Tackling a dog that is aggressive towards children

Tackling a dog that is aggressive towards children

While there are always exceptions, as a general rule most breeds of dogs are either naturally good with children or can be trained and conditioned to accept them, and dogs and children often form strong bonds that provide a lot of advantages to both parties. However, if you are unlucky enough to own a dog that is intolerant or aggressive towards children, this can pose a real problem, whether you have children of your own or not.

Canine aggression towards children poses a major problem and danger, and is not something that should ever be ignored or swept under the carpet. If you have children at home, the problem is immediate and very serious, but even if you have very little to do with children, you must begin work immediately to resolve the issue.

In this article, we will look at some of the reasons behind canine aggression towards children, and how this can be tackled. Read on to learn more.

Is aggression towards children a breed-specific issue?

When one thinks of aggressive dogs or dogs that may potentially be intolerant of children, certain breeds and types of dogs often come to mind as being potentially dangerous and short on patience. However, this is a very stereotypical view, and one that is largely false. Even large, dominant and potentially wary guarding breeds generally accept and bond strongly with the children that are around them, while small and inoffensive little dogs are often the worst culprits and perpetrators of aggression towards kids.

Small lapdogs and petite, cute-looking canines are as prone to bad behaviour and aggression as any other breed, and this can even be worse with small dogs as their warning signs are often overlooked or written off as not really being a problem, which is totally not true.

Some of the reasons behind canine aggression towards children

The reasons behind why any particular dog may be aggressive towards children can be varied and complex, and it is important to establish the root cause of your dog’s behaviour before you can address it.

Some of the most common causes of aggression towards children include:

A lack of experience with children

By the time a dog is adult, it should have been exposed to a wide range of different situations and stimulus, including a positive introduction to children. If this has not been achieved, some dogs will find it hard to understand how these small people may be noisy, rowdy, fast on their feet, get into the dog’s personal space without realising it, or not know when to read the dog’s cues and leave them alone.

While children should of course be taught about correct behaviour around dogs, your dog too must be exposed to children in all of their various forms, and taught to respect them and never behave aggressively towards them.

Nervousness or fear

A shy, nervous or fearful dog is exponentially more likely to find sources of worry in exposure to new things, or in the presence of children whose behaviour can be loud or unpredictable. If your dog is prone to being nervous, the presence of children might amp up their stress levels and put them on their guard, which can manifest as defensive aggression.

Previous bad experiences

If your dog has previously had one or more negative encounters with children, this is exponentially more likely to put them on their guard and make them less tolerant of minor infractions than they might otherwise be. If your dog has been pulled around, frightened or harassed by children, they will again be in a permanent state of defensiveness around children, and be quick to respond negatively if they feel threatened.


Dogs of all shapes and sizes view their homes and their families as their property and pack, and territorialism can manifest around children for a variety of reasons. If you have children at home, your dog may view them as lower in the pecking order than they themselves are, and become aggressive if the child oversteps what your dog views as their role.

If you have children over from time to time, their presence in your home can also trigger a territorial response in dogs that are apt to be defensive.


Finally, dogs should be taught to share resources and not become jealous or aggressive around them, but if your dog does not have their manners in check, they might become aggressive over the division of attention when children are around. If the child is taking up attention and affection that the dog sees as their own, they may face up to the child and behave aggressively to assert their dominance over the “resources.”

How to deal with a dog that is aggressive towards children

It is important to take a strong approach to dealing with canine aggression towards children, and if you have children at home with your dog, this must be fast and broad-reaching. You will likely either need to move the dog out to a specialist trainer or behaviourist for assessment and re-training that can be done at the dog’s own pace, or constantly supervise your dog around your children and potentially muzzle the dog while taking direction from a trainer.

If your dog does not have to share their home with children, this gives you a little more breathing room in terms of being able to identify the cause of their behaviour and work to re-train it (again, possibly with the help of a professional) while limiting and managing any contact your dog does have with children in the meantime.

Regardless of the situation or your approach, the safety of children must come first at all times, and in some cases, this may mean that the dog leaves the home for “boot camp” to retrain them, or in otherwise, that they need to be re-homed away from children for the safety of the little people if they cannot ultimately be trusted to behave.



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