Dog growling/snarling at 1 year old...

CamGDecember 11, 2012

Hi everyone.

I don't know if I'm looking for advice or commiseration, but our beloved 5 year old lab/dalmatian mix is growling and snarling his teeth at our 1 year old. We are due with a daughter on April 1st, so we see the kid situation getting worse, not better.

We were hoping to reduce this behavior using training and exercise, but to no avail. The lab has had a year of intense training, and does most commands well, but is still extremely anxious and occasionally aggressive towards other dogs and children. We bought a treadmill to exercise him, which I do most days twice a day, and he hates it. I bought a device to take him on bike rides with me, which he seems to enjoy. But even after long, intense exercise, the lab will be exhausted, but if my son crawls by, the lab will growl and snarl.

All of this came to a head recently when we were cooking some hamburger in the kitchen. The lab was sitting watching us, and our other dog, a 2 year old golden, must have startled him--the lab whipped around and bit her on the nose, drawing a bit of blood in one spot. Had that been our son... I can't even imagine.

Any thoughts or advice? The vet said we need to get him out of the house. Our trainer said this doesn't seem like the kind of aggression that would lead to biting, particularly for a dog that has never bitten. We're fairly convinced this just isn't worth the risk. There is a local no-kill shelter who may be able to take him, or we could try to craigslist him to a good family. All of the options here are heartbreaking. Thanks for reading.

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I don't have kids, my pets are my kids. So you're probably not going to like what I have to say. I understand your desire to protect your children, and I understand animals are supposedly less important than people. I say "supposedly" because I have rarely met an animal I didn't like, but there seems to be no shortage of unlikable people. I just think it's pretty crappy to dump your "beloved 5 yr old pet" who hasn't really done anything yet. When you get a pet, it is supposed to be for life. They give you unconditional love and look up to you, and in return, they expect you to always be there for them. If you can't honor this "agreement". you have no business owning pets in the first place. Then children come along and the pet gets dumped. I think thats a bunch of crap. But most people seem to think animals are throw-away items, and once they start doing undesirable things, then its off to the pound with you. Nevermind that the dog who has known one family all its life gets dumped into a strange world and may now have real problems trusting another human again. Nevermind that most people want cute little puppies, that there aren't as many people who want adult dogs, especially after they have been labeled as a "problem dog". I also find it funny how a lot of "problem pets" usually develop their "problems" because of the shortcomings of their owners. Sounds to me that your dog is jealous and is not getting the attention he needs. I don't understand the treadmill thing. Is this to tire him out and exhaust him so he has no energy to attack? Maybe he's so tired and so cranky after being forced to do something he doesn't enjoy that the slightest little thing will set him off now. He needs more than just exercise, he needs ATTENTION, he needs you to play with him. I guess if you can't give that to him, then maybe he is better off with someone else. Craigslist is a bad idea. You have no idea who these people really are, or what their real intentions are. There are people out there who pick up CL dogs for animal testing labs or for use as "training dogs" for their pit bulls. You either need to work harder at giving him the attention he really needs, or you need to make sure he goes to a GOOD home. Sorry if I came across a bit too harsh. I see alot of people dumping their pets and it really makes me angry. If you came here looking for advice, you must be trying to do the right thing, and it must also be bothering you to think of giving him up. I hope you do the right thing - not just for you and your children - but for the dog too.

This post was edited by Navin-R-Johnson on Tue, Dec 11, 12 at 16:16

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 3:47PM
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Navin, this is tearing us up inside. We are simply devastated at the prospect of giving him away. But as our vet has advised us, the risk of the dog harming our child, and the magnitude of that potential harm, is such that we have to do something. We have tried all kinds of different options--this dog has been really anxious since he was a puppy, and nothing we do seems to have really helped. There is also the reality that if he is growling, it means he is upset, and he does it many times a day. He is clearly living with a great deal of anxiety in our crazy house, and things are only going to get crazier with our second baby. I think there is a good chance we can find him a better living situation than the one he is in now.

To clarify, the exercise was a recommendation from the person at the shelter as an attempt to keep him in our home--a recommendation she had found to work in the past with other dogs who similarly have lots of energy. Giving the dog massive amounts of attention has not had any impact in the past. When we were doing intense training with him, I would spend much of my day at group class, playing fetch, and walking him, and then when I took him out into the public, he would still growl at children who walked by.

I'm well aware of the dangers of craigslist, and if we went that route, we would have to find some way of learning a great deal about the prospective owners to ensure a good home. It may be that we wouldn't find someone if we were so strict in who could take him, and we would have to find another solution.

This post was edited by CamG on Tue, Dec 11, 12 at 16:32

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:20PM
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Really, his recent biting of our other dog is the most alarming thing. Those two normally get along great--they'll cuddle, play together, etc. If when he gets startled, he can bit another dog he is extremely comfortable with, how in the world can we ever get him to be safe around children he will growl at without any provocation? We can try to keep him off on his own, but he always wants to be with us, and is upset if we try to separate him from us. He is on edge so much of the time at our house--even on walks, he has diarrhea after a mile or two and the vet has said that is due to him becoming overly excited and anxious. And these are our DAILY walks!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:47PM
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It sounds like this dog isn't good with children, and I wouldn't risk it. This is a dog, not a human that you have committed to for life. But if you didn't have children, I'm sure you would keep him for life, and just keep him away from children. It's probably part of this life-long anxiety, and can be very difficult to fix.

Imagine that the dog did bite your child on the face. Imagine your child scarred. Imagine your child with the kind of terror and anxiety that will take years to undo. Do you want that for your child? How would your child feel later on, knowing that you kept a dog that had severe anxiety and had growled at him before and you did nothing to keep him safe.

If you decide to give him up, give him to a lab rescue. They can find a good home for him. You may want to make a donation to a rescue that will take him. He doesn't sound like a happy dog to start with, though.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 6:20PM
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I agree that with eahamel that you should contact some lab rescues. Does he look more Lab or Dalmation? Even if you have to contact a rescue outside your area/state, start talking to them now.

