30 answers

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.

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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.

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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.

See if this works. Every process takes time and patience, but I think with a little understanding, it will all work out for everyone's benefit.

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.

L.

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

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.
T.

Your child is your priority. Find a new home for your dog...today! You couldn't live with yourself if something tragic happened.

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.

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.

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

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.

Here's my situation and my advice - take it for what it is worth.

I have two cats. One cat is smart enought to run from my 2-1/2 year old. The other, who only has three legs, is not so smart. This cat will just, at the most, back up a bit or move his face/head out of the way. This cat has bitten my daughter about three times now.

The first time my cat bit her, we scolded the cat. And, in that moment, it hit me... I can teach my daughter, I cannot teach my cat. Besides, my cat was naturally defending himself - it was my daughter that was overstepping her bounds. Since then, when my cat has bitten her, I of course make sure my daughter is okay and not seriously injured - but then I proceed to explain to her why our cat did that and that she needs to learn to back-off, not get in his face, and where and how to pet him.

As for playing with a dog... I grew up with dogs. The big thing I learned is that they cannot always see and hear things the way we do - it may be that he was done playing and didn't know how else to express himself, it may be that he thought he saw something differently than what you all saw, etc.

I wouldn't stress too much about it - just take every opportunity to talk to the kids about how to read the warning signs and about what to do if something does happen.

Good luck!!!

At Christmas time, my daughter got bit in the arm by a lab because she was chasing after the ping pong ball that the dog wanted too (they were playing a game). I truly felt it was the situation that was instinctive for the dog, rather than a turn in his personality. The awkward part about this situation was that we were at a relative's house and it was her dog. She felt awful and kept telling me that the dog had NEVER done anything like this before.

The bottom line is that you need to know your situation and if it should continue, don't hesitate to find a new home for your pooch. Their safety comes first.

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.

No matter how much a family pet is loved and would normally never hurt a family member, a dog is still an animal with instincts and can snap at any moment. If the dog has shown signs of snapping at other children then it was only time before he would snap at your own children. It sounds like he's progressing into some bad behaviors. No, it wouldn't be fair to lock the dog up. At 7 years old, your dog is becoming an older dog and may be less tolerant of children, which happens often. As much as it may hurt, it may be a good idea to find another home for your dog that has no children so he can live out the rest of his life happy and quietly. It's not easy to get rid of pets that you love. We've had to do it. We had two small dogs. One was older and one was a new puppy we got right before finding out we were pregnant with triplets. After the triplets came, we realized that these poor dogs could not get the attention they needed, and the puppy couldn't get the training it needed while I was pregnant. We made the decision that was best for the animals and that was to find them each a home that fit their needs. Our older dog needed a home with no small children and a fenced back yard to play in. The puppy needed someone who was familiar with her breed and needed other dogs of her breed to be with and a fenced in back yard. We were very particular about who got our pets and to fulfill their needs. We found two families and the two dogs and the new owners couldn't have been happier! We miss them like crazy but know it was the right thing to do. When our triplets are old enough to help care for another dog and understand what it takes then we will get another dog.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

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Depends on the breed. Based on your dogs age and behavior so far, I wouldn't try to start training him and expect to feel secure he will never snap again. Some dogs get cranky with age. I don't know your kids ages, but unless you can assure yourself that they will never provoke him again, even accidentally while playing with him with a tennis ball, you should keep the dog away from the kids. Otherwise, you're just waiting to see what happens. Some people put dogs to sleep for snapping or give them away, because they believe this can't be cured. I say train your kids to go easy around the dog, watch your dog, and be prepared to remove him from them if necessary. Sounds like he won't attack them, but he's gotten into snapping, which is very hard to break.

Our ten-yr-old Clumber Spaniel died in Oct, when my daughter was about 15 months. That is an extremely sweet, quiet breed, but she ended up with a few little snaps. And I mean little. I'm not sure what you're description is. I know a fair amount about animals, and I took it too mean that she was speaking dog language to an equal. She was just an old girl who was asking to be left alone. Mostly she was very, very patient with the baby. So I guess you have to look at the whole picture and assume that you know how to read your dog. Good luck. I know that dogs are family.

