Parents, please do your part to help your child and your dog’s relationship to succeed. Teach your children that the place to be wild and crazy is away from your dog (and unknown dogs). If your dog (or a loose or leashed unknown dog) becomes overly aroused, movement will keep that arousal curve moving forward. Kids should be taught how to stand still and be a tree with their hands under their armpits to lower the dog’s arousal.
Another holiday is upon us, and that may mean much added stress, activity and company. Complaints of dog over arousal, jumping on people, getting into things it shouldn’t, and even biting or growling at kids happen a lot at this time of year. Instead of blaming your dog, think through how you can help your dog to succeed through the next few days.
With this being just a few days from Christmas and Hannukah, the reality is, if you have not already spent time teaching your dog behaviors you want to see in different situations, you more than likely won’t be able to teach those behaviors with such fluency by the time guests arrive.
However, now is the time to really do an assessment of your dog’s reaction to different stimulus. Management and other solutions will be very different for a dog that has great fear reaction to people, sounds, and strange sights than for a dog who jumps on people to get attention. If your dog growls, lunges at, or retreats from strangers, the holiday party is not a good time to be desensitizing your dog to people. A better choice is to keep your dog in a safe, quiet place away from company…or even sending it to a friend’s or a kennel away from it all.
If your dog is one that will jump on guests when they arrive, consider having it behind a gate, in a bedroom out of site or in a crate in another room until they settle in and your dog is in a calmer state. Be prepared to reinforce your dog for doing the desired behavior.
With adults often come children, and, as your pet’s guardian, it is your responsibility to ensure a safe environment for everyone. Any dog will have a breaking point when it comes to interactions with people who do things to make the dog uncomfortable. Additionally, children can run around which encourages your dog to chase them, potentially leading to over arousal. Children should ALWAYS be PRO-ACTIVELY supervised around pets, and should be redirected if they are doing anything that a dog does not like. Some dog body language to look for in an unhappy dog is: a tail held low or tucked between the legs; ears held sideways for an erect eared dog or flattened back with rapid panting; tense eyes that likely show the whites around the sides; tense body muscles; looking or moving or leaning away; a center of gravity over the rear legs or to one side. Dogs may also roll onto their belly in submission. If dogs freeze, become stiff, stand with their front legs splayed and head low, showing teeth or growling, interaction with them needs to stop immediately.
Ensure that your dog has a quiet safe where it can go if it wants to be alone, and instruct and enforce to all of your guests that they are not to enter the space around that quiet place.
At least during the most hectic times such as opening presents, serving food, guests coming and going, consider having your dog in its quiet place with a chew toy such as a stuffed Kong.
Make sure that your dog is wearing its collar and name tags in case it runs out the door. Of course, also managing its opportunity to be that close to the door is also very important.
If your dog is likely to grab some of that tasty holiday food, and you haven’t already trained alternative behaviors, management is your best solution. Tell your guests to keep food and drinks away from reach. You may also want to use barriers such as gates to prevent your dog from having access.
Can I be of help to you and your pet with your dog training needs? Please contact me.
Parents, please remember, you have an important role to play in helping your children and your dog succeed…including preventing dog bites.
Please click here to ready my post: Supervising dogs and kids is not enough.
To learn more about dog body language, please click here: dog body language
Please watch this video below of how two girls practiced teaching their puppy recall.
Parents…I wanted to share another reminder that Dog Super Heroes avoid head locks and big bear hugs as that can make a dog feel very uncomfortable – and past experiences build future associations. Instead of a head lock, your child can sit beside or in front of your dog, careful not to loom over your dog. If your dog disengages, turns or moves away, and has tense body muscles teach your child to give your dog some space. Your dog will thank you, and that helps foster positive relationships.
If you have a child and a dog, these books are colorful, well written and packed with important lessons on being a dog super hero.
May I Pet Your Dog by Stephanie Calmenson
Whether your child is afraid of dogs of loves them, May I Pet Your Dog is beautifully written book leads readers step-by-step on how to properly greet a dog. Using Harry the dachshund as a gentle guide, children see a variety of situations and learn how to meet dogs in a positive, welcoming way.
Good Dog! Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior & Training by Evelyn Pang
What I love about this book is that it is written by kids for kids covering the essentials of responsible and effective dog care and t
My Dog! A Kids Guide To Keeping A Happy And Healthy Pet by Michael J. Rosen
A primer, an owner’s manual, a field guide, and more, My Dog! is the complete book for every child who has a dog―whether it’s a brand-new puppy or adopted mutt, or a beloved pooch who’s been in the family for years.
Puppy Training for Kids: Teaching Children the Responsibilities and Joys of Puppy Care, Training, and Companionship by Colleen PelarThis book uses a combination of photos and easy to read and understand language to share with children modern, proven, humane methods to teach their puppy or dog.
Max Talks To Me by Claire Buckwald
Alex and his dog Max are true friends—the kind that share each other’s excitement, comfort each other when they are sad, wait together when parents are away, and have fun wherever they are. Alex is learning that every good relationship is a two-way street. By observing and listening to his dog, by sharing good times and bad, he and Max are earning each other’s love and devotion. Parents will appreciate the information about animal communication and the dog-child bond that they will find at the end of Max Talks to Me. Children will want to share Max and Alex’s adventures and friendship over and over as they read the gentle, engaging story and look at the beautiful illustrations.
