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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I took our dog this weekend, like I have before, to an outdoor patio of a brewery. It's a big outdoor space and surprisingly family oriented. The adults drink and let their kids run around and play freely (interesting concept, right? drinking and making it a 'family event', lol).

We don't have kids, but my dog has been reasonably socialized with kids. But apparently, not well enough....

My adolescent dog has been relatively well behaved there. When I took him the previous time a few weeks ago, I walked him on lead, kids came up to us to pet him. He ignored the kids (I did feed him treats while they were petting him). He did bark once while sitting with us, but I wasn't sure why at the time. Now I think it was because a kid was staring at him while she was walking by.

Well, fast forward to this weekend..... our dog was lying down well behaved under the picnic table. A 2 to 3 year old kid wandered over to us (with no parents in sight!). He stood several feet away, but nothing happened. Then another 2-3 year old kid came close with no parent in sight (I know, what's up with that?). Dog didn't react, and I was watching these kids and seeing what they were going to do. Then finally, the two moms of these kids finally came to fetch them. They were about to take their kids and go back to their own table...but then one of the moms spotted my dog and told the kids to look at the dog under the table. So, all four of them stood staring by the side of the table, staring down at my dog. The mom told me her kid would not touch the dog. Okay. After several moments of staring from all four of them (which was kinda weird, but I let it happen)...my dog let out a series of loud barks at them, and the moms took their kids and abruptly left. Yup, he quickly ended the staring party. Anyways, I think it can be threatening for an animal to be stared at in that manner and not advised for strangers to do, but I probably should have fed him treats under the table to desensitize him to it.

Anyways, a short time later, my dog was sitting next to me, and an approx 7 year old walked quickly toward us while staring at my dog (my husband told me she did this, as I had my back to the girl). My dog let out one bark. (I think she had wanted to pet my dog, but after hearing him bark, she went to the next table over and pet their dog instead).

Sigh, so apparently it seems my dog is sensitive to kids staring at him. He is an adolescent now, but he did have little episodes of this even back when he was a puppy. Back then, if I caught a strange kid staring at him and before my dog could react, I'd click and treat. I thought this issue improved. Now it seems the problem has surfaced again.

If a kid does not give him the "stare down", he is fine with them. He has no issues with adults staring at him.

Anyways, anyone have this issue too? Any thoughts appreciated.
 

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I think as soon as you see the child staring, you should redirect their attention to you, by saying hi or something. Sometimes kids want to pet the dog and can be shy about it, so they stare. Of course, this makes dogs curious and a little nervous. Dogs respond well to confidence, so if they sense someone's anxiety or unsureness... they will feel it as well. So redirecting the child's attention and possibly taking control of the conversation might put everyone at ease. This way if the child intends to ask if they can pet your dog, they can ask and you can say yes or no. Remember your dog responds to your queues. So if you demonstrate a friendly and confident attitude, they will also feel friendly and confident, because they feel like you are taking control of the situation.
 

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It's a pretty normal issue, if that helps to hear. Kids are challenging in one way or another for many dogs, what with the unpredictable behavior, fast movements, and general rudeness (not that kids mean to be rude, they just don't naturally speak dog!).

Just like feeding a dog lots of treats can help desensitize him to something that's potentially scary, having something scary happen can sensitize him to react more in the future. So I'd avoid putting him in situations where kids will cluster, for now. Instead, I'd read up on counterconditioning (CC) -- the CAREforreactivedogs.com website is a free resource that explains a basic program, or Patricia McConnell has a good booklet that I like called The Cautious Canine. It's fairly simple, but important to understand the mechanics so you can do it effectively. Then I'd do a ton of it! If you're out with your husband, you can also split the duties, so that one of you is in charge of dog training and the other one is in charge of talking to kids/strangers/curious onlookers (much easier than splitting your attention!).

I like the "
t" (LAT) game a lot better than "watch me," especially when it comes to potentially scary things.

Oh, and we have loads of bar/brewery patios with kid play areas here too. Either it's common, or you and I live in the same CO town ;)
 

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Hi. The kids must be weird for him. He has a thing but it can be corrected. You need to socialize him with the kids. He needs to see friends in children and not aliens from mars. Call him out from under the table and let them touch him. But be extremely careful. One by one, slowly let him smell their hand first and dont let them reach towards his nose because dogs hate it especially the insecure ones. Give him treats, let the kids give him the treats as well. But again. Be very very careful. Look at the signs. If he is stiff, doesnt move his head, tense, its not a good idea. When he barks snap him out with your hand immediately. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me and dont forget to check out my labrador. http://goo.gl/6LcyVU
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you all for your thoughts and help.
@TankNintendo I never actually never thought of talking to the kids to breakt their stare from my dog. What a good idea! I'll have to keep an eye out, as I don't catch it much of the time until too late.
@SnackRat I'm glad to hear it's somewhat of a normal issue. Our boy is a 95 pd mastiff mix, so it can sound scarier when he barks to children and parents in a public situation vs if a mini schnauzer did the same thing. So, hope to nip this in the bud. I do use counter conditioning (thank you for the video) and the key is catching the staring and rewarding my dog before he reacts. Usually I notice too late...

Anyways, I hope to nip this in the bud, as I don't want it to escalate. If a very small child was staring at my dog and suddenly ran up to my dog, and I didn't notice or have time to react, I'm hoping my dog would not do anything more than bark.
 

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That's a missed opportunity to me...

I'll take every opportunity I can to teach a child the right and wrong way to approach a dog - you have the right dog to use as a training tool, large breed. What you show the child today could save a child from serious injury down the road.

I wouldn't personally worry too much about the whole scenario, some dogs need to see the eyes to read a person - hence the reaction some dogs have to sunglasses. Other dogs really don't care.
 
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