Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday & Hounds....Human madness!

This is an old article of mine...but a fun one.  Enjoy!
Holiday Madness from a Dog’s Mind

As the holidays approach and you make your plans keep in mind that stress and changes in routine can impact our dog’s behavior. 

Often we get frustrated and are on edge as there is so much to do to prepare for dinners, visits and other celebrations. The following is a glimpse of some of the confusion our canine family members may experience. Keep in mind that as you are busy rushing around your dog is observing and sensing a change in you. They may “act out” if and when usual attention seeking methods do not work.  

This is predictable and can be avoided by being aware and maintaining some of the usual routines your dog is comfortable with.  Plan and prepare ahead for success.

I wrote this years ago (2005) with my dog Carin in mind.  This is what I imagined when I put myself in her shoes on a busy morning like this.

Hi, My name is Carin. I am a spunky young and beautiful female dog. I am writing to share an experience with you that many of us dogs feel needs to be addressed and understood by all of our 2 legged friends. So, here is the story.
This morning was different then most. My 2 legged friend got up before I was ready and convinced me it was time to go “potty” in the dark. Seems a bit backwards from my point of view and I was a bit thrown off. Anyway, I went with her odd idea of going potty before the sun went up. It is only every now and then that she does this odd routine change. This means our whole day is unpredictable. What is she thinking!?!         

As I am out there doing “potty” she is rushing me. What is wrong with her!?! Geesh, I have not gotten an opportunity to sniff properly to strategically place my gift to the earth. “Let’s go Carin.” She says as she heads for the door. As I turn away from the opportunity to explore and leave more gifts, I wander behind her back indoors. I head for the bedroom but no, this is not where my 2 legged friend is headed. She is really confusing me. I follow her to the kitchen and figure I will just snuggle up here for a nap and ignore her apparent memory loss about the sun coming up and our relaxing time in bed together for a morning cuddle. Seems she has forgotten altogether about that as I watch her from under the table. She even nudged me with her foot once not paying attention to my being there. Something is definitely different about today.

As I try to catch up on my interrupted sleep, I am aware of many things. My 2 legged friend is rushing from place to place. The phone is ringing and she is busy doing things I am not too happy about. She uses this loud thing that eats things off the floor. I used to chase it but that was not appreciated. Now I know to go to the corner to observe the beast. Then once she had finished with that beast she was using the spray bottle with something YUCKY smelling in it. YIKES!  I recall one time getting squirted in my foster home by a spray bottle once when I went to visit my feline friend's potty area.  I was only trying to help and clean up but it seems that too was not appreciated. As I keep my distance to watch her use the spray bottle I cannot stop sneezing!   What is in that! YUCK! My friend is putting it everywhere and wiping things. I sneeze, and shake off my fur hoping it will go away.
Holidays are tiring!
I tried to follow my person around to make sure she did not altogether loose control.  After all nothing was normal about this day so far and I was concerned. I ended up going back to my spot under the kitchen table as clearly she did not understand my concern and dedication to making sure she was fine. I was apparently in the way and although my sneezes were cute that was all I heard from her accept “go lay down” and a lot of “move it.” I am confused and tired. Finally my person comes into the kitchen. YEAH! Maybe now things will go back to usual. I get up and stretch and go over to greet her. She pats me on the head. This annoys me! What about a scratch of the ears???? No, she is busy. I continue to wonder what is going on today! Then I see it. She reaches in the refrigerator and pulls out this HUGE great smelling sight! Oooooohhhhhh, aaaahhhhhh wag, wag, wiggle wiggle! I am so excited as it smells so good. She tells me “go lay down! Not for you!” Darn! As I go back to my spot under the table I hear her talking to the large bird she is touching instead of me. Now I am very confused.  She puts this item in the oven and then heads out of the kitchen. I follow her and now, yep now she is going to the bedroom. It seems today she wants to sleep when the sun is up. How odd?!?         

I join her in the bedroom and then realize I have to go “potty.”
   I wiggle by the bed, and lick her hand and wiggle some more. She invites me on the bed but I HAVE TO GO POTTY! I can not stop wiggling! She is resting and gets irritated as I am wiggling so now she tells me “off!” What am I going to do? I have to go!?! I bark, and wiggle and circle but she is now asleep. I go to the door hoping it might open on its own or she will hear me but then I realize my body relieved itself.   I tried to go outside and to let my person know but it is a weird day and I am not sure what to do. I now go and lay down in the bedroom with my person. It is naptime for now.

The above is just a guess at how bizarre things become as we plan and prep for holiday festivities in our homes.   Many of us will have guests visit and will be busy and changing our normal routines. Keep in mind that your dog is paying attention to you and your level of stress at these times. Often dogs become stressed due to routine changes. It is important to think of ways to help your dog stay comfortable even as you are busy preparing for a big family dinner or gathering.

Hmm?? Who is here?
If you normally have a quiet home with few visitors it is even more important that your dog has the comfort of routine during the day when you will be having many young and old visitors in your home. If your dog is stressed due to a lack of routine during the day then they will be less tolerant once the guests arrive.         

Here are some points to remember 
when you have large gatherings in your home. 

