Building confidence & coping with a pup and a toddler

Dog Doc – Your questions answered

Question 1: How do I manage my reactive dog who is scared of other dogs

A friend has recently rescued a two-year old German Shepherd cross girl, Zuki.  She was kept in all the time so is very nervous of practically everything.  I asked how she was getting on with managing her on walks.  Anna is getting Zuki to ‘watch’ her as a dog goes past, whilst feeding treats, which is working well.

I suggested adding in some play with a toy, preferably something squeaky, on a strap, so that they can play ‘tuggie’ and really engage together.  It is another way of distracting the dog away from the dog going past, without it being too boring and serious.

Another option to consider is to have a basket muzzle on the dog.  This fits fairly loosely over the dog’s muzzle.  It should not be inhibiting to wear.  It means that the dog can get on with its walk and the owner can relax, knowing that the dog cannot bite anyone else.  Here are some links to advice about the use of a basket muzzle to muzzle or not to muzzle /conditioning a dog to a muzzle

Of course disagreements can still happen!  So it is still necessary to manage any interactions carefully.  However, if the dog can be off lead, even for only short periods, without the owner needing to panic every time another dog appears, this is a step forward.

Anna said “It was really useful to chat things through and interestingly, we’re not walking her for a few days while her nose heals from the canny collar and conditioning her to it again slowly in the garden in short bursts rewarding her when she walks well and that seems to be reaping rewards!”

Question 2: I have a very lively spaniel who is hard to control – can you help?

I asked the owner what was the worst part of his behaviour.  She said that he was 16 weeks old and although they were working hard on training, especially jumping up (by turning away from him), she was finding he was too ‘full on’ with her 3 year-old son.  She has a stair gate across doorways, so that the puppy and toddler can be kept apart, but felt that they should be able to play together.

I reassured her that they probably would play together, soon.  I told her to be patient, as both the puppy and the child are very young.  In a couple of months the puppy will be a bit more settled and consistent in his behaviour and she will find it much easier to manage their interaction.

It is also likely that the toddler will become increasingly familiar with the pup and the way he behaves.  He will be less interested in the dog and react less to his presence.  This is the best way for the two of them to learn to get along.  Of course it is lovely to see children and dogs interacting, but it takes time and good management.  See my Dogs and Children page for more information.


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Please note: I am not a qualified dog behaviourist or trainer.  I have owned border collies for many years and raised a number of puppies, so I am an experienced dog owner, that is all.  Information provided here represents my opinion, based on my experience.

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