Puppy seems aggressive to specific child

(28 Posts)
8feet12paws2fins Sun 03-Feb-19 14:23:31

Hi all,
I’m desperate for help and advice. We have a 6 month old cockerpoo and she keeps being aggressive to our 7 year old. She said never like it with anyone else, unless she has a treat which sometimes she will growl if you touch her (I know this is resource guarding). However, she seems to have taken offence against our 7 year old ds! He’s so gentle with her and absolutely adores her but sometimes if he strokes her, she will go for him. Not in a playful way or a puppy learning it’s biting inhibition, she really snaps after him. He knows how to behave around dogs and doesn’t bother her when she’s eating or sleeping, he’s never noisy or rough so I honestly don’t know why she seems to single him out (she’s fine with our other ds and all other people in general it’s just ds2). Ds2 has quite good reaction so manages to move away quick enough at the minute but I’m absolutely terrified that she’s going to cause some real damage one day! My anxiety is suffering with it, I’m so upset and I just don’t know what to do. Please help.

OP’s posts: |
DewDropsonKittens Sun 03-Feb-19 15:52:19

I'm a novice, but have been reading that there has to be clear pack rules

My 6 year old is going to start the obedience classes with me and pup as I want her to be respected as a leader

Doggydoggydoggy Sun 03-Feb-19 16:14:32

Personally, I would not keep the dog.

You are already concerned about it doing damage and from what you say it sounds like it’s unprovoked?
It’s really not fair for your son to have to live like that and actually he could end up becoming really fearful of dogs as a result.

I hope you find a solution to your problem but for me I couldn’t live with that.

BiteyShark Sun 03-Feb-19 16:22:13

I would get a behaviourist in to advise you.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Sun 03-Feb-19 16:27:51

I'm a novice, but have been reading that there has to be clear pack rules. My 6 year old is going to start the obedience classes with me and pup as I want her to be respected as a leader

I'm afraid you're making one of the classic novice mistakes. Pack leadership theory has been thoroughly debunked, and the techniques associated with it are actively harmful.


Please make sure that the trainer you to go is APDT accredited and uses only positive reinforcement. Your dog will thank you, and so will your future self.

8feet12paws2fins Sun 03-Feb-19 16:50:35

Doggy it is unprovoked yes, I mean he touches her but so does everyone and she actively seeks fuss from everyone else and seems to just react with ds2. Its scary and upsetting. I had a mental health breakdown last year and im so worried that getting rid of her would cause me more mental damage that I’ve worked so hard to repair - obviously the safety of my family comes first and foremost, so that would have to be dealt with. Just reading the suggestion of getting rid of her sent a wave of panic over me, it would thoroughly break all of our hearts. When she was in the ankle nipping stage ds2 was terrified and used to run everywhere to avoid her (which excited her) and I asked if he would feel more comfortable if we didn’t have her - cue hysterical crying from both ds saying ‘please don’t send her away’. She really has bought joy but this is a massive problem! She doesn’t do it all of the time but even some of the time is too much because it means it’s even more unpredictable. At this moment in time I don’t believe that I could afford a behaviourist. I’m at a loss of what to do.

OP’s posts: |
Doggydoggydoggy Sun 03-Feb-19 17:08:25

I feel for you and don’t know what to suggest unfortunately.

I can understand how you feel at the thought of getting rid of her, my dog is dog aggressive (not people) but at her absolute worst she would tense up at the sight of old people with walking sticks, I think because at a distance the stick looked like a leash and I definately had that same sickening feeling of oh my god, what if she goes to bite someone and I’ll have to get rid of her because I know that for me personally, I really couldn’t cope with a dog I couldn’t trust around people.

It’s hard, though I think you’d probably never forgive yourself if she did god forbid bite your son.

I think, if you are definately going to keep her you DO need professional help.

They fall into two camps - positive and balanced.

Positive trainers like avocadoes suggested work beautifully for most dogs and current scientific research suggests they are the best.
They use praise, treats and toys to change the dog’s mindset around the thing that makes them aggressive.
Unfortunately they didn’t work for mine, at all.
That isn’t to say you wouldn’t get great results though, all dogs are different.

