Bethany Cunningham

Family Paws Parent Education would not be the same without all of the talent behind the scenes.  I want to thank Bethany Cunningham for all the amazing photos for our programs and website.  Bethany has also been a HUGE part of the program development and is now co-instructing the Family Paws Foundation course.

Learn more about Bethany here!  

Ready to join the Family Paws Team of professionals?

Family Paws Parent Educator Course is indented to help professionals who choose to use our licensed materials in consultations or to offer community education.  Our 13 week course is just the beginning of the support and learning we do together as a strong network of professionals dedicated to dog and baby/toddler dynamics.

Our course for professionals runs 4 times a year. Once approved into our program you may jump in at anytime!  Here is more information about cost, time and CE’s for our program.

We are always looking for those who truly have a special interest in helping to create Dog Aware Generations beginning BEFORE baby arrives.  Are you that person?  Learn more here!

Join our strong team of dedicated professionals all over the world who are making a difference in the lives of dogs and their families one stage at a time.

Differences in appearance


We really encourage our families to increase their Dog Aware skills by becoming in tune with their dog’s subtle responses.  Ever notice a change in your dog’s behavior when someone approaches with a hat on?  Sunglasses?  Costumes?  What about kids running around in snow suits?  If you are expecting a baby to be visiting or living in your home then you want to keep in mind that subtle changes can decrease comfort or startle a dog.

This image is of me with a mask on. I got the ask to scare our teenage daughter and to just have fun.  Unfortunately Oliver was let in from outside while I sat on the steps waiting to SCARE my daughter.  Well….Oliver was not impressed.  He was spooked and acted as such.  As soon as I took it off he did some recovery head shakes to let that awkward moment go but he definitely was not pleased by this mask.    He, of course, reacted to this sudden odd change in appearance.

Here is another example.  My daughter walked in the room with this facial mask and I about jumped out of my skin.  This contrasting look and change in appearance started me at first.  We have to remember that just like people, some dogs are spooked or startled easily while others are not.  Know your dog.  Be Dog Aware and observant about their responses and what they mean.  Dogs that are spooked can bite.  This is not something to make light of or tease a dog with.  It is something to be aware of so that you can respond accordingly or adapt a situation if you notice your dog is stressed, unsure or reactive in some way.  It took us a minute to realize this was making Oliver uncomfortable too.  He was coming up close and acting very uneasy with her.  Then we both quickly realized it was the visual change he noticed and we were able to help him relax and take it in at his own pace with our support.  In this situation it took kayleigh talking to him and her turning away from him when he came close.  This allowed him time to really “know” it was her and settle down.

Can you think of examples that might involve young children?  Please share!

Lifting baby

Our dogs observe us all day long and when it is just we adults….they are quite used to our patterns of motion etc.  Once a baby arrives there are all sorts of odd looking actions that can cause dogs to become confused, excited or reactive in some way.  FPPE encourages families to know their dog and learn what triggers they may have.  Ex:  if you lift up a toy from the floor does your dog jump wildly?  If so then working on a new behavior you want your dog to do when you lift u a toy may be a great idea.  Our educators love problem solving with families before baby arrives. Don’t wait until your dog jumps and you feel anxious about their response.  Being Dog Aware means preparing and continue learning with your dog before and after baby arrives.  This is new to both of you!   Set you and your dog up for success by thinking through some of these possible opportunities.

Here is a great example of a Dog Aware parent making a good choice when lifting baby.  Tossing the dog’s toy away so that the dog is occupied while she lifts baby.  Nicely done!  Do you have examples to share with us?

New parents & Cat naps. Practice & plan with your dog for safe snoozes.

It is easy to doze off when you are a very tired parent to a newborn.  Family Paws Parent Education programs encourage expectant families and caretakers of babies to have plan and PRACTICE.  Where will the dog be when….baby is in crib, bouncer, on playmate, in basinet, or even asleep on a sleeping parent.

Our Dogs & Storks program encourages all families to prepare with their dog for times when they will  need to be secured in a “Success stations.”  What is a success station?  Great question!  Here is a handout that you can share that describes several.

A success station is a great strategy for your dog , your baby’s safety and your peace of mind.  A cozy crate, a gated area, indoor tether all could be comfortable success stations.  It is ideal if we begin early in pregnancy to prepare our dogs for time in their success station.  If not we can begin at any point along the way.  Success stations look different depending on your home, your dog and your comfort.  This is something many families really like to brainstorm with our licensed Family Paws Parent Educators.  There is a great deal to consider.

  1. How does your dog handle being separated you while you are at home?
  2. Is your dog able to be behind a closed door in your home with you home?
  3. How does your dog respond to being in a crate while you are home? In view?
  4. Is your dog used to being on the other side of a secure gate while you are talking to guests?
  5. Have you ever used an indoor tether system or put your leash on your dog while in the house?

These are just a few of the factors we need to consider to begin preparing for times when your dog may need to be secured when you bring your newborn home.  It is essential to consider many possibilities and what the safe option will be for you, your baby and family dog.  Dogs are dogs….they are not familiar with your new baby and must be supervised by a fully awake adult at all times.

If you have questions or concerns please feel free to contact our Dog & Baby Support Hotline   877-247-3407