Thinking about adopting a dog, but are concerned about the kids? How about if you just adopted a dog and aren’t 100% confident about how to integrate the dog in the household? These questions can be intimidating, for sure, but these 10 key points we point out here can help tremendously with your anxiety, and with your new dog’s perspective of your children.
1.) Positive Associations
The best thing you can do to have your dog see your child(ren) as a positive thing is to associate their presence with something the dog truly values. Most of the time, that super high value item is food. It can be as basic as their kibble that they go crazy over, or a little more interesting like pieces of bacon leftover from breakfast, cheese, or nips of steak. Although, not every dog yearns for food. Some dogs would do just about anything in their power to get a ball. Or a scratch under the chin. The only problem is, sometimes toys create an over-aroused state of excitement (which isn’t good when it comes to children), and petting involves being in close proximity, which increases the chance for the dog to become nervous. We want to minimize risk at all angles possible. So even if your dog isn’t crazy about food, chances are, he/she will eat it if presented. Each and every time your little one is in the presence of your dog, have high value tid bits out. If your dog is in the crate, have your child pass by, and drop in some food. Have the ‘high value’ food bits present ONLY when the child is around. After the child leaves, then no more super high value treats. We want the dog to equate the child with real good things.
2.) SUPERVISION. ALWAYS!
This goes without saying. Having been in many homes with children, as well as being a parent myself, I’ve seen exactly just how quickly something can happen. The time it takes to go to the bathroom could be more than enough time for shenanigans to be pulled and a dog to be stressed. Unless you are actively supervising, or able to address/manage anything that could come about, have the dog in his crate! We want the dog and our kids to develop habits that will strengthen the relationship, instead of making choices that are otherwise dangerous. The crate is such a useful tool, and probably the least utilized. Get a long-lasting chew (from our friends at www.bestbullysticks.com) and stick him in the crate with something to do! Chewing is a natural boredom and stress reliever, so, a long lasting chew is one of our main go-to’s when trying to preoccupy your dog in the crate. Not sure how to get your dog to settle down in the crate? Check out our blog: http://thek9coachblog.com/how-to-stop-dog-barking/
3.) YOUR CHILDREN’S BEHAVIOR MATTERS
This will sound a bit harsh, but it holds truth and needs to be seriously considered: If you cannot gain control of your child who speaks the same language as yourself, and they don’t respect the rules you have in place, how will your dog? Many, many times I’ve gone into client’s homes, and the children are bouncing off the walls, shrilling, and “having fun”. Just like how we teach puppies that there is a time and a place for excitable behavior, the children need to learn the same—if anything for the dog’s sake. Loud, excitable behavior will get the dog excited and/or stressed. If we don’t want the dog to jump or get rambunctious around the kids (or worse–get stressed), then the kids need to be productive around the dog. Sure, kids get excited and this isn’t to say they can’t! But, teach a time and place. If the kids want to play with the dog indoors, then turn it into a game of recall. The child calls the dog’s name (maybe moves away from the dog), and rewards the dog when it gets to them.
4.) HAVE THE KIDS TRAIN THE DOG
The best way to open communication is through obedience training. Have your dog follow through with a command given by your child. If your dog doesn’t know any commands (or doesn’t know them fluently), bait their hand with some food, and “lure” the dog into various positions, like sit, down, and place. Luring basically encompasses the concept of, “Where the head goes, the body will follow”. If the dog doesn’t immediately try to nip the baited hand, take the hand full of food, and having it right at the dog’s nose, have your child guide him into different positions, releasing the food when the dog performs. This creates a focused and interested mindset in the dog, rather than just mindless. A lot of dogs see the children in the family as roommates, or little “ATMs” that dispense treats every now and then—not anyone they need to respect and listen to. Training helps the dog realize he needs to listen to everyone in the house–not just mom and dad.
5.)TALK TO US, OR ANOTHER REPUTABLE TRAINING SPECIALIST
This most certainly is a ‘tip’ you can use! There is so much information out there on training your dog, it can be intimidating. Add a kid (or kids) into the equation and the intimidation doubles! You want to know what is going to work for your dog to permanently create better behaviors/associations, and what will work for your unique family dynamic. How does one find a ‘reputable’ trainer in a virutally unregulated industry? Check out the International Association of Canine Professionals. The trainers in this organization are highly educated and versed in various methods/tools to use what works for your dog. Visit their website, and find a trainer in your area: www.canineprofessionals.com
Bringing a newly adopted dog home shouldn’t be scary! If you’re ever concerned, contact us, or a trainer in your area!
