Friday, December 21, 2012

You Are Entering the Grumble Zone

By Jennifer Shryock 

Our Family Paws Parent Education programs refers to crowded close quarters as “Grumble zones.” Grumble zones have an escape route but a child or another dog may be blocking or in the way of using it. This can lead to a conflict and a potential danger or “grumble.” Grumble zones are important for families to consider when having multiple dogs or children in the home.

Crowded spaces = Grumpy faces.  

Entryways can be crowded and conflicting especially if there is something of value or a resource near it. Many people put their dog beds in a corner which creates a Grumble zone. This limits escape routes for dogs. It is a good idea to help your dog associate positive encounters when in their comfy spot.

Walk by and drop a treat without stopping to engage. Soon your dog will look up as you or someone approaches to see what opportunity they might get vs. preparing for someone to invade their space.

The space between a coffee table and couch is a common grumble zone. This creates a potential conflict if a toddler approaches Mom or Dad while the dog is sitting or laying at their feet. Close space and conflicts often can happen in this type of space. It is important to consider your layout when you have multiple dogs and kids living together.

Crowded spaces cause grumpy faces and a little preparation ahead of time can decrease stress and increase safety for all! Sometimes I feel like an interior decorator in a private consultation as we end up rearranging furniture to decrease the grumble zone potential. Remember, this is not a forever change! You will get your nicely arranged living room back. It is important however that during the stages of new mobility your child is free to move about in a way that is safe and comfortable for them and your dog.

Always always supervise children and dogs! Even with grumble zones minimized you still must be SUPERvising your child when your dog is around.

Read more from Family Paws Parent Education

Saturday, December 8, 2012

No Dogs in the Baby's Room!

By Hannah Branigan MS, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP

To keep everyone safe, we are establishing safe spaces for both the dogs and the baby. The dogs won't be allowed in the baby's room, and the baby won't be allowed in the dog room. This will give the baby a safe, dog-free place to play and I won't have to worry about baby toys becoming dog toys.

We will use baby gates to help control access to parts of the house, especially while the baby is young, but it's a good idea to have some training in place as well.

I want waiting outside the room to be easy and stress-free for the dogs, and I really want to avoid using any aversives on the dogs with the baby around, because I don't want any negative associations to form. So I'm using clicker training and positive reinforcement to teach them to stay in the hall and not follow me in. I'm not using a cue, because I want the behavior to be automatic, so I don't have to remember to say wait every time (and because I know for sure that my husband will forget).

More about Hannah and Wonderpups Training and Behavior

Obedience FUNdamentals DVD

Friday, November 23, 2012

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie!

One of the safety tips that we offer for parents and dog owners, is that it is best to leave a dog alone who is sleeping. Dogs can be startled if awoken suddenly and can bite by accident. Teach children to leave the dog in peace if he is sleeping. If it is necessary to wake a dog up, do so by calling to him and not by touching him. Teach children to respect the dog's sleeping place and to snuggle with a stuffed animal if they want to nap.

Watch this video and think twice about allowing your child to sleep with the dog - adorable as that might look!

Warning! Cuteness Alert!

This is a funny video, but it shows clearly that dogs can be very caught up in their dreams. It is not hard to imagine that a dog dreaming about chasing and catching prey or play-fighting with another dog might bite in confusion if wakened suddenly from a vivid dream. If your child were to kiss or hug the sleeping dog, it would be their face in the path of those teeth if the dog bit as part of the dream. The last dog in the video shows this especially well.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Free Holiday Tips Webinar - Keep Children and Dogs Safe!

Attention parents and dog owners! Check out our FREE webinar with holiday safety tips for children and dogs. Created by Doggone Safe and Family Paw Parent Education and brought to you by the Pet Professional Guild.

Holiday Madness... from a Dog's Point of View

By Jennifer Shryock

Reprinted from the Family Paws Parent Education blog

As the holidays approach and you make your plans keep in mind that stress and changes in routine can impact our dog’s behavior.

Often we get frustrated and are on edge as there is so much to do to prepare for dinners, visits and other celebrations. The following is a glimpse of some of the confusion our canine family members may experience. Keep in mind that as you are busy rushing around your dog is observing and sensing a change in you. They may “act out” if and when usual attention seeking methods do not work.

This is predictable and can be avoided by being aware and maintaining some of the usual routines your dog is comfortable with.  Plan and prepare ahead for success.

I wrote this years ago (2005) with my dog Carin in mind.  This is what I imagined when I put myself in her shoes on a busy morning like this.

Hi, My name is Carin. I am a spunky young and beautiful female dog. I am writing to share an experience with you that many of us dogs feel needs to be addressed and understood by all of our 2 legged friends. So, here is the story.

This morning was different then most. My 2 legged friend got up before I was ready and convinced me it was time to go “potty” in the dark. Seems a bit backwards from my point of view and I was a bit thrown off. Anyway, I went with her odd idea of going potty before the sun went up. It is only every now and then that she does this odd routine change. This means our whole day is unpredictable. What is she thinking!?!        

As I am out there doing “potty” she is rushing me. What is wrong with her!?! Geesh, I have not gotten an opportunity to sniff properly to strategically place my gift to the earth. “Let’s go Carin.” She says as she heads for the door. As I turn away from the opportunity to explore and leave more gifts, I wander behind her back indoors. I head for the bedroom but no, this is not where my 2 legged friend is headed. She is really confusing me. I follow her to the kitchen and figure I will just snuggle up here for a nap and ignore her apparent memory loss about the sun coming up and our relaxing time in bed together for a morning cuddle. Seems she has forgotten altogether about that as I watch her from under the table. She even nudged me with her foot once not paying attention to my being there. Something is definitely different about today...

