Sit on the GROUND not the hound! Yep…it needs to be said!

Sit on the groundMany people laugh when they see my stickers….sit on the ground not the hound.  This is NO joke.  Some think it is so obvious it need not be said.  Sadly many people think this is ok.  Or they know it is not a good idea but if the dog does not growl or bite…then he likes it.  We have a great deal of educating about being Dog Aware™.

Intelligent and caring parents make the mistake of expecting a dog to tolerate many things their child does.   What saddens me is the heartbreaking phone calls when a dog’s tolerance runs out.   When the subtle signals dogs use naturally to indicate stress, conflict or need for space, do not work then it is likely the dog will progress to a growl or bite.   Dogs are predictable and with more education and families become Dog Aware™ I know we can help parents make better choices to support life long relationships with dogs.

Headlines  I don’t usually like to comment and show things I DON”T want done.  I prefer to post things that are nice examples.  This however concerned me and I felt was a very good teachable moment.

Princess Charlotte make friends with HUGE dog and bounces on him.  One articles says jumps on him like a trampoline.  Let’s look at just a couple of things that could be very stressful for Charlotte’s new friend Moose.

  1.  Unfamiliar child to dog
  2.  Crowded space surrounded by people
  3. Lots of activity birthday party
  4. 16 months is an unsteady age
  5. LOTS of small children and excitement

I know I would NOT enjoy a child running over to me and bounding on my back if I were resting.  Not my own child and especially not an unfamiliar child.  Why is it we believe a dog should tolerate this?  “What a good dog.” often is heard in these situations.  This comment indicates we KNOW this is not something acceptable.  Why do it?

I compare this to when I was pregnant and the world thought my extended belly was a free for all to touch.  UM NO!  We all have spatial needs and boundaries and it is really important for us to teach our children this about animals too.  We don’t want our children rushing up to strangers and hugging them but yet it is “ok” for them to do this to strange dogs?  Think about it!  this is not fair or comfortable and the bottom line is if a dog does vocalize or complain he is likely to be punished or put down.  We really need to shift our expectations.

Dogs do not enjoy bouncing weight on their backs and even if they “tolerate” it one time this definitely does not mean they will continue to do so.  The likelihood actually is that they will begin to dread and anticipate small children as painful and intrusive.  This can be a huge problem for the next child the dog encounters. We must create mutually comfortable interactions when it comes to encounters with young children and dogs.  Not all kids want to touch dogs and not all dogs want to be touched.  No dog enjoys being sat on.

Another concern by allowing this behavior is that a child may think Mommy and Daddy love when I sit on dogs.  Pictures and videos are taken…. everyone laughs.  This is very reinforcing for most toddlers and they will repeat this with not only that dog but other dogs too.

What I would like to suggest to help families tempted by setting up these “cute” situations is to become familiar with subtle signals dogs offer indicating stress or a need for space.

Dog Aware parents learn about body language that is seen WAY before a grumble or snap.  Most likely in all of these riding dog encounters the dog is offering signals but they are not being received by the trusted adult because they are unaware of them.   Here are just a couple.

Licking lips

Turning away, head turn

Whale eye (whites of eyes)

Shifting weight

Checking in with adult (making eye contact)


Sniffing ground


Changes in breathing speed

Closed mouth

Tight facial muscles

These all are ways that dogs attempt to communicate before escalating to a growl or snap.  If these attempts are missed too many times dogs may offer less signals and snap or growl sooner.   This is why many say the dog bit out of the blue.  Often parents think because “he always was fine before” or “they have always done that with him and he loved it.” or “he never leaves and lets them do anything to him.”  Each of these are things we hear multiple times a day about great dogs that are misunderstood due to a need for families to become Dog Aware™  We all think we know our dogs and how dogs behave but the reality is that we are not dogs and our communication

Having toddlers and dogs together is a full time job.  It can be hard especially if you do not know what to look for.  Family Paws Parent Educators offer ongoing support and resources dedicated to dog and baby/toddler dynamics.  Don’t wait until you NEED us… us when things are going well so we can help them go GREAT!

