Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dog body language through Doggone Safe!

If you are interested in learning about dog body language and/or offering dog safety in your community then you must check out Doggone Safe.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Whats a dog gotta do!

This is a classic example of miscommunication between a toddler and dog.
The little girl is hugging the dog which is clearly a sign of love to HER. The dog is trying to rest. Hugging is NOT a form of love to dogs. In fact it is a confining and for some very threatening.
This dog is 11 years old which means that he could also have arthritis and having a toddler lay on him and over him may not be pleasurable at all. How many times do you think he will tolerate this before he complains? How is he to complain and what will his people do once he does? Will they understand that he was asking them for help by licking his lips, yawning and turning away from the child? He is TRYING to let them know he needs help and wants this to stop. Most likely they will not appreciate his efforts but will rather be angry at him once he growls worse yet nipping this child. Is he wrong?
Dogs let us know their discomfort with body language. Most people know they are testing the dog's tolerance level but they allow it over and over again. This family could call me and say "he always loved her...he let her lay on him and he just licked her or just lay there." Well actually he is giving clear signals that indicate discomfort.
This dog makes a great choice and gets up and leaves. But what will he remember about this child? How does she make him feel? Is she to be trusted or does she crowd his space? Over time he may become less tolerant as the unpredictability of her intentions will put him on edge. This is a common situation that looks cute but over time taps a dog of its tolerance for small children. Set your dog and toddler up for success with some of these tips:
1. Have the child stand with an adult and call the dog to them vs. toddler approaching the dog.
2. Put the child on a step to elevate them and call the dog
3. Include your toddler in structured supervised feeding time with the dog. Dumpster dump is a great one. Let your child fill a toy dump truck up and make piles around the room. Then allow your dog to eat one pile at a time.
4. Reward your dog for appropriate behavior following good interaction.
5. Play hide and seek using your child's name and scent as a bonding game that is fun for both. Once found the dog gets a treat or toy.
6. Include your dog in daily activities with child such as "wake up" time. This is where the dog goes to the room with you to wake up the kids.
7. Supervise and use "guided touch" (parent hand over toddlers) to ensure a gentle touch
For more tips contact a Dogs & Storks presenter!

Toy or baby?

This boxer is so gentle with his mouth but what is he learning? The baby is a toy? I should mouth the baby? The parents in this video talk to the boxer and the baby as if they are able to understand...."easy with the paws" "don't pull his ears." Reality is that the dog is interacting as a DOG and that in and of itself is unsafe for a baby to be playing freely with. This is the type of interaction that ends up with a great deal of confusion for the dog. Parents misread normal dog play and exploratory behavior as love and affection when really that may not be at all what is going on. It is NOT a good idea to allow a baby to roll around and freely explore your dog. I encourage including your dog in activities with your baby where there is "guided touch" meaning parent holding baby's hand to touch the dog. "Guided touch" allows the dog to interact with the unpredictable baby in a way that is more comfortable as it is guided by the trusted adult. This sets up a successful encounter and creates a safer situation for both. This dog is very gentle but is learning that the baby is to be mouthed. Once the baby is moving this behavior may escalate and that will not be appreciated by the parents. This is a confusing situation for a dog.

No matter the breed. Dogs are dogs and respond as such. The licking, yawning and sniffing are all signals parents need to pay attention to. Not knowing the circumstance as to why they were side by side but...a young infant makes noises such as the hiccups and startles often. These noises can be interesting to a dog and cause them to explore more or be a bit rougher then a parent would like. It is not a good idea to expect your dog to be so close with your young baby. This makes dogs and parents uncomfortable. Notice the dogs signals, licking, sniffing, yawning etc. Then the parents...correcting the dog when he begins to lick lick lick the baby. The dog is being a dog and that is how they communicate. Set your dog and baby up for success by not putting them in situations where they will fail Sharing pillows is cute but also costly in this relationship.

You have a WHAT!?!

Yes, I have 4 wonderful rescued dogs that were miserably failed by people. They adore, trust and share their love with our family everyday. Labels of people or dogs do more harm then good. The old...can't judge a book from it's cover is so true. We must look at each individual person and dog and not stereo type and judge based on a label.

