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DOGS AND BABIES: HOW TO TEACH DOGS ABOUT BABIES

children-and-dogsThe bond we have with our childhood dogs cannot be aptly describe by mere words alone. But in order for that bond to thrive, parents of both the pet and canine variety should be aware of a few key points to ensure that little ones and furballs live in harmony (and have a lot of fun along the way!)

OBSERVE BODY LANGUAGE
Dogs will usually give all sorts of warning signs before being pushed to their absolute limit. Nobody really enjoys being clamoured all over, sat upon or pushed around and usually if a child is doing this (which a child should not be) to a dog the dog’s body language will stiffen.

Happy, relaxed body language means the dog is comfortable, confident and happy. Stiff, jerky body language means the dog is uneasy, fearful or upset which can lead to an unwelcome incident. Teach your child to be respectful of a dog’s space and to interact in a manner that is polite, but always keep an eye on your dog’s body language too, especially with very young children.

HANDLE YOUR DOG
Little ones are always going to play a bit roughly while they learn the social dos and donts of life. In order to prepare your dog for this somewhat rambunctious addition to the family pack, handle them frequently.

Get your dog used to being touched all over — on their tail, their ears, between their toes, their bellies, their necks etc. — and make it a positive experience. This will help a dog be ready for little hands all over them.

INDOOR VOICES
It is no secret that dogs have very acute hearing. Loud screaming and crying can frazzle a dog, so be sure to have a quiet space that your dog can occupy when your babe starts fussing. As the child matures, teach them that quiet voices are nicer for Fido.

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
Puppies and children are very similar in many ways. In particular, both do better when they are given boundaries, structure and routine. Creating a routine for your dog and your child to interact together helps both to learn what is expected of them. For older children, giving them a dog-friendly task such as brushing the dog after dinner, helps them to understand their dog as a unique personality with certain needs, likes and dislikes.

REINFORCE BASIC LESSONS
Dogs can benefit from a refresher course in basic training to brush up on their ‘sit,’ ‘stay’ and ‘drop it’ commands. Children should also be taught that roughly stealing a dog’s toys and food is rude. Teaching both parties basic lessons such as this will help to create a respectful bond.

TEACH EMPATHY
Often times little ones don’t realize that their actions are effecting others, so be sure to teach them that how they act towards others — especially animals — means something. Be sure to teach your child that how they act effects Fido’s mood and can hurt their feelings. Translating dog behaviour into the basic language of moods and feelings can help small children better relate with the family furball.

EXTRA PREPARATIONS
Of course, if a dog has difficult behaviour issues or if you are not comfortable preparing your dog-friendly home for a baby and a dog, it is always recommended that you consult a professional, experienced and certified dog behaviourist to help your family adjust.

{Photography by PAWSH Studio.}

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DOG PARK ETIQUETTE: 6 KEY DOG PARK MANNERS

dog-park-manners-1 Dog parks are lively, bouncy environments that to the outside eye look chaotic, intense and perhaps even a little bit scary. Fortunately, however, they are more often than not very welcoming places — a friendly subculture of pet parenthood that allows dogs and their people to socialize and enjoy some rejuvenating fresh air.

Like any culture though there is a certain etiquette that comes with going to an off-leash dog park. Here are six important dog park manners to mind (assuming that your pupster already has great recall)…
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1. KEEP CALM WHILE ON LEASH
Dogs sometimes like to great new arrivals to the park boisterously and will run up wildly to say hello. If this happens while you are arriving in the off-leash area and your dog is still on leash, keep calm to help your dog keep calm. This sort of greeting is completely different from a strange dog charging up to you on a street; although it may still be a bit nerve-wracking.

Do not yell, stiffen or try to shoo the greeters away. Allow all the dogs to sniff each other (that is their way of saying hi officially) and let your dog off to join in on the fun. Ideally you will want to let your dog off leash as soon as you pass an off-leash sign to avoid being in the middle of the park with lots of dogs running up while your dog is still not free.

If your dog is fearful of having other dogs run up to them both on and off leash, an off-leash dog park may not be the best environment for them. Consider instead a small doggie daycare group or dog-walker or go to your local dog park during less busy times of the day.

dog-park-manners-32. IT’S NOT ALL FUN & GAMES
While it is true that dogs will be dogs and play roughly with one another — they’ll chase around wildly, wrestle like there is no tomorrow and happily bark until they lose their voices — it isn’t always all fun and games at the park. Keep an eye on your dog’s body language and behaviour to avoid any undesirable incidents.