If you have questions or are interested in learning and becoming a Dog Aware parent we invite you to reach out to us on our hotline 877 247-3407 or find one of our licensed Family Paws Parent Educators near you!

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Dog & Baby in the scene….parent is in between!

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Become Dog Aware™and supervise with care!

We all have heard the advice SUPERVISE CHILDREN AROUND DOGS!  Ok….so what does this really mean?  Is it that simple?  I thought it was until I become Dog Aware™.  Now I approach supervising differently!

Here are two pictures of my children and dogs from many years ago.  I was supervising.  Right?  I supervised their hugging, free-touching, pulling, hugging etc.  I bet my dog appreciated my supervision skills?  (Sorry Moose and Carin)

Free touch of babies & dogs is not comfortable for dogs.

Hugging and leaning on dogs is uncomfortable.

I was missing a key part of supervision! I was not Dog Aware™!!!!!  Dog Aware™ parents continue learning and stay curious about the behavior of their family dogs.  At the time of these photos I felt I knew enough about dogs and you could not have told me differently!  I grew up with dogs, showed dogs and I knew dogs.   I was WRONG!  What I knew was lacking.  How unfair of me to think dogs are that simple and that I knew all I needed to know!? Do we ever know everything????

I really had a LOT to learn.  Once I realized this I got excited!  Imagine the relationship my kids and dogs could have if I knew more!

So, yes I was supervising my kids with our dogs but with no real knowledge of what I was looking at.  I had lived with dogs but never PARENTED WITH DOGS!  This was new and I needed to be open to learning to help build and strengthen the bond between my children and our dogs.    Although I grew up with many dogs I had never parented a child with dogs.  I am still learning every day as my kids grow into young adults.  Being a dog family with children means being aware and respecting comfort levels of the dogs that are in the home.  I love when parents are open minded and curious about the subtle signals their dogs use to communicate.  Dog Aware parents stay curious and continue learning to build and strengthen the bond between all family members.

Are you ready to increase your Dog Aware™skills?  Are you curious about how your dog reacts or responds in different situations?  Are you interested in strengthening the bond between your child and dog?  Believe me, you are in the right place.  I am so excited to share some of what our family has learned over the years!  We continue to learn every day from our dogs.  I love being curious and open to seeing things differently.

I would love your questions and photos during the month of May to discuss Dog Aware™ How are you Dog Aware™??  Leave us a comment!  We want to hear from you!dogawarefinal




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Carry a doll? Should we practice?


“Friends suggested that we carry a baby doll around to help prepare our dog for baby.  Is this really necessary?”

Great question!  This is a very common recommendation and many families feel very silly or uncomfortable with this type of “role play.”   Family Paws Parent Education (FPPE) does recommend activities that help parents to learn more about their dog’s responses. We suggest families practice what they want their dog to do in a variety of situations.    Here is how and why we recommend this activity.

Suggestions on how to practice.

You can either use a weighted baby doll or use a pillowcase with 5-10 lbs of bagged rice or water bottles.  We like it to be baby weight and a bit floppy.  This may seem silly but the idea is to role play different situations as you carry your pretend baby and practice desired behavior with your dog.   

Here are some things you can learn from this activity.

downWill your dog be interested in your “pretend baby?”  Jumping?  Pawing?  Ignoring?

Does he think it is playtime?  A game?  

Does he grab at your pretend baby?    

Does lifting up your “baby” from a carseat or blanket on the floor cause interest or excitement?

How does your dog respond when you talk to the baby in your arms?  

Does passing your “baby” to another person cause interest or excitement for your dog?

Does your dog’s  interest change when adding a blanket around your “baby?”  

Does your dog follow verbal cues while you are sitting?  Leaning back on the couch?  Talking to baby?  

Why is this important?

