Paws and Parenting: Resources for Families

Babies grow. Dogs age. We help families adjust with each stage.

10423664_1588447371386379_5441546013082174015_n

Recently I had the opportunity to share my insights into consulting with families.  The article,
Entering a Judgment-Free Zone: Guiding Clients and the Public Through Compassionate Education (pg 50), discusses how compassionate education is a powerful tool to guide families.  I discuss how this approach guides, educates, and inspires, and avoids judging, blaming, or shaming people for their lack of knowledge and experience.  Compassionate education is the backbone of my consulting, and how I approach every family member that I work with.  I am incredibly passionate about helping families to learn and grow together as they move through chapters in life with their animal companions.

Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. ―Brené Brown

I share this with you because one of the many hats I wear encourages this same approach: I have the honor and privilege of being on the advisory team for Family Paws Parent Education, and a licensed presenter of their Dogs & Storks® and Dogs & Toddlers™ programs.  Compassionate, judgement-free guidance is the heart and soul of Family Paws Parent Education.  We have Jennifer Shryock to thank for that.

What We Do

Our Family Paws Parent Education programs are uniquely designed and specialized to help families with dogs and a baby or toddler, in order to increase safety and reduce stress.

We offer ongoing support and resources for families with dogs.

How We Do It

I invite you to watch our newest video to learn from families sharing their personal stories:

We are ready to support you and your family as your baby grows, and as your dog ages.


We are here to help everyone adjust with each stage!

Dog and Baby Support Hotline

If you are a new parent and are considering re-homing your family dog, give us a call.

If you have a friend or relative who’s overwhelmed with their dog and baby/toddler, call us.

If you’re a shelter volunteer and would like information to support new and expecting families, give us a call.

(877) 247-3407

Reach out.  We are here to help.

Join us on Facebook! (Click here.)
Join us on Facebook for information and support dedicated to dog and baby/toddler dynamics. We help families and the professionals that support them! (Click on image.)


NOTE:  I know that not everyone who follows my blog is expecting a child or has a dog and toddler, but you may know friends, family members, and coworkers who do.  If you feel this information would be a benefit to them, please share this. I strongly believe that we can prevent heartache and stress by letting families know there is support and help available.  Education and sharing our stories and experiences with others is how we accomplish this.


Life is not a solo act.  It’s a huge collaboration. We all need to assemble around us the people who care, and the people who support us in times of difficulty and stress.


Setting Aside Judgement – Focusing on Education

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.” ― James Thurber

Hocus Pocus and I teaching our local Girl Scouts how to be Canine Safety Smart this week
Our local Girl Scouts learning how to be Canine Safety Smart!  Hocus Pocus and I had the pleasure and honor of teaching and learning from these amazing youth leaders.

2014’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week is wrapping up.  It’s been a tremendously positive week with so many great messages about safety, prevention, and dog awareness being spread across the nation and world.

The goal that we educators and dog trainers are trying to reach this week is simple, but profound: educate the masses so we can change the statistics.   We can do this by teaching dog lovers to become more “Dog Aware” as Jennifer Shryock, Founder of Family Paws Parent Education, explains here.  We can change these statistics by changing the way we individually interact with, and think about dogs.  We teach our future leaders how to safely interact with dogs, and before we know it, they are teaching their community about dogs. Change begins with educating our youth.

The goal of this week is not to instill fear, to judge, or to place blame on people who unknowingly put their dog or children in precarious scenarios.  Rather, it is to help all of us become more aware of our dog, others’ dogs, children and family members, guests in our homes, people and dogs on the streets, and anywhere else you can think of that involves a dog.  This week is about educating people on how to be a more “dog aware”, and a responsible Conscious Companion to dogs everywhere, every day of the year.

Dogs are part of our families.  They are our companions, our friends. To many, they are our furry kids. But we must remember that dogs are hardwired to be dogs!  It’s in their DNA.  We must honor this fact buy allowing them to Be a Dog. When we anthropomorphize them, and when we put them on a pedestal and expect perfect, angelic behavior, we do them a great disservice.  We aren’t allowing them to be who they are – a dog, with flaws and all.

Instead of assuming that our dog is incapable of inflicting harm to another person or animal, let’s assume for a minute that they are capable of out-of-the-ordinary behavior.  What would that mean for you and your dog?  Would you begin to take more precautions around kids, other dogs, other people, and other animals?  Or would you continue to convince yourself that “my dog would never…”?

Any dog, of any breed, of any age is capable of biting.  Anything with a mouth is capable of biting! Acknowledging this fact can only help. It’s merely something to recognize and be proactive about.  We prevent dog bites through compassionate, science-based education.

If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog, it’s not something to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about.  If you have a dog that lunges at people or other dogs, don’t be ashamed or pretend that it’s not an issue.  Ask for help.  Find a qualified force-free trainer that understands your needs, and your dog’s specific needs.  There’s no need to hide and be embarrassed.  We learn from these experiences.  Sometimes our worst experiences help others.  There is a compassionate community that does care, who will not judge and condemn, and who wants to help parents and families in need, without blame and judgement.  But this does come with individual responsibility.

It’s our duty as dog guardians and parents to recognize when we need help. We must also learn how to recognize our dog’s specific canine needs, understand their subtle behaviors, know their thresholds, recognize when they have had enough, set them up for success, and to be their advocates every day.  We all “love” our dogs, but true, selfless love is doing what might not be easy or convenient to us.  We may have to move out of our comfort zone. We show love to our dogs when we take the time to educate ourselves, so we can truly understanding their nature and their needs. We show love to our dogs by learning how to read them, respecting their boundaries, training them without punishment and fear, being their advocate, and honoring them as dogs.

Dogs can be some of our greatest teachers if we allow them to be.  But we have to be willing to learn.  When we set aside fears, judgement, and blame, and we choose to focus on creating and participating in fun, compassionate education, we create a safe place for people to come and share their stories.  We create a prevention-focused, educated community.

“Over the years I’ve come to appreciate how animals enter our lives prepared to teach and far from being burdened by an inability to speak they have many different ways to communicate. It is up to us to listen more than hear, to look into more than past.” ― Nick Trout, Love Is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian about Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles

Dog Language

Image

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.

Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs.