Dog and Child Conflicts
Berkeley Parents Network >
Advice about Pets >
Dog and Child Conflicts
Our 7 year old cocker spaniel is having trouble adapting to
having a baby in the house. Prior to our sons arrival three
months ago she was the ''baby''. We don't want to punish her
for eating the bathroom trash or unwrapping gifts under the
holiday tree (behavior that is entirely new) but we are at a
loss for solutions. What we have done is invited her to sit
and lay down when we are playing with the baby on the floor,
we give her love when are not dealing with our son and we
try to distinguish her toys from his. She gets very needy
when he is crying and really wants our attention when we are
not in a position to give it to her. If anyone has had
similar experiences please respond.
Lisa in Berkeley
We had a boxer for 7 years before our first baby was
born. He didn't show issues with the baby and our
attention until she started crawling. When that happened,
he started snapping at her, as if she was another dog and
he was trying to show her her place in the family
hierarchy. Unfortunatley, he got it wrong. We ended up
giving him away for fear of what would come next. It
sounds like you need to find a way to have your dog
understand that she is not the baby anymore. I'm not sure
how to do that. But please be very watchful once your
baby starts crawling.
as someone who works with dogs, my personal opinion is that
90% of behavior issues are resolved with more exercise. put
your baby in a carrier and go to the dog park every day.
this is something fun your dog can do with you AND the baby.
if this doesn't seem feasible to you, consider hiring a
dog-walker for a little while.
Please, don't punish him. As annoying and frustrating his
new habits might be, he is doing those things out of
pain. Punishing him will reinforce the idea that the
baby's arrival is not a good thing. When my son was born
they told me to have dog treats available and give my dog
one every time I held the baby or when he behaved nicely
around the baby. Basically the idea was to have the dog
associate the idea of us holding the baby with something
Our dog was our ''baby'' for 5 years before baby arrived. It
sounds like your dog(like ours), may not find spending
time with baby and you rewarding.Due to her nature,our dog
will never be entirely happy with baby, but she has learnt
to adapt. What we did was to keep taking the dog for
walks as she was accustomed to, and gave her lots of love
and attention when we could(not easy with an infant!)When
baby was old enough to ride in a carrier(Bjorn/Ergo type),
we would take walks together.I also gave dog Kongs(rubber
hollow dog toy to fill with food) to keep her
occupied.Baby is now 2 and dog and baby get along. Along
the way, dog received a lot of corrections when
inappropriate behaviour was displayed.Baby was monitored
for her safety and to keep her from teasing the dog.
Hi - I was in the same situation as you. If you can, if
you have the resources, please get some professional help -
someone coming into your home, getting to know you and
your dog - it can really help, as well as alleviate your
stress. There's also a dog training book that I found
really helpful, called There's A Baby in the House.
I was not able to afford training, but did make a big
effort to get my dog as much exercise as possible (and it
was often the last thing I wanted to do as an exhausted
new mom, but...), and to not give her much attention
unless I was with the baby - also hard, but that way she
started to associate the baby with good things, and no
baby with being ignored more. She got lots of cuddles
when I nursed, and treats when the baby was crying, etc.
Like a few other responders, things got better and then
worse again when my little one started to crawl. Keeping
my dog and keeping my dog and baby safe was a ton of extra
work - but my child is almost 4 now, we still have our
dog - and it's worked out well, but definitely with a lot
of monitoring and time and effort. Good luck - with dog
and new baby!!
mother of two (one canine, one human)
I wasn't getting pregnant, so I gave up and adopted a rescue
dog. One month later, I was pregnant. Early photos of them
curled up together make me so sad because they just don't like
We now have 2 kids, 5 & 3 years old. The 5 year old always
kicked the dog etc. The 3 year old has done mean things but
doesn't do it again after being scolded. Consequently, they are
friends. The dog and the 5 year old have to be watched
constantly. It's not like they are unsupervised...He doesn't
touch the dog at all any more. He whines about him existing and
the dog doesn't try to nip him any more but, does growl if he
gets too close or hides. They are both really nice, the boy and
the dog. They just don't like each other.
Should I give up on our dog? Will growing up with a pet that
doesn't like him be bad for my son? He is good with all other
animals and children, really a sweet, well behaved child!
Or, is it good for the child to see the consequence of having
been mean? He notices that the dog loves his brother but
doesn't trust him and that's because his brother is nice to the
dog. I have been thinking that's a good good lesson. But
lately, I've been feeling really bad about it. He says ''I hate
him'' & ''I wish he could go live with Auntie'' and I am so
worried that he may develop some negative self image from
having a pet who doesn't like him.
What do you all think?
I love them all and want to do the best I can....
Your situation sounds to me like an accident waiting to happen.
If your son and dog clearly don't like each other (your son is
afraid of the dog, I'd imagine) I'd suggest you give your dog
away. It's a stressful situation for you, your son and the dog.
