General Question

Seek's avatar

Is my puppy showing aggression or submission to my son?

Asked by Seek (34734points) April 25th, 2010

I have a 6 month old bulldog puppy (Hoss) , and a 20 month old son. Hoss is quickly getting bigger than “E”, and they wrestle all. the. time.

Sometimes, Hoss will seem to run right through him, knocking the baby over, then come back and mouth the baby’s hands (always very gently – he’s never left a mark). If “E” manages to stand up, Hoss will roll over onto his back and stay there until “E” tackles him again.

I’ve read that in young bulldogs “dominance play” should be discouraged and should be curbed as soon as possible. I don’t know much about dog behaviour, so I want to make sure that everything’s okay.


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15 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Ask @Syz.

Likeradar's avatar

I don’t know how to answer your main question, but I am concerned about the dog seeing your 20 month old as a playmate. Does your puppy treat you and other adults the same way as your son? I think it’s important for your dog to realize that your son is ahead of him in pack order, and it sounds like he may not know that. It’s all fun now, but what happens when your dog is full grown? Or when your son gets older and tries to assert his dominance by taking a toy from the dog (or in another way)?

I am not a dog expert, but I’ve done a lot of reading and have had dogs for most of my life. The one thing I’ve learned is that dogs need to know where they are (should be below people) in the pack hierarchy.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I wouldn’t allow the wrestling or mouthing.Your dog does need to learn that he is not the boss.There are alot of books on training.Cesar Milan’s books are pretty good :)
Good luck.

dpworkin's avatar

Cesar Milan’s books are shit. Just sayin’.

Likeradar's avatar

also, I love the name Hoss for a dog

loser's avatar

It sounds like your puppy thinks your son is another puppy. I would discourage rough play like this and definitely discourage the mouthing. Of course, I would go with whatever syz has to say.

Seek's avatar

Yeah, I’ve read “Cesar’s Way”. Someone gave it to me. It’s got some good ideas, but it gives zero information on how to execute them. Much like the parenting books that say “discipline your child, but we won’t tell you an effective and appropriate way to do that.”

cazzie's avatar

Showing his stomach to your son is a submissive behaviour. But your son probably inadvertently falls over and does the same to the dog. So, it sounds like they’re playing like puppies do. I wouldn’t allow Hoss to move on top of the baby at all.

YARNLADY's avatar

I agree with @cazzie – watch them carefully and make sure the dog doesn’t stand or lie on top of the baby. The dog should always be on the bottom, usually on the dog’s back. Neither one should be biting. Be prepared for the baby to start licking everyone, that’s what my grandson learned from our dog.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@dpworkin -He has nice teeth,damnit! LOL
@Seek_Kolinahr -Maybe try an obedience class?

Buttonstc's avatar

This is the website for Brian Kilcommons, a dog trainer of long standing who is heads and shoulders above Cesar Milan any day of the week. He just doesn’t happen to be the flavor of the month.

But he is a dog trainer specializing in aggression issues and has years of experience. He trained with Barbara Woodhouse and his approach is very practical and step by step on what to do and how to do it.

He has written several books but there’s also lots of info on the site for free.

There’s a message board also there which is moderated where anyone can come and post questions. You may find it handy for other issues in the future as well as this one.

Brian has a stellar reputation (check him out) and runs a very professional and well maintained site. I think you’ll find good info there.

On the specific issue in your Q. I think your instincts are correct on this.

BTW. Any reputable dog expert will always advise that NO dog, no matter how well trained, should EVER be left with a child not old enough to defend himself This means out of an adults direct line of sight.

It only takes a split second for something to go tragically wrong. A wise parent (even dog trainers with their own kids and dogs) will absolutely NEVER leave them together unsupervised.

Until your son is old enough to assert himself as the Alpha to the dog they just cannot be unsupervised. No exceptions. Ever.

This puppy is young and untrained but Bully breeds have tremendous strength in their bite and the tenacity to clamp on is an instinct bred into them. Don’t ever allow yourself to forget that for an instant.

Obviously you’ll be training him and hopefully as your son grows they will have a wonderful relationship but right now they’re both too young to know the proper boundaries of that.

When a pup is with his littermates and they wrestle and play, they act as a natural check for each other. If one gets too overbearing or hurting the other pup, a well placed nip with those sharp little teeth gets the point across.

But your son is not a puppy. He cannot defend himself. You are the only defense your baby has.

The fact that your son cannot defend himself the way another pup would is not a good thing for this pup to find out. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Your protective mom instincts are spot on. Its within your power to not allow this situation to potentially get out of hand. Good for you.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Buttonstc Good answer worth repeating NO dog, no matter how well trained, should EVER be left with a child not old enough to defend himself This means out of an adults direct line of sight.

syz's avatar

Is Hoss neutered? If not, I would recommend that you have him castrated immediately – that will help (but not eliminate) potential aggression issues.

It sounds as if Hoss is sending some mixed signals. Knocking your son down could certainly be considered aggressive, but showing his belly while your son is standing over him (in a dominate position) is submissive. If I had to guess, I would say that Hoss has a good temperament and is merely rambunctious.

I think that this would be a good time for you to create some structure to their play time. Divert their play into less ambiguous behaviors – maybe teach your son to throw a ball for Hoss. If the stimulation level is getting too high, find a behavior that calms them both (have Hoss do a “down, stay” or even take him outside for a walk) and them reintroduce them when they’re calm.

As always, obedience training is good idea – it not only allows you and Hoss to establish ground rules, it gives you insight in to his behavior. Please be sure to seek out a reputable trainer, not just a pet store employee.

I, too, would recommend that you carefully monitor all interactions between Hoss and your son. Don’t leave them to play unsupervised. Even with the best natured animals, accidents happen.

roxann's avatar

Dogs laying on there back with their stomach showing is submission. on top of something is aggression.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

if the dog bows down than its just play,but should still be corrected. yell at the dog in a stern sharp voice no when he acts like that or spray him with water

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