Kids-n-K9s is a non-profit educational company dedicated to improving safe interactions between children and dogs. Our mission is to reduce the number of children bitten by dogs. Stop, Look & Paws™ an educational board activity for kids and parents.
There are 4 areas to focus on when planning how to help your puppy to be house trained.
1. Proper Diet and Schedule 2. Using a Crate, Gates and X-pens 3. Catching Them in the Act 4. Cleaning Up
1. Proper diet and schedule:
Feed good quality puppy food 2 or 3 times daily. Pick up any uneaten food. No people food as it may upset their digestive system and may make it harder for them to control their bowels. Get on a regular schedule. Take them out as soon as they wake in the morning and then bring them back in for feeding.
You will then need to take them back out again after breakfast. Dogs usually need to eliminate 10-20 minutes (some dogs less) after eating and drinking. Usually they will also eliminate after play and/or napping too, Look for signs of them sniffing the floor, tail sometimes can be up and rigid. Once outside, you can use a trigger word like “go potty” but keep it quiet so they stay relaxed. As soon as they go potty, praise them vigorously and bring them right back in the house. If they don’t go when you take them out, put them back in the crate and wait 10-15 more minutes and take them out again.
2. Using Crates, Gates and X-pens:
Dog’s have a natural instinct is to keep their dens clean. This is why they usually will not go potty in the crate. The crate can be considered the den, but you’ll want puppy to expand their idea of the den to include the entire house. Increase space slowly as they become more reliable. It is important to keep them insight so they don’t go to another room and go potty. If you are trying to give them time outside of the crate to play or be near you, use an X-Pen or leash attached to you. Eventually, they will expand to more of the home so close doors or use baby gates to block access and keep the puppy out of trouble until you can supervise them. Anytime they are unsupervised they should be crated or in a confined space until they are trusted.
A word about crates… Be sure the crate is only big enough for the puppy to stand, turn around and lay down. If it is too big they will go to the opposite end of the crate to go potty and still keep an end clean to lie down. A good rule of thumb for length of time in a great you can confine 1hr. for every month old: 8 week of puppy = 2 hours.
3. Catching Them in the Act:
It is helpful to catch them in the act and interrupt with a loud startling noise – loud clap of the hands or shake a penny can*. You want them to think that relieving themselves in the house is not relaxing or calm. If you can surprise them by bowling the penny can across the floor, (so they don’t even know where it came from) you can then swoop in as the “rescuer” to quickly get them outside where it is quiet and peaceful. If you don’t catch them in the act don’t act angry or do any physical punishment (rubbing their face into it) because it will delay progress and could prolong success…dogs will connect YOU + ELIMINATION = A BAD THING and they will avoid going in front of you and may not want to go in front of you outside either. Instead they will try to find a “safe” place in the house to go and they will not make the connection to go outside.
4. Cleaning Up:
If you don’t catch them in the act, just clean it up and consider it your mistake – be more watchful next time. Use an enzyme neutralizer, like Natures Miracle. Be sure not to use any ammonia based products. It will smell like urine to the dog and they will continue to use this spot and so may other dogs who visit!
It is common and part of normal child development for children to have fears. One of the most challenging fears, however, is the fear of dogs. This is true both for the children who are afraid and also for their parents. This is because dogs are everywhere! If the fear is extreme enough, it will affect many aspects of the child’s
life. This often includes daily activities such as going to a friend’s house for a sleepover, or playing at a park for fear that there may be a dog present. This often impacts the child’s self-esteem as well, because many children feel ashamed about their fear and even well-meaning people do not understand this fear or how to help a child.
As a dog trainer and retired teacher, I have seen two approaches that parents often try to use to help their child overcome this fear. These approaches can backfire and delay getting the help their child needs. I’ll go over them with you and explain why they are not effective. Then I will give you a resource which can get you on the right track from the beginning and help organize the needed steps for success. But first, let’s talk about the approaches to avoid and why.
The first approach involves trying to avoid dogs at all costs. If you have a child who is fearful maybe you’ve tried avoiding situations where a dog may be present. This won’t work in the long run because it is just too difficult to avoid dogs all the time. As I’ve stated earlier, dogs are everywhere in this country: neighborhood streets, the homes of relatives or friends, parks, soccer fields, hotels, restaurants and the list goes on and on.
The problem with avoiding dogs is that it isn’t going to help the problem go away and life will get increasingly more challenging. Another interesting thing that can happen when you avoid something is you can telegraph and inadvertently validate that there is a good reason to be afraid of that particular thing. I’ve seen this happen when people have a dog with a particular fear or even dislike of something. Generally, this fear becomes worse or blossoms into new fears.
