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Dog Safety Presentations in Our Community

dog safety in petaluma schools

Since the 2019/20 school year, North Bay Animal Services and Kids-n-K9s have worked together to bring dog safety presentations and dog body language education into our community by way of  local schools.  Although Kids-n-K9s has been visiting schools the since 2017, it wasn’t until our local animal shelter helped to kick it into high gear by providing free of charge, the Stop, Look & Paws sets to each child.  Kids-n-K9s continues with the complimentary presentation to each kindergarten or first grade class with an in-person visit or through Zoom to make a personal connection to each child.

Here are just a few “Thank You” comments from teachers and students!

“With great appreciation to North Bay Animal Services we thank you for your donation. Mrs. Zoromski (Kids-n-K9s)came to teach us and we learned from her, thanks to you, what we should and should not do! We are wiser and smarter. Thank you, from the children in the kindergarten classes at Meadow Elementary.”

“Thank you North Bay Animal Services for donating our dog safety activities (Stop, Look & Paws). We learned how to be safe around dogs. We got to teach our family by using the cool sticker activity. We can use it over and over again like a cycle. Sincerely, Cinnabar kindergartners”

“Dear North Bay Animal Services, Thank you for helping to make the dog safety presentation available for kids in our community. We’ve enjoyed Lesley‘s visits the last three years. The kids love it. Also, we love the sticker game. It is so awesome! First Grade Teacher,  Harvest Christian Elementary.”

“Mrs. Zoromski, Thanks again for meeting each of our classes. The kids loved the presentation and the information was presented in a way that was meaningful to them. The kids also enjoyed the dog safety sticker activity books from North Bay Animal Services. Thank you for reaching out to us! Kindergarten Teachers – Sonoma Mountain Elementary”


Dog Bite Warning Signs

Often dog bites occur because no one noticed and acted on the early warning signs given by the dog. My clients usually say, “He didn’t give us any warning…he just bit.” What is more likely is that the signals that the dog was giving were not recognized. To help with this, I’ve put a list of body language cues and behavior to be aware of that can indicate the dog maybe preparing to bite.

1. Observe the dogs face for early signs of stress and stop child/dog interactions if you see them.

  • yawning -when they are not tired
  • flicking tongue – when they haven’t eaten
  • darting eyes – as though looking for an exit
  • panting – when it’s not hot

2. If a dog actively moves away from the child or situation, do not let the child pursue them. It’s likely the dog is making a choice to feel safer or more comfortable. If the child continues to pursue him, the dog could feel forced take the next step and say, “Leave me alone!” with a bite.

3. Listen for growling. It may be soft, with no teeth showing, but it should be interpreted as the dog communicating that he wants the attention from the child to stop.

4. Look for an impression that the dog does not seem to be enjoying the attention and the following:

•stiff body – with a frozen stance or hunched back
•hard starring eyes, or half moon eyes – (whites of the eyes are showing)
•tightly closed mouth

If you see any of combination of these signals, avoid the dog as these actions often occur moments before a bite.

Sometimes it’s the children’s behavior that needs to be addressed. Just because a dog seems to tolerate when a child is laying on it, hugging it, pulling ears, legs, or the tail doesn’t mean the dog should tolerate this behavior. If the dog turns to leave or hides under an object, like a table, do not allow the child to grab for them or reach under the object for the dog. Look at the dog for signals they are or are not enjoying the attention and redirect the child. In my Stop, Look and Paws sticker activity I address these issues in a way that will engage the child to make safe choices before a real life scenario occurs.

If kids are looking to interact with the dog that’s great, so help them find ways that are appropriate to interact. There are ways that children interact that can be fun for both children and the dog. In my future blogs I’ll give suggestions on ways children can interact that is fun for children and dogs.

Now that you have read this blog post, look at the photo of the boy kissing the dog. Do you see any of the signals given by the dog that would concern you?

