Aussie afraid of children

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Aussie afraid of children

This is a discussion on Aussie afraid of children within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi all. I have a 2.5 year old Australian Shepherd. She came from a backyard breeder (before I knew anything about puppy mills and irresponsible ...

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Old 02-09-2015, 10:46 AM
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Aussie afraid of children

Hi all. I have a 2.5 year old Australian Shepherd. She came from a backyard breeder (before I knew anything about puppy mills and irresponsible breeders.) We got her when she was about 6 months old. She was spayed after her first heat cycle.

We left her with a relative whilst we were vacationing and during her stay she was chased/tormented by a wild toddler and ended up growling. She was verbally scolded and that is all I know of the incident. Ever since then, she's been afraid of my kids and acts anxious, growls/raises her lip. When we brought her home and she first started growling DH and I also scolded her, and sent her out of the room. However, after realizing the problem was not getting better, we started doing some research and discovered positive training.

We've tried giving her high value treats when the kids are around. I also started pulling out her tennis balls to play anytime she starts acting anxious. A game of fetch seems to help a bit and she's okay with the treats until they're gone and then she goes back to averting eyes, lowering ears, lots of lip licking etc. It seems like when I bring food in to reward her for being calm around the kids as soon as the food is gone she's worse than before I gave her food.

She has a thundershirt and we've tried a DAP collar but neither seem to make any difference in her anxiety's with my kids, though the thundershirt does seem to help her stay calm when they're not around.

She's much less fearful of the kids when she's outside and doesn't typically act nearly as anxious. I can tell the sound of little feet on hardwood floors makes her nervous so we've worked extensively with my 3.5 year old teaching her to walk in the house. She also knows not to hug her and to only pet when mom or dad are there. I also have a 1 year old who is obviously not capable of impulse control or following directions. The dog actually gets along much better with my youngest though he is still learning dog manners.The dog and the children are never together unsupervised.

While she is often anxious or nervous, there are other times when she's perfectly fine with my kids. The other morning I called her up on my daughter's bed and she crawled right up to her, put her head in my daughter's lap and started licking her. She was relaxed the entire time.

She seems much more nervous in the evenings than the daytime. She also has issues resource guarding when it comes to her food. I feel like she's always on edge, afraid someone is going to take her food. I no longer feed her from a bowl. She eats from my hand or from the ground outside after exercising. I usually put a little food on the ground and make her sit and then shake or spin around, then lie down and leave it and then after 10 seconds or so I have her get it. I do this several times a feeding secession so she has to look at me before she gets more food.

She knows many commands which I taught her using a clicker. Sit, lie down, come, stay (she usually stays) leave it, back up, release, spin. She plays frisbee and ball and gets quite a bit of exercise daily.

I know finding a behaviorist will be suggested but there are no R+ trainers within several hours from me and no behaviorists withing 4+hours.

I have considered rehoming her, though it is not ideal. I reached out to 3 shelters that are foster based shelters and nobody ever returned my calls/emails. I am not comfortable surrendering her to a shelter where she'd be caged until adopted. I would really love to help her overcome her fears, but I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong or how to help. Any suggestions?
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Old 02-09-2015, 11:24 AM
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Take a look at this site. careforreactivedogs.com It will help you get a counter conditioning and desensitization program started.

I would not have her interacting with the kids for the time being. Even close supervision is sometimes inadequate. It takes seconds for a dog to bite. Dogs can seem ok (like when she was on the bed with your daughter) and then they may decide they're too close and the dog might react with a snap to increase distance.

You may not need to read this but on the chance it will be helpful, I'm posting this link.

Why Supervising Dogs and Kids Doesn’t Work | Robin Bennett

This is a good site too.

Edit to add that scolding a dog for growling is not a good idea. A growl is a dog's warning signal that he or she is uncomfortable. Suppressing that warning can lead to a dog going to the next step and that is often a bite. Dogs are trying to communicate and punishment (what she received at your relative's house) is also not recommended for a dog who is fearful or really for any reason but especially in these situations. I realize you had no control over that incident. You can change how your dog feels about kids with the right information. A trainer would be ideal of course.

Here's another site you might find helpful. fearfuldogs.com

Family Paws-Dog and Baby Support & Education

Good luck.

Last edited by Grabby; 02-09-2015 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 02-09-2015, 11:42 AM
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@Grabby

Thanks! I will look at those sites.

We don't scold her for growling anymore. As soon as I started doing a little research we learned scolding her was doing the opposite of what we wanted and was not wise.
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Old 02-09-2015, 11:51 AM
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You're so far ahead of most people who are dealing with this that you deserve a big gold star. I know it must be very frustrating and scary. I was just on FB on the fearful dogs group page. That is a very helpful group and is an open group. If you want to post, you will have to watch a webinar first. There is a very small fee. Debbie Jacobs wrote this:

We often have to change the way we think about a problem that we've been struggling with, in order to solve it. Dogs who are behaving in ways that we don't like and want to see end need to stop being put into situations in which the behavior is likely to occur. Period. Full stop.
There will always be reasons for putting them into those situations, but those are the problem to be solved. A dog who has for months been barking and lunging at people or other dogs when taken for walks or running away from guests in the house, etc., needs to stop going for walks or being exposed to guests, until they have the skills to behave successfully. We don't keep tossing people who can't swim into the deep end of the pool and then complain that they keep drowning. What the heck else do we expect them to do? Learn to swim that way? Love us for doing it?
1. Make sure the dog feels safe so whatever behavior is triggered by fear stops occurring. A dog needs to feel safe more than they need to go for a walk or be exposed to guests. Find other ways to exercise and manage your dog until you've managed steps 2 & 3.
2. Desensitize and counter condition to triggers. Read the docs in the group files. Be careful of the videos you find online talking about DS/CC or demoing it. Many have it wrong.
3. Train using positive reinforcement. Skilled trainers avoid the use of aversives because they understand how behavior works and can get behaviors to reinforce. Getting it wrong is frequently a part of learning to get it right. Being wrong shouldn't be painful or scary. It just needs to stop being reinforcing.
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Old 02-09-2015, 12:14 PM
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Thank you. It is frustrating...I really just want her to be able to relax and enjoy life with us. I really appreciate your kind words.

I found the facebook group and I'll try to watch the webinar in the next few days.
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