Thanksgiving is almost here! Christmas is right around the corner!
(Just typing that out was stressful for me.)
Not only can the holidays be stressful for us, but they are especially stressful for our animal companions. Changes in our routines, the many visitors coming and going, and our stress levels can create havoc in our homes, and affect our pets.
When we combine all of those factors, we can create the “perfect storm”. Dog experts correlate the increase in dog bites during the holidays to the increase in commotion and stress in our homes.
Thankfully, the folks at DoggoneSafe created these helpful tips to keep everyone happy and safe this holiday season:
There is a very common myth that taking an animal’s food or toys away while they are enjoying them, will teach the animal to allow anyone to come up and take things from them. This “technique” at best, is usually viewed as an annoyance to the animal, but at worst it can trigger or create defensive behaviors such as resource guarding, growling, and even biting.
Instead of taking food or toys away from an animal, offer Good Things to whatever they are enjoying!
For example, calmly approach a relaxed pet (cat, bird, dog, pig, etc.) when they are eating their food, or chewing on a toy, and add another yummy piece of food, or another irresistible toy to his/her bowl or play area, then walk away.
This teaches your animal companion that approaching humans or brief touches that happen while they are enjoying their valued resource are Good Things! This technique helps to prevent resource guarding and other defensive or aggressive behaviors. It also helps to build confidence and trust with you, other people, and other pets!
You can see an example of how to do this here:
For it is in giving that we receive. ― Francis of Assisi
According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 1,000 house fires are accidentally started by pets each year. Yes, you read that correctly; a thousand house fires are linked to companion animals in our homes.
When I learned this startling stat I immediately thought of Stephen King’s FireStarter, then I began to laugh as the above images flash into my mind. As comical as it seems to imagine a dog, parrot, ferret, or cat starting fires like Drew Barrymore did, it’s a very serious concern in homes. Apparently it’s serious enough to have a day dedicated to it! Today is National Pet Fire Safety Day, so let’s look at the stats, and see what we can do to change them.
Home fires are reported every 83 seconds.
An estimated 500,000 pets are affected annually by fires.
40,000 pets die each year, mostly from smoke inhalation.
Stove tops and/or cook tops are the number one piece of equipment involved in pets starting fires in the home.
A 2010 study showed that space heaters were responsible for 32% of home-heating fires.
The American Kennel Club® and ADT Security Services have joined forces for National Pet Fire Safety Day (July 15) to spread awareness about how pets start home fires, and how we can prevent these fires:
Tips to Prevent Pets from Starting Fires!
Extinguish flames! As counter-intuitive as it seems, many animals will investigate cooking appliances, candles, etc. Make sure animals are not left unattended around an open flame. Be sure to extinguish all flames before leaving home, or falling asleep!
Be aware of Canine Kleptos! Food- motivated dogs (and cats!) will often try to climb, jump, and reach up to food left out on the stove/counter. When they do this they can accidentally hit the stove knobs. Stove tops/cook tops are the number one piece of equipment involved in pets starting fires in the home. Fire Safety experts suggest that we remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before leaving the house. My suggestion is to remove any temptation! Don’t leave food out! If there is no temptation, they won’t be up on surfaces where they don’t belong.
Invest in flameless candles. These candles contain a light bulb rather than an open flame, and take the danger out of pets knocking over a candle. Cats are notorious for starting fires when their tails turn over lit candles. Wagging dog tails can knock over incense and candles. I have seen cats and dogs burn their tails and whiskers on candle flames, then knock over the flame. Keep these well out of reach of pets!
Secure young pets! Keep them away from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home. Space heaters can be a huge risk for pets starting fires. When in doubt, put any hazardous items away! Or, use a safe crate, or place the pets in secure areas.
Keep collars on all animals in the home. Keep leashes handy in case firefighters need to rescue them.
Keep pets in areas or rooms near entrances where firefighters can easily find them.
Affix a pet alert window cling. Write down the number of pets inside your house and attach the static cling to a front window. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets. Make sure to keep the number of pets listed on them updated.
Keep Your Information Updated – Firefighters are familiar with pet alert window clings so keep the number of pets listed on them updated. Knowing the accurate number of pets in the house aids rescuers in finding all of your pets and provides important information so that firefighters do not put themselves or others in danger when rescuing pets.
