Terrified of children (moved to puppy behavior from gen inf) - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-26-2013, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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Terrified of children (moved to puppy behavior from gen inf)

Sonje is about 10 months old -we've had her since she was 10 weeks. She has a very sweet disposition but from day 1, she has been terrified of small children. At this point it comes across as aggression (barking only, no teeth baring or growling) when kids are in close proximity. Our friends with small children don't really want to come around so I don't know how to get her over this. It seems that putting a muzzle on her would give the parents (and us) peace of mind to allow her to acclimate to children without fear of being bitten. Any thoughts?

She is much better with adults after the initial introduction (it takes her a few minutes to warm up to someone new). Our kids are in their early 20's and Sonje is fine with them and all of their friends - she is great with other dogs too... she just wants to be friends and play. But the small children thing has us concerned and frustrated.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-26-2013, 02:20 PM
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If she is truly uncomfortable around children then why put her in that position. Why not put her in her crate in another room when guests with children come around.
My female is 4 1/2 yrs. old, she is not comfortable around young children either so I don't let them around her.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-26-2013, 02:44 PM
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I think the OP is looking for a way to possibly acclimate her dog to small children as opposed to avoiding the situation completely. I'm interested in suggestions as well as we are in a similar situation.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-26-2013, 02:53 PM
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What about taking her places where she can see children at a distance and work with her there? Parks .. near playgrounds. She doesn't need to be close to them at this point. She needs to be slowly acclimated to them. They sound (and smell and act) very differently than adults. Gradually work on getting her closer and closer, using treats and positive reinforcement. There have been some other posts on here about working on threshholds. Maybe someone else knows where to put their hands on it. I don't have time to search for it at the moment. .sorry.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-26-2013, 03:04 PM
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IMO - do not force interaction and especially do not muzzle the dog and force interaction.

I would suggest finding a way to set up separated observation and start with a version of "look at that" training. Praise and food rewards for looking a children in a safely separated situation and responding calmly. Wait for signs of happy curiosity and then start slowly closing the gap. Plan on this taking a while,days or weeks - maybe even months, don't rush it, and choose the children wisely. They need to be able to listen to instructions and not rush the dog!

If you cannot "borrow" well mannered children for this, you could start by walking the dog across the street from a fenced in children's playground and slowly closing the gap until you can walk her next to the fence and she doesn't react fearfully to the small people milling about.

But take it SLOWLY!

When you finally get her comfy enough to start working her being in a room, one on one, with a child be sure to closely monitor and that your rewards are *very* high value. You want her to associate children with things being wonderful.

With each step if she shows signs of discomfort and cannot be refocused, pull back and go back a step in the progression.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-26-2013, 04:24 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input everyone - it sounds like this isn't uncommon - I was beginning to suspect Sonje had been abused by children in some manner before we got her.

For the immediate, I think keeping her in her crate when kids are over is a good idea.

We have a big yard but she is OK with the neighbor children out playing in the adjoining yard - I guess the key thing is that they are at a distance. And she was OK with kids walking by on Halloween. We had company/kids over last night and she was OK till the 4' barrier was broken.

RE: muzzling, would it still be bad if she were acclimated to it before introducing children? But I think the best approach is simply to take it slowly and progressively as you suggest.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-26-2013, 04:35 PM
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First of all check your own feelings: do you feel afraid that she might run and attack? And, if you do, she might be picking your feelings. Fear creates adrenaline rush, and dogs are capable of detecting as a smell, in fact loads of our biochemical bodily odours "speak" to our dogs, and they know our moods not by watching our facial expressions only. You are worried, your dog smells it - there must have been a reason!
If your dog waight something like 40 kg - two valerian tablets for her and 3 for you before your walk - just about not to make you and your dog sleepy. Meet children in the park, somewhere outside ( don't use interiors) and try to play ball close to them. If it were children you know, you could ask their mother to pull on them some of your clothes, it would help your dog to identify them as something familiar and thus frienly. If you would persuade some boy to kick the ball for your dog - it would be perfect. She will lose her fear through playing. Sometimes this sort of fear comes as a result of high sensitivity of the dog's ear drums, children are noisy, you can put cotton buds in her ears in case of such destraction during your walks. But, it also cold be her old memories, if she was born not with a professional breeder but in the family where small children were allowed to play with puppies. In this case you cannot train her.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-26-2013, 04:47 PM
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The point is not to flood her with the kids and not to handle introductions in such a manner that she learns to go from 0 to 100 because her normal warning progression has been short circuited. Her reactions are her way of saying she is uncomfortable and I am inclined to respect what the dog is saying and try to change their viewpoint of what is causing the discomfort rather than simply telling them to sit down and shut up, which is what punishing the reaction and/or flooding does.

I hope I am expressing myself clearly. I've been dealing with a nervy dog for almost 2 years now and it is constant work, but I have found I am most successful when I stop reacting myself and am instead proactive and control the environment until I get him able to tolerate whatever was setting him off. Teaching him to look at me first when something spooks him has been the biggest challenge, but also the most successful tactic. Working under threshold seems to take forever so you have to be super patient. But the payoff is, in my view, better than what we'd get if I flooded or used punishment. I've seen dogs turned into fear biters because they were corrected for growling/hackling/barking and when a dog is flooded they basically have 2 options, one of which is NOT something you want when it comes to interactions with other living beings. I prefer to stack the deck more in our favor.

I think acclimating her to a muzzle is a good thing (good for all dogs actually) so that you can keep everyone safe, but controlling her environment would the the tactic I would use. She is still young. Slow and easy wins the race.

Good luck!
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-27-2013, 02:00 AM
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She might not have been abused by children, but had a bad experience. When Fiona was about 6 months old, an 8 year old and his 6 year old sister asked to pet Fiona. I put her in a sit and they were petting her nicely. Then their 2 year old sister saw what they were doing and ran at Fiona screaming in excitement. She freaked out and bolted under the table.

I am slowly introducing her to children more than a year later. I take her to church and go into Sunday school. The adults know about Fiona's fear and help me keep the kids calm.
Do you go to church and can talk to the children's minister?

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-27-2013, 05:59 AM
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keep her away from children. find a trainer.
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