Without any one of these dogs our life would not be nearly as fun, furry or filled with LOVE! Just my thoughts for today. Don't be a breedist....get to know the unique individual and your life may just become more amazing. I am so glad that my dogs did not lump me in with all the other humans that failed them. We have alot to learn from them!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Parenting kids and dogs

After having already had 3 children and a houseful of dogs and cats I pretty much thought I was prepared for our 4th baby girl, Kelsyann. I'm an experienced Mom right?!? This should be easy. Well.....boy was I wrong. From the beginning Kelsyann has been a needy baby. Nothing that worked with the others seemed to work for her. This has been interesting, frustrating and challenging at best! My husband and I have had to adapt compromise and modify all that had worked previously....including now we have a 7 month old that sleeps with us. That was something I had once sworn I would never do but....guess what it works for us and we all get sleep. So, for today that is our decision. I am posting this as there are many good lessons here as we all parent our kids and well, our dogs too. I choose the term "parent" in this circumstance as I am thinking of my crew of 4 dogs. Each is different and needs a different set of boundaries and approaches to help them be successful....hmmm a lot like my kids. The similarities in parenting my kids and including our dogs in our daily lives really do mirror one another. This makes me think and ponder many things. How do I want my kids and dogs to perceive me? How do I build a trusting relationship with them so that both my 13 yr old son and my 5 year old rescued pit bull can comfortably seek me out in times of stress? How do I allow them the freedom to learn and trust by experiencing new and different things while learning coping skills?
There is so much information about both raising kids and training dogs that often it can be overwhelming and frustrating. Many parents and myself included can easily feel incapable if they do not do things a certain way. This puts a great deal of pressure on everyone. Is that really necessary and fair?
As we share our lives with dogs and children we must remember to appreciate their own uniqueness and needs and not fall into labeling and grouping that may not truly support their success. This can be hard with so many opinions out there related to how to train your dog or raise your child. It is easy to seek help and then feel overwhelmed by it all. So, as I feel frustrated with my 7 month old daughter who feels her crib is a torture chamber.... and naps are for other babies I am once again reminded that just because something worked for 3 of our children does not mean it will work for all and I must adapt how I respond to what feels right and works in our home. Let go of the pressures to do it one way or another based on something I read or heard. Rather, follow what works for us in our home. This is true with our dogs as well. Many people want to believe there is only one method of doing things in dog training but I suggest that it is based on each individual dog and circumstances that will best set them up for success. So, do your research and then take the parts that work for you and ditch the rest. Trust your gut and know that learning as you go is part of the process. Most of all enjoy the unique and different experiences that challenge you to grow!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


There have been many cases lately in the news about dogs. I do not often post actual stories but rather make suggestions about how to prevent accidents based on the circumstances surrounding the news. I am posting this story as it is a high profile case and many of you will see it and I want to point out what info we don't know and need keep in mind when we read this story.

First of all Dogs are dogs. They play with their teeth and paws and they LOVE to chase! This is why at NO time should children be unsupervised in a yard with ANY dog or worse yet DOGS! Dogs are NOT unpredicatable but rather VERY predictable in most cases.

Slide from the Dogs & Storks program

The article suggests the dog "just snapped." It is rare that a dog "just snapped" but rather the circumstances were just right for an accident to happen. Again, dogs are dogs and must be supervised with children at all times!
Here are some questions that I have about this sad loss.
1. Where are the dogs kept?
2. How are they kept?
3. How long have they had these particular dogs?
4. Are they spayed or neutered?
5. Where multiple dogs loose in the yard at the time of the incident?
6. What type of training have these dogs experienced?
7. How much exposure did the dog have with the child prior to this?
As you read the articles and the media madness please keep in mind that there are many factors to these cases and that an investigation takes time. The most realiable source for accurate information is the National Canine Research Council founded by Karen Delise. Karen investigates long after the media coverage dies down and gets the facts from the source.
There is no greater loss then that of a child and my heart goes out to the family. This is not a time to judge or blame any parent but rather a time to learn and help others prevent this type of situation through education.