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Hi! I am perplexed, I thought my dog was in a fear stage and would grow out of it, but he's very truly afraid of children and it's gotten to where if we're out in public and a kid looks at him too long, he'll growl and his hair stands up. He ducks away from certain people if they try to pet him. I don't normally let people pet him, but sometimes people just reach out without asking and he is obviously uncomfortable and they just keep trying. It's like they're deaf to my "Sorry, he's a bit shy please don't pet him".

What's weird is Sophia Yin says that "The main problem here usually is that Fido didn’t have enough positive experiences with a variety of unfamiliar people during his sensitive period for socialization and beyond", but he was VERY extensively, and positively socialized with a wide variety of adults and children. He loved being pet by adults and children and would approach everyone. And all of a sudden, one day he started ducking away from people and showing fear from children.

My goal is to eventually get him out of this fear. I won't ask too much of him or overwhelm him, and so far we're sticking to observing from afar and lots of treats. What other things can I do? I know he's not ready to greet, but I want to work him up to that.
 

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Obviously, I think that socialization is very, very important. But I think what happens is that people assume that socialization is the end-all, be-all and they don't consider that some dogs are just more prone to fear (like humans can be!). I've had dogs with very little socialization be totally bomb-proof, and the other way around too.

I'm not discounting socialization, it's obviously necessary, but don't beat yourself up or think you've done something wrong; you probably haven't.

How old is Pax, again? He may still be in a fear stage.

For now, I'd do what you're doing. Watch from afar, lots of treats, and don't ever pressure him into any sort of meet and greet. Let him make his own choices. If he chooses to interact, let him, but watch him for signs of being uncomfortable. If he chooses to move away, let him do that too, and reward heavily for it. Moving away from something stressful is a really GOOD choice for a dog to make.

Eventually you may try to watch/greet older, calmer, dog-savvy children. But for now I'd just watch.
 

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Obviously, I think that socialization is very, very important. But I think what happens is that people assume that socialization is the end-all, be-all and they don't consider that some dogs are just more prone to fear (like humans can be!). I've had dogs with very little socialization be totally bomb-proof, and the other way around too.

I'm not discounting socialization, it's obviously necessary, but don't beat yourself up or think you've done something wrong; you probably haven't.

How old is Pax, again? He may still be in a fear stage.

For now, I'd do what you're doing. Watch from afar, lots of treats, and don't ever pressure him into any sort of meet and greet. Let him make his own choices. If he chooses to interact, let him, but watch him for signs of being uncomfortable. If he chooses to move away, let him do that too, and reward heavily for it. Moving away from something stressful is a really GOOD choice for a dog to make.

Eventually you may try to watch/greet older, calmer, dog-savvy children. But for now I'd just watch.
He's just turned 10 months old and this started around 6 months. And yea, I haven't allowed any uncomfortable greetings and get pretty peeved when people don't ask (he just looks SO friendly). I've been starting to take him on small runs and he always gets a rest at the playground. This is something that you do with horses when they're afraid of something, you make them work really hard and then they get a rest by whatever they think is scary, so they associate that thing with being relaxed. I'm hoping he'll associate the kids with that little good thing. He also gets lots of treats, but I have avoided all close contact since I noticed the behavior.

I've also been treating if he looks at the kids, is that alright to do?
 

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What's weird is Sophia Yin says that "The main problem here usually is that Fido didn’t have enough positive experiences with a variety of unfamiliar people during his sensitive period for socialization and beyond", but he was VERY extensively, and positively socialized with a wide variety of adults and children. He loved being pet by adults and children and would approach everyone. And all of a sudden, one day he started ducking away from people and showing fear from children.
I know this is going to be considered blasphemy on this board, but when you hyper-socialize your puppy as recommend by trainers like Sophia Yin (RIP), you run the risk of creating just what you are trying not to, a fearful dog. Think of them as a pipe, or an emotional battery that can hold just so much emotion before it blows. You cannot know if what the dog has experienced was absorbed as positive or negative for them. The more they were subjected to new, strange things and people, as young puppies, the more chance some of these experiences were processed as negative.

What produces confident, social puppies and dogs is trust in their master, it is teaching them to give up their energy to us so that they feel they are working with us with a common goal in mind.

There are techniques you can do to create this confidence, such as pushing, playing tug, fetch. I would start by praising the heck out of your dog when the he is fearful, the more fearful or reactive he is the more you praise him. If he is reacting to a child, tell him what a great dog he is.

