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We have a 7 year old Labrador Retriever my husband trained for retrieving birds when we hunt. She was trained using a shock collar with excellent results, though we haven't worked with her much lately and she's gotten a bit slower to respond to commands than she used to be.

We also have two children - a boy who's almost 4 years old and a 6 month old girl. Our dog loves them both and is extremely gentle and tolerant with them, but she completely ignores any commands given by our son.

We want to teach her to respond appropriately when he tells her to come, sit, stay, etc. But we're scratching our heads on how to go about it. We tried using the shock collar and when she's got the collar on and receives occasional mild reminders, she responds instantly to commands I give, but continues to ignore commands given by my son, even when I reinforce his command with the collar. I even tried letting him hold the controller for the collar and push the button at the appropriate time (under close supervision) to see if that made a difference, but it didn't seem to.

We also tried letting him hold treats and calling her, but she "comes" before he tells her to when he has a treat and then doesn't come if there's no treat no matter how clearly he tells her to. Compounding the challenge is the fact that I have to tell him to "say come" and if I'm not right next to him whispering it the dog hears me before he has the chance to say it.

My best guess is that she doesn't see him as being an authority over her, but how does a 3 year old establish dominance over a 75 pound lab?

Any suggestions on how to approach this training challenge and get our dog to listen to our son?
 

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I think this may be an unrealistic expectation. I would not expect any of my well-trained dogs to obey a 3 year old.

Is there a reason that this is important to you? I don't think any dog should be left unsupervised with a small child. Since you will most likely always be around then the child is with the dog, why not just give commands yourself?

Sounds like you have a very nice dog. If it were me, I would not pursue this.
 

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No reason whatsoever for a 3 yr old to ever need to give commands to a dog, since they should be supervised by an adult, who can give commands. And handing a 3 yr old the control for a shock collar is very poor decision making. Even when the kid is 8, it would be a bad idea, because kids will think certain reactions dogs/animals have are funny. Especially when they get with friends. Keep the controller out of reach of kid, and collar off dog when not attended. A 3 yr old that thinks they "can train a dog" is dangerous to themselves and the dog. You do not want to give him that idea.
 

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Ditto. I'm ok with my dogs not responding to my kids. I'm fine with the dogs just having basic manners around the kids and not being pushy with them! My son has just started to work my border collie in agility, very simple stuff though, and he doesn't have the attention span to do much anyway - he's almost seven and would rather go play with his sister when I train, so I'm not pushing it. The kids can walk the dogs with supervision but I don't expect them to take the dogs out themselves for a walk, it's with me going along.

I don't even let my DH use the e collar remote!
 

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I would not want to associate the child's presence with a shock collar. A three year old doesn't establish dominance over a 75 lb. dog
 

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I even tried letting him hold the controller for the collar and push the button at the appropriate time (under close supervision) to see if that made a difference, but it didn't seem to.
This is a problem. Perhaps I am reading this wrong, but you seem to want the dog to see that it is the 3 year old pressing the button and reinforcing the command to prove to the dog that the kid is to be listened to right?.

This is not the way to go about that at all.
A. Like everyone else said, preschoolers don't need to be giving commands, the supervising adult can (and should) be doing the command giving.
B. You never want a dog knowing it is you pressing the button, or it is the remote shocking them. It can cause a fearful reaction when the dog sees you with the remote or just the remote. This is the problem with people using e-collars not under a trainers supervision. When dogs have fear reactions, biting is probable.
 

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We tried using the shock collar and when she's got the collar on and receives occasional mild reminders, she responds instantly to commands I give, but continues to ignore commands given by my son, even when I reinforce his command with the collar. I even tried letting him hold the controller for the collar and push the button at the appropriate time (under close supervision) to see if that made a difference, but it didn't seem to.
I'd think very carefully, about the message this approach might be sending to the child. ie:"if the dog disobeys, go ahead, FRY'm". Personally, it's definitely not the way I'd prefer to raise either a dog, or more notably such a young, impressionable child.


We also tried letting him hold treats and calling her, but she "comes" before he tells her to when he has a treat and then doesn't come if there's no treat no matter how clearly he tells her to.
FWIW, my best guess is that your dog is picking up on the visual cue of you handing treats to your son.

