Please help…Tosca nipped at my 8 wk old!

I need help on what to do. I have an 8 week old son, and so far Tosca, my 5 yr old basenji, has been great towards him. When we came home from the hospital we let her sniff him, and she has been fine ever since. I'd say she's been indifferent towards him, she doesn't really care what he does, she will sometimes sniff him, but then walk away.

Well, tonight I was nursing Colton on the couch, and Tosca was sitting on the other side of me. When it was time for Colton to switch sides, I moved him so his head was towards where Tosca was sitting. I did hear Tosca make a growling noise, but she does this often, when happy, so I didn't think much of it. I rearranged Colton, and put his head back to nurse, and suddenly Tosca nipped at him! He started crying right away, but it was more out of fear…I don't think Tosca actually hurt him at all.

I know this is majorly my fault, and I feel horrible about that. Tosca did give off a warning sign, and I ignored it. I should have realized what it was, but she makes similar noises all the time and they are not aggressive. The only time she has growled/snapped at me is when I've tried to move her in the middle of a deep sleep, which i quickly learned not to do...otherwise she has never done it.

When this happened, I grabbed Colton, my husband went to Tosca, scolded her, and put her outside for awhile. When we let her back in, I could tell she knew she did something wrong, she came right to me, begging for pets. Her tail was down for a few minutes, but now she is acting pretty normal. Then my husband pet her also, we wanted to make sure she would not be aggressive towards either of us. We then let her near Colton while my husband was there. She sniffed him, then left him alone.

It seems like things are ok now, but what should we do to prevent this from happening again? My husband mentioned getting rid of her, but I don't want to be one of "those people" who do that as soon as there are problems...I love Tosca and she is part of our familiy. However, I need to keep my son's safety in mind. How do you think we should handle this situation? There are a few things I am trying to keep in mind. First, Tosca was sitting comfortably, do you think she was thinking Colton invaded her space? Also, I know it is not ok what she did, but at least she gave off a warning with her growl, and she did not bite...she had the opportunity to hurt him but did not. Who knows if she ever would in the future, though, she has never shown aggression to anyone before.

Any advice would be great...I want to avoid anything like this from ever happening again...and I want to her be able to continue being part of our family...please help!

Go look at the post Ryan and send message to Buana. See first hand the love of two Basenjis and one very sweet little 5 month baby. I myself would not let the baby invade the space of Tosca but I would work with the baby and Tosca everyday to be together.

Rita Jean

It does sound like she was recourse guarding to me, but I will be very interested in what the others have to say on this.

She could have been resource gaurding, not wanting to share her mom time.

During nursing times, can you make that her special treat time so she has something postive to do while you are nursing Colton? Like make up several Kongs and give her one in her crate or mat while you nurse Colton. It may be that rather than eating from a bowl, for the next few months or so she eats her meals out of Kongs, Busy Buddies, Squirrel Dudes, etc.

Thank you for the suggestion, I'll try that 🙂 It is so weird, because she has sat near me while I've nursed Colton tons of times, with no problems. I am thinking it might have something to do with the fact that she was comfortable laying next to me, and when I moved Colton, he invaded her space? Like I said, the one time she growled at me was when she was sleeping and I moved her. She was awake, but maybe didn't like Colton coming so close when she was comfortable cuddling with me.

I know it's hard to say without having seen the situation, but from what I wrote, do you think it will probably be a one time thing? The rest of the evening she has seemed fine towards all three of us, but we have not really let her near Colton without us there between them. I did pet her while holding Colton (I held him to the opposite side and approached her gently) and she was fine…I thought that was important. I really really really am hoping this was an isolated incident...she does not normally resource guard...I can pull a rawhide out of her mouth, and I can reach into her food dish while she eats no problem. She did once growl at my toddler-aged nephew when he tried to get her rawhide, but this also seemed to be a one time incident, and she did not nip.

If anyone has more advice, please keep it coming. I would hate for anything to happen to make us have to get rid of her, but I know my husband won't tolerate risking the safety of Colton...so am willing to do whatever I can to make sure things run smoothly between the both of them from now on.

