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Babies and Dogs- Part 2- Commands to Make Life Easier

Life can get very busy especially when you have both children and dogs.  Helping your dog to really learn and understand commands can help you tremendously.  Once your dog knows the commands, you are half way there.  Now, you need to know the best ways to use them in your daily life. Remember, if you don’t have the time for a group class, hire a private trainer or find a reputable Board and Train facility!  

Babies and Dogs – Creating a Safe and Harmonious Relationship Part 2 Commands to Make Life Easier

Now that you’ve gotten your dog familiar with baby “gear” and basic house manners that we discussed in Part 1 of this blog, the next thing you want to do is sharpen up your basic commands. In this section we will outline which commands are most useful to incorporate into your daily life with your new baby. Commands are “icing on the cake”, because if your dog has good manners as discussed in Part 1, then adding commands opens up communication. However, teaching commands isn’t a “magic fix” … just because your dog knows what a particular command means, doesn’t mean they will do what you ask. Follow through after you give a command is by far the most important part of the communication and that is all on you! Here are the commands to have your dog learn: • Come • Stay • Go to your spot & Stay in your spot • Stay out • Get back • Wait • Sit & Down • Leave it & Give it • Off Now let’s talk about how to use some of these commands and how they relate to your baby. Sharpen up “come” command. The last thing you need when you are trying to do so many additional things in a busy household or rush off to an appointment is to have your dog ignoring you when you are calling them to come to you. This is a super important command to reward so be sure you praise/or treat your dog consistently each time they reach you. Practice calling them to “come” every time you’re calling your dog for their meal. That is always positive for a dog! A good solid “stay”, can be so valuable in many areas of your life with the dog especially when you are answering a door or carrying the baby from one room to the next. You don’t want a dog getting under foot. Practice teaching your dog to go to their bed. This is the “go to your spot” and “stay in your spot” command. The goal is to have them stay until you return to release them. Practice in advance so you are prepared for when the baby first arrives. If you haven’t perfected the solid stay with distractions, putting them on leash, or tethering them to a solid object can help. If your dog is crate trained, using a crate is another good option to control your dog when people arrive at your home, or use a baby gate to control their access to rooms. “Stay out” can be used at the door of the baby’s room. Your dog will be happy to watch things from the doorway. If in the future you decide your dog is calm enough to come in, you can always allow it later. If this is initially difficult to do, use a baby gate at the doorway. Your dog can see what is happening but stay at a distance. If your dog decides not to “stay out”, you can use “get back” to help them stay out of baby’s room, and learn that it’s off limits. If they “get back” and then “stay out”, they won’t get into the diaper pail, which for one of my dogs is like going to a 5 Star restaurant! “Get back” is also good to use if your dog is crowding you and not giving you space when sitting with the baby. Then you can ask for a “down” next to you so they can be close, but not too demanding with your space. “Wait” is just a good command to use to teach your dog they have to wait for things. It may be for dinner, leaving their crate, or going out the door for a walk. It helps to teach a dog how to have discipline. It can also help keep things calm, and calmness around a baby is a good thing! “Sit or down” can be used to help make a dog calmer for petting, but this is only if they know how to hold this without you repeating yourself over and over again. You want to say it once; they sit and stay in place until released followed by lots of praise!! If your dog stands calmly to be petted, they don’t even need the sit. The most important thing is that they know how to stay calm in the presence of the baby. “Leave it” can be used if you or the baby drops something. A quick sniff and investigation by your dog is OK. This also can be very useful if your dog likes to take toys or articles of clothing. You don’t want to create a game of “keep away”, but if it happens anyway, you’ll want to teach “give it”. One way I use the “off” command is to have a designated baby blanket on the floor that dogs are not allowed on. This gives the baby a chance to have some tummy time, and allows the dog to be a part of it without being in the middle of it. Of course “off” is good for a dog that jumps on people or objects. Basically, the command means get your feet off of what they are touching. If you don’t have these commands mastered, use your leash and collar to help show your dog. Dogs have unique personalities, including levels of excitement and curiosity. You will have to judge how much guidance or training you need to do with your dog. If you’re unsure, as many new parents/dog owners are, hire a professional to help you! Your goal should be to maintain calmness and control with your dog. Remember this is all new to them, so it is important to teach them your expectations for their behavior. I like dogs to see what is happening with the baby, but initially keep at a distance until I can see how they are reacting, and they get more familiar and comfortable with the new baby. That’s all for Part 2 of the blog post. Part 3 is all about “the meet and greet”. I will make suggestions for your dog getting close to the baby to be sure things are safe and pleasant. Lesley Zoromski Kids-n-K9s.com

