Our lab mix rescue dog becomes very agitated when babies or toddlers are in the house. If he can't reach them, he circles and whines. If he can get to them, he pounces - I'm not sure if he wants to play or what. It doesn't seem as if he is being aggressive but, of course, he hurts the child because he knocks him or her down. We've tried everything we can think of - any suggestions?
Type of Animal: Lab?
Pet's Gender: Male
Pet's Age: 5
Name of Dog: Zeke
"Owning" the child by standing between him or her and Zeke, tranquilizing him, putting him upstairs or outside, squirting with water.
CustomerHow long have you owned this rescue?Is Zeke neutered?Are the children visitors to the home or full time residents?What training has Zeke had?Is the baby crying or the kids being loud like kids do, shrieking or making high pitched noises?Are the children running around?Does he ever growl at them or just pounce at them?
Did you receive my reply?
CustomerNo I did not receive your reply.
I don't think my first reply went through so I'll repeat ... We've owned Zeke for approximately 4 years. He is neutered. Only one child regularly visits the house - a 20 month old girl, Trinity. When she was a baby, Zeke was only bothered if Trinity cried or made any noises. Now that she is walking around though, Zeke whines, barks, and goes for her no matter what she is doing, even if she is just sitting down playing with something. Zeke doesn't growl, but he scares her and knocks her down. At times it seems like he wants to hump her.No official training - Zeke was first rescued by friends of ours who couldn't control him so took him to our vet. He bit them and was wild. One of the techs took him home and disciplined him - it worked in that Zeke didn't bite anymore and listened to some commands but I think the tech was very physical with Zeke. We took Zeke when the tech moved to an apt. that didn't allow pets. He is fairly well-behaved except for when Trinity is over here. BTW, our daughter is a newly- graduated vet and she has run out of ideas too. Most recently we gave Zeke tranquiliers before the guests came over; Zeke stumbled around and was clumsy, but still tried to get at Trinity. He scratched her several times when we were unable to head him off.
CustomerThanks for your reply. I wanted to give you a short reply to let you know that it might take me abut 30 minutes to type up a reply for you since it is geared strictly toward your situation.
OK. No hurry.
CustomerBehavior is something that can take quite a few years to understand. Dogs reprimand each other by growling and when they are playing, they make high pitched noises and yips to indicate that they want to play. They also tend to lower their front end and raise their back ends and bounce or pounce toward their potential playmate. So it may just be that he wants to play with the children or know what is wrong to cause a baby to cry. That type of behavior is relatively normal. Additonally, a dog might recognize the adults in a family as being over him in the pack order, but children might not be afforded the same respect that the adults are. Thus a more dominant dog might attempt to reprimand children for perceived wrong doings like grabbing the dogs toys or entering the dog's personal space. In some cases, dogs will even attempt to "herd" children where they want them to be.While it is nice to have a general idea why a dog is displaying a behavior, it is better to have a way to stop the behavior. It can be corrected, but is going to take a lot of work incorporating both negative and positive reinforcement. You are going to need to gain total control over him which will require obedience training. I suggest that you enroll him in an obedience class at a minimum. Before you can get into classes, I am including links to a couple of other sites that teach some good methods of training. Be sure and read both.
The following site is helpful. Be sure and click on the link to the left on obedience. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.
Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.
You will also want to keep a leash on him at all times initially to grab if he should disobey. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with training. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. Give this a try and see how it works for you.
Obedience training will help you gain some control over him as you can command him to sit and stay. However, obedience training alone won't stop the behavior. You will need to go one step further. It will be helpful if you can have Trinity over to help you once you have your dog listening to commands. What you will do is have your dog on the leash. You will have Trinity off in the distance a little with her mom. Trinity's mom will gradually move Trinity a bit closer to you preferably walking past your position in the distance. As long as your dog ignores them, you can give your dog praise and a treat. The second you see her fixate on Trinity or another child or show any other sign of aggression (hair standing up, etc.) or fixation, give your dog a correction by giving a short tug and a firm low toned "NO". It shouldn't take your dog long to realize you will not tolerate the behavior and that if she ignores the children, she gets treats. Once this happens you can repeat the training moving the child closer until she is no longer trying to lunge at Trinity or other children. You will need to practice this when you and your dog are walking as well. You will have to be consistent and if you have already done some work on obedience, he will already expect treats for listening and understand that a short tug and firm "NO" means undesired behavior and treats signal desired behavior. It isn't a quick fix and will likely take months of work to correct but you can correct it.
You should also try and desensitize him to the sound of crying babies by supplying a good amount of treats to give him when you hear the baby crying. the treats can keep him focused on you rather than the crying and also start him associating a crying baby with coming to your for treats rather than rushing to find the cause of the crying.
In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques on the previous website, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.
I hope my information is helpful to you. If you need further information please feel free to reply.
If you have questions in the future that you wish me to answer, you may click here and bookmark the page or make it a favorite. It is best to put my name "JANE" in the question as well.
Since there have been recalls on certain foods, please check the following site to be sure the food your animals eat is not affected. If it is affected, contact your vet as soon as possible. Have your dog seen if they have any symptoms.
Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 16+ years