You would probably be able to find a very loving and happy home
for your dog, maybe with older kids even.
The other possibility is to hire a dog trainer to work with your
family and dog, especially your older son.
We have a dog who,being part terrier, can get a little irritable
with my very loving playful 9 year old.
This is a different situation, but still we had to teach the dog
who was boss....definately NOT the dog. We also had to teach our
son not to get in the dog's space when he's been given certain
Your son certainly needs to learn to be kind to all animals, but
maybe this isn't the dog to teach him with.
It seems that if you keep this dog and this situation in your
family your son could grow up to be afraid of all dogs. This is
a tough situaton. Good luck.
I really hate to be critical- you sound like a caring person- but I really need to say
this: you simply can't let your child abuse any animal, and letting him experience
the consequences is not enough. Even if you think that he has stopped kicking the
dog (and you can't possibly be watching every single moment) he doesn't seem to
have gotten it that the dog is a living, feeling being that he can love and be loved
by. I would think that seeing the dog's better relationship with your 3 year old could
make the situation even worse.
There is obviously some kind of jealousy and power struggle going on here that
started very early, and letting your child control the situation is not doing him a
favor in the long run. It won't improve his self image, he will only learn that he can
get his own way with meaness and whining. It doesn't sound like it is even this dog
in particular but that the dog has become the object of some struggle/pain that
your son is experiencing. That's not to say that he is a bad person, or that you have
been a bad parent, just that there is something significant going on with him that is
getting acted out with the dog.
Frankly, I suggest therapy for your child. It would be doing him a big favor and if it
is good and appropriate therapy will relieve him of whatever internal burden he is
carrying and let him move on. If you need it, there are plenty of therapists and
agencies that are low cost and/or sliding scale, and your health insurance would
probably offer something as well.
In any case, if you decide to ''give up on the dog'', I really really hope that that
doesn't mean taking him to the pound, but that you would take full and direct
responsibility for finding him an excellent permanent home. This is not the dog's
fault! He just doesn't want to be hurt, and it would be very odd if he did.
Your child is the priority. I suspect your older child
acclimated the dog enough that your younger child could develop
a decent relationship with it. Let someone else adopt the dog,
so the dog can have a family where everyone likes it, and your
child can have the joy of having a pet, not just the burden.
I'm thinking that you should part ways with the dog. It would
make you feel awful if your dog ever did bite or otherwise hurt
your child...and it sounds like it's only a matter of time (or a
moment of unsupervision, which could always happen
inadvertently) before your dog and your son get into an
altercation. I know that this may not be a popular opinion -
esp in the Bay Area where we all love our dogs - but remember
that a dog is a dog and your son is your child who relies on you
to protect him from any potential harm (whether he's an
instigator or not). I'm particularly feeling this way b/c you
mention that he gets along w/ other animals. Best of luck to
you and your family.
This is a serious situation, and I would recommend seeking the
advice and help of a certified pet dog trainer or behaviorist
at once. This may sound like cold comfort, but I have
experience working with dogs and actually think it is good that
your dog is growling rather than snapping at your 5-year-old
because your dog is giving you valuable and important
information about a problem. I also do not think that your dog
is necessarily a ''dangerous'' dog; your dog, by growling, is
actually showing great restraint. It's better to have a dog
that gives you a warning by growling than one that bites
immediately. Moreover, it is great that you are seeking help
for both your son and your dog.
While you supervise the dog and your children now, they may not
have been supervised stringently enough before if there is a
history of your son successfully kicking your dog enough times
for the dog to learn that the presence of your son equals pain.
It sounds to me like repeated episodes of abuse (kicking IS
abuse) have led your dog, quite rightly, to be apprehensive
about your son. The veterinarian and dog-training guru Ian
Dunbar (who actually lives in Berkeley and often gives public
lectures in Berkeley on dogs and children living together)
states vehemently in all of his books that dogs and children
must NEVER, EVER be left unsupervised (and this means that
neither has access to each other without you in-between them to
moderate). Dr. Dunbar also will not let children (or adults,
for that matter) interact with his dogs unless they can ask the
dog to come, sit, and lie down. (You should read his ''AFTER You
Get Your Puppy'' to read an interesting story about work he had
to do to ''fix'' rifts between his son and his Malamute, Phoenix,
that involved a squirt gun.) I can sympathize with your son's
predicament, too: he is too young to understand the damage that
he caused to the dog. If you do get a trainer to help
desensitize your dog to your son's presence, the trainer might
suggest ways to help you to involve your son in obedience
lessons with the dog, and involving your son in training may
also help to heal the emotional pain that your son feels right
I have a less critical but similar problem myself with my 3-
year-old dog and 11-mont-old son, so I am right there with you!
One night my dog ate a loaf of bread and didn't feel well, and
my son crawled up to her and put his hand on her tummy so that
he could stand up. She growled at him and moved away. It was a
wake-up call for me. My dog is a rescue, too, and generally
very sweet in terms of personality. She actively likes most
people and dogs, and gets lots of playtime in at the dog park.
