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Hi all

I am a member of old but haven’t been on the forum for a good while now due to new baby. But I know this is the place to come for concrete advice!! Sorry this is long!

My lovely furry boy Monty is 5 years old now and we got him at an extremely stressful time when I was diagnosed with kidney disease. He’s been with us through dialysis, transplant and now baby! I think some of this may stem from him always being the only baby!

Our son Barney arrived at Christmas and we were in hospital for 10 days and the first time I’d been away from Monty for any length. When we came back with the baby we did everything we’d read to do. I entered the house first and showered him with affection. We then brought Barney (baby) in and let him have a sniff. Nothing forced but lots of praise. While I’d been in hospital my husband brought home one of Barneys baby grows for Monty to get used to the smell.

Monty held a grudge for about 24 hours before being his usual affectionate self and seemed to really dote on the baby. This has continued and he often ‘kept watch’ on the baby (in the cot out of reach) while I was in the shower etc and would regularly alert us if he stirred.

Barney is now 10 months and equally adored Monty. He’s now starting to move around and crawl.
Monty however has suddenly started acting up. He will steal Barney’s toys and destroy them or something else around the room. He’ll suddenly run in with a shoe or something he shouldn’t have. Monty has always been very trustworthy with food and would never counter surf. But if anything is made for Barney, or left over from Barney, he’ll jump up and steal it. It’s only been a handful of times but it’s always Barney’s food and he’s never done it before.

I get that this is attention seeking. He still gets a lovely long walk every day, still gets played with lots and grandparents spend equal amounts of time playing with the dog as they do the baby!

Monty still seems to love Barney and will lie right next to him if he’s on the mat playing, and he always wants to be involved in whatever we’re up to. He licks him lots and is patient when Barney is trying to throw things for him. Barney spends most of his day laughing at Monty and although he’s started to reach out for him, we’re aware this can be dangerous so are always with them and trying to teach him to reach out gently.

But we don’t know what to do with Monty. He will not give up what he’s stolen and if we chase him, he gets what he wants. Often the only way to get the item off him is to offer a treat, which we’ve done with expensive items as we just want them back! But I realise this is sending a ‘reward’ message.

Any advice would be gratefully received. Monty is still wonderful in every way and a pleasure to walk off lead and have in the house but he is slowly destroying toys and things around the house!
Thanks
 

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Hello Kate. Personally, not having any children I'm not really qualified to answer this. But reading between the lines, do you think Monty sees Barney as a small human? Or more of another pet who has come into the home. Remember. it's difficult for a dog. He does not understand English and a baby is really outside his field of reference. They are not even like "Small humans" because they dont stand on two legs like humans! They dont use words like humans or even behave like any human he's ever met!! Life is changing for him and he's not sure in what way. If you had brought another dog, rather than a baby then he would play (destroy) with any toys the other dog had. But instead you have brought this other creature in, so why cant he play with that's toys? Can you see where I'm coming from when I said at the start, "do you think Monty sees Barney as a small human?" Or is he really not sure what Barney is? Having a baby in the house is a big upheaval for both yourselves and for Monty, and it's going to take a time for you all to adapt. But then, as I also said, "I'm not really qualified to answer this."
 

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Hi John and thanks so much for taking the time to reply.

I think what you’ve said really rings true. He will often ‘groom’ Barney and in hindsight almost seek to play with him or teach him. He certainly acts like ‘top dog’ if that makes sense,

And perhaps all these plastic toys are seen as toys for pets? To be honest there’s little difference between the baby’s toys and the dog’s so I can understand why he runs off with them and they then get destroyed.

Would you have any tips on how to deal with it? It’s the stealing of things and then destroying them as attention seeking behaviour that we’re struggling with. They are often quite expensive to we tend to run for the treat jar so we know he’ll drop it-which I know is the wrong thing to do!!

thanks so much
Kate
 

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Hi Kate. Remember I said I have no children, so have no practical experience, so I'll look at this from the psychology side. But I'm afraid I'm a bit tied up at the mo, so I'll try to put a post here tomorrow. (Probably be afternoon or evening.)
 

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No rush John and I’d appreciate any insight you can give me from a behaviour point of view!
 

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Right Kate, back with you again.

Dogs are so much like people, they might all seem wonderful, but they all see things slightly differently. Let me tell you about just two of mine, the softest, gentlest creatures you could imagine.

Mandy was my first. She was an only dog until Kate arrived. The day Kate arrived Mandy got up in her chair and watched Kate, who was obviously tired, standing in the middle of the living room floor literally out on her feet. Mandy got out of her chair, put her head on Kate’s back and pushed her onto the floor before going back to her chair again. After a few minutes, when Kate still had not moved, (She was sound asleep!) Mandy went to her, poked her with her nose and when Kate opened an eye she went back to her chair happy that all was well.

Then there was Anna. Anna had never been on her own, she had always had Lucy around until she died. After Lucy died Amy arrived and Anna hated her! For two weeks I was walking on knives! Then one day I started playing tug of war with Amy and Anna looked as if she wanted to join in so I offered her an end to hold. She took it, straight away dropped it, jumped on Amy and washed her from head to toe! Problem gone! She just needed time

What I’m saying is, all dogs are different. Some need time to adapt to new situations, where others seem to instinctively know, and take everything in their stride. With Mandy always until that point being an “Only dog” you would have thought she would have found it harder to adapt, but no, it was Anna who had always been around other dogs who found it harder. To your dog, you have brought another creature into the house and he has no idea what it is! Really a baby does not look or act like any human he has ever met. When Barney gets a little older and starts to walk and talk then Monty will recognise him for what he is, a small human.

At the moment he does not see things belonging to Barney as belonging to a human, so the same rules don’t apply. Dogs are very context orientated, He knows what belongs to you and your husband. But in a multi dog household it’s almost impossible for a dog to accept that a toy can belong to another dog but not him! Same with food. We have to train the dogs that their food is in a particular place so that's theirs and not the food in a different place. You are at least for the time being in the equivalent of a multi dog household! (Please, I know it sounds insulting to your baby, but I’m trying to explain how your dog sees things.) So training for Monty is almost as you would train dogs when a house suddenly becomes a multi dog household. (I well remember Anne Roslin Williams saying about her childhood. “Mum (The late Mary Roslin Williams of Mansergh Labradors.) brought us up as Labradors!”)

Remember that the dynamics of the household have changed, so it is up to you to set the ground rules. Dont be afraid to tell Monty off. You don’t have to be heavy handed of anything. Something I used to tell my class when I was instructing dog training, “The absolute worst punishment your dog can imagine is the worst punishment he has ever had. He cannot imagine anything worse! So it the worst punishment your dog has ever had is to be told to “Pack it in!” then that really is a serious punishment!” But it’s imperative that a dog relates any punishment to the crime. If Monty tries to get at Barneys food, point to it whilst scolding him. Pick it up. Leave him in no doubt what he’s being told off about. But then, Make friends again. Dont nag, a short sharp telling off and it’s over. Dogs live in the moment so all sees with nagging is a bad tempered mum rather than "Oops, I should not have done that!" OK, it’s not going to work first time, but by being consistent eventually the penny will drop.

To me, growing up with animals is wonderful for children. It teaches them tolerance. But it also gives YOU the opportunity to teach your child/children tolerance of other people and creatures, and a respect of life.
 
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