I have a 5 month old that has been with us since he was about 4 weeks. I have a three year old child and it is just her and me.
He has always had the issue with growling while he is eating and now he growls and he has tried biting me. I am trying to break him of the habit given that I have my little one. He is great other than that Just really hyper and jumpy but I’m guess that is just because he is still a small pup. The other day he was eating and my child happened to be standing around his vicinity and he started growling at her.
I am very afraid that he might try to bite her one day and I do not want to have to get rid of him because he can definitely cause some major damage to her or me for that matter.
Hi Natalia. You’re right to be concerned about this behavior, because it has the potential to be dangerous, especially to your child. HOWEVER, it does NOT mean that your pup is aggressive, just that he is an adolescent who is trying to assert his dominance over anyone he perceives as below him in the pecking order.
It’s normal for a puppy to see a small child (or even grade-schoolers) as other puppies, basically their equals. Puppies set up a hierarchy through play, posturing and displays of dominance and submission. It’s normal in the canine world, but not okay when used in the human world.
Your pup is also old enough to have been taught that jumping isn’t acceptable. A high energy level is also normal, but needs plenty of outlets as in a lot of exercise and also mental stimulation through regular obedience training. Socialization is also a must.
Your pup is displaying clear resource guarding behavior (in this case aggression when protecting his food, very, VERY common) and this is what I would start with. Check out this page for tips and advice on stopping this behavior and set things up in a positive, safer way… Dog Food Aggression
Teaching your puppy the ‘Leave It!’ command can also be very helpful in dealing with resource guarding as it will allow you to remove anything from him on command and also get him used to you taking things from his mouth. This page has help with this…. Free Puppy Training Tips
I’d also recommend getting your pup enrolled in a basic, formal obedience class as this will help you both to interact and understand each other better. It also gives you a valuable source of ‘hands on’ help to deal with any problems that arise. Adolescence is always a challenging time for teenage dogs and their families and it’s important that you know what to expect, and how to handle it.
Meantime, do not allow your child to be unsupervised around your pup when he’s eating, or playing with edible or favorite toys. These are trigger moments and a big, strong pup could hurt your child even totally accidentally if he decides that he doesn’t want him/her around his stuff. Once you have the leave it command learned and obeyed, and have worked on the food-guarding issues (as per page linked to above) then things should settle down and you won’t have to worry about your child (or anyone else) getting nipped/bitten.
Of course ongoing training and socialization and a home which has rules and loving discipline is vital to keeping any puppy well behaved and calm.
Hope this helps and I wish you lots of luck with your pup.