Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nanny watch

When there is anyone other then Mom or Dad supervising a baby in the home there is likely to be a change in dynamics for the dog. Dogs are senstive to the changing of people coming and going. Some, more then others. This is often reflected in articles of major dog bite incidents that hit the news. Many times it is not the parent who is the caretaker when the bite takes place. Some reason for this may be:
1. The caretaker is less familiar with the dogs responses and signs indicating stress or agitation.
2. The supervision is not as strong or is overly protective ....indicating something wrong to the dog or creating stress.
3. The caretaker is nervous or fearful of dogs
4. Structure that is normally expected and established for the dog is not in place.
5. Structure for the child is not in place
All of these are just some of the many factors that can contribute to the cause of more frequent bites while children are in the care of someone other then their adult people. Childcare providers and anyone responsible for babies can take advantage of our materials via our podcasts, DVD, presenters and so on. We hope that this is helpful in prevention. We invite caretaker also to join us during our free support teleconferences.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Baby Raven playing with 4month old great dane (from you tube) Uncomfortable dog

It is never a good idea to physically force a dog over to a baby by the collar. This dog is hesitant to come over to the baby for whatever reason. A much safer way to do this is to invite the dog over and reward him for calm behavior but not force him to engage. Holding by the collar increases the feeling of being confined and not being able to get away. Several times you can hear Apollo vocalize from the conflict of the situation. This was not comfortable. Might
What could have made it better and safer?
1. Baby sitting on Mom's lap upright.
2. Call Apollo over to you.
3. Hold the baby's hand with yours over top to touch Apollo.
4. Reward Apollo for nice interaction.
This will allow him to gain trust in the interaction and build a nice association.
5. Allow him to opt out if he is not in comfortable or showing signs of stress. It is important that we respect the signs of stress our dogs offer. Pushing them past their comofort level can often get us and them into trouble. For more information about introductions and safe interaction you can visit us at

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dog toy vs. baby toy? Avoiding the confusion.

Every family asks me how to avoid toy confusion once a baby arrives. There are many ways to do this.
1. Provide your dog with a very limited number of toys that are available at any given time to them and name them. Ex. My shepherd only had his ball. I could always say Moose....go get your ball and he would be hunt for that one ball. This is a huge benefit as nothing else was an option...only his ball.
2. You can use a scent to identify the baby toys from the dog's. Reward the dog for choosing their toy vs. the baby's toy. This is good in theory but....I have not found it as practical as it sounds. This requires a great deal of consistency, patience and time to build the association with the scent.
3. Identify and know what textures your dog likes and plan accordingly when you purchase your baby toys. Choose toys that do not have the same high value textures.
4. Management.....Keep high value textures and interesting new items out of reach. it will be awhile before baby will be exploring on the floor. This will allow the items to be in the home and to not smell so new to your dog once they do hit floor level.
5. Get only toys that are nothing like kid toys.
This brings me to a neat toy I found today created locally. I believe in promoting other neat creative ideas and this is one of them. The Dog Nasty Dog toy My female shepherd/husky mix loves stuffed toys but they don't last long! So, needless to say we do not purchase them often for this very reason. Why bother. We also stopped purchasing them prior to the arrival of our daughter being born in an effort to decrease her interest in stuffed animals in anticipation of the confusion. The texture and durability of this toy is very good as well as the overall concept being quite unique. I love the fact that this toy can be washed and reused and stuffed within itself to create new shapes and sizes for your dog to enjoy. You can make a more compact toy or a loose toy they can shake like crazy and toss about. My 4 dogs enjoy the challenge of getting their kibble out and believe it or not it has survived! So, if you are the proud parent of a dog that enjoys a soft plush toy....I highly recommend checking this one out as it is not quite like the others and does not look like a kids toy! It truly is a dog toy and one with a great history behind it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dogs & Storks information teleconference This Saturday!

Who is this for?
Parents, expecting parents and anyone who loves babies and dogs and experiences the two together.
Where is it? In your home! What could be better! No gas! No stress!
When? 8:30 pm ET 5:30 PT

Have questions? Are you expecting or in the process of adopting? Then this may be a helpful call for you. This call on Saturday will be open to anyone with Dogs & Baby related questions. Our goal with the Dogs & Storks programs is to provide affordable and practical education before and after baby arrives in an effort to decrease stress and increase harmony!
Visit here to learn more and register today!
See you Saturday!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tricks and treats.

