You are here:

Canine Behavior/How do I deal with a stray turned pet dog's aggression towards an 18 month old baby?


I have two canine companions, a 4 year old Shiba Inu (Coco) & a adult small breed mix (Peanut) who the vet guesses is about 2 years old. I've had him for about a month. He is 8 pounds and I took him in as a stray near my home. Coco I raised from a puppy and she is very well socialized with other animals & humans of all ages. Peanut is fine with Coco and they are buddies. He even does well with other adults (complete strangers can approach and pet him with a wagging tail and eager to turn over for a belly rub) but when it comes to my granddaughter he isn't receptive.

My son has an 18 month old daughter and every time they've come to visit anytime the baby tries to go near Peanut he'll run to another room with his head and tail down. My grandbaby has NEVER gotten close enough to Peanut to touch him since I've had him so it's not like she's done anything to harm him or upset him like pulling on his tail. This morning though, instead of just leaving the room when she began to walk towards him Peanut began to growl and show his teeth. I quickly picked up my grandbaby but he did NOT try to lunge at her or bite her (I was worried he might). He just growled and showed his teeth. She wasn't closer than normal when he'd just leave the room so nothing was different besides his reaction. For now he is in a separate room blocked with a baby gate to protect the baby but I have owned dogs all my life and never had a problem with aggression. I was just hoping that once he got used to the baby they would become friends but the opposite has happened and I'm concerned about my granddaughter and any other child's safety around him. Is there anything I can do to help Peanut get used to my granddaughter? I'm willing to try anything as I've fallen in love with the little guy and I really don't want to have to give him up.

I can't see anything from here, so my answer to your question regarding is there anything you can do is: No.

A true story: my first Doberman, Rosebud, was an exquisitely socialized and well trained dog.  She was poisoned by a neighbor and died two weeks after her sixth birthday (and $1500 vet bill which in 1985 was a lot of money).  Now, everyone knew me in the "dog business" and that includes the kill shelter supervisors.  I got a call from one of the best of them.  He told me he had a Doberman bitch, young, with a "show crop" (fancy ear crop) that he had to put down because he was running out of room and he himself already had eleven dogs; he begged me to come get her.  Only one problem: dog had absolutely NO reaction to cats (I had three at the time, this man actually brought cats into his office from the shelter and brought the dog in there too lol), but was afraid of children.  Not socialized to children? Abused by children?  Who knew.  I never thought I would ever have a child, so it was a moot point (as they say).  Dog came home, never paid one bit of attention to my cats or my parrot, was beyond gorgeous (conformation), great companion (although not as well socialized as my Rosebud, of course).  I named her Pearl.

Then I got pregnant.  !   Pearl was absolutely fine with my daughter when she was a baby, but once the "toddling" started, instant reaction: growling.  Dog went upstairs, immediately separated from baby; I began putting out feelers in the "dog business" for an excellent home.  I found one.  Lady had grandchildren but understood Pearl was fearful and a clear and present danger, so lady put dog into her bedroom BEHIND A CLOSED AND LOCKED DOOR whenever grandchildren visited.  This was not a punishment, as Pearl was given special toys.

This is what you must do.  Without the help of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (NOT a dog trainer), you have zero ability to even determine if this dog can ever be "safe" around children, so let's err on the side of caution and keep both child and dog SAFE and ALIVE.

Buy a Buster Cube (dispenses food as dog rolls it around).  For five to ten minutes every day, confine this dog behind a closed door (NOT A BABY GATE, baby can stick her fingers through that, dog can get through that) with Buster Cube.  Have a "party" when you bring her in there.  Ignore any protestations: if you educate the dog that rolling the Cube will dispense food, that's what she will do.  Then open the door, no big deal, go on as usual.  In this way the dog will not construe this confinement as isolation or punishment.  Well before baby arrives (so dog does not connect confinement to baby's arrival), put dog in confinement.  Be sure there is an "eye lock" on the door so baby can't open the door.  Leave a radio or TV on to mask the sound of the baby.  Ignore any protestations from the dog if they occur.  Once baby has left, dog must be totally silent before you open that door and then reward her with high value food treat (string cheese, hot dog bit) immediately upon her crossing the threshold back into the house at large.

If you want to spend $, then find a CAAB by seeing the following sites:

Correcting aggression (and this dog is exhibiting real aggression) requires an expert eye and decision regarding possible cause and then a great deal of counter conditioning.  Counter conditioning is quite difficult when young children are involved, as you do not want to put any young child at risk.  The dog doesn't have to die or be re-homed: you need to be vigilant.  Without any serious intention to harm, a fearful dog can inflict a serious (even terminal) injury upon a baby or young child (or even adult for that matter if it gets an artery).  You can't take the chance.  God bless.

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]