17 answers

Jealous Pets

I was hoping to get some advice from moms who have had a similar situation as me. My husband and I are animal lovers. We have two dogs and two cats who have been our babies since we adopted our first dog about 6 years ago. We now have our 3 month old son in the mix, who they absolutely adore. It is clear that they see him as alpha to them, but now it appears that my youngest dog is fighting for second-best stature. They were sitting next to me and I happened to reach out and pet the older one and the younger dog attacked him! It breaks my heart because the youngest, Meeko, has always been so gentle and loving. It is clear that the two dogs have made up and they are back to playing, etc, but I'm nervous about the baby now. My husband has made an appointment to get Meeko neutered - Mikey was already neutered, but we were considering breeding Meeko. I just don't trust Meeko right now...no matter how loving he has been toward the baby. I don't want to get rid of him, but I will not let him hurt my son. He's not allowed around anymore when the baby is in jumper or doing floor time...anything that he can have access to him. Will the neutering fix the problem?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks to everyone who responded with great advice about my dogs...I keep re-reading all the responses to make sure I haven't missed any of the great tips. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have everyone telling me to immediately get rid of the dog. We have, unfortunately, had two more fights since I posted, but luckily my husband was home for them, because each one is getting worse and I don't think I'd be able to seperate them myself anymore. The dogs have been kept seperate from each other and away from the baby...Meeko's appointment to get neutered is Saturday. Hopefully with that, and drastic behavior modification(I've been DVRing Dog Whisperer), we will be ok. Thanks again!

Featured Answers

Have you ever watched The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic channel? Cesar Millan has lots of suggestions in understanding dog psychology. He also has a couple books that can help.

I think everything will be fine. Neutering the dog will help definitely but its not going to be the solution totally. Supervision at all times with the animals and the baby are the number one thing. It takes time for people and animals to adjust to a new baby. Just remember that the pets were first so always give them praise for just being there.
Good luck and Congrats!

More Answers

Hey Tammi-
You've gotten some good advice. We have two dogs who were the prince and princess of the household (both fixed) before baby. Our son is now 16 months old and we've had no problems but some guidelines we follow are:
1. NEVER, EVER, leave the dogs alone with baby.
2. Pick up/give attention to baby before the dogs when entering a room, coming home for work, etc.
3. Make dogs lie down (submissive position) and let baby pet them, crawl on them, etc. (we have big dogs)

Basically, we do whatever we can to constantly reinforce that baby is above them in the pack. Our 80 pound dog will let the baby take a toy out of his mouth! They are always supervised and we have never had a problem but they are animals and I will never feel 100% confident that the baby would be safe alone with them.

Good Luck!

According to my vet, whether or not neutering will help with behavior depends on the age of the dog. If he is still young, then it will help because it will eliminate the hormone producing glands which lead to aggressive behavior. If he is already older though, he has already had the hormones coursing through his body for several years, and the aggressiveness is more of a learned behavior, and neutering won't necessarily eliminate the problem. My husband had his dog before we ever met, and never had him neutered. When we got married, the dog was five years old, and I thought he should be neutered but our vet said, by that age neutering him would not make a difference behaviorally for the reasons stated above. I think neutering is a good first step, but your dog may require some behavior modification as well. Talk to your vet, they will be able to advise you on the neutering based on his age.

I am So glad you are seeking advice instead of just "getting rid" of your pets to solve the problem. I would LOVE to alk with you more and maybe even come over to help you if you are in my area ( Orange Park, FL). Your dogs are definetly unsure of who and what is the pack leader in the home and are having some insecurity issues. This can easliy be resolved by taking over and a calm, stable, assertive pack leader, leaving ALL the pets as pack members, and all on equal ground. They need your cues to let them know that "you've got this under control". If they are slightly unsure if you can handle this pack, they will resort to fighting and stress to keep everyone in line. They don't need that burden, that's is for us, the humans to control for them, so they can relax and be dogs and in a stable home. PLEASE call me when you get a chance and if you want, I would be happy to come over one morning and maybe I can see little things that may help that you don't notice. My number is ###-###-####
PS, I am a service dog trainer, own two dogs ( one who is VERY pregnant and due anyday and three cats, three turtles, a hamster and a fish, plus 4 kids and daycare kids). Pack leadership keeps EVERYONE relaxed and calm when they know who is in charge and who will handle it all.

First, I'm very pleased to read that you're not just going to dump your dog because he got a little snippy. Too many parents, in my opinion, just get rid of their first "babies" simply because they don't want to take the time to work with them. My husband and I have 5 dogs (4 are around 100lbs and one is 10 pounds) as well as 3 cats. The jealousy issues started with ours as well when Teagen was first home. We had a behavior trainer come out to work with our pack. It worked wonders. I personally don't trust any dog with a baby so when our son is playing the dogs are either outside or in the other part of the house. The neutering idea is a good one as well. Just stick with it and everything will be fine. I highly recommend working with a trainer. Good luck!