Simple and cute tricks are great ways to include your dog in every day activities with baby. When your dog is engaging with you even for short and quick periods throughout the day they are staying connected and mentally engaged. This is important.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Baby and Dog (from youtube) VERY DANGEROUS

This is an example of a dog that is going to hurt a baby. This dog is being restrained on a leash while practicing snapping and lunging at the baby. The dog is escalating and becoming more aggrevated towards the baby. Several times almost making contact. This is ABSOLUTELY the wrong way to go about encouraging interaction. Nothing about this is safe, positive or good for furutre interactions between this dog and other babies. If you have a dog that is exhibiting such behavior when introduced to children please contact us for help.

baby and dog (from you tube) How to confuse your dog

Get what!?!

Kaylee and willow( from youtube) Example of uncomfortable dog.

This is an example of a dog that is NOT comfortable with a baby and would need positive structured activities with the parents guiding the baby's hand and interaction so that Willow can gain trust and confidence in what is expected. Willow demonstrates discomfort with jerking responses, shake off, lip licking, moving away and other signs. She is not confident in how to respond and behave with the baby and needs to be taught and guided. If you feel your dog is uncomfortable or you are unsure and you would like to share a video with us please contact us!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Good manners = more opportunities!

Dogs that have been taught and have practiced their basic manners can easily be included and enjoyed once baby arrives. Practicing walking with your dogs and the stroller before your baby arrives will make this a seamless transition. Adding weight in your stroller while you practice will help simulate the experience of how it will feel once your baby is in the stoller. This also helps in steering. You will be glad you have practiced your walking manners ahead of time. If you need support with your dog on loose leash walking or basic walking manners please contact one of a preseter near you or ask us for a referrel.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Doggie chill out zone

Having a crate handy no matter the age of your dog is wonderful if you have children in the home. This allows the dog a "chill out" zone and place where they can do nothing at all and be left alone. For some dogs who feel like they need to follow you all over the house, this is a relief. If you are expecting and have not used a crate with your dog in a long time then you may consider reintroducing it. There will be times that the crate will come in handy to secure your dog and you and your dog will be grateful you took this extra step. Here are a couple of tips for reintroducing the crate if you have not had it out and your dog has not been in it for awhile.
1. Shred a hot dog with a cheese grater and heat it up a bit. (so it smells really yummy)
2. Sprinkle it inside the middle part of the crate
3. Close the crate and allow your dog to sniff and beg to get in.
4. After he asks to get the crate and let him in to clean up the hot dog and leave the door open to come in and out. When he is in the crate Say something that indicats he is in the crate...."good crate" Repeat this over a couple of days...several times a day.
5. Then close door for short periods of time leaving your dog with a durable food dispensing toy such as a type toy. Begin with short periods of time and let your dog out while he is still calm. Gradually extend the amount of time.
This is just a basic example of one way to begin. There are many ways and there are differerent adjustments for different dogs. IF your dog is stressed or experiences anxiety. Please contact one of our presenters for some guidance to support you and your dog in an alternative method or managment technique.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Setting boundaries

Our dogs provide us with great learning opportunities to practice skills that will come in handy as parents. One of the biggest challenges to tackle is being consistent with boundaries. Like toddlers dogs need clear and defined boundaries. Also like children boundaries may vary depending on the individual dog's behavior and temperment. For example....if you have a dog that is somewhat grumbly about people approaching them or getting into their personal space, then this would be a dog that needs clearer boundaries then a dog that is non reactive and easy going about who approaches and enters their space. The dog that is more sensitive may be restricted from getting comfry in the corner of the couch or sneaking up on the bed or sleeping under the dining room table as these spots might clearly set them up to practice unwanted behavior. Providing alternative spots for this dog where they will not feel the need to grumble and guard while you work on reducing the sensitivity in the "grumble zones" will be helpful with this dog but.....when planning and thinking ahead for a toddler in the home you will need to always keep in mind that this dog has this sensitivity and be aware of it.
The dog that is open and happy with approaching people and has no guarding tendencies may have different boundaries. This dog may join you perhaps on the couch with invitation and snuggle in the bed as he has not demonstrated a problem with it. I do like dogs to have an invitation and release command on and off furniture. Like the dog in the photo this type of dog is comfortable and polite while enjoying time close to his person. In order to be able to be close to his "Mom" with a baby he has to have very polite and calm manners for this situation to be safe and this boundary to be permitted. Again, setting a boundary based on their individual temperment and personality is key.
This is just one example and again every dog and family dynamic is differnt. One thing I know for sure is true in parenting pets and parenting kids.......consistency is key as is flexibility to change if something is not working. So, if you are expecting and you have a grumbly pooch???? Don't think it will go away once baby arrives!!!!!!!!!!! It won't! Get help now so you and your dog can be more comfortable and confident once baby arrives!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Positive tethering options

