Help!! My Dog Hates Kids

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Thanks to K9 Aggression for the Photo

Thanks to K9 Aggression for the Photo

I have had the same question a lot lately, and when I have several people with the same question sometimes it is easiest to write a blog post so it can be explained and shared with others.

It seems like there are lots of dogs out there that hate kids, or at least are very intolerant of them.

Sometimes, I find myself feeling the same way as actual parenting is on the decline and wild children seem to be on the rise.

And, of course let me say up front that if your dog is aggressive or you are afraid he might bite or inflict serious pain on any child that it is crucial that you seek help from a veterinary behaviorist.   Since I cannot see the behavior I can’t get into a lot about aggression; since each dog is different.  A veterinary behaviorist can come to your house, see your dog and witness the intricacies of the behaviors and put you both on a program of behavior modification.

But I can help with some understanding and give you some ideas about keeping everyone as safe as possible.

Any Dog With Teeth Will Bite Under the Right Circumstances

First it is important to admit the problem.

My Fury and My Friend's Daughter. Even Though I Trust Her, I Know All Dogs Can Bite so I Watch Them Carefully

My Fury and My Friend’s Daughter. Even Though I Trust Her, I Know All Dogs Can Bite so I Watch Them Carefully

A lot of times I hear statements like “He growls at kids but he would never bite them” (for more on that article click here)

It is important to recognize that a growl, or a snarl, or a nip is a precursor to aggression.  These are warnings that the dog does not like whatever situation he is in, or what is going on around him.

His bite threshold is lowered when he gives these warnings.   And quite frankly sometimes a growl is a good thing, for more on understanding that and why; click here.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking your dog (who shows these signs) will never bite.  This only puts your dog at risk of losing his life, and another person or child at risk of being bitten or mauled.

Honestly, any dog that has teeth could or will bite under the right circumstances.

Understanding Why

Although I often try to understand why a dog shows a particular behavior, sometimes when you get down to it; it doesn’t matter.

Understanding why does not excuse the behavior (especially with aggression) so it is important not to make excuses. To see how you can work with your dog to control their impulsive behavior, click here.

However, I think some dogs do not understand children.

Children Don’t Look Like Small Adults

Kids Can Be Wild

Kids Can Be Wild

Kids don’t look like small adults to some dogs.

Children do not act like small adults either.  They run, they scream, they squeal, they stomp and jump and have all kinds of behaviors that most dogs consider appalling.

They also invade dogs’ space and try to do things like hug and kiss dogs (which is horribly bad behavior to dogs for more on understanding that and why click here).

A lot of dogs don’t like their space invaded and they don’t want to feel like a child is “mounting” them; which is what a hug feels like to a dog.

Kids also pet extremely fast, usually over the top of the head, which is also less tolerated by a lot of dogs.   And, sometimes they are rough and want to do things like ride them, or put things on them or tease them.

Dogs then begin to associate these behaviors with all children and begin disliking them as a whole.

It Can Be Hard to Find Kids with Good Animal Manners

Children that sit still, pet gently, pet one at a time, pet dogs under their chins,  remain calm and still and respect animals are hard to find.

This kind of treatment takes lots of good teaching and parenting skills.

For more on teaching your children to be kind and mindful of animals and educating others click here

Honestly, It Doesn’t Matter

Honestly it doesn’t matter how the child acts or what the child does; it is a dog owner’s responsibility to keep a bite from happening; NO MATTER WHAT.  This doesn’t mean I agree with kids abusing animals, I don’t; but it is a dog owner’s job to keep an eye over and control his dog.

It is your job to stop the child before he gets to your dog, control your dog around children, and/or muzzle your dog if you know you can’t control him.

If you were taken to court, the judge is probably not going to have a lot of sympathy for a dog owner whose dog bites or mauls a child.  The dog will undoubtedly be euthanized and the child will probably be scarred for life.

Neither of which is an acceptable outcome.

So What Do You Do?

You keep everyone SAFE!

Flooding Can Be Scary and Create Fight or Flight

Flooding Can Be Scary and Create Fight or Flight

People mistakenly think that throwing these dogs in with kids (even well behaved kids) is the way to work through this, however this can be seriously risky.

It is like the concept of flooding.  If you hate spiders I am not going to force you to be locked down and then release tarantulas all over your body, it is probably going to make you worse.

