What is this strange behavior around baby?

Go Back   Dog Forum > Keeping and Caring for Dogs > Dog Training and Behavior

What is this strange behavior around baby?

This is a discussion on What is this strange behavior around baby? within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; We've had our rescued lab mix for about 7 years and he's a great dog. He's well behaved, non aggressive, and minds well on and ...

User Tag List

Like Tree9Likes

 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 12-14-2017, 07:25 PM
  #1
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 5
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
What is this strange behavior around baby?

We've had our rescued lab mix for about 7 years and he's a great dog. He's well behaved, non aggressive, and minds well on and off leash. He's great around adults always. His only issue is around children under the age of about 5 and he's acted the same way towards kids since we first got him. My wife and I had a baby who is 18 months now and dog is still weird around baby. Here is what he does:

- Gets tense and sometimes shakes around the baby.
- Follows baby around and tries to get in front of him and block his path.
- Tries to corner baby while giving a weird look.
- lays around and stares at baby.
- Barks and nips back sometimes if baby touches him from behind.
- Sits there and growls when baby is patting his head from front.

He's never bitten the baby but he lunges with an open mouth as if to bite but when his teeth touch he runs off. It seems like he is scared of baby but if so why would he follow him around everywhere and block his path then growl when baby tries to get by?

I could understand if the dog was scared and always runs away all the time and gets aggressive when cornered but that's not the case. We're really confused and would love some advice on why he is doing that and how we can fix it.
Letsurf is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 07:57 PM
  #2
Senior Member
 
Shadowmom's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: Cambridge MA
Posts: 1,277
Mentioned: 50 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
It sounds like stalking behavior when he's following the baby. The growling when being petted on the head and getting in front of the baby and blocking the baby and cornering it all sound like he's making himself dominant in the hierarchy and telling the baby who's small and the newcomer that he's in charge. I know people don't like dominant language anymore but sorry that's what he sounds like he's doing. Dogs with resource guarding or that go after little dogs or puppies who are dominant do the same kinds of things they chase and stalk the smaller dogs and block them. Or they go after the dogs that steal their toys if they're resource guarding. The lunging with open mouth and shaking when teeth make contact sounds like he might want to bite but may have been punished severely for biting in the past. My last dog occasionally bit a couple of people, mainly overconfident vets or in defending me or my mom with terminal cancer. Whenever he did actually bite someone, human or other dog, it was always a warning and never serious and never hurt anyone. But immediately he'd cower and shake violently and look like he was going to be severely punished. In the immediate situation I'd yell or pull him away to get out of the situation but never to the degree to frighten or hurt him to cause that reaction so I assume one of his previous homes traumatized him.

Your dog may not be normally aggressive and may normally be the sweetest dog around. But it sounds like he's pretty upset about your baby and trying to tell you in every way he can while trying to stay a good dog. Please listen to him and keep him and the baby far away from each other, for the safety of both. If he's growling when your baby pats his head that's a very clear sign that he doesn't like it. He shouldn't have to escalate to lunging and snapping with open mouth and teeth making contact with anyone, let alone an eighteen months old toddler who can't know any better. Don't let anyone pat him over the head since he doesn't like it.
I'd keep the dog and baby separate, a large dog the size of a lab is much bigger and stronger than a baby and could accidentally seriously hurt a baby. The risk is high, please work with a trainer on this.
Shadowmom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 09:03 PM
  #3
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 5
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadowmom View Post
It sounds like stalking behavior when he's following the baby. The growling when being petted on the head and getting in front of the baby and blocking the baby and cornering it all sound like he's making himself dominant in the hierarchy and telling the baby who's small and the newcomer that he's in charge. I know people don't like dominant language anymore but sorry that's what he sounds like he's doing. Dogs with resource guarding or that go after little dogs or puppies who are dominant do the same kinds of things they chase and stalk the smaller dogs and block them. Or they go after the dogs that steal their toys if they're resource guarding. The lunging with open mouth and shaking when teeth make contact sounds like he might want to bite but may have been punished severely for biting in the past. My last dog occasionally bit a couple of people, mainly overconfident vets or in defending me or my mom with terminal cancer. Whenever he did actually bite someone, human or other dog, it was always a warning and never serious and never hurt anyone. But immediately he'd cower and shake violently and look like he was going to be severely punished. In the immediate situation I'd yell or pull him away to get out of the situation but never to the degree to frighten or hurt him to cause that reaction so I assume one of his previous homes traumatized him.

