Wonderful 11 month old puppy just started snapping
We have a wonderful puppy that we rescued while she was 9 weeks old. She has been very well-socialized with people and other dogs and has never exhibited any aggression at all. In the past few days she has snapped in the general direction of 2 different children on 2 different days.
The first situation was with a 20 month old boy (friend's son) who was not being gentle with the dog. He was poking and prodding her paws, grabbing her tail, and I think that he stepped on her paws. Our puppy snapped once approx. 6-8 inches away from this little boy.
The second situation involved my daughter's friend who is 6 years old and it seemed as though she was not provoking the puppy at all. She sat with her on the couch and gently pet her as she always does. I watched as the pup snapped again in the general direction of the kid and didn't see anything that warranted this behavior.
There have been a lot of changes around here. We have a 8 week old baby daughter as well as a 6 year old daughter. Our cat, who gets on very well (and vice versa) with our dog, has decided to become an outdoor cat after being an exclusively indoor cat for the full 3 years of her life. Our cat left the house several days ago for the confines of an unreachable (by humans) area of our backyard and deck. The pup and her are close - maybe this is affected her?
I'm not sure what to do here. This is surprising and we would love to keep the dog and have everybody safe. Keeping everybody safe is the utmost priority. Any suggestions?
Hi Dogs are very intuitive and easily affected by the emotions and situations around them. If there have been a lot of changes recently, in my opinion it's very likely that your pup is feeling anxious and unsettled, and it's causing her to behave uncharacteristically.
I would suggest that you make sure she's not hurt herself in any way though, as a dog who is not feeling well or is in discomfort/pain is much more likely to snap. Sometimes an injury isn't visible at first, so do double check.
The first snap was a warning, and was probably a result of provocation and if she hadn't repeated it I wouldn't have thought twice about it. However, as she did snap again in what seemed to be an unprovoked situation you will definitely need to keep an eye on her for a while. I'd recommend supervising her carefully when she's with children and making sure to correct her firmly with a verbal 'No' if she snaps. She needs to understand that it's not acceptable, and the correction has to take place immediately after the incident for her to connect the two events.
For now I think she probably just needs some space and time to adjust to her new situation with the new baby, the loss of her cat friend and so on. Make sure that you continue to show her as much attention and love as you did before, and that she gets adequate exercise, training and one-on-one time so that she doesn't feel left out and abandoned.
She's behaving a little like a jealous and out-of-sorts sibling and that may be how she feels, but being a dog she can't articulate or understand that feeling.
Obviously with children you need to be extra careful and be very vigilant with her until you ensure that her normal good-nature has returned. Don't leave the dog and children alone together until you're confident all is well.
However, this type of incident isn't (in my opinion) grounds for thinking of rehoming a dog who has only ever known this home and family and is loving, loyal and normally well-behaved. Over-reaction won't help, but neither will ignoring the situation.
If you follow the guidelines above I think you will find this will pass once your dog feels less anxious and upset. However if she continues to snap, or even bite, you need to talk with a dog behavioral specialist and get some hands-on advice.
I wish you the very best of luck and hope the situation is resolved happily.