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Discussion Starter #1
Please please take into awareness with this post that I’m not an ignorant dog/GSD owner without a fantastic support system (my dad is a military dog handler and works specifically with GSD) however I would like some outside advice to ease my mind and not just because he really loves the breed that he thinks they’re perfect :p

We adopted a 3 year old beauty called Bella on Friday, the owners were foster parents and after a small incident (not a bite, just a growl and a warning after the little girl was pulling her fur) with their newest small girl they were worried about the little girl and that they could lose their license for fostering if anything were to happen so they decided they would look for a new family for her.

She was a bit of a minx on the lead (although they’d assured us that she’s brilliant, maybe she was just pushing her luck!) so a quick phone call to my dad, he came round within minutes, showed us how to use the half check collar correctly and now she’s brilliant on the lead and walking to heal – note to self: your dad IS a helpful man to know hehe. Off lead her recall is amazing, even with the distractions of other dogs/birds/people she’ll just come bounding back over to us with her tongue hanging out looking like a cutie.

In the house absolutely brilliant, doesn’t jump on the furniture (thank goodness was worried that was going to be a dominance issue I’d have to break), she takes herself to bed when she wants to be on her own and most other times we’ll find her sat in front of the window with the fan blowing on her face looking happy as Larry. No separation issues, she doesn’t seem to have any anxiety that she is not going back to her previous home and we don’t have to worry about her while we’re at work and she’s fully house trained (this includes the garden, she will only toilet on walks). We also have ferrets who are kept in a secured shed with a run in the garden, she’s given them a little sniff and came back to us for a fuss and barely been over to them again since. Sound perfect?

Now, we introduced her to my niece, she’s 7 years old, grown up around bigger dogs (collies and a rottweiler) and has always been brilliant with them. When she walked into the house she happily walked over, gave Bella her hand which she sniffed and gave a quick lick too, even ran to Phoebe in the garden when she called her with no problems which made the little lady very proud, and us quite excited that they were both okay. Bella came back into the living room to lie next to my partner so Phoebe came and sat with them and carried on giving her a fuss, she put her arms around her to give her a cuddle and Bella snapped her head around to Phoebe’s face with her teeth out and growled which (understandably) panicked Phoebe a lot and she ran over to my sister and would not let go. I’ve never seen her like that so I’m hoping she’ll grow to forgive Bella soon! Bella was told off by my partner immediately as from where he was sat it looked as though my niece had been bitten and not just warned off – my dad agreed that my partner’s reaction was fine and that Bella had been punished enough. However now I’m very cautious about her around children and Phoebe is not the only child who will be in the house, I have another neice who is 21 months and has just started walking so I don’t want the same thing to happen again around her when she’s still so little. We have discussed with a vet introducing a muzzle for ONLY when she is around children, so her teeth are not so scary to the children and we can encourage positive things for Bella with them like playing and treats and hopefully it will all come to a close and in future she will be happy with children as one day we are hoping we will have a child ourselves. I discussed this with my sister who was there and she doesn’t think that’s necessary and we just need to watch. I’m not sure? She will 100% not be muzzled all of the time; it will ONLY be with the children and a bucket one so she can drink/breathe. Are we right in thinking this could be a good PRECAUTIONARY and TEMPORARY measure in encouraging good things with children for her? The vet grabbed around at her face and mouth while at her face level and he has assured us that if she was an aggressive dog then she would have bitten him for doing that which although was comforting I wouldn’t suggest Phoebe did that :p Any advice please would be greatly appreciated, she has settled in with all other aspects so I am hopeful that positive reinforcements will bring her frame of mind around I’d just appreciate some personal experiences possibly from other GSD owners J

PS – Didn’t realise it was going to be that long but I thought I’d let you know all aspects of Bella and her history
 

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You have just had this dog a short time and by 7 your niece should know better than to put her arms around the dog and cuddle. In time the dog should learn to tolerate it but it is not something they like and probably not something she has any experience with.

I would have her awhile and be cautious with children as I would with any new, unknown adult dog. Well that is my two cents. I think you need some time to bond with this dog for awhile first before trying to introduce her to a lot of new things.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Oh I'm not saying Phoebe isn't to blame either, and we have spoken to her and reminded her the right way to approach new dogs.
 

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That would be distressing in a dog who had been with your family or if there was a severe response but I think she needs a little more time..you figure she has probably been through a lot. The first day we got Grim at 2 he bit my husband for stepping on his tail and I was mortified..and he was not even a rescue situation. But he wound up being the most solid and bombproof dog I have ever owned.
 