Forcing your dog to socialize and be petted by children is dangerous when you have a dog that has warned you that he doesn’t like them.

You can still have well mannered children toss treats to your dog’s feet without ever risking a bite just make sure they understand that they still can’t pet when they are done with the treats (sometimes people think after they toss treats they can pet).

You can also use a basket muzzle on your dog to make sure that forced interaction (when you have children in your dog’s space) is as safe as possible.

If It Was My Dog??

chihuahuaIf it was my dog and he/she didn’t like children, I would make sure everyone was as safe as possible.

I would avoid loud and crazy kids like the plague, and if I couldn’t control the kids I would head in the other direction.

If I could control the kids and they were well mannered I would have them toss great treats toward my dog’s feet.

But ultimately I would teach my dog to give me attention and be able to learn to relax around kids (kinda like the spiders).  I want to give my dog something else to do that he is capable with that gives him confidence and trust in me for help on teaching your dog Eye Contact and Focus click here.

Forcing him to sit nicely and be petted (when he doesn’t want to) takes all of that trust away and can force a bite.  Not all dogs enjoy being petted for more on that click here.

If I was truly concerned, I would utilize a basket muzzle (for more on that and why I love muzzles click here).

And, if my step kids were to have some kind of wild party full of wild kids I would crate my dog so he didn’t have to suffer.

I don’t want to avoid children altogether or not train around them (always at a safe distance or with a muzzle), but when you are not in control, sometimes it is best to just keep everyone safe.

You have to work at a safe distance, where your dog is showing no signs of stress and give him or her some coping mechanisms using treats and toys while teaching him to trust you.

Gentle Leaders Can Give You More Control

Gentle Leaders Can Give You More Control

And, I hate to say it; but you have to be prepare to yell at or discourage children from running up to your dog for more on that and why click here.

As much as I hate to be the bad guy, I would rather yell at a kid or his parents to stop his advancement rather than have him/her set me back in my training or risk my dog biting.

I had a dog that was nervous of people (not kids specifically) but I got very use to discouraging people from petting him (more on that here) and making sure that he and everyone else was as safe as possible.

And, I never let my guard down.  Even when his behaviors got better and more controllable, I would never have allowed him to be forced to be petted!

It was a better situation to keep people from petting him and for me to be the one in control of him and his rewards!

Obedience is paramount!  It is crucial that you have absolute control when you take a dog like this out.  He must have his basic and advanced dog obedience down to 95% or more reliability.  Sometimes control over your dog is all you have for a minute or two before you get control of the child.

I need to trust that my dog can sit, down, stay, give me eye contact and that I can control his anxiety prior to exposing him to his triggers and that can take a lot of time and obedience training.

If you are going to keep a dog like this be safe and be honest with yourself, and devote your life and time to obedience training and that is the best advice I can give.

getimpulsecontrol

There are 36 Comments

  1. Tony says:

    Our first dog, Whiskey, (second anniversary of his death yesterday) was a springer/collie; rescue who we adopted when he was two years. We soon realised he didn’t like children – lip lifting and growling. After some research we used some of the dominance ideas and whenever our grandchildren were over he was not allowed on the furniture. Also if he displayed this toward my youngest son he would send him to his bed and my son would be the one to release him. This transformed him to a “tolerant” dog. The most important rule, though, was not one we taught Whiskey, but one taught every child who visited. If Whiskey approaches you, you may gently stroke him. When he walks away, leave him. You do not approach him, he approaches you. Children were NEVER left alone with him. I know this may make Whiskey sound like the hound from hell, which he certainly was not, but it was the only way we could be certain all were safe. Indeed, we use the same rules with our current dog, Rolli, who is a charmer with children, but as you say – he has teeth.

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  2. Bonnie says:

    This was very helpful. Our last dog, a beagle cross, didn’t like kids much, but never got anywhere close to biting one. I was always on guard with her, once I understood her predilections.

    My husband and I retired from our jobs and retired to a “residual community” in rural North Carolina. ( a residual community is one in which the able-bodied cannot find work, so they leave for other places, leaving behind retires, people who don’t have to…or don’t want to….or cannot..work). There were very few children in the town. The dog was in heaven there. No kids. No leash laws. Plenty of rabbits to chase.

