Dog Snapping at 3 Month Old Baby

Updated on April 07, 2010
M.B. asks from Reading, PA
30 answers

We have a 5 year terrier mix (probably some sort of jack russel or fox terrier) that we got at the humane society 2 years ago. Previously when he sat near her legs and she kicked him, he would make a little unhappy grunt and get up and move away, but last night he growled and snapped at her. Obviously, I no longer let him anywhere near her legs and of course, I never leave them together unsupervised. My question is can this be worked on with more training or do I need to re-home him? It would break my heart to get rid of him, but my daughter comes first. Incidentally, she can bop him in the face with her hands and he doesn't mind that at all - he will just try to lick her. He only minds her kicking him. Also, when this happned my husband was with the dog and the baby and unfortunately, the dog does not see my husband as an alpha, but rather he thinks they are equals. Could the dog have been doing this becasue he thought he could get away with it with my husband? Can he be helped with more training ( and I understand that you can never fully trust a dog a baby or children even with training) or does he need to go? His behavior actually improved when we brought the baby home - for the first time he was consistently sitting and staying when commanded, but he is(given his terrier breed) an excitable and reactive dog.

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answers from Norfolk on

The dog needs to realize the baby ranks higher in the pack than he does. I think you can train him for this, and keeping them closely supervised is a must.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would def look into some kind of training , you say he is fine if she touches with her hands but feet he snaps , you got him from a rescue center , do you know if he was mistreated? He may have been kicked in the past and so now has a fear of feet??? I would keep them apart for now and look into getting help for him ASAP if you really don't want to have to get rid of him.

Good luck I hope you sort it out

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answers from Dallas on

I would seek a dog behaviorist as opposed to a traditonal trainer. The whole family needs to be involved in the retraining.

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answers from Savannah on

Hi Meg,

I have worked a lot with dogs, esp. JRTS and pitbulls. Your terrier sounds like a classic terrier! So first of all, don't flip out - he is behaving like his genes dictate he will.

I would try these few things first and then see how things go.

1 - Run him twice a day. Not just a walk. Try using a bicycle or roller blades if you have them. Let him pull you (Note: this is the ONLY time this is acceptable by the way...see below) ....and each run should last for about 30 minutes. Terriers are extremely energetic and if you are unable to work him out, you should find a suitable alternative that gets the job done, or re-home him, because you will never get good behavior out of a dog that has energy coming out of his ears. They just can't handle it, he'll go a little nuts without being able to drain it.

2- Take him for walks with your baby in the stroller or in a sling, and have him walk one step behind you and the baby. This will establish your dominance, and because you are holding or pushing the baby - it will establish her dominance as well. You guys walk out the door first. You guys walk ahead of him. You guys enter the home again first.

3 - Don't talk to correct. Talking does nothing. I pinch my dogs. I pinch them at the neck or face - not hard or to cause pain, but to "jolt".... in a pack of dogs, the dominant dog (Leader) will "correct" the other pack dogs by giving a brief, intimidating snap at the neck or side of the face. Not to attack or fight, but to put the dog back in its place.

4 - Don't humanize him at all. Does he sleep with you guys? Stop. Does he get lots of baby type cuddles and get toted around at all? Stop. Never carry him. He should sleep either in his own spot on the floor, or anyplace of his choosing that is NOT on the bed. He will equate himself with you too much. You're dominant, you sleep on the bed, he is a follower. He can sleep any place else he finds comfy.

5 - Don't separate him and the baby too much. That will only prolong the problem. He needs to learn to respect her like he respects you. Human trumps dog. It will be hard, but allow them to have some time together with her in your lap and him next to you guys. Don't give affection to him. Give affection to her. The only attention you should give to him is if he nips, or growls, or does ANYTHING even remotely disrespectful towards her.... pinch his neck to stop the behavior.

6 - Keep yourself calm. Dont freak out inside if you think its not working. He will sense that and try to take over. I know it sounds weird, but if you feel yourself getting worked up internally - take some deep breaths and calm yourself down because he will pick up on your emotional state and view it as weak.

He sounds like a small dog. So don't worry too much - if he doesn't start to respect you guys, find another home for him. But don't give up too soon!

