Preventing problems part two – the coexistence of children and dogs


One of the most worrying problems that any dog owner or parent faces is the potential risk of dogs and children living together. When the family dog bites a child us dog trainers hear only too often “There was no warning”, this is not the case in most circumstances. Dogs will send out signals of stress it’s up to dog owners to get more savvy about these signs. Please look for signs of stress when dealing with your dog. Signs of stress are panting, yawning, whining, wide eyes, growling, showing teeth, raised heckles, tails tucked under & avoiding eye contact. If you see any of these signs then ease off the pressure of whatever it is you are doing.

In England in 2012 1,040 children under 10 years old were admitted to hospital following a dog bite. 494 of these for plastic surgery and a staggering 278 were admitted to the oral and facial surgery unit.

So how do you stop these frightening situations?

NEVER leave children unattended with a dog, no matter the size, breed or age. Even if the dog has the sweetest nature and you strongly believe it would never happen, once is enough. Responsible adult supervision at all times is an absolute necessary.

Always give your dog a space of their own to retreat to, make sure all children are taught to respect this space, even toddlers will respond to positive reinforcement for staying away. Always give your dog an escape route, by this I mean the dog should always have a clear exit to their “safe zone”. Dogs that can’t escape are more likely to bite in self-defence.

Children must be taught to handle dogs with respect, it is not acceptable for a child of any age to poke, pull, hit or kick the dog. Toddlers exploring fingers in mouths, eyes, ears, and tails are a true test for any dog. Don’t allow your baby/toddler/child to do this!

No matter what you think that photograph you are taking allowing your child to lay on the dog so show the social networking world how good your dog is with kids, it’s not cute!!! It’s enough to get a sharp intake of breath from any dog training professional. The baby on your knee tugging the dog’s ear is irresponsible.

I am not suggesting here that there should be no interaction between children and dogs, as a mum I find it a beautiful relationship to observe, taking every opportunity to teach my children how to respect another living being.


How do I prepare my dog for the new arrival?

It could be that you already have a dog and you have just found out that you are expecting the patter of tiny feet. Congratulations!!! Parenthood is a fabulous thing; you are about to have the most full on experience of your life, if you thought a puppy was hard you’re in for a huge shock.

Begin when you are pregnant preparing your dog for the arrival, don’t wait until junior comes home! Dogs get stressed at change (so do I!) and stress can cause some nasty reactions. If you make all your changes when junior comes home your dog can easily associate the stress of life directly to the arrival of your precious addition.

If your dog is currently in residence in the spare room that will become the nursery then act now, move your dog to where they are going to sleep. Find your dog another cosy spot to call their own. Make sure it’s an equally great place; we do not want to affect your dog’s quality of life here. If your dog is currently in residence on your bed I can tell you this will not be possible when your baby comes home so get them off NOW, place a nice basket in your room and begin getting them used to that before moving them out completely. Make it a very rewarding place to be with lots of treats and praise for being there. Prevent access to your bed when you are not there by closing the door. I also extended this to my sons nursery….it was a no dog zone; as much as your dog needs their space your baby needs the same. A baby gate across the door is a very effective barrier. In fact it’s a wise move to start popping baby gates up, this way if you need to leave a room then the dog should come with you and you can then safely shut a gate preventing accidents.

The other no go zone is going to be cuddled up with mummy on the sofa, it is quite frankly ridiculous to even consider nursing a baby with a dog lying across you, get your dog used to cuddle time being on the floor, there is nothing more soul-destroying than one day the dog is on your lap contented whilst you relax and watch TV to the next day getting shouted at to get off. So again act now.

Look for potential problems, does your dog like to race you on the stairs? Does your dog love to jump all over you when you come home? Do they like to get right in all the shopping bags to inspect what you purchased at Tesco? All of these are potential problems, think about it now and do something about it. If you wait until babies’ arrival and then implement all your changes you are not really creating a good association to your dog.

What about introducing my dog to my baby?