In addition, avoiding dogs doesn’t allow the child to learn about dogs and begin to understand the animal. You have probably heard the saying, “We fear what we do not understand”. If the child can begin to understand and learn about dogs and typical characteristic traits of dogs, it can be an important part of the learning process to overcome their fear. In addition to learning about dogs, it’s also important to teach kids how to be safe around them. This is one of the reasons I am a big proponent of teaching dog body language. However, learning about something, in this case, dogs, does not mean to get a dog. This leads me to the second common approach to avoid.
With this second approach, parents sometimes think that if they get their own dog, and it usually starts with a puppy, this will help their child to overcome the fear. Every dog comes with its own unique personality. Even within a particular breed, each dog will have its own distinct personality. It is my experience that families often choose based on the “ideal” of the breed. But in reality, there is a big range of what is considered normal. As a dog trainer, I meet with families that are struggling because they got a puppy and they did not really realize or remember that the needle sharp teeth and claws can be very unpleasant. As normal as it is, it is still no fun. Children specifically get the brunt of this typical puppy behavior and can lead to an increased fear of dogs. It’s important to do your homework before adding any dog into your family and to have a good idea of what to expect.
Children and parents are often unprepared for how to handle and navigate through various dog behavior challenges. Even adult dogs that are adopted usually come with a few negative behaviors like jumping or mouthiness. These behaviors need to be addressed before the dog can learn new and more acceptable behaviors. Most dogs are usually not very calm when you first get them and certainly not calm around children. I’ve seen children that did not have any fears become fearful or just develop a dislike of their own dog.
I’m not saying you should never get a dog. However, it should most definitely not be the first step in trying to help a fearful child overcome their fear. Resolving the fear of dogs is much more complicated than just having exposure to dogs or learning about dog body language. Digging into this issue takes a lot more thought and there are some important questions to ask.
So what are the right steps to take to begin to work through helping your child overcome their fear?
Fortunately, this last year I was introduced to a woman who recently wrote a book called, Overcoming Your Child’s Fear of Dogs: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents. I was so impressed with this book that it inspired me to write this post. Stefani Cohen, is a licensed clinical social worker and has her own therapy dog, Fozzie. She has written an excellent, easy to follow, guide that parents, therapists and even adults who are afraid of dogs, will find helpful. The book outlines a step-by-step protocol based on exposure therapy to guide one through understanding the fear and setting realistic goals to overcome that fear.
Stefani includes questionnaires, forms, and progress charts that make it easy to understand the fear and track success. The book outlines in detail each step to be sure that you have a plan to follow and desired goals to achieve. Stefani also covers how to find and choose the right dog/handler team to help ensure a successful outcome. Stefani gives the reader some coping mechanisms for anxiety and also some mindfulness exercises. There are also great tips and suggestions to make sure you are encouraging and motivating your child along the way. There is a wonderful “I am Brave” certificate to fill out at the end of the process for the child to list all their achievements!
Stefani’s sister, Cathy Malkin, contributed to two of the chapters and helps the parent and child see from a dog’s point of view. In this way you can educate yourself and your child to better understand dogs and dog body language. Finally, the book has a wonderful resource section with books and other information on anxiety, fears, learning about dogs, dog bite prevention, how to find a therapy dog/handler and much more. She also includes my Stop, Look & Paws.
There are many reasons to help a child overcome their fear of dogs. First of all, it will help your child build self confidence and reduce anxiety. Not having to worry whether or not a dog will be at a social gathering will allow for more social interactions. If it’s the right step and your child is confident enough you may even be able to have a dog join your family. Even if you can’t add a dog to your family, your child will still be able to enjoy interactions with dogs safely and have an opportunity to develop empathy and kindness towards other living creatures.
Training your dog to play the game of fetch and to retrieve a ball or toy is as fun as it sounds and can be done in 8 easy steps. Many people tell me that their dog will not do this and I am here to give you the successful tips that I have used for many years to teach dogs and their humans how to play.
To begin, start indoors in a room with no distractions. Be prepared with dog kibble or treats – a Dixie cup size works. Also, have two or three of your dog’s favorite toys or balls. To teach the game and create the desire to play, you don’t have to use balls to start. Attach a leash to your dog’s collar and just let them drag it on the floor.
Start by sitting down on the floor and use a toy to get your dog’s interest – I usually pretend the toy or ball is moving around as if it were a little animal.
