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A month ago my sister gave birth to a baby boy and our dog, Toffee, has been acting very strange ever since. He's growled at different members of the family multiple times, usually for moving him off of my sister or for punishing him. I can't figure out why he's being so mean to everyone.

Also two days ago he growled at me for trying to move him off my sister. I've always been very gentle and easy going with him, but I was much firmer than I usually am with him telling him that was bad and not calling him like 5 seconds later (I took about a minute instead) to show love. But when I called him this time, he was shaking in my lap like he was scared, and growled at me again. Now he runs and hides every time he sees me, and he growls whenever I try to pet him. I don't know what I did wrong but I'm so scared; I love this dog deeply and I really want things to be okay again. He also has a history of being abused before we got him, and I don't know if that factors into this.

  • Sounds a bit like he's just a bit jealous and wants some more attention as well. Considering you're obviously trying to undermine that, he tries to avoid you when trying to get that said attention. – Mario Jan 10 '15 at 9:01
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First off - don't worry too much. Dogs like routine. They find things changing stressful, which is part of the reason that they're good as guard dogs. Part of this though, is the pack mentality*. Dogs like to know their place and what's expected of them.

From that perspective, an new baby in the family is pretty much a worst case scenario - not only is everyone's priorities shifted, the dog no longer understands it's place in 'the pack' and so will be stressed as a result. It may show signs of aggression as a result - these aren't (necessarily!) picking a fight, as much as trying to figure out if it's in charge now.

Much like when you first get a dog (especially from a rescue) there's a period of adjustment and settling in - the dog's doing that all over. This might be exacerbated by it's history - it's not uncommon for a dog to be in a rescue as a result of a new child arriving.

So what I would suggest is:

  • Mostly ignore the problem. Focus a little more on the 'normal routine' and resist the urge to bend. (If you sometimes give into temptation and let the dog up on the bed occasionally, don't do that). Reinforce the rules and be firm about expectations about what is - and isn't - acceptable. You don't have to be harsh about it, any more than you would normally. Just don't let 'unacceptable' pass.

  • Be very careful with the child. Dogs might 'challenge' for dominance, and something that's negligible on an adult can do a lot of damage. I don't mean to spread paranoia - many dogs are perfectly lovely with children - but none the less, the two don't really understand each other, and that can lead to tragedies.

  • Consider some sedative or similar for your dog. DAP (Dog Assistance Pheremone) or perhaps some valerian biscuits. It may not be necessary, but it might help relax through the transition.

* With a caveat - a lot of the 'pack dynamics' studies are VERY flawed and don't hold much water.

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  • Agree with Sobrique. @Harley, is the baby propery introduced to the dog when it first came back home? To proper introduce the baby, you have to let the dog come over to sniff the baby, to introduce the new member to the "pack"; NOT bring the baby over to the dog and forcefully introduce the baby to him. – Win.T Jan 12 '15 at 6:40
  • @Win.T yeah we introduced the baby to him he's pretty protective over him at this point actually, he's just different towards everyone else. – Harley Jan 12 '15 at 20:01

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