I can understand how difficult this must be for you but finding him a home that is less chaotic will be good for everyone. I have a small (22 lb) dog that gets easily excited and he becomes anxious around lots of activity. Twice he has nipped my GD while she was running/playing/screaming and I now keep him under control when she, or anyone else, is around. I also keep an eye on him to watch for signs that he's getting overly excited.

Until you decide what to do, I think you need to set some boundaries in your home. In your post the first thing I noticed is you said the dog was watching you cook hamburger. IMO, the dog should not be allowed in the kitchen while you're cooking and you should watch for signs that he is becoming too focused on a person, object, or activity. If you see it, redirect him with a toy or, in the case of your cooking something that smells good, have him leave the area.
I would definitely worry about a large dog growling at a child crawling across the floor............

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 11:49PM
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I have to agree with your vet. You absolutely must find this dog a home. There are people without children who could nurture this pet but you are taking a huge chance keeping a dog like this around toddlers.

I love dogs and have two of my own but would not have an aggressive dog. Sorry to those of you who disagree, but people come first IMHO.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 9:26AM
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While I believe that pets are a life-long commitment, I also recognize that they are not people. In a situation where a pet has demonstrated that it could seriously hurt a human, and the humans involved have sought out help and applied those recommendations, then I think the humans' safety outweighs the pet.

It's clear that CamG's family is not considering this lightly. This isn't what friends of mine did last year--I went to visit them and their 2 cats were gone. "Oh, we're getting new furniture, so we got rid of the cats." That's treating pets like throw-away objects.

CamG's family has sought help at the vet's, the trainer and the shelter. It appears that the dog has been aggressive towards children for a long time. And they have a one-year old who will only become more mobile and more in the way of the dog.

I like the suggestion of the breed rescue. Even if they will only deal with pure breed dogs, they might be able to point you towards other resources, or put an ad for your dog up on their website (I've seen that several times with cross breeds).

Years ago, I got a lovely 6 year old cat from my vet. Her owners could not keep her, because they had a small baby who was very allergic to cats. She was a most loving and gentle cat, and I was heartbroken when she died at 20 years. Her original owners were heartbroken to give her up, but keeping her would have meant constant bathing (she would have hated that) and keeping her away from the baby and medicating the baby constantly. The fact is, much as they loved the cat, they loved their baby more. I don't think that's a bad thing.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:15AM
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I completely agree with camlan- it's obvious that the OP is not taking this lightly.

I feel like such a jerk for saying this, but would putting him to sleep be kinder than putting him in a shelter? He's already an anxious dog that wants to be with his people. Leaving him in a cage in a strange place indefinitely, when he's most, possibly all, of the things that make him unlikely to be adopted (older, larger, anxious, undesirable breed, unsafe around children and other animals, needs a ton of exercise and is possibly black) seems somehow worse than giving him a fantastic last day/last week and then gathering his people around him and loving on him while he painlessly goes. It is absolutely, undoubtedly the harder course for the people, but I'm not sure it's not easier on the dog.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 3:34PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I agree with what camlan and coconlan said.
And, yes, what Navin said too- although I don't think it applies to you.
But, if the dog were a person, and seemed very likely to hurt another person, something would be done to separate the two. Bad people are contained.
I'm sorry you have to go through this but it will make you an even better person. Trials usually do.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 3:54PM
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Thank you everyone for your kind thoughts.

Cocontom, that thought has crossed my mind many times. Honestly, I just don't know that I will be capable of doing it. And yes, the dog is black (but with adorable white patch with black spots on his chest). Part of the problem is this does not seem like an immediate and clear danger--it's more a function of what-ifs. What if we are out of the room and the dog lunges for the the child's snacks... etc.

I just keep wondering if I could do more--every day go on a long run with him, work with him, let him sniff around the neighborhood, etc.--that would make him better. And it probably would help, but I don't know how much, and I don't know if it's fair to my kids to spend so much of the little time I'm home working with our dog. But then I think, am I really giving this dog away (or worse, putting him to sleep) because I don't have the time to work with him? It's kind of like this--the risk of him harming our child, especially if we're careful, is pretty low on any given day or any given week. But over the coming 5 years, the risk of something happening, especially given our inevitable lapses of supervision, is unacceptable. Aghh.

I put an add on a rescue site for him. If I get any responses, I will look at the potential home in depth (call previous vets the people have taken their pets to, visit the home, etc.). If we can find a wonderful home for him, that would obviously make this much easier. If not, I just don't know that we'll be able to send him off to a shelter indefinitely or put him to sleep.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 3:54PM
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I hate people who consider animals as disposable objects to get rid of when a problem arises. But you are not that person. You are a kind considerate pet owner who is trying to find a solution. I have two dogs, but didn't have any when my kids were little. Of course your kids NEED to come first. You can't be watching every minute for a situation to occur. Good luck in finding this dog a good home with no little kids.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 4:39PM
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Cam, you seem to think that exercising the dog extensively is going to solve a deep seated insecurity that leads to aggression to children. I don't understand how that would work. Your children and husband come first.

I think this dog needs to be in a home with no children, too. And don't stop at one rescue. Go to and type in your zip code and contact as many local rescues as you can. A lot of them are mixed breed rescues. You may have to contact a dozen or so before you find one that can take the dog. They are overcrowded these days and have a hard time finding volunteers who can foster dogs and cats.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 5:32PM
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"aggressive towards other dogs and children"

I think you're overthinking this;
a disaster with this dog is not an "if", it's a "when", & if a Child Protective social worker knew what you've just told us, that toddler would be out of that house tonight.

& I disagree with foisting an aggressive dog off on a "rescue" of another "family".

not fair to the rescue or the family or the dog.

The kindest thing would be to have him euthanized;
call the vet, give the dog a valium before you go in, take one yourself if you need to, & get this over with.

I used to think I could *never* have a healthy pet put down, but I was in a situation nowhere near as dire as yours (no children in the house, but the dog, who had been "aggressive", killed one of my beloved cats).

