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Managing Dog Aggression Toward Babies

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Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.

Q: Professor Boo, I have an 11 year old female German Shepherd and a 10 month old baby at home. My dog has always been friendly towards my baby girl and usually kisses her and licks her a lot. My baby is always after the dog, using her as a “ladder” to stand up, grabs her tail and face and usually my dog just walks away but today was the first time she growled at her and showed her teeth when my daughter tried to grab her (my daughter was in my dog’s sleeping area.) Does that mean she might bite her? I love my dog dearly but my baby comes first. What do I do?

A: This is fairly common when little ones begin to toddle around and use the dog as a walking “helper” as it were.

Please remember all dogs can bite anyone if they feel they have no other way to stop something that either scares them or hurts them. Cute as it may be to see baby loving the dog, most dogs are not really comfortable with this kind of grabbing as most little ones don’t have really good grip control and can hurt when they pull and tug on an dog especially an older dog.

It should not have to come down to a choice for you between the dog you love and the child you love.

It really just has to come down to always remembering that baby doesn’t know she may be hurting the dog and your dog is telling baby with a growl “please stop.” Your job is to stop baby before doggie gets to the point where she feels the need to “correct” the baby. There are some simple rules that will help.

Please start out by thinking of your dog like an open pool in your back yard. You would never turn your back on your baby around an open pool. You would never let her dangle her feet in the pool without you right there next to her. You would always be right there to catch her if she fell, etc…

So in light of that – please follow these rules:

  • Dog and baby are never alone together and you are always right between them for now.
  • Baby can only touch dog when you are right there guiding baby as to how to gently touch dog.
  • Dog is never used as a walking helper for baby.
  • Dog is never chased by baby – not with walker, not with toys and not on her own.
  • Baby never wakes the dog, pokes the dog or lands on the dog when dog is sleeping.

In addition to all of these I would suggest some review of basic skills especially the recall command. Very often parents find it easier to call the dog away from baby then to ask baby to stop advancing on a resting dog. This may mean some new or review training either individually or in a classroom.

Too many dogs are euthanized each year because they are viewed as aggressive to their toddler. Much of this can be avoided if we try to understand that for most dogs toddlers can be scary. Most dogs try to warn the toddler away and too many parents punish the dog for the growl. This leads to a dog who feels like they have no alternative but to bite.

Please remember:

The first rule to keeping your child safe from your dog is keeping your dog safe from your child.

Your dog has given you a great gift – she has told you she is uncomfortable with some things baby is doing. Take that gift and return the favor to your dog by following the rules above and teaching or reviewing some really basic skills to keep everyone safe.

40 Responses to Managing Dog Aggression Toward Babies

  1. Kim January 10, 2012 at 8:21 PM #

    Our 3 year old lab mix has been showing food aggression toward our 11 month old son. It doesn’t matter if it is her food or his. She has growled and snipped at him never making contact. She also does this when she is laying and the baby messes with her back legs and such. But she doesn’t care if hangs off her face or neck. I just don’t want a growl and snip to turn into a bite we will regret. What to do?

  2. Angela May 1, 2016 at 6:48 AM #

    Kim,

    What did you end up doing? Right now we have a 5 year old lab/ pit mix. She has started showing aggression towards my 11 month old niece. I was just wondering what you ended up doing with your dog?

    • Lisa May 4, 2016 at 6:49 AM #

      I don’t know what happened in this case because this was an online query and not a local client whose progress I was following.

      I can say that many of my local clients (and myself) have successfully trained and managed our dogs who were less than trilled with the new baby to the point where we could all live happily and safely. I have chronicled my journey through this process in my book “Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs.” This book will also give you great tips to help keep kids of any age safe around your dogs.

      • Heidi Lufkin December 2, 2017 at 4:37 PM #

        I have a 1.5 mastiff,pit mix . He is good with my daughter expect when she wants to climb on him or he is sleeping. She was near his toy and he nipped at her . How do I train him no to nip?