First of all, let me say that I do not think you need to get rid of your dog. Of course safety is first but with training (from you or from doggie classes) your child and dog can have a great relationship. Animals leave paw prints on our hearts and are a part of our families. It amazes me how fast people say 'get rid of it, it's a dog'. But dogs are so much more then that; they are our friend, companion, protectors, and we love them. You wouldn't get rid of a family member just because they are having a problem, same goes with your dog. We have quite a few animals, three of which are dogs. Our oldest dog is a bit of a grump sometimes since he is in his senior years. He use to try to nip at my son's hands (I'm not sure if it was because they smelled like food or if he was just being grumpy). We taught him that it was not ok to nip and really stuck to our guns with discipline. Now he is completely fine and my son has no problems petting him or anything. I would advise that you take the ball from the dog when playing and make him sit so that your child can throw it for him. My dogs also have a separate sleeping area and when they are in bed, that's their time and Andrew doesn't disturb them. Worst comes to worst, keep him in a separate room with a baby gate at the door. I wish you all the luck in the world, my prayers are with you, your dog, and your family.

And while I'm here, let me say something to the people that are using pit bulls as an example of a mean dog. I have a purebred pit bull, a boxer/pit bull mix, and a rottweiler. Out of all of them, my pure bred pit bull is the sweetest and most gentle. The breed of a dog has little to do with it's attitude. The way a dog is raised has everything to do with it's attitude. They are no different then kids. Educate yourself before passing judgement.

This is so sad to hear.

Try working one on one with him and then once you are doing ok bring in the family to do the same. Be the pack leader. Train him that everything is yours. You can take the ball. His food. Whatever and he can't have it until you give it to him. We trained our dog and our cat to tolerate tail pulling, food snatching and everything else we thought our child might subject him to. We haven't had to deal with any problems but we had them trained before our daughter was even born.

That doesn't mean an old dog can't learn new tricks. It just takes time and effort on your part.

There is a great show on TV that might help called "The Dog Whisperer" another thing is I saw an ad for pet training in the pets section of the York Craigslist so you can check there as well if you want professional help.

You need to be as firm and consistent with your dog as with a child!

Good luck

Hi A.,

Find the dog a new home.

Sorry for your worries. Good luck. D.

This one you have to deal with very very carefully. Frankly, I would err on the side of caution. Children are not necessarily kind to dogs when they play, and somehow the dog is supposed to behave like a toy, rather than as an animal.

Friends of ours lost their grandchild last Spring, to the family dog, who had never snapped before. The dog was sleeping on the LR floor, the toddler walked by, bumped the dog's foot and the dog awoke and attacked. The mom was also bitten as she tried to intervene, and somehow she did get the dog out of the house, and call 911. Mom and baby were rushed to the ER, and the baby died.

Is the dog worth this possibility?

If you want to keep the dog, you need to train the children that the dog is an ANIMAL. He is not a toy, he is to be respected. Trained, disciplined, but always at some level an animal. What were the kids doing riding on his back?

What you don't realize is, is that as a toddler, your child is at eye level with your dog. Some dogs can take this as a challenge because of the direct eye contact.
I personally would not risk further contact with the dog. My oldest dd got bit by our own beagle and she did nothing to draw the attack. She wasn't bothering the dog at all she was just walking by him. He wasn't an old dog either at the time so it wasn't a matter of him being an old irritated dog.
She ended up loosing one baby tooth and the half of her upper lip. It's not an easy thing to watch a beautiful healthy 2yo deal with something like this. She has bounced back and is completely healed both physically and emotionally. She now a gorgeous almost 14yo. She does have a small scare on her face.
This dog never before showed any aggression towards her until that day. So don't think it can't happen. She had played with him from the time she had learned to walk.

A.,
I completely feel your pain with this incident since I've been dealing with the same thing with my oldest of 3 dogs. Bella is an 8 year old Shih Tzu and has had an autoimmune disorder (Lupus/Lukemia) since she was 2. I do think she is in a bit of pain since she has cybatious (sp?) cysts all over her body at this point though the doctors don't feel she is in pain.

My other 2 dogs are able to get up high and escape my almost 2 year old son when necessary but she is just too fat to even go up and down stairs anymore, let alone escape.

I've had to keep a constant eye on my son, who thinks he is loving her ends up being way too rough, starts to pet her then smacks her. She did snap at him a few times, sometimes he thought it was funny, others it scared him and he cried but most recently she bit his face because he got too close and I think she felt cornered. She also did the same to a little boy that was playing here. We have had to just really watch the two of them closely, which I know is easier said than done! It is almost a game now for Wyatt who goes over to her then looks at us and smiles and reaches to touch her.