As soon as your dog looks over with interest, roll or toss the toy a few feet away. You have to toss or roll it before they can grab it with their mouth. Usually your dog will go to grab the toy as it’s moving.
As soon as they pick up or touch the toy -PRAISE them! Atta boy! Great job! Remember this is all baby steps at first.
If that is all they do, no worries, you grab a different toy and repeat the above process. Be excited about the toys.
If they did pick up the toy you tossed, more praise and hopefully, your excitement will usually draw them back to you!
DO NOT TRY TO TAKE THE TOY AWAY FROM THEM IF THEY BRING IT BACK. Just praise and say, Good job! Maybe pet their chest and compliment them on their toy!
Show them the treat and try to trade the toy for the treat. As soon as they take the treat, they will drop the toy, now quickly through the toy back. This is KEY! They have to see you don’t just keep their toy and you always give it back.
If they are not coming back initially, you use the leash to guide them back and reward with the treat.
To finish the first session, you need to end the game before the dog decides to end the game. This harder for the humans as everyone gets excited when they see success and they want to keep going. Only do about 3-5 tosses at first and then stop playing. This will make your dog all the more interested and engaged the next time you play. Stay with playing this indoor initially until your dog gets great about bringing the toy to you and starts to drop it immediately. This is when you can fade from using the treat!
I love this for kids because kids usually want to play with their dog, but don’t always know the best ways to play. First, teach your dog and then it will be easy to hand the reins to your child. This also is a great bonding activity to do for the family and the dog.
During this time of shelter-in-place, you’re spending a lot more time together as a family. Most of the extra time together is good, but there may be some negative consequences as new routines are being established. Recently I was informed of an incident involving a family dog biting a five year old child who crawled into the dog crate while the dog was sleeping. After hearing this, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how some of these new daily routines could impact your child and dog. Let’s help educate your child about making good decisions with the family dog, and avoid potentially bad incidents like a bite.
Children who are normally gone for many hours of the day, expending energy at school, are now spending their days at home. The routine for the dog is probably different too. They may not have as much time to rest as usual, and there is constant sound and movement in the house from family members. Some dogs may love the extra family around, but others may not.
All this extra togetherness just increases the likelihood of a potential incident happening. Supervision is always important when it comes to dogs and kids, but realistically you just can’t watch everything all the time. So what else can you do? Try taking some time to establish clear boundaries and rules with your children regarding your dog(s). Looking back on the incident with the young child mentioned earlier, it’s likely that the dog was startled while asleep and reacted. It could also be that the dog was protecting its space. It’s difficult to prevent all bad things from happening, but this is a good time to be proactive with basic child/dog safety tips.
If your child is old enough to have a conversation, go over some basic tips to help your child learn when to give space and undisturbed rest time to the dog. Space should always be given when a dog is eating and sleeping. Don’t assume your child knows all of the basics. If you need a simple child/dog safety tool that covers many of the basic tips, the Stop, Look & Paws sticker set, that was designed for parents to use with children, can be a big help. It’s also something fun for your child, because they get to sort 12 reusable dog stickers into safe-to-pet or not-safe-to-pet sections on a game board.
So, take some time to sit with your child and review basic safety tips with the family dog. If you need some help, you can read some of the Kids-n-K9s.com blogs and/or get a Stop, Look & Paws sticker set. Enjoy the extra family time and be safe!
Humane Education is an important part of animal shelters. Our local shelter was in need of a program to bring more humane education to the 4 cities that they cover for services. The cities include Petaluma, Healdsburg, Cloverdate and Calistoga, all in California.
In January 2020, North Bay Animal Services, Petaluma’s local animal shelter, became aware of the current word that Kids-n-K9s was doing in Petaluma and asked to be a sponsor for the kids-n-k9s dog safety campaign that originally began in 2017. This is very crucial because as of December 2019, even with the help of local businesses, I only had half of the schools sponsored for the children to receive Stop, Look & Paws sets free of charge. As I have mentioned, It is very important that in addition to my visits to the classrooms, the children get the learning activity to take home to their parents to play and learn together. If parents don’t have the same safety information to support the decisions that their children make when interacting with dogs, children will continue to get bitten.
North Bay Animal Services believe in the dog safety program so much that they have decided to be my sole sponsor for providing the Stop, Look & Paws sets for part of their Humane Education services starting in the 2020/21 school year. They also covered the remaining schools for this year so all of the schools in Petaluma that have requested this program will now be receiving Stop, Look & Paws sets.