        • Lisa December 4, 2017 at 3:21 PM #

          Hi Heidi,
          There are two things I would recommend.
          #1 – I would never recommend letting your child climb on any dog – good dog or not so good dog. It is hard on the dog, and if they are uncomfortable, they will let the child know. Usually, this is not in a way we like, but in a dog way, like growling, nipping, etc. Teach your daughter to treat your dog the way she would like to be treated, gently, in a cooperative way, etc., and you will get two benefits, less risk with the dog, and early learning in empathy for your daughter – win-win!
          #2 – I would teach your dog a really reliable “come” or “touch” command to get the dog to move to you when you see your daughter starting to climb on him. She may forget, or not way to comply, or just be a kid, and you need to be able to teach the dog that leaving the situation is way better than a nip, growl, etc., and the “come” or “touch” command will let you do that to help them both.
          If you need help getting those reliable, contact a local trainer, check out the IAABC, CCPDT, and Truly Dog Friendly websites. You can also see the “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” book.
          Hope that helps and all best,
          lj

  3. Amanda August 1, 2016 at 12:33 AM #

    We have a 3 year old GSD who hasn’t really shown much interest in our 8 month old baby. He will tolerate him chasing him around in his walker, doesn’t really care to pay much attention to him… But today he dropped his ball inside the area I have gated where my baby plays. Obviously my 8 month old can’t throw a ball back to the dogs so he was just holding it. My GSD got very mad and charged the gate. If the gate had not been there he would have probably bit him. What am I to do? I won’t be able to contain my baby for much longer he will be walking soon and he will grab toys on the floor. How can I assure that my dog won’t attack him for taking one of his toys?

    • Lisa August 1, 2016 at 2:14 PM #

      Hi Amanda,

      I’m sorry to hear this, but very glad you emailed. First thing on your list is (if you have not already) is pick up a copy of download the electronic version of my book, Please Don’t Bite the Baby. You will find step-by-step training tips in the second half of each chapter. The first half of each chapter is more for you to see via the narrative that you are not alone in this. Your second step will be to contact a local trainer who has experience with kids and dogs. I would go to any of the following websites to look (unless you are near me, then we can speak): Truly Dog Friendly or Family Paws or IAABC.
      Hope this helps and please let me know if you have any other questions.
      All best,
      Lisa

  4. Beth November 8, 2016 at 9:32 PM #

    My mom’s 10yr old dog has recently been following my 8mo old daughter closely. At first I thought he was being sweet and licking her but now I’m not sure because today when my daughter was pulling herself up on the couch he lunged forward and nipped her. He Didnt break the skin but it’s made me very nervous. I generally don’t leave her alone with dogs and always keep her from accidentally tugging on him. She wasn’t even reaching for him just pulling herself up. Any suggestions?

    • Lisa November 9, 2016 at 5:41 AM #

      Thanks for asking this question. Very glad that you have been managing interactions as you daughter grows and your mother’s dog gets used to the every changing little human that he may not completely understand. My first suggestion is to increase management between you mother’s dog and your daughter. I outline a number of different levels of management strategies in “Please Don’t Bite the Baby,” and would strongly suggest picking up a copy to help you go through these steps. Following that, I would review the basic skills your mother’s dog has and work on a few of the really important ones like settle, directional commands like place, out you go, etc., then set up times when you mother’s can watch your daughter playing and exploring her new skills like crawling, pulling herself up, the beginnings of walking, etc. Your mother’s dog should be well rewarded for just watching and doing nothing as your daughter demonstrates the new things that she can do. He is going to have to get used to and happy with her changing right before his eyes. Hope that helps and “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” will give you many more tips and suggestions.

  5. Chiara November 20, 2016 at 7:09 PM #

    I came across this while looking online for information on this issue.
    We adopted our dog Lacey 2 1/2 years ago from the SPCA. She had been a stray so there was no background on her but she was very nervous and fearful/jumpy and excitable. She was also extremely possessive of food and has bitten twice in the past when guarding food. We’ve worked hard to build her confidence through positive reinforcement and she is now no longer scared of people at all and is generally much calmer and relaxed. Her food aggression is much better and we work on this as an ongoing thing but I would still never trust her 100% due to her previous.
    My husband and I plan to start a family in the next 2-3 years but I really want Lacey to be in a good place before we introduce a baby into her life. I also obviously wouldn’t want to risk her causing any harm to a child so I am looking for information on what we can be doing with her to help prepare her for this over the next couple of years. I don’t worry about Lacey doing something to a child for no reason but I worry about what will happen when the baby starts to crawl/walk and if it might do something to bother her or gets too close to a toy/food and she snaps. Is there any advice you can give on what we can be doing for Lacey over the next couple of years before bringing in a baby to the family?
    Is the book available in the UK?

