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Dealing with child scared of dogs?

FlamesGirl
July 3rd, 2009, 11:47 AM
Hi, I'm new to these forums but have found lots of interesting info here on the last few days.

I was wondering what would be the best way to prepare myself and my dog for a situation that is coming up in a month's time. I have a young cousin who is very scared of dogs due to a minor incident that occured two years ago. Apparently a friend's dog came up to her and ate a cookie out of her hand and ever since she has been terrified of dogs :shrug:.

This hasn't been a problem in family gatherings yet, since the two dogs that are around are older and dead calm. Both are small to medium sized. When she runs from them, they just lay down or walk away. Her dad prefers the dogs to be outside so he doesn't need to deal with his daughter's anxieties, but her mom insists the dogs are a part of the family and should be included. This has worked so far due to the calm nature of the 2 dogs.

The problem is I have recently rescued a young flat coated retriever X who is a little rambunctious from time to time. He LOVES children and never jumps up on people or kids. He sits quietly and wags his tail when they approach/pet him. However, I don't want him to have a bad experience with my cousin (or vice versa!). We have a big family BBQ coming up and I don't really want to leave him in his kennel at a hotel or tether him up in the yard. Any suggestions on what to do to make this a pleasant experience? I'm working on basic obedience with him and he has great manners (especially for a puppy). Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

P.S The dogs my cousin is nervous around she has known for years and they have never done anything to elicit fear. She gets scared when my parent's 14 yr old 35 lb border collie X gets up to get a drink of water. Or if she runs into a room and he's laying there, she runs right back out again. I have a feeling just seeing my 75 lb dog will scare her.

BenMax
July 3rd, 2009, 12:27 PM
Unless there is a way to crash course the kid with desentization there is nothing to do but watch the child freak out. Blunt, honest but true as these dogs have done nothing to merit the child's reaction.

Maybe people are making a big deal out of her reaction and it's her way of getting attention??? I say this because a dog stealing a cookie just does not seem enough to tramatize someone unless there was a reaction by the adults during or after the 'deed'.

FlamesGirl
July 3rd, 2009, 04:16 PM
I guess I'm worried more about my dog's reaction to the child being scared of him. Up to this point every child he has met has approached him kindly (some not so calmly either) and he greets every child nicely. Anything I should be doing or teaching him before my dog meets her?

I personally think the whole thing is ridiculous. A dog takes a cookie out of her hand and she's scarred for life? I agree the parents probably made an overreaction and she's the kind of child who would do something for a reaction. Now she gets attention everytime a dog "scares" her.

14+kitties
July 3rd, 2009, 06:28 PM
It would be a little easier for our doggie folks to answer the question if we knew the age of the child. Is she old enough to know better? Old enough to reason with (that would be any child over the age of two)? Old enough that she can be put in a time out if she reacts inappropriately? As in, screaming for no reason, etc.

ownedbycats
July 3rd, 2009, 07:57 PM
14+ - this is a relative's child, parents might not allow a time out, even for a good reason like that.
FlamesGirl - is there any way you could make this girl (if old enough) feel like being around this dog is a special resposibility just for her. Maybe explain that he was rescued and SHE is resposible for not scaring HIM? he doesn't sound like he is actually scared, but if she thinks he is scared too maybe she will be less scared too. Is there any way you could show her how to give him dog treats appropriately, hand out and flat? (if he will take them gently)

FlamesGirl
July 6th, 2009, 10:25 AM
My cousin is 5-6 years old and while I think she is old enough to know better, she's figured out it gets her attention. It doesn't help that her dad blames the dogs and would rather not deal with the issue at all. I like the idea of him being her special responsibility...I will certainly try that. I've tried teaching her the best way to meet new dogs, feed treats, etc and she doesn't care. Doesn't want the dogs around at all or learn how to interact with them properly. I'll try the special responsibility thing and barring that not working, I guess I'll keep a close eye on my dog all the time to watch how he reacts when she screams and runs from him. Thanks!

allfurlove
July 6th, 2009, 10:47 AM
My cousin is 5-6 years old and while I think she is old enough to know better, she's figured out it gets her attention. It doesn't help that her dad blames the dogs and would rather not deal with the issue at all. I like the idea of him being her special responsibility...I will certainly try that. I've tried teaching her the best way to meet new dogs, feed treats, etc and she doesn't care. Doesn't want the dogs around at all or learn how to interact with them properly. I'll try the special responsibility thing and barring that not working, I guess I'll keep a close eye on my dog all the time to watch how he reacts when she screams and runs from him. Thanks!

