mom and sister were on the other side of the barrier. His training focused on nailing home the foundations: “go to bed” and “touch”.
By giving him choices about where he could settle and still get Cheerios, his favourite snack, Goose could choose to be close to his sister or further away depending on his comfort level.
As Goose settled into his new routine, his pet parents redeveloped trust in him around his sister. Goose was given some opportunities during quiet parts of the day to be around his sister with active, awake, adult supervision.
Through humane, compassionate, trust-building exercises, our certified training professionals work to strengthen the bond you have with your animal. In-person or virtual, in a group setting or one-on-one, we strive to provide you and your pet with the tools needed to live your best life together. Visit our Training and Behaviour page to get started.
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