Its hard, but it is definitely do-able. People think I'm insane for rehabbing pitbulls with my kids being so young but I swear... it is the HUMAN not the DOG. I just had a foster pit with me for a few weeks... he'd been fought really bad, and could have been the worst dog ever, but because he came into my home and immediately got put in his place, there was stability... he was respectful and playful and adorable and before you knew it, his cuts/gashes were healing and people were coming to meet him to adopt. I promise it is totally do-able.

If you feel its too much, find someone who can adopt him - but I think you'll see results after the walks and runs and establishing your place in the "pack" and establishing his place too. You can do it!

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from State College on

Many of the below answers are great and with training it can get better and you should be able to keep him. The growl and snap are warnings that he wants your daughter to move away. He probably tired other methods to try warning and stepped it up when that did not work. Glad you are taking it serious because it could get worse, but with training it can also get much better. Part of it may be her legs startle him more or it is harder, without her meaning too of course and not comfortable for him. Can he see her or does he have his head turned away when it is her leg, since in the face he will see it coming. As she gets older I would try and discourage the face bopping, since that could have him escalate too.

If you can find a trainer in the area that would be great that can work with you one on one and make sure it is all positive reinforcement. Work on his impulse control, sit or down and stay while you get his dinner ready, at the door, etc and then release. Lot of treats/praise/toy rewards when he is calm and near her. Rewarding the clam, good behavior can go a long way in making it appear more. Also if he does do something inappropriate, remove him from the area for about a 30 -60 seconds and allow him back out when he is calm. Also make sure he is getting plenty of exercise- playing, but also his mind (working tricks, hide and seek, etc.

Hopefully that gives you a few ideas and you can find a local trainer to help you if needed. Also make sure if the kicks usually occur in one area to his body that he is not sore there or has any underlying medical condition.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

I'm sorry, I think some of these answers are silly. People act like re-homing a dog is an easy task and training a dog is an impossible one. I work in animal rescue, and I have had numerous foster dogs as well as my own 3 (all rescues). Re-homing a dog is very difficult, not only finding a good dog, but also on the dog emotionally. Sometimes it is necessary, but I don't think you're there. I would not keep a dog if I felt my child was at risk, but you still have months before your child will even be able to crawl, much less stand and chase a dog that wants to get away. Your dog should never be close to the baby, even when supervised. A good trainer will help you reintroduce the dog and baby AFTER you have been working independently with the dog for a period of time. While training a dog takes a lot of work, if your dog is smart and at least recognizes one adult in the house as the dominant party, you are already one step ahead of the game. Two of my dogs were very freaked out when my son was born, and they did occasionally growl at him and snarl. One dog even snapped once. Through training and intense supervision, we have trained the dog that snapped so well that the baby can now climb all over her and pull her fur and she kisses him. The other dog is still a bit fearful, and we're working with him, but it is pretty easy with the house babyproofed to keep them on separate sides of the gate, and my son is never unsupervised. If I discover this dog cannot be trained to be safe with my son, I will have to cross that bridge, of course, but I still have plenty of tricks up my sleeve, as well.

The good news is that your dog gives a warning before snapping, which is very important. That is what a growl is, and it should NEVER BE IGNORED. Also, your child is young enough that you have lots of time to work on training, and you also would never leave her alone in any case (certainly not with a dog!) Call the rescue where you adopted the dog and explain the problem. Ask if they can recommend any trainers in the area who have experience working with dominant, aggressive, or child-fearful dogs. Also, call your local Humane Society or SPCA and ask them the same thing.

I would be happy to talk to you about this is more depth in a private message, but I do ask that you do not give up on this dog just yet. A lot of people are very reactive when it comes to dogs and children (and for good reason! The stories in the news could turn your heart inside out) but the truth is that most dogs that aren't raised with children need some training to help them adjust. At this point, it should be pretty easy to keep the baby and the dog separated while you're working with the dog (and your husband ABSOLUTELY needs to get involved and even take the reigns for training, since the dog does not recognize him as dominant), and if you have no luck with training, you can then turn to rehoming. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I would re-home him. There is no way I would trust that dog near my child even if he was trained. If she grabs him or unintentionally kicks him, you risk the chance of him biting her and it's hard to watch both of them every single second. I feel for you. Unfortunately, I too to give up my min pin a few months ago because he bit my 4 year old and growled at the baby. The good thing is that with a small dog like yours, it'll be easier to find a home for him. If finding a home becomes difficult, check out They list rescue leagues too.

