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I'm having some trouble with kids and my dog. They all seem mesmerized by her, but the feeling is not mutual: the little ones (under age 10) frankly terrify her. She's fine with older, better-behaved kids, but every time I introduce a young one, she exhibits all of the avoidance routines. I always stop it right then, before it escalates (except one time when the kid kept coming at her, and she started growling - I physically shoved him back while holding the leash tight with my other hand).

I'm not sure what I should be doing. I always give instructions during introductions - I would put her into a sit, then demonstrate turning to the side, crouching down without making eye contact, then slowly holding my hand out face up to let her sniff and approach me. The problem is, that seems to be too much for the younger kids - they just don't seem coordinated enough to move slowly and smoothly, they're too curious to stop turning their heads suddenly to stare directly into her eyes, and they don't have the impulse control to keep from getting excited and charging straight into her face.

I'm sure that I personally am a big part of the problem - I don't really connect very well with kids, so they're probably not paying attention, and the dog is probably reading tension in my posture despite my best efforts to remain loose - but replacing the owner doesn't seem to be an option. How do you get little kids to listen to you and understand what you're saying? (actually, if you have the answer, you should probably patent the solution instead of answering here; I think parents ask themselves that question every day).

What should I be doing differently? I don't like it, but I'm willing to play the part of grumpy old man and tell the kids to stay away; that seems like a cop-out, though. I think it would be better in the long run if I could just get her more comfortable with them.
 

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One tactic that's used in socialization for kids is to take the puppy to a playground that has a fence and work with the puppy at a good distance. She can see them and hear them without having to interact. That distance might have to be 50 yards away at first but, that's where you treat, play games, pet, give a massage...anything that gets her to associate pleasant things in the presence of kids.

As the confidence increases, you move closer watching for the first sign of arousal.
Stop at the new, closer distance and repeat your games. Think about moving closer in feet not, yards.....take your time. She'll let you know how close to get.
 

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one thing I found that has worked for a few dogs is conditioning the dog to view kidlike behavior as affectionate.

you do that by using those kinds of behaviors as affection from you. start (very gently of course) throwing in the occasional tail grab coupled with a treat into your routine affection, or an ear tug, poke, prod, bump etc...always coupled with a treat and the regular sort of affection. then escalate..slowly..

also throw in some other kidlike behavior from you...random loud noises, running past her abruptly etc...reward for calm behavior..have others she knows also do these things..expand to people she doesn't know as well...of varying ages..

then

carry some treats and use them, teach the kids how to tell her to sit and the way to give her a treat instead of them just petting her.

of course..I've created at least one monster in this regard...this current dog...the harder you tug her tail, smack her butt, grab her ears and head etc the more she loves it. my three year old son and his little buddies tumble all over her, butt smacking, ear/tail grabbing, poking, prodding and she's totally in heaven..
 

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It's also very important that you stay relaxed and confident. When you tense up or tighten the lead it transmits to her that there's something to fear.

Starting off at a distance from children should help both you and the dog. Also, if you're trying to work with very young children on anything it's important to break the steps down and keep things very simple kind of like working with puppies.
 

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I have found that kids are opposite of dogs. You need that eye contact to make sure that the child is listening to and taking in what you say. Also, having kids repeat back the instructions is a big help to know that they listened to and understood what you just told them. Also having kids think that they are doing you a huge favor and helping you helps them focus and listen to your instructions.

You could tell kids that you are training your dog and it would be a huge help to you if they could simply sit/stand quietly, not looking at dog and let him sniff them, approach them, etc. If kids think they are your partner in this they are oftentimes more willing to listen. Also, don't be afraid to say no. I will always say no to approaching my dog if a parent isn't there to approve it. My dogs are kid friendly but I don't know if these kids have allergies, etc. Much better to appear grumpy then tick off a parent.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks for all the help; I'll see what I can do the next time we get approached. I'm not too keen on taking the dog to the playground and just lurking on the side, though; that's pretty much child molestor behavior ("Hey kid... do you like my doggie?").

The funny thing is that I've been working hard at getting her socialized with the big scary men she used to dislike, and it's starting to work. So now, she sees the 200 lb. guy with tattoos as her new best friend, but wants to flee the seven year-old.
 

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I'd watch the kids too more around the dog. If the kids have dogs at home they automatically think every dog is friendly and there's always the kids that are way too much in the dogs face and are loud and boisterous (usually the boys LOL)
 

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Donatello acts the same way with kids... He doesn't mind meeting strangers, teenagers to adults... But he's not keen on small toddlers. He does fine with my 5 year old sister, but she doesn't interact with him much. (She's all into her own thing in her room.) The times she has come up to him and pet on him, I haven't given her any instructions, and he's done fine...

He does great with whoever lives with me... It's like he understands the people who live here, and he knows that he's requested to behave.

But with strange people, he acts shy and sometimes standoff-ish... Small toddlers, he doesn't care for at all... Especially in groups!

IndependentGeorge- Were you part of the thread I started a couple months back, about Donatello and I getting ambushed at the park by a group of kids?

Donatello can handle strangers, but not hordes of them, and especially not hordes of children! He doesn't like any movement that looks like it might be harmful, and a child from that group swooped in at his face like she was going to strike him, and he snapped... (Despite my constant warnings to the children.)