I hope this information is helpful to keep child/dog interactions safe. In my next blog, I’ll share body language cues that indicate your dog is enjoying interacting with your child.•

When It’s Not the Dog That is the Problem – Behavior Modification Plans for Kids

Behavior Modification for kids

Usually people come to me with questions to help them change an unwanted behavior with their dog towards their children. However, occasionally people come for guidance to stop an unwanted behavior that their child is doing towards dog.

I have had parents ask for help with a varying behaviors that range from not-so- serious to very serious.  Not-so-serious might be picking up the puppy too much. A much more serious behavior would be laying on or kicking at the puppy. Usually parents have already tried lecturing and have been unsuccessful.

In any of these situations I start with fact gathering questions.  Some examples of information I would like to know would be: How old is the child? Why is the child doing the behavior?(angry, they think it’s funny), describe when and where the situation usually happens, does the parent think they have the ability to always supervise when the dog and child are together or are others supervising?

In some of the more serious situations, I needed to discuss the option of rehoming the puppy or dog for it’s own safety and the safety of the child if the child’s behavior doesn’t change. Take a normally social puppy/dog who loves kids and then allow a child to jump on it, kick or poke at the eyes continuously and you will see a social dog go to a fearful dog and then an aggressive dog. At a minimum, the dog will not trust the child and avoid their presence. Keep in mind, given the right circumstances any dog can bite!

One of the most helpful strategies I’ve used in the past to help change a child’s behavior is to set up a Behavior Modification Plan (BMP)

BMP are common for teachers to use in the classroom. I, myself have used BMPs many times to help children learn new behaviors or stop old behaviors. This takes some effort to set up, but can be very motivational for children to change a behavior and it can give parents a clear strategy.

A BMP identifies a very specific goal for a child to either start as a new habit or stop an old habit completely. The BMP is like a contract or agreement with your child. The contract or agreement has two separate parts.

The first part is a page that has a place to write the specific behavior goal that the child will try to reach (i.e “I will help my puppy by petting him gently when he is on the ground and not pick him up.”).  Write it on the BMP with your child. Either they can write the sentence or they can dictate to you and you could write their sentence.  Try to word it in a positive way.  In addition to the goal, this would be the time for the parent to share that if they reach the goal they can earn a reward! This could be that at the end of a week the child gets a small toy. Remember when the dentist had a treasure box full of small trinkets?  You can even pre-collect a box to use so the child has a choice and see the possibilities at the time you introduce the BMP.   At the end of the month, they may earn a larger reward if they achieve their daily and weekly goals. It could be a trip to a favorite place, like a to see movie or go to a restaurant.  Because it is difficult for kids to keep on the right path for a whole week it will be important to continue to use something positive to track their progress. This is where the second part comes in.

The second part is another page that looks like a calendar with open boxes to either use a smiley face, a star, a sticker or stamp, to track day-to-day progress. For this discussion, let’s just say you are using stars. Depending on the age of the child, the day may be broken down into two parts – a.m. and p.m.. Each day, you  monitor your child and dog and if your child can get through the morning or afternoon and achieve the goal, they either earn a star or not. If they were successful record the star and let them know that they did a great job! If they weren’t successful just say, let’s try again. No lecturing. No excuses.

You also have to decide how many “stars” must be earned in a week to reach a goal and win the prize. If there are 14 opportunities, you may decide that there has to be at least “10” stars before the prize is given.

An important element of this is that as a parent you do not give reminders of what the child is supposed to be remembering to do. They will learn to take responsibility on their own.  Once they start earning those stars and prizes they will usually feel a sense of accomplishment and motivated.

Hang the chart in a location to easily seen as a reminder and to be able to track success.  The links in this post will give you the pages needed to get started.  You can print multiple copies of the calendar page and fill in the month and days at the top. 

Constant supervision is required and should be anytime you have a child with a dog.  When you can’t supervise, temporarily separate the dog from the child.

In my opinion, a good balance of both positives and negative consequences work the best to achieve goals. It is just important to find the appropriate “right” positive and negative for the individual child, their age and the situation. If you are struggling as a parent to help your child change a behavior, a Behavior Modification Plan may be just the thing to help turn things around in a positive way.

