Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA
“Sit” may be one of the most undervalued things we teach our dog. Everyone teaches it, and just about every dog can get really good at it. So, let’s start applying it in situations that count. This one simple life skill can prevent a whole bunch of problem behaviors while promoting good manners at the same time.
Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA teaches dog training in Houston TX. Special thanks to Cleveland dog trainer Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA for contributing to this post. Thanks also to Peta Clarke for the final photograph.
Guest Blogger, Curtiss Lanham CPDT-KA
Children and dogs: what a beautiful image that our minds immediately race to. The ‘Timmy and Lassie’ portrait is quickly conjured up…and they lived happily ever after. Not so fast…
The interesting thing is that kids don’t come pre-progrmmed to know how to interact properly with dogs, any more than dogs come pre-programmed to interact properly with kids. Read: adults now have to step-in and do something positive to ensure they do live happily ever after. So what can we adults do to ensure that our kids and our dogs will get along safely and happily? Here are three areas that we can concentrate on in this effort: Training-Socialization-Supervision
Training our Children
- To respect the dog’s space, food and toys
- To not treat the dog as a toy: don’t pull ears/tail/paws/nose, don’t ride the dog, don’t pull the dog around by it’s collar
- To refrain from hugging dogs around the neck or put their face into the dog’s face
- To refrain from screeching, screaming and squealing at the dog
- To play ball, fetch, etc., but ONLY under adult supervision.
Training our Dogs
- To know that children bring happy, fun things and are pleasant to engage with.
- To trust that only good things happen with children
- To respond to requests (sit, down, come, etc.) when asked by children so that they can communicate effectively together and strengthen their relationships
- To understand the expectations of the household they live in
Socialize our Children
- To dogs at an early age and expose them to a variety of breeds often and safely, but ONLY under adult supervision.
Socialize our dogs
- To children at an early age (3 weeks to 3 months of age, if possible). Expose them to a variety of children often and safely, but ONLY under adult supervision. These meetings must always have a ‘happy ending’ for the puppy and the child.
- All interactions between children and dogs
- Be watchful to ensure the children do not mishandle/mistreat the dog
- Be watchful to ensure the dog is not stressed during the encounter: Stress signals may include some/ all of the following: yawning, lip licking, turning head/eyes away, lowering head/ears/tail, slinking away, crouching/hiding. Distance increasing signals by the dog may include some/all of the following: lip lifting, low growl, snarling, showing teeth, air snapping, etc. If any of these are observed, end the session immediately, quietly and calmly exit the child from the dog. Refrain from punishing the dog.
- Ensure proper meet/greet by child
- If you cannot supervise then exit the child from the dog so there is no possibility of improper encounter by either the dog or child
By putting this plan into action with your children and dogs your family will be on the road to loving, safe relationships. Relationships that transcend even the ‘Lassie and Timmy’ connection!
Houston/Katy Dog Trainer Curtiss Lanham, CPDT-KA is the co-owner of dogsmart, a Fulshear based canine behavior counseling and training group.
Michael Baugh CPDT-KA, CDBC (from All Things Dog Blog)
Skittles’ quirk is her very quiet way of telling us she needs to go outside. I hear her because she generally sticks to me like glue. When I leave the house, Skittles does not do a very noticeable job of getting the message across to other family members. Sometimes we have accidents when I am gone. She will leave her surprises as close to the door as she can get, sometimes right at the door crack as though she wanted to put it outside but could not. Since I cannot make my family hear her quiet whine I do not know what to do. If you have ideas on how to help increase her ability to get their attention I would appreciate it.
When I read your very good question I couldn’t help but think of how we humans sometimes behave with each other. I thought specifically of the time I yelled at a very good friend, “What’s the matter with you? Do you think I can read your mind?” He didn’t miss a beat. “I didn’t even know you could read.” He said. It was the rhetorical equivalent of lifting his leg on my sofa and laughing at me.
I’m not suggesting you or your family learn to read Skittles’ mind, not exactly anyway. I do have to admit, however, I’m not a huge fan of teaching dogs to give loud signals when they want to go outside. Certainly, you could teach Skittles to ring a bell on the doorknob with her nose signaling her desire. Clicker training would probably be your fastest path to success. She rings. You click. She goes outside for some treats, fun and potty (we hope).
Here’s the rub. You’d be teaching Skittles to ring the bell when she wants to go outside, not necessarily when she has to go potty outside. I dare not teach this to my dear Stella. She’d be ringing our bell from now until the cows come home (actual cowbell optional). It’s bad enough that she stares out the door now with her newly emptied bladder and bowels. I digress. Suffice it to say, the whole bell-to-go-outside thing is a bit of a slippery slope. You may not necessarily be teaching what you want.
My guess is, you just want Skittles to stop doing two things in the house: number one and number two. The idea, of course, is to teach her to hold it until she goes outside. Go there, not here. Teaching potty training is just a matter of setting Skittles up to win. When she’s learning she should always be supervised or safely confined. You should never ask yourself the question, “Where’s Skittles?” (Just call me; I’ll tell you. “She’s squatting in your dining room.”). Supervising means you also go outside with Skittles. Praise and treat her as soon as she’s done eliminating, right then, on the spot.