Category Archives for "Kids: 11+up"

Aspiring Veterinarian or Dog Trainer?

My 13-year-old daughter is crazy about dogs. She says she’d like to be a veterinarian or a dog trainer. What suggestions do you have for her? ~ Marina

Those are both great career choices. The best thing for her to do now is to get involved in some dog-related activities. Training a dog to do agility, rally-o, or tricks will teach her a lot about dog training and behavior. Most trainers will allow her to take a class with your dog as long as you attend with her. If possible, sit a distance away from her and let her work on her own. If your dog enjoys training and interacting with new people, your daughter may want to train the dog to be a therapy dog and take him to nursing homes and hospitals.

To be a vet, she’ll need excellent grades, particularly in math and science as well as good communication skills. Dog trainers do not need a college degree–though many have one–but the field still requires a lot of independent study of behavior and learning theory.

Introducing your daughter to dog lovers in a variety of careers–groomers, shelter/rescue workers, trainers, veterinarians, veterinary assistants, pet sitters, dog daycare providers–can help her decide what best fits her interests.

When she’s a bit older, perhaps she can do an apprenticeship to learn more about a given job. There are lots of career and volunteer opportunities open to someone who loves dogs. I’m sure she’ll find something that’s right for her.

Dog Given as a Gift!

My 17-year-old son gave his girlfriend a puppy, but her parents made her give it back. He now understands that he shouldn’t have given a puppy as a gift, but we are left trying to decide whether or not to keep the dog.

The puppy is adorable. We think she’s a boxer mix. We have a lab, and he’s doing well with the puppy. Actually everyone is falling in love with her, but I’m not sure I want to start all over with a puppy. My son swears he’ll do all the work, but he’s a junior in high school and will be going to college in a year and a half.

I’m really torn. Do you have any advice that may help me decide whether or not to keep the dog? ~ Beth

I’m glad your son has learned (albeit the hard way) that dogs should never be given as a surprise and that each person should play an active role in choosing the dog he or she will live with.

You are right that if you keep this puppy, she will be more your dog than your son’s. So think this over carefully. You should keep this dog if you find her charming and you are willing to provide 12 or more years of care. What are you are hoping for in the coming years? Do you want to be home more or less than you are now? Are you hoping to travel frequently? Are you hoping to walk daily for exercise? If so, fantastic. It sounds like this new puppy will be a wondeful addition to your family.

Don’t feel guilty if you cannot keep the dog. Good shelters and rescues work very hard to help dogs find terrific homes. The goal is not to find a dog any home, but to find a dog the right home. These groups can make that happen. (A donation would be appreciated since most shelters and rescues operate with severely limited funds.)

Is Twelve too Young to Dog Sit?

My 12-year-old daughter has been asked to care for a neighbor’s dog for a week. She won’t have to walk the dog, only play with her in their fenced-in backyard. The dog is a sweet, mid-sized spaniel mix. We also have a dog, and my daughter is good with him. Do you think she’s old enough for this job? ~ Chrissie

If your daughter is good with your dog and also knows the dog she’ll be caring for, then this might be a nice opportunity for her to take on some additional responsibility.  You will need to help her though. Go with her for the first few visits to make sure she knows what to do.

Expect that you’ll need to remind her about the dog from time to time. It’s common for kids to focus so much on what they’re actually doing that they forget what they should be doing instead.

You may also need to do either the last outing at night or the first one in the morning. Typically a 12-year-old sleeps more hours per night than a dog can comfortably hold it.

One advantage of having a preteen care for a dog is that she may have more time to hang out with the dog and play than an older child’s busier schedule would allow. Dogs get lonely when their families travel. They more than just food, water, and potty breaks, so encourage your daughter to spend some time petting and playing with the dog during her visits.

Dealing with “Rough Play” Between People and Pets

I’d like advice about how to handle a playful dog, who is very rowdy and sees the children more as his “playmates.” My husband and sons love “rough play” with our lab pup who gets very excited, but he mouths them as his very natural way to interact and roughhouse with his “littermates.”

The men and boys in the house don’t mind this, but I sure do!  It’s teaching the dog that it’s okay to nip for fun.  Then he nips my younger children when he’s excited and thinks they want to play, and he’s actually pierced skin sometimes because he obviously doesn’t know how to be more careful.  I can’t get the men in our house to stop playing with the dog this way, so how else do we teach him that nipping is not okay?

