Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: MB, Canada
Re: Advice please! Adopted dog is aggressive toward kids
It's definitely nothing you've done to cause this. In fact, I really believe that her being with a bunch of other dogs and not people is what caused it - dogs can very easily fall back into a "pack" frame of mind, and that can be very scary.
In a pack, she has been used to being aggressive to get her way, to ensure survival (not literally, but primal instinct kinda thing, kwim?). Unless they were separated, for example, her getting food to eat would be dependent on her being aggressive and pushing other dogs aside.
She may or may not unlearn that behaviour, but at only 6 months old there's a really good chance of retraining her. I don't know if I would want her around my children. It kinda sounds like she would be better suited for a home with no children. Although that still kinda bothers me, as people will take their dog out in public and act like kids shouldn't be interested in the dog - not fair to either the dog or the kids, IMO.
I don't really agree with the other posters - I mean, I can see giving her her own space where the kids are to stay away from... but at the same time I wouldn't want to encourage her being territorial.
In our house, our dog is the family dog, our pet... everyone's pet, not just the adults'. He is expected to put up with a lot of crap from the kids - not abuse, but normal kid stuff.
We first got Myles before we had kids, and we tried to train him for the kids - like, we would pat him harder than normal (not hitting, but not really gentle pats), pulling his ears or lips or tail when he walked past us, wrestling with him and pinning him on the ground - and always always always praised him with words and nice pets and treats when he didn't react at all to our behaviour. Also, he was always made to do a trick to get fed, and while he was eating we would "steal" his food, put our hands in the bowl, push him aside.
I know it sounds kinda mean... but we tried to think of anything a little kid (really, thinking of a crawling/toddling baby) may do to him, and it's made for an awesome dog that we've never had to worry about with the kids at any age.
All that to say, maybe some training like that would help with her - the unfortunate thing is that it really can't be the kids doing these things, it would have to be you and DH at the beginning. You and your DH need to set yourself as her masters - she needs to be submissive and obedient to you. Again, it sounds mean, but it's how dogs will act amongst themselves - wrestle with her, do not let her win, pin her on the ground with your face/hand on her throat. When she stops struggling, let her up, and give her TONS of praise. This is what pups are doing when they playfight - establishing dominance. I would be prepared to get nipped or snapped at in the beginning, especially where she's all ready snapping at the kids.
Then having the kids do tricks training with her may help - they would make sure to give her a treat, lots of pets and praise for obeying, this would make her associate them with good things - but they wouldn't be able to do that at this point.
Reread your post there - do not let her get away with growling either. Yes, it is a warning. And that's a perfect rule for general dogs that we don't know. But the family dog should never be growling at anyone in the family.
Our dog will never growl at us - the only times he has ever growled at us, funny enough, were when DH has been playing rough with the kids, the kids scream, and the dog would growl at DH. We dealt with it and he knows now that we are not going to hurt the children - his growls were a warning that he was willing to protect his kids, which is what we want, but not against us. He also will growl at the window if strangers come in the yard and DH is not home.
These growls, against strangers, we... sorta encourage. We come to see who it is, give him a pet and say "Okay boy, I see him", and then we tell him to stop growling.