If you need more help or have questions to setting up your own Behavior Modification Plan, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Is Your Dog Entertaining Himself with Destructive Behavior?

Is your dog entertaining himself  by destroying your home with destructive behavior and driving you crazy at the same time? 

Is he being a “bad boy” on purpose?  The answer is no. He’s burning some energy doing a favorite past time of dogs – chewing.

Dog’s simply don’t know which objects are ok to chew and which are not.  It is normal and expected to have your dog experiment with various household items.  It is your job to catch him in the act to give him feedback about appropriate objects.

Until your dog is trustworthy to be left unsupervised, use a crate or some type of pen.

In addition, be sure you are burning enough of his energy up with long walks and provide plenty of various dog chew toys. You can do some aversion training to deter interest, but talk to a trainer, to find out the best way to go about it. Some Bitter Apple may help on some objects, but not a remote as you will end up touching it and then eating some food that now tastes like Bitter Apple! Yuck.

Bike Riding with Your Dog in Your Neighborhood

bike riding with your dog

Bike riding with your dog in your neighborhood is so addictive that you will never go back to walking again!

Depending on how old your child is, it may be possible for them to hold walk the dog with using their bike, however,  be sure to master this yourself first and be sure you have them follow all of the safety guidelines in this post.  In addition, I would accompany them to supervise this form of exercising your dog.  I would consider a child as young as 12 years old, but this really depends on the child and the dog. 

Bike riding is a great way to give a more satisfying walk to your dog since you are going at a quicker pace…not the boring .02 mph that many people walk. I also like the bike ride because I can go farther faster and in this busy world who doesn’t love that!  Healthwise, your dogs are going to be moving at a faster pace and that keeps your athletic animals trim. 

If your wondering how your dog gets any freedom here is the answer. We always start and finish the walk with the bike but, go to a park during the ride to give them off leash freedom to play ball, meet other dogs or just sniff around. We love this so much we have trained every dog, even visitor’s dogs!

Before you start:

Before you attempt this, make sure you have trained your dog to walk politely with no pulling next to your side on leash.  Then you can easily move on to a bike.

Be sure you are comfortable on a bike going at a slow pace and maneuvering on sidewalks and through neighborhood streets. It is going to be important for you to be confident and in control.  This not a workout for you, but it will be for your dog.

Some dogs are more sensitive to new and different things and may need a slower introduction. Other dogs will pick this up immediately. If your dog is the sensitive type, you may want to do a short walk with your dog, holding your bike and moving the tires, shifting gears, using the brakes, moving the peddles. I would recommend this after a regular walk so they are more relaxed.

As I mentioned earlier, your dog should be trained to walk politely on leash next you and take guidance from you willingly before you ever start to ride a bike with your dog. You can use a training collar  Pinch or also called a prong collar in metal or plastic are my favorite because when you give a light “pop” on the leash the pressure is broken down equally around the neck.   If you have been trained how to use it your dog will not be pulling on the collar and only feel it when you give some feedback. Your leash should be short, but loose when your dog is next to you.

Collars are always controversial. Here is my personal opinion and why.  Flat collars or slip chains can be too hard on the neck and trachea. You may be able to use a Martingale collar if your dog is already very well trained to walk without pulling. Same goes for a Gentle Leader of Haltie – if your dog is  already comfortable with a nose style haltie, you can try it, but no harsh pulls.  Harnesses give the dog too much control especially if you have a high energy, large breed dog. My preference to stay safe and still make it fun for the dog is to use a training collar.  If you don’t know how to use a collar like this, hire a trainer. Training collars will be resting on the neck and the leash will be slack the majority of the time. When you need to give a little leash guidance you will do so lightly. 

Keep the slack in your leash

I also use regular 4 – 6ft. leash about ¾” thick. Hold the leash by weaving it back and forth to sit on top of the bike handle under my hand. As mentioned earlier, always keep the leash short, but loose with some slack.