    • Lisa November 30, 2016 at 6:49 AM #

      Hi Chiara,
      Sorry for the delay – the Thanksgiving holiday here slows everything down. “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” would be the perfect book to help you help Lacey get ready for a new baby. You will see a good number of pre-baby tips in there as well as some direct exercises and strategies for once baby arrives. It is available on Amazon, so there should be no problem buying the US edition shipping to UK. Please let me know if you have any problems and good luck!

  6. Kristi January 15, 2017 at 10:15 AM #

    We have a 3 year old St. Bernard mix who we are not sure what to do with. Every since we brought baby home she has been acting strange. She barks uncontrollably and will not come in the house after being outside unless we give her treats and sometimes she will come to the door to be let in, we go to open the door and she runs away. Our son is 7 months old now and we noticed that she tries humping him and will nudge him and whine. She has always had some food aggression but now it’s become so bad that she nips. We have 3 older children 10 and 2 16 year Olds and they cannot even get near her food. We have been showing her more affection and making sure she knows who the pact leader is. She has become extremely unpredictable and seems worse with every step we’ve tried. We are at a point where we are thinking of finding her a new home. She is great with anyou adult but not with any child that comes into our home.

    • Lisa January 16, 2017 at 3:29 PM #

      Hi Kristi,

      I am sorry to hear this. It cannot be a good thing for anyone (k9 or human) in the house.

      There are a number of strategies that I like to implement when I have a client whose dog is not doing well with a new baby. I don’t know where you are located, but ideally a local CDBC (iaabc.org) or CPDT (ccpdt.org) should be able to help you navigate through this. I wish I had a quick answer to these complicated issues, but unfortunately each dog and each household brings different factors. For the resource guarding, be sure to manage feeding so she can be in a quiet place to eat with the least amount of stress. Resource guarding has a very large anxiety component so it is not unusual to see an already existing RGing issue increase when a baby comes home.

      For the humping and nudging. Ideally I don’t let 7 month-old babies and dogs to get that close without me being right next to them, less than arm’s reach. If you follow this, you can redirect your dog with simple commands that she knows and then praise her for complying. My favorite here is the settle command. This is one of the easiest and most complicated commands for our dogs, but ultimately it teaches your dog to just hang out around your baby without doing anything.

      The commands I see from your post that will be the most important are: Settle, Touch, Sit, Down, Come, Leave-it, and Drop-it.

      If you guys are good at training on your own but need guidance for these, “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” has all of these in easy to follow format. If you learn better when someone demonstrates these things, then refer back to the CDBC and CPDT trainer searches.

      I hope this is helpful.

  7. Beth Picha February 26, 2017 at 9:21 PM #

    We have two labs. They will be 11 in March. We have two older children and have never had any problems. About a month ago, my youngest son who is 20 months old and a bit more agressive in general was laying near her and I believe may have leaned too hard on her back lega. Our dog bit him near the top of his head. We were distraught and not sure what to do. We have been very careful to watch him around her and so far so good. Until tonight, the kids were running around the living room chasing eachother with a blanket. The blanket landed on the dog and when my 20month old gently reached for it to pull it off of her, the dog turned to snap at him. Right in front of us. I love thus dog but, this is becoming very concerning as we have neighbors and many other kids near us.

    • Lisa February 27, 2017 at 9:02 AM #

      I am sorry to hear this and can relate to the conflict you must be feeling. At 11 some labs will be suffering (like many of us humans as we get older) age related joint stiffness, and/or soreness. It is also possible hearing has begun to fail a bit (we don’t often see the signs of this when another dog is in the house as many times they act as the other’s hearing or seeing dog). It would be worth a trip to the vet to have a complete physical with a complete blood work up if you have not done that lately.

      Because you son is now well into his toddling phase, this too can spook many dogs who don’t have any aging issues. Toddlers move strangely and unpredictably, which is a trigger for many dogs.

