Teaching Lindsey that Her Owners Don’t Need Her Help With the Baby

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 24, 2015


Lindsey is a four year old Terrier / Jack Russell mix who has been getting interested or fussy around the family’s new baby and sometimes nips to disagree. Lindsey also has a habit of getting over excited when guests arrive, excitedly urinating at times and sometimes nips feet when people go up stairs.

When I arrived for the session I was impressed with how quiet and calm Lindsey was. Usually Jack Russell mixes are higher energy dogs who get very excited when guests arrive. Not Lindsey. She came to the window by the door, saw me but didn’t ramp up her energy or bark at all.

I sat down with her owners and it quickly become obvious that they scored a pretty great dog. While they hadn’t really added any rules or boundaries in place, for the most part she was a good dog.

While we were discussing what they wanted to get out of the session, one of Lindsey’s owners was holding their new baby. After a few moments, the baby started to cry. The second the crying started, Lindsey rushed over and jumped up on the couch near the baby and mom. It was such a quick reaction that I was a little concerned.

Seeing or moving a bit when something happens is normal for a dog. But in Lindsey’s case, it almost appeared that she came over to take an action of some kind. This made me think Lindsey was under the impression that she was involved in the child rearing and that can be a big problem. Many people think its cute or adorable when a dog tried to take care of a baby. But mother dogs are much rougher with their young ones than humans are.

I disagreed with Lindsey’s presence with a sound that she reacted to immediately. But she wasn’t done with the situation and to cope with my objection to her proximity to the mother and child, Lindsey picked up a stuffed toy and started shaking it with some enthusiasm. This appeared to be a self soothing activity which are normal. But the activity Lindsey used was not appropriate for the situation. I took the stuffed toy and put it between my feet to claim it then disagreed when she attempted to snatch it away.

Because she was so amicable to my taking and possessing the toy, I know that this wasn’t a tough case. Lindsey isn’t an aggressive or dominant dog, she had just gotten the impression that the child belonged to her as well as the actual mom and dad.

I suggested some rules and structure for her owners to adopt to help change this perception. By disagreeing with the dog’s presence when it races over in an excited fashion or gets too close to the baby when all revved up, we can help it understand that only a calm energy is allowed near the baby.

To help the dog learn to respect boundaries and limits, I went over an exercise that will help the dog practice. This exercise has the added benefit of letting the dog practice restraining itself. It took close to ten minutes for Lindsey to complete the exercise with me the first time as she was showing some signs of insecurity or a lack of confidence.

To change her energy and build up some confidence, I changed over to a simple recall exercise with her owners. Within a few moments the positive reinforcing exercise had Lindsey walking with her head held hight and a nice bounce in her steps. By the time we returned to the previous exercise, Lindsey was able to complete it in a much quicker manner. I made sure she understood what we were doing before changing gears and coaching her owners through the exercise with equal success.

I finished the session by showing Lindsey’s owners a more structured way to feed her that will help redefine the leader follower relationship while giving the dog more opportunities to practice restraining herself. This skill will be extremely important in changing her habit of racing over to where the baby was any time it gets upset.

By the end of the session Lindsey was calmer, carried herself with more confidence but also was responding to the commands and corrections of her owners faster. She still needs some practice on some of the basics, but as an intelligent dog, it shouldn’t take her owners long to get her up to masters level dog obedience and respect their position as the baby’s caregivers and providers. Once Lindsey sees and identifies herself as no longer being a part of the parenting circle, she will stop racing over or reacting to the baby and instead leave that responsibility up to the baby’s mom and dad.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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