Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dogs and Children                 

Exercises for dog owners and parents to keeps greeting safe and fun for everyone.

Children and dogs go together as naturally as peanut butter and jelly.  But a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like a great child-dog friendship, takes a little preparation. New friendships between children and dogs are more likely when both parties are having a good day, and have learned good manners and respectful greeting behaviors.  I hope these words help you prepare your dogs, and your children, for great times together.

To Parents

Parents have the ultimate responsibility for their child’s safety.

Here are some rules to follow that can help your child have safe and happy dog experiences:

a.       Ask the dog owner if the dog has experience with children your child’s age before allowing a greeting

b.      Hold your young child’s hand. If the child is likely to squeal, run, pull the dog or hit you must be ready to intercede before the child acts.

c.       If either the dog or the child seems hesitant stop the greeting in a happy, cheerful way.

d.      Always supervise interactions between your child and any dog, even your own.

Children who have good dog greeting skills don’t happen by accident.  As a parent it is important to teach your child appropriate dog greeting skills that will stay with them their whole lives.  

Rehearse the following with your child on well known, friendly dogs before (cautiously) venturing into the world of greeting strange dogs.

1.  Children should always ask permission of the dog’s owner before approaching a dog, even a dog they know.  No matter what the owner says, parents have to also assess the situation.  If you are unsure the situation is safe don’t feel badly about walking on.

2.  Children should stop several feet from the dog and let the dog approach the last few steps.  If the dog does not seek contact the child must accept that the dog wants to ‘say hello’ from a distance.

3.  Children need to learn not to grab dogs by the collar, reach over their heads or try to hug them.  Petting should be gentle, and soft.  Avoid the eyes and ears, some dogs are sensitive in these areas.

4.  Children should not approach a dog while either the dog or the child is in possession of food.

5. Children should never take anything from a dog, food, toy, or stolen object.  Children should never sit on any dog or yank on a dog.  If the dog has taken a child’s possession the child needs to inform an adult not remedy the situation themselves.

5. Children should stay calm and speak softly.  Do not squeal and run. 

6. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie is a more than a proverb; it is a great rule for greeting dogs.  Make sure the dog is awake, alert and aware of your approach before your child touches them.

Dog owner responsibility when greeting children

As the dog’s owner you have twofold responsibility.  The parents will be taking your word that your dog is reliable with children.  But, you are also the guardian of your dog.  If things go badly it is always the dog who is blamed, no matter how inappropriate the child may have been.  Be very clear with the child’s parents about your rules for greeting your dog and if it seems that the rules will not be followed politely decline their advances and walk on.

The following guidelines will help keep everyone safe and happy.

1.       Don’t Test or Practice on other people’s children.  If you are not sure your dog is going to be friendly and respectful just politely decline the greeting.   If you have treats the child can stand at a distance and gently toss them toward your leashed dog.  This is a great first step in teaching your dog to appreciate children.

2.       Be aware of how your dog is feeling every day.  Are they hot, tired, or stressed by the surroundings?  Are they on a new medication or not feeling well?  Have they had a recent scare?  All of these can make a normally happy dog cranky or distrustful.  If your dog is having a bad day, think twice before they greet children.

3.       Be aware that small children can be knocked over.  If you have a large dog, teach them to SIT or DOWN when children approach or have the children in a place where they cannot be toppled.  A park bench is a great place for a child to sit when petting a large, friendly dog.

4.       For a dog babies are different from toddlers.  Grade school children are different from teen agers.  Just because your dog likes your 13 year old daughter and her friends it does not mean they will like a 4 year old.  A dog who likes a 4 year old may be terrified by a 15 year old boy.

