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Preparing A Shy/fearful Grey For Life W/ New Baby


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Guest Harry702

I know this topic has been covered to death, and I've read just about every thread on the topic, trust me. Need to ask advice given our particular situation.

 

Situation:

I'm 8 months pregnant with our first baby. We have Harry, the greyhound, and two kitties. We adopted Harry 2 years ago in early April. He is about as close to perfect as anyone could ask... sweet, (mostly) well-behaved, (usually) obedient, etc. One thing we know about him, and have always known, is that he tends to be shy and fearful... particularly of things he doesn't know or understand, and particularly loud or sudden noises. This fearful tendency also leads to some sleep aggression and space aggression. He's been doing so well for the past year or so, but recently, in the past few weeks, I've noticed a rise in the number of sleep/space incidents. Just a few nights ago, he barked and lunged suddenly at one of our cats because she accidentally bumped into his foot while he was sleeping. Typically he'll warn with a growl first, but this was clearly a sleep startle incident. Wouldn't make it any less scary for a crawling baby. I want to emphasize that, on the whole, his space and sleep aggression are relatively minor... but I know these things can get worse under extreme circumstances.

 

I guess what I'm getting at is that I've been doing the best I can to have a positive outlook on this new baby + dog situation, but recent incidents have left me feeling discouraged, and worried about my ability to help everyone get along okay. Believe me when I say I'm doing all the homework I can to address any possible issues... I've read the threads on the subject, and I know that the #1 rule for safety is to never leave them alone together. I'm afraid that, given Harry's boundaries, I may never be able to do anything BUT keep them completely physically separated (playpen, expen, baby gates, etc.). I'm committed to that, if that's what it takes, but accidents do happen.. these measures can't possibly work 100% of the time. I've also done a lot of reading (Childproofing Your Dog, Living With Kids and Dogs without Loosing Your Mind (much better book, IMO), Mine!: A Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs, on order: Happy Kids, Happy Dog, Help for a Fearful Dog...). My worst fear is that something bad may happen, and I'll know it's my fault... I can't even think about having to rehome Harry without crying.

 

Am I getting too worked up? What would you do if you were in my shoes (with a shy/fearful/space aggressive dog)? I really want to do everything within my power to prevent something bad from happening... I mean that.

 

Sorry about the rambling... this is really weighing heavily on my mind lately. :(

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Guest PiagetsMom

I recently saw that one of Piaget's littermates, which was adopted out almost 4 years ago when I adopted Piaget, was just found on Craigslist for this very reason - a new addition to the family.

 

 

I think you'll get lots of posts telling you not to worry about it, everything will be okay - and I truly hope it will be. I don't know what your circumstances/plans were when you adopted Harry - I wouldn't think that a shy/fearful pup would be a good consideration if you were planning a family, however, maybe you were not married.......maybe you've changed your mind about having children.......maybe you weren't aware that Harry was a shy/fearful pup. Has Harry been exposed to young children, or will your baby be the first? In any case, at 8 months pregnant, it is what it is.

 

Neither of my pups are what I would consider to be a good risk with children. Piaget is fearful of them and Mirage is, at times, unpredictable in his behavior. I worry about grandchildren in the future, but that's not the same as having children in the house full time, and a more workable situation.

 

At this point, I think you're doing everything you can do to prepare/educate yourself in order to work with Harry and your new baby, and that's a very good thing. Especially when you're dealing with young children and pets, caution and vigilance, while not a guarantee, are still your best protection against accidents. You're aware of what your situation is, you're not ignoring it, and that in itself could make a huge difference in success for your family. :grouphug

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I don't know if you have tried anything like de-sensitizing for sleep startle aggression. We used to throw a rolled up pair of socks, very lightly, of course, across the room at John E. After a while he barely reacted and we would praise him for his lack of response.