But I do not know if she received proper training in bite-
inhibition as a puppy and thus do not want my son to be the
person to find out the strength of her bite. Now I am anal
about keeping separate and I have to be really WITH both of
them and feeding my dog lots of liver treats when my son is
petting her (more like pulling her ears or elbowing her
stomach). I want my dog to associate my son with pleasant
things (like liver treats) so that she will actually encourage
him to pull her ears! Good luck with your difficult problem,
and do be sure to consult a trainer who is certified: check
www.apdt.com, call 1-800-PET-DOGS, or send me an e-mail.
After reading some of the advice regarding the child and the dog who don't like
each other, I really felt like I had to comment. First, I wonder how of many of the
people who made suggestions own dogs and kids. This parent is obviously trying to
work things out between the dog and child and seems to have done a better job
assimilating the younger child with the dog, so the dog obviously did not get used
to ''hating'' all children. My parents had the most loving dog you could possibly
imagine, one who would stay by your bedside and never leave it, not even to eat, if
you were sick. But, there was a kid who visited our family once a year who didn't
treat him very kindly - mainly pulling his tail. To this child, he would growl and
walk away. If the kid started walking towards his bed, which is where the dog would
retreat to, he'd growl. The kid would know to stay away and thankfully his parents
were supervising him. Now, with all other kids, including newborns, and all adults,
this dog was absolutely loving. So, this was the dog's way of telling certain people
that he did not like his tail pulled on. Would he have bitten the child if the
tried to pull his tail? Yes, I bet he would've. But, that's not the dog's fault,
already given warnings and retreated - I think supervision is key and so is education
of the child. Maybe there are parents out there (and obviously there are, based on
the comments I've read) that would have a different opinion - they'd say to get rid of
the dog right away. I wholeheartedly disagree - you have to look at the entire
picture and the situation. Dogs live to be sometimes 20 years old (this one lived to
be 16), and they are part of the family as much as your children. I think people who
make suggestions should do so if they have been in the same situation; otherwise,
you don't really know what the person is going through.
now she was starting to crawl and wanted to crawl on the dog
and on the dog's bed. My dog would growl and move away. We all
felt that the growl wasn't an aggressive growl, as such, but
was to communicate that she wasn't comfortable with the
situation. She never snapped or lunged and I never felt that
she would actually do harm to my baby.
This situation lasted for about three months. We didn't keep
the baby and the dog apart, but we discouraged our daughter
from crawling on our dog. When our daughter did approach our
dog (under supervision) we'd reassure our dog that everything
was okay. Eventually this problem went away on its own. As soon
as my daughter was walking, she grew interested in other things
and didn't pester the dog as much. Now, our dog doesn't growl
at our daughter anymore and is more tolerant to being petted
and crawled on. If the situation hadn't improved on its own, we
would hired a behaviorist to work with us.
Dogs need time to adjust to new situations too. It doesn't
sound like your dog is inherently aggressive, so perhaps you
can give it some time to see if it improves. Try hiring a
behaviorist as well. Giving up a dog should truly be a last
resort. A dog deemed aggressive with children will be very
difficult to rehome.
Mom and dog lover
First, this concerns me profoundly: ''Our dog has lunged and even
bitten his owners before.'' I don't know what ''Seemed to us a
mistake.'' means, but if your dog has bitten you, he is not
certain *you* are Alpha over him. If he thinks he's Alpha over
you, he *will* bite your child to keep him in line. (You must
correct each and every snarl or growl.)
The only way to deal with this dog is to put him down or hire a
behavioral trainer. I used Alon Geva for my dominant Labrador
bitch almost 10 years ago, and it made the difference between
putting her down and keeping her. Alon has a website but it's not
coming up for me right now: http://www.alongeva.com/ I saw
brochure from him at Oakland Veterinary Clinic recently; they may
know how to contact him, or another behavioral trainer if he's
Please *don't* consider giving this dog to a dogless family.
There is always the chance that the dog will be near a child
while being walked, and will lunge at the child and bite him or
her. This is an unacceptable risk. If he cannot be rehabilitated,
it is your responsibility to put him down, sad as it is.
Good luck. Alon worked wonders for my dog.
Jennie Van Heuit firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not an expert on dog training, although I've been a dog
owner, but if you seriously want to keep your dog you should
consult a professional dog trainer quickly to evaluate the
situation. If the dog has bit people in the past and is
growling at your toddler, I think it's a pretty dangerous
situation. I would suggest using a muzzle for the dog until you
have either found it a new home or successfully retrained it,
and never leave the dog unattended with your toddler. Good luck.
I have dealt with this issue before...if you can call getting bit
as a child by a mean dog ''dealing'' with the issue.
You say your dog is ''an amazing dog in every other way'' but
I can't imagine anything about a dog being so amazing that
it would be worth risking your child's safety!
