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My American Bulldog is a female named izzy and she will be 6 in July. We rented a few times in various cities so she is used to moving often. The last place we were at we started for about 2.5 years. We just bought a house, a more permanent solution. She never showed any sign of aggression with us or other family. The only time she barks is when she knows someone's knocking on the door. She has been so good with my son (2) up til this point and never growled at me before until recently. She is 85lbs and I feel threatened by her and my.son is now scared of her. I have never owned a dog before but I thought dogs stayed loyal to thier families. She.has been.through two complete training classes and she does the normal obediance cues, sit, stay, wait, lay down, off, in your bed, take it, leave it, quiet, come. Its been a while since we trained her in anything new but for the most part she just hangs around in her or my bed all day. She's not very active although she does run in the yard. Shes eating normally too.

So heres what happened. I was sitting on the couch and izzy was laying on the rug below me. My 2 year old son was near her the whole time jumping singing and watching a show. She didn't move a muscle. This is a normal day for us. My son always pets her side or back but he was excited and raised his voice and more aggressively pet her. She whipped her head around and growled at him. I grabbed my son.and scolded her saying "hey! Thats a baby!" and she sat up and looked at me. My son was jysterical. I explained to him that he might have scared izzy and that's she was mad at him. I then.called izzy over and pet izzy on the head. She seemed fine. I told her to get in her bed. Since that incident and that was thursday, I was weary about even going to the kitchen to get a drink with both of them being the same room together. Before I wouldn't think twice leaving him in the same room while I.cooked dinner or do laundry. I thought this was an isolated incident but I kept watch of my.2 year old and reminded him to watch out for izzy and not to scare her.

Then tonight my husband allowed her in our bed. She goes in our bed when we leave the house but she doesn't and has never slept with us, and when I came in I told her to get down and she wouldn't move which was quite typical for her bc she can be stubborn.
So I reached for her to assist her down and she had that scary look in her eye and without hesitation growled at me. I got angry and looked to my husband. He gave her a nudge and told her down and she did and went straight to her bed.

Twice in less than a week for interrupting her position? Did I scare her? Is she stressed from being in a different place? Do I need to bind with her more? I let my son feed her everyday to have that moment with her. And my son is not a nightmare child. He hardly cries or throws tantrums. From what I know ive never seen him throw a toy at her. He lays with her all the time and gives her treats. He has never pulled her ears. He stepped on her tail once many months ago she looked and just moved a few steps over.

I am really confused. Why now? Why is she growling now? Is it her age? Adustment? Is she turning on us?

She was and still is the best dog and i can't believe im even worrying about ger hiring my child! I never thought I would be in this position. What should I do moving forward?
She has not showed her teeth nor has she snapped....yet. I just don't understand why she as ll of a sudden is being triggered. Like she knows the drill that she is not allowed to stay on the bed and she knows that my son sits on the floor with her to watch movies. Its been okay for years. This is clearly now not an isolated event. Twice in four days seems like she is adopting an aggressive behavior or she's warning us about something. But itsnot like we are taking her food away or treats away or water away or showing her any threatening behaviors first or last. But for some reason.she's feeling threatened or scared or anxious.

P.S. Another change in izzy recently is hair loss. She has patches on both sides of her coat of thinning of hair. We noticed it a few weeks before we moved and its still there now. She.does seem.a little sensitive to touch in those areas. And it just hasnt grown back. We thought it might be the switching of food that caused that. Please help. Any surgeons feedback would be greatly appreciated. Please be courteous when realising. I am sincerely asking for feedback. Thanks in advance.
 

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It is pretty normal for kids to tick off dogs, especially as the dogs age and get 'too old for this crap' and especially when kids are two years old. They do stuff. They are kids. Although many people do it often, it's considered bad practice to leave children and dogs alone together… you really can never predict what might happen even with the sweetest-natured dogs and the most well-mannered kids. I know of a ten year-old who cut a triangle of hair out of her family chow-chow's head… yeah, they keep you on your toes like that ;)

While we can't give you any vet advice on this forum (and certainly no vet smart enough to graduate veterinary college would be soliciting free advice over the internet without some serious legal implications), I think it's really worth checking in with the vet, as she seems like she might have a tenderness about the tummy area. While bulldogs are very heavy in body and aren't always keen about being picked up (much less poked by two year-olds), it's possible that she might be getting gas-pains from the new food, or something more serious. The hair-loss at her age is certainly troublesome and should warrant a vet visit in my opinion.