Irene Ullmann w/Flying Odin in Lower Delaware
Angels Brandy, John E, American Idol, Paul, Fuzzy and Shine
Handcrafted Greyhound and Custom Clocks http://www.houndtime.com
Zoom Doggies-Racing Coats for Racing Greyhounds

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Katie have you read "Living with Kids and Dogs (without losing your mind)" yet by Colleen Pelar? That's a pretty good place to start. Also, don't overthink things too much. Yes, you want to do the right thing, but also keep in mind that Harry will feed off of your anxiety. Keep things calm, happy, matter of fact and most of all, especially with a dog like Harry, ROUTINE. You have a lot of training tools at your fingertips - crate, muzzle and our group training team smile.gif Take full advantage of all of that. Also, if you look back in our adopter yahoo group archives, one of our members, Shonda, created a yahoo group specifically dealing with greyhounds and babies. You may want to join that, too. goodluck.gif

Edited by turbotaina


Meredith with Heyokha (HUS Me Teddy) and Crow (Mike Milbury). Missing Turbo (Sendahl Boss), Pancho, JoJo, and "Fat Stacks" Juana, the psycho kitty. Canku wakan kin manipi.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

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Guest Audeamus

I have a shy/fearful lurcher and for the last six months we lived with a baby. Gir was good around the baby for the most part, with that in mind I would watch him for signs of being stressed out, overwhelmed or just not happy. The kid also wasn't allowed to hit Gir or tug on Gir when I was watching them but I don't know about when it's mother would watch them. Regardless Gir never snapped or growled at the child.

I think that one of the biggest contributing factors with the baby and Gir is that the kid would feed Gir goldfish crackers, give him fries, give him cookies if he didn't want them. Since Gir is kind of food motivated, I guess it worked out pretty well. :lol

Harry'll be alright, you'll find someway Harry, the baby, you and the cats will exist together peacefully :)

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Guest Harry702

Thanks for the advice given thus far. In truth, no... we didn't know when we adopted Harry that he had any of these issues. It's not the group or his foster mom's fault... he was sick most of the time he was in foster care, and how can you possibly evaluate the personality of a sick dog? You can't... and I completely understand that. And like I said... he's a doll in everyday/average interactions... just a wonderful boy, and we love him dearly for exactly who he is. We did know we'd eventually want to start a family... we adopted the dog we fell in love with, and when it turned out that he wasn't perfect, we figured we'd work with him and cross the bridge when it came. The bridge is on the horizon. :P

 

Katie have you read "Living with Kids and Dogs (without losing your mind)" yet by Colleen Pelar? That's a pretty good place to start. Also, don't overthink things too much. Yes, you want to do the right thing, but also keep in mind that Harry will feed off of your anxiety. Keep things calm, happy, matter of fact and most of all, especially with a dog like Harry, ROUTINE. You have a lot of training tools at your fingertips - crate, muzzle and our group training team smile.gif Take full advantage of all of that. Also, if you look back in our adopter yahoo group archives, one of our members, Shonda, created a yahoo group specifically dealing with greyhounds and babies. You may want to join that, too. goodluck.gif

 

Yes, I just finished reading that book (for the second time) last week. I really like it, but I am disappointed that it doesn't provide much guidance on "problem areas" like guarding behavior and fearfulness. The author identifies these as possible issues that can become big problems, but doesn't provide a lot of concrete advice beyond "find a good behaviorist/trainer." We keep him on a steady routine now, but one Pelar's suggestions is that you prepare a dog for chaos of living with a baby by starting to vary the routine a bit. There may be days that I need to take him out at 2:30 pm, instead of his usual 4 pm walk... etc. We can try to keep that to a minimum, but I think realistically, all of our lives will be dictated by the baby's schedule (especially at first), so I'm not sure how much upset to his routine I can prevent. The GW training team is on my list of resources, and I'll look into the yahoo group as well. I don't anticipate an issue to develop (if it does at all) until the baby is more mobile... which won't happen for a while.

 

I think you're right about him sensing something's up. I try to keep his interactions with me as positive as possible, but I can tell he senses things are off (whether that's related to the pregnancy, or the fact that I'm worried/anxious, or both, who knows...). I know I need to chill. It's just a lot easier said than done... particularly right now... raging hormones and no glass of wine in sight. :P:(

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Guest AGirlNamedMe

A couple of ideas....