Been there done that, no fun:(


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answers from Philadelphia on

You've gotten a bunch of replies, so I'll keep it short!

1. Since he seems to be bothered by her feet, he was probably kicked by his former owner before you saved him from the shelter.

2. Please don't uproot him from the family he loves. Seek a trainer. If you're in Central Bucks County, I know a great one.

Good luck to you and your family in keeping peace AND your pet!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

This is your daughter you are talking about. Yes, you can get your dog training and MAYBE his behavior can be improved. However, are you really willing to wait and see? Seriously? What if you left the room for one second and your daughter accidentally steps on or kicks your dog? Are you really willing to take that chance? Your daughter cannot be replaced-I would look into finding a home for your dog that does not have small children. And sInce your dog already has issues with the pecking order in your home, I don't see how you can feel safe at all with him around your daughter.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

U need more trainning with this dog. I'm in similiar situation . My dog Tibetian Mastiff. He's a guard dog . Socially he would like to b the alpha in our home . He's very protective of the children and me . He growels at
visitors nearing the family . We had a trainer in the home that scared so I found a trainning class with police officers . It's called
Police K 9 academy run by Pat Malooney . In Pittsburgh Pa . Look him up he will tell u ir problem to solve .don't give up . Do we give up on problem children no ! So chk out the info and start retrainning muzzel the dog till appropiate behavior works

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

If you have the time, attention, and resources and confidence to train the dog, and you consider him part of the family, then I would say go for it. Having trained a number of dogs over the years and tried to show others how to achieve the same response, it appears to me that not everybody has the "knack" for animal communication, and I don't know how much of that can be learned.

It's also true that a new baby demands tremendous attention and energy, some quite a bit more than others. You and your husband are really the only ones who can decide how much more you are willing and able to take on right now. But if you really want to keep this dog in the family, you can probably do it. And if he's able to take his appropriate place in the family, he can become an important companion and guardian for your daughter as she grows.

Good luck. There are no easy answers, and no easy solutions.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi I just wanted 2 let U know I am a veterinarian assistant w/2 boys (11 & 3 yrs old) & a golden retriever & black lab. I have experienced that the younger the animal is the more tolerable normally. Here is what I have come 2 find out w/my own children & dogs & career experience. Please keep in mind that the growl the dog does is a warning that they R displeased, irritated or were hurt by the child (after all, dogs dont speak, lol) not normally aggression. Did U happen 2 C if your dog was sleeping when he snapped at your child this time? This may have been his reaction out of suprise. I'm not saying it is ok or coming up w/an excuse, but I may have reacted the same way if I was sleeping & was attacked by a toddler, lol. I would think he would have shown his aggression 2 U or 2 some1 else before the baby was a factor but now that the baby is becoming bigger & stronger, your dog may feel threatened. More than likely, once your son grows up some more & knows how 2 treat a dog, there shouldnt B a problem, but 4 now 2 B safe U may want 2 keep them seperated 4 a while or at least establish a place 4 your dog 2 lay down & take his naps. My husband & I have argued about this ourselves. My huband believes that our dogs should not growl at all, cuz it is a sign of aggression. I tell him that they R just showing him that they R displeased w/the child & want left alone & we have 2 respect that the dog doesnt want 2 B bothered & that teaching our son 2 B nice & 2 then boot the dog outside or 2 another room, after all, who is the master & the master's child, not the dog. I wish U Best of Luck & remember alot of dog owners w/children go thru this, so dont B afraid 2 talk 2 your veterinarian about your concerns.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Rapids on

I see no reason youhave to get rid of him. Althought your DH needs to get control and be the Alpha and not let the dog have control. I think if you puthim though training you and DH will learn how to do this easily and you can have both dog and baby in happy existance. We have used Petsmart for traininig and the trainer near us is AMAZING. However go to all places around you that offer training and talk to them about your problems and see how they respond and make sure you find someone willing to work with you until your dog is over this.

