Education is the key to many things, including safety and wellbeing in our homes. This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. It’s the perfect time to reflect on how we can better understand our canine companions, educate and guide children of all ages, and share what we have learned over the years with everyone we know. It’s also important to set aside judgement and focus on compassionate education.
There is an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households right now.
Nearly 5 million (reported) dog bites occur in the United States each year.
Most of these bites involve children.
Children love to kiss and hug dogs, even though these expressions of affection do not translate well in the dog world.
Fast movements can stimulate a dog’s prey drive and/or chase instinct.
Higher pitched voices can sometimes startle a dog and make it fearful.
A dog can be frustrated through rough play or by teasing and a child can inadvertently inflict pain with the pull of a tail or a poke in the eye.
It is also hard for a child to read and understand a dog’s body language, therefore missing vital signals that can put them in harm’s way.
Children are most likely to be bitten in the face as they are closer to a dog’s eye level making it easier for a dog to feel threatened by eye to eye contact.
The majority of reported dog bites occur between the family dog and a family member.
It is unlikely that you will be injured by a dog you do not know.
Dog breed does not predict behavior.
Any resource that lists dogs who are “most likely to bite” by breed are a distraction from preventions that actually work. Visual breed identification is notoriously unreliable, breed does not predict behavior, and there is no standard reporting system for reporting or recording dog bites (nor is there a need for a system). Articles focused on breed are an easy way to get “clicks”. It’s fear mongering, not fact-based reporting. ~Animal Farm Foundation
Check out this graphic from the National Canine Research Council. This graphic puts (reported) national dog bites into perspective. We need to focus on facts, not fear when educating. In rare occasions (0.01%) dog bites result in an incredible amount of physical damage. However, this still means that we need to understand what happened, so we can prevent it! You can read more about this here.
Here’s the GOOD News:We can change those statistics! The majority of dog bites, if not all, are preventable. That’s where YOU come in.
It’s our duty as dog guardians, parents, educators, and family members to teach children how to understand and respect our canine companions. Kids are great imitators; let’s show them what we want them to imitate!
If we want to become serious about preventing dog bites, and rehoming family dogs, we need to encourage and teach appropriate supervision habits at home. This excellent video from Family Paws Parent Education explains the 5 Types of Supervision that we recommend:
Below are a few common questions we often hear from parents with kids:
How do we know when a dog is the right fit for our family?
Does the breed of dog matter?
Are some dog breeds better for some kids?
What should we do to ensure we set everyone up for success?
Today is the “opening day” of a brand new, fun competition and you are invited!
Who: You! Your friends! Your family! Your colleagues! Your coworkers! And of course, your animal companions (pets)!
What: The International Day of Celebration for Force Free Training & Pet Care
When: Friday, January 17, 2014 – Saturday, March 15, 2014
Where: In your own home, in the backyard, at the beach, in the mountains, in the forest, in the wetlands, in your neighborhood, at the pool, or at the park! Anywhere you can think of! This is an International Virtual Educational Event, so they possibilities are endless!
Why: The community of force-free pet professionals and animal guardians recognize, value, and celebrate the positive effects and power of force-free animal training and pet care! We want to share that knowledge with the world and teach others that Force-Free is the way to be!
All profits from this event go to the Pet Professional Guild Advocacy Fund for PPG’s advocacy goals in 2014:
The Pet Professional Guild, the Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals (The PPG or The Guild), is a nonprofit member organization headquartered in Bonifay FL, USA. The PPG represents over 1600 members around the world. The mission of PPG World Services is “Global News & Views on Force-Free Pet Care” and will serve as an advocacy forum for force-free dog training and pet care issues. The key advocacy goal of the PPG is to facilitate an ongoing conversation with pet owners, pet care professionals and industry stakeholders aimed at moving the pet industry forward toward better informed practices, training methods, equipment use and pet care philosophies. The Guild’s message will strive to build widespread collaboration and acceptance of force-free methods and philosophies consistent with its guiding principles.
If you are wondering what all of this means, here it is very simply; Force-Free is defined as:
No shock, No pain, No choke, No fear, No physical force, No physical molding, No compulsion based methods are employed to train or care for a pet.
Animals can be trained without fear, force, or intimidation. That includes ALL pets, ALL animals, ALL species, ALL the time! Training can and should be FUN for everyone!
Participation in this global event is simple. All you have to do is participate in any 30 minute Force-Free Fun Activity with your pet! Take a walk or a jog, swim or hike, bike or skate, train and teach, but the idea is to spend 30 minutes of Force-Free Fun with your animal companion! This can be anything and anywhere that you decide. Where do they love to go? What do they enjoy doing? What’s your favorite place to be with them? Do it when and where it’s convenient for you!
