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Canine Behavior/food aggression


I have a 4 yr old pittbull lab mix that i rescued from the humane society when she was 2yrs old. I had a baby 14mos ago and he has been walking and in her food dish for 3mos. A couple of weeks ago she growled and barked at him while she was eating. I overreacted and yelled at her and put her in her kennel but not before reprimanding the baby but he doesnt understand. There is no way for me to put a gate up to keep him away So we have been feeding her when the baby is eating or napping. I realize this may be the way it has to be until the baby is old enough to understand he has to leave the dogs food alone but is there anything i can do to getstop the aggression. The dog (molly) does not do this with anyone else in the house. If you need any more information please let me know

You absolutely MUST closely and heavily supervise this toddler whenever he is IN THE ROOM with your dog.  The dog is making a statement in "social hierarchy" to the toddler, without any realization that her statement is not understood.  A growl is a warning; many rescued dogs can suddenly present with food aggression in a situation that confuses the dog.  The dog does not *know* this is a toddling Human.  The dog sees the toddler as "equal" or as the dog would perceive a puppy: the dog is putting this living entity "in its place".  Reprimanding the dog and confining it WILL MAKE THIS MUCH WORSE.

You must have at least one room in your house with a door!  Feed the dog in THAT ROOM, close the DOOR, put a hook and hole lock where the toddler will not be able to reach it when he gets older.  Give the dog a treat or two in that room every day by asking for "sit".  Do this while the baby is sleeping or otherwise engaged.  Twice daily, restrain the toddler (playpen or human in house), lead the dog into that room, put food bowl and water bowl down, close and "lock" door, leave dog for 15 minutes.  Open door.  Dog will come out.  Remove bowls out of dog's sight.  If at first the dog does not eat, ignore that.  Eventually, she will.  She will learn this is her "safe and rewarding" place where she can eat (survive) without any interference.

The baby is far too young to understand and, in fact, will NOT UNDERSTAND until ABOUT EIGHT years of age.  Even THEN, children do some fairly outrageous things to dogs and if the dog(s) responds "appropriately" (for its species), the dog dies.  And, in rare cases, so does the child.

Dogs and young children DO NOT MIX no matter how heavily socialized the dog is, how well trained the dog is, the dog's temperament being impeccable, etc.  You have allowed your baby to interfere with your dog's food dish for quite some time.  THIS WAS, AND IS, AN ENORMOUS MISTAKE.

I recently was sent a You Tube video that was made by some idiot somewhere where the idiot's baby/toddler is climbing on top of the Rottweiler, pushing it around, kicking it....they thought this was "cute" and posted it on You Tube!  It is not only NOT "cute", it is: inhumane and setting both toddler and dog up for possible deadly consequence.

Protect the dog AND the baby.  Do not allow the toddler to play with the dog's toys; do not allow the toddler to interfere when the dog is asleep; do not allow the toddler to freely interact with this dog at any time for any reason.  Before you can get up out of your chair, that dog, in a perfectly normal response for its species, can harm your 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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