If you subscribe to The Whole Dog Journal, you will see the 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.
Resource Guarding can be one of the trickiest behavioral issues to modify and manage because there are so many variations.
Some dogs only guard their food
Some guard toys
Some guard bones
Some guard anything that hits the floor
Some guard whatever it was they just stole
Regardless of what your dog guards and to what degree, the process is the same.
There will be adjustments for management and time needed to modify the behavior, but ultimately it is all about teaching your dog that giving up something is far more profitable then guarding it.
And, occasionally, the guarding will pop up for the rest of your dog’s life during stressful periods, or high energy/excited play, but by keeping your dog’s skills in good working order, you will be able to easily resolve any guarding issues.
We were all a bit worried when our son arrived in our home with the ‘Super villain of Resource Guarding’ living there. However, by teaching Pinball good solid commands, and slowly allow him and my son to spend managed time together, we saw things we never expected to see. This video where Charlie Brown Takes a Dive is a great example of how far a resource guarding dog can come with some skills, management, and persistence.
In the end, if your dog guards things, training good skills then working with a good behavior consultant is essential to take those skills and turn them into more positive behaviors.
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. And, handlers are left wondering why their dog isn’t understanding and preforming simple commands.
The dog’s internal response is probably the dog version of, “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.
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.
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:
Dog wants to go outside
Ask for wait before opening the door.
Door is opened only if dog holds position for a few seconds
Aunt Millie is knocking on the door
Ask for a wait
Door opens if the dog is holding position
Once Aunt Millie is in, the dog gets the go say hello command.
Baby drops toy
Ask dog for a wait
Pick up toy before dog gets there, or redirect the dog with a touch command.
In an elevator
Ask for a stay
Dog freezes in place for the duration of the ride regardless of the number of people getting in and out
At the veterinarian
Ask for a stay for the examination, shots, blood draws
Your veterinarian will thank you
At a traffic light
Ask for a stay
Dog freezes in place for the duration of the light regardless of the distractions that go by, like bicycles, skateboard, other dogs, etc…
Your dog will learn the difference between these two commands because once you have an understanding of what the commands are, you will mark and reward the appropriate behaviors.
You give your dog the WAIT command and he holds a position for a short duration – Praise and Reward.
You give your dog the STAY command and she freezes in place for an interval between one and three minutes – Praise and Reward.
The first rule to keeping your child safe from your dog is keeping your dog safe from your child – LJ Edwards, “Please Don’t Bite the Baby…”
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?
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…
Please follow these rules:
Dog and baby are never alone together.
You are always right between them for now.
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.
The first rule to keeping your child safe from your dog is keeping your dog safe from your child.
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.
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.
For more on how keep baby and dog safe and happy together, click here
For more on Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs, click here