Dog and Baby Support hotline
I had to chuckle as I read the headlines highlighting Sunny’s doggie behavior. I have a 1-½ year old large breed puppy and a 4 year old. I know how easily excited dogs this age can become and how quickly they can knock a child over without meaning to. Dogs this age are curious and easily excited. They are young and still learning manners. Large gathering with all ages and unfamiliar people paying attention can be hard for even the best socialized adult dogs.
Why this made headline news is beyond me! We expect way too much of our dogs sometimes and the beauty is that our dogs will be DOGS no matter how well known their owner is. They don’t know the cameras are on and they are in the spotlight…they are just being dogs.
Just some tips for large gatherings as we head to the holidays.
I am glad no one was hurt but also think that this was silly to hit the media. I am grateful to have a nice topic to blog about! J
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Holiday recorded webinar…listen HERE!
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In the last couple of months I have seen a shift in the comfort level between Bailey and Kelsyann. Bailey was uncomfortable when we brought Kelsyann home as a newborn. He avoided coming close and observed from a distance. We began specific activities with Bailey while holding Kelsyann. One of the activities we began was morning “cuddle time.” I would hold Kelsyann and invite Bailey to snuggle next to me while Kelsyann was in my arms or on my other side. Bailey loves being close to older kids and adults and so this was a great activity for him.
We continued inviting him for “cuddle” time as kelsyann got older. Inviting him allowed him the choice to participate or not. He was always free to leave. We have continued this for 4 years and now both he and kelsyann know what to expect. As Kelsyann has grown we have gone from Parent-guided (hand over hand petting) to one-handed petting.
Kelsyann now invites Bailey up for “cuddles” and he can choose to come close or not. Bailey often comes to the bed and waits for her to invite him and he snuggles close to her. This has taken TIME! Relationships take time. Parents with babies and toddlers must be patient in the building of relationships between their dog and child. Trust and comfort must be a regular part of this relationship. Short and sweet predictable parent guided interactions help this to be a success.
Now, do I allow Kelsyann to do this without me being in the room? NO!
She is 4 years old and I must be part of this equation at this age. She may know things but she also may not be able to always make comfortable choices for Bailey. I love that I am seeing a great relationship develop but I also know that to continue our success I still need to be an ACTIVE part of this interaction for both to succeed long term.
Fall is here! A crispness in the air and slight chill is wonderfully refreshing. Now is the time for outdoor activities with leaves, pumpkins and of course Halloween. Here is a reminder about Halloween safety and fun.
Fall also means my Birthday! I want to celebrate by offering our Dogs & Storks DVD for $10 plus shipping! If you are a rescue group or need 10 or more DVD’s please email me firstname.lastname@example.org for pricing! There is nothing more important to me than offering positive and practical and affordable education and support for new and expectant families! Please take advantage of this offer through Oct 31st!
Please also spread the word about our webinars! Some are FREE while others are paid for. Spots are limited so register early! We can’t wait to learn together!
Happy Autumn and be sure to keep all animals and kids safe during Halloween festivities.
Today I was reminded how important the Dog & Baby support hotline. Each month we receive more and more calls to our hotline from parents who are reaching out for help with their family dogs. Today’s call really meant so much to me as the situation is not at the point of no return. It is something that is most likely workable with education and more awareness. So many families turn to google and places that can often lead them to feeling even more confused. It is our hope that like this family today we are able to support and refer others to immediate help and positive, practical and professional resources. Please send our information to families, rescues and friends! We have a great team of professionals ready to help families with Kids & dogs.
This is why I love what I do! When we can help kids, dogs and parents feel safe and more comfortable then we truly are making a difference!
Thank you so much for taking your time to speak with me about my predicament. You have given me hope. I am so glad that you understand how I feel. The past few days I have felt so isolated. Thank you.”
1. I chose to become a presenter after attending an educational conference focusing on the increase in dog bites in our country. I was so moved by some of the statistics that I knew this was an area of training that I could make a difference in. I, not only had children but I taught puppy classes where I encouraged child attendance. I’ve always put a lot of focus on education and had an interest in getting children involved at their ability level.