Regardless ... please nix the use of the ecollar (especially so, where your son is concerned), and when he eventually comes of age teach him how to train using food, toys, praise, and perhaps a :), exclusively.



end / sermon
lol
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Whoa! Guys, you can lay off the judgmental attitudes and lectures. Clearly you do not fully understand the situation or the question. And I'm beginning to be sorry I asked.

For the record, the child wants the dog to come to him, not to mommy. Fetch just isn't as much fun when you're watching from the sidelines.

And no, I have not scarred either the child or the dog with my use of the shock collar. The child doesn't understand the purpose or the result of the collar, only that mommy said push this button now. And of course he won't have access to the collar when I'm not around. Since my experiment demonstrated that his holding the controller did not make a difference in her behavior, there would be no point in continuing its use in this way, so you all can relax and get off my back. As for the dog, she has never had a fearful or otherwise adverse reaction to the shock collar because it has been used correctly.

I'm happy to report that since posting, I have had some excellent progress with my training project using pizza crust. I would be happy to hear if anyone has any constructive comments to add to the thread, but you can keep your condescending and judgmental attitudes to yourself. Thanks.
 

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The comments I read were constructive, just not what you wanted to hear. You wanted people to come in here, praise what you were doing, and tell you how to get a dog to respond to a small child's commands. You seemingly don't have a good grasp on what you're doing with the e-collar and I would put it away. I'm honestly aghast you would hand the remote to a three year old and tell them when to push the button. A huge core part of understanding and using aversive collars/training in general is timing and accuracy- things many adults training lack, let alone a three year old being told "now!"
 

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If you truly understood how the e-collar works you would know that it doesn't make a difference who holds the controller. The dog doesn't know that the controller controls the e-collar, it only knows that if it doesn't sit something unpleasant happens. Not sure why you'd train basic obedience using an aversive, there really is no need for aversives in basic obedience training. It's so easy to train a dog to perform tricks without punishment, and surely you don't want to punish your dog, so why do it?

Also, if you were using the collar correctly, you shouldn't need to use it anymore. One of the rules of using punishment in training is that you want to remove the need to use punishment in the future. If you still need to use an aversive for something as basic as a sit, then you can't be using it correctly. A correction should only need to be applied 3-4 times before you see huge improvement, so if you still rely on punishment, you're doing it wrong. Either it's not aversive enough, and you're just nagging the dog and causing unpleasantness for no good reason, or your timing is wrong and the dog doesn't know why it's being punished.
 

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A dog doesn't obey a preschooler and most likely never will.
A preschooler isn't mentally capable of commanding a dog, you need to be in a calm leadership role, something a child would think is far too boring. The dog, believe it or not, is more mature and intelligent than the child, it's like asking the President of the United States to listen to what an angsty teenager says to do about a war. A dog knows a leader when it sees one and your child is not a leader yet. When he is older, he'll be able to lead and command the dog, until then it's up to you.
Command the dog and always be around if the dog is with your child.

If you want the dog to come back to the child then have your child throw the ball/stick/etc, and be next to your child, then call the dog back, the dog will come to you, but the child will be able to grab the toy, so the game stays fun. Eventually you'll see a trend of the dog coming to the child, because the child keeps throwing the toy. Don't expect the result to happen right away, remember it's a game, have fun. Don't focus so much on the dog going back to the kid, let the dog do it on his own. See how that sounds a lot better than using an e-collar?
 

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We have a 7 year old Labrador Retriever. We also have two children - a boy who's almost 4 years old and a 6 month old girl.
It looks like an age issue to me. Speaking from multiple experiences; I have found that SOME households that welcome children into a home with an older dog sometimes have this issue.

As a child, I remember whining that the family dog never listened to me; it was devoted to me, would play with me, and love on me, but for the life of me I couldn't get it to mind worth a damn. It wasn't until we rescued a puppy that my presence while it grew made a difference, however the older dog could care less what I told it to do.

I have heard before that some people believe an older dog doesn't see the smaller human a person to respect.......
 

