My dog loved playing with the neighbor kids when he was 4-8 months old. Now he is so scared; shaking, growling, etc. when they are around. Our neighbor kids are not fearful of him even when he is not nice. He is about 18-months-old now. How can I socialize him around children without putting kids at risk of him barking and snapping (which hopefully will never happen..hasn't yet, but just to be sure)?

Answer

You are right to be concerned. An excellent place to start would be implementing some desensitization and counterconditioning at a safe distance. Perhaps feeding high-value treats when watching kids from behind a window at home or in the car. Then move to the yard safely behind the fence keep him leashed at a distance and keep feeding high-value treats for seeing the kids/hearing them. Afterward, for any closer "socialization" he should always be leashed and at a distance from the kids (under threshold), but because things can get risky here, you really should be working with a professional for safety and correct implementation. If you push him over the threshold, he may regress rather than improve, and things may get more challenging. The more he rehearses fearful behaviors, the more difficult to overcome. I would not expose him to very rowdy or noisy play, as it can stress him out.

Updated on March 21, 2018

Original Article:

Understanding Fear Periods in Dogs
By Adrienne Janet Farricelli
working