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Canine Behavior/6 month shelter puppy growls when my 3 year old is around


We just adopted a 6 month old shelter puppy. She integrated great with our older dog but when we tried to introduce her to our 3 year old grandson, she growled. We have our grandson and his 10 month old brother in the afternoons a few days a week.  We really want to have a positive interaction. I assume Rosie is afraid of him and trying to assert dominance. I don't want her to bite him or make him afraid of dogs. What is the best way to have a positive interaction when our grandsons aren't a part of Rosie's daily life?

A growl is a bite waiting to happen, it is a warning sign.  Yes, fully 98% of aggression problems I've seen and treated were fear based.  This is not a "puppy", it is an adolescent dog.  You know nothing about its past.  Did you ask the shelter if this puppy was an owner turn in?  I would call the shelter with the dog's ID and ask questions.

Often, puppies bond to other dogs in a household because their primary owners do not socialize the puppy propertly, neither to themselves as humans nor to any other sort of living being: i.e., a "backyard" dog that sees only the back yard and interacts with "strange" people only in such confines.  Exposure to young children for a very young puppy that results in fear can result in dog to child aggression as the puppy matures.  This is NOT "dominance".  This puppy is NOT trying to "assert dominance", this adolescent is exhibiting fear and avoidance.

This is potentially a serious problem: it can take a dog five seconds to "discipline" a child, thereby leaving scars or worse - faster than you can get up from your chair.  This dog needs in person evaluation by a CAAB - Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.  Her body language must be closely observed, her approach/avoidance to the child(ren) must be closely observed, and then a course of rehabilitation needs to be put in place.  The only alternative is to return her to the "shelter" where she will most likely be put to death.

To find a CAAB in your area (NOT a dog trainer! a true professional with credentials), call the Veterinary college or try these sites:

Meanwhile: put a house tab on this dog (lightweight leash).  DO NOT ALLOW close interaction between her and the children.  DO NOT attempt to persuade her to like the children by giving them treats to offer the dog.  DO NOT put the dog in a situation where she is forced to remain too close to the children.  Be casual, no discipline, no yelling, but no praise either because you have to know what she's thinking and actually experiencing or you may be rewarding the wrong thing.  Young children and dogs do not mix.  Even the best behaved dog with the greatest socialization can become irritated by a child, or be harassed by a child (in a totally innocent way) and react with a snap (discipline) which would cause another dog to howl and run but can cause physical injury to a child.

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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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