We rehomed an abandoned bitch (Labrador/Staff X) around 6 months ago.

She has always been very protective of my fiancee (female) and children (2/4).

This has gotten to the point that if I play even slightly roughly with my children (think chasing them and them jumping on me), she will bite my arm to get me off.

Although she is given a lot of attention and affection when the kids are in bed, she still seems to be overly cautious of me and my partner being close.

We do not know what she experienced prior to her adoption.

Is there anything we can do to help her work around this?

Edit: She is walked every other day, normal response to the aggression is to turn away from here and cease play with children.


1 Answer 1


Ok, let's try to get your dog to back off a little! First, it indeed seems more like protectiveness and perhaps a bit of insecurity than a serious aggression. Good for you, because both serious aggression and serious fear are really hard to handle, but what you describe sounds manageable. Also, ceasing play and turning away: Good!

First: Your dog will needs it's own place to lay down, wait and relax. A blanket works just fine, and once the dog made the connection, you may even be able to move the blanket to move the dog's spot! Teach her that this is her spot, and it is an AMAZING spot! She get treats there, no-one annoys her, and she need not concern herself with things happening around her. It is NOT a spot where she goes to be punished, it is her very own place of calm and peace. Teach her a command to lay down there.
The process here is technically simple, but needs patience, patience, and patience. At first, you take her to the blanket, tell her to lay down, reward her. If you can go away a few steps, and she stays, reward her. Try sending her from a distance. It if works, reward her. You get the idea. The aim is that, eventually, she knows where her spot is, you tell her to go there from anywhere in your home, and she goes right there, any lays down on her blanket.
When she is on it, you don't offer playtime or anything like that. For playtime, walks, and so on, you call her to you, OFF her blanket, and do whatever was planned. VERY important: This goes for the kids as well!!! Actually, all the rules should be used by the kids, as far as they can manage. Luckily, rules applied to dogs shoudl be very clear and simple, so teaching your kids should be very possible, too.

Second: She now has "her" spot. If things that happen in your house turn her protective, or nervous, send her to her spot. How does she react to visitors? Ideally, if a visitor comes, she is just calm and leaves things to you. If she tends to be protective when visitors come, send her to her spot when the doorbell rings, then get your visitor. All this is just to make things easier for her: she does not need to protect you when she is there! So, in her mind, you hopefully turn into someone who does not need to be protected at all, or at least very very rarely.

Third: Keep ceasing play if it goes wrong. Also: after ceasing play, let a few moments pass so she realises "playtime over", get her attention, send her to her spot.

All this mostly leads to her feeling more secure, and you being able to end playtime without having to punish her.

Now, Part 2: Find SAFE games for you, your kids, and your dog. You have a young and physically really strong dog. Rough play with her will most likely always be risky. But with a Labrador in there, she may be incredibly happy to play "fetch" games. In this case, it means throwing whatever she likes to fetch, and teach her to bring it to you, lay it down, and wait for the next throw. She can burn off physical energy, jump around, and will have no need to jump anyone. Also, check if she may like agility-type activities!
At home, you can challenge her mentally: teach her new commands, teach her to fetch things, anything like that.
When you play more physically with your kids, send her to her spot first if possible. If she stays even when people run past her? JACKPOT! Favourite treat, lots of cuddles, whatever she loves most!

Hopefully, she will calm down as she ages, and you will be able to have her just jump around with the kids and you eventually, but for now, this should put you in a position where you, the kids and the dog can be happy without risking accidents.
Considering she is a rescue with unknown history and not necessarily a mix that lends itself to easy handling, she sounds like a wonderful girl who just needs some calm and security in her home :).

  • Thanks Layna, Its great to get such an in depth response. She has her own crate which she will take herself into when she wants to be alone; both the kids know not to go in the crate. She also has a dog bed which is her own space in the living room.
    – Sarima
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 14:40
  • Then you already have "her" place, great :). As I said, she sounds like a great girl! Sadly, Staffs Staff-mixes tend to be hard to re-home, even thought when treated and trained well, they can be amazingly friendly, cuddly dogs.
    – Layna
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 14:48

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