Humane Education is an important part of animal shelters. Our local shelter was in need of a program to bring more humane education to the 4 cities that they cover for services. The cities include Petaluma, Healdsburg, Cloverdate and Calistoga, all in California.
In January 2020, North Bay Animal Services, Petaluma’s local animal shelter, became aware of the current word that Kids-n-K9s was doing in Petaluma and asked to be a sponsor for the kids-n-k9s dog safety campaign that originally began in 2017. This is very crucial because as of December 2019, even with the help of local businesses, I only had half of the schools sponsored for the children to receive Stop, Look & Paws sets free of charge. As I have mentioned, It is very important that in addition to my visits to the classrooms, the children get the learning activity to take home to their parents to play and learn together. If parents don’t have the same safety information to support the decisions that their children make when interacting with dogs, children will continue to get bitten.
North Bay Animal Services believe in the dog safety program so much that they have decided to be my sole sponsor for providing the Stop, Look & Paws sets for part of their Humane Education services starting in the 2020/21 school year. They also covered the remaining schools for this year so all of the schools in Petaluma that have requested this program will now be receiving Stop, Look & Paws sets.
However, if it wasn’t for local Petaluma businesses funding the program for the last two years this campaign would have never survived. I want to give a big thank to the local businesses who sponsored half of all the Petaluma kindergarten classes for 2019/20 school year. Thank you to:
Bertotti Landscape, Xandex, Petaluma Veterinary Hospital, Petaluma Kids Dental, Lakeville Eye Care, Rip City Riders, Dr. Frasersmith DDS, Brixx Pizzeria, The Glass Shop of North Bay, Hollingsworth Jeweler.
As one of the most coveted and family-friendly consumer awards programs in the nation, the Family Choice Awards recognizes the finest products and services that enrich the lifestyles of children and families. http://www.familychoiceawards.com/family-choice-awards-winners/stop-look-paws/ A distinguished panel of judges voted Stop, Look & Paws based on physical appearance, quality, ease of instructions, entertainment value and engagement, durability, uniqueness, value for the price and if this would be something to recommend.
I felt very honored to receive this award as Stop, Look & Paws took years to design and produce. I hope it continues to help many families years into the future.
Dogs love to play games just like kids. As someone who instructs adults how to play sniffer dog games, or nose work games, with their dogs, I wanted to give you some fun games that children could play.
Not only are these games fun, but this can also help to build a bond between your child and their dog.
Before you start, pick a command like “find it”, “search” or “seek”. Once you have a word, always use that same command for your dog.
Be sure to keep the games fun by always ending play after a successful search. I would recommend not searching more than three different times. You always want to end the game before your dog gets tired of playing. This way he will be eager to play again the next time.
While you play with your dog they will be getting a lot of treats. Be sure the pieces are very small, like pieces of dog kibble. You can use your dog’s food if you want.
Here is your first game…
“Which Hand?” Game
- Sit in front of your dog.
- Put a treat in one hand and show it to your dog. Then enclose it in your fist.
- Keeping your hand about 12 inches apart, show both closed hands to your dog.
- Give your dog the search command.
- If he sniffs the correct hand, open your hand and give the treat and lots of praise.
- If he gets it wrong, show him the correct hand, but DO NOT give him the treat. Just try again.
- Repeat the game, but switch hands.
- Remember: always give the treat and LOTS of praise when your dog is correct!
Game no. 2:
“Under the Cup Search”
- Put 3 cups or containers upside down in front of your dog.
- Show your dog to treat and then hide it under one of the cups. The first time, let your dog see which cup you hide it under.
- Give your dog the search command.
- Your dog should go immediately to the correct cup and either push it or knock it over to get the treat.
- If your dog is correct, given the treat and lots of praise.
- If your dog is not correct, lift the container and let him see the treat, but don’t let him get it. Give the search command again.
- After your dog successfully found the treat a couple of times, start hiding it without your dog seeing which cup it under.
- Show your dog a treat.
- Either have your dog “sit/stay” or have someone hold her while you hide the treat in plain sight. Let your dog see where you put it so she will be successful.
- Return to your dog to give your search command.
- Your dog should run to the treat. When she finds it give lots of praise.
- After several successful easy hides, try making it harder. You could place the treat under a magazine, under the edge of a cushion or pillow, under the corner of a rug — somewhere the dog can get to the treat, but not see it.
- If your dog finds it, she gets the treat and lots of praise. If your dog is struggling, either she doesn’t understand, or you’ve hidden the treat too well! Since we always want the dog to be successful and love playing this game, you can go back to hiding the treat in plain sight and work up to harder hides. You can even try hiding it in a separate room from where she is waiting.
I hope you have fun playing these games with your child and your dog!