I suggest you get rid of your dog. For me, this would not be a
difficult choice, but then, I am afraid of dogs and basically
hate them (although I wish I didn't!). Perhaps your child can
avoid my fate if you get a dog with a more pleasant
I had the same exact problem! Our australian shepherd mix is
very alpha, and had bitten a couple people--not seriously, just
letting them know she's the boss--still she broke the skin, and
we were no longer able to let her off the leash--ever. She
seemed fine with our kids--licked them, behaved submissively
toward them. However, one day my 2 year old approached me
while I was eating, and the dog was lying at my feet. She
jumped up snarling, knocked the baby down, and bit at her
face. Fortunately, she just barely broke the skin, but it
scared me terribly. The vet said she was perfectly healthy,
just an older (10 years) cranky, alpha female. He advised me
to have her put to sleep or find another home immediately. He
had another client whose dog actually KILLED their baby. He
said ANY sign of aggression is not something you can ignore, or
hope will go away. My 15 year old son was extremely attached
to the dog, so we came up with a third alternative--the vet
filed down her canine teeth and oversewed the stumps with gum,
filed down all her front biting teeth, and left only her back
grinding teeth, so she can eat, but is unable to do any damage
if she bites. A year and a half later, she's still a bit
chunkier than she should be, seems perfectly happy, and didn't
have any apparent postop distress--we gave her pain meds for
one day just in case, but she was running around like nothing
happened. My preference would have been to find another home,
but in reality, who wants a dog that can't be off leash because
she will attack other dogs (again, no serious bites) and bites
people? Answer: Absolutely nobody. There are tons of dogs
with great personalities that need homes. So--my 2 cents, for
what it's worth....Hope you come up with a solution that works
for your family.....
wouldn't have a big dog around my toddlers again...
Our labrador, who has no history of biting anyone or anything,
started growling at our baby when she started crawling. She
wants to chase him around, relentlessly. The growling made me
extremely nervous; even a little snap could do so much damage to
a baby. We would never get rid of our dog (well, if he bit her,
I'd think pretty seriously about it), so I just have decided
never to leave them alone together. If I leave her in a room to
play for 3 minutes, I take him with me. As it happens, he
stopped growling! He used to growl and get up and walk away
from her. Now he just walks away, and lately he's been resting
his head on her when she nurses. I don't let her chase him too
much, though. I think it's going to work itself out. But I do
think, generally speaking, that dogs and babies don't
necessarily mix. Even the nicest dog is unpredictable,
Our dog had a similar reaction when our son started crawling.
He would start with a low growl. I agree with you, it was very
disturbing. We took him to our vet, a behaviorist at UC Davis
and a trainer. He was aggressive with other dogs, but not with
our older children or my wife and myself. We tried all of the
above for 9 months before he snapped at our son, at that point
we couldn't risk our son's safety and decided (reluctantly) to
put him down. Our vet and trainer both agreed that we couldn't
rehome him due to his aggressiveness with other dogs and
I feel for you in this circumstance and would recommend finding
a new home for your pet. Although not an easy thing to do, it
is best for your sanity, your child's safety and your dog's
a pet lover
I highly recommend reading The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
for a fresh perspective on this. We have two family dogs who
were our first babies. They had always been gentle and
although I was always very cautious when they were with
children, we hadn't seen any reason to be concerned. But very
few dogs I know are bombproof, and of course there was an
incident. One of our dogs was feeling sick (he had eaten an
entire loaf of banana bread, stolen off the kitchen
counter...), and my 2 year old niece was playing with him past
the point when he wanted to be playing (he just wanted to lie
on the floor and sleep off his stomachache). She was rolling
around and (we think) somehow nudged his aching belly...and he
snapped at her. His tooth grazed her skull...lots of blood and
crying, no permanent damage (she is still in love with him).
Basically, this was a dog who would ordinarily remove himself
from a situation he wasn't comfortable with, but in this
instance he just wanted her gone from his space. And he speaks
dog, not english...which means growling, posturing, ear
wiggling, wagging, and if pushed, teeth. Although unfortunate,
this was a fantastic lesson for me as a mom and a dog mom. So
with our 10 month old human baby, I'm taking the ultra cautious
approach. The kid LOVES the dogs, and they seem to get a kick
out of him too...but I always heavily supervise, watch the dogs
for their responses, never let the kid get heavy handed with
them, and if I don't feel 100% up to the task of moderating, I
keep everyone separated by a baby gate. I think that if your
dog is already at the snarling stage, you need to take some
quick action...the dog is telling your kid to go away, and if
your toddler doesn't go away, your dog may feel forced to make
his feelings known more strongly (eg teeth). I know, it's
hard, you want your dog and your kid to be together, they're
both your family, you don't want to shove the dog in the
backyard where he'll just get lonely and neurotic. But the
fallout is SO dreadful from something like this, for all
parties. I know the Berkeley Humane Society has lots of
classes and they would also be able to refer you to a
behavioral specialist. Best of luck to you.
