Dogs, Divorce and Children.

No question about it, divorce sucks. Especially for kids. The holidays can make it even worse. Having to go to different houses or not seeing one parent on special occasions. I know, not a festive topic, but a real one for many. A proactive, fun and potentially positive way to make a bad thing better is to add a dog. On your mark, get set, ready for the PUPPY? On the wish list for many kids, but when is the right time to make that commitment? Getting a dog is a huge responsibility and must be something you, as the parent, are ready to take on. Do not, I repeat, do not expect your children to take on the duties without your total supervision. 

This largely depends on your time, past pet experience and the age of your children. If you are considering the the addition, a dog can be an amazing teacher for children and help out during an emotionally stressful time. They help teach care, unconditional love and responsibility.

All of which, becomes especially important if your family is split. Divorce is never easy, especially not for children, who are often caught in the middle. Having to split time between parents and internally knowing not everyone is happy, despite the adult emotional coverup.  If your family has gone separate ways, sometimes adding a dog can help a child redirect emotions on to a positive happy focus.

Parents can absolutely use the experience of raising, caring and loving the family dog in a proactive way. Using the daily care of a new pet can become the catalyst to teach a child compassion, time management and structure, at a time that’s unstable.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying get a dog because your getting a divorce. It’s not a cure for your child. However, the change in routine that happens when a family split’s up can be made a little more tolerable to a child by infusing a positive project. Raising a puppy or adding the right rescue dog can help bridge the adjustment of having to go to two different homes by creating a new routine with pet care. It’s helpful if both parents are on the same page and agree to apart of the pet project. The involvement of training, walking, feeding, housebreaking and even vet appointments can help the kids build into this “new” family unit.

Even if the new dog stays with one of the parents, both can be included in activities and involved in the successes of the pet. Besides, even the process of looking for a great dog is a fun experience and help children with the adjustment of the split. Check out www.petinder.com for awesome pets in your area.

More on this topic… in blog posts to come.

5 Must-Have Training Tips To Prepare Your Dog For Holidays And Children. Wild Ones.

Congrats, you made it, you have it all and your living the dream. The house, the kids and now you have the dog! Or even if you don’t and all you have are a slew of fur kids and the human kind only come to visit, I thought I’d give you some basic tips that can help around the holidays. Approximately,  5 Million children get bitten by a dog a year in the U.S. and the main culprit? The family dog. 

Unpredictable children, shy dogs and add a little food dropped on the flor and that’s a recipe for a potential disaster!  Not good or merry, if that happens.

Your dog is counting on you to create some boundaries. Dogs often see children as submissive beings. In other words, dogs see children as they would another dog. Which means they want to play, nip, chase and growl even warn or snap.You need to be aware. Not every dog is used to being around kids. Sometimes it’s a size issue others it’s an age issue and fluffy cute dogs are the biggest target.  Think about it, your relatives dog is not always socialized trained or used to being around kids.

The main thing to be careful of is furniture, dogs and small children. Dogs go underneath chairs and tables. They may growl and a young child does NOT heed to the growl.  Growl is a warning that I’m going to bite. Not if, when. 

Paws For A Minute: Holidays- Child and Dog Safety 

1. Time feed your dog.

In other words do not leave the food out at all times. Create a feeding time for your dog. Put the food down for 20 minutes and if your dog does not finish “sorry Charlie” until the next feeding. I know your thinking not a problem…my dog wolfs his food. However, some dogs may be finicky eaters and this is not a great thing around kids. You don’t want your dog to be or become food possessive, even if he never has been before!   This can be especially true with older dogs and young children. Baby gating your dog in a space so he can eat in peace helps too.

 

2. Exercise, before the feast.

A tired dog is a great dog. Especially before people come over. So best to schedule the time. If you are going to let your dog and your children play together try to tire your dog out first. I know who has the time. But really if you can play fetch or let your dog rip around the back yard for a few minutes before the kids especially toddlers go outside this will help. Large breed puppies can over power kids unless they get their ya-ya’s out first.

