Pippa growls at the toddlerHere is nine-year-old Terrier Pippa, watching the little girl. What is the child going to do next? Is she going to toddle towards her? Pippa doesn’t like that.

She growls at the toddler.

Things are getting worse.

The other day the child was beside her dad, and Pippa rushed between them, curling her lips as she growls at the toddler.  As we know, a growl is a warning.

I suspect that the situation is snowballing because of the understandable anxiety displayed by the family. They react strongly when Pippa growls at the toddler.

By being punished for growling she’s being taught not to give warning, so what might she do instead?

Like many dogs, Pippa always has been uncomfortable when approached directly, stared at or loomed over. One can’t teach a fifteen-month-old and somewhat unpredictable baby how to approach a dog.

In the picture you can read Pippa’s concern as she watches the child from her bed. Much of the time she wouldn’t be in her bed while the child was about. She would constantly be circling her, head down and with her tail between her legs – growling.

An accident waiting to happen.

I didn’t witness for myself when Pippa growls at the toddler, which was unusual. I encouraged calm and positive messages. I used call-aways, reward and praise with no warning commands or scolding. I actually did much the same with the little girl when she approached Pippa!

There is a quote from somewhere, ‘Change the state of mind and you change the behaviour’. Pippa needs to associate the child with good stuff like relaxed people, praise and food – not a threat, scolding and anxiety.

She simply doesn’t feel safe around the child so she growls at the toddler. She needs help. She is a stressy little dog, so reducing her stress levels in every way possible will go a long way towards making her more tolerant. This of course is not enough.

The situation needs to be managed by means of equipment like gates and a pen. This will ensure that both the child and the dog are 100% safe – the baby from injury and the dog from the ultimate punishment for a dog that bites a child.

Just over a week later:  “So much better. Pip is no longer corralling (the toddler) and has completely stopped the stalking. We feel she is generally calmer but we still quite a way off from Pip being calm and happy but its very early days and we are really pleased with her progress”.