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Hi all. I have a black lab named Ernie who will be 4 in May. He is very sweet and has a great temperament. When we first got him he was wonderful with all children. A little over a year ago we had a birthday party at our house and we caught 2 children hitting and pinching him. Since then he has been very nervous around all children. He will still gently take treats from their hands, but then runs away. If a child approaches him he tucks his tail and runs away to hide. Sometimes he even cowers like he thinks he is going to get hit. I feel terrible that he feels this way. Is there any way we can help him get over this fear that not all children will do the same thing?
 

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Oh no, poor guy! Children who are not taught to respect animals is a pet peeve of mine. I wouldn't say this is a valid method to remedy your situation, but if it were my dog, I'd try resocializing her from scratch. If you have friends with kids, this will be easier. First you're going to want to set up a meeting on neutral ground, away from your house ("his" territory) and away from theirs where he'll feel like he's intruding on theirs. A park on a slow day would be great, maybe even a dog park. Bring toys and treats. This will also be a nice way to get to hang with your friend while the kids play, and it will be a learning experience for the kids on how to properly engage with dogs. Let the kids offer him treats and when he accepts, have them praise him, even if he retreats. If he knows tricks (sit, lay down, shake.. the basics) then let them try to engage with him by giving him commands and then rewarding him and praising him. If that's all that he can handle, that's okay, they can go play and he can relax with you and your friend. Even just those simple things will create a rewarding experience for him. If other children approach and ask to pet him, explain he'd prefer a treat and ask them to give it to him gently, praising him when he accepts it from them. And if you don't like the idea of dishing out so many treats, his kibble should work just as well and then you can subtract whatever he ate from his daily meals. It may take a while, certainly more than one session but when he doesn't cringe every time a kiddo approaches him, you can try letting them play with him by tossing a ball or tugging a rope. The key is to do all of this with as many different kids as possible so that he can begin to associate them in a good way overall and not with just that one negative situation. I hope this helps, best of luck to you and Ernie!
 
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