      My fist suggestion is to stand back and ask what are the options – I suspect you have done that. Of all of them is there one that is not great, but not horrible? Usually there is – I like high end management. For dogs who are having trouble adjusting to a new baby, or the new phase of toddling child, I love gates and other physical management techniques. This allow the dog to adjust to the child’s new activity level (because she can still see your son through the gate) in safety. I will then teach a settle on the other side of the gate and when I think everyone is ready begin to bring the dog into the room for the settle when your son is up and about, provided your son can follow your directions, and when he cannot or things get nutty – the dog goes out for the safety of everyone (including the dog)

      We often sigh with disappointment when we are faced with leaving our behoved dog out of the family activity. I have done just this, but I remind myself that having Pinball safely away when my son is playing roughly or running around crazy, allows Pinball to stay with us, and for me not to have to consider re-homing (which for an older dog is very difficult) or other options worse than rehoming.

      In short, I would move heaven and earth to get some good gates with a good lock (I have my favorite on the Threedogstraining.com website in the shop, but you may like others). Then start by having your son and dog separated whenever your attention cannot be fully on the two and you cannot be within elbow to finger reach of your child and dog.

      I will be posting an excerpt from my book “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” on the blog shortly which may help, but there is far more to say about this than fits in a blog. And in the interim “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” is available on Amazon for assistance, AND, it would be a good idea to reach out to some positive reinforcement dog trainers (who have worked with managing kids and dog) in your area. If you are not local to me, look to , ,

      Please keep us posted and we wish you all the best.

  8. Sonya seehafer March 3, 2017 at 9:22 PM #

    Im currently 34weeks pregnant with my first child. We have 3 dogs. Two of them being American bullies. Cross of American bulldog and American staff terrier. One is super sweet and loves every animal person she meets 1 year old. Our 1.5year old male only likes dogs, and not other animals. While preparing them for baby we let them smell an outfit in a doll used by my 6month old niece. Our female smells it and sits. Our male jumps, barks, and bites at the doll. We even let him smell the outfit before putting it on the doll and he was fine, but then walking around he was trying to attack it. Is this something that can be corrected or does baby and dog always have to be separated?

    • Lisa March 4, 2017 at 6:24 AM #

      Hi Sonya,
      Thanks for asking these questions before baby arrives – it helps the dogs a lot. Separation/management is the best way to be sure everyone is safe and allow you to arrange times to begin training the behaviors you want to see from your dogs around the baby. This is the tricky part with three dogs – time to train! I like to train my dogs to settle around the baby, get out on a cue (usually returning to a gated portion of the house), drop-it and leave-it. There are many, many other skills, but the first rule is to keep everyone safe so you can “live to train another day” as the saying goes with a little dog training twist. I usually recommend the “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” book because there are so many tips outlined, how to train, how to manage, what to look for, when to move on the the next step. And, if you don’t want to read the memoir portion (although it is there to give context as to why we do certain things), you can go directly to the tips section of each chapter – E-book would allow that easily. Unfortunately, there is no one thing that will keep baby safe around dogs, and there are many options to help the dogs behave better around our babies. Please don’t stop working with your dogs – and again, thanks for thinking of them ahead of time!

      Best of Luck!

  9. Patricia Whitten April 7, 2017 at 9:53 PM #

    My dog is 4.5 months and my daughter is almost 15months if he has a toy and she walks by him or if she has a toy that he wants he will growl at her and nip. He is also resorce guarding but only with my daughter. I am going to order the book but are there any things I can do between now and then? I separate them during feedings.

  10. Stacet September 5, 2017 at 8:21 PM #

    I have a 8 month old baby and 2 year old maltese. We were very careful about not neglecting the dog when baby arrived, slowly introduced them etc. Most of the time the dog licks his feet and all is well. When he is crawling the dog will try to lick his feet but tries to nip … also sometimes if I bring the baby down to see the dog she will actaully try to bite. And growls out of no where .. no warning just attack mode. I have never let my son pull or bother the dog most of the time she approaches him while he is in his jumper or crawling. We have a behaviour therapist starting next week .. can this be fixed?

    • Lisa September 8, 2017 at 8:49 AM #

      Hi Stacey,

      Thanks for the comment. I am sorry to hear of this, I know how hard it is to want everyone to get along right away.

      That said, it sometimes take time for us to build the sense of safety our dog’s need around our new little humans. Hopefully your behaviorist will be able to help.
      I do usually advise picking up a copy of “Please Don’t Bite the Baby…” I wrote it so there would be tips in every chapter and the memoir portion gives the tips clarity as to how and when to use them. It was not easy keeping my son safe around my crazy crew, but we did. Now, I worry about the dog, not the child 😉

      Talk to your behaviorist and your vet to see if trying some calming supplements or even an SSRI will help.