2. The most helpful thing for me in the organization has to be Jennifer Shryock. She has recorded videos, written very effective handouts and has always been available when I have questions. The videos are a great way for her to make that personal connection with me, letting me in to her personal experiences as well as professional ones. The handouts are a perfect addition and a very welcome asset to the program.
3. I enjoy helping people. Going into their homes and really showing them areas of concern, areas that we can make work better for their home so everyone can live with less stress. Going into the dog owners homes is so much more effective than trying to educate them in the veterinary hospital about what they should do.
4. What I would like everyone to know about dogs and babies is simple. Even if you think your dog would ‘never’ hurt anyone, it is possible for dogs to become stressed with the addition of a new baby, or with the newly toddling child. With that stress can come reactions that no body would expect. I love the idea of prevention and education before there is a problem. I have worked with dogs most of my life and now being a mother myself I know how important this information is. I want to educate families about prevention so that these little babies are never put in a situation for injury to occur and so that dogs do not lose their happy homes or worse, their lives.
You can find Neika in Lakeville, IN Website
Our focus was on how to build relationships through education. Dogs really do offer so much communication that as humans does not come naturally to us. Colleen brought up a great point, parents read books about babies and child behavior but often overlook learning about dog behavior and ways to help dogs adjust to the dynamics of a growing family. it is interesting that we read and learn about little humans but not dogs. We are human and we have been young children before but we have never been dogs. It would make great sense to learn about dog behavior wouldn’t it? If not then why? It would seem we should have all the answers about being baby humans right? We were babies once but again, we were never dogs and yet we assume we know it all. Just made me think about things.
It is my hope that through offering resources that are practical, fun and affordable more parents will take the time to learn more about their dog and how they communicate. As someone who specializes in dog and baby/toddler dynamics it saddens me when I get calls only after things have gone wrong. It is my hope that we all begin to learn more about our dogs and their subtle ways of communication. This way we can all live together under the same roof in a comfortable way for all!
I have always believed that safe dog and child relationships begin with the parents before the child is ready! Educating parents and shaping expectations of what safe dog and child encounters look like often takes time and practice before it becomes natural. Often new patterns need to set into place and old beliefs challenged and adjusted. Our programs encourage practicing these different approaches and new ideas BEFORE the child is ready to learn from them. Parents modeling appropriate interaction even beginning at age one helps pave the way for success. Taking advantage of children’s natural desire to imitate is a great opportunity to set both dog and child up for success right from the start. I have enjoyed watching my daughters and client’s older babies and toddlers respond to the hard work the parents did prior to their baby being ready to grab the dog, crawl or run. Having parents practice and model safer interaction and develop new awareness of their dog’s needs prior to their baby reaching challenging milestones can be a huge key towards success for all.
Tonight I was reminded of this again as Kelsyann (4) and I were reading a book. Kelsyann grew up learning behaviors that helped our dogs feel safe. Ex: standing and stopping a distance to talk to the dog or invite them over or to just blow a kiss instead of rushing them or crowding them while they rested. This took a great deal of time, management and patience as we have had 4 dogs with various needs and comfort levels as she was an older baby and toddler.
Here are some examples of what she was able to communicate to us at a very young age based on our modeling and practicing at home.
At 2 1/2 years old Kelsyann reminded me one day “no huggies Mommy” from across the room when I went to give our senior German Shepherd Duke a hug. I blogged about it here. At 3 she told the kids at her childcare about BEING A TREE and one hand petting (the teacher told me and thought it was so cute)
When we are out sometimes our neighbor feels put off because kelsyann does not approach her dogs and give them attention. I am pleased as she knows to give them space and that we don’t pet all dogs.
Tonight we were reading a book at bedtime and there was an illustration with great details in it. She picked out the baby hanging over the mom’s arm reaching to grab the dog. “mommy that is not a good idea for the baby to do that to the dog? right?” She also pointed out an image of a child reaching into a cage in a zoo and how that too was a bad idea.
Does this mean she is ready to be left unsupervised with our dogs or any dog? No! She is a four year old! It just means that she is learning and beginning the foundation for a healthy and respectful relationship with dogs as she gets older.
I believe that by helping parents set up proper expectations for their children that are age appropriate and their dog that are comfort and respect based we can increase safety and fun in homes.
