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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I had an interesting incident yesterday. Ryka has never disliked children unless they're overly rambunctious. Just the other week a young girl asked if she could pet her, and Ryka was so very sweet with her.

But yesterday was different. I was on a walk with my SIL and her dog and a young girl came running towards us as fast as she could without saying anything. I assumed she was running to the bench to grab something near us, but she bee-lined straight for the dogs. As she got close, she put her hand out to try and pet our dogs without asking. My SIL shouted that the dogs were not friendly (they are, but we've agreed not to let strangers pet our dogs on walks). The girl continued to try and get close. I pulled Ryka near me and tried to educate her on how to approach dogs, but she kept trying to get close. Ryka barked, warned her off, and the girl still continued to approach, so Ryka stepped up, barked more, and grabbed the front pocket of the girl's hoodie. It was a quick nip and let go - a warning nip - and she didn't grab anything other than the fabric. I gave a quick, hard correction to have her sit quietly, but it took me by complete surprise because it happened so quickly and she has never done that before. The young girl thought nothing of it, in fact she laughed. I was horrified. To put the kid's behaviour in perspective, her younger brother came running towards us shortly after and asked if he could hold our dogs' leashes as if it were a totally normal thing to do.

Is that a normal reaction given the situation? Ryka has been good with children, and often she's the confident one that's happy to be engaged with once she's done sniffing. We have young kids come to our club, and whenever they come she licks their faces or happily interacts with them. She's never behaved that way before, but recently during bite work when the helper went to run his hand over her head during the bite, she let go to try and grab his hand when he did it a third time. The two incidences happening so closely together threw me off a bit, and I'm probably over thinking it, but I don't want to risk Ryka ever biting someone if it isn't in self-defense.

Thoughts?
 
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I would guess that your emotion and reactions to the child fueled Ryka's defensiveness. Your dog may have understood that you wanted the child to stop and probably was bothered by the kid's disobedience. "Hey Kid, Mom Said NO! Stop"

My gal-dog does not like strangers forcing themselves on her, no matter the size. My big-boy is very forgiving but I won't take it for granted that he might not put the big paw of knock-it-off on a child if he gets overwhelmed. I step in front of my dogs and put a hand out and say STOP. Nothing else, just stop. From there, maybe I'll teach the child about dog manners but only if the kids is showing self-control in the first place. If they have that wild child look in their eyes I'll talk to them from a distance even if it means turning around and leaving.

One thing I often tell kids, "how would you like strangers touching you on the head all the time?"


and a question: why would the helper be patting your dog's head during a bite? I've never seen anyone do that. Maybe while holding a dumbbell calmly but not while working a sleeve. I have seen a helper simulate wrestling with a quick hug but not head petting.
 

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+1 car2ner
 

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I would be surprised, given the situation you described, for the dog not to react that way! Who raises kids like that? Either way, I would definitely step in front of and stop any child approaching in that manner, because in the end if a bite or even a nip does happen it's always the dog's fault! But again, I don't fault the dog for the reaction, the parents of those out of control children on the other hand might benefit from some parenting classes...jeez!

I had to jump in front of a lady and her little poodle the other day because she thought it would be fun to introduce her dog to mine while my dog was in the car (it's a van and the back hatch was open). Some people just don't get that all dogs are not always friendly...
 
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Wow, stressful!

We have kids run at us fairly frequently and like car2ner, I found that the “Stop” gesture with my hand held out, has always worked up to now.

To tell you the truth, if somebody ignored the STOP gesture and kept trying to pet him, he would growl. I am beginning to realize that for my dog, there is a long way between the growl and the bite ( that is, he growls readily but has never bitten). Sadly, I don’t usually let kids pet, because they are so unpredictable! My angelic sweet niece, when she first met a cat...she suddenly in great excitement grabbed it by its face! Known, educated kids are welcome to pet...like my daughters friends.
 

