Whole Dog Journal training article

For those of you who don’t subscribe to the PleaseDon’tBitetheBaby blog, I am cross-posting:

Once again Pat Miller CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA has written a lovely article for the Whole Dog Journal that offers families with dogs some great tips on keeping kids and dogs safe around each other.

If you subscribe to The Whole Dog Journal, you will see this month’s March 2018 edition with the article: “Kidding Around, Combining kids and dogs in your family can be magical and heartwarming, or cause a devastating tragedy…”

If you don’t subscribe to WDJ, I highly recommend you do, and not just for this article, there is so much more. At least a half a dozen times a month I recommend WDJ to new dog families and even established dog families for the journal’s ongoing commitment to information on training, behavior, health, various products from harnesses to toys, and the annual food guides are invaluable.

Thanks go to Pat Miller and The Whole Dog Journal for reminding families of the some of the ways they can make their dogs and kids safe together. And, thanks go from me for the nice nod to Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs.

Every family can work to make their kids and dogs safe around each other with some management, training, and time.

Odin preparing for his family’s new baby. Good Boy!

Odin’s family took time before their new baby came home to learn how to and what to train Odin to do to keep their family happy and safe together.

Odin preparing
Odin settled near his new baby girl’s automated swing.

Odin’s family is expecting their first baby any day now – maybe today!

When she arrives everyone’s life will be changed. Mom and Dad know what’s happening, Odin probably doesn’t.

This is why it’s so important to see how our dogs behave around new baby gizmos before baby arrives because:

  • There won’t be a lot of time when baby comes home
  • If we wait until baby is actually in the swing or vibrating Pack-n-Play or other moving and/or sound making device, we won’t know if our dog is reacting uncomfortably because of the gizmo or the baby
  • And, if we know ahead of time that our dog is not as comfortable with the baby gizmos, we can desensitize

In the picture above Odin has been given his settle command while the swing gently goes back and forth in close proximity to him.

Odin’s family took time before their new baby came home to learn how to and what to train Odin to do to keep their family happy and safe together. For more details on how to keep your baby and dog(s) safe and happy together, and chapter excepts, Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs.

Congratulations to Odin and his family – it is all well worth it!

WAIT vs STAY

The difference between Wait and Stay can mean the difference between successful management vs everyone running down the street chasing the fluffy lighten bolt that is their dog.

Dog training commands should be simple, but can often become complicated and confusing for the dog (and human too).

For example, if one handler uses command “X” to mean one action for their dog, and then another person uses command “Y” for the same action, our dogs are left having to remember which word which person uses for which command, while handlers are left wondering why their dog isn’t understanding and preforming simple commands.

Pinball couch headtilt
“Say what?”

The dog’s internal response is probably the dog version of, “What ‘chu talk’n bout? The other guy uses “X,” you use ‘Y,” and honestly, I’m not sure what either of you mean.”

To make life easier for everyone, dog, handlers, parents, kids, dog-sitters, trainers, etc., it is imperative that everyone in the house use the same command for the same behavior.

This post is the first is a series of blogs on simple commands.

The Wait and the Stay commands are often used interchangeably. In a home with low distractions, one dog, and no kids, this is probably not a huge problem. However, when we start layering the distractions like kids, other dogs, many visitors, etc., the difference between Wait and Stay can mean the difference between successful management vs everyone running down the street chasing the fluffy lighten bolt that is their dog.

The definitions of Wait and Stay in standard dog training are:

  • Wait – Hang on a second or two, (a short duration) then receive a follow-up command or release word. Here is Pinball doing a simple wait at the door.
  • Stay – Hold position, freeze in place for an undetermined length of time (could be awhile).

The difference is often hard to see at first, but in the dog’s head it is a major difference in difficulty. Wait is something a dog can usually achieve even when they are cranked up by exciting visitors, or stressful situations. However, the Stay is harder to hold depending on how stressed or excited a dog might be.

To understand this in terms we humans experience, we need only look to air travel. We experience differences in difficultly between a short fifteen minute wait to board our airplane, verses the delayed flight that could be hours. One is much harder than the other for different reasons for different people, but in the end, the two different lengths of delay are very different demands on us.