Moving forward… Don't punish the dog for growling at your child.

a) This is her giving the child a warning. I'm sure that if she feels that she has to bite the child, you'd rather she let you know before it gets to that point!

b) Punishing a dog during an interaction with a child makes the kid 'that awful child who hurts me, and makes my mum angry at me.


It's easy to lose it a bit when a dog growls at a child, but you have to remember that your dog is really mentally no different than a toddler theirself. They do not understand 'my owner is mad as a consequence of my actions'; they just seek pleasure and avoid pain. If toddlers become a noisy, painful, unpleasant experience for them… they will not come to like toddlers very much! And likewise, you wouldn't pull your older child aside and have a stern word with them for telling your two-year-old 'keep your hands off me, please, I don't like that!' A growl is just that, in doglish.

And a last word, bulldogs and the like are very sweet dogs. They put up with a lot of crap; it is what they are bred to do. IMO they are like golden retrievers in that they put up with more crap from kids than what can be fairly expected of a dog. Dogs see children quite like puppies IMO and will tolerate a lot of their rambunctiousness just as they would that of a young dog: they ignore it. Generally they are fairly secure that a youngster can do no harm to them, and if this has been the case up until now, she is probably feeling very bothered by something. Definitely bring this up with the vet within a week at the most.
 

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You need to get a vet check, with all bloodwork including Thyroid, asap. Sudden behavior changes are often medical related.

In the meantime, please read our training /behavior stickies on Growling, Kids and Dog Safety, Calming Signals, Fallout/Suppression, and Resource Guarding.
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Could be age/medical related. If her vision is starting to deteriorate, or if she's getting arthritis...It's possible your son startled her. Or asking her to get off the bed was painful for her due to arthritis or other joint issues. Sometimes those things start earlier than we would like.

I agree with crock that a vet visit should be a priority to get her checked out. Especially with the hair loss.
 

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Ditto to everything everyone else said -- she needs a vet check done. Even if it turns out that something is wrong and it's not just a behavior issue, it would be worth educating your son on exactly how to act around dogs. It's early for him to totally grasp the concept, but an early start will help him avoid unpleasant encounters with less tolerant dogs in the future. He really shouldn't be allowed to run up to her while he's super excited and pet her. You want any and all contact with him to be pleasant for your dog, and even though she tolerates it, another dog may not.

Don't ever punish her for growling! It sounds counterproductive, but growling is a dog's warning! It means, "I don't like this, but I don't want to hurt anyone, so I'm going to give you a warning." It's better to have a dog that effectively communicates its discomfort than one that jumps straight to biting. We have some behavior stickies around the forum -- it may help to read up on them. Dogs are very subtle with their body language, but there are obvious signs of discomfort that you can learn to read so that you can remove either the dog or the toddler before things escalate.

Final word of advice -- don't leave them alone together. No matter how much you trust your dog not to hurt your child, if you are not there to supervise, it's a recipe for disaster. Even the most well-behaved dog can decide that enough is enough and cause serious damage. It doesn't make them a bad dog, it just means they got fed up, and then you have a traumatized kid and a dog that will probably be euthanized. It's just not safe.

It sounds like she's a great dog, and just needs to be able to get away when she's feeling stressed. Definitely get a vet check done! :)

Edit: forgot to mention -- dogs don't see children as more valuable members of society, so expecting them to be gentle and tolerant of kids just because they're kids is a recipe for disaster. Kids can be scary to dogs! They walk weird, make weird noises, and do weird things! Perfectly normal for them to be a bit uncomfortable around kids.
 

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For what it's worth, we also have a dog who can be reactive to our kids. We swear by baby gates - the extra tall kind - to keep everyone separated and supervised. I never leave either of my kids alone with Rosie. I have an active preschooler and a 1 year old, and I don't trust them to not pester her. If I can't 100% supervise the interactions - even through the baby gate - Rosie goes in our mudroom with a frozen kong. Good luck with the vet check, that's a good place to start!


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