Let me tell you from experience when labour hits it hits hard!! You and your partner will rush out the house in a whirl wind of excitement, apprehension and pain (for mum!!!) your poor dog is probably at home wondering what all the fuss is, then after a few hours (if you’re lucky) dad returns home, then leaves, then comes home. If at all possible get your dog used to going for a walk with a relative, friend or dog walker as you could be in hospital for a few days. Whilst you’re in the hospital give one of the used baby blankets to your partner to take home and let your dog sniff. When your dog is sniffing this then give them a treat, this is going to begin building up a good association to this smell. Put the blanket in a sealed bag and bring it out at intervals repeating sniff then treat.

When the day arrives that mum comes home then mum should enter the house first, alone. Your dog probably hasn’t seen you for a few days and may get excited. So go in first and calm them down, once calm dad can bring in baby, please encourage him to bring junior in in his arms rather than in the baby carrier. Mum should be armed with some tasty treats, if your dog tries to jump dad can then turn his back and mum can give the dog a treat for sitting. When your dog is calm let them have a little sniff then mum can give a treat and then why not give your dog a tasty Kong in their safe spot whilst you fuss your gorgeous new baby.

Make sure you don’t wait until baby is sleeping to interact with your dog; you want them to know that the presence of baby means good things not the absence of baby means attention. Lots of frozen Kongs, chews, treats and toys will help you.

When you go out walking with your pram do not attach your dogs leash to the pram!!! One false move from the dog can spell disaster.


All of these tips will help you have a good future. If you are in any doubt then contact a local force free dog trainer to help you. I have put below some rules you should go over with your children to keep them safe.

Doggy rules


  1. Never touch a dog that you don’t know.
  2. Even if you know the dog, always ask the owner permission first.
  3. Even when you have permission, don’t invade the dog’s body space. Allow the dog to come up to you and sniff the top of your closed fist (palm down). If the dog doesn’t want to come and greet you, respect that and leave it alone. Don’t approach a dog from behind. Don’t pet directly on the top of its head. This could be threatening for the dog because the top of its head can be very sensitive, so it’s best to pet on the back or chest.
  4. Never stare at a dog and never put your face close to a dogs face. Remember to look at the dog briefly and then look away, look at the dog, and then look away. These are calming signals and you are telling the dog that you aren’t a threat.
  5. Do not tease a dog.
  6. Do not touch a dog that has been tied up or left in a garden or outside a shop.
  7. Tell an adult immediately if you see a dog loose. Do not touch it.
  8. Do not touch a dog while it’s eating. You wouldn’t want a dog to come and take what you are eating.
  9. Do not touch a dog while it is sleeping. You might startle it and it might snap without thinking.
  10. Do not take a toy or bone away from a dog if it is playing with it.

11. Do not push a dog off the sofa or chair if you want to sit there. Always get an adult to remove the dog for you.

  1. Don’t scream or run away from a dog. If a strange dog comes up to you and you are scared, fold your arms, stand still, look away and completely ignore it until it loses interest in you and goes away. The boring you are the quicker it will go away.
  2. If a dog tries to bite you, put a bag or coat between you and the dog and slowly back away to a safe place.
  3. In the unlikely event a dog starts to bite you, get on the floor and curl up like a hedgehog putting your arms around your head, stay as still as you can until help comes.
  4. Remember a dog is an animal and not a cuddly toy. Dogs don’t like being hugged. Be gentle and don’t rough play.






The power of positivity X©

Preventing problems part one -How to avoid the fear factor

As you are well aware I deal with a variety of dog related problems in my work, some of the time I can’t help but think these problems could’ve been prevented in the first place. This has to be dealt with when your puppy is young. Begin as soon as you get them from the breeder.

For the next six weeks I will give guidance to what I believe are the worst problems that begin at puppy level and then like a tree the problem just grows until you the owner can’t cope anymore.


How do I get a dog I can take anywhere?

When you go to select a puppy make sure you do your research, does this breed suit you and your lifestyle? By this I mean please don’t buy a collie if you’re a couch potato or a husky if you don’t like exercise, I am not targeting these two breeds I am just using them as an example. After that look into breeders, are they a reputable breeder? Do they ask you lots of questions? Are they giving you an opportunity to ask LOTS of questions? Please make sure the answer to all these questions is “yes”! Onto when you pick your puppy, if the puppy is petrified and hides at the back of the whelp box imagine what it will do when you take it home….my advice, turn around, walk away and source another breeder. For fearful puppies unfortunately the damage is already done, leave these puppies to people who know what they are doing and can help.

