GSDs and Children - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 08:25 PM Thread Starter
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GSDs and Children

I wrote a story a while back about an incident that happened with my 6-year-old niece and my boy, Mac. Mac was 7 months old at the time and nipped my niece's bottom enough to draw blood. At the time, my niece was running away from him because he was barking at her. So he ran toward her and nicked her. This was my fault. I didn't have a good grip on the leash and he was able to get out of my hold. It was also in a new environment that my dogs were not familiar with. Add to that that my dogs were very young, and it was a recipe for disaster.

My niece is OK and my sister (her mother) was understanding and nothing was permanently damaged. Honestly, I believe I was more scarred by the incident than anybody.

My dogs are 2 years old now, but haven't been around kids since then. We just never have the opportunity. I would like to invite my sister and her children to our new house sometime in the next few months, but I'm scared of what Mac might do. Are there training methods to use to help our dogs become more comfortable around children? Is there a way I can do this myself without getting a professional trainer?

Thanks for your help!
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 08:32 PM
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"Is there a way I can do this myself without getting a professional trainer?" Maybe bit probably not a great idea?

I recommend investing in a trainer that understands GSDs. A balanced trainer rather than Positive Only types.

There is really no ethical way to test a large dog with kids if you, the handler, do not have experience with reading body language and using correction/redirection techniques. Being nervous and tightening a lead can create a problem that would not have been there, etc. Things really do go right down the lead.

How are they otherwise with everything else in life? They never see kids? What is your daily life with them like?

With a young strong dog, if you were ever going to invest in anything for the dog's well being make it a few sessions with a trainer. Maybe someone here can recommend one in the Dallas area.

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 09:02 PM
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I've found that with many dogs just giving them some time to observe kids and their antics at a comfortable distance helps immensely. Take your dog, with a collar he can't slip out of and a leash you're not for any reason going to lose hold of!, to a park qith a playground. Keep your dog back far enough that he's not "fixating" on the kids, and just sit and let him take it in. Over time, watch for signs of comfort and nonchalance, move slightly closer. It takes time, and vigilance on your part to read and understand your dog's body language, but I've found it an effective way of helping a dog get used to and ultimately comfortable around small kids.

Of course, what Cometdog was saying is also correct, a good trainer can help speed up the process immensely, and it is money well spent, particularly if you don't have a lot of time to work with. Whatever you do, please don't take "chances"!
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 10:30 PM
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How long are they visiting? Can you just keep the dog and children seperate for the duration of their stay? Honestly, that's what I would do unless they were staying for a prolonged time. Why risk it?
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 10:53 PM
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If this is the same child it may be wise to keep them separate. Not to say anything can happen but just to keep everyone safe why risk it and there can be tension felt by the dog from the start. You can gate off a room or crate if comfortable in a crate but where your dog can be comfortable and observe.

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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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@CometDog - Helpful thoughts. Thank you! As far as how they are with everything else in life, that's a good question. They don't love strangers and bark at people they don't know. They also tend to be protective of my husband and I as well as their territory. On walks, my female does pretty well with people. Mac, my male, does not. I have worked with him on walks to not bark so much, and he's getting better, but I still don't feel comfortable with strangers walking too close by. So that kind of gives you an idea of his temperament, maybe. We're hoping when we're out of this stressful living situation (long story) that some of this behavior might *crosses fingers* get better.

@tim_s_adams - Good point on not taking chances. I really don't want to do that, although I'm being a bit pressured by people around me who say "It will be OK, I'm sure." Great tip on bringing them to parks with kids. I forgot that I've actually done that once before with success. We were far away from the kids and just watched and I had him just take it in. He didn't bark at all in that instance. Maybe I should do that more often. We're just not there at the park often, and when we are, sometimes there aren't kids. But I'm going to keep doing that when I can.

@sebrench - Thanks for your response! It's a long way away, like end of summer beginning of fall, but they want to stay for a weekend. If it's what I have to, I'll do it, but I'd really hate to keep Mac in a separate room the whole time they're here. It would be ideal for me to find a way to make it work with everybody in the same vicinity. And of course, I would supervise, and the kids would never be allowed alone with the dogs.

@Jenny720 - Thank you for that tip. If they're staying for a weekend, is it reasonable to have Mac gated off the whole time, even when he can see? Maybe it is reasonable, I just want to know for sure. It seems a little unfair, but maybe I'm humanizing him too much LOL

If I need to get a professional trainer, I will try to do that. I'm just a little nervous about it. I don't know why. So I'm trying to find a way I can train the dogs myself.

Last edited by emcale; 05-08-2019 at 11:29 PM. Reason: More info
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-09-2019, 04:33 AM
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since your dogs bark at strangers during walks, yes, a good balanced trainer is your best bet. My gal doesn't like strangers approaching her. It is best if she chooses to approach them. In a small group class your dogs can get used to working around other dogs and strangers and still be cool about it. Perhaps, during the weekend, you can even take an hour of training with the kids there to watch. Kids need to learn how to behave around your dogs, too. You can recommend they watch the kid friendly videos from The Family Dog.
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