Dogs + Kids = Bites! Yikes!


The kids playing with the family dog is a classic scene, it evokes warm fuzzy feelings. Sadly the warm fuzzies are replaced with fear and pain if the family dog bites a child. In today’s world a dog that bites is very often a dog that is surrendered to a shelter. A dog with a bite history is extremely unlikely to be adopted and are among the first to be euthanized.

Which is a tragedy because most dog bites are preventable. An animal will almost always give you a warning that a bite is imminent if you know what to look for.

If you’re a dog parent that has your dog around children it is your responsibility to know your dog’s behavior clues that indicate stress or anxiety and reduce or eliminate those stressors. This isn’t always easy today when we are literally bombarded by images of animals on social media. The images form the basis of funny jokes or memes that make us laugh, or are labeled cute and elicit the “Awwwww” response. So we see something that we have a positive emotional reaction to and in our hearts and minds we assume the dog is also having a good time.

This is very far from being true. But because we think the dog is okay with being squeezed or kissed or held up in midair we miss the dog’s cues that they aren’t happy. And when we miss early warning signs, dogs move on to the one you can’t miss:  a bite. If you’re lucky it’s a quick growl and a snap that doesn’t make contact, but even that is pushing your dog too far.

I found this video recently. It’s important enough that I want to share it as far and wide as possible. Everyone with a kid and a dog should watch.

I’ve raised and trained lots of different kids of animals but I have nearly zero experience with one very important kind of critter – children. I don’t have any of my own and I’ll be blunt here I’m not very good with them. So I have never had to integrate dogs and kids into a family unit. The first time I watched that video I cried because none of the dogs in that video are happy, at best they are uncomfortably tolerant. At worst they are in pain or even afraid. But most people will only see the adorable kids and their beaming faces and assume it’s all good.

Watch it again, but now pay attention to the expressions on the dogs faces. Instead of thinking “oh that’s funny” I want you look at how tense the dog’s eyes and mouths are, how they flatten their ears or turn their heads away from being smooched. As it says in the video they are trying to be good but you should not let your dog get pushed into any situation that puts such a look on its face.

I found this video on this website. It’s called Stop the 77 because their data shows that 77% of dog bites are either the family dog or a friend’s dog. They have put together a program to help you learn how to teach your kids how to safely interact with dogs. I really love it. If you have kids and you have dogs you need to go there and check it out. Fun videos and educational materials make it super easy to teach your kids to be safe around dogs.

Really. I mean it. You need to visit this website. The information there could make the difference between having a much loved famity member for life or getting rid of your dog.

Understanding Your Dog’s Personality

Because we all need a little love sometimes.

We bond so strongly to our animal companions. Humourous as the caption is, the video illustrates just how strongly our animals bond to us. You can see it in this sweet Dalmatian’s body posture and expression; just look at how relaxed the eyes and mouth are.

Do you have this deep bond with your dog? Or do you wonder sometimes if your dog even likes you? It takes time to develop a relationship with your dog. If your dog is new to your family don’t expect to have a blissfully harmonious relationship from the start. Allow time for you to get to know each other, make the effort to understand your dog’s personality.

Dog Personality?

You bet. Every dog is an individual, with a distinct personality. Dogs have emotions, intelligence and they express their own inner selves with unique, endearing and sometimes irritating mannerisms.

imageThat’s Domino, my Belgian sheepdog. He was a wonderful companion for 14 years. Domino’s personality, like most herding breeds was the classic type A overachiever. He was willing to do anything I asked the instant I asked. His willingness to work and intelligence were beautiful and I was so lucky to have him in my life. If Domino could speak English he would have said, “What’s that? You want me to what? Okay I can do that. Let me show you how good I am at it! Look at how fast I am! What else can I do for you?”

imageThat’s Xander, my 19 month, 90 pound puppy. His mom was a Great Pyrenees and daddy was most likely a Lab since he doesn’t have the Pyr’s size  or hair. He does have the Pyr’s intelligence. And independence. Asking Xander to do something usually gets me this response, “Really? You know I know how to Sit, and Down. I did it just a while ago for you. Oh  okay  but only because I like you. Oh food? We’re cool.” He is every bit as smart as Domino, but he thinks about everything I ask of him. He is the polar opposite of Domino’s personality. Which is cool, and sometimes frustrating, but good too. It’s been a good learning experience having for my own a dog that challenges my ingenuity as a trainer.