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Look, when we all (referring to everyone who posts a thread asking advice including myself when I do) so in all fairness you can't be offended when ppl say that it's not a good idea, ppl have a right to their opinions.
 

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Ditch the collar. They are great, when used properly. Try awesome treats like hotdogs or cheese. Help your son to learn when to reward, and how to properly command and pay the dog. Nothing wrong with teaching the dog to respond to a child. Just can't expect it to be the same with an older kid or an adult.
 

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The comments I read were constructive, just not what you wanted to hear. You wanted people to come in here, praise what you were doing, and tell you how to get a dog to respond to a small child's commands. You seemingly don't have a good grasp on what you're doing with the e-collar and I would put it away. I'm honestly aghast you would hand the remote to a three year old and tell them when to push the button. A huge core part of understanding and using aversive collars/training in general is timing and accuracy- things many adults training lack, let alone a three year old being told "now!"
I'm quoting TWAB here because she said everything I wanted to say. I don't think that e-collars are an "evil" tool or anything like that... but I know that they require impeccable timing, something a small child does not have. There's going to be a delay between when you say "now" and when a toddler's clumsy fingers push that button (I have a four-year-old niece, so I'm extra aware of this). lil_fuzzy also made some excellent points about how it shouldn't matter who's holding the controller and how you shouldn't even still be using the e-collar anyway.

I'm also tired of the "condescending and judgmental" thing getting tossed around any time people here offer advice that's not exactly what the OP wants to hear.
 

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Regardless of any philosophical reasons to disagree with use of an e-collar in this situation (of which I have many, yeesh), as a previous poster pointed out I think using it this way it's extremely unlikely that the timing will be precise enough for it to do any good at all. The timing of an e-collar shock has to be perfect for the dog to associate it with what you're trying to punish, so by the time you tell your toddler to push the button and he pushes it, I think the ship will have sailed.

For the record, the child wants the dog to come to him, not to mommy.
Well, I want a million dollars. Sometimes we don't get what we want. Especially when we are dealing with another living creature that is far more than just a giant stuffed performing toy.
 

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I have a 4 year old who can successfully give commands to my dogs. They don't *always* listen to him, but when we play the "training game" (treats involved), they do. But that's after WORK. Work with my kid, to know when/how to treat, how to be confident, and how to use a calm, clear voice. And he's never playing the training game alone, or with both dogs at the same time -- always with me present. Plus, work on my kid's end (though I think it's more play to him than work, which I think is a good thing). The dogs love it. If the dogs didn't like it, I wouldn't let him do it. If my kid didn't love it, and ask to do it, I wouldn't force him to give commands/train.

But my kid doesn't think he is "dominant" over the dogs. I'm sorry, but that's just silly. My kid probably thinks that deep down *he* is a dog :)p).

I'm not going to touch the e-collar thing; suffice it to say anything I would add about that has been said.
 

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I guess for new people coming onto the forum we should just all smile and say 'yes yes, that's a smashing idea!' regardless of what the question is. So we're not judgemental.

I know most dogs have a 'puppy license' where they'll put up with a lot of bratty behavior from a pup, but as that pup matures they'll start to correct them more for things. I think dogs see human kids the same way, just humor them because they're not fully grown yet. Which means that they'll not likely respond to commands from a small kid. But at the same time, they'll also put up with a lot more in the form of ear pulls and lip yanks from a smaller kid. Which is fair enough to me.

To the OP, there's nothing wrong with saying 'no' to your kid or helping them play, if your dog isn't that motivated to retrieve from a kid just yet. Try something that's easier for the kiddo to toss, and just give it till the kid can throw a bit further, and usually the dogs are more than happy to play fetch at that point. Our house has a 'no fetch' rule because between my 3 and 6 year old kid, if the dogs are after tennis balls they're throwing, the house gets destroyed. All of the dogs (besides the puppy) are ball insane, meaning lamps get broken and a few times a dog/kid has become trapped under a couch. You know it's not a good thing when the dogs have mastered flying down the stairs and sliding on their sides to get under the couch to get the ball because they've realized that they can't crawl under and get zero traction on the floor on their sides without the launch....
 
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