I had tortured myself about having the dog euthanized, but once it was over, I realized that my overwhelming feeling was...relief.

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 9:04PM
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Seems like things have been blown out of proportion. Instead of basing your decision on what HAS happened, it is all about what MIGHT happen. He growls and bares his teeth. So what. The dog has the capability of attacking and causing harm any time he wants, and he chooses not to. He snapped at the other dog. So what. He had the ability to get into a nasty dogfight and cause serious damage, but he chose not to. I think you need to give your dog more credit and realize he is very capable of doing some really nasty things, but he has made the choice not to. There is also a huge difference between a dog snapping at another dog, and a dog biting a human.

I have 2 dogs. One is timid, the other is aggressive. They are the best of buddies, but occasionally the timid one will overstep his bounds and the aggressive one will snap at him. Then the next second they are back to being buddies again. Who knows what the one dog did to deserve getting snapped at, but it made perfect sense to them. This is just what dogs do. We have never been worried that they will turn on us and eat us alive. That is not going to happen.

OP says he snapped at the other dog and drew blood - what if that were my child? Well there are lots of what ifs in this world. What if your child slips and falls on his own and breaks out his front teeth? Are you going to make him wear a helmet and face mask to prevent this from happening? You're not? Well doesn't that make you a bad parent then? You're so ready to get rid of the dog because he MIGHT attack, but I am certain there are lots of other dangers that you're just going to allow.

And now we're at the point where people are saying the dog should be euthanized. OK, lets get away from the flowery I want to feel good about myself description and call it what it really is. You are now talking about KILLING your dog, who has been a beloved family member for 5 years. Feeling guilty? Good - maybe this will spare his life. Just because you were unsuccessful at turning him around doesn't mean that someone else can't. Just because you don't feel safe with him around children, doesn't mean he will be like this with all children. There is somebody out there who could work with him and turn him around. There are lots of people who have no kids and want dogs, and he may do very well in a household with older kids. To kill him just because you are tired of dealing with it is just selfish. To claim that you are doing it "for him" is a cop-out.

I have had my timid dog since he was a puppy. He is a very sweet dog, and we have never had a problem with him. Our agressive dog came from a shelter when he was 8 months old. We were his 3rd owners. Pretty pathetic, huh? Only 8 months old and already 2 other people had given up on him and probably abused him, and dumped him. When we first got him, he had a lot of problems. He had food agression, he would snap at us, he would snap at the other dog and steal toys from him even though he already had his own toy, he would tear stuffed toys to shreds in a matter of minutes, he would bark and growl ferociously at the vacuum cleaner, he would bark ferociously if you parked your car in a different spot, even though he had see the car mulitple times - he even barked ferociously at a pine tree for the first 2 weeks - he had all kinds of problems. We worked with him for a solid 6 months before he finally snapped out of it, and even after 6 months he would have relapses. There was a moment where we considered giving up on him and taking him back to the shelter. We knew if we did, it could mean his death, and he didn't deserve that. So we pressed on and never gave up, and now I'm very glad. He's the sweetest dog now, you'd never know he had all those problems before. He got a new lease on life, and I got a good buddy. I would never give him up. I think instead of turning a mean, nasty dog into a good one, what we really did was bring out his true personality. I think he was a good dog all along - but the previous owners had mistreated him, and he turned into a mean nasty dog as a way of defending himself. Then when he first came home with us, he suspected we would also be mean to him. It took us a while to earn his trust, and when we finally did, it was well worth it. So we took a dog with 20 times the problems your dog has, and we were just getting to know him - and we were successful. So how is it that you have known your dog for 5 years but he is a lost cause?

I think he has jealousy or attention issues, but could he have medical issues? Maybe he has hip displaysia or arthiritis, and you are forcing him to get more exercise than he really needs. Maybe you are actually causing him more pain. Maybe he is laying around in pain, and then your child comes crawling by, and the dog thinks the child is about to crawl on him and cause him even more pain, so he growls to scare him away.

If you have already made up your mind that he has to go, thats your decision. Maybe you're right, maybe things never will get better. I know the safety of your kids is the most important thing here. I would hope that you would take him to someone else who could help him. He still has the ability to live many more years and have a happy life, and he can provide happiness to his next owner. You're going to do whatever you want to do. My opinions don't really matter. I never said any of these things to be mean to you - I only said things to make you THINK about what you're doing. I know you are smart enough and responsible enough to make the right decision without my advice. I just hope that decision involves keeping him alive.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 12:20AM
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I would contact your vet and see if he/she will help you rehome him, lots of vets are happy to help with this by putting up a sign at the practice. It's a much safer option IMO than something like craigslist where some people just take dogs offering them a home, then sell them for whatever they can get, or worse. That way it's very likely the new owner will be a client of your vet but obviously the new owners need to made aware he is not suitable in a house with children. He could be very suited to a home where the children are much older, or a home without kids but I don't think he is a lost cause, growling and nipping another dog is not the same as an out of control dog that has truly attacked a person or animal. I think once the new baby comes along it's going to be too hard to make working with him a priority.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 1:23AM
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Did you bring your dog in for a checkup. Maybe he's in pain, have you checked his thyroid. Sometimes low thyroid can cause aggression in dogs, just a thought.

If your dog is growling he is warning you to back off. I would be very careful and never leave your baby alone with your dogs.

We have 2 dobes male and female and our grandchild is two years old. We never leave them alone but they are so gentle with her. The three of them sit on the floor and play.

It seems that you have made up your mind to get rid of your dog. I don't want to tell you what to do but would you please think about finding him a home without young children. He doesn't have a bite history and I'm sure he isn't the first dog to give a warning growl to a child and he won't be the last.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 3:49AM
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Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

We've had him thoroughly checked out, and they can't come up with anything other than he is an extremely nervous dog.