 

 

One the best things I read here for the sleep aggression thing was tossing a few kibble at your dog while he's sleeping. Dog gets startled awake and SURPRISE!....there's a treat for the trouble. (But last night, I tossed a couple of pieces at Bella and it didn't wake her. Tossing something heavier might be the way to go if Harry doesn't get startled awake.)

 

If your doggy hasn't been around babies and crying, you might want to start playing some sounds of crying babies between now and the time your little one comes home.

 

Have you SO bring something home that smells like the baby before the baby gets home.

 

Have someone else carry the baby into the house the first time so you can easily greet Harry.

 

What I would do: make absolutely sure the baby and the dog are not left in the same room alone and try to make some progress with the sleep/space aggression.

 

It's going to work out, though. You're a good mommy to Harry and you're going to be a good baby momma, too.

 

xo

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An ex-pen will be your very good friend, so as to shield Harry (and The Best Dog Bed In The World) from intrusions, and shield others from startle responses.

 

The kibble/sock toss is worth some trying.

 

Something weird is, my little girl Zema is shy, fearful, and hates change. And loves young children. Admittedly she doesn't have sleep startle, but I was surprised to find how good she is with kids.

 

Hugs and best luck.

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Katie, I have no advice, as my philosophy is more "leap and the net will appear," but I just wanted to wish you well. I know you're doing everything you possibly can to make this a peaceful transition, and you are to be commended for that.

 

Your schedule will absolutely be whacky sometimes, and that's ok. Don't beat yourself up about it, and try not to project your stress. Harry will fall into whatever routine develops, even if it's not scheduled to the minute.

 

Hang in there, and have a half glass of wine. Bones are built, you're in the clear. ;)

gallery_15455_2907_595.jpg

Christie and Bootsy (Turt McGurt and Gil too)
Loving and missing Argos & Likky, forever and ever.
~Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs you wanted to. ~

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You may find that Harry does just fine in the transition because it is a slow transition. You are not bringing home a 2 year-old. you are bringing home a new baby that will make sounds but the baby will not be able to get to Harry at all, so any interactions will be cause Harry initiates them. Harry will continue to get used to and grow while the baby grows and it is very easy (says the mom of a newly crawling 9 month old) to keep them separated. Our dogs have beds in every room and are able to "escape" if they need to, and we don't put the baby down on the floor unless that room is empty of dogs. If a dog comes in while Elsie's on the floor, we monitor the exchange.

 

Our 2 greys did very well in transitioning to their new positions below the baby. As Elsie continues to grow we will continue to be consistent with rules of interacting with the dogs and hope it continues to go so well.

 

Best to you... be healthy!

Amy and Tim in Beverly, MA, with Chase and Always missing Kingsley (Drama King) and Ruby (KB's Bee Bopper).

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Katie, 2 things to add to Meredith's advice about just chilling out a bit. ;)

 

First, not sure how well you know Neyla or what I went through with her, but she was a spook when I got her. She's come a long way, but she's generally remained fearful of children, particularly young loud ones. When Kopal had her kids, Neyla did NOT do well when we went over to their house. So you can understand how worried I was when one of the 2 couples that I trust to watch Neyla when I go out of town got pregnant. :yikes The interesting thing is that she does great with Fiona, who is now 4. I will say my friends were really great from the start about using babygates and crates to separate the dogs from her when they couldn't supervise and I never worried that there would be an accident, but they don't really need to manage them anymore. Fiona understands not to bother the dogs when they're on their beds and Neyla is really chill around her and only becomes increasingly so with each stay. I've been shocked throughout to see how well Neyla has adapted and I honestly think it was a combination of good management on their part (and they were also very good about rewarding Neyla with treats whenever she approached Fiona or vice versa), but primarily Fiona growing up around her rather than just being thrown at her already loud and running around. I am not kidding you, occasionally we pass certain couples with a stroller or a daughter and she perks her ears up in excitement. I don't presume for a second that this would translate into any other child/situation, but my point is that you may be surprised by how Harry reacts to your baby because they will be together from day 1.