If your dog is being hounded relentlessly by another, despite trying to get away, growling or giving usual signs to back off, it is perhaps wise to intervene. Similarly, if your dog is the over-excited one who fails to recognize another’s signs to call it quits, direct them away to another area of the park.

Likewise if your dog is jumping all over other people or poking noisily around other people’s belongings, step in to correct their behaviour. Remember that a dog park is a public space and that you are responsible for your dog’s behaviour. Do not allow your dog to do whatever they please just because it is the dog park.dog-park-manners-4

3. STOOP & SCOOP
You may be outside in a large grassy field, but that doesn’t mean you should let your dog do their business just anywhere and then leave it be. Imagine how horrid dog parks would become if every four-legged visitor did that? Pe-eww! Keep a mindful eye on your pup as they frolic and bag their ‘doo.’ Forget your doggie bags? Just ask a fellow dog park visitor for one (or two so you’re covered on the walk home as well!)

4. NO SQUEAKING PLEASE
Lots of dogs like to play fetch at the park, so bringing balls and Frisbees is a lot of fun. Squeaky toys, however, are widely regarded as a dog park faux-pas. Squeaky toys are designed to speak to a dog’s natural hunting instincts and are very much loved by dogs of all shapes and sizes. Bringing such an item — a high-value item — to a raucous dog park can mean disaster. Dogs may fight over the squeaky toy, so air on the side of caution and leave the high-pitched noises at home.

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5. DON’T TREAT BEFORE YOU SPEAK
Treats are a no-brainer at the dog park and practically every pet parent will have them tucked away in their pockets. But don’t treat a dog other than your own without their person’s permission. While you may want to spoil the adorable new fluffball at the park with lots of goodies, a lot of dogs have allergies or are on special diets. Or sometimes dogs are being trained without food and treating unexpectedly can disrupt their progress.

You wouldn’t want a total stranger giving your kid candy, would you? The same principle applies to kiddies of the four-legged variety. Similarly, don’t assume you can pick up any dog you like — even if they are a squishy puppy. Respect the dog’s space and presence as well as their person’s and always ask before you treat.

6. DON’T IGNORE YOUR DOG
Don’t be that person — the person who lets their dog off-leash and is then completely engrossed in their smart phone and oblivious to their dog’s whereabouts or antics. Your dog is your responsibility at the park. Make sure they are behaving in a dog polite manner (tip #2 above) and make sure you know where they are at all times so they don’t get lost.

Follow these tips and you’re dog will have a wonderful — and polite – park experience!

{Huge thanks to my incredible friend and talented artist Tonya Pet Photography for photographing this special “Pet Wellness” column.}

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DOG WELLNESS: HOW TO BATHE A DOG (AND HAVE SOME FUN!)

Pawsh-magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-7 Several years ago I worked as a bather at a very busy dog grooming salon. I spent my days literally covered in fur, bubbles, slobbery wet kisses and – let’s be honest – a few scratches along the way. In my experience, most dogs didn’t love the prospect of a warm bath. Many would tolerate it, but most would do their best to resist.

However, with a little bit of time and a lot of practice on my own sweet pup, Rory, I have come up with a few simple tips and tricks to help any dog learn to love bathtime. Pawsh-Magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog Regular bathing for dogs is important to keep their coats and skin clean and healthy, plus as an added bonus, it helps them smell nice. Here are a six secret tips to make bathtime a fun time!

1.  HAVE THE RIGHT SUPPLIES ON HAND
Imagine if you were at the hairdresser’s and your stylist kept running out of the room to grab the right pair of scissors or the right kind of gel. You would probably be a little peeved, yes? The same is true for dogs.

Make sure you have all of your necessary shampoos, towels, brushes and supplies set up by the tub or washing area so that you don’t get frazzled trying to manage a soggy dog while looking for what you need. Plus, being prepared in this manner will ultimately mean the bathtime will be short and sweet, which most pups will appreciate.

2. BATHE WITH CALM WATER
Sound strange? Let me explain. I personally don’t run a bath with Rory around. Why? Because a dog’s hearing is exceptional and being in a tub with a loud, pressurized facet blaring would be alarming for any dog. (Did you know most dogs hate the rain because it is noisy for their hearing?)

Instead run a bath without your pup present. Test the water to make sure it’s just the right temperature and once everything is ready then bring your pup in. Introducing your dog to a still, calm pool of water will be far less stressful.

