I unfortunately haven't been able to expose my 7-month male to many children.
Today we were around a 2 year old toddler, and my puppy was afraid as the parent held the baby. He first started barking as a warning (sounds like a combination of a bark and howl) and then his ears were tucked back. He would bark every 5-10 seconds or so.
After being removed for a few minutes the parent came back and very slowly moved the toddler down to the floor to gauge my puppy's reaction. The puppy backed away and barked again, clearly afraid.
In the moment, I did reprimand him for barking (a few stern "no's") but now I'm afraid I'm teaching him not to sound the alarm when he's scared.
Even after the toddler left he was pretty grumpy and seemed distressed. He's incredibly friendly with adults (too friendly to the point where he pulls on the leash and tries to jump).
Any advice on how to deal with this situation and build towards friendlier interactions?
Aw, poor guy! This is a good example of why, whenever possible, it's good to socialize very young puppies to women, men, children, different ethnicities, ages, hats, facial hair, etc. Dogs don't generalize well and there is very little about a toddler that is the same as an adult. I agree with your gut reaction that you don't want to ever correct fear-based behaviors.
I would suggest enrolling in a class with an instructor who brings in kids and things to socialize. Desensitizing puppies to new things can be done pretty quickly most of the time, but it takes some experience to do it at the right speed to not actually make things worse. You basically want to first calmly reward the pup for looking at and then ignoring the thing that frightens him from a safe distance, and gradually increase the exposure as the puppy relaxes.
If you don't have access to a good, positive-based trainer, then order this book:
Hm. Might want to consider trying to track down a dog behavioralist. When Anna the GerShep was young, my vet recommended one...I though he'd taken leave of his senses, but the guy turned out to be a primo trainer who quickly managed to resolve the issue the dog was experiencing.
I am very interested in hearing what you do and how it works. I know that sometime in the future I will have a corgi puppy. Mine have all been adult rehomings and my first corgi hated kids...that's why they got rid of him. But I blame the adults for that.
My only experience with introducing my dog (an adult Irish Wolfhound) to a small child who was going to be around all time was when my daughter arrived from Korea at the age of 6 months (we tend to that this adoption thing all the way), That was a breeze...Tasha decided Becca was her puppy and they were BFFs until Tasha crossed the Bridge.
When going for a walk tonight he was fairly rude (as in not friendly) to a stranger who stopped to pet him and he actually barked at him. He's never barked at an adult stranger before. My puppy started sniffing him at first, and he said he has a few dogs. Hoping that was the reason for the unpleasant interaction.
He's usually happy and smiling all the time but seemed fairly depressed and grumpy tonight (he also growled at the TV at one point which he's never done before). Not sure what the issue is, but his behavior from this afternoon to tonight has been out of character.
That's odd. I wonder if he could be in pain. Or sick.
Y'know...if this continues, you might want to take him to the vet.
He seems perfectly healthy. Huge appetite and normal energy level. Just a grumpy mood with a few unpleasant episodes. Almost as if he's on guard.
i'm a little late for this discussion but hes probably feeling a bit insecure, you have to queue the good behaviors. if say the toddler is 30 feet away and hes fine, treat and or give him positive feedback. and move in 20 feet, and if hes still okay, keep going with the positive reinforcement, and if hes not fine, move back to point a, and so forth until he gets more comfortable being closer and closer.
keekopup's channel on youtube has alot of helpful hints on how to train your pup with positive reinforcement only.
Puppies often go through stages of being suspicious of strange people and/or other animals. I would just keep exposing him to new experiences and try to be calm and confident with him. Also, this would be a perfect time to take him to classes so he can get used to different people, dogs and surroundings. I think it is part of developing an understanding that there is an outside world that he isn't the center of. The important thing is to reward any behavior that is accepting and ignore any that isn't. Although I would give a slight correction for barking at strangers such as a touch and a calm no.