Read the entire article

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dog Bite Prevention in Liberia

by Morris Darbo

Students in Liberia holding the Be a Tree kit posters

Dog bite has been a serious concern in Foya District since the end of the war in 2003. In 2008, there was a mass killing of dogs in Foya as means of curtailing the spread of rabies and addressing the issue of dog bite in the District. This method failed to eliminate the spread of rabies or even significantly reduce dog bite cases in the district. Foya District is bordering with Guinea and Sierra Leone. There has always been an influx of unvaccinated dogs from those countries. The presence of large number of strange dogs in the districts has also been a threat in controlling dog bite.

Every year, there has been report of two or more deaths as the result of dog bite.  Children have been the main victims. In May, 2012, the Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society in partnership with Doggone Safe Canada took up the task to educate children in Foya District on dog bite prevention. The Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society visited 10 schools and 4 communities with the education program. 15,520 children were educated on dog bite prevention. In August, we visited the hospital in Foya to ascertain the number of dog bites since our intervention with the education program.

We were told by the hospital that since May, there has been no report of a dog bite case in the hospital.
We at the Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society want to extend our thanks and appreciation to Doggone Safe Canada for their support in empowering LAWCS to reach large number of children in the society. Our dog bite prevention program also ensures that today`s children grow up with compassion, empathy and respect for their dogs, as well as each other. We encourage compassion and responsible behavior toward dogs, as well as inspiring them to make a difference.

Morris Darbo is the founder and executive director of LAWCS and Doggone Safe Co-ordinator for Liberia

Visit the LAWCS website

Friday, October 26, 2012

Doggone Crazy! Board Game Give Away

Doggone Safe is giving away a case of 6 Doggone Crazy! board games to 11 non-profits to help educate kids and families about dog body language and safety around dogs. Eligible non-profits include dog shelters, rescue and animal control, child welfare organizations and schools (North America only).

The entry period ends on Oct 29, 2012 at midnight Eastern Daylight Time.

Who Needs Doggone Crazy?        

Everyone who wants to play, have fun, and laugh out loud with their friends and family! That's who! Doggone Crazy! is a "barking good time" - New York Post Holiday Gift Guide (Dec 18, 2003).
"Doggone Crazy! is the first board game in a long time to keep my kids attention...they played the game so much that I wasn't allowed to touch the game for review until the week-end was over." - Alyice Edrich - Editor-in-Chief - The Dabbling Mum - National Parenting Magazine
What is Doggone Crazy?

Doggone Crazy! is the first ever board game to empower kids with the knowledge they need to make safe choices around dogs. Kids can be doggy detectives, trying to figure out what the dogs are saying with their body language in the more than 100 photo cards. Created by dog experts, this unique game is loads of fun for kids and families. Parents and grandparents are choosing Doggone Crazy! for family play and educational value. Doggone Crazy! is for families with dogs and families who encounter other people's dogs. Even dog savvy parents have said "I didn't know that!" after learning about subtle and little-known dog communication signals from the photo cards in the game. Kids just say "We all have fun!!".
"This game makes it fun for children to learn how to behave toward dogs, and how to understand what dog expressions and actions mean. It's a positive and reinforcing tool for enhancing child safety, reducing bite risk, and improving the human-animal bond." Karen Pryor, author of Don't Shoot the Dog and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training (
What Can You Learn from Doggone Crazy?

Dog bite prevention is the goal of the board game Doggone Crazy! Children and families will learn about dog communication, dog behavior, dog safety for children and how to prevent a dog bite. Through fun activities, photographs of real dogs and puppies and question cards, Doggone Crazy! promotes education and child safety. Doggone Crazy! is not the same as Dogopoly or Monopoly, the Dog. Dogopoly and Monopoly, the Dog are based on the classic property trading game Monopoly, while Doggone Crazy! is a race around the board collecting bones and learning about canine communication. Doggone Crazy! has over 100 photographs of real dogs doing real doggie things. There are pictures of over 60 different dogs representing more than 40 different dog breeds. The free parent guide gives some information about dog training and puppy training to help teach dogs not to bite. Doggone Crazy! is a highly competitive game with lots of physical activity - even little boys will stay with the game until the end.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Halloween Safety Tips for Kids and Dogs

Halloween is lots of fun for kids, but many dogs will be confused or upset by kids in strange costumes and by lots of people coming to the door, but never being invited in. Doggone Safe offers the following tips for dog owners, kids and parents:

Dog owners:

  1. Secure your dog behind a closed door or in a crate in a room away from the front door or the party if children are meeting at your house.
  2. Give him a Kong stuffed with hotdog, Rollover or other soft dog treats, Greenies or other long lasting chew. Ask your vet if you need advice on safe and nutritious chews for your dog.
  3. Play music or leave a TV or radio playing in the dog’s room to help mask the sounds of the activity at the front door.
  4. Close drapes so that the dog does not see people coming and going through the window.
  5. If you have a dog that barks at the sound of the doorbell, disconnect it or watch for trick-or-treaters so that they do not have to ring or knock.
  6. Puppies and dogs that like to chase can get overly excited by costumes with dangly bits or streaming material. Supervise very carefully if you have a dog that may try to play with your children’s costumes while they are wearing them. Teach kids to Be a Tree and stand still if the dog does start nipping at their costume since the more they move, the more exited the dog will get.
  7. Keep your dogs (and cats) indoors around Halloween time. Pets have been stolen, injured or poisoned as part of Halloween pranks or other rituals.

 Kids and Parents:

  1. Avoid houses if you can hear a dog barking behind the door, you can see a dog behind a screen door or you see a dog tied up in the yard or barking behind a fence.
  2. Never approach any dog, even if you know him. He may not recognize you in your costume.
  3. If an owner opens the door and there is a dog there, just stay still and wait for the dog owner to put the dog away. You can tell them you do not want to come near the dog. Do not move toward the person and dog. Wait for them to come to you to give you your candy. Wait for them to close the door before you turn and leave.
  4. If a dog escapes just stand still and Be a Tree (hands folded in front, watching your feet). He will just sniff you and then move on. Wait for the owner to come and get the dog before you turn away.
  5. If you meet a loose dog, Be a Tree and wait until it goes away.
  6. It is best to ignore other people’s dogs on Halloween if you meet them out walking. The dog may be worried about all the strange creatures that are out and about. Even if you know the dog, he may not recognize you in your costume.
Doggone Safe wishes everyone a safe and happy Halloween!
Click Here to download our tips as a handout

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

World Rabies Day Postcards

Sept 28 is World Rabies Day. Sign up for a free webinar on one or more of many different topics from experts around the world.

