Children and the High Drive Dog

Due to several life changes in recent months, I have been remiss in writing here. Now that things have settled a bit at home, I’m happy to be back to writing again!

————————

I recently received an email from a colleague out of state, in a quandary over a client who was looking at euthanizing their one-year-old Border collie due to incidents of nipping. They currently have four children, and the dog is nervous, and has nipped people on several occasions. From my understanding, based on the email thread that was sent to me, the dog has not caused any serious damage, and all bites where on a Level 2 of Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale. This means that the dog has caused minor scratches or cuts not requiring medical attention.

Concurrently, as many of you know, I recently adopted a ten-month-old Border collie pup, whom I’ve been training along with my three-year-old daughter.

Tesla meets the family

The pup we adopted, Tesla, was at the Marin Humane Society, and had a note on her chart that stated she was recommended for households with children of at least 10+ years of age. As I mention above, we have a three-year-old, and yet we convinced them to allow us to adopt her due to my training experience.

The first week was a challenge as I, and anyone else who knows herding dogs, would have predicted:

  • Tesla jumped up on Shelby, and Shelby – to my proud surprise, turned away from her each time! Within a week, she has stopped jumping up on her completely, with just one exception when Shelby was upset about something (unrelated to Tesla) and Tes saw her crying.
  • Tesla also exhibited herding behaviors, which included nipping at Shelby’s clothing and legs whenever she ran. I re-emphasized the rule: “No running when you are with the pup”, and between that rule, very close supervision, and several well-executed time outs, Tesla is no longer nipping at Shelby!! In fact, Shelby is now able to run around the yard with Tesla without incident – needless to say, they remain closely supervised!

I keep thinking back to that dog that my colleague emailed about. I don’t have sufficient details about her to make a sound recommendation as to her disposition, but my instinct is that perhaps this was just the wrong placement, and perhaps, with a more experienced high drive dog owner, the dog could potentially thrive.

Recently, Kelly Gorman Dunbar wrote a fabulous article for Bay Woof magazine about how to choose your ideal dog. If you already have a high-energy dog and are experiencing challenges, contact a qualified trainer for assistance. But if you haven’t yet chosen your next pooch, please carefully consider your choice! If you do not have the hours each day that it takes to mentally and physically wear out a high energy Border collie or Australian shepherd, consider a quieter breed instead. Many calmer dogs can still make nice sports dogs while not requiring that your life revolve around them!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to Tesla puppy before she decides to do something naughty…

Crates AS Cribs??

Yes, you read that right. Our almost 3-year-old daughter just got her own crate to play in, and she couldn’t be happier. Note the smile on her face in the photo.

Shelby in her very own crate

Hanging out in her new “fort” with all of her toys

It started just a few weeks ago, when she figured out that one of our dogs’ crates had an easy-to-open door. Shadow, the quietest, calmest Border collie you’ll likely ever meet, was my husband’s dog originally, and is now Shelby’s dog in many ways. The two hang out together a lot: Shadow will seek Shelby out and lay down next to her. And when she approaches him, he closes the distance and often gently licks her face (an act which used to upset my husband, but he’s since relaxed back into his dog-loving original self.) Shadow responds appropriately to Shelby’s often cryptic commands, both verbal and hand signals, and wags his tail happily when she gives him treats. His face was not so happy, however, the other day when I turned away for 15 seconds and turned back to see Shelby squished into his crate with him. The look on his face was a mix of despair and “help me, please”. I promptly called him out of his crate, which he reluctantly did, and invited him to lay next to me on the couch instead. Shelby opted to stay in his crate and take her afternoon nap there, face down.  Hmmm…

Step one was to replace Shadow’s easy-open crate with one that has the traditional spring-latch door that is not so easily opened. I was quite pleased with myself, until Shadow left his crate to go outside, and Shelby promptly crawled back inside to hang out there with her Orange Tiger and other stuffed animals, leaving Shadow once again without a home base to return to when he came back inside.