I am sure this is a common problem with the men and boys in homes.  Several acquaintances have mentioned this same problem to me.  It would be great to see more information on your site on how to handle these types of situations….overly playful dogs and teaching them the “right” ways to play with the kids. ~ Rita

Ah, Rita, I wish I had the magic answer for you. I live in a house full of males (husband and three sons), and it’s really difficult to convince them to moderate their behavior so that they don’t rile the dogs to the point of inappropriate behavior.

I haven’t given up though! I always teach people to recognize stress signals because I think it’s important to be able to recognize them. So I’ll say things like, “Ooh, ‘getting a lot of half-moon eye there. Time to bring it down a notch.” (Half-moon eye is when you see the whites of a dog’s eyes. There are some stress signals shown on my website in both video and photo form.)

I also talk about how it’s really hard for a dog to know what he can and can’t do with any given individual. If my 15-year-old riles the dog up and gets him jumping and mouthing, how is the dog supposed to know that he shouldn’t jump on and mouth the kids when I take him to preschools? It’s really unfair to blame a dog for not having sophisticated reasoning, but a lot of people think the dog should know that he can only do these activities with certain people. How is the dog supposed to figure that out other than trial and error?

Teach your husband and sons to “be a tree” when the dog starts getting too excited. (The tree pose is with feet firmly planted, hands clasped and held close to the body, and eyes looking down at toes. This gives clear guidance of what to do, rather than what not to do.) This body language is a cut-off signal for a dog, and most respond quickly to it.

Encourage everyone to play games with toys like fetch to keep the dog’s energy focused and channeled. Even tug can be a great game as long as you set some rules.

If you happen upon the brilliant solution to this age-old problem, I would love to hear it!  It’s definitely a common problem.

Good luck with your guys!

Should I Get a “Replacement Dog?”

My 12-year-old daughter would really like us to get another dog. She loves all dogs and  is very attached to our 10-year-old cocker. The cocker has had some health issues this year, so I’m worried about how my daughter will react when he dies. Is it better to get a second dog now or wait? ~ Carolyn

There isn’t a perfect answer to this question. As a teen, I was in a similar situation and convinced my mother that we should get a “companion dog” so we’d never be in the position of getting a “replacement dog.” I was very upset when my 15-year-old dog died, and, for me, it was very helpful to have another dog I was already devoted to.

You really have to consider if you would like a second dog and whether it would be too stressful for your cocker. Some older dogs are really bothered by puppy antics, so you may want to consider adopting an adult dog.

If you decide to get a second dog, remember that age has its privileges. Be sure that your cocker gets plenty of breaks from the new dog as well as some special one-on-one time. It may seem that helping the new dog settle into the household takes all your attention, but make an effort to show your older dog how much you love and appreciate him too.

My Dog is a Tripping Hazard?

We have a busy household with three teens, and our dog, Cargo, loves everyone—sometimes too much. He always wants to be in the middle of the action.
My mother-in-law is coming to live with us because she is having trouble getting around with her walker. She loves dogs, but I’m worried about her tripping over Cargo. I don’t want to yell at him for being friendly, but my mother-in-law can’t risk a broken hip. ~ Mary

Dogs are quite perceptive. I would not be surprised if Cargo intuitively gives your mother-in-law the space she needs.

Borrow the walker and practice teaching your dog a “move away” cue. You can teach him not to approach anyone using the walker, but that he’s allowed to approach when the person sits down. That way he can visit with your mother-in-law without tripping her. For the first few weeks, carry treats in a fanny pack so that you can reward him for being gentle and appropriate. He’ll soon learn that he needs to moderate his behavior around her.

Be sure that he gets lots of exercise too, so that he can burn off his excess energy in appropriate ways and won’t be quite so likely to be underfoot all the time.

photo by: Sahsha Kochanowicz Photography

Touched-Out Teachers Have Dogs Too

http://www.tgfoto.com/​​​Today's post is written by Debra Murray of Smartypaws Dog Training.

​While chatting with a teacher friend today, it was brought to my attention that teachers with dogs and kids have some unique challenges when adjusting to back-to-school schedules.  All day teachers pour their energy into other people's children and come home to their own households and families with important physical and emotional needs that must be met.  

Then, the family dog, who had access to people, play, and ample potty breaks throughout the summer, is ready for rambunctious interaction or inseparable snuggles.  Yet teacher parent is tired and touched out.  They just need a few moments to breathe without the world around them urgently demanding something every single second.

Dear Teachers,

I hear you! I hope these 6 suggestions* can help you find at least 15 minutes of calm in the craziness of raising kids and dogs together while teaching and inspiring our children daily.