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Personally if I had a rescue with a history of not liking children, I would not be allowing a child to hug or touch the dog. I think Bella was pushed too far and it came down to a snap, not the child or dogs fault, they should have been seperated from the start and slowly introduced but what's done is done.

I would show the dog that the scary thing is trustworthy, in this case children. You have a great resource in a dog savvy child like Phoebe and I would use her. So I would not allow Phoebe to acknowledge her in any way, and just ask normal. Slowly add Phoebe closer in steps, have her sit on the opposite side of the couch from Bella, again no touching or eye contact. Then have her sit on the couch with Bella on the floor in front of it, etc. Give treats and praise randomly to reinfoce good behaviour of her ignoring Phoebe, show her that ignoring the child is easy as the child will not hurt her and that ignoring will get her positive rewards. As they both get more comfortable continue fun interactions with toys and treats with gentle pats, no more grabbing or hugging as that seems to be a trigger

Phoebe needs to earn Bella's trust that she will not grab her again, just as Bella needs to earn Phoebe's trust that she will not bite. Just as you and Bella need to earn each other's trust that you will look out for her, and she doesn't need to react harshly to situations

Find children's parks nearby and sit down on a bench far enough way for Bella to feel safe, don't allow children to approach closely. The more Bella realizes that you will protect her from the overexhuberant children the more relaxed she should hopefully get. Again, building trust

If Bella gets overwhelmed step back and do your best to end the situation on a good note. Even if it's a simple sit in place before leaving, baby steps are small but they can be measured so keep positive
 

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Agree with Nancy. "Hugging" a dog is completely against their natural instincts. Many learn to accept it, few even enjoy it but rarely from strangers and your niece is a stranger. Give them time.

7 days is not a long time for a dog to adjust to a new home. It's the beginning of a new relationship and everyone is on their best behavior but as you get more comfortable you start to relax and be yourself. Set up your rules and expectations now and reinforce the behaviors you want.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I was very wary of introducing Phoebe but my Dad said that as she was a lot older than the little girl who Bella had an incident with before we were hopeful she would be okay but I agree, possibly it was too early and she’s just not settled in yet. It all happened very quickly, we weren’t expecting Phoebe to hug her but as I said I don’t think she’ll be in a rush to do it again. Should we avoid the muzzle then, even as a precaution? I will try the sofa thing (ours are huge as well, plenty of space haha) and hopefully that will work, I’m sure Phoebe will love being involved in helping Bella she loves animals and is constantly trying to run off with my ferrets in a pocket!
 

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The only comment I have is about the muzzle, I am all for a muzzle with a dog you cannot be certain of but you said ONLY when kids are around, that is going to make her associate the muzzle which she probably will not be thrilled about to kids, possibly making it worse.

If you do chose to muzzle her for the protection of kids and herself do it more often than just when kids are around, maybe on a walk when she is happy, or some other positive type activity too.

Diesel is muzzled when there is a chance he could be around other dogs but I also muzzle him when we go to Tractor Supply, the feed store, the barn, and camping. He doesnt know that I put it on him b/c of other dogs so it is not making that issue worse.

You have great resources it sounds like and you also sound knowledgeable follow your gut and your dads advice. Good luck!
 

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Would it still make it worse if we made it a positive time? As that's my general aim really. If we could avoid the muzzle and not risk the kids I'd be more than happy to do that. Or could it be introduced like as she's going on a walk and then we take it off while she's out or something so that's something exciting? It is something that I know my Dad would be able to help me with but I know he's so used to rough housing with that big bite glove thing that I'm sure he has a preference to that rather than a muzzle
 

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What kind of muzzle are you thinking about? This is the muzzle I use on Diesel



At first he would not even walk with it, he literally drug his face on the ground. That was 3 months ago... I made it so it was exciting to wear like we went on a walk on the long line in the woods and he had to wear it then always. He got a treat for putting it on and we had a party about it. There are still times where he sometimes will get down on the ground and roll around trying to get it off but he loves to do the things he does when he wears it so it is a positive in his eyes he gets excited when I get it out. So basically if he has it on then he gets to do some of his favorite things and he doesnt get to do those things without it. Make sense? Sorry if its a little wordy
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Baskerville Ultra Muzzle | Pets at Home

That makes perfect sense, thank you. I wouldn't want to walk her with it on cuse it does look a bit Hannibal-esque so don't want people avoiding her thinking she's a dribbling rabid dog trying to eat them haha. Not that I'm saying your dog would look like that, at all, however we already have people cross the road when we were walking yesterday. In fact, what was shocking yesterday I was walking behind a black GSD and people walked over and petted it and then crossed the road as they got closer to Bella (tri-coloured) I thought that was just bizzare! I was thinking like playing in the garden or grooming (which she loves) and making the kids coming round a really fun and exciting time, or would that not be effective really?
 

