Child Problem, Dog Problem or Both? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 01:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We have a dog who just turned 10- she's big (weighs about 80 pounds). We've had her since she was a puppy- she was our first child. She slept with us- was really like a child. We thought she would have trouble adjusting to sharing us but she was just fine- no problems at all.

She is older now, is going blind and is getting cranky. To compound the problem, my almost 3 year old really, really likes playing with her. It started innocently enough- crawling on her, crawling under her, petting her, laying on her, etc. Recently, though, his games have become a bit more rough and she doesn't like it (I don't blame her). He thinks it's hilarious to pull her around by her tail, smash her feet into the floor, poke his fingers into her eyes, pull her lips, etc. We ALWAYS tell him that those things hurt her, that he should be nice to her, show him 'nice' ways to touch her and if all else fails redirect his attention. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

So, a few months ago, when he would hurt her, she began to growl at him- just little warning growls, nothing ferocious but still a growl. She would be severely scolded each time, immediately. The growls then turned to snaps (again she would be scolded, immediately) and last night the snap turned into a nip. She got him on the arm, didn't break the skin but did leave a red mark. DH and I were both sitting there watching them 'play' because we now know her tolerance level is much, much lower than it used to be but it happened really, really fast. I think it surprised DS but didn't hurt him because he didn't cry but he did go right back in to squish her feet.

In the beginning, when she would growl we would seperate her into another part of the house where DS couldn't get to her (thinking she might enjoy a little space) but she whines and cries and we just couldn't stand her being so sad and would let her back in with us. The scolding obviously isn't working. DS doesn't seem to be responding to our gentle guidence on how to treat our pet.

I don't know what to do. I don't want to have her put to sleep- I just don't think that's the answer. We are expecting our second child in May and I'm afraid it will be just too much for her. DH is in complete denial that anything is wrong. When I tried to talk to him about it this morning he said, "well, we can't shoot her" (referring to the dog)- a comment I found to be inappropriate and completely unhelpful. I don't know how to help our son understand that his behavior is HURTING another living being and it is BAD not FUNNY!

Please help!
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#2 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 01:45 PM
 
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First, please let me say, I am not really a dog person. I am more of a cat person. We had a wonderful dog when my 6 year old was a baby, had the best disposition. DS would reach in her bowl or grab it, she would do nothing. She was killed 3 years ago, we left her with friends when we had to travel, and a door was left open, she bolted, got hit by a car.
She was 2 and 1/2 and starting to calm down as far as trying to bolt. She would lay at my feet whenever I was on the computer. Always looking out for DS.

Then we got a puppy, fine as a pup but got more agressive as she grew older, she was a year old when she finally bit him. Just a nip. I worked with her and worked with her, so did trainers. She would do that growling you are talking about. And he was never even rough with her. They are pack animals, and she was trying to get higher in the pack. She never understood that she wasn't supposed to dominate DS, but protect and care for him. Dog behavior. She now lives with an awesome family on a farm, they have teens and she is perfect with them. I would not have gotten another dog, but I worried DS would be afraid of dogs. We have had another dog for over a year now, is a good dog, he was abandoned at the vet's office, so we adopted him. He is not agressive, a little scaredy dog, really, thrives on attention. He and DS are good buddies.

With your dog, she could hurt DS if she really wanted to. She is just trying to warn him. She is not being vicious, but she also is not doing what you need her to do. She is very used to being your "baby", and that is what I think some of it is, she is attached to you and he is an intruder.

I am on my way out the door, but saw your post and wanted to help.

Here are some pet boards, I like the petfinder board.

best of luck

http://www.petfinder.com/messageboard/

http://on.starblvd.net/meet/cocoscastle

http://p197.ezboard.com/bpawtraitpetpalace
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#3 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 02:30 PM
 
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Well, it sounds like you're lucky in that your dog understands that she doesn't want to hurt your son, just teach him to leave her alone. This seems like an example of a natural consequence - "If you hurt the doggie, the doggie will get upset." The dog's reactions might be more educational than verbally explaining how it's not nice to hurt the dog, etc. Unless you think the nipping is likely to get worse, I'd let the dog do what she can to "explain" things.
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#4 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 03:03 PM
 
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Well, in answer to the question in your post, I feel it's a kid problem and not a dog problem. I would approach it from that angle. I'm facing a similar problem - my DS is 13 months and loves to grab my dogs by the tail.