I mentioned in the OP that he disliked the treadmill--that may have changed over the last couple of days, when he's run to the treadmill after I put on his leash and stood there waiting for me to turn it on. And in the past, he tried to slowly exit the treadmill, but not the last two days, when he trotted at a pretty good pace for 15 minutes, wagging his tail the whole time. But if he doesn't like it, it's because he doesn't enjoy the treadmill itself--I have no concern that he is in pain when he runs, as he absolutely loves running, whether with our other dog, with me, around in our backyard, at the dog park, etc. When his surroundings are calm (after our son has gone to bed and we're just sitting on the couch) he seems extremely content. And he really has always been this way, that is, nervous when things are a bit crazy, completely content when everything is calm.

He clearly is better behaved when well-exercised. He's better behaved yet when he is well-exercised and has had a chance to sniff around the neighborhood and the like. Unfortunately, better behaved does not mean free from growling, but if he is contently sitting on his dog bed rather than following our son around, that's obviously preferable.

None of these decisions are being taken lightly. If we can be positive that we have found a wonderful new (calm) home for him, that would be a great. (Without a doubt, we will not rehome him unless we can be pretty much certain that the new home will be a better situation, and will certainly not just pawn him off to the first person who asks.) If we can't find a new home, we will have to keep searching for solutions on how to improve his behavior.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 9:02AM
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This reminded me of something I saw long ago. I copied this from the web somewhere, I don't know who really wrote it, and there are different versions.

10 Things Your Dog Would Tell You If he Could Talk

1. My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be painful: remember that before you get me.

2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.

3. Place your trust in me-it is crucial to my well being. I can pick up on what you're feeling and thinking. If I know you do not believe in me, that will make me sad.

4. Do not be angry at me for long, and do not lock me up as punishment.

5. You have your work, your entertainment, and your friends. I only have you.

6. Talk to me often. Even if I don't understand your precise words, I understand your voice when it is speaking to me.

7. Be aware that how ever you treat me, I will never forget.

8. Remember before you hit me that I have sharp teeth and strong jaws that could easily break your skin and crush your bones, but I choose not to bite you because I love you.

9. Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I might not be getting the right food, or I have been out too long, or my heart is getting to old and weak.

10. Take care of me when I get old; you too will grow old. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say: "I cannot bear to watch" or "Let it happen in my absence." Everything is easier for me if you are there, even my death. Remember that I love you.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 9:07AM
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CamG -
I am sorry for the situation your family is in. We have two dogs, who we adopted over the course of two years, and both were adopted before we had kids.

I am also sorry about the negative comments you got here. I wonder, if the dog bites any human, esp. child - does your locality require the dog to be put down? Then it is not a question of "if" , but "when". Separating the dog from the family now could give him a chance of years of good life in a better fit house. Waiting for the worst to happen is like saying "lets see when baby gets his face scarred and the dog will have to be put down."

So here are my thoughts:

- you CAN find good adopted family for your dog. If you find someone in the area, you can always go visit the dog to make sure he is being treated well. We were the onces looking to adopt a dog because we thought "someone out there is trying to get a dog a home", and we found two in two years. Both dogs had been with people who could no longer have them - they loved them, but they could not have them any longer, could not provide good environment for them, could not spend time with them, exercise, etc. When we were going to adopt a second dog, we told the owner that she needs to give us 2 months trial time -- so that if the two dogs don't get along well, we will have to return the new dog because we are obviously more attached to the one we already had. She understood and was very receptive of it. This should be a standard for anyone adopting a dog - you should have a chance to try and return - in case all living creatures can't get along.
- So ask around, post at work, and share with friends and family, etc. -- do all you can until April, when your troubles with double.
- KEEP THE KIDS and DOGS separate. I might suggest you taking a class on pets & kids -- our local hospital offered it as part of parenting class series. So look around on the website for a large local hospital that has maternity classes, ask your OBGYN, etc. At such class, they told us to never let the kid's head/face be on the same level or lower than the dog's head. It has to do with "who is a dominant" question. The dominant has his head higher than the dog. Babies are small and dogs treat their lower position as submission. Put gates that would separate dogs' area from the kids' area in the house.

- Can you try and give your trouble dog a week off at some dog kennel - away from kids, anxiety, and let him get all the attention, exercise, etc that it needs. Then ask the kennel staff to tell you how he behaved with other dogs and other people who are not kids.

- We have two dogs with very different temperament. We were worried that the male dog could become jealous of the baby. So we took extra steps from day one to make sure the dog knew that the baby is a human that needs to be respected. I am glad to say that 19 months later, the dogs love the kid and he likes to feed them and is very proud of this. But we still never leave him alone with the dogs -- one chance is too many.

Good luck, and all the best to your family.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 2:23PM
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I am sorry you are in a very difficult position. Only advice I have is be completely honest with anyone you interview. Be it shelter or possible interested party. Let them visit in your home and see his behavior.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 2:53PM
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Sorry put dog to don't give a biting dog to someone else. There are thousands of good dogs looking for homes. Please don't give your problem to someone else.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 4:01PM
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Does everyone here realize that the leading cause of death for dogs in North America is euthanasia due to behavioral problems? Are there really that many BAD dogs among us?

Killing this, or any other dog with similar issues, should be a last resort, not a pre-emptive cop-out. Every reasonable effort should be made to re-home him with owners who are experienced and motivated to work with him. Not all dogs are suitable for families with young children. It doesn't mean they deserve to die.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 6:59PM
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deleted post

This post was edited by Navin-R-Johnson on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 23:47

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 8:22PM
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To all the posters who advise keeping the dog:

how do you suggest OP lives with herself, how would you live with yourself if your dog, who has been giving you every signal that he will bite (at the very least "bite"), kills the child?

or disfigures/blinds/terrorizes the child?

As I said, even in backwards old Texas, if child welfare learned that a parent kept a dog who had acted aggressively toward a child, that child would be in a shelter tonight.

If you took the child to the hospital with dog bite injuries, you would go to jail, which is where you would belong.

Euthanasia's rating as cause of death has nothing to do with the safety of this child & his soon-to-be sister.

Original Poster is not concerned with statistics;
she's talking about one animal in one family.