Download one of our free postcards. One features animals from North America and the other features dogs and cats.

Side 1

Side 2 - Dogs and Cats

Side 2 - North American Animals

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Study: Cartoon Dogs May Not be Effective for Child Safety Lessons

A report of an article published in the Sept 2012 journal, Children Australia, was described in a news report in the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun.

We are attempting to get the whole article so that we can review it and share the findings, but in the meantime we thought this quote from the study author to the Herald Sun reporter was interesting:

"Cartoon dogs are mainly there to entertain children and so they don't help the children understand why dogs will react in a different way to humans in certain circumstances," Ms Nichols said
The Be a Tree program and all other materials produced by Doggone Crazy! and Doggone Safe feature photos and/or videos of real dogs.

We will post more about this article once we have had a chance to review the original report.

Link to the Herald Sun article

Full citation and link to the published article:

Advising the Alien: Investigating Young Children's Learning of Dog Safety Messages
Sue Nichols, Kirrilly Thompson and Sarah Blunden (2012).
Children Australia, Volume 37, Issue 03, September 2012 pp 115-123

Friday, September 7, 2012

Parents: Is Your Child Really Safe Around Your Dog?

In this article you will learn some dog bite prevention information that you probably
have never heard of before. Did you know that dogs often yawn, not because they are bored or tired, but because they are tolerating a situation that they consider to be unpleasant? Here you will learn how to assess the emotional state of a dog and decide whether the dog is likely to be receptive or annoyed by the attentions of a child. This is important, since in most dog bite instances the biter is a family pet or a dog belonging to a friend, neighbor or babysitter. Normally the children of the family would consider it to be safe to go up and pet the dog while he is sitting looking out the window at a cat on the fence. They would not be breaking any of the safety rules children are generally taught to follow, however, in this case it is not safe to approach the dog. The dog is focussed on the cat and in this state of arousal is not interested in being petted by children. A dog in this frame of mind may snap if approached. In order to prevent these types of bites, children and parents need to learn how to assess the emotional state of the dog and determine whether the dog is safe for a child to approach.

Happy Dogs are Safer

Dogs cannot talk to us with words, but they are highly skilled in the use of body language. Some signals that dogs send are very obvious in their meaning. For example a dog showing his teeth with raised hackles is clearly indicating that he will not tolerate the attentions of a child. A dog that turns his head away or gets up and walks away is asking to be left alone. Other signals are subtler, or are quite obvious, but most people do not know how to interpret them. Happy and calm dogs are safer for children to interact with than dogs that are anxious, scared or angry. Happy and calm dogs will present one or more of the following signals: panting with happy expression, ears and forehead relaxed, tail wagging enthusiastically or lying with one paw tucked under. A dog presenting this way is safe for a child to approach. Note that we are talking about your own dog here. Children should never approach someone else's dog. If the demeanor changes and the dog stiffens, stops panting and wagging or raises his tail high upon the approach of the child then the child should not approach. This applies even to the family pet. An anxious or fearful dog may wag his tail low or even between his legs, he may back away when approached or raise a front paw slightly. A common sign that the dog is unhappy with the situation is the pleading look that happens when a child is mauling the dog. This look involves the dog showing part of the white of the eye in a half-moon shape. Parents seeing this half-moon eye should intervene, since the dog is anxious and may not tolerate the child for much longer. Another danger sign which parents must take very seriously is the raised tail. If a dog raises his tail to a child when the child approaches the dog or when the dog comes near the child, this dog is saying, “Don’t mess with me”. This dog is likely to bite the child if the child continues to antagonize the dog. Parents who see this behavior in the dog should seek the advice of a canine behavior consultant.

Here is a slideshow that gives interpretations to many common dog body language signals:

Approaching a Dog?

In general it is best to teach children to wait for a dog to come to them, rather than going to the dog. This applies even to your own dog (although we know that most people will not agree with this advice). If a dog does not come to the child for attention, then the dog does not want attention at this moment. It is always safer for a child to interact with a dog who wants to interact than with a dog who doesn't. Under no circumstances should a child approach a strange dog or someone else's dog.

My Dog Will Let the Kids Do Anything to Him

Some dogs are more tolerant than others. If you ever hear yourself saying something like: "My dog loves kids, they can do anything to him", then you are allowing risky situations to occur and you are expecting way too much from your dog. Many people think that their dog is good with children and will tolerate any sort of poking, prodding and cuddling. To find out what the dog really thinks, watch the dog for signs of displacement behavior that may occur while the dog is being “tolerant”. If there is conflict in the dog’s mind and he wants to take one action (say, biting or getting up and walking away), but instead he takes another less preferable action (staying put while a child hugs him), he will often displace the desired action with some out-of-context behavior. Common out-of-context, or displacement behaviors include yawning and or stretching when not tired, licking chops when there is no food, sudden scratching, sudden biting or licking of paws or other body parts and wet dog shake when not wet or dirty. The dog may also lick the child repeatedly. This is often mistake for affection when in reality it is the dog attempting to create distance from the child. If you observe displacement behavior during dog-child interactions this is the time to intervene, since the dog is signaling that he may not tolerate much more attention from the child.

Even if you do have the sort of dog that will endlessly tolerate things he doesn't really like from the kids, is it fair to the dog to allow this to continue? Why should your good dog be expected to put up with this? Read about the curse of the good dog and how you can avoid this curse for your good dog.