I agree with Bev. It's a lot like babies and toddlers. One minute they love everyone and then the next the sight of any stranger sends them crying to mommy. Exposure to lots of different settings, situations and people of all types will give him more confidence in himself and you, that you control the situation. Puppy obedience classes are a great thing for that kind of exposure and a great bonding experience for you and your pup.
To increase the exposure, try seeking out places where kids can be found and doing some positive association work with your pup. Not a play ground environment where kids are screaming and yelling and flying around, but some place a bit more sedate. Do you have any outdoor malls or movie theaters where you might find kids? Outside of a grocery store? Or maybe you could borrow a few from your friends. Start with high value treats and lots of praise for getting within 10 feet of children. Then work up to being closer. Make it all a positive experience. Be patient, it won't be all fixed in one session. It may take several weeks of half-hour increments, depending on his progress. Eventually work toward having kids pet the pup.
When I go for walks with Jeli I purposely seek out places where people are, and bonus if we run accross a pack of kids. If they ask I always let them pet her. Sometimes I even go up to the parents and ask if thier kids would please pet my dog, I'm trying to teach her polite manners with children. Then I bend down to their level to keep an eye on things. For really small babies or young toddlers that don't really know how to pet dogs, I keep a finger in her collar just in case she goes to lick them (they could have food by their mouth). While I'm down there, I talk to the kids and show them how to pet her. I've noticed that some kids that aren't used to petting dogs will tentatively put their hand down toward her, when she looks up at their hand or tries to lick it, they snatch it away. Then Jeli think she should jump after it. Another reason for the finger in the collar! I show these kids to just calmly put their hand on the dogs back and gently stroke. Petting on top of the head can sometimes be intimidating for a dog. At the same time I'm praising Jeli and giving her a treat or two depending on how exhuberant the kid is at petting her. So, kids learn and Jeli learns. I've been doing it since she was about 3 months old. Now at a year, Jeli loves her some babies!
I adopted my Miniature Dachshund at 6 months of age and, while waiting outside the Library for socialization purposes, I realized she was friendly to adults but barked and growled at any child coming out of the building. We too have no children now, but have grand children and friends with small children, so this was a potential dangerous situation.
My husband and I put the playground on our list and we went once or twice a week with her for two to three months armed with yummy treats. We sat on a bench, or under a tree and waited for a trainer (i.e. child) to come around. I smiled at all the children, to encourage their approach. I kept the pup on a short leash and actually said "my pup is shy, can you help her learn that children are really nice? Can you give her a treat? " and I gave the child a yummy treat, showing the child how to offer it ( with the open palm, so no fingers to get accidentally nipped) . Then I played it by ear. No petting until the dog seemed comfortable with a child approaching. But do talk with the child ( He's a Corgi, do you have a dog?) the conversation will relax the dog and keep the child around a bit longer even if petting is not possible yet. There is no rush, your pup has to get accustomed to the fact that children look different, smell different, have high pitch voices, yell and run around, move quickly and that all this is normal stuff and not a threat.
How quickly your pup figures it out depends on your individual pup's personality and your being laid back about it, while making sure the interaction is as pleasing to the pup as to the child because relationships are always a two way street. Avoid a bunch of children storming him. If you see several approaching ( think of it as several potential trainers), use your shyness intro line and add," can you come up and meet him one at a time?"
You can also use this process with any child that approaches you in other places and seems suitable ( one that asks "can I pet your dog" is usually a good cooperative candidate ). I would avoid toddlers because they cannot follow directions, have poor balance and tend to grab, so stick to at least 3 yr olds until he's earned his wings!
Obedience classes with a good positive trainer are excellent confidence builder, as well as serving many other purposes, so I would do that regardless of this particular issue. Keep in mind that any time and effort you put in at this age will pay off ten fold, so do not put things off to next week or next month if at all possible. The season is also on your side....
My miniature dachshund now is bomb proof, loves all children and is a working Service Dog for me. I had to stop long ago having children give her treat as all she would eagerly look for was children and it interfered with our work. She will still bark at kids on skateboards or roller wheels, and this I've accepted as her threshold . It rarely occurs. We all have our limits :-D