I'm in the same boat you are it seems... I have a hard time "staying loose", it's all easier said than done, everyone advises me... "Stay calm, he feeds off your emotions..." Ummm, duh! lol! I know that, but it's easier said than done! I'm standoff-ish with children myself, and have a very low level of patience... Therefore I don't relate to them well, and it's hard to sympathize with them if they don't listen...

I'm still trying to figure out all this for myself...
 

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Oy! Kids!

Mayzie thinks kids are the BEST, but Ranger is very unsure of them...although he tolerates them okay. This is what I do...

Luckily, most kids that I've encountered know enough to ask if they can pet my dog(s). Like someone else said, I don't allow it if the parents aren't nearby to give permission. I crouch down, and tell them yes, but that Ranger is very shy (kids seem to totally understand that term) and that he really likes to be pet this way...and then I show them how to do it (although I see you're already doing that). If I have a treat, I'll also ask them to hold it flat in their hands and let Ranger take it from them. Kids love this and so does Ranger. (But only you can say if your dog would be trustworthy in that situation. Maybe they could just throw the treat on the ground.) Usually once they start petting him, I move to Ranger's head and scratch him there to distract him and also be in better control should he try to snap. (He never has...never has even acted like he wanted to...but I would rather be safe than sorry.)

And like someone else said, it's okay to say no. If you put it in terms that they understand (something like...he doesn't feel good or he's scared of strangers), it doesn't come off sounding rude or grumpy.
 

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Butch loves anyone and everyone...he's an attention hog!:D But with really small kids (at the dog park who aren't supposed to be there anyway!!!), I ask them to move very slowly. The older ones usually ask if they can pet him and by that time he is in their face, tail wagging.

Roxxy is another story. She does NOT like quick movments so I ususally have her come to me and then let the kids pet her. There ARE a couple of men at the park that she adores and abandons me whenever they come in. Good thing I'm not sensitive...sniff sniff...:D
 

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I have 3 grandkids , one 13 ,one 8 and one 3 . My dog loves to play with them but you can sure tell that the youngest one makes him nervous . Thing with little kids is their movements are so unpredictable, like the 3 year old will be sitting on the couch all quiet and without notice bounce off the couch 3 feet in the air. It startles the dog . The older kids don't do that .

You really have to be alert and in control of your dog when younger kids are present.
 

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of course..I've created at least one monster in this regard...this current dog...the harder you tug her tail, smack her butt, grab her ears and head etc the more she loves it. my three year old son and his little buddies tumble all over her, butt smacking, ear/tail grabbing, poking, prodding and she's totally in heaven..
LOL Oh, is that ever Smalls. This dog loves to have the crap kicked out of her. If you don't wrestle hard enough with her, she tears around on high speed barking and throwing herself against the couch.

OP, don't feel bad just telling kids no. Unless you personally know the children and they will listen to your instructions, you can't necessarily control the situation. Smalls and Jack are just fine with any one petting them, but Jonas is intolerable of nearly everyone, especially kids. My dogs will never live with children, or have to be around them, so I don't push Jonas into letting kids pet him.
 

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I have small kids and dogs. My dogs were raised as pups with our kids, so they are very tolerant (especially for Jacks). A lot of it is making sure that our children AND our dogs knew what was expected. Not only do we have rules for the children, but we have standards and expectations for the dogs that we communicate through training and non verbal cues. I think the dogs feel much more comfortable knowing that there are boundaries around children. When I see dogs that have not been around children, I think they are afraid more because they have no idea how to behave or what is expected. Dogs like knowing how to act around people. We were very sure when kids that don't know our dogs come up to visit, we have a very specific string of commands that we use. Sit, lay down and then "Look". We've trained our dogs to focus on us when we say "Look", so even if there is something scary/weird/new going on, they can focus on us and have a 'safe' moment. This works well around new dogs, too, as they will focus on us if we feel they need to disengage. You may try establishing some kind of command with her that means "Focus on me and not anything else, even if it is overwhelming". Also, there's nothing wrong with teaching the kids manners with your dog! Kids respond very well to the same voice of authority you use to communicate with your dog. For some kids, it's probably the first time they've heard it!!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I have small kids and dogs. My dogs were raised as pups with our kids, so they are very tolerant (especially for Jacks). A lot of it is making sure that our children AND our dogs knew what was expected. Not only do we have rules for the children, but we have standards and expectations for the dogs that we communicate through training and non verbal cues. I think the dogs feel much more comfortable knowing that there are boundaries around children. When I see dogs that have not been around children, I think they are afraid more because they have no idea how to behave or what is expected. Dogs like knowing how to act around people. We were very sure when kids that don't know our dogs come up to visit, we have a very specific string of commands that we use. Sit, lay down and then "Look". We've trained our dogs to focus on us when we say "Look", so even if there is something scary/weird/new going on, they can focus on us and have a 'safe' moment. This works well around new dogs, too, as they will focus on us if we feel they need to disengage. You may try establishing some kind of command with her that means "Focus on me and not anything else, even if it is overwhelming". Also, there's nothing wrong with teaching the kids manners with your dog! Kids respond very well to the same voice of authority you use to communicate with your dog. For some kids, it's probably the first time they've heard it!!
That sounds like an awful lot of work. Can't I just snarl at them to get off my lawn, and then complain about their clothes, music, and how much more expensive everything is?
 
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