    We, on the other hand, found this place pretty depressing, so we left for a livelier place.

    The point is not to encourage people to take their biting dogs to a residual community; the point is that there ARE environments where these dogs feel safe.

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  3. Eileen says:

    My dog unbeknown to me actually likes kids until they are about 12 or so. Instead of showing aggression though, she backs away. I think the age threshold has to do with size. Some 12-year-olds look like adults, but do things that adults don’t typically do, like ride skateboards. I see this behavior more with male teenagers than female ones.

    It might be that she perceives that children need protection and that children can entertain themselves (thus it isn’t necessary to interact with those whose behavior she doesn’t like) While she will approach a child very cautiously, and allow the child to touch her on the head, both the mother of the child and I warn the child to pet the dog on her back or gently tap her ribs. I also warn the child to ask first because I know that not all dogs are as tolerant of children as mine is.

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  4. Luann says:

    A friend I know has a dog who was a rescue and did not like children. He would growl, lunge, go crazy when a child was nearby. To stop this behavior he took his dog out to playgrounds and stayed a good distance away. When the dog say a child he would give the dog his favorite liver snacks. He would get closer each time and keep feeding him his favorite treats. This took over a month and now the dog associates children with something good and when he sees a child he looks at his owner for a treat. No more growling, lunging. Just well behaved. He recondioned his dog to associate children with positive things. He doesn’t need treats anymore and even plays with his nieces and nephews.

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  5. kathi kelley says:

    I am lucky that my standard poodle loves all kids. But I have a schnauzer foster, Jeffie J, that disliked touching, most people, and definitely kids when I got him over a year ago. Because of his behavior, he is a forever foster who will stay with me the rest of his life. For the last year, I just let him along when he wanted to be alone, petted when and how he could tolerate, and gave him lots of soft words and love. Slowly he is relaxing and beginning to get along with people. At Mother Day Luncheon, he was able to be with the group and allowed many gentle pets. Success! But the most amazing was last month when I babysat my 3 1/2 year old niece with cerebral palsy. I planned to crate him but when she arrived, he went right to her and sniffed her. She squealed and tried to pet him, but her petting is more like a thump on his back. He just stood there and let her “pet” him. For the rest of the 5 hours, he stayed close to her, let her touch him, and even let her pull his whiskers. It was amazing to see this “touchy” dog handle her behavior. Somehow, he must have know she was special and he seemed to be taking care of her. Dogs can be amazing!

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  6. Diot says:

    Why always blame the dog.
    It is adults who need educating how to control their offspring.
    Teach children NOT to approach strange dogs and how to behave with those in the family.
    No dog can be trusted with small children and YOU should protect your dog.

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    Minette Reply:

    I’ve written that article before, a few times! There are links in this article!

    But some people have dogs that don’t like even well behaved kids and they need help keeping everyone safe.

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  7. Edward Almasy says:

    I have a 1 one year old sheepdog. My problem is I cannot keep her from jumping on people. She gets so excites by company that the “down’ and “off’ commands are ignored until she has adjusted to the visitors being there a few minutes.What can I do to change that behavior?

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    Lisa Reply:

    I had the same problem with my dog. At a training class we were recommended to buy a spray called “Bitter Apple” sold at Petco. When he ignored his commands, we gave him a spritz in the mouth which he hated. It only took using it a handful of times before he got the message. Eventually we moved on to giving him treats when he obeys and now he’s 100% clear on what “off” means. It worked for me, maybe it will work for you. You could also try putting her in time out everytime she jumps on someone. When you let her out she may try jumping again but telling her “Time Out” and sending her to another room again and again should break the habit. It takes a lot of reinforcing but they get there eventually.

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  8. Patty says:

    My dog is cautious of all people, and it takes him a few visits to adjust to anyone new. He is extremely affectionate to those he loves – almost to a fault. He is a shepard/husky mix (so we are told), weighs around 45 lbs now and was about 14 months old when we adopted him last November. I have a lot of little grandkids and he has become comfortable when they come over and steers clear of those he isn’t particularly fond of. We have never forced him to get near anyone. One thing I have noticed that is troubling is that some of my grandchildren like to run with him and he seems to really enjoy it. What he will do at times is nip at their behinds while they are running together. It seems like play in a way, but I think possibly that is not the case. It is like he thinks he is playing with another dog rather than a human child. How concerned should I be?