Your dog may not be normally aggressive and may normally be the sweetest dog around. But it sounds like he's pretty upset about your baby and trying to tell you in every way he can while trying to stay a good dog. Please listen to him and keep him and the baby far away from each other, for the safety of both. If he's growling when your baby pats his head that's a very clear sign that he doesn't like it. He shouldn't have to escalate to lunging and snapping with open mouth and teeth making contact with anyone, let alone an eighteen months old toddler who can't know any better. Don't let anyone pat him over the head since he doesn't like it.
I'd keep the dog and baby separate, a large dog the size of a lab is much bigger and stronger than a baby and could accidentally seriously hurt a baby. The risk is high, please work with a trainer on this.
Some of what you're saying makes sense but it doesn't seem like dominant behavior to me. I've seen him in dog parks act dominant and he will posture up as if ready to fight with his tail up and chest out and get up in their face. then when they challenge him he runs off with is tail tucked. At home he's never exhibited that behavior and he knows we're the dominant ones in the house. Plus when he acts dominant normally he will try to mount other dogs. Never once has he tried to mount the baby. When he follows the baby it's like he does it very slowly with his tail down in a weird curious stance. It's really weird most of the time he's fine then it's like a switch goes off that says follow the baby around and act weird lol.
Letsurf is offline   Reply With Quote
 
Old 12-14-2017, 09:04 PM
  #4
Senior Member
 
Moonstream's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 658
Mentioned: 46 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadowmom View Post
It sounds like stalking behavior when he's following the baby. The growling when being petted on the head and getting in front of the baby and blocking the baby and cornering it all sound like he's making himself dominant in the hierarchy and telling the baby who's small and the newcomer that he's in charge. I know people don't like dominant language anymore but sorry that's what he sounds like he's doing. Dogs with resource guarding or that go after little dogs or puppies who are dominant do the same kinds of things they chase and stalk the smaller dogs and block them. Or they go after the dogs that steal their toys if they're resource guarding.
The issue with using "dominance" as a terminal explanation for behavior is that in dog-human interactions- it very rarely is the terminal explanation. Honestly, even in dog-dog interactions I usually find that there is a more useful explanation than "dominance" in terms of motivation for behavior. I agree that the behaviors sound like stalking, and that he is clearly trying to control the movements of the child, but I really disagree with saying that it is because he's trying to be "dominant" over the baby. In addition, when you use "dominance" as an explanation of motivation, it often opens the door to methods that assert the human's dominance over the dog- which is rarely pleasant for the dog and oftentimes poses a risk to the human.

From the sound of it, the dog is pretty afraid of the baby. He's likely trying to control the baby's movements because he is afraid. This is pretty common, IME.

To the OP- I agree that this is all very clear communication that the dog is uncomfortable. Absolutely do NOT allow the child to pet the dog. I would enforce full separation, only allowing the dog around the child when the child is restricted access (like the child is in a play pen or behind a gate), and you are actively seeking to form a positive association with the presence of the child (child = you get treats).

I would HIGHLY suggest finding a trainer with experience working with dogs and children who uses science-based methods with a focus on positive reinforcement. Someone through the CCPDT (CBCC or CPDT-KA) or through the IAABC is a good start- https://iaabc.org/ and Certification for professional dog trainers and behavior consultants both have "find a trainer" searches, I believe.
Moonstream is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 09:29 PM
  #5
Senior Member
 
Shadowmom's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: Cambridge MA
Posts: 1,277
Mentioned: 50 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
No one has to agree with the word dominant, I've never seen the dog, that's fine. Maybe I'm not explaining myself well. But the teeth, snapping and growling combined with the stalking and following the baby around would scare me, especially with a baby so young that doesn't even know yet to be careful or how to run away or protect itself.