I would say the internet is a wonderful thing, but I think in this case I'd look around for a good trainer who uses positive methods. I'd want to set up a few private lessons and have them assess what's going on in your home. It's very possible that they may see something going on that you're not even aware of and can give you some guidence on how to create a happy home for everyone - baby and dog included. Problems may get worse as baby becomes mobile if you don't address them now. And the problems certainly sound small enough now.

It may be a bit counter-intuitive, but you don't want to scold a dog for growling. Growling is a warning system and you don't want a dog that will snap/bite first instead of growling. This is why it is important to find someone with positive methods.

But until you can get a trainer, certainly Lvoss's suggestions of kongs on a mat are GREAT. My pups really enjoy cream cheese mixed with kibble and frozen. And you want the dog on the mat not next to you on the sofa just incase she is resource guarding.

good luck and I really, really think you situation won't be too difficult to over come.

There is a group called dogs and storks that usually work with families expecting children but they probably could also help point you in the direction of someone who can help now that the baby is here.

http://www.dogsandstorks.com

If Tosca was a 5 year old child, whose nose was out of joint due to an incoming brother or sister, and were to similarly strike out though in a human way, would your husband's first thought be to get rid of her? I hope not! I assume you would both learn how to manage the problem long term so everyone can live peacefully. So why is a dog not afforded the same effort? And effort it will be!

Dogs have three key resources - in order of priority: food, shelter and social interaction. Food is obvious - anything the dog deems edible falls under this title, even days old road kill or what I call bunny buttons so never take it for granted that your dog will not find something unappetizing to you, appetizing and snap or bite to protect it. Shelter would include all the prime spots in the house to which they are accustomed (couch, bed, comfy chair) while examples of social interaction would be petting/cuddling by the owners, playing with another dog and/or the owners, etc. Despite what we think - our dogs do not love us quite as much as they love what we can provide - good food and comfy couches. While sad to hear, it is actually in our best interests that this be true - 'cuz if you can control the resources and you can usually control the dog.

Tosca has already shown resource guarding tendencies - growling when you moved her on the couch, growling at the nephew, etc. And while it is great that you are able to take rawhides away from her and/or her food bowl - it does not mean this translates to all humans having the same rights, esp. little humans and it does not mean she does not have the propensity for these kind of issues to continue to crop up. And while Tosca has shown remarkable bite inhibition, do not take it for granted she will continue to do so.

IMO, Tosca is treating Colton no differently then she would treat a new puppy added to the house. The exception being that you would have the puppy down on the same level as Tosca, you would be encouraging Tosca and the puppy to play and interact with each other while also knowing (and expecting) Tosca to eventually lose her patience with the pup and scold it at times, or air snap at the pup when/if the pup got to close to a prized possession. And Tosca would be well within her rights to do this; as the elder she has many lessons to teach the youngster about respect if they are to live harmoniously long term. It is when humans get involved between elder and pup that mixed messages crop up and wanna be alphas are created - but I digress.

The minute you got pregnant was the minute Tosca's life changed or should have changed. You should have been preparing her for the arrival of Colton and for the arrival of some major rule changes that must occur for pampered dogs and babies to co-exist with out overt risk to the baby. By preparing her I do not mean letting her smell the baby blankets or introducing her to other people's babies and toddlers. I mean teaching her deference (see below) exercises to show her her eventual and rightful place - at the bottom of the totem pole. Tough love really works wonders and spoiled dogs, while resistant at first, are much happier when they know their rightful role. Sadly most people fail to do this months before so it is a shock to the dog when the baby comes home and life as they know it, all the rules they have spent 5 years learning and mastering, immediately change and usually not for the better. Is it any wonder dogs seem resentful?