Do not let your dog pull you by his neck as you ride. 

(There is a sport called “joring” where dogs are in special harnesses and are meant to pull you. If you have a safe place to do this, go for it. )

Do not ride your bike with puppies. Check with your veterinarian about when your puppy’s growth plates will allow bike riding safely.

During the ride:

Be very aware of your surrounding! If you are uncertain about your dog’s reaction to some stimulus, stop your bike and wait it out.

If you know how to give proper feedback with a training collar you’ll be prepared to let your dog know to ignore all of the unpredictable things that arise. Over the years, we have had cats, squirrels, turkeys, quail and even a fox cross our path and I was able to easily, allow our dogs to watch, but remain in control.

Some people use bars that attach the dog to the bike. In my opinion, I don’t think this is safe. If a dog runs out after your dog and your dog is attached to the bike a fight could be a disaster. I’ve had dogs run out and I will stop moving first. I get off the bike quickly to access the other dogs approach. If I can see it is friendly, I drop the leash (depending on where you are) and allow the dogs to great each other. You can drop the leash confidently if you are sure your dog won’t run off. If the other dog is acting territorial, I keep my dog next to me or behind me and stand still and a little sideways. It deescalates the situation and helps my dogs to see I’m in control. Usually the other dog stops at about 10ft. to give their warning or just assess us. I stay still, and quiet and as soon as they turn away I start to walk the bike and dog away. I don’t ride right away.

As you are riding keep your leash under your hand on the handle bar for quick correction and never put your thumb in a loop or loop it around the handle bars.

Your dogs are going to be getting a much more intense workout so be aware of the temperature and whether the pavement is hot. Go out when it is cool and take water breaks. If your dog is currently overweight, start with a short bike ride and slowly build.
A good odometer can help you track your daily distance.

Find a pace that your dog can do a fast walk – Keep some slack in the leash to keep pressure off of your dog’s neck. Correct with a leash “pop” and verbal “eh eh’ as needed.

Your dog should stay next to you – not pulling ahead or lagging behind. Practice on a short ride first with no distractions at a quiet time of the day to introduce bike riding.

Your pace will usually be between 5 – 9 mph. Ruby, our vizsla, could walk fast at 11 mph without breaking into a gallop whereas Mack, our medium sized dog with shorter legs preferred 6 mph. Adjust your speed as your dog ages as they will need to slow down. This depends on the height and energy of the dog. Again use an odometer for speed and distance to help.

Here is tip for turning your wheel. Before turning, give your dog some notice by saying a word like, “watch” just before you turn left or right. They will soon learn to pay attention to the direction of the tire. It is not necessary to say left or right.

Stop moving if you think your dog will respond erratically and allow the distraction to move past you or you can slowly walk to keep things calm (trucks, cats, other animals, people with strollers or other moving objects.) Eventually, once you know how your dog responds to various situations and you can keep moving.

Use a basket or backpack to hold water and small bowl, balls, poop bags or any for your other training supplies you might want to have available. Be cautious on hot days. I recommend going early morning before the temperature and pavement gets hot. 

With practice you can do this with two dogs at the same time.

Have fun! You’ll never go back to walking again! 

Do You Have a Dominant Dog?

dominant dog

Most likely you do not have a dog with a naturally dominant personality.  However, it is  more likely that you have given a lot of leeway and privileges  to your dog which can result in a dog who thinks it has the “right” to make decisions for the owner.  In addition, many owners use use the word “protective” when describing a dog that is actually possessing them like an object.  Dogs with a high sense of self-importance will possess objects as their own, because the top dog of any canine group does have legitimate ownership of all resources.

