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Peggy is growly. She uses a variety of growls to communicate all sorts of things, and most aren't worrisome to us, but barking and growling at children is where we have to draw the line. She's done this since the day we drove her home from the breeder.

It's a deep, throaty growl, with escalating frantic barks, and it abruptly subsides if she can actually get close to the kid. But what parent wants us to get close while she's doing that??

We don't have kids ourselves and don't know any parents well enough in our small town to ask to "use" their children.

Today she really lost it when she saw a toddler just sitting quietly on the beach. No joke, as my husband worked to distract her, the dad looked me in the eye and did a "throat slitting" motion with his hand!!! Needless to say, we left the beach immediately.

I was quite upset until we ran into a family in the parking lot. My husband turned Peggy away as the growling started, and (in an act of desperation) I said to the dad and his two kids: "Our puppy gets nervous around children, and we really want her to know how cool they can be!"

The little boy boldly stepped forward and said, "I can try, if you like."

With the dad's permission, my husband walked Peggy forward while I kneeled down, and the barking and growling IMMEDIATELY stopped as she approached the boy. She sat down for pets from him and his sister, and began licking their faces. They loved her so much, and she loved them. I am getting a bit teary typing this!

As we finally parted ways, the little boy called after her: "Love ya, girl!!" And then I heard him and his sister telling their dad how cute she was.

Do you have any tips for creating more experiences like this? Not many kids are so calm and comfortable around dogs, and I wouldn't typically feel comfortable approaching strangers so boldly.

Was your poodle nervous around children as a puppy? Did he or she growl or bark? Did he or she grow out of it?
 

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My dogs naturally loved children from day 1 and have never barked or growled at a child. Maizie's breeder had her granddaughter help socialize the pups, and they had family and visitors over all the time. Frosty's breeder also had visitors with children over. So, no issue for us. What about your training club as a resource? They might have some dog savvy kids to loan out. I'd be nervous about using the general public since Peggy can be growly and barky.
 

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You, also might ask any respected breeders (of any breed) if they can recommend some dog savvy children. Good breeders usually have children that they use to socialize their own pups. If it were my pup, I would walk her by a school, starting in the middle of the day when the students are all inside the school property. I would work on focus exercises, and do a lot of happy talk about the children...."Look at those kids! Watch me now!" Followed with lots of praise and a tasty treat when she responds appropriately. Ideally you would start out a distance from the school boundaries, and then gradually work closer. With pups that are okay with this type interaction I will graduate them to seeing children in the early mornings when the children are hurrying to school. I avoid afternoon release time as the kids are crazy after being confined all day, and they are in no hurry to get home. Best of luck to you. My daughter's poodle was very timid around children as a pup, but she did a lot of exercises with him, and he loves kids now.
 

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It's definitely hard to find children that aren't in a heightened state.

Our trainer has recommended frequenting a local park, always for very short periods, maintaining a far enough distance from any children to keep Peggy under threshold. But our experiences with Peggy make us feel she needs to actually get CLOSER to feel less afraid. It's not that I want to ignore our (wonderful) trainer's advice. We've just seen this in action, time and time again.

With everything but kids, we allow her to investigate to conquer her fears. Her anxiety peaks (loudly!) and then abruptly breaks into happy wiggles or a tentative sniff followed by ambivalence. I think holding her back when she sees children is actually increasing her arousal. But I guess that's why our trainer suggests staying even FURTHER away.

Just so hard in real life, when you can't always control who's going to pop up and when...

I think we'll give a school a try. Thank you for the suggestion. And maybe I'll put on a kids' channel when we're playing or relaxing at home, just to expose her more to the tone of children's voices.

I so wish we lived closer to loved ones!! We have kids of all ages in our family who would love to spend time with her. I believe she'd warm up to them quickly. Too bad they're all 2,500+ miles away.
 

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My dogs naturally loved children from day 1 and have never barked or growled at a child. Maizie's breeder had her granddaughter help socialize the pups, and they had family and visitors over all the time. Frosty's breeder also had visitors with children over. So, no issue for us. What about your training club as a resource? They might have some dog savvy kids to loan out. I'd be nervous about using the general public since Peggy can be growly and barky.
I'll admit - I'm a bit jealous!! I didn't realize just how many kids we cross paths with on a daily basis. I don't want Peggy's behaviour to plant a seed of fear in them!

