My boyfriend and I have a 6 month old yellow lab. She is the sweetest dog, well-behaved, listens well, etc. - with the exception of one thing. When she is around children, she gets extremely freaked out. She barks incessantly, and backs herself away from the children. She hasn't growled or bitten a child (luckily!), but I'm afraid that if we don't get her more acclimated to them, it might happen.
We don't have children of our own, and rarely have children around, so she doesn't have much opportunity to be around them. But I do plan to have children in her lifetime, and the thought of having to give her up for a baby's safety breaks my heart already!
Does anyone have any advice?
I would strongly recommend getting a trainer to help you out in person. It sounds like she's afraid of kids (the backing away is usually fear-caused) - and while there are ways to desensitize her to kids, you need to do so carefully to safeguard the kids. (Desensitizing means to pair the feared thing with something good, usually treats or toys)
Patricia McConnell's "Cautious Canine" is a good starting point, and you can do a trainer search here: http://www.apdt.com
If you can find a friend/neighbor/family member who has children (even better if they have dogs they will be more understanding)... you can set up times to "practice" getting her calm around them. This will take dedication on your part.
You need to teach a "settle" or "quiet" command. Basically this tells your dog to relax. For instance in our house Ender goes nuts when the doorbell rings... I think he thinks we might not hear it and wants us to be sure to know there is someone at the door. So I let him bark and then I tell him to sit and "no bark" and I wait until he is settled before opening the door.
You need to do the same thing with children. Always make sure your pup is on a leash and you should strongy consider a professional trainer to help you. Start with the child far away. Give treats when your dog sits or downs and praise when she is quiet.
DO NOT coddle her or say in a comforting tone "it's okay it's okay"... this just reinforces her feeling that children are something to be fearful of or exciting. You have to project a calm "everything is normal" feeling until she gives in and emmulates you.
Go slow... be patient. It may take a while. Make sure to arm yourself with treats or anything that motivates her (a favorite toy).
I second the use of Dr. Patricia McConnell's material. It also will help you judge the quality of any trainer you might use.
Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]
Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
I am no expert by any means but having young children of my own I feel that I may be able to help..
I feel it may be a social issue in that the dog is not used to children.. so why would the dog be at ease with them.. we had this with Lizzie (1 year old) with men, she was used to lots of women and children.. but men (except hubby) she was really freaked out about.. so we went out of our way to make sure she met lots of men.. now she is alot better but is still very wary of strange men.. obviously with children you have to be more careful.. but I agree with Enders Mom the more she mixes with children the better (I know this may be difficult..) it is purely a fear of the unknown..
IMHO - There's not enough info here to adequately diagnose. How old are the kids in question? And what are they like? Screamy-meemie girls? Bouncy boys? Ruff-n-rumble kids or more calm? There are just too many variables to respond.
I WILL say that you should be very cautious in proceeding. I recommend you fix this posthaste but with a big bowl-ful of care.
agree with dweck, with kids you need to be very careful..
Zoey used to try to jump on children but she has gotten better when I told our trainer and she said that you have to put the children above the puppy in the chain of command. She suggested that you let the children feed the dog this letting the dog know that the child is above her. I would also do this in a controlled environment so nothing happens to the child. maybe have the child put down a food bowl for her and then let the child back up and release your puppy to start.
see, this is where advice gets iffy.Sure, this is a good idea. But what happens if the puppy feels cornered by the child, or grabs wildly for the food bowl?maybe have the child put down a food bowl for her and then let the child back up and release your puppy to start.
Without seeing this puppy in person, it can be VERY VERY dangerous to recommend using any children in training situations. Please, your first call should be to have your dog evaluated by a trainer in person.
I'd work with a trainer on that one.
My stepdaughter has a black lab, Bailey, who is 4 1/2 and we love him to death but he does not like kids. He tries to avoid them when they are around but the little ones sometimes fall on him or just poke at him because they are too young (2 1/2 or 3) to understand. He snapped at my granddaughter twice. I was very scary! He didn't touch her, but it was alarming. Once when she was 1 and once when she was 2. I will never trust him around her ever. I try really hard not to have them both here at the same time but when they are both here, I really watch and try to keep her away from him. In Bailey's case, I don't think we can ever teach him to like kids. Kids just have to leave him alone.
The reason I am telling you all this is because I don't think it is a good idea to risk using a neighbor's kids to desensitise your dog to kids. It's not worth it if something happened. Go with a pro. The honest truth is, not all dogs, including labs are good around kids.