Unfortunately, one of my dogs has cancer and had to start chemotherapy - the chemo can cause mood swings and DS landed hard on the dog while he was asleep, causing him (our dog) to wake up and snap at him.

To be honest, I feel the best solution is to watch your DS like a hawk and stop him immediately from doing anything rough with the dog. I know that's a lot easier said than done. But, it seems like the fairest solution to your dog, and seems like itw ould set the best example to your son. By doing this, your son will learn (it may not sink in right away) that animals are very important and it's sooo important to be gentle with them and treat them well. He'll learn that animals are part of the family and should be valued and treated with respect.

I think if you did give the dog away or have her put to sleep, it would just send the message that animals are disposable, to be used or disposed of as we choose. I apologize if that offends you, I don't mean for it to, it's just the message I feel would be sent. I know you already said you didn't think having her put to sleep was the right answer, so I'm saying I agree with you.

Animals don't follow the same rules that humans do. However, that said, your dog does understand, undoubtedly, how important your DS is to you, and how undesirable it would be to bite him or hurt him. So, she must really feel at the end of her rope to do that.

I have a friend who's a dog trainer, I'll ask if she has any advice for you. Sorry I'm not more helpful! I wish it was easier to help the little tykes understand that dogs are not toys!
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#5 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 03:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KristiMetz
To be honest, I feel the best solution is to watch your DS like a hawk and stop him immediately from doing anything rough with the dog.
I completely agree.
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#6 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 03:20 PM
 
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I can very much relate to your post. I too have a 10 1/2 year old 80+lb dog who is bad in the hips. He falls a lot and cannot move quickly enough to get out of ds way sometimes. Ds like to throw balls and things at the dogs (we also have a 3yr old 80+lb dog) and just chase them around. We also are trying to teach "dogs are for petting and hugging and kissing, not hitting". Like you, sometimes he gets it and sometimes he doesn't. When he won't leave them alone and be nice to them, we separate them. We put up the gate between the kitchen and the living room until we can get him focused on something other than irritating the dogs. We did have the gate up permanently until just a couple months ago.

Sometimes ds gets the 3yr old in the corner and shakes something noisy at him or smacks him with something. Luckily the 3yr old is a very timid dog and just cowers down. I do get very stern with ds when I find him doing something like this. Over the weekend I took the object away and made him sit on the couch with me while I explained that the puppies don't like it when he does that and we should be nice to puppies. He cried but I figure it's better than risking him getting bit or the dog getting tortured. The 10yr old has growled at him once and I scolded him for it. Dh has mentioned putting the older dog down because of his hips but I just don't feel like his arthritis is that bad yet to do something like that.
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#7 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 03:31 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Simply Nurtured
With your dog, she could hurt DS if she really wanted to. She is just trying to warn him. She is not being vicious, but she also is not doing what you need her to do. She is very used to being your "baby", and that is what I think some of it is, she is attached to you and he is an intruder.
I could not possibly disagree more. Your DS is almost 3 and this behavior just started a few months ago. Definately not a territory issue or a "dog problem" at all. Your DS needs to be taught that animals have feelings and deserve to be treated nicely.

ITA with this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by KristiMetz
To be honest, I feel the best solution is to watch your DS like a hawk and stop him immediately from doing anything rough with the dog.
and:
Quote:
Originally Posted by KristiMetz
I think if you did give the dog away or have her put to sleep, it would just send the message that animals are disposable, to be used or disposed of as we choose.
I think removing the dog (which she sees as punishment) when DS mistreats her, is terribly unfair to the dog, and sends the wrong message to DS. I also feel that when she growls at him, that should be YOUR cue to remove DS from the situation rather than scold the dog for trying to protect herself and warn him that she doesn't like what he's doing.
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#8 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 03:42 PM
 
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I agree it's not the dog's fault. She's old and not feeling well. I let Abi find out the hard way not to bother our cat. It took a couple scratches but she learned that when the cat retreats, don't follow.

