Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner

Need help with Dog and Toddler

561 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  mustluvdogs66
I am new here but have read a lot of stuff already but I believe with dogs every situation is a bit different so I'm trying to get some advice.
My wife and I have discussed many times whether or not we should get rid of our dog because of problems the dog has with our kid.

Apologies but this will be long. I don’t want to make light of any details in the hopes I can save my dog.

My dog is almost 7 years old. A 20 lb sheltie. He was 4 months old when we got him but we were already the 4th owners. He had a lot of problems even from the beginning. He had leash aggression, separation anxiety (anxiety in general), aggressive behavior to dogs, aggressive to children/people, etc. He had a classic case of fear aggression especially towards other dogs. I’d have to walk him in the middle of the night or early mornings before other people or dogs were around (it was hard because we lived in a very busy downtown neighborhood). If I saw a dog come I would have to cross the street or turn around and walk in a completely opposite direction.

I spent probably a year working on him where we would see dogs coming and I’d watch for clues when he started getting nervous. Just before he got scared and way before he flipped out, I would give him a treat and run away. I did this over and over and as he got more comfortable I got closer and closer before running away. I eventually added following dogs on our walks, at first far away then closer. After about 6 months, I was finally able to walk past a dog without him flipping out and trying to strangle himself. Treated him every time we went past a dog without incident.

At first it was hit and miss, sometimes he would be good and sometimes he wouldn’t. It was hard especially as we had to wait at stop lights and other dogs came by. Eventually, after maybe another 3 months, we were consistently walking past dogs without any incident (only rarely he would flip out and I would just keep him moving so he couldn’t dwell on it).

Next step was the dog park. I just walked him outside the dog park so he could see dogs with a fence in between. Basically treating for good behavior (sniffing instead of growling, etc.). After 3 months of this, I dared to enter the dog park and let him off leash. He was hesitant but he did end up playing with dogs and I thought it was a miracle.

All throughout the 12 months of rehab, it was non-stop work at home too. Training all sorts of behaviors because he was so nervous around everything. Things that made him whine: Door knocking, turning on the TV, loading the dish washer, cooking, vacuum, sweeping (in fact using anything with a long handle), me jumping/running, any sort of noise outside, etc. I think most dogs are scared of these things but I think most dogs are only scared of a few of these things, not ALL of them.

Anyway after 12 months, he was fantastic. He would have his episodes but only occasionally when I was not paying attention to give him direction when, as an example, someone with a weird cane walked by. I spent so much time training him, he was very obedient. I would often send him chasing after squirrels and recall him mid run. Even when he flipped out and starts chasing dogs in the dog park, I was able to call him back and make him sit/lie by voice command.

We were so happy with him for the next 4 years. My wife and I enjoyed our walks with him so much. We took him everywhere. We went from walking in the middle of the night and early mornings to walking hours and hours a day. Our record was 10 hours out with him, walking, eating, resting, playing. It was so nice.

Then we had a baby.

The first 6 months was fantastic. We did all the things for introducing a baby, bringing home blankets, letting the dog sniff and explore, we gave him treats when he showed positive behavior towards the baby, etc. The baby didn’t really do anything and the dog ignored her, sometimes he would sit near her and just lie down beside her. She would cry and he would just ignore it. It was more than I could have hoped for.

Then the baby started, what I can only describe as, throwing fits at around 6 months. A new born baby crying was not the same as a baby throwing fits. The crying was non-stop and we had a very hard time calming her down. The dog started getting anxious around the baby whenever she cried. He would scream at the top of his lungs too. We would shoo him out of the babies room so he wouldn’t be pacing and screaming around our feet while we were trying to get the baby to sleep.

Admittedly we didn’t spend as much time as we used to… how could we? The baby was so demanding. This kept on for a while and as she got more mobile (she walked at 10 months), he got more and more scared. We tried to involve him in everything with the baby, including walks with the stroller, playing fetch with the baby around, treats, etc. But it only kept getting worse as she got older.

Fast forward 2 years. My kid is 2.5 now. It has gotten to the point where I have to keep the dog behind a locked baby gate. Every time my kid walks by he will growl. She obviously shows interest in him and when she tries to reach for him he bares his teeth. I’m afraid he will bite her. She is old enough now to give him treats but still not old enough to understand not to be too rough, etc. We let her give him treats and try to teach her to make him sit before giving the treat. The dog is good while she has the treat in her hand but as soon as the treats are gone he runs away. If she tries to pet him he runs away and leaves the treats.

There are many details I’m probably missing but my question is, can he be saved. I don’t want to give him away but I keep thinking he would be happier without us.
See less See more
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
You have good skill, a few tweaks the two will be able to be around one another. For one, don't allow toddler to approach or pet the dog. EVER. If she wants to show love then give her a treat or toy and have her throw it away from the dog so he can grab and eat/squeak. Teach her what he means when he is grumbling at her and what to do. Do all this with dog safely behind bars of course as much for dog's safety as hers. You can tell a toddler what to do but doing it every time doesn't happen! He is not a cuddly toy, he is a dignified herding dog that is already of a reactive nature.

My first dog was a bit dubious of kids but going backpacking with a young boy cured that. She had clean up duty and loved kids forever after that trip. You probably are past the point of baby dropping food but he could clean her plate, she could give him her hated bread crusts or wash out the ice cream bowl. If this is a daily ritual there would be at least a couple times a day where he'd feel friendly towards her.

She may be old enough to get the lessons from some of the the family dog videos.. I sent them to my son and family and they helped with a brand new exuberant large pup. One twin tends to want to pull the dog around, the other hated the pup chewing up his toys. Neither liked getting bounced on by the pup and they got a lot from some of them. I was concerned about them pushing the pup to snapping before they all knew one another. Watch them to see if any are something you are comfortable allowing her to see. Catchy songs can teach better than a talking to from grownups.
See less See more
Thanks for the reply.

She used to drop food for him all the time and he would eat it up. Now when she does it he refuses to eat it.

When we play fetch I get the kid and put her in my lap, let her throw the ball and he just runs around us and whines instead of going to get the ball. I ask him to go get the ball and he will do it but he will drop it at my feet and whine.

When the dog growls, I always tell her the dog doesn't like you doing this or that or be gentle. But she is too young to understand. he is always growing at her anyway. The only time he isn't growing at her is when we have high value treats. And even then sometimes after a few he will stop eating it, growl and turn away.

The only saving grace is sometimes when we come home he actually licks her and wags his tail. That's the only time he has shown any affection towards her. Even when she gives him high value treats he doesn't show any affection. Just obedience to get the treat.

She has only ever tried to pet him maybe 10 times in her life. Each time he has bared his teeth and growled. Sometimes with a toddler they are fast. She usually never makes contact but just her hand going towards him is enough to cause the negative reaction. That was when he was still allowed to roam the house freely. Now he is locked up behind the baby gate.

We also tried the crate as well but when he couldn't see us he would whine and yelp which was not a good solution either

Not sure I have the energy to deal with it any more...
See less See more
You got some great tips above! That should help you out quite a bit.
Have you ruled out any medical issues with the dog? Have you tried a Thundershirt, calming collar with pheromones or any medication? That’s only a short term solution (like a band aid), but can sometimes help the process.
Can you hire a positive trainer (or even a Veterinary behaviorist) to come out and help you through this? If possible, it only seems fair to give everyone the best possible chance at getting along.
If you do this, please do your research. Do not hire anyone that uses aversive (choke, Prong or electric collars are a big no).
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.