I applaud you for keeping your pets. I had 2 cats and 3 dogs when my son was born (sadly some have passed on now) Children deserve the chance to grow up with animals. It makes them better people! I would though, get Meeko fixed. Remember, as much as they are our babies, a dog is a dog, and has instincts it was born with, and not being fixed makes them naturally more aggressive. Many people don't fix a pet for different reasons, I didn't want to do THAT to him, I was going to breed him, I wanted my kid to have a chance to see a birth, etc, when the reality is, there are many many many homeless animals in this country. Don't add to the problem! There is no reason to be a backyard breeder. You're not doing any one a favor, including the animal. Every animal born needs a home, and when people breed for the fun of it, it takes a home from another deserving animal who is, due to circumstances beyond his control, sitting in a shelter where he will most likely be euthanized.
That being said - yes, neutering will help with the situation. It will also make him a happier dog! And he will live longer! I know I have preached here but, as you can tell, this is a matter which is very near and dear to my heart.
You are a good person to keep you animals. Your son will thank you when he is older for giving him the chance to grow up with dogs and cats.
Good luck to you and your wonderful family.

Try watching the dog whisperer. You will get great methods that REALLY work!

The Humane Society has a FREE behavior hotline. You call and leave a message explaining what is happening and a pet specialist will call you back and help you out. I was having some problems with my fur babies when my second child was born. The person I spoke with was wonderful and the situation settled itself. Here is the info from their website
PET BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS? HERE'S HELP! If you're having a behavior problem with your dog or cat, the HSBC also has a free Pet Behavior Helpline that addresses some of the most common pet problems. Litter box issues, scratching housebreaking, destructive behavior, and other topics are addressed on the Pet Behavior Helpline. Simply call ###-###-#### and listen to messages. If you need additional help you can leave a message at the end of the session. The Humane Society of Broward County wants to help you keep your pet in your home. While it can be frustrating dealing with pet behavior issues, they can be worked out with a time, patience, and training. Good luck!

I think everything will be fine. Neutering the dog will help definitely but its not going to be the solution totally. Supervision at all times with the animals and the baby are the number one thing. It takes time for people and animals to adjust to a new baby. Just remember that the pets were first so always give them praise for just being there.
Good luck and Congrats!

I have a dog who I also do not totally trust with my 20 month old. My advice would be to continue to keep the dogs seperate when your baby is at their level. Maybe get some treats in your pocket and when you pet the older dog and & the other one does not attack, praise him & give him a treat. Teach him that good things happen when he takes his turn. Same with the older fella so he also doesn;t get jealous. Do the same thing when you are holding the baby and the dogs are sitting next to you quietly give them a treat so they also see that good things happen when you are giving attention to your baby and they behave. I would also get a muzzle. Anytime your younger dog attacks or even growls at the other dog, muzzle him immediately and place him in a room or somewhere seperate from you all. Leave him for a couple of minutes and then bring him back with the muzzle on and point to the other dog and say "no bite" or something like that. Good luck and try a lot of things before you decide to give him up. With consistent training, you can make it work. Hopefully!

Neutering is a good idea, but will not change the overall pack dynamics of your household.

Remember, with a new baby in the picture, your 'pack' has changed, and perhaps your younger one is testing his position.
You are doing the right thing by not allowing him to be around your baby unsupervised; neither of your dogs should ever be left alone with your baby.

To reestablish pack structure, there are a couple of simple things you can start doing:(if you don't already do so)
Make both dogs sit before feeding, and wait until you tell them 'OK', to start eating.

When petting, call one dog to you at a time to pet. Put the other dog in a sit a few feet away from you until it's his turn.

When going oustide for walks, you go through the door first (pack leader should always go first), and the same when you return.

Here is a link to a great dog training website with a good discussion board and lots of free info:

Good luck!

Have you ever watched The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic channel? Cesar Millan has lots of suggestions in understanding dog psychology. He also has a couple books that can help.

Well I too am an animal lover and Before we had our daughter we had our 4 legged baby "Dee". She was smart and sweet as could be. She too was fixed. Never showed an ounce of aggression. We let her play with Emily our daughter when she was first learning to crawl and tottle. We have some of the cutest pics of her laying on Dee and drinking her bottle. A perfect family! Until one day...Emily just went from walking around the coffee table to crawling (no where around the dog) And Dee just snapped! She went strait for her face. I was right there!!! No warning growl or anything. Dee didn't maul her or anything she just bit her face and held her down. It took all my strength to get her off Emily. Long story short... After a 3 day stay in the hospital Emily has a scar under her left eye but she is fine. Dee is still with us but she has had no interaction with Emily since! We called an animal specialist at the university of Florida and had a consultation with the vet and they all came to agree Dee is not aggressive she was and always will be Dominate female of the house in her head! My advice to you from one mother to the next... If your gut feeling says your son is not safe DON'T CHANCE IT! IT'S NOT WORTH IT!!! Have a special time and place for your dog to be. Dee now has her own room (with a lock and doggie door to the backyard)and she can come out and play after Emily goes to bed or when she is at school, Grandmas etc. We decided to keep Dee after many long conversations and debates. We didn't want her to go to another home where she may be punished for what she did to Emily, nor did we want it to happen to anyone else or their kid. So we felt we could move to another house and supply her with her own room where she will be safe and so will Emily! That was a hard choice to make, and we made a lot of people mad because we kept her but we still 3 years later know we did the right thing. Having her fixed did nothing for her aggression and if you were planing to breed him I say don't fix him, breed him. But Keep him away from your son. If you don't mind my asking what size dog is he? And if you have any questions about my situation feel free to call I am o.k. about talking about it NOW. And if it will help save a child from what Emily went through and a mother from what I went through then I am here to help. My number is ###-###-#### ~Jen~