Note: If you don’t have time to complete your chosen event all at once, you can split it up over several days.
Participants are encouraged to submit photos showing what they did for their fun, chosen event. The photos will be judged on these three criteria:
How much force-free fun the human and pet are having together (this one is strongly encouraged!) Fun is the key!
What’s In It For You!
Each participant will receive:
A special competitor medal for your companion animal!
A certificate to show off that you rocked the contest!
Register today to help celebrate and educate others about this important event. Through education and celebration, we can help others learn the value and importance of force-free training and animal companion care methods. Education and inspiration starts with you! Won’t you join the fun, Force-Free revolution with us?
Note: The registration deadline is March 3rd. So be sure to add your name to the fun, force-free list today!
We welcome and encourage you to check out the pet owner resource section of The Pet Professional Guild website! You will find tons of helpful resources! You can also listen to a few of the PPG’s free podcasts on iTunes here.
If you are still wondering why our Pet Professional Guild has proclaimed An International Day of Celebration for Force Free Training and Pet Care, check out this video and our news release here!
If you are a last minute holiday shopper, you may be tempted to buy Christmas or New Year gifts for loved ones without doing your homework. This time of year, parents and partners can be easily persuaded to get the most heart-warming gift of them all: a cute and cuddly new animal. It may seem like the sweetest gift idea, but often it is not most responsible decision.
Animals are unlike any other present. They require a level of commitment and responsibility that few other holiday gifts do. Often because people fail to recognize this, countless dogs, cats, birds, and other animals given as gifts during the holidays end up at animal shelters shortly after the New Year, facing a very uncertain future.
An animal gifted as a present isn’t a Christmas Day gift, it is a life-long commitment. Let’s be clear here. It’s not a gift for your life, but their life. Thinking of getting that teeny, tiny, adorable tortoise? Are you ready to ensure its care for well over a hundred years? Do you want a dazzling parrot? You can plan on 60 to even 100 years of care. Even aquatic turtles live over 30 years of age. The average lifespan of a cat is 13 – 17 years. A dog’s average lifespan is 10 to 13 years. Are you ready to dedicate yourself to this animal for that long? Animals are not just pets. They are family members for life.
Ask yourself another tough question. Have you considered the extent of responsibility, time, care, expenses, education, commitment, and love that this one animal will require? These responsibilities last far past Christmas day. Take the time and do your homework on what exactly is involved by adding an animal companion to your lifestyle.
Let’s take dogs for example. When you decide to bring home a new canine companion, please understand that you are making a commitment for the entirety of that dog’s life. So many people that have the best intentions rush this very important and life-long decision.
The honest and informative graphic below from The Uncommon Dog should help you and your family decide if you are truly ready to welcome a dog into your home at Christmas Time.
When the kids, wife, husband, or partner pleads for a new adorable pet, answer their request with a realistic question: “Are you fully committed to this soul for its life?” If either of you cannot answer with an unequivocal yes, then you might want to reconsider.
Parents, no matter how well intentioned your child may seem about caring for a new animal family member, the reality is that you will inevitably end up being the true caretaker of that animal. Deciding to give your son or daughter that puppy or kitten that he or she has been asking for is really a decision made by the adult, to add another living, breathing, needing member of your family – for which you, the parent will be ultimately responsible. It’s not quite the same, or as easy as investing in an iPad.
If you decide that “gifting” an animal isn’t the best decision, consider these options as an alternative:
Joining Petfinder’s Foster a Lonely Pet for the holidays program. You can give a shelter dog or cat a much-needed break from the stress of shelter life.
Donating in-kind goods; many shelters need used blankets, sheets, and towels to make the animals more comfortable. They often need food, toys, and medical supplies. Call or check online to see your shelter’s “wish list” items.
Give a goat and two chickens. Through Animal World Vision, goats nourish hungry children and families with healthy milk, cheese, and yogurt
Make a donation to your local shelter or local humane society.
Start an animal food drive. This can be for an animal food bank in your community, or in conjunction with other charity drives that may be taking place through your work, house of worship, or other organization.
Volunteer at your local shelter. You can help by walking dogs, offer love, affection, and attention to cats, assist with adoption events, and many other ways that are much needed
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. ― Winston Churchill
We call this the Season of Giving, but it doesn’t always feel like that. One of the things that I dislike about this holiday season is that the “consumer” tends to comes out in all of us. We find ourselves rushing around, frantically buying random stuff or obligatory gifts for each other, instead of slowing down and giving back to people, animals, or organizations that need it most.
