What to tell family about how to interact with my Corgi

My husband and I will be traveling cross country this summer with our 2 year old Corgi. Part of the trip will involve spending some time with our family, and our young niece -- she's about 5.

I'll be honest, our girl hasn't had a ton of interaction with kids. When she was a pup, we did all the socialization stuff that we were supposed to do, but as we don't have kids, nor do any of our friends, she just hasn't had any sort of lengthy interaction with children. I wouldn't call her aggressive per se, but she has a very strong herding drive, and while she is fairly well obedience trained, with this being such a new situation (new people, totally new locations, lots of riding in the car, etc), I don't know how well she's going to respond in general to unexpected behavior from a small human.

My biggest concern is her interaction with the five year old -- I feel like should I give my BIL some info beforehand to talk about with the niece beforehand, just to be safe. They used to have a dog, a gentle old lab, and I don't want her (or them) thinking she can play with our dog in the same way that she did with their dog. Some of the stuff I was thinking about passing along before our visit would include:

  • how to properly approach/meet a new dog
  • not running away from her, because she will give chase, and possibly nip. She doesn't nip us, but who knows what she'll do with a child
  • not putting her face close to the dog's face, or crowding her.
  • not getting in between food and the dog. She's never shown food aggression to us, but again, who knows about strangers.

Is this overkill? I don't want them thinking that she's some mean, aggressive dog, but herding breeds can sometimes be a new experience for people used to more easy going breeds, and I just want to be prepared. Thoughts?

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About how long will you be visiting with the niece?  And will you be staying in the house or only visiting?

If your visit will not be more than a week or so, confinement will be your friend.  Young children can be unpredictable with dogs and your job is to protect your dog.   Herding and nipping must not be allowed.  Kids will run and you can't ask a five year old not to.   You can leash your dog to keep her from giving chase.   

DO teach your niece how to approach and meet dogs and everything else you have mentioned.  Do NOT expect perfect compliance.    Crate your Corgi or confine her to a safe room for much of the time.   Allow supervised interactions with the child.  Start short and gradually build time if both seem happy.  If your dog seems stressed, you must look out for your dog even if the child's feelings are hurt.

Your concerns are well founded, but the dog is ultimately your responsibility and so is the interaction between your dog and others, so I would not be putting that role on anyone else's plate.  A dog can be very exciting to a 5 year old and vice-versa.  In your shoes I would plan on keeping my dog on a double length leash (double up two leashes) when in the house, helping you have control of the dog while you supervise and lovingly teach the child the proper way to interact with the dog.  If all goes well, you may decide to give the two more supervised freedom (off leash in the same room with you), putting the dog back on leash if the interaction is not calm.

I would also bring a crate where I could confine the dog when it was inconvenient to hold onto a leash. Keep in mind that children as young as your neice should always be supervised around a dog, even the family dog, meaning an adult is always in the same room as the dog and child, as children can be unpredictable and, if something happens, you cannot sort it out if you have not seen it happen.

Since you will not be going until Summer, you have plenty of time to take your dog as often as possible, but at least once a week, to the local play ground.  Sit on a bench, have a few treats, and let he dog get accustomed to the sight and sound of children at play, and someone coming to pet and give a treat.  Hold the dog's collar and have the dog sit for the treat.  It will be good training and socialization for the dog and give you confidence in that kind of situation, which will carry over when you visit your family.

Corgis can be quirky about strangers. Our Betty doesn't like strange people coming into the home. We tell people to just ignore her. Eventually curiosity gets the better of her and she goes over to them for a quick pet and tummy rub. Tell the visitors not to initiate the contact.

I agree about bringing a crate so your dog has someplace to go when overwhelmed. My girl starts to dodge my niece when she has had enough and will even run into her crate. Kids can understand that the crate is off limits pretty well.

 She's five? How much does she already know about interacting with dogs? Could be her parents have already clued her. That might be the way to broach the issue: Have you taught her (fill in the blank)? Then you could ask to be reassured that she's learned all of the four tenets above...heh...which means that in the process of disingenuously asking, you communicate the things you think the kid needs to know.

Are you driving? If so, you should have room for a fold-up X-pen, if not a crate. These can be convenient in a motel, even if you don't camp. I'd definitely bring something so that the dog can have a break from the kid and the kid can have a break from the dog.

Ruby the Corgi Pup is rarely around kids -- it's just me and the dogs here. However, there are a LOT of children in the 'hood now. She's exactly the same as Cassie, who did have a kid before her former humans dumped her at the dog pound: very, very good. They both dote on children. However, they ARE dogs and as such must be expected to think of the urchins as a) sheep; b) puppies; c) prey; or d) competing predators. The first two may be OK some of the time but the last two are decidedly not good at all. Depends on your dog.

If children are sheep or puppies, then they are to be protected. This could mean taking out extraneous comers at moments unexpected by the humans. If they are sheep, then they are to be herded. If they are puppies, then they are to be trained and disciplined, which entails nipping, growling, and sharp barks that will be as alarming to the adult humans as to the child.

Don't leave the kid and the dog alone in the yard or a playroom together. I never left my son unwatched with any of our German shepherds. Though I didn't believe they'd harm him...better safe than sorry.

Yes, we will be bringing her crate :) Thanks for the advice folks!

If more parents and dog owners thought as you did their would be fewer children getting dog bites and less trauma all around! Good for you being responsible pet owners. I am sure others will give you plenty of great advice. The best I can offer is to NEVER leave any dog and any child unsupervised, even for a minute. The sweetest dogs and the sweetest children end up with terrible results because they cannot be expected to understand each other. I am sure my gentle, laid-back dog would never bite a human, but I would never test that theory and put my dog and a child in danger. The only safeguard the child and the Dodgers have are the adults. I wouldn't worry about trying to explain how your dog may behave. As a responsible pet owner you are acknowledging that any dog is potentially dangerous around children unless the two are supervised. There is probably enough to keep your pup interested in even if it is on a leash in the house, and plenty of new things to explore outside if you can walk him on the leash with the child. Good luck and happy travels!

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