Here are some sample situations where I would use the Wait and Stay commands differently:

Wait
– Dog wants to go outside, handler asks for wait before opening the door.
– Aunt Millie is knocking on the door, the dog is given the wait command, then, once Aunt Millie is in, the dog gets the go say hello command (for another blog).
– Baby drops toy, dog is headed to toy, ask dog for a wait, then be prepared to pick up toy before dog gets there, or redirect the dog with a touch command.
Stay
– I use stay for some veterinary visits and some grooming like ear cleaning, tooth brushing.
– At street corners, I will ask for a stay. I don’t know how long we will wait for the light, and I do want the dog frozen in place in this situation.
– In elevators, I will ask the dog for a stay, again I don’t know how long this will be and I do want the dog frozen as other people get on and off.

Your dog will learn the difference between these two commands because once you have an understanding of what the commands you are building look like, you will mark and reward the appropriate behaviors when your dog offers you the requested behavior.

Wait and Stay are two of the basic, essential commands I outline in Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs And they are initially covered in the Basic classes I teach, then expanded on in the Intermediate classes.

If your dog doesn’t have a good wait and a solid stay, it is time to do some homework.

Managing Dog Aggression Toward Babies

Here are some pitfalls when introducing a new baby to a dog, the best ways to avoid them, and how to help your baby to be safe around dogs.

Ask-Professor-Boo-Banner

Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.

Professor Boo, I have an 11 year old female German Shepherd and a 10 month old baby at home. My dog has always been friendly towards my baby girl and usually kisses her and licks her a lot. My baby is always after the dog, using her as a “ladder” to stand up, grabs her tail and face and usually my dog just walks away but today was the first time she growled at her and showed her teeth when my daughter tried to grab her (my daughter was in my dog’s sleeping area.) Does that mean she might bite her? I love my dog dearly but my baby comes first. What do I do?

Pinball gets to see that great rewards come when he ignores the silly toddler.

This is fairly common when little ones begin to toddle around and use the dog as a walking “helper” as it were.

Please remember all dogs can bite anyone if they feel they have no other way to stop something that either scares them or hurts them. Cute as it may be to see baby loving the dog, most dogs are not really comfortable with this kind of grabbing as most little ones don’t have really good grip control and can hurt when they pull and tug on an dog especially an older dog.

It should not have to come down to a choice for you between the dog you love and the child you love.

It really just has to come down to always remembering that baby doesn’t know she may be hurting the dog and your dog is telling baby with a growl “please stop.” Your job is to stop baby before doggie gets to the point where she feels the need to “correct” the baby. There are some simple rules that will help.

Please start out by thinking of your dog like an open pool in your back yard. You would never turn your back on your baby around an open pool. You would never let her dangle her feet in the pool without you right there next to her. You would always be right there to catch her if she fell, etc…

So in light of that – please follow these rules:

  • Dog and baby are never alone together and you are always right between them for now.
Boo gently sniffs his new little boy.
  • Baby can only touch dog when you are right there guiding baby as to how to gently touch dog.
  • Baby never wakes the dog, pokes the dog or lands on the dog when dog is sleeping.
  • Dog is never chased by baby – not with walker, not with toys and not on her own.
  • Dog is never used as a walking helper for baby.

In addition to all of these I would suggest some review of basic skills that allow parents to get their dog out of a potentially dangerous situation quickly. Very often parents find it easier to call the dog away from baby than to ask baby to stop advancing on a resting dog. This may mean some new or review training either individually or in a classroom. In my book “Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs,” I cover a number of quick techniques to get your dog out of a situation before trouble occurs.

Too many dogs are euthanized each year because they are viewed as aggressive to their toddler. Much of this can be avoided if we try to understand that for most dogs, toddlers can be scary. Most dogs try to warn the toddler away and too many parents punish the dog for the growl. This leads to a dog who feels like they have no alternative but to bite.

Please remember:

The first rule to keeping your child safe from your dog is keeping your dog safe from your child.

LJ Edwards

When your dog growls, she has given you a great gift – she has told you she is uncomfortable with some things baby is doing. Take that gift and return the favor to your dog by following the rules above and teaching or reviewing some really basic skills to keep everyone safe.