And our puppy class doesn't seem to attract child-oriented folks, but I'll ask around. Our trainer is at least going to have a stroller for us to practice with at next week's session. Peggy embarrassed me last week by barking at one with a smiling toddler in it. Sigh. Luckily the little girl kept smiling and her dad laughed it off. But I felt like such a bad dog owner.
 

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I agree with your trainer!
 

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Poor Peggy- and poor you!

Annie loves kids since her breeder had two. I was embarrassed though because she went through a bark bark pull stage because she wanted them so desperately. Strangely, that did not prove a winning strategy for acquiring children. But we kept up socialization by targeting our morning walk to when kids were waiting for a school bus. There's usually a parent there with a gaggle and it might provide safe passive socialization at a distance without the overwhelming craziness of schools or playgrounds. I have noticed there is a strange lack of kids who are actually well socialized and polite with DOGS though, even those from dog owning families. We corrected a few kids quite sharply at the lake who kept sneaking up and petting Annie from behind when she didn't know the kid was there, (yes it's *probably* safe with Annie, but it might not be safe with another dog, and it's not fair to Annie either!). or especially kids who like trying to chase after or lunge for our Yorkie who is justifiably terrified of kids due to being chased in her first home, after we tell them not to approach her. Being in the presence of children is enough progress for her right now. Nice, dog safe children are as much of a training exercise as nice, kid safe dogs :)
 

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Norman didn't get comfortable around children until he was around 5 months old but still to this day does keep his eyes on him. I think he sees how much energy they carry and gets a bit nervous. He loves them, but still a bit skittish when they run around, scream, or do anything with energy lol!

That is horrible that the man at the beach did that throat slitting motion towards you. That is WRONG. I understand he is likely wanting to protect his child (not knowing Peggy) but to do that?? Why is that his answer?? I would have been heartbroken and shocked... Who does he think he is?

I think a trainer could help. It seems that Peggy doesn't understand or trust children from afar (bad eye sight??), may sense their high energy. She may feel that this high energy kids carry is a threat to her and/or her pack (you and your husband). Dogs are SUPER intelligent (as you know) so she is clearly telling you something about her comfort level with them. I think it was a great sign that she calmed down the moment the children were friendly with her. She will learn they are good people once she has more positive experiences like that!!
 

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That your dog is reacting so strongly when she's at a distance is precisely why your trainer wants you to work at desensitizing her when she's at a distance. Up close...great. But it's the times when she's not up close that she's having issues. Therefore, that's where she needs to practice focusing on you, learning that children at a distance equal good things. So yes, follow your excellent trainer's advice. I also like Charm's ideas.

I started socializing my puppies at 8 weeks of age when I brought them home. I had people come over and I had a picket fence in my front yard where I lived before here. There were loads of kids in that neighborhood and they all wanted to come play with the tiny poodles. So did their parents sometimes.

After their 2nd puppy shots, I started taking them off my property, walking them up the road a little ways where the children would run out of their house or yard yelling, "the poodles! the poodles!" They were so happy to see the poodles. A couple of the kids from one family would sit or even lie down on the side walk and let the poodles have at them, licking, clamoring all over them. All the kids were eager to treat them nicely and follow my requests to sit down if they wanted to hold them, not stand up.

So needless to say, to this day, they adore children and adults too. It worked out like that because I got my puppies at 8 weeks...very young and could socialize them to the things they would need to be comfortable with later on. When you start too much later, if pups don't experience as much or as early, it can be a challenge. But I think if you keep seeing your trainer (I also agree with her) and following her recommendations, you'll make some progress with this. Don't let time go by. You need to get at this practice asap. And don't forget to be cheerful, silly, happy when practicing. If you're anticipatory or nervous, she'll pick up on that and believe you....that something really is wrong. And she'll pair that with the kids.
 