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    Minette Reply:

    I would be concerned because if he makes contact you have a severe problem.

    It is important to teach him not to do this. He needs to learn control and that this is not an acceptable behavior.

    He shouldn’t be allowed to treat your grandchildren the way he would treat another dog!

    Teach him to do a down/stay and don’t allow him to chase them!

    Prey drive can lead to some very nasty bites!

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  9. Skipper says:

    Children aren’t like people, even though they might smell like people, which can be confusing. Instead, children are strange jumpy unpredictable creatures with painfully high shrieky howls, that often can unexpectedly attack you. Oddly enough, if you defend yourself from such an attack, your Person In Charge is likely to growl and bark at you with those strange sounding barks Persons make. Then you might get banished. It’s all very confusing, and it’s really just best to avoid the strange shrieking monsters altogether.
    Sometimes your Person might punish you for some mysterious reason by making you stand there and let a shriek monster attack you and dominate you with its upper legs. I have no idea why they do that though.

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  10. Caryn says:

    I purchased an Australian Cattle Dog (Red Heeler) as a companion for my 5 year old Heeler when she was 4 months old. She was skittish at first and I thought once she got aclimated she would improve but it’s apparent now that the dog was never socialized in any way. She hates people and will run after them hair sticking up on her back and bark at them. This has happened a couple of times when I am in my driveway and I open the electric garage door. I have a dog door that opens into the garage and then another door on the garage wall that allows the dogs to go to the backyard. When the garage door opens she is in the garage waiting and if there are any people in sight she will “attack” them. This is totally unacceptable and I don’t know what to do. If I close the dog door that opens into the garage, my dogs won’t be able to go outside and eliminate. If I start parking in the driveway and go thru my front door, I’m allowing her to change MY behavior. I want to change HER behavior! I hear conflicting advice about getting her out with people to socialize her and also heard to keep her away from people. I do make a point to exercise her daily and to go to the park and she does okay but she’s exhausted with anxiety when we get home. I thought of a shock collar or giving her away, and I don’t want to do either one. Any advice?

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    Minette Reply:

    When you have a dog that bites I wouldn’t worry about who’s behavior you are changing the important thing is that you keep a bite from happening, PERIOD.

    I would not use dog doors. I would let the dogs out like most of the rest of us that don’t have doggy doors so that you can control when the dog is outside and what the dog is exposed to.

    And I would find a veterinary behaviorist in your area to help you with the aggression.

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  11. Elsa says:

    I have a brindle colored dog not sure what breed. But she loves me my fiance and is tolerant of my 4 yr old. However she does not like my 3 yr old (who I think has ADHD but doctors will not test him until he is school aged) she growls and barks at him. At first its no her “visious” growl its her “back away” growl then comes her I’m getting mad growl then comes her “visious” or “get the hell back before I tear u to sheds” growl. Followed by 4-5 barks we have had her 10 days and she is now showing signs of pregnancy. Any words of advice we don’t want to give her up because other than how she acts toward my son she is a good dog.

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    Minette Reply:

    Time to see a veterinary behaviorist before someone gets mauled or killed! ASAP this is very important

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  12. Colleen says:

    Hello
    I rescued a lab mix from our neighborhood running around hungry and very skinny. She was abused because she has trust issues and doesn’t like other dogs or men or children. The dog loves me and I love her. Although the only thing is she is scared to death of my toddlers. Don’t blame her. She snApped at one the other day and my husband took her to the pound. I have missed my dear pet badly. I want to bring her back home but I am scared a snap will lead to a bite. Should I risk it. Will this be able to be corrected since she has been abused.

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    Minette Reply:

    Being “abused” is not an excuse! And, there are plenty of dogs who have never incurred abuse that still have trust issues and don’t like some people. You are using that as a crutch which isn’t helping either of you.

    If you want a biting dog around children you need to find a veterinary behaviorist to help you, someone needs to see the behavior and put you all on a behavior modification program. But be careful, snapping often turns into full blown biting, and that is a risk you are taking if you bring the dog back into your home.