Welcome to Fun Fridays! This is a new blog category specifically designed to help parents provide something productive and interactive for their children and the family dog. What better day of the week to introduce new tips and fun tricks than on a Friday? You get the whole weekend to help the kiddos engage productively with the family dog!
So for this first, exciting post, I wanted to talk about a tool that kind of sets the pace for the rest of the future blogs. It’s called the Lickety Stik (yes, spelled s-t-i-k). This is a liquid dog treat that is dispensed through a rolling ball on the tip. Let me explain not only why this is such a useful tool for the dog, but how it can be something fun for the kids, too!
Who doesn’t love giving their dog a reward? I know when it comes to training the dog, my daughter is all about the treats! Although, I’m not the biggest fan of puppy teeth or excited nips to snag her skin though—and neither is she. Whenever it comes to anything that smells good, the dog’s first instinct is to eat it—which involves chewing—which involves teeth. Not good for the little ones! Sure, we can teach the dog to “take it nice”, but if we have a 2 year old who is still learning to talk, the dog might not get that memo. So, we need something where the dog doesn’t need his teeth when we provide a reward, but what? The Lickety Stik! The dog has to actually lick the rolling ball in order to get the taste of the treat. Licking, also, is a submissive and calm behavior. In a way (if used consistently), it teaches the dog to calmly lick something from us, rather than rapidly snatch it up. So, benefit #1, no teeth!
Secondly, I know personally that when I’m training a dog with food, my hands get covered in goopy dog food or dog treat crumbs and dog saliva. Glamorous, I know. I can’t count how many times I’ve done laundry just to find disintegrated dog treats in my pockets. Dog trainer problems, I know, but I bet it’s happened to other folks as well! Now, where things get interesting—the kids. If you’re working with a soft, high-value reward that tends to get messy, then you bet the kids are going to get messy (or curious)! So, this tool takes out all of that messy, goopy grossness. The dog can lick the stik, and we keep our hands clean! This little tool fits perfectly in your pocket, purse—basically anywhere! It’s so portable that there’s no reason you can’t have a means of rewarding your dog’s good behavior.
There are several other benefits to this tool, including how long it lasts, how it equates to approx. 1 calorie for every 5 licks, and more. But let’s get into the fun stuff!
So, a lot of times, the family dog is nervous around the youngsters. Our children are energized and excited, and want to play with the dog, but we want to make sure that the dog has a positive association with the child. This tool is very easy for little hands to grasp, and it’s fun to give to the dog! With appropriate supervision, have your child provide this special treat to your dog. Have the dog approach the child—not the other way around. Over time, with teaching our kids to be calm, this will help the dog come out of his/her shell without—once again—getting nipped or dirty in the process.
Is your dog perfectly fine with the kids? Then lets teach some fun stuff! Use this tool just like how you would any treat. You can use it to “lure” the dog into different positions (such as sit, roll over, and spin around). The lure basically means where the head/nose goes, the body will follow. Keep the lickety stik right at the dog’s nose, and lure the dog around into different positions. Your kid will have fun interacting with the dog and being able to hold the lickety stik, and the dog will learn to engage with the child!
You can also use this to teach the dog to come when called. With kids, I like to make the “come” command a really fun game to teach. While holding the lickety stik, have your child call the dog (help the dog if you need to, mom!) and when the dog reaches the child, have the child reward! Going on a walk? Although there are different ways and methods to teach a dog to walk nicely without pulling, it can be your child’s responsibility to reward the correct position! Whenever the dog is next to you (or your child), have them reward!
The possibilities are endless with this tool. It can be bought anywhere online if you just search for “Lickety Stik”. It comes in a variety of flavors such as Bacon, Cheese, Peanut Butter, Liver, Chicken, and Beef! Look into ordering one (or a few) for your family to set you up for the fun tips we are going to provide on this blog in the future!
With this being the first blog with our new “Mommy Monday” series, what better place to start than with one of our favorite (and most convenient) commands, “place”?
The “place” command, when fully understood from the dog, is a designated area for the dog to park it and relax—regardless of what’s going on around him/her. I know there have been many times where my dogs were curious about what I was cooking, curious about what my daughter was doing (or eating), excited when I have guests come over, or maybe even a combination of all of those scenarios! The place command has saved me so much stress because I know my dogs are in 1 spot, and I don’t need to keep looking over my shoulder. How nice would it be to have your kids be able to play, or have their snacks, or have their friends over, and the dog can still be a part of the gathering, just not all up in everyone’s business? As mothers, we are already carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Whether you have 1 child, or more, their care comes first, and sometimes because of that, our dogs take the back seat. Definitely unintentionally, but it happens from time to time. Let’s talk about what the place command does, go into a little more detail about when/where it’s useful, and how to teach it!