1. Visiting children can cause even calm and tolerant dogs stress.  All dog and child interaction needs adult active supervision. 
tongue flick
can mean stress
2.  Observe your dog’s body language. Licking lips, turning head away, yawning, shaking, lifting paws etc may be subtle cues to you that your dog is a bit stressed or is anticipating conflict of some sort. Pay attention and allow breaks from the busy activities.
3.  Be aware of people sneaking your dog tidbits that may come out on the rug later on!
4.  Respect your dog’s tolerance limit. If you notice your dog looking for a quiet spot then provide one.
5.  Your dog may guard novelty food items when there is a gathering even if they normally do not. 

Suggestions for success!
1.  Sometimes putting a leash on your dog may help them to feel more secure. 
2.  Keep it short and sweet!  Let your dog/s visit for short periods and then secure them away from the activity if you can not fully supervise them.
Yummy special treat!
3.  Allow your dog to have their own celebration treat with a stuffed kong or other yummy treat. Frozen filled kongs are wonderful for these times.  There are many doggie food puzzles that can be perfect for these special times.  Be prepared and plan a fun frozen filled goodie for your pup to enjoy in a room away from the crowd.  This way you can truly enjoy your guests and your dog will enjoy their quiet time.   
4.  Adding a fan for white noise helps dogs too in their quiet area.

Most of all enjoy your family and friends and stay safe this Holiday Season!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can they meet?

As we take Quentin out and about we are experiencing the "social pressure" I am assuming other new puppy and dog owners encounter.  I have addressed this before about children and dogs and now am experiencing this with our pup.

Here are some situations.
1.  Walking in our neighborhood and a dog is lunging on leash and owners asks "can they meet?" (me...uh no)
2.  At park and dog lunging and barking on leash and owner asks...."can he sniff?"
3.  Trying to enjoy baseball game and other adult dog attending barks and pulls towards our pup and owner asks "would it be ok for them to meet?  He'll calm down after he sniffs your pup."

My answer in all cases is "No, I am sorry but we are not introducing our pup to other dogs on leash."    Or "No, we are not doing greetings."  or "no, he is training."

It is clear that we as dog professionals have communicated that "socialization" of dogs with other dogs is important but .....maybe we need to be clearer about the type of socialization and circumstances.
Several times the people we have encountered said something like "oh, I figured you'd want to "socialize" him with other dogs."  Or, "our dog would relax after she sniffs your pup."
This is very frustrating as a dog trainer but also for a new pup owner.  It shows a limited understanding of what is meant by socialization and how it is meant for dogs to succeed long term. Dogs do need to be exposed to and learn how to behave around other dogs, people, environments etc.  That does not mean that they should meet all other adult dogs or puppies.

That said here are the situations we have decided on for our pup.
1.  No intros to dogs while on leash.
We do not want our dog knowing or practicing the options of moving towards other dogs on leash.  We want him to learn that he sits or makes eye contact or just hangs out with us when other dogs are around and he is on leash.
This helps to avoid the crazy pulling and lunging behavior when walking and other dogs pass by.  If the person is always more important than the passing dog and the passing dog never leads to play then this makes for good behavior around other dogs.
Teach your pup what you want from the beginning so there are no other practiced unwanted options.
2.  When greetings will happen
It will be with familiar people and dogs.  Rules are in place and there is supervision.  We want Quentin to meet other dogs we are familiar with behaviorally so that we know he is learning appropriate behavior vs. inappropriate doggie behavior.  This will be with leash dragging and play pause, play pause pattern in place.  Short successful encounters for both dogs.

i do recognize that our pup needs to meet other dogs and more importantly needs to "see" other dogs of different sizes, colors, behaviors etc.  I also know that these opportunities must be handled carefully for me to have a well mannered dog who learns how to behave appropriately in public around other dogs.  It is up to us to decide and be sure any introductions are safe and handled properly.  Not all dogs are appropriate for this situation.   It is important to keep in mind that any dog your dog meets is "teaching" your dog how other dogs behave. Dogs are learning all the time.  Make your choices wisely.

I often see owners misreading their dog's cues and setting up other dogs and people for a negative encounter.  There is a great deal of pressure when it comes to people and their dogs.

As a family we must set behavioral goals and expectations so that we can help our pup be successful in our encounters.  We must decide what to do and under what circumstances as we know what our family goals are.  I encourage all families set these types of goals and expectations so that they can be consistent and their dog can be successful.

Having a pup has allowed me to revisit so many things.  I hope that by sharing these moments it can help others to make better choices for their family too!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Setting up for success

Having a toddler and a pup is like having two toddlers.  Planning and staying 10 steps ahead is essential for success.  Thinking through your day and scheduling time for puppy activity, toddler activity and so on takes time and preparation.  Here are some things I think about and consider:  This takes planning ahead!  Pups are learning every moment!  Make every moment count!

How can I include Kelsyann in this? We are handfeeding Quentin so Kelsyann is able to put kibble in his crate or through the x pen when Quentin sits.   She likes this.

Potty time!
Where will Kelsyann be when this happens? How can I keep her entertained to not distract pup from his focus of Potty?
Sometimes I encourage kelsyann to bring her play puppy out when Quentin is pottying.  I also have bubbles out so she can do that or sidewalk chalk.