Balanced trainers train new behaviour/tricks/obedience exactly the same way as positive trainers with praise, treats and toys.
The difference, is if the dog does something ‘wrong’ they will punish the dog.
ABDT registered for balanced dog trainers.


IdaBlankenship Sun 03-Feb-19 17:14:07

We had similar, it started with one child (growling) for a few weeks and he suddenly went for my other child completely unprovoked as he walked into a room. A behaviourist and vet told us to rehome as we'd never be able to trust him around the kids again. It was devastating as he was not aggressive in any other way and the kids had done nothing to provoke him.

BiteyShark Sun 03-Feb-19 17:19:21

At this moment in time I don’t believe that I could afford a behaviourist.

Then the only other thing you can do is to keep your DCs completely seperate from your dog at all times.

Myranium Sun 03-Feb-19 17:25:03

Do you have insurance? Some policies will cover the use of a behaviourist so it's worth checking if you do have any.

I definitely agree that you need professional help to properly assess the situation and help you sort it. Unfortunately dog training is a completely unregulated industry and there are plenty of people about who are still peddling outdated, unethical and potentially dangerous techniques. There are organisations you can go through to find someone who will be using up to date, positive and force free methods. As well as the APDT mentioned upthread, there's also the APBC, PPG and IMDT.

There's an excellent FB group called Dog Training Advice and Support which is run by members of these organisations. It's well worth joining and asking both for recommendations for a trainer/behaviourist who covers your area and advice on how to manage the situation in the meantime to keep everyone safe and happy. If you absolutely can't afford professional help then they can offer some degree of advice but there's only so much that can be done without actually witnessing the behaviour and providing a proper behavioural consultation.

Definitely avoid any so called "balanced" trainers. Their methods rely upon the use of aversive training methods/tools, those which are designed to discourage unwanted behaviour via intimidation, fear, discomfort and pain. As well as damaging the relationship between you and your dog these techniques have a high rate of behavioural fallout and often cause far more problems than they "solve".

8feet12paws2fins Sun 03-Feb-19 17:30:05

IdaBlankenship how did it affect the family? I honestly feel sick at the thought of her not being ours but also feel sick with worry that it could escalate and it would be my fault.
do you have insurance? Yes we have Tesco premium insurance but not sure if it covers the use of a behaviourist.

OP’s posts: |
Ylvamoon Sun 03-Feb-19 17:57:54

Firstly I always find that some dogs take disliking to DC because a) they are quite lively and b) see them as play mates / puppies c) DC can be overwhelming for a dog even if it is just cuddle or fuss.
The behaviour in dog and DC escalates because DC is scared / insecure and the dog picks up on this. Resulting in all kinds of unwanted behaviour by the dog including snapping barking or jumping at DC.
Best remedy is to get DC to do some training with the dog. Teach your DC that they have control over the dog by reinforcing simple commands like sit stay give paw ... always followed by a treat. DC should be able to move the dog off the sofa and invite into the sofa. This should be calm and supervised by you. (Please make sure that the dog knows the command first, as it is not down to DC to teach!)
This way your DC will learn to relax around the dog and you will find that the issues disappears over time.
Secondly I think at 6months, your dog is "trying it on" and a firm "no" and removing the dog from the situation is necessary. This could be exclusion or simply making him sit on his own bed (DC should never touch dog on its own bed!)
Think of it as a child that needs to learn how to play a game but has a clear luck of concentration. You will have to be consistent and tell the same things quite a few times!

adaline Sun 03-Feb-19 18:39:45

Has your son ever done something she didn't like in the past? Picked her up or touched her food or dropped her or trodden on her or something? My thought is he's accidentally hurt or scared her before and she's remembering it and is reacting through fear.

@DewDropsonKittens please, please find a new trainer. Dominance/pack theory has been thoroughly debunked and you could be doing more harm than good in the long run. Read up on Victoria Stilwell.

Doggydoggydoggy Sun 03-Feb-19 18:44:30

Damage the relationship indeed.