      I wish you the best of luck, and remember when in doubt, just get the dog out – it is faster and easier. This is for the long haul, they don’t have to be perfect together today, just safe, then down the road it will be better.

  11. Bernadette lora September 18, 2017 at 12:05 AM #

    Hi. I have a 6 or7 year old chihuahua dachshund mix that we rescued. We got him before we had our daughter. Our daughter is 17 months old and he growls at her whenever she’s near him. She doesn’t have any interest in him, but if she’s near he’ll growl. Today he lunged for her and but her hair. Luckily she has a lot of hair and he didn’t break skin. What should I do?

    • Lisa September 18, 2017 at 9:00 AM #

      Hi Bernadette,
      Thanks for the question. I am so sorry to hear your dog is not happy with your daughter. I wrote about a situation similar to this in “Please Don’t Bite the Baby,” where a client of mine had a small dog who barked, lunged, and growled at the baby. We instituted a heavy management protocol and training to teach humans and dog how to get the dog out of the room happily when necessary, how to settle outside of the room the baby was in and then eventually in the room with the baby. They succeeded and are all living happily five years later.
      You may need to reach out to a professional trainer who has experience with dogs and kids, and has experience teaching a relaxed protocol (I call it settle – others call it relax) so your dog learns it is good to be around the toddler. You can also pick up a copy of “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” and follow the tips outlined at the end of each chapter. It is on Amazon, paperback or digital. It is also in most local libraries.
      And for right now, your dog and baby should not be together in the same room until you have gotten some training tips working.
      Hope that helps

  12. Chantelle Sitton November 13, 2017 at 1:18 PM #

    I have an almost 10yr old Chihuahua mix (mixed with minpin and shizu, sorry if both are spelt wrong) anyhow, I also have a 3yr old toddler. The two play together, my 3yr old can pet the dog everything no problems. Except when it comes to his food. My son can not even walk in the door, which is about 5 feet from food, without my dog barking at him, nipping at him and trying to go after him. He is the same way with other animals. Today, my son was sitting on the floor petting the dog next to the door everything was fine. My son stopped petting the dog and my dog out of no lunged at my son face and nipped him. It didnt break skin or anything but it has my son scared shitless (excuse my language) my son is absolutely terrified! Im at a lost, I don’t know what else to do. We just moved ro a different state, so don’t really have anyone i know around me. Please help!!

    • Lisa November 13, 2017 at 2:14 PM #

      Hi Chantelle,
      I am sorry to hear this. It is not easy to know what to do at first. Begin with very high levels of management for now until you can consult a local trainer. Until you have some strategies and some training exercises going, your son and dog should not be close enough for an encounter like this, unless you are RIGHT there and can easily redirect either of them. While you are looking for local trainers to help out, see if you can get a hold of my book, “Please Don’t Bite the Baby.” I wrote this with tips throughout when dealing with young children and dogs with some complicated issues. It will get you started.

      For local trainers, try the following websites: Truly Dog Friendly, IAABC, and CCPDT. All of these have trainer searches by location.

      Good luck and please keep us posted!

      • Chantelle Sitton November 13, 2017 at 5:16 PM #

        Thank you. They aren’t alone together, my husband and/or I are always there.

        • Lisa November 14, 2017 at 9:00 AM #

          Beautiful – and be sure you are well within reaching distance – just to be safe right now as you look for a local trainer. All best!

  13. Sherry November 18, 2017 at 8:38 PM #

    Thanks for all the advice you have given us. But I have a question. We have a 5 year old neutered male pitbull mix and a 9 month old spayed female Pitbull/Doberman mix. We also have a 9 month old grand son in the house who is quite active. Our pup is very loving, quite docile and gentle with the baby but the 5 year old is not. He normally avoids the baby or ignores him altogether. But now that baby is on the move, he’s been viewing the baby in a predatory nature. We never leave the baby and dog unsupervised. And when the dog gets the aggressive stance we put him in the breezeway that has a baby gate. By separating him from his “pack”, even for short periods, will this make him more aggressive because he’s being left out? Getting more jealous of the baby? We have a family friend who is going to take the 5 year old dog but he’s looking for a house. So in the meantime, what would you recommend? Exactly what we are doing?

