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.
It usually goes something like this… ”Mom, can we get a dog, PLEASE!”. Mom’s reply, “Well, if we get a dog you’ll need to take care of the dog; this means walking, feeding, picking up the poop, blah, blah, blah.” The reality is that if mom is truly thinking that the child will learn responsibility and be able to be the caretaker of the family dog, she most likely will end up being frustrated and disappointed, not to mention there can be issues of safety to consider.
Besides Mom’s disappointment your child will end up feeling frustrated too because dogs generally don’t listen to kids.
Dogs follow leaders and will gravitate to the most reliable, consistent person in the family who provides what they need in life to be happy and safe.
Children, since they are still developing, can be more emotional, unpredictable, unreliable and energetic. These qualities communicate to the dog that the child is not in charge, and therefore, the dog generally will not listen to the child.
So now that we know that children usually can not be successful at being “in charge” of the dog, can we still help our child to learn to be a responsible dog owner and help care for the family dog? Absolutely!
Here are a few suggestions to help parents encourage good and safe interactions, helping create a lasting bond between your child and family dog.
Include your child whenever you can with daily care, but you must lay the ground work first. Every task that pertains to your dog, such as daily feeding, providing fresh water, walking, grooming, and basic training, needs to be done first by an adult to understand how you want your child to help, and if they can assist with these daily tasks. You also need to learn about your dog’s personality to find out how they will respond to new things. You will find that some tasks work out better than others.
– 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.
In 2017 I expanded my campaign to reach more children with dog safety tools and activities. Starting in my hometown of Petaluma, I approached local elementary schools to gauge their interest in improving dog safety education for their students. My goal was to provide a free copy of Stop, Look & Paws child/dog safety activity to each student in Kindergarten. As I had hoped, schools were very interested, and now I needed to fund this campaign. So, I contacted local veterinarians and businesses as well as a few private citizens to ask for their help in covering costs of the Stop, Look & Paws activity sets. Once they became aware of the startling dog bite statistics here in the US (roughly 5 million dog bites every year, with over half to children), many generously offered financial support for the campaign!
So then it came down to execution of the campaign at schools and with children. Typically, teachers would set up times with me to volunteer in their classroom, presenting and playing learning games with their students to be safer around dogs. This was very fun for me and it was fortunate that I was local, and able to visit each classroom. Then, at the end of each session, the teacher would distribute Stop, Look & Paws learning activities to each child, who would take it home at the end of the day. It’s important that each child have their own activity set, so they have an easy, fun way to reinforce how to be safe around dogs at home, and get support from their parents. As a small thank you to all of the generous supporters and to reinforce the importance of dog safety to parents, each activity included in insert with the name of the business that provided the sticker set as well as key dog bite statistics.
Results for the 2017/18 school year were outstanding, due largely to all of the generous supporters below! Thanks to them, 500 Stop, Look & Paws sets were donated to 23 Kindergarten classrooms in Petaluma.
Feedback from supporting businesses, teachers and parents has been wonderful….and it’s all is focused on seeing students learn about dog safety! Here is a message from one of the teachers as well as an example of children doing follow up artwork to display child/dog safety concepts learned.
“Thank you again for providing us an opportunity to learn about such an important topic, and share the information with family and friends.” Mrs. Ryan, Kindergarten Teacher, Meadow School
Buy Stop, Look & Paws. The following message is from Dr. Zamora, one of our local veterinarians.
” As a way of giving back to the community, our family and the A.E.Z.R. Pet Hospital were happy to sponsor this information campaign in my sons’ school to increase awareness in recognizing dog body language and to deliver an engaging and relevant presentation on dog body language and dog safety to kids. The kids take home the information/activity kit, Stop, Look & Paws, which reinforces the concepts learned. I hope that more schools would incorporate activities such as this. The kids loved it! Thank you Lesley!”
Looking forward to the 2018/19 school year and beyond, my annual campaign will be expanding to include cities in addition to Petaluma given our success this year. Of note, I will be adding a teacher kit so if I’m unable to volunteer at a school, the teacher can present the dog safety information to her/his own class. If you’re an individual or own a business, and are interested in sponsoring a school or any organization that you feel would benefit from Stop, Look & Paws, please contact me for donation pricing and arrangements.
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. (Although the way dogs try to scarf up anything they find along the way, you can see this may be hard wired in their brains.)
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 my 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.
You also need to learn if your dog reacts unpredictably to certain things 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.
Third, consider using a double leash. 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!