Distracting techniques will only get you so far, the pull of the child is infinitely more compelling, even if it is fear producing, than a treat for most dogs. When he is in pack mood (instincts) rather than group mood (drive), a dog is unable to see people/children as anything but trespassers in his family group.

Are you able to get him enthusiastic about you, or something you have when he is in a new place or around strange people? If he can do this, for how long? It does take a while to increase this flow of energy towards you, but having had a dog that was reactive to dogs, cyclists, skateboarders, strollers and some people, I can attest that you can get this drive flowing and the result is a dramatic improvement and you don't need to desensitize to each thing separately.
 

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He's just turned 10 months old and this started around 6 months. And yea, I haven't allowed any uncomfortable greetings and get pretty peeved when people don't ask (he just looks SO friendly). I've been starting to take him on small runs and he always gets a rest at the playground. This is something that you do with horses when they're afraid of something, you make them work really hard and then they get a rest by whatever they think is scary, so they associate that thing with being relaxed. I'm hoping he'll associate the kids with that little good thing. He also gets lots of treats, but I have avoided all close contact since I noticed the behavior.

I've also been treating if he looks at the kids, is that alright to do?
Instead of resting with your dog, amp him up with a toy.
 

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He's just turned 10 months old and this started around 6 months. And yea, I haven't allowed any uncomfortable greetings and get pretty peeved when people don't ask (he just looks SO friendly). I've been starting to take him on small runs and he always gets a rest at the playground. This is something that you do with horses when they're afraid of something, you make them work really hard and then they get a rest by whatever they think is scary, so they associate that thing with being relaxed. I'm hoping he'll associate the kids with that little good thing. He also gets lots of treats, but I have avoided all close contact since I noticed the behavior.

I've also been treating if he looks at the kids, is that alright to do?

The trick to desensitization is to stay far enough back from what the dog is afraid of, in yours and my case people, and give the dog what they love (I use treats) when the trigger is in view then stop the treats when the trigger goes away.

For Zody, he thinks people are horrible and he needs to try and chase them off before they hurt him, I let him notice the person and as soon as he does so he'll either look back at me for a treat, or I say his name to get his attention, then start giving him some treats. When the person is out of view for a couple seconds I stop the treats. Slowly he's coming to associate the people with treats and is learning to anticipate seeing them so that he can get those treats. More often then not now he automatically looks back at me for his treat when he spots someone.

We still have bad days though where he'll automatically bark and lunge at people. On those days I use the "Let's Go!" cue and get him out of the situation. He does not get treats for barking anymore, at one point I did give them to him even if he was barking but Zody is to smart for his own good. One day I noticed that he was barking at people then looking back at me, with his little eyes aglow, waiting for his treat:rolleyes:. Uh no, I'm not going to reward you for barking, so I started using Let's go. We'll go in the opposite direction of the person for a few feet then turn back around and walk towards him or her. If he's quiet he gets treats, if he barks again I tell him let's go and we leave the area.
 

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He's just turned 10 months old and this started around 6 months. And yea, I haven't allowed any uncomfortable greetings and get pretty peeved when people don't ask (he just looks SO friendly). I've been starting to take him on small runs and he always gets a rest at the playground. This is something that you do with horses when they're afraid of something, you make them work really hard and then they get a rest by whatever they think is scary, so they associate that thing with being relaxed. I'm hoping he'll associate the kids with that little good thing. He also gets lots of treats, but I have avoided all close contact since I noticed the behavior.

I've also been treating if he looks at the kids, is that alright to do?
I would be cautious with that...
I'm just not convinced that the animal (horse or dog) is always actually relaxed. Could just as easily be too tired to react... could become flooding and if so what will likely happen is suppression, shutdown, or sensitization.

Regarding socialization...
Sometimes shy/sensitive pups approach things, including people, they are not fully comfy with. Happens more often than people realize actually. These pups tend to approach and offer all sorts of appeasement gestures. Low, wiggly bodies, excessive licking (people think they are giving kisses), might rollover showing belly, may ''submissive urinate''... seems as they mature some end up just fine, some remain the same (almost frantic puppy-like behavior/appeasement gestures), and some tend towards fearful and may begin reacting.

Not at all implying that was the case with your boy or that you did anything wrong (likely didn't). It's just something I've observed in puppies in my classes and at the shelter.

