Dogs are NOT stepping stones!

New Year’s Eve & dogs.

Each New Year’s Eve we prepare our home and our dogs for the different experience of the exciting evening ahead.   Some years we have had a house full of varrying ages of kids. Crates, KONGs in rooms, gates etc in place always were our theme.

This year things will be a bit calmer. Although we are planning on a fairly calm evening. We are still expecting several teenagers sleeping over.   One of our senior dogs needs to be managed as he is not comfortable with lots of people in our home. We know and accept his limitations but also want to allow our kids the freedom to have friends over on this special night.

Acceptance and solution.

Our boy has a life long friend that he adores. This year we have planned to have him spend this busy night away so that he can relax and be stress free while the kids and their friends come and go. Previously we were able to crate or secure our boy in a room with a great meaty bone or frozen goodie but with age this has become harder for him.

Please keep in mind as you prepare for you New Year festivities that as we celebrate a new year…your dog has also aged a year. He or she may be less tolerant of what they were a year ago. If you are also enjoying many guests please plan ahead and take into consideration what you may need to adapt for your dog/s to help them be comfortable and safe as you enjoy welcoming in 2015!  Check out this excellent blog post for some tips!  Happy New Year!

Beyond the “awwww” of viral media.

A cute baby learning to crawl with the family dog watching. What could be more adorable, right!? Add a little music and a great title and capture hearts all over the world!   There is always the “awww” factor that romances us…no doubt about it.  We love seeing different species living together in harmony.

We add our own storylines and our own interpretations to what we see other species doing. Sometimes our human interpretations are correct, but often they are not. As humans, we naturally interpret dog behavior in light of the human emotions that we are familiar with. We tend do this in place of actually observing what dogs are communicating through their own canine body language. Often the focus is on what we want to be seeing the dog do, rather than what we are actually seeing the dog do.

The most recent dog and baby video that went viral has great elements to talk about and to consider.  Is this cute? safe? Why does it matter?

Lets take a look at the ingredients that caused this video to go viral.

  1. Adorable baby
  2. Cute dog
  3. Triumphant Music
  4. Effective heartwarming title

Many images and videos that go viral have these same ingredients.  I invite you to look past the emotional magnets of these types of media and consider what happens outside of the “Kodak moment.”  Will the expectation be that this dog or any other should respond the same way?

Let’s think for a moment about the daily child encounters/interactions that we expose our dogs to repeatedly.  How much is enjoyed?  Tolerated?  Put up with because our dog would like to be with his adults but maybe not the baby?

We offer a monthly webinar for families on this fun and important topic called Crawling babies…conflicted dogs.  Here are just some things to consider about this exciting crawling stage.

Crawling is a huge milestone celebrated by parents and babies!  It opens up an exciting new world of exploration and opportunity for baby! This can be a major game changer for family dogs who have, until this stage, adjusted beautifully to life with baby.

Dogs rely on body language. Baby’s body language changes dramatically with this change in mobility. A baby crawling toward a dog is now approaching the dog head on at eye level. This can be very unsettling for even the most relaxed of family dogs.

Why is crawling so unsettling for dogs?  Oh, so many potential reasons.  Think about it…it is even unsettling for the human parents at times!

Crawling babies are eager, oddly unpredictable, little humans on the floor.  They are now sharing the same floor space that was formerly reserved just for the dog. This little human is now directly facing and approaching the family dog’s space in an unpredictable manner. Often babies want to approach and grab the dog or reach toward the dog and crowd the dog’s space. This can be very distressing for many dogs.

Has anyone explained this new development to the dog?  How is a dog supposed to learn that an approaching eye-level baby is “safe” or non-threatening?  We expect that dogs will accept this stage since they have done so well with the infant stage but…what we don’t account for is that now our dog may feel truly threatened and may have become fearful of the crawling baby or at least very conflicted about how to respond to the newly mobile baby. Dogs really need to rely on the adults in the home to give them guidance at these times.

This video stirred up a great subject.  We could talk all day about what I see or feel about this particular video but that really is not important.   What is important is that we reevaluate our expectations of dogs during this fast paced, gross motor developmental stage and provide tools for both dog and baby to feel safe and comfortable.

Please check out our Webinars especially our Crawling babies…conflicted dogs (offered monthly)

Family Paws Parent Education in Ireland

We are so excited about Family Paws Parent Education exhibition in Northern Ireland this evening for Sure Start. There was lots of interest in the Dogs And Storks Programme.  Great job Gabrielle Dunne for getting word out.  We have an awesome team in Ireland great education ahead!  Awesome to see so much interest and families excited to prepare proactively for parenting with a baby and family dog!

What is a “Success Station?”


Crates, gates, and indoor tethers are some of the management options i will discuss with families in our first visit.  it is common for families to have put away crates and gates once the dog has matured.  When I bring up the topic of management people are surprised and often resistant at first to the idea of a crate being reintroduced to their older dog.  It is common for people to associate crates and gates with puppies not older dogs.  I have found that talking to families about setting their dogs up for long term success as their family gows really helps them to understand the many wonderful uses of crates, gates, indoor tethers and even a closed bedroom.  Over the years I started to refer to these various types of management as “Success Stations.”  I like this as we use these specific spots as places where the dog is guaranteed ti succeed.  We introduce all success station in a positive and fun way.  No all success stations are right for all dogs.  This is why it is best to work with your dog early in your pregnancy.  Ideally families keep success stations active throughout the life of their dog and not just during puppy-hoood.

