Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Big Bully

Hello all!  I'm so sorry for the delay in posts.  Time just got a little away from me.  I've received some really great questions recently, though, so I'm hoping to catch up here soon.  For this post, I've received a question regarding a large dog and some young kids.

I have a question and would really appreciate any help. My husband and I got a bull mastiff- Rottweiler mix 7 months ago and he started being aggressive with our 3 year old and 1 year old right away. He is fine with me and my husband but growls at the kids. He has growled very viciously since bringing him home. He growls if they pet him on his back or get close to him when he has, food, water, or a bone. Sometimes he growls for no reason. The kids are never mean to him and are never alone with him. We tried getting him trained two weeks straight with no change. He has actually nipped my 3 year old son once that didn't draw blood but did leave a mark and make him cry. My question is ..is there any hope for him or do you think he will always be aggressive? We don't have money to get him trained anymore. He hasn't been fixed yet but people keep saying he will stop being aggressive after he's fixed but he's been doing this all along. Would appreciate your advice on to keep him or not. Thanks so much!

This is actually a really difficult question to answer, but my primary instinct is to say that he's probably not a good fit for you family.  Let me explain.

First, kids are not like normal people.  I'm sure you see your 3 year old a small person who's just cute and learning.  Your dog does not see them this way.  To your dog, a 3 year old is an alien creature who talks in a really weird language and doesn't quite walk right.  That's pretty scary!  Don't even get me started on what a 1 year old is like to your dog!!

Secondly, as much as you work with your dog, you also have to work with your kids.  Most kids see dogs as something soft and snuggly that they can play with.  Even kids that are cautious with dogs end up interacting with differently with them than an adult would.  The way they pet and talk and look at a dog are all different, and the way your dog looks at them is different too.  Trying to teach a very young child the exactly perfect way to approach, pet, and handle your dog is, well I don't like to use the word "impossible," but it's extremely difficult.

Third, your dog has already bitten your 3 year old.  He's already setting the tone, and chances are things will end up getting worse before they get better.  You're putting both the dog and the child at risk by keeping them together.

Fourth, this is not something that developed over time.  You did not bring in a dog 7 months ago who was well-socialized to kids but then developed a few issues.  Your brought in a dog 7 months ago who didn't like kids from the get-go.  Changing that is going to be difficult.

Lastly, simply the time and commitment it would take to make things better.  It's certainly not impossible to help your dog, but it will take a lot of work (far longer than 2 weeks) and a lot of time.  In my experience, most parents of 2 young kids just don't have the time or the energy to handle that (a big applause to you if you do).

Now then, all that being said, there are a couple of things I'd like to clarify about all I said. 

1) Age will make a difference here, and I haven't met your dog.  No offense, but I always worry when someone tells me their dog is aggressive.  Many times, what they see as aggression is really just overgrown hyper puppy.  Having never met your dog or seen how he acts around your kids, I am really just assuming that what you're saying is completely accurate.

2) Notice that at no point did I think your dog should be put down / euthanized.  Just because he's not a great fit for your family doesn't mean he wouldn't be a great fit for someone else.  It could just be that he's not great with kids, but would do wonderfully in a home free of children.

I really hope this answers your question.  I'm sorry I couldn't give you a more positive response, but I really worry when young kids are involved.  Good luck!

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