Puppy nap crate in our room.  White noise on and baby monitor so I can hear when he wakes up and take him out to potty.  I usually have kelsyann get her play puppy to go out potty with us.

Puppy independent x pen with safe chew and squeaky toys.  Quentin has plenty of alone time so that he is comfortable being left in a variety of rooms alone with toys or chews.  This is important to decrease the chances of separation anxiety.  With kids and dogs in the home you must be able to have your dog in their "dog zone" when things are hectic.  Puppies need to learn this from the start!

Playtime is the hardest as Kelsyann and Quentin need run around time and this time often overlaps.  Here are some things we have found that both can be successful with!

On the left is a sheet I cut up and tied knots in.  This is great for Kelsyann to drag around and allows Quentin an object to chase and target vs. her.  I always have a long line on Quentin so that I am able to step on the leash should he miss or Kelsyann changes direction and is in the "nipping zone."  Pups naturally chase and kids love to run.  This can create a great game.
 Be sure there is plenty of dragging sheet for the pup to successfully target.
It is important that this game is only played with the pup on a loose longline and that the adult is very aware of where the pup is headed.  We are only encouraging the pup to chase the moving item on the ground vs. any upward movement.  We encourage all family members play this game so that when the toddler does this the dog is already familiar with it.  If at anytime the pup goes for the person then the game is over and toy goes away.  Having the pup on the tether allows the adult to be sure the pup does not jump up on a child. They can easily step on the long line to prevent this.

Allow your pup opportunities to enjoy a chew on his own while your toddler runs around.  Not all games are for them and the sooner they learn this the better.  Here Quentin is enjoying a good chew while Kelsyann runs around with the ball.  Quentin is not invited in this game right now.

Along with the long tied up sheet, we love to have a large ball that Quentin can chase when we kick it.  Kelsyann loves to chase the ball too!   This is fun as Kelsy is running and laughing while Quentin is running.  Both are moving and focusing on the ball.   Any nipping is at the ball.  We often stop and wait for him to sit and then begin the game again.  This is a great game.  Again this is safest with a long line and an adult.  Never alone with toddler and pup.

Puppy teeth are SHARP and can easily scratch or cut our skin.  Providing your pup with ample appropriate chew items is very important.  Toddlers act in ways that make them appear to be desirable chew objects.  They move quickly, they make noise when nipped etc.  It is a parents job to set their toddler and puppy up for success by preventing opportunities where the pup practices nipping behavior towards small children.  it is NOT ok to allow this using the excuse "he is just a pup."  Pups are learning every moment through all interactions.  Set them up for success by being prepared and thinking all things through.  Again, pups are work and need time, patience and planning when in a home with toddlers.  NEVER allow pup loose roaming with a toddler!  Here are the managements we have in place with our boy Quentin to help him make good choices and prevent opportunities to practice unwanted behavior.
1. Travel crate (upstairs by my bed) for night time and some naps
2  Medium size crate our living room for chew time, play time and napping sometimes.
3.  x pen in playroom (for independent play and sometimes napping)
4.  Long line for use outside  (30 foot) for ball play and running around
5.  Leash
6 tethers (success stations)

Life is busy and again, I never would have taken this challenge on without the help of my 3 older children and wonderful husband!  Toddlers have fulltime needs and so do pups.   My hope is that by sharing all that we are doing people will understand that having a pup is a fulltime job!  Ok...gotta wake up pup to go potty and play before Kelsyann comes back from her sitter.  This way he will nap when she returns.  See...planning!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Puppy teeth & puppy paws

When you look into the eyes of your gorgeous pup it is easy to forget that they come equipped with powerful dangerously sharp teeth.  This is very challenging when you have a toddler in home as they want to interact and pet or "hold" the puppy.  It is puppy nature to nibble and paw as they learn how to be gentle and bite inhibition. Toddlers can not be expected to handle puppy behavior of this kind.  Our family has 3 older children who are quite capable and willing to engage our pup or our toddler in appropriate activities so we are doing much rotation.  We are respecting that up until now Kelsyann was the focus of our attention and that  has shifted a bit and she is now sharing the spotlight with a 4 legged toddler.  We consider every waking moment a learning opportunity for pup and have had many family discussions about what is acceptable and what is not.

For example:
Quentin must be sitting before we enter the xpen or he leaves crate.
Quentin sits for treats or his hand fed dinner.  He is a quick study!
We always have  him crated, or in the xpen or on leash in the house.
All food is either hand fed or given in puzzle.
****Kelsyann is never to be with Quentin unless Mom or Dad are supervising*****

Having a puppy and toddler is exhausting and we are constantly moving and thinking ahead.  When does pup need to go out?  Where will Kelsy be when I take him out?  Due to his playfulness and lack of bite inhibition now we need to keep she and he a safe distance when he is jumpy or playful.  Puppy teeth hurt and while he is learning what is acceptable and what is not...we must keep Kelsyann safe and away from him when he is playful.  We do not want him to practice this undesirable behavior.  Lessons happen every moment.  We also don't want her to become fearful of him.  Proactive Supervision is the key to prevention. Quentin and Kelsyann both need constant supervision and it is double duty for me and my husband.  Even though our older kids are 10, 14 & 15....this is up to myself and my husband to monitor our toddler and any puppy interaction at this stage.