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answers from Charlotte on


1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It shouldn't be that hard to keep a 3 month old baby from kicking the dog, if you know that's the issue. If it were me and I loved the dog, I'd give it another chance or two. And your husband should discipline the dog when it does that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I've only read a few of the other replies but it seems you're getting lots of good advice. We were in a similar situation with our Border Collie/Newfoundland mix, who was always the calm dog in our house until the last year when he gradually became more and more anxious. After looking back, and with the help of trainers, we saw the many things we did wrong that put him in this situation, and here are 2 of them:
1.) Our son was a premie with a ton of health issues - there were many times where I would have to rush him to a certain part of the house, or to the phone to call the hospital. During those times, the dog wanted to herd me (his instinct) and I would holler/scream because I was panicked about our child.
2.) Because of the health issues, we rarely had the child and the dog in the same room. I would be with the baby, my husband would be with the dogs, or vice versa. This was showing him that the baby was bad (because as long as the baby wasn't with us, he was getting the usual love/affection).

Once I realized how we had caused his anxiety, we were able to stop those behaviors immediately. However, we still have a lot of training and other techniques (with help of a local trainer that I can recommend, and our vet) to get him back on track. It will take several months, and there will be setbacks, but we made him sick and will try everything to make him better.

We did so many things correctly introducing the baby (using Preparing Fido), but did so many things incorrectly once we were in the groove of parenthood. GOOD LUCK :)

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answers from Los Angeles on

Please don't think a baby gate will keep your infant safe. If the dog has any jack russel in the mix it can easily jump over any gate - those dogs have legs like springs! Don't chance it.



answers from Providence on

I love my animals and dont know if training would do it or not but I would try to find it a new home ...too much of a risk!!!!



answers from Boston on

I am sorry but I would have got rid of the dog by now. He might have to go to a home without children. Your dog has been raised without children for 5 years. I would not take the chance with your baby getting bit badly.



answers from Dallas on

Get rid of the dog. Period! You're looking at future trouble if you do not get that dog out of your home right now. We had a "good tempered" dog many years ago but, by accident, our granddaughter (4 years old at the time), tripped and fell on him and he turned and bit her cheek. It was pretty deep and required stiches and she still has the scar on her face utill this day. We immediately had the dog euthanized because we knew that since he'd done it once he'd be sure to do it again when our other small grandchildren were around. If your dog is snapping at your baby now it won't be long before he takes a real bite out of her. Is any dog worth that?



answers from Pittsburgh on

I can relate to your feelings because in December we had to put our Jack Russell to sleep after he attacked our 2 year old grandaughter. I'm sorry to say this but you have to get rid of your dog. I have been responsible for watching my grandaughter since the very beginning. Jack (our dog) would growl at our grandaughter and showed signs of jealousy from the very beginning but we never dreamed he would viciously attack her. On December 1st my daughter and grandaughter moved in with us and 17 days later Jack attacked her. My grandaughter did nothing to provoke him....nothing. The attack was horrible and something I will never forget or forgive myself for. Jack went for her throat and left deep puncture wounds on her throat and scratches along one side of her face. She will always have the physical scars but she is also emotionally scarred. Please get rid of the dog....I loved my Jack and I wish I could say that I didn't miss him but I do....but I wish I had heeded the signs and got rid of him before this all happened.



answers from Austin on

I would get rid of the dog. He is an animal and will react like an animal regardless of training. If he is snapping at your child he will very likely bite her.

It is ridiculous to put in the same place as family. I am an animal lover, so don't get me wrong, but you just cannot tell me that ANYONE would rather risk their child being hurt/bitten/disfigured than rehome a dog. It's a dog. Not a child. And really, will you be able to trust it when your child brings friends over? I would be super pissed to find out that somewhere my child went had a "biter".
I don't get it.



answers from New York on

Yes, he can might be trained but if he snaps at the baby just because she kicked him, I would be concerned. It depends on how much time and stress you want to devote to this issue. We had a dog that we tried to work with due to his "Snapping" issues. One night I hugged him, he growled, I backed away, and he jumped up and bit my arm. I had to have stitches. He would growl and bare his teeth occasionally after that and I could not risk our baby accidentally or even or purpose (as they learn and grow) getting bitten like I was. If your dog bites someone you may have a very difficult time getting him a new home.


