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Father Knows Best


My daughter and her husband have a dog (probably about 2 years old) that demonstrates a lot of aggression, particularly when confronted about taking objects. He has been briefly around their nephew (age 1 year) and growled at him.  My daughter is pregnant, due in January.

We had the dog at our house this weekend; along with my 10-year-old dog.  Her dog got aggressive over a ball and growled in a threatening way; my dog bit him (no blood but enough that he yelped) then he backed off.

He later growled at me over an article he had stolen; I forced him to the ground then he stopped growling and gave up the item.

We’re concerned.


Hi D.

Me too! I’m sure your daughter loves this dog to death but if she doesn’t address this she’s liable to do just that. When that baby is born she won’t love her dog any less but she’ll discover she has a greater capacity for love as it pertains to one’s own child then she can now imagine and in that light, the risk to the child will be unacceptable and the dog will one way or another have to go and she’s going to feel awful when she should be feeling joyous. The time to act is now.

Your dog gave the canine heroic version of an accelerated Miss Manner’s course and a hint as to what is likely missing in your daughter’s dog’s skewed sense of who’s living in whose house. This would not have been the first time he experienced this sort of consequence for lack of respect. Mom dogs usually send pups onto their new homes with a history of similarly accented “I love you but…” lessons that also conclude with, “he yelped, then he backed off.”

For the more butt-headed pups if there’s not someone willing to continue with lovingly applied attitude adjustments when a youngster gets a little too big for its britches you unnecessarily end up with a juvenile delinquent with a dim future.

The lucky dogs are the ones where the owners start treating this as a serious problem right away. A lot think they can work around it but with a baby in the house they get a wake-up call pretty quickly.

You and your dog took the direct route when the bully tried to throw his weight around however there are a lot of peripheral ways to get into a dog’s head that tap into a dog’s sense of self-preservation equally effectively. Smart dogs don’t pick fights they don’t think they can win. Rather then wait for a fight over an object I structure a lifestyle where the dog discovers nothing happens unless I say it happens. I make them stay on a mat during meals, and at the doorway coming and going. They drag a long leash indoors and outdoors and I recall them at my whim.

Overall, I don’t give them any less, they just have to show respect to get something they once took for granted; going through doors, onto furniture, in and out of the car, up and down stairs. Not an hour of the day goes by where I haven’t set up several little “hurdles” where the dog has to acknowledge it’s my stairway, couch, car, doorway etc.

It may not be enough but it’s a start. You’d be surprised how after a month of that a dog realizes who’s living in whose house and picking a fight over an object seems unwise as the outcome seems a forgone conclusion.

As it is, I doubt there is much in his day to day routine that lends itself to anything other then the opposite conclusion and so whether anyone realizes it or not he may now be on death row.

Your daughter can find a downloadable version of a book I wrote, “How to Prepare Your Dog for Your Baby” on my website but if I were her I’d locate a no-nonsense trainer to help her give her dog a wake up call.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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