I had a conversation about this with our roommate, my good friend, and she reminded me of how much fun “forts” were to make when we were younger. We recalled the various ways in which we had made forts for ourselves when we were kids, and it occurred to both of us that perhaps Shelby really needs a fort of her own. Since there is never a shortage of extra crates in our household, we thought, what better option than to give her Shadow’s old crate, which we knew was already comfortable for her?

When I asked Shelby if she’d like her own crate to hang out in, her face lit up like a Christmas tree. She was so excited that she helped me to clean and scrub it, then put her own big blanket in it. She could hardly wait to cram all of her favorite toys (mostly stuffed animals) into it, and crawl in alongside them to hang out. Problem solved… unless CPS comes calling? Hopefully they are dog-lovers with crate trained dogs, and then they will certainly understand!

So now Shelby gets to hang out in her crate and Shadow has his hallowed den back as his safe space to get away from the kiddo if he needs to. But best of all, his crate door latches solidly shut so that I can comfortably leave the room if I’m doing chores without worrying about how Shelby might annoy him next. Sigh… peace… at least for now.

Safety Aside, What Happened to Respect?

Recently – as happens at least weekly – I came across yet another of those “adorable” photos of a child mistreating a dog, with a caption to the effect of “what a great dog” he was to have such patience with the baby. The poor dog in this particular photo was clearly tolerating the smooch of a toddler who appeared to be grabbing part of the dog’s eye with his little baby fingers. While we professional trainers were up on our high horses, discussing how ridiculous people are in allowing such risky behavior to continue, it occurred to me that even if the dog were completely safe with the children – as some extremely tolerant dogs seem to be – why aren’t the people concerned about the treatment of the dogs themselves?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece in my High Drive Dogs Blog about what I call “respecting” your dog, that is, recognizing dog body language and allowing your dog to get out of uncomfortable situations whenever possible. Now it occurs to me that perhaps this article missed a large piece of its mark. To quote my esteemed colleague and kids and dogs expert, Madeline Clark Gabriel,

I ask why the definition of a good dog is often, ‘You can do anything to him.’ That wouldn’t make any sense if phrased in terms of other relationships: ‘I have a really good wife. You can do anything to her.’ Creepy!

In my home, we work constantly to teach our daughter to respect the dogs and other pets in our household (which include cats, turtles, and fish.) We reward her for appropriate behaviors, and sternly remind her to be nice when she makes a mistake. She is never allowed to pull hair, tails and ears; never allowed to hit or shove them; never allowed to sit upon them (I know one dog who sustained a back injury due to a child sitting upon him.)

Boy and his dog

A boy and his dog – mutual respect.
Photo courtesy of Natasha Gelfand

I find it troubling that some people are so determined to prove how great their dogs are, that they seem to forget that these dogs have feelings too! And I don’t mean just emotions, but physical feelings of pain and discomfort. Granted, sometimes we don’t have a choice but to suffer discomfort or pain, as with doctor visits or vaccines, but when we can prevent discomfort, why don’t we? I tell my clients not to allow their children to do anything to a dog that they wouldn’t allow done to themselves. Would you let a child pull your earlobe until it hurt? Or bite your forehead with his little baby teeth? I can tell you that my tolerance for that would be low. Of course, I wouldn’t injure the child, but I would make it stop and redirect the child to something less painful, such as chewing on a teething ring. Similarly, if you see a child doing something like this to your dog, redirect the child. If your dog learns that you will step in to protect him, then he will not need to ever defend himself, and he will be able to remain the great dog that you know him to be.

We must never forget that dogs do feel, and thus we must strive to treat them with the respect with which we wish to be treated ourselves. As Matthew Scully so eloquently states:

“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.”

Motivation, Part 2: Play!

I was out with my 2-1/2 year old the other day, walking across a big open space when two other small children ran by her. She immediately forgot about me and started to chase the other girls. As I watched her in surprise, I was reminded of a similar incident that I observed with a friend several years ago, as she was running her dog along an agility course. The dog was running perfectly, following every cue, until a low-flying crow crossed her path. As if caught on a hook, she instantly forgot her handler and followed the crow as it flew to the other side of the field. She only stopped because there was a fence at the end.

