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IloveAthena's picture
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Joined: 2011-05-10

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Hi guys!

Sorry I've been missing once again, it's hard to get on here in between school starting and a full time job.  However I have been noticing a little change in Athena lately that I am not happy about.  When she was younger she loved little kids coming up to her and petting her without minding it at all.  However recently when we take her on walks and she sees kids, she will run behind me and start barking.  I've tried to let the children give her treats, but the barking only continues.  I've tried making her sit and letting them pet her and show there is nothing to be worried about, but it's not working either.  Any ideas because she will not be a dog that will be mean to children, I absolutely will not tolerate that.

DJ's Dad's picture
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Does just one child get the same reaction, or is it when there are several that sort of appear close to Athena all at once?  Ziva is getting much better about being around small kids (older ones there has never been a problem with, it's the preschooler and toddler size/age that makes Z a little nervous) but we still work on it every opportunity we get to do so.  I have asked the kids to just stop several feet in front of Ziva when we meet up with them on walks, and offer out their hand.  One at a time, not a whole lot of them.  I give Z little treats to eat while she is being petted, and she seems to be coming along really good with this.  She never did bark at kids---she rarely barks at anything, even other dogs---but she did used to step to the side or behind me to avoid them when they would rush out to pet her.  Oh, and bicycles and skateboards kind of throw her off guard, too, so I ask the kids to please leave them at the curb if they want to pet her.  It just takes a lot of conditioning. 

Ziva will probably NEVER be one of those little kid-loving, kiss-giving dobermans, but if the best she can do is to tolerate being around them and at least ACT like she's ok with it, then that's all I will require of her.

IloveAthena's picture
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Athena is exactly the same way, it's simply the small children that make her nervous.  Usually it's only one at a time that approach, two at the most.  When it comes to bikes, she hates them too and usually barks or runs the other way.  Her mouth is starting to open up a little, but in the wrong situations.

laith's picture
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In the same boat! Except laith has always had trouble with children. Laith won't bark on leash but off leash, he will bark non stop at children. On leash he runs away from the children- not behind me. Unless thats the only direction.

The treats help, but aren't solving the issue. I was told that is pretty much the only approach though. Positive exposure. We have started telling children exactly how to touch Laith. We will kneel by his side and tell the child to rub UNDER Laith's chin, then slowly up to side of his face and finally on the top of his head. Rest of the body is off limits. But I mean this is slow motion. I feel like I am a 100 by the time it's over. 

Most children understand. After, we just always tell the parents he isnt a mean dog, just scared of children. And that we are working on it. They usually understand. :) 

Other than that, the best approach is to constantly have a child in the house. But for me, it's not really that easy. lol. 

The more I research it- some dobermans aren't child lovers. I think I may have one. But I am so frustrated with it as well. 

DJ's Dad's picture
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Laith---you made a great point with your post.  Half the battle is teaching the children the correct way to approach a dog.  That not only helps them with approaching your own dog, but it might just keep one of them from getting bitten from another dog that is nervous around kids. 

My sister in law has dobies and her kids and grandkids all live at her house.  Her dogs were raised with babies around them constantly, and she can honestly lay one of the babies across her biggest male doberman to change the baby's diaper, and the dog just lays there and wont move a muscle, unless it's to take his tongue and lick the baby's face.  Ziva hasnt been raised around little kids, and only rarely has a chance to even see them, so I dont expect her to react the same way.

Legend of Zelda's picture
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Joined: 2010-12-23

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Ahh I haven't gone out in awhile to see how Zelda acts around children since it's been deathly hot around here... But anyway, the last time I did, she adored them. She jumps now and her long raptor-nails don't help either... My baby cousin is terrified of her (for no reason, really o.o; i think we talked about this in another post...)

I can't help much, but others can try to help you ^^;; Ziva has great advice, but what you can do is try and curb her barking and protest to children, that's what I'll give you o3o;

poogie's picture
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Joined: 2011-06-01

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Do you have any friends that have small children that you could introduce to her more regularly? I ahve asked the neighbours to bring their children around when we have picked up our puppy. Sorry not got too much other advice. I did think mayhbe I would go to the local school at finishing time with a friend to pick up their child from school. Sorry I don't have any other ideas. I must say though what a lovly picture of the 3 of you!

von Cosack Dobermann (not verified)
von Cosack Dobermann's picture

You can't offer treats to bring her forward, in the dogs eyes your treating her behavior to be shy and unsure. You need to squat down with the kids and talk with them and let the pup move forward on her own. Then you can reward the behavior you want "on time". Training is being on time it makes no difference if its a clicker, a whistle, a pop on a collar its all about being on time. You need to find kids and get to training, set up the senerio and repeat the exercise over an over. Its the only way to assure the pups behavior will be positive. She also needs to mature so she becomes more an more confident just get to training and do it with a calm relaxed demeanor.                                                     Von

KevinK's picture
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I agree with von.  When you are rewarding a behavior, you have to take everything into consideration, especially in this situation.  If your dog is nervous, and a kid comes up and give the dog a treat, your dog is now getting rewarded for being nervous!!  So, in essence, you're telling your dog it's ok to be nervous around kids, and that it is the propper reaction.  This will make things worse, and it's simply not possible to fix the behavior this way.

