Oh no! A kid in our home!

This past weekend, my cousin's family came to visit. They have a 2 year old girl, and Loki does not like children, especially young ones. He barked at this little intruder all weekend long. Ugh! So annoying! At first I tried ignoring it, hoping that his barking would eventually subside. It didn't. Then we tried giving the little girl treats to give to Loki. This worked to silence the barking for about 20 minutes. We did this repeatedly throughout their visit. Then, I also tried sitting next to him, projecting calm energy, and petting him. This only sort of worked for the duration that I was with him.

He was able to remain calm for long periods of time if she remained in our living room or the guest bedroom and didn't venture into the kitchen, dining room, or hallways. If she was in her space and he was in his, then he was happy. Any disruption to equilibrium was stressing to him.

If my cousin wanted her daughter to learn that not all dogs are nice, then Loki definitely succeeded in teaching her that lesson.

Unfortunately, my cousin and her family do not live near us. Otherwise, I'd bet if they visited regularly, then Loki would get used to it and finally stop barking. They have left us temporarily for the week, having gone to the hotel of the conference they're attending. They will be back on Friday. I hope Loki will be better the second time around.

So, yeah, yeah, I know, we have a baby on the way, and this isn't a good sign. A suggestion that I often hear and read about is to expose Loki to more children and to train him to behave around them with positive reinforcements. A nice idea in theory, but I have two problems. One, I don't have the time. Two, using children who are strangers as training guinea pigs doesn't seem like a good idea to me. (I have no friends with children in the area.) Not all children are well-behaved and the last thing Loki needs is a bad experience. Some kids will poke and prod, which I understand that's just what kids do, but Loki will lash out and bite. And that would not be good.

What worked the best in socializing Loki with adults and visitors was simply for us to have lots of our friends over. The more visitors we had, the better he got. Trying to schedule time for specific training didn't work as well. It's a bit artificial and unnatural. It's not a bad idea, but it requires a lot of time and effort. When we simply had visitors over, it was more natural and wasn't a chore. The focus wasn't so much on the dog, but rather just going about our lives. Loki eventually learned and adapted to our lives. In some ways, I think that this is a good approach to training a dog -- just go about your lives as you normally do, and let the dog adapt to your life. [Disclaimer: I'm not a dog expert, and this is not expert advice.]

I'm hoping that I will be able to do that with children. Trying to schedule specific times and situations to train him with children might work and might be helpful, but it requires time, effort, and seems like a chore. If we just go about the course of our lives, then perhaps Loki will simply learn to adapt to our lives.

Of course, I plan to always manage the situation between my dogs, especially Loki, and my future baby. Between the choices of training or managing, I'll have to opt more on the side of managing. Even with training, I'm not convinced that he'd ever behave reliably around children.

P.S. Jujube, on the other hand, is absolutely wonderful with children. My cousin's little girl identifies Jujube as "Go-go no bark". (Go-go means dog in Chinese.)

9 comments:

Mongoose said...

I give Tinky-Winky "the touch" when she barks. It usually takes a few times but she gets the hint. I don't know if it would work if the threat was a two-year-old, though.

Personally, I hate kids around my dog. She's never bitten anyone, but she's obviously scared of kids and I wish they'd leave her alone. Luckily I don't have any friends' kids to deal with, or kids of my own.

Good luck with Loki. :)

Jenny said...

I'm currently desensitizing Pongy with my baby nephew. Let me tell ya.. she has her moments. She's usually good if you keep petting her and feeding her while the mongrel is slapping her face but if she sees him on site, she runs.

Jada on the other hand just would bark and run and make the baby cry. (Un)Fortunately, Jada is no longer mine so we no longer have that issue.

Jen said...

our kitsune barks at children. we have our friends' 2 year old give him little cookies, he hesitates, takes them and settles down relatively quickly.

POSITIVE ASSOCIATIONS with children are the safest way to go - this makes a lasting POSITIVE impression on both the dog AND the child.

Masako said...

I agree with Jen - positive associations go a long way. I fostered a Shiba that was aggressive towards anyone that was new to them. Taking her on a long walk was extremely critical in winning her over. (I'm not implying that Loki is as bad, nor that he's aggressive - just wanted you to know that there are many things that can create a positive association.) :)

jonathanfleming said...

My shiba is very gentle with people, even kids. I exposed her to kids very early on in her puppy hood, so that might have something to do with it.

Suki loves people so much, though, that she used to jump up at visitors when they came in the door.

They way we worked that behavior out was to make sure she had a leash on before people would enter, and as soon as she would attempt to jump up on a visitor, I'd grab her leash and move her to another room for 10 seconds, then bring her back out. If she jumped again...another 10 seconds away from everyone. It usually took her no more than two of these "time-outs" before she figured out "hey, if I jump, I don't get to be around these new people, and if I don't jump, I get to stick around."

Nowadays she still gets excited when we have visitors, but she tries mightily not to jump (it's really cute because you can tell she totally wants to). Haven't really had a problem with it since.

Just an idea that worked for me. If you can't schedule time for training, you might be able to use certain situations that happen in your day to day life as training opportunities. However you decide to work it out, I wish you success!

Bravewolf said...

Tierce still behaves weirdly around children he's known all his life. I think it's because one of the children in question is mildly autistic and is afraid of him. I think that Tierce has picked this up and will *poke* at her, like a little boy poking his sister with a stick. However, I don't encourage this at all - we keep getting her to feed him and that seems to help his attitude.

Rachael said...

I have a 4 year-old Shiba and a 2.5 year-old son. They may be the exception to the rule, but they're partners in crime. Saki even goes so far as to fetch his pacifier and bring him toys in time-out. We got her used to the idea of an infant by bringing in all kinds of baby things slowly in advance, like the high chair, crib, bouncy-seat, swing, etc. so she could get used to environmental changes a little at a time. We also started playing tapes of a friend's baby crying periodically (to desensitize her to the sound), carried a babydoll around the apartment and made her exercise appropriate behavior around it (no jumping, no snuggling when someone was holding the doll, etc.). Gross as it sounds, we even tossed a few borrowed dirty diapers into our garbage, washed clothes in baby detergent, and tried to get as many "baby smells" in the house as possible. It took a little while, and maybe we were a little neurotic about it, but by the time we brought our son home, she was more curious than skittish. We still never leave the two of them alone, even though our son has learned a good deal of puppy etiquette. I'm no professional, but overall, I think your attitude will dictate alot of the first impression. If you're stressed, the dog will be stressed. Good luck, and early congrats on the new addition!

Vi said...

Mongoose -- We don't use "the touch" with Loki. We've tried it in the past and now believe that it caused some of his current issues. Maybe I'll post about this topic later.

Jen & Masako -- Yes, we will be trying to work with positive associations.

jonathanfleming -- Loki doesn't jump up. We trained him not to do so when he was a puppy.

Rachel -- Despite my post saying that we don't have time for "specific training", I found your comment quite encouraging. Thank you.

jonathanfleming said...

Vi,

Oops, wasn't actually inferring that Loki was a jumper. I was just giving a training example for an unwanted behavior in my own Shiba that might be able to be applied to other behavioral issues. Take care!

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