Aggressive with Children

Dear DogMa

My dog is aggressive around children. He was scared when 8 months old. They began screaming and running during a game and he thought I was in trouble. Since then, he is very guarded around children and I am a nervous wreck. He will go towards them and growl which scares them. What can I do?

Ruff

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Thanks for writing Ruff.

Aggression can be a scary thing to deal with, especially when it’s directed towards children. The good news is that with a lot of patience and persistence, most cases of child-directed aggression can be helped. It really will take a great deal of commitment on your part, but you’ve already taken the first step – finding help.

To a dog, kids are plain scary. They are fast, loud, move erratically, and are unpredictable at best. They have terrible body language skills – and those are a dogs primary method of understanding those around him. If you are able, try to educate the children your dog is most often exposed to. Walking calmly with their arms crossed, looking away from your dog will go a long way to helping him feel comfortable.

I recommend you hit the library or book store and find a copy of Click to Calm; Healing the Aggressive Dog. You can find it online at Dog Wise, by clicking HERE. As far as I’m concerned it should be required reading for ANY dog parent. The advice it contains is exactly what I’d prescribe – but is far too indepth to cover in a blog post.

The fact that your dog is giving clear signs that he’s agitated is a GOOD thing. Never punish your dog for using his language skills. Watch him closer, and you are bound to see more signs that preceed the growling. Things like licking his lips, averting his eyes, turning his head, moving his body to the side, standing in front of you – these are all signs that he’s getting nervous, and trying to calm the situation. Thank him for “talking” with you, and do your best to move to a distance where he’s more comfortable. You’ll find you’ll both end up more confident after a while.

Good luck.

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