Resources For families with dogs and babies!

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.

To inquire about a licensed presenter in your area visit

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

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Puppy love!


Today at my son's ball game (they won!) there was this most amazing pug puppy.  HOLY COW is there nothing cuter than a 10 week old pug!  Seeing this cute puppy of course triggered the emotions of "puppy love."  We sat and chatted with the pug's Mom and had a wonderful time.  This experience reminded me how easy it is to fall for puppy cuteness.  That was not the case for this family as they did their homework and prepared but.....I even found myself thinking....awwww a pug pup would be fun.  Then....I remembered the 6, 2 week old Siberian husky/mix puppies we fostered one summer.  I had thought...what a great summer project, the kids will love it, it will be fun......OH BOY was I nuts!  Yes, the pups were darn adorable but when it comes to pups and raising them properly it takes work, time, observation not to mention money! 

 I loved having the pups at our home and observing and learning while enjoying their puppy antics.  However, some of the puppy behavior and needs were more than my children appreciated.  Helping with puppy feeding or cleaning up was a challenge with share claws and teething razor sharp teeth.  We had to make it so the kids could help and not be injured by these cuties.  Here are some of the things we did to help with keeping the kids and puppies happy!
1.  We used ice cubes as a good distraction when we went into the puppy area to change papers or fill food bowls etc. This was great and became a huge reward for them as they batted around the cubes and got to chase them instead of the kids.
2.  Kibble frenzy.  We also allowed the kids to toss a hand full of kibble that scattered so that the dogs would keep paws down on the floor vs. jump up on the kids. 
3.  Use those old sheets, towels!  Tie them in knots and allow the kids to have that to offer the pups (only with supervision as we don't want them to eat this)  This long knotted interesting toy was always a hit for the pups and kept them from jumping on the kids as well. 
4.  Rewarding pups for sit and paws on floor.  We did this routinely at meal times to get them ready for life in their new homes and to learn about good manners.
5.  We also offered carrots for teething pups too.  Great cheap reward that often becomes a favorite.
These are just some of the fun things kids and pups can take part in.  I do advise that families with children under 5 really think about what they are getting into.  Puppies are full of energy and often have behaviors such as eating your child's favorite toy etc which leads to mixed feelings for the kids and frustration for the parents. 

Bottom line is a parent unless YOU want the puppy and are ready for accidents in the house and the challenge and fun of teaching manners then it might be good to consider an older dog (3 and up) who has already grown into their personality and may have some great skills and manners.  Do your research and decide as a family when and if the time is right.

The short list of considerations!
How old are your kids?
Activity level of your family?
How many hours alone will the puppy be left daily?
What will the vet costs be?
What will you do over vacations?
What qualities are you considering in breeds?
Rescue or breeder? (we have great rescue success!) 
size of dog?
How much shedding is too much?

So much to consider but today....I was reminded how easy it is when you see those cuties and they tug on your heartstrings.  Puppies are a 15 year commitment so resist an impulsive reaction and research and be ready for this commitment and then you and your puppy will be successful!

Many dog professionals, myself included offer companion selection support and temperament evaluation services to help support families in finding the right match.