14 Month Old Thinks It's Funny to Hit Family Dog

Updated on January 13, 2008
A.L. asks from Medway, MA
6 answers

My 14 month old daughter thinks it's funny to hit, chase, lay on them. When she hears them growl at her she laughs and runs or hits them. The good think is our two dogs are chihuahua, they have small teeth and haven't bit her yet! How do I discpline her? I feel like I have tried everything. I need suggestions.
I want her to know that its not funny and that she needs to be gentle with the dogs. Overall, she is extemely lovey, gentle with other children, and an amazing child.

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So What Happened?

I received my Parents magazine the same day I posted this...guess what was in it...this exact problem that I was having. From what I read, its very normal at this age. They can't understand empathy and the best thing to do is remove the dog and show your child empathy by touching her softly and saying gentle. Thank you all for your help. Since we've been doing this she has stopped hitting and chasing the dogs. Maybe the best part for her was the attention I was giving her:-)

More Answers



answers from Springfield on

Totally typical of the age. It's not at all indication of a malicious child. They don't have empathy yet as babies, they just want to play.

Every time she behaves inappropriately (And this part is very important), REMOVE THE DOGS NOT THE CHILD.

As soon as the dogs are removed have a firm reminder discussion, "Must be nice and kind to doggies" and then have her practice petting a lovey or stuffy.

The reason behind removing the dogs, not the child? Dogs are very sensitive to social structure. If you remove her, they will understand that she is being punished and will believe that they are above her in the family chain of command. This will lead to them trying to 'parent' her. And dogs 'parent' by nipping and cuffing when a puppy is bad. And obviously, that's something you absolutely don't want.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I agree with removing the dogs not the child and it is very very important that you not forget although these dogs have "little teeth" and havent bitten yet, that they are capable of causing severe damage to your little one just the same. This is a very normal stage for kid to go through, but often people become convinced that their family pet would never hurt anyone and thats when terrible things happen....until your child stops this behavior dont allow her alone with the dogs(for her safety and theirs).

good luck



answers from New London on

Hi A., my name is L.. I'm a nurse and my husband is in the military. We are thinking about getting a family dog, but our 5 year old son is so rough! Your daughter probably isn't hurting the dog on purpose. She laughs because she's able to release excess energy by being rough with your dog and that makes her feel better. Try giving her a "squeeze ball" or something gushy that she can play with a few times a day, or whenever you thinks she needs to let out some of that energy. Play dough might work too. If she keeps up her rough behavior with the dogs, look at her in her eyes and tell her she may not hurt the dogs. Hand her the squeeze ball and show her how to squeeze it with her hands. She can even hit 2 balls together. Then take her hand to the dog and gently guide her to pet. It may take a couple months to get this down, but keep trying. If no luck, then try getting a doctors opinion about occupational therapy. Her sensory system might need some help.


answers from Boston on

My daughter used to do that too....we sat her down and told her that animals have feelings too and that she wouldn't like it if someone hit her. We also told her that if she was going to be mean to our dog that we would have to find him a new home where he could live with someone that was really nice to him. She got upset and has been very good to him eversince.
Good Luck.



answers from Barnstable on

Hi A.,
You are not alone, my 16 month old has been hitting our dog too.
He is getting better but we have to watch him constantly. When he hits the dog we "tell him no hitting that hurts her" then we help him pet her softly. We say "soft touching" and "Gentle, Gentle" while we pet the dog. We also pet our son's arm or head saying the same thing. Then we make a huge deal about it when he pets the dog nice and gentle or hugs gently. He feels great when he knows he has done well. Then we praise our dog for being gentle and patient with the baby. I know this goes with out saying but don't leave the dogs alone with the baby and watch them at all times when they are all together. Watch for signs that the dogs need some alone time away from the baby also. If they seem stressed or tired by all the chasing it may be time for them to have some time to themselves. We will separate our dog and son with a baby gate or put her in our room to rest without being disturbed for a while through out the day. Our dog is sweet and loving but our son fell on her when he was just learning to walk, I was right there with them, and she bit him out of fear, her vet says it was a reflex but the point is you really can never trust animals totally. If the dogs are growling or flinching thats your cue to separate them for a while( also look for wide eyes, lip twitches or nervous tail wag). The dogs are trying to tell you and the child "I have had enough you have to do something!" Our vet suggested using a muzzle and we did for a while to help our dog learn that biting is not an option and if she is uncomfortable she needs to leave the area.We are also trying to teach our son to never mess with the dog while she is at her food eating, just to be safe, since dogs can get possessive over food. As our kids get more mobile it is hard for pets to get away from them. You need to work with them both to learn how to interact so no one gets hurt. Good Luck.




answers from Lewiston on

Until you can teach your daughter that it is unacceptable to hurt the dogs and that they are living breathing, creatures you need to remove her from the area the dogs are in or vice versa. Doing that consistently and saying "no" should give her the idea you don't approve of her behavior. Then total supervision is required when she is retintroduced to the dogs. Praise the dickens out of nice behavior, but do not allow even the least bit of aggressive or hurtful behavior. She is going to really hurt thee little dogs and may even set herself up to get really hurt herself by a bigger or not so nice dog who may not take her hitting so well! Best of luck! Sounds like other than this you have a real sweetie of a girl!

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