 

3. Walk your dog around the house for a few minutes on the leash.

Sounds crazy I know… but this is especially helpful with young exuberant dogs and toddlers or small children.  Walk around your living room and when you stop pull gently up on the leash and ask your dog to sit. This will create eye contact from your dog. Then you can praise him.

This technique sets a positive tone for your dog and calms him/her down, instead of busting into a room and mowing down a child. Children get to see the dog and perhaps give a treat in a controlled manner. If your dog goes koo-koo on the leash, then quickly pivot and say lets go. Walk a few steps to change the focus while using a upbeat voice, This will redirect the initial barking.  Lastly and obviously, if your dog simply isn’t good with children then don’t risk it.

4. No rough play

I know sorry Dad’s.  It sends a mixed signal to the dog. Avoid games like tug of war. Not good, it promotes growling.  Remember your little kids are like playmates to your dog. Therefore rough play can transfer to your dog wanting to tackle your kid.

5. Teach your dog to fetch

Create a ball-o-holic out of your dog. This is a great activity for the kids to play with the dog. Parents need to implement it first. This is a great way to bond and interact. It takes the intensity off the child and dog and onto a ball. The child gets to watch and participate. Here’s how… The key is to use one special fetch ball. Keep it in a special place and only use it during the game of fetch. When teaching your dog to fetch use anticipation as the incentive.

Ask our dog to sit. Then throw the ball as you say o.k. As your dog gets the ball, crouch down and clap your hands, praising your dog. As he runs towards you take a treat out of your pocket suddenly stand up and say sit. Your dog will spit out the ball for the treat. Then begin again. The key is to only throw the ball twice then put the ball away. The next day throw it three times, the next day four, etc.

Before your know it you will have a bona fide ball-o-hollic. Then your kids can take over and have a fun safe game to play with your dog


Is Your BabySitter Afraid Of Your Dog? 5 Must-Have Dog Owner TIps

Grabbing your keys, kissing the kids and rushing out the door, is a familiar scenario to most busy moms. Introducing your dog to your babysitter ‘formally,” is not. 

Recently, one my dog client’s babysitter asked me to please write about this topic. She explained that not everyone has trained dogs and over the years, she has been growled at by some of “the nicest dogs.”

How do you address the situation if you feel uneasy with someone’s dog? She had been babysitting for a family that had a dog that was middle aged, rather scary in appearance, at least to her, and not trained. Nothing really happened but the dogs behavior was spooky to her when owners where gone. She wasn’t sure how to deal with it.

People who are not comfortable with dogs can misinterpret a stare as having a different meaning. She was told by the owners to just ignore him, as they left to go out to dinner.

Sound familiar? Many dog owners have the “great” family dog who may be getting a little older, set in it’s ways and/or giving off a vibe that is either misunderstood or needs to be acknowledged by the people who own him.

Even if there are no new behavioral changes with your dog, often the babysitter never gets a proper introduction with the family dog. This can lead to a big misunderstanding and possible trouble. A great thing to note is that someone else’s fear can create a mixed signal for your dog, especially when you are not in the house. So it’s up to you as the owner to be aware and make sure all is cool. 

1. A great thing to do is to get your dog a regular vet check. Not just annual shots.

2. Notice behavioral changes and make sure any “new” quiet behavior is not mistaken for pain.

3. Take the time to ask your babysitter about their past dog experiences. You may find out that they like dogs (in general) but that they have been bitten in the past and are cautious.

4. Awareness is key. The more information you have the better prepared you are to ease and address issue’s you did even know existed.

5. Finally, take the time to formally introduce your dog to new babysitters, even if only for 10 minutes. Do so on Leash with treats with a great, well adjusted dog. If you have trouble brewing then a private trainer or group obedience class in a must.

I recommend doing so on a leash and show off “obedience” commands to the babysitter. The leash adds an exciting element to the process and focus and will make all, feel comfortable. Treats, of course, help finish off the introduction with some Emmy Award winning tricks. This awareness can ward off any silent problem that may have been brewing behind your back. It will create the best possible experience for everyone!