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Labrador inappropriately rescuing children

(7 Posts)
WingsAloft Thu 26-Jan-17 08:11:22

I took my foster to the beach today thinking he'd love the water (it's the middle of summer here). I was not wrong but I encountered an unexpected problem: he grabs children's swimwear and tries to drag them from the water.

Fortunately it was my own children he did it to and he was on lead so I was right there, but it was really scary for them because he didn't want to let go. One of them got her head pulled under before I was able to get him off her. The water was only knee deep, and as soon as she stood up he backed off.

He was targeting their clothing, not their skin. He's perfectly well behaved with the children otherwise. I have no concerns about their safety at home.

Obviously letting him off lead at the beach is out of the question, and I'm uncomfortable taking him back at all, even on lead, in case he gets away from me. I've looked for advice online about this behaviour but I'm only finding feel-good stories about dogs saving children. These children don't need saving and he's putting them in danger by trying to save them!

Can this behaviour be retrained? Is he doomed to never be allowed near the water again?

blueskyinmarch Thu 26-Jan-17 08:16:26

To be honest i never take my Lab to the beach during the summer. Too many things that can go wrong - picnics, balls, the possibility of knocking children over in the water. She adores the beach but we only go in the winter when it is quiet and only populated with other dogs. Not sure what you can do about the behaviour of your dog apart from keeping her on lead and away from the water when the beach is busy. Maybe take her in the evening when it s quiet and no-one is in the water?

Stormwhale Thu 26-Jan-17 08:19:41

Could you keep her on a longer training lead. You could then pull her away before she gets to children with a firm no. Absolute consistency might work along with distraction and redirection of her attention. A floating toy for her to rescue and bring in?

GinIsIn Thu 26-Jan-17 08:22:05

Our old lab used to do this, which was particularly annoying as we had a pool. Every time you swam to the side and put your hand on the edge, she'd grab your arm and try to drag you out.

She did grow out of it, and we taught her to get in the water with us and play some games which made her realise we were all safe.

Get a high value toy and throw it for her as a distraction, to start with, maybe?

WingsAloft Thu 26-Jan-17 08:42:24

He's 10 so I think the odds of him growing out of it are slim. sad It's good to know that he's not unique in this regard though.

I don't know. The thought of giving him enough freedom in the water to be able to chase a toy scares me. What if he ignores the toy and heads for a child anyway? The beaches that allow dogs around here are usually quite busy with entire families except at times when it's too hot to use the beach at all.

He's a big strong dog and I struggle to retain control when he really gets it into his head to go somewhere. I don't trust his recall as he doesn't listen - I think "pig ignorant" about covers it.

Is there a way to work on this out of the water? As I write this I realise probably not as it's an in-water problem. I don't have access to any child-free water bodies that allow dogs.

Does this behaviour have a name that I can search for?

GinIsIn Thu 26-Jan-17 08:45:08

I don't know - I think the best thing might be to ask your vet?

WingsAloft Thu 26-Jan-17 10:50:10

I've been given some advice elsewhere on how to teach him to be calm at the beach. Training starts tomorrow smile

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