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.”

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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.  

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My dog loves my baby…he always licks him!

“My dog loves my baby…he always licks him!” This is a comment from parents that will trigger me to ask many questions they may find silly such as: Describe the licks for me…are they fast, slow, quick and then dog moves away? Is it a full tongue or tiny bit? Full lick or quick flick? Is the child sitting and the dog approaches or vice versa, what level of mobility does the child have, is food present or remnant? So many questions…right??? But these questions help us to gather information to help us try to understand what the dog may be communicating. Details,context and patterns are essential aspects in understanding our dogs.

Here is a video that shows an example of a behavior pattern I have observed over the years in many dog and baby/toddler cases.  (I am NOT sharing this to open up criticism of a parent!…any comments or posts of the sort will be deleted.  The focus is on the dog)

After hearing over and over “I don’t understand…he always licked the baby…he loved him…why did he snap or growl?  I began collecting more details, photos, videos to learn more.  I first posted about this many years ago as  I wanted to help parents consider and recognize that dog licks may not always be what they think are “affectionate kisses”, or indications of “love.” but could have other meanings. I have referred to this particular pattern as a “Kiss to Dismiss” and suggest several questions to be considered:

1. Is your dog in need of space?

2. Is your dog in need of space and there is a reason they may choose not to move? (example comfy spot, resource, pain)

3. Does this licking deter closeness or lead to an increase in space.

In this video, this dog is so gentle, as is the child – but this interaction is not something I would ever suggest. Dogs who are resting, enjoying a bone, or eating a meal should be left alone. Teaching safe boundaries to children begins early and at home. 

That said, this is a great video showing an example of this particular lick. There are other exchanges in licks within the video, but only the below time segments reference the pattern I’ve identified as a “kiss to dismiss.”


At 1:02 Bruno (the dog) gives a quick lick. At 1:05, he repeats this lick while raising up a bit more. At 1:06-1:07, the child begins to move away. How is mom interpreting this at 1:09? She is saying that is enough, and baby is moving back. At 1:11, Bruno looks up at Mom. At 1:12, he glances at the bone he wants, but the child is still “too close” so more licking. Baby is moving away, and Bruno continues reaching with licks at 1:13 & 1:14. At 1:21, the baby reaches for the bone; Bruno is looking to Mom (the trusted adult) for input/help. Bruno sniffs the bone, then begins licking baby again. At 1:30,you see shoulders forward, more pushing the baby away with licks. At 1:32, Bruno gets up and continues to lick baby while leaving the bone. Mom corrects Bruno, and he tries to get back to his bone at 1:38. All the dog really wants to do is to enjoy his bone with some space. In the end, did licking work to increase distance?

Published January 13, 2014

Crawling babies….conflicted dogs

Crawling babies…conflicted dogs

The most frequent call we receive is regarding newly mobile babies.  This hour long webinar will cover reasons why this stage can be so challenging for both parents and dogs.  We will also cover what to consider and tips for success. Here are some of the comments we hear most often.

  1. We prepared and brought home the blanket and did everything we read and just don’t understand why our dog is unhappy.
  2. Our dog and baby were doing fine until he began crawling…. I don’t understand why things changed.
  3. Everything was going so great, our dog always licked the baby and now he is growling…. I am concerned.
  4. He always loves kids and I don’t understand why he is growling at our baby.
  5. I don’t want to rehome our dog but he just can’t behave this way.  I need help. 

If any of these are thoughts or fears you have considered then please join us for an hour that is sure to give you insight and lead you to supportive resources. 

December 18, 2013  9pm ET 

Register below!  $10

President Obama’s dog Sunny…being a dog.

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.

  1. Remember dogs that do not live with toddler size kids may not know how to behave around them appropriately.  Be ready with treats and your full attention to focus on appropriate behavior when in this situation.
  2. Crowds are exhausting for us so imagine being a dog!  New smells, different people touching you, food around and high energy of attention.  That is a lot to handle.  Give your dog BREAKS!   A date with a crate is GREAT!  Provide your dog with a frozen high value reward in their crate in a room away from the action.  White noise added can be great too!
  3. Know your dog.  What are they sensitive to?  Little girls have bows and ribbons on dresses during the holidays.  Some dogs are very excited about these items. 
  4. Become familiar with dog body language!  All dog owners will be amazed by how much they can help their dog by learning more!
  5. Assign one adult to the dog.  That person must be dedicated to the dog only.  Not distracted.  Remember…it is not just about the dog’s behavior but also about comfort level of the dog and guests.  Some guests won’t appreciate the dog and some will interact in an uncomfortable way for your dog.  Be an advocate for your dog and stay aware of all interaction.

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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