Once your pup is in the tub, avoid using a handheld showerhead to wet and rinse them (unless they are indifferent to that). I use a large, empty yogurt container as a bucket to wet Rory down and rinse her off. I find scooping water up and over her to be a more calming action than blasting her with a nozzle. The dog is thereby calmer too.

(NOTE: For rinsing, fill a mop bucket of fresh water so that you aren’t trying to rinse your dog off with soapy/dirty water.)
Pawsh-Magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-43. GET YOUR DOG USED TO WATER
Most dogs detest the water element of a bath, so take some time to teach them what a fun wet thing water can be! Fill a tub with a little bit of water, enough so that it reaches halfway up their legs and encourage them to get into the water on their own. Treats can be used to entice the first plunge.

When your dog gets into the tub, let them hop back out again on their own time — slowly so they don’t hurt themselves. This is important so that they don’t feel trapped in an overwhelming environment. Be sure to use lots of praise when they get in and out of the tub so that they know you are proud of them and that the tub is a happy place to be.

I find playing a gentle ‘splash’ game helps to engage dogs with water. Simply pat at the water’s surface or drop a toy that sinks into the tub and encourage your dog to also splash around. Just be sure to keep this game steady and calm. You don’t want a hyper dog in the tub, as they can slip and get injured. (Even better, use a non-slip bathmat in the tub for added safety).

If you tend to bath your dog outside with a hose, spend some time playing with the water nozzle and your pup. Play ‘chase the water line’ in the grass and spray other people as well as the dogs. Believe it or not, this will help a dog feel safe with the hose and associate it with positive, happy energy.

Repeat ‘water time’ as frequently as you can for 10 minute intervals to teach your pup that time in the tub is simply extra play time. Score!
Pawsh-Magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-64. HAVE SPECIAL ‘BATHTIME ONLY’ TOYS
Remember when you were little and your parents had to bribe you into agreeing to bathtime with a special rubber ducky or toy boat? Well, this same trick can work for dogs too. I recommend having two designated bathtime dog toys — one that sinks and one that floats. Make sure that your dog only gets these toys when they are in the tub, ideally only when they get into the tub on their own.

Toys are a great distraction while you’re lathering up the shampoo and rinsing the suds away. With your dog’s mind fixated on nosing around their floaty toy, they will be less likely to acknowledge the actual soaping up process. (This is the bathtime dog toy I use). Allow them to play with the toy for an hour after bathtime so that the toy is a reward for good bathtime behaviour. Then put it away ready for the next mucky occasion.
Pawsh-magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-1a5. TALK IN A SOOTHING, HAPPY VOICE
While Fido wriggling all over the place during his bath may be enough of a nuisance to make you want to scream, keep your voice light, happy and soothing. As with any situation, the more stressed out you become, the more stressed out your pupster will be.

Use the same vocal cues you use when playing a game with your dog; you’re happy, energetic, yet firm when the play gets a little too rough. Your dog will know how to respond to this sort of verbal direction, rather than getting scared or upset by yelling.

(CONFESSION: Singing to your dog can help keep them calm too. My song of choice is “Rub-a-dub, get the bugs out!” or “Rub-a-dub-dub, there’s a pup in the tub!”)

6. KEEP DRY AND CARRY ON
Contrary to popular belief, bathtime is not over when the last little paw comes out of the water. When you towel dry your dog, remember to maintain the fun game-like mentality. Most dogs get what is known as the ‘heebie-jeebies’ after a bath and will tear around the house in a super hyper manner (here is Rory doing just that after her bath this weekend).

Embrace this happy mood with your dog and settle in for a game of light rough-house with the towel. This may seem like peculiar advice, but by making the drying part of a bath into a game every time your pup comes out of the tub, they will remember the routine and look forward to the chance to go ‘crazy’ after being washed. This also reinforces the bath as a bonding ritual between dog and human.Pawsh-Magazine-how-to-bath-a-dog-2As any seasoned dog parent knows, canine kiddies thrive on routine. They do best when they know what to expect. So no matter what your dog’s bathtime looks like, whether its in the family bathtub, the laundry room tub or with the backyard hose, make it a ritual with these tips.

And above all keep it fun so that your dog looks forward to the treats, the toys, the afterbath antics and the extra time with you!

{Huge thanks to my incredible friend and talented artist Tonya Pet Photography for photographing this special “Pet Wellness” column. And thanks to Ziggy the dog model!}

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