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The Baskerville muzzle is great but in my experience too short for a GSD nose. You do want to use a basket rather than a cloth or mesh muzzle especially if she will be wearing it for more than 15-20 min so she can open her mouth to drink, take treats and pant.
 

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This muzzle is well tolerated by my dog. I have trained all dogs to wear this muzzle in case we ever needed one. When Beau got his CERF eye exam they used it because he was nice but they were nervous..they are right up in the eyeball there.

Sizing can be a bit tricky and these folks will work with you - I would not just use the chart. I like the added front plate because most snark bites are frontal nips and it is another barrier. Seems comfortable but I did have to cut another hole in the strap.

Italian Basket Dog Muzzles
 

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I use a muzzle similar to what Nancy posted introduced it with treats and she does not view it as a negative thing or fight having it put on
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thank you everyone I'll look for one of the Italian Basket ones :) I saw Phoebe last night and she's willing to help with training Bella and remaining very calm around her and making her happy, so I'm very pleased with that, I'm hoping Bella will be too :)
 

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Just to update as I realise that I haven't posted in a while and didn't want anyone to think she was awful and I re-homed her! Definitely not. We have had Phoebe round several times since, met her in parks with Bella and they seem okay now, she even walked into the house yesterday patted her on the head and wondered off and Bella just followed her to where she was playing. I still wouldn't leave them on their own together but it's a lot more comforting knowing Bella just needed some positive interaction with children, she seems perfectly fine now. My parents looked after her last weekend and had several children in the house and said that Bella was not fussed at all by them being there and let them all fuss her as long as they offered their hands first, so I'm very pleased with her <3
 

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if she has an issue with children do not let your parents allow the children to go up to her. too many children at once can be overwhelming, and honestly if my dog had issues with children i would not let someone watch her if children would be present. just because she is fine now (supposedly) do not take any chances... look for yawning, whale eye(showing the white of her eyes), and other signals that show she isnt comfortable around children. ...
 

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Ok I’d like to re-word the above post then so that my intelligence isn’t questioned again. My dad a military dog handler with 30 years experience of GSD behaviour (a person to me who sounds like they are a perfect candidate for a dog sitter) looked after Bella for a couple of days last week where the children were in the house for an afternoon. There is absolutely no way that he would have allowed them to go near her unless she was happy for it to happen and unless he gave the situation his full attention knowing how anxious I was about her with children. Phoebe, the eldest child in the situation had already spent time with her, practicing good manners with dogs and has had no further reaction from Bella other than her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth and her tail wagging (a happy, confident sign that this is a positive experience). Phoebe being Phoebe would have told the other 2 children in the room that this is how you approach a dog because she likes being the eldest and knowing more so she shares this with everyone, the other 2 children behaved accordingly, Bella was happy.

The two reactions that I had worried about with children in hind sight look like warnings that their behavior was too much, so now we explain to any child who approaches her (even if they do know what to do) that they need to stay calm, offer their hand and let her sniff their hand first, after this there has been no further reaction to children. I don’t think she is scared or anxious of children as she looks perfectly relaxed and happy when they enter into the house.

I asked this post for advice about whether I’d need to muzzle her to encourage positive situations with children, not to be told that I have to keep her away from children as I’m sure you’re aware anytime I walk her in the street this would be difficult. I chose against the muzzle and as advised by another poster I introduced Phoebe neutrally sitting on a sofa and this all happened slowly and progressively. Also, I am 26 years old and I’m very likely to have children, because of this I would like Bella to socialize positively with children else I’m sure I’d be told that I’m irresponsible if we then needed to re-home her if/when I get pregnant (something I would never want to do, hence this inquiry into training). There is no way I would trust a person to look after her if I thought Bella was only supposedly okay now, she behaves very happily and positively around children and although I would never leave ANY dog alone with children, I’d happily let her be around children supervised now.
 
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