Again, we went into this decision expecting and knowing that it would be time, energy and loads of management!  Puppies are WORK but so worth it when you have the time and patience and entire family onboard.  I never would have done this when my other children were younger.  An adult rescue dog was the perfect option for us at those times.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Preparation for our pup

One of the hardest parts of having a toddler and a puppy is that both are TODDLERS!  
Our daughter Kelsyann has been the center of attention for 2 years now and sharing this stage with a puppy is something she will have to adjust to.  It is so important that including her when possible is done in a positive manner so that she develops a fondness of the pup and enjoys the interaction.  With razor sharp teeth this is all about timing and planning.  I hope to share some of the fun things we do to help keep the peace.
One of the things we did was set up a crate and have her put her stuffed puppy in it while she played something else.  "puppies need rest."  This is important especially for the little ones who are so self centered and want to be with a puppy non stop.  We tell her that Quentin needs puppy alone time.  She needs alone time sometimes too and so that seems to make sense.  Try to connect your child's experience to what your puppy needs to help make things more understandable.

Puppy adventures!

I know I know....those of you who know me are saying...what are you thinking?  A puppy!?!  Well, actually I have thought ALOT about this decision and hope that by sharing our challenges and successes that we may help many other families who adopt a dog or pup while having a toddler in the home.  Toddlers and puppies are work and require constant management and attention.  This is NOT a decision I made impulsively and I never would have chosen this when our 3 older children were toddlers.  At that time and for many years adopting an older dog between 3 and 5 years of age was the perfect option.
My decision to add a puppy at this time to our family is based on the fact that we have 3 older children who are able to help and enjoy the puppy experience.  I also am going into this fully prepared for WORK and meeting the challenges and successes we have ahead of us.  I have wanted a german shepherd pup since I was 6 years old.  After many years of rescuing dogs we have chosen to have a pup we raise from the beginning who we can include in all aspects of our lives.  we want to share in his beginning socialization stages and begin guiding his learning from the moment he enters our arms.  I was NOT ready for this years ago and am thrilled that now is the perfect time.
I am excited about this adventure and hope that by sharing our experiences others will benefit too!
So, meet Quentin our 8 week old German Shepherd Puppy.  The name Quentin means "5th born child."  So appropriate!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween & Hounds! "TREAT N TREAT"

Halloween is one of the most fun Holidays for children everywhere.  Candy, costumes and creepy crawlers are all the ingredients to make this a great and fun memory for kids. 
As you and your family prepare for this fun night, consider your 4 legged friends and how this one evening could leave a lasting and possibly damaging impression on them.
Think about the following:

Dogs rely on body language and predictable human behavior:
Are kids in costumes predictable?  NO, in fact most kids go out of their way to get a reaction from anyone or anything when they dress up.    
***Respect your dog by not expecting them to interact with kids in disguise.  Many dogs do not even recognize their own family members when an appearance is changed.  This can lead to a fearful response."

Do you like it when your dog barks wildly at your front door?
One of the biggest complaints of clients is that their dog goes NUTS around the front door.  It is amazing how even one night can impact the behavior of our dogs.  Door bell reactivity and excitement is frustrating to deal with especially with multiple dogs.  Prevent your dog from practicing this unwanted behavior on Halloween night with the following tips.
1.  Allow your dog a nice quiet and calm place with a yummy frozen goodie or bone.  
2.  Add white noise to this "den" area and replenish the treats when needed.
3.  If your dog is calm and behaves well at the sure to reward this behavior.  KEEP IN MIND that costumes can startled even the mellowist dogs.
4.  Put pumpkins at the end of your driveway with a bowl of candy so the kids do not come to your door.  Leave lights off on porch.
5.  Disconnect your doorbell for the night.
Tails of a puller, mugger and barker?
Does your dog pull on leash?  Does he grab other peoples goodies?  Is he easily triggered to bark?  If so then this is not the time to walk your dog.  Trick or treating night is busy, loud and there are goodies everywhere!  Please consider your dog before deciding to bring him along on Halloween!  Dogs often do better at home.  Darkness makes seeing difficult and this can make even calm and tolerant dogs feel a bit uneasy.  Darkness and costumes running around....heck it makes me uneasy!  Dogs also may be overly excited about the opportunities they smell in kids bags!  Chocolate and other goodies are not safe or healthy for dogs.  
Consider leaving your dog at home and follow the above steps to help him feel safe and secure.  NEVER leave your dog or cat outside on halloween night.  This is unsafe!  There are many sad stories of family companions who are injured or stolen on these nights.

i love Halloween and all that is involved but....I also know from my animal control friends that this holiday is very stressful for our dogs.  We need to consider what is safe and comfortable for our companions so that they can be safe, secure and successful on these Human Holidays!

So, make this a "treat N treat" for your dogs this Halloween!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Doors you can depend on.

If you have a newborn in the house you must be sure that your doors close in a dependable way.  If your dog is able to push open a door to any room where the baby may be sleeping then this must be properly secured.

We added a hook and eye on the outside of our daughters nursery to prevent our dogs from nudging the unreliable door open.  

