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Hi all! I’m having a little bit of trouble with my 10 week old lab Pit mix. I got her when she was only 4 weeks old. We have 4 kids aged 5months, 2 years, 4 years, and 7 years. I think she has a hard time dealing with the kids. They’re rowdy and can be rough with her. We are trying to teach them how to handle her so she isn’t afraid but it’s not working. We have to separate the kids from her quite a bit.

Now that she’s older, she’s beginning to growl and hide under the couch. Anytime one of the kids or even myself go near her while she’s under there she growls and tries to attack. She also has been barking when she doesn’t get her way, almost in a rude way! If she doesn’t like something she barks. If she doesn’t want to come when called, she barks. We are looking into training sessions but they’re so expensive! Anything I can do to try and fix these issues?? Also she has become possessive of things when she takes them under the couch. I gently take them from her so she knows they aren’t hers. Also when eating she waits to eat until I tell her to. And she sits when I ask.
 

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Hi there,
I'm a dog trainer and it sounds like she's overwhelmed by the children. Have you tried a calming aid for her such as adaptil or.a pheremone collar? As for the possesiveness you could try to block off her access to her hiding spot and maybe get her a kennel or crate that could be her safe place instead of the couch.
 

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Hi all! I’m having a little bit of trouble with my 10 week old lab Pit mix. I got her when she was only 4 weeks old. We have 4 kids aged 5months, 2 years, 4 years, and 7 years. I think she has a hard time dealing with the kids. They’re rowdy and can be rough with her. We are trying to teach them how to handle her so she isn’t afraid but it’s not working. We have to separate the kids from her quite a bit.

Now that she’s older, she’s beginning to growl and hide under the couch. Anytime one of the kids or even myself go near her while she’s under there she growls and tries to attack. She also has been barking when she doesn’t get her way, almost in a rude way! If she doesn’t like something she barks. If she doesn’t want to come when called, she barks. We are looking into training sessions but they’re so expensive! Anything I can do to try and fix these issues?? Also she has become possessive of things when she takes them under the couch. I gently take them from her so she knows they aren’t hers. Also when eating she waits to eat until I tell her to. And she sits when I ask.
So you have a very young puppy and to top that off, one who left the litter VERY young.

Which means you have a puppy that has a lot to deal with in terms of learning about the world. The world is a scary and confusing place to a pup like that.

To top that off, you have young children. Young kids are scary and confusing to even many adult dogs if they are not used to the kids and the kids are not well behaved around dogs. By their nature, toddlers and pre-schoolers have higher pitched voices which are exciting and stressful to most dogs and have unpredictable movements which make it hard for even the average adult dog to "read" their body language if not well used to being around the kid.

While I do think it is possible to raise a pup around kids, there is also a reason that many breeders and rescues will not adopt puppies out to homes with kids under 6 or 8 years of age. It is HARD work and requires major attention and arranging of the daily routine.

So, here are my suggestions---

Zero interaction for any of the kids with the puppy unless you are within arms reach AND are not doing anything else. No split attention, no washing dishes while kid plays with dog or such. Eyes on the dog and eyes on the kid.

Minimal interaction, even directly supervised, for the toddler and 4 year old. The 7 year old is old enough to learn the basics of proper interaction with a dog such as not grabbing ears or tail and not taking away a dog's toy or messing with a dog's food. The 4 year old might be able to do OK with some of that but they are still on that border of clumsy and impulsive. A 2 year old is a terror to a dog. Even the sweetest 2 year old makes movements and sounds that are out of place for a dog and their size puts them right at face level all too often which is intimidating to a dog.

Read about resource guarding and how to prevent it. Do not just take toys and be careful about being overbearing around food. You want to teach her to be relaxed around food and that giving up a toy gets her a reward better than the toy. A puppy that age has zero concept of "my toys" and "kids toys" so clean, clean, clean to make sure she can't get what she should not get ahold of.

Barking (and growling) is communication. Barking often comes from frustration or excitement. Use it as a sign that you need to assess the situation better.

A crate is very useful and can be a safe den. The kids should NEVER bother or harass or try to play with the puppy while the puppy is in the crate. An adult can use treats to encourage the pup to like the crate (look up "crate games") but that requires timing beyond that of most kids.
 

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She has a fenced off area all to herself so not exactly a kennel but we are going to get one. And I had no idea that calming aids existed!!! I take her for walks daily so she gets time away from them. But besides that she is also a biter and anytime someone walks past her she nips them. It’s playful I’m sure but definitely painful
 

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Shell's got lots of good advice. The biting, too, is a very classic issue to have with a puppy removed from its litter so young. Most pups will start learning bite inhibition from their littermates once they are old enough to start playing together, but she never got that chance. Combine that with how puppies explore their world with their mouths and, well. You get a bitey puppy. Be really consistent with play or cuddles - teeth on skin means the interaction ends. On walks, brainstorm ideas to keep her from nipping passer-bys. This might mean walking her on a shorter lead and a front-clip harness so you have better control. It may mean teaching her to happily wear a muzzle (the Muzzle Up! Project website has great advice on this). Muzzling sounds scarier than it is, and with her being a pit mix it may be the best way to make walks safe for everyone, especially given her breed. Not because pits are inherently dangerous, of course, but because people may react much more strongly to being nipped by a pit mix than they would, say, a golden retriever.