I'm thinking of how the assertive or bossy or bully (not breeds but actions) or dominant dogs in dog parks follow around and harass new dogs that come in and don't set limits right away. The dogs that come in and run with low tucked tails get chased, tackled, rolled over, harassed and mounted. The dogs that come in and give a snap and lunge and warning growl, or who take charge and sniff with bold body language and immediately start wrestling and playing don't get harassed. Likewise the dogs that have the high value toys or squeaky balls will get chased and stalked by the bolder dogs. Call it whatever you want.

Your dog can respect that the adults are leaders but he doesn't sound comfortable or happy around the baby but seems to find the baby very threatening, based on all the fearful defensive body language you describe. I'd keep the baby very far away from the dog and get a good experienced trainer in babies and large dogs.
Shadowmom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 10:46 PM
  #6
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: NW Washington State
Posts: 141
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
This is actually really common. I started to type up a lengthy recommendation, but it is really too complex to give good advice about in this format without having observed the behavior myself.

I would say that, so long as your child is not allowed to antagonize the dog, I really don't think there is a danger here. It sounds more like the dog is trying to enforce his perceived rules on an "unruly pup", and not like aggression. But, the problem will almost certainly not go away on its own, and you won't be able to completely trust the dog with the child until this is fixed.

And, I will also say that if you just try to fix this by attempting to correct misbehavior when you observe it, you'll be fighting that battle for years, at best.

The short answer is that the dog needs to have a clear and specific way to act around the child that gets him lots of positive reinforcement. This makes him confident to act that way and decreases his overall anxiety, because he knows exactly what to do.
Letsurf likes this.
Foswick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 11:52 PM
  #7
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 5
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonstream View Post
The issue with using "dominance" as a terminal explanation for behavior is that in dog-human interactions- it very rarely is the terminal explanation. Honestly, even in dog-dog interactions I usually find that there is a more useful explanation than "dominance" in terms of motivation for behavior. I agree that the behaviors sound like stalking, and that he is clearly trying to control the movements of the child, but I really disagree with saying that it is because he's trying to be "dominant" over the baby. In addition, when you use "dominance" as an explanation of motivation, it often opens the door to methods that assert the human's dominance over the dog- which is rarely pleasant for the dog and oftentimes poses a risk to the human.

From the sound of it, the dog is pretty afraid of the baby. He's likely trying to control the baby's movements because he is afraid. This is pretty common, IME.

To the OP- I agree that this is all very clear communication that the dog is uncomfortable. Absolutely do NOT allow the child to pet the dog. I would enforce full separation, only allowing the dog around the child when the child is restricted access (like the child is in a play pen or behind a gate), and you are actively seeking to form a positive association with the presence of the child (child = you get treats).

I would HIGHLY suggest finding a trainer with experience working with dogs and children who uses science-based methods with a focus on positive reinforcement. Someone through the CCPDT (CBCC or CPDT-KA) or through the IAABC is a good start- https://iaabc.org/ and Certification for professional dog trainers and behavior consultants both have "find a trainer" searches, I believe.
Thanks for the advice. He does lick his lips a lot which I've read is a sign of being passive. It's just really weird that he would follow something he's afraid of lol. If the baby is in front of him petting him or to the side it's usually not an issue but if he comes up behind quickly and pokes him it sets the dog off. He usually barks loudly and runs off. Even when the baby runs down the hall the dog never chases aggressively or anything so it makes sense it is a defensive nervous behavior. We started letting the baby feed the dog treats and that has been great. Dog will sit and let the baby hold his hand out and he takes the treat very gently so maybe that will help him warm up. We never let the baby close to the dog while he's eating his food of course.
Letsurf is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2017, 11:59 PM
  #8
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 5
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foswick View Post
This is actually really common. I started to type up a lengthy recommendation, but it is really too complex to give good advice about in this format without having observed the behavior myself.

I would say that, so long as your child is not allowed to antagonize the dog, I really don't think there is a danger here. It sounds more like the dog is trying to enforce his perceived rules on an "unruly pup", and not like aggression. But, the problem will almost certainly not go away on its own, and you won't be able to completely trust the dog with the child until this is fixed.