When you are working with a dog and a fearful reaction, it is absolutely crucial you work below your dogs threshold.  Meaning, if the dog is nervous, you're pushing too far.  Start at a distance your dog is comfortable with, and then move closer.  Don't just go in for the immediate end result, work it in stages.  If you have to go to a little league baseball game and start 200 yards away from the kids, then that would be a good start.  Depends on how and when your dog reacts.  If your dog looks at the kids and doesn't react, mark it, (important.  mark it WHILE she is looking at the kids) and reward.  Slowly start moving closer, and closer.  When you are at the point where you can be near the kids, but not close enough to touch, I would have a kid toss some treats on the floor.  If you get a bad reaction, move further, and try again.  Work your way up to being able to have a kid give a treat.  But if your dog is nervous, don't just have the kid come up and give the treat.

IloveAthena's picture
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Thanks guys for all the advice.  Over labor day weekend, I took her home with me and we spent a lot of time around my little cousins.  She actually got used to being around them and didn't bark like crazy.  Instead by the end of the day she was going up to them and giving them kisses on the cheek.  We're gonna keep working with her because I by no means want to leave her alone around children, but we have made progress.

laith's picture
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But it is positive exposure if you get your dog in a sit/stand position, have the child pet the dog and give a treat. Or sometimes I will get the kid to say "sit, shake". Something simple and then reward.

I am not trying to get him to give the kid kisses yet. Just not the urge to move away in fear. 

KevinK's picture
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What you have to remember, is that dogs don't generalize.  That's why markers are such a powerful tool, they allow you to pinpoint specific behaviors with great accuracy.  (if they're used properly).  you NEVER want to reward a fearful response, ever.  This is probably why the treats are not working that well.  If your dog is nervous while the kids are there, having the kid give a treat is rewarding the nervousness of the dog.  You only want to reward when the dog is not nervous, and is enojoying being with the kids.  That's what reinforced the behavior.  Treating while a dog is nervous is the same as telling your dog "Good boy, you're supposed to be nervous around kids.  Keep doing that!"  It's counter-productive.  If your dog is not comfortable, the best way to deal with this is to add some distance.  If you still want to work with the kids, I would have the kids stay as still as possible, hold out their hand, and let the dog approach at their own pace and go and take the treat out of their hand.  I have worked with fearful dogs in this manner, and letting them approach at their own speed, and then they realize that the xxxxx is not a threat, that fear is gone very quickly.  But rewarding the wrong behaviors will do nothing but make the process take longer than it has to.

DJ's Dad's picture
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 from kevin K:  If your dog is not comfortable, the best way to deal with this is to add some distance.  If you still want to work with the kids, I would have the kids stay as still as possible, hold out their hand, and let the dog approach at their own pace and go and take the treat out of their hand.  I have worked with fearful dogs in this manner, and letting them approach at their own speed, and then they realize that the xxxxx is not a threat, that fear is gone very quickly.

This is exactly how I have been doing with Ziva this summer.  Just the other day, I was walking her through town, and 4 little kids ranging from preschool to maybe 5th grade saw us walk by.  They RAN down the sidewalk trying to catch up to us, yelling "Can we pet your dog?"  I told them 'yes, but you'll have to stop right there and not move.  She's a little bit nervous around kids because she isnt around them much. You guys can help me teach her to not be afraid, ok? Just hold out your hand, and let her come over to sniff your hand.  You have to pass the 'sniff test' first".  They all thought that was a cool game, and Ziva slowly approached each hand, one at a time, and before I knew it, she was letting them all pet her on the head and touch her across the back. 

Kevin's right---if it's on the dog's terms as to when to make contact, it makes it so much easier than trying to force the dog to accept a child's hand, even if there is a treat involved.

Like Laith, I dont expect Z to just start wiggling all over and kissing their faces, but she's come a long way from side-stepping them whenever one would try to touch her.

laith's picture
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Well yea, I am sorry. I thought that was implied what Ziva's dad explained.