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E.Hatch 03-31-2014 11:20 AM

Success (or not) stories with kid reactivity
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I'd like to hear people's experiences with their dogs and reactivity toward children. Were you able to train it out, did they mature out of it, how do you manage it if not?

Our boy is 10 months and has had this issue since he was a few months old. No negative experiences with children that we're aware of (got him at 9 weeks old). We've worked with a trainer, done lat/desensitization which was successful but we've had a recent relapse (slacking on the training due to weather is what I suspect) where he has begun barking and growling at children again.

So, I'd like to hear what has worked for people and to what degree and/or your techniques on management.


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Blanketback 03-31-2014 12:02 PM

How important are these interactions? Coming from someone who's had a GSD that didn't enjoy kids, and lived a lifestyle that never included them either, I'd say management is a simple solution. But now, decades later I need my current GSD to not only tolerate them, but accept them and be gentle with them, since my neighborhood and extended family includes children.

My dog barks at children when they're running around, but he's good about quieting down on command and he's able to run with them without jumping on them - so long as they're not swinging toys overhead, lol. But never has he growled at them, and this would really concern me. That's not a good sign. Not to say it can't be overcome, but it's a tricky situation for sure.

E.Hatch 03-31-2014 12:38 PM

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It's pretty important we overcome this as best we can. We live in the city so we can encounter kids at any given moment on a walk or at a park. My fiancé and I will likely have our own kids someday so this raises concerns there too.

I'm willing to put in the time, money and effort to do any and everything to get him over his fears or manage them as best we can. I guess I'm trying to gauge where my expectations should be. Can I hope to get him to a point where children can safely play with him? I feel like that's not ever going to be a possibility. Should I teach him to ignore them? After a few session of LAT/desensitizing training I did have him to a point where kids could approach him and throw treats to him and he did fine.

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Blanketback 03-31-2014 12:51 PM

I'd say you're on the right track, and since you've seen progress in just a few sessions then it's not such an insurmountable problem. There's a difference between totally ignoring kids and tolerating them, and I think you're making the right choice by teaching tolerance if you're going to have them yourself. But keep in mind your pup is still very young, so when that time does roll around you'll have a mature dog on your hands, and that will be easier - especially with the foundation you're starting now.

cethlen1621 03-31-2014 01:02 PM

Considering our guy is a rescue, we are happily surprised that so far he's had no issues with kiddos. He has yet to be around anyone younger than about 5 years old, but currently loves every human he's yet met. Though the kids he's been around have been fairly well behaved and not super noisy. But so far so good.

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E.Hatch 03-31-2014 01:10 PM

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Blanketback, thanks very much for your advice and words of encouragement :)

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Blanketback 03-31-2014 01:40 PM

You're very welcome :)

It's a complicated issue, when the dogs don't seem to like children. I always wondered, with my dog, if it was through lack of exposure (I adopted him as an adult, and he'd never been around kids at all) or if it was something else: I don't particularly enjoy children myself (gasp!) and did he pick up on that? Lol, who'll ever know. My brother raised his son with a lab/staffie/boxer mix who he'd gotten from the shelter as a pup, but was a mature dog by the time his son was born. This dog didn't do strangers well, but he was the greatest dog ever with "his" boy. The best!

Totally OT: I so love your avi! I have an almost identical pic of my last wonderful boy, and every time I see your posts I pause and reflect on that great piece of my heart that I miss terribly but still have in my memories. I thank you for that!

Chip18 03-31-2014 01:42 PM

I found great success with this:
Leerburg | Who Pets Your Puppy or Dog
My GSD was people aggressive I kept people out of his face. I made the decisions on who he interacted with not him. Today he is a good will ambassador for the GSD in our area. People and kid safe (only under my supervision, this rule applied to kid loving Boxer also) we don't have kids.

Don't know if you do Dog parks or "I thought my dog was friendly folks" but don't ,they can create problems for you to fix. Post 8 has links. :)

E.Hatch 03-31-2014 03:00 PM

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I agree it's a complicated situation. We probably didn't socialize him quite enough with young children when he was younger as we don't have any and we don't know any we can "borrow". We should've been hyper-vigilant with it after seeing they were the only thing he would bark at as a young pup. I realize we somewhat dropped the ball in an early socialization sense and I'm hoping there's still time to turn it around.

I'm glad Eugene's pic brings you a smile Blanketback!! :)

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David Taggart 03-31-2014 03:38 PM


we can encounter kids at any given moment on a walk or at a park.
He was growling and barking at kids because he wanted to test them and he couldn't. Your dog's attitude towards the object of irritation will change if that object (kids) becomes indifferent or becomes associated with pleasure. train him first to ignore kids. Walk in busy parks with his ball in your hand, and just play at the spot, hiding it in your pocket time to time. If you see and hear some noisy kids around - flash the ball for him, thus the sound would be associated with his toy. Keep his attention on yourself as much as you can, and ignore the kids - that is very important - by mainly turning your back to them while you are playing with your dog. Finally the presence of the kids and their voices would work as some sort of distraction, continue to play with your dog in any situation. Then you may notice the following: if you come very close to a child, and that child pays attention to your dog - your dog may start throwing his head left and right, one bark at the ball in your hand, and the second bark at that child. Throw the ball in different direction from the child (I suppose you wouldn't throw it too far with your dog on the leash) ask him "Down" as he retrieves it and give him to chew his ball. Eventually you'd ask some kid to kick the ball, and one day kids will throw the ball for your dog. 10-12 year olds, do not choose younger, 5-8 old ones wouldn't understand the required. Also, pay attention to intonations of your voice if you speak to a child - pronounce words slowly, speak in a velvety low voice -your dog will be listening. When you see him expecting a ball play every time you meet a new kid - you can think about introducing treats. But, that is much later if ever happens, on rare occasions, if you visit somebody else's house where noisy children live.

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