Is this an isolated incidence, a one time thing? IMO, no - as Colton gets older and more mobile and has the ability to actually invade Tosca's space - it could intensify if you do not get professional help as Kim suggested. Certainly if you, or your husband continue to handle it in the manner you did (scold her (well after the fact I might add) then put her outside) you will actually increase the odds that this will continue and will probably escalate to a bite which breaks skin. As Kim stated - NEVER correct growling. Growling is the dogs way of communicating that something is not right. Instead redirect and diffuse and never put yourself or Tosca in that position again.

Besides teaching Tosca deference the best thing you can learn to do is manage the situation. You seem overtly concerned about Colton's safety while forgetting or ignoring Tosca's, even putting Tosca in harms way. How? As we all should know - when it comes to a human vs dog altercation - esp. a child vs dog altercation no matter how minor the dog will ALWAYS lose, oftentimes with its life - that is not having the dog's safety in mind. The question begs - why was the dog put at risk? By that I mean - why do you have a prized possession (a rawhide) accessible to a toddling nephew who has no respect and certainly no concept of boundaries in the same room, or area, as the dog whose prized possession it is? You are asking for trouble. This is just an example of what you will need to be aware of and learn to manage if you truly desire to have Tosca be a future, permanent member of your family. Tosca relies on you to keep her safety in mind, just as you have Colton's and just like Colton she can not speak for herself and tell you what she needs or that she is uncomfortable etc. It is YOUR responsibility to see that she is never put in a position to be wrong or to fail. If she is - then YOU have failed her.

So you learn your dogs triggers, what does or does not work. Rawhides and other prized possessions (watch your dog to learn what they are - you might be surprised) are fed and enjoyed in the confines and safety of a nearby crate. Babies and toddlers are not allowed in the feeding area when a dog is getting fed, or they are fed crated as well and toddlers are taught to respect the dogs area. It is a two way street - esp. when the child gets older and more mobile - they too must learn what they can or can not do to the dog members of the family and that the dogs have toddler free areas to relax and 'let their hair down'.

Nursing time is not cuddle time with the dog. She needs to be on the floor or her mat or in her crate in the same room, as Lisa rec'ds enjoying something fun during this time, to create positive associations with Colton and to further bond her to him. A professional can give you further guidance.

How to teach deference via the Nothing in Life is Free:

–-------
Nothing In Life Is Free

Does your dog: Get on the furniture and refuse to get off? Nudge your hand, insisting on being petted or played with? Refuse to come when called? Defend its food bowl or toys from you? ?Nothing in life is free? can help. Nothing in life is free? is not a magic pill that will solve a specific behavior problem; rather it?s a way of living with your dog that will help it behave better because it trusts and accepts you as its leader and is confident knowing its place in your family.

How To Practice ?Nothing In Life Is Free:?
.... Using positive reinforcement methods, teach your dog a few commands and/or tricks. ?Sit,? ?Down? and ?Stay? are useful commands and ?Shake,? ?Speak? and ?Rollover? are fun tricks to teach your dog.

.... Once your dog knows a few commands, you can begin to practice ?nothing in life is free.? Before you give your dog anything (food, a treat, a walk, a pat on the head) it must first perform one of the commands it has learned.

For example:
YOU: Put your dog?s leash on to go for a walk YOUR DOG: Must sit until you?ve put the leash on
YOU: Feed your dog YOUR DOG:Must lie down and stay until you?ve put the bowl down
YOU: Play a game of fetch after work YOUR DOG: Must sit and shake hands each time you throw the toy
YOU: Rub your dog?s belly while watching TV YOUR DOG: Must lie down and rollover before being petted

.... Once you?ve given the command, don?t give your dog what it wants until it does what you want. If it refuses to perform the command, walk away, come back a few minutes later and start again. If your dog refuses to obey the command, be patient and remember that eventually it will have to obey your command in order to get what it wants.

.... Make sure your dog knows the command well and understands what you want before you begin practicing ?nothing in life is free.?

The Benefits of This Technique:
.... Most dogs assume a neutral or submissive role toward people, but some dogs will challenge their owners for dominance. Requiring a dominant dog to work for everything it wants is a safe and non-confrontational way to establish control.