For your dog, this is a very different picture than you asking them to do something while you are standing and looking at them.  For example, most dogs will need to learn that “sit” while you are lying back on the couch holding something is the same as “sit” when you are standing up and holding  a treat.

These are just some of the questions that this activity can help you answer as you prepare with your dog for baby.   Learning how your dog responds to you in this type of situation allows you to problem solve and practice ahead of time.  It is of course important to remember that your dog will likely be more excited or interested in your real baby because babies move, make sounds, and smell different than a pillowcase with water bottles.  It is also important to remember that YOU also may respond differently when you hold your newborn.  This is just the very basic steps of this activity.  There are many games and activities to help families with dogs make this transition into parenthood smoother.

Contact a Family Paws Parent Educator to begin preparing with your pup for life with baby today!   Preparing ahead and practicing calm and consistent behaviors before your real baby arrives can save you and your dog from a great deal of stress and frustration moving forward.  


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Dog tucks in baby?

Headline reads- Adorable dog tucks baby in to sleep.

Is this dog “tucking baby in?”

The gentle nudging of the blanket to cover a newborn can be heartwarming but also misleading. It is often hard for new parents to remember that their family dog is still a DOG.   They are not relating to their baby as a human sibling. This may sound like a simple and obvious point but for many who really want to see the harmony between the new baby and dog sometimes these lines can be blurred.

Dogs do not do this with their alive puppiies. They do this with novel things they want to stash for later or to cover up scent of.   Please always remember that your dog is a DOG and will always act and behave as a dog no matter how good of a dog he is!

Here are a couple of examples of dogs displaying this behavior.  What do you think?


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It won’t happen to me….


Poster PSI Conference 2015

Poster PSI Conference 2015

I am so grateful to have had the opportunty to attend the annual Postpartum Support International Conference again this year. As someone who was personally touched by postpartum depression and anxiety I can not express how excited I feel each time I hear new research and learn of more support for families.

I was honored to share a poster about Family Dogs and Postpartum parents…patterns, benefits and support.  This conference is important to me professionally and personally.

I remember hearing about Postpartum depression during my first pregnancy. I listened to my childbirth educator but honestly never gave it a thought…it was not info I needed. My thoughts:  I will never be depressed.  I am prepared.  Can’t wait to be home with my baby all day!  I have worked with babies and families for years…I know what I am getting into…no problem.  Well…I was pretty humbled and depression/anxiety was a part of my transition into parenthood.  Now I know first hand how important support, education and awareness is. Prevention is not sexy and often finding a way to reach people with the needed information BEFORE they know they need it is a challenge.

The professionals offering me information about Postpartum Depression were in the same position I find myself in daily about Dog and baby awareness. Many people do not feel they need information…they know their dog, or their dog would never, their dog loves kids, is a good dog and would never, or they have known dogs all their life.

All of these statements may be true. We are not saying or suggesting that your dog is bad or you do not know your dog.

“We are suggesting that PARENTING with a dog and baby is a new experience and adding to your knowledge and understanding of your dog will enhance your relationship and increase success and decrease stress for all.  You don’t know what you don’t know…please stay open to learning.” JenShryock)   

We all need guidance and safety nets. We want to encourage families to surround themselves with as many resources as possible and create a support system to help make this transition as smooth as possible for all. Whether you think you need it or not…please bookmark and share our information and the wonderful website Postpartum Support International.   You just never know who you might help! Thank you!

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Babywearing vs. Strollering

­Babywearing vs. Strollering: Considerations when dog walking with babies
katstrollerUp until the birth of our daughter last year, our two Shepherd-ish dogs enjoyed walks on a regular basis, pretty exclusively with me. For years beforehand I would wake up hours before going to work (to my job as a fulltime dog walker) & take each one of my dogs on a walk. As you can imagine, I really like walking dogs. Once we knew we were expecting, I knew I had to do some thinking, scheming, & practicing new things, to ensure that dog walking was still an enjoyable part of our future with a mini human.

