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We just adopted a 2 year old terrier mix (Olive) from a rescue for our 7 year old son about a week ago. We have other dogs so he is very familiar with how to treat dogs. Olive has nipped at our son probably 5 or 6 times now and we’re having trouble figuring out why. The first couple times, he came up behind Olive so we thought maybe he had startled her. He has been very graceful with Olive so far and we’ve had really good talks about how she is new to our family and how it’s going to take some time to adjust. However, the last few times she has nipped at him, they have been sitting quietly together with him petting her head and then she’ll just nip at him out of nowhere. Again, our son has been very graceful and loves the dog, but I think he’s getting a little discouraged. Olive did just have a litter of puppies a few months ago and has been spayed since. She also does seem to be protective of her food, but only around the other dogs and has nipped at our son when they aren’t even around her food. Not sure if that’s helpful info, but just trying to give a full picture. Please help! We don’t want to give up on Olive, but we also have to make sure our son is safe.
 

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It may be that Olive doesn't really like children, perhaps? Does she nip at adults when you pet her? Sometimes dogs just don't like children because....well, they're children, and they can be unpredictable and loud and have poor motor skills, no matter how good with dogs they are. Some dogs just don't like that, and she may be beginning to let you know, now.

She also may not like to be touched or handled. I would try separating the dog and the child with baby gates so they each get time to get used to each other safely. She has only been there a week, so she may still be frightened. Affection and petting should only be on her terms, if she asks for it. You might bring in a positive, rewards based trainer to help you figure out why exactly Olive is scared and help her understand she is safe, too.

If none of that works, it is okay to admit that perhaps the dog is not a good fit in your home. It happens sometimes. She may be better suited to a quieter home without children. There is no shame in that. Your son deserves to be safe, and you deserve to not worry about your son's safety with a dog!
 

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Thank you for your advice. He is the only one she has nipped at. I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t like children because she does play with our son and she follows him around the house. She even sleeps in his room and jumps up on his bed in the morning to wake him up because she wants to play. I just talked to our son about the possibility of it not being a good fit and he really wants to try to make it work with Olive so I think we’ll look into some training. Thanks again!
 

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You may also want to have a full vet check done, then, just in case she is in pain or something. But yeah, for something that's kind of weird and situational a trainer may be best.

Some things that may be triggering her to nip are reaching for her head, or perhaps quick movements in her periphery vision (coming up behind her), which is why a vet check may be in order to rule out vision or other medical issues. Also, those are something children are known to do which sometimes get negative reactions from dogs.

I really hope it all works out!
 

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Couple of things I would try. First, at feeding time, put the dog on a leash which you control. Then have your child take the feeding dish while you have the dog on leash and both go to the area where the dog is fed. Have the dog sit near where the bowl will be placed then have child put the bowl down. Do this for a few feedings to see if the dog gets the hint that his food is coming from the child.
Second, I have found that a good way to stop nipping IF you can be present when it happens is Binaca mouth spray. It is a little tube so dog cannot see it like a spay bottle and it can be hidden in your hand. Easy to keep in your pocket. When dog nips spray one shot in side of mouth. [avoid eyes and nose which is easy to do] and say NO!. May have to buy on internet since it seems to have been replaced by other products.
 

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Couple of things I would try. First, at feeding time, put the dog on a leash which you control. Then have your child take the feeding dish while you have the dog on leash and both go to the area where the dog is fed. Have the dog sit near where the bowl will be placed then have child put the bowl down. Do this for a few feedings to see if the dog gets the hint that his food is coming from the child.
Second, I have found that a good way to stop nipping IF you can be present when it happens is Binaca mouth spray. It is a little tube so dog cannot see it like a spay bottle and it can be hidden in your hand. Easy to keep in your pocket. When dog nips spray one shot in side of mouth. [avoid eyes and nose which is easy to do] and say NO!. May have to buy on internet since it seems to have been replaced by other products.
Spraying something foul in the dog's mouth is not a good idea if this is fear-based nipping. That can easily lead to the dog becoming more fearful and her reactions becoming worse.
 

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Binaca breath freshener is not "foul" in my opinion. It is the surprise that gets the dog attention as they think it comes directly from your hand as opposed to a water bottle which is difficult to keep handy and the dog reacts as soon as they see you reach for it. I have used Binaca for several dogs and it has worked well with no side affects of which you are concerned.
 

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Binaca breath freshener is not "foul" in my opinion. It is the surprise that gets the dog attention as they think it comes directly from your hand as opposed to a water bottle which is difficult to keep handy and the dog reacts as soon as they see you reach for it. I have used Binaca for several dogs and it has worked well with no side affects of which you are concerned.
A dog that is already nipping at a child, possibly out of fear, is not a good candidate for any aversive training techniques. It may be a 'breath freshener' and harmless to you, but the dog may find a large human quite rapidly coming at their face to spray a strange substance in their mouth quite scary...and what the dog thinks is what is important here. We, unfortunately, can't decide what dogs are and are not scared of. A simple nipping problem could escalate to the dog full on biting and drawing blood...and the child could very easily get in the way of that. Nobody wants that to happen.
 

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Maybe this is just me, but I did rescue for 10 years, and IMO if the dog came from a reputable rescue group, they'll take her back and adopt her to a more appropriate child-free home--assuming this "nipping" you're describing isn't an euphemism for biting that's broken skin. My group did not adopt out dogs that had bitten, no exceptions. It's not just a matter of a bad match. There's a liability issue, and if OP's son has friends over, OP had better think about liability.

Not all dogs belong in homes with children, and IMO no one should take chances on it, for both the child's sake and for the dog's. The consequences of a bite are too severe for both, worse for the dog than the child usually.
 

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Our dog likes to nibble on my fingers when she's happy or wants to play, but it's always gentle so I don't mind. She's very mellow around kids though and only does that to me or my wife as a sign of afffection I believe. It's very gentle unless she gets to excited.
I've read on this forum that if they nip at you (playfully), yell "Owww" or similar and just walk away to let them know it's not acceptable behavior to get them to stop. This won't apply if it's aggressive nipping.
 

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Our dog likes to nibble on my fingers when she's happy or wants to play, but it's always gentle so I don't mind. She's very mellow around kids though and only does that to me or my wife as a sign of afffection I believe. It's very gentle unless she gets to excited.
I've read on this forum that if they nip at you (playfully), yell "Owww" or similar and just walk away to let them know it's not acceptable behavior to get them to stop. This won't apply if it's aggressive nipping.
Don't do ANY of this at all.

Put this dog in a crate and feed it by itself. All dogs should be fed away from each other, not in a row on the floor. Teach your son to leave the dog alone while it is eating. Dogs will resource guard their food. Leave them alone when eating. IF the dog has something you want to take away, then trade for the item the dog has by offering something more valuable to the dog. You can teach the trade game with toys and food.. as food almost always it more desirable than a toy for most dogs. Get something good (like bits of hot dog) and teach the trade game. Eventually you can use other toys to trade and eventually you can teach the dog to "out" the toy by sometimes giving it right back and other times making the dog do something to get it back.

As to petting on the couch.. NOT ALL DOGS LIKE PETTING. Close that door. Most terriers DO like playing games but they do not like doing the same thing over and over as nauseum (while 2 year olds DO like repetitive things.. such as how many times do you read the same story or watch the same movie?).

It is hard to explain this to a two year old child, but it seems the dog LIKES him but does not like being petted. So, stop petting him.
 
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