It seems that the problems that crop up in relation to having a toddler and dog(s) never end! You may have read the saga of Lucy and my baby that led to Lucy being relocated to my dad's house. She is very happy there and we have worked out a good system so that she is still "my dog." What ultimately led me to relocating her was that her stress levels were so high, she became physically ill. I didn't think I had to worry about Lex since he has been in love with my daughter from the day we brought her home. Apparently, things change........
Now that my daughter is a full-fledged toddler, she does things that may seem odd to a dog. Her movement is unsteady, her mood is ever changing, she wants up, she wants down. She can climb and she can throw! She also enjoys chase games and "sharing" her food. Lex has taken most things in stride. He never stressed over crying or crawling or even toy throwing. What really gets him though is when Elsie starts to follow him around. It is quite harmless really. She wants to see him, she walks up to him and he licks her and she laughs and then he gets up because he is a gentleman and moves aside to let her pass. Except she doesn't want to pass him. She wants to hang out with him. So when he walks away, she follows him. Then he gets that stressed look on his face like "what is happening?" and she thinks they are playing a a great game and is just laughing, following him around. She isn't grabbing him or actually touching him at all. My dilemma starts in how to actually deal with this.
I can't let it just go, I can see that Lex needs me to intervene since this freaks him out. When I stop her physically or verbally, she throws a mini tantrum and then my sensitive dog high-tails it to his crate as if it were all his fault! If I try to re-direct him to our newly made safe-zone, he seems confused and thinks he is being banished/punished. If I get treats out to reiterate to him that he is not being punished, he doesn't seem to make the connection and simply takes the treats and either continues to look stressed OR goes into training mode and becomes an intense obsessive border collie that had no recollection that a toddler was chasing him!
I will say, we have made a little bit of progress. My goal is that when he feels insecure, that he seeks out the "safe-zone" on his own without prompting, and comes back when he wants to. The "safe-zone" is a baby gate in our bedroom doorway. In the bedroom is his open crate. The progress I have made in the last 48 hours is that he is now coming out of the room without prompting, but I still have to tell him to go over the gate when I see he is getting stressed. He seems to have chosen the spot behind the rocking chair in Elsie's room as his second "crate" which isn't what I want, since I am not going to gate my daughter out of her room. At least he is choosing to leave completely rather than just walking in circles and then I can intervene and redirect the baby.
It makes me a bit sad. Here I was naively thinking my toddler and dog were the best of friends, but in reality I don't think it is possible for a dog and toddler to be friends! To co-exist, yes, but to actually have a relationship in which both parties benefit, no. I have successfully taught her to be gentle, to not share her food, to not throw things, to be sweet to him and now I have to teach her to basically ignore him. This will not be an easy task! I will not re-home Lex. With Lucy, the cards just fell into place and her issue was much more severe. It is times like these that I think if I were not a dog trainer, I wouldn't even notice that he was displaying stress signals. How wonderful it must be to be ignorant of such things! Thankfully I am aware though, because I can prevent a potential bite to my child and keep my dog happy.