Aggressive towards children

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parabolicphi's picture
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     I've pretty discouraged and worried about my little buddy the past couple of days. I read the other thread in this section about dobes and children and it hasn't really answered my question. Deacon who is 5 months old isn't by any means  a passive dog when it comes to children. This all started a few days ago when I was walking him and saw a few neighbors that I know. I stopped to speak and their two year old son came walking out and went to pet Deacon. He lunged and barked, thankfully I had the leash or he would've knocked the little guy down. The good news in that story is we've been at their house the past 2 nights with Deac and their other three kids and he's warmed up pretty well to them.
     Here is what really scared me today. We were at my dad's house with alot of my family and my sisters kids which have played with Deacon since we got him were over there. Granted they don't see him every week and it's been about a month since he's seen them. Deac was aggressive towards both of them today. Once when my sister's daughter was running towards her( Deac was nowhere near them) he lunged and barked with the hair on his back standing up. The other time which really scared me was when Alex my sisters son walked up to him to pet him and I saw that expression on Deac's face as if he was about to snap. Alex stopped petting him and went to walk away, Deac went crazy showing teeth, hair standing up and lunging and barking. I was able to get to him in time before he could do anything. I picked him up by the scruff and planted him on his back and held him down. Of course he snapped out of it and immediately knew he did something wrong.
     This really has me worried. When we have family get togethers we leave him off leash in my dad's fenced in back yard and those two have always played with him and never had problems. I've heard that the 6th month old mark is a tough one to get through. Could this be that?
     Deac starts his intermediate training this month and at any other time is a great dog. He's very affectionate and loving towards me, my wife and all our immediate family (except kids as we learned today). He's fine with adult strangers also. I know we in part are to blame for not socializing him with more kids. Which is what we've tried to do since his episode with the two year old. But honestly Alex and Maddie have played with him his entire life. Why would he act so aggressive towards them? No they haven't pestered him, or picked on him. For their age they are really good and well behaved kids. I love my buddy to death but I'm not going to have him being child aggressive.
     I spoke with a trainer a few days ago about it  before this incident and he just said "Well he's still a puppy, try to socialize him more." I know this but I don't want to be the cause of some kids phobia of dogs because of us trying to socialize him. My little cousin Maddie is scared to death of him now and will probably never go around him again. I need help!
     

Legend of Zelda's picture
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Maybe you can give your newphew and niece some treats to make his fear go away? This might be his second fear imprint stage, after all. With every kid you meet when you're with Deacon, put him into a sit, make sure he's in a calm state before the kids approach him and give the kids some treats to show him that kids aren't bad!

Maybe the kids are looking into his eyes, challenging him, because that's what had happened to Zelda and my God-Son.

Hope my advice helped!

-Erika

DJ's Dad's picture
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When Ziva went through that 'scared of little kids' stage (she was frightened a bit by little ones, but never was aggressive like you say Deacon was) I would make her sit before the kid or kids approached her, and ALSO instructed the kids to walk slowly towards her, because she was a little bit scared by quick movements.  I would ask them to get off their bicycle if they wanted to pet her, because bikes looked like scary things to Ziva, since she was not around bicycles at home.  Most kids want to learn the correct way to approach a strange dog, and when they calmed down, so did Ziva.  Be sure to praise the children for doing well, as well as praising the dog in a situation that has a positive outcome.  I tell all children that ask "can I pet your dog?" to first just walk over to her and stop, then stretch out their arm, sort of with a loose fist, fingers down, (and I demonstrate with my hand) and let her come to them, smelling their hand.  If they pass the sniff test, it's ok to pet her.  Worked for us, anyway.  Little kids are frightening to some dogs, especially if they dont see toddlers and preschoolers every day in the home.  THey move fast, are sort of animated, are unpredictable and loud.  Come to think of it, they are a little bit scary to me, too. LOL

parabolicphi's picture
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Yeah me and my wife have been discussing this for the past two hours. I did tell Alex not to look him in the eye but I'm not sure if he did this time or not. He's been sitting in his corner since we got home. He knows mommy and daddy are upset about something. Tonight when we go to our neighbors we'll be taking some treats for the kids to give him. Thanks for the advice! It's always reasuring to talk to other doberman owners.

Legend of Zelda's picture
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No problem!

Dabbles's picture
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Sounds like the doberteens have started at the same time as Deacon's 2nd fear stage so he's reacting aggressively.  This is IMHO only! 

Extra socialization will help, positive reinforcement will help, the trainer certainly didn't help! 