Would the parents allow you to lay down a couple rules for her while she's there (no screaming and no running)?
It just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, even though your dog is good with kids. IMO if she is running and screaming from dogs it's only a matter of time before she will get bitten by SOME dog, though god forbid :pray:

BenMax
July 6th, 2009, 11:13 AM
Would the parents allow you to lay down a couple rules for her while she's there (no screaming and no running)?
It just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, even though your dog is good with kids. IMO if she is running and screaming from dogs it's only a matter of time before she will get bitten by SOME dog, though god forbid :pray:

This is a very good point. These parents are setting this child and ANY dog up for failure. They are doing this little girl no favours.

Lynne_B
July 6th, 2009, 11:21 AM
We have a neighbor with two little girls, 5 and 4, and the younger one is terrified of big dogs. She would actually run into the house crying when our car pulled up because she knew our dog was in the car with us. For the most part, the way her parents have handled it is to not give her attention for the crying, so they are not reinforcing it, and I'm not sure what set it all off, if there was another incident that we don't know about. Anyway, this is the way we've handled it so far. One, the older one always comes over to say hi and pet him. We've shown her the proper way to do it. Ask for permission, then put your hand out, palm down, wrist tilted forward, and let the dog sniff to say hello. We don't let her pet him unless he is calm and sitting (he gets really excited to see her). Little sister is always hiding around the corner watching. Then one day the older one asked if I could bring Fizz out to play, I said sure, as long as her mom and dad were ok with it, and her mom came out to watch as well. I got out his ball, kept him on leash, and let her throw the ball to play catch with him a bit. Little sister saw how much fun big sister was having, and decided to come over and play too. So she started with throwing the ball. Then we played a little tug with him, or rather, I did, and they "helped". Then the little one plucked up the courage to pet him very briefly. So since then, she's still really shy, but given a little time, she comes over and either pets him or watches big sis play with him. I have also had a little talk with her to say, if Fizz ever scares you, just let me know and I'll put him in the house so you don't have to be scared. I've also told them that if they are playing with him, and if he ever gets a little too rough, be sure to say Ouch, so that he knows to back off.

So my advice for you is this. When they are over, make sure she has a place that's safe and comfortable for her away from the dog. When they are there, put the leash around your waist so you can easily control where the dog is in relation to where she is. Next, play with your dog, or get others to play with him and pet him while she's there and can see, so that she can see he's not scary, and lots of fun to be around. Show her how to say hi properly, and finally, if she's ready, let her pet him, with him sitting or laying down so he's less intimidating. Take it slow, because if it's a serious phobia, you don't want to make it worse. Good luck!

kandy
July 7th, 2009, 04:19 PM
My cousin is 5-6 years old and while I think she is old enough to know better, she's figured out it gets her attention. It doesn't help that her dad blames the dogs and would rather not deal with the issue at all.

So then the cookie stealing thing happened when she was 3-4 yrs old. I can see that frightening a young child. BUT it sounds like perhaps the father is not a dog person, the initial fright was handled poorly and now the fear has turned into a reliable attention getting behavior. As with dogs, any behavior that is rewarded will continue. Her reward is that she gets attention, and the dogs get ostracized. I honestly don't think there is anything you can do to alter the girls behavior - she gets too much reward from it. IMO what you need to be worried about is if her running away will entice your dog to chase - which would justify her fear and her father's attitude. It's really sad too, because that kind of behavior is exactly what will get her bit, which will further solidify her fears and the dog of course will pay the price. If both parents were on board with getting her past this behavior, it would be different but it sounds like the father would just as soon that the dogs are removed rather than working on his daughter's behavior. :sad:

im_nomad
July 9th, 2009, 06:49 PM
So then the cookie stealing thing happened when she was 3-4 yrs old. I can see that frightening a young child. BUT it sounds like perhaps the father is not a dog person, the initial fright was handled poorly and now the fear has turned into a reliable attention getting behavior. As with dogs, any behavior that is rewarded will continue. Her reward is that she gets attention, and the dogs get ostracized. I honestly don't think there is anything you can do to alter the girls behavior - she gets too much reward from it. IMO what you need to be worried about is if her running away will entice your dog to chase - which would justify her fear and her father's attitude. It's really sad too, because that kind of behavior is exactly what will get her bit, which will further solidify her fears and the dog of course will pay the price. If both parents were on board with getting her past this behavior, it would be different but it sounds like the father would just as soon that the dogs are removed rather than working on his daughter's behavior. :sad:

