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Dog and Child Conflicts

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Pets > Dog and Child Conflicts


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Dog acting out with new baby

Jan 2011

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. Dog lover
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. anon
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 positive. Good luck. anon
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. dog lover
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)

My dog doesn't like my oldest child

Jan 2005

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 each other.

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 behavior warnings.

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. Cecelia


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 now.

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. Kara


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 child still tried to pull his tail? Yes, I bet he would've. But, that's not the dog's fault, he had 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 not available.

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 wearpurple@mac.com


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. concerned parent
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 temperament. anon
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, unfortunately. anon
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 children. 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 future. 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. str
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. Ilene
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: kathbca@yahoo.com Kathleen
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. Nancy
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. Gwynne


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. Dog Lover
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. anon

Family Dog Snarling at Baby

May 2004

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 before?

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 over. 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. Terrier owner
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

Family dog aggressive to 9 month old

Nov 2002

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. Arquelle


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. lmbyer
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- 934-8042. R. Low
Two pieces of advice: 1) Call dog behaviorists at SFSPCA for advice on how to manage situation. 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. Good Luck!!! Lisa
what's more important, the dog or the baby? find the dog a nice new home before something awful happens. anon
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. Erin
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 J
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 you described. 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 http://berkeleyhumane.org/ Beth
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.

Worried about baby and my herding dog who snaps

March 2002

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 ! fi! 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. Gwynne
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