.... Dogs who may never display aggressive behavior such as growling, snarling, or snapping, may still manage to manipulate you. These dogs may display affectionate, though ?pushy? behavior, such as nudging your hand to be petted or ?worming? its way on to the furniture in order to be close to you. This technique gently reminds the ?pushy? dog that it must abide by your rules.

.... Obeying commands helps build a fearful dog?s confidence; having a strong leader and knowing its place in the hierarchy helps to make the submissive dog feel more secure.

Why This Technique Works:
Animals that live in groups, like dogs, establish a social structure within the group called a dominance hierarchy. This dominance hierarchy serves to maintain order, reduce conflict and promote cooperation among pack members. In order for your home to be a safe and happy place for pets and people, it?s best that the humans in the household assume the highest positions in the dominance hierarchy. Practicing ?nothing in life is free? effectively and gently communicates to your dog that its position in the hierarchy is subordinate to yours.

From your dog?s point of view, children also have a place in this hierarchy. Because children are small and can get down on the dog?s level to play, dogs often consider them to be playmates, rather than superiors. With the supervision of an adult, it?s a good idea to encourage children in the household (aged eight and over) to also practice ?nothing in life is free? with your dog.

.. 1999 Dumb Friends League. All Rights Reserved. NILI_R99

It takes a special family, IMO, to face adversity head on and overcome it - much easier to just jump ship and start over though the results usually end up the same as nothing has been learned/gained by taking the easy way.

Sadly, responses like your husbands is a key reason I no longer place dogs with families planning children or families with small children.


Babi mac

Just one question though about the trainer thing…do you think the problem is severe enough to warrant that? Not that nipping at my baby isn't severe, but since Tosca normally doesn't do things like that (see post above about being able to take food away, etc) and is usually completely comfortable around kids (minus the one time she growled at my nephew when he tried to take the rawhide, but that was yrs ago), I don't know if it would be effective? She is usually very well-behaved. My fear is that the trainer would come, see Tosca being her normal self, and wonder "Why am I here again?" Would he/she still be able to help if Tosca doesn't display the aggressive behavior? I am not saying it would be a bad idea, and I'll definitely look into it if you think it might help, I just don't know how trainers work...what do you think?? I am still hoping that this was an isolated incident, but like I said, will be willing to do what it takes to make sure this doesn't happen again, trainer or not. Thanks again 🙂

It only takes one time, what Tosca did is an indication that something is not right. This is the time to get someone to assist, not wait until the problem is so bad you may never resolved the issue. I would venture to bet this is NOT an isolated incident because she has done it before… and also it would give you the resources to know how to handle the situation, as the response in this situation was not the correct one.

In light of your husband's attitude and apparent "no strike" policy - I think the problem is very, very severe. Tosca's future hangs in the balance, IMO. She has not shown much trouble in the past because she has never had her immediate world rocked until now.

The trainer is there to give you ideas on how to keep problems from arising and/or escalating to the point that your husband kicks her to the curb. They will teach you how to manage, how to redirect, diffuse, how to keep her safe et al. They do not need to see aggressive acts to know what the potential is when pampered petchildren meet their replacement, and much more special, human children. It's a given!

Here are places I would start calling and researching in your area:

http://www.sdtclub.com/

http://www.4paws-training.com/


HEAD SHOP

@Jylly18:

Just one question though about the trainer thing…do you think the problem is severe enough to warrant that?

In a word: YES.

The problem in the present may or may not be "severe" enough, the problem in the future could be too severe to safely keep everyone in the same house. As wonderful and experienced as the people on this forum are, we are not there to see the interaction. Seeing everything going on is invaluable information. Again, you may be doing something problematic without even knowing it. I would guess one to three visits (maybe an additional one later when Colton is a toddler) from a professional is all it is going to take to put everyone on the right path to a happy healthy home.

I agree with the other posters. NOW is the time to get training, NOT later when the problem has worsened. I see it too often where people say their dog is great has no problems, then a few months/years later with no training, there is now a problem of some sort.

