Chasing kids

Posted by blessedwith6
Aug 26, 2009
Just wondering what to do about my 10 month old dog that chases little kids because they are running away scared. She looks like she will nip them if she close enough. She hasn't yet but I am worried she will. Any advice
Posted by KOPsarah
Sep 1, 2009
hi blessedwith6, and thanks for your post.
Chasing children is usually a combination of two problems, over active prey drive and failure to see the children as higher pack mates. This situation is very similar to one another of our members asked about regarding chasing and cats this week so you will see similarities between the solutions.

Managing play drive
Does your dog play fetch? I have a blue heeler with a very high prey drive who used to chase anything that moved. However because of his love of fetch I can now redirect his prey drive to a ball being thrown especially out of a ball thrower which makes it a faster chase. I carry a ball whenever we go somewhere of leash and he knows I have it, as soon as he sees anything I call his name to get his attention then throw the ball in the opposite direction for him to chase. It has got to the point now that as soon as he sees something he would previously have chased he defers to me automatically. This means he is now fully under control because I have become at least as exciting as the sheep or other animal he has seen.

Prey drive is hard wired into the brains of most working dogs. Preventing all chasing of every kind can lead to a huge amount of frustration for the dog so redirecting it to appropriate chasing is important.

Along with providing an outlet for prey drive working with children requires some extra training. Dogs are naturally predatory animals and so it can be difficult for them to understand that other pets and small children which they may normally consider prey, are actually part of their pack and must be treated as such. There are however a number of things you can do to make it clear to your dog that children are part of the pack.

Safe meet and greets
Have your dog on a lead and head collar. Also have on you a pocket full of highly prized treats or a very special toy. Ask the dog to sit and then praise and treat him. Have someone bring the child into the room but remain at a distance. With your dog safely on the leash ignore any inappropriate reaction to the child and wait for your dog to calm down. As soon as he is calm praise and treat, then ask him to do some basic commands praising and treating again. Once your dog is reliably focusing on you with the child in the room the child should be brought closer. Again everyone should ignore the dog until he is calm. Once he is calm praise and treat then run through a few more commands.

The overall aim is for your dog to find listening to you more interesting than the child, in fact your dog should eventually find the child rather uninteresting once he is used to having it around a lot. Once your dog can be calm with the child in the room have the dog on the head collar and leash in the lounge lying by your feet as you relax on the couch. Have the child in the room playing etc but not actually interacting with the dog and continue to praise the dog for ignoring the child. Play games with the dog or do tricks etc to distract it a little and praise it for focusing on you. As soon as it makes a fuss over the child withdraw all attention and hold it securely on the leash till it is calm then praise immediately. After a few days your dog should become used to child. At this point it is important that you introduce as many children of various ages and in as many different situations as you can while still practicing the ignore unless calm method. After several short sessions several times a day over several days you should soon notice the dog has lost interest in chasing children and is much more responsive to you when you call it away.

Keep up alpha training, exercise and general obedience
Keeping up these basics is very important and will improve the behavior of your dog in general. Your dog is also approaching its teen months so this will be particularly important now as your dog begins to test its boundaries. Flick through your secrets to dog training manual again and brush up on using alpha dod training techniques such as eating before the dog, walking through doorways first, only playing when you want to play etc. Extend these principles out to cover children as well for example the children should eat before the dog. It is a good idea to discuss with any children that regularly interact with the dog the basics about interacting with dogs and safety with dogs. Explain to the children how to approach the dog slowly from the side near the head, talk quietly to the dog and let it sniff them. Also explain that by running away from dogs you are scared of you are triggering their natural chase response. This is important information for children because in the event of an actual unfamiliar dog attack they should know to cover themselves up and stay very still rather than to run (unless they can easily make it to safety) because this will usually minimize the attack. In many areas there are also centers that run dog handing and safety courses for children which can be an excellent idea especially for children with a real fear of dogs.

Set your dog up for success not failure
Especially while you are still training your dog make sure that you do not leave your dog in a situation where it can fail, for example do not leave small children and your dog alone in a room together where you cannot respond to your dogs behavior and where your cannot ensure the safety of the child. Only allow your dog access to children in a safe and controlled way until you are 100% sure they are safe together and that your dog understands the childs place in the pack.

I hope this helps and let us know how you get on.