Maybe it would be good to establish a private place for the dog to go that your ds is not allowed to go. Such as a corner where the dog's bed is, or in your closet. If the dog had a private place to reatreat to, things might be more peaceful for everyone.

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#9 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 03:48 PM
 
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I agree with djs_girl517.
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#10 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 03:55 PM
 
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Originally Posted by USAmma
Maybe it would be good to establish a private place for the dog to go that your ds is not allowed to go. Such as a corner where the dog's bed is, or in your closet. If the dog had a private place to reatreat to, things might be more peaceful for everyone.

Darshani
I agree! Our dogs "own" the bed in the guest room, and they go there (where DS can't reach them) and sleep frequently. It gives them a place to get away from him.

Sometimes, I'll shut the door to the bedroom if they're napping so they can have a little break from him, if he's been bugging them a lot.
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#11 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 04:00 PM
 
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I too think this is more of a kid problem than a dog problem. The dog is just doing what she finds necessary to protect herself because, frankly, you aren't doing it for her. You need to supervise the interaction between child and dog -- all the time. If you can't do that, then you need to find some way to separate the two when you can't be right there. When they are together, the minute the child is doing anything other than careful petting, you need to intervene and remove the child from the dog. Probably into another room. What you do after that is up to you, but it is your job to teach your child not to hurt the dog. In our house, hurting a pet would earn a time out, but not everyone here agrees with that, which is fine. Right now what you are teaching your child is that he can do whatever to the dog and the poor dog will get in trouble.
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#12 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 04:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djs_girl517
I could not possibly disagree more. Your DS is almost 3 and this behavior just started a few months ago. Definately not a territory issue or a "dog problem" at all. Your DS needs to be taught that animals have feelings and deserve to be treated nicely.
I hear what you're saying and that's why I posted on the gentle discipline board. I do think it is more his problem than hers. I just don't know how to, in a gentle way, get him to be nice to her.

Quote:
Originally Posted by djs_girl517
I think removing the dog (which she sees as punishment) when DS mistreats her, is terribly unfair to the dog, and sends the wrong message to DS. I also feel that when she growls at him, that should be YOUR cue to remove DS from the situation rather than scold the dog for trying to protect herself and warn him that she doesn't like what he's doing.
I agree with this, too, and it is to some extent what we've been doing. I just feel like she crossed a line from warning him to hurting him last night.

So, we've established it's not the dog problem which confirms what I had hoped. Where do I go from here? Remove him from the situation- okay, we do that. Give her some space of her own- she doesn't want it. So, if I remove him from the situation, eventually he'll get it? I dunno... we've tried that approach for a couple of other behavioral issues (pulling hair, taking glasses off of people & throwing them on the floor) and it doesn't seem to be working. I feel sort-of at the end of my rope with him right now. The telling him no, explaining why, and removing him from the situation approach just doesn't seem to be working.
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#13 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 04:16 PM
 
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I would not consider this only a dog problem or only a child problem, it is a mix. The child needs to learn not to play rough with the dog and the dog also needs to know that it is absoloutly unacceptable to snap at the child. My guess is that this will get better as your child gets older and has a better understanding of how to be gentle to the dog and to have a better understanding of when enough is enough with playing with the dog. We had a similar situation before we had kids with our dog, and babysat for my 2.5 year old neice one summer. At first they did nto get along, but after the summer was over they were good friends. The girl learned to be gentle and the dog learned to just leave the room if she got annoyed. As others have said, watch them both like a hawk and never leave them unattended together!
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#14 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 04:22 PM
 
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We got two puppies when my step-daughter was almost 2. She was not allowed to play with the dogs AT ALL until she proved she could do it nicely.

