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Dog Growling at Baby

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Someone recently wrote to me for advice on a situation developing between her dog and her baby. When such a problem arises, I think you need to teach the baby that he may NOT sit on the dog, pull ears, bother the dog when it's lying down, hit it with toys, and so on. You can't do this with punishment, babies can't learn that way; but you can do it. The dog needs to learn to get up and leave if bothered; but the baby needs to experience being removed, gently but firmly, from the dog, long BEFORE the dog has become irritated to the point of growling. "Leave the dog alone," is the word, in my family. Maybe babies can't understand it, but toddlers sure can, and in any case the parent needs to be the one who is ALWAYS paying attention, and physically splits up the dog/baby interaction as soon as the baby becomes intrusive.

If being impolite to the dog always leads to being removed from the dog, children learn to be gentle with dogs, even when they are tots. The dog shouldn't have to be brought to the point of defending itself from the child; that's your job. And the child doesn't understand the dog's feelings, so teaching him to do so is your job, too.

s a mom and stepmom and grandmother, with jillions of dogs and jillions of kids over a lot of years, this is what I've done, and no trouble has ever occurred. Dogs ranged from teacup toy poodles to great Danes. With visiting children I keep an even sharper eye, and put the dogs away if the child shows signs of being rough. Since the dogs expect support if troubled, they tend to be very patient with visitors.

The only time I ever got a scare was when a two-to-three-year-old male visitor got under the table during dinner and grabbed my Border terrier firmly by the whiskers with both hands. She cried, and dragged him to me to have him removed. It was a job, too, he really tightened his fists, and he and his parents thought it was funny until I rebuked him harshly enough to make him cry and let go.

It scared me; Borders have tremendously powerful jaws for their size. I was proud of her for crying instead of snapping; I know it hurt. The dog was happy to be shut in the bedroom, and the parents never brought that kid back to my house, which was all right with me!

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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

totally agree

I had a very mellow dog and she would  just take the abuse from the kids that came by. I would firmly say no (to the kids) and the parents would get REALLY upset. One day a bunch of kids were at my house and cornered my dog and they were screaming and laughing... My dog let out a small growl and to my suprise the all the kids laughed! Then they tried to poke my dog. I lost it at that moment and told the kids to all sit down and not talk for 10 minutes (time out) and I informed the parents. I was so suprised that the parents did not give the children any education about being around a dog. In fact I was the one that had to educate the kids but they weren't listening. Then I got yelled at by my mom... for being rude to the children. But I say it was worth it. My dog is my responsibility and I have to protect her.

My dog growled at my 10 month old baby

My 7 year old dog Sadi is mourning over the loss of my precious lab a week ago. Duke was 10 when he died. He was the alpha. Sadi hasn't been separated from Duke her entire life. She is so devastated she barley eats, she mopes and howls all the time.

Today my 10 month old baby was crawling towards her when she let out a pretty scary growl. She did this on two separate occasions. I'm scared to death that she will hurt my baby. At the same time I would be crushed if I had to giver her up. I just lost my best friend Duke, I cant loose Sadi too.

Is there a way to safely deal with this situation so I can keep my family intact?

Thank you,


What about growling for dominance?

My dog growls at children and other dogs to assert dominance (and to tell them to leave him alone). For example, he was given up by his previous owner for growling at their 6 month old infant and 4yr old niece and nephew just because they were around. He also growls at my boyfriend's dogs even when at their house in order to get the 'best' place to sleep and make them leave him alone and be antisocial. This article seems to say it's usually the children's fault and if you train them it will go away, but this is my dog being dominant and bossy. What to do?

trainer@caninesinaction.com's picture


I am amazed by the number of people who see no need to teach their children responsibility and respect, much less caution....

Growling is information -- the dog is communicating. The dog has a need. I don't punish information! I act upon it. The dog and the baby need equal amounts of instruction on how to handle this interaction.

Laura &

  • Ascomannis Laevatein YTT RL1 CD-H CGC (www.clickertraining.com/blog/179)
  • Inky (couch dog!)

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