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! 

Family Photos & Pups

Every new parent loves to share photos of their precious baby!!  Why not….nothing is cuter than YOUR baby or Grandbaby!  Right!?!   There are some photos of babies that cause me concern and even make me cringe.  These are photos where the baby is accompanied by a very uncomfortable family dog.    A recent photo of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince George and their dog Lupa in a window is an example of a photo opportunity where the dog is not impressed.  Prince George is excited by Lupa being there but Lupa is not sharing the enthusiasm.

What do we see in this image with Prince George and Lupa?

Hard eyes, tight mouth, ears back, tight posture leaned back straight.  There is no escape potential from the jolly happy leaning forward Prince George.  This is an uncomfortable moment captured.

Have you ever tried getting a family portrait?  What about with kids and dogs?  It is not easy and often everyone looks stressed!  Everyone is close together confined in an unnatural way that often makes kids cranky and dogs uncomfortable.

Here are some tips!

  1. Have an adult in between dog and baby.   Baby on lap and dog on floor.
  2. Take breaks!  It is hard to be posed and still for long stretches.
  3. Always be mindful of your dog’s body language.
  4. Parents will be a bit stressed trying to get all the pieces to work together…. give yourselves plenty of time!  Breathe!
  5. Give your child a prop to hold in their busy hands.
  6. Parents need to pay attention to what their dog and baby are doing especially being this close and confined.
  7. If the dog and/or baby are uncomfortable it will show.

We love to see harmony!   Seeing everyone in one image close together gives a general sense of “harmony.”  But…if you take a closer look at these photos you will often see that the adults smile as expected and dogs and babies are natural and show the true feelings in the moment.

Let’s set all up for success by allowing

Dog protects baby?

I do not post videos from youtube or even the ones that usually make the rounds but tonight I was sitting here when this one (see here) popped up and my 4 year old was on my lap so I decided to record what she thought after watching it.  

She is being silly since the camera is on but hopefully her point is made.  

We need to reconsider what is appropriate and safe.  We all have a “need” or “desire” to see harmony between different species.  Seeing small and large animals or babies together is hard to resist but we need to careful what our expectations are of these situations.   Frequently interpretations of these situations are what we want to believe is going on through our human eyes and emotions.  Sadly it is unlikely that the dog is experiencing the encounter as we are perceiving it.

The dog in this video appears fearful and shows many stress signals.  The reporters say it but want to believe the dog is being protective and “awww how cute.” What about the fact that the dog is fearful?”

Dogs do NOT need to practice or be encouraged to “protect” or “guard” a baby or child.  The adults in the home are responsible for the safety of a baby not the dog.  It is not cute or a safe role for any dog to “guard” the baby assuming there is an responsible parent there.    Many dogs that display this behavior with infants have a difficult time adjusting as the baby grows.  I frequently see this situation fall apart and it is heartbreaking.  We need to focus on what is “safe” vs. what is considered cute.  

Ok…dare I ask which video of the two is truly “cute.”

Please join us for one of our educational webinars for parents and professionals!

Football fun and furry friends

This Sunday is The Big Game…that means…big gatherings, dedicated fans, food and FUN!  Here are some tips to help your pup stay sane during the game!

1. Offer them a quiet place to relax while the party is in full swing. Possibly with a fan or white noise on to keep things calm.

2. Provide a special yummy treat that will last like a frozen KONG or other food dispensing toy to help your dog pass the time and enjoy his own private party.

3, Put a photo of your dog on the outside of the door to the room that he is in. Have a stop sign image and a note that says something like “Thanks for letting me nap alone.” or something for parents and kids to see that indicates that door must stay closed. Also you can put a lock on the door that is only available to adults to ensure your dog will be left alone. This is essential if your dog has any history of undesirable behaviors or discomfort around new people or children. Set your dog up for success.

4. If your dog is quite social and you do choose to bring your dog out for a short visit and introduction you may want to keep it short and sweet especially if there are many kids.  Respecting what your dog is communicating is the key to preventing unfortunate situations.

Many people feel badly about excluding their dog during a big gathering. Here are just a few reasons why I advise you to do so:

1. Your dog is not familiar with all of the visitors and this creates excitement and possibly stress for your dog.

2. You are distracted and unable to supervise all interactions especially with visiting children and this sets up your dog for a potentially uncomfortable situation where they need to handle things themselves.

3. You do not know how the visitors feel about dogs and or how they interact with them. What if they hug and kiss their family dog? Will they try this on your dog? Unless you are completely available to supervise all interaction it is best your dog is allowed alone time with a treat to enjoy.

4. Food is always a part of a The Big Game party!  Will this be an issue for your dog?  Does your dog have allergies?  Will your dog “guard” areas with food?

5.  Super bowl parties often have alcohol.  If someone has over indulged they can move and act in unpredictable ways. Your dog may be unsure or uncomfortable especially towards the end of the long night with many people!  Be mindful.

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Have fun and GO TEAM!



Was it good for you?

A question that we want to always consider when engaging with our dogs.  We want to always be sure our interaction is not only good but comfortable for our dogs.  After seeing some videos where dogs clearly were not enjoying the interactions their humans were involved in…I felt it would be a good time to revisit our blogpost Pet, Pause Respect

Please consider your dog when showering them with affection.  If you have kids keep in mind that whatever you do with your dog will be seen as “ok” for them to do too.  Be respectful and visit these links to learn more!  

The more we become “Dog AWARE” the better our relationships will be with our family dogs.


Which gate??

When setting up a “success station” we want to be sure that wherever we put the dog, they will be secure and not disturbed.  We also want to be sure that the dog is unable to open or escape this area without an adult knowing.

I have used many types of gates over the years and find myself coming back to the old standard.  


Pros of this type of gate:

An adult need to lock it into place physically vs. rely on a mechanism that some other fancy gates have.

Comes in different heights and widths

Can be moved to any doorway when needed

In expensive


If your dog chews he may enjoy chomping on this gate

Fingers can reach through gate

Some dogs may push hard and knock out of place to escape.  (know your dog and observe their comfort level with the use of the gate as a “success station.”)  

Join us for our webinar on Success Stations for more information and what to consider with the various options.

What is a “Success Station?”

What is a success station?  Well, it is a silly phrase I found myself saying during consultations with families preparing for a baby.  Crate, gate, rotate & separate are included in “success stations.”  It is not uncommon for people to feel reluctant to reintroduce a crate or any type of separation.  I wanted a pleasant way to reference these important options…”success stations.”  A safe and enjoyable spot where your dog can only succeed. 

These management options are important to put into practice PRIOR to NEEDING them. Often families will only crate or gate their dog when they leave the home.  How would your dog handle being in another room or gated off while you talk to a guest or sit and enjoy a book in another room?  Would they whine, bark, destroy the room?  This is a good thing to learn before you need this option.  Kids and dogs together under one roof is a juggling act to say the least.  There will be times when your dog will need and WANT space away!  It is important when preparing for life with baby/kids that we set up kid free areas along with areas where the dog can safely observe in at a comfortable distance.   Setting and practicing these options ahead of time will be very appreciated long term!

Some examples of “success stations.”

Comfort and safety must always be a priority with management options. Individual dogs need personalized options.  

Join us for our webinar to learn more!