Babies and Dogs – Part 1- Creating a Safe and Harmonious Relationship

There are many things you can do to prepare for the arrival of your new baby when it comes to the family dog.

 

The arrival of a new baby is a very exciting time! So how can you be sure you will have a safe and harmonious home for your new baby?  Whether the baby is a new family member or just coming for a visit, it’s important to take some time to help your dog understand this new little person, and how they are different from adults.

Because there is a lot to think about, I’m going to break this post into four separate parts:

Part 1: Getting Used to Baby “Gear” and Learning Manners

Part 2: Commands to Make Life Easier

Part 3: The Meet and Greet

Part 4: Creating a Bond Between Baby and Dog 

             

Getting Used to Baby “Gear” and Learning Manners

Part 1

We all can agree that babies are very different from adults. They smell different, move different, sound different and have different “gear”.  Adults are typically comfortable with these differences, but for dogs they can be quite alien.

All dogs have unique personalities.  Some are easy going, others are pushy, but sweet, and yet some are nervous and jumpy with new things.  You most likely know how your dog will react to new things, but it’s best to not have any surprises.  The good news is there’s a lot you can do in advance of the baby’s arrival to help your dog understand how to handle some of changes that are coming.

For, example, a baby comes with lots of “gear”, like strollers, playpens, swings, diaper pails and baby toys.  One simple idea to help your dog is to walk them with the stroller, with your dog next to you, and the stroller in front.  This will help you be sure your dog is ok with this new addition of a stroller on the walk, and also that you can handle holding the leash while you have both hands on the stroller.  It’s a good idea to practice this before the baby is a passenger!  Note you want to have the stroller in front so your dog realizes the baby is an important member of the pack.

Another idea to help your dog is to use other baby “gear” inside the house.  For example, you can use your indoor baby swing, just like there was a baby sitting it, so your dog gets familiar with this new moving object.  You will likely see your dog sniffing these new things as they investigate, but be sure they don’t grab any of them with their teeth as they may wonder if any of these things are new toys for them!

Ok, now that we’ve covered a little bit about baby “gear”, lets move on to basic house manners that will help set the stage for your dog being polite when the baby is around.  When I say basic house manners, I’m referring to the following behaviors:

  • NOT jumping on people or objects
  • NOT taking food from tables or people
  • NOT crowding or begging
  • NOT pulling on leash

These are some of the basic manners your dog should exhibit before the baby arrives.  There will be a lot going on with the new baby, and these behaviors will go a long way to having a more comfortable and safe home for everyone.  If you don’t know how to teach your dog these basic house manners, just contact a trainer to help you.

On the topic of manners, I’m often asked if couch privileges should be allowed.  Letting dogs lay on a couch or bed is quite a gray area….it depends on your dog.  Does your dog object if you or any person asks him to get off?  Behaviors like growling, snapping, or giving you a fixed stare would indicate you should not give the dog couch privileges.  In my personal experiences with my own dogs, I’ve found that not allowing them on beds and couches has provided me with a dog free area for guests (including babies!) in my home.

So, anything you can do before the baby arrives to help prepare your dog is a good thing – whether it’s being exposed to baby “gear” or brushing up on basic manners in the house.  In my next post, I will talk about basic commands to help make communication easier, and life all around more pleasant, with your new baby and dog.

Lesley Zoromski

Kids-n-K9s.com

Before Kids Walk the Family Dog, Consider Two Things

What an ideal scene! The kids walking the dogs. There are several things to consider first!

First, how important is a walk for dogs?…very!