For the older kids, look into the Dog Decoder app. This has lots of really great illustrations that teach dog body language. You can go through it together, and help them (and maybe you, too) learn when your pup is saying she's scared and wants to be left alone. Lili Chin, the illustrator for the app, also has a lot of great body language charts you can find for free online. They'll still probably need supervision and reminders, but it might help them feel more empowered to know how to interact with her and understand how she's feeling.

Definitely make her a safe space, like the crate Shell mentioned. The couch isn't great because of course you might need to use it while she's under there. A pen may also work, depending on the space you have. The important thing is that when she's in there, nobody is trying to interact with her, stare at her, take her things, etc. She's never grabbed and pulled out of it, either - if you need to move her, she gets called to you in a happy voice and rewarded with treats or a game.

I'm a big fan of Patricia McConnell's booklets, and she does have one for fearful dogs called The Cautious Canine. They're really short, inexpensive reads and generally have great clear instructions and tips. But fear is a difficult issue, so you may reach a point where books and internet advice can't help you further. Start putting some savings aside if possible, and research behaviorists in your area who use reward-based, force-free training, with bonus points if they're certified by a reputable organization like CCPDT or APDT.
 

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Also teach your children how to behave around dogs. Dogs aren't living plushies and they don't much care to be hugged and petted all the time.

The Family Dog has some great videos up on how to meet and pet dogs and a heart breaking one, Stop the 77, for grownups to view. Unlikely you will want your children to listen to it. I'm sure there are other resources for families out there as well.

https://www.youtube.com/user/thefamilydogtv
 

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What Shell said.

I would break it down even further and NEVER let the kids be with the dog except on a one to one basis and never the baby or the toddler. VERY limited time with the 4 year old.

You have a lot on your plate with four kids these ages and a very young dog. Be careful. The puppy is going to grow up fast and the hiding and growling is a very defensive posture (likely with good reason). When the dog is older in only a few months he may simply bite (since dogs use their teeth like we use hands) and a kid has a face at the right height. Then you have an injured kid and a dog that has to be euthanized.

In the end you may need to save everyone and not have a dog until the youngest child is over the age of 5 or 6. It will depend entirely on your ability to manage the kids around the dog consistently all the time.
 

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So, mom of a 3 year old and a 4 (almost 5) year old and we have a puppy as well. I won't, repeat everything Shell said, but really her advice is dead on.

I do think it is possible to raise puppies and kids together but it is hard. The kids should never have an opportunity to be rough near her. I see where you mention she has a gated off area, where is that? Is it in a quiet place away from all of the commotion in the house? We keep our puppy's crate in our bedroom away from the noise. The kids need rules to follow around the puppy. Ours are pretty simple. No running, no yelling, don't leave toys out, never take anything from the puppy, no touching the puppy, no chasing the puppy, and no giving the puppy anything to eat. I would also suggest trying to block her off from going under the couch where you can't grab her, BUT she also need to be put away in her quiet place really frequently. Never punish her for growling or barking ever. Teach the kids that she is telling them to back off because she's terrified and they need to always respect that.

And I will also say, hiring a trainer has been one of the best things I've ever done. I know it can be expensive, but you have to realize this is an investment in the dog's future as well as your kids' future if you intend to keep this dog. This situation is a bite accident waiting to happen and no one wants that.
 

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I have dogs and kids (ages 14 years to 1 year). Dog should be crated 100% of the time unless on a leash attached to your hand during training or walking. No joke. A dog can bite a child in the blink of an eye. All dog and child interaction should be done with you controlling the dog on leash in an activity (obedience, tug of war, brushing, whatever). Always. Have the dog obey obedience commands from any children old enough to say the words. The children must be taught how to interact yes, but the dog must always know it is unacceptable to show aggression towards humans. I suggest taking your dog to a professional trainer as well, but always keep the dog and children separate, even the best dog can bite.
That nipping as you walk past isn't playful, its the hallmark of a fearful dog who is displaying aggression. I have one like that. You may have to consider rehoming the dog, because you will likely end up with some real problems. Mine is currently outdoor kennel kept and NEVER allowed around the children, who she was raised with, because she can't be trusted. This isn't a breed issue, most of my dogs are friendly, and I bet it isn't a breed issue with yours either, but one of personality.
The nipping when walking is absolutely not the hallmark of a fearful dog, lol. It's a puppy that hasn't learned how to play properly because he was separated from his mom way too young (which is really not recommended when you have young children in the house).

It can still hurt though, and I agree about not letting the small kids around the dog because your puppy needs some training NOW or someone is going to get bitten. Kids need to be trained too, but I know that it can be much harder with the young ones.

But if you can't afford training, honestly yes, I would rehome your puppy, because it's a disaster waiting to happen with resources guarding and growling at you every time he doesn't get his way. I've never heard of a puppy behaving this way at 10 weeks, so I'd be pretty worried about what it's going to be at 6 months if you don't do anything to change that.
 
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