However, if it wasn’t for local Petaluma businesses funding the program for the last two years this campaign would have never survived. I want to give a big thank to the local businesses who sponsored half of all the Petaluma kindergarten classes for 2019/20 school year. Thank you to:
Bertotti Landscape, Xandex, Petaluma Veterinary Hospital, Petaluma Kids Dental, Lakeville Eye Care, Rip City Riders, Dr. Frasersmith DDS, Brixx Pizzeria, The Glass Shop of North Bay, Hollingsworth Jeweler.
As one of the most coveted and family-friendly consumer awards programs in the nation, the Family Choice Awards recognizes the finest products and services that enrich the lifestyles of children and families. http://www.familychoiceawards.com/family-choice-awards-winners/stop-look-paws/ A distinguished panel of judges voted Stop, Look & Paws based on physical appearance, quality, ease of instructions, entertainment value and engagement, durability, uniqueness, value for the price and if this would be something to recommend.
I felt very honored to receive this award as Stop, Look & Paws took years to design and produce. I hope it continues to help many families years into the future.
Dogs love to play games just like kids. As someone who instructs adults how to play sniffer dog games, or nose work games, with their dogs, I wanted to give you some fun games that children could play.
Not only are these games fun, but this can also help to build a bond between your child and their dog.
Before you start, pick a command like “find it”, “search” or “seek”. Once you have a word, always use that same command for your dog.
Be sure to keep the games fun by always ending play after a successful search. I would recommend not searching more than three different times. You always want to end the game before your dog gets tired of playing. This way he will be eager to play again the next time.
While you play with your dog they will be getting a lot of treats. Be sure the pieces are very small, like pieces of dog kibble. You can use your dog’s food if you want.
Here is your first game…
“Which Hand?” Game
Sit in front of your dog.
Put a treat in one hand and show it to your dog. Then enclose it in your fist.
Keeping your hand about 12 inches apart, show both closed hands to your dog.
Give your dog the search command.
If he sniffs the correct hand, open your hand and give the treat and lots of praise.
If he gets it wrong, show him the correct hand, but DO NOT give him the treat. Just try again.
Repeat the game, but switch hands.
Remember: always give the treat and LOTS of praise when your dog is correct!
Game no. 2:
“Under the Cup Search”
Put 3 cups or containers upside down in front of your dog.
Show your dog to treat and then hide it under one of the cups. The first time, let your dog see which cup you hide it under.
Give your dog the search command.
Your dog should go immediately to the correct cup and either push it or knock it over to get the treat.
If your dog is correct, given the treat and lots of praise.
If your dog is not correct, lift the container and let him see the treat, but don’t let him get it. Give the search command again.
After your dog successfully found the treat a couple of times, start hiding it without your dog seeing which cup it under.
Show your dog a treat.
Either have your dog “sit/stay” or have someone hold her while you hide the treat in plain sight. Let your dog see where you put it so she will be successful.
Return to your dog to give your search command.
Your dog should run to the treat. When she finds it give lots of praise.
After several successful easy hides, try making it harder. You could place the treat under a magazine, under the edge of a cushion or pillow, under the corner of a rug — somewhere the dog can get to the treat, but not see it.
If your dog finds it, she gets the treat and lots of praise. If your dog is struggling, either she doesn’t understand, or you’ve hidden the treat too well! Since we always want the dog to be successful and love playing this game, you can go back to hiding the treat in plain sight and work up to harder hides. You can even try hiding it in a separate room from where she is waiting.
I hope you have fun playing these games with your child and your dog!
It usually goes something like this… ”Mom, can we get a dog, PLEASE!”. Mom’s reply, “Well, if we get a dog you’ll need to take care of the dog; this means walking, feeding, picking up the poop, blah, blah, blah.” The reality is that if mom is truly thinking that the child will learn responsibility and be able to be the caretaker of the family dog, she most likely will end up being frustrated and disappointed, not to mention there can be issues of safety to consider.
Besides Mom’s disappointment your child will end up feeling frustrated too because dogs generally don’t listen to kids.
Dogs follow leaders and will gravitate to the most reliable, consistent person in the family who provides what they need in life to be happy and safe.
Children, since they are still developing, can be more emotional, unpredictable, unreliable and energetic. These qualities communicate to the dog that the child is not in charge, and therefore, the dog generally will not listen to the child.
So now that we know that children usually can not be successful at being “in charge” of the dog, can we still help our child to learn to be a responsible dog owner and help care for the family dog? Absolutely!
Here are a few suggestions to help parents encourage good and safe interactions, helping create a lasting bond between your child and family dog.
Include your child whenever you can with daily care, but you must lay the ground work first. Every task that pertains to your dog, such as daily feeding, providing fresh water, walking, grooming, and basic training, needs to be done first by an adult to understand how you want your child to help, and if they can assist with these daily tasks. You also need to learn about your dog’s personality to find out how they will respond to new things. An example might be that some dogs are overly excited to be fed and may jump into the air knocking the food bowl out of a child’s hands. In this case, you’d first train the dog to keep all four feet on the floor when feeding before having your child take over.
It’s great to have children help with care, but be sure to demonstrate how you want things done. Furthermore, if you want to get them to be less reliant on you telling them when something needs to be done, set up a dog task chart and have your child indicate when the job is accomplished. Obviously, you still need to supervise when and if a task is completed so the dog doesn’t pay the penalty of lack of care.
Be sure to create situations where your child and dog can have fun together. Even though the dog may not see the child as a leader, your dog will be more likely to respond positively to your child if he sees that good things happen when the child is around! Playing fetch, hide and seek, searching games for kibble, are all great ways to bond, and also get the child and dog to learn mutual respect while having fun. Even something as simple as having your child read to the dog can be a quiet time activity for both.
Supervise all interactions, especially with young children. As a parent, you need to give immediate feedback to your child when you see your dog does not want to interact, and may be trying to move away from the situation. Likewise, if the dog is getting too excited or overly stimulated, you need to intervene to deescalate the situation. Even if everyone is playing and having fun, supervise, because things can go wrong in a heart beat! It’s important to understand that if a dog doesn’t see the child as a leader, and wants to communicate that it doesn’t like something your child is doing, the dog may feel it has the “right” to give a correction. This correction may be in the form of a bark, nip or bite. This is because dogs see everyone in a hierarchy, and children are not usually at the top.
Hire a Professional. A professional dog trainer will not only help you with training, but also can advise you on some fun ways that your dog and child can play and interact with basic training techniques.
Even though most children can’t be a reliable leader or primary caretaker for the dog, they can still help and begin to learn the responsibilities of caring for the family dog.
I first published this article in the Pediatric Safety site on April 30, 2018
In American Kennel Clubs (AKC), Family Dog Magazine has a Kids Issue which comes out annually every November/December. AKC heard about Kids-n-K9s and that we are now a non profit organization trying to help reduce the number of dog bites to children. Stop, Look & Paws was recognized as a valuable tool for adults and children to learn together about dog body language. Click the link to view the entire magazine about dogs and kids. Enjoy!
– It’s a great way to teach a dog to come to his name
– It’s a fun way for children to interact with their dog
Playing this with your dog and child is fun for all. Initially, you will need to guide and participate, but after a couple of times playing, your child may be able to do this without your help.
This is an indoor game to start. You may be able to play outside once your dog knows the game.
You will need:
Kibble or small dog treats (slightly larger than a pea)
4-6 ft. leash and collar or harness on your dog
Your child wearing clothing with pockets to carry treats
Step one: Prime the dog!
Hold the leash loosely at the handle, say your dog’s name and “come!”, in a happy voice and as soon as your dog looks at you or takes a step towards you, give a piece of kibble and say, “Good dog!” Now have your child copy you and practice calling your dog. Its important to give immediate positive feedback to your dog when they respond to the person calling their name. Have your child practice giving the treat on the palm of their hand. Repeat this 4-6 times. If your child is uncomfortable about handing the treat to their dog, they can drop kibble on the floor. The most important thing is to do it as soon as the dog looks to you.
Step 2: Playing the game:
Parent holds leash initially to keep the dog from following the child.
Child hides, (this can be behind a door(keep the door up and have the child step behind), in an open closet, under a table, beside a bed, etc.) somewhere that the dog has access to reach the child.
Have the child shout “ready” followed by “(dog’s name), come!”
Hopefully your dog will immediately start to go to your child’s voice. If not, you are holding the leash so if the dog doesn’t understand this first time, you can guide until it finds the child, but the dog should lead the way after he understands the game. Every few seconds, have child repeat the call to help the dog locate the sound.
As soon as the dog finds the child they should immediately praise (“Good dog!”) as they give the dog the treat!
Repeat in a new area. Play this no more than 4- 6 times as you want both the dog and the child to stay excited to play! You don’t want the dog to get burned out on being called. If you teach the command “wait” your child can use this to have the dog wait to be called each turn.
Repeat the next day and you’ll soon have a dog who likes to come when called and a happy child.