Interact Only with Happy Dogs

Some breeds of dog always look worried, or alert or carry their tails high or have so much fur that it is difficult to tell which end is which. Children should avoid interactions with dogs if they are unsure about how the dog is feeling. The simplest rule for young children to follow is that happy, panting, wagging dogs are safe and dogs with their mouths closed and intent expressions are not safe. Be on the look out for key signs that the bite risk is increasing. These include, tail raised to the child, half-moon eye, dog intently focussed on something other than the child (cat, food, leash etc) or displacement behavior (yawing and licking of chops are the most common). Dogs displaying these signs are not in a suitable emotional state for interaction with a child and a bite could follow if you do not intervene.

Recommended Parent Resources for Teaching Kids

Family Paws Parent Education
Body Language Flashcard Kit
Dog Detective eBook
Good Dog! Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training ebook - by Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie
Doggone Crazy! Board game (20% off until Sept 30 2012 - use the code FALLGAME in the Doggone Safe store

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Be a Tree in Northern British Columbia

We are very pleased and proud to tell you about the accomplishments of Doggone Safe member Valerie Ingram and her husband Alistair Schroff and their efforts to educate children and families in remote communities in northern British Columbia, Canada. Valerie herself educates about 700 children per year using the Be a Tree program and has been able to procure 26 Be a Tree teacher kits for distribution to other remote communities. In addition to bite prevention education, Valerie and Alistair through the Lakes Animal Friendship Society, organize a large annual event to provide spay/neuter for local animals, to educate native communities about humane education and the importance of reading for children and to provide dog houses for dogs that live outside.

From Alistair:
In the beginning we were inspired by a little dog we called Honey Bear. Honey Bear was from a batch of pups on a First Nations reserve west of Burns Lake. The story is that the owner was told he already had too many dogs and to get rid of the puppies, so the seven puppies were thrown into the river - in the middle of winter. These little pups were Labrador crosses and were able to swim to shore where they huddled together in the cold. A passerby heard the whimpering puppies, found them on the shore and loaded them into his truck, and took them to Turtle Gardens. Turtle Gardens is our only shelter for about 150 miles. Valerie and I heard about the pups at Turtle Gardens and decided to adopt one, who became Honey Bear. Sadly, Honey Bear suffered health problems almost from day one. She nearly died as a pup and suffered various ailments over the next three years until she had to be euthanized, which was heartbreaking.  
We hope that our continuing efforts, particularly the humane education (focussing on care and compassion and bite safety) and the spaying and neutering projects mean less animals will face hardships like poor Honey Bear did.
From Valerie:
I have been working for 5 years, volunteering in my local schools, twice a year.  And only discovered your fabulous resources through Judi a year ago.  My goal is lofty.  I want to get volunteers from each community (even the little rural ones and schools on First Nations reserves) to get into schools to talk about bite safety, care, compassion etc.  I want to get more materials in teachers hands, and any youth group leaders.  The last two years, I've been leaving activities with the teachers.  This is the first year, I finally got a grant and can afford to buy more materials and organize a workshop.  I plan on eventually driving to all communities on this 400 mile corridor to connect with and encourage volunteers to get into schools.  There are a suprising number of people who WANT to get into schools, but are intimidated, or don't have the proper tools.  And that's where Doggone Safe comes in!!!  You HAVE the tools.  Now, I pray people come to the workshop Judi and I are holding in Burns Lake, saving me going to them!  
Well, people did come to the workshop and spay neuter clinic this summer. It was a huge success thanks to the efforts of many, including the Canadian Animal Assistance Team.

Doggone Safe is very proud to have been able to play role in helping to educate children and families as part of an ongoing effort by many volunteers including Valerie and Alistair and our British Columbia co-ordinator Judi Dowson of Canines with Class

Here is the press release describing the event:

In 2011 the Lakes Animal Friendship Society hosted the largest spay / neuter event in BC history, with close to 250 animals spayed and neutered over an eight day period. It was a huge success, but due to the overwhelming response dozens of lower-income families had to be turned away. The Canadian Animal Assistance Team, which is made up of volunteers from across Canada, was eager to return and help these families, and got permission from the College of Veterinarians of BC to hold another animal health event in the Burns Lake Area from May 28th to June 5th.

Families Lined up Early

As expected, families brought their pets and lined up even before the doors were open each day. In the end, the Team spayed and neutered 183 animals and performed health checks, vaccinations and de-worming on 125 more. Only a handful of lower-income families were turned away on the last day when the surgery schedule was full. Laura Sutton, the team leader and registered veterinary technician from Ontario was encouraged by the response. “The numbers of spays and neuters were down a bit from last year, and we hope that means the trend is in the right direction. We had more clients for the other services, and many of those pets had been spayed and neutered at the event last year. Talking to the community members, there is an amazing level of awareness of the needs of animals, and people are very grateful for the care we provided. All of our Team members loved to talk to the guardians, meet the pets, answer questions and provide helpful advice.”

Free Events are not Really Free

Community members were encouraged to make a donation of whatever they could afford. “A lot of time, effort, and money go into holding an event like this” says Valerie Ingram of the Lakes Animal Friendship Society. “No one at the event is paid. The volunteers are taking time away from their families, their pets and their jobs to be there. The Canadian Animal Assistance Team members pay their own travel costs. Local groups are providing facilities, food, accommodations, supplies and support. It is not “free”. It is important that people understand the value of health care for all members of the household, including the four-legged ones. Being a guardian has costs that need to be considered when you are thinking about bringing an animal into your life.”

Dog Houses

The Lakes Animal Friendship Society also distributed dog houses that were built by the College of New Caledonia Residential Building Maintenance class. These houses were painted by Susan Russell’s grade 3 / 4 / 5 class at Grassy Plains School, using paint that was donated by the community. With the distribution of these houses the Society has provided warm, dry shelter to 82 dogs in the Burns Lake area. “We built the first 14 houses from scratch in 2009” says Alistair Schroff. “After that we refurbished 23 more, doing repairs and insulation on old houses donated to the Society. Between the CNC class and Dirk Hofer’s industrial arts class at the high school, 45 houses were constructed in the last 8 months!”

Local rescue groups Turtle Gardens Animal Rescue and Mother Millie stepped forward to take in any animals that were surrendered during the event. “We are very thankful to have these amazing local groups to rely on when an animal needs to find a new home” says Schroff.