For now to begin, I would likely start similarly to what pk and rain suggested. People watch at a distance . Lots of open bar closed bar. You really want an automatic head turn with happy, expectant expression as it means that you've created a ''conditioned emotional response''. If very toy driven you may also use toy's and play to achieve this. It's the same process as open bar closed bar with food. Trigger appears, dog notices, toy magically appears and play happens. Trigger disappears and play ends. Downside is to be effective you have to have taught the rules to the game first (''get it'' ''drop it'' etc.)

Once you have that CER/auto heard turn and attention in the presence of the trigger then ime you'll want to cross over to ''operant'' learning. Actually training alternative and incompatible behaviors (I often use a lot of shaping, teach training games, tricks, etc.) in the presence of the trigger, always allowing dog to choose to leave and giving breaks. This is where my dogs have made the most progress.Training can in time actually be games and behaviors used for greetings and interaction with people. But gotta have your foundations in place first!;)
 

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I know this is going to be considered blasphemy on this board, but when you hyper-socialize your puppy as recommend by trainers like Sophia Yin (RIP), you run the risk of creating just what you are trying not to, a fearful dog. Think of them as a pipe, or an emotional battery that can hold just so much emotion before it blows. You cannot know if what the dog has experienced was absorbed as positive or negative for them. The more they were subjected to new, strange things and people, as young puppies, the more chance some of these experiences were processed as negative.
Most trainers like Yin and others do stress quality of interactions as well, not just quantity.;)

Some would argue that one can make at least an educated guess as to the quality of the experience via the pup's body language and even subsequent similar experiences.

In fact, I have seen score sheets with socialization checklists helping owners determine likely positive and negative experiences as well as showing where pups need the most work. Since Yin was brought up, I believe she actually had one such scoring system. :thumbsup:

What produces confident, social puppies and dogs is trust in their master, it is teaching them to give up their energy to us so that they feel they are working with us with a common goal in mind.

There are techniques you can do to create this confidence, such as pushing, playing tug, fetch. I would start by praising the heck out of your dog when the he is fearful, the more fearful or reactive he is the more you praise him. If he is reacting to a child, tell him what a great dog he is.

Distracting techniques will only get you so far, the pull of the child is infinitely more compelling, even if it is fear producing, than a treat for most dogs. When he is in pack mood (instincts) rather than group mood (drive), a dog is unable to see people/children as anything but trespassers in his family group.
I agree a good relationship including trust is important.

I also very much agree that ''distraction'' is only going to get reactive dogs so far. Frankly that's one of the biggest mistakes made by people trying systematic desensitization and counter conditioning. When DS/CC is done correctly, one does not distract the dog. The dog must be fully aware of the trigger in order to be effective, no matter the particular method/game utilized.

Not really so sure on the praising thing...
I could see it helping some dogs. Some may eventually shutdown and some I could see it resulting in higher arrousal = increased reactivity/more intense reactions.

Honestly at the end of the day though, you likely have more in common with people here than you seem to think... seems to me that the differences really seem to be in the ''how'' and ''why'' things work... :)
 

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In fact, I have seen score sheets with socialization checklists helping owners determine likely positive and negative experiences as well as showing where pups need the most work. Since Yin was brought up, I believe she actually had one such scoring system. :thumbsup:
I actually had bought her book and printed the "socialization checklist" and followed what she said religiously. I did short and sweet interactions mostly "he needs to sit first" "Let him sniff you" and I'd give lots of treats. He ran and played with my friend's niece and nephews and seemed to really like them. He was playful around children (maybe too playful) and not at all resigned or appeasing.

When I say "one day it happened" I mean literally out of nowhere one day the behavior appeared. At least from what I saw, I try to be really aware of his body language and remove him from situations he's not comfortable with.
 

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Oh, I don't doubt you at all!
Unfortunately fear can pop up despite the owner doing everything right.

Sometimes a dog is just genetically predisposed. Normally are shy/timid as pups though.

Sometimes (especially so with sensitive dogs ime) all it takes is one bad experience, and it can be something we don't notice or see as a big deal... Negative experiences are the one thing they do unfortunately often generalize well. In group classes a few months back. My puppy was started by a golden doing a very sudden bark, bounce, and play bow towards him. Caused my guy to startle and back into a ring gate. Didn't knock it but scared him nonetheless. No one is at fault and not really preventable. But it made a lasting impression. He's a sensitive guy and is unsure of other dogs he doesn't know. Now he's clearly on guard with golden looking dogs. Even gave lip lifts at a distance to another golden he has been in classes with since almost day 1...

And sometimes its medical. Perhaps a very thorough vet exam is in order if not already done, as this is a sudden change? I would do a thyroid panel. He's at the right age for issues (often a sudden behavioral change including fear of stranger) to appear.
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I'm probably not making many friends with this question, but...
why do you want your dog to have direct contact with people outside your family?

