Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Update on Gus

It's baby season here in Southeast Michigan. I have a number of friends that are pregnant and there have been three new babies in as many weeks. One of those friends is Heather, the owner of puppy mill rescue Gus. They shared our home for a few months, so Gus is well acquainted with my house and my dogs. This means her first 'child' (Gus) is visiting for a couple days.

Heather is doing great as a new mom and staying at her sister's for a week while she gets her bearings as a mother of a newborn son. He's vaguely aware he and Heather are going through some transitions. Heather was very diligent in preparing him for the changes she could. She set up the furniture for the baby gradually, letting Gus sniff but not climb in or on the swing, rocker, Pack N' Play, or bassinet. She let him sit on the bed and sniff at the newly laundered little clothes as she folded them and put them away. She practiced holding a pillow in her lap so Gus had new limits on where he could cuddle and how he could share his space. She's also been practicing at adjusting her "coming home" routine to reflect new demands of being a mom. No more coming home and adoring Gus, chattering at him while she got his dinner ready. Instead she began coming in the door and going in the baby's room, talking to herself and doing a few tasks before going to greet Gus.

Puppy mill rescued dogs tend to bond to one or two people and be aloof to other family members or friends and scared of strangers. The hormones that are emitted after birth that aid in mom-baby bonding also activate the same behaviors in dogs. That bond building can quickly turn to dysfunctional guarding as Gus feels a threat to his most valued resource. When Gus first started bonding with Heather and me, he would nip at Ollie or Marshall when they wanted to share the attention. We've worked on 'sharing' and Heather's changes in her interactions with Gus will help prepare him for the amount of sharing that will be happening.

A brief visit with new mom and baby was relatively short and went very well. High-level rewards (Beggin' Strips-- gross from a nutritional perspective but effective) for appropriate sniffing and interested, engaged, positive body language. Gus and I left on a happy note and he slept the whole way home.

So far, so good.

1 comment:

  1. Gus, you are one lucky pup. Most fellers ain't got no Aunt Honey. : )