It's a tough situation, that's for sure. It seems odd that your dog would do it while playing fetch, unless he is being teased and is very protective of a particular ball or toy. I know my little Shih Tzu is totally attached to 1 ball and gets nutty when the other dog takes it. It can't hurt to give the dog a time out as well to give him some space.

If you want to commiserate further, email me at ____@____.com a good day.

I know how difficult this is. The pecking order is being established. NOT that it's ok BUT what is more important than him snapping at the ball is how you handled it. Did you give your dog permission to behave like this again. My instinct is yes. Only because this happened before. How did you handle that, appears like you set yourself up to happen again. This has happened everytime we have brought a new animal in our home. At first with the kids then amoungst the animals. The first time it happened I was appalled and that dog was out the door immediately. However, what I learned since then I would not have done that. Obviously, our instinct is to protect our children first. The next dog that came in snapped at my 18 month old, and I was smarter this time, scooped up the pup and put her in her kennel without a treat without any acknowledgement of her except "bad girl" I left her in there for a long time, about 2 or 3 hours without anything. This was the only time I had to punish her. She never crossed that line again! Dogs want to please you but you have to define the line. When a new dog came in she did it with him to show she was boss. My older daughter freaked out. I just said I knew this would happen I just didn't know when. They are fine together there is no safety issue at all between the dogs the cats the bunny the fish. they have their pecking order they know where the line is. The Newfoundland dogs and the Pomeranian and the Goldens are all fine together. They know never to cross the line with People, except of course strangers, which then they work together for the good of all. Go to the library and learn about dogs and their natural instincts. They naturally want to please you they don't want to hurt, I think the last name of the guy is Campbell it's a short book but very helpful. Depending on how you handled it with the ball you may be dealing with it again, but this time you will be equipped to handle it appropriately. Good luck. Dogs are easier to manage then kids.

L.

A.,
I am a dog lover as well, and this has happened to me before too. I don't want to pry, but how much excersize is your dog getting? Are you walking him with him with your toddler? Is the dog either next to you or beside you? If you answered none or no to these questions it sounds like your dog thinks he is dominating you and your toddler. Your dog snapped at your toddler and other children because the dog was correcting them or saying MINE! But, there is an easy fix, the weather is getting nicer and this is a perfect time for you to start walking your dog, with your toddler. Your toddler should be in a stroller and be infront of you and the dog, as in the alfa or most important! the dog should be either within 2 feet next to you never in front or behind you. If your dog does attmpt to pass you or the stroller you need to act quickly and scoop your dog back with your leg, not kicking him. When you walk you have to act like a supermodel! Channel calm, assertive, leadership like Cleopatra or Oprah. Consider downloading Ceaser Milan's book onto your IPOD to listen to as you walk, the black background unabridged its well worth the 20 bucks! Any more questions or if you want a walking partner I'm in Atco and I walk about 2 miles twice a day with my two large dogs. Mel

Hi A.,
I see you already got a lot of opinions, but I felt since I have gone through this same situation, I would let you know what happened to our family. After I had my son, and came home from the hospital, our 3yo friendly, golden retriever became very aggressive towards me and my husband. (He had never shown any signs of this before). I took him to the vet to make sure there was no health problem, and everything was fine. They suggested looking for another home so we didn't have any problems with someone getting bit. We found an adoptive family and within 6 hours of being there, he bit a 5 yo boy on the hand. We drove over 2 hours to pick him up and bring him back home. We considered having him put to sleep since he bit a child, but felt we didn't know the circumstances around the bite and wanted to give him another chance. We took him for a training evaulation and the trainer said, it was probably an isolated incident and that things should be fine. Time passed and things seemed to be fine. He loved the baby and the aggression stopped. Then 4 months later, my friend was visiting with her 18 month old son. My dog had gone out to the bathroom and came back into the kitchen. Her son was sitting on the ground about 5 feet from the dog. I gave my dog a treat and for no reason, he viciously spun around and lunged at my friends son and bit him on the hand. The child didn't move towards him or anything, so it was unprovoked. I felt horrible. Luckily, it was not a more severe bite and luckily, my friend was very understanding. I just thank God that he didn't bite his face or worse. I knew then that we could no longer keep him. We were able to find a couple without kids (and didn't plan on having kids) who wanted a dog. He has been there for 18 months now and is doing great.

I know it is a very hard decision to make, but children's safety always has to come first. You could check with your vet to see if there are any adults looking for dogs, etc. Good Luck.