And, I will also say that if you just try to fix this by attempting to correct misbehavior when you observe it, you'll be fighting that battle for years, at best.

The short answer is that the dog needs to have a clear and specific way to act around the child that gets him lots of positive reinforcement. This makes him confident to act that way and decreases his overall anxiety, because he knows exactly what to do.
They've both ran around the house together for over 6 months now with little supervision and no one has gotten hurt. The only reason I would allow that is because we've had him for close to 8 years and he doesn't know how to bite hard. He'll nip at the vacuum lightly and then run, then turn around and nip it again gently lol. He'll chase a cat down like he's going to murder it and then when he gets close he just corners it and stops with this dumb look on his face and does nothing. One time he chased a cat down and it turned around right when he got there. Cat smacked the heck out of him and he layed down and screamed bloody murder the cat just waked off like ya who's the man.

I just don't know how to react when he's acting weird. Scolding the dog won't help if it's a fear issue so am I supposed to give the dog treats when baby is present? If so at what point exactly?
Letsurf is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-15-2017, 12:04 AM
  #9
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 5
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
One more thing to mention. Sometimes when picking a baby up he'll have this really weird curious look with his ears up. Like when they hear a noise that's odd. Sometimes he'll put his mouth on their sock when you're pulling them away. He did this when baby was younger but hasn't done it recently. It's not an aggressive lunge but more like a I want to taste this before it gets away sort of mouthing. Almost like it's another animal. I know that sounds really odd but it's the best way I can explain it.
Letsurf is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-15-2017, 09:15 PM
  #10
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: NW Washington State
Posts: 141
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letsurf View Post
I just don't know how to react when he's acting weird. Scolding the dog won't help if it's a fear issue so am I supposed to give the dog treats when baby is present? If so at what point exactly?
That's just it. There's not much you can do at that moment that will help except, to change the situation (create some distance - do something else).

What you want to do is create situations where the dog will behave exactly how you want, and reward that behavior. Sometimes this seems silly. You may find yourself rewarding the dog for just sitting there. But, anything that is progress should be rewarded, even just the tiniest progress. (Maybe especially tiny progress.)

It is important to not think about the situation as the dog doing right or wrong. You just focus on what is slightly better than before. If you wait for him to make a major improvement, you may be waiting a long time.

If you are consistent and persistent about rewarding small improvements, you'll get there surprisingly quickly. It may not seem like it, at first, but once the dog understands what you're working at, he'll pick it up.

What is KEY is that you tirelessly monitor the child and dog for a while, and don't leave anything to chance. Make sure that every interaction is exactly as you design it and that it practically guarantees the dog will be successful. That requires some patience. Don't get impatient and create a situation to "just see" how the dog will handle it. Proceed slowly and methodically.

This isn't really about avoiding dangerous interactions. It is because you don't want to allow the dog to fall into old habits, even just once. He will make much faster progress and be more reliable if he isn't allowed to fail. Don't think of it in terms of teaching him what you don't want him to do - think of it in terms of teaching him a new way to act, and give him ample opportunity to practice that.

But, if he does slip up (and he almost certainly will), don't make a big deal about it. Just create some distance and let the dog be by himself for a minute or so. (More than that doesn't really make the point any clearer.) Don't reintroduce the dog and child until the previous interaction is forgotten and everyone is calm.

Hope this helps.
Foswick is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply



Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
my 11year old fur baby has cancer I need help with incontinence.. QuincyT Dog Training and Behavior 6 12-11-2017 11:23 PM
Dog almost bit baby with no warning sign Marmar0220 Dog Training and Behavior 7 09-23-2017 10:46 AM
Puppy obsessed with baby sister (puppy) Amberb Puppy Help 0 10-31-2016 09:51 PM
Baby & Dog- Issues with Toys BanjoandBaby Dog Training and Behavior 2 07-27-2016 01:09 PM
Managing two dogs and a baby? paintedhorse2808 General Dog Discussion 3 06-17-2016 06:46 AM


Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:10 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
SEO by vBSEO 3.6.0 PL2
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2019 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging v3.1.0 (Lite) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2019 DragonByte Technologies Ltd. Runs best on HiVelocity Hosting.