An online consultation.
The young man has a Sprocker called Obi, five years of age.
They live with his parents and their dog, but Obi is very much the young man’s dog. He is an extremely conscientious dog owner.
A couple of times a week his sister, her husband and their twin toddlers come round for the several hours, bringing their own dog. with them. The house is full – the young man, his mother, his father, his sister, her husband, three dogs and the twins.
The twin toddlers are just eighteen months old, unpredictable as toddlers are and a bit too young to teach reliable manners towards a dog.
The young man’s problem is that his family is very casual about the dogs mingling with the children, but he himself is on tenterhooks. He’s justifiably afraid that in a moment of arousal, a twin may invade his space and he might snap.
The twin toddlers climb all over their own dog who seems accept it, and the young man is concerned that it’s because of this that nobody else takes it seriously with Obi.
Little children don’t see warning signs, and nobody apart from the young man is keeping an eye on the situation.
The rest of the family actually want and encourage all three dogs to be mingling with the toddlers and the family.
Too many many people. Too much happening.
I suggested using a gate so that Obi wasn’t totally banished but that he and the toddlers were safe.
Normal management like this won’t work however as Obi doesn’t like hands going through a gate. They have tried a muzzle and though willing to have it put it on, once on he keeps trying to get it off and they don’t want that.
Worrying things include the twins walking around with food in their hands, Obi pinching a toy or a shoe and then take it away to guard in his crate. He’s a dog that doesn’t like being approached when he’s lying down or asleep.
I suggest a second barrier – a lower barrier a couple of feet in from the gate. This to stop little hands going through the bars. Then the young man can relax.
The twins over time can be taught positively to stay away from Obi when he’s lying down. Obi can be counter-conditioned to positively like a hand going through the gate.
Changing their default
The current default situation is for everyone including dogs, to be all together until the young man is too worried. Then the dogs will be shut out.
I suggest the default should for the dogs to be behind their airlock. Mingling sessions only when planned, having first checked toys have been lifted and there is no food about.
Then Obi can be consciously watched. The young man can relax without transferring his anxiety to his dog.
I have seen to many cases of children having been bitten by the family dog ‘out of the blue’. Often in the face.