In a dog owning household where no human clearly takes the lead, the dog is left to fill the status void and often assumes the lead and all of the rights and privileges of this “high office”,  so to speak. When this happens the following behaviors are commonly seen:

-Excessive guarding of objects and property including being possessive or jealous of the owner or their attention

-Pulling on the leash

-Biting at the leash, objecting when owners attempt to control him.
-Talking back
-Demanding attention
-Leash aggression towards other dogs
-Excessive protection of the home and yard

-Failure to obey commands when they are distracted or have different priorities (dogs will disregard commands from members of their own social group with lower status than their own.)

To effectively address all of the issues,  changes in the household must lower your dog’s sense of status in the family pack. This is not done through force or intimidation, but through a focused effort of less freedom and more rules and consistent follow through overtime. You, the human, need to have the highest status in the household relationship, so that the dog can come off of “high alert” while they are living and working together with you and will defer to their human in situations when response and obedience is crucial.

Training addresses a dog’s behavior in real-time in response to owner control because in the scenario the owner will be able to disallow the dog’s natural urges. The urge is still there, but the owner can disallow it, with training. The owner can disallow unwanted behavior as long as they have earned the dog’s respect as the rule setter, boundary maker and legitimate leader, and the dog willingly defers. Obedience training refers to the working relationship between the owner and the dog and the owners ability to disallow the dog’s natural urges. It does not remove natural urges or instinct. It can control them when the dog is under the owner’s control. When the dog is on his own, off-leash, away from the owner, however, he will act on his own, controlled by his personal instinct.


The desire or ability to “get along” with other dogs is determined by nature and personality. No one can “train” a dog to get along off leash(or on leash) with other dogs. Dogs come with their own individual personalities and sometimes those personalities clash.


On leash, one can address manners and control; off-leash, one cannot. This does not mean to allow your dog to go nose to nose with another dog while leashed.  However, training your dog to walk politely on leash can enable you to walk your dog in public without a lot of dog to dog drama!  


Start by working on good polite behavior within your own home.  Don’t allow your dog to be pushy or dictate your actions.  If your dog is pushy or demanding completely ignore him.   If he walks away,  you can then move on to the next activity.  There are other techniques you can try if ignoring doesn’t work.

You need to master all indoor activity before being able to address issues outside your home. Use a leash indoors to help guide your dog.  Leashes are helpful tools to quickly gain control.  Once you have immediate responses and polite manners inside your home, take it outside and begin to practice in the presence of other distractions.  Start in your backyard.  Praise any effort your dog makes when he compiles.  Always follow through on any commands.  It is very important to prove to your dog that you will always follow through.  Never try to intimidate or sound angry.  This will work against you and will not help gain your dog’s respect.

Practice commands that involve your dog holding a “stay” and “recall”( the “come” command).  When your dog complies, praise and feel free to reward his hard work with kibble or a treat.  Finally, be sure you have trained your dog to walk politely on leash, with no pulling.
If you don’t know how to introduce or teach these commands, it is well work your time and money to hire a professional to help.

Is Your Puppy Play Creating a Puppy Monster?

puppy biting

I’ve discovered that people often don’t know how to play with their puppy. One of the most common challenges my clients want help with is addressing an overly “mouthy” and “nippy” puppy. After years of observation, I’ve discovered this behavior is often the result of how we interact and play with our dogs.

In this article, I’m going to focus on why dogs are overly nippy with children when they are trying to play, and, how to fix it. Although it is normal for puppies to nip and grab things with their mouths, the way we play with them can make it into a problem, especially for kids.

First, let’s understand the problem a bit more. Most of us misunderstand the concept of playing with a puppy. We usually want to engage in roughhousing and wrestling, getting down on the floor with them, handling the dog all over using fast hand motions, or playing some chasing game. Sound familiar? All of this leads to over-stimulation, which leads to puppy nipping and mouthy behavior.

Let’s look at this from a dog’s perspective. Dogs use their mouths the same way we use our hands….to touch, grab things, just generally explore. If we are touching the dog a lot, it encourages them to use their mouth the same way we are using our hands.

Another natural behavior for a dog is prey drive. Dogs have an instinct to be attracted to moving things, which includes kids running.

Being conscious of your hand movements and avoiding running away, or generally fast movements, can begin to help limit your puppy nipping, biting and jumping.

So, what can you do to play instead?

My favorite way to interact is to get two dog toys to start a game while sitting on the floor (or short stool if your dog is too excited). I love to show people how to make the toy “come alive” by having it move along the floor with random bouncy, fast movements, which we know puppies love. Now we’re using prey drive to our advantage. As soon as the dog get’s close to the toy, very quickly toss it a few feet away. The dog will follow that movement and either pick up the toy and drop it, or carry it back to you where you are waiting. Repeat the process with another handy toy.

If your dog brings the toy back, I recommend not trying to immediately take the toy away…don’t play tug-of-war…keep the focus the other toy. You can also try to trade the toy for a piece of kibble, and when they drop the toy, toss it again right away as a reward.

Soon you can add the words “give it” when they trade for the kibble and maybe “fetch” when they chase the toy. The goal is to keep the focus on the toy, and keep it moving.

Remember, you can still have fun playing with your puppy, but play the right way to minimize overly “nippy” and “mouthy” behavior.

If you are looking for more games to play with your dog, I have more games to try like the Hide and Seek Game on the Kids-n-K9s.com site.

Have fun

House Training Your Puppy

house training a puppy


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!

Good luck,
Lesley Zoromsk


Puppy Basics – Helping Your Puppy Adjust to their New Home

puppy training, puppy training tips

Puppies are adorable, but anyone who has had a puppy can tell you that they can be surprisingly frustrating at the same time! Everyone wants to keep things as positive as possible, and that is great, but what if that doesn’t seem to be working? Can you use negatives? What kinds of negative responses are appropriate and still create a great bond.  Before you focus a lot of time teaching “sit”, let’s first help them learn about their new home, introduce them to their new name, while also providing limits and boundaries as they  navigate their brand new surroundings by providing positives and appropriate negative responses. 

The two areas to focus on: 

1. The House rules (i.e. what is allowed and what is not allowed) 

2. Learning their new name.

Before I get into house rules, I want say that even though housetraining a puppy to go potty outside is definitely top of the list for house rules, however, it a big enough topic that I will cover that in a separate blog post.  For now, let’s go over how to help them learn what is and is not allowed in your home.

Here are the tools and supplies you’ll need to help guide your puppy to be able to successfully live in our human household:

a crate,    portable x pen,    baby gates,    a chew-proof tether     treats/kibble,    an old leash,    dog friendly chew toys,    penny can,    spray bottle,    Bitter Apple or Bitter Yuck

Your puppy is learning how to live in a new “pack”. You and all of your family members are new pack members. Your puppy or dog is going to need your guidance  to understand what is acceptable behavior and not acceptable behavior your home. They don’t come understanding anything about living in a human household.  Think about your rules, like will they be allowed to sit on the couch or beds, or not?  Also, understand that puppies or new dogs will experiment to see what “works” for them.  Be sure to give them some feedback as soon as you see a behavior you don’t want.  This includes positive feedback when you see them making good choices too. Also, be aware of accidentally  encouraging behaviors you won’t want in the future.  

Before we get into more house rules, let’s start with teaching him his name by playing the “Name Game”.

Since you’ll want your puppy to always respond to you immediately for his entire life, introduce his name in a positive way. Get him to learn his name and think that whenever he hears it, good things happen.  Everyday carry around a few pieces of kibble in your pocket and randomly call the puppy to you. Don’t forget to always praise too!  To make this easier to play, I put tiny dishes of kibble in rooms for fast access and this way, the puppy doesn’t hear cupboards and treat bags opening.  You don’t want him to respond only because he sees a treat. Instead, he hears his name and a treat will be the result once he reaches you!  If you have children, this is a great way for your child and your puppy to interact!

Keep interactions positive.

Once you have him responding to his name don’t use it in a negative way…more about this in the house rules.

Guidance for teaching house rules…creating limits and boundaries. 

To set your puppy up for success you will need to use his crate for housetraining and use the crate and/or x pen for anytime he is unsupervised. This is especially important for busy households with children where there is a lot going on at home. A chew proof tether is useful to keep the puppy near you and not always use the crate or pen.

When you can supervise, let them explore, but be ready to give feedback. 

Praise behaviors that you like when you see it happen to encourage repeating those behaviors. It may just be that the puppy is lying quietly and chewing on a toy or he just went potty outside.  It is ok to praise in a quiet voice.  Praise doesn’t always have to be in an excited tone.

 So, what do you do if you see a behavior you don’t like? 

There are a number of responses to try to communicate that you don’t want your puppy to do a certain behavior.  Start with simple and lower level corrections to see if that works first, than increase your feedback as needed. Puppies experiment to see what works for them. One of the simplest things to do is ignore the puppy. For instance, if the puppy is demand barking, try to ignore and walk away.  Sometimes negative attention is still attention, so don’t respond. 

Also, be sure along the way you are not accidentally rewarding behaviors you will not want to see in the future.  An example of this is when people pet a puppy when it jumps up on their legs. Even if you push him off with your hands, he will see this as rewarding.  You can try turning away or gently bumping him off with your knee as you say “off” or give a verbal “eh eh” negative sound. Once his 4 feet are on the floor, you can softly praise and pet him.  He will soon learn that the only time he is petted is when he has 4 feet on the floor.  Puppies don’t generalize with people, so try to get everyone doing the same good behavior.

Puppies will also experiment by chewing on objects.  It often works well if the object itself is perceived as negative to the puppy. By this I mean if you use  Bitter Apple or Bitter Yuck on various household items(electrical cords, wooden table legs) your puppy he won’t like the result and see this as a negative thing.  Hopefully, he will find an available dog chew toy instead. Be sure to have lots of appropriate toys handy so you can redirect him to something better for chewing.

Depending on the behavior itself and the puppy’s personality, different responses will work better than others.  As mentioned earlier, in some situations and with some puppies you can just ignore the puppy but, other times you may have to add the negative verbal sound.

Initially to stop some behaviors you may  first try to interrupt with an negative “eh,eh” verbal sound and if they stop for a second and look at you,  redirect them to a toy or to yourself.  Don’t say his name as you give your correction.  You won’t want his name associated with anything negative. If you look at your puppy as you say , “eh,eh”, they will know you are talking to them.  After a correction, try to call them by their name to you in a happy voice.  If the Name Game worked, and they go to you, you can now praise them!

Sometimes, ignoring them or using simple  verbal sounds won’t do the trick.  If this is the case, you may want to try a  “penny can” to help  interrupt the unwanted behavior. 

A “penny can” makes a sharp sound with no emotion attached.  Use a soda can with 12 pennies inside and seal the hole with duct tape.  Use the can by holding it in the middle of the can and move it up and down very quickly as you link it to your voice saying , eh,eh or “HEY”.  Don’t use this as a threat or in anger. It is important to use this with no angry emotion attached.  The goal is  to make a  sound to break the concentration of the puppy and give you enough time  to redirect. You will only have a nano second after you break their concentration, so be ready to call them to you or to a toy in a happy voice.  Praise as they start to do a new acceptable behavior.

 A squirt water bottle can also help as a negative consequence. When using either of these tools, you need to catch the dog at the exact moment and not second after.  Because you need to be ready to act, it is often easier to have the penny can in a pocket then carrying around a water bottle.  

 As mentioned earlier, another tool you can use is a leash or chew proof tether to keep them near you and away from doing the unwanted behavior.  

If you have tried all of the above and you are at your wits end, a crate can be used as a cool down. Crates shouldn’t be used as punishment, however, if you can place them in without negative emotional energy on your part and allow a short cool down time, a minute or so, this may work and still keep your crate as a positive place.  Puppies can’t learn how to navigate if they are in crates too much.  They need to explore and you need to be ready with feedback, whether is positive or negative.  This is how you will eventually have a trustworthy puppy that won’t need a crate in the future and can be trusted to have complete  access to your entire house.  I’ve done his with every dog I’ve owned and it makes life much more carefree as a dog owner to not have to eventually worry about what the dog is up to in the house!