When you have an infant, baby or young child, and you want to take your dog on a walk your two best options are to either bring your baby in a stroller or babywear with a carrier of some type. There are definite pros and cons to each choice. Before deciding what’s going to be the best choice for you, the most important thing to do first is to make sure you really know your dog, and you really know your environment. It’s important to be able to predict, with confidence how your dog will act in any of the potential situations you could experience while dog walking and how having a baby with you will impact those situations.

For example: How does your dog react to passing by or seeing another dog? Does your dog like to jump at birds & squirrels? What about bikes and skateboards? How likely are you to encounter a stray dog where you’ll be walking? Where will you be walking? Your familiar neighborhood, a downtown area, or maybe hiking trails?

Whether you choose to babywear, or take a stroller with you on your dog walks with your baby, other humans will look at you. They’ll talk to you, they’ll wave to you. They might even approach you. Will your dog be comfortable with this?

If you live in a neighborhood where stray or off leash dogs are common, it’s important to know how your dog reacts in this situation. Dog treats, deterrent spray (like citronella) & a cell phone are always must-haves when I leave the house with my dogs. Should you encounter a loose dog, it’s important to have a plan on how to manage this situation as safely as possible. Consider taking walks in a different neighborhood if you are concerned about meeting unfamiliar dogs.

Katbabywear w banditOn most days my preferred choice is babywearing, but I must confess babywearing is something I really enjoy outside of dog walking. There are lots of different options when it comes to types of carriers you can use with your baby. Some are pieces of material wrapped around your body, some are like slings, and then some are structured like a backpack that you buckle or tie on. There are excellent benefits for parent & child bonding when babywearing.

Babywearing means that I have two hands available when walking a dog. I dish out a lot of treats while walking. It helps keep my dogs interested and attentive to me. Wearing a bait bag stocked with good stuff is a must on my walks. I take this with me whether I’m using a stroller or carrying the baby. If I’m babywearing, my phone and keys can also fit in my bait bag, or I can usually stick them in the front pocket of my carrier.

Babywearing always seemed easiest for me when my daughter was first born. It was also the winter time (& in Detroit we have some serious winter!) and there wasn’t any way I could have possibly pushed a stroller through the ice & snow. Plus I always felt the baby & I were warmer when we were attached to each other. The down side to this is you have to use a lot of caution where you step when babywearing, especially during the winter months. If you slip & fall, the baby falls with you. This is another reason why it’s important to know your dog. If your dog reacts to certain things you may pass, and might lunge or pull hard on a leash, it may make you more likely to fall.

Unlike strollering, babywearing can come with a bit of a learning curve. If it’s something you’re looking to try, I recommend trying out different types of carriers and finding one that feels comfortable when you’re wearing it. (If you don’t have a local shop or babywearing group nearby, YouTube is an excellent resource for videos on how to carry your baby.) Practice putting it on and taking it off, then practice putting it on and taking it off with your baby BEFORE you set out for a walk. It can take some practice to feel like you’ve got a good grip on your balance, something you want to feel good about when you’re out walking your dog. It’s also a good idea to get your dog used to seeing you wearing your baby. Your movements will be different. If your dog seems spooked by this new contraption you’re wearing (that may also cry & move around) you’ll want to know this before you start walking.

Strollering itself might not seem like something that requires much practice, but I promise the practice is worth it. It’s hard to practice babywearing while you’re pregnant, especially once you get into the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Things don’t fit you how they will once the baby is born. At a certain point, it is impossible to practice wearing a carrier in front of you, because the front of you is being taken up by a future person. During the later parts of pregnancy, practicing with a stroller however, is totally possible.

I remember when the stroller I picked out finally came in the mail. I was super excited to get it out of the giant box and check it out. Once I got all the pieces put in the right place, I gave it a quick push around the living room & one of my dogs ran the other direction. She wouldn’t go anywhere near it. This new piece of baby equipment was scary to her. For several weeks before the baby was born I practiced walking around the house, yard & driveway with a doll in the stroller until my scared dog wasn’t scared of the stroller anymore.