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  13. michelle says:

    I have a 2 year old dauschound mut mix. I got her in November. She was chewing everything and going to the bathroom everywhere. Over time ive found that she loves certain bones and ive crate trained her. Still a few accidents but id say 85% better. She adores me and is very loving. The problem is shes very aggresive. She goes crazy when someone rings my doorbell and nips at certain childrens ankles. She used to do it to my kids but has stopped. She got loose and ran and attacked my neighbors son. Everytime hes around shes aggresive so i have to lock her in a room or cage. He ran and she actually chased him down and was biting his clothing. I know shes a good dog and i think this behavior is triggered by her previous owner. I rescued her. I need help fast

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    Minette Reply:

    You need to deal with the aggression. They probably knew about it, but probably didn’t cause it.

    You need a veterinary behaviorist at this point. Because you know the dog is aggressive and therefore a huge responsibility and liability and people sue over anything that looks like a scratch.

    So now it is up to you to deal with this and make sure no one is bitten, EVER. Only a veterinary behaviorist can safely see and treat the behavior.

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  14. Audre says:

    Have a 2 yr old Yorkie hates teens, toddlers, big dogs most people. Well if truth be told only likes my husband and I, we are both older seniors. We had a private trainer when dog was puppy and he listens to us very well, walks are about an hour twice a day and toys and playing with us are thru out the day. Here it is Angel dog in the house, devil dog outside. What do I do or what am I doing wrong?

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  15. Jessica says:

    We just rescued a 1yo German Shepard/husky mix, Sadie. She was great with our nephews for the first 4 months. She began growling at the 6 and 7 yo boys last month. I no longer let her around the kids. She is in her pen or out in the backyard when the kids are over. I have a behaviorist/trainer coming Wednesday. Sadie is great with other adults. I worry that she will never be able to be around children and we will have to have her in her pen every time children are over. I don’t think I can trust her to be around children. I don’t know what to do. My husband and I just love her. We are worried that if one day we decide to have children she will not take to kindly to the new child.

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    Minette Reply:

    the behaviorist is what you need to give you more insight on how to help the dog and the kids get along without pushing boundaries, and I just can’t see that online. Good luck!

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  16. Rob says:

    I have an 8 year old female black lab that is the most loving and sweet dog I have ever had. We lived just her and me for 7 years; I have now moved in with my wife and her 9 year old son. He is a good kid and loves dogs, but tends to be rambunctious as all kids can be, which gets her barking with excitement. He has a tendency to approach and snuggle, sometimes forcing it. She loves snuggles, but the other night he did it and she gave him the ‘get the heck away from me’ bark and lounge. No contact though. Never happened before. Not sure if he just caught her in a bad mood, or accidentally hurt or or just scared her, but with his uppity behavior, I wonder if this will occur again. I encourage him to just pet her and move on, not to sit there and snuggle. Let her come to you to snuggle, I say.
    Should there be concern here, or was this a one off where Something happened that I don’t know about that Nicholas isn’t telling me? What I don’t want is a mistake by him or the dog to result in the situation getting worse.

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    Minette Reply:

    I would be concerned. The dog is giving information that needs to be heeded if not the dog may escalate aggression.

    I certainly wouldn’t leave them alone, and there should be some kind of consequence for him forcing the dog to do something it doesn’t want to do. A 9 year old is old enough to understand.

    Would he like you to grab him and force him into a cuddle past a point he was comfortable? No, no he wouldn’t.

    If you correct the dog, you correct her warning system and she is more likely to bite. Instead monitor and correct the child, while working on obedience between the two.

    he doesn’t have to snuggle, he can walk her or train her while you are there to monitor.

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  17. Gigi says:

    Hello, great article.

    I have a 4 year old rescue pinscher that I adopted a month ago, and she doesn’t like children. Twice she just jumped on them, thankfully not biting, but being agressive. The children were really scared and I was just so shocked because with me she is the most caring dog ever.

    On the street, she also doesn’t like people who run, who stare at her, or my friends who are scared of dogs and who back away from her, she keeps barking and showing her teeth. Also in my apartment building, if she hears voices from the stairs or other people talking on the stairs, she is constantly barking.

    What can I do to change her? I don’t want her to just bite someone out of nowhere and get put to sleep……

    best regards

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    Minette Reply:

    you need a veterinary behaviorist to see the dog and witness the behavior.

