Aggression toward children
Avoiding Aggression and Treating Aggression Toward Infants
To avoid aggression toward babies, the dog should be prepared for the arrival of the baby with samples of the baby’s soiled clothing to smell. The dog will then be familiar with the baby’s odour. The dog should not be present when the baby is brought into the house. To introduce the baby to the dog, hold the dog on a leash and give a sit-stay command. (This must be taught and practiced well before the baby is born). Reward the dog with bits of food as the baby approaches (unless the dog lunges toward the child or growls or shows any aggressive tendencies). For the next few weeks, give the dog attention only when the baby is present. This includes feeding the dog. The dog will associate the baby with the attention and its absence with being ignored.
If, despite these preparations, the dog seems to be aggressive to the baby, but does not appear to present a definite risk (ie. the dog growls, but has never snapped at the baby or anyone else) then treatment may be advised. The owner should do obedience work with the baby either in a backpack or in a stroller next to the owner. The idea is that the owner’s dominance will be transferred to the baby.
Aggression to Toddlers
Aggression toward children is a serious matter because dogs are so frequently the cause of facial injury in children. Toddlers are most at risk because they make direct eye contact with the dog (an aggressive gesture in dog language), are apt to pull hair, ears and tail, wave their arms in the air and grab for bones or toys. Toddlers may also fall on the dog as they learn to walk or arouse it because they are noisy. Sometimes the only solution is euthanasia, or rehousing the dog, but this is a very hard decision to make and many owners wish ;to try other methods before resorting to this. Complete separation is one solution. The problem with separation is that the dog will not learn to respect the child, and the child will not learn proper behaviour towards dogs, and may learn only fear associated with dogs. Furthermore, the dog will not have as much contact with its owners and the owners will not be able to enjoy the dog. Muzzling the dog is the best approach. The dog can be with the family, including the child, as much as ever. Attempts to bite will be observed so progress can be gauged. Some owners may protest that muzzles are cruel, but separation is more stressful to the dog and the dog will learn to accept the muzzle quickly.
Desensitisation to the approach of the child can be practiced. The child walks (or is led) toward the dog, but stops well a Bway from the dog. The dog is given a small food reward for maintaining a non-aggressive manner. This is repeated many times a day. Gradually, after one hundred or more approaches at a given distance, the child approaches closer to the dog. After a hundred more trials the child can run rather than walk toward the dog. If the dog should growl or snap it should immediately be isolated for a few minutes and the process repeated with the child approaching less closely and less rapidly. If the child is old enough, he or she can give the dog commands with the parents close by to enforce the command if necessary. Older children can learn how to approach dogs. Many owners claim that children teased their dog causing it to be aggressive toward children, but the most teasing can do is to aggravate an underlying aggressive tendency.