Buddy Unchained by Daisy Bix
Buddy Unchained is the 2007 winner of the Humane Society of the US KIND Award, Best Children’s Picture Book of the Year and the ASPCA HENRY BERGH AWARD, best Children’s Picture Book in the Companion Animal category. It is a very moving story of a once abandoned dog and how his being adopted into a loving home has changed his life. It reminds children of the importance of being kind to animals.
What a terrific group of dog Super Heroes! It was so much fun teaching them about being a positive teacher and friend to their dog…with Zurie and Hannah’s help. Thank you so much to Cincinnati Sports Club for having us…and being proactive in wanting to teach kids and parents these important lessons. AND thank you to the parents, for taking time away from your Saturday to be there!
My unique My Dog’s Super Hero is a beginner dog training class for Cincinnati area kids to learn about how they can be an awesome dog friend, teacher and playmate. With demonstration dogs, I teach them (and their parents) how to interact appropriately with their dog, how dogs communicate, and how to be a positive and responsible teacher to their friend.
If you would like to learn more about having me teach my class for your organization or group, please get in touch!
Parents, please remember. Past experience is how animals learn. Every interaction between your child and your dog teaches your dog whether or not to feel good about being near your child. Dogs may tolerate bear hugs but they do not enjoy them. This dog’s open mouth, relaxed body muscles, and posture (close to the child and not leaning away) shows us he is feeling good about this moment. To strengthen your child’s relationship with your dog, look to create lots of GOOD moments between your dog and your child.
These young children learned important lessons about dog body language, how to play safely with their dog, and how to be a positive dog trainer at my most recent My Dog’s Super Hero class at the United Pet Fund in Blue Ash. They did a fantastic job – so did my demonstration dogs, Daisy and Bunny. Teaching kids and parents these classes is about strengthening relationships and preventing dog bites.
There is so much written out there about the benefits to kids of having a dog. And, for the majority of families who are reading this, you know this first hand. I know I do. Growing up, I had a very special relationship with our poodle.
As a trainer, however, I also now see situations where family dogs back away from kids or do not come when kids call. I have gotten a number of calls from concerned parents whose dog has even growled at children – or worse.
Here is the thing that we need to keep in mind, although children may adore their family pet, they do not always know ‘how’ to be a good dog friend. Kids may move quickly, yell and scream, lean over dogs, grab for dogs or any number of other things.
As a parent, caregiver and/or other adult role model you have a very important job to do – to help that relationship between your child or children and your dog (and other dogs) succeed.
I talk a lot about steps adults can take and one of them is supervision. However, supervision is defined in many ways. Advice is given often to parents that dogs and young kids should never be left in a room alone together, but passive supervision (meaning the adult is in the same room, yet focused on other things) can also have the potential of being unsafe. It can take a split second for an incident to escalate.
Active supervision is when you are watching your kids and your dog, and are able to intervene if necessary. Taking that one step further, in order to know when intervention is needed, it is important to be able to recognize trouble.
Here are a few observations that can help you to be a better, more effective active supervisor.
Know how a dog shows he is content. Generally, your dog’s muscles will be loose and relaxed. His mouth may be open, he may be panting with a regular tempo, his tail and ears will be held in their natural positions, and his tail may wag from side to side or in a circular motion. He may be engaged with and or nudging up to your child.
Know how a dog shows he is uncomfortable with your child. Some of the signs to watch for include that your dog may step back, turn away, shake, lick his lips, yawn, have a closed and tense mouth, have ears pinned back, hold his tail down, roll over on his back in a sign of submission, or show a half moon of white in his eyes.
Know how a dog escalates his body language. If you do not recognize and intervene, your dog may have a raised and rigid tail, he may bark and move backward (or position himself over his forelegs, ready to lunge), stare at your child, show his teeth or growl. This escalation can occur within seconds, especially if there is a history of your dog having his early warning signs listened to.
Know when your dog is beginning to become aroused. A few signs to watch for include a low and deliberate tail wag (or tail held high), tense body muscles, standing with his weight on his front legs. Also, your dog may begin jumping and chasing your child.
If your dog is exhibiting any of the signs that I have listed, it is time to intervene. Please do not punish your dog for communicating in his language how he feels. Instead, redirect your child or your dog or both and allow your dog the temporary distance that he wants.
Additionally, you should intervene if your child pulls your dogs ears, tail or other body part; pokes your dog; or jumps, chases, lays on, holds your dog in a headlock.
Raising dog Super Heroes is no easy task but the rewards are so great.
If you have a young child, please consider registering for my next My Dog’s Super Hero class. I teach children (with a parent) how dogs communicate, how to be a good dog teacher, and how to be a fun and safe friend. Please visit my CLASSES page for upcoming information.
I was so proud of my newest group of Dog Super Heroes. They were so attentive and focused on learning.
My unique My Dog’s Super Hero is a class for Cincinnati area kids to learn about how they can be an awesome dog friend, teacher and playmate. With demonstration dogs, I teach them (and their parents) how to interact appropriately with their dog, how dogs communicate, and how to be a positive and responsible teacher to their friend.
If you would like to be informed when I set up my next class, please add your information below.