***One of the most common challenges for families is when their baby begins to crawl and separation is needed and the family dog has not been been gradually introduced to a success station.  This leads to frustration for everyone.  This can be avoided with preparation ahead of time.  Practicing short separation from your dog while you are in your home in another room can help your dog learn to be comfortable when separated.  A great resource to help you with this is can be found here!  Please don’t wait until you need to separate…practice before you need to.  If you are going to have kids in your home even visiting…especially visiting…you will need to be able to separate your dog comfortably!

Let’s celebrate and educate!

We want to celebrate the 4th of July by offering great special offers on some of our wonderful webinar recordings.  These recordings are packed with valuable information that you will immediately find helpful.

Here are the special offers!   Share with friends!


The Best Family Dog  1 hour by Colleen Pelar $9.99



Demystifying the “Out of the blue” dog bite by Colleen Pelar 1 hour



Family Dogs & Grandkids.  Perfect webinar for holidays and family gatherings!  1 hour recorded webinar with Jennifer Shryock



New Baby and Family dog…setting up for success Webinar with Jennifer Shryock 1 hour.

Family Paws Quality

We take great pride screening for quality with all of our FPPE licensed presenters/educators.  One of the things we look for is a desire to continue learning and ongoing education!

Many people do not know that the dog training field is unregulated.  Anyone can call themselves a “dog trainer” and often people even call themselves (inappropriately) dog behaviorists.  It is important to research anyone you choose to hire to support your family.

FPPE looks for trainers and behavior consultants that have completed recognized courses and programs.  One such program is Karen Pryor Academy.  I know that a KPA grad has been exposed to a high quality curriculum and has professional qualities we are looking for.  Here is a great example of one of our Family Paws KPA grads who is a wonderful example of an Family Paws Parent Educator.

Heat and Dogs….take care!

Keep your dog SAFE!  We all like to take our dogs along for the ride but sometimes it is too dangerous.  Know the risks and be sure you make safe choices when including your dog in the warmer weather!

Become dog “aware” dog bite prevention week

Dog bite prevention week is upon us.  I believe we need a new focus.  Instead of “dog bite” let’s focus on dog “aware.”  Dogs communicate in MANY other ways prior to communicating with a “bite.”  I believe that the focus needs to be on dog communication and promoting learning how to become dog “aware.”  

Think of it this way.  Think of something someone does that drives you NUTS.  I cannot stand gum chewing.  The sound of cracking gum or popping gum makes my skin crawl.  Truly it does!  I remember being in a class taking a test and I could not think of anything outside of the gum chewing sounds from the person next to me.  I fidgeted, gave glances, wiggled in my chair, drank water, tried to focus on everything but the gum chewing sounds….I could not.  I became more anxious and irritated over time.  Meanwhile the gum chewer had NO idea I was irritated.  They were focused on the test.  They did not receive my signals of frustration…glances, shifting weight, moving back towards, covering ears etc.  Signals were not received and my frustration grew.  I could not focus on anything but the sounds of the gum chewer.  I finally said…. WILL YOU PLEASE CHEW QUIETLY!    The person was surprised…they had no idea I was annoyed and they were doing what they do naturally when focusing…chew gum.  They did not intentionally irritate me or ignore me but were focused on the test and missed my subtle signals and efforts to try and engage without getting in trouble during a test.  Meanwhile my blood pressure was (I am sure) going up and all I could hear was gum chewing!

Well this frustration is similar to what I imagine dogs go through every day in our home.  Each dog has his or her own comforts and triggers.  In busy homes with kids we expect a lot from our dogs.  Often we don’t notice things until there is a problem.  I know I can be guilty of this.  The good news is that a small bit of knowledge and observation can go a long way. 

Here are a couple things to consider: 

Do you really notice when your dog is uncomfortable?

Do you offer him an option or options when you notice this?

Do you know what signals to look for BEFORE your dog is truly fed up? 

Would you notice them or are you often distracted juggling many balls at one time? (Like me)

Dog bites happen in homes because we expect our dogs to adapt and adjust to whatever we throw their way.  Often they will “check in” with eye contact for guidance but we may miss it.  Just like you and I they have comfort levels and triggers too.  They are constantly offering “clues” about how they are feeling but many times we don’t observe them or just do not know what to look for.

I got frustrated with my gum-chewing friend.  I tried to use body language to communicate my stress, discomfort, irritation etc.  She was focused on the test and did not observe my gestures and efforts to communicate.  She had no idea.  When my quiet (test rules) attempts to communicate did not work…I became more agitated and frustrated until I impatiently said, PLEASE CHEW QUIETLY!  That worked… it was clear and ended it.  Was it the best option?  No (This was the better option LOL at the time.)   Was it effective when other attempts did not work. Yes.  Did I try other ways to avoid the “conflict.”? Yes but was limited due to exam rules. 

My point to this long story is not just that I HATE LOUD CHEWING SOUNDS!  But it is that we all use body language in our daily communication.  As human beings we recognize stress signals, emotions etc. in physical displays because we connect and relate to it.  Since we are not dogs…. we do not naturally recognize or relate to some of the less obvious indications of stress or conflict that our dogs may share in daily communication.  

Taking time to become dog “aware” means learning how all dogs communicate with body language. Then you can observe your own family dog and see how he uses his body language in your home in different situations.

So, my impatient PLEASE CHEW QUIETLY was my communication after other options did not work.  Your dog may walk away, growl or bite when all other attempts to communicate do not work.  Biting is a form of communication.  In almost all the cases I have seen over the years with kids and family dogs….Biting is the last resort when other communication attempts do not work.   Become dog “aware!” 

Ongoing Education leads to proactive prevention!