February 21, 2009,
J.H. asks from Rohnert Park, CA on February 19, 2009
Advice on Dog Nipping/Biting
We've had our dog since he was 8 weeks old and our daughter was 2. Now is is just over 1 year and our daughter is 3. He is a terrier, chihuahua, and Lhasa Apso mix. They have always been great together and she has always been able to take his bones & toys without him being protective. We don't encourage it but the dog has never minded her playing these games. Until now. I bought him a new rawhide bone that is bigger than the ones I normally buy. He actually growled at her when she got too close or he thought she was going to take it from him. (I know this is NORMAL but not his normal behavior) So, we started putting his bone away when our daughter is up and just giving it to him at night. Unfortunately, this morning we were getting ready to head out and the bone was left out from last night. You can all see where I'm going with this one. Yes, he had his bone and my daughter was trying to move it and he bit her. He didn't break the skin but he did leave a little red mark on her hand and of course, terrified her.
I felt horrible that I was that parent who wasn't responsible and put the bone away. So, I really don't need anyone to make me feel any worse but I do need advice on what to do now. And, what to expect from the dog. My immediate thought is to take him back where we got him but I also realize it was provoked. I just don't want to be in fear that our dog is going to bite our daughter in the future.
Please, if anyone has had experience with this type of situation I would love to hear what you did or how things have turned out. I love my dog but my daughter's well-being and safety comes first!
So What Happened?™
I really appreciate all of your responses and advice. I was so worried about the possibilities of negative responses but I do think all of this will really help. I have gotten rid of the bones (the ones that started all of this) and plan on doing lots of training with our dog and my daughter. We have always said how luck we feel because he lets her do so much (nice things like play with his feet, touch him all over, and play fetch with his toys). I will say though that if he has become a more aggressive dog and we exhaust all our efforts and see no change...my daughter's safety does come first and I will be finding him a new loving home with no kids. Absolute last effort though as we are the ones who adopted him at 8 weeks old and we are all he knows.
Thank you all again for your great advice.
K.B. answers from San Francisco on February 19, 2009
Since this new bone seems to be a trigger, I would certainly get rid of it (not the dog) - right away! Once he learns that he can do this behavior with one thing, it WILL extend to others. It is just a matter of time. Because he only associates the behavior with this one bone, even giving it to him when your daughter is not around is a mistake. You are letting him know that the behavior is acceptable when he has it.
Your daughter (or any family member) should be able to go up to your pet at any time. Doggie is trying to prove that his status in the family "pack" is now higher than that of your daughter. You and he both need professional training in showing him that he is not "alpha" dog to ANY family member.
Basically if any of our three 50 pound plus German Short-haired Pointers ever showed any agression of ANY sort, we would make them roll over onto their back and put our hand on their belly (lightly) to "hold" them in the 'submissive' position. This is what a pack leader (alpha dog) does to the other members of his pack to 'discipline' them.
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K.F. answers from Salinas on February 20, 2009
Hi J., We had a beloved mutt for the first few years of my daughters lives. My husband and I got her as our first baby when we were young. She always had a sweet disposition but wasn't afraid to tell people to back off when needed. When my daughters came along (and the inevitable house full of children that came with their childhood) we taught them a few things about dogs.I'm not sure about saying a kid should always be able to approach a dog. I think it's a good idea to train both the dog and the child. Here's some things we taught our girls that helped people and pets to get along. First you NEVER mess with any dog that's eating, their instinct is to protect their food and you can't change thousands of years of behavior no matter how sweet the dog. Dog toys should be for the dog unless there is a game going on and the dog is happily interacting like when playing catch. Don't approach a sleeping or resting dog really quickly or suddenly, they can feel threatened and having been asleep lash out not realizing it's just a child playing. Finally and most importantly, moving away, growling and of course snapping are forms of communication. Teach your daughter if the dog does these things he wants to be left alone. Also be sure the dog understands it's place in the family. Our dogs have always been treated with love and respect but we train them just enough so they know my husband and I are the boss and they are the lower members of the pack. A dog that is competing with kids for dominance can be dangerous. Finally, I always remind myself how annoying a little kid can be to an animal and try to be sure our pets don't get too much "love" from the little ones! Good Luck!
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C.A. answers from San Francisco on February 19, 2009
I am a dog lover and have a lab (and recently lost my first puppy). One of the first things I learned about dogs is never punish a growl because it's their way of letting you know they will nip/bite! I do not let my dog have any treats unless my daughter is in bed (like you do) and I put them away before I go to bed. I've also taught my daughter, since she was a new born, you do not go near a dog when they are eating! She is surrounded by dogs and I struggle with how to make her cautious of dogs, but not afraid of them. I think at 3 years old you could have a discussion about dogs and how protective they are with their foods. Also not to surprise dogs, that will make some nip.
I would recommend calling Charlie at Off Leash in Petaluma. She can come to your house and observe your dog by himself and then interacting with your daughter. She did an amazing job helping me teach my two dogs to get along better. It's worth the call and isn't too much money. You could also look into doing dog training with your daughter and your dog. That way she will begin to establish dominance over the dog as well and he will begin to view her as a leader, not a follower. Don't give up on your dog, if he hadn't done it before then there is hope. Charlie's number is ###-###-####.
Best of luck,
J.S. answers from Sacramento on February 19, 2009
I have had several friends who experienced various "biting/agression" issues of varying degrees with their small dogs after a new baby arrived as well as years down the road after the dog and child had played well together with no issues. I always refer them to my dog trainer Kevin Salem. http://www.dogsecrets.com/. He is MORE than willing to do a free consultation with you to see if he can help you nip the problem in the bud before it turns into something worse. He is by far the most amazing trainor out there as he does more than "train." You do not need to just "get rid" of the dog. You need to learn your dog's triggers and how to avoid them. This could be more than "just the bone" and you need to figure that out quickly. I know that you are not in the Sacramento area but that is ok. Kevin gives good advice over the phone and is willing to travel. Good luck!
T.V. answers from San Francisco on February 19, 2009
You are right, your child's saftey comes first...be glad it wasn't a serius bit and/or the dog wasn't huge (even though a small dog can cause permanent damange in certain circumstances.
As you said, this was your error in not picking up the NEW bone/toy. I would not automatically get rid of a family pet that we all love for the first and minor offense, if it was TRULY a wake up call to me that I needed to be cautious at ALL times when my child was around an animal...especially an animal with ANY kind of FOOD.
I would also train my child NOT to touch an animals food or bother an animal that was eating. You will have to start picking up the food bowl after feeding.
If you don't think it's worth it or you are up to the task, YES find a nice home for the little dog.
R.V. answers from San Francisco on February 21, 2009
We have a dog that we rescued a few years ago and now we have our three year old. This is a dangerous combination, one that you can never let your guard down with. I am very attentive with my dog and three year old even though he has no food issues he is still just a dog with limited ways to communicate. He has yelped on occasion,and growled at her. I am glad he warns her which alerts me when my back is turned that he needs help. It is constent teaching her to be gental and respectful to the dog. Sometimes I just send him out of the house for both their own safty. You have gotten lots of great advice and I to think you should get rid of the bone starting this behavior. But more importantly is teaching your daughter important manners around your dog to protect her from dogs shes going to meet that she dosn't know. Be vigilant about this one .
S.L. answers from San Francisco on February 19, 2009
if your daughter comes first, then I would find a new home for the dog. It's not worth the risk to your daughter. Oh I will probably catch flack for this post due to this being a dog loving bay area, but hey, I say children first, pets SECOND......... just my opinion