Your dog is growing up and perhaps still growing into the role it wants to play in your life. it might still be just a bit insecure to interact with strangers, but it could also be that your dog just doesn't like strangers.
I know a lot of adult dogs (several Molosser, aussies and Schäfis), that can very well live without contact to people outside family without missing anything.

the only thing a dog should learn is to accept other people in their surroundings without attacking, in my opinion. Not every dog wants to be groped and touched by all the children of the neighbourhood.
your dog is acting very well by avoid the people he doesn't like, this is good behaviour. aswell as the growling... he's comunicating and you as the owner can react and protect him against the "threat". the dogs learns "my human is super awesome and protects me when i feel scared" and the children learn that it is not okay to touch every dog they see...sounds like a win win situation for me.

If you have to take him to places with a lot of people I'd get him positively conditioned on a muzzle.
mainly because, out of some irrational reasons, people won't approach a dog with a muzzle as thoughtless as a dog without a muzzle and it gives you the security that noone can say he snapped or acted on "aggression" when they hear him growl.
 

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Your dog may never like children. They can be noisy, and move suddenly and unpredictably, which may stress him. As long as he doesn't attack, and from what you describe, he just moves away, that's probably exactly the choice you want him to make. He is effectively reducing his stress the only way he knows how, and frankly, IMO its an acceptable behavior trait.
 

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I'm probably not making many friends with this question, but...
why do you want your dog to have direct contact with people outside your family?

Your dog is growing up and perhaps still growing into the role it wants to play in your life. it might still be just a bit insecure to interact with strangers, but it could also be that your dog just doesn't like strangers.
I know a lot of adult dogs (several Molosser, aussies and Schäfis), that can very well live without contact to people outside family without missing anything.

the only thing a dog should learn is to accept other people in their surroundings without attacking, in my opinion. Not every dog wants to be groped and touched by all the children of the neighbourhood.
your dog is acting very well by avoid the people he doesn't like, this is good behaviour. aswell as the growling... he's comunicating and you as the owner can react and protect him against the "threat". the dogs learns "my human is super awesome and protects me when i feel scared" and the children learn that it is not okay to touch every dog they see...sounds like a win win situation for me.

If you have to take him to places with a lot of people I'd get him positively conditioned on a muzzle.
mainly because, out of some irrational reasons, people won't approach a dog with a muzzle as thoughtless as a dog without a muzzle and it gives you the security that noone can say he snapped or acted on "aggression" when they hear him growl.
I'm afraid of it coming to "us or the dog" type situation. I don't want to ever have to make the choice of keeping him or not. Like what if I have children? What if my siblings have children and want to visit? Or friends and extended family want to visit? I understand I can crate him or whatever, but I want him to be apart of without being fearful. What if he gets out of the backyard somehow and bites a child? (not that he's THAT extreme) I don't want it to come to any of that.

My family's dog (who I grew up with) is incredibly fearful and always has been since we adopted him. I knew I didn't want that in my own dog and wanted to do everything to prevent it. I want him to be able to be unafraid, whether or not other people agree that it's necessary - to me it is.
 

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I'm afraid of it coming to "us or the dog" type situation. I don't want to ever have to make the choice of keeping him or not. Like what if I have children? What if my siblings have children and want to visit? Or friends and extended family want to visit? I understand I can crate him or whatever, but I want him to be apart of without being fearful. What if he gets out of the backyard somehow and bites a child? (not that he's THAT extreme) I don't want it to come to any of that.

My family's dog (who I grew up with) is incredibly fearful and always has been since we adopted him. I knew I didn't want that in my own dog and wanted to do everything to prevent it. I want him to be able to be unafraid, whether or not other people agree that it's necessary - to me it is.
IMO you are premature in your 'what if's'. Life is full of what if's, but so far, your dog is just showing an aversion to being in close proximity to children. Since your dog has done nothing to cause you to mis-trust him, and may never, just be sure that visiting children know they must respect his space, and if he comes to them its ok, but they should let him make the approach. He is still very young, and in time, its very likely he will grow out of his shyness. They often do. Hang in there with him, you will probably wind up with the perfect dog.
 

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the positive thing with children that are family or friends, is that they will probably listen, when you explain to them how to act around the dog (no staring, stay 2-3 meters away from him and ignore him).
it's a good thing to learn for children anyway, and the most children are actually pretty nice when you explain it to them.
If they're around a lot and don't openly contact the dog also likely that he'll become more relaxed around the ones he feels belong to the family and perhaps some day even likes them.

