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We Cured Dog's Jealousy of New Baby: A Case Study

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 28 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Baby Dog Prepare Jealous Arrival

James and Fiona were thrilled with their new baby and they were sure that their Cocker Spaniel, Molly, would be as well. In the rush of the last few months, what with Fiona’s difficult pregnancy and preparing for the baby’s arrival, they hadn’t had much time for Molly but they were sure that everything would be fine as soon as they brought the baby home and Molly met the new member of the family.

“We did feel a bit guilty that we hadn’t been spending much time with Molly - missing her walks and not doing any training or playing games with her,” admits James. “And some friends of ours had told us that it was important to do certain things to help the dog prepare for a new baby but we thought they were just being paranoid. I mean, how could anyone not love babies, right?”

Unfortunately, Molly didn’t share Greg’s feelings and it was apparent from the first that she viewed the new arrival with deep suspicion.

Molly the Spaniel was Jealous of the New Baby

“She wouldn’t come near the baby when we first came home – she sort of skulked around near us, looking at it suspiciously and then she really freaked out when the baby started to cry,” remembers James. “But the worst was when Fiona carried the baby over to her to try and get her to sniff him – she actually growled at him! She also growled if she was being petted by either of us and the other one came over with the baby – it was almost as if she was jealous of the baby taking attention away from her!”

Greg and Fiona also noticed that whenever they were busy with the baby – such as changing his nappy or feeding him – Molly would start acting up, doing naughty things like barking or running around grabbing things like shoes and other prohibited items. Exasperated, they called their friends who had warned them about preparing Molly for the baby.

“They told us that we needed to associate the baby with good things for Molly, so that she would learn to like his presence rather than resent him. At the moment, she just saw him as this strange creature making loud noises that took her humans' attention away from her – no wonder she wasn’t very fond of him!”

Changing the Dog's Attitude

So following their friends’ advice, Greg and Fiona set about changing Molly’s attitude to their baby. They started feeding Molly yummy treats whenever she came near the baby and giving her lots of fuss and praise for showing any kind of positive interest in the baby. They ignored any naughty behaviour but as soon as Molly was calm around the baby, they rewarded her with praise and treats. They also did this around any baby equipment, such as the stroller, so that Molly would associate any activity around these things as positive and rewarding. Soon they noticed that Molly started wagging her tail when she saw the baby as she thought he brought her nice things.

In the past, Greg and Fiona had always fussed Molly when she came to them for attention but now they started ignoring her sometimes, especially when they didn’t have the baby with them. This was important so that Molly would not only associate “being ignored” with the baby’s presence. It also taught Molly that sometimes, she had to just lie quietly and amuse herself – that she could not always have attention on demand from her humans, regardless of whether the baby was there or not. This was something that Greg and Fiona should have started practising before the baby came but it was still not too late to start now.

Baby Towels in the Dog's Basket

They also placed some of the baby’s dirty towels in Molly’s bed, so that she would get used to the baby’s scent. And finally, they both committed to spending some quality time with Molly – whether it was taking her for a walk, doing a bit of training with her or playing a game with one of her favourite toys. This way Molly still got the attention she needed from her humans and did not mind so much if she was ignored some of the other times.

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