 

Second, I really recommend you do training to eliminate the sleep aggression. I'll PM you a protocol that Pat Miller wrote up for me to help desensitize Zuri when he was reacting occasionally to people approaching him on his bed. The protocol was meant to be performed when he was awake, but I would recommend you do it anyway. The idea is to not get him to tolerate people approaching him in his space, but to actually like it. As in, he sees someone approaching him and his response is to wag and get really happy anticipating what good things may happen. I would also try the tossing treats when he's sleeping, but I think I would do the awake training first only b/c I think it's helping you to set yourself up for success doing the sleep training. Otherwise, what happens if you toss a treat at him while he's sleeping, he growls as he wakes up, then notices and eats the treat. I would be concerned about what lesson is being learned there. I think doing the awake training will increase teh likelihood that he wakes up happy in the first place although there's a good chance I'm talking out of my azz here. :P

 

Anyway, doing the training certainly won't hurt, and while not foolproof it will increase the likelihood that if there is an accident once yoru baby is crawling around (ie. you avert your eyes for a few seconds and suddenly baby has crawled onto the bed) that the reaction from Harry will be a positive one. Also, I would remember to occasionally do the training here and tehre after you've had the baby. Don't assume that he'll retain the behavior forever without you ever reinforcing it. Even if that means that once a day you make sure to approach him on the bed and reward him for being happy about it. Hope this all makes sense.

 

ETA: I forgot something pretty important that I don't know if anyone else mentioned. You said that his incidences of sleep aggression are still pretty rare. That means that there are plenty of opportunities for you to reinforce him for not reacting aggressively in his daily life. Keep a clicker and treats on you at all times in the house if at all possible and any time you notice him startled awake - by a noise, a cat, etc. - and he doesn't react, click and toss a treat over. I can't stress enough the value of using a clicker. I could go on and on, but the gist is that there is actually scientific evidence now to support the anecdotal evidence that has existed for some time that clicker training in particular is more effective than PR training w/o a clicker (even with a different marker than a click). If you want details respond to my PM and I'll give them. I'm pretty sure most people don't want to be bored by my ravings over the clicker. :)

Edited by NeylasMom

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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Guest Harry702

Thanks again for all the great advice and the words of encouragement. In the course of a day or so, I've definitely calmed down quite a bit. Most of the time I know we'll be okay and figure it out... Harry has impressed me with his ability to adapt on a number of occasions (most notably, he did a fabulous job living through nearly 6 months of major construction at the house... I NEVER would've predicted he'd adapt as well to that), and I know that as long as we do our best to set him up for success, everyone will be fine. I suppose I panicked a bit because I don't want to be complacent about it either, and completely ignore the potential for issues. I absolutely do not want to reflect back on this transition and think "If only we'd tried X..." or "It's our fault, because we didn't do Y."

 

Thanks to everyone for the positive experiences and stories. All of it has made me feel a lot better. It sounds a little ridiculous, but I'm thinking of having a "talk" with Harry about what's going on. He doesn't necessarily have to understand my words, but hopefully he'd understand that I'm trying to keep him in the loop.

 

Jen - Thanks for sending the training advice for sleep/bed aggression. I think you're right that this issue should be addressed directly right away.

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Guest burgerandfrey

Katie, 2 things to add to Meredith's advice about just chilling out a bit. ;)

 

Second, I really recommend you do training to eliminate the sleep aggression. I'll PM you a protocol that Pat Miller wrote up for me to help desensitize Zuri when he was reacting occasionally to people approaching him on his bed.

 

We are also expecting our first baby this August and I would love to have this information as well... I hoped it would be covered by one of the books mentioned in this thread. Our male grey is not as sleep aggressive as he was when we first adopted him last Summer, but I think he could use some reinforcement for good behavior. We already try to do this by saying his name as we slowly approach his bed, until he opens his eyes and looks at us. Then we slowly sit next to him and give him praise and/or a treat. You can tell just from his body language that he feels safer and more relaxed in our house than he used to.