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  18. Kate says:

    I have a five month old border collie who was introduced to my nephew at 3 months old and didn’t mind him at all since then there has been many instances where she has snapped and growled at children who have come into our home and in public. At first shell just hide behind me or the closest adult but after a while she gets fed up and growls and barks in a very confronting manner directly at them, also like she is possessed. It looks as though its territorial or something but I’m not exactly sure what has sparked it or how to stop it. Please help me out

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    Minette Reply:

    you need the help of a boarded veterinary behaviorist

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  19. scary dog says:

    My border collie was great with kids and I honestly 100% trusted him not to bite under any circumstances. I’d have him lose at kids parties no worries.

    My shepherd mix hates kids and I definitely think she’d bite if they tried to touch her or got too close. I never take her around lots of kids and I keep her on leash around large groups of people. Trying to train her out of her fear/loathing but it’s very hard. There are no dog trainers let alone vet behaviorists in my country (technically actually overseas territory) and the neighbouring country only seems to have force based trainers so that’s no good. All dog training must be done by me without outside help unfortunately.

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    Minette Reply:

    The problem is that you think you can train the dog out of her fear/loathing… when in all actuality you cannot.

    You can, however, teach her control and coping mechanisms while making sure you control the environment to the best of your ability.

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  20. Leila says:

    I have a year old puggle. She is very loving. She gets along with my five year old and 10 year old cousins but she doesn’t like my neighbors twin daughters. Every time she sees them she starts barking at them and want to like attack them. Every time they come I have to have her on a leash or keep her in a room. But she tends to cry a lot and wants to be outside with every else. It’s hard to keep her in the room or even let her interact with the twins with out her wanting to bite them.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    What will happen when the cousins want to bring friends over?

    You need to seek the help of a boarded veterinary behaviorist.

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  21. Radiya says:

    Hi, first thing i wish to confirm is that i have 2 sons. My elder son is a golden doodle of 2years 6months old and the second son is a human baby of 1 year old.
    We planned on adopting our pup before we had a baby due to many reasons including us being able to handle a kid, our human child having a friend to trust and also for the reason that we love dogs more than most human beings.
    Throughout my pregnancy, our pup loved the unborn baby and infact he is the one to detect my pregnancy. From the first day onwards we introduced him to our baby boy and he licked and loved him. But gradually due to security issue my parents and others would panic at times which made him uncomfortable and scared of the baby. He would stay away from him all day but sleep next to him at night. His care is very visible whereas he would stay away whenever the baby approaches. Our baby loves him and wants to hug him. He grabs him at times and i know is rough with him too. He just started walking and we know he might start realizing the soothing factor of love soon. But I’m scared that our poodle might not get along. He growls at times when approched by the baby.
    I wish to make him realize that they are both loved. And that baby loves him too but i fail with words everytime. Hope there is a better way to make them friendly apart from any harsh therapy or anything.

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  22. Sara says:

    Great information. I’m just wondering what to do in a situation where the dog is in the same home as young children. We have a 3 1/2 yo chihuahua/jack Russell mix. She has always shown a little bit of anxiety. She is definitely my dog, but has shown appropriate behavior to most adults. We have a 2yo And a newborn. When the 2yo was a newborn, the dog was okay with her until she was a few months old and started moving and grabbing and holding on to things. Now that my toddler is very active the dog does not like her and she shows aggressive behavior toward her on a daily basis, we have been trying to teach the 2yo how to treat animals, but she still gets very excited sometimes with the dog. The dog shows aggressive behavior with our nieces and nephews as well, it’s not just with our child. I’m not sure what I can do, the dogs anxiety level has increased dramatically over the last year and it has a little bit to do with where we live and the dogs and noises and neighbors that we have in our apartment complex, but I think it also has a lot to do with our children.

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  23. Stephanie Cooper says:

    Mu situation is a little different. Our 3yr old boxer has been around several small children and has always been very gentle. We had new neighbors move in next door and their son is the same age as my boys. He tried to nip at him yesterday and it took me by surprise. The little boy was standing next to me playing toys. Nothing out of the ordinary. He is a very good kid and has not given my dog any reason to not like him. There have been days where he has come over and my dog was just fine. Could it be that my dog senses something? Aside from putting my dog away when he come over to play, I am at a loss. Please advise me on any help to what to. Thank in Advance

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