Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Babies and Dogs (and cats, tortoises, etc)

I haven't blogged about it, probably ever, but I am extremely passionate about dog behavior. It all began with the Mastiff forum I was a part of when we first brought Apollo home. He will be seven this year! There was a fantastic dog behaviorist who gave great advice on our forum and I began to read everything she wrote, and then did my own research as well. I realized how misunderstood dogs are. They speak their own language and we as humans are trying our best to communicate with them in our language. My dream {and goal?} is to make dog training my career. I love it and I love to teach and I love to help people, which is really more of what a dog trainer/behaviorist should be doing.

I wanted to talk a little about kids and dogs. It definitely takes effort and it's not always easy, but a child's relationship with their dog can be so amazing and worth it. The most important thing to remember: It's the parent's responsibility to keep the child and the dog safe! 

Here are a few things I feel are very important to maintaining a happy home for both the children and the dogs {and cats, tortoises, etc. It applies to all pets}

  • Dogs and kids should never, ever be left alone together. EVER. No matter how sweet your dog may be, you just never know.
  • From day one, children should be closely supervised and assisted when petting their pets. We use the word "gentle." Please do not allow tail grabbing, ear grabbing, fur ripping, hitting, climbing on them. That hurts! Start early and teach them to respect animals. Grayson already understands gentle because we have been reinforcing it from day one. We always praise G when he does gentle petting. Encourage your children to pet the dog under the chin or on their shoulder/back. Discourage hugging or reaching over the dog's head. It may seem sweet, but dogs do not like to be hugged. It's a threatening position. And while you are teaching your children how to treat their own dog, this carries over to meeting new dogs too. 
  • Create a safe place for your dog. Apollo has his own area in the house with his water bowl and bed, separated from the rest of the house by a baby fence. Don't wait until your dog is growling, or worse, biting, before putting him in his safe place. Apollo stays in his safe place unless we go outside together, on a walk or we are supervising a visit with him and G.
  • Stress signals. Dogs give calming signals well before they start growling or biting, we just need to learn what they are so that it does not escalate. These are warning signals that we should take seriously before the dog feels he must use a different warning with more severe consequences. Living with Kids & Dogs is one of my favorite resources, and she further explains the stress signals here.

I love to talk dog behavior, so if you have a question, I'd love to help!

Good resources for positive reinforcement training:



  1. This is excellent advice. We own a 5 pound teacup poodle who sadly is currently living with my in-laws--our complex is not pet-friendly, but when we get him back, I will be referring to this. He's extremely gentle, and F&C have spent enough time with him to be gentle themselves, but as you said, you never know. Thanks for the information. It sounds like you're doing a great job!

  2. I think you would, and one day will make a great dog trainer! And I will certainly be referring back to you if I have any questions!

  3. Love it! You are going to be a great behaviorist!

    I'm so thankful for the one that we found when we were dealing with our Catahoula's separation anxiety. She has ended up being a valuable resource for everything-and we are now well trained ;). I love that Grayson is doing so well with Apollo. "Gentle" is our word for G too-haha.

  4. Can I have your email address, I'm having major issues with my dogs that I haven't had before and I'd love some input.

    1. Definitely! hopingforbabyb {at} gmail {dot} com

  5. Yes, yes, yes! I agree 100%!! It's so important to teach your kid to be safe around around dogs!!

    (My pup loves my goddaughter -- they insist on sleeping together in the crib when Kay sleeps at my place. 22 lbs of 14 month old baby + 58 lbs of chocolate lab in a crib. Cutest thing ever!!).