My Child is Scared of My Jumpy, Bitey Puppy – Now What?

When you bring home a new puppy, you’re probably excited to introduce them to your child. But what happens if your puppy jumps and bites, which scares your son or daughter?

This is a two-fold problem: teaching the baby puppy to be a bit more polite, and teaching your child how to interact with the puppy so that they both can have fun.

In today’s Ask a Behavior Consultant, we’re tackling this problem. One of our readers wrote in to ask:

My puppy bites and jumps on my one-year-old daughter. He just wants to play, acts cheerful, but she is afraid. She wants to pet him but starts panicking when he bites her trouser leg.

– Sincerely, Scary Puppy

It can be really, really hard to manage a home with a one-year-old child and an eight-week-old puppy. If you’d like some extra tips, I suggest checking out the following Journey Dog Training articles on related topics:

As you can see, we’ve already written quite a bit about the canine side of the equation.

You might also want to consider our self-study course, Keeping Kids Safe and Dogs Happy. This course is all about helping kids and dogs get along!

Let’s review the basic strategies outlined in the articles above to help puppies and babies get along:

  1. Use baby gates, tie-downs, and exercise pens (both for babies and dogs) whenever you can’t be 100% focused on the dog and the baby. That means if you’re cooking or watching TV and aren’t watching them 100%, the puppy and baby are separated with a physical barrier.
  2. Give the puppy plenty of chew toys and puzzle toys to chew on so she’s less likely to want to gnaw on you and your child.
  3. Practice gently interrupting the puppy if the puppy is jumping on the child. Call the puppy to you (using a hand touch works best) and then separate the puppy and child for a while.
  4. Teach the child to stand still and not excite the puppy if the puppy is jumping. Be sure that the child understands that yelling, screaming, smacking, or trying to run away is not the right way to react. With a young child, this might be too much to ask. In that case, it’s your job as the parent to intervene.
  5. When the puppy is old enough, start teaching the puppy basic manners. Remember that the puppy will grow faster than the child, but you’ll still need to teach both of them how to interact together for success!

In this case, the main problem is actually that the child is afraid of the puppy. Yes, the puppy is being rude. But jumping and play-wrestling is totally normal for a baby puppy (just like climbing and crying are normal for toddlers).

We need to remedy the problem as best we can, given that we’re working with two very young creatures!

My number one suggestion if your baby is scared of your puppy is management. You need to be able to watch and redirect the puppy, especially because your puppy will soon be stronger than your baby.

Your baby needs to learn that you’ll protect her from the puppy and that the puppy can be fun to be around!

Once you are able to give the puppy and the baby more positive interactions together, like walks in the park or playing with a ball or having the child toss treats for the dog, things will get better.

Of course, teaching your puppy manners is a huge part of this process. But as far as what you can do now, just use baby gates and interrupt the puppy when the puppy is biting or jumping on the baby.

You don’t need to scold, swat, or scare the puppy – just call the pup away or pick the pup up, then put her away in her crate or exercise pen. You can also pick up the child and ignore the puppy. The point here

The point here is to teach the puppy that rude behaviors like jumping and biting result in her playmate (your bay) and her being separated.

Then it’s your job as the adult to give both the baby and the puppy something else to do, then set them up for success when they are together.

As always, if you need more help with your training, I highly recommend looking for an IAABC-certified behavior consultant or a Family Paws Parent Educator Certified Trainer (like Journey Dog Training’s Tressa, who can occasionally help you remotely).

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