My Dog Growls At My Kids… What Should I Do?
When your dog growls at one of your kids, it’s natural for your protective instincts to kick in. Nobody wants to have to choose between their dog and their human children. In some cases, you may have to rehome your dog to keep your kids safe.
However, growling is not necessarily a sign that your dog will become a danger to your family. You and your kids can learn about how dogs communicate to prevent tense situations from happening.
Why Dogs Growl At Kids
As we all know, dogs cannot speak English. They cannot tell us, “it hurts when you pull my ears,” “I get startled when you kiss me while I’m sleeping,” or “I don’t like it when you pet me while I’m eating”
A normal, healthy dog will growl when they need space. A dog with aggression or that has been punished for growling in the past will bite without warning. Punishing a dog for growling is often equated to taking the batteries out of a smoke alarm.
Teach your kids about the ways dogs communicate and the importance of being respectful of your dog’s space. If your kids cannot adhere to the dog safety rules, they may not be ready to have a dog.
A dog cannot be expected to tolerate disrespect from kids. At the same time, your dog should have a stable temperament, and your kids should not have to tiptoe around them just to feel safe.
What To Do When Your Dog Growls At Your Kids
Your kids should know that, no matter what, they must give the dog space immediately if they growl. It doesn’t matter if the dog stole their toy or if they just wanted to give the dog a hug. Your kids should need to get away and tell you what happened.
Again, there is no need to punish the dog for growling. First, you should explain to your child why the dog has growled, especially if they may have done something to upset or hurt them.
You’ll want to take immediate steps to manage your household so the same situation does not recur. This can mean crating your dog while they eat meals or chew bones, using baby gates or a crate to ensure your dog is confined when you cannot supervise them around your kid, or having your dog stop sleeping in your kid’s bed.
As for the training aspect, it depends on the situation. Counter-conditioning and desensitization can be helpful if your dog is fearful of your kid or has mild resource-guarding issues.
However, even well-meaning, knowledgeable dog parents can inadvertently make mild behavioural issues worse.
Working with a professional dog trainer gives you the best chance of keeping the peace in your household. Always work with a trainer that uses science-backed, modern dog training methods.
Ready to talk about dogs and kids? Karen Cohen from Healthy Houndz dog training specializes in helping parents raise the perfect family dog.