Shelter-in-Place – Preventing Incidents with the Family Dog

advice during shelter in place for the family dog
During this time of shelter-in-place, you’re spending a lot more time together as a family.  Most of the extra time together is good, but there may be some negative consequences as new routines are being established.  Recently I was informed of an incident involving a family dog biting a five year old child who crawled into the dog crate while the dog was sleeping.  After hearing this, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how some of these new daily routines could impact your child and dog.  Let’s  help educate your child about making good decisions with the family dog, and avoid potentially bad incidents like a bite.
 
Children who are normally gone for many hours of the day, expending energy at school, are now spending their days at home.  The routine for the dog is probably different too. They may not have as much time to rest as usual, and there is constant sound and movement in the house from family members.  Some dogs may love the extra family around, but others may not.  
 
All this extra togetherness just increases the likelihood of a potential incident happening. Supervision is always important when it comes to dogs and kids, but realistically you just can’t watch everything all the time. So what else can you do?  Try taking some time to establish clear boundaries and rules with your children regarding your dog(s).  Looking back on the incident with the young child mentioned earlier, it’s likely that the dog was startled while asleep and reacted. It could also be that the dog was protecting its space.  It’s difficult to prevent all bad things from happening, but this is a good time to be proactive with basic child/dog safety tips. 
 
If your child is old enough to have a conversation, go over some basic tips to help your child learn when to give space and undisturbed rest time to the dog. Space should always be given when a dog is eating and sleeping. Don’t assume your child knows all of the basics. If you need a simple child/dog safety tool that covers many of the basic tips, the Stop, Look & Paws sticker set, that was designed for parents to use with children, can be a big help.  It’s also something fun for your child, because they get to sort 12 reusable dog stickers into safe-to-pet or not-safe-to-pet sections on a game board.
 
So, take some time to sit with your child and review basic safety tips with the family dog.  If you need some help, you can read some of the Kids-n-K9s.com blogs and/or get a Stop, Look & Paws sticker set.  Enjoy the extra family time and be safe!

2020 Family Choice Award

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.

Family Choice Award, Stop, Look & Paws

3 Sniffer Dog Games to Play With Your Family Dog

sniffer dog games to play with your child and your family dog

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…

sniffer dog games to play with your dog and child

 

“Which Hand?” Game

  1. Sit in front of your dog.
  2. Put a treat in one hand and show it to your dog. Then enclose it in your fist.
  3. Keeping your hand about 12 inches apart, show both closed hands to your dog.
  4. Give your dog the search command.
  5. If he sniffs the correct hand, open your hand and give the treat and lots of praise.
  6. If he gets it wrong, show him the correct hand, but DO NOT give him the treat. Just try again.
  7. Repeat the game, but switch hands.
  8. Remember: always give the treat and LOTS of praise when your dog is correct!

Game no. 2:            

sniffer dog games to play with your child and your family dog

“Under the Cup Search”

  1. Put 3 cups or containers upside down in front of your dog.
  2. 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.
  3. Give your dog the search command.
  4. Your dog should go immediately to the correct cup and either push it or knock it over to get the treat.
  5. If your dog is correct, given the treat and lots of praise.
  6. 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.
  7. After your dog successfully found the treat a couple of times, start hiding it without your dog seeing which cup it under.

Game 3:                          

sniffer dog games to play with your family dog and your child

“Room Search”

  1. Show your dog a treat.
  2. 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.
  3. Return to your dog to give your search command.
  4. Your dog should run to the treat. When she finds it give lots of praise.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

Can My Child Be In Charge of The Family 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

 

Teaching Your Dog Hide and Seek!

Playing hide and seek with your dog and child

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

To start:

 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

2017/18 – 500 Children Received Stop, Look & Paws Child/Dog Safety Activity Sets Thanks to Local Supporters!

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!

Generous Supporters

Tony Salazar

So then it came down to execution of the campaign at schools and with children. Typically, teachers would set up times with me to volunteer in their classroom, presenting and playing learning games with their students to be safer around dogs. This was very fun for me and it was fortunate that I was local, and able to visit each classroom. Then, at the end of each session, the teacher would distribute Stop, Look & Paws learning activities to each child, who would take it home at the end of the day. It’s important that each child have their own activity set, so they have an easy, fun way to reinforce how to be safe around dogs at home, and get support from their parents. As a small thank you to all of the generous supporters and to reinforce the importance of dog safety to parents, each activity included in insert with the name of the business that provided the sticker set as well as key dog bite statistics.

Results for the 2017/18 school year were outstanding, due largely to all of the generous supporters below!   Thanks to them, 500 Stop, Look & Paws sets were donated to 23 Kindergarten classrooms in Petaluma.

Feedback from supporting businesses, teachers and parents has been wonderful….and it’s all is focused on seeing students learn about dog safety!  Here is a message from one of the teachers as well as an example of children doing follow up artwork to display child/dog safety concepts learned.

“Thank you again for providing us an opportunity to learn about such an important topic, and share the information with family and friends.”  Mrs. Ryan, Kindergarten Teacher, Meadow School

Buy Stop, Look & Paws. The following message is from Dr. Zamora, one of our local veterinarians.

” As a way of giving back to the community, our family and the A.E.Z.R. Pet Hospital were happy to sponsor this information campaign in my sons’ school to increase awareness in recognizing dog body language and to deliver an engaging and relevant presentation on dog body language and dog safety to kids. The kids take home the information/activity kit, Stop, Look & Paws, which reinforces the concepts learned.  I hope that more schools would incorporate activities such as this.  The kids loved it!  Thank you Lesley!”

We’ve also received feedback from the community.  The local paper, Petaluma Argus-Courier, saw the importance of this new campaign and published an article titled “Educator Wants to Help Kids Better Understand Their Puppies”  on March 29, 2018.  http://www.petaluma360.com/news/8159441-181/petaluma-educator-wants-to-improve

Looking forward to the 2018/19 school year and beyond, my annual campaign will be expanding to include cities in addition to Petaluma given our success this year.  Of note, I will be adding a teacher kit so if I’m unable to volunteer at a school, the teacher can present the dog safety information to her/his own class.  If you’re an individual or own a business, and are interested in sponsoring a school or any organization that you feel would benefit from Stop, Look & Paws, please contact me for donation pricing and arrangements.

Thank You,

Lesley –  Kids-n-K9s

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Dog Bite Statistics for the United States

dog bite prevention

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).

About Kids-n-K9s

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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Babies and Dogs – 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

Kids Walking the Dog … Dream or Nightmare?

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!

9 year old walking trained dog.

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’s why… 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. 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. A 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’ll want to intervene in 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, or going into other rooms 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.  Dogs and children are wonderful together, and we as adults can help keep their interactions safe and fun! In my next blog, we’ll talk about identifying specific signs your dog is becoming overly excited, or is trying to avoid interaction with a child.