Q: My five-year-old son, who is bipolar, sometimes gets rough in playing with my year-old puppy. My son is the only person the dog has this aggression toward. I try to be sure they are never alone together but the possibility of a dog bite is a big stress for me. I’d like to keep the dog and somehow work with him but I’m concerned that one day the dog will really hurt my son.
A: Protecting both the puppy and your child is obviously the number one concern. A professional dog trainer, one who uses only positive methods, is required to really evaluate the situation and see if it’s possible for the two to get along. If your child’s behavior is not predictable, then this is a very difficult position for your dog. Aggression oftentimes becomes more pronounced when a dog reaches one year of age up until three years of age & so you are right in the window. Secondly, children between the ages of 5 and 9 are the number one demographic for dog bites.
I certainly commend you for your efforts in what is obviously a stressful situation. Because many dog trainers still teach methods that include physical force, I suggest interviewing a trainer before hiring him or her. You can find a trainer that uses only positive training methods through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.APDT.com) or The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (www.NADOI.org). Also, check with friends, neighbors and your veterinarian for possible referrals.
In the meantime, I strongly suggest keeping the two apart for safety.
The Dog Whisperer DVD, Vol. 2 for Puppies and Dogs focuses on solving many problem dog behaviors.