Hey! you’re back! Getting back in synch with your dog.

My recent trip quickly reminded me how the absence of one family member can quickly change the dynamics between dogs. I left for 6 days leaving my husband, 3 kids, 4 dogs and 5 cats …..”home alone.” Although the house was in order and no one was hurt, I noticed subtle changes in dynamics between our dogs. Ex: Conflicts between dogs where normally all is well, revisiting of pushy behaviors such as whining, pawing, nudging and many other subtle changes in response to a change in routine and consistency.

Keep this in mind and be aware of your dog when you return home following an absence….especially if you have someone come to your home to pet sit while you are at the hospital. Although your environment physically stays the same, nobody will behave exactly like you and your dog has spent several days adjusting to another person’s body language, tolerance and ways of doing things in your home. In homes with multiple dogs this can sometimes invite conflicts where they do not normally exist due to the difference in dynamics. If you are aware of this then you can be proactive by setting clear boundaries when you return to help everyone get back on track. Listen to our podcast about coming home for more tips!

I am back!

I just got back from a fantastic time at the APDT (www.apdt.com) conference in KY. What a wonderful time with so many great trainers with the association of pet dog training. I will be sure to post on Tuesday with a new topic! Sorry for the lag on posts! Stay tuned!

Parenting with pets

Here is a press release about a Fantastic book I highly recommend for all families. A great gift!

Being a parent is a hectic job. Adding pet ownership on top of that can sometimes feel overwhelming. But the authors of Parenting with Pets: The Magic of Raising Children with Animals, Christine Hamer and Margaret Hevel, feel that, though it may add to your busy schedule, raising children with animals can be a life-changing, worthwhile experience for your children. There is growing evidence that a child’s involvement with a pet will have a multifaceted impact on his or her growth and development. Hamer and Hevel assert that pets can teach children many lessons that parents would otherwise have a difficult time teaching. Pets can present parents with numerous teachable moments, allowing a parent to teach their child about tolerance, responsibility, compassion, unconditional love, trust, and even faith.

Beyond teaching life lessons, as numerous studies have shown with adults, pets can provide many health benefits for children. Children suffer from stress, depression, and anxiety, just as adults do. Pets can provide a conduit for the unexpressed emotions of children. A family pet can provide stability for adolescents at a time when the world seems topsy-turvy. Pets accept a child just as they are, and children need such unconditional understanding:

“At Purdue University Center for the Human-Animals Bond, Dr. Alan Beck found that nearly seventy percent of children confide in their pets. The children said that they knew their pets would not betray them or their secrets. In general, children gave animals high scores for listening, reassurance, appreciation, and companionship. They also believed that their pets provided them with unconditional love. One 1985 Michigan study found that seventy-five percent of children, ages ten to fourteen, turned to their feathered or furry friend when they felt upset.” –Excerpt from Parenting with Pets.

But, in Parenting with Pets, Hamer and Hevel don’t just put forth the idea that pets can be an important part of raising children. The authors also provide parents with practical information for making the best choices about in pet ownership. They devote an entire chapter to choosing a pet, detailing different types of pets that are appropriate for children and what children can learn from that specific type of pet. This section also provides information concerning the financial costs and the time commitment necessary for each pet type, helping parents make appropriate decisions for their family’s situation. And for those parents whose lives don’t allow for pet ownership, Hamer and Hevel also provide advice on providing other types of opportunities for their children, including going to a city park, a local nature preserve, or even simply looking at the insects on the sidewalk. Even through these are limited interactions with animals, Hamer and Hevel assert that children can learn important life lessons from any experience with animals.

Overall, Parenting with Pets gives guidelines on how to tap into the valuable opportunities that pets present for a family and provides new information on how pets enrich the relationship between parent and child. This is an important book for anyone getting ready to own a pet, or anyone who already has a pet in his or her life. And the rewards a family will gain from investing time with pets are priceless and life changing.

Does tolerant equal safe?

I wish I had a nickel for every call I’ve gotten where the client was shocked that their ‘kid-tolerant’ dog bit, nipped, growled at or muzzle-punched their crawler or toddler. In my opinion, many of these dogs have been screaming for help for quite some time before they felt the need to escalate, and their humans just didn’t pick up on it. But growling, nipping and biting certainly do get people’s attention, don’t they?
The fact is that dogs use subtle body-language signals to communicate some very complex, but very direct messages. Let’s take a look at some real-life examples.

In this clip, Amber the Golden Retriever is telling crawler Cedric that his advances are just not welcome! Amber does her best to politely ignore the baby, and as he begins to handle her about the head and face, you can see Amber show us some eye-shifting behaviors, a pretty good signal that she’s not comfortable with this. As baby becomes more vigorous in grabbing the dog’s ears and face, Amber pulls away, flicks her tongue and then partially withdraws, turning her face away from the baby altogether. Among dogs, tongue-flicks communicate stress, and the “look-away” is a social signal that dogs use to communicate “your behavior is completely inappropriate!” Unfortunately, the baby isn’t capable of getting that message! As the baby comes back for round two, Amber continues to let him know his advances are unwelcome in a much more pronounced way. This is a pretty tight shot, but it appears that Amber is somewhat cornered, which would be another factor in heightening her stress during this unwelcome encounter.
Barbara Davis, CPDT, CDBC

Corona, CA
IAABC #134, APDT #65050

Say Cheese!

We have a natural desire to see our dog with our new baby. This creates the image of harmony we are looking for in a long term bond. It is the family photo we all want and who can resist! Do your dog and baby a favor by making sure that an adult is included and holding the baby to help make this a safe and comfortable encounter for all. This will allow for wonderful photos.
Dogs feel more comfortable when an adult is included and the baby is in their arms. This dog is unsure.

What questions do you have?

Are you expecting? What questions or concerns do you have?
Have you had a baby do you have a story to share?
Video? Photos? If so we would love to hear from you!
There are so many fun and exciting times during the first years of parenting along with times of questioning and learning. We hope to share all aspects and how families with dogs can adjust and transition with a new baby.
Send your questions to jen@familypaws.com