A positive experience with a toddler!

Queen of all she surveys
In the yard, before L. came over.

Last night, I briefly watched our friends’ sweet two-year-old daughter, L.

As you may recall, Pyrrha has always been somewhat nervous around children, especially the younger ones (babies, toddlers). We don’t have kids, and while we have many friends with children, she is not very exposed to them. She tolerates older kids fine (quiet ones aged 7 and up), but the little ones frighten her. She once growled at an approaching four-year-old, and I removed her from the situation. I was so discouraged by that, because a.) we want to have kids one day ourselves, and b.) training out of fear with children is a very difficult thing. It’s not like you can walk up to the parent of a toddler and say, “Hey, my German shepherd is scared of kids! Can I let her sniff your baby?”

Anyway. L. came over and I had her in my arms, on my hip. Pyr got very excited and barked at L. With that, Pyr got relegated to the backyard while L. and I stayed inside. Pyrrha was naturally upset about this, but after about 15 minutes, I could hear that she stopped whining and fidgeting.

L. was sitting with me on the couch, and so I decided to carefully introduce Pyrrha back into the house. I put Pyr on a drag lead and brought her inside. L. sat on my lap and I let Pyrrha approach L. Pyrrha approached her cautiously, but then sniffed her hands and started licking them enthusiastically, which made L. giggle.

L. was eating some pretzel snacks and asked me (I think! Toddler-speak is hard for me to decipher!) if she could feed them to Pyrrha. I showed L. how to feed them to Pyrrha with a flat palm, and Pyrrha enthusiastically took all the snacks from L. without the slightest amount of fear.

I was very heartened. Food works wonders with our shy girl! L. was great with her, too; she let Pyrrha sniff and lick her and didn’t squeal or move in quick, sudden ways. It was a brief interaction β€” L.’s dad soon came back to pick her up β€” but a positive one.

How is your dog with small children? Do you have any training tips to accommodate a shy dog around kids?

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5 thoughts on “A positive experience with a toddler!

  1. Since Avery is reactive to all the things, he thankfully isn’t reactive to kids. For whatever reason he pays them no mind, no matter what they are doing. I haven’t introduced him to any kids so I can’t say for certain how he would handle that but I think he would do ok.

    I think you did a great job with Pyrrha! She definitely responded to the time out and the gentle reintroduction. πŸ™‚

  2. So fun to find your dog blog! Come to Greenleaf Park by our house. Pyrrha can watch the kids from a comfortable distance and eat lots of treats. Kids are good in this neighborhood of asking if they can pet your dog.

  3. One thing you can do in the future is let Pyrrha have a really good sniff of something of the baby or child’s before they meet. Our dogs are very led by their noses and usually, getting a good smell in assuages a lot of their curiosity and lets them relax some. All four of our dogs really like people and kids for the most part, but Morgan (and her humans) had a scary experience where a girl came up and practically put her head in Mo’s mouth.

  4. Seems like in this situation, one toddler and lots of snacks in a familiar “safe zone” is the right way to socialize your dog with children. We got our dog Ben from the Fulton County pound last year, when he was about 9 months old. He was pretty banged up and in need of serious TLC…and he was definitely nervous around noisy/fast-moving children the first few months–he would hide and cringe away from them. Since our son was already 10 yrs old, we just included him in the training/treat giving and pretty soon our dog was very bonded to him. Ben is two years old now and he has really come a long way emotionally. Now he enjoys being around kids, although he likes following them around “supervising” more than interacting with them. He is not a dog who likes to be petted all the time (he loves games and tasks, snuggles are meh), but he is relaxed and tolerant of my toddler and kinder-age nieces and nephews hugging him and coming to pet him/offer treats while he is lying on his place or near them. He LOVES to play frisbee and run with the older kids (he doesn’t chase, he runs alongside or ahead, or in big circles around them).

    In his case, we started with my son who was old enough to do treat training and is a quiet, non-threatening kid. Once he was more bonded (months later, on holiday), we introduced him to various children in the family, always supervised and always reminding them to give him space if he wanted it and we limited their time with him to brief interactions, but frequent interactions. He also always got treats when he dealt with them.

    Although he was a nervous fellow in the beginning, I know that Ben is not a fearful dog now that he is settled in. I realize it’s not the same situation as having a shy dog, but I encourage you to keep trying with low stake, small interactions, and lots of treats.

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