I'm with @Laco, that you don't need to get lost in these "what if"s and just do what feels right to protect the dog from children.
it is also likely that he'll be less nervous when he fully adult. Dog teenies often can be a bit insecure and act like a chav and it'll get better when they mature.
 

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When I first realized my dog is not a huge fan of children, I was very emotionally distraught. My anxiety about the situation made everything a million times worse for her and for myself. My dog loves greeting strangers (adults) so the concept of having to tell people they couldn't approach my dog was foreign to me. Add on the fact that she's a bully breed and I didn't want people thinking "all pit bulls are aggressive" made me feel worse.

But it's been almost a year and I've come to (mostly) accept that I'm in control of who interacts with my dog. Unless your dog is snapping at kids as they pass by, in which case a muzzle is likely the best option, you just need to feel comfortable managing her interactions. I've had to get pretty comfortable gently but firmly letting children know, "No, sorry she gets scared around children so you can't pet her" when they ask. I body block a bit just to make sure accidental interaction doesn't happen if they aren't listening. Haven't had a problem since! And she's so much more confident knowing I won't force her into situations where she's uncomfortable, so now she can calmly avoid kids and not get tense when they're nearby. She trusts me to manage the situation. We've also done counter conditioning work and that's really helped a lot. Accidentally got her to adore strollers in the process, but it also seems to have helped her feel more positive about seeing kids ;)

You can do it :) Obviously if there's a big change and she's lunging, snapping, etc then more steps should be taken. But I've learned it's not the end of the world for your dog to have preferences! She may not be the right dog to bring to a busy parade or kids party, but she also may be able to become comfortable with familiar children or children above a certain age. Maybe she'll grow out of it altogether - she's still young!

Best of luck :)
 

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He's fine with being right next to kids so that is comforting. It's just the petting or prolonged eye contact that bothers him. I suppose I'll just listen to him and do what he's comfortable with.
 

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My dog is the same way, which I find easy to manage. Kids can be playing or standing next to us and she doesn't care, I just have to make sure they don't come and try to interact with her.
 

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He's fine with being right next to kids so that is comforting. It's just the petting or prolonged eye contact that bothers him. I suppose I'll just listen to him and do what he's comfortable with.
But, can you blame him? Wouldn't you be freaked out if when you went into public several little strangers wanted to stare into your eyes and touch you all over your body? Yeah! Me too!

Winston lives a very isolated life with me, so I have to make the effort to take him places where he'll see other people and/or dogs. This doesn't happen daily or even weekly, because I just don't always have the time or energy to devote to it.

That said, when we DO go into public, my main goal is for him to IGNORE everyone. I sometimes pretend he's being trained to be a service dog or whatever, and I want him moving through the stores or streets without acknowledging those around him. I do this by having MY own agenda or purpose for our outing. I take him to Tractor Supply when I have shopping to do, and that's my focus. He's just along for the ride and his job is to stay by my heel as I push the cart around, stay out of the other customers' way with the their carts, and basically be in attendance without being the focus of the experience. It works beautifully. It's a little harder at PetCo/PetSmart where he kind of IS the reason we're there anyway, and there are more dogs and more people who want to interact with him. But I go in with the mindset that I'M going shopping and he's just tagging along. I'll browse as long as I choose, talk to whomever I want, and his job is to be polite. Same at the park or the waterfront. I'M going for a walk to get some exercise and enjoy the day, and he's coming with.

Now, that's not to say that sometimes I'm not going to focus on him (show him a toy he might like in the store, talk to him while we're on our walks, etc.). And if he becomes uncomfortable with a stranger's attention, I'll just keep moving, going about my business.

Tractor Supply was so busy the last time we were there, and there were people all around, but the only time he "woofed" under his breath was at a man who passed by and stared at him the entire time. Again, who can blame him? It unnerves me for strangers to stare at me too. I don't bark at them, but if I had hackles, they'd probably stand up. LOL.

I guess all of this rambling is just to say that your dog's reaction isn't that unusual or worrisome. Keep taking him places, and try not to overthink the whole thing. Do YOUR thing when you're out and about instead of fretting over the dog. He'll take his cues from you, and the more he's around strangers who don't pose a threat (by staring at him and trying to touch him), the more confident and relaxed he'll become. He may not LOVE kids, but he's unlikely to actively become aggressive towards them so long as he's allowed to keep a respectful distance.
 
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