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Discussion Starter #11
Poor Peggy- and poor you!

Annie loves kids since her breeder had two. I was embarrassed though because she went through a bark bark pull stage because she wanted them so desperately. Strangely, that did not prove a winning strategy for acquiring children. But we kept up socialization by targeting our morning walk to when kids were waiting for a school bus. There's usually a parent there with a gaggle and it might provide safe passive socialization at a distance without the overwhelming craziness of schools or playgrounds. I have noticed there is a strange lack of kids who are actually well socialized and polite with DOGS though, even those from dog owning families. We corrected a few kids quite sharply at the lake who kept sneaking up and petting Annie from behind when she didn't know the kid was there, (yes it's *probably* safe with Annie, but it might not be safe with another dog, and it's not fair to Annie either!). or especially kids who like trying to chase after or lunge for our Yorkie who is justifiably terrified of kids due to being chased in her first home, after we tell them not to approach her. Being in the presence of children is enough progress for her right now. Nice, dog safe children are as much of a training exercise as nice, kid safe dogs
I understand this all too well! When Peggy was about 10 weeks old, a nice woman had her children sit quietly on the grass in the park so they could pet nervous Peggy. All was going great until something else caught one of the kids' eyes and she abruptly dumped Peggy, jumped up, and ran away. Peggy was very frightened!

And with my last dog (a mini) it was worse. Kids would run straight at us while their parents stood at a distance, totally unconcerned. And they'd always try to pick her up. Gracie tolerated kids but this was understandably scary for her, and I always wondered why those parents trusted a strange dog so completely.
 

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Norman didn't get comfortable around children until he was around 5 months old but still to this day does keep his eyes on him. I think he sees how much energy they carry and gets a bit nervous. He loves them, but still a bit skittish when they run around, scream, or do anything with energy lol!

That is horrible that the man at the beach did that throat slitting motion towards you. That is WRONG. I understand he is likely wanting to protect his child (not knowing Peggy) but to do that?? Why is that his answer?? I would have been heartbroken and shocked... Who does he think he is?

I think a trainer could help. It seems that Peggy doesn't understand or trust children from afar (bad eye sight??), may sense their high energy. She may feel that this high energy kids carry is a threat to her and/or her pack (you and your husband). Dogs are SUPER intelligent (as you know) so she is clearly telling you something about her comfort level with them. I think it was a great sign that she calmed down the moment the children were friendly with her. She will learn they are good people once she has more positive experiences like that!!
I always appreciate your empathy. Thank you ?

I do wonder sometimes if her eyesight's not the best. And I can understand, regardless, that unpredictable children are a strange thing to behold when you're just a puppy. She was exposed to kids by the breeder, but I don't think it was a positive, controlled experience. I get the feeling she was kind of "thrown to the wolves."

I hope that as her confidence builds, not just in herself but in the knowledge that we'll keep her safe, she'll mellow a bit.
 

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That your dog is reacting so strongly when she's at a distance is precisely why your trainer wants you to work at desensitizing her when she's at a distance. Up close...great. But it's the times when she's not up close that she's having issues. Therefore, that's where she needs to practice focusing on you, learning that children at a distance equal good things. So yes, follow your excellent trainer's advice. I also like Charm's ideas.

I started socializing my puppies at 8 weeks of age when I brought them home. I had people come over and I had a picket fence in my front yard where I lived before here. There were loads of kids in that neighborhood and they all wanted to come play with the tiny poodles. So did their parents sometimes.

After their 2nd puppy shots, I started taking them off my property, walking them up the road a little ways where the children would run out of their house or yard yelling, "the poodles! the poodles!" They were so happy to see the poodles. A couple of the kids from one family would sit or even lie down on the side walk and let the poodles have at them, licking, clamoring all over them. All the kids were eager to treat them nicely and follow my requests to sit down if they wanted to hold them, not stand up.