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I would guess that your emotion and reactions to the child fueled Ryka's defensiveness. Your dog may have understood that you wanted the child to stop and probably was bothered by the kid's disobedience. "Hey Kid, Mom Said NO! Stop"

My gal-dog does not like strangers forcing themselves on her, no matter the size. My big-boy is very forgiving but I won't take it for granted that he might not put the big paw of knock-it-off on a child if he gets overwhelmed. I step in front of my dogs and put a hand out and say STOP. Nothing else, just stop. From there, maybe I'll teach the child about dog manners but only if the kids is showing self-control in the first place. If they have that wild child look in their eyes I'll talk to them from a distance even if it means turning around and leaving.

One thing I often tell kids, "how would you like strangers touching you on the head all the time?"


and a question: why would the helper be patting your dog's head during a bite? I've never seen anyone do that. Maybe while holding a dumbbell calmly but not while working a sleeve. I have seen a helper simulate wrestling with a quick hug but not head petting.
+1 to this. Your dog realized something was off. Totally understandable!

I hate hate hate parents who don’t teach their kids to interact with pets well. I have two cats that are scarred for life with kids because my roommate had a friend over who let their kid run at the cats making loud noises and even into my room where they were hiding when I was home. The parents are at fault and your dog was fine IMHO.
 

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If this happens you don't want to wait another second before you step in front of the dog. I have done that a few times, also with idiots who think that their dog needs to "say hi" and continue to come closer.
You see the kid or dog coming and you have to assume that they are heading for your dog so being proactive will be best. it doesn't make people happy or friendly towards you but I don't care. My job is to prevent my dog to be in the paper or in the pound to be quarantined or a kid from getting bitten. Every incident can erode the dog's stability towards kids or dogs.
I understand your dog though. She knew something was out of the ordinary. Deja doesn't like dogs that are out of control in a class either. She observes them from a distance and I can hear her thinking, "Somebody do something about him!".
 

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mmm, i’m in the minority here. i don’t know your dogs history or age, but from a presumed level headed / sound adult dog that has typically been good with children, i personally would not call that a normal reaction. in a new (unknown), young, or fearful dog i’d take the necessary steps / attempts to intervene... if those attempts weren’t productive and the dog reacted that way - i’d still be disappointed but not surprised and i’d definitely have some words with the parents.

my dogs are out with me often and there’s a chance that i could encounter a kid daily... i’m counting on my dogs to recognize that a child is not a threat. (and aside from a threat or in play -with me-, there’s no other circumstances that i’d be ok with my dogs mouth closing on any part of a person)

but hey, we do the best we can right? you’ve got some additional information about your girl now.... you’re here asking for insight... it’s all you can do at this point.
 

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what has Ryka done in the past when kids have been overly rambunctious?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
what has Ryka done in the past when kids have been overly rambunctious?


Whenever kids are overly rambunctious (we had a whole bunch of guests over once), as in running around screaming and jumping on furniture, she gets overly excited and barks and play bows and jumps back and forth then tries to rough house them. It unsettles the kids.

There have only been two times when Ryka has growled at children aside from this, both which I thought were acceptable. Once was in a store when a kid came running at her from behind and tried to grab her without her knowing (I was talking with a staff member and she was in a sit beside me). She didn’t bite or bark. Just stiffened and growled, then moved away. I found that to be acceptable behaviour. The second time was during Halloween when we went for a walk and a kid in a full on body costume and mask ran towards her from across the street yelling about petting her with his mom chasing after him telling him to stop. She sat and gave one bark, I told her to stop and we went on our way. To me, that’s perfectly fine.

Every other interaction has been calm and positive when the kids have approached appropriately. Face licks, belly rubs, bum scratches, the like. She’s never been mean to kids before this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I and a question: why would the helper be patting your dog's head during a bite? I've never seen anyone do that. Maybe while holding a dumbbell calmly but not while working a sleeve. I have seen a helper simulate wrestling with a quick hug but not head petting.

It isn’t like a normal pet or pat, rather it’s in the midst of acting out a stick hit. He pretends to do the motion of a stick hit, then strokes the dog’s head shortly after in a quick motion. He did it twice, she was fine both times, then when he went to do it a third time she let go and went for the hand.
 

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I agree with Car2ner that your reaction/SILs reaction may have influenced Ryka. If you guys were reacting and perhaps frustrated etc. she may have fed off of that tension.



My female GSD is very friendly. I had a kid run up behind me while I was at a store and hug her. She was calm and extremely happy to get attention, his mom ran up and apologized and told him he should ask first. But he's young enough that well, I don't really expect them to fully get it at that age. Had that happened with my other dog while I don't think she would have bitten she certainly would've been startled and reacted fearfully. So different dogs different reactions.

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I agree with Car2ner that your reaction/SILs reaction may have influenced Ryka. If you guys were reacting and perhaps frustrated etc. she may have fed off of that tension.



My female GSD is very friendly. I had a kid run up behind me while I was at a store and hug her. She was calm and extremely happy to get attention, his mom ran up and apologized and told him he should ask first. But he's young enough that well, I don't really expect them to fully get it at that age. Had that happened with my other dog while I don't think she would have bitten she certainly would've been startled and reacted fearfully. So different dogs different reactions.

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Was your dog aware of the attention coming or did it come as a total surprise? I would love it if Ryka were completely friendly or neutral to strangers, especially in those situations. But she’s always assessing people and thinking about what they’re doing unless I ask her to focus on me.
 

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Was your dog aware of the attention coming or did it come as a total surprise? I would love it if Ryka were completely friendly or neutral to strangers, especially in those situations. But she’s always assessing people and thinking about what they’re doing unless I ask her to focus on me.

Shelby was surprised as well. Honestly though I wouldn't expect a german shepherd or most dogs to be unphased in that sort of situation. I wish Shelby was a bit more reserved. She was getting a lot better when I was working with her but she would choke herself trying to go say hi to people. Her previous owners that abused her, their reason for getting rid of her is that she was too friendly.


It sounds like your dog reacted well to the surprised situation all things considering because there are definitely dogs that would have bit. I think your dog sounds a lot like what you'd expect from a GSD, watching and waiting to see what's up and acting friendly if the people are in the clear from what you've explained. Or I guess, does she seem uneasy or on edge when she's assessing as in she's nervous or more just she's keeping an eye on things?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
She just watches what people do. If she’s in a long down, her head is always up and she watches what’s happening, for example. If we’re out for a walk, she likes to watch what they’re doing. If they approach and smile, she wags her tail and likes to sniff them if she’s allowed. If I don’t allow it, she wags her tail regardless and we continue on.

There’s definitely times when I can sense nervous energy from her, but during those times it’s a very different behaviour. Ears back, panting, etc.
 

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I think the your sister n laws and your reaction fueled her reaction also. She picked up on your energy and to placing boundaries . Giving her instruction she will learn what’s expected of her during something like that “ leave it “or “sit and then stay” while body blocking or continues walking full steam ahead whichever fits.
 

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I would be super careful if I were you. Work on a very clear, concise, loud STOP. Hand out. Use your "kid is about to run in front of a moving car" voice.

How old were said kids? That would matter to me. When is a kid not a child to a dog? Who knows. Some 12 year olds look like adults. The under say age 6 crowd? Even your "stop" might not work. Not to mention the sheer percentage of kids with ASD around these days. Impulsively defines them very often.

At the end of the day, even if the kid was off the reservation, kicked you in the shin to get past you to your dog that is out in public, and your dog breaks skin or bruises them...you will be deemed at fault for having an unsafe dog in public without a muzzle or something of that nature. And especially these days, society has been edging more and more towards feeling entitled to "safe" spaces even in the face of Darwin worthy negligence.

The thing about your dog attempting to bite the helpers hand? Well I am not qualified to say anything beyond if that was my dog, it would bring me to the conclusion my dog was wiling to bite for real regardless of what it is rooted in. It could be based in civility which is desired by some handlers or a nerve issue. Can't say but ..just know your dog has a willingness to connect that way with someone. I'd defer to some of the more experienced protection sport handlers to weigh in on dogs who go for the helper's stick hand.

