Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tip of the Day: Teach Kids to Invite the Dog to Come to Them

This is our simplest tip and one that is probably the most significant in terms of improving dog/child relations. Teach kids that they should invite the dog to come to them, and if the dog declines the invitation, then they leave the dog alone.

Dogs say yes, by coming over, being loose and waggy and staying around without restraint. Dogs say no by turning away, walking away, yawning, licking or flicking their tongue out, showing a half moon of white in their eye, doing a big shake off, or being tense and stiff.

Here is a fun video from dog/child relationship expert Madeline Gabriel that shows kids how to be a kid a dog feels safe with and shows parents how to teach kids how to invite a dog to interact.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tip of the Day: Get off Your Bike if a Dog Chases You

Making it Worse?

We are asked this question quite frequently: What should I do if a dog chases me or my kids while we are riding our bikes? Most adults assume that if they have good speed they can outride a dog. A cyclist in our area was badly injured when dog ran down a farm lane barking at him. He sped up to try to get away from the dog, lost control on the gravel shoulder and fell off his bike. The dog sniffed him and walked away.

Avoid a Chase

Kids on bikes should never assume that they can ride faster than a dog can run, because most likely they can't. If confronted by a dog while riding a bike, the best thing to do is to stop and if there is time get off the bike so that the bike is between you and the dog.

The main motivation for the dog is the chase and when there is nothing to chase the dog will lose interest. If the dog does catch a moving cyclist this could result in serious injuries both from the fall and from the dog, whose natural instinct is to bite and shake prey that it has caught. It is best to defuse the situation by removing the dog's motivation to chase.

Some people have been told that they should get off the bike, but keep moving so as to keep the bike between them and the dog. This movement will just keep the dog interested longer. It is best to stand still even if the dog circles around the bike to investigate and even if the dog is barking and acting aggressively.

A Note to Cyclists on Busy Trails

If you see a person walking a dog on a leash ahead of you, make some noise to warn the dog handler so that they can move over to give you room to pass. They will be more than happy to do this. If there is only a narrow passing area, please slow down, or even better, get off your bike and walk past (with your bike between you and the dog, just in case). If the dog handler looks like they are having trouble with the dog, or they have multiple dogs, you are advised to walk your bike past. Blasting past pedestrians with a few inches to spare is not cool (dog or no dog) and could result in a surprised dog pulling loose and chasing you. In some mixed use trails, there could be loose dogs, be ready to stop if the dog looks like it might give chase. You may be fast, but a large breed dog in peak condition is faster.

Here is a video that shows the wrong thing to do if a dog chases you while you are riding a bike. Notice that when the cyclist moves the bike to try to keep the dog on the other side of it, this just makes the dog more interested in him. As soon as he stops moving the dog loses interest.

Here is a video that shows the right thing to do. Notice how much less interested the dog is when the cyclist stands still, compared to the previous video, when he kept moving around.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tip of the Day: Dogs Don't Like Hugs and Kisses (What?!)

A different kind of love
One of the most important things you can teach your children is that dogs don't like hugs and kisses. This is a tough lesson, because many (if not most) dog owners simply do not believe it themselves.

Children learn early on that giving hugs to parents, siblings, and stuffed animals is a way to show love and affection. The desire to show affection extends naturally to the family dog. To a child, the family dog is just an animated stuffed animal.

Sadly, this desire to show affection to the family dog is a major cause of facial bites to children. Dogs may tolerate hugs from kids, but few actually enjoy this type of attention. If a dog does more than tolerate this inappropriate handling, it is only on the dog’s own terms—when the dog comes to the child for attention, and only if the child does not hug tightly or hang on too long. There is no dog that loves hugs from kids anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

Teach children to pet with one hand and to wait for the dog to come to them for attention and then to leave the dog alone if he moves away or says "please leave me alone" with his body language.

There are lots of ways to love your dog that don't involve hugs and kisses. Read our article on How to Love Your Dog for lots of ways your kids can build a great relationship with the family dog.

