Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Strollers, babies & dogs....a stroll in the park.

A stroll in the park
Six things to consider before strolling with your dog and baby.

As the mother of four I can assure you that I know the value of walks and outings. It is wonderful when we are able to include our dogs in this part of our day but there are situations where including our dogs may cause more stress then enjoyment for all. Planning and preparing ahead helps to make outings more successful and relaxing. Know your dog and their behavioral patterns. Sometimes it is not a good idea to include your dog on your stroller walks, but rather enjoy a peaceful baby free walk with your dog while your spouse watches the baby. Consider the following six points and your dog as you think ahead about your fun times out and about.

1. How does your dog react to other dogs passing by?
2. How does your dog react to a person approaching you while on a walk?
3. Does your neighborhood or where you would walk have a loose dog problem?
4. What if your baby decides to scream as if being tortured during your walk? It happens….trust me! What then?
5. Is your dog reactive to bikers, scooters and kids playing in the street?
6. Is your dog “picky” about the environment and pace of your walk?

You are responsible for the safety of you, your baby, your dog and anyone coming into contact with your dog.
How does your dog react to other dogs passing by?
If your dog has leash aggression behaviors then this can make for quite a challenging walk with a stroller. The tools you use and the skills in managing your dog will need to be evaluated for the safest situation that does not encourage your dog to practice this behavior. Many dogs can learn to walk politely by others on a walk but you will not want to tackle this with your baby in the stroller.

How does your dog react to a person approaching you while on a walk?
Nothing attracts admirers more than dogs and babies. If you have both then you are sure to be approached by an admirer of sorts while on a walk. If your dog is reactive to people in a threatening way of any kind then you will need to decide if it is worth the risk of an admirer approaching your stroller, you and your dog while out on a walk. If your only option is a high traffic area then it may be best to play it safe and save your walks for when you and your dog can go solo. That way you are able to focus completely on your dog’s behavior without also tending to your baby.
Does your neighborhood or where you would walk have a loose dog problem?
Nothing could be worse then having a dog fight while on a walk with your baby. If you live in a neighborhood that has loose dogs then you will want to consider this when walking with your dog and stroller. What will you do? How can you handle your dog and the stroller? Plan ahead and think it through.

Never ever tie your dog to the stroller!

What if your baby decides to scream as if being tortured during your walk? It happens….trust me! What then?
This is an all too familiar situation for me and one that many parents encounter. I am not one who can listen to my baby crying much before I must hold her. I have carried her on many walks. It is possible to put the baby in a carrier and use a waist leash and push the stroller but….this may not work if your dog is not a well mannered walker or is reactive to other dogs or people. Keep in mind that you have just 2 hands and if your baby is unhappy on a walk it is hard to enjoy a walk and sometimes the solution is to carry the baby for a bit. Think ahead, prepare and have a plan or leave your dog at home for your longer walks and bring them for short strolls.

Is your dog reactive to bikers, scooters and kids playing in the street?
Some dogs like to chase moving objects or people walking. If your dog is one of them then this may be rather challenging while managing a stroller. If your dog is a fan of things that move fast then you may need to work with a professional to eliminate such a strong response so that you can enjoy your walk

Is your dog “picky” about the environment and pace of your walk?
Is your dog sensitive to changes in surface? Temperatures? What about sewers or other things in the environment that may cause stress? If so then you will need to work on these behaviors prior to introducing the stroller and walks. Knowing your dog’s sensitivities helps you to decide if a walk together is a good plan or not. What about the dog that does not have the desire to walk or keep up? Some dogs are not huge walkers and can be quite happy with a short stroll instead of a power walk. These dogs may really enjoy games and tricks rather then a walk and that can be a great option for them. Exercising your dog’s mind is extremely important along with their body. Hide and seek, kibble fetch, kibble catch, name game along with puzzle toys all can meet many dogs needs for activity and mental stimulation.