This season our family has decided to donate to each other’s favorite nonprofit organization instead of buying each other gifts. I have been asking for my family to do this for over a decade, but this will be the first year that we finally do it! I am so grateful to be giving to others in need, instead of receiving.
Recently I was excited to learn that the idea of giving to ones truly in need has gone global! Last year anew movement was started to create a national day of giving to kick off the season of giving! It’s called Giving Tuesday! And it’s today!! Each year it falls on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday to encourage the shopping community to start the season by giving back. Since there are two days dedicated to shopping in connection with the holidays – Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shouldn’t there be at least one day focused on giving back?
Over 8,000 organizations in all 50 states have signed up as partners with Giving Tuesday! As I mentioned, this has gone global: significant Giving Tuesday campaigns are under way in countries all over the world, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Argentina and Singapore.
Giving Tuesday celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations. It was created to foster giving during a time of the year when there is a lot of focus on shopping.
Do Good Works and Help the Ones that are Doing Good
Giving Tuesday is a wonderful opportunity for us to give our money and resources to non-profit organizations who are doing great things behind the scenes and trying to make this world a better place for all living beings.
Countless non-profit organizations have signed up to be a part of Giving Tuesday to encourage people to help them out this holiday season! Even animal shelter organizations are participating in a nationwide online donation drive. Here are just a few cool ways to help people and shelter animals in need:
The National Animal Shelter Campaign is designed to raise pet food and other supplies for many of the shelters and rescues doing Good Work 24 hours a day. You Give Goods allows people to contribute to the campaign by simply visiting their website at You Give Goods Loves Animals. From their website you select an organization to support, and then you choose the items you want to purchase, such as pet food or cleaning supplies. You Give Goods then handles the delivery of the donations to the shelters. Your donation will be delivered for you, directly to the shelter or rescue! It’s that simple! Learn more here.
In addition to the animal shelter campaign, You Give Goods also is conducting a Fresh Produce Drive to provide donations of nutritious food for people in need.
The Morris Animal Foundation has an incredible opportunity to make your donations go further! A donor has agreed to give $100,000 to Morris Animal Foundation if they are able to raise the same amount by December 31, 2013. This means that if you donated $25, $50, or $100, their benefactor will double that donation! Check out how you can make your donation go twice as far and do twice as much good for animals through the Season of Hope Gift Match!
Feral Fixers has also been blessed with two donors who have offered to match up to $2,000 worth of donations Giving Tuesday. The funds will help support spay and neuter surgeries, vaccinations, and other costs associated with their Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs and rehoming the strays they take in. Feral Fixers has spayed and neutered 6,000 cats in six years! Click here to donate, and reference “Black Cat Fundraiser”!
Tis the season to be unselfie
If you are on any kind of social media or networking site, chances are you have seen the famous “selfie” pic. If you have not seen this, you can learn about what it is here. Fortunately, there is now a new trend to turn the selfie into an “un-selfie”.
This year was the year that “selfie” was named word of the year. ~Seriously. But fortunately now there is a less selfish twist to it. We are encouraged to post an “UNselfie” to our social media channels to spread the message of the season of giving. This is how you do it:
1) Take a piece of paper and write the name of a charity you support.
2) Take your picture holding up the piece of paper in front of your face.
3) Upload the photo to your favorite social media page (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or your blog) and remember to include the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #UNselfie.
Note: Sharing your charitable efforts during this time of year isn’t intended to glorify your efforts, or your virtue, but rather to inspire others to give, and to educate your friends and family about the organization you choose to support.
Are you a volunteer? Do you work for a nonprofit? Do you rally for a cause? The Case Foundation is kicking off this Season of Giving with the 5 Giving Tuesdays campaign. When you visit their site and share how you’ll give back, you have a chance chance to win $100,000 in grants and prizes! Visit here to learn more!
You can also download a helpful tool from Nonprofit Toolkit and add your logo, message and direct giving URL to kick off your giving season!
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.― Charles Dickens
Conscious Companion Recommended Organizations
How You Can Support People, Nature and Endangered Species Through Online Donations:
Even trees are getting a lot of love during this season of giving: Friends of Trees
Those are just a few of the organizations that I have worked with or supported over the years. Each one of them makes huge advances in their respective fields, but I know there are millions more that do good work as well. What are some nonprofits that you support? Please share them in the comments below!