Raising Community Awareness

Raising community awareness of bite safety, animal care and compassion is a primary goal of the Lakes Animal Friendship Society and a focus of the Community Animal Care Event. Valerie Ingram is a certified teacher and classroom volunteer. “I speak to about 700 students in our area, usually twice a year” says Ingram. “Last year a number of students came out to the event to see the Canadian Animal Assistance Team in action and learn more about animal care. This year we really wanted to encourage participation and we offered buses for classes to visit the event. Hundreds of students from elementary and secondary schools travelled to the event, asked lots of great questions, and helped out. We hope the students are inspired to make a difference and maybe even pursue a career in animal care! The students even helped come up with a new name for the 2012 event. Ava Nealis from William Konkin Elementary School made the winning suggestion: Great Big Love for Furry Friends Event”.

Education is Critical

The very successful education program in Burns Lake is catching the attention of other community groups. On June 1st and 2nd, the Lakes Animal Friendship Society held humane education workshops for school staff and volunteers who work with youth across BC. “Education is a pillar of any program to keep children safe, improve animal care and increase compassion for others. These workshops and follow-up mentoring will help bring humane education to more schools and communities, including remote locations like Dease Lake. Poor understanding of dog behaviour and lack of training leads to kids getting bitten and dogs ending up in shelters, so we also invited certified master trainers Judi Dowson (from Canines with Class) and Bev Kerr (from Houndsense) to share their knowledge. Doggone Safe and the BC SPCA helped provide educational materials for the workshop attendees. ”

Spay/Neuter and Planned Pethood International

Jeff Young, a veterinarian from Denver, Colorado is a long-time advocate of spaying and neutering programs. He has performed over 165 000 surgeries in his career and supports programs for spaying and neutering through his charity, Planned Pethood International. Dr. Young was hosted by Dr. Lois Martin at the Burns Lake Veterinary Clinic for training and demonstrations of spay / neuter and other preparation and surgical techniques. Dr. Martin and her staff are very supportive of local animal welfare projects and operate the Simonds Sanctuary, a cat shelter. Dr. Martin donated supplies, staff time and use of her clinic over a four day period. Veterinarians and support staff from across the region were invited to attend. Over forty surgeries were performed on animals from lower-income families.

Dr. Young also visited the high school to talk about pet overpopulation, the benefits of spaying and neutering and to answer questions about animal health care and veterinary careers. He told the students to believe in themselves and that they can make a difference if they put their minds to it. He shared a quote from Henry Ford: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.”

Animal Welfare is a Global Issue

During the Event, Laura Sutton and Jeff Young made an evening presentation at the College of New Caledonia and shared their experiences from animal health care across Canada and around the world, from Nunavut to Slovakia, Mexico, Fiji and elsewhere. They also participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives from animal welfare groups, First Nations, and veterinary clinics from across north western British Columbia, and were joined by Staff Sergeant Grant McDonald from the RCMP. As the presentations and roundtable discussions showed, overpopulation and animal welfare issues are a regional and even global concern, Burns Lake is not alone.

Just as the event has grown since last year, so too has awareness of the key animal welfare issues and potential solutions. “Every animal guardian is responsible for the care of their pet and meeting its needs” says Alistair Schroff of the Lakes Animal Friendship Society. “But, it is not just the pet that suffers if there is not proper care. Nuisance, dog bites, and even higher levels of violence in society are some of the side effects. Even if you are not an animal lover, we all need to work together to ensure we have healthy and happy pets so we have healthy and happy families and communities. This extends outside our “local” community, as the communities in the region are linked in many different ways. Groups from across the northwest are starting to build stronger relationships with each other and passionate organizations like the Canadian Animal Assistance Team. This is why we formed the Community Coalition for Animal Welfare in BC in 2011 - to tackle the issues in a much more efficient and sustainable manner. We are optimistic that the coming year will see Coalition members working together to make the Northwest BC Animal Welfare Initiative a reality, with more community education and efforts to ramp up spaying and neutering between Prince George and Prince Rupert, and north to the BC border.”

For more information please contact Alistair Schroff

If you would like to visit beautiful British Columbia, you can stay with Valerie and Alistair at their lovely bed and breakfast on Francois Lake near Southbank BC

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dog Days of Fall: Back to School Tips

Fall is a time of changing routines as family activities move into high gear. “I receive an increased number of dog bite calls every year during times of change such as vacation and school start up”, says animal behaviour specialist Teresa Lewin. Changes in routine are stressful for dogs. Anxious and upset dogs are more likely to bite and statistics show that most bites to children are caused by a family pet.

Here are some tips to keep the dog from becoming anxious and to keep kids safe: 
  • Supervise dogs and children at all times!
  • During times of transition while everyone is getting ready for school or coming home from school, secure your dog in a calmer setting (such as a crate or gated area) with a safe and engaging chew toy such as a Kong or stuffed bone. Noisy children can get dogs very wound up and excited. This can lead to unintended injury.
  • Do some training or play with the dog for a few minutes after the kids have gone to school. The dog can get lonely when all of a sudden the family is gone and he is all alone for the day.
  • If the entire family is out for the whole day, try to have a neighbor or dog walker come in at lunch time to play with the dog and take him for a walk.
  • After school, bring the dog back into the general area with the kids once everyone is calm. Have each child take a turn take a turn asking the dog to do something (a trick or even just sit) for a treat so that a calm routine is established around coming home time.
  • Learn to read dog body language and teach kids too. The Doggone Crazy! board game (see below) is a fun way to learn how dogs communicate their feelings.
  • Watch for signs of anxiety such as yawning, lip licking and half moon shape in the white of the eye (pleading look). Intervene and redirect both kids and dog to another activity if you see any of these signs while the kids are interacting with the dog or are playing in the vicinity of the dog.
  • Teach kids to respect the dog. If he turns his head away or moves away the kids should leave him alone. Ask the kids questions about the dog's feelings. For example, "What do you think Fido is trying to tell us when he walks away when we try to pet him?"
  • Practice basic obedience with your dog for short periods several times a day to keep him out of trouble and to stimulate his mind.
  • Take kids and dog for a hike in the woods. A tired dog is a good dog!
Dogs are important family members but it is critical to remember that they are animals and they still have natural dog behaviors and instincts. Dogs do best when they are shown what we want them to do and are rewarded for good behaviour. Dogs like routine and to know what is going to happen next. By planning ahead and providing the opportunity for the dog to be in a low stress situation around kids, everyone is poised for success and trouble free transition to fall routines.