    • Lisa November 19, 2017 at 3:52 PM #

      Hi Sherry,
      Great job having a place for the 5-YO to go when you see trouble brewing. We can’t really know what may be going on in his head. It could be anything from, “Hey! I don’t want to be in here.” to “Thank goodness, I get a break.” While you are waiting for your friend to be able to take the 5 YO, it would be great to begin working on the settle command, which is a relaxed position where the dog gets paid Very Well for just hanging out. This would be done on leash with your grandson in the room but not close by the dog and doing a fairly sedate activity like playing with blocks. This will help the 5 YO dog to begin to associate good things in a relaxed position while being around the grandson. Depending on the strength of the 5 YO and his level of discomfort, it might be a good idea to have a play yard up. I used to put my son in the play yard when he was small enough while I worked the multiple dogs’s settles around the play yard. Depending on the size of the dog, he could be the one in the play yard getting the great treats for his settle while your grandson plays at a distance from him. This settle can also be done when the 5 YO is on the other side of the gate so he can watch your grandson, and be well rewarded for hanging out in a relaxed manner.
      Essentially, you are currently managing the situation which is great and very important. And, the 5 YO will need to be taught/conditioned how to be happy around the grandson – that is where the settle comes in. If you don’t know how to do the settle, it is outlined in my book “Please Don’t Bite the Baby.” You can also try local trainers, but be careful, it is imperative that the settle be relaxed and sometimes it takes some doing before the dog relaxes in the situation.
      Hope that helps and best of luck!

  14. Amanda Cooper December 6, 2017 at 2:53 AM #

    I have a 6 year old male Beagle/Jack Russel mix. When I first brought our baby home our doggie really didn’t show any interest at all in him. Occasionally though when he would cry, doggie would bark or act as if he didn’t like the sound. As baby got bigger and he had tummy time, doggie might get close and sniff him once or twice but generally just ignored him. Once baby started crawling though the problems started. If baby would crawl towards doggie he would growl at him. We love our doggie and would never want to get rid of him. I got him for my now 13 year old son when he was just a puppy but he is definitely a family pet. So to be safe I got a very large baby play yard, put it up in the living room and decided to just keep them separated at all times. Doggie will sit just outside of it though often watching baby play but then he growls if baby gets too close to him, even though he’s on the other side of the play yard. We sternly tell doggie no and move baby away from him when this happens. Baby is now one year old and starting to walk. I know I’m on very limited time before baby will be climbing over the play yard and I will have to take it down. I’m so afraid once that happens I will have to either keep doggie outside or in my older son’s room at all times to keep him from possibly biting baby. I would hate to do this because he’s always been such a loyal, loving companion but I truly don’t know what else to do as I can’t take the chance of baby being badly hurt. Baby is already used to playing easy with dogs because our sitter has a dog that adores him. Every day sitters dog greets him with a lick and baby loves it. This only makes keeping baby and doggie separated at home more difficult though because baby doesn’t understand that while he can pet sitters dog, he can’t even get close to ours. Please help me find a way to reassure our furry friend that he’s safe and we still love him so hopefully he’ll see there’s no reason to growl at or, even worse, bite the baby.

    • Lisa December 8, 2017 at 10:28 AM #

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for the info. I have a couple thoughts on these issues.
      1 – Because there will need to be some more training for your dog (and baby too) that will take time, more management will be in order to keep everyone safe while the training is on going. You already have the play yard which is great. It will be time to put in some strategic walk-through gates. I have one on the website that will give you some ideas, but as usual, Amazon will have other suggestions too, so just click on that and see what works for you.
      2 – Keeping them separate now while they are learning how to be with each other is good, however, it is not workable for the lifetime of your dog. Use these separate times, either behind gates, or with baby in play yard to make your dog HAPPY about the baby. This is a desensitization and counter-conditioning process. I outline much of this in my book “Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs.” It is available on Amazon, or in the library. Then you may need a professional trainer to walk you through some of the tricker portions, or the tips in the book may be enough.
      3 – It is essential that your dog no longer gets into trouble around the baby, no scolding, no stern voice, etc. Your dog needs to LOVE being around the baby (hence the DS/CC just mentioned). For now the simplest thing will be to treat your dog whenever he sees the baby and is not reacting badly. And, if he does I like the “touch” command or the “out you go” command to send the dog away from the child. This does reward the dog, but it rewards the dog for moving away from the baby. This we like! Because, no matter how good you guys are at DS/CC and management, there will always be a time when your dog doesn’t like what the baby is doing and being able to teach and reinforce a ‘move away’ behavior for the dog is great. It is like teaching the dog, “When you don’t like it, just leave.”
      You are correct that time is not on your side as your younger son will soon be toddling and getting the dog even more upset and worried. So, please take advantage of the info in the book and a good solid Positive Reinforcement trainer in your area.
      Best of Luck!