Understand that it is normal for pets to take up to one year to adjust to this new situation. Neutering your dog will help some of the aggression, but most of it is probably adjustment anxiety. Our older dogs, although they were not aggressive with our daughter, had similar issues. What really helped us was taking some time after the baby was asleep to play with the dogs. Unfortunately, although you spend all your time with the baby and are therefore exhausted, your dogs are needy too. They've been demoted and are having trouble with it. They may take a LONG time to adjust. I had my dog for 8 years before the baby; she's almost two and he is still adjusting. He is not aggressive toward her and he does love her, but just as often he gets up and walks away as she approaches to hug or kiss him. This will take time. I also would recommend a professional trainer if you can do that. It makes you take special time for your dogs and that can help reassure them as well. We also had our daughter sit on our dog and sit on his head to reinforce her dominance over him. Another thing we do is have her feed them. They are trained to sit about 10 feet away and wait until we tell them they can come eat, so they have to sit and wait while they watch her carry their food bowls over and put them down. We started this when she was starting to walk. I would hold her and the bowls and help her put them down. Now she does it on her own, but with verbal coaching. This reinforces her dominance and makes them more tolerant of her being around when they are eating.

go boss; growl and hiss like a catwhen it starts fighting. That will make you Capt. CAT! I also give a swat to the cat
3dogs 3 cats none of the cats like each other. I getting tobe one heck of a hisser.

Hi, T.. Well, I'm sure that neutering Meeko will make him less aggressive all around. Whether or not it will solve the problem is something no one can answer. You are definitely on the right track by not allowing the dog to be alone with your baby at this time.

Sometimes dogs are just like that -- they are pack animals, and even though they respect your baby as alpha to them now, remember that pack animals eventually get into dominance matches to see if they can increase their status. They do this on a regular basis, so if Meeko has the kind of personality that is going to look for more status, then you will always have to keep an eye on him until your son is old enough to defend himself -- say, 16 or so, depending on how big and strong Meeko is. Even Chihuahuas and poodles can be aggressive when it comes to fighting 4 status and dominance. It's an issue that's never completely settled for all time.

But again, you are DEFINITELY very smart to watch out for baby's safety when it comes to the dogs. I hope that the whole clan, 4-footed and 2-footed, can get along peacefully for many years to come.


Hi Tammi,
First--congrats on the new baby boy!
We have two dogs and a cat (and a few fish) and brought our son home about 3 years ago.
It's great that they both see all of the humans as alpha to them. That's so important with keeping a good pet/family balance.
As far as them fighting over the next spot--who had it before?
If one is male and the other is female, the male should have it.
If it isn't obvious to you and they are both the same sex, then they may need to figure it out on their own-don't think thsat just because they snap at each other means they will snap at you or other humans. But at the same time--I would keep them both on a short leash around the baby until you know their status with themselves and the baby has been established. Just make sure to keep reinforcing you (and all humans) are their alpha. You can do this but eating before them, making them sit before they get fed or go out--not letting them out before yourself or other humans--and waking them up when the are resting and making them get up and move.
But look for cues who is the dominant with the two of them, who backs down to the other--who rolls on their back first the most? A lot of times the older one is the dominant--but not always. But once you have figured out who is the dominant one--you need to treat them as such. The dominant one should get fed first, get let out of the house first, etc. It may not seem "fair" to the less dominant dog--but this is how pack animals get along--and they will confront each other less if the "alpha" establishes this for them--and doing this and keeping consistent with it--will keep them happy and "in line."

Good luck!

Hi T.. First, and foremost, you are taking the most important step..which is to keep your son safe, and not allow Meeko to be in close proximity to him. We also come from a big, multi-pet family...four cats and a dog. There was no jealousy when our daughter came home, but since her birth, our eldest cat passed and we adopted 2 kittens. We have a female cat, who was always lowest in the order,and very sweet and humble...but since the kittens each moved in, she became VERY agressive and growled all the time. She never acted out towards my daughter, but it made me so sad that the new kitties upset her so much. You know, over a few months, they all worked it out. Somehow, in their animal world, they have settled their issues...and there is once again harmony in our home. And YES, I think neutering is the most important thing you can do. That should help a lot. Have you talked to your vet about this situation? If you need a recommendation, feel free to write back...I go to a fabulous vet who knows a lot about animal psychology. He really helped me during the transition in our household. Good luck...and as much as we love our furry friends, don't let your guard down about protecting your son from unsupervised visits from Meeko.

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