We encourage you to include your dog in daily baby activities. Walking with your dog can be relaxing when planned out and prepared for. Our goal is to get you thinking ahead of time so that you and your pup can go strolling along happily. If you are looking for help with loose leash walking please look into a Dogs & Storks presenter for help as you prepare for baby. Thank you Ivonne Acevedo (Chicago presenter) for the wonderful photos!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You tube video

What is this child learning? If dogs like you, you can use them as a jungle gym? Why is it we acknowledge a dog is being tested but yet many times do not step in and use the opportunity to "teach" the child how to respect the dog? If this child climbed on people and kicked them would we say the receiver of that behavior was wonderful for putting up with it? Children must learn boundaries and respect for all living creatures...especially those that can not speak. It is our job as a parent to set up our children and animals for loving and respectful relationships. If we do not teach them in our homes with our furry friends. All of the behaviors in this video set up this child for a serious bite if she EVER behaves this way with someone elses dog...not to mention when her dog gets fed up. Please teach respect and gentle touch.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Up & Down stairs game ....preparing for baby.

Having one or more dogs underfoot while walking around with a newborn or baby can be challenging and dangerous. You may also feel off balance towards the end of your pregnancy and not want to worry about the dogs on stairs. Here is a video of a fun game to encourage dogs to go up and or down on cue. Thanks Helen for posting this and sharing your preparation for your baby! Helen Nicholls is a Dogs & Storks presenter expecting her first baby in July.
To begin teaching this to your dog simply start talking about "going up the stairs" as you do it and "come on down" each time you are going up or down the stairs. I use a hand gesture too. Then you can make it into a game. There are many ways to teach this fun game but the way I like is to toss a kibble up the stairs and say "go on up." Then have them sit at the top and say "come on down." Reward with praise and toss a ball or kibble up again. If your dog follows the "sit" command or "down" command from a distance then you can include those at the top or bottom as Helen did for more of a challenge. This is a great energy burner too for many dogs and can be loads of fun!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Structured games = fun for all.

Here is an example of following your dog's lead for a new activity and game. Windsor (our rescued pit bull) taught us his first Easter here that he loved openning up the plastic eggs. Since then we have an egg hunt for the dogs. Windsor opens the eggs and the others mooch the food. Knowing your dog and what they truly like and what excites them allows you to provide mentally stimulating and fun games! Observe your dog and learn what makes them excited and create a game around that! Have fun!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My bunny or yours?

Photo taken with me standing right there. Never leave dog and baby unattended together. Take extra care when toys are involved.
It has been awhile since my last post. Yes, life with a baby and 3 other kids is busy and I am reminded of how hard it is to keep up with everything sometimes. I am sure many Moms out there can relate. We are capturing many teachable moments and will be posting more. Here is one from our Easter weekend.
Many families ask about toy confusion and their dog. Here are some tips.
1. Limit the number of toys (even to just one) that you direct your dog to. Name that toy. For example: Our shepherd Moose loved his ball. We had one special ball that we would always direct him to by saying "go get your ball." This allowed for many games as he would have to search for THAT ball. Naming a toy and only allowing that toy to be theirs is helpful as it limits confusion. That is theirs and the others are not.
2. If your dog loves fuzzy toys like Windsor (photo above) then you will need to "manage" your baby's toys. Keeping them out of reach is usually the best option. If you can again have ONE that is just your dog's then this is helpful. They will make mistakes and be interested in new furry toys so be prepared and play a game to reinforce that only their toy is for them.
Throw about 5 toys (4 of them being your dog's) and one being your baby's new furry one on the floor. Allow your dog to sniff and investigate. If he selects your baby's new him one of his and reinforce him for leaving the baby's alone. Repeat this game several times and then decrease the number of his choices. Use the name of your dog's toys and tell him to find bunny, find monkey or whatever. If he grabs the baby's can do one of several options:
1. give "leave it" command then redirect to his toy. Play for a minute as reward.
2. Redirect by showing him his toy and use it's name..."here's your bunny." Then remove the baby's toy.
Repeat this.
Always supervise when your baby and dog are in the same space. Once crawling NEVER expect that your dog will leave baby's toy alone when you are not in the room. Supervision is a must at all times. It is natural for dogs and babies to want to investigate an object of others attention. Practicing with your dog will benefit all. Don't expect your dog to "just know" it is the baby's. Set up activities to play the game above and allow your dog to select his toys from a pile of toys. You can use a dab of another scent if you choose but I figure the dog's toys smell like him and the baby's do not. That has worked for us.
New toys are always a novelty and for some dogs need to be introduced with structure. Other dogs don't care. Know your dog!
Dogs who guard toys....If you have a dog that guards their toys, space or people please seek the help of a professional! Guarding behavior and babies must be dealt with very carefully. Don't assume it will get better. Get help!