Your newborn is NEW to you and your dog.  It is essential that extra care be taken in those first days and weeks home.  Full awake adult supervision is a must.  It is also important to KNOW that any door you close is totally shut to prevent access of your dog to your newborn.  A gate is not enough.  Be sure your dog never has access to the nursery or sleeping baby while you are not right there.

We have many wonderful baby monitors that make it so much easier to close the door to the nursery so that you know your baby is safe and sound. 

Dogs usually adjust very well to a new baby but they are animals and it is important that families take extra precautions in those early weeks.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

You are entering the GRUMBLE ZONE!

Our program refers to crowded close quarters as "Grumble zones."  Grumble zones have an escape route but a child or another dog may be blocking or in the way of using it.  This can lead to a conflict and a potential danger or "grumble."

Grumble zones are important for families to consider when having multiple dogs or children in the home.  

Crowed spaces = Grumpy faces

Entryways can be crowded and conflicting especially if there is something of value or a resource near it.  Entryways can be crowded and conflicting especially if there is something of value or a resource near it.  

Many people put their dog beds in a corner which creates a Grumble zone.  This limits escape routes for dogs.  It is a good idea to help your dog associate positive encounters when in their comfy spot.  Walk by and drop a treat without stopping to engage.  Soon your dog will look up as you or someone approaches to see what opportunity they might get vs. preparing for someone to invade their space. 

The space between a coffee table and couch is a common grumble zone.  This creates a potential conflict if a toddler approaches Mom or Dad while the dog is sitting or laying at their feet.  Close space and conflicts often can happen in this type of space.

It is important to consider your layout when you have multiple dogs and kids living together.  Crowded spaces cause grumpy faces and a little preparation ahead of time can decrease stress and increase safety for all!  
Sometimes I feel like an interior decorator in a private consultation as we end up rearranging furniture to decrease the grumble zone potential.   Remember, this is not a forever change!  You will get your nicely arranged living room back.  It is important however that during the stages of new mobility your child is free to move about in a way that is safe and comfortable for they and your dog.  

Always always supervise children and dogs!  Even with grumble zones minimized you still must be SUPERvising your child when your dog is around.

Our next blog will give more photos in sequences that help show what you can do when you find you have encountered a "grumble zone."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Toddler triumphs

Our family has had the opportunity to visit with many different people and dogs over the last month.  I was thrilled to see our 2 year old Kelsyann followed our guidelines with all other animals we encountered.

1.  Admire from a distance instead of approach (wave hi to dog, blow kiss)
2.  Invite them to you with kissy noise and leg pat (invites decreases bites)
3.  Allow them to walk away

Toddlers model what we teach and consistently reward them for doing.  Teaching and practicing these three steps with your toddler at home will help set your child up for success when out and about.

An example of this yesterday on our walk to the park kelsyann was helping me push her two stuffed dogs in the stroller.  A cat came across a front yard.  Kelsyann stopped and immediately invited the cat over with kissy noises and leg pats.   The cat reinforced her by coming straight over and rubbing all over us.  I loved that this cat felt safe and comfortable.  Kelsy did not chase the cat or follow it when it chose to leave.  Teaching respect of space is an important lesson for toddlers when living with animals.
***As always these 3 steps are to be supervised and only done under the guidance of an adult.   
***When we encounter an unfamiliar dog while out and about I encourage only step one for toddlers.  (Admire from a distance)  Unfamiliar toddlers are stressful for most dogs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baby and dog sharing food bowl....YIKES

To some this video may be cute.  The dog and baby are "sharing" the meal.
To me I see a German Shepherd who wants to be left alone.  Yes, he is being polite and indicating by pulling his bowl back that he really wants to eat in peace BUT how many times does he have to "tolerate" the interference of this child as he eats?  He is learning that his food must be guarded from this baby.   Dogs use their body to communicate with us.  This baby is in the dog's space and not respecting the dog's attempt to be left alone. Over time if continued this will escalate especially once this baby is mobile.  The dog is learning that the baby is a threat to his food and can not be trusted.  Overtime this will lead to guarding behavior.
Watch the beagle.  The beagle is showing concern about the baby.  Taking a bite, watching baby, eating fast, watching baby.  This dog is already indicating a threat and is very likely to be reactive if that baby crawls nearer to it's bowl. 
Dogs should not be expected to "share" food or eat around small babies, toddlers or children.  Leave a dog alone when they are eating is a oldie but goodie rule of thumb!  Expecting your dog to enjoy the company of your baby while they eat is a disaster for all involved and setting everyone up to fail.   This situation is teaching the dog/s that this baby is not to be trusted by their food and that their adults will allow this little one to take their food and crowd them during their meals..

Here is what I like to teach dogs about people approaching and being in their space 
when they enjoy a treat, meal or special spot.

A simple exercise done throughout the day randomly is best.  I use high value treats or middle value treats such as cheese or chicken for this activity depending on the context and dog.
Here are the steps.

1.  While dog is enjoying their food in it's bowl I walk by and drop (while standing) a small bit of higher value (warmed up hot dog or chicken) without saying a word or stopping.
I repeat this walking casually by when they are on their bed, or enjoying a toy or anything they are focused on.
Many dogs will immediately grab the treat and then quickly return to the bowl never looking up. I repeat this until the dog begins to look up anticipating the higher value treat.  As if to say"hey whatcha got?"  Now the dog is anticipating and thinking approaching people could mean opportunity vs. ut they come again to steal my stuff!