So needless to say, to this day, they adore children and adults too. It worked out like that because I got my puppies at 8 weeks...very young and could socialize them to the things they would need to be comfortable with later on. When you start too much later, if pups don't experience as much or as early, it can be a challenge. But I think if you keep seeing your trainer (I also agree with her) and following her recommendations, you'll make some progress with this. Don't let time go by. You need to get at this practice asap. And don't forget to be cheerful, silly, happy when practicing. If you're anticipatory or nervous, she'll pick up on that and believe you....that something really is wrong. And she'll pair that with the kids.
You make such an excellent point. Why didn't I think of that?? That just because she's good with kids up close doesn't mean she shouldn't also be able to cope from afar. And it's the distance we need to work on.

Huh! Such common sense. Funny this wasn't obvious to me. Thank you ?

Yes, will definitely continue to put my trust in our trainer and follow her guidance.

And you're so right about being cheerful. Peggy's so tuned into our energy, it's almost creepy. She mirrors excitement more than any dog I've ever had—good excitement or bad excitement.

P.S. Wish I could have cuddled those tiny poodle puppies of yours! They sound so adorable.
 

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So while I agree with the trainer recommendation a playground is the one place where kids can be off their rocker loud - which could set some dogs off not because they don't like kids but because the energy is just insane (at times). I think playground maybe a bit too advanced (for now). Where would you find kids but in a more calm state? It is also important to get the right age group - because when they are too small they are less threatening (talking about the kids now) but at the same time they can be a bit grabby - especially with fluffy Poodle hair. So maybe 1st graders around 6 years old and up would be the right age. School visits are rough too because chances are the classes are too big and the kids get majorly umped up when a dog comes in. I still remember (with a little bit of horror) the masses of people at a Meet the Breeds event at the Javitz center in NYC - a lot of dogs truly did heroically well given the amount of hands reaching for them...
 

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Remember...distance is your friend. If she's uncomfortable if you are anywhere near a bunch of kids, then you're too close...move to the distance at which she's okay with them and reinforce. Move away further if she's still nervous. If there is no distance where she can still see them but not react, then bag that idea. But any time you're desensitizing and conditioning, start with the most mild form of the trigger that you can and gradually add pressure as she becomes more comfortable. Your trainer will show you. I bet she'll get over this with a good plan.
 

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My border collie was a bit weird with new things so I trained him to "hello". If I said "hello", he knew it was okay to go to the person or thing and sit. His reward was attention.
 

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So while I agree with the trainer recommendation a playground is the one place where kids can be off their rocker loud - which could set some dogs off not because they don't like kids but because the energy is just insane (at times). I think playground maybe a bit too advanced (for now). Where would you find kids but in a more calm state? It is also important to get the right age group - because when they are too small they are less threatening (talking about the kids now) but at the same time they can be a bit grabby - especially with fluffy Poodle hair. So maybe 1st graders around 6 years old and up would be the right age. School visits are rough too because chances are the classes are too big and the kids get majorly umped up when a dog comes in. I still remember (with a little bit of horror) the masses of people at a Meet the Breeds event at the Javitz center in NYC - a lot of dogs truly did heroically well given the amount of hands reaching for them...
So true! Even I get a bit tense around playgrounds. And don't get me started on McDonald's play lands! Eeeeek!

I'm thinking maybe our local library would be good. And we'll keep our distance. I'm slowly getting better at saying "Sorry, she's in training!" when people ask to approach her. I appreciate so much that they've asked, that I feel bad saying no. But sometimes it's just not the right situation (particularly if their child looks unsure or over-stimulated).
 

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I'm wondering if adding a vest would help reinforce things for you, Peggy, and the kids?

I'm not suggesting you try to pretend she's in training for a service dog or therapy dog, but just to give a visual cue to those exuberant kids to reinforce your purpose?

Something like
In Training Vest.jpg
 

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I'm wondering if adding a vest would help reinforce things for you, Peggy, and the kids?

I'm not suggesting you try to pretend she's in training for a service dog or therapy dog, but just to give a visual cue to those exuberant kids to reinforce your purpose?

Something like
View attachment 452571
I've actually considered that! Thanks for the reminder. I think it's a great idea.
 

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One last suggestion for "good" kids. Try to find some 4H members. You could talk to their adult leader and she might be able to point you in the right direction. Good luck to you!
 
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