March 13, 2009,
A.C. asks from Wayne, PA on March 10, 2009
Dog Snapped, What to Do??
I am torn, I have had my dog for about 7 years now. He snapped at my toddler when they were playing with a tennis ball together. I don't know what to make of this, if it's something that wouldn't happen again or if it's a reason to do something about my dog. He has snapped at other kids before because they were trying to ride on his back. Since the, I keep him away from other kids, which isn't a big deal. But he had never been mean to my kids before until this tennis ball incident. I'm worried that his tolerance for kids is coming to an end. How do I deal in this situation? Always keep him isolated? Is that fair for him? I really could use some advice.
1 mom found this helpful
G.M. answers from Reading on March 11, 2009
It is in the best interest of the dog to keep small kids away from him. Small kids move too fast and do not know not to take toys from them. Until you toddler is older and learns not to tease the dog keep the toddler away from the dog. G.
L.H. answers from Philadelphia on March 11, 2009
Dogs have an action where they are not so much snapping to bite or nip, but they are baring their teeth and snapping or biting their teeth together. This action is usually done as a discplinary action and the message is, "Stop doing that!" The mother dog will do this to her puppies to discipline them when they are doing something they shouldn't.
Dogs are also pack animals, and they recognize the hierarchy of the pack. If you notice, your dog would probably never dream of doing that action to you or your husband, because he recognizes his place under you in the pack, and he knows that he has no authority to discipline you. However, children are regarded as either equal to or even under them in the order of the pack, therefore, they sometimes feel that they can discipline a child.
If you then discipline the dog for making that action, it further strengthens his idea of hierarchy that you are in control over him AND the children. He recognizes either you or your husband as the alpha. My dog absolutely knows that I am the alpha, because I am a single mother. But when my fiance comes over for the evening, suddenly HE (my fiance) is the alpha. You may see this happening when your husband comes home, how your dog is suddenly following him around and submitting to him and wanting his attention, etc.
So, it could simply be that your dog is asserting his place in the hierarchy above the children, especially the toddler, who is more likely to do actions (purposely or accidentally, such as falling down or dropping things, etc.) that irritate the dog. And the dog is saying to the baby, "Stop that!" It isn't really meant to be a threat.
When my daughter was 2 years old, she was playing with an old family dog who was very used to children. She accidentally fell into him and hurt his shoulder, which caused his reaction to be the "stop it" action with the snapping of teeth. Well, the action was accidental, but it resulted in my daughter needing 5 stitches in her face!
However, the doctor told us that in no uncertain terms that if the dog had meant to bite the child, he would have bitten her and the result would have been a deep gash close to the neck.
So, this is my advise after this long explanation. The dog is probably harmless. If he meant to bite any child, he would have by now. He is simply saying to children who try to ride him or otherwise hurt or bother him to "stop" in his own language. The children need to be taught to respect the dog, just as they would respect a horse, for example. I mean, we don't separate the horse from the children completely, but we teach the children how to behave correctly around the animal.
So, supervise the contact between the toddler and the dog. Teach her to be gentle and etc. If children visit your house, tell them or the parents or both the rules for treating your dog correctly. If you assert your authority, and the dog sees that he is being protected and respected by his Alpha Mom, he will not feel the need to protect himself. His place in the pack will be secure, and he will not need to discipline the children.
I know its scary to feel that your child is being threatened, but I really don't think that is the case from what you described.
S.G. answers from Philadelphia on March 11, 2009
if you can find the dog a new home away from kids i would suggest that. we had to have our dog put down last may and it is not an easy decision but you have to ask yourself who is more important your child or the dog. my husband and his sister were both bit by dogs that never bite so you never know. my sister in law has had to have several reconstructive surgeries on her face when she was bit as a young girl. an animal is just that! hope all works out for you
T.B. answers from Philadelphia on March 11, 2009
Hi A.. In my personal opinion I would just have to get rid of the dog as hard as it may seem. I have seen my cousin's son get his face ripped open by a family members dog who just "snapped" once or wic for this or that. I just don't think it's worth the risk.
