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I have a Yorkie named Master Chief and a 10-month old infant named Austin. I think in general he has been a real sport about the new baby in the house. It was a major change for all of us, but one he couldn't understand and certainly didn't ask for, so I give him a lot of credit there. He has tolerated a lot.

Now that my son is crawling around like a mad-man, Chief's gotten a little more aggressive and I'm a little concerned.

One of Chief's major malfunctions quirks is a weird aggression towards people who touch him or his bed (except petting him, especially belly rubs) while in his bed. If I ever try to move his bed or him, he will start to bite me. I don't think he's trying to hurt me or draw blood, but he's not messing around either.

He has exhibited this aggression towards my son if he crawls up to his bed while Chief is laying in it. Chief's main bed is on our bed towards the foot. Austin (my son) will usually breastfeed and then play in our bed for an hour or two in the morning and that's when that happens. Chief also has another bed (for the daytime) in the living room, which he doesn't exhibit the same level aggression with, but he can still be pretty protective when he's laying in it. Chief will stand up, puff up his chest and get this look in his eye and actually (on a few occasions) lunged with his teeth at my boy. He left a visible mark on his face once (no blood).

We got a small plush ball (grapefruit sized) for Austin. Chief immediately thought it was his and got pretty protective of it. We correct him whenever possible or take it away, but this has caused a couple issues when Austin has grabbed the ball and Chief didn't like it.

Austin will occasionally grab one of Chief's toy balls and I've seen a few different actions. I've seen Chief get aggressive, I've also seen him get playful like he wants Austin to throw the ball (of course he doesn't and at that point Chief usually tries to forcefully, but playfully, take it from him - and he usually accidentally hurts Austin at that point which we now try to avoid by not having Chief's balls around Austin).

There have been a couple other cases, some just (seemingly) completely random. He's only left a mark that one time, but he's definitely lunged and bit a few times - usually either missing or me or my wife are there to grab him or push him in the nick of time.

We obviously (especially recently) don't leave them together without supervision. We weren't too worried about this before. Chief never had issues until Austin was about 7 months.

tl;dr: So my question is: is there anything I can do to try to keep my Yorkie from exhibiting aggression when my 10-month old son crawls up to his bed while he's sleeping in it? And what tips (in general) can you give me for taming his aggression towards my son in other situations?

Thank you

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I hope you have found a solution for your timeframe. Maybe you could write an answer yourself for this question :)

If I where in your situation today I would try to give baby and dog rules, they could count on. (You should choose them in that way you could follow them all times.)

The dog have to learn that you are the ruler who defends the dogs property against the Baby. This way the dog itself could relax and be less aggressive. Same time the dog has to learn aggression against the baby is not tolerated by you (the ruler) and the babys property is not for the dog.

The baby has to learn respect for the dogs needs: a place to rest and properties like toys. Also you could teach a (supervised) way to interact with the dog (like petting with your hand guiding babys hand) and the need to be gentle with all living beeings (important point for future life).

So my suggestion would be to protect the dogs bed. You could choose between training the child or build a physical border. I imagine a fence part to divide your bed from the dogs. In this way your child could not accidential touch the dogs bed if it is playing in your bed.

Also you could teach the child special care for the dog as living animal with feelings like happyness (petting, playing) but also pain/sadness (pull the fur, disrupt the rest in bed). In future life this will build sympathy and respect in your child. It will be able to imagine the feelings of other living beings, which is important for all parts of life.

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First of all, territorial behavior involving nipping and biting should not be tolerated from a dog to begin with. Even with a small dog, where many people think it is just cute and harmless. Don't teach your dog it's okay to act like that. A dog that bites people is typically a dog that gets put down, although small dogs tend to get away with things bigger dogs wouldn't. Don't think just because your dog is small that it isn't a serious behavioral issue, though.

To be clear, I'm not advocating that a dog be put down for behavior like this - just imagining, for example, the kid has friends over and one of them gets bit and needs to see a doctor for it - how are the friend's parents going to react? Most likely, this behavior can be trained out, and if not, then the dog could alternatively live out its life in a different, child free household.

But, once you already have a dog behaving that way and bring in a child, you have an issue. Children can and should be taught to treat pets gently and respectfully, but it takes time and a very young child is not going to understand and is going to make mistakes. So then you have to untrain bad behavior out of your dog. If you can't, you may have to make a decision whether to keep the dog at all.

Your best bet is to use as much positive reinforcement as possible, although discipline may be necessary also.

Positive Reinforcement

For the positive reinforcement side, you want to associate good behavior on the dog's part with reward. Clicker training makes this easier as you can pinpoint good behaviors very closely in the animal's mind. You can also do this by making a click or other distinct sound with your mouth if you don't have a clicker. Once the dog associates the click with food rewards and praise (how to do this is another question) you then want to click often when you see the dog being relaxed and friendly with the child.

Use this to gently push the boundaries of where the dog is comfortable with the child being close. If the child gets close to where the dog gets territorial, and the dog is relaxed and friendly, then reward the dog, and pull the child back (it is important to remove the negative stimulus as part of the reward). As the dog gets more comfortable, let the child get closer, or let the child stay at the same distance for longer, and repeat. This will take time. If it's working, gradually the dog will become more comfortable with the child getting closer and staying longer.

Discipline

It may also be necessary to discipline the dog. How depends on how sensitive the dog is. Some dogs may be very attuned to their owners such that a sharp "No!" is all that is needed to let the dog know they did wrong. Other dogs might ignore this feedback and continue their misbehavior, in which case the next step would be a firm tap (probably on the top of the head head or on the shoulder). When I say firm, I mean about like drumming your fingers on the table: you want the dog to notice, you don't want to cause it pain or discomfort in any way. If you're unsure, try it on yourself first. Some dogs are more sensitive to this than others also.

This discipline I would introduce at the first sign of shifting from "relaxed and friendly" to "alert and defensive". The earlier the better. If the dog responds by backing down, reward it by pulling the child away. If not, you may want to do something like removing the dog (for example, putting it on the floor) and leaving the child in the dog's territory, which shows the dog that the child takes precedence in your household.

It may also help to get the child's scent on the dogs "possessions" when the dog is not around to intervene.

In terms of the child's behavior, it's also important to gently disallow any sort of grabbing, hair pulling or other potentially uncomfortable to the dog behavior. If the child is old enough to understand, you can also teach the child to stop at the edge of the dog's territory and wait for it to calm down before moving closer, or waiting for it to calm down then giving the dog a treat and having the child move away. (I think 10 months is probably too young to do this effectively, but it's worth trying.)

In both the positive reinforcement and discipline scenarios, you want to associate the reward or discipline as closely as possible with the actual bad behavior. This is why it's important to start with the transition from "relaxed" to "alert": this is where the dog's bad behavior starts, not with the actual nipping which is an escalation of this behavior.

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