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Canine Behavior/interactions


I have a 5 year old male pit/lab mix. Non-aggressive, very relaxed, interacts well with other dogs and children. My wife is due in August and we were looking into adopting another purebred year old female pitbull. The female we are looking to adopt is very affectionate, and very hyper when she is getting attention. The only issue i've noticed is that she gets jealous when you pet other dogs and not her. My question is how hard would it be to introduce her into our family and what types of problems might I encounter with a newborn and a current dog in the household?

Thank you for your question. Because you're asking this, I'm going to assume that you're expecting your first child. I'm going to be very blunt and tell you that I think a second dog should wait until your child is over a year old (and possibly even until the child is in school on a daily basis). Having a newborn will take every ounce of energy you have. Your current dog is going to lose more than 50% of the time, attention and affection he currently gets (I'll speak more on that in a moment). A new dog requires training and routines and schedules. It can take as long as 6-12 months for a new dog to settle fully into a new family and being April, you only have 4 months to create a new home where this dog feels completely secure, knows the rules and to work through her issues of jealousy/resource guarding. A dog who resource guards its owners can be very dangerous to a newborn, especially if the dog is new to the house. I strongly, strongly advise against this adoption at this time.

It will be hard enough on your existing dog to make room for a new family member, the stress of bringing in a new dog - who may try to hog all human attention could be extremely stressful for your existing dog, even if a new baby wasn't also part of the mix.

To help your new dog prepare for the new family member, start changing the routine now. Let him get to know all the baby stuff now - smelling the crib and the diapers and the butt cream and the baby seat and the car seat/carrier and the stroller and all the other baby stuff.

Practice being relaxed and doing Down/Stays near the blanket where tummy time will happen. Get a baby doll and put a diaper (with some butt cream) and a onesie on it and carry it around. Have "feeding times" several times per day where the baby is in your arms while you/your wife sit on the couch and invite your dog to be near by, but not on top of you. Allow him to sniff the baby doll gently. Praise him and give him yummy treats for sitting or lying near by and being calm and relaxed. Practice going on walks with the baby doll in the stroller so he gets used to walking with the stroller.


Buy a New Baby CD that you can play at random times of the day and in random rooms of the house (especially from the baby's room) that has babies cooing, laughing and most importantly crying. Have the baby doll in the crib and set the CD to play so that you can hear the baby crying through a baby monitor and go in to tend to the baby and let your dog see that you will take care of these things and that the noises aren't scary. Offer him treats for being polite and not getting under foot as you "tend to the baby". Offer him treats if he seems anxious about the noises to help him learn that baby crying actually predicts really good things for him.

When baby arrives, try to allow him to be present as much of the time as possible. Practicing ahead of time will help to smooth the transition, but it will still be stressful. He didn't have any say in the addition to the family. You and your wife will be exhausted, raging with hormones, and overwhelmed by love and essentially blind to everything that's not directly related to the new baby. That's normal and appropriate. But that means that there will be less for your dog. So start now to wean down the amount of direct attention he gets (a few minutes less each week). If you don't already, start providing independent entertainment for him such as Kongs that are loaded with his meals so he can have something to do while you're with the baby.

Make sure that there is some separate, undivided love time for just him each day. This may only be 10 minutes by you and 10 minutes by your wife in a room away from the baby or in the back yard for some belly rubs, fetch or anything else he loves. But make sure he still gets some proper quality time of his own as well lots of time together with the whole family.

While it's not impossible to bring in a new dog with a new baby, I think it's more stressful than is necessary for the dog, the parents and the baby. There's just no way to give the new dog the amount of attention and guidance that s/he needs in those first months - especially when you're preparing for the new baby. If your thought was to give your existing dog a friend because there will be less time with you, I'd encourage doggie day care or play dates with friends/family who have dogs that he gets along with rather than a new dog in his home full time along with a new baby that will be there full time as he will need to have the opportunity to have some quiet time to decompress and with two new family members (one human and one dog) he will be hard pressed to get that much needed quiet time.

Make sure that there is a kid-free zone for your dog. A bed in a corner, a crate or playpen that he loves or a room where the child will never be allowed to go that is a place where the dog can retreat to when he needs a break. Make it wonderful for him and introduce it now. It should have a comfy bed, his favorite toy should live there (it should always go back there when he's done playing with it if he's moved it), he should get Kongs and Antlers and Marrow Bones and Bully Sticks to enjoy on his bed. Ideally he has one place that is still in (or within sight of) the main living space so if he needs some space, but doesn't want to go away completely, he has a space where the child will just never be allowed to go. And also a room that the child isn't allowed into so that the dog can truly escape if he wants to nap or just get away from the hustle/bustle of baby and the noises that go with that.

Finally, I strongly encourage you to practice Dr. Karen Overall's relaxation protocol with your dog now and continue throughout, even after baby comes. Practice near the tummy-time blanket and near the couch or chair where baby is likely to be nursed, practice in or near the nursery (you may decide he's not allowed in the nursery, if so practice just outside the door to the nursery). The relaxation protocol is a 15-day protocol. Practice Day 1 until he can get through the whole thing without popping up without permission, then move on to Day 2. Each days' exercise is between 5-14 minutes long. You can use his regular kibble as reward and give him a kibble between each exercise in the daily session. Once he's getting good at it, you can give him a single kibble for every 2 or 3 or 5 exercises in the days' session. Then build up to a kibble just at the end of the session. You can do the entire session in a single go (pausing if he pops up to reset him), or you can learn what exercises comprise the day you're working on and then just randomly do one or two exercises throughout the day. For your purposes of being calm and relaxed near baby stuff, I think doing the entire exercise in a single go is going to be more important for your needs. (I've had great success with this protocol with 2 very bouncy, high energy boxers who were expecting twins. The dogs now sleep next to the twins during tummy time and nursing.)
Scroll about halfway down and you'll find the MP3 files for each day. You can put them on your smart phone and have them available to practice any time.

I realize this is probably not the answer you were hoping for. And I obviously can't force you to take my advice. But know that it comes from a place of lots of thought and lots of observation of lots of households with dogs and babies and the timing of bringing in dogs and babies. A dog who has a known issue of jealousy (resource guarding) is not a good fit to bring into a home expecting a new baby until that issue has been entirely resolved - it's just not safe for the new baby.

Useful posters for learning dog body language (stress, fear, contentment, joy) and how kids should interact with dogs

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance. Congratulations on the newest family member! It's a great joy and a blessing. I'm sorry I cant be more optimistic about bringing this potential dog into your family at this time.

Los Angeles Behaviorist  

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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