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I have a 6.5 year old Mastiff/St. Bernard mix, neutered male named Arnold. I adopted him from our local city shelter when he was approx. 12 months. Almost 2 years ago I had a baby. While he has never shown any type of fear, aggression, anxiety etc. toward my son, I am having a very unusual problem. When my son started to babble at about 7 months of age, my dog started howling and/or whining every time he "talked". This behaviour has not changed, even now that my son is almost 2 and is starting to talk. He continues to howl and whine whenever he talks. Needless to say, it has become a horrible, stressful and anxious living environment for me and my partner. Although my son doesn't seem to mind it, I certainly do as it is ear piercing at times and pretty much constant. I can't even express in words how difficult it is to deal with.

I work at a large vet clinic with a number of vets and specialists (unfortunately, we don't have a behaviourist). The vets I work with are miffed. I have hired a few trainers all of whom have not been able to help. Short of trying the medication route, I have tried many training methods none of which have helped even a little. I have attached a couple links to youtube videos showing the behaviour. The first one is when the behaviour started and the second was taken just yesterday (the video taken yesterday is tame in comparasion to often how loud and constant his howling is). If anyone can offer advie, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks very much in advance.


 

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Frankly, I have NEVER seen anything like this. Your baby's babbling is triggering almost a mournful sound from your dog...then I thought...maybe your dog is competing with your baby....Have you tried to do any training to reward "quiet" when your baby is babbling??? Have you checked his ears for any type of infection or hearing structural abnormalities...maybe your baby's pitch is irritating to him....maybe your dog thinks your baby is in distress when he babbles and the dog is letting you know "something is wrong"...these are all guesses.

Are you sure no one trained your dog to sing by hearing babbling noises/???
 

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OOPS! You posted this 3 times... lol :p
I will copy paste what I wrote in your other thread...

Well that is interesting!

Hmm I really don't know, maybe this video would help? Kikopup on YouTube is a great trainer. I don't know why your dog would be doing that though...
Maybe some more knowledgeable DF's can help with that...?
 

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My thoughts were that it might hurt his ears. Of course, that's just a guess. Woody used to cry like that when I practiced my clarinet(specifically the higher or lower notes). I figured the notes just bothered him since he has better hearing...and I wasn't that good. lol
 

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It certainly is very interesting behavior.

The dog looks a wee bit uncomfortable to me.... not necessarily like his ears hurt, but like he's not comfy with the child. He is doing a lot of "look aways" from the baby.

Hopefully as the child grows up, and is more and more like a "regular human" and less like a toddler, the behavior from the dog will fade... but you may have a long wait!

I am eager to hear some other members' opinions on this behavior, particularly MillitantAnimist's, if she stops by.
 

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Can you teach your toddler quiet :p ?

I know, less then helpful!

My serious suggestions would be to try and teach the dog quiet and to try and keep the toddler and dog separate for awhile. Another thing to try would be giving him treats when your son is talking to try and recondition him to the sound.
 

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I completely agree with oceanmist. The only time I have heard a dog make that sound (almost identically) is when I played the clarinet and sang - I have a high voice. Though I was pretty good on the clarinet ;-)

Has his hearing been checked by a vet? My grandma's dachshund made that exact sound and same facial expression/movements when I played my clarinet and sang.
 

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Wow, this is interesting. Can't say I've ever seen anything like that before.

Is the dog always laying around with his head down when this happens? At this point, I have to agree that it looks like something (either the babbling or the baby himself) is making him feel uncomfortable. It's possible he had some type of bad experience with the baby screaming/crying and scaring as an infant. That sound is mind numbingly irritating to the best of people, I can only imagine what it must feel like for a dog.
 

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How strange!

I'm not sure what to tell you except to go to the vet and get his ears checked. Make sure there's no abnormalities or infection that is making his ears more sensitive. Does he ever howl at anything else? For example, maybe an instrument being played?

It's just really strange. It does seem like he's being made uncomfortable for whatever reason. This makes me hesitate to make suggestions to stop it...If he is indeed physically uncomfortable, I worry that taking away his outlet of howling will prompt him to exhibit other behaviors as a substitute. I'd rather he howl than lash out aggressively. Not saying he would, but it definitely could be a concern if the baby babble is actually causing him physical discomfort.

Have you tried removing him temporarily from the room and giving him a kind of "time out" when he begins howling? Is there anything you can do to distract him when he's howling? Is his attention easily diverted if you have food and ask him to perform some tricks, or does he just zone out and howl?
 

