The dog growling at your baby isn’t the end of the world. It’s actually very common for a dog to be nervous around toddlers. Babies are stressful and the dog can pick up on that, then they’re loud and unpredictable. When the baby first came into the world you weren’t sure what to do and now that it’s moving the dog doesn’t know what to do either.
The best thing to do is create a bond between dogs and babies and create a understanding between both the dog and baby.
Step #1- Don’t yell at the dog
Be happy your dog is behaved enough to give a warning growl instead of going straight for a bite.
The worst thing you could do at this point in time is scold the dog. Yelling at the dog is going to escalate the situation 10x more. They’re already in a situation they don’t like and if they get in trouble for it, they will definitely act worse if it happens again.
We’ll talk about redirecting the situation in a little bit.
Step #2- Figure out what happened
Was it a toy? Food? Arthritis? We need to narrow down what took place that made the dog growl.
A majority of the time if a child fell on the dog, tried to “ride them”, or was climbing in any sort of way; they hurt the dog. Especially if they are old and arthritic they can’t jump up and run away and arthritis hurts.
Check for issues with the dog, such as an ear infection. Your child may have just been petting the dog, but ear infections can be super painful. There may also be something internally going on that they just hurt and don’t want to be messed with.
My point is that in the heat of the moment we can be quick to judge the dog because our Mama Bear comes out when our babies are hurt/emotionally hurt, but we need to figure out what happened first, because we can’t go back and apologize to the dog later and explain ourselves.
Step #3- Determine the tone behind the growl
A majority of the time when dogs growl its a warning, but we need to know exactly what happened to make sure it never happens again.
If it was food related, there’s a territorial growl. That can be very different than a playful growl. They may also give a low irritated grumble because they’re aggravated and just want to be left alone.
Step #4- Create an understanding/Communication
You can’t start early enough to teach your child respect for pets. This means
- No hair pulling
- No riding
- No jumping on
- No tail pulling
- No throwing things at them
- No messing with their food
- No taking toys they’re playing with
- Staying out of kennel
You can also teach your pet what you want them to do in an uncomfortable situation. In any confrontation our minds tell us “Fight or Flight” we either fight or we run. The same things happens with pets. In an uncomfortable situation they’ll either protect themselves or they’ll run.
Step #5- Redirection
If your dog growled at the baby we need to redirect your pet to leave the situation rather than feel the need to fight. Make sure they have a safe place to go if they don’t want to be messed with. My cats go under our bed where they can’t be reached when they want to be undisturbed.
Whether it be a kennel or a room that the children can’t go in, give your pet a safe place and if they seem uncomfortable near the kids have them go to this area. Get them to understand that the child won’t go there and that they have their own personal space.