(Good news!  You don’t have to be a teacher to try these Back-to-School Doggy Dinners.)

  • Take-Out (scatter feeding):  Let the dog out to potty when you get home while you get the kids and their school stuff situated.  Let pup back in and send the kids out with dog’s dinner.  Have the kids toss and scatter doggy’s food around the backyard.  Call the kids in, then send the dog out for dinner.
  • Tasty Tosser (kibble toss):  This can make some of my teacher friends cringy, but ideally the mess that is made will be cleaned up by the dog.  Children of just about any age can participate in this feeding fun.  Separate dog and children with a sturdy baby gate.  You can take a seat on either side of the gate – probably closer to whichever “animal” needs you most, but being on the same side as your child is optimal.  Have your young kiddo pour dog food in a pile on the floor next to where you are seated sipping cider and gathering your thoughts.  Of course, you can keep the kibble in a bowl or container next to you if you prefer, and sip whatever you choose.  Encourage the child to grab a piece or handful of kibble and toss over the gate to the dog.
  • Homework Helper:  Since doggy snuggles can be nice, sit on the sofa and snuggle and scratch your pup the way you enjoy lovin’ together.  You can play, too if that helps settle your stress.  Use a baby gate to keep pup from interrupting the kids if necessary.  Have the kids practice their letters, spelling words, or math facts by writing them with kibble on the kitchen floor.  When they are finished, switch your snuggle partner.
  • Burrowing Blankie: This is similar to scatter feeding, but indoors and a little different.  Have kids spread dog’s food on the floor while pup is outside or with you in a different room.  Let them lay a blanket or towel over the food for Fido to burrow under and find his feast.  They can use more blankets and towels and spread the food out farther. 
  • Jr. Trainer (hand feed):  Let older children (8+) who have helped with training hand-feed Fido as a training exercise.  Instruct the child to ask for basic behaviors the dog knows well (e.g.,  sit, down, find), and feed or toss a piece of kibble when dog responds correctly.  It’s important only older children who won’t tease or frustrate pup implement this strategy.
  • Brain Toys and Puzzles:  Have kids fill food puzzles and let pupper play engaging in mealtime enrichment.  Check out Smartypaws January and February blogs with mealtime enrichment ideas:  https://www.smartypaws.net/blog/57-enrichment-feeders-for-enriching-the-new-year.html

* The above suggestions are for family-friendly dogs without a history of resource guarding or aggression.

 * Keep dogs and kids separated when eating (except older children for hand feeding)

* Always supervise kids and dogs and remember baby gates are not a substitution for supervision.

Debra L. Murray of SmartyPaws

About the author:  

Debra L. Murray is the owner of Smartypaws LLC Dog Training and Family Education in Lee’s Summit, MO.  She is a licensed educator for Family Paws Parent Education, AKC Canine Good Citizen and S.T.A.R. Puppy Evaluator, professional member of Heartland Positive Dog Training Alliance, and presenter for Good Dog in a Box Dog Smart Education.

Debra also is a homeschooling mom committed to promoting safety and creating harmony between dogs and their families. Currently, she has a rescued Great Pyrenees/Border Collie mix named Dolly, a husband of 20+ years, and 3 beautiful children.

​Photo credits: Child spelling "dog" with kibble by Sahsha Kochanowicz Photography, photo of Debra Murray by Tim Galyean

2 teenager and dog

Scared of Teen

We just adopted a new dog. Bailey’s sweet and gentle with everyone. He really loves my 10-year-old son, but he seems a bit worried about my 15 year old. Whenever Trevor moves toward him, Bailey gets up and walks away. It hurts Trevor’s feelings. What can I do to help Bailey understand that he doesn’t need to be anxious around my teenage son? ~ Susan

Susan: Your teen’s body language and behavior now more like a man’s than a boy’s. Many dogs are more anxious around men than around women and children. Remind Trevor that dogs interpret straight-on approaches as more threatening than arcing, sideways movements. Perhaps in his eagerness to befriend Bailey, he is inadvertently scaring him by approaching too directly. Ask him to move a bit more slowly around the dog and to be aware of how he can make the dog feel more comfortable.

Sign up for a positive-reinforcement training class for Trevor and Bailey. Trevor can use delicious treats to train Bailey to spin, rollover, and give a high-five. Working on a few fun tricks will strengthen the relationship between your son and the dog. Take things slowly. Soon your dog will understand that everyone in his new family is gentle and caring, and that he has no reason to worry.