"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Frightened of Children

– Posted in: Columns
Dear John,
We have a 2 year old Shih Tzu that we took to to obedience school. Never the less, she growls at children and is very fearful and timid.  The younger the child, the worse she is, it seems 3 and under.  We have an almost 3 yr. old grandson and another on the way.  My daughter-in-law no longer wants her son around our dogs. We seem, so far, to have no problem if the child is older and of course the quieter the better as this dog is very timid and shy and I think uses her growling as protection. I am afraid someday she’ll nip someone’s small child.
-Maude
Dear Maude,
I’m with your daughter in law. Keep them separated, but not by separate rooms, separate provinces would be better. You describe a dog poorly socialized likely complicated by being wired with a low thresh hold for stress. You can’t train that out of the dog anymore you could a person. Improve it? Maybe but not a job for the average dog owner so a Shih Tzu rescue may be your dog’s best bet. It should be a one way trip though. With her history I wouldn’t let my kids around her either. 
Dogs poorly socialized before 12 weeks of age can have a hard time coping with the various human developmental stages. I’ve assessed countless dogs over the years and I’ve seen dogs that tolerated infants but feared those that crawled, and others that were okay until the toddling period began. Eight year old boys are particularly susceptible to dog bites due to their, “I know I’m not supposed to do this but I wonder why?” outlook on life.
Teaching your grandchild how to “behave” won’t help. There are countless “Child Safety Around Dogs” programs to teach children how to behave around dogs but if we’re to be honest and sweep aside the enthusiasm that their sponsors; veterinary associations, humane societies, government agencies etc., have for them what we would find hiding behind is that after decades, countless dollars and man hours there is no real evidence that any have ever produced significant results. One out of two children are still bitten by a dog before the age of 12 and with 25% requiring medical care. 
This bugs me. I have a problem with any “Do Good” program that doesn’t set a specific goal and realign its approach if those goals aren’t achieved. I have a particular problem when those programs intended to protect children aren’t getting results and everyone acts like they are. I like dogs but I love children. These programs seem to have it backwards and no one is telling the emperor he’s not wearing any clothes.
The humane societies, veterinarians and trainers that provide the expertise behind these programs are wearing blinders. They think you can stop a child from being a child just because you say, “Don’t”. Most children are smart enough to understand the safety around dogs lesson but when it comes to real life any parent knows that a child’s reason does not over ride its normal impulsive nature. Your grandchild could have a doctorate in child safety around dogs and still get bitten.
We should spend the safety money instead on educating dog trainers that this current plague of “ignoring bad behaviour and rewarding good behaviour treat based” dog training is unnatural,dumb and dangerous. Make it mandatory for breeders to educate themselves on genetics and socialization and make them follow up on their litters. Finally educate people to stay away from buying breeds with physical and mental needs they don’t have the time to channel.
John Wade
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