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My female boxer doesn't seem to like children

Discussion in 'Boxers & Children' started by Thatcher, Nov 1, 2010.

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  1. Thatcher

    Thatcher Boxer Pal

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    Thatcher is a little over a year and doesn't seem to like children. She does a low growl when one approaches and I have to intervene (saying No!, body blocking, etc). I have tried giving kids treats to give to her (never putting anyone in danger, but hoping she would associate treats with kids), and have had her sit and watch kids play in playgrounds (thinking perhaps it was the noise that she was uncomfortable with and being around it would make her used to it). I don't get it. She is so gentle and otherwise loving, but if a child is under 12, she acts out. Did anyone else have this problem? And how did you get over it?
     
  2. boxerbauer

    boxerbauer Boxer Pal

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    My boxer is a bit like that sometimes, he's just over a year now and not been neutered. I'd say from around 6 months old, if a child came close he would growl and growl at them until i shouted at him and told him off. He hadn't really seen many kids before though, especially up close. He seems to be getting a lot better though the more he meets them. I'd usually say it's when he's on the leash or in my house etc, so probably just being protective. If he growls now i just shout NO!!! them hold his collar real tight say no again in a firm voice, then get them to stroke him or give him a treat. I think they just have to get used to them.
     
  3. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs Boxer Insane

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    Whoa! Sorry, but huge red flags went up when I read your response. First of all, it is actually quite common for a dog at 6 months old to start being shy, wary, or fearful. It's called Juvenile Onset Shyness and is a normal period in a dog's development. Some shyness is to be expected at this age. I like to tell my students to expect to have to do another round of socialization with their dogs as they enter adolesence--really focusing on building positive associations with all kinds of people, places, and things. (Of course, excessive shyness at this time is something to be concerned about as is excessive shyness in a puppy.)

    The thing that concerned me was that as your pup was showing signs of what was very likely fear and apprehension at the sight of kids, you "shouted at him and told him off". This probably didn't do anything to sway his fear of kids and likely added to it. Fear is an emotion. You may be punishing the behavior of growling and see some reduction of that, but you really need to focus on creating a different emotional response to the thing that triggered the fear otherwise you just end up with a dog that is still afraid of kids but has been punished enough that it doesn't growl. The fear is still there and if the dog feels cornered by the kids, it will likely skip the growling and jump right to snapping.

    You say the dog now mostly does it when on leash or in the house so you think it is being protective. Honestly, when I read that what came first to my mind is that the dog feels trapped by the leash and so feels that it must growl to keep the kids away. I think the fear and apprehension are still there and all your yelling and collar grabbing have trained the dog to do is to hide it except in those situations where he feels he has no alternative.

    You are correct in that the more he has good associations with kids, the better he will get with them and the more he will feel at ease around them. However, if he is growling and you "just shout NO!!! then hold his collar real tight say no again in a firm voice, then get them to stroke him or give him a treat." you are going about it all wrong and you are VERY likely going to get a poor child bitten. Take the growl as a sign that your dog is tremendously uncomfortable in that situation and get away from the kids. Do not put him in situations such as those until you have consulted a behaviorist or a really good trainer that is used to working with dogs who exhibit fear-based aggression. It is my gut feeling that your training should focus on desensitizing this dog to children and counterconditioning a different emotion response to them--not punishing away the behavior that is a symptom of his fear.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2010
  4. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs Boxer Insane

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    I just wanted to take a moment to say that boxerbauer is absolutely correct in this statement. Dogs DO need to "get used" to things in order to be comfortable with them.

    However, the time for this to happen is during the "window of opportunity" that is from birth to about 16 weeks old. During this time, pups need to be exposed to all sorts of people, places, and things in order to "get used" to these experiences and grow to be stable adult dogs. This is what socialization is and why it is so important. It starts while the pup is still at the breeder's home and continues during those first weeks you have your new pup. That's why puppymill pups are at such a huge disadvantage--they have little to no socialization with the world outside of their pen.

    I feel the root of boxerbauer's problem can be found in the statement "He hadn't really seen many kids before though, especially up close." Take out the word "kids" and fill in the blank with some other word and you will have the reason that some dogs are fearful of men, motorbikes, trucks, loud noises, other dogs, people with canes, etc.

    To anyone reading this, find ways to socialize your pups--please!! If you don't have kids, go find some nice kids and have them pet your pup and give him treats WHEN HE IS A PUP so that when it gets to be an adult you have a dog that "is used to" and likes kids rather than one that exhibits aggressive behaviors as a result of a fear of kids. Then insert a word other than "kids" into that sentence and work on socializing your pup to that too.
     
  5. boxerbauer

    boxerbauer Boxer Pal

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    Thank you for your response, I was just doing what I thought was best. I have to say though, when in the park etc he hasn't been aggressive at all toward anyone for months. Also, he will pretty much always growl at someone he has never met before if they enter my house, then when he see's me talking and interacting with them he stops. When a friend be it adult or child returns, if he's met them before he won't growl at all, so to me this really seems like he's protecting us. Which in all honesty I have no problem with as it puts me more at ease should anyone try and break in. I could never see him being aggressive to anyone though, he's never tried biting anyone ever. However should he get scared or emotional and starts growling at kids in the future, would you suggest just calmly walking him away?
     
  6. boxerbauer

    boxerbauer Boxer Pal

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    I'd also like to add that I got him from a reputable breeder, reccomended in a national newspaper, also from the Uk kennel club website at 8 weeks old. From day 1 he's been living with another dog ( a massive lurcher), we were also living with 4 other friends, had loads of visitors round most days, took him to puppy classes for 6 months and always tried to socialise him as much as possible!
     
  7. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs Boxer Insane

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    That is great that out in the world, he doesn't show aggressive behavior. I would still watch the interactions in the house. The breed is supposed to be alert and wary of strangers (but in a confident, not in a scared way). As long as he is not exhibiting excessive, inappropriate stranger waryness, takes his social cues from you, and once you give the word then warms up to the visitors almost immediately then it sounds as if his waryness is within normal range.

    I would still watch his interactions with children as you said that he hasn't met many of them. Personally, even a dog that has been well-socialized with kids still needs direct supervision as both kids and dogs are unpredictable and all sorts of things can happen in a flash. If he does appear scared or nervous or were to growl at them, definitely remove him from the situation calmly. If he relaxes, you could try reapproaching the kids and having them toss him a treat from a distance rather than having them get close enough to pet him.

    I also sounds like you did your research and got your guy from a recommended breeder. It also sounds like you made sure he got plenty of possitive early experiences, so kudos to you!
     
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