There are times when having your dog underfoot may not be safe or helpful. :) For these times one option is to tether your dog so that you can move freely around while your dog is secured in one spot.
Here our foster dog Duke is tethered while my boys bring in the groceries and the door is openning and closing.
(on the left is a great solid Tether we use for our larger dogs and can close in doors!) **** Duke has alot of anxiety and tethering helps him to know what to do and where to be.
You can offer your dog a food dispensing toy to challenge him mentally or you can toss yummy treats to him every now and then from across the room just to say "good job" while he is in his spot. Practicing tethering options prior to the arrival of your baby helps this option be more successful once baby arrives. If your dog sleeps in your bedroom and you are planning on the crib or bassinet being in with you then you will want to tether or crate your dog while you sleep. Practice this ahead of time so that your dog is comfortable and used to this once baby arrives.
****Never leave a dog unattended when tethered****

Monday, September 15, 2008

Good manners

Practicing good manners helps everyone feel more confident once baby arrives. Your dog wants to know what is expected. :) Firm up your basic manners and maybe even add some new ones! Think of what will be most helpful once your little one arrives. Then think once your baby is a toddler, then a preschooler etc. Planning short term and long term goals for manners helps increase the importance and meaning. Keep in mind that like you, your dog always likes to be reminded when he does a good job. We all like to get our pay checks even when we do what is expected. Keep the reward coming every now and then and your dog will stay interested in participating. :) REMEMBER! Do not expect your dog to follow commands they have not been patiently taught. Dogs need hundreds of repetitions to truly know a skill. Be fair and practice. English is not their first language and although dogs sometimes act as if they understand our every word....we can not count on it unless we have taught the desired behavior and reinforced it so that they know what is truly expected. This is especially true and important when the dynamics in an environment are different....such as when you are pregnant or a new baby is in the home. Sometimes using a higher value reward helps keep motivation alive for these times as well as lots of practice and managment.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What does "Family dog" really mean?

"Family dog" has become a popular label in the media for any dog associated with a family no matter the circumstances or relationship.
What do I consider a "Family dog?"
A family dog is one that lives in the home interacting with its people observing every day activities which allows him to establish and maintain a bond built on familiarty,
Why is this important on the Dogs & Storks blog?....simple education!
Newborns are NOT familiar to the family dog. Bringing home a blanket or baby cap for your dog to sniff is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. Familiarity takes time and consistency. Newborns and babies are changing EVERY day which makes them new to even their parents every day! No matter what preparation has been done.....your family dog needs full supervision and guidance at all times. You and your family dog are learning about your new baby togther. SUPERVISE.
What do I consider higher risk and not falling under the "family dog" label
1. Dogs that reside outside......resident dogs. Outside dogs do not interact and observe daily routines and often do not share the same familiar bond.
2. When a baby or child is visiting a relatives home where there is a dog. The visiting baby is less familiar to that dog. The relative is family but I would not consider the dog a "family dog" to the baby as they do not have the familiar bond that they would if they were sharing a home together.
3. A relatives dog visiting the baby or child's home. Same as above. The dog is not living day in day out with the child and the parents of the child and therefore there is a lack of familiarity of bond and behavior.con
Many families feel overwhelmed once a baby arrives and some make there once "family dogs" into outside dogs. If you are feeling unsure or Please contact us and we will be glad to offer support and resources.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Feedback from a Mom and dog professional!

