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Canine Behavior/New dog bit child!


ok so we got this dog from some people we didn't know. He is 2 yr old unaltered chiweenie. They said he was great with their kids and did fine with our 3 yr old when we went to meet him. He can be very aloof at times and when strange people touch him he backs away. However he has let my daughter and me pet him since day 1. The people who had him obviously have played rough with him. He sounds like he is going to eat you up when playing but only mouths gently. when he plays with toys especially ropes he gets super excited and will growl and let go to get a better grip. Also if you play with him and kinda rub him kinda rough on his sides and neck he growls and mouths. My daughter was playing with him with the rope, had been all morning and I was busy. she cried for a few seconds and I said whats wrong and that's when I saw teeth prints on her arm. So I have not let her play with him since only pet. He has shown no other signs of being aggressive except when I tried to pick him up while my other dog was trying to play with him and he just growled and put his mouth on me like he does when playing. so I have put toys away and nothing else has occurred. is he getting over zealous while playing or is this an aggression issue towards my daughter?

Greetings, and thank you for contacting All Experts,
I am going to try to address one issue at a time, but keep in consideration that I can only do so much because I am not there and can't see the behavior so only assumptions can be made.

From your description, I can assume perhaps he's in conflict when people touch him, and  perhaps approaches first and then backs away. These are often called "approach/avoidance behaviors." You read more about them here:

In such a case, I wouldn't force interactions with people interacting with him at this time. Instead, I would try to have strangers toss treats to your dog at a distance, past the dog's shoulder's in a treat/retreat fashion as described in this article:

Playing rough with a dog is not recommended. Yes, there are dogs that seem to do just fine with it, but others may become defensive and some dogs don't really like it. In good cases, the dog may tolerate it, but may get over aroused and growl and try to mouth.

The fact your dog mouths gently is good as it demonstrates good bite inhibition during play, but if a dog gets too aroused, it may become more difficult for him to gauge the level of pressure, or if the dog gets defensive, he may stop mouthing gently as in play and may apply more pressure to make a point. It's hard to say without seeing the behavior if he was actually playing and get rougher from being too aroused or if he actually bit to tell your daughter to stop interacting with him. If the latter is the case, consider that dogs often let out warning signals before they bite. A growl is quite common. Growling is the dog's way to say "please leave me alone" and if you continue to pester the dog, a bite comes next.

So what happened exactly when the dog bit? Was the dog aiming for the tug toy and missed and got your child's arm instead? Can it be he was playing and let go to get a better grip on the toy and got your child's arm instead? Or was it a deliberate bite because your child was doing something the dog didn't like? Did the dog show signs of not wanting to interact prior to the bite? Was the dog cornered? Did the dog bite when the child was trying to remove the tug toy from his mouth as to protect it? Does your dog guard items such as toys? There are many possibilities.

One of the most effective ways to tell if a dog is playing rough or is acting aggressive is by looking at body language. Before biting defensively, dogs often will send "please leave alone signs." Growling is one of the most obvious and one you don't want to suppress as it's a warning.  Scolding a dog for growling will only in the long term cause a dog to bite without warning in the future. Here's a read of signs a dog does no longer wish to interact, Interactions should stop when we notice signs of a dog communicating: "I am uncomfortable, please stop":

I would avoid playing games that get the dog aroused for now and avoid touching him ways that make him react. I would also supervise any interactions between dog and child. The growling and mouthing when he is touched and rubbed may be play, but it can also be a way to tell you to stop touching him. If you think of past episodes, what did he do when you stopped touching him? Did he come near you again asking to play more or did he seem relieved that you stopped touching him? I encourage you to seek out the aid of a behavior professional that can look at the behavior and tell you the best course of action. I hope this helps!

Disclaimer: dog behavior modification and training comes with risks. If your dog is having behavior problems please consult with a veterinary behaviorist or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. My answers are not to be used as a substitute for veterinary or hands on professional behavioral advice. By reading this answer you accept this disclaimer.  

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Adrienne Janet Farricelli CPDT-KA


I can answer questions pertaining dog psychology and general dog behavior. Why is my dog doing this? And what can I do about it? are common questions I am asked. I will not answer questions concerning health problems as this is out of my spectrum, but I can recommend a vet visit if there are chances behavioral problems may stem from a possible underlying medical problem.


I am a certified dog trainer (CPDT-KA) that has attended seminars on dog behavior. I am acquainted with behavior modification programs and have read several books from reputable authors such as Patricia McConnell, Turid Rugaas, Nicholas Dodman and Bruce Fogle to name a few. I have rehabilitated dogs affected by moderate to severe behavioral problems.

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