As soon as your dog growls at your DS, remove him from the situation. IMMEDIATELY. Don't try to show him how to be nice - you said yourself he thinks it's fun to hurt her - and I personally would skip the 'gentle redirection'. Make sure he knows - IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS - that if he is not nice to the dog, he cannot play with her. PERIOD. And NEVER leave them together unsupervised. Whether he eventually gets it or not, you have to keep removing him from the dog whenever he mistreats her. Even at the age of two, my step-daugther realized that she couldn't be mean to the puppies. Even now - she's five, she still is occassionally made to leave the puppies (they're 3) alone if she plays too rough or even just annoys them.
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#15 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Mama Bee

I agree with this, too, and it is to some extent what we've been doing. I just feel like she crossed a line from warning him to hurting him last night.
That was just the poor dog's way of letting everyone know that she is at the end of her rope....

Quote:
Originally Posted by mama bee
So, we've established it's not the dog problem which confirms what I had hoped. Where do I go from here? Remove him from the situation- okay, we do that. Give her some space of her own- she doesn't want it. So, if I remove him from the situation, eventually he'll get it? I dunno... we've tried that approach for a couple of other behavioral issues (pulling hair, taking glasses off of people & throwing them on the floor) and it doesn't seem to be working. I feel sort-of at the end of my rope with him right now. The telling him no, explaining why, and removing him from the situation approach just doesn't seem to be working.
Honestly, this will pass. Just look at your dog like she is another child. You would never allow your ds to poke another child in the eye. (Not comparing dogs to children here folks, just trying to come up with an analogy). If your child was biting another child or poking another child, you would continue to remove and redirect. Just keeping doing that. It will pass. Not sure how you feel about time out etc. If you are open to that, you may want to try it. Some folks on MDC use GD and time outs together.

FTR - I would protect the dog at all costs from the child.... Poor doggy!

Just my .02!

s to you and your dog. Sorry you have to deal with this!

Trying to do the right thing with three kids and a hubby. 
ds20, dd18, ds17
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#16 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 05:09 PM
 
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It's a kid problem. If he can't play nicely w/ doggie, then he doesn't get to play with her at all. End of story.

To satisfy my own curiosity, why on earth would you "severely scold" a dog for growling when someone was causing it pain? That sends your son a message loud and clear: do whatever you want to the dog and the dog gets in trouble, not you. I think your dog has shown admirable restraint in the face of this ongoing bullying.

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#17 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 05:21 PM
 
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I got home a bit ago, I just read what I wrote and realized that I may have sounded like you should find a home for the dog. That is not really what I was saying. I meant to go to the pet boards and ask lots of questions.

Your situation is different than mine. I have friends who do rescues and one who has a shelter, I have pestered them a lot in learning about dogs. It was not fair for us or our dog that was aggresive towards my little one. I was told to put her to sleep, I refused... I do not believe in "getting rid" of animals. I knew that if she wanted to, she could tear my child to shreds, she did not do that. She was aggressive, not vicious. She needed to be in a home where there were no small children. I was keeping her in her crate when I could not watch her, and I could not do that for the next 5 years, until he was bigger.

As I said, I am not really a dog person, so my theories are probably not that good, and I was just trying to point you towards some more knowledgeable people, and at Petfinder they have helped me to understand dogs much better. There are lots of animal experts on the boards at petfinder, hope they can help more.

I did not mean to make it sound as if your situation was the same, and as I said I thought that maybe "some" of the problem was her attachment to you, but maybe that is not it. Just what you said about the warning growls, it sounded so familiar. And she could hurt your DS if she really wanted to, but she doesn't want to, she is letting him know...



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#18 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 06:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Mama Bee
So, we've established it's not the dog problem which confirms what I had hoped. Where do I go from here? Remove him from the situation- okay, we do that. Give her some space of her own- she doesn't want it.
Have you tried a crate in the family area, or some other contrived "den" that you your son can learn is completely off limits to him? It sounds like she needs a haven where she can still access you if she needs to.

