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How do I stop my 2yo from harassing the dog?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

We are having a continued issue with my 2yo and our dog.  She is very patient with him and we are glad about that but things are simply not fair to her.  Right now they spend 98% of the time separated.  It really isn't fair to the dog because that means she spends all of her time alone because obviously a 2yo needs to be supervised. 

 

This has been going on for a while. As a baby we taught him to pet her gently etc and everything was great until he became a wild toddler.  He jumps on her and tries to ride her, he pulls her tail, he hits her, he chases her down, he throws things at her, he bites her.  You name it, he would do it to her.  We try to give them a little time together when he is calm and he will pet her nice once and then immediately gets ramped up and tries to hit her.  I explain to him that she doesn't like that and it hurts her and show him how she likes to be touched but it does no good.  I tell him that if he can't be gentle with her she needs to go upstairs and he can't play with her anymore.  So that is pretty much where she stays.  Even when I need to bring him upstairs for bed etc as he passes her, he will hit her so I need to hold him back while she just passes by. 

 

I want them to be able to be in the same room together, at least for part of the day.  It is really upsetting for me because #1 I am a dog lover and she was my first baby. She is a very attached anxious dog and would spend her whole day curled up next to me if she could.  #2 I am constantly yelling at HER to go upstairs so that he won't harass her.  She can open every door in the house and can jump every gate and will do so over and over because understandably she wants to be in the same room as the family.  And more importantly #3 I am really worried about my son's behavior and that he really seems to not be able to be in any control of his actions when she is around. HE sees her as his toy, a punching bag and I have no idea how that started and what makes that seem like it would be ok. 

 

Any advice is welcomed.  I feel like I have tried it all and must be missing something.

post #2 of 9

You're addressing the behavior wrong by "locking up" (so to speak) the wrong one.  If your son is the one misbehaving, it is HIM who needs to be removed.  You are telling your LO that he's got control over the situation and he can make the dog go away because you've put so much emphasis on that fact.  What you are doing behaviorally for your dog is setting her up for a bite.  When your LO lashes out the dog is the one punished and because dogs understand only cause an effect, not complicated reasoning, this is the pattern in your dog's eyes:  kid hits me - I avoid kid - humans yell at me and I get secluded.  You are essentially punishing your dog for NOT biting.  Being that she's already anxious and anxious dogs are always more likely to bite out of fear, there will come a time when in self defense she feels she has no other option and she will snap.  Part of me always thinks it's a great lesson for kids to learn the hard way (and 30 years ago it was totally acceptable for a kid to get bitten by the family dog and no ne would bat an eye, just tell them to leave the dog alone) but the dog trainer in me knows it's not good.  A bite means that all other warning signs were ignored and it should never have to happen, but does.

 

I have a 2yo, and 2 cats and 2 dogs.  My DD can occasionally get rowdy with them, but that's an immediate time out for her in her room.  She needs to understand (as does your LO) that her inappropriate actions are not ok and will not be tolerated, even in our non-punishment home.  There must be a consequence, and since no natural consequence exists (other than a bite), and since the dog is a player here, the child is the one to be removed until they calm down.  Same exact approach for dogs who are inappropriate with kids - removal from the situation.  Depending on your home set up, gate off an area in the main house where the dog can safely hang out away from the child, tether the dog or crate if need be to prevent her from gate jumping, but don't seclude her upstairs.  Not only is this important for your own dog's sake, but not all dogs like children.  Your son will be exposed to dogs in other peoples homes, and not all people are dog savvy regardless of how many they've owned and many children are bit because adults don't see the warnings.  If your child approaches the wrong dog acting like he does - he will get bit.

post #3 of 9

I've had a few of these problems too with my two year old. Have you tried doing activities with your son that involve the dog? Things like feeding him, grooming him, walking him that can be done under close supervision and help to build their relationship? I do things like that all the time with my 2 year old and dog, I find it really helps not only to make her feel included in the dog's care but also to sort of give her a bit of direction and ideas of what to do when they are together.

 

Trying to get him to play with the dog might also help, either teaching him to play using the dog's toys or to do things like play with his toys "with" the dog. You could have your son give his stuffed animals a ride on the dog instead of him, or have him show his toys how to pet the dog nicely. I do this a lot when DD is getting a little rough with our dog, she loves playing with her baby dolls so I use it a lot to help her refocus on proper treatment of the dogs.

 

Hope that helps!

post #4 of 9

We used to go through this with DS and would respond by removing him from the scene to somewhere he could still see/hear (e.g. behind a safety gate) and then giving lots of attention to the dog ("Oh, poor Watson, that must have really hurt, are you OK?") and no attention to DS.  We also made her dog bed a safe zone for her, he was not allowed near it when she was in it.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RabbitMomma View Post
 

I've had a few of these problems too with my two year old. Have you tried doing activities with your son that involve the dog? Things like feeding him, grooming him, walking him that can be done under close supervision and help to build their relationship? I do things like that all the time with my 2 year old and dog, I find it really helps not only to make her feel included in the dog's care but also to sort of give her a bit of direction and ideas of what to do when they are together.

 

Trying to get him to play with the dog might also help, either teaching him to play using the dog's toys or to do things like play with his toys "with" the dog. You could have your son give his stuffed animals a ride on the dog instead of him, or have him show his toys how to pet the dog nicely. I do this a lot when DD is getting a little rough with our dog, she loves playing with her baby dolls so I use it a lot to help her refocus on proper treatment of the dogs.

