Is my dog territorial?

Question:  I just adopted a 4 year old dog named mister. He is believed to be a chihuahua and terrier mix. I have had him for a week to the day (I'm writing this on Sunday 11/27). He is trained in various areas, but my main problem is he can be aggressive with my 2 year old son. I am making sure that my son is respecting misters boundaries, but my son just wants to play with him, love on him, and cuddle thing he loves is leaning for kisses..he loves doggy kisses. This evening my son leaned in for doggy kisses (which mister has given him), and mister nipped him in the face. He did not break skin, but left a mark. There has been 1 other incident where he nipped when my son tried to take misters toy out of his mouth to play fetch. Mister has not been aggressive with me or anyone else. He has even been nice to other kids (my friend who works at the vet that adopted him to me has had mister at her house with her children with no problems). I'm wondering if this is a territorial thing? I'm hoping this is something I can have corrected so I don't have to give him back. We really do love this dog, but my son is most important and I need to make sure he's safe. Thank you in advance


That’s a tough situation and you’re right, it’s first and foremost about your son being safe. There are a couple of things to consider with the situation you explained:

1) The dog is still very new to your home. He’s also dealing with being rehomed/bounced around and assessing a new environment. This means he is more on edge than he would be in the past environment where he was okay with the kids. A week is not anywhere close to enough time to fully acclimate to a new home. You’re looking at more like a couple months before he is really comfortable and you’re really seeing the dog he is.

2) Most dogs, particularly small dogs, are intimidated by children to some degree. Children (particularly toddlers/between 1-5 yrs) move differently than an adult, are visually smaller, and aren’t able to read visual cues the dog may give when they aren’t comfortable. So most dogs learn that these little people aren’t safe or they figure out a handful of safe ones but each new child has to earn some trust. That however doesn’t mean the dog is then safe to be picked up, grabbed, etc. by any child. It’s just a recipe for what you’re seeing. I don’t ever encourage a child of that age to take anything from any dog (no matter how safe they may seem) or to put their face in a dogs face. Miscommunications happen too quickly and bites happen too quickly and i’m certainly not putting my childs face at risk.

3) While the dog may have done well in the previous household with children, it doesn’t mean he will always do well with any child. It would be up to you to supervise all interactions from here on out really. It’s a lot of work. We have an 11 year old who has, from the time he was little, been around many dogs and it was a lot of work from day 1 to ensure he understood for the most part, to leave dogs alone unless they seek attention from you on their terms. Not yours. Children need to respect that it’s an animal, it has teeth, and it needs to have personal space. And I’m sure you understand how limited a small child’s understanding is going to be of that - so until they’re able - it’s management. Of both the dog and the child until they can interact appropriately on their own (which isn’t until much later in life). 

I can’t give a recommendation as to the dogs temperament in this individual case without meeting him unfortunately. The above is just information I would give to anyone experiencing what you are.