I would suggest that until you have this under control you keep a lead on him.  Even if you're not holding the other end all the time, having that lead will give you an extra 6' of grabbing range...  (That's not phrased right, but I hope you understand what I mean)

KevinK wrote a great post about training for what you DO want, rather than punishing for what you don't want...  I'll go look for it

 

It's in this section under "Reesie is growling again", reply #26.  You might not think it applies to you, but read it & think about it...  It DOES make sense applied to any situation.

parabolicphi's picture
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Thanks Dabbles for pointing that post out. That makes a lot of sense. We'll definately be using that as well.

Dabbles's picture
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Good luck!  Doberteens are never easy.

Keep us posted plz

blue4's picture
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Yes Reesie was growling again and that was a great post by Kevin.  We have been in and out with Reesie and our kids a couple of times and they LIVE with Reesie!!  Not exactly your situation, but anytime your dog growls at kids, it makes you feel tense and uneasy.  I understand what you're talking about.  I thought we had completely eraticated the problem until that last episode.  Maybe it comes and goes until they really get more confident...until then we'll keep training our rears off!!!  Hope it goes well for you! 

KevinK's picture
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The trainer hit it dead on, you simply need to do more socializing with kids.  It also needs to be done in a safe way, so that nobody gets hurt.  If your dog hasn't been around too many kids, he's probably just a little nervous around them.  Sounds like he needs to be taught that kids are ok.  Remember, kids are very different with dogs, and for a dog who hasn't seen too many kids, he's not sure what to think of them.

It's very important for you to stay calm, and not transfer nervous energy to your dog, especially through a leash.  On leash is typically a poor way to introduce a dog to other dogs, or people, especially if the dog is a little nervous.  Don't ever let the leash get tight either, as that will make things worse.

If you are around a kid, and you get nervous, your dog is picking that up, and will react off it.  So, it's very, very important to stay calm.  Make it seem like it's not big deal.

I would take a family member if possible, and work in a setting that is not a family get together in a comfortable place.  Maybe in your house, or yard, or somewhere comfortable.  Have the kid maybe just toss some treats, and otherwise ignore.  Praise the good behavior from your dog.  If he looks at a kid for 1 second and doesn't react, make it a big deal.  If a kid walks by, doesn't react, same thing.  If you DO get a reaction, increase the distance and try again.

kikopup's youtube channel has a GREAT example of this, I believe it's called "Barking episode 3, walking on leash" and it give some great pointers and shows you exactly how to do it.  Definitely worth taking a look.

laith's picture
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I agree with Kevin.

I have the same issue! Laith isn't as aggressive but his hair does stand up and he does bark at certain children. *knock on wood- not for a few weeks now* I know that it is energy related because I have exposed him to various age groups, sex/race of children. He does amazing with certain kids, fails around others. 

The thing I notice with Laith is if the kid doesn't care for him, he doesn't care for the kid. If a kid is staring him down and throwing their hands in his face he becomes really nervous. Treats work well with Laith. Also, if the child is in CONTROL. One toddler who can't even really talk that well told Laith to sit in the dog park. He sat for her and waited for her to throw the frisbee. 

And as Kevin pointed out sometimes you can't avoid being on a leash- but it does make it worse. If Laith feels a tight leash he pulls harder, and tries to resist every movement (as he is trapped). 

Just keep exposing. If it's a really bad situation, end on a positive note an walk away from it. Try again the next day.

parabolicphi's picture
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Kevin thanks for posting, I've been really working on what you said in your post about Reesie and what you posted here.
Laith we had a good Sunday at the neighbor's house. I had their kids which ranged from a toddler to 6 years old give him treats. I had them also make him sit which he did just fine and give him a treat. He was great with them all day. He was letting them hug him, giving them kisses and wagging his nub.  I've been thinking about what you said with the energy and I believe the incident with my nephew is partly my fault. Though Deac wasn't on a lead when Alex started petting him I immediately thought "Please don't grown at him Deac and paniced" and what do  you know Deac reacted  a few seconds after that. You guys have given me some great information and its been such an encouragement to know you guys have and are going through similar things and are getting through them. My wife was crying the other day when I started this thread because she was thinking we'd have to give him up. We love our little(big) guy to death. Thanks again everyone for helping me with this. I certainly will keep you all updated.

KevinK's picture
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Remember to also think in terms of "dog", not "human".  For a dog, a hug is viewed as an aggressive, dominant move, so is getting in their space, like when a kid goes in to kiss a dog.  Many of our dogs get used to being hugged, because as humans we consider a hug a display of affection, so many owners like to hug their dogs.  But you should never hug or kiss a dog that is not 100% comfortable with you, because again, dogs don't consider it a display of affection.  For a dog that is working on getting comfortable around kids, I would try to avoid having them hug and kiss deacon.  It may be viewed as a challenge.

laith's picture
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That sounds like you are making good progress. Laith won't let ANYONE 'hug' him except for me. Not even his "daddy". Me, he could care less. Good point Kevin.