It usually goes something like this… ”Mom, can we get a dog, PLEASE!”. Mom’s reply, “Well, if we get a dog you’ll need to take care of the dog; this means walking, feeding, picking up the poop, blah, blah, blah.” The reality is that if mom is truly thinking that the child will learn responsibility and be able to be the caretaker of the family dog, she most likely will end up being frustrated and disappointed, not to mention there can be issues of safety to consider.
Besides Mom’s disappointment your child will end up feeling frustrated too because dogs generally don’t listen to kids.
Dogs follow leaders and will gravitate to the most reliable, consistent person in the family who provides what they need in life to be happy and safe.
Children, since they are still developing, can be more emotional, unpredictable, unreliable and energetic. These qualities communicate to the dog that the child is not in charge, and therefore, the dog generally will not listen to the child.
So now that we know that children usually can not be successful at being “in charge” of the dog, can we still help our child to learn to be a responsible dog owner and help care for the family dog? Absolutely!
Here are a few suggestions to help parents encourage good and safe interactions, helping create a lasting bond between your child and family dog.
Include your child whenever you can with daily care, but you must lay the ground work first. Every task that pertains to your dog, such as daily feeding, providing fresh water, walking, grooming, and basic training, needs to be done first by an adult to understand how you want your child to help, and if they can assist with these daily tasks. You also need to learn about your dog’s personality to find out how they will respond to new things. An example might be that some dogs are overly excited to be fed and may jump into the air knocking the food bowl out of a child’s hands. In this case, you’d first train the dog to keep all four feet on the floor when feeding before having your child take over.
It’s great to have children help with care, but be sure to demonstrate how you want things done. Furthermore, if you want to get them to be less reliant on you telling them when something needs to be done, set up a dog task chart and have your child indicate when the job is accomplished. Obviously, you still need to supervise when and if a task is completed so the dog doesn’t pay the penalty of lack of care.
Be sure to create situations where your child and dog can have fun together. Even though the dog may not see the child as a leader, your dog will be more likely to respond positively to your child if he sees that good things happen when the child is around! Playing fetch, hide and seek, searching games for kibble, are all great ways to bond, and also get the child and dog to learn mutual respect while having fun. Even something as simple as having your child read to the dog can be a quiet time activity for both.
Supervise all interactions, especially with young children. As a parent, you need to give immediate feedback to your child when you see your dog does not want to interact, and may be trying to move away from the situation. Likewise, if the dog is getting too excited or overly stimulated, you need to intervene to deescalate the situation. Even if everyone is playing and having fun, supervise, because things can go wrong in a heart beat! It’s important to understand that if a dog doesn’t see the child as a leader, and wants to communicate that it doesn’t like something your child is doing, the dog may feel it has the “right” to give a correction. This correction may be in the form of a bark, nip or bite. This is because dogs see everyone in a hierarchy, and children are not usually at the top.
Hire a Professional. A professional dog trainer will not only help you with training, but also can advise you on some fun ways that your dog and child can play and interact with basic training techniques.
Even though most children can’t be a reliable leader or primary caretaker for the dog, they can still help and begin to learn the responsibilities of caring for the family dog.
I first published this article in the Pediatric Safety site on April 30, 2018
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.
Millions of People are Bitten By Dogs Every Year
• According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Humane Society, there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites every year in the U.S., and it’s believed this estimate is low.
• Dog Bites occur roughly every 75 seconds in the United States (CDC).
• Each day, over 1000 citizens need emergency medical care to treat dog bite injuries (CDC).
Very Concerning, Most Bites Occur with Young Children … a Key Factor in This is Poor Dog Body Language Understanding
• The Humane Society estimates 51% of dog bite victims are children.
• The American Veterinary Medical Association states that the rate of dog bites for children is highest between the ages of 5-9.
• Getting bitten by a dog is the second most frequent cause of visits to emergency rooms for children according to a survey done by Weiss HB, Friedman DI, Coben JH “Incidence of dog bite injuries treated in emergency departments,” in the JAMA 1998;279:53.
• Children are also more likely than adults to need medical attention, and are far more likely to be severely injured (CDC).
• Young children score badly in discriminating dog body language and look mainly at the face of the dog to make their decisions. Lakestani et al (2005)
Most Dog Bites Occur with a Known Dog, in a Familiar Place
• Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs (CDC).
• The vast majority of biting dogs (77%) belong to the victim’s family or a friend (CDC).
• 80% of dog bites happen at home. (Kahn et al (2004) Miller and Howell (2007).
As a former elementary school teacher and now current dog trainer, I have seen the results of dog bites to children.
I developed Stop, Look and Paws as one tool that can start the process of understanding some basic canine body language and thereby prevent dog bites.
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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
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.