Why wait? Even basic commands like sit, wait, down etc can all help.

I do hope you and the human/furry family will have lots of fun times together in the future. 🙂

Here Buana 🙂

We have a 5 months old son Ryan, we worked very hard to get our results with the Basenji's and Ryan.
The other reply's are very good I think,

I think it's vey important Tosca will see the baby as a nice thing and not as somebody that will get more attention than see will get.
A lot of people play with their dogs when the baby is asleep and let them aside when they are busy with their baby.
When you have dogs and kids, you have a LOT of extra work..
We give the dogs a lot of attention when Ryan is arount, so they know when Ryan is awake, they get attention (of course they get attention too when he is asleep)
Sometimes it is very hard, when I nurse Ryan and one of the boys want to hug Ryan at the same time (lick his ears for example) it isn't easy 🙂

I agree with the fact you have to train right away, it's a small problem now but when you don't react to it maybe it will grow larger..
It really is great when the dog(s) like the baby so much..

Good luck, and congrats with you little boy 😃

And while I know that many on here follow the path of "just not moving" them if they growl when sleeping…. in my home, growl when being moved, you will find yourself on the floor. It is not tolerated. Obviously there is a difference between growling and "complaining" when being moved and "complaining is acceptable"... growling is not. My house, my rules

Great advice above. Linda and Pat are right.
I will be interested to see if the parents like Kim and others with b's can give you
advice that will help.
BUT honestly, hubby has set a line..you need to find a way to make sure your b doesn't cross it.

I totally agree with pat - I do not allow my dogs to growl just because they are being moved.

Please take the previous advice to get professional help.

@Jylly18:

Just one question though about the trainer thing…do you think the problem is severe enough to warrant that? Not that nipping at my baby isn't severe, but since Tosca normally doesn't do things like that (see post above about being able to take food away, etc) and is usually completely comfortable around kids (minus the one time she growled at my nephew when he tried to take the rawhide, but that was yrs ago), I don't know if it would be effective? She is usually very well-behaved. My fear is that the trainer would come, see Tosca being her normal self, and wonder "Why am I here again?" Would he/she still be able to help if Tosca doesn't display the aggressive behavior? I am not saying it would be a bad idea, and I'll definitely look into it if you think it might help, I just don't know how trainers work...what do you think?? I am still hoping that this was an isolated incident, but like I said, will be willing to do what it takes to make sure this doesn't happen again, trainer or not. Thanks again 🙂

Being a trainer, I can tell you…no trainer is going to question why you would seek help in this situation. You need someone to give you suggestions and guidance to keep this from happening again. Linda is right that it will most likely get worse when the baby is toddling around, and grabbing at the dog and her stuff. But that doesn't mean it is an impossible situation, nor that the child is in imminent danger.

It may be an isolated incident (probably not)...but it does give you some insight into what she might be thinking (baby, stay away). Best to take steps to correct it now.

Most importantly, don't panic...lots of us have gone through this same situation and had everything turn out fine...and don't let your husband panic 🙂

@tanza:

And while I know that many on here follow the path of "just not moving" them if they growl when sleeping…. in my home, growl when being moved, you will find yourself on the floor. It is not tolerated. Obviously there is a difference between growling and "complaining" when being moved and "complaining is acceptable"... growling is not. My house, my rules

Same here, Pat. And even complaining will ensure that I move you! We don't ingore the complaining…we still say "too bad, I am sitting down here"..or "too bad, you are going outside"...we never let a complaining dog have its way 😉

@Quercus:

Same here, Pat. And even complaining will ensure that I move you! We don't ingore the complaining…we still say "too bad, I am sitting down here"..or "too bad, you are going outside"...we never let a complaining dog have its way 😉

Exactly Andrea…. and while I said "complaining is acceptable" I did still mean, you need to do what I am asking... But rarely will "complaining" lead to a nip/bite as it is a different type of warning/reaction

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