The majority of balanced training is positive (praise, treats and toys), the corrections are minor and extremely quick and are administered at the very beginning of arousal before the behaviour escalates.

Watch a dog getting corrected properly.
They do not vocalise or cower or shirk away or give out calming signals.

Balanced training generally is pretty big on obedience and self control, prolonged sits/stays in distracting environments, asking for tricks before toys, food etc, proper heels.
It’s pretty hard to do that with a dog that apparently hates you and won’t give you eye contact...

My dog started out confident and over time became so nervous and reactive (following positive training) that a dog barking outside or the kids running about would cause her to run upstairs and hide.

You know what she does now? When she hears dogs barking or kids running or me telling the kids off?
Nothing. Unfazed. Just carries on sleeping.

She has been given corrections for the start of aggressive behaviour, learned more obedience and is much much calmer.

Before, if we sat a bench she would whine and snarl if a dog appeared and if they didn’t leave immediately she would lie down cowering and shaking.

I sat down on a bench with her just the other day, she sat quietly, relaxed and when dogs appeared she started wagging her tail and back end, mouth open and relaxed.

That doesn’t sound like a stressed out, shut down dog to me.

I refuse to let her off leash at this stage but the change really is profound.
She is a much less nervous dog.

There used to be a poster on here called joystir whose dog was close to being put down until she tried balanced training.
I’m sure there are others.

Dogs are different.
Positive reinforcement does not work for ALL dogs.
Most, but not all.

Until you have had a nightmare dog that you’ve tried positive training for for years, that is getting worse and suffering and getting ever closer to being euthanised and has made massive improvements on balanced protocols I really don’t think you are in any position to judge balanced training.

No one actively abuses their dog.
We ALL do what we think is best for the dog and it’s down right offensive to be accused of cruelty and having a poor relationship by people that have never actually tried the method, never seen the dog concerned, never seen the change for themselves.

Doggydoggydoggy Sun 03-Feb-19 18:46:35

And many balanced trainers don’t believe in dominance theory either..
They believe in communicating yes and no.
That’s all.

Do your own research, do whatever you feel most comfortable with but dont accuse people who follow that training method of abuse, it’s just not true.

DewDropsonKittens Sun 03-Feb-19 19:06:19

Thank you for the advice @adaline I really appreciate that, I have a thread on here about advice as we have a new pup and am grateful you've given me that info

We haven't started lessons yet, my idea to take youngest was about helping her to learn to do the commands and make her confident

We are using tons of positive reinforcement and ignoring negative at the moment (3 days in)

missbattenburg Sun 03-Feb-19 19:07:40

The dislike of your DS does not have to be anything he has done. It could be as simple as a seperate and unconnected fright while he was the closest person to the dog. She has incorrectly linked the fright with your DS.

You honestly and absolutely need someone to help you with this. There is no way any of us will have the insight into the situation to be able to help you because this is not a clearicut case and because it involves children in the home and a dog that is showing aggression toards that child. Plus, you suffer from anxiety which means you will probably benefit from having someone supportive there with you to help.

I totally get that could be very hard but you have 4 options here:

1. If she came from a decent breeder, go back to them and ask for help with this.
2. Get a behaviorist in to help
3. Rehome the dog
4. Manually keep dog and child seperated at all times and accept that manual controls like this will fail at some point.

I don't know if 1. is a possibility?

You don't want 3.

4. Is foolish.

That leaves 2. You need to investigate your insurance. Or change it. Or find the money. I am not saying that to be harsh or underestimated how hard that might be for you. But it is just the way it is.

For the benefit of anyone else who stumbles across this thread this is one of the reasons why everyone here bangs on about choosing your breeder so carefully - the lifetime support that good breeder give is invaluable. It is also why everyone recommends getting the best insurance you can.


Dogs are not pack animals. They form unstable, loose social groups (when allowed to), not packs. Those groups not not appear to have any strict linear hierarchy - i.e. there is no 'leader'. When allowed, they have changeable and complex hierarchies that are specific to the individuals and environment at the time. They are not set in stone and a dog that defers to another in one circumstance, one day may not do so the next time.