When our horrendous long winter finally ended and hot sun finally returned babywearing stopped being as comfortable for us. While it kept me warmer during the frigid months, babywearing can get really hot & sweaty in the summer. A few moms in a local babywearing group suggested sticking a cold pack in the front pocket. I think it keeps the baby a bit cooler but I don’t know that it has much cooling affect for me. There are some carriers that are designed for warmer climates that are made of material that tends to breathe easier.

As much as I LOVE babywearing, I also really enjoy taking my daughter out for a stroll. Strollering means there are less things to physically carry. Theres a storage compartment where I can toss a poo bag until we get home or pass by a trash can (picking up poo while wearing your child, can also be an acquired skill). Good leash walking skills are just as important when strollering. When using the stroller, the last thing you want to happen is to tip over because your dog decided to chase a bird. Practice walking down the street with a doll, or a sack of potatoes (which weighs closer to a real human than a doll) so that you feel comfortable holding a dog leash & holding onto your stroller. Never tie a dog leash to your stroller. Strollering can be great if you like to walk your dog and enjoy a much needed cup of coffee! Baby carriers don’t come equipped with a cup holder. I think my daughter also likes riding along in a stroller and being able to see one of her dogs walking next to her.

There are definite pros and cons to each choice. Both require practice. Sometimes I take the stroller out and shove my carrier in the storage basket so if the baby starts crying I have the option to take her out and carry her home. Some children just don’t like to be worn or they outgrow enjoying it before they are able to walk with us on their own two feet. Some children get to a certain age & they want to be able to face forward and see the world around them & their best view is from a stroller (there are very few carriers on the market that can safely carry a forward facing infant).

Whichever option you choose, make sure it is the one that you feel most comfortable and safe choosing. The safety of you, your child & your dog are all important when taking a dog walk. I typically restrict my dog walks with baby to only certain areas that I am very familiar with. When I want to explore somewhere new, I might take only a dog or only a baby, so that I have less to manage while getting to know new surroundings. I’m also a big advocate for the “one dog at a time” dog walk. Managing multiple dogs when walking with your baby can be extra chaos (plus it’s good for dogs who live together to have some alone time). While dog walking with a baby is a new skill, with a little practice and preparation, your new family dog walks can be something really fun enjoyable for everyone.

Kat Stevens-Stanley, ABCDT

Certified Dog Trainer, Association of Professional Dog Trainers member

Parent & Family educator with Family Paws Parent Education



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Education IS prevention

Reading Dog - FinalThis week is national dog bite prevention week. This week take time to learn about dog body language. The more you know about how a dog communicates with subtle gestures the better you will be able to respond appropriately. As a parent this is VERY important. Not only will you increase safety for your child but you will be modeling better responses for them to learn from. Talk about setting up everyone for success!   Let’s get started!

Below is a link to  an Amazing article written by Amy Martin one of our FPPE Advisors. In it you will find a link to our 5 types of supervision video and so much more! You may also want to JOIN us this week for our Dogs & Toddlers webinar! Let’s build bonds and learn together!

Link to Amy Martin’s Blog

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Doulas make a difference!

It is important all expectant families surround themselves with as much support as possible. This week is world doula week. Doulas are an important part of an expectant families support system. Doulas offer a wide range of skills focused on meeting the desires and needs of each family member before, during and after birth. Lack of sleep, new responsibilities, and changes in daily routines can cause a whole new level of stress for new parents. Often this level of stress can lead people to feel that they just do not have enough to give to their family dog. It is very common to hear young parents say that their dog might be “better off” in another home. Without rest, ample time to recover and ongoing support a family may rush to the decision of rehoming their dog. This decision often is one a family will regret. The knowledge and support a doula offers can really help decrease stress as a couple eases into parenthood. A less stressed environment is good for Mom, Dad, baby and the family dog.   We are grateful for all the wonderful doulas out there!  Below is a our Postpartum and family dogs webinar.

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