5.       Be aware of stress signs and watch for them when your dog encounters children.
Stress signs include, but are not limited to:

 Yawning - as if suddenly tired
 Hackles Raised- This involuntary response means your dog is upset
  Scratching while looking away
   Lip licking like they just ate or smelled food
    Eyes averted from the child or you can see the white of the eye
    Head and/or ears lowered
   Attempting to stand behind you
   Excessive drooling, sudden stiffening, hard stare, or low growl * (Don’t scold, punish or insist the dog greet. Remove the dog immediately and ask a professional for help)

 If you see any of the above halt the greeting for that day.  If it is important that your dog likes
children please consult a professional for a safe and slow desensitization program.

6.       Don’t use a retractable (flexi) leash around children.  They can catch children around the legs, torso, or even neck and cause rope burns and nore serious injury.

*Never punish or scold a growl.  The dog was uncomfortable and chose to give a verbal warning rather than bite.  This is a good thing.  Remove the dog from the situation immediately, stop and think about why your dog was uncomfortable and consider asking a professional for help.

We hope this little pamphlet keeps you safe and happy and sets everyone up for a lifetime of great dog-human friendships.

Train This Dog offers Group Classes and Private Training for the Family Pet
Day training for older dogs and Puppy Not-a-boot-camp is also available for busy owners

Behavioral clients for issues such as fear, aggression, separation anxiety, food and object guarding accepted on a case by case basis.  Please enquire.

Train This Dog                      Savannah Georgia                    
Phone: 677-2861  
Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Into Every Life a Little Rain Must Fall 
The +P and -P of Raising Puppies and Children

A few thoughts inspired by a post on Reisner Veterinary 

Behavior & Consulting Service's Facebook page

I am going out on a limb here to quote my very unscientific 

"Into each life a little rain must fall." How does that work for dog training

Aversives are something the dog or child would rather avoid. 

Sometimes the dog does not want to sit, sometimes the child does not want to pick up her room. If the parent or trainer insists the child or dog perform the task anyway this would be seen as an unpleasant situation to the young one.

When the task is accomplished the unpleasant stimulus goes away. (Mom backs off and allows the now compliant kid or puppy to engage in alternate, more pleasant behavior)

Why is it important to ask a dog (or child) to choose one behavior over another?

To me, SIT as an alternative to cat chasing is a form of IMPULSE CONTROL, and impluse control, is key to raising dogs and children who make good decisions.

 As a mom and a dog trainer I don't hit and I don't yell. I don't use harsh correction collars on my dogs.  There are however times that nothing happens until my canine or human subject makes the appropriate choice.  

My Focus is to help the dog develop the internal control necessary to choose appropriate behaviors, even in challenging circumstances.

Appropriate behaviors for dogs include Sit, Down, Stay, Wait, Come, and walking calmly on leash without pulling or barking.

Am I a 100% positive trainer? Probably not. My goal is to be a firm, fair, consistant trainer who rewards good behavior often enough that I rarely have to stop everything in order to halt poor decisions.

7 month old Puppy Wilkes making good choices
Trained, in this instance, by Twiz the Cat.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Foster Based Rescue - How to find a great family dog

 Moonpie and Jake

Looking in old photo albums there is usually a family dog who belonged to our grandparents.  The intelligence of these dogs, their kindness and humor, is legendary.  My grandfather's dog was named Tex.  Tex was wise, funny, and always kind despite his huge size and un-neutered condition.

He spent his first weeks in a box in the kitchen with his mother and siblings.  Before he left this home he was picked up, hugged by children, scolded by a cat, and ate a little bit of dirt and a few sticks. People dropped things around him, children ran in and out shouting and let the door slam  My grandfather purchased him for less than the price of a Starbucks coffee.  Tex never had a leash.  He followed his family when they were around and entertained himself when they were not.  He never bit anyone, did not eliminate in the house, and knew a few tricks.  By the standards of the 1920's he was a complete success.

Things have changed a lot for people and dogs in the last 100 years.

In 1915 cars were a rarity, 30% of the labor force worked in agriculture, and the American Kennel Club was only 31 years old.

Time was a lot less structured.  Dogs went to work with Dad or stayed home with Mom.  Leash laws were only found in the largest of cities.  It was completely acceptable to let your dog run down to the school at 3:00 to meet the kids or entertain itself outdoors when you were busy.

