Category Archives for "Kids: 3-6"

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

close up of young boy

Difficulty Speaking Leads to Miscommunication

My 6-year-old son is receiving intensive speech therapy. He gets frustrated when our dog doesn’t respond when he asks him to sit. I don’t think the dog knows what he is saying, but I don’t want to tell him that as we are encouraging him to speak as much as possible. Any idea how to bridge the gap? ~ Sofie

Dogs communicate primarily through body language. It’s quite likely that you already use some sort of body-language cue to ask the dog to sit. Most people have a tendency to both verbally say a cue and do some sort of physical signal.

Figure out what signals your dog looks for. You may want to have a few solo practice sessions so that your dog will be good at a few simple tricks (e.g., sit, down, spin, and shake) before your son starts working with him.

Help your son practice these skills using the physical cue only (no words yet). Use amazing treats so that your dog thinks working with your son is the best game ever. When your dog is good at responding to your son’s physical cues, then you can encourage your son to use verbal cues as well.

Ask your son to say “sit,” and then do the physical cue for sit. (Stay actively involved at first so you can make sure the dog responds–perhaps by giving the physical cue again behind your son’s back.) When the verbal cue comes first, the dog will begin to anticipate the physical cue and may respond even before it occurs.

Soon your dog will sit when your son asks, even though your son’s words sound different from how the other family members say it. And if you continue have fun practice sessions with tasty treats, your dog may soon respond to your son better than he does to anyone else, which can be very exciting for a child.

Don’t have any idea what physical cues you use?

One simple way to figure out what kind of body language you use to communicate with your dog is to stand like a toy soldier, stiff with your arms at your side, and ask the dog to sit. If the dog doesn’t sit, relax your body and repeat the cue. What changed? Odds are that you nodded your head forward and moved one of your hands either upward or in a pointing motion at the dog. Notice what seems natural—that’s what your dog is watching for.

puppy

Is Her Fear Controlling Her … Or Me?

I have 6-year-old twins: a girl and a boy.  My daughter is afraid of dogs, so I just adopted from the Humane Society a puppy 5 lb. terrier mix who will stay small and is very sweet. 

Hannah will pet Dory if someone is holding her, but she’s still terrified if the puppy is on the ground loose. She will scream and stay on the couch—even if I have Dory on a leash.

She says she “loves” Dory and can’t wait to come home the see her, but once there, it’s another story.  I don’t want to be an enabler and give into my daughter’s control issues.

Hannah will only pet Dory if someone is holding her, and she’s even told me Dory needs to go the crate or she won’t come out of her room.

I know she is afraid; I used to be the same way until my parents got me a dog.  Should I make her stay in my bedroom with me with the dog running loose even though I know she will freak out? I feel if I don’t do this then she will never try to do more than she is doing now because of fear, but I don’t want to terrorize her either.  ~ Sarah

I think this is too much, too soon for Hannah. I don’t recommend getting a dog for a child who is afraid of dogs until after we’ve done some significant ground work to help decrease the child’s level of fear. If you haven’t seen a big improvement within a week, I would seriously consider returning the dog and enlisting some professional help to deal with your daughter’s anxiety. There is a possibility that being forced to interact with the dog can make her fears worse, not better.

The biggest challenge is that dog behavior seems unpredictable to frightened children. By asking you to hold Dory, Hannah is really asking you to ensure nothing unpredictable or scary happens.

If you want to make this work, then I think you’ll have to do everything you can to make their interactions calm and controlled (which can be challenging with a puppy!). Give Dory lots of exercise and plenty of tempting things to chew, so that she won’t be too bouncy around Hannah.

Since your son isn’t worried about Dory, have a conversation with both kids in which they say what they like best and least about dogs in general and about Dory in particular. It’s nice for kids to be able to say that they like some things and not others. Add your own thoughts to the list. Maybe hearing from the two of you will help Hannah see some of Dory’s more enticing traits while accepting that “nobody’s perfect,” so it’s perfectly okay to not like every little thing about her.

Encourage your son to do some basic training with Dory using treats to make it fun. (More info and ideas in Puppy Training for Kids.) Have Hannah watch from the couch. Once she sees that there are ways to interact with puppies that encourage calm and appropriate behavior, she may start to warm up a bit.

P.S. Don’t let either of your kids carry the puppy around. It’s tempting to treat a small dog as a toy, but most dogs are very uncomfortable being carried by a child and many learn to wriggle (and sometimes snap) as a way to be put down. That won’t help Hannah at all.

terrier mix

New Friend or Unwelcome Interloper?

I rescued my dog, Benji, a terrier mix, about a year ago. At the time there were no children in the household. However I now have a 4 year old stepson, Anthony, and a baby on the way, and we are noticing some upsetting behavior from Benji.

He regularly growls when my stepson gets too close and has bitten his foot when he steps over Benji. Benji does ok when Anthony gives him treats and will do tricks for rewards.

I am unsure if I should continue to foster positive interaction or try to separate the two to be safe. We currently have Benji sleeping in his crate at night to avoid any late night unsupervised interaction.

Thanks in advance for your help. ~ Teresa

Teresa: That's a lot of change for Benji in only one year. Based on what you’ve said here, I don’t think you need to keep Benji and Anthony completely apart. Instead pay particular attention to the things that are challenging for Benji.

For example, I would prevent Anthony from ever stepping over Benji and also figure out how close is “too close.” Having a mental image of where the line is allows you to intervene earlier, before they are too close to one another.

Whenever they’re in close quarters, you can distract one or the other to add a bit of distance and extra comfort.

Try to think of their interactions as a traffic light. The more you provide help and support in the yellow zone, the more comfortable the two of them will be with one another. The trick is learning to identify the signs of stress that come before Benji hits the red zone and feels the need to growl or bite.

Ideally interactions between kids and dogs should follow the same guideline as play dates with other kids: “Always leave them wanting more!” That’s so much better than burning out and getting cranky.

Give this a try for a few weeks and let me know how it goes.

 

 

Loves Kids, Hates Adults

My dog loves kids. He’s great with my two boys (4 and 6) and all of their friends. But he’s really uncomfortable with adults. He often growls when a parent comes over to pick up their child after a playdate.

One mom won’t let her son play here anymore. How can I make these parents understand that that Sparta would never hurt their kids?
~ Gail

Gail: Get a trainer to help—soon! You need to work on changing his emotional state so that he enjoys having people come over, regardless of their age.

When Sparta growls, he’s warning that he could become aggressive, so it’s very important that you work with a professional to help you design a behavior-modification plan. You’ll use a combination of training and management techniques to prevent Sparta from feeling the need to growl.

We all get better at what we practice, so don’t let him practice growling at your guests. When you are unable to train, put Sparta in another room. Don’t punish him for growling though. We do not want to eliminate his warnings; we want to change how he feels about adults.

This is a very serious issue. Even though Sparta is gentle and kind with children, it’s completely understandable that parents would be uncomfortable about having their kids play at your house. I wouldn’t let my kids go to a house where a dog growled at me. So, enlist the services of a good dog trainer and get to work. Otherwise you may find that all playdates happen at other homes.