2.  I begin (over time) to expand the distance from the bowl to where I drop the treat.  This challenges the dog to "choose" to leave the bowl to get the treat.  Learning that it is ok and his food is not in danger of being taken by people walking by. There is no threat and no need to guard.
I repeat this step at different paces, with different shoes, crawling by, stomping by etc.   Again, until the dog begins to look up happily at my approach as if to say "whatcha got for me?"  

3.  I then vary the location of where I drop the goodie to either by the bowl, in the bowl or a bit away from the bowl once the dog is happily looking up at my approach.  Sometimes even toss goodie to the dog. 
This allows the dog to see a person as an opportunity vs. threat around their food, treats, toys or special spots.
Guarding food is a common behavior and families with children must take this seriously.  If your dog is demonstrating guarding behaviors such as:  goblbing food quickly, freezing as you approach, displaying whites of the eyes as they look up at you, growling, body blocking their food or toys from you then you need to seek the help of a professional. 
If your dog does not show these behaviors then you want to be SURE to reward them for it.  Doing the above exercise is a great way to keep your dog from guarding their food, toys and special spots.  We often forget to reward behaviors we like and this is one example of how to do that.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

PARENTvision vs. supervision

Anytime we have someone else babysit for us we have our dogs in a comfy spot to be away from the kid activities.  Although babysitters, nannies and even wonderful relatives may love dogs and feel comfortable, I do not recommend that they are responsible for supervising both kids and dogs.  Remember when the substitute teacher or bus driver was in for the day?  Kids acted up and problems happened.  Same is true here.

As a parent you have PARENTvision which is far more consistent than that of someone who occasionally watches your child.  You are able to predict your child's responses, behaviors far better than another.
Here are some reasons why I believe that it is best to allow your dog a calm spot while your child is being watched by another.
1.  The person may not be confident or comfortable with dogs.
2.  Often people handle dogs differently.  Different expectations, methods and responses could put your child at risk.
3.  Your sitter does not know your dog's comfort level or your child's behavior like you do.  Again...PARENTvision
4.  Your dog is not as trusting of another as they may be with you.  They may lack a comfort level with a caregiver and that can increase risk for your child.  Dogs depend on their trusted adults and rely on predictability along with deferring to you for guidance.
5.  Bottom line...when a CHILD care provider is in your home they are there for your CHILD not your dog.

A room to chill together in
This may seem challenging but believe me you never want to get a call from your babysitter who unknowingly put your dog or child in a bad situation.  Dogs and children miscommunicate often but when the familiar trusted adult is not there the dynamics are off balance and this is the time accidents happen.

So, what can you do?  Here are some suggestions.
A comfy spot to chill out

A yummy frozen treat is great
1.  If your have a full time caretaker then you will want to be sure that you ALL get educated about body language and dog and baby interaction ( or lack of) We will be offering a webinar you can have you and your childcare provider can take together.
2.  Have a long discussion ahead of time of rules and boundaries with your caretaker.
3.  Observe your caretaker as they run through and regularly practice familiar cues with your dog.  This will build the trust and bond with them too.
4.  I recommend video taping or a nanny cam to observe (with their awareness) so that you can use that for educational opportunities and come together to change anything that makes you uncomfortable.
5.  Be sure that there are multiple management options for your caretaker to use and rotate the dog during the day.

My dogs in with me  while we have a sitter
Short term sitters...teens, family etc.
1.  Secure dog in a closed off area.
2.  Let dog go to doggie day care
3. Gate dog in a dog zone
4.  Allow the dog the option of multiple locations but not in the area with the child.
Always prepare and plan ahead with a yummy long lasting treat for your dog to enjoy!

Dogs and kids succeed when there is parent guided education to support growing bonds.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Visiting toddlers at a doggie home.

Summer is here and the time is perfect for a visit to relatives.  I know our family is preparing for visits and with that comes thinking ahead as we are traveling with a toddler.  Packing plenty of activities along with patience will be key!  We will be visiting some family homes where there will be dogs.  Although all the dogs we will visit are well behaved and indoor family dogs, our toddler is unfamiliar to them so extra caution and care must be taken. 

It will be our job to supervise and be sure that our daughter is not left unattended or allowed access to any of the dogs without our guided supervision. These dogs are all wonderful but...our toddler is unfamiliar and they have every reason to be weary. 

Here are some things parents should consider when visiting homes with dogs.

1. Discuss any concerns about the dog with the owners ahead of time if possible.  In families this can be a touchy subject but important if you are able to talk about any discomforts.  Discuss with your spouse or partner any concerns.  Have a plan.

2.  Plan where your child will nap or rest if spending the night.  Be sure there is no way the dog will have access to your child when you are not awake and supervising.  Be sure no other child might open a door allowing access etc.  Baby monitors are great helps here!

3.  Understand that not all dogs appreciate all kids.  Even if this dog has been around other children it does not mean that they will want to be around your toddler on that day.  Older dogs especially may not be interested in young children and their unpredictable behaviors.  Even if the owner says their dog is fine...respect the dog and know that opting to not engage is sometimes the best choice.