A little girl was killed by her family dog, in a lovely neighborhood in my city. The dog was not a pitbull or anything like that and had never even snapped before and from what i read the little girl had done nothing to provoke the dog and the little girls mom was right there when it happened. I know you love your pet but could you deal with the guilt if something like this happened to you? I know what are the chances, but i'm not going to risk it.
I would find another home for your dog, if it were me.

We've been though the same thing. My dog snapped at our son when he was 8 months old-- totally unprovoked except that the baby got too near the dog on the couch. He actually broke the skin on the baby's head-- not from biting, but his teeth just bounced off his head and broke the skin. We were devastated-- we do dog rescue and are SO SICK of parents who dump their dogs on other people when babies come. So, we had to choose between putting our dog to sleep or finding a way to keep the baby safe. We chose the latter. We have baby gates up at several places in the house, and the dog and baby are never in the same room, unless the baby is up in his high chair and we are right there. (Our dog couldn't get to him then.) It hasn't been easy, but it was the best solution for us. We understand that if there is ever another incident that the dog will be put to sleep immediately. When the baby goes to bed, the dog spend time with us watching tv, etc (and he always gets at least 1 30 minute walk)., but during the day he and the baby are separated always. As my son gets older that may be harder, but Spot is 8.5 and won't be with us forever. We're taking it one day at a time, and will make what adjustments we need to as things change.

Good luck. Don't make any decisions rashly, but err on the side of a caution. It would be worth talking to your vet about this, I think.

i feel very passionetly about this topic because i was bit at 4 years old by a cousins dog. It has scarred me emotionaly ever since,i am scared of large dogs and very paranoid of my daughter being around any dog, i would say try to find the dog a nice new home without any children, some dogs dont like kids and is it realy worth the risk?? i endured 90 stitches on my face at only 4 years old. yes we all love our dogs but are they worth your childs safety

Hi A., My mom is a dog trainer and anytime you have a dog snap it isnt a good outcome. im so sorry to tell you that. THe first thing you need to do is take him to the vet and make sure there isnt any health iseas that would make him do this. if there isnt he is bound to do it again. I feel so bad for you, we actully went through this with one of my moms dogs she snaped at my son when he was little. she was getting older and never really did like kids. my mom wathched my kids mon-fri so we had to do something my mom wanted to put her to sleep but i told her not to so she kept her in a nother room upstairs. isolateing her was hard too. we felt bad b/c she didnt really know why she had to be there b/c she loved grownups. this is such a hard subject. you do what feels right in your heart. good luck

I know everyone loves their pets BUT, hands down, if your pet shows aggression towards ANY child(ren)it's time to let that pet go (as hard as it is). There is NO reason to even think about it as our children's safety is #1. My oldest son was bit by a neighbors dog, unprovoked, on his hand and the owner was standing right there. Under NO circumstances were my 3 children around that dog EVER again and if we had a play date the dog was put away in his kennel. The same dog was taken to the park and bit another child..........I don't know what other warnings anyone needs, especially since my neighbor has 2 small children of her own. Dogs are animals and they instinctively react. The other thing to consider.......if your dog turns on a child, are you prepared to lose everything you worked so hard for (i.e. house, savings, etc) because someone brings a lawsuit against you because of a dog you know is aggressive? You are right in that it's not fair to keep the dog constantly isolated, so maybe the best thing to do is find someone to adopt the dog that doesn't have children because, as all of us moms know, ANYTHING can happen in a split second and as much as you think you'll keep your on eye your toddler and the dog things happen in the blink of an eye.

It's ridiculous to risk your child's health over a dog. My neighbors child was attacked by her dog and has scars all over his face and body. He was just a mutt (not a pit bull, etc.) and had snapped on a few previous occassions.

Dogs need LEADERSHIP. You are probably not the pack leader you should be. The dog looks at you as followers and packleaders correct the pack with snaps....Watch the dog whisperer....Seriously. Dogs need a lot of structured excesise every day. I hve 4 dogs and I run with them EVERY day to tire them out. You can walk, you don't have to run or ride the bike with him, rollerblde etc....
Don't give him up, he just need to find his place in your 'pack'. When you take over, he will be happy to follow.
Watch some episodes, you will learn all about your dog. It sounds silly bc you had him for 7 years but you might not know how to satisfy his dog/animal needs. Which is cool, we always learn something new. It is never too late, my 10 yrs old behaves a lot better since I watch the show.
Good luck and don't give up!
I.

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