About the Doggone Crazy! board game:

Save 20% until the end of September 2012. Use the discount code FALLGAME when purchasing the Doggone Crazy! board game at the Doggone Safe store (US and Canada only).

Friday, August 31, 2012

Want the Truth? Ask your Dog!

Your dog loves it when you pet him, right? He loves the kids to pet and hug him too? Well maybe he does and maybe he doesn't. Maybe he likes some sorts of attention at some times and not at others. We have posted many times in our blog and on our Facebook page that dogs don't like hugs and kisses, especially from children. This has generated irate comments and even hate mail from people who are offended at the notion that dogs do not always just naturally love kids or love attention from their people.

If you want to know the truth about this from your dog's point of view, then ask him! Here is a great video that shows the difference between a dog who says "no" to petting and dog that says "yes". A dog that consistently says "no" and is ignored and forced to tolerate unwanted attention may eventually get to the point of growling or biting. A dog that invites attention and enjoys it is much less likely to bite.

Visit the Doggone Safe website to learn more about the signs that dogs give when they are uncomfortable.

Learn more  about dog body language with our online course, Basic Dog Body Language (qualifies for CEUs from major dog training certification organizations)

Be sure to visit the blog by Eileen, the author of the video for more insights!

Thanks to Jennifer Shryock of Family Paw Parent Education for bringing this video to our attention.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How the Veterinary Community Can Help Prevent Dog Bites

The coroner’s jury inquest into the 1998 mauling death of 8-year old Ontario resident Courtney Trempe produced a list of recommendations including some relating to the education of the public about safety around dogs and suggesting a role for the veterinary community. According the Canada Safety Council and the Health Canada more than 400,000 people are bitten by dogs each year, most of them children and most of them by the family pet or other familiar dog. Half of all children will be bitten by a dog by the time they are twelve. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians are well positioned to play a leading role in educating dog owners and the community about how to prevent dog bites.

On-Line Learning

Doggone Safe is a non-profit organization dedicated to dog bite prevention through education and it offers a number of resources to help others in this educational effort. One of these resources is an on-line course that teaches about canine body language. This course is beneficial in the following ways to veterinary technologists and other staff that handle dogs:

·     Knowing the subtle signs that indicate a dog is feeling anxious may prevent technologists and other staff from being bitten.
·     The course will give technologists ideas about how to educate clients about dog body language and how to know when their dog may be getting to the point of biting. This may save a child in particular from a bite.
·     Knowing the subtle signs that indicate a dog is feeling anxious will help staff know when to reduce or change their intervention and when to try to calm the animal before proceeding. This could result in a better outcome for the patient and reduced stress for patient, client and technologist.

The course goes from nose to tail, discussing all the body parts and how a dog uses them to communicate. It covers communication signals ranging from the subtle “half moon eye” to the very obvious “propeller tail wag” using many photos and videos to illustrate.

"I have reviewed the on-line Doggone Safe Basic Body Language course and found it both informative and easy to use.  The course would be appropriate for veterinarians, technicians and lay staff that are interested in learning more about fearful dog cues, and appropriate ways to approach unknown dogs." Teresa Hershey, DVM (former president, Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association) 

There is a free demo of the course and a link to the registration page at

Educating Children

Doggone Safe administers the Be a Tree dog bite prevention program that teaches children how to read dog body language and act safely around dogs. More than 700,000 children around the world have attended a Be a Tree session. The program is supported by the Be a Tree teacher kit, which contains everything required to deliver the presentation.

The key messages of the Be a Tree program are:

  • Be a Tree (stand still, fold in your branches, watch your roots grow and count to the highest number you know over and over in your head until help comes or the dog goes away) if a strange dog comes near, or any dog is acting too frisky or is bothering you.
  • Dogs communicate with body language and we can tell if they are happy and want to meet or interact with us, or they are feeling anxious and want to be left alone.
  • Always ask permission from your parent and the dog owner if you want to pet a dog.
  • Meet and pet a dog properly. Pet only happy dogs.
  • Respect a dog’s toys, resting place and bones.
  • Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses.
  • Don’t be afraid of dogs.
"Dog behavior is a field with more than its share of junk information, to the great detriment of dogs, their owners and the public at large. What an inspiration to see Doggone Safe do exactly the opposite: disseminate outstanding information. And, not only that, in an accessible manner to that group all of us want better to protect, children. Bravo!"
Jean Donaldson
Founder and Director
The Academy for Dog Trainers

Veterinary Community Support for Be a Tree in Canada

The Be a Tree program is supported by the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, the Saskatchewan Association of Veterinary Technologists, other provincial and the national veterinary technician/technologist associations. Dr. Bob Bellamy, former president of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association described the Be a Tree program as “a visual, informative, interactive and entertaining presentation that requires a minimal amount of preparation and can be delivered effortlessly” (SVMA News, August, 2007). “The Be a Tree program provides a great topic and loads of materials, making the program an ideal community outreach program which can easily be delivered by veterinarians or their staff” said Nadia Vercillo, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association Manager of Communications and Public Relations (OVMA Focus, May 2008).

Promote Your Practice

Doggone Safe offers supplementary materials to reinforce its safety messages and promote community education. These in include a postcards, magnets, stickers, coloring books, story books and classroom posters. These materials can be branded with your logo to remind parents and children of the safety messages.