Listen to the experts, including the dogs!

How do we know that dogs don't like hugs and kisses? In part it is because every dog behavior expert tells us so. For example, world renowned expert and author Patricia McConnell in her wonderful book "For the Love of a Dog" says that she has at least 50 photos of kids hugging dogs and in not one of them is the dog happy about it. We also know because dogs tell us and dogs don't tell lies.

If your dog is enjoying a hug he will do one or more of the following:
  • Ask for more if you stop
  • Lean into you
  • Relax and close his eyes
  • Pant and wag his tail with a loose body
If your dog is not enjoying a hug he will do one or more of the following:
  • Turn his head away from you
  • Lick your face repeatedly
  • Lick his lips or flick his tongue out
  • Yawn
  • Lick or chew at himself
  • Sneeze
  • Wriggle to get away
  • Hold his body tense
  • Shake off vigorously when you let go
  • Show a half of moon of white in his eye
  • Wag his tail stiffly

If you ever hear yourself saying, "my dog just loves the kids, they can do anything to him", then take a close look and see what the dog is really saying. In the vast majority of cases, the dog will be saying (at least some of the time), "I don't like this, please make it stop". You love your dog, so why would you want him to have to tolerate hugs when it makes him uncomfortable? You love your kids, so why not teach them this simple safety rule: pet dogs with one hand.

Prevention is the key

When the dog tells us and we don't listen, eventually he may come to the point that he just can't take it anymore and his only recourse is to use his teeth to say clearly "stop that". This is the equivalent of a person shouting "just stop it" or even giving someone a push to get them to stop being irritating. This would be a minor incident if the dog did this to another dog, but when the recipient is a child, the results can be devastating.

Be an advocate for your kids and your dog, intervene and allow only interactions that the dog truly does enjoy.

There is one safe way for kids to kiss their dog. Check out this terrific video from The Family Dog TV:

Learn More About Dog Body Language

Learn more about dog body language by taking our online course: Basic Dog Body Language, and also from the Doggone Crazy! Board Game, available in the Doggone Safe store.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tip of the Day: Learn to Tell the Tale from the Tail

Dogs Talk with Their Tails - But Can We Understand?

One of the biggest misconceptions that we hear about dog body language is that “ the dog must be happy, he is wagging his tail”. In actuality a wagging tail is one of least reliable indicators about how a dog is feeling, unless you know what to look for. It is also important to take into account the other body parts as well. A wagging tail does not always mean that a dog wants to be friends.

There are many different types of wag and there is only one type that indicates a safe dog for children to interact with. Let’s start with that one!

The Calm Wag

The calm wag is a loosely wagging tail, with the tail held below the level of the dog’s back. For breeds that naturally curl their tail over their backs, the tail will be held high, but the wag is loose. The whole dog may wag to some degree, but it is not a frantic type of wag. The calm wag, accompanied by a smiling panting face indicates a relaxed dog who may want to meet or interact with a child. If the dog stops panting and wagging, or stops panting and commences a stiffer type of wagging then this is a warning to back off. The dog has become uncomfortable with your approach. The best way to interact with the happy, panting and wagging dog is to invite him over to see you, rather than moving into his space. 

Watch this video to see the difference between a high, stiff wag (as discussed below) and a calm wag. Notice that the white dog holds his tail very high and stiff while he is meeting and sizing up the other dogs, but when he interacts with the child he holds his tail lower and wags loosely. This is an excellent demonstration of what we mean by loose versus stiff. The dog is loose with the child and stiff with the other dogs. His interaction with child is entirely appropriate and this is the type of wag we want to see in all dogs who interact with children. If you don’t see this, then intervene and redirect the dog and child to other activities.

The Propeller Wag

In the propeller wag, the whole tail goes all the way around like a propeller. This is usually reserved for greetings to special people that the dog is particularly happy to see. This dog wants to greet you and this is fine if you are adult. The level of excitement here may be too much for a child and the dog may jump, scratch or knock a small child over by mistake. It is best to wait for the dog to calm down before he is allowed to greet children.

