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I've recently moved into a new duplex with two friends. My 18-month-old son will be coming there on a regular basis to visit me. I've recently found out that our land lady, with whom we share the garden, has a dog (border collie/lab mix) that seems to be very poorly socialised. Whenever we've been at her place to sign contracts and the like, the dog has seemed extremely afraid and has been barking like mad. Our land lady says that it's because he is a guard dog and that it takes him time to get used to strangers... I don't buy it. Even the most alert guard dog would not act this way around strangers if it was well-socialised.

The dog is often outside in the garden without a leash, and when he is not in defence-mode he seems like a wonderful, energetic and playful dog. Because I will be living here for years, I want to introduce my son to this pooch, but I also want my son to have good experiences with dogs just like I have had, and I am afraid that if the dog barks aggressively at him, it could potentially install a life-long fear of dogs in him, which would be a nightmare, as I am very fond of dogs and want to introduce one into the family in a few years.

So what to do? As I see it I have three options, but all suggestions are welcome:

1) Should I kindly ask my land-lady to only let her dog out into the garden at designated times, so that my son and the dog will never have to meet?

2) Should I try to encourage her to spend more time socialising her dog to people and other dogs, so that in time the dog will be happy to meet and greet my son?

3) Should I offer her to spend some time with her dog and provide some much needed training and socialisation myself before introducing it to my son?

Many thanks in advance.
 

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I don't buy it. Even the most alert guard dog would not act this way around strangers if it was well-socialised.

This is not entirely true. There are reasons a dog would bark and not really stop when someone they don't know well comes into their territory. You are, for the sake of this discussion, a stranger to the dog, even if you've been on the premises several times to sign paperwork. Dogs bark to alert, to guard, or because they are over excited and want to play. There are other reasons, too, but these are a few of the basics. Until the dog is properly introduced to you and feels that you are no threat, it is NOT unusual for it to bark, even if it has been socialized.

I mean, if you put it into human perspective, even if you (as a person) have been taught manners, you are not going to be friendly with someone you are either afraid of or unsure of, or uncomfortable with.


So what to do? As I see it I have three options, but all suggestions are welcome:

I don't vote for any of these options:
1) Should I kindly ask my land-lady to only let her dog out into the garden at designated times, so that my son and the dog will never have to meet?

She's the landlord, it is also her garden, and you will likely sound very demanding if you, as soon as you move in, try to set boundaries on when she's allowed to let her dog out. IF you phrase it as more of a favor if she wouldn't mind bringing her dog in when you have your son outside that MIGHT sound better.

2) Should I try to encourage her to spend more time socialising her dog to people and other dogs, so that in time the dog will be happy to meet and greet my son?

This will likely be offensive to her, as if you are telling her she has done a poor job with her dog. That doesn't start off the landlady/tenant relationship off well. And, really, you don't know that she hasn't done a good job with this dog, it's just your own perspective.

3) Should I offer her to spend some time with her dog and provide some much needed training and socialisation myself before introducing it to my son?

This is closest to right, in my opinion, except I wouldn't refer to it as YOU training the dog and socializing it, I'd just consider it as "getting to know" the dog. In fact, I really wouldn't train HER dog at all. It's not your job, and even in families or households, dogs that receive inconsistent training by members of the family that have different opinions on training end up confused and the training doesn't work all that well.

Many thanks in advance.
My opinions are in bold. In the end, if it were me, I would say something simple, like "My son will be visiting often, and he's very young. I know that dogs and young toddlers don't always get along well. How can we make this work?" That way, you let her know your concerns, and you ask her opinion.

And, always, always, be right there with your son, right next to him, when the dog is around.
 

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Thank you so much for this! I called up my land lady and said exactly what you wrote. She was very friendly, and suggested that I simply be around her dog (play with him and so forth) for a while until he trusts me. Then we will set up a time for him to meet my son under the best possible circumstances. Am still a bit nervous though, as there is a chance that Rover might bark at him and scare him. Any advice on how to best introduce a dog to a very, very young child and how to react if the dog does bark and my son does get scared? After all, I can't expect all dogs he will ever meet to be immediately friendly...
 

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He's 18 months? Other parents might chime in. But, if it were me, I would hold your son when he's around the dog, and teach him to put his hand out for the dog to smell, not too close, of course, and let the dog come to him to sniff it out. Teach him to be super gentle, and to pet a dog correctly. Many dogs don't appreciate being pet on the top of the head, from above, as it can make them feel vulnerable. Usually petting from the side, and maybe a bit farther back on the neck is better. Also, teach him that most dogs don't like to be hugged.

There are a lot of behaviors that humans do to show affection that dogs don't like, as I mentioned petting on the top of the head, and hugging. Some dogs can learn to tolerate it, from their owners, but, it's better to avoid doing things like that, especially with children. There's a great book that deals with dogs and communication, "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell.

There have been quite a few threads recently about the lack of parental guidance for children in regards to dogs, so it's awesome that you want to do this right!
 

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I also suggest that you ask the landlady if you can feed the dog some treats. Then go to PetsMart or another pet store and get some liver treats. Cut them into dime-sized slices and toss them to the dog one at a time.... The dog will quickly learn that you are his friend.
 

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I also suggest that you ask the landlady if you can feed the dog some treats. Then go to PetsMart or another pet store and get some liver treats. Cut them into dime-sized slices and toss them to the dog one at a time.... The dog will quickly learn that you are his friend.
This is by far probably the easiest solution. When you approach the dog, have some food with you and problem solved.
 

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Border Collies are herding dogs and I'm guessing that after everyone meets and are on happy terms, this dog still might try to herd your child(especially if it hasn't been around kids). This will be great fun for the dog not so much for the baby:) So be prepared for the baby to fall and get knocked over until the dog realizes its not to be herded--it doesn't mean the dog is being mean its doing its job. Treats are always a good way to a dogs heart.
 

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I wouldn't stress too much - is the garden the only place you can take your son outside? Chances are unless the landlady is very, very good about picking up after him, it's not going to be ideal for your kiddo to be out there with the poop. Honestly I'd just leave the yard to the dog and take the kid to the park or for walks. At his age he's not going to really 'need' to see a bunch of dogs and can't do much with them anyway, he's not going to understand not pulling ears etc. and he's not stable with walking to be able to walk a dog for quite a while. Plus he's right at face level and kids tend to stare which doesn't work well with some dogs.

When you see dogs on the street you can figure out if they're kid friendly or not fairly quickly - we went to a dog show last weekend and there were a few dogs that dragged their owners to see the kids. Other dogs didn't seem to care....
 

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Border Collies are herding dogs and I'm guessing that after everyone meets and are on happy terms, this dog still might try to herd your child(especially if it hasn't been around kids). This will be great fun for the dog not so much for the baby:) So be prepared for the baby to fall and get knocked over until the dog realizes its not to be herded--it doesn't mean the dog is being mean its doing its job. Treats are always a good way to a dogs heart.
I don't let my guys play 'tag' with Kilt because she does love to run and nip/bark at them. Not her fault and while my kids think it's very funny, someone else's kids might not. So I just have them doing things like walking (two leashes, I have one, kid has one unless it's the older dogs that will come right back) or hide and seek (kid takes treat and goes and 'hides' and dog goes for treat).
 
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