Install Smoke Alarms and Ensure They Always Have Working Batteries – Change the batteries in your smoke alarm at least once a year and test it monthly to ensure it is functioning.
Consider Monitored Smoke Detection Services – Home monitoring services can provide an extra layer of protection for your pet by quickly alerting the fire department if there is an emergency.
BE PREPARED. Have A PLAN.
Know their hiding places! During a fire your pets will be terrified, and they’ll most likely run to in the places they feel most safe. If you don’t know their common hiding places, you could run out of time to save your furry, scaly, or feathered friend.
Map it out! Find their hidey-holes and niches. Map these out on a piece of paper, and include the map in your fire escape plan.
Always evacuate your pets on a leash or in a pet carrier. Pets will panic at the smell of smoke, and may bolt when outside, making them impossible to find.
Prepare an emergency kit for each of your animals. The kit should contain your pet’s food, veterinary paperwork, prescription medications, and an updated photo and description of each animal. You may have to board your pet at a kennel or other facility until you get settled after a fire, and they will require proof that your pet has current vaccinations.
Have an evacuation plan. If you have to evacuate your home, and you cannot return for a while, have a plan of action!
Get A Pet Alert Window Cling!
You can find them at Petco, and other pet stores. The ASPCA distributes free alert stickers on their website! It only takes a few seconds to request one! I just ordered ours, and it will be arriving soon.
Get out and stay out. If pets are still inside, every attempt will be made to rescue them. Firefighters have the training, equipment and breathing protection to be in that environment.” ~ Fire Marshall Baker
“Planning for unexpected emergencies like home fires and taking these precautions are an integral part of responsible pet ownership.”
None of us wants to believe that “those things” can happen to us, but the statistics speak for themselves. Accidents do happen. Faulty house wiring does occur. We are forgetful by nature. Mother Nature can be brutal, so we must be prepared.
Have a plan. Be proactive. Our curious critters can cause more damage than you realize!
Do you have eye for safety or are you blinded by bad habits?
“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.” ― James Thurber
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
It’s National Hug Your Dog Day! Let’s dig deep into the science of hugs!
I will be the first to admit: Sometimes I want to hug our dog and cats (and other animals) like the Abominable Snowman in the bit from “Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters” cartoon. But I don’t. I know they don’t enjoy receiving hugs as much as I love giving them. And frankly, I would not enjoy it if someone did that to me without my consent.
Been there; had that.
This might sound crazy, but sometimes a hug to our animal companion is more like holding them hostage. Obviously they aren’t really our “hostages”, but we may be unknowingly forcing them to interact with us in a way they would not choose on their own.
Don’t just take my word for it. Do some dog-behavior-digging for yourself:
Have someone take a picture of you holding your animal hostage (I mean, hugging and squeezing them). Then look carefully at the expression on their face.
If I found out that a person I loved to hug only tolerated my touches and squeezes, I would put an end to it. Mainly because I would feel weird now, but I also wouldn’t want to push myself onto someone that didn’t want my affection in that form.
Most people don’t want to hear this, but animals are no different in that way. A lot of animals really don’t want to be manhandled and coddled. Most of them will offer and solicit affection on their terms. And every species has their own unique way of displaying affection. And within each species, each individual as their own preference for affection.
As Conscious Companions, we need to be aware of this.
Let’s look at two dogs receiving hugs from a human. One dog is not enjoying the hug and one is cool it. Spend a few minutes carefully reviewing the two photos below. See if you can identify the emotional state of the dog in each pic.
In the top photo, the dog is leaning (or at least trying to lean) away from the human. His ears are held tightly back, his eyes are more tense with a slightly furrowed brow, and his mouth is closed. While there isn’t anything about the dog’s body language that says he will lash out, it is abundantly clear that the hug is not comfortable or appreciated.
In the bottom photo, the golden retriever is not leaning away from the hugger. His ears are relaxed, his eyes are soft, his mouth is open and lips are not tense, and the tongue is draped out in a relaxed pant. (Yes, even the way a dog holds his tongue is potentially a clue!)
“It takes a lot of experience, it turns out, to be good at reading signs of fear or stress or discomfort on the face of a dog.” —McConnell.
When you take your dog to the dog park, or even just to a friend’s house where she can play with another dog, how do the dogs greet one another? There are myriad ways dogs say hello depending on if they know each other and are reforming old bonds, or are meeting for the first time and feeling each other out as they establish the pecking order. There is face smelling, rump smelling, tail wagging, play bowing… but there is never hugging. Even among the best of friends. In fact, the closest approximation dogs have to a hug as we know it actually means something other than friendship. —Dr. Patricia McConnell, certified applied animal behaviorist,
If you discovered that your animal companion really didn’t enjoy your hug-a-palooza, would you continue to force it on them? I hope not. But what if you learned how your particular pup enjoys receiving and offering affection? That would be a game changer!
The hard truth is simple. It’s not in a dog’s nature to show affection by hugging. Many dogs don’t really enjoy being petted or hugged. They tolerate it.
Many very tolerant dogs, who allow the “kidnap cuddle”, can go from tolerant to intolerant very quickly under “the perfect storm” conditions. We must become dog aware and teach others how to do this as well, especially children.
Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. Many bites happen when children are hugging their dog and holding him/her “hostage”.
Studies have shown that dogs who bite children involved familiar children, who were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog.
Although some dogs are not reactive about being kissed and hugged, these types of interactions are potentially provocative, leading to bites. In a study we published in a journal called Injury Prevention, we looked at dogs that had bitten children and found that most children had been bitten by dogs that had no history of biting. Most important here, familiar children were bitten most often in the contexts of ‘nice’ interactions — such as kissing and hugging with their own dogs, or dogs that they knew. ~ Dr. Reisner, Veterinary Behavior & Consulting Services
Different Strokes for Different Species
One of the biggest hangups with hugs is how hard it is for many pet parents to admit to themselves that their dog doesn’t enjoy their hugs. I see this resistance and disappointment with new clients a lot. But here’s the human-doggie deal: Hugs are a natural and primary way for most of the human species to show affection.
Research on primates, especially chimpanzees and bonobos to whom we are most closely related, reveals that hugging is an integral part in giving and seeking out comfort and affection. But it’s not in a dog’s nature to show affection by hugging.
If you watch little kids, tiny little kids who are just barely able to stand on their legs, they wrap their arms around another to express affection, empathy and love by hugging. It’s just so hard-wired into who we are and what we do. And so I think when we tell people that dogs don’t like hugging, it’s like some primal, limbic part of our brain says, ‘You mean my dog doesn’t love me?!’ — Dr. Patricia McConnell, certified applied animal behaviorist
Languages of Love
Just because your pup might not enjoy receiving your hugs as much as you enjoy giving them, does not mean your canine companion doesn’t love you with all of his/her heart. Dogs love us (and their animal companion friends) in their brilliant and beautiful Canid way, while we, as their humans, love them in our primate way.
Dogs and humans are two incredibly different species. But, through the centuries, we have become intimately connected. But thousands of years of co-evolution doesn’t erase millions of years of separate-species evolution.
This is why it’s important to look at the social science of what a hug really means to dogs.
—>Please take a moment to check out this brief and insightful post, “You’re Making Me Uncomfortable!” to understand how uninvited hugs can adversely affect both dogs AND people!<—
Check out this video about Dog Body Language:
Next time, you go in for that monster love hug, ask yourself: Is this dog (or cat) really enjoying the hug? Or is he/she just enduring/tolerating it because they know it will be over soon?
Consider asking them to come over to you, instead of coming into their space.
Next time you see your child (or someone else’s child) going in for the monster hug to the family dog (or cat), please stop the child and show them safer ways to love an animal.
Let’s encourage our pets and other companion animals to offer affection and attention (that we so deeply appreciate), on their own terms.
Below are some great examples of happy hugs, where both dog and human are enjoying the interaction as a consensual canine team 😉
This is a judgement free zone! All comments and feedback are welcome! I deeply understand that most parents and guardians are doing the best with what they have, and what they know how to do. This post is meant to help and educate families living with pets. We would Love to hear from you!
What has been your experience with hugs?
“Recognizing our own mistakes helps us to empathise non-judgmentally with others and helps enable us to understand their issues.” ― Jay Woodman
If you are expecting a certified letter or a package to be delivered to your front door, place your dog(s) in a separate room, and securely close that door before you open your front door. Dogs have been known to break through screen doors and even plate-glass windows to get to the “Stranger Danger”.
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?