The Whole Body Wag

Sometimes a dog is so happy and excited that the whole dog wags in a frenzy of activity. Again a dog this excited should not be allowed to interact with children until he calms down.

The High Tail

If a dog holds his tail high over his back, whether wagging stiffly or held still, this is a warning to back off. This dog is assessing the situation and is not likely to be welcoming of any invasion of his space. If your dog puts his tail up to you or your children, this could be a sign of impending trouble. He could be issuing a challenge (as seen in the photo) and may bite if further provoked. Find a behavior consultant who will use positive reinforcement-based training to help you make sure that your dog develops a more cooperative relationship with the family. Teach your children to Be a Tree right away if any dog puts his tail up to them, even if it is their own dog or a dog they know.

The Slow Wag

The slow wag, if accompanied by a generally stiff body is also a sign of danger. This dog is making a decision and he may decide that he does not want to meet you.

The Low Wag

Sometimes a dog will hold his tail very low, or between his legs and may even wag just the end of his tail. This dog is feeling very uncertain or even afraid and would prefer to be left alone.

Learn more with the online course: Basic Dog Body Language (CEUs from many different dog training and vet tech organizations). Use the discount code BBL10 to get $10 off the price of this $30 course.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tip of the Day: Supervise Kids and Dogs- Be Active Be Aware

Click to see a larger image, right click and "save as" to download

The degree of supervision required, depends on many factors. Babies, toddlers, and any children who do not follow instructions require hands on supervision if they are to interact with the dog. Such interaction should always be on the dog's terms without forcing the dog to submit. Any child that goes after a dog, pesters the dog, sits or lies on the dog, smothers the dog with hugs and kisses or is rough with the dog needs close supervision and to be removed from the dog (or the dog removed from them) when this behavior occurs (or preferably before it starts). Children that know to call the dog to them and to interact only with a dog that comes to them for attention, and who know how to interact respectfully with the dog, require less supervision the older they are.

Webinar for Parents of Toddlers

Coming up on Wed May 20, 2015, there is a live webinar with dog behavior consultant Jennifer Shryock. Jen has 4 kids and has gone through the toddler stage with several of her own dogs. She will share her expertise in this live session, with lots of practical, compassionate advice for parents. Things can change quickly with toddlers as they develop, so it is best to be proactive rather than waiting for a problem to develop.

Jen will be donating part of the proceeds from this webinar to Doggone Safe to help further spread the Be a Tree program for school children.

Click here for more info or to register.

More Tips and Information About Effective Supervision

For more information, view

Here is a video that discusses the 5 types of supervision and gives some great tips for ensuring harmony between dogs and toddlers.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tip of the Day: Teach Kids to Be A Tree So a Dog Goes Away

Dogs are stimulated by movement and noise and children are known for their movement and noise! Still, it is possible to work toward and achieve positive and comfortable relationships between dogs and kids.

One of the most valuable skills that children can learn is to stand still and “Be a Tree” if a strange dog comes near them, or if any dog is bothering them or becoming too frisky (even their own dog or a friend's or relative's dog).

Here is how to Be a Tree:

  1. Stop
  2. Fold in your branches (hand folded in front)
  3. Watch your roots grow (look at your feet)
  4. Count your breaths in your head until help comes or the dog goes away
"Trees" are boring to the dog and the dog will just sniff and then go away. No matter what the dog does, just stand still, avoid eye contact (by looking at your feet) and stay quiet.

You may have heard of other versions of being a tree involving moving hands up under the chin or under the arm pits and/or looking at the sky. We have done experiments and have consulted with many experts and have concluded that the Doggone Safe way to Be a Tree is the safest and easiest for kids to actually do. For more information on the reasons for this please click here.

Here is a video that shows how this works.