I feel very badly for you, my husband and I went through a
similar scenario in November. Our 8 year-old gorgeous alpha male
hated kids, was very spoiled, and had bitten small dogs and had
almost bitten children several times. We had neutered him early,
he had been through over 4 years of obedience/agility training
and was wonderful on leash and command. But, off command, he was
very aggressive when he felt anything was threatening his owners
or his turf. He never threatened or acted aggressively toward us
or our friends, in fact he was the most sweet and cuddly dog I
have ever owned. But his basic temperament was one of pure alpha
male, and nothing we did- early socialization with other dogs,
off-leash parks, living with a smaller dog- ever changed his
behavior. We looked for a new home for him for nearly 2 years,
had friends in 7 different states searching, and had been turned
down by all of the rescue, ASPCA, and shelters because of his
history. We felt that it was not right to not let someone know
his history- we could have endangered another dog or child.
Basically, they all told us that the shelters are full of really
sweet, loving dogs who can't find homes- how could someone take
a known aggressive dog? We made the incredibly painful decision
to put him down, at the breeder's suggestion even, so that he
would not fall into the wrong hands, or be chained up outside by
a callous owner (which would have just destroyed him, he never
spent a night alone in his whole life), or used to fight, etc.
It was the most painful thing that I have ever done, I still cry
about it, but I think of him as having 8 wonderful years with us
that other folks may not have had the energy to deal with. And
our son is now 6 months old, and in my heart, I know that it
would absolutely not have worked out- the dog would have been an
accident waiting to happen and I can't imagine how horrible I
would have felt having allowed him to injure my son. My husband
was also the one pushing to let the dog go- he kept saying ''he
is just a dog, but this is our son...'' He was right, but it
still hurts. You know your dog better than anyone- think it out
and you will make the right decision.
dogless but baby is safe
Call the Berkeley Humane Society and ask to speak with their
animal behavior specialist--immediately. Snarling is a
warning. Small children are at great risk with dogs, because of
the way a dog's psychology is set up. Children are small and
can be dominated--not good. They stare into a dog's eyes--not
good. They interrupt feeding being affectionate--not good. My
son was bitten at age 4 (not by our dog). Small children are
most at risk for damage to their eyes and face. Protect your
dog (who is behaving ''just like a dog'') and your child (who is
behaving just like a child). PLEASE--keep them apart until you
determine a more permanent solution.
First, I feel for you. I've been in a simlar situation. We had
two dogs that we rescued. Black lab mix and a golden. The
golden was great from the get go. The black lab was always a
challenge in some way. Great at the dog park, great protector
when I ran alone in Wildcat Canyon, and once someone went
camping with us, he'd protect them too! He was extremely
loyal,funny but protective of my husband and I. Once we had our
first child we thought he would do OK with alot of retraining,
watching over, love, attention, etc. ''all the right things''.
We brushed off and overlooked a few aggressive behaviors even
after our first child was born. But then we started hearing
stories of children who were bit by friends dogs, family dogs
etc. With the impending arrival of our second child we talked
to our vet about another home etc. We did what we needed to
do, we focused on if we could ever forgive ourselves if our
children got injured, scared, or bit by our family dog. As much
as we loved the dog, we knew he couldn't be with us anymore ( we
had him for 10 years). We don't have the dog anymore and we all
miss him, but there is alot less stress in the house because we
don't have that worry. Good luck to you, it's a hard decision.
dog lover, not owner right now
I have friends in Portland, OR that after bringing a new dog into
the house, with two resident cats, were having trouble with the
dog being aggressive toward the cats, and I suspect other
problems. Someone told them about the use of an ''animal
psychic.'' I am sure, at first, they laughed, but given that the
phone call was only approximately $30-50(?), they decided to give
it a try. They called some woman in the midwest or back east
(forget where), and she informed them all about the dog's issues
with his owners and the two cats. Low and behold, her advice
worked! They have a happy family once again, and a great story
to tell! I would be glad to get the animal psychic's phone number
for you, if you contact me directly, at: email@example.com
You must, must act today to find a new home for this dog. The
dog is clearly signaling to you that it is uncomfortable with
having a child approach it. You WILL NOT be able to monitor all
interactions. You could be looking away and it will happen that
the baby will pull a tail, poke an eye, etc. and the dog will
be in perfect rights to bite at that point (according to canine
psychology). Some things are trainable, others are innate in
breeds and cannot be trained out--after all, specific traits
have been breed into breeds for thousands of years. If your dog
is aggressive (which is what alpha MEANS--that the dog is
constantly working on to keep its rank in the family) it will
want to control the baby--and in dog language that means
aggression using the mouth. This is even more serious since the
dog has a history of biting. Every day that you have the dog
and child together you are taking a serious, serious risk for
the health of your child. And you MUST, as a parent, put your
child's welfare above the dog.
We had to find another home for a beloved cat who could never
come to terms with our first child, and I've never looked back
as it was such a clear cut decision. There are so many dogs who
truly love kids--we have a Golden Retriever with NO self-
protective impulses. Our kids can do anything to her any only
get kissed. I trust her totally. Or my sister has had many
German Shepards who have been breed for thousands of years to
look after baby animals. When we visit my sister with our baby
and he cries her Shepard is glued to my side with the most
concerned look and won't leave until my son quiets. Go with
breeding and personality and trust what's before your eyes
before its too late.
I encourage you to use your heart but focus it on your child
instead. How would you feel if the dog bit your baby, or worse?
It could be disastrous and in light of the dog's previous
history, you might be found to be negligent by the law. As my son
went from crawling to cruising and finally walking, he used our
boxer to pull himself up, then later as a horsie to ride, or as a
stepstool (when the dog was asleep) to climb on the seat by the
fireplace. He also played with the dog's water and food. You
must ask yourself, what will your dog do then???? You can't
always be present and it could end badly.
You need to find another home for the dog without question.
I suggest that you consider getting a boxer. They have great
personalities and are known for being wonderfully gentle with
children. They are more protective than golden retrievers and
don't shed either.
Use your heart and focus on worrying about your child's safety.
Dog Lover with Child
Keep the dog away from your child! You owe it to your child and
your dog to keep your child safe. If you want to follow your
heart, you should consider how you will feel if/when your child
is bitten. Anyone who has ever seen a child bitten (often in the
face or neck) will advise you to take no chances.
A mom and dog lover
We had the same trouble with my Shetland Sheepdog mix when my
4-year-old son was born. (I've since learned that Shelties are
known to not get along with children; I'm not familiar with the
quirks of your breed.) I never even considered giving up the dog.
I knew that no one else would take him, and leaving our household
would mean he would be put down.
The day we brought my son home from the hospital, both our dogs
barked and barked and barked at the baby. I finally took a rolled
newspaper and hit it against my arm, scaring the dogs with the
sound and in doing so, declared the rocking chair a safe zone.
The key since then was vigilance. I never left the baby alone
with my dogs. (After that initial day, my other dog, a female
Lab-Border Collie mix, turned out to be very gentle with my son.)
I always put his carrier on top of a bed or table, and he got his
floor time in his room first with the door closed. After the
Sheltie (who had imprinted on me) whined outside the door, I let
him into the room, but I made a wedge between the baby and the
dog with my body. If the dog growled, I sent him out of the room.
We gradually expanded this to the rest of the house.
It helped quite a bit that we have crates, and the dogs have been
trained to respond to the ''go to your crate'' command. When the
dog acted too aggressively toward the baby, I gave him a
''time-out'' in the crate. He probably has snapped at my son about
five times in the four years. I should tell you that my son does
not like the dog. He calls him mean, and during my son's terrible
2s and 3s he would try to stand his ground against the dog.
Neither would move for the other. I worked and worked on teaching
my son that the dog was old and stubborn. But we also had my son
give the dogs treats when we left the house. He would never hand
the treat to the ''mean'' dog but, instead, would toss it to him.
We even managed a weekend car trip with the dogs and my son. I
would say we're in detente nowadays.
The funny thing is that the Sheltie has been comparatively nice
to our second child, who's now 14 months. My husband thinks he's
just mellowed, but the vet and I think it's a gender thing. The
baby is a girl. And the dog continues to stand his ground against
my son but will get up and move when my daughter toddles toward
him. He's even let her get away with pulling his tail. In any
case, I think you have to do what you're comfortable with.
There's no question that the children come first. You may want to
consult a Weimaraner breeder to get further suggestions. If you
have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.
I love dogs, despite being bitten in the face by a large dog
when I was 8 (no scars thankfully). I have a 14 month old son
and a dog. I used to have a son and two dogs, but one of my
dogs was aggressive with the baby, even after months of training
pre-birth to try to prepare him for the transition (we pretty
much guessed he'd have issues). Dogs NEVER bite anyone by
accident. They growl, snarl, nip, and bite, and each is a form
of precise doggie communication. Your dog will not ever
ACCIDENTALLY bite. He did it on purpose, and you need to get
that dog away from your child. I didn't want to do this either,
until I actually thought about how I would feel should my son be
harmed (potentially very badly). My dog trainer and vet both
recommended removing the dog. We invested in even more training
for the dog (outside our home at a boarding facility), made him
an excellent candidate for adoption, and placed him through a
pure-bred adoption agency (no kill with lifetime placement) for
brittany spaniels. He now lives with a great family with
teenagers, roaming around on almost an acre in San Diego. He's
happy and my son is safe and playing happily with our remaining
dog (who is still not allowed to be around the family if food is
in the picture). You just can't be too careful. Dogs are dogs,
food is food, and they don't understand that human babies are
very fragile. Protect your child first.
