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February 24, 2014
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Question: My 5 month old puppy was scared by my nephew when he rode his bike into her. Do you think my puppy will be permanently affected by this?

I have a 5-month-old Aussie. Until last week, her experiences with adults & children were all positive. Then, while we were visiting my parents, my 5-yr-old nephew tried to ride his bike into her. He was scolded but made no amends, & she understandably avoided him the rest of the night. As an "antidote," the next day I invited my two nieces, 5 & 3, who were great with the pup a few days earlier, over to play w/her. The puppy greeted them the first time, but now shied away. She never shied away from anyone before the bike episode. My nieces and I played & worked w/the pup and gave her treats, and she was soon scampering around with the girls as she had before. My 5-year-old niece rode her bike on the drive and I taught the pup to stay on the lawn and ignore the bike.

My ?s:
- Do you think my pup is scarred from the nephew incident, despite my "antidote?"
- I do not plan to let my nephew interact w/either of my dogs again. I don't think it's worth the risk. Am I being extreme?

Cindy's Response:

It’s impossible to know whether the incident with the bike/nephew will have long lasting effects, only time will tell. I believe that if the pup has good solid temperament and all other experiences she’s had have been good, than it’s not as likely to be a problem as it might be for a genetically shy or nervous puppy or a pup that had had a lot of bad experiences with kids.

I think controlling the environment for your pup in the future is smart, to reduce the chance of another issue during the formative months.

I hope this helps.



Hi Cindy,

This definitely helps. Many thanks. The pup is even-keeled and resilient, so hopefully, if she does have any negative views about anyone after this, they will only be toward my nephew, who won't be allowed to interact with her again for the foreseeable future; possibly not until he wins a Nobel Peace Prize. The thing that really bothers me is that I've been careful to introduce the puppy only to people I know well enough to be confident about, or, if strangers, when I can asses the situation out enough to feel good about it before introducing her. She had no negative experiences with anyone in her first five months of life. My nephew, though he tends to be rambunctious generally, was previously kind and gentle with my adult dog, and I thought he liked dogs and wanted to meet the puppy. But when he saw the pup, apropos of nothing he rode his bike off the driveway and onto the lawn chasing her; there was no warning. Anyway, I will continue trying to bank against bad experiences like this by seeking out many more positive interactions for the pup, and hope that this was an isolated incident with my young relative and that he doesn't turn out to be a juvenile delinquent.  

Thank you again for your feedback; I really appreciate it.

An Update:

Hi Cindy,

Just a note to share a positive outcome. After my nephew tried to chase my pup down on his bike, he was denied access to her for several weeks. If I was visiting my parents and my nephew came over and asked where Elfie was, I told him she was taking a nap and couldn't be disturbed. Meanwhile, my brother and his wife apparently talked to my nephew about the proper way to behave around dogs (yes!). So finally, that Thanksgiving, when my nephew asked again where Elfie was, I asked if he would like to play fetch with her. My brother went outside with us to make sure my nephew behaved appropriately. They had a terrific game of fetch together, and from then on have been pals.  My brother and his family visited me for a week recently, and the first thing my nephew, now 7, wanted to do when they came home in the evening was to go outside and play fetch with Elfie. For her part, Elfie started following him around the house, and my nephew, the youngest in his family, got a big kick out of someone tagging along after him for a change.

As she has since puppy hood, Elfie likes people of all ages and dogs of all kinds. So I'm happy to report that not only did the "bike chase of 2012" not scar her for life, it taught my nephew the importance of treating dogs with respect, and that if he does, he may be rewarded with a faithful, albeit furry, friend.

Thank you again for your help

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Puppies.

We get a number of Q&As every week, if you would like to read this week's Q&As, click here and check out the 'Recent Questions' section!

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