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I am currently living in a college town and attending University. The town I am in does not have a dog park, but 3 nights a week people take their dogs to an open area on campus and the dogs are allowed to run off-leash.

Tonight was my second time to take my 9 month doberman to this dog night. We were there for about 40 minutes with no problems; he gets along great with all dogs and is friendly towards people. After those 40 minutes a parent let their 3-4 year old son run through the area screaming. Wrigley, my doberman, has been around kids only a handful of times. Each time he has been around little kids he has done well, though he seems a little reserved. Wrigley was playing with the little boy and knocked him over. When the kid fell, he immediately started screaming and crying. I walked over to apologize and see if the kid was okay while my dog stood right next to me. The kid's mother came over and as she was picking up the kid, who wouldn't stop screaming, Wrigley appeared very anxious. He barked and then snapped at the kid's leg.

Wrigley has never been aggressive towards people or any other animal. I know I need to do more socializing involving kids, but I am at the age where I don't know many kids under the age of 10. What should I do? Does this mean that my dog just got too excited, a predator-prey instinct came into play, or that he chose fight instead of the flight response?

If anyone has any experience with a situation like this I would really appreciate some advice in training/socializing.
 

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training/socializing my doberman with children

Hi all, I have posted this thread in the 'General training and obedience' thread as well. I am currently living in a college town and attending University. The town I am in does not have a dog park, but 3 nights a week people take their dogs to an open area on campus and the dogs are allowed to run off-leash.

Tonight was my second time to take my 9 month doberman to this dog night. We were there for about 40 minutes with no problems; he gets along great with all dogs and is friendly towards people. After those 40 minutes a parent let their 3-4 year old son run through the area screaming. Wrigley, my doberman, has been around kids only a handful of times. Each time he has been around little kids he has done well, though he seems a little reserved. Wrigley was playing with the little boy and knocked him over. When the kid fell, he immediately started screaming and crying. I walked over to apologize and see if the kid was okay while my dog stood right next to me. The kid's mother came over and as she was picking up the kid, who wouldn't stop screaming, Wrigley appeared very anxious. He barked and then snapped at the kid's leg.

Wrigley has never been aggressive towards people or any other animal. I know I need to do more socializing involving kids, but I am at the age where I don't know many kids under the age of 10. What should I do? Does this mean that my dog just got too excited, a predator-prey instinct came into play, or that he chose fight instead of the flight response?

If anyone has any experience with a situation like this I would really appreciate some advice in training/socializing.

Thank you!
 

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The first thing that comes to mind is what did the mother think might happen if she let her kid go screaming and running around like a banshee around a bunch of dogs? Your kid is going to get knocked on his butt that's what.

Ok, now that that's off my chest...I don't think it was a matter of Wrigley being aggressive. He got over excited from the screeching and screaming. There's even a chance he thought there was still some play going on. I'm sure others will have more to contribute, but I would suggest that since you don't really have the chance to have Wrigley around kids very often, focus on his impulse control and recall to you. That way if such a situation arises, he will be focused on paying attention to you when you call him out of the situation.
 

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The first thing that comes to mind is what did the mother think might happen if she let her kid go screaming and running around like a banshee around a bunch of dogs? Your kid is going to get knocked on his butt that's what.
Yes, this.

I agree with what Tater said. I think that's the most likely situation. A good way, I think, to socialize around kids would be to find a neighborhood with an elementary and/or middle school and take your pup for a walk near/around that school gets out. We didn't have a ton of kids in my old neighborhood so this was one of the options that I considered. You don't have to take him up to anybody (plus that might creep people out) but it would give Wrigley a chance to see kids.
 

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A trick I've found helps when my dog knocks down a little kid (3-4 years old--It HAS rarely happened:)) is to either pick the kid up, or kneel down right next to him (use judgement about what seems to be more accepted by the kid) and to say in my most excited, thrilled, interested sort of voice, "What happened? Did that mean ole dog run right OVER you? Whoops! He needs to look where he is going, doesn't he? WHAT a SILLY dog!!" Stuff like that.

With any luck, the kid is really only a bit scared and not hurt, and if you do it right, chances are he'll think the whole thing was funny before long and want to pet that clumsy ole dog who tripped over him. I think a lot of the time, it is the "OMG! Are you hurt??? Are you sure you're OK?" fear response from the surrounding adults that keeps the kid scared and can even lead to a more lasting fear of dogs. Kids are tough. They fall out of trees, off playground equipment, off their bikes; a minor scrape with a dog shouldn't merit huge fusses--from either kids or parents.

Of course, your dog should be socialized and trained in good behavior--goes without saying. But accidents can strike the best of us--it helps to have a backup strategy.
 

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I've never let my doberman off the leash she would be in Cuba before I could catch her LOL!! Always be in control of your dog.....and get some of your family with young children and practice being around children. My friend who trains dobermans told me to say she always walked her doberman through a play area where children could see the dog and say something nice, she never allowed them to run up to the dog because she said he was in school. The children liked watching her as she trained him to walk around children and not step on them.I hope I've helped!!
 

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One of the things you can do is to take your doberman to a school and wait until the kids are on the playground or school lets out. Your doberman is NOT close to the children but he is close enough to see and hear them. They run, they scream, they do the kid stuff. Your job is to have him stay calmly no matter what is going on. So, you give the sit stay command and you guys watch getting closer as he is ready. You can heel by the fence where kids are playing and do the same in a park. If it was my dog and he ever lunged at kid he would be corrected period. I don't care what the reason is. I did make it a point to take my dog around kids, do the school thing and go on hikes where I knew there would be lots of people and kids. We did halloween carnivals and other outdoor things since Eli was young. I did not let kids grab him but I did practice sits and let kids pet him when he sat. I took him to petsmart most weekends and worked on his obedience and stays while people (kids included) touched him. I have a grandson and Eli has knocked him over, *cough* a lot. I worked on training and the leave it. When Eli was younger he just wasn't careful around my grandson at all. He adored him but wasn't gentle and would get too excited so I kept him on leash when Riley visited until he was more in control of himself. ;) That worked for us but took 2 yrs before I trusted Eli completely. If Eli would have lunged at Riley I would have corrected hard tho.
 