Read this from OP's post *emphasis mine*:

"our beloved 5 year old lab/dalmatian mix is
*growling and snarling his teeth at our 1 year old.*

We are due with a daughter on April 1st, so
*we see the kid situation getting worse, not better.*

We were hoping to reduce this behavior using training and exercise, but to no avail.

*The lab has had a year of intense training, and does most commands well, but is still extremely anxious and occasionally aggressive towards other dogs and children.*
We bought a treadmill to exercise him, which I do most days twice a day, and he hates it.

I bought a device to take him on bike rides with me, which he seems to enjoy.

*even after long, intense exercise, the lab will be exhausted, but if my son crawls by, the lab will growl and snarl.*

All of this came to a head recently when we were cooking some hamburger in the kitchen.
The lab was sitting watching us, and our other dog,
*a 2 year old golden, must have startled him--the lab whipped around and bit her on the nose, drawing a bit of blood in one spot.*
*****Had that been our son... I can't even imagine.*****"

She has a dog who responds to children, other dogs, & surprises by threatening & as she now knows by biting, despite her heroic efforts to work with the dog for the past *year*.

Within a very short time, she'll have 2 babies in the household;
it's time to put an end to this.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 5:48PM
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Since it wouldn't be right to expose the children to the risk of dog bite, & it wouldn't be right to foist a problem dog off on a rescue or, God forbid, another unknowing family, how about this:

One of the posters who advises keeping the dog no matter what *can adopt the dog*!!!

Ok, who'll be the first to take the opportunity to own this dog?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 5:51PM
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Just to reinterate, this dog should not be in a family with small children. No ethical shelter or rescue agency would knowingly place such a dog in a family with small children. The fact that some dogs react badly (in human terms) to the stress of being around small children should not earn them an automatic death sentence.

I'm sorry, but the statistics re dog euthanasia are very pertinent. Wayyyyyy too many people have totally unrealistic attitudes about the realities of dog ownership and behavior. It may ease one's conscience to kill a dog by saying it is for the greater good, but it is still killing a dog for behaving like a dog.

Lots of us have adopted dogs which were other people's problems, and now have happy well adjusted pets.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 6:31PM
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Here's what "dog bite" looks like.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photos of what a

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Cam......below is info on the Dalmation breed and I think it'll help you understand why I asked if your dog is more Lab or Dalmation.

Reading the info made me think of something else that could be a problem with your dog. Have you had his vision, and especially his hearing checked? A high-energy dog that has lost, or is losing, its hearing is going to have even more anxiety.

Also, have you ever brought in a behaviorist to work with you and the dog? I feel if you could find a dog behaviorist that will honestly assess both your household and the dog it would help you decide what needs to be done.
For example: you may learn that you, yourself, are a high-energy person and your dog could be reacting to your energy. It's difficult for some people to really see how they're affecting their dogs behavior, so I'd suggest professional help first.
Ask lots of questions about the trainer/behavorist's techniques, otherwise you're wasting your money.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dog breeds

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 12:39PM
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I read that 'bite link' posted by sylvia and as much as my heart goes out to the 3 yr old that was bitten, that incident shows how people have very little knowledge about the dogs they own and it's also an example of where the owner should carry the blame, not the dog. The owner said they had adopted the 2 yr. old Lab only 3 weeks previous yet they left it, unsupervised, in a room with 3 young boys.
Three weeks in a new home, in addition to 3 children, is asking a lot of any matter what the size or breed.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Wow, this thread is taking off.

A couple of things. This clearly isn't a situation of dire danger to the child--our dog has never done anything more than growl at him, and we are always right there. So while we very well may need to get rid of him, simply because we cannot be sufficiently vigilant around the dog and child for the rest of the dog's life, we can be vigilant at least for now.

The dog is half dalmatian, and yes, we have heard a lot about this breed's nervous propensities--but we've also heard from people who have had great success with these dogs as family dogs.

We really have had him thoroughly checked out medically. There are no more options there. His vision and hearing are wonderful--he can spot a pea on the floor from across the room, and hear the sound of a teddy graham hitting the floor from the other side of the house.

I spoke at length with a woman who runs a dog shelter in another state, and she gave us a host of suggestions of how to rehab the dog, including quite a few things we haven't done, such as giving the dog lots of treats and praise when the child is near (we tried this but probably not nearly enough).

One strange thing we've noticed is that when the dog seems agitated, if we keep praising him, he starts licking our son. We will be right there, between the dog's head and our son, and the dog goes from a low growl to lapping out his tongue at our son. The licking is a little aggressive for us, but it is certainly does not seem dangerous. Has anyone seen this kind of thing before? We haven't noticed it previously. Obviously, we aren't going to relax about this or leave him along with our son, but it's an interesting turn of events. It does give me some hope that the dog is working through these issues? I don't know what to make of it.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Well, IMO, praising a dog when he's agitated is just telling the dog that being in that state of mind is a good thing, so I would suggest changing the situation vs encouraging it.
When the dog is going from growling to licking your son, I feel your dog is trying to tell you he's feeling anxious and uncomfortable at that moment and is letting you know that he really doesn't want conflict (by licking) and he doesn't want to be where he is at that moment.
It's very easy to push an anxious dog further into an uncomfortable state, and that is usually when a bite happens.

As for giving lots of treats when he's around your son......I don't think it's a good idea for the dog to associate your son with treat time. If the dog is lying on his bed (or wherever) and is being calm and ignoring your son when he's in the same room, that is when you give him a treat. The dog won't relate the treat to your son, but he will associate the reward to the calm mental state he's in. Calmness=reward

I'm not a professional dog trainer, but these issues are why I still suggest you talk to a professional behaviorist (not the people at pet stores or shelters).

This post was edited by annz on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 20:11

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 1:22PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Cam, you have the very best of intentions and I admire you for that, but, that doesn't mean you are interpreting the issues correctly and I agree with everything Annz said.
Don't associate treats and rewards with your son, to start with and don't think you know exactly what is going on.
Please consult a professional dog trainer.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 7:43PM
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Feel free to contact me if you'd like a referral to a good trainer in your area. I'll bet we can find one that specializes in the dogs and storks program or something similar.