Visits to schools, boy/girl scout groups, church and other groups provide a great way to gain recognition for your practice in the community. Dr. Bob Bellamy, former president of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association said, "Dog bite prevention seminars have had an unexpected side effect. Without a doubt, DBP presentations have yielded more new clients than any initiative attempted by our office! In the the past two years new clients have increased by 30%!!!". Read Dr Bellamy's article from the SVMA News.

Other Resources

The Doggone Safe website has lots of information, articles and downloads available and encourages the distribution of these. Use or copy any of the information or articles found at the Doggone Safe website as handouts, in newsletters or at websites, with credit given to the source.

Doggone Safe also maintains a website dedicated solely to the Be a Tree program. This is a good place to send teachers or parents who want to know more about the program (

More Information

For more information about Doggone Safe, the on-line body language course or to order a Be a Tree teacher kit or other products please visit For more information about the Be a Tree program please visit

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Praise for Doggone Safe and the Be a Tree Program

We'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has posted a review for us on the Great Non-Profits review site! There are lots of terrific reviews and we appreciate and read each and every one of them.

If you would like to add your own review we would love to hear about your experience with the Be a Tree program or any of our other resources.

Click here to write a review (we love it when you include your real name, but you don't have to)

Here are a few examples:
Great safety tips on how to get kids to behave properly around dogs. As a professional dog trainer, I really see the need for good safety programs for kids, and Doggone Safe is one of the best! I frequently give the Be A Tree presentation and everyone loves it. While a serious topic, the program has been developed to be entertaining, interactive and carefully repetitive to help kids thoroughly retain the information. The visuals are excellent and the "tools" for learning are fun. Most adults attending learn right along with the kids. Judy Kheen
I am a Pediatric Emergency Room Nurse, and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Did you know that ER's across the United States see and average of 1000 dog bites a day! Dog bites have been too long viewed as environmental accidents that cannot be prevented. Thanks to Doggone Safe, we are all learning more, and now we know how we can help to prevent these injuries. Kay Thompson RN
I have provided citizens in our community with canine councilling for over 25 years. Part of our educational plan for our shelter is to reduce the number of owner released animals coming through our doors. Help clients and animals through the adjustment periods of a new relationship. Provide knowledge to help dispel fear, asin our experience as animal control or the city, shows that the majority of dog bites which happen in our community are the result of poor education of the public and fear induced responses by the dogs. Doggone Safes Be A Tree Program incorporates all of the tools needed to make real changes in public perception and we have seen a significant decrease in dog bites toward young children since we have been using the Be A Tree programs in local schools. Be A Tree is the absolute best there is to evoke change.  Robert Metzler, President, Gloucester SPCA
We have incorporated the resources from the Be A Tree Kit into our Bright Puppy lessons at Sit Happens! Companion Dog Training in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Our students are loving it! Thank you Doggone Safe! Jill Dextrase
I am a physician, specializing in Post-Traumatic Stress disorder, who was additionally nearly mauled to death by a German Shepard nearly 35 years ago. I happened upon Doggone safe and the support group several years ago, and have remained an active member ever since that time. The organization has not only benefited me, but I have observed over the years of participation the help and healing that it has brought to others who have survived dog attacks. The educational aspects of Doggone Safe additionally provides the members and general public a multitude of ways to keep themselves and children as well as their animals safe from further dog attacks, which for humans, require 5 million ER and operations per year and up to 30 deaths annually, per CDC report (2008). Shell King MD
I'm a professional dog trainer/behaviour therapist and I have used Doggone Safe material for years to educate my clients. I just love their programs! From the Doggone Crazy Board game, Be A Tree Programs to all their bite prevention and safety programs; each have been an invaluable tool. Clients have always found all the material not only informative but fun and easy to understand. Joan and Theresa have done an amazing job with these programs and have always been helpful and supportive in sharing their tools. Keep up the good work & thanks for all that you do :) Sylvia Gottshalk, Delightful Dogs
I am a Certified Humane Education Specialist and I use Doggone Safe Be a Tree program for everything from preschool to adult. I especially like the beautiful photos. They are clear in being able to read the dog's feelings. I have used this presentation to thousands of people over the years. Even adults learn from these presentations. Our dog training classes have also used this outstanding resource. Their Doggone Crazy game is a huge hit for our camps. I have even taken the flash cards from the game to make Trivial Pawsuit Games for larger crouds. We have also used their article models to do press releases during some key holiday times. Great stuff and a wonderful resource. Thank you so much for providing such professional materials to those of us in need.

World Rabies Day - Sept 28, 2012

World Rabies Day is on September 28, 2011. Partners around the world are holding events and engaging in public education campaigns to help eliminate this completely preventable disease. Key campaign messages include: Vaccinate your companion animals and stay away from stray animals and wild animals.

Despite being 100% preventable, it is estimated that 55,000 people die worldwide from rabies each year, approximately one person every ten minutes.  The World Rabies Day initiative is a global rabies awareness campaign being spearheaded by the UK charity Alliance for Rabies Control and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

World Rabies Day Initiative

The World Rabies Day initiative also raises money towards local rabies prevention and control programs, with eight projects funded since 2008.  “Through the World Rabies Day campaign we continue to engage all the major stakeholders associated with rabies to take action”, says Costa.  “We invite everyone to join the team that is Making Rabies History!”  

The cornerstones of rabies prevention are vaccination of companion animals and avoiding contact with potentially infected wild animals.

Visit for free resources and information.

World Rabies Day Webinar

The Global Alliance for Rabies Control, in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is pleased to announce the 3rd Annual World Rabies Day Webinar to be held September 20-21, 2012. The Webinar brings together noted leaders in rabies research, One-Health advocates, professionals, students and World Rabies Day event planners in real-time to discuss the important public health issue of rabies while providing a forum for dialogue within and across disciplines.
The two day event will focus on canine rabies elimination; human rabies surveillance, prevention and intervention; wildlife rabies control; information and education campaigns and building sustainable programs. Day 1 (Sept 20) of the Webinar will concentrate on presentations from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Day 2 (Sept 21) will spotlight talks from North America, Latin America and the Caribbean Regions.

There is no cost to attend the Webinars but you must register in advance.

Free Resources from Doggone Safe

Doggone Safe will join the list of international partners who are rallied towards Working Together to Make Rabies History!  “Doggone Safe is proud to be a World Rabies Day partner and we encourage all our members to get involved with Word Rabies Day events in their communities” says President and co-founder Joan Orr. “We have produced a postcard to help kids and families learn how to help animals and prevent exposure to rabies.” The main focus of this is to stay away from wild animals and loose dogs and to tell an adult. The best way to help an animal is to stay away from it and call Animal Control.

This year we have two versions of the postcard: one that focuses on North American wildlife that may carry rabies and on that focuses on stray dogs and cats. This is also available in poster format and in a version to which you can add your own logo and contact information (if you have the capability to edit the files - Photoshop for example). Download these from this link.

Rabies is rare in domestic dogs in most developed countries, so a loose dog that a child encounters is not likely to be rabid. Children should be encouraged to stay away from all dogs that do not have an owner holding the leash and to Be a Tree (stand still and quiet and avoid eye contact) if a loose dog comes up to them.

Doggone Safe has experts in dog training, dog behavior and dog bite prevention education available for interview. More information about the World Rabies Day Campaign can be found at

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to Help Your Child After a Dog Bite

According to child psychiatrist Dr R. Larry Schmitt, it is very important for children to receive emotional help after a dog bite. Children may carry feelings of fear and guilt long after the physical scars have healed. Children may try to hide their feelings because of the guilt they feel over upsetting their parents.

Read more from Dr Schmitt

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions from parents about how to help a child emotionally after a dog bite:

How soon after the incident should I start talking to my child about it? 
Immediately! It is important to completely avoid making any comments about your own feelings other than to express your regret that it happened.

How many times per day should we talk about it? 
For the first few days at least twice a day followed by once a day for the following three weeks.

For how long after the incident should we keep talking about it?
Depending on the degree of fright and injury, until the parental waves of guilt are close to flat and/or the child shows easy emotion, not suppressed or keyed up emotion when it is discussed.

What if my child starts to cry? 
Try saying something like, “Wow, I see it really hurts/frightens/upsets you. It is so good for you to let me see how you feel about the dog biting you.”

What if my child withdraws or becomes irritated and refuses to talk? 
This is very likely a sign that it may be time for trauma counseling with a mental health expert.  Say to the child, "Are you worried about how talking about it makes me feel?  If you are, please understand that I am a grown-up and can handle such feelings of being sad because you were injured. This will help you to look at all the feelings that came from that dog attack.”

What if my child insists that he is fine and doesn't want to talk about it anymore?
Reply to the child, “That may be right". (This is true if the parent notes that it has been discussed a great deal with a noticeable decrease in affect/emotion). Then say  “I want to think about it some more.”  Later, if the child still seems reluctant to talk and bothered by the topic,” I notice that any mention of it finds your face changing as if it still hurts.”  “How about drawing a picture of the dog attack scene, before, during and after?”

What kinds of questions or statements can I use to engage my child in a conversation?
In an intact family, observing  parents conversing with each other about the accident and making gentle guesses about how the child thinks and feels about the attack. “I still think about the day when the dog hurt and scared you, do you?”  “Sometimes I feel really mad about that dog biting you.”  “I saw a dog barking at me when I was jogging today. I remembered what happened to you and was scared when the dog barked!”

With teenagers, whose skills in talking about a dog attack are probably closer to that of an adult you might say something like:  “What do your friends say about the dog attack?”;  “How many others at your school have been bitten by dogs?”; “ If you find you are dreaming about the attack or thinking about it a lot and you do not want to, consider this paradox, that talking about it with anyone will reduce such dreams and thoughts.”

What are the signs that my child needs professional help? 
The big ones are decreased success at school, (both socially and academically), lack of pleasure from past enjoyments, and early resistance to speak about the attack. Watch for dog phobia, avoidance of other animals, or the appearance of other new fears and anxieties.

When in doubt seek a mental health consultation and if the parents have doubts about the recommendations/conclusions of that first consultant, seek a second opinion.  Consider an analogous  situation with a post-surgical issue.  The surgeon says they think an abscess developed out of sight with minimal symptoms that if ignored will cause problems later.  Of course, with an x-ray or digital exam it may be evident.   A competent child mental health expert can be expected to probe in an interview and demonstrate an emotional abscess.

What should I look for in a mental health professional? 
First, one who works with children; second, one with at least a five-year record in the field; third, a referral from a trusted mental health professional, and most of all, one with whom the parent feels comfortable. I prefer one who works with the child and parents together and spends less time with the child individually. In other words, family oriented therapy.

How do we know when to stop the therapy? 
This obviously varies with the severity, both physical and emotional, of the injury. Assuming the child and family have a positive relationship with a competent therapist, the therapist should suggest when to stop. If the parents are concerned that it is going on too long they should suggest a hiatus of four to eight weeks, observe the child during that time and return for termination in the absence of symptoms. In the typical situation, success comes early, with promoting the child and family to discuss all aspects of the attack and its potential residuals. (2-6 sessions).

Download these FAQ as a PDF

About Dr Schmitt:
R. Larry Schmitt was born in Iowa in l936. He graduated with eleven classmates from high school in Phelps, WI. He completed his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. An internship was completed at Philadelphia General Hospital. Following that internship, he worked as an Assistant Surgeon for the USPHS in Juneau, Alaska treating Alaska Natives. The next four years found him completing residencies in general and child psychiatry at the Menninger School of Psychiatry in Topeka, Kansas. He moved to San Diego in l969 where he practiced in La Jolla until retiring in 2005. During his practice, he taught and supervised in the Division of Child/Adolescent Psychiatry. He currently volunteers at the UCSD Free Clinic with continuing contact with residents in child and adolescent psychiatry.

He is board certifed in both general and child psychiatry and a Life Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association.