Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Dog and Baby Connection (DABC)

I am very excited to have held the first Dog and Baby Connections class today at our local hospital.  This is the next necessary step towards dog and child safety awareness.  Many families with dogs now know to look for resources as they prepare for baby but....what about after?  That is when the challenge, frustrations and fun really begins.  The actual introductory phase usually goes rather smoothly and may lead families to assume that means "happily ever after."   That may be the case but more often it is common to see discomfort in family dogs once the little one gets moving. That is where the Dog and Baby Connection comes in.    This program discusses the most common challenges and frustrations hundreds of families have communicated to me over the years.  Our emphasis is on a positive, practical and preventive approach that all families can put into action in their homes.  
The Dog and Baby Connection has 30 licensed presenters at this time and will be adding more very soon.  We will also be offering a short condensed version of the presentation as a webinar to reach more families and help raise awareness.  Stay tuned for those event dates.  All of our presenters must go through training about the concepts in the program and ALL have a solid background in dog behavior as well as other areas.  We are very proud of our team and look forward to supporting many families as they grow.  Education for prevention and success!

I invite you to visit our site and look at what's new.  Our site is still being fully constructed so there are new things appearing daily!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Atlas learning tricks

The more your dog knows the more opportunities they have to be successful. Here Helen and Atlas entertain Grace (in highchair)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Party Animals? NOT!

Another great blog post from one of our presenters Kate Anders 

Toddler birthday parties are something that seem like a great idea right up until you’re in the middle of one.
Today we celebrated my son’s 2nd birthday by having a play date with 3 of his 2 year-old buddies and, to be fair, things actually went much better than I anticipated.  But when there were 4 toddlers and 6 parents stuffed into our tiny house I was pretty sure somehow I’d miscounted and had invited at least 10 kids because that’s how it felt – bodies whirling, toys flying, food everywhere.
This was our first big gathering of kids our dogs had to cope with and, as for most dogs, living with a single toddler is stressful enough so the idea of a houseful of guests, half of whom are loud, unsteady and erratic, is no picnic.  Luckily we had time to plan, prepare and ultimately protect the kids and our sanity (at least a little).  And while I’m already thinking of things I’ll do better next time, I’m really happy with how everything played out.

Party dogs?
When planning, the first thing I ruled out was letting the dogs have free run of the party.  While my dogs don’t have perfect manners (it’s a bit of the shoemaker’s children running barefoot syndrome), they are both pretty good dogs – good enough to be reasonably polite with guests.  However, parties are stressful things for people and dogs alike (even for party loving people) and having toddlers thrown in the mix only makes the situation more challenging.  I knew we would be distracted both by our son and by our guests – I wouldn’t have the time or interest in trying to be a good trainer.  And with two dogs there was literally no way my husband and I could be sure to have an eye on each dog and our son at all times.

So separation it is!
With multiple dogs it’s important to remember to separate them in situations that are exciting or stressful – especially if you’ve got a dog that is a bit of a grump when it comes to other dogs.  Two dogs locked into a bedroom or put in the yard may seem fine (I mean they are used to living together in the same house, right?  What could go wrong?!) – but the reality is when one dog hears someone or something and gets revved up, the other dog gets keys up too.  Soon there is a cycle of feeding on each other’s arousal and, if confined, there may be no outlet for all the pent up excitement except the other dog.  BAM – you’ve got a fight.
Another not so great option would have been to kennel the dogs in the living room (or in the thick of things).  The dog is now trapped in a small space, surrounded by people, noise, crumbs and at the perfect height for toddler fingers and faces to peer and poke.  If ever there was a time I’d say a dog has every right to bite it might be when shut in a kennel and being harassed by a strange, screaming 2 year-old.

And the winner is…
Ultimately we kenneled both dogs in our bedroom.  They did have to be in the same room, but the kennels were not in sight of each other.  They got extra special treats when being kenneled so they didn’t feel like they were missing out on something – and I swear my older dog actually sighed with relief when I closed the door as our first guests arrived.  The dogs were not underfoot or in danger of being cornered by the kids and I was able to focus on my son and the party.

