Three years ago, I was preparing our pup Opie for our first child to arrive in June 2020. If you do the math you’ll notice this was in the heart of Covid Uncertainty, so a checklist of training (something I could control) was very welcomed. I tested the different triggers and trained for future scenarios…
- Baby sounds
- Cuddling things in our arms
- Going to a place on command
- Doorbell manners
- Bring it to me
- Beep beep
Things went great and when Walt arrived we had a beautiful (crafted) welcome home from the hospital. For Opie, there was some confusion during the crying. . . and the diaper changes. . . and late night feeds. . . but Opie had an arsenal of alternative behaviors we could turn to that we already practiced. This brought relief to all of us. The transition to “+ baby” was actually really great with no huge red flags. We were grateful. We kept updating Opie’s training as Walt hit new stages (rolling, touching, crawling, vocalizing, standing, toddling, walking, etc) and Opie rolled with the punches.
Fast forward to September 2022 when baby Archie came home from the hospital. It was fascinating, as always, to watch Opie navigate this homecoming. Again, we crafted the scene to help him be successful, and honestly Opie’s behavior paralleled what it was like when he first met a baby. He hesitated in the same ways, engaged in the same ways, vocalized at similar things, and just like with Walt, Opie fell back on his alternative behaviors (read: training) during stressful scenarios. Woohoo! He’s fine with Baby #2, right?!
Until new alternative behaviors that we never trained (or wanted to train) started emerging. He started vocalizing when we all sat down to eat, he started charging the door when someone approached the house, and he started resource-guarding me when I was nursing the baby at night.
I feel a lot of guilt about this because it is obvious that Opie isn’t receiving the enrichment that he needs. He has all the training and the knowledge of expected behaviors–he’s proven that he can do it before–but all his needs obviously aren’t being met, and that’s on us. We have taken for granted the enrichment activities that used to serve him; we expected that they would not need adjustment for a seemingly similar situation. His undesirable behavior is telling us that.
So it’s back to the drawing board for us. Honestly, we feel pretty much at capacity right now, so we’ve been primarily doing management to help prevent him from practicing what we don’t want to see. His resource guarding has reduced because there’s not anyone to guard behind closed doors, but this is also providing enrichment that we hadn’t considered in our new lifestyle–he is given permission to relax.
I’d like to think that Opie is happier with us and would choose our evolving family in Illinois over whatever was happening when he roamed the land in Oklahoma, but we’ll never know. The best thing we can do is listen to what he’s telling us and help him meet his needs.
- Give yourself a break if you’re feeling guilty. I know it feels heavy to be making choices for our pets, but if you’re feeling that way, it indicates that you’re aware of their experience and are probably doing the best you can with what you’ve got.
- Book a session! I’m returning from maternity leave in May and would love to be on your team!
You’re doing great!