During its unsupervised rambles a dog would learn about people, other dogs, and large and small livestock.  Animals that were friendly and had some natural impluse control grew up and produced the next generation of friendly, behaviorally sound dogs.  Animals that killed cats and chickens, growled at strangers and fought with other dogs tended not to last long enough to pass along their DNA.

Today, the world grows more crowded and animal isolation increases with leash laws, fenced in yards, and households where no one but the dog is home during the day.  Solid family pets of no particular breeding are spayed and neutered.  Puppies are produced via 'arranged marriages". The candidates are selected on the basis of conformation or specialized skills.  Rarely are amiability and a calm disposition the most important trait for breeders.

"She's a little snarky, but look at that head!" And so the look of the dog takes precedence over temperament.

So how does someone find that sweet dog who has learned to live with humans, enjoys other dogs and can maybe even co-exist with cats?

I have two of them looking for homes right now.  They are not my dogs, they belong to a local foster-based rescue.

What is a foster based rescue?  

Animal shelters in many parts of the country are terribly over crowded.  In these shelters sweet and adoptable dogs are regularly euthanized because there is not enough space.  Foster based rescues maintain close contact with animal control officials and rescue wonderful dogs who have run out of time.  These dogs are housed with volunteers, living in their homes with their children and pets.  The volunteers watch the dogs closely.  They learn their habits, work on their training and socialization, and when the dog is ready for its new home, have a hand in the placement of the dog.

The adopter gets a dog who has lived with people in a home.  The dog has received a health check-up, inoculations, and is spayed or neutered and micro-chipped.  The adoption fee rarely covers the health care the dog has received.

A great foster dog is a bargain and a treasure, and is placed carefully.  Potential adoptive homes should be prepared to submit references which will be checked.  They should expect a volunteer to visit their home and ask questions about where the dog will sleep, where it will spend it's days, how the dog will be trained, etc.  Your existing pets will get to meet the potential new pet before the adoption is approved.   If you pass muster, chances are you are a committed adoptor and the dog has found a happy, secure home.

If things don't work out a good foster organization will insist the dog is returned to them.

Does this mean you will get a 'perfect dog' from a foster?  No, each and every dog, like each and every person, carries a certain amount of baggage.  What is important is that your dog's quirks, and yours, mesh.

So what about my current foster dogs?

They have lived with me for about three weeks each and by now, like any good foster dog parent, I have a handle on their quirks.  And, as a member of a reptutable foster group, I will be honest about these quirks.

The smaller dog appears to be a chihuahua.  He is well housetrained in my home, but will need close supervision for the first few days in his new home.  He loves to cuddle and burrow in blankets.  He does well with the dogs in my house and is wonderful with our cat.  He is great in the car, and would be a fine little travel companion for an adult only home.  This dog will not do well with children under 12.  He barks at other dogs when he is on leash.  If you carry high value treats you can keep his focus on you and off of other things, or you can just pick him up and walk away, he's that small.  His backstory?  He was struck by a car and ran into a yard where three larger dogs attacked him.  A lot of people spent a lot of time and money to put this little fellow in the safe place he is today.  He will go to an excellent home.

The larger foster dog appears to be a border collie who came from a more rural area of Georgia.  He is extremely gentle but seems to be a little afraid and will flinch or leave the room if we accidently frighten him.  He would love a home with children who will be able to play with him and help him uncover the happy dog he was meant to be.  He is perfect with my dogs and elderly cat and one of the gentlest souls I've met.  He needs to be trained with treats and kindness.  He desperately needs socialization.  He needs to meet people and learn to love the car.  He is starting to play, that's a huge step forward.

Am I tempted to keep them?  Yes.  But then I can't rescue any others.  If you want a great dog call your local foster based rescue group and tell them not what breed you want, but what sort of friend you want.  They can help you find the right dog.

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka
Group and Private Training
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