Getting a puppy is an opportunity to have everything you ever wanted in a dog. You can take them anywhere, they are not afraid of fireworks or traffic. They cope well with kids and all humans. This will be down to your teaching in the early weeks, making sure that you build up positive associations to every aspect of your busy life style and more. You can easily influence them at this stage by reacting in a way that can cause an issue, without meaning it I hasten to add. It’s very similar to a human child, I see parents making their children scared of dogs because they are scared of dogs, My husband is petrified of wasps and imprinted that on my eldest son. I am not good with heights and on one holiday we had the top floor in a hotel (14 floors up) with a huge balcony overlooking the Cancun beach, instead of making my kids scared for a few days I went out on the balcony alone looking straight forward rather than down, don’t get me wrong it didn’t cure my vertigo but I was then able to stand on the balcony with the kids without panicking and enjoy the view.

So an example for your puppy, you are walking down the street with your new bundle on a leash (after vaccinations!!) and you spot a larger dog or perhaps a breed that receives negative press, you tense up slightly a little concerned that harm could come to you or your puppy. If this situation turns out badly then you will not only reinforce your own fear but will then start a fear in your puppy which can potentially take a long time with a lot of hard work to solve.

So how do you avoid these scenarios? By remaining calm and being ready to give tasty treats every time you feel your puppy is unsure. If however it is you who is frightened then turn and walk the other way. It is a very simple thing to do. Paint a picture in your mind of a positive outcome and relax, chances are nothing will happen anyway! In turn your puppy will detect your calm and will feel secure that YOU can deal with any situation. We once had a lovely woman attend puppy class with a 14 week old toy breed; on her form it said her puppy was really terrified of Rottweiler’s. When I questioned her regarding this, I thought that her delightful bundle (who appeared bomb proof) had had a negative experience with the breed. It turned out her puppy had never met one! The lady herself had a bad experience with a previous dog of hers and was carrying that bad experience over. Can you imagine if that lady had seen a rottie, she would have scooped that puppy up in sheer panic and potentially created a problem! Instead we had a previous client come in with her Rottweiler and let the lady handle that dog; turns out she fell for the breed (not a difficult thing to do)

The other common one is excitement to visitors into the home, your puppy is only reacting to you rushing to answer the door. If your puppy is excited at the prospect of you opening the door imagine what they are going to be like when you actually open it. Remain calm ask for a little distance and then open the door. Stick a note on your door, learner puppy please be patient!

Get them used to loud bangs, traffic, vet waiting rooms, buses, trains, wheelie bins, children, old people, people in high vis vests etc. You SHOULD do this before vaccination, carry them though don’t let them walk. You more than likely have a three to four week wait before they are fully covered and by that time it’s probably too late!dylan

With my puppies it’s all about the social in the early days, short trips on a busy high street armed with kibble & liver….Kibble for average things like woman or parked cars and liver for harder things like buses, push chairs and children. This helps them build up good experiences with things. I put on the history channel whilst we play, there is always war documentaries on with plenty bangs, I have this down low at first and then build it up, if at any stage your puppy looks a little freaked then turn it down you’ve went to fast. This is firework preparation. I take them to the local school at home time, I let the kids come and say hi, I give the kids kibble to feed them so long as the puppy sits ,You should already be doing this by carrying them! I start with quiet kids and by the end of a week kids are screaming with excitement, stroking and enjoying giving the puppy a biscuit, I will add here however make sure that your puppy is COMFORTABLE with fuss, you don’t want to cause the opposite and make them frightened. I also sit at the bus station, train station, park benches, outside supermarkets, anywhere I think my dog may one day have to go. Armed with kibble, liver & peanut butter biscuits! Just sitting watching the world go by is an excellent training session in itself.

So get creative and get out there!!!

The power of positivity X©