Dog on the couch

2015-05-21 06:00

I AM very worried that my dog is going to bite my baby one day. When two-year-old Joanna wants to play with our six-year-old Rotweiler, the dog sometimes lifts his lip and shows his teeth. This happens when my baby jumps on to him when he is asleep. At other times when this happens, he just gets up and move away. Do you think I should get rid of the dog?

Celia Swanepoel.

Communication methods vary between species. If you find your child is being ‘pushy’ or pushing boundaries with you, I am sure you have various ways of dealing with this. Just as it would not please a sibling or parent to be jolted out of sleep by being jumped upon, it is equally unacceptable to another animal. The child needs to learn boundaries and the dog needs to have a “safe haven” where he can sleep, rest or eat undisturbed. The dog’s response is natural. He is merely using canine methods of communication to tell the child that his space is being rudely invaded. That he usually “just gets up and moves away” shows his benign intent. By retreating, he is communicating that he wishes to avoid conflict. Agonistic pucker, lifting lip and exposing teeth, is the name of a distance- increasing signal dogs use to ask that their personal space is respected. One should never reprimand a dog for this as he is communicating in the only way he can. When we have children and dogs it is our responsibility for the safety of both child and dog that the needs of both are catered for and that boundaries are taught to both dog and child. Just as it is unacceptable for a dog to jump onto a child, so it is for a child to jump onto a dog. This is an obvious recipe for disaster.

If you are still concerned consult an accredited behaviourist. - Send questions to

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