Quote:
DH and I were both sitting there watching them 'play' because we now know her tolerance level is much, much lower than it used to be but it happened really, really fast. I think it surprised DS but didn't hurt him because he didn't cry but he did go right back in to squish her feet.
Honestly, I wouldn't even allow him to play with her anymore. She's learned that her warnings don't work, so she's going to go straight for what does when she gets irritated. They can't be playmates. I think, were it my situation, I wouldn't even allow him to pet her, unless she initiated it. Do you have gates between doorways? If so, maybe every time he goes for her, pick him up and put him on the other side and say "___ needs to be left alone."
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#19 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by griffin2004
It's a kid problem. If he can't play nicely w/ doggie, then he doesn't get to play with her at all. End of story.

To satisfy my own curiosity, why on earth would you "severely scold" a dog for growling when someone was causing it pain? That sends your son a message loud and clear: do whatever you want to the dog and the dog gets in trouble, not you. I think your dog has shown admirable restraint in the face of this ongoing bullying.
Because in our minds (not really wanting to debate this at this point, but to answer your question), it is unacceptable for our dog to act aggressively towards our toddler under any circumstances.

edited to correct a typo
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#20 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 07:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all of your thoughts and suggestions. I think, through discussing your comments, DH and I have found a path we will try.
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#21 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 07:43 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Mama Bee
Because in our minds (not really wanting to debate this at this point, but to answer your question), it is unacceptable for our dog to act aggressively towards our toddler under any circumstances.

edited to correct a typo
Mama Bee - I have a friend who's a dog trainer and I asked her about this, because I faced the same dilemma. She said if your toddler is not doing anything to the dog, it's ok to correct the dog if she growls at him, but if DC is doing something that hurts the dog or intrudes in their space (ya know... ear pulling, tail pulling, all the stuff our toddlers love to do) then it's important not to correct the dog, but to remove the toddler from the situation immediately. Her explanation was that the growling is the dog's only way of communicating to your toddler that he is doing something she finds unacceptable. Your dog needs reassurance that you won't let DC continue to do this (hence her suggestion to remove your DC from the dog immediately). These things will help the dog feel that she isn't just going to be continually tortured without anyone helping her.

Hope this helps. I know you didn't want to debate this, but she has really good advice which has helped me a number of times so I just wanted to let you know what she said. I actually asked her because I was wondering that myself.
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#22 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 09:20 PM
 
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[QUOTE=Mama Bee] Recently, though, his games have become a bit more rough and she doesn't like it (I don't blame her). He thinks it's hilarious to pull her around by her tail, smash her feet into the floor, poke his fingers into her eyes, pull her lips, etc. [QUOTE]

This is a kid problem, I'm saying this blunt because you asked..Also this behavior MUST STOP, this is abuse.

I've fostered dogs who have lived with children and the children where allowed to abuse the dogs in fact I have one now. He is so sweet and wonderful a kind soul but the parents in the previous home allowed the children to do horrible things to him. They poked him in the eye with a stick one time causing partial blindness, they closed his tail in the door(for fun) resulting in having the tip of his tail removed, the list goes on, and what did the parents do NOTHING thats right nothing that is until when one of the kids tried to soffocate the dog with a plastic bag and the dog bite the child, then bye bye dog, bad dog, time to put dog to sleep.The dog bit because he was being suffocated can you blame him, I can't. Thats when the vet told the family sure he's handle it but instead he called the rescue group and now I have him. The vet said the family had been bringing the dog to him for years with all sorts of injuries inflicted by the kids and the parents just thought the kids where being kids. The vet even had animal control look into it but since they where kids the animal control said they could not do anyting(which is not true by the way, animal control can remove a dog which sustains multiple injuries do to carelessness and neglect in a home) These kids where abusing a living thing and might possibly countinue to do so because they where never corrected. I'm not saying this is what is going to happen I'm just giving a story about what happened to the dog I currently foster.