 

I think it's worth mentioning that any dog can get startled and snap when awakened, regardless of how well they are trained not to. I grew up with dogs (and cats) and the first rule about dogs I was taught was to "let sleeping dogs lie." We had a West Highland White Terrier growing up, as well as other terrier mixes, who would easily snap when startled. I can still remember being snapped at as a child... even having red marks where our Westie's teeth found my hand. It frightened me, but I got over it. It was obvious to me that she didn't mean to do it and that I had just startled her.

 

Our previous greyhound was not sleep aggressive at all, and neither is one of our current hounds. We adopted Zeke and Lola last Summer. Lola is a three year old female who has never snapped or growled at us. Zeke has never been aggressive or growly while awake, but he can be scary when he is startled from sleep. He's a powerful dog with much bigger jaws than Lola. We have nieces who visit our house frequently, and we often repeat our warning to let sleeping dogs lie... and to never ever approach their beds while they are in them... whether they are sleeping or not. My youngest niece, who is 7 (old enough that she should be able to honor the rules of the house), sat on Zeke's bed one day while my wife had her back turned. Zeke was actually awake but he doesn't like to have his bed invaded. He stood up and barked at her in an aggressive way that scared her and my wife. Fortunately he was just trying to warn her and not trying to hurt her, but still... that's exactly the kind of situation we need to work hard to avoid. You can tell children all you want not to do something, and they will still do it... at least until they find out why you warned them not to. Fortunately my niece learned her lesson painlessly, and she and Zeke are still very fond of each other. She just won't sit on his bed anymore. She will call him, and he will get up and immediately come over to see her with his tail wagging.

 

As for clicker training: We have never tried it with our current dogs or our previous ones, but I have been thinking about starting to use one. The main reason is that I want a distinct sound that will get both dogs' attention immediately... kind of the way the sound of cookie jar does. Sometimes you need to diffuse a tense situation from across the room by getting everyone's attention.

 

Like Harry702 we are committed to making things work between our dogs and our new baby. Greyhounds have been part of the family for eleven years now, and we just can't imagine a house without them. Fortunately they have both had plenty of exposure to children and even babies without problems... so for us it's really a matter of trying to reduce the sleep aggression, keep our child from going near the dog beds, and training the dogs and children to respect each others' space as the child gets old. I suppose toys will be another issue. I don't expect dogs or toddlers to be able to tell the difference between kid toys and dog toys, so it will be up to us to give their toys separate spaces.

 

I just wish the Olympics hadn't give people such a bad impression about greyhounds. I'm sure it has been discussed on this site, but one of the ice skaters had a scar on his face from when he was bitten by his family's pet greyhound as a child. They were going to have the dog put down, but he said that he loved the dog and wouldn't let them. I wish the announcer could have just said, "bitten by the family dog" instead of specifying that it was a greyhound. Now we are going to have people asking us things like, "are those dogs safe around babies? I thought greyhounds were aggressive."

 

Oh well...

 

Sean

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I suppose toys will be another issue. I don't expect dogs or toddlers to be able to tell the difference between kid toys and dog toys, so it will be up to us to give their toys separate spaces.

 

Whoever picks up the toy first gets to play with it is the rule in our house. There are a few toys that are precious to our son (especially his cookie monster slippers :) ), and we do not allow Bootsy to play with them, but other than that, if it's on the floor, it's fair game.

 

Our son is a little over a year old, and he already knows not to bother Bootsy when he's lying down or eating, he knows not to hit or pull tails/ears, and he knows how to give Bootsy his treats. I'm not saying these things out of any sense of accomplishment on my part - just to illustrate that it is possible to have a peaceful home with both a child and a greyhound.

 

We also have a cat, and man does Lucas love that cat. He hugs him and pets him and loves him and ... :lol

gallery_15455_2907_595.jpg

Christie and Bootsy (Turt McGurt and Gil too)
Loving and missing Argos & Likky, forever and ever.
~Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs you wanted to. ~

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