I have to chime in and urge you to think of your children. I
know what you're going through, as we also had a dog that
growled and snapped, and was agressive with other dogs. In many
ways, he was a marvelous dog, and at first, he was ok with the
kids, but as he got older, and crankier, and they got more
rambunctious, it was an accident waiting to happen. And it did.
My five year old crawled past him in a narrow hallway, with my
20 month old behind, and I don't know if he was sleeping, or
guarding a ball or what, but he snapped at him and nicked him
below the eye. I knew in that instant I would have to put him
down, and that it was overdue. Everytime I see that tiny scar on
my child's face, I think of what I risked. I know how hard it
is - I'd had my dog in several training programs, including the
Berkeley Humane Society program for agressive dogs, spent
thousands of dollars and many many hours, but in the end, he was
what he was. You can not watch every minute.
In addition to the Berkeley program, Kirk Turner, an excellent
trainer in El Sobrante, will also evaluate your dog, and let you
know what the options are. Good luck.
I have a difficult problem to solve that involves the family
dog and our son. Our son has just learned how to crawl and is
always very eager to approach our dog, which doesn't go over
well with the dog. At every opportunity our dog snarls to warn
our son. I'm concerned because since the baby's arrival our
dog has been upset, and I fear the worst could happen.
Our dog is an amazing dog in every other way, so giving him up
is my second choice next to fixing him. Can he be fixed?
Anyone know of a dog behaviorist? Anyone deal with this issue
My husband is strictly using his head and thinks the dog should
be given-up to a childless person. I, however, can't stop
using my heart to lead me. My hope is to get advice or
guidance from a detached source.
Facts to note:
Our dog has lunged and even bitten his owners before. Seemed to
us a mistake.
There is another dog in the house(his sister)that he dominates
We've had a vet examine him and everything in normal.
Our dog walker says that he isn't aggressive, but rather Alpha
and like to be the ''Leader''.
He learns quickly, listens to and acts out his commands
Weimeraner is his breed, but not at all the skittish, over-
bread type. Will be mellow if you are, or active when you are.
It's time to get rid of the dog. I'm surprised you are so close
to the dog that you can't see the risk you're putting your
children through. I have a dog who has never growled at my
child or bitten anyone. He is sweet and tolerant even when my
boy pulls his hair, ears, tail, .... He drops balls for the
baby to ''throw''. He kisses the baby (even though the baby isn't
so happy with the wet face). I've worked with the dog since he
was a puppy to supress any alpha instincts. Whether by nature
or training, he is submissive to all other dogs and people. I
love him dearly, but if he ever growled at or bit anyone, I'd
have him in rescue immediately.
I had a similar thing happen with our dog once my daughter
started crawling. I talked to 2 dog behaviorists (one at the SF
SPCA) about it and they felt that our dog was frightened of
this new situation. Previously the baby had been inmobile, but
Our family dog (a yellow lab) whom we have had for the last four
years is starting to show signs of aggression towards our 9
month old son. We have caught the dog growling at our son when
the two are in fairly close proximity to each other as well as
baring his teeth at him. The dog was initially not bothered by
our son as a baby but as he has started to crawl the dog seems
to be getting more aggressive and particularly so when my
husband is around both of them. Obviously we don't let either
close to each other but we're also starting to see other
behaviors such as the dog running into the middle of us playing
on the ground with our son and trying to get our attention away
from the baby. Would like to figure out a way to help our dog
adjust if possible so I'm interested in knowing if there are
other parents out there who have had similar situations and what
you have done about it and if anyone has used a behaviorist for
their dog, did it work and can you recommend one. Thanks.
We once worked with a dog behaviorist (not for aggression
towards our child but for aggression towards other dogs) who is
excellent. His name is Mike Wombacher and he has recently
published a book about this very subject called ''There's a Baby
in the House!'' You can get Mike's contact info and buy the
book on his website, www.doggonegood.org.
My veterinarian highly recommends the animal behaviorist at U.C.
Davis. I can't locate the phone number, but I'm sure your
regular vet can give it to you, or you can call my vet at 925-
Two pieces of advice:
1) Call dog behaviorists at SFSPCA for advice on how to manage
2)Post problem on pets forum on craigslist. Lots of dog savvy
people on forum who will have good input to this issue.
Finally, keep dog separated from your baby until resolved.
Sounds like your dog is jealous and territorial...be careful.
what's more important, the dog or the baby? find the dog a nice
new home before something awful happens.
Regarding your dog...
We were very concerned about our rescue dog before our daughter
(now almost 2) was born. When I was pregnant, we had a dog
behaviorist come over and meet with the dog, talk to us, etc.
She gave us her opinion and gave us some advice. Our dog is
fine with our child but we don't trust her with other kids and
always shut her in a room. We were told that we would need
to ''manage'' her behavior. Anyhow, an animal behaviorist (maybe
you can get a number of someone from your vet or the SPCA) could
definately give you some advice. We were living out of state,
so I can't give you the name of anyone locally. Talk to someone
soon - and good luck.
