A dog growling at a child for no reason can be a scary circumstance. Not knowing whether the situation will escalate and if the child will get bit is a reasonable cause for concern.
The good news is, even though it may seem like a dog is growling at a child for no reason or is being aggressive with family members for no reason, there is always a cause. It just might not be obvious.
Determining the reason behind barking, growling, and other aggressive behaviors can help you figure out how to prevent these actions in the first place.
Dog Barking at Child for No Reason
Just as a dog growling at a child for no reason should be examined, so should a dog barking at a child for no reason.
So, why do dogs bark in the first place? Barking for dogs is a form of communication, just like growling. Check out this table to see some of the reasons for barking.
|Protective or Territorial||This occurs when someone gets too close to an area that a dog considers to be their territory. They see the person as a threat.|
|Fear||If something startles a dog, it may react out of fear by barking at it.|
|Seeking Attention||If a dog wants a treat or wants to go play outside, it’ll bark to get your attention.|
|Separation Anxiety||When left alone, dogs who suffer from separation anxiety will bark until their owner comes back.|
|Play and Greeting||Dogs will often bark when they’re being playful. This is usually followed by tail wags and jumping.|
It might be possible that the child is coming too close to your dog’s territory or to one of their toys. It is also reasonable to consider that your dog is just trying to play with the child.
But if you’re unsure if your dog is just trying to play with a child or is barking aggressively, it’s best to separate the child and dog immediately. Barking and growling can easily lead to biting if you let it persist.
Dog suddenly aggressive towards Child
If you notice your dog being suddenly aggressive towards a child, it’s possible that the kid did something to provoke the dog. A dog growling at a child for “no reason” is always the result of some external or internal influence.
For example, kids love playing hide and seek. If they see a dog hiding underneath a table, they might be happy that they “won the game” and may try to pull the dog out or may join them under the table.
Your dog, on the other hand, is probably hiding because they feel uncomfortable. Maybe you’re having a large family gathering, and there are too many loud noises that are making your dog feel stressed or even anxious.
Even if the dog was friendly toward the child earlier, now they want to be left alone. If the kid continues to bother them, the dog might start to growl to command space from the child.
Another example could be that the child started playing too rough with the dog, making them feel uncomfortable. This can look like sudden aggression, but chances are the dog gave some warning signs before getting aggressive, like snarling and growling.
What Can I Do If My Dog Is Aggressive Towards My Child?
You need to teach your child how to act around the dog and teach the dog how to act around the child. For your dog, getting professional training is recommended since aggressive situations can quickly escalate.
For your child, you can teach them these four rules:
- Don’t pet the dog on the head. Instead, pet them under the chin.
- Don’t pull the dog’s ears, fur, paws, or tail.
- Give the dog space they try to leave an area.
- Always ask an adult before petting the dog.
You can also take extra precautions by having the dog wear a muzzle like this one (Link to Amazon) when they’re around children. You can also put them behind a gate or inside a crate if there are small children around.
Dog Snapped at Child Unprovoked
If your dog snapped at a child after seemingly being unprovoked, you might want to consider the following:
- Is your dog a rescue that lived with children previously?
- Did the child have any contact at all with the dog before snapping?
- Was the child crying loudly or playing with loud toys near the dog?
- Did you miss the warning signs?
Dogs who have anxiety may be spooked by loud children and end up snapping. Older dogs are a lot less tolerant of children’s reckless behavior and will snap a lot more quickly than younger dogs.
Dogs who have been in traumatic situations involving children may mistrust them. So anytime kids are around, your dog’s anxiety skyrockets, and they begin growling, barking, and eventually snapping.
Furthermore, your dog’s snapping may seem to come out of the blue, but did it really? Or did you just miss the warning signs? Obviously, growing and barking would cause concern if you heard that happening near a child.
But there are other warning signs that aren’t so easy to spot, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Let’s review what they are so you can notice them in case a similar situation occurs. Warning signs of a dog that is about to bite or snap include:
- Licking their lips.
- Looking away from the person or situation.
- Showing the whites of their eyes.
How to Stop A Dog From Growling At Family Members
You might be tempted to punish your growling dog to get them to stop growling at family members or at a child for no reason. Avoid doing this at all costs.
Growling can be the precursor to a bite. By reprimanding the growling dog, the next time they are provoked or uncomfortable, they might go straight in for the bite.
Growling can also be a sign of discomfort and even pain. If your dog growls at family members who try to pet him on the stomach, he may have stomach pain or be nauseous. Growling in these instances can alert you to take him to the vet.
So, how do you stop the growling without punishing your dog? Figure out what actions are causing your dog to growl in the first place.
Are children being too rough with her? Pulling her ears or tail? Are other family members getting too close to her “territory”? Does she seem like she may be in pain?
Talking to your family members about certain behaviors that trigger your dog can be the best course of action. You might also consider taking your dog to the vet if growling only happens when your family members try to pet him or pick him up.
As you can see, a dog growling at a child for no reason actually always has a reason. Making sure you teach your children how to interact with dogs properly and getting your dog trained to interact with children properly can prevent bites from occurring.
Remember to never discourage growling throughout this training process. Growling and barking is ls like a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms alert you to exit the building before the fire grows bigger. Likewise, growling alerts you to stop whatever actions you’re doing to the dog before you get bit.
So, be cautious and don’t take out those batteries in that smoke alarm!