By Karen Soukiasian
Let’s face it, none of us like to feel jilted, and that includes your puppy or dog. Dogs do sense when their status has been compromised and that’s when you need to beware the green-eyed canine monster.
If a new person, baby or puppy has entered into your dog’s life, and unexpectedly, you may start to notice subtle changes in their behavior, or the transformation can slam down on you like a ton of bricks!
Your dog’s inappropriate behaviors are projecting their feelings of lack of self-confidence and rejection. To understand what is going on with your pet’s unacceptable behavior, you have to understand what is triggering it and why.
To start, the majority of dogs are happiest when they know their place in the pack, and have a schedule and routine. Schedules and routines offer them a sense of security.
Mainly, it’s dogs that have been pampered, and isolated that have the hardest time adjusting to change. Well-socialized dogs typically look forward to new experiences, new dogs and new people. They feel less threatened, have more self-confidence and feel more included. They are flexible. They welcome the newcomer with a “the more the merrier!” philosophy. That is a dog that is happy and secure.
Here are a few tips, to help your jilted dog feel more included and keep the green-eyed monster at bay.
New puppy or dog
If you are considering adding a new puppy or dog to the family, include your current dog in the decision making process. How would you like it if someone prearranged your living situation without consulting you? How would you like it if someone picked out your mate or new best friend? It makes everyone’s life easier, when the two dogs are compatible, rather than resentful and hostile.
Start by introducing them in a neutral place. That way your current dog doesn’t feel threatened or challenged on their home turf. They don’t perceive they have to protect their fort. You want your dog feel camaraderie with the new dog and to welcome them into the house.
Keep the meeting short and fun. Keep it positive. Before there are any confrontations, remove your dog from the scene, so they don’t perceive in their little canine brain that they have run the other dog off. Leave them both wanting more of each other. You especially want your dog to look forward to seeing the newbie again.
Once you have the new dog in the house, follow your normal routine. Feed your current dog first. That way they believe they have maintained their senior status. The newbie always starts at the bottom of the totem pole.
Don’t give the newbie the run of the entire house right away. Let them earn the privilege of access to all the rooms one at a time. Let your dog be the one to open those “doors,” and share their space willingly. It causes less resentment.
Divide your attention equally. Don’t think your dog won’t sense you are paying more attention to the newbie. If playing ball is something you have always done together, continue the routine and gradually invite the newbie to join in. If your dog resents the newbie from participating, respect it. Remember, this was a special activity you once shared exclusively with your old pal.
If walking your dogs together, let the current one walk closest to you. That was their spot in the past so don’t create resentment. Allow them that special place. I had an Australian Shepherd that treasured that spot. I allowed her that privilege, and I made her feel even more important and helpful, by allowing her to carry the new dog’s leash. She had her special spot, she had a job, plus, she had seniority and she was the boss! She was happy!
If your dog is one that has not been adequately socialized, before getting a new puppy or dog, enroll them in a group obedience class. It is amazing within two to three weeks, most respond in a positive way at meeting making new friends.
Other ways to help them be more comfortable around new dogs are dog parks and doggie day care. Dogs need dogs they can relate to, just as people are more comfortable when they have the same things in common.
So, you’ve met someone new, and now you have to introduce him or her to your not-so-receptive dog. The objective is to make the experience as positive as possible. Put yourself in your dog’s place. Before you met this new person, it was just the two of you…now they have to share you.
Again, the best way to do that is to introduce them in a neutral area. Make the meeting fun, and keep it short.
Keep the meeting positive. Play games and have the person give lots of praise and treats. You want your dog to associate the new person as a good thing, not something to resent.
Before there are any negative feelings, remove your dog from the scene, so they don’t perceive they have run the person off. You want your dog to look forward to seeing that person again.
After a few neutral meetings, invite the person into your house. Again, keep the first few visits short and positive. By now, your dog should have formed a bond and will be less likely to see them as an intruder.
Don’t insincerely focus on the dog; yet, also don’t ignore them. Keep a balance.
Have the new person feed and walk the dog with and without you present. This demonstrates to your dog that person is the bearer of good things and fun.
The new baby
Some dogs find it harder than others to adjust to a new baby. Luckily, the majority eagerly and happily welcomes the baby. Lets face it, babies come with lots of new smells, sounds, and stuff. It is best to desensitize your dog to as many of them as possible before the baby comes home.
It is also a good idea to establish boundaries, so you’re not tripping over your pooch with your baby in your arms. Decide if your dog will or will not be allowed in the baby’s room. If they are allowed, assign a certain area for them. Put a rug, or doggie bed there and train them to that spot, when they join you in the room. That way they feel included but aren’t in the way.
If you have stairs, start training your dog to go down the stairs BEFORE you do. You don’t want them racing down behind you, while you are carrying the baby.
Try to stay as much as possible on a regular schedule and routine to help make your dog feel secure. Make time for your dog. Don’t overlook them. Use that time only for them.
If your dog is not familiar with the sound of a crying baby, you can find CDS or MP3s with the complete orchestra of sounds babies make. Start at a normal volume. If your dog becomes anxious, lower it to where the dog relaxes, but do not turn it off. Slowly increase the volume to what the dog will normally be hearing. The more your dog hears now, the less apt the child’s cries and noises will make them anxious when the baby comes home.
Set up the crib, swing, highchair, and stroller. Get everything out! Let your dog get familiar with them.
Train your dog to walk calmly with an empty stroller.
Desensitize your dog to the fact you will be carrying a small bundle around and paying attention to it. Get a doll and carry it around as if it is your new baby. This will help desensitize your dog and make it less apt to jump up on you, and your child.
The day before the baby comes home, have a blanket, towel or some article of clothing with the child’s scent on it, brought to the house. Allow your pet to familiarize him or herself to the new scent that will soon be everywhere!
Don’t leave soiled diapers or clothing where your dog can get into them. The grosser things smell, the more most dogs like it! Make sure the hamper is dog proofed!
Train your dog to touch only their toys — not the child’s. If they have the child’s toy, first tell them “NO!” Then tell them to “give” and immediately replace it with an appropriate item, preferably their own toy.
The day the baby comes home, have someone else carry the baby into the house. Your dog is going to be so happy to see you, give them the attention they have patiently been waiting for. Remember, until today, they were the most important thing in your life.
Only when everything calms down, is it time to introduce your dog to your child. If he or she appears anxious or too excitable, calmly remove them from the room. Allow them to calm down and then return them to the room. This way they will associate the only time they may come near the baby, is when they are calm.
Keep your cool…don’t over-react. Remember, this is as stressful a time for your dog, as it is you!
As much as possible, when spending time with your baby include your dog; even if all you can do is talk to them. The sweetest sound to a dog is their owner’s voice.
Give your dog a private place to retreat to when they want to get away. Make sure everyone, especially children, respect that sanctuary. Some dogs prefer to go to their crate, some like going under a bed or a table…whatever it is, respect it.
Don’t toss your dog outside for any longer than you usually do. That will instill a sense of abandonment, which will create resentment and inappropriate behaviors.
Encourage visitors who come to see the baby, to at least acknowledge the dog.
Bottom line: Like people, some dogs are more prone to jealousy than others and let their green-eyed canine monster loose. The majority can be helped to adjust. A few never do. Before doing anything drastic, try to work with them. Usually, it’s well worth the effort.
Follow Karen A. Soukiasian on Facebook