In my (likely unpopular) opinion, i'd avoid a potential bad situation and leave the pooch somewhere they'll be quite happy during the festivities. I love my dog, but i'd rather leave her at home or with the kennel than have people tripping over her, kids pulling her tail or possibly her acting out of character and snapping at someone. I think an animal can be trained to be the finest thing out there, but there is no accounting for the possibility something could go wrong, and I don't know about you, but i'd rather not have that no my conscience.

Besides, I don't think it's our job in any circumstance to desensitize others to their (sometimes irrational) fears. I have a weirdly irrational fear of monkeys, when i've not so much as ever touched one, but I sure wouldn't appreciate someone coming into my house with one.

I get annoyed to when i'm somewhere and a child goes squeeling away from anywhere near my dog because they're afraid, but i'm not the kid's parent, and I figure i'm best off keeping her away anyway.

OR, this could also be a matter of the Dad is also a little anxious around dogs and won't admit it, or simply believes that animals don't belong at people-gatherings, no matter how well behaved their owners think they are. This could be no different than the parent who insists on bringing their child to a decidedly and advertised "adults only" party.

Collies_Rule!
July 9th, 2009, 11:16 PM
I have similar problems myself. In my case- it's a few of my friend's kids. Anything bigger than a Yorkie scares them! One of the kids is even scared of Abby, my cat! :shrug:

Well here I am with a hyper- - -65-70 pound- - - 1 yr old Collie! Zoey LOVES kids. She just wants to give them kisses and have them rub her belly. Her manners are not 100% there..but she's pretty good with everyone. It's her size that freaks kids out.

Dogs have this amazing ability to "sense" who is uncomfortable with them...and rub up all over them. Don't they??? That's what Zoey does. She just wants that other person to know there is nothing to worry about...and to be her friend. :)

What I have done, to help ease the kids nerves is to have them make Zoey do tricks. Zoey is shameless...she LOVES an audience...she loves to do tricks. So I load the kids up with treats... and show them how to get Zoey to "high five" or "Gimme 10"... do "push ups" etc. Once they have Zoey doing tricks, she calms right down...because she's waiting for her next command so she can get that treat. The kids feel empowered and learn to relax around her.

With the older kids, I put the leash on Zoey and let them walk her around the house. I make it a competition to see who can be the better "dog handler" or "dog trainer" for the day. They have to walk her around on a leash and make her sit when they stop. It becomes a game of who can get Zoey to sit the quickest...and most often. The kids have fun...they forget how big & scary Zoey is...and Zoey's having fun because she's where she wanted to be- with the kids.

I also give them some basic rules 1) don't run around the dog. 2) no screaming/shreiking. I explain to them that Zoey is still a big puppy and is still learning.

I hope this helps!

mastifflover
July 10th, 2009, 08:34 AM
Really the parents are enabling this kid by giving her the attention and she is milking it for everything it is worth. Sorry she is going to have to get used to dogs and cats and many other things she may not like but the world does not revolve around her and she will need to learn that. Sorry I may be blunt but most people will not say it. Parents are so damn overprotective of kids now and do not allow them to fall down and get back up with out a huge scene oh are you all right, lets get you a treat and make you feel better. Please a five year old is dictating what will happen at a family gathering. Have her deal with it.

BenMax
July 10th, 2009, 08:49 AM
Really the parents are enabling this kid by giving her the attention and she is milking it for everything it is worth. Sorry she is going to have to get used to dogs and cats and many other things she may not like but the world does not revolve around her and she will need to learn that. Sorry I may be blunt but most people will not say it. Parents are so damn overprotective of kids now and do not allow them to fall down and get back up with out a huge scene oh are you all right, lets get you a treat and make you feel better. Please a five year old is dictating what will happen at a family gathering. Have her deal with it.