For it is in giving that we receive. ― St. Francis of Assisi
“The dog’s agenda is simple, fathomable, overt: I want. “I want to go out, come in, eat something, lie here, play with that, kiss you. There are no ulterior motives with a dog, no mind games, no second-guessing, no complicated negotiations or bargains, and no guilt trips or grudges if a request is denied.” ― Caroline Knapp
Not long ago I came across something that really moved me, spoke to me deeply, and inspired me to help something greater than myself.
Shannon Johnstone, an art professor at Meredith College in North Carolina, recently launched the Landfill Dogs project. Every week she takes one shelter dog on an afternoon outing and photographs him or her playing, frolicking, sniffing, lounging in the grass, and just being a dog at the state landfill where they will end up after they are euthanized. Yes, you heard right. These dogs are on death row.
So why would someone even care to do this? Johnstone explains:
These are not just cute pictures of dogs. These are dogs who have been homeless for at least two weeks, and now face euthanasia if they do not find a home. Each week for 18 months (late 2012–early 2014) I bring one dog from the county animal shelter and photograph him/her at the local landfill.
The landfill site is used for two reasons. First, this is where the dogs will end up if they do not find a home. Their bodies will be buried deep in the landfill among our trash. These photographs offer the last opportunity for the dogs to find homes.
The second reason for the landfill location is because the county animal shelter falls under the same management as the landfill. This government structure reflects a societal value; homeless cats and dogs are just another waste stream. However, this landscape offers a metaphor of hope. It is a place of trash that has been transformed into a place of beauty. I hope the viewer also sees the beauty in these homeless, unloved creatures.
As part of this photographic process, each dog receive a car ride, a walk, treats, and about 2 hours of much needed individual attention. My goal is to offer an individual face to the souls that are lost because of animal overpopulation, and give these animals one last chance. This project will continue for one year, so that we can see the landscape change, but the constant stream of dogs remains the same.
Here are a few of Shannon’s images that so beautifully capture the spirit of each dog:
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
― Mark Twain
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
― Milan Kundera
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
― Josh Billings
“The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion in the only guarantee of morality.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality
Her images are poignantly beautiful. Looking at these faces, I can’t help but think about the millions of dogs and cats that end up at landfills all over the world because of factors that we do have direct control over: lack of spaying and neutering, lack of planning and prevention, the endless need that we have to breed more and more dogs to satisfy the desire for a designer dog, or because dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters due to “behavioral problems” – many of which could be prevented with education, proper training, and socializing. Every dog, cat, or other companion animal that ends up in these landfills is a life that could have been saved from such a fate.
It’s hard to not get emotional looking at this images, knowing the ground that the dogs are standing on, and what their fate will most likely be. But we can help them.
We do have the power to help all companion animals – right in our own backyards – that need our help. We can speak up for them by sharing their story and their faces. We can help other animal guardians avoid having to surrender their companion animals to shelters through education and training. We can stress the importance of microchipping, spaying and neutering every cat and dog! If someone can’t afford to spay or neuter their animal, we can show them that there are affordable spay and neuter options! We can speak with our local shelters and ask to volunteer there, or even be a foster mom or dad to animals in need. We can be an advocate for no-kill shelters and support their never-ending hard work. We can encourage our friends, coworkers, and family members to adopt dogs, cats, birds, etc, that need loving, forever homes, rather than buying from breeders. There are so many ways to prevent this.
These are not “abandoned pets” or “throw-aways”. They are living beings with a soul. They deserve a life of compassion and mercy. Each one of them has so much love to give, so many lessons to teach us, and ways of opening our hearts so that we may know, feel, and understand unconditional love and acceptance.
Landfill Dogs who are still looking for homes:
Landfill Dogs is a photographic project to showcase the beautiful souls of the most overlooked dogs, located in Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. You can read the full story from The Unexamined Dog about Beautiful Animal Advocacy here. To learn more about Shannon Johnstone’ project visit here.
To see most recent Landfill Dogs – the souls who are still in need of forever homes please see the Landfill Dogs facebook page or visit this gallery. Landfill Dog Adoption info here! Please share their story with others!
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ― Anatole France
So often we interpret dog behavior through our human thoughts and experiences. But dogs do not communicate using our language. Canine language consists of a large variety of signals using body, face, ears, tail, sounds, movement, and complex expression. If we study the signals dogs use with each other, we increase our ability to communicate with, and understand dogs.