And another one. Notice that as soon as the person stops moving the dog loses interest. Please note that this video is for illustration purposes to demonstrate how well being a tree works with a frisky dog (using a teenager and a well trained dog). This is NOT a safe game for a child to play with a dog. If your dog gets too frisky and overly aroused, the kids should Be a Tree and then you should intervene and redirect the dog to another activity where he is no longer around the children.

Practice, practice, practice

It is not enough just to tell your kids about this, they need to practice it in a low stress environment to have the best chance of being able to do it under real life conditions if a dog threatens them. One way to practice is to play the Doggone Crazy! board game. Another way is to play role playing games where everyone takes tuns pretending to be a dog and the others practice being trees when the dog comes near them. You can also practice this with a stuffed dog. If you have a puppy or a small dog, you may be able to play with the real dog. Every one moves around and when the dog comes up to them they assume the tree position. The adult says the dog's name before he gets to the child and gives the dog a treat (or better still, clicks and gives the dog a treat). This way the  dog is rewarded for keeping all his feet on the ground around the kids. He will soon learn that when the kids do the tree that no-one is going to move or play with him anymore and he will see this as a cue to stop chasing or trying to play.

With a larger dog or a very frisky dog, start with the dog on a leash. Approach one of the kids in the game, the child will be a tree and you will say the dog's name, ask him to sit and give him a treat. Repeat until the dog automatically looks at you and sits when he sees a kid being a tree. Keep things calm with the kids. It is not a good idea for them to run around and get the dog all riled up.

It Works!

Here are some testimonials from people who have found being a tree to work in a real life situation with their kids:
Jake jumped back (the dog followed barking) and Jake snapped into the Tree pose so fast I thought I'd seen him turn to stone. I couldn't believe he actually thought to do it - it had been over a year since we've had time to play Doggone Crazy. The dog immediately stopped barking, jumped back into his blankie and further trouble was thus averted. Beth Wheeler, Marblehead MA
One day my [4 year old] son was outside playing, those dogs were in their house, I was standing in our doorway watching Thomas play. Suddenly the back door to the house behind us opened and out flew the dogs. The male spotted Thomas immediately and charged him, clearing the fence easily, Thomas saw this and began to run for me. I yelled immediately for him to STOP and stand like a "tree". Thankfully Thomas did both, for the dog stopped, looked around and then headed back over the fence to his own yard. Another call went out to animal control, and a big hug to my son. Kerry McDonald, Pembroke ON
As an Animal Behaviourist who has testified in numerous court cases as a designated "expert" witness in the field of canine aggression in Ontario, I came accross some information relevant to Doggone Safe when reviewing material for a recent case. The parents of a young child credited this program with saving their [3 year old] daughter's life when she was confronted by a large, aggressive acting dog. According to them, had they not taught her the principles outlined in the 'Be a Tree' program, the results of their daughter's incident with this dog could have been disastrous. This account should tell you everything you need to know about the efficacy of Doggone Safe. Kerry Vinson, Animal Behaviour Consultant, Roseneath ON

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tip of the Day: Teach Your Children to Speak Dog

Dogs are giving us information all the time about how they are feeling and what they might do next. All kids, parents and dog owners need to know how to interpret dog body language and to pay attention to what the dog is feeling, so that there will be many fewer adverse interactions with dogs. Dogs do their best to warn before they growl or snap, but most people don't know what to look for. If the dog's signals are ignored for long enough, he may eventually get to the point where he feels he has to escalate to get unwanted attention to stop. People are the same, if enough annoyances build up, you might shout or snap at someone too. Here are the key do body language signals that everyone should know. Parents, if you see these signs, intervene and give both dogs and kids some space and something else to do. Your dog will be happier and your kids safer!

Do you love this poster? Get yours today from the Doggone Safe Store for only $10 each! We will add your own logo at no extra charge.

For more information about dog body language, take our online course: Basic Body Language. CE credits from many organizations.

Check out our Speak Dog slide show: