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. You will find that some tasks work out better than others.
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!
Why play hide and seek with your dog?
– 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.
Have fun! By Lesley Zoromski
Sometimes people think that having a dog to protect their family, and specifically their child, is a good idea. There are draw backs that you should be aware of before pursuing this type of dog or encouraging a dog to take this on this role for the family. Being a companion for a family is a sort of “second career” for dogs compared to what they may have been originally bred to do – herding, hunting, etc. Some breeds have had an easier time switching from working dog to companion animal. Other breeds may look for more work to fill their time!
If you don’t give your dog something to do (long walks, training, ball retrieving, swimming, chew toys) they will often come up with their own job. All they may need is a little encouragement to jump into a role, such as “protector”, but it may be challenging to control how serious they take this new position. The consequences can be detrimental to both the family members and the dog. For instance, if the dog decides that a growl or bark is not effective to remove or control an individual, they may go straight for the bite. Consequences for the owner of the dog can be serious, ranging from medical bills to pay to being sued. For the dog, consequences may be even more serious, as biting incidents can result in a dog being euthanized.
Dogs can naturally come by their “jobs” in the family by chance or when given some intended or unintended direction. An example is when a dog alerts you by barking when someone comes to the door or walks past your house. This is a very innate behavior for most dogs.
Sometimes people start their dog on a new behavior by accident. For example, let’s say you have a new tiny puppy and one day it growls and barks at someone. Everyone giggles and laughs because it looks so cute seeing this adorable puppy acting so tough.
Your unintended response of positive feedback communicates to the puppy that he did a great job. The consequence might be that as the dog matures, he won’t let people come near anyone in the family. It happens! A few examples of this can be when family or friends come to the house for a visit or celebration, such as for a birthday party or holiday, and the dog can not determine whether or not some of these individuals are friend or foe. I’ve known dog owners who could not leave their children with a friendly babysitter in the house without fear of a bite or nip to the sitter from the dog. Of course the dog is just trying to be protective and do their job. Even other children are not exempt from suspicion and can be subject to “corrections” from the dog. Dog owners can become hostage to their own dog and find themselves having to manage their situations by removing the dog to other rooms, crates or kennels, hoping nothing goes wrong when someone visits the home.
Further, if we see a questionable or negative behavior from our dog and don’t disallow it or give guidance, the dog will likely believe it’s an approved behavior. People often hope bad behaviors will just go away, but usually they don’t. In the case of allowing a dog to growl or exhibit some other display of protection towards a stranger who is approaching your child, you may think, “I like this!” However, when given the green light, dogs may have trouble discriminating between good and bad situations.
If you have given them the role to protect your child, whether intended or not, they will have to make decisions on their own. Unfortunately, they may not make good choices. For instance, an old lady with a walker or cane can look as menacing to a dog as an intruder with a weapon. Even after a dog is familiar with specific family or friends, each occasion can be a unique for the dog. For example, Uncle Bob, who the dog knows, comes for a visit with a new baseball bat and glove for his nephew or niece. In this case the dog may see the baseball bat as suspicious, and therefore jumps in to defend the family biting Uncle Bob in the process. Now Uncle Bob doesn’t want to visit unless the dog is contained. You may start to find that other people become reluctant to visit as well. And, now the dog will likely be put in another room or crated every time anyone visits. This will likely make the dog see all visitors as negative, and perpetuate the defensiveness of the dog.
My advice is, don’t go out of your way to encourage your dog to act protectively. If your dog has started this naturally, be sure you do some training with your dog so you can communicate effectively with them to help them understand their role when interacting with people. If you’re unable to provide this leadership with your dog, it’s important that you seek assistance from an experienced trainer who can help you.
Pediatric Safety is a site that is dedicated to helping parents with information to make safe and informed decisions when it comes to their children. I have written several articles and this article was the latest. To see more about this website go to this link.
In 2017 I expanded my campaign to reach more children with dog safety tools and activities. Starting in my hometown of Petaluma, I approached local elementary schools to gauge their interest in improving dog safety education for their students. My goal was to provide a free copy of Stop, Look & Paws child/dog safety activity to each student in Kindergarten. As I had hoped, schools were very interested, and now I needed to fund this campaign. So, I contacted local veterinarians and businesses as well as a few private citizens to ask for their help in covering costs of the Stop, Look & Paws activity sets. Once they became aware of the startling dog bite statistics here in the US (roughly 5 million dog bites every year, with over half to children), many generously offered financial support for the campaign!
So then it came down to execution of the campaign at schools and with children. Typically, teachers would set up times with me to volunteer in their classroom, presenting and playing learning games with their students to be safer around dogs. This was very fun for me and it was fortunate that I was local, and able to visit each classroom. Then, at the end of each session, the teacher would distribute Stop, Look & Paws learning activities to each child, who would take it home at the end of the day. It’s important that each child have their own activity set, so they have an easy, fun way to reinforce how to be safe around dogs at home, and get support from their parents. As a small thank you to all of the generous supporters and to reinforce the importance of dog safety to parents, each activity included in insert with the name of the business that provided the sticker set as well as key dog bite statistics.
Results for the 2017/18 school year were outstanding, due largely to all of the generous supporters below! Thanks to them, 500 Stop, Look & Paws sets were donated to 23 Kindergarten classrooms in Petaluma.
Feedback from supporting businesses, teachers and parents has been wonderful….and it’s all is focused on seeing students learn about dog safety! Here is a message from one of the teachers as well as an example of children doing follow up artwork to display child/dog safety concepts learned.
“Thank you again for providing us an opportunity to learn about such an important topic, and share the information with family and friends.” Mrs. Ryan, Kindergarten Teacher, Meadow School
Buy Stop, Look & Paws. The following message is from Dr. Zamora, one of our local veterinarians.
” As a way of giving back to the community, our family and the A.E.Z.R. Pet Hospital were happy to sponsor this information campaign in my sons’ school to increase awareness in recognizing dog body language and to deliver an engaging and relevant presentation on dog body language and dog safety to kids. The kids take home the information/activity kit, Stop, Look & Paws, which reinforces the concepts learned. I hope that more schools would incorporate activities such as this. The kids loved it! Thank you Lesley!”
We’ve also received feedback from the community. The local paper, Petaluma Argus-Courier, saw the importance of this new campaign and published an article titled “Educator Wants to Help Kids Better Understand Their Puppies” on March 29, 2018. http://www.petaluma360.com/news/8159441-181/petaluma-educator-wants-to-improve
Looking forward to the 2018/19 school year and beyond, my annual campaign will be expanding to include cities in addition to Petaluma given our success this year. Of note, I will be adding a teacher kit so if I’m unable to volunteer at a school, the teacher can present the dog safety information to her/his own class. If you’re an individual or own a business, and are interested in sponsoring a school or any organization that you feel would benefit from Stop, Look & Paws, please contact me for donation pricing and arrangements.
Lesley – Kids-n-K9s
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There are many things to consider before you make a decision to take or not to take a young child to a dog park.
A friend called with a surprising story to share. She was at a local dog park with her small terrier, and not far away, there was a family with a lab mix. The family consisted of mom, dad and young daughter who was about 3 years old. A large dog ran by the family, and the young girl, somewhat surprised, grabbed onto her mother’s legs for comfort. Here’s the shocker…..
Her mother bent down to look into her child’s eyes and said, “Oh honey, you don’t have to be afraid of any dogs here because this is a dog park and all dogs at dog parks are friendly.”
Worst advice ever!
That’s because dogs at dog parks are not screened in any way.
• Dogs do not have to be safe with children to go to a dog park.
• Dogs do not have to be human or dog friendly, and some may in fact be bullies and jerks!
• Dogs are not required to have vaccinations to go to a dog park.
• Dogs that may be friendly, may still have terrible manners meaning that they could jump on anybody and anything, or use their mouth to grab, hold and pull… all with the intent to play.
Often times, going to a dog park is a dog’s only physical outlet to “let loose”. Rough play or rude behavior (towards dogs or humans) can be common. Couple that with an owner who is looking more at their phone or chatting with other dog owners, and things can go wrong in a nano second. Some owners are in denial about their dog’s inappropriate “play” and there’s not a lot you can do about that, other than recognizing potentially dangerous situations and leaving the park. Educate yourself about dog body language and good dog park etiquette to help be proactive and avoid bad situations.
Looking back on this dog park example, the child was shy, but another child may think it’s great fun to chase after dogs. Some dogs may be ok with this, but others may not. In fact, if they are running away and are nervous about being pursued by a child, they may turn and stop the child with a bite.
So if you want to give your child exposure to dogs, great, but find friends that have dogs that like children and are comfortable in their presence. See my blog on “When Things Are Going Well”, to understand body language that supports this.
In closing, always supervise your child and dog. By all means, if you see a child pursuing a dog that’s trying to get away, step in to intervene. Sometimes young children don’t know any better, and it’s our job to help keep both child and dog safe.