Look at this for a face! Hector is an eight month old Miniature Schnauzer who looks like a teddy bear. He is a remarkably calm pup most of the time. He is intelligent and biddable. He has been given sensible boundaries from the start, but is now quietly testing them as teenagers do! It is amusing to see how much he can get his unsuspecting humans to do for him, on his own terms, and how he chooses just what he does for them on their terms. He knows exactly how far to push it!
This is typical puppy stuff which makes owners wonder whether it will ever end, and even causes some to give up.
The problem with Hector is his fearfulness. He is a very confident little dog when at home with his family, but when someone new comes into his house he barks at them and backs away. Out on walks when on lead he is likely to bark at people and dogs. The worst is that he barks at children. When young children come to the house from time to time he is very scared, and if they are toddling or walking about he barks incessantly at them and this sounds aggressive and scary. He is very reactive to children playing outside or riding past on bikes.
It is natural for a dog to be wary of small children. They move suddenly and upredictably, they can be noisy, and they often approach in what the dog perceives a threatening manner, directly and staring, and most likely with arms outstretched. The owners then get anxious or cross when the dog is barking or growling, which compounds the problem. If there isn’t opportunity to acclimatise the dog to young children every day or so over a period of time, then he needs to be protected and to have a ‘safe haven’ where the children can’t go. In Hector’s case I suggested putting a gate on the kitchen doorway to keep the dog in and the children out. Maybe the child can throw little bits of the dogs dry food through the bars – but only if Hector is sufficienlty relaxed and not barking – so that he associates children with something nice.
Whether the dog is frightened of children, people, other dogs, traffic or anything else, it needs to be worked on gradually in a controlled way. Complete avoidance to start with and then introducing the trigger slowly and gradually whilst dealing with it the right way – never forcing the dog out of his comfort zone and being ready to retreat. Complete avoidance gives no opportunity to rehabilitate, but pushing ahead too fast can even result in shut down or aggression.
Hector is only eight months old, and with the right guidance and responses from his owners, over time he should gain his confidence.