So this command typically involves an elevated dog bed, or some other elevated platform. Why should it be elevated rather than a typical dog bed or blanket? Simply because it’s a definitive boundary. Each time the dog steps up onto, or down off of the bed, he/she is making a conscious decision to do so. With a towel or rug, It’s pretty difficult for the dog to decipher when he’s fully on it or off it, so to avoid confusion on the dog’s behalf, we use an elevated dog bed. They can be purchased for as little as $20 online—and I know us moms are always trying to stay in a budget! Anyway, whenever the dog has all 4 feet up on this bed, we recognize/reinforce it. The dog is allowed to stand up, sit down, lay down, roll around, so long as he doesn’t step off the bed before released, nor bark, or jump up on people who approach. Over time, the dog realizes that it’s a lot better off to just lay down. So eventually, the dog starts to make the associations on his/her own that “place” is as area to relax. We “proof” this behavior around different distractions and for varying durations, (which we’ll get into in just a minute), but through several repetitions of this command, the dog begins to learn that when they make the conscious decision to step up onto this bed, then they are going to relax. We would even encourage giving a long-lasting, high quality chew or toy that the dog only gets while on place, to further solidify the positive association, and give something productive to do! Also, since the dog is consciously making a decision to stay on the bed, we are engaging his cognitive (or “thinking”) skills. Even if he is laying there doing nothing, he is still using his brain—which provides mental stimulation.
When/where can this be used? Sure, we mentioned a few key scenarios earlier, but really think at the value this command has. Fixing dinner? Place. Eating dinner? Place. Do you have a toddler who drops food or likes to feed the dog at the table? Place! Having a movie/game night? Place! At a park or outdoor game, and need your dog to chill out for a few minutes? Give the place command on a park bench! Dog bolt out the front door when someone comes over? Place! We like to think of this command as a “cure all” command. Instead of working on a laundry list of nuisance behaviors, the “place” command helps with all of those areas, while teaching just 1 command! Sounds great, right? Well let me be the first to say, that this command has saved me stress many times while raising my daughter. When she was learning how to crawl, my dogs were very curious about this little person wiggling on the ground, but, I used the “place” command so that they could still be integrated in her upbringing without being on her. Let’s face it—even a curious, calm dog can unintentionally hurt a child—the dog could accidently step on the baby, sharp nails could pose a potential risk, etc. So, although we stay vigilent, this command kind of takes away all of that extra stress that doesn’t need to be there.
So with all of that said, we are ready to start the training process! I mean, who doesn’t want to have less stress in their life when it comes to our kids and dogs? I’d like to take all the easy, calm nights I can get with my puppy and my 4 year old, that’s for sure! But let me just say that sometimes, our schedules interfere with the consistency that’s needed for the dog to truly understand this command. We have jobs (be it out in the workplace or stay-at-home), we are tending to our child(ren), our spouse/significant other, and trying to find some time for ourselves—if that exists! So, one of the best ways to achieve this command, and have 100% consistency is through our Board & Train program. Although, not everyone has the ability to release their dog for 2-3 weeks for training, which is where these step-by-step instructions come into play! But remember, this takes consistency. Some dogs have learned this command without the use of corrections, but they are few and far between, so it’s recommended that this command is utilized with a “balanced” approach to training—where we heavily reward the right decisions (or guide the dog into making the right decision), and correcting direct and deliberate disobedience. Keep in mind, when your dog is learning the command for the first time, he/she is not being disobedient—they don’t know the rules yet—so applying a correction in the first few steps is unfair to your dog. Moving on! Here is the step-by-step procedure to teaching your dog the “place” command:
1.) Ensure your dog isn’t distracted. If you’re home and the kiddos are running around, then you might want to wait until they are taking a nap, or doing homework, or preoccupied so you can have the dog’s full attention and concentration. Also, make sure your dog is hungry. We use the dog’s food drive to our advantage, and if the dog just had their dinner, then he/she isn’t very motivated to want to work. So it’s best to begin this (and other) training before a dog’s meal, and use a mixture of the dog’s food and some high value treats to reward good decisions.