P.M. answers from Harrisburg on March 11, 2009
Your child is your priority. Find a new home for your dog...today! You couldn't live with yourself if something tragic happened.
M.M. answers from Pittsburgh on March 11, 2009
I want to start by mentioning the fact that YES safety is first, but there was a toy involved, the dog's toy. Dogs are territorial and possessive by nature. The situation you describe does not sound malicious...i.e. - the dog snapped for no reason. In my family there are 3 small children and we gather at my mother's often...she has 2 very playful boxers. We understand that we have taken on the responsibility of the dogs and understand their nature an adjust accordingly.
Here are our rules and after 16 years of owning multiple dogs we have never had a bite!!!
1) Never pet or touch the dogs when they are eating, drinking or playing with each other.
2) If kids are eating...dogs are in a separate room, we accomplish this with 3 strategic baby gates.
3) Kids only play "ball" or "fetch" with an adult and the child is NOT allowed to retrieve the toy from the dogs mouth.
4) The kids are taught early on....NEVER put your face near the dogs face.
5) Use common sense...if the dogs seems irritable keep the kids away. Your dog is a member of the family too and as an older dog may have "senior" or "cranky" moments...we all get cranky sometimes.
We have had 2 pets pass since my kids we born and the kids were taught the dogs are getting older and sometimes just wanna be left alone.
I hopes this helps you to view the situation from another light and gives you some safe alternatives to giving the dog up.
J.H. answers from Philadelphia on March 11, 2009
Your dog did what dogs do when someone is trying to take a toy from them! Try to instruct your kids to mind the dog when he is playing or eating. Its just a matter of respecting your dog as a dog.
Your dog didn't attack or continue to go after your child once it told your child to "back off". That would be a problem.
Also make sure you show preference to your child in front of your dog so it knows that your child is ahead of the dog in the "pack".
If your dog is otherwise a good dog I don't see getting rid of a member of the family because he was doing what came naturally. Again he didn't attack, he defended.
B.H. answers from Philadelphia on March 11, 2009
i kno how terrible u feel! we just went thru this a few months ago and its still so very fresh in my mind and heart. we had a wonderful GSD 5yrs and he was our baby before our baby. he was very accepting of our son and they were good friends for 13m., but he viciously bit our son this past november (unprovoked) - on his face/jaw! it was the absolute worst day of my whole life. as we rushed to the ER i thought we would lose both of our "kids" in one day bc i knew animal control would come get our dog. luckily the bite wasnt as severe as it looked but it did require a lot of stitches and he now has significant scars. the choice was up to us what to do with our dog. we loved him dearly and did everything we could to find him a new home, but had no luck - he was dog aggressive also so it was very hard to find a home. while we were searching, our dog was kept muzzled or seperated, but the anxiety was so terrible and i had so many nightmares of it happening again and our dog just wasnt the same. we went to the vet, sought out training and everything, but eventually made the very hard desicion to put him down. i was a wreck for weeks and still miss him terribly but i know we did the right/responsible thing. we could not put our son at risk for it happening again. i dont mean to scare u w/our story, but it would b so much harder if something worse were to happen. i def think u should find another home for ur dog. it will b very hard, but it is whats best for ur family AND for ur dog. i feel for u so much, but i can tell u ur family will get thru it. it will take time, but u will. best of luck
E.S. answers from Pittsburgh on March 11, 2009
What exactly heppened? I'm not saying it's all the child's fault and that it'll never happen again, but in my years as a dog owner and mother, I've found that my dogs preferred that the kids play with them, but not touchy play. In fact, when my oldest was a baby, he rolled on the floor and rolled into our male dog, a shepard/lab mix. The dog growled and snapped at him, not touching him, but that was enough. I picked up this 80 lb dog, flipped him over, held his neck down and screamed at him. After that he avoided my kids until it was frisbee and football time (or food dropping on the floor time). I think you have to take everything into consideration (your dog's temperment, how rambunctious is your child, what are you willing to do, etc) before you make a decision. Good luck. We made the decision to keep our dogs and teach the kids respect for them and other dogs and have never had a problem.