My 8 year old lab Chloe has never really had much to do with babies, but our best friends now have a 8mth old. We spend a lot of time with them and Chloe is very interested in the baby when we are holding her (goes up to her, sniffs her, even licks hands and feet sometimes!), will even walk really happily alongside the pram on walks and even peer in to see how the baby is. However the last two times we've been there, as soon as the baby is put on the floor even if it is a little bit away from her, Chloe will just do this growl and snap thing at her out of the blue. While I'm sure she'd never actually bite, its a very scary thing.
I've only ever seen her do this to other dogs when she is frightened they might hurt her (Chloe has had 2 cruciate ligament leg ops and has quite bad arthritis)...but when we put the baby on the floor its often quite out of her reach and there's no threat to chloe of the baby hurting her.
Just wondering if anyone out there might have had similar experiences or might have any ideas of ways we could get her used to this. I'm so worried about it and about what will happen when the baby starts to crawl etc.
Its times like this I just wish they could talk so they could tell us what the problem really is!!
If Chloe has only had exposure to babies in the last 8 months, she could still be very unsure. In Chloe's eyes, babies may smell like little humans but they sure don't look or act like us. To a dog that has had limited exposure to young children they can be frightening. Dogs often react to fear by growling or snapping.
Could it be that her aggressive behavior was triggered by pain? if she has had 2 leg operations (and I know from people on here that have gone through it with their dogs that cruciate ligament surgery is very invasive) and has bad arthritis that is a possibility.
Sorry to hear you are dealing with this, but I would make sure that Chloe is leashed to you around the baby from now on.
If you think about it, the floor is your dogs territory. The dog
may feel threatened that something else is in its space. I
would avoid putting the baby on the floor around the dog.
When the baby starts crawling, you may just have to keep
the dog away until the child can walk. A suggestion if you
want to get the dog used to it, maybe buy a cheap baby
doll and place it on the floor at home. Start training your
dog and if the dog should start growing or going towards
the baby doll, I would use the leave it command and
I don't know maybe lame advice for you but its the only
thing I could think of to maybe help. Worth a shot I guess.
When my cousin had her baby, our dog Casey did something similar to this when the baby was on the floor. She walked up to her and postured over her, staring at her intently and started a low growl. My cousin had a serious come-to-Jesus meeting with her (lasted maybe two seconds) and she never challenged the baby again.
Who knows what goes through their lemon brains. They could see the baby as another dog and want to establish some type of pack dominance. The dog needs to learn quickly that they are below the baby on the hierarchical scale.
Since this isn't your baby, it will be hard to get Chloe used to socializing with this child on a regular basis, and given what happened I doubt the parents will be interested in using their child as a guinea pig. I also suggest consulting with a trainer/behaviorist for some suggestions, but my feeling for now is that you'll simply need to keep Chloe separated from the baby at all times.
Don't try and put human emotions and feelings onto your dog. She is a dog and thinks and acts like a dog. She is fearful of the baby and is acting out to remove the threat and thus remove her stress. I don't know your dog so I can't comment on whether she will in fact snap but growling and snarling from a distance is usually a good indication that she will if the baby gets closer. The reason she is acting out when the baby is on the floor is that is more threatening. Dogs will not react when a child is held or a small baby is around as they are always "in" something. Once the baby is crawling and then toddling a fearful dog will react. I would not have your dog around the baby. Why take the chance? Over 90% of dog bites occur between a person and a dog they know and children are bitten far more than adults. In most if not all of the cases of dog bites the adults never thought the dog would "actually bite" but they were wrong.