22 month old male, aggressive towards strange children
Addy is our baby. We've had him since he was 10 weeks and have been raising him with our young sons. They are now 8 and 5 but were 3 and 6 when we adopted Addy.
Addy has been in extensive training and is well socialized with people and dogs. He is an inside dog that other than a few puppy issues, the worst thing he does is excessively lick. He is an absolute joy.
He looks scary and sounds scary when he barks, but has never been aggressive towards people who are in our home. He loves our pool man, our housekeeper, our babysitters, our houseguests, he thinks he is a little lap dog. The only thing we have begun to notice is that when our sons friends are over to play, he growls at the kids and will lunge at them.
We kennel him most of the time we have "playdates" so that they boys are free to play in or out and not worry about the dog. but Addy will lunge at them through the kennel, scaring the boys. A few times we have taken him out and my husband has introduced him to the kids and he'll be fine and lick the boys and then ignore them, UNLESS the boys show any fear, then Addy growls at them. It seems that any child that shows fear of him he gets aggressive towards.
The other day a boy was here and I was coming back from a walk with Addy, as I was opening the gate to put him in the yard the boy came around the corner and jumped back in fear and at the same time and Addy jumped out at him and nipped him in the back. I'm pretty sure he was surprised to see the boy, I know I was, but it was aggressive and it happened really fast. He didn't get the boy as I was able to pull him back, but all the same....
We have never left any kids alone with the dog, nor would we, but I am concerned that if we cannot eliminate this behavior, Addy will always have to be kenneled or fenced when we have kids over to play, thus excluding him from his "pack". Any advice?
Like I said, this only happens with kids, not adults. Strangers have walked into our backyard not knowing he was there and he's done nothing except bark at them. He welcomes any adult we bring into our home and introduce him to, but when we do the same with the kids he acts aggressively towards some of them.
Toni - this is definitely something that you're right to be concerned about because it could end up causing serious trouble! The good news is that it sounds as though Addy has a stable temperament so he's not an 'aggressive' or 'dangerous' dog, but his behavior in certain situations could be considered to be both.
Not actually knowing the dog, or seeing his behavior, means that it's difficult to be certain about what's causing it, but I would guess it's part of the adolescence-to-maturity type thing and that it's a mostly dominant behavior that is being shown in an aggressive way.
Addy most likely sees other children as being below him in the 'pack' structure (dogs often see children as puppies. When they're pups themselves then the kids are 'siblings' but an adult dog may see them as toddlers who need to be put in their place).
He's probably trying to exert his authority immediately so that there's no chance of them usurping him, but that is NOT okay. He needs to learn to respect ALL humans, however small (or unfamiliar) they may be.
Dogs definitely sense fear and are more likely to bully a dog (or human) who is afraid of them. Plus nervous kids tend to squeal or use a high voice, they might run or flap their arms etc. and all of this triggers a prey drive instinct. Some breeds, and some individual dogs, have a stronger prey drive than others and this may be a factor here.
Honestly this is something I strongly recommend that you get professional help with, now, while Addy is still young and his behavior is not deeply ingrained.
A professional dog trainer (who is experienced with large guardian breeds and who only uses positive training methods) or a dog behaviorist would be my suggestion.
There should be several in your area and if I were you I would call around and explain the problem and see who can help and what they would recommend/suggest.
Obviously you don't want to have to confine Addy every time there are other kids at your house, but at this stage you really have no other option. With behavior modification and training help you should be able to quash this 'attitude' he's showing though. So I would start looking for some professional input asap.
I wish you lots of luck with it all. Hopefully some other visitors will have more advice or recommendations for you all too. Thanks for visiting! ~ Sue