Author Topic: dog skittish around toddlers  (Read 5814 times)

Offline apple25

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dog skittish around toddlers
« on: February 28, 2009, 11:26:53 am »
Hi all,

This is a bit long, but I am hoping for some advice please!!!

I have agreed to take care of my sister's dog - a German Shepard/Mountain Bernese Cross (well, that's what the vet thinks he might be!) for the year while she teaches in Korea.  He's 2 years old and a big boy at about 120 pounds. So far he gets along great with my dog (a Bouvier pup that's 10 mths), adults and older children and listens really well in the house. 

My concern is that I think he is afraid and/or aggressive with toddlers.  Here's a little bit of history (not including the first year of his life before he was rescued at a shelter).
- about a year and a half ago my sister was walking him downtown and he lunged at a small girl who walked up to him within her mom's permission
- last Christmas he was sitting quietly beside my sister but then suddenly lunged (and possibly had his mouth on arm) at my nephew when he was running circles in the living room (I know - we need to teach little children to move gently when around big dogs)
- a month ago he was laying in the corner of the room but then made a quick movement to get under my nephews arm when he climbed up on the couch.  I was sitting beside my nephew at the time.
- and today, he again made a quick motion after my nephew when he walked past him (the dog had only been laying down for about 2-3 minutes beside my mom).

I am thinking that the dog may have had a bad experience with kids before being put into the shelter.  We have separated him from my nephew at all times (which can be tricky as my nephew likes to climb over gates!).  And personally, I never leave a large dog along in a room with small kids - I am always nervous with the size difference. 

Does anyone have any suggestions and/or has owned a dog that does similar behaviour?  This is the only concern  have with him - beyond being skittish with kids he is a model dog - quiet, good listener, loves to cuddle,etc.  It is only when toddlers are over that we are watching him at all times.

Thanks so much! 

Offline ZooCrew

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Re: dog skittish around toddlers
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2009, 11:52:00 am »
It's going to be hard to work with him if he's not exposed to toddlers on a regular basis......... .or does your nephew live with you?

I think you have to start making it a positive experience for him around toddlers.  It sounds like he's not down and out aggressive, but I agree he does have a quick reaction around young kids that are near him.

How old is your nephew?  Is he able to give commands to him?  Perhaps have a training session involving your nephew?  Or maybe having extra special treats that only young children are allowed to give him?

I hope you are able to work with him to overcome his issue with young children.

Viking Lady

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Re: dog skittish around toddlers
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2009, 11:54:42 am »
We had the exact experience with one of our dogs, but she was a chihuahua. She loved and would lay with babies, and loved older children and adults. But she would growl, and snap at toddlers. I never could figure it out, but guessed that it was because they are quick and unsteady on their feet. I always thought she was afraid of their movements. Mystery to me, too.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2009, 12:09:39 pm by Viking Lady »

Offline MagicM3

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Re: dog skittish around toddlers
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2009, 01:50:10 pm »
Toddlers are quick and d set lots of dogs off..I agree that the more good stuff that comes from them under supervision  the better..

I had one dog that I couldn't let around kids because of some cruel behavior from a neighbor kid that I didn't find out about till too late..

If I had it to do over again I would have made kids the givers of all things wonderful..ins tead of a constant concern..

I would take it slow and use your nephew and any other kids you can russle up..and make it something he really really likes..

It;s good for the kids too to learn how and what to do around dogs of any size..let alone big paws..


Offline Moni

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Re: dog skittish around toddlers
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2009, 07:25:29 am »
I had this problem with Faust and all kids that he wasn't comfortable around when he was younger.  After counter conditioning and behavior modification, he loves playing fetch with all kids.  He even helped my nephew feel more comfortable around dogs, since he is never around any.

However when he was younger, he would bark aggressively, growl, lunge and snap at kids. 

I strongly recommend seeing behaviorist, but I'll let you know what worked for us.  First thing that we got was a basket muzzle for everyone's safety.  Not the wrap around kind that hold their mouth closed, but a plastic one that allowed him to totally open and shut his mouth that we could feet treats through the end.

Then we kept him on leash and had kids over.  I'd bring him out in 5 minute increments around the kids, with his muzzle on.  While he was out, I stuffed treats through the end as fast as he could eat them.  Seriously yummy treats, like roast beef, cheeze, ham... etc.  Then I'd put him away in his crate with the door shut and a double gate across blocking the kids from the door.  We did this for a couple weeks.

Then I was able to cut down the amount of treats and have him out(still with his muzzle on) for longer periods of time on a down stay at my feet.  When he started being able to fall asleep at my feet, meaning he was comfortable around kids, then I started bringing him out without a muzzle and upped the treats again.

We then started bring him outside on leash with the kids and went through the same routine while they were running around, screaming, ie... being kids.  When he was calm, I started playing fetch with him while having the kids next to me, then eventually had them throwing his ball, frisbee or stick.  He now loves kids.  :)  Good luck, hopefully you'll be able to find something that works well for you guys.
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Offline apple25

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Re: dog skittish around toddlers
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2009, 09:00:53 am »
Thanks!  These are great suggestions.  I think part of what may be going on is that he is still transitioning from my sisters house to here - we are working on some basc commands and bonding so he knows that this is his home.

My nephew comes over once or twice a month so I'll be sure to buy something super delicous on those days :)