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He lunged at a child!

1158 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Rain
I am absolutely mortified. Comet, our 2 1/2 year old lab mix lunged at a child for the first time while on a walk today.
For some background, Comet is usually great with kids. We have several nieces and nephews who he gets along with great. He also has exhibited leash aggression toward adults in the past, which we have been working on (see But he has never had a problem with children while on walks.
Today, when we came out of the house for our evening walk, there were several kids outside riding their bikes and playing. One of them was a child who on many occasions has pet Comet in the past. He is a young kid (maybe 5?), but he always asks permission and in the past, we have had Comet sit, and treated Comet when the boy pets him. The boy knows Comet doesn't like to be pet on the head and makes sure to pet him on the back or the shoulders where he is more comfortable. Today, we followed this same routine, but when the boy turned to return to his bike, Comet lunged at him and actually made contact with the boy. As soon as it happened, I pulled Comet back and he barked at the boy until I pulled him back further. It startled the boy, but no other damage. The boy told us Comet did not bite him and my wife, a teacher, checked his arm (his sleeve was dirty where Comet made contact with him) and there were no marks. The boy said he was fine and with no evidence of anything but bad behavior, both sides continued on their way.
I have been freaking out ever since. This is a clear regression after we had been making some progress with his training. What can I do? I am getting to the point where I am afraid to take him out. This was a child that he didn't have a strong relationship with, but did know and had let pet him with no incident before.
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It's quite a frightening event. Especially when you don't really know when he might react this way.
It sounds from your description that when he lunged, he was protecting you.
A correction should have been made instantly.
The best thing to do is to just continue the usual routine. Walk by more kids.
If you start to avoid them to be on the safe side, the lunging could turn into aggression. You can't avoid children forever and now if you do see one, you will rightfully get worried or panic and your energy and state of mind at that moment could trigger an attack. To make everyone feel safe, I suggest you buy a fabric muzzle that is in color with cartoon characters drawn all over it. This is mostly for the kids and adults you pass by so they don't get worried at the sight of it. Keep the muzzle on while children pet him and I recommend that the boy who got lunged on should even walk him with parent permission and supervision.

Good luck!
Visit for tips and advice:)
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Oh I'm so sorry that that happened! I know how heartbreaking it is when they lunge at children. Zody has done so more then once and twice the child was not doing anything at all but being still.

I agree with muzzle training Comet, but it needs to be a basket muzzle. Cloth muzzles that hold the mouth closed do not allow the dog to pant, drink, nor take treats, and in this heat panting is a must or your dog will overheat. Ones like this that allow the dog to take treats will be very helpful in working with Comet.

Could Comet have been upset by the children riding their bikes or something else? Like today we had a thunderstorm come through where I live and Zody would have likely been more reactive due to it if I had taken him for a walk afterwards and he saw people.

Remember that distance is the key, when working with reactive dogs. Forcing him into something while he is over threshold will likely result in him becoming worse. So stay back from the kids and allow him to watch them while doing fun stuff with him, you could feed him high value treats, or maybe play a fun game, so that he learns that seeing the kids (or people in general) gets him great things, then as he becomes happy to see kids at that distance move a bit closer and start the process again. Work at his speed and don't rush it.

Here's a link that's loaded with tips for working with reactive dogs, it's helped me so much with Zody, Care for Reactive Dogs
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