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The first video was very cute. I wonder if somehow you didn't reinforce that a bit at first because it was cute but then it became less cute as the child grew. I agree- it would get on my nerves after 2 years.

We had a toad in our backyard and I thought it was adorable how fierce my dog was toward it, but after a couple of nights I am sure my neighbors didn't appreciate it. I stood outside with the dog and when he'd be quiet for a few seconds I'd throw a treat down and praise him. He started paying more attention to the treats than me. He never barked at the toad again.

With the broom, he'd do the same thing. Since that behavior had been going on for longer, it took a lot longer (and he still relapses some) but we did the same thing. Could you do something that keeps the baby talking and just treat like crazy the times the dog is quiet and lavish praise on him for that? If this has been going on for years, it will take a lot longer for him to respond to any kind of training.

I don't think the babbling hurts him or annoys him. He's all up in your son's space. The baby in both videos isn't really mobile. When my kids annoy my dog he runs to another room. Maybe he thinks the babbling is crying and he's stressed you're not taking care of the baby to make the sounds stop? He seems to be guarding/protecting more to me. Maybe he's misinterpreting harmless happy babbling with a cry for help????
 

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I was thinking the same as others he might think that the baby is in distress. We had a St bernard when I was 2 years old my mum said he treated me like a puppy. He would protect me not aggressively just prefer to be by my side for example he would always walk beside my pram and wouldn't allow my grandmother to take me in another direction away from them.

What does he do if you go the baby when he is howling? does he seem pleased or happy that you are checking on it? Like yes I have done my part mommy is checking on the crying puppy.
 

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I know this may sound strange, but have you had your baby's throat checked. Maybe when the child talks the dog is hearing or smelling something wrong. My golden mix always knew when somebody in the house would get sick before the person did. Other than that I have no idea.
 

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Not sure if my previous reply went through as this is an older thread. In case it did, I'll post the short version. My 10 year old pup has the exact same behavior, only it's response to my daugther's laughter. Nothing I've tried so far (no medications) has worked yet. Have you had any success with your pup?
 

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Okay, so here is my totally off-the-cuff idea. Try giving the dog a treat every time your child speaks (I know, a lot of work!) Preferably something that takes a bit of work to eat. In the vein of training incompatible behaviors--he can't howl if he is eating. Or perhaps a really good chewie would keep him busy for a bit. This would also have a counter-conditioning effect, positive vibes from the baby noises. I hope you can solve this soon!
 

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Thanks for the advice! I've tried both positive and negative conditioning with little effect. My initial thought was exactly that, training a new response to the noise. I'd rather have him come looking for a treat than howling. While there was initial success after a couple weeks of fairly consistent efforts he would ignore the treats. He was a tough pup to train at an early age as he would completely ignore treats in favor of running. Might be time to revisit this though as it's been a while.

Appreciate the feedback!
 

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I agree with Tigger that I'd be careful to do another vet check on your dog regarding this. Maybe get a second opinion from a different vet, even.

Can you post more videos of the two interacting when this doesn't happen? What if your child isn't talking? What about if the TV is on? How do they normally interact, without sound? I'd be curious to see how uncomfortable your dog acts then compared to in this video, to get a better baseline. Sometimes dogs can just be stressed for other reasons and the turn aways could be asking the child to calm down rather than being uncomfortable, for the child's sake. Discomfort would be a big guess. Another guess is that it was accidentally trained and reinforced for being cute when the toddler was little, but after a long period of time it's no longer cute.

Do you mind explaining what other training and exercise your dog gets, just for curiosities sake? I find that with mine this has a huge effect on her entire emotional response to everything. So maybe if the dog isn't physically uncomfortable you can train him to leave or be more confident when your toddler is talking.

I wouldn't discourage your child from talking, just because that's not okay for your kid. But very likely they are less vocal right now to avoid the dog whining? Maybe some time away from each other would be good. At the worst they miss each other and you can maybe see why your dog is having this reaction, and I don't think a break from each other could hurt.
 

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If he is not responding to the treats, perhaps make him a little hungry? or move to a higher value treat, such as real meat. You could even feed him his meals during the time when your child is most talkative.

I agree with Kwenami that getting enough physical and mental exercise is critical for his well-being. Are you able to take him on walks everyday? or get him out to play? If not, maybe a dog walker could be of value--at least it would give you a break! He seems to take his role as "guardian" very seriously, and maybe he needs a break.
 
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