Since all dogs (humans too) are driven by results, if they like the result they will tend to repeat the behavior.   If they don’t like the result, they will try something else or stop the behavior.  As a final note about negatives; I want to be clear that this does not mean to physically punish by hitting, slapping, pinching, or any other physically rough treatment. Even screaming and yelling in anger is not helpful for learning.  You will only gain a dog who does not trust, is fearful or may eventually strike back with a bite and certainly does not want to work with you.  Your hands should always be seen as something positive when you need to touch your dog.   Keep in mind, in the dog world, anything not corrected, is approved. So, use appropriate feedback. 

Think about your house rules and keeping things as positive as possible and your puppy will soon learn how to be a polite member of your family or in their eyes, their new pack.



™™https://kids-n-k9s.com/buy-stop-look-paws/Lesley Zoromski is a passionate educator and lifelong dog lover. Her 15-year teaching career was focused on elementary education where she taught children ages 4 to 8. Since transitioning to the world of dog training in 2003, she has trained literally thousands of dogs and their owners in addition to helping dozens of local rescue groups and their dogs in need.

With the specific goal of bettering the life of children and dogs alike, Lesley has channeled this passion and unique combination of experience into developing Stop, Look & Paws™. Over 5 million dog bites occur annually in the United States, with over half of all victims being children. For Lesley, these are unacceptable statistics. The critical need to provide improved safety was the driving force in creating the child/dog safety activity that is Stop, Look & Paws™.

In 2017 she initiated an annual campaign to provide school children with information about dog safety.  Her goal is to provide elementary school children (grades K or 1st) with their own copy of Stop, Look & Paws™ to take home and share with their families.  She works with local businesses and veterinarians to share costs, so Stop, Look & Paws™ can be provided free of charge as a donation to schools and children.  Businesses provide the Stop, Look & Paws™ activity to each child as a gift and donation, and Lesley presents key information on dog safety in each sponsored classroom.  The first year (2017/18) was focused in Petaluma, and was a big success, with 500 Stop, Look & Paws™ donated to children in 23 classrooms thanks to the support of so many local businesses and individuals.  Her goal is to expand this annual campaign to other cities, helping even more children be safe around dogs. 

News began to spread.  In March 2018, a local newspaper, Argus Courier first featured Kids-n-K9s and the volunteer work in the classrooms to educate children.   AKC’s Family Dog Magazine  featured an article on Kids-n-K9s and Stop, Look & Paws in their Nov/Dec. 2018 issue.  In January of 2020, Family Magazine Group presented Stop, Look & Paws learning activity a Family Choice Award for best product and resource for parents with elementary age children. To read more go https://kids-n-k9s.com/2020-family-choice-award/ 

Most recently, Lesley is partnering with Petaluma’s local animal shelter, North Bay Animal Services, to provide all elementary schools Humane Education services, including providing Stop, Look & Paws sets free of charge to children and their families.

To learn more about this annual campaign, go to our blog section.

Lesley has a B.S. in Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She regularly volunteers her time and the use of her own Canine Good Citizen (CGC) dogs in working with local shelters and schools to promote various “Humane Education” programs. Lesley lives in Petaluma, California with her husband Darrell and the numerous dogs that are lucky enough to call her house their home.,

The Fear of Dogs – What to Avoid and What To Do Instead

fear of dogs in children

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 that won’t help is try to avoiding 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.

fear of dogs in children

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 to avoid is when 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.

Therapy dogs
Lesley Working With Her Therapy Dog, Hunter

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.

fear of dogs

If you are interested in buying Stefani’s book, it is available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon Amazon Book – Overcoming Your Child’s Fear of Dogs

 If you would like to contact Stefani you can find her at Stefanicohenlcsw@gmail.com or Stefanicohen.com