March 18

New Friend or Unwelcome Interloper?


I rescued my dog, Benji, a terrier mix, about a year ago. At the time there were no children in the household. However I now have a 4 year old stepson, Anthony, and a baby on the way, and we are noticing some upsetting behavior from Benji.

He regularly growls when my stepson gets too close and has bitten his foot when he steps over Benji. Benji does ok when Anthony gives him treats and will do tricks for rewards.

I am unsure if I should continue to foster positive interaction or try to separate the two to be safe. We currently have Benji sleeping in his crate at night to avoid any late night unsupervised interaction.

Thanks in advance for your help. ~ Teresa

Teresa: That's a lot of change for Benji in only one year. Based on what you’ve said here, I don’t think you need to keep Benji and Anthony completely apart. Instead pay particular attention to the things that are challenging for Benji.

For example, I would prevent Anthony from ever stepping over Benji and also figure out how close is “too close.” Having a mental image of where the line is allows you to intervene earlier, before they are too close to one another.

Whenever they’re in close quarters, you can distract one or the other to add a bit of distance and extra comfort.

Try to think of their interactions as a traffic light. The more you provide help and support in the yellow zone, the more comfortable the two of them will be with one another. The trick is learning to identify the signs of stress that come before Benji hits the red zone and feels the need to growl or bite.

Ideally interactions between kids and dogs should follow the same guideline as play dates with other kids: “Always leave them wanting more!” That’s so much better than burning out and getting cranky.

Give this a try for a few weeks and let me know how it goes.




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