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Children & Fear Aggression
MemberJanuary 17, 2021 at 5:34 PM
Hello Canine enthusiasts!
I have a dilemma that I’m sure many dog owners have battled with at some point or another and I need some help figuring out what to do before it progresses into a major problem.
My 15 month old Australian Shepherd is very well obedience ever since I got him at 3 months old trained thanks to this site, and he is perfectly trained off leash as well. I even have an e-collar on him in case of a situation where I would need to communicate with him if he decides to get the zoomies and I need him at my feet.
My only problem with him is children. He has always been scared of them since a puppy and has always barked at them. When I give the children treats to hand to him, or I go and give the child a hug to show him that they are not a threat, then he becomes best friends with them/kisses them etc. But for example, my 5 year old nephew can leave the room and change clothes and come back into the room and he barks very aggressively at him and has even run up to him to nip him in the butt (mainly as a warning, never hard).
He used to just run away scared from children while barking, but now in the last months he is making advances to run to them and nip them in the butt to scare them away.
I have even had to put him on a leash lately when going out because he will chase kids barking when they are within 20 feet or so of us.
Again, if I give them treats to feed him, and I reward him for being good, then he stops acting out, but I have tried to train this out of him and every time he sees a new kid it starts all over again! I have even tried having him introduced to children while I’m not around to make sure he isn’t trying to guard me, but the same result.
He is such a sweet dog, and never barks at adults/other dogs/ and I see a glimmer of hope of fixing this problem considering how he acts after warming up to the children for a bit. But is there any advice on how to train him to stop acting like every new little kid he sees is the devil?
Thank you for any suggestions or experiences you’ve had with this type of thing!
OrganizerJanuary 18, 2021 at 6:22 AM
This would probably be a good question to submit to Robert’s AMA on the member page. You would have to cut it down quite a bit to get it to fit into the form character limit but I would definitely seek Robert’s advice on this as well.
The form can be found on the bottom of the Members page.
MemberJanuary 18, 2021 at 7:21 AM
I would agree with Alin. I would never want to try to give you advice on this as a lay person. Go straight to the expert with this kind of safety matter. He will help you and you may want to find a balanced trainer in your area, that is a good fit for you to help you properly apply Robert’s advice.
MemberJanuary 18, 2021 at 7:00 PM
I agree this is a good question for Robert to answer. I’ll be interested to hear what he says, since my dog is absolutely terrified of children. Fortunately, his reaction is to run away, but it is still something I would like to overcome as much as possible. There is one thing in the meantime that I have heard Robert say many times: dogs should never be allowed to nip or bite someone, particularly children. If your nephew is going to be over, put your dog in a crate or have him on leash. If there is any chance you will encounter children outside, have him on a leash (as you say you are doing now). Have you watched the videos with Bear? They are excellent, although they would be a bit harder to do with children since children often don’t have the self control to follow instructions reliably. They also tend to be more sudden and erratic in their movements, which can trigger a response in a dog. Good luck, and I’ll be listening for your question to Robert.
MemberJanuary 19, 2021 at 5:17 AM
I had not seen the videos with bear! Somehow they floated under my radar, but I just watched them and they are perfect for my situation! THANK YOU! I have tried a similar approach but as you say, it is very hard to get children to stand still and train with you with a dog barking at them because they get scared and either run which makes the issue worse, or they are fearful and don’t trust that the dog can’t reach them while on the leash and just throw the treats at him instead of calmly holding them. I have found a few brave souls that will hold their hand still at the park etc, but the majority of children are not this brave that I come across understandably.
That is definitely the approach I will start taking with Jasper. I think I have a friend with a daughter who is pretty fearless that I will start working with soon, but I wonder what Robert’s advice on doing this is you don’t have children to work with. I even thought about buying some big crazy masks/inflatables/costumes to have older friends wear (which I’m sure Jasper would more than likely be freaked out by) and get him comfortable with those situations in hope that treating the general anxiety of “scary things not being bad”, would roll over into how he approaches children too?
Either way, It will be a slow, long path ahead and I look forward to using his advice in the video to let him be a bit more comfortable in the future and nip this problem in the butt instead of children.
Thank you so much for the recommendation!
MemberJanuary 19, 2021 at 10:41 AM
I’m curious because my ex-husband has a 8 month old Australian shepherd and he is a great dog but he’s a registered breeding bloodline. I was under the impression that the nipping, barking ect is not fear but its his hearding instinct or as I like to call it, him just trying to make the kids and anything move or do what he wants.
MemberJanuary 19, 2021 at 12:36 PM
This is why I think it is a good question for Robert to address. The end result – a child possibly being nipped or bitten – might be the same, but the cause (and thus the method of treatment and prevention) might be very different – fear, aggression, or herding instinct. Even in the videos with Bear, Robert mentioned that you would not go as far as he did with “regular” people. My concerns about that approach with children are even greater, for the reasons Jayson mentioned.
With Lance, my approach so far has been to cue an incompatible behavior (sit and look at me) when we are around other people. Then I can reward him for that behavior rather than requiring someone else to interact with him. I can also do that without the other person even being aware that he / she is being a “training aid”! My hope is that over time, he will start going “Hey! Great! There is a stranger! Where’s my treat?” While he is slowly getting better, we are still not to that point yet, and certainly not when the “stranger” is a child. Eventually, I want him to accept handling from someone else, and I have just recently starting following the protocol with Bear with a couple of trusted friends. It’s going to be a long, slow process, though, and I don’t want to put more pressure on him than he can handle. Right now, children definitely fall into that category.
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