Thank you Ali for sharing!
Having been a professional dog trainer for ten years as well as being 8 months pregnant, I was very excited to host a Dogs & Storks seminar at my training school. The presenter, Leigh Siegfried, did a tremendous job with her explanations and discussions.
The powerpoint was well laid out and covered not just points I expected but also quite a few thought provoking ideas for me. By the end of the 2-hour presentation, I had found two things that I have to work on with my dogs!
I'd strongly recommend that all parents-to-be with dogs attend one of these seminars. I'd also encourage trainers to host these seminars on a regular basis. This is where we can really start to educate adults and children with respect to our canine family members!

Ali Brown, M.Ed., CPDT Great Companions
Author of "Scaredy Dog!", "Scaredy Dog!" DVD, and "Focus, Not Fear"

Having mixed feelings?

There are many mixed emotions along with questions that Moms esepcially experience as they get closer to their due date. "How will I have time for my furry baby?" "Will they understand I still love them?" "Will they be mad at me?" "What if they dislike the baby?" These are all very common questions and anxieties that creep into the minds of Moms and families with dogs as they are anticipating the arrival of their baby. The good news is with preparation, education about dog behavior and specific planning families report back with wonderful success! This is a new chapter of your life together and it is going to include great new things for you pooch too! More love, more fun, and more opportunities for yummy treats!

Practice makes for comfort!

Does carrying a doll help? Yes, but it can be a doll, a teddy or anything that is going to allow you an opportunity to practice using the new baby equipment and how you and your dog are going to interact when your attention is busy. This is a great exercise for Dads, Moms and any caretakers to practice in preparation. If your dog is overly excited, has not mastered basic manners, or has not been around babies before then you may be interested in seeking support through one of our Dogs & Storks presenters.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are dogs unpredictable?

"Jennifer Shryock, a dog behavior consultant from, a program that prepares families with dogs for life with a baby, said infants should never be left alone -- even for a moment -- with a dog, due to the animals' unpredictability. " This is a quote from the Star Ledger article. I wanted to expand on this. There is some truth to this, when we are not there, they are likely seem unpredictable BUT......there is more truth to the fact that Dogs will PREDICTABLY behave as dogs. That said we must predict that they will caretake, nurture, discipline, & respond based on the natural instincts of the dogs that they are. That is predictable.
Without a person present for guidance and direction dogs predictably will act like dogs. There are many variations of dog behavior that are considered acceptable and unacceptable in our in our human world but... still are part of our dogs. We must be aware of these behavior so that we can predict and therefore proactively prevent.
If we believe our dogs are unpredictable we become helpless. Victims. This creates fear and is no help to our dogs or anyone.
Knowing that dogs will behave as dogs and becoming familiar with dog body language and behavior through such programs as empowers adults and children to make safer choices and set themselves up for success. Dogs need our direction, supervision and guidance to be the most successful.
We love dogs for many reasons. When we choose to include them in our home we must also choose to be informed and educated about their behavior so that we can help them be successful in our very unpredictable hectic human world.

A dog, a baby the unimaginable.

As a Mother, dog lover, one being a husky, I am so so sorry for all that this family is going through. This is beyond tragic. I am dedicated to helping prevent this type of heartache through education before and after baby arrives. This is why I began the Dogs & Storks program in 2002.
Recently some of our team of presenters were reviewing what has been taught routinely over the years as nursery rules by dog trainers. We decided to make changes to our program and new recommendations based on the availability of monitors and safety considerations. Here is what we now recommend.Nursery rules.....1. If a parent is not in the room where a baby is in a crib or bassinet the wooden door should be securely closed locking the dog out.2. We do not suggest a gate or screen door be used as a barrier.3. We recommed that parents take full advantage of the baby monitors on the market to monitor their baby.*****If there is a need to keep the nursery door ajar then an alternative option to secure the dog is to crate the dog or lock then in a room or have the dog on leash attached to an adult.
AT NO TIME should the dog ever have access to the baby without FULL adult supervision. This also means that if the new parents are sleeping the dog should be secured or the baby's room door is closed. Sleeping parents are not alert and can not be aware of their dog's actions.
PLEASE NOTE! these tips are general and are intended to increase safety and prevent another possible tragedy, not point blame or make a judgement of the Hennessy family. I have learned a great deal from my own mistakes in raising kids and dogs together and this could have been me or any one of us who have left the room for a moment. I am counting my blessings today and sending prayers to family. hope that you find the information helpful. has a dog bite victim support board for families who have experienced severe dog attacks. This too may be helpful.