I encourage you to learn your dog’s personality, and like any good friendship that won’t happen over night. Understanding your fur kid’s temperament is key to having a solid friendship, and building trust means you have to prove you’re worthy of it.

How do you do that? I tell you how in my new book, Dog Care and Training For The GENIUS. Look for it to be published next month. But for now, to help you build trust between you and your dog, try this…

Instead of playing on your phone during commercials, observe your dog. Don’t try and engage her attention. Just watch what she’s doing. Get in the habit of observing your dog’s behavior when you are not interacting directly to get a sense of who your dog really is. Does she entertain herself by playing with toys? Does she just sleep? Is she near you? In a different room? Curled up next to you? Try to get a sense of your dog’s inner emotional and mental state by observing how she behaves when she’s left to her own devices.

What is your dog’s personality? Tell me some of the things you’ve observed about your dog in the comments!

Dogs and Cats Living Together! Mass Hysteria!

Who said that? Oh, yeah, Bill Murray in this classic scene:

Have you been wanting to get a furry companion to your first fur kid but thought that dogs and cats were mortal enemies? I love Ghostbusters, but I’m happy to say, Peter Venkman is wrong. Cats and dogs live together quite happily and form lasting bonds of friendship.

Meet Sage.

“I do what I want.”

Sage is my patriarch. At 19 years old he really does do whatever he feels like. While the dogs have to display their best manners when we’re eating dinner, Sage just comes right up and inspects the plate. And gets a handout. Don’t judge. He’s 19. When a kitty reaches that age in my house he’s earned extra special treatment. And a taste of chicken. Or bacon. Especially bacon.

Sage is also the unquestioned ruler of the couch, the pillows, the dog beds and even the dogs. It all started, well, 19 years ago. I brought Sage home as tiny kitten and my Belgian sheepdog, Pagan immediately appointed himself Kitten Guard and Personal Groomer. Sage learned from the very beginning that dogs will comfort you, clean you and cuddle you. That’s pretty much been his expectation with every other dog in my house. Of course from Sage’s point of view, they’re his dogs.




Nothing like a warm, soft dog pillow on those frosty winter nights. In Sage’s world, dogs must be cuddled and dogs must be cleaned.

The bonding that can happen between pets is heartwarming and can be incredibly strong. If you’ve been wondering if your fur kid could use a companion, here are some things to consider:

  • Dogs and cats can experience stress, fear and anxiety when they are all alone in our homes. Having another furry friend eliminates this.
  • Bringing in a second pet, while ultimately rewarding for you and your current fur kid, will require some effort on your part to ensure a smooth integration into the family.

Think about how your pet reacts right now to other animals or visitors in your home. If you have a dog, do they enjoy other dogs? How do they react when they see another animal? With excitement? Interest? Or fear? Have you had other animals in your home?

Consider a trial run if your pet has never seen another dog or cat and you’re thinking of expanding your household. Enlist a friend to bring their (well-socialized!) pet over for a visit – for a few hours or even volunteer to pet sit for a day or two to get your fur kid used to the idea of other animals in the house.

As you can see from my household, I have pets in multiples. They keep each other company while my husband and I are at our day jobs. Indeed, most pets will benefit from having a full-time friend. It can help reduce anxiety and loneliness. Of course before you bring in a second (or third!) pet be sure you can devote the time, energy and finances to giving your new fur kid the same love and attention as the first.

Do you have a single fur kid? Have you thought about adding another but weren’t sure it would work? Tell me how your fur kids get along! And take a look at this adorable compilation of dog-cat buddies.