2.) With the dog on leash, you’re going to walk him up onto the bed and feed. Don’t worry about giving the command at first, you just want the dog to learn that stepping up onto the bed is good. Walk him off the bed and repeat. If your dog is fluently going up onto the bed without hesitation, then you can start pairing the behavior with the command. So as he’s stepping up onto the bed, you’re going to give the “place” command, reward when all 4 feet are on the bed, and give the “free” command and guide him off. You’re essentially teaching him that when you say the “place” command, it means all 4 feet go up onto the bed, and when you say the “free” command, it means that he can step down off the bed.
3.) Once your dog has no problem going up onto the bed, then you’re going to incorporate Duration, or how long he/she is on the bed for. At this point, the reward comes when the duration is completed. For example, you walk the dog up to the place bed and say “place”, then count to 3, THEN reward, and release. You’re showing him that the reward is earned after he’s performed the designated duration time. Make sense? We suggest you set the dog up for success and build on small successes. 3 seconds, then release. 5 seconds, then release. 10 seconds, then release. 15 seconds, then release. And so on. If at any point your dog steps off the bed before you say “free”, you’re going to immediately mark that decision with the word “no” bring him right back to the place bed and remind him of the command. If the dog gets off the bed and you have to put him/her back on it, don’t give a reward. Rewards come for A+ performances, not after the dog made a mistake.
4.) Once you’ve got your duration down, then you’re going to incorporate distance—or how far from the bed you are. If you only practice this command when you’re right next to the dog, then he’s going to learn to stay on the bed when you’re right next to him. So, just like how we slowly increased our duration, we are going to slowly increase our distance. Walk 1 foot away from the bed, then go back, reward and release. Then 2-3 feet. Then 5 feet. Remember, the reward comes after the dog has completed the task at hand. Also, don’t get in the habit of always facing your dog, because once again, the dog will learn to stay on the bed while you’re looking at him. So get used to turning your back on him and walking away. Use a mirror if you have to so you can keep an eye on him. Your dog will definitely break the command a lot more in this phase, so if/when he does, you’re going to once again immediately mark it with a “no” and bring him right back to the bed and say “place”. With this phase, you can also practice going into other rooms/out of sight of the dog, but remember to always go back to him to reward/release him!
5.) The final phase of this command incorporates distraction work. In this phase, with each new level of distractions, we are going to go back and re-introduce our distance and duration as well. If your dog has held the command for the duration of a movie with you sitting a few feet away from him, we can’t hold those same expectations if we’ve never put him around fast moving people/dogs or when we drop food on the ground. Each new time the dog is introduced to something new, we have to teach him how to behave, rather than hold an expectation. Start off with small distractions, like someone walking by, or tossing food on the ground. You’re going to incorporate your same leash/collar correction, but if the dog makes the right choice of staying, you’re going to heavily reward. Just being outside poses a lot of different distractions itself! The smells, sights, and sounds are enough to get your dog to be curious. With each success, heighten the criteria. If your dog did well with someone walking by, then have someone jogging by. If all is well with that, then go to a quieter area of a park and practice. Take your dog to the playground with the kids when there aren’t a lot of other kids there and practice. The different distractions you can use to your advantage are limitless!
Now, a few key things to keep in mind: 1-have these sessions short and sweet. No longer than 10-15 minutes at a time. 2—do not do anything that can be perceived as punishment or negative on place (eg. If the dog doesn’t like nail trims, don’t trim them on place.) 3—don’t give the command unless you’re prepared to reinforce it. 5—have the kids be a part of the process! You want the dog to listen and respect everyone in the house, so if you’re up for it, have the kids learn how to do this process too, so the dog has an equal amount of respect towards you and the kids!
Remember that each dog learns differently and that the ‘consequence’ for breaking place can vary from dog to dog. One of my dogs responds to a simple verbal reprimand—no actual consequence is needed for her. My male on the other hand is a little more head strong and free-willed. Regardless, the training—be it the rewards and corrections—have to make sense to the dog for the dog to fully understand right from wrong. If you’re going to correct your dog for breaking the place command, then you had best be prepared to reward for going to/staying on the bed just as frequently—if not more frequently.
Sure this sounds like a lot of work—and it definitely is when you have the kiddos to keep track of. But regardless if you make the investment of time and consistency and train the dog yourself, or the monetary investment of a board and train to really solidify this command, you will have so much less stress to worry about because you know your dog is staying in one place and able to be a part of the gathering/environment without being confined to a crate, or engaging in “