Sigh. This is the reason your typical force based advice or trainer is so dangerous. Avoidance training makes the dog comply due to avoidance of aversive punishment, it suppress their attempts to communicate to you when they're uncomfortable. So they're suppress, they'll suppress, they'll suppress until they're just so uncomfortable that they're willing to risk acting out. By this point, they usually won't even give you warnings anymore because they've been suppressed. Then people like to say that the dog is "crazy" or "vicious" or "unpredictable" when the dog is just trying to communicate and the people aren't listening. Due to not wanting to pay attention or not knowing how to interpret their communication.

And exercising the heck out of a dog doesn't solve most problems. In fact, it can make the dog tired and cranky in addition to what was already bothering them. Look at it this way, if you're afraid of spiders, you're probably still going to be afraid of spiders whether you're tired or not.

What's more, so much exercise will build stamina and your dog will require more and more to be able to tire him out. How many miles can you go? How many hours are you going to stick him on a treadmill? Which is a potentially dangerous and very boring endeavor for a dog.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 4:55AM
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Here's a good indication of the problem right here.

You claim that because the dog was wagging his tail, that means that he likes the treadmill now?

You need to learn about dog body language NOW if you're going to keep your dog under threshold. Tail wagging doesn't mean that a dog is happy. Dogs can wag when they're being aggressive or worried or just relaxed OR happy.

It's my guess that your dog is fearful and is over threshold much of the time and you don't know how to see when you're putting him over threshold so he's worked up almost constantly. Can you imagine the havoc that stress is playing on his mind and body? No wonder he has to progress past just warnings to snapping.

You need to learn how to communicate with your dog. Again, my offer of referring you to a good trainer stands. Someone with an education and experience to get you the results you need.

In the meantime, please look over these series of body language videos by Dr. Jean Donaldson. Study them.,d.dmQ

In addition, go to to learn about keeping your dog calm.

Keep your dog OUT of the kitchen when food is out or being prepared. It's possible that your dog was resource guarding and became defensive against your other dog. Could merely have been a warning but your other dog got too close and got nicked.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 5:18AM
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CamG - I have successfully used a strong, non-alcoholic extract of valerian for anxious cats. One was a serval hybrid that was ripping doors apart and now he merely growls at the doors occasionally. (He's still being socialized).

It lowers the anxiety level without affecting alertness or coordination (not like most tranquilizers). It also has a wide range of dose effectiveness and a very low toxicity.

If he can get a couple of months of low-anxiety interactions with you and the child, build up some positive experiences, he may stop feeling anxious in those circumstances.

Send me an e-mail if you want the research documents.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 6:06AM
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I know you have had alot of suggestions and advice. I have a couple of questions to ask. Does your dog have any medical issues? Has the dog been to the vet recently? When does the behavior occur? Is it anytime the child goes near the dog, or is it when the child is paying with the dog - the more specific you can get here the better.
Next, how much traiing has the dog had? Is it allowed to go on furniture? Have you been consistent with the dog in its training? IE - Do you make the dog sit every time you go out a door, and do you go out first?
So, if you dont know when the growling starts - find out. Then I suggest putting the dog on a leash and tying the leash to you while you are in the house. This is kind of a pain in the @$$ but it can be essential in regaining ground in your dogs mind. You need not make any verbal commands to the dog while this is going on, just go about your business with the dog tied to you, I use a belt loop. As this is going on I would make certain that whenever the dog and the kid are with each other that the dog is behaving properly, the SECOND the dog starts to tense, snarl, growl or react inappropriately, the dog gets reprimanded and REMOVED from the room IMMEDIATELY. The dog should be brought back into the same area as the child and if the behavior returns, another reprimand (nothing emotionally filled or over the top, a firm NO, is in order a snap of the choke chain (best to use) and removal again and again until the dog gets it. It is best to leave a leash on the dog while in the house, If you are worried about it getting caught on furniture, roll it up and tie it with a sturdy rubber band or piece of cloth.
You need to work with the child as well. If the kid is being too rambuncous with the dog, teach it about moving slowly near an animal - no matter who the animal belongs to and being gentle. Next the kid can not show or feel fearful or nothing will work. Find out how the kid feels about the dog. Next start slowly, after a week of walking around with the dog attached to you and more discipline start slowly reintroducing the kid and the dog, start with placing a treat near the kid - the child should be in a calm space and be willing to work on this. Place a cookie on the floor near where the child is, and gradually work closer to the kid, eventually you want to have the dog and the kid be in a respectful and positive place with each other, giving the dog treats is a good start. Let the forum know how everything is going and if you are experiencing any difficulties and hopefully we can help work out any kinks you might be having. Good Luck, Stay positive and try not to yell or get frustrated, a calm mind and energy helps loads

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 3:15PM
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Good lord, punishing the dog for growling, snarling, lip lifts and other forms of communication that the dog is trying to tell you when they're uncomfortable? You do realize that all these are WARNINGS and COMMUNICATION, right? It's incredibly unsafe and makes no sense to punish communication so a dog just goes straight to biting instead.

OP, please do NOT heed this dangerous advice. Do you want a warning when the dog might bite or do you want a dog that bites with no warning?

I'm also quite confused what a dog being allowed on the furniture and not sitting at doors and the person walking out first has to do with anything. It's kind of hard to go out a door first when you have to hold the door for the dog who doesn't have opposable thumbs. Sitting at doors instead of bolting out makes good safety sense but what does it have to do with this child related fear issue? And I'm just at a loss what the furniture has to do with anything unless the aggression is taking place when the dog or the child is on the furniture.

Snapping a choke chain on the dog's neck while the dog is near the child is again, more dangerous advice. The dog already doesn't feel comfortable around the child and choking and yanking on the dog's neck is supposed to remedy this somehow? PLEASE learn a little something about how dogs learn before going and giving such dangerous advice. Dogs are associative learners. Snapping a choke chain near the child is just making the dog form YET ANOTHER negative association with the child. You would be ASKING your dog to become worse if you do this.

