View Full Version : Dog growled at my kid!!!!

12th August 2006, 12:28 PM

I was very worried yesterday when my 8 month old cav growled at my 3 year old. She came up to pet him in a very non-threating manor. And he gave a low growl, no teeth just the growl. We have had the dog for only a week, and I know it will take time for him to get used to the kids and vice versa. I have been following the wonderful advice already given to me on this forum on how to acclimate my kids to the dog and the dog to them, and it seems to be working.

I need to stop the aggressive behavior immediately. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Cathy Moon
12th August 2006, 12:51 PM
Could you sit with your toddler on the floor and let your puppy approach you for petting? Toddlers often have jerky movements that make dogs feel unsafe.

The puppy should be in an x-pen or behind a baby gate when you cannot supervise them closely.

12th August 2006, 01:37 PM
First off, this is almost certainly NOT aggressive behaviour but in dog language, a polite warning in a situation it finds threatening. It is very important to understand this to avoid potential problems and avoid taking the wrong measures or making the wrong assumptions about what is going on and how the child/dog relationship should function.

Please read the posts and links I have on children and dogs:


The fact that the dog is growling indicates it does not find it comfortable to be approached by small children -- and this is not unusual for many dogs who are wary of children's darting movements, the fact that they tend to act unexpectedly, reach for their heads (which most dogs hate but will tolerate from those they know and learn to tolerate from people generally. Of my own three dogs two do not care to be around small children for the above reasons though they will consent to being pet if I hold the dogs and the child is measured in his or her approach and very, very polite). You need to respect the dog's telling you that it is unhappy in this type of situation and not allow a child to approach in what you may see as an unthreatening way, but to the dog, may seem very threatening and unpredictable and at the very least, simply unwanted pestering from what it sees as a 'puppy' of very low rank.

A three year old should *never, ever* be in a situation to approach a dog or puppy of his or her own accord -- a child that age is way too young to interact independently with a dog, and the result can be very unhappy and even serious harm to either the dog or the child. Most often, it is the child -- because dogs can find rapid or unexpected movements towards their heads and bodies potentially threatening and if a growl doesn't work as a warning it may well then nip or even inflict a serious bite (this is a GOOD thing that the dog growls -- if you scold for growling, it is taught not to even give a polite warning -- which is what a growl is in dog langauge -- and instead moves straight to action, which you DON'T want!). Please be aware that the vast majority of serious bite incidents every year are inflicted on small children, in the face and hands, by the family dog, mostly in situations that trainers say could easily have been avoided... if the adults better understood dog and kid body language, and that kids simply should not have free access to any dog when small -- under about age 7.

The only time a small child should be touching a dog or reaching towards it is when sitting safely on the floor and an adult is right there to supervise. Otherwise puppy/dog and child should be mutually out of reach of each other.

The links I provide at the thread above give lots of great advice on dog/child interactions, how to read dog body language, etc.

In particular:


And most important:


From which I emphasise these excerpts:


Supervision, SUPER-vision, Super-VISION !
If you see the baby closing in on the unsuspecting dog, intercept him! Cornered dogs have no other choice but to tell the child to go away the only way they know how. Help them out of the situation before they have to.

Surprise is one of the biggest reasons dogs spin and snap. A sudden reach, an impulsive hug, a handful of fur clenched tightly in a baby's fist or twisted lip or ear. Babies lose their balance and fall. You have to be there to catch them before they land on the sleeping dog!

Think of a dog as a pair of pointy scissors. If you leave the room, take the kid or the dog with you or put it in its crate, exercise pen, kitchen behind a baby gate or some other place where he can't leave and the kids can't go...


Safe Haven: If you have small children or someone else's kids come to visit, create a safe place for your dog. Use a baby gate or something that the dog can get over or through that the child cannot. When the dog does not want to be bothered by the child, show him he can escape to his safe place, and everything will be fine.

Never put the dog in the position of needing to correct the kids.

