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Staffordshire terriers and children.

Species: Dog
Breed: American staffie, st
Age: 5-8 years
I have two female staffies who are extremely close, but who will nip and snarl at each when the dominant dog changes. It has just changed to the younger dog and now today they had a physical fight where they both sustained minor injuries. This has never happened before and I'm now concerned that they might attack my 4 yo daughter.
When my daughter was first born I received a lot of criticism that I chose to keep "that kind" of dog around a baby.They have never been anything but loving and gentle around her, but this incident has put doubt in my mind.I really don't want to give away one or both, but I also don't want to be putting my child in danger.
What would you recommend I do?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I'm sorry to hear this. Situations like this are so difficult.

First of all, know that this kind of problem can happen with any breed. It's not necessarily *because* they are staffies. With that being said, I have seen the odd Staffordshire that can just flip out with aggression. 99% of these dogs that I have seen are extremely kind and gentle. But I have a few in my clinic that will suddenly turn aggressive for no real reason. And these dogs are very scary because staffies are extremely muscular and have great potential to do harm if they bite.

My first thought whenever I read a question like this is whether the dogs are spayed. Even though they are females (as opposed to testosterone filled males), hormones can affect their attitudes. Having the dogs spayed can sometimes make a huge difference in how they behave.

You are probably not going to like the next bit of advice that I am going to give. When I see a family who has one or more dogs with aggressive tendencies and also has young children, I always recommend that the dogs and the children have absolutely no unsupervised access. And even then, if you are in the room with them together, you've got to be super watchful. I know it sounds horrible, but all it takes is one wrong move and there could be an awful situation. Most staffies are angels around children. The children could be pulling their fur out and sitting on them and they do nothing. But, with your dogs we don't know what kind of things set them off into being aggressive. It would be so awful if they did turn on your little girl. In my mind it's not enough to say, "They're always gentle around her so it's unlikely that anything will happen."

The other thing that you could consider is speaking to your vet about a behavioral consult and possibly some medication. I have had some dogs with aggression issues that do well with a medication called Reconcile, in combination with training (and spaying or neutering if not already done.)

This is a very difficult situation and I wish I had a faster and more concrete solution for you.

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thankyou so much for your advice. Its great that you've given me a couple of options besides getting rid of them.
They are both spayed and I've never let my daughter play outside without me (they don't come in the house), just to be safe, but it never occured to me that there could be psychological or medical treatment for their behaviour. Its something to look into and if their behaviour doesn't change after that, then I guess I'll have to look into re-housing them.
Thanks again, you've been a big help!!


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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.