10 Week Old English Bulldog Puppy - Growling and Biting our 6 Year Old in the Face
by Joy Peacock
(Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
We have the most adorable female English Bulldog puppy (10 weeks old). We are a family of 5. She growls when either of my two youngest children go to pick her up (6 and 9 years old).
They are very gentle with her and probably "timid" with her. She never growls when my 12 year old or my husband/I pick her up. We want to "nip" this in the bud.
Thanks very much for any advice that you may provide.
You're absolutely right to want to put an end to this behavior right away, your pup is attempting to place herself above your two youngest children in the 'pecking order'. That's not okay.
You're also correct in thinking it has something to do with the way they handle her. Dogs are very intuitive and they have extremely strong pack instincts. She most likely interprets their hesitancy as deference, and weakness.
To correct this you need to make her realize she is at the bottom of the heap, so to speak. You don't need to be harsh or mean to do this, and your children should be commended for being so loving and gentle with their puppy!
I would suggest that if you haven't already started some obedience work with her, such as 'sit', 'down' etc., that you do so now. Make sure that every member of the family participates, this puppy needs to obey everyone without hesitation. Encourage your youngest two children to have a couple of training sessions with her at least twice a day. You will need to be with them, at least to start with and I'd recommend reading my Training A Puppy and Basic Puppy Training pages for tips and advice on doing this.
Basically you need to let your puppy know that your children are all superior to her in rank, and that she depends on them for the good things in life. I would recommend having the children take turns to feed her, groom her, play with her etc.
Also, make her earn everything! For example, when it's her mealtime, have one of your youngest children fetch her food, put it in the bowl, and then ask her to 'sit' before he puts the bowl down. She must do as she's told. If she needs some 'help' to sit, then give it to her. But she doesn't get to eat until she sits :o)
She needs to sit before she gets a treat, a toy, her food, petting etc. and don't allow her up on the furniture or beds for now.
She's young, and once she learns this lesson she should settle down. Some puppies are just a bit more opinionated/bossy than others, and there will probably be other stages/times when she will try to challenge you or push the limits. It's natural. Raising a puppy is very much like raising a child, with stages and phases.
I think if you follow these simple steps everything will work out fine. I'd also recommend enrolling her in a Puppy Obedience Class at a local dog obedience school. Try to find one where all the family can participate, or at least be present during classes, that way your children can be part of the process. This will help your family/pack structure and the classes are a valuable socialization experience for your pup.
Best of luck with her, hope this helps.