Growling at Kids?
Find out who won
What do I do when this 9 week old puppy growls at the kids when they want to pick her up? She lives to crawl on them and lick their faces but when she runs around like crazy and they try to catch her and pick her up, she growls. It’s like she’s saying “Hey, leave me alone, I’m on a mission here.” The first time it happened they quickly let her go and she felt like she won!
Anybody who has raised kids and dogs knows that they are wild and unpredictable at times. When the children chased your young puppy, she may have first signaled them that she needed space but the kids, not schooled in canine body signaling, didn’t notice. So the puppy growled to get some distance. She was scared but no crime was committed.
When your puppy perceived a threat (of course none was intended) as she was roughhousing with the kids, her brain immediately flipped the switch to panic. Anybody’s fear, including a pet’s, should be respected. Those youngsters did the right thing by letting the puppy go. They are learning empathy and kindness. You can be proud of them.
The immature canine brain, most importantly between ages 7-12 weeks, is primed and ready to learn that gentle creatures of all species are trustworthy. You are doing the right thing by socializing your puppy with children as well as adult humans, cats, dogs, whoever. Dogs who missed that brief window of opportunity in their youth often struggle socially and react badly as adults.
Dogs and humans, by the way, are not competitors; your puppy did not feel like she’d won. She was relieved when she wasn’t frightened anymore.
To avoid triggering a dog’s fear, tell people not to reach for, lean over, or stare at her. They can squat quietly, with their side turned, before offering a tasty treat. The puppy, anticipating a friendly encounter, can choose to approach because she feels it’s safe. You’ll bring out the best in everybody.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.