  15. Samantha Tremblay December 13, 2017 at 12:03 PM #

    I’ve got two daughters. One is 9 and my baby is 8months old. I have had our dog since he was 4 weeks old and he’s a very smart pitt/lab mix. When pregnant he was always very protective of me. So I thought he would love our baby like he does with our oldest daughter. Our female dog loves our baby but our male pitt could care less. If she crawls near him he will lightly growl than get up and avoid her
    At times he will let her climb on him and I try to avoid it and he will let her near his food and let her play with his toys. But he just doesn’t like her near him at all. He will literally run to other side of the house if she goes near him. I’ve been putting his toys away so she can’t touch them or When she does I just take them away and try to baby him when it’s time. I keep a close eye on her when she’s around both dogs but I just want him to love her! Please help!!

    • Lisa December 14, 2017 at 12:37 PM #

      Hi Samantha,
      I am sorry to hear your male pit is less than happy with your baby, and even afraid at times.
      The answer here is, unfortunately, not a short one and won’t fit into a blog. I can say that the descriptions of your male pit’s behavior around the baby are born of fear and/or worry. I would strongly encourage you to not allow the baby to climb on him and never allow them to be together unless you are immediately right there. And, if you do nothing else simply call the male dog out with a yummy lure every time the baby is headed in his direction. He will at least learn to move out of the way for now, and begin to associate positive things with the baby coming in his direction.
      However, the real fix will be in desensitizing and counterconditioning him to your youngest daughter. This is a process, but one that can be embedded into everyday life with your family. You will need a local positive reinforcement trainer to help you, or there are tips in my book “Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs.” There is a except from PDBB posted here on the dogs growling at the baby.
      I would also recommend the use of baby gates to allow your baby to play without you worrying about where your male dog is. Either the baby or the dog can be gated into the appropriate space. Management like this is essential to building a good relationship because it prevents big mistakes made by dog or baby and therefore allows you to build the good relationship you want.
      Again, if you have not already, please check out these websites for local trainers, IAABC, CCPDT, Truly Dog Friendly.
      Best of luck!

  16. Ashley Miller December 22, 2017 at 5:53 PM #

    I have a 3 year old Rottweiler he has started growling at me and my 10 month old baby girl he growls at me when I give a command and he doesn’t follow so I grab his collar but with my baby he does it every time ahe gets near him we keep her away when he is eating but we find it weird when my nieces were her age he never growled at them and didn’t have a problem it just seems like he doesn’t like her I’m needing advice I’m really considering getting rid of him but if can find a way to address the issue before it gets that far I would really love some advice

  17. Tony Wing December 27, 2017 at 12:14 AM #

    My 6 month American bully pitbull always is on the bed chewing on her toys or laying next to me but I also have a 9 month old baby that likes to crawl around and play with toys but Everytime the baby trys to play with the dog or crawls on her she crowls and one time she actually bite the baby I need help finding a way to get her to stop cuz she only dose it to the baby not me or my girl???

    • Lisa January 2, 2018 at 9:29 AM #

      Hi Tony,
      I am sorry to hear this. The first thing is to keep the baby and the dog apart. This can mean the use of baby gates, play yards, or baby up above where the dog can reach. I used to love the bouncy chair we had that sat up on kitchen counters, etc. Things like these allow you to train your dog around your baby.
      Next step, is to find a local trainer. It is imperative that your dog have good solid verbal commands around your baby. Especially, since walking is in the near future for you baby.
      See the following websites for trainer searches by location – iaabc.org, ccpdt.org, trulydogfriendly.com.
      I hope this helps and best of luck!