answers from San Francisco on

I as well have a JRT and he is around my grandaughter quite often, he takes to her doing anything to him. However, the JRT/Fox Terrier is a very high bred dog and at times can be hard to train. Whoever is the person in the house that tells him what/what not to do then it is this person that has to reprimand him. Whether that be putting him in a crate when the baby is around or perhaps watch him very closely. If a dog has bitten once it is quite likely that he will bite again. Your little one doesn't know right/wrong yet so there is no going there to stop her from doing what she is doing. If you are afraid of her being bitten again perhaps put her in a playpen rather than just on a blanket on the floor. You never know when a dog might lunge so if he isn't crated or the baby not in a playpen you are looking for disaster to strike. He could have done this out of jealousy because your husband was there but I wouldn't trust the dog. I'm afraid you will have to find a new home for your doggie, I know its sad but terriers can be quite fiesty and they like to pull when they grab ahold of something and shake it. I would advertise to find a home for him. Make sure that the ad reads that the dog should not be around children. There are many elderly and middle aged couples who do not have children at home anymore that would love your little dog. It would not be out of the question if someone called about him to take him to their home and see how he reacts with them. I know you would definetly want him to go to a good/loving home. They do love attention.
I wish you well and like I said if you don't want to get rid of the dog have your child in a playpen or have the dog crated while the baby is playing. I wish you all the best as I know it is a hard decision to make. This could have been a one time thing but you just don't know. Hope this has helped you out.


answers from Philadelphia on

Hi Meg,

Please don't ever leave your baby near your dog, even if you're in the room. I've had too many personal experiences with dogs and kids (particularly JRTs) that are negative - snapping, biting, cat killing... they are bred to go after small animals.

About a month ago, I was sitting right next to my son while he was petting my bosses' JRT. It was a dog I knew, but still didn't trust him near my son even though my boss said "he's great with kids, he sleeps with my girls"... Anyway, my two year old bent down to the kiss the dog and I immediately put out my hand to push him back and get between the two of them and in that split second, the dog bit my son's face. He needed stitches near his lips. I was RIGHT THERE and wasn't fast enough. It could have been so much worse had I been even a few steps away. It was terrifying. Please don't trust any dog.



answers from San Francisco on

I'm sorry that I don't have direct experience with this, but I remember when my dog was going to obedience classes, the instructor suggested spraying the dogs mouth with bitter apple spray (grannick's). It sounds a little cruel, but the spray is used to deter the dog from chewing, biting, barking. We used this method for one of our dogs for some other behavioral problems, and it worked. Or maybe your dog just has some "sensitive spots" that he doesn't want touched. Our dogs hate having their feet or tails touched, but tolerate the face smacks like your dog. And we've been working on their sensitive spot by touching that place and then giving them small treats (without our daughter present to bother them).

I think more training would help. It doesn't hurt, and you'll get an expert's opinion on this as well as some other tricks to help you out.

Good luck!


answers from Kansas City on

terrier breeds are usually going to be excitable like you say. how will the dog handle it when your child is a year and chasing him around, laying on him, grabbing him, etc? i would not keep the dog. and once he does bite, i'm sorry but euthanasia is probably the kindest thing you can do. 1. you could NOT have him your house after that. 2. you couldn't rehome him. find a better place for him before the situation you created costs him his life.


answers from Williamsport on

Babies and toddlers can be trained not to bonk on the nose or kick by around 1 year give or take-so obviously, your baby is completely innocent here and all focus is on the dog. You should keep them separated until the dog is more well trained and the baby is older and also ready to learn about dogs. Growling with snapping is not a good sign. You may want to re-home.



answers from Atlanta on

I certainly think you should get rid of the dog and fast ... it doesnt really matter whether the dog is the alpha or sees your husband as the alpha ... the thing is that he obviously doesn't like being kicked, perhaps this is something he experienced before you took him in ... but either way Im sure you dont want your child to be injured or mauled by a dog and it happens regularly. My advice is to put the dog into a good home where there are no children. In time you will be able to adopt another dog. I dont believe some animals can be trusted around young children and mostly its nobody's fault its just the way it is.



answers from Denver on

I just read your title to my husband and at the same time we both said "get rid of the dog". Obviously your dog is a big part of your family, but like you said, your daughter comes first.

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