Ok now for some real advice, Your child cannot be allowed to play with the dog without your supervision or maybe not even play with the dog at all. If at anytime he even begins to be rough you need to stop the playing, before he has a chance to hurt the dog the dog should never have to have her feet squished much less have her eyes poked at. Does the dog have a crate or someplace she can go to get away from your child. If not maybe establish an area that is "THE DOGS" and that your child is NOT allowed to go near if the dog is there. Also talk to your child and teach your child about how to treat animals, your dog has a great temperment but if your child tired anything like that on another pet humm...........that would concern me more because other pets are probably not as tolerent as your dog is. Remember your dog does not have any defense like hands to push your child off like you or I do so growling then snapping is her wayof saying buzz off.. Please update us on how things go and I'm sorry to hear your gal is getting old.
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#23 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 09:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think this will be my last post, and I'll probably unsubscribe to the thread just to save myself from becoming more upset than I already am.

When posting at MDC, IMO, stories, scenarios, etc. are often trimmed to keep posts from becoming too bogged down in details and overly long. IMO, we should keep this in mind when responding to posts. It is my goal, when responding to someone asking for help or advise to give them and their situation the benefit of the doubt without judging or using overly harsh language.

I do not visit the Gentle Discipline forum often- this is only my second time to post. Based on my limited experience in this forum, with a few minor exceptions, instead of being compassionate and gentle we are often judgmental and harsh.

I tried on at least two occasions in this thread to take the conversation from being judmental and critical to something more positive and helpful. I'd say, it didn't work.

Again, thank you for your input and thoughts. They have been and will continue to be taken into consideration when deciding how to proceed.
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#24 of 25 Old 01-03-2005, 09:46 PM
 
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have you told your child that the dog might bite him? surely you have and i'm just stating the obvoius. we have 2 canine boys (13 and 5) and 2 human girls (3.75 and 1), but our girls aren't too rough with our boys. we read a story from the library once about a rescued seal ("the storm seal") and one of the lines in there was "he's a wild animal -- he might nip" said when the kids in the book were playing inappropriately with the seal. we use that phrase time to time even though the dogs aren't "wild". i don't want my kids to be afraid of my dogs, but i don't want them to harm the mutts either.

i'd say try getting your dsc outta the house and outta the dog's way more. when they do want to interact i think outside would be great so the dog can get away. maybe there's a dog park y'all could go to and throw a ball for the dog or just in the backyard? or maybe you could show him some other physical ways to play with the dog that are appropriate? sounds to me like your ds is wanting to be physical with the dog, but not knowing how to do it so the dog likes it. my dd1 is not super active so she likes to brush the dogs and things like that, but i could see where a good game of ball or maybe chase or tug (not sure if those last two are appropriate) might be in order. if it's not too cold where you are, or maybe even if it is cold, get them outside when they want to play together and supervise, of course. our 5 yr old dog loves to play catch the snowball on the rare occasion that it snows where we are.

i really like brian kilcommon's books. he has one about kids and dogs. might look into it.

hth

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#25 of 25 Old 01-04-2005, 06:06 PM
 
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Hi, I mostly lurk, but Jean Donaldson's book "The Culture Clash" might help.

Give your dog kudos for being so tolerant for so long! Remember, she's still trying to WARN your child, or your child would have been bloody long ago.

When a dog growls, it's a warning that they might snap. A snap is a warning for a nip. Nipping is a warning for a bite. Unfortunately, you have inadvertantly shortened the warning cycle by disciplining the dog for issuing a warning. Please try to encourage her to growl again ... then immediately intervene and get your child away from her. A bite is fairly inevitable if you do not keep your child from tormenting your dog.

I think our job, as parents, is not only to protect our children from our pets, but our pets from our children. Fair's fair!

And here, I ramble ...

Personally, I wish one of my cats would be LESS tolerant -- dd doesn't back off when I tell her to be nice (grabbing, mostly,) but she sure backs off when the cats tell her by a) leaving or b) tagging her (fortunately pretty gently) She's only been tagged a few times, because she's starting to listen to the cats! The most tolerant cat is the one for whom I need to intervene most, because she is in real danger of getting hurt by my dd.

Our dog is NOT child safe, but has made his peace with our little one. Mostly, he's scared of her. He's 80 pounds of constant-supervision-only. Fortunately, he mostly tries to get away from dd

I'm sorry if it seems like people are jumping on you -- I don't really think that was the intent. Good luck!
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