4.  BE EXTRA careful around food!  Dogs that normally do not "guard" food items from their owners may guard from guests....especially young children!  This can be very dangerous at picnics and family gatherings where there are many distractions.  Be aware of the dog and where your children are at all times if food is about.

5.  High energy activities and loud kid play can be very arousing for dogs.  If there are many kids running around and acting silly, be extra diligent about supervision. (if possible ask for the dog to have their own down time away from the "kid fun." or that the dog be leashed.

6.  Follow your gut and do what is safest for your child.  If you feel unsure then take precautions.  Parents must be alert and proactive when visiting homes with their babies, and young children whenever there are dogs involved.

Dogs are great additions to our families but they have special considerations when it comes to guests and large gatherings.  

What can you do if you have visiting kids coming to your home with your dogs?

1.  Allow several guided activities that the kids can do with you and your dog that will be structured, safe and fun for both.  Ex.  Catch, fetch, hide and seek, high five etc.
2.  Stock up on some yummy treats that you freeze in food dispensing toys for guest visits.
3.  Only allow short sessions for your dog to be around all the guests when you are able to give your full attention. This way the dog stays interested and it is not overdone or overstimulating.
4.  Allow your dog a safe place to be away from everyone to enjoy their treat while food is out for the guests.  
5.  Keep your dog on leash and reward them for calm and relaxed behavior when guests are over.
6.  Be aware of any guests or parents of children who are fearful of dogs.  This can make for a stressful time for them and your dog.  You want to be sure to set your dog up for success.  
7.  Remember that your dog may like people but too much and too long can be just too much for even the best of dogs.

Be safe, have fun!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New puppy in your house?

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I am always excited when I find something worth sharing.  Nu BowWow has some exciting opportunities for new pup parents as well as for all dog lovers!  Whether you like sharing your dog's image or are interested in some basic manners The village of Nu BowWow has something for you!
Our goal with Family Paws parent education programs is to offer ongoing support and education and resources that will help you and your dog be successful.  This is another great resource that will be expanding and growing.  I invite you to go and start having fun today as you share with other dog lovers!  This new resource will be one to watch and participate in!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Babysitters, Nannies & dogs.... things to consider

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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 sensitive 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 caretakers also to join us during our parent education webinars!  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Social pressures of parents, tots and dogs.

(Photo on left)  This is an image of one of my most loved dogs and my two sons.  notice the left paw lifted and her "cleaning" my son's face to make him MOVE away.  This  is not a "kiss" bur rather a lick that says...step away please and give me space...too crowded. 

I share my thoughts of some of the conflicts I am faced with while having a toddler and visiting friends with dogs. How would you feel if you were out with your dog and a toddler wanted to pet your dog and the parent encouraged the child not to? Would you feel they rejected you or your dog? What makes people do what they do?
Check the podcast here! Social pressures of parents, tots and dogs.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Elmo and dog

I stumbled across this as I was looking for elmo videos for my 2 year old.  This was too good to pass up a discussion on.
Here ia a dog who is presented with something unfamiliar.  This unfamiliar object wiggles, unpredictably and makes foreign noises.   Kind of like a baby?  As you watch the dog begins to explore this novel object.  In fact it is encouraged to do so.
Notice how the dog investigates Elmo.  At first a bit timid, not sure.  Then when there is no guidance or direction of what to do....the dog becomes bolder.  The unpredictability and spontaneous motions of the elmo keep the dog's interest level high.  As the dog receives no direction and becomes more interested the behaviors increase in intensity the dog begins backing up stiffening and barking.  Funny huh?
Ok, now ....what happens when a toddler giggles or wiggles on the floor?  What has the dog learned to do?  What about a baby?  If the dog acted this it naturally may then we would NOT think of it as funny.  We often lead our dogs down confusing paths.  We expect them to "know" what is right and wrong but when we egg them on in some circumstances and get upset in others it can be confusing and dangerous.  
Why is it funny to create fear?  Many of these dogs with the tickle me elmos are like dogs I see with newborns.  Fearful and unsure and needing guidance vs. encouragement to "get it" or no help at all.  i know people find this funny but.....what does it teach your dog about small moving unpredictable noisy creatures?
This is a great example of dog's investigating novel things and how they do it.   Many people think it is funny ....until it is a newborn or toddler.

In the video below the dog actually "guards" elmo from the person.  Again, high arousal being encouraged.  What if a child were rolling around in the yard?  Would we think this funny?  Then it would not be appropriate but the dog really is acting like a dog.  Many dogs are fearful or unsure of small children and babies for the same reasons they are to this elmo doll.  We  need to guide and teach them what is appropriate vs. encourage what is unsafe towards children.

One of the things I believe strongly in is teaching dogs what we DO want them to do and also how to relax and accept new experiences.  Here is a good blog about the "Look at that game"  
I also believe that by not encouraging "get it, attack etc" kind of behavior and replacing it with calm and redirecting behavior is great.  Positive exposure with appropriate guidance is key when working with dogs that might be reactive to such things.  This blog was really to illustrate how a dog can escalate when they do not have the guidance of their person to direct them.  Again, relating to a dog left alone with small unfamiliar baby in a bouncer low to the floor or on a playmat.  This is a perfect example of dog's being dogs.  Exploring as dog, investigating and experiencing as dogs.