Wolves are pack animals. They form tight-knit stable family groups (packs). They differ in social behaviour from dogs in numerous ways so their behaviour is not always the best way to understand dog behaviour. They do not have a strict linear hierarchy either (no lead
wolf). They do have parental hierarchies - i.e. the group is most often a family unit in which the parents would assume leadership in many circumstances but only in the same way as happens with many animals who have such close and long term parental care as their norm. As offspring grow up they will defer to the parents less and less and then leave home to find their own territory.

Dogs do seem to benefit from routine and predictability. When we talk about boundaries, in reality it would appear to be a dog understanding clearly that "if I do x, y happens" and for that to be true every time. Predictability.

adaline Sun 03-Feb-19 19:44:21

That sounds great to me @DewDropsonKittens - definitely get everyone in the family using the same commands and training methods.

What kind of puppy did you get? smile

8feet12paws2fins Sun 03-Feb-19 19:53:06

Some really fantastic advice here, since I posted this thread I’ve felt my anxiety go through the roof because its like now ive put it out there, I’m admitting it’s a problem and it’s hard. Ds2 has stood on her by accident before but then we all have, I do at least every other day unfortunately. They say cockerpoos are ‘Velcro dogs’ and she epitomises that, she has to be so close to me that she is always under my feet and so it’s impossible not to trip over her. The theory of him being frightened around her could possibly be true, although he doesn’t seem tentative around her any more, when she was in the nippy stage as mentioned previously, he ran everywhere rather than walked and screamed and cried. I did wonder if it was because he strokes her mainly when she’s on the sofa and she’s like she to relax on there but she does it in other places too and when we went out in the car ds2 tried to stroke her and she turned her head quick to nip him again. I can’t see any obvious links between behaviour but then I know dogs are sensitive to things. She came from my dads partners sister (mouthful). She isn’t a breeder per se, she wanted her dog to have 1 litter. I don’t believe she’s could go back there. It’s all just a mess. Ds2 got told off earlier and went and sulked and ddog went and sat with him and he sat stroking her with no problem? I’m just confused.

OP’s posts: |
Doggydoggydoggy Sun 03-Feb-19 19:59:51

On the sofa and in the car..
Could it maybe be more resource guarding?

DewDropsonKittens Sun 03-Feb-19 20:04:01

We got a female bullmastiff

She pooped outside earlier for the first time grin

8feet12paws2fins Sun 03-Feb-19 20:08:55

Doggy she does resource guard with some treats or something she really wants, even if it’s only a piece of cardboard. She will growl at us sometimes in these circumstances (we know this is a problem) but she has never reacted in the way she does with ds2, we can all stroke her on the sofa, in the car etc and she doesn’t react but does with ds2....sometimes.

OP’s posts: |
CatnissEverdene Sun 03-Feb-19 20:19:46

I'd say that something must have happened for this to have started.

But that's in the past, all you can do is move forward. You need to make a "sin bin" for her to go if she does this, be it a stair gate into the kitchen or wherever. Then if she goes to nip or growls, a firm sharp NO and into the sin bin. Each and every time. She's still very young, and usually this reaction comes from fear.

Hoppinggreen Sun 03-Feb-19 20:25:00

Ddog was always a bit more stroppy with ds than the rest of us (DS is the youngest in the family). Ddog liked him least and wouldn’t go to him for a cuddle or play, resource guarded with him and as a puppy he was the most usual recipient of rough play.
I know pack theory is now disproven but Ddog definitely threw his weight around more with DS than any8ne else
We worked with a Behaviourist and she noticed that DS was (understandably) more nervous around Ddog than the rest of us and was reluctant to spend time with him. We got DS to join in with more walks, play fetch with him more (not tuggy games) and feed him. Althougddog doesn’t adore DS like he does me and dd or respect him the way he does DH he definitely likes him much more and will go to him for attention now

Hoppinggreen Sun 03-Feb-19 20:26:02

Oh, and we banned him from the sofa - Ddog not DS.

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