Looking back 13 years ago when I came home with our 5 year old German shepherd with our 3 and 2 year old little boys….boy did I have a lot to learn. I thought I knew dogs then and sometimes am fooled I know them now but the reality is that dogs and kids are all individuals with minds and motivations of their own and all we can do is do our best to set everyone up for success by being open to learning along the way.
No, this is not an article about crating children. Instead it is about setting boundaries. Many times I see images of children in dog crates and parents finding this funny, cute and seeing it as a great photo op. Personally I see it as an accident waiting to happen.
It is true that toddlers are drawn to dog crates as they love cozy spots and to explore new places…especially if they are off limits. So, what’s the harm? The harm is that the child is not learning to respect their dog’s space. It is so important that we begin teaching children early on to respect their dog’s space and items. I am sure you have places in the home where you would not like your toddler exploring right? Your dog’s cozy spot needs to be safe and kid free! Children need clear boundaries. Allowing your child to play in your dog’s crate or on their bed begins a pattern that is not safe your child or fair to your dog.
Why is it important to keep your children out of your dog’s crate?
For the dogs:
1. Dogs need a “kid free” place to relax (parents too, right!?!)
2. Dogs need safe spots to enjoy high value treats without being bothered
3. Dogs do not like to be crowded while in their cozy spots!
4. Some dogs may growl or even bite if they are disturbed in their comfy spot time and time again.
For the kids:
Having dogs and kids under the same roof offers so many learning opportunities about interaction, respect and life in general. It is important to begin setting this boundary early on with your children so that it is just second nature to leave a dog alone when they are resting in a special spot.
TIP 1: I like to get a tri-fold display board from an office supplies shop. Let the kids decorate it or put a stop sign on it or a picture of a dog sleeping on it. Put this around your dog’s special cozy spot. When this is up and your child ignores the dog and plays on their own away from the dog’s space give them a sticker and talk about how nice it is that they have let their pup feel safe and relaxed.
TIP 2: If your toddler or preschooler is wanting a cozy spot for themselves building a fort or getting a cool tent can be a great alternative to them getting
I am so excited to see this blog post today as this is a common theme of phone calls I receive from frustrated dog owners or parents after their dog has growled or bitten someone just after or during a belly rub. “But he was on his back getting belly rubs. He loves belly rubs.”
Dogs get on their backs for many reasons. Here are three different situations I frequently see with family dogs.
1. Dog on back, tight body, no tail wag, whale eyed, stiff facial features, mouth closed, eye contact avoidance…paws may be outstretched if person approaches to block or increase space.
This is often to increase distance and not an invite but rather a “leave me alone please.” Usually with an unfamiliar person.
2. Dog on back…wiggly, waggy, tail sweeping floor, relaxed face, happy eyes…when you stop petting the dog nudges for more and wiggles and stays loose.
Often they want pets and engagement.
3. Dog on back…possibly wagging tail tight to body, licking lips fast and weary eyed, tighter body moving to side more than complete on back.
I have seen dogs do this when asked to do something that makes them uncomfortable or they feel threatened. Some dogs will do this when asked to do something they really don’t want to do in that moment…ex: get off bed or couch etc. A pretty please leave me alone type belly up.
I recommend people Pet/Pause/Respect
Pet the dog (assuming he initiated and indicated he wants petting)
Pause…. after several gentle pets pause to see what the dog offers
Respect…now that the dog has given feedback that you observed during the pause…respect what the dog has communicated.
The hard thing for most people is to recognize when the dog has had enough. A dog may want several pets and then may choose to walk away and be left alone. We often put our desire to pet the dog over the need of that particular dog. This can backfire!
I think about when I was pregnant and how many people wanted to touch my belly. YIKES! Just because it was there did NOT mean I would want a stranger touching and for PETE”S SAKE rubbing my belly! I might have allowed family members to touch and even lay their head against etc but my comfort level was very different depending on the context, my relationship etc. Just as we people have our own special boundaries so do dogs! We need to allow them to communicate with us and respect what they offer. Pet/Pause/Respect offers this.
We are adding new resources for new and expecting families and those that support them! We want to hear from you as to what is helpful. We invite you to visit the following:
Our Dog & Baby Connection FB page
Our youtube channel
Check out our dog professionals!
Here is an image of our new flyer FREE to print out in pdf format HERE!