Your dog deserves respect and peace and quiet. Kids don't appreciate being pestered constantly by their siblings and neither does your dog. When, day after day, the polite signals are ignored, the puppy eventually gives them up as useless and just goes straight to what works - snarl-snap and, if necessary, bite. 77% of all bites to children are to the face - probably because that's the part of the body that is invading and hugging and kissing and because a muzzle pin (open mouth across the offending pup's face) is how adult dogs correct invasive puppies. Your dog views small kids as pesky puppies.

Turn your back for even a moment,
and your child will be a child --
and your dog will be a dog!

If the dog is not able to get away from the thing that annoys or terrifies him, remember that "Plan B" is to try to get that thing away from HIM. The dog communicates that he wants to be left alone by looking away, moving away, showing his teeth and growling, all of which are proper social signals to avoid REAL aggression: biting. However, children are not dogs, and do not understand or heed this language, so it's important to BE THERE to intervene and give the dog a place to go where the child absolutely cannot follow. Again, this is where parenting and supervision are crucial to keep dog and child safe!

Overall keep in mind that dogs have teeth as sharp as carving knives and they are not cuddly toys -- but that is how many children will see a dog (or cat!) and can severely invade its space, casuing it to lash out in defense. It MUST be the adult's role to make sure both dog and child are always in safe interactions -- both dogs and children need appropriate training for interactions, and young children must be constantly supervised around dogs.

12th August 2006, 04:34 PM
Maisie and my son Harry (4) adore each other, but on the odd occasion when she is in her bed and really can't be bothered, she has growled to warn him off. Harry was shocked and upset when this first happened because he thought Maisie didn't love him. :cry*ing:
I explained to Harry that if he was asleep in his bed, and I jumped next to him and started tickling him, he too would probably shout and tell me to go away. He soon learned that when Maisie is in her bed, it means she doesn't want cuddles or toys thrown in her direction because she is tired. After the initial growling incident, I decided to "remind" Maisie of the pecking order in the house. For a week or so, I let Harry do all the things I would normally do for Maisie. (feeding, letting out in the garden, telling off, and giving her treats) It worked a treat!! At mealtimes if she attempts to beg she responds better to Harry telling off, than if I do!

Maisie (ruby)

12th August 2006, 07:00 PM
Jo, that's a really good idea to change the pecking order :D

berkgid, if you've only had him a week then you don't really know if he's maybe been hurt by a small child in the past or anything. Mine will both say Hello to kids but then Maxx will slope off somewhere quietly unless he knows that the particular child won't hurt him.

He's never been left alone with small children but that is because I worry what they'll do to him, not vice versa.

It could be that this particular pup has been hurt or scared in the past.

I think an X pen is the way to go and for you to be with him and your little one every time they socialise until you are completely confident that the little one won't disturb him when he's sleeping or whatever.

Please don't think I'm saying your child would hurt the dog or vice versa, i'm just thinking of what I would do to be safe. It's natural for a child to be curious but it's also natural for a dog to warn them off - hope this helps a bit!

14th August 2006, 11:23 PM
I have two under 4's (I also have a 9 and 13yold). I would never allow either of them to have access to Bailey unsupervised however....to help Bailey see the kids as a positive I allow the little ones to sit down on the floor with treats. When Bailey approaches they give him a treat and he sees the kids mean treats. This has worked very well.

15th August 2006, 01:52 AM
I have two under 4's (I also have a 9 and 13yold). I would never allow either of them to have access to Bailey unsupervised however....to help Bailey see the kids as a positive I allow the little ones to sit down on the floor with treats. When Bailey approaches they give him a treat and he sees the kids mean treats. This has worked very well.

This is really the ideal situation, glad to hear it! :D

15th August 2006, 12:19 PM
When Bailey approaches they give him a treat and he sees the kids mean treats. This has worked very well.

That sounds very much like my old GSD, bless her. She saw my kids as walking food machines and used to sit by them as close as she could get whilst they were eating LOL

She'd never take anything off them but she'd dribble and drool until something 'accidentally' fell on the floor or she was offered!

She was such a gentle girl and really adored my boys. I still miss her now :(

15th August 2006, 01:51 PM
Also check out www.livingwithkidsanddogs.com Colleen is a great resource in regard to this - she has won several awards for her book, and she posts parents' questions and her answers on her site.