This advice is just unreal and so incredibly dangerous. I hope for your child's wellbeing that you don't follow it. It's crazy to suggest shutting down your dog's communication attempts and adding more for the dog to fear from being near the child when the dog already isn't comfortable near him/her.

Some common sense PLEASE for this innocent child's safety.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 3:53PM
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I usually dont reply to those who disagree with my suggestions, since there are a thousand ways to train a dog. I just dealt with this very issue with another persons dog, and within a week the dog stopped biting and snapping at its owner and their kids.
Minnamouse - you are confusing punishment with corrective training, the two are completely different.
You wrote
I'm also quite confused what a dog being allowed on the furniture and not sitting at doors and the person walking out first has to do with anything.

Its okay to be confused about this training. Im sorry I dont have the time or energy to teach you over the internet the whys and wherefores of this method of training.

It's kind of hard to go out a door first when you have to hold the door for the dog who doesn't have opposable thumbs.

Actually if a dog is put in a sit stay position, an owner should always go out a door or gate first, putting the dog into a sit stay position once on the other side of the doorway or gate - this should be followed at the car as well. It keeps a dog in a calm place where there is alot of activity and will teach a dog not to bolt. It is very important,

Sitting at doors instead of bolting out makes good safety sense but what does it have to do with this child related fear issue?

You are assuming the dog is responding to the child in fear, which is why I asked about vet care and health, there may be a health problem with this dog, the dog might also be reacting out of territory or some other emotion. Growling and snapping is not always a fear based response.

And I'm just at a loss what the furniture has to do with anything unless the aggression is taking place when the dog or the child is on the furniture.

Again, it is okay for you to be at a loss, it is not necessary for you to understand training techniques you wont be using on your dog which does not have the issues this dog does.

Snapping a choke chain on the dog's neck while the dog is near the child is again, more dangerous advice. The dog already doesn't feel comfortable around the child and choking and yanking on the dog's neck is supposed to remedy this somehow?

Huge assumption that the dog does not feel comfortable around the child, and I did not advise anyone to "yank" or "choke" a dog around. Unwanted or aggressive behaviors in their infancy are best dealt with by corrective measures.
A little education might help you - the choke chain was invented to mimic the corrective "bite" of another more elder dog in a family unit. Done correctly, a very quick snap of the chain and as quick a release is a very effective and non abusinve tool to "remind" a dog its behavior is unwanted or inappropriate.

PLEASE learn a little something about how dogs learn before going and giving such dangerous advice. Dogs are associative learners. Snapping a choke chain near the child is just making the dog form YET ANOTHER negative association with the child. You would be ASKING your dog to become worse if you do this.

If this was such dangerous and ineffective advice that I did not know worked, I would not use it. I use these techniques on a regular basis with dogs which have exhibited biting and snapping behaviors and within one week both myself and the owners have seen positive results in the dogs behavior.

As I have written before, there are a thousand different ways to train a dog, do what works for you, labelling someone elses training techniques "dangerous" because you dont believe in or agree with them is not helpful and is fear based.

In the last year alone I have worked with dogs that have exhibited fear based aggression and aggression which was unwittingly fostered by the owners, which is why I asked the OP to check to see what interaction was happening between the animal and the child to determine why the dog was behaving so aggressively. There have been posts here in the past when the dog exhibited aggressive behavior and it turned out it was due to the child being too rough with the dog, which requires a completely different set of training techniques than a fear based issue.

Try and be more helpful in the future. You dont have to agree or understand everything here, we are all here to help each other which I have been doing for years without issue. Ultimately this is a place for suggestions - hopefully those suggestions are based on facts and experience, which is how I answer all of the posts I choose to answer.
Ultimately we can only assess the OPs situation from afar, which is why I ask alot of questions before making suggestions. Since there are potentially tens of variables in each case.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 2:22AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Mazer et al, ms_minnamouse is a youngish person with several emotional issues who still lives at home with her parents due to those mental issues. It's the wishful fantasy thinking coming out that this person is an expert at anything when it comes to animal training, although she regurgitates many things that she's swallowed wholesale. She may mean well, but there is no real experience or underlying understanding of the parroted material.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 11:00AM
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You haven't answered ANY of my questions, you've just avoided or skirted around giving actual answers.

You also continue to give wildly dangerous and also just irrelevant advice, most of it not just dangerous but also beyond common sense.

I know it must make you feel important to "dominate" your dogs but it's sad that you feel the need to boost your esteem that way and ruin your relationships with your dogs.

I'm pursuing my PHD in animal behavioral sciences. I've also been training various species of animals my entire adult life. Some too large to be bullied into compliance. I also specialize in rescue animals with severe behavioral issues. I know a little more than your average Joe Petowner or backyard dog trainer.

This profession REALLY needs to be regulated so backyard dog trainers will stop going around giving such dangerous advice. The life of an innocent child and this poor dog is in serious jeopardy with your dangerous advice. You're advising the OP to silence this dog's attempts at communication. If the dog was comfortable around the child, the dog wouldn't be lip lifting, snarking and growling. The fact that this dog is uncomfortable is a given, not an assumption. A comfortable dog doesn't give warnings of impending aggression.

That's all I'm going to say on the matter. You can continue arguing amongst yourself. And trying to deflect fact with your ad-hominem insults against me.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Holly, Many thanks. I have been using this forum for years and years and years, have run into similar attitudes, I dont take em personally, I do try and educate those who are interested in learning.
OP - If you feel uncertain about any training echniques, call your local animal shelter, see if they have any positive reinforcement trainers - I wish I lived nearby - we could fix this in a jiffy.
Good luck to the OP, Thanks to everyone else. I love this forum, loe helping owners live more comfortably with their pets.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 1:21PM
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Exactly what is the problem with "dominance"? In the context of living in harmony with our dogs, we as owners/handlers have to provide leadership, decision making skills, and own ultimate responsiblity for the safety and well-being of all parties. If you don't recognize this as a positive and appropriate definition of dominance, then maybe you better go and buy yourself a dictionary!

