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Canine Behavior/Baby and In-Laws Dog


We have a 10 month old baby - of the human kind - who has been crawling for a month.  Both sides of our families have dogs and we also have our own dog who is very gentle and is getting used to sharing our house with our baby. we have asked our families if, when we are visiting them or if they come to our home, to keep the dogs outside or separated from our baby, until we feel she/we are ready.  we have introduced our baby to all the dogs but don't wish to have her crawling around with dogs who are not used to children and are not particularly obedient.
My husbands parents have an red kelpie who in our opinion is aggressive to other dogs and has growled when being patted. On several occasions this dog has been aggressive to other dogs when visiting our home - to our dogs, and other dogs that have been staying here.  by aggression I mean snarling and biting.  It is very possessive of food, its own and humans.  It has a be fed separately from other dogs or there is trouble.  My in-laws let it under the table at meal times, have moved its bed next to the table when we are eating.  All no-nos in my opinion.  It sleeps on their bed and also has a sheet over the spare bed where it can sleep also. They also have a mat near the kitchen where it goes to when it is feeding time. When we first visited them with our baby I was changing her nappy on their bed - nowhere else to do it - and the dog jumped up on the bed, laid down and flattened its ears.  It made me nervous so I have not done this again.  Our problem is now, after a few visits and the dog being outside or in the car, they have decided that they want to have the dog inside, on its own bed.  Fine, if it would stay there, but it doesn't. We visited last week and when our baby started to crawl around, and our food was being prepared in the kitchen, it left its bed and went to the mat.  we of course are watching our baby constantly and would not let it near any dogs bed - that is their space - but how do we stop our baby from crawling on a piece of carpet that this dog clearly sees as its own.  We are worried with our baby becoming more active that this dog will be threatened if she goes near the mat, or any food that it sees as its own.  My in-laws DO NOT see that their dog has any issues and I feel, think we are being over protective. Every incident of aggression has been explained away - that dog sniffed her bottom, your dog came in the gate first, that was her stick, you know how she is about food, she wanted to say hello first etc. I don't feel confident in leaving our baby with them as I know they won't respect our wishes and am worried what will happen.

This dog is a clear and present danger to your infant.  

We must tread carefully with relatives, especially in-laws; these people apparently have no idea that they are living with a potentially dangerous dog.  Dog to dog aggression is considered a predictor of dog to human aggression.  The Australian Kelpie has a known history of dog to dog aggression and this must be addressed when the dog is a neonate through young adulthood.  This dog has already demonstrated aggression towards people (growls when patted, etc.)  They are living with this dog incorrectly and require a certified applied animal behaviorist. The Australian Kelpie is a dominant, intelligent dog intended for independent guarding and herding of sheep.  It is NOT a casual companion dog and requires a very experienced owner and a great deal of "work" (agility, obedience, exercise).  This breed does not belong in a household where it is treated like a human child.  Without knowledge of where they acquired this dog (it is quite difficult to find a breeder), I can't comment on his inherited temperament but I can say that all breeds of dog and dog hybrids must be heavily socialized to everything and everyone from day one in the home, throughout the first two years of life.

It is not you who should announce this decision, but your husband (since these are his parents), in the following manner:

This dog worries and frightens us around our baby.  We know you love your grandchild and want only the best for him/her and for us.  Please respect our wishes that your Kelpie be confined safely away from any access to the baby when we visit.  Should you feel this is not something you can do, we will respect your wishes as it is your home but we regret that we cannot bring our baby into that home with the presence of that dog.

Before you can get up out of your chair, in five seconds, that dog can (not saying it will, but it CAN) seriously injure your child, or worse.

Don't take the chance.

And beware of all dogs except your own.  Your child should not be allowed to crawl among dogs owned by others.  I would not allow it if you were visiting me in my home with my dogs, for the safety of both baby and dogs.  One never knows what a baby will do (quite innocently) and dogs can "discipline" a baby in a "normal" manner (as they would a puppy) and do a lot of damage in the process.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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