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Baseball game, soccer games, etc. are what we use. I also got 'lucky' with my last puppy and found out my neighbor had 12 kids (no wonder we couldn't tell them apart!).

Like others said, I don't let the dog interact at first but I slowly get closer. At a certain point when I am confident my dog is fine IF people seem intersted I will let a child WITH an adult say hello or give the dog a treat. I joke that my dog isn't sure what "tiny people" are about and is a little scared. They usually seem more eager to help that way.

Do keep in mind many people find Dobes threatening and/or scary. If I notice anyone is scared of us and I'm at THEIR event, I move or leave.
 

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I would be a little concerned that he snapped. That says to me that your dog was pushed way over his threshold. While you're working on getting him used to kids I would not let him off-leash while they're around. I tend to be very cautious with that kind of stuff.

Both of my dogs are good with kids, but I still don't let kids run around with them. It's too easy to get the dog wound up and have someone knocked over or get hurt. I do let my dogs meet kids and do "low-key" stuff with them.
 
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I also think there was a chance that Wrigley was confused when the mother came over, picked up the kid and the kid kept on screaming. Wrigley, not knowing it's his mother - whether that means anything to him or not :O - was obviously getting more tense trying to figure out what the heck was going on.
Whenever there is a situation like that, it's easy for something out of the ordinary to happen because altho he has sat down next to you, your focus is on the boy and the boy is still screaming while this other large adult is holding him. My feeling is no matter how used to kids your dog is, some situations are new to him and he's not sure how to react or what is going on.
 

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I think the entire situation must have been pretty stressful for him....and probably very confusing. I would work to introduce him to calm children who know how to act around dogs. Kids can be wild and if they don't know how to interact, they can come across in a bad way to a dog who isn't used to them.
 

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It is quite a natural response for a young excited dog to jump up and nip at something that is being picked up e.g. a toy or small child. That is why I normally advise people with small dogs to never pick them up in situations where a larger dog is over-excited; often either the dog or the owner will get a bite in the excitement. This isn't an aggressive response, but as someone mentioned above, has more to do with impulse control. So I wouldn't worry too much.

I do understand the issue of socializing Wrigley with kids. I had the same problem when I was in graduate school with one of our dogs. The advice mentioned above, about standing in front of a school is very good and worked for us. Our dog was able to meet several kids, but on my terms. It is also important to select what kids you allow Wrigley to come in contact with - for all parties involved. I also make it a point to teach children how to approach our dogs, if they don't know how. For example, they should always ask the owner to pet the dog...

1) Do not approach from the front as this can be challenging to a dog i.e. head on while staring at the dog
2) put your hand out in a fist so the dog can smell you
3) wait for the dog to approach you before petting.

In an ideal world, there would be shared responsibility, on the part of parents, to properly educate their kids on how to approach new dogs. But it falls on dog owners, at the end of the day.


The other thing regarding socialization is that there are a lot of philosophies about how to properly socialize a dog. Of course, as a dog owner, you want your dog to play and run around, but taking a dog to a dog park and letting them run free with any and all, to me, is a recipe for disaster.

Socialization should not mean that your dog simply has free run to just meet and play with any dog or person it comes in contact with - which is the typical scenario you see at dog parks. It is the dog owners responsibility to determine what the boundaries are in each situation. I normally keep our dogs on leash until I have determined what dogs belong to trouble owners and vice versa.

Ultimately, socialization should be about exposing your dog to a number of different people, places, and animals - so that your dog learns to be comfortable in multiple settings. For example, when we are training a working dog - we teach the dog to ignore all outside distractions - so it can focus on the handler and work. A lot of people mis-understand this form of training, thinking that it makes the dog mean or aloof, but what you end up with is a very stable dog that knows how to respond to different situations without being over-excited. All the dogs that I have worked with in this capacity grow up to be very well-balanced stable dogs.

My own dogs are not working dogs, as such, but I feel that this philosophy works well until I can teach my dogs to respond to off leash situations without any worry.

You are quite right to be concerned about how to properly socialize your dog. There are liability issues with having a doberman biting or jumping on small children in the park.

I hope this helps and good luck with Wrigley!
 

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You have gotten great advise already. I am just going to say what a mom that woman was! Letting her very young child RUN around a bunch of dogs. That is a HUGE no no!
 

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Let me preface my post by saying that agree with those who say to slowly introduce your dog to children- hanging outside of playgrounds, getting him used to their noise and movements, etc. I think that is very important.

Now. I am amazed (and not in a good way) at how comfortable people are with both their dogs and their children in social situations. You do not mix a group of off-leash dogs with small children, ever. There's no reason. And as stupid as that mother may have been to let her child run and scream around unfamiliar dogs, if it's a public place, she has the right to be there. You cannot force her to leave (although I suppose you could speak to her about it). If that happened while I was there, I would have immediately leashed my dog- no questions asked. Maybe it's not fair, but YOU (general "you") are in charge of protecting your dog, and that includes protecting him from his own excitement. And anyone who says their dog has a perfect recall is arrogantly stupid. I assure you, there is no such thing. Sure, it's something to strive for, but there are no guarantees when it comes to dogs. Or people, for that matter.
That's just my two cents. I just can't believe how naive some people can be.
 
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