I am sooooooooo with you!

Rottielover
July 10th, 2009, 09:16 AM
I have a 5 yr old, but let me tell you there is no way that behavior would be tolerated. I guess I am one of the few moms that say ouch when they fall and tell them to get up(unless serious of course)
Now a days the kids seem to be running everything, which is something I do not agree with.
Because of my parenting ways, I have a well rounded tough cookie :)

im_nomad
July 10th, 2009, 08:07 PM
Really the parents are enabling this kid by giving her the attention and she is milking it for everything it is worth. Sorry she is going to have to get used to dogs and cats and many other things she may not like but the world does not revolve around her and she will need to learn that. Sorry I may be blunt but most people will not say it. Parents are so damn overprotective of kids now and do not allow them to fall down and get back up with out a huge scene oh are you all right, lets get you a treat and make you feel better. Please a five year old is dictating what will happen at a family gathering. Have her deal with it.

I agree with much of what you're saying, but I think we as pet owners also have to realize that the world also doesn't always revolve around us and our dogs.

FlamesGirl
July 11th, 2009, 04:27 PM
Thank you everyone for all the advice. I have thought about not bringing my dog the festivities but the alternative is for him to stay in his kennel in a hotel room for 5+ hours which I'm not too keen on for various reasons. The other two dogs will be there as members of the family and I really want my guy there too.

Since I wrote the original post my dog has been around a few toddlers that were wary of dogs (including one who chucked a tennis ball at his head!) and I am feeling better about his reactions to children who are nervous around him. I like the tricks idea and am working on "Bang, you're dead" one. I will keep a close eye on Ranger when we're at the BBQ and if worse comes to worse, I will find a calm, cool place to kennel him. I just didn't think it would be fair for him to be isolated without a good reason. And I don't think a child looking for attention IS a good reason. Any more advice on what to do to set this up to be successful, please keep it coming. Thanks again.

FlamesGirl
August 6th, 2009, 12:19 AM
Thanks everyone for your advice! My trip with my dog was a complete success! I couldn't be happier with him at this point. He behaved so well at the family BBQ - sleeping in a corner for four hours. Most of the people there didn't even know I had brought him unless I mentioned it. My cousin also behaved really well when Ranger walked past her. I had him on a tight leash so he couldn't go over to see her (he adores children and always wants to walk over and say hi) and after that, my cousin ignored him which is huge progress for her.

Later on our trip we went to my boyfriend's sister's house. She has two dogs and 3 kids, her youngest kids are 2 and 4 yrs old. He got along really well with the two dogs, one who was a smaller and the other larger than him. They played all day the first day but by the second day Ranger was annoying the larger dog by his constant need for playtime. So Ranger had a few reprimands thrown his way which I was think was great for him. I especially like how he listened when the other dogs told him to back off and chill. He hasn't been in an environment like that before so I was really happy for him to learn his lesson.

More amazing was how he was with the children. I admit I adopted him without thinking or asking how he would be with children (not thinking clearly that me having kids in a few years is a possibility). It was nice to see that he liked kids, but after this weekend I trust him as much as I would trust any dogs with a child. The kids were rowdier and louder than any child he's met and he'd certainly never lived with kids before and he was completely calm with them. Allowed them to hug him, pull him around on his collar, and I couldn't believe him when he was chasing the other dog down the stairs but slowed down and walked calmly past the toddler before resuming the chase.

Sorry for the brag about my new dog but I had been so worried about this weekend and how he'd deal with everything. I never expected him to be this good! Never mind the ten hour car drives, learning to swim and spending the first three days on a leash whenever he was outside. He was so gentle on his walk, my 80 yr old grandma walked him! And when I first got him ten weeks ago, he would DRAG me around on a leash. Thanks everyone for the good advice, in this thread and in others. I love killing time reading different thoughts and experiences.

Bailey_
August 6th, 2009, 05:22 PM
Great, glad to hear it! It's always a confidence booster when our beloved animals surpass our expectations!!! :thumbs up

ps: I love your sign on name!! :):D

allfurlove
August 6th, 2009, 05:48 PM
What a good boy!!! :thumbs up Sounds like he had alot of fun and great learning experiences.