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December 3, 2012
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A Dog with a Special Talent

A Dog with a Special Talent

Leerburg Q&A
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Question: We adopted a 2 year old poodle a couple weeks ago. She’s been growling and has bitten our 6 year old daughter. Can this be dealt with through training?

Hi Cindy,

It's been a while since we spoke last, but I have a question about our new dog: but first some background. We have just recently adopted a rescue female miniature poodle that is 2 years old. We have had her for almost two weeks now and have been putting her through the ground work training as taught by Leerburg. She has accepted myself and my wife as the pack leaders (more so me than my wife but still minds my wife very well) and she is a very loving and quite obedient dog. We have a 6 year old daughter who the dog also shows affection too the few times we have allowed her to interact with the dog. The dog is very calm in her crate, calm in the house and comes every time she is called. She is calm around my daughter and us. When we decide to play with her which is just recently since she's shown such great progress thus far, she likes to play growl when running around etc. When she plays with her toys, she growls when we try to get the toys back so I get her to drop it with another toy or food and using the out command. Which is working well. But for now I've relegated her to not playing with her toys until I learn the best way to proceed here. You should know that dog comes when either three of us call her almost every time (this is without any obedience training from us since we've had her). If my daughter calls her she comes and sits beside her and loves to be petted by her. Once called over and told to sit (by my daughter) then she's allowed to pet her and the dog totally shows great affection to her.

Some concerns. When we first got her she did a little growling at myself, my wife and my daughter if touched in the back of the legs or if she thought my daughter was going to pick her up. This was the first day we had her at home and before we started ground work training. Since the training she has not growled at all at my wife or I but does still do it to my daughter once in a while (we are continuing to teach our daughter the do's and don't's about handling dogs). The other day the dog did bite my daughter twice in the arm and leg (small bites but bites non-the less) in a couple minutes when she was holding the leash and outside with the dog to go to the bathroom. She was not being supervised and my daughter says she was going to try to pick up the dog when it happened so I'm not sure if the dog gave a warning growl first or what (I suspect she did since she usually shows signs before reacting). We fully understand that she should not have been alone with the dog even for a couple seconds and take full responsibility for this lapse in protocol.

My question. I am not sure how concerned we need to be about the growling and now bites to my daughter. I take the bites very seriously and wonder if this is something that can be dealt with through better training and more diligence on our end or should this dog be separated from kids all together? The dog does show so many great qualities except for this and I'm not sure how much of this is a handler issue and if it can be totally remedied? We bought the dog as a family pet and want to be able to trust the dog around our daughter eventually. Do you think this is realistic or are we dealing with a dog that might not be able to be trusted around kids?


Cindy's Response:

Unfortunately, I can’t really know whether this dog is ever going to be trustworthy with your family.

It could be the growling/biting was a behavior that worked for her in her previous homes so she’s doing what’s worked. It could be that she really does not want to be picked up or touched and she’s telling all of you in the only way she knows how. She could have a nervous/dominant/fearful temperament. It could be that she has some type of discomfort physically.

As a parent myself, this would not be the ideal choice for a family dog if you have specific expectations that your daughter will be able to pick up and carry or handle this dog unsupervised. You’ve already seen that she will progress to a bite and while training may help this would not be MY idea of a great dog for a home with small kids.

Here is a section on preventing dog bites in kids.

Cindy Rhodes

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Rescue Dogs and Q&A on Kids & Dog Aggression.

We get a number of Q&As every week, if you would like to read this week's Q&As, click here and check out the 'Recent Questions' section!

Have a question for Ed & Cindy? Try the Leerburg Search Engine. This search engine was written specifically for Leerburg by our in house IT manager. Our search engine is specific to Leerburg and only searches and the Leerburg web forum. If you can't find the answer to your question by using our search engine, you can email Cindy here at Leerburg at If you have your spam filter on, make sure you set it to receive our replies!!!

Customer Comments

on Leerburg's Website

Thank you Ed and Cindy for such high quality and helpful advice. My wife and I have benefited greatly from it and our challenging little Mastiff/Ridgeback X, Bonnie, is responding well to your techniques. Without your help I feel we would be without hope and Bonnie would not have the start in life that she deserves. I am looking forward to learning much more from you in the future as Bonnie grows. Oddly, as I have learned much about the the canine psyche from you, I have also been enlightened to the similarities in the human. Anyway, good luck to you both, you deserve all the success you receive. You have a fine product. Best wishes and festivities to you.

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