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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I have a Springer Spaniel mix that will be 14 this year. We've had her since she was 12 weeks old but she has always behaved as though she was a rescue dog and had been abused. When she was younger she would roll over and urinate when a new person approached her, she's very suspicious of new people and will growl and bark at them but she's never bitten anyone. She's also been on 40mg/day of Fluoxetine for the last few years to help with anxiety. We've tried many different things over the years to help her with the anxiety (pheromone diffuser, thunder shirt, different meds) but nothing has really helped as much as her Fluoxetine. Luckily she has gotten a bit better. She use to rips up carpet & linoleum and chew holes in walls. We used to crate her but can't any longer because she chews on the bars and has fractured some teeth. We also can't pen her up in a room because she'll try and chew her way out.

In the last month our dog has snapped at our 9 month old twice. I didn't witness the first one but my wife tells me that the dog was on our bed. My wife put our baby on the bed to get her dressed, the baby rolled over and touched the dog, she barked and snapped then jumped off the bed. I don't know if the dog was asleep but I doubt it since there was activity in the room that would have woken her up. The second time, the dog was awake lying down on a chair in our family room. Our daughter crawled over and pulled herself up but did not touch the dog. She just barked, snapped and jumped off the chair.

When we had our daughter, my wife and I both had it in the back of our minds that this was potentially going to be a problem that we would have to contend but never really talked about it because we didn't want to think about what the options were. For the past number of years we've hung onto this dog mostly because we knew that if she went to another home she would probably end up being taken to a shelter because she is such a high maintenance dog with her anxiety and destructiveness.

We did training with her when she was a puppy and even had a behaviorist come into our home about 6-7 years ago to observe her. Admittedly, we could have done better to engrain the training.

At this point we don't really know what to do. I know that many people will say that the dog and baby should never be in the same room and I agree but she crawls very fast and sometimes gets away from us while we're doing something like unloading the dishwasher. It's those moment that I fear she'll end up getting bit.

I don't know what I'm really looking for here. Maybe others that have had emotionally troubled dogs and how they've dealt with it. I have a friend who had a dog that was a red flag who ended up biting his toddler and saw how hard that was on the whole family. I don't want to go through that.
 

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I think management is the best option here. Sure a baby is difficult to manage. But a 14 yo dog is pretty low key, I imagine? I would have your dog behind a pen in the main living area, or in a room with a baby gate, etc. Basically, some way for her to be part of the family without being able to be approached or touched by your baby.

I am usually agreeable with rehoming dogs who aren't good fits. But please don't put a 14yo dog with severe anxiety and has been with you all her life in any other situation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I agree Canyx. Rehoming a dog that has been with the same family for her whole life who already has bad anxiety would probably make her condition worse for the family that took her in.

She tends to spend a vast majority of her day in our room on the bed sleeping, so you're right, she is pretty easy to keep track of. Really it's just where is she in the room. On our bed or hers. There is a small area that goes into the room where we could put a baby gate to keep the baby out.
 

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I would also opt for careful management of both dog and baby. Keep them separated by a baby gate, or a play pen, or something. Just make sure there is a physical separation. If you have to put the baby on the bed or something and the dog is there, lure the dog down with treats, tell her to go to her own spot, and reward her for being there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Lillith.

We have been making the dog get off the bed if we need to put the baby down on it but I think you're right that we should be using some kind of positive reinforcement when we do this.

I'm also going to get a baby gate today in order to separate the bedroom where the dog mostly is from the living room where the baby spends most of her time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well I installed the baby gate in hopes to keep the baby and dog separated. Just now the baby was on one side of the gate and the dog was back a little ways. The baby wasn't close to touching her but she was standing there snarling and baring her teeth. Not sure where that leaves us.
 

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I wouldn't be worried about that as long as your dog does not escalate. Though if you wanted to be hyper cautious, you might want to do a two gate system so that there can be absolutely no contact through the bars. MOST dogs display those warning behaviors (snarling, baring teeth) to create distance, not to harm. This means your dog is just telling your baby to go away. Seeing as your baby can't get closer, I would hope that your dog does not escalate.

However, I would be worried about what would happen if your baby stuck her hands through the gate while your dog is just on the other side. This is why I'd recommend two gates.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
There are two parts of your reply that make me nervous.

1. "as long as your dog does not escalate"
2. "I would hope that your dog does not escalate"

Both of these items are relying on a dog that I am trusting less and less every day.
 

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Dogs are mostly predictable. I mean, I don't know your dog. But I would not have a scenario happen where your dog is, say, leaning against the gate and your baby reaches in to pet her. That kind of surprise encounter can spook a dog. A dog may jump up and move away, or jump up to defend itself against a perceived threat.

What I can say is most dogs DO NOT want to hurt people, yours included. Your dog does not want conflict with your baby. She is just scared of the baby and all of her gestures are to keep the baby away. Now, a baby would have no idea that this is what a dog is communicating. That's what I mean by "escalate". If your dog growls at the baby (which is appropriate dog behavior) but the unwitting baby just keeps on crawling by, what the dog perceives is "I am telling the baby I am uncomfortable and she is ignoring me"... And that's when dogs feel like they need to be a little more blatant with their communication.

So I don't think your dog is going to fly off the handle and attack your child without cause. But given your dog's age and history of anxiety, I would recommend an option where contact is virtually impossible... Not just to protect your child, but also to give you and your dog peace of mind.
 

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Can your baby reach through the gate? If neither party can reach through the gate and your dog cannot make contact...then I wouldn't worry too much. Your dog is displaying appropriate "go away!" signals, and if the baby cannot reach the dog I doubt she would escalate. I think the dog will eventually learn that the baby cannot reach her when she is separated by a gate. Of course, you should always be vigilant and Canyx's two gate method would probably give you greater peace of mind.
 

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Good advice so far. I would also suggest potentially taking your pup in for a vet check-up to make absolutely sure there's no underlying illness or pain that might be making your dog extra cranky and sensitive about the baby. Conditions like hypothyroidism can absolutely cause aggressive behavior, and even low-key pain like arthritis will make a dog extra defensive around something that makes them uncomfortable, like a strangely moving tiny human. Medication can absolutely make a big difference in these cases.
 

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You have a known insecure (I hesitate to say unstable.. but possibly unstable) dog. You have a baby/toddler who will behave unpredictably and a dog that is pretty predictable. I think you have received excellent advice as to how to keep both safe.

At 14 years this is an old dog. You cannot rehome a dog that old. If the situation is concerning enough and the suggestions above are too unreliable (gates, medication and so forth) to keep the baby safe, the next answer is euthanizing the dog.

I think you know this and are loathe to even bring it up so I will be the bad person and bring it up. It is an option and you need to face it as an option even while doing all you can to avoid that option.
 
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