As for "is it normal" IDK there seems to be a wide range of normal depending on what the dog is bred to do with his lines. If a man grabbed my dog after I said stop, it would escalate. A strange child can run up to him and love on him though, his face softens when he sees happy kids running towards. I still dont allow it. But I dont feel he would bite a child (there is no such things with living creatures that is "sure" or even near 100% which is why I don't allow it) if I didn't see it coming.If I felt my dog was at risk for biting wayward kids (that I would like to punt by the way-but we cant go around doing that) I would probably work on some muzzle training for public outings. I know nobody likes to hear that, but sometimes for the safety of your dog...and they hate the muzzle once use to it far less than people do. I am NOT saying to muzzle train your dog now- let a breed savvy trainer assess and make those decisions..just keep it in the back of your mind as a possible solution down the road.

*edited to add because to be fair- my dog was raised in a home with kids of a an age span until 5.5 months old- then I got him and I have every kid in the neighborhood in and out. I dont know how much that has contributed to his softness towards children as opposed to his defensiveness towards adult. Nature VS Nurture who knows.

The hardest part is there is no ethical way to work on these things with kids. An adult can agree to help you train/analyze/desensitize at their own risk, but a child can not and you would be hard pressed to get parents with kids who do not know your dog to help you out there.

If you belong to a club I'd get a recommended private trainer for this.
 

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I also reread your post and agree with others that your reaction and your SILs could have put her even more on edge. I know, easier said than done when a kid comes barreling into your dog's face. Shouting, pulling on the lead, definitely can cause a dog agitation.

When I see kids running up, I just tell him to sit. Then I release him to say hi. He has an expectation of how greeting goes, it has helped immensely with his defense drive towards grown strangers. He is pretty friendly if an adult is appropriate with him.

Also though, in your post you said good with kids "unless rambunctious" what happens historically if they are rambunctious? I imagine that is what made you reactive when you were suddenly faced with a strange rambunctious child. I think clarifying that bit may help get you relevant input :)
 

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My default is a Sit, but I never let anyone run at my dog. If I see it coming, I will shout STOP before they ever get near us. My younger one loves children and would not likely react to badly one, but still, I never know what a child will do to him, so I keep strangers away. My younger dog is smaller and has a puppy look so people think she’s younger than she is. Last summer we were at a fair and a little girl, maybe 7 years old, ran by, turned and screamed in her face. It happened so fast, all I could do was get mine out of there fast. She is not a biter and would not even growl at a child, but my dog was scared and darted behind me and nearly pulled me with her. Fortunately, I had a good hold on a short leash because of the crowds so I turned, pushed her safely behind me and calmed her, but I was extremely annoyed. I almost shouted something at the mom, who thought her child was being cute, because by then they were too far for a quiet conversation. I decided to ignore it because taking care of my dog was most important and the mom didn’t seem like someone who would listen anyway. That dog is a rescue and is not warm to strangers and that didn’t help at all. She was a little nervous after that so we went home. It totally ruined my day. She has been going to street fairs and outdoor markets with me since she was a puppy and I never had a single problem with her or anyone else until that day.
 

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Also though, in your post you said good with kids "unless rambunctious" what happens historically if they are rambunctious? I imagine that is what made you reactive when you were suddenly faced with a strange rambunctious child. I think clarifying that bit may help get you relevant input :)
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Whenever kids are overly rambunctious (we had a whole bunch of guests over once), as in running around screaming and jumping on furniture, she gets overly excited and barks and play bows and jumps back and forth then tries to rough house them. It unsettles the kids.

There have only been two times when Ryka has growled at children aside from this, both which I thought were acceptable. Once was in a store when a kid came running at her from behind and tried to grab her without her knowing (I was talking with a staff member and she was in a sit beside me). She didn’t bite or bark. Just stiffened and growled, then moved away. I found that to be acceptable behaviour. The second time was during Halloween when we went for a walk and a kid in a full on body costume and mask ran towards her from across the street yelling about petting her with his mom chasing after him telling him to stop. She sat and gave one bark, I told her to stop and we went on our way. To me, that’s perfectly fine.

Every other interaction has been calm and positive when the kids have approached appropriately. Face licks, belly rubs, bum scratches, the like. She’s never been mean to kids before this.
 
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