I use this as a "normal" example of dog behavior and relate it to incidents where a baby is unattended and a dog has access and is left to handle things on their own.  Sadly this is seen too often and this is an example of how easily it can happen.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I propose....respect dogs week!

With this week being Dog Bite prevention week we will all be seeing stats and reports that are meant to stir up our emotions and fear. Originally this week was meant to be "prevention" but lately seems to have lost its focus. Here is what I would like to see vs. dog bite prevention about "dog respect and  awareness week?"  Or "become dog smart week"  So many possibilities with a poitive spin.   It will never happen but...I can dream right?  Not eye catching enough but..  Actually Doggone Safe has made a HUGE effort with the International dog bite prevention education challenge!  This is intended to empower and educate kids vs. create fear!  hope we see more of this each year!

We NEED education as the video by Dr. Sophia Yin beautifully portrays what I witness at every single event with kids and dogs and in homes everywhere.

 Dog bites do happen but it is not as unpredictable as the media would like you to fear. Fear and drama works to and keep you reading.and tuning in. So, enough about my opinion on is what I know to be true.

1. We must take responsibility to learn how our dogs DO communicate discomfort, stress and fear. (see resources at bottom)
2. We must RESPECT what the dog is communicating
So many adults approach a dog because "they are dog people" or "all dogs love them" or "they want to help the poor thing."  And this example of not respecting a dog is ADULTS.  Putting their needs before the dog's comfort and stress.

Above is an image I took while out at a park one day.  This is both lack of education and respect.

If a dog is indicating stress and fear.....RESPECT IT AND LEAVE IT BE!
If people choose to engage despite what the dog is indicating...the dog may become more threatened and react with stronger signaling (such as freezing, whale eye, growling, showing teeth ) other dogs would understand and would respond appropriately to. However, since you are not a dog you may miss these signals and most likely get a more serious reaction or a bite. This is often a death sentence for way too many dogs.  Dogs dialogue with body language and it is an exchange.  We do not communicate in the same way (thank goodness) and often misread their cues and meanings.

A pet peeve of mine is this:
I see adults all the time pushing the limits with their dogs. They think it is funny or cute or it strokes their ego in some way.
When the dog finally reaches his limit attempting to dog body language discomfort, stress or conflict and growls, shows teeth or bites.....the dog is now bad and is punished. REALLY!?! How fair is this? We are supposed to be the "smarter" species right?
So why do some people need to have their egos stroked by pushing dogs to their limits? What does this accomplish? Is it ok to bully your dog because he can't use words to tell you to stop it!?!

I see this especially with Men (sorry) teasing and taunting their small dogs to the point of biting, nipping or growling...cute?!? NOT! I think this is so disrespectful and actually could be a death sentence for that dog if one day, after so many times having their signals ignored by their "trusted" adult, then an unfamiliar child or even family child goes to pet the dog and WHAM! A bite happens and is labeled as "unprovoked" or "out of nowhere" or the list of what they always could do to the dog is given. ex: We always hugged him, he always let us sit on him before etc. Heard it all. The list in and of itself indicates the family knows they have been challenging the "tolerance" of their dog or else there would not be a list of what they could always get away with or the dog put up with. A great article all parents should read here!

This is NOT unprovoked or was caused by a history of basic body language signals not working and being ignored and now the dog no longer offers them to indicate stress or warning. So sad but I see this alot with highly intelligent and successful adults.

I try not to rant and rave but I am very passionate about this subject. Next week beginning Monday we all will get bombarded by stats, reports and media stating dogs are dangerous and "be afraid, be very afraid." type of stuff and it really irritates me. For crying out loud....we have 78.2 million dogs living in this country.

Have you ever googled how many parents kill their own children in a day? Try it
Or just tune into your local news at 5pm (don't want you to loose sleep at 11pm) and then you tell me who we should fear! Just a thought.

I will end my tangent with action steps.
1. Get educated about how your dog communicates!
2. Get your info from the experts who have DOCUMENTATION and proof of facts based on indepth research and directly connected to reliable sources.
3. Check out our Family Paws parent education webinars

****I want to be very clear that I continue to grow and learn every day with every interaction with our 4 legged friends.  I am embarrassed at some of what I used to do and am proud to know that now I know better and hope that you too will be inspired to learn the wonderful language of dogs and enhance your relationship!"**

Let's all have a great "respect your dog" week!  Learning the language of dogs will enhance your bond and decrease miscommunications and stress!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Parent education...gone to the dogs. WEBINARS

Great resource for rescues and new parents!  We offer individual and series webinars by professionals for new parents when they need it.  Our goal is always consistent, personal and accessible information!  This is great for new parents or as a shower gift.  Your dogs will thank you for being aware and making your life and their's comfortable by smoothing out this transition.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Live chat beginning! 9pmET wednesday may 11

Let's chat live!  Join us!
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Monday, May 9, 2011

New Interview loaded with information!

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Listen in as I discuss many topics related to dogs and babies and our Family Paws Parent Education Programs  Enjoy! Podcast with