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Hello, My husband and I have a female, 2 and 1/2 year old german shepherd mix (Bella) and a 9 month old daughter (Claire). Bella has always been a super gentle, cuddly dog (albeit a bit spazzy and energetic), i.e. she's never snapped at anyone young or old, or even other doggies she plays with at the beach. We have always been able to feed her treats and she's been super gentle, and never possessive of her toys or food. When we first brought Claire home she was disinterested and distanced herself a bit, but was never aggressive with her. We could always hang out together in the same room. Well, lately things have changed. Claire started crawling about a month ago, and maybe in the last couple of weeks Bella will not leave her alone. We can't play on the floor in the same room because Bella won't stop licking Claire aggressively, it's almost like a game for her. I try to hang out with them both to teach Bella how to behave but it's like, "look see how fast I can do this thing I know I'm not supposed to do!" I don't mind a few dog licks for Claire here and there, but this is like all Bellas's focused on when we are all together. She's also gotten more possessive of her empty dog bowl, which is of course what Claire wants to play with most of all. What does this behavior mean? Should I be worried? How can I try and correct it? Thanks so much for any input!
 

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This sounds like a recipe for disaster. I would keep your dog on a lead or in her crate when your baby is crawling on the floor, and reward her for being calm and looking away from the baby and at you. You can use "leave it" and "look at me cues" to get her attention away from the baby. You should also look at the Sticky we have in the forum about Resource Guarding and do some work to make sure she doesn't start guarding her bowl, but you should also keep your baby away from the bowl- really there's no need for a baby to play with a dog's bowl, it's not very hygienic for one thing!

Bella probably isn't aggressive, just curious and possibly confused, or maybe playful, towards the baby. But you need to keep your baby safe and that means not letting your German Shepherd put her jaws near her head, regardless of whether she's playful rather than aggressive. Any dog could easily seriously hurt a baby in play.
 

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Your dog is probably stressed about all the changes. Mobility in babies is a big transition for the family pets, and you'll need to give her some help in order to keep everyone safe.

I would stop her from licking the baby altogether. Tether her to you or keep her in a place that the baby cannot get to, and reward her for calm behaviour and ignoring the baby.

Doing some reading about how to deal with resource guarding is probably going to help you out, but in the short term, pick up the food bowl or make sure that your baby cannot get to it. This is an entirely preventable conflict.

This is a really good article about what's really going on with dogs and children: But He's Great With Kids

Make sure your dog can choose to get away from the baby as your daughter's mobility increases. If the dog feels trapped, her anxiety will go up, and the baby can't read her body language, nor will you be able to watch for all the signs all the time. This is one of the few scenarios in which I would teach the dog to jump a baby gate, assuming she is sound enough and athletic enough to do so.
 

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Hi,

When our first girl was born (ten years ago!) we had an Afghan hound that absolutely hated kids. So we learned real fast about strategic uses of baby gates, dog crates, and wall tethers.

Now in your case - your dog doesn't actively hate the baby (big plus) but there is still the need to "baby proof" your dog.

First - I'd stop letting the baby play with the dogs food bowl. That is a high prize in a dogs eye and dogs do not think of babies (or kids) in the same way that they think of adults. I'm not really worried about germs but you should not let your kid bother the dog when the dog is eating - so might as well start working on that early on!

Second - like others have posted crating is great and so are baby gates and tethers. Also as mentioned you should really start working on the "leave it" command. Something that I teach all of my dogs though is the command "Mat" - they each have their own mats (rugs) and they have been taught to go and lay on them and stay there until released. It can take quite awhile to get to the point where they are consistent on it. I know another person who uses a jump rope - she can spread it out in any configuration she wants and her dog has been taught not to cross over the rope!

Bea
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you so much for all of these suggestions! I will forward all this along to my husband as well so that we can start implementing these ideas. Really appreciate it!
 

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Will do! We have already started reinforcing the "leave it" command (which is still selectively heeded), and this morning I fed Bella out of my hands. The big challenge will be consistency. I have also been putting all of Bella's toys, bones and dog bowl away when not in use, so they aren't temptations for Claire or out for Bella to guard.
 
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