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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 is 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 involves trying to avoid 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, 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

 

A Fun Game of Fetch in 8 Easy Steps

Teaching your dog to fetch in 8 easy steps

Training your dog to play the game of fetch and to retrieve a ball or toy is as fun as it sounds and can be done in 8 easy steps. Many people tell me that their dog will not do this and I am here to give you the successful tips that I have used for many years to teach dogs and their humans how to play.

To begin, start indoors in a room with no distractions.  Be prepared with dog kibble or treats – a Dixie cup size works.  Also, have two or three of your dog’s favorite toys or balls.  To teach the game and create the desire to play, you don’t have to use balls to start. Attach a leash to your dog’s collar and just let them drag it on the floor.

  1. Start by sitting down on the floor and use a toy to get your dog’s interest – I usually pretend the toy or ball is moving around as if it were a little animal.
  2. As soon as your dog looks over with interest, roll or toss the toy a few feet away.  You have to toss or roll it before they can grab it with their mouth.  Usually your dog will go to grab the toy as it’s moving.
  3. As soon as they pick up or touch the toy -PRAISE them!  Atta boy!  Great job!  Remember this is all baby steps at first.
  4. If that is all they do, no worries, you grab a different toy and repeat the above process.  Be excited about the toys.
  5. If they did  pick up the toy you tossed, more praise and hopefully, your excitement will usually draw them back to you!
  6. DO NOT TRY TO TAKE THE TOY AWAY FROM THEM IF THEY BRING IT BACK. Just praise and say, Good job!  Maybe pet their chest and compliment them on their toy!
  7. Show them the treat and try to trade the toy for the treat. As soon as they take the treat, they will drop the toy, now quickly through the toy back.  This is KEY! They have to see you don’t just keep their toy and you always give it back.
  8. If they are not coming back initially, you use the leash to guide them back and reward with the treat.

To finish the first session, you need to end the game before the dog decides to end the game.  This harder for the humans as everyone gets excited when they see success and they want to keep going.  Only do about 3-5 tosses at first and then stop playing.  This will make your dog all the more interested and engaged the next time you play.  Stay with playing this indoor initially until your dog gets great about bringing the toy to you and starts to drop it immediately.  This is when you can fade from using the treat!

I love this for kids because kids usually want to play with their dog, but don’t always know the best ways to play.  First, teach your dog and then it will be easy to hand the reins to your child. This also is a great bonding activity to do for the family and the dog.

If you’d like to see this in action, I have several sessions that I have posted on my Kids-n-K9s Facebook page!  http://<iframe src=”https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fkidsnk9s%2Fvideos%2F337510970624561%2F&show_text=0&width=560″ width=”560″ height=”315″ style=”border:none;overflow:hidden” scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ allowTransparency=”true” allowFullScreen=”true”></iframe>

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!

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

Do I Want My Dog to be Protective of My Child?

do I want a protection dog for my child?

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.

https://www.pediatricsafety.net/2018/06/do-i-want-my-dog-to-be-protective-of-my-child/

 

Should Young Children Go to Dog Parks?

There are many things to consider before you make a decision to take or not to take a young child to a dog park.

A friend called with a surprising story to share. She was at a local dog park with her small terrier, and not far away, there was a family with a lab mix. The family consisted of mom, dad and young daughter who was about 3 years old. A large dog ran by the family, and the young girl, somewhat surprised, grabbed onto her mother’s legs for comfort. Here’s the shocker….. Her mother bent down to look into her child’s eyes and said, “Oh honey, you don’t have to be afraid of any dogs here because this is a dog park and all dogs at dog parks are friendly.” Worst advice ever! That’s because dogs at dog parks are not screened in any way.

• Dogs do not have to be safe with children to go to a dog park. • Dogs do not have to be human or dog friendly, and some may in fact be bullies and jerks! • Dogs are not required to have vaccinations to go to a dog park. • Dogs that may be friendly, may still have terrible manners meaning that they could jump on anybody and anything, or use their mouth   to grab, hold and pull… all with the intent to play.

Often times, going to a dog park is a dog’s only physical outlet to “let loose”. Rough play or rude behavior (towards dogs or humans) can be common. Couple that with an owner who is looking more at their phone or chatting with other dog owners, and things can go wrong in a nano second. Some owners are in denial about their dog’s inappropriate “play” and there’s not a lot you can do about that, other than recognizing potentially dangerous situations and leaving the park. Educate yourself about dog body language and good dog park etiquette to help be proactive and avoid bad situations. Looking back on this dog park example, the child was shy, but another child may think it’s great fun to chase after dogs. Some dogs may be ok with this, but others may not. In fact, if they are running away and are nervous about being pursued by a child, they may turn and stop the child with a bite. So if you want to give your child exposure to dogs, great, but find friends that have dogs that like children and are comfortable in their presence. See my blog on “When Things Are Going Well”, to understand body language that supports this. In closing, always supervise your child and dog. By all means, if you see a child pursuing a dog that’s trying to get away, step in to intervene. Sometimes young children don’t know any better, and it’s our job to help keep both child and dog safe.

Babies and Dogs – Part 4 – Building a Bond Between Baby and Dog

Now that you have successfully introduced the baby and dog, it is time to build a bond between the two!

 

Babies and Dogs Creating a Safe and Harmonious Relationship

Part 4

Building a Bond Between Baby and Dog

Now that you’ve reviewed Parts 1 through 3, let’s finish with how you can help create a beautiful bond between your baby and dog. You will need to help your dog understand that this new little person, who is demanding all of your attention is actually going to stay and is part of the family or pack (as your dog sees it)! Overall, be sure to do some of the activities your dog enjoys every day, and importantly, include the baby. For example, a dog walk with the baby stroller is an excellent activity. The dog sees everyone walking as a pack unit, with the baby in the lead. Plus, walking is very healthy for everyone! If you play games like fetch, the baby can be present as you are playing with the dog. Also, if you play indoor scent games like searching for hidden dog treats, your baby can be present for this as well. Try to find as many things as possible that you can still do where your dog sees that the baby is included. Of note, even practicing the basic commands your dog knows, followed by praise and a treat, while your baby is in your arms, makes the dog see the baby as part of the interaction and training. In the eyes of the dog, “Good things happen when the baby is present!” Two final precautionary thoughts – 1. If you think your dog is showing signs of jealously, please contact a professional trainer to help you. It is usually a situation that can be helped by having the owner make changes in the way they are relating to the dog. 2. Most important, because things can happen in a split second, always supervise your dog and baby when they are together! It is a wonderful experience for a child to grow up with a dog. Learning to have compassion and understanding of a different species starts with you, and how you model respect and kindness to your canine family member. Enjoy your new family! Lesley Zoromski Kids-n-K9s.com