 

Hope that helps!


This is a great idea, thank you.  I think it will really help to have him do some things for the dog (or at least think he is.) 

 

The only way we have to separate them is to remove the dog.  That is the problem.  My 2yo doesn't respond to time outs, especially when he is overstimulated.  So when we would try and separate HIM, he would just get right up unless we literally sat there and held him down which is just not the type of discipline I want to do with my son.  The only "safe place" for the dog to go is upstairs.  It is the only place that my 2yo can't get to her.  There is no childproofing from him, he can open most anything and get to anywhere in the house.  That is our problem.  He is rambunctious and we can try and reason with him until we turn blue but he just doesn't calm down unless the situation isn't possible for him to get into again. 

 

We are around a lot of dogs actually and he isn't like that with other dogs at all.  He doesn't approach them without permission.  He pets them gently if at all.  This is a problem with our dog only. 

 

The reason this is so frustrating to us besides being that it seems impossible to deal with is because when he was a baby we set them up to have a good relationship, and they did until they didn't.  We let them spend tons of time together.  I know a lot about dog behavior because I work in the field and have a good friend who is a behaviorist.  I know what I am doing with the dog is wrong for the dog, I said that.  The reason we have resorted to it is because our toddler can't be trusted and we have a newborn baby and can't always jump up and discipline him immediately or remove him immediately.  I just want to help him become less overstimulated around her so they can work on their relationship again.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sassyfirechick View Post
 

 Part of me always thinks it's a great lesson for kids to learn the hard way (and 30 years ago it was totally acceptable for a kid to get bitten by the family dog and no ne would bat an eye, just tell them to leave the dog alone) but the dog trainer in me knows it's not good.  A bite means that all other warning signs were ignored and it should never have to happen, but does.

 

 

So you are telling me to let my 2yo ignore warning signs from my dog until he pushes her to bite him... um no.  The way I raise dogs is to pay attention to warning signs and listen to them even if a dog has a solid temperament and doesn't resort to action.  Even with adults, if they don't listen to my dogs warning signs they aren't allowed in my house at all.  I am with my dog 24/7 and I don't let anyone put my dog in a situation where she would feel she needs to protect herself.  Hence why I let her go upstairs and lay in my bed all day away from the toddler.  She doesn't react to him but I know it makes her uncomfortable. 

post #7 of 9

"but the dog trainer in me knows it's not good."

 

No, I did not say ignore the warning signs.  But obviously your son is. And your dog being uncomfortable is a warning.  So it doesn't matter much how your home is set up, you need to find a way to make it work so that the dog doesn't regress.  I have a dog who while he adores my DD, he doesn't like her to lay on him, and he will give her a warning growl before he gets up and moves away.  He removes himself, not me removing him.  And since I'm always watching, I tell DD not to lay on him at all, she's 2, she pushes limits and will sometimes do so anyways, at which point she's the one to be addressed.  She's been told that a growl is an unhappy puppy, she's slowly learning, but it takes time.  I would never in a million years punish a dog who isn't in the wrong.  I would find a way to make the child see that they cannot continue the behavior.  I'm not saying you need to wrangle your son and pin him down to accept a time out.  I don't do that with my child.  But even in a home based on gentle discipline principles there must be rules and ways to enforce them so that no one, animals included, is hurt.

post #8 of 9
This is a constant struggle in my house as well so I understand your frustration. I also understand why you are removing your dog and not your son. It's the only way to keep your dog safe.

I don't have a lot of advice as our solution is far from ideal for me. We basically crate and rotate. The dog is only out if there are two adults at home and one of us can keep an eye on each or if DS is asleep. I only let them in them same room if they're both calm and ignoring each other. I used to allow calm petting or interactive games, but I don't anymore because it always escalated. I will at some point again. I see this mostly as a stage for DS as he used to be very gentle with the pets and now is a jerk. He does still feed everyone and is slowly learning to use words and hand signs to communicate with the dog instead of pushing or running or yelling.

So the dog gets an hour of exercise in the mornings plus an hour of eating/quiet time cuddles with DH usually. He's then crated for about 3 hours with a bully stick or kong until DS's nap when he comes out again for a short play time and more cuddles for 2 hours with me. Then crated again with another chew for 3-4 hours until DH can get home. That happens 3 days a week

We also use part time child care 2 days which involves less crating/separation and occasional dog daycare. The weekends we do our best to exercise and play separately and do calm activities together. I don't know how that will change when the baby gets here though. You have a whole other level to deal with that I haven't had to yet.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

thank you for your response. It is nice to know someone else is in this position too.  It is really hard to understand the position we are in unless you have fully been through it.  I just tried them together again because my son was really calm and seemingly gentle.  Well big mistake.  While holding a newborn in my arms I needed to physically remove my son from the dog which believe me isn't a simple task because he is 35lbs and very strong.  But it literally was the only option to keep the dog safe from him.  Well that ended in a 30 min tantrum and no getting through to him that he needs to be gentle. Especially because I needed to physically remove him which I did as gently as possible but with a raging 2yo, he doesn't think it is gentle. 

 

I am seeing more and more that I just need to keep them separated until this passes.  My dog will be with me 8 hours a day for 5 days a week starting next week so I can't really feel bad about her not spending time with us after that happens again. 

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