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Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs

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Bailey reserves the right to edit any posting for spelling, grammar, length, and inappropriate content. Only one question per person will be considered. Your question may or may not be posted with Bailey's reply. Bailey can take up to several months to reply to questions. He is extremely busy being a dog.

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Disclaimer: The material provided by Bailey on this web site is designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. The information presented is provided with the understanding that Bailey is not engaged in rendering medical or professional behavioral services. Such information should not be used as a substitute for behavioral advice provided by a qualified canine behavior therapist.

Please remember that Bailey's advice, comments, or opinions are solely Bailey's, and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff here at Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs.

Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs is not responsible for actions taken based on the advice provided herein.

Snapping at Children

Dear Bailey,

My 6-year-old Corgi mix seems to be afraid of all children. Any child who wants to pet her gets snapped at. I've always held her tightly when a child is nearby, and teach the child to extend her hand slowly, palm down, and wait for the dog to give her the "go ahead" for the petting request.  But instead the dog snaps at the child's extended hand. She's never come close to actually biting a person this way, but I've given up on trying to socilaize her to children, since the risk to the child's little fingers is just too great in my opinion.

I am guessing that her snapping behavior is fear based, because after she snaps she sits there with her mouth quivering. But I may have her motive wrong.

Is there a way that is safe for little ones that I can use to get this old gal over her aversion to children?


Sincerely,

Cindy Mahar


Bailey's Reply:

Dear Cindy,

You're probably right by thinking that your Corgi's snapping behavior is fear-based. It's a way for your dog to increase the distance between her and the 'big scary thing', aka children. Snapping works for your dog by keeping the children at bay when they've gotten way too close for her comfort.

“Snapping works for your dog by keeping the children at bay when they've gotten way too close for her comfort.”

Like humans, not all dogs like children. And that's okay! One way to deal with this is by not placing your Corgi into situations where she will be in contact with kids. This works by preventing a fearful reaction, but it truly doesn't help to conquer her fear of children.

If you want to get your dog over her fear of kids, you must prevent placing your dog in a situation where she feels that she has no other choice but to snap. Holding your dog tightly when a child is near can exacerbate the problem. Think of it from her perspective: "There's a scary child coming closer. Now mom is holding me tightly. I really don't like being here. But now I can't escape! Help!!!" Then the child moves slowly closer and reaches out his hand. Your dog now thinks, "Aaahhhh!!! It's reaching for me! No! Get it away!" At this point, your Corgi snaps. The child quickly moves away. Your dog thinks, "Hooray! Snapping at that thing worked to get it away. I'll have to remember to do that again next time something scary comes near me, since mom won't let me leave."

Something tells me that if you're holding your dog to greet a child, you're ignoring

other more subtle signals from your dog that she's uncomfortable and wants out of the situation. Or you may even have sent a signal to her that 'children= tight, uncomfortable, restrictive pressure'. You can change her emotional response to the scenario by allowing her to see kids at a distance (on-leash with all four paws on the ground) and getting good things (like yummy treats!). Reward her when she notices the kids, but is still relaxed. Over many sessions, you will get closer and closer to the children. Remember, only move closer as long as your dog is relaxed and happy about it!

If you notice that your dog wants to get away, then listen to what your dog is telling you; move your dog to a distance where she is comfortable. If it's even as far as 500 feet away, then move her to that distance. Make a note to work at the distance where your dog is comfortable, and slowly decrease that distance without overwhelming your dog.  You are your dog's advocate- help her feel safe. Keep your sessions short and fun, and set your dog up to succeed each time.

Dealing with fear issues is never fun, and can often be quite challenging. Don't hesitate to find an experienced trainer who can assist you through this process. Keep me posted on how things go!

*woofs!*

Bailey

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