The learning never ends…let me tell you.
Parker is ten years old now and up until this point has been absolutely phenomenal around children and has been a pretty tough dog in stressful times.
This Christmas was particularly hectic as family gathered (all the siblings were here this year), most of us sick with varying colds and flues, and me working crazy hours trying to wrap up my year end and get my school opened on time. I could tell that Parker was uninterested in most of the goings on this year as he seemed to want to spend more time upstairs in bed than down with everyone around the tree. (Although around meal times you’d be hard pressed to find him anywhere but under the table, clever pup.)
A couple of days ago, my aunt and cousin came over with my two little second cousins who Parker has met many times before and loves dearly. This particular visit, they were pretty excited by all the festivities and spent a while running around with Matchbox cars in their hands. At first Parker didn’t mind sitting at a distance and just watching but as the excitement level rose, I could see him offering a few yawns and lip-licks here and there. He came to sit with me and I massaged him as I spent time chatting with my family and the kids ran around. This soothed him for a while but I could feel the tension in his body. I gave him a potty break and then sent him up to bed…but he came back down moments later, wanting to be with us instead.
He chose a spot between my feet as I rubbed his ears and asked the kids to find a quieter activity than running. (Who actually listens the first time?) It was at that moment, the older one scooted under the table right behind Parker with quite a bang and squeal. Parker turned and before you can blink, he air-snapped. I caught his muzzle and turned him to face me. “You’re a good boy – I hear you. Let’s go.” I said. I asked my family to send the boys to the family room while I get Parker out of the way and they comply quickly and happily. I bring Parker to his favourite spot on the main floor – his bed. He lays down, visibly calmer and puts his head down for a snooze.
No punishment, no scolding, no grabbing the child and rushing them away, no panicking, just management and more management.
“My dog is great with kids – he would never bite.”
Well, my dog is great with kids, but he most certainly will bite if he feels he needs to.
I failed him in this particular situation. He should have been removed from the hustle and bustle at the first yawn, not 10 minutes later, not an hour later. I’m lucky, plain and simple. I’m lucky that Parker is as tolerant as he is around children and that I’m able to recognize the signs of stress and anxiety. I should have acted sooner so that he wasn’t at his threshold, but I got greedy (as we all do) and based my current perspective on past experience assuming nothing had changed.
Like I said, Parker is ten now. His patience has lessened, his tolerance is lower and his favourite pastimes have changed. My lesson is to grow with him and to occasionally adjust my expectations based on current experience among other factors…and to always practice what I preach.