I know how much people hate it when we compare children to dogs, yet we are constantly reminded of how similar their reactions can be.  When working with my clients and their dogs, one of the mantras that I continually repeat is that they have to do what they can to remain “more interesting than dirt” to their dogs. We all know how interesting dirt can be, with all its smells and hidden information to them. As it turns out, with children, we may not be competing with dirt, but definitely with the environment.

Playing at the beach

Running and chasing is good play

Going for walks through the neighborhood, the dogs stop to smell every bush and leaf that we pass, checking their “pee-mail” as many people lightheartedly say. The youngster stops at each flower, or to pick up pretty rocks or cool sticks along the way. To keep her interest and keep her moving along, I tell her stories and point out other interesting things further along the path. And there is plenty of praise to reinforce her for moving along and following my instruction.  Similarly, when my dogs are moving along on a loose leash, I reinforce them with plenty of praise and positive feedback.

Of course, it’s may be more intuitive to play with human children than with dogs, since we are humans after all, adapted to rearing children. But the concepts are similar. I tell people to play with their dogs in order to strengthen the bond, and thus have dogs that want to work for them and are more focused. As parents, we are encouraged to play with our children as well, to improve our relationships and help them feel special.  I have noticed that, outside of our close family, the people whom our daughter most enjoys are those who play little games with her or do interactive things with her.

So get out there and play with your dogs and your kids! There are games and activities that you can all play together, such as fetch. Whatever you do, have fun and you’ll find that your kids and your dogs will prefer your company over others.

Motivation – it drives all species

In my dog training business, I’m often asked about how to handle “stubborn” dogs. To such questions, I always reply that the dogs are not likely to be stubborn, but rather, insufficiently motivated. While we are more likely to insist that our children do things that they don’t want to do, I believe that the manner of convincing them can be similar in many situations.

Playing with our turtle, Oogway, a few weeks ago, I was very surprised to see how quickly he was able to move to catch a live cricket that I was feeding to him. In spite of his slow and deliberate movements most of the time, I realized that he was able to move fairly quickly when sufficiently motivated.

I remember years ago, at my niece’s birthday party at around 6 years of age, someone gave her a gift with a lot of that Styrofoam popcorn in it. Like a typical 6-year-old, she purposely emptied it all over the living room floor. From then on, every bit of paper and wrapper and packing material was strewn on the floor. It was quite a mess, and I was thinking that my poor sister would have to clean it up when she called everyone’s attention. Handing out two large bags, she challenged the boys versus the girls to see who could pick up the most trash off the floor. Within about one minute, the floor was completely cleaned, and the winning team enjoyed their special toys shortly thereafter.  This was not about force, but about motivation!

Shelby helps Aba

Sufficiently motivated, a child may even clean up after the dog!

In traditional (old school) training, “correction collars” were used to convince the dog that doing the wrong thing is bad, therefore they should do the right thing. But, we have since learned, that this is going about it wrong! (Pun intended.) What do you suppose would have happened if my sister had threatened the kids with a punishment (i.e. no cake) if they had not picked up the wrappings? I suspect that they would still have picked it up, but I’m also quite certain that they would not have done so in record time.

Training is about motivation; motivation can be in the form of punishment or rewards, and both can be effective. However, as demonstrated above, motivation by potential rewards often produces much more enthusiastic results, with learners who are more inclined to do what you ask the next time because it was so much fun the last time. And this doesn’t just apply to children, but to dogs (and other species) as well.

A common misconception among trainers who do not understand modern methods is that positive equals permissive, but this need not be the case! Rewarding good behavior does not mean that we cannot punish bad behavior. However, rewarding good behavior should reduce the incidents of bad behavior, and thus allow us to punish less. Furthermore, punishment does not need to be physical or painful in order to work, as evidenced by the power of time outs, or removal of rewards, for both children and dogs.

Michael training Mancha

With proper motivation (and supervision), a child can train a dog.

Whether you are working with children, dogs, chickens, cats, turtles… consider your tactic the next time you meet any resistance. I’