One of the most normal activities for canines to do is walk with the pack. In nature, dogs would walk daily together with the pack, most likely looking for food. But, in the case of the modern day dog living with a family, searching for food isn’t usually the reason for the walk.

Walking does a number of important things for a dog.

No. 1 – drains energy

No. 2 – relieves boredom

No. 3 – builds a bond with you

No. 4 – exposes them to other dogs/people/things

So, yes, in my book walking is a great thing to do with your dog!

Now, back to the kids as the dog walkers…here are a few tips to help make it a dream.

The first thing to do is be sure your dog has leash manners with you before handing the leash over to your child. My neighbors, seen in the photo, were both 9 years old when they first asked to walk our dogs, Hunter and Ruby. As calm they look in the photo, originally they were both horrible “pullers” on leash! In fact, Hunter, the retriever, had a history of pulling down his previous owner’s daughter and mother-in-law! At 5 years old he came to live with me and I began training him over the coming weeks and months. By the time the neighbor girls asked, Hunter was trained to walk politely.

The second thing to understand is how your dog reacts to various and unpredictable distractions so that a child won’t get caught in a bad situation. Some dogs get excited if they see another dog, others may bolt out if they see a cat or other animal. Sometimes an unexpected sound like a large vehicle may cause a dog to react. Depending on the dog, it could be as simple as a plastic bag blowing across the street. Know your dog! Back to the photo, the vizsla Ruby was afraid of at least 20 things when she was first re-homed to me (crunching leaves, plastic bags, feathers, crossing bridges, etc.). I spent time making her comfortable with these things before handing the leash to a child.

Once your dog is leash trained and is predicable to various stimulus on the walk, consider starting with a double leash, especially if your child is 5 or younger.  In this case, both you and your child have separate leashes which are attached to your dog. You can be the “safety net” if something goes wrong during the walk.

If any of this makes you uncomfortable, just hire a good dog trainer or take a class. As a trainer, I love working with children and families. Be sure to find a good trainer or facility that will be happy to work with your entire family and your dog to create a positive bond between all family members. Just like any other profession, dog trainers are not all the same. Hunter’s previous owners told me other trainers had given up on him. Fortunately, I took no heed to this. Be sure to find a trainer that will work with you to help you succeed!

9 year old walking trained dog.

Learning About Dog Body Language in Kindergarten Class

 In this picture the dog is chewing on a bone. Is this dog safe to pet?  You’d be surprised at how many kindergartners said “Yes!”.

I offer free dog body language presentations to lower elementary school classrooms in my town of Petaluma. Here I’m having fun with kindergartners at McNear School.  I am showing them images of dogs and asking them to “vote” whether or not they think the dog in the picture is safe to pet or not safe to pet.  Then we sort the pictures on a marker board into these two categories.  To vote, the kids hold up either a green square of construction paper to indicate the the dog is safe to pet or they use their red square to indicate that the dog is not safe to pet. 

 An important part of this activity, is that I ask them to share “why” they chose a certain answer.  If you’re interested in having me visit your child’s classroom, or you’re a teacher and would like this presentation for your students, please contact me by email or phone!  I’d love to visit! A bonus is that after each visit, I will donate one of my Stop, Look & Paws learning activities to the classroom!

If you want to ready more about dog body language read this post. Body Language that shows a dog is happy! 

Having fun learning about dog body language!

Below is a short video clip from McNear School.

Reading to the Dog

reading to the family dog

For a quiet activity for kids to do with the dog – try reading!

There are many beneficial reasons why dog therapy groups have been created for children to read to dogs.  These organizations, like Paws for Reading and Paws for Healing, go into schools, libraries and hospitals just to provide a dog so a child can sit quietly and read a book. Children are usually less shy to read to a dog because they realize that dogs don’t mind if they misread a word.  Although therapy dogs are chosen for a calm temperament and go through training to be prepared for visits, your dog can do this at home with your child and it will benefit both.

It is easy to get a dog excited and wound up, but it is more important to teach a dog how to stay calm. This is because most incidences of bites or scratches happen when dogs are in an excited state. Because they are pack animals dogs like to be with us no matter what activity we are doing.

Try this activity of having your child read to the family dog. This is something that is not only good for your child, but the dog will benefit from the close proximity and the calm state of mind from the child. You may have to start with the dog on a leash and sitting quietly next to your child as he/she reads a book. It is good to have times that the child and dog are close together but the direct focus is not on the dog. Soon they will both understand what is to be done during this activity and no leash will be needed.

If you are reading the book and your child is looking at pictures and listening to the story this is just as good. This is also a good time to teach your child how to calmly pet the dog as they both relax and listen to the story. Many people including adults pet a dog with fast hand movements. This will again, get at dog more excited. Try having your child slowly count as they pet the dog’s entire back. It might be fun to make a game out of counting slowly. Try this: “one good dog, two good dogs, three good dogs…” and so on. I bet they can get to “five good dogs”! See my next blog for more active games for children to play with dogs.

  Great activity for a child to do with their dog.

Body Language that says, “Things Are Going Well!”

How do you know when a dog may be telling you with it’s body language that things are going well and they are enjoying themselves and interaction from the children? 

It may not always be intuitive to all people so take some time to learn about dog body language. Take a moment to identify how the dog is feeling by looking at the entire dog’s body as well as their expression. Once you can identify specific characteristics, you can share this with your child.

My previous blog reviewed signs of a dog that is uncomfortable, or not happy.  This blog will review body language that indicates a dog is comfortable and happy.

This is an example of a relaxed happy dog.

Here are some of the things you want to look for to indicate that things are going well:

1. Relaxed, loose body language – Overall the dog seems to be enjoying interacting with children and looks relaxed and happy.   If lying down, he may have his head over his paw or have his paws crossed.  The whole body may be wiggling with the tail.  He may also be sitting in a relaxed manner with a happy expression on his face.  Don’t confuse an excited dog with a happy dog.  An overly-excited dog may jump up, or grab the child with their mouth in an attempt to play as they would with another dog.

2. Mouth may be open and you can see their tongue and it can look like they are smiling –  Not a tightly closed mouth, snarling or growling.  Also the tongue should not be hanging out, extended, as though they are hot, tired or stressed.

3. Eyes look soft, happy, relaxed, and peaceful or even can be squinted.

4. Ears are relaxed – Not tightly pinned down or very erect and rigid. They may be turned to the side, lowered, but relaxed.

5. Tail may be wagging softly, but also  look at the base of the tail – It most likely will be level with the back or hanging in a relaxed way,  If it is wagging, it will be wagging loosely and in a relaxed manner.  The tail should not be erect from the base up over the body, or tucked between the back legs.  As I’ve mentioned in my “Stop, Look and Paws” child/dog safety learning activity, a wagging tail itself is not always a sign that a dog is happy. It can mean they are excited and want to interact, but the interaction may not always be positive.  You need to look at the whole body for overall body language.

Finally, remember not to focus only on the breed of the dog.  All breeds are capable of being safe or not safe to pet.  Also, don’t just look at the face or tail of dog.  Help the children in your life to observe the entire body language of a dog to help them determine if it may be safe or not safe to pet!

Happy Mastiff Breed

Dog Bite Warning Signs

Often a dog bite seems to occur very quickly and without warning. In reality it is  usually because no one actually 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 may be preparing to bite.

I’ll also make suggestions to help you and your puppy get off to a good start.

First, let’s talk about the signals from your puppy that he is showing signs of stress.

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 the puppy. 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 to take the next step and say, “Leave me alone!” with a bite.  Practice having your child sit on the floor and allow the puppy to go to the child versus the child always going to the puppy. This may be hard to do as we all know how excited kids can be if this is a new dog or puppy.

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.  If the puppy gets in the habit of growling to communicate that he wants a behavior to stop, he may learn that growling works and may use it more frequently in the future.  Let’s try not to put him in the position to feel that he has to use this as a defensive tactic.

4. Look for “later” signs of stress, which often occur just prior to a bite:

  • an impression that the dog does not seem to be enjoying the attention
  • stiff body – with a frozen stance or hunched back
  • hard staring eyes, or half moon eyes – whites of the eyes are showing
  • tightly closed mouth

Sometimes it’s the child’s behavior that needs to be addressed. Just because a dog seems to tolerate a child laying on it, hugging it, pulling ears, legs, or tail, doesn’t mean the dog should tolerate this behavior.  It can be as simple as the child frequently picking up and holding the puppy that becomes a negative thing for the puppy.  As I mentioned earlier, allow the puppy the chance to approach the child for affection.  

If the dog turns to leave or hides under an object, like a table, don’t allow the child to grab for them or reach under the object for the dog. Look at the dog for signals, and if they are not enjoying the attention, redirect the child. In my Stop, Look and Paws sticker, seen here in this link, https://youtu.be/9XKc60NHNys, I address these issues in a way that engages children to make safer choices before a real life scenario occurs.

Keep in mind that so much is new to the puppy.  Give him time to acclimate to all of the new sights and sounds of your home.  Encourage your children to have gentle hands.  Slow relaxed petting can allow the puppy a chance to get used to hands reaching out to touch and that petting is something positive.   Keep interactions fun between your child and your puppy and this will encourage bonding between the two!

Keep interactions positive.

Now that you have read this blog, look at the photo of the girl hugging the dog at the top of this post. Do you see any signals the dog is giving that concern you? … The answer should be, yes! The dog is exhibiting a tightly closed mouth, half moon eyes, and an overall impression of not really enjoying the hug.

If you feel you are in need of personal help, feel free to call me or email me for a consultation.

Lesley@kids-n-k9s.com or 707-338-1332 

 

 

Do Dogs Perceive Children Differently Than Adults?

Do dogs perceive children differently than adults

Yes! Although there are exceptions to every rule, in general they do view children differently than adults, and here are 3 things that are typical of children that shows the lack of leadership in the eyes of the dog…

Number 1. Dogs like predictability and reliable actions and behaviors.  It makes them feel safe and secure in their world.  Children, however, are generally more unpredictable and often do not think before they act, responding as they feel in the moment.

Number 2. Children can also be more energetic and exhibit fast and frequent movements of their bodies and hands.  In a dogs’ world, lead dogs (and adults) are more relaxed and move in a more controlled manner.  The high energy of a child may be fun for a dog to respond to by jumping, chasing or even grabbing with their mouth, but it’s not the behavior of a lead human or lead dog.

Number 3.  The third reason dogs can look at children differently, is that children show emotion more readily.  They can go from sheer delight and giggles, to fits of crying in the blink of an eye.

So, why does this matter?  Because many dogs will ignore children and their requests. Dogs follow leaders, and for a dog, leaders are not unpredictable, or highly energetic and emotional.

That means it is usually difficult for a child to be in charge of caring for and training the family dog.  So mom and dad will likely be the ultimate caretakers.  At a minimum, when dogs and children are interacting adults may have to act as a “referee” between children and dogs playing.  Two common scenarios you would want to intervene as an adult are when a dog and child are becoming overly excited, or when a dog is trying to avoid a child’s attention.

In the case of both child and dog becoming overly excited, the dog may nip at or jump on the child.  If you see this, you’ll want to step in to deescalate the excitement.  Sometimes children need an adult to demonstrate appropriate play with the dog so that the interaction stays positive and focused.  I have often used a ball or toy to teach children how to toss the toy for the dog to fetch.  This comes in handy when you find a child who wants to engage with a dog, but doesn’t know how.

If a dog is trying to avoid a child’s attention, you’ll also want to intervene and defuse a potentially bad situation.  Many times a dog will do things like backing away from a situation, or going into another room to avoid a child who is fixed on petting, hugging or otherwise providing unwanted attention.  If unchecked, a dog may ultimately growl at or bite the child to try to escape.  In this case you should step in as an advocate for both the child and the dog.

So, yes, dogs do view children differently than adults, and that means you need to keep an eye on their interactions. Interestingly, if you as an adult, are also demonstrating unpredictable over energetic and overly emotional  behavior, you too can also find that your dog does not “listen” very well to you! Fortunately for you, it is easier to change! 

Dogs and children are wonderful together, and we as adults can help keep their interactions safe and fun!