This picture is an excellent example of a dog that is stressed and very uncomfortable. How can we tell? Well, the dog is displaying at least 4 very important behaviors:
1. Licking lips 2. Showing the whites of eyes 3. Panting when not overheated 4. Turning head away
I would even dare to say that the dog might be thinking something along the lines of, “I am not enjoying this! Please make it stop!”.
It’s not just enough to make sure your dog is never left alone with a child; as the dog’s guardian, you must be able to recognize when the dog is uncomfortable or stressed and remove the dog from the child’s presence. This is how we can be a conscious companion.
Please educate others by sharing this with your friends and family! You can learn more about how to understand dog language here.
Many cherished Easter traditions, from the Easter bunny to decorating and hunting for eggs, have been around for centuries. Let’s begin with the infamous Easter Bunny. The exact origin of this mythical mammal is unclear. There’s no story in the Bible about a long-eared, cotton-tailed creature. Nor is there a passage about young children painting eggs or hunting for baskets overflowing with delicious Easter goodies. And real rabbits certainly don’t lay eggs. However rabbits, because they are prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. Easter eggs are linked back to centuries of traditions. The egg, also an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection.
Fast forward to this century. So many parents buy rabbits for their children for Easter, many of whom do not even know the history behind these long eared lagomorphs. Our culture is filled with images of children and rabbits, so most parents see rabbits as low-maintenance starter pets for kids.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Before you fill your Easter basket with a live bunny, find out what is involved with caring for this complicated animal companion.
Did you know?
Rabbits can live ten or more years. That cute bunny you’re thinking of buying for your child on Easter could still be around long after your child has grown into a teen. Should the novelty wear off, you’ll have an adult rabbit in the house who needs your care and attention every day for the next decade or longer.
They require as much involved, long-term care, and management as a dog or cat; and often more.
Rabbits are physically delicate and fragile animals. They must be handled with care. This makes them inappropriate for families with very young children. Adults should be the primary caregiver in families with young children.
We all know that children are energetic and loving, but “loving” to a small child means holding, cuddling, or carrying an animal around. These are precisely the things that frighten and can injure rabbits.
Rabbits have been known to scratch and bite to protect themselves from well-meaning children, and to defend territory.
Rabbits are accidentally dropped by children, resulting in broken legs and broken backs. (This is not as uncommon as you would think). I know from personal childhood experience.
Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. -They have very specific dietary and housing needs.
The days of leaving a rabbit in a hutch outside are long gone; that’s now considered borderline neglect.
Thousands of ex-Easter bunniesare abandoned to shelters and zoos, or thrown into the wild each year when their novelty wears off.
Rabbits require specialized veterinary care, which means you will need to find a veterinarian who speciliazes in rabbits.
Rabbits must be spayed or neutered – something else you’ll have to consider (the cost, the stress of the procedure, and your close involvement in the rabbit’s recovery)..
Rabbits can be messy, so you’ll need to clean their enclosure at least three times weekly.
Rabbits require regular brushings to remove excess hair and keep their coat in good condition.
Companion rabbits should live indoors with their human family. Although an outdoor hutch has been the traditional housing for a rabbit, today that is not the case. A backyard hutch forces these social animals to live in unnatural isolation. Rabbits can die of heart attacks from the very approach of a predator. They are prone to overheating as well.
They may be small, but rabbits require a lot of room for housing and exercise.
Rabbits need exercise for several hours EVERY day. They are designed for running & jumping!
Annual cost of one rabbit per year is $730
Is your family ready to commit to all of this??
Our family has always had rabbits. Ever since I can remember my mother and father raised rabbits, and I loved them dearly, but they were the caregivers. When I was old enough to have my first rabbit my parents made sure we had the space, finances, and the dedication to a rabbit. They made sure I was mature enough to take on 100% responsibility. And let me tell you, rabbits are amazing companion animals, but they are a LOT of work. They are wicked smart, very clever, very sensitive to heat and humidity, and sometimes very awnry! They get into everything; plants, wires, shoes, etc. They are prey animals, so sometimes it’s very dangerous to have them in a home with cats and/or dogs.
You really need to consider the risks before you go out and buy that cute bunny.
If your family member has their mind set on getting a rabbit, and you have discussed all of the facts listed above, get a book on rabbit care. Do your research and homework first. Then you can make an informed and well educated decision. If children know what is involved and how high maintenance rabbits or bunnies really are, but are still begging you for a rabbit after the holiday has passed, hop over to the House Rabbit Society for information on bunny rescue groups to find out how to adopt the rabbit (or even better, a bonded pair) of their furry dreams.