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Aggression Toward a Child

Dear WOOF:

We adopted our dog from the Golden Rescue in July. About a month after that he started to show aggression towards my friend's 3-year old girl. This is the only person he has ever shown any aggression towards. She has been hostile to the dog; backing him in a corner, pulling his ear, etc. He did not bite her, but he did grab her face with his teeth. Is there some training that is available to change
his behavior towards this little girl? By the way, I also have a 3-year old, a 6-year old and an 8-year old who have not had any problems with the dog.


There are 2 aspects in your situation that need to be addressed right away:

First, your dog’s behavior toward this little girl is not a sign that he needs more "training". He was reacting to what he considered to be a threat in a very normal canine way. The way this little girl was treating him is the problem and is what really needs to be addressed first and foremost. The following link: goes directly to an interactive game that helps both kids and adults alike, understand the do's and don'ts when it comes to interacting with a dog.

All of the adults involved in the situation (including this young girl’s parents) should play first. Then the kids can play - with parents present to supervise results, discuss them and answer questions. Children of this age group are short on empathy, so helping them realize your dog reacted the way he did was because he felt physically uncomfortable and very frightened, may help. 


I know that you did not intend for this to happen, but by not intervening on his behalf from the youngster who couldn’t know better, puts him at risk to do more damage if a next time is allowed to happen. Being cornered and pinched on his ears, left him with no choice but to defend himself.

It is important to realize that your dog very well could have really hurt this little girl. Instead, he gave the most urgent of warnings to communicate that he was frightened by her behavior, and wanted her to stop.


Your golden retriever is still new to your home, and to the unpleasant experience he had with this little girl. Preventing any other inappropriate advances/interaction will go a long way, but you must get started now. The first step involves 100% adult supervision when she (or any other small kids) are around.  Adults must also teach and supervise the “rules” set in place for the kids regarding how they can and can’t interact with him. See this link for a printable guide;


If there is any chance that 100% adult supervision cannot be accomplished, your dog should be in a kid free zone – like in a room with the door closed that is off limits to the kids. It is always better to be safe than sorry. 


Lastly, here’s the link to Family Paws Pet Education website, where you can find more help and support;


Please feel free to contact us if you’re interested in private consultation.

Thanks for writing, we wish you all the best.

Take Care,

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