What I hadn’t expected is that all our guests, knowing I was a trainer and dog owner, had talked with their children about how we had puppies and wasn’t that exciting!?  I suppose I can’t blame them, my dogs are pretty good after all.  So as each family arrived a little voice mumbled something in toddlerese that was eventually translated into “show me the dogs!”  With guests in tow, I made 3 separate trips upstairs to get out a dog and have a visit.  I was careful not to let anyone meet the dogs while they were kenneled and only let one dog out at a time.  This meant I could be focused on the dog, stay between the dog and the child, and facilitate a positive interaction where everyone would be comfortable.  By that I mean I positioned myself so I could insure no ear pulling, eye poking (by the kids) or excessive licking (by the dog) would occur.

And for an encore:

After guests had departed and my son was passed out after his cupcake high my dogs preformed their very best trick – vacuum impersonation.  As the tidbits were snooped out of every crack and corner, I made a list of things to remember for next time:

1) Put a container of treats on the door to the bedroom where the dogs are kenneled so I can have extra good stuff on hand in case the dogs are requested to make an appearance. 

2) Practice kenneling the dogs in the bedroom for a few minutes in the days prior to the party so it seems more routine (my high-strung male had to get a minute or two of barking out of his system when first kenneled upstairs – something he doesn’t do when kenneled in the living room in “the normal” spot).
All in all, a toddler party survived!  Our guests were a ton of fun (parents and kids alike), and our son had a blast.  I feel a bit like I’ve just run a marathon – exhausted but like I’ve done something wonderful and difficult.  Happy birthday baby!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Siberian Husky and Baby crying together. Cute or not?

There is something about a baby and pooch that screams cute it? We all like to see harmony and new parents especially love to see their baby and dog.."bonding" but this is not a safe option. Bonding of this type is not a safe option!
Newborn cries are alarms and often trigger dogs to react in a way that is not comfortable to parents or safe for a baby. Dogs are animals and a new baby is unfamiliar to that animal. This dog (although well behaved) is still a dog and should not be this close to a newborn in stress. Definitely not like this. The dog in fact is reacting to the stress signal the baby is giving. The howling is not a "sharing" moment but an indicator of stress. Notice when the dog sits up a bit...I am guessing to scratch a bit due to discomfort of the situation and not knowing what to do. This is not safe and the dog is not getting direction on how to handle this.
I realize we all want to believe it is safe and the dog is trying to soothe the baby but as a certified dog behavior consultant who specializes in dog and baby safety.....I am sorry to say that this is not a comfortable or safe idea for either the dog or baby.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Radio interview with Jennifer Shryock

For more information about or contact Jennifer at info @
Listen in to hear thoughts on resource guarding and more!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Go to Spot

For more information about or contact Jennifer at info @

A terrific way to include and entertain a dog while changing a baby.  Making changing time fun allows you to include the dog in a daily activity and practice cues all at the same time.  Dogs that are included in daily baby routines become familiar with the sighs, sounds and smells of baby.  Preparing ahead with simple commands makes this inclusion possible.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

Announcing our Assistant Director of Family Paws programs!

For more information about or contact Jennifer at info @
Due to the success and growth of our programs I am pleased to announce the need for HELP!  :)  I am proud to introduce you to Mother and Certified dog behavior consultant  Helen Nicholls.

Helen Nicholls is the owner and operator of No Monkey Business Dog Training. Based in Concord, New Hampshire, she is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer -Knowledge Assessed and a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. Helen has been training dogs for over 6 years.  Helen's skills range from basic obedience to behavior modification of serious problems including aggression. As well as doing one on one behavior consultations, Helen teaches classes locally and offers workshops and seminars on a variety of subjects. Helen is constantly going to continuing education seminars to learn more about the fascinating world of dog behavior, and she has been featured on the radio, in print, and on T.V. for her work! She is educated in canine behavior and has a strong foundation of knowledge on the psychological principles and applications of dog training. Helen has both the academic and hands-on skills that make for a great trainer and behavior consultant.
Helen recently became a new mother to now 7 month old Grace, and she and her husband also have three dogs, a German Shepherd named Atlas, and two Papillons, Merlin and Sweet Pea. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Is there always a "Happily ever after?"

I wanted to share this special blog post that addresses a side of dog behavior consulting many people don't discuss.  I can very much relate to Helen's experience and myself have supported families as they make their heartbreaking choice.  There are times that families are stepping stones in a dog's life and sometimes they are not a "forever" home.  I have myself experienced this personally and with clients.  It is an agonizing decision but sometimes it is the right decision due to changes in the environment or for other reasons.  I appreciate Helen sharing this story and hope others will as well. Sometimes happily ever after looks different then we expected.  Being open to all possibilities and solutions is key. Is there always a happily ever after?