Dear Dr. Diane, I have an 8-month-old malamute. He’s a very good dog but I’m worried because it seems he doesn’t like kids except my 7-year-old daughter; she can do anything to him but if any other kids come into my house he gets very aggressive. I’m worried because I have a grand child due in July and don’t know what to do. Thank you
Alaskan Malamutes are generally “gentle giants” who love and protect their family members. They are not usually aggressive to people at all, and actually, although large and commanding in physical presence, do not make good guard dogs as they are so friendly and good-natured. It is my belief that your Mal is protective of you and your daughter. I would consult with a knowledgeable animal behaviorist and have her meet and interact with the dog while your 7-year-old daughter is present and when her friends are with her and assess his behavior with the children. If you are unsure of your dog’s behavior, hire a knowledgeable, reputable trainer to come to your home and work with your family to help socialize and obedience train your dog and work with your family.
As far as your grandchild is concerned, I would begin right now initiating a lot of positive interaction between your pregnant child and the dog – encouraging them to be good “friends”. You can introduce the toys, garments and scents associated with your child and the new baby to come – the smells, sounds, (via CD’s, such as crying, cooing etc.) associated with a new baby – the lotions, shampoos, diapers, ointments, should be introduced to the dog NOW so that by the time the baby arrives, the dog is not taken by surprise and understands the baby and her Mom are important to you and are to be loved and protected.
Socialize her with a “doll” that emits the kinds of sounds a baby makes. Familiarize your dog with every aspect of taking care of a baby that you can while you still have the opportunity. Also acquaint your dog with any furniture, toys, etc. that will belong to the new baby. Let your dog sniff them all.
The sound of rattles, the smells associated with an infant, the clothing and toys, etc. should be very familiar and comfortable to the dog by the time the baby arrives. You may also seek the advice of a veterinarian as well as a pediatrician as to how to ease the transition of your dog who is only a puppy himself to the presence of a new baby in your home. After the baby has been born, you may wish to have someone bring home one of the baby’s blankets or something with the baby’s smell on it and let the dog become accustomed to his/her scent.
When the baby visits, let him smell the baby and spend time with you as you tend to the baby’s needs. Pet the dog while you play with the child – speak softly and kindly to both the child and animal. Over a period of time, your dog will adapt to the new addition to your family. HOWEVER, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES LEAVE THE BABY ALONE & UNATTENDED WITH YOUR DOG!
Dr. Pomerance is an animal behavior specialist and an expert on topics such as deciding which puppy is best for your family, how to pick out a rescue, and on healing from the loss of a pet.
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