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Dog’s behaviour with my toddler

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Linds1984, Feb 12, 2020.


  1. Linds1984

    Linds1984 PetForums Newbie

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    I need help/advice on what to do next about my 5 year old cockapoo. She’s never been great around small children as she can be a nervous dog. But then we had our daughter in September 2018 and did everything correctly at the beginning letting her smell her clothes before she came home letting her in same room etc.
    All was well up until the baby was about 5/6 months when she started to move about more. The dog will snap at her when she touches her (gently) or can get too close or for example fell over once and landed almost on her (accidentally) and she snapped at her. When I say snap I mean really loudly and aggressively as in this isn’t my soft cuddly dog it’s an evil nasty dog. I’ve got loads of questions and concerns as in has she still not accepted her into the pack? Is this snapping a warning sign or something more? She’s 17 months now so thought by now she would be fine with her. It’s not happened for a good couple of months but then happened again tonight. My daughter was stood next to her in kitchen with me and stroked her on her back she just turned to her and changed. She snapped and her mouth went as if she wanted to hit her (didn’t btw) but was in her face and it was very loud. She really scared my daughter and me too. I don’t want my child to be scared of the dog. We just can’t work out what the problem is 90% of the time she will take food off my daughter, licks her constantly and her tail is wagging and they chase each other around. A while ago we got some advice from a dog person but he wasn’t an expert in dog behaviour and his advice was to just keep them separate but that was it. I don’t think that’s correct thing to do because my dog can be a needy dog and shutting her out can upset her and I don’t want her to feel pushed out or make the situation worse. I just really worry all the time about it and know it doesn’t happen all the time but when i feel everything's ok it seems to happen again and it does really upsets me and I feel we’ve gone 3 steps back. Please please any help/advice on what to do best for our situation and why my dog does this/reacts like this. Thanks
     
  2. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    Please, for your child's safety, do keep them separate. I really think you need professional advice here, it's not something any of us would be comfortable advising on when a child is at risk of a bite. We can certainly speculate that your toddler may have moved suddenly in such a way the dog feared she was going to hurt her and the snap is a warning to back off. But as your daughter is too young to understand and take heed of that warning, you must separate them until and unless you can fix this - and that's why you need a good behaviourist.

    We can tell you about the signs dogs give to show they are anxious and how they escalate to a snap then a bite (image below, although we prefer the term ”ladder of anxiety”) but really it's academic. You are where you are.

    We can also say it's unlikely to be this, pack theory is disproved so in looking for a behaviourist, avoid anyone who speaks about alpha, dominance and pack theory. Look instead for someone who uses positive and force free methods. Your dog is almost certainly acting out of anxiety so you need someone who won't make that worse. If you say roughly where in the country you are, someone may have a suggestion. Also your insurance may cover the cost.

    But meantime, for the safety of both your daughter and your dog, please do keep them separate.

    downloadfile.jpg
     
  3. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Hi Linds :)
    It is not unusual for a dog who seems to accept a baby to be more than a little displeased when the blob starts moving about. We had twins, and one of our dogs thought they were the best thing ever until they started moving and which point he looked at me, totally horrified. It took him years to forgive me for that trick. It wasn't until the kids were around 5 or 6 that he finally started being okay-ish with them again.

    Babies move about strangely, they wobble, they fall, they're unpredictable in what direction they're going, they're essentially a nervous dog's worse nightmare.
    With the help of a good behaviorist, you can teach a nervous dog some coping skills, like that they can move away from the baby. You can implement management strategies, baby free zones that the dog knows are her safe places, but she will likely never be thrilled about the baby until said baby grows up a good bit, starts moving and acting more human, and the dog has developed a long history of trust.

    As already mentioned, this is something best advised in person, not over the internet. If you can share your general location, perhaps a member can recommend a professional in your area.

    In the meantime, definitely keep baby and dog separated. Create some safe places in the house where your dog knows she will not be disturbed, ever, by the baby. Teach her to go to those places.
    This is a great blog on dogs and babies, might be worth a read too:
    http://www.dogsandbabieslearning.com/
     
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  4. Linds1984

    Linds1984 PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for this and can I ask if you know how to properly tell the dog off correctly?
     
  5. SusieRainbow

    SusieRainbow Moderator
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    What would you tell her off for exactly?
    There isn't really a correct way to tell a dog off. Once the misdeed is done the dog will not associate being told off with it, she will just note your disapproval and feel confused. The best training methods rely on positive reinforcement - praise the good behaviour, prevent or ignore the undesired behaviour.Obviously if it's a behaviour that puts anyone at risk of physical harm it should be prevented at all costs.
     
    #5 SusieRainbow, Feb 13, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
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  6. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

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    Absolutely as @SusieRainbow says.

    Worst case scenario is that your dog associates the baby’s presence with being told off.
     
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  7. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    Don’t tell the dog off. She is trying to communicate her anxieties and you need to recognise her signals. If you punish her for that she could feel pushed to escalate and bite to “protect” herself.

    Avoid the dog being in situations where she feels unhappy/anxious/scared. That’s where baby gates can be useful to keep your daughter out of the dog’s space when you aren’t 100% focused. That’s when accidents can happen.

    If you leave the room, take one or other of them with you.

    You will see on the ladder chart that growling and snapping are way up the scale which means she will have been giving lots of signals beforehand.

    These signals are subtle and often missed but this can lead the dog to feel overwhelmed and to escalate their behaviours.

    If you manage the situation in a way the dog is “protected” from unwanted attention from your daughter it may be as she gets older and calmer (and more able to understand how to behave around the dog etc) your dog will not feel so vulnerable.
     
  8. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    Absolutely agree with the others. Don't tell her off, listen to her.
     
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  9. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    If the goal is to get her to be safer with your toddler, telling her off is not how you're going to achieve this goal.
    If the goal is to get her to stop snapping at your toddler, go ahead and tell her off. But know that she will skip the snapping step on the ladder of aggression and go higher up - note that the next step is to bite.
    IOW, a great way to escalate your dog to the biting level on that ladder of aggression is to tell her off for snapping.

    The way you make a dog safer with a toddler is help the dog feel safe around the toddler. This is where you really do need some help from a professional. Are you having any success finding one? Can we help?
     
  10. Linds1984

    Linds1984 PetForums Newbie

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    Little bit confused on the first bit that you’re saying-
    ]If the goal is to get her to be safer with your toddler, telling her off is not how you're going to achieve this goal.
    If the goal is to get her to stop snapping at your toddler, go ahead and tell her off.
    I’m looking into my vet for help in maybe referring us. Thank you though for your help.
     
  11. JoanneF

    JoanneF PetForums VIP

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    What @O2.0 means is that you could tell her off and she may stop snapping - but she likely won't stop because she is going to be nice and go down the ladder in the picture, she will likely go the other way and make things worse by pushing the snap upwards to a bite.
     
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  12. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    What I'm saying is don't tell her off.

    I'm surprised that after the two detailed posts responding to your issue, both telling you to seek professional help, keep the dog and child separated, and that dog is most likely acting out of nervousness and anxiety, your first (and only) question is how to tell her off properly.

    Think of yourself when your nervous or anxious, or afraid even. Would a telling off help you feel any better?
    Would a telling off calm your nerves, ease your anxieties?
    Now make that someone a person you find hard to understand, who's not always predictable, who sometimes acts in confusing ways - and that's the person telling you off. How are you feeling now? Even worse probably.

    Don't tell your dog off.
     
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