Cribs & Canines Case Study: Leia & New Baby Blues
Last month I began working with a Pit Bull mix named Leia. She had received previous training for basic obedience and for anxiety with a different trainer. Leia, while sweet and loving, was a very nervous and anxious dog. My first time meeting her, she cried and whined for attention constantly. If she wasn’t kept on the leash, she probably would’ve either paced back and forth, or be jumping all over the couch, begging for attention. She fidgeted non-stop and was clearly not calm or happy.
Leia’s owners specifically called me for her anxiety, but also because they had a new baby and Leia’s anxiety has worsened since their newborn son came home. The changes the baby brought only exacerbated Leia’s anxiety, and she had no idea how to handle it. She still had her normal anxiety symptoms, plus she seemed to become more reactive and obsessive over the baby. This anxiety concerned Leia’s owners even more, as they didn’t want Leia’s anxiety to physically or mentally harm the baby in any way. They didn’t want Leia to act out of jealousy or possessiveness, and they just wanted their whole family to be calm, without any nervousness or fear.
With her last trainer, Leia’s owner said it was extremely difficult to get her attention and lead her to success, due to her severe anxiety and being in a kennel-like environment. On our first session, we started off slow and in the house — we had the baby elsewhere and began to work on Leia’s basic obedience, to make sure she had a foundation to stand upon. Her anxiety started fading as we set her up for success and redirected her away from any opportunities to be anxious and fearful. Once she saw the difference in her behaviors and the consequences she reaped, she started responding very quickly. She became very attentive with her owners, and the owners started feeling like they could control her again. After some basic work, we agreed on giving Leia some fair boundaries, so that way she would understand her owner’s expectations, especially once we started reintroducing distractions and the baby into the training.
Leia’s anxiety was already high before the baby, but because a new baby changes the routines and scheduling of the household, it’s common for these changes to cause more confusion for the dog. In Leia’s case, she was not sure how to respond to her new pack member, and their owners were at a loss as well. Now, both Leia and her owners are exuding with confidence. Our last session the other week, we had the baby play on the floor, about 10 feet away from Leia while she stayed laying down in her place. Leia not only stayed put like she was commanded to, but her demeanor was also very relaxed, without any anxiety or concern over the baby being nearby and on the floor at her level. Leia’s basic obedience and leash behavior has improved immensely as well, which has given her owners the opportunity to walk and exercise her more (exercise always helps a dog, especially an anxious one!). We still have a few lessons ahead, including where we will test Leia out on a walk, with a stroller nearby. Because her anxiety has vanished, Leia is far more successful and her focus is exceptional!
Cribs and Canines is a dog training program to help dogs ease into a life with a new baby in the house. It can be approached as a preventative, or if there are already existing issues, we can tackle them together through the Cribs and Canines program. If your dog is having infant, toddler, or child problems, we can still help, even if you don’t have a newborn! Call us at 800-649-7297 to find out more about our popular and effective baby training program, Cribs and Canines!