Hi. we have a 7 yr old irish terrier and a 5 mo old son. Our dog
was acting the same way, running into him, and playing a little
rough for my taste. We just made sure to give her LOTS of
attention and talk to her all the time while playing with the
baby. give her lots of walks, etc. we also let her lick the
babies feet and hands (sounds gross i know) but i feel like it
hleped her to feel like she was still part of the family.
also, i have been taking her to a holistic vet in oakland, Jenny
Taylor to get accupuncture and herbs which help to mellow her
out and can address the behavioral component.
hope this helps. I think it can be worked out with lots of
attention to the dog
Please, Please, Please don't abandon your dog. This is a
common situation and can easily be remedied. I'd suggest
you contact the Berkeley Humane Society first. They have a
wonderful dog obedience training progam as well as lots of
great tips on how to cope with situations just like the one
I know the woman that runs the obedience classes and
she's an expert canine behaviorist. She's trained with the
best and is a wonderful instructor. I just went to the Berekely
Humane Society's website and saw she has a ''Dogs with
Attitude'' class starting in January.
I know your needs are more immediate and it seems as
though you might be able to have her come over and do a
private evaluation of your situation .
If you'd like to call Nancy, this is her phone information: call
(510) 845-7735, extension 22
The Berkeley Humane Society's Website is
We were having the same problem recently with our new 1 year old
dachshund and our 19 month old son. We hired a personal dog-
trainer, whose business card we got from our local vet. He came
to our house once a week for 6 weeks, and it was a miraculous
change in the dogs behavior. To be honest, it was expensive but
well worth it. Basically, he said dogs are pack animals who
always will assume leadership in the absence of training. They
want to run the show, and apparently the dog was trying to train
our toddler to leave him alone, which wasn't working. You
really have to establish your position of dominance with the dog
by enforcing strict restrictions upon the dog and obedience
training and crate training. This was all that was necessary to
put our dog in it's place. It really worked for us, although I
won't ever completely trust the dog around a toddler again. At
least I have confidence that the dog knows what is not
appropriate behavior around the child. When other children are
around, we either send the dog to its ''place'' or to its crate,
and we have had no problems since.
My 8 year old Aussie mix has a very strong herding instinct around kids
and I have a baby that is about to start crawling. I am concerned about
what the dog will do when the baby starts motoring around, and also when
other children are around. He already snaps at kids and adults when they
come in or near our house. He is otherwise very loving and I've had him
from 10 weeks, so would love to learn more how I can nip this scary
tendency in the bud. I've just contacted creatureteachers.com as
recommended in today's recommendations listing, but if you have other
recommendations, I'd really appreciate learning of them!
Concerned in Richmond
My herding Shetland Sheepdog mix also has a problem with people. He has a
love/hate relationship with my now 2-year-old son. He has to be wherever my
son is, but he will not let my son touch him. Under no circumstances should
you ever let your baby and your dog be alone together, and you may never get
them to totally get along. But I believe they will be able to co-exist. The
most important thing is to have a time-out area for your dog. This may be a
room that you can close the door to. But I believe the best way to do this
is to get a crate. It is not too late to crate-train your dog. Put some
blankets in the kennel and always give your dog a toy and some treats when
you put him in there. Feed him in the crate. The crate will give your dog a
safe place to be and give your baby quality time with you. You can have the
crate in the same room with your baby, so your dog doesn't feel he's been
isolated. But it gives your baby safety and gives your dog his own
territory. You may !
nd you want to do this whenever your baby is on the floor. Although many dog
trainers are averse to negative reinforcement, in cases like this, where you
don't want your dog to harm your baby, it is sometimes the only way. One
fairly mild form, but a good way to establish boundaries, is to use a
rolled-up newspaper or magazine. **NO, do not hit your dog with it.*** When
your dog growls or gets too close to your baby, hit the newspaper or
magazine on your arm. For some reason, the noise puts the fear of god in
many dogs. Some dogs also respond to the sound of soda cans filled with
pennies. If your dog gets to close to the baby or snarls, shake the can
vigorously. Be consistent. Your dog will learn that he must keep some
distance from your baby. One other method is to keep your dog's training
leash and collar on him when your baby is crawling. If your dog gets too
close to the baby, give him (the dog) one quick jerk on the leash and firmly
say your dog's ''off'' command (off! !
or no!). Praise your dog when he stays away. Keep a lot of treats on hand and
give your dog treats when he you tell him to stay away from the baby and he
obeys. It's very important that you give the dog a lot of love during this
time, so he doesn't take any jealous feelings out on the baby and he knows
that he's still a much-loved member of the family. At the same time, start
explaining to your baby that s/he must stay away from the dog. Believe me,
though, it's often easier to train the dog! Good luck, and if you have any
questions, send me an e-mail.
this page was last updated: Apr 28, 2011
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network