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 6:31PM
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The idea behind not letting the dog go through the door first isn't dominance, really, it's letting the dog know who is #1 in the pack. That's who they obey. If the dog is handed that role, it may not be able to handle it, and lots of problems develop then. People who don't know this, and let them take the leadership role when they are young pups and aren't psychologically mature enough for it, causes a lot of confusion, and the dog tries to take the role but can't.

Dogs need to know who the leader of the pack is, and simply telling the dog who's in charge by going through the door before the dog can help solve a lot of problems. I've been there with that one.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 7:37AM
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We are not dogs. Dogs are not people. Dogs are not wolves. It's time people stop pretending to be an expert when they know very little on the topic and it's sad to learn that people think people are such stupid beasts as to not know the difference between humans and themselves. There's a reason why the leading behavior experts in this field all say that domestic dogs don't form packs. These are veterinary behaviorists, real behaviorist with degrees in behavioral science, ethologists, ecologists, and the list goes on of accredited individuals who don't agree with the pop culture of dogs are wolves and must be dominated by their human pack leaders.. These people work with and study countless dogs as well as also wolves and other canid species.

It's time people learn what dominance actually is before continuing to throw around a term incorrectly.

For pack:

The list from REPUTABLE experts with both the experience and education backing the right to call themselves that goes on and on and on.

OR, you can choose to live in the past and still accept outdated, incorrect theories. Have fun.

Please don't let this child be killed due to the dangerous advice of punishing your dog for growling instead of listening and fixing the CAUSE for the growl instead of just the SYMPTOM of the behavior. Fix the cause and the symptoms will fall by the way side. It's simple learning theory 101 as pertaining to domestic dogs.

I'm done with this thread. I want no part in the potential harm of this innocent child and stressed dog.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 1:47PM
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If you don't think domestic dogs ever form packs, you've never been at a busy fenced dog park when the owners are chatting/drinking coffee in the parking lot.... It's a very scary place.

And I don't see why you think it unhelpful for a dog to learn commands and to obey them unconditionally. I cannot think of a single circumstance where it would fail to enhance everyone's safety and comfort.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 5:49PM
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I will offer advice based on my own experience.

First of all, I don't really believe that there is a one-size-fits-all solution for all dogs and all situations. I do believe that your dog needs to know that you are the boss. I do not, however, like to hear people talk of "domination" or "pack leader."

You must, first and foremost, protect your child. I would think that a terrible bite on a child could happen in a matter of seconds, and you would not be able to sufficiently intervene in time. Just because it has "never" happened before, doesn't mean it can't. You have to exercise reasonable caution.

I would guess that he is stressed from the change of having a baby in the house. This can be a major adjustment for some dogs and dealing with a dog undergoing this stress has been well documented. One of my favorite dog behaviorists is Dr. Dodman. I'm attaching a link below to his books. If you google his name, you'll see that he offers advice as a guest on many websites and programs, too. He is not a fan of Cesar Milan's methods.

Taking him on bike rides and walks is great! We used to babysit a Dalmatian and they are definitely hyper dogs. Giving him that exercise can only be good. I also think that making a dog perform SOME subservient type things like allowing you out the door first reinforces that you are the boss, but being super dominant to the point of scaring a dog or breaking its spirit isn't very constructive, IMHO.

My dog was an Irish Wolfhound, adopted at 5 months. He would growl at the kids if they walked near him when he was chewing on a chewy or eating. I think this is innate behavior. Not at my husband or me, just the kids. Perhaps he felt that they were competition bc of their size. Perhaps he just respected us more as the bosses. When he would exhibit this behavior, we would immediately scold him and take away his treat. We then worked on the "leave it" command with the treats (not the food), where he would only be allowed to have the treat when we said it was ok, even if it was laying right next to him. We wanted him to lose the proprietary feeling toward the treat. Within a safe distance, and with both of us supervising, we would have the oldest child (12) walk near the dog and immediately scold him and take away the treat if he showed any signs of aggression. We then did this with the younger child (7). Eventually, we were able to shorten the distance and ultimately taught him to allow the kids to actually take the treat away. He eventually learned that aggressive behavior was unacceptable and where he landed in the hierarchy. Now - he was a puppy at the time first of all, AND the kids were older. This was my experience with my dog. I had a neighbor who bought a St. Bernard as a puppy and the minute it showed any aggression toward her daughter, she had it put to sleep, saying that a dog is either docile or not. So there are differing opinions on what can be taught, at what age, and to what breed. That's why I encourage you to read material by some respected behaviorists and try some initial related training to see how successful you are.

Training a dog is highly dependent on timing and clarity so that they can understand exactly what you want them to do. And it requires a lot of consistent repetition.

CamG, you sound very intelligent and sensitive to me. If, after reasonable efforts, your dog cannot be trained appropriately, you may have to find him a new home. Having to make that decision is the last resort, of course, but may be necessary in YOUR situation. Rather than CL, it might be better to turn your dog over to a no-kill shelter that will have adoption safeguards in place. I do hope you can keep him as a member of your family, tho. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 6:03PM
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Hi Cam,
I returned to the Pets Forum today after being gone for several years. I read your story and I agree that the humans involved come first. However, I do understand that you have a commitment to your dog. I see that you took the dog in for a check up. Please call the vet and ask if they did a thyroid check. I know that my Casey became increasingly aggressive and he guarded resources - like food being cooked in the kitchen - for a year to a year and a half before we found out that he likely had a brain tumor (our hint was the seizures that hit him pre-dawn on Christmas Eve) and the hypothyroidism that we discovered after I insisted that this be checked,too. Once treated for the hypothyroidism with synthetic thyroid hormones, he was much better. Prednisone decreased the pressure and swelling in his brain, and that helped his behavior, too. Lastly, we added Melatonin to his meals morning and night to help him keep his temper down. Also, some people swear by Bach Flower Remedies.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 2:40AM
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