  18. Matthew Rogers January 18, 2018 at 4:59 PM #

    Hello, I have a 9 year old Lab/Beagle mix whom is the sweetest dog, never had a problem and is well trained. However, I now have a 1 month old baby who cries a lot, like most babies, and it seems to be stressing my dog out a lot. She has been barking every time the baby cries and recently, past week she tries to get closer to baby to investigate and has been starting to snip or nibble on the babies feet, but hasn’t bitten her (yet), and I am scared as I refuse to get rid of my dog, but my wife reminds me that it is unacceptable for my dog to show aggression or try and nibble at the baby. What can I do? Should I give my dog anxiety medication (vet recommended), as I don’t know how to calm her down as she barks like crazy (previously trained not to bark without cause, i.e. fireworks, people at door, thunder, etc, so typically doesn’t bark unless in those occasions). She now barks each time baby cries and shows increasing levels of aggression each day, where she seemed to try and bite the baby on the swing today! Please help. Thank You!

    • Lisa January 19, 2018 at 1:48 PM #

      Hi Matthew,
      I am sorry to hear this and have a few ideas:
      1 – If your vet can help you monitor the medication to be sure it is helpful, it may be worth a try. Remember you should be working with an antidepressant type of medication. Sometimes the dose has to be revisited, and occasionally, like with people, one antidepressant works better than another, so have a long conversation with your vet before you begin any medication. That said, it may very well help.
      2 – Even if you do go the medication route, behavior modification will be necessary because it is the method that will make the real changes for your dog in terms of how she processes the anxiety. The medication is really to allow her brain to be in good receiving mode for the behavior mod. So, that leads me to the next couple suggestions:
      2a – Find a local trainer/behaviorist/behavior consultant who has worked with this type of situation previously. If you are local to me – drop me a note. If not, see this link for three organizations that have good trainer search options by location.
      2b – If you find the trainer idea won’t work, or you want to augment it, I always recommend my gook “Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs.” I wrote this book so parents without access to a trainer could answer their questions and find techniques that will help them keep the dog they love around the baby they love.
      Best of luck and please keep me posted.

  19. Gary March 1, 2018 at 10:11 AM #

    I have a Old English Sheepdo, a 4 year old shelter dog. We adopted him at 10 months old. We have no children. We were told he was given away twice by families with young children. We sort of think we know why….he is beyond wonderful with other dogs as long as they are not aggressive towards him. If another dog over reacts on a greet or rough play, he does not over react and does not escalate nor does he cower. I admire this in him. But his weakness is babys. If there are toddlers or 3-4 year old children he is wonderful, forgiving and playful, slightly rambunctious. We are careful with introducing kids to him and vice Versa. But if a parent decides innocently to simply pick up a child nearby, that act distracts this dog and he barks and tries to free the baby or nip at it. We are not sure but we do not allow him to get close enough to learn. We do have a doll in the house, a newborn baby doll and he barks non stop if he even sees it, so we laid the doll on the bed and he barked non stop for 5 minutes or more, pulled the socks off each foot but did not bite it. Nudged it as if he were trying to wake it up, so I’m at a loss in trying to coach or train this behavior but instead, just avoid putting him in situations. He also hates, violently, vacuums or hair drying blowers in his face and will aggressively bite to destroy the appliance. It is a vicious and destructive attack. We somehow put abuse potentially by a vacuum and baby and moronic adult as the damaging culprit when he was a puppy….

    • Lisa March 7, 2018 at 2:43 PM #

      Hi Gary,
      It sounds like your OES has a number of items that scare him. There is a lot that can be done to desensitize and counter-condition him to many of the items listed. Keeping him away for now is fine in order to not make matters worse. But to change his emotional state around these items like appliances, babies, the doll, and anything else that may be lurking, you will need a professional who has good experience with clusters of anxiety/fear related behaviors. You may want to start with a Behaviorist, or a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. Having done this for almost twenty years, I know how nuanced this work can be.
      If you are local, contact me directly, or try these websites to find someone qualified near you:
      http://corecaab.org/qualifications/
      https://m.iaabc.org/
      Best of luck,
      Lisa

  20. Laura June 12, 2018 at 9:50 PM #

    Our dachund is acting aggressive to our newborn… very aggressive…trying to bit the pillow that’s in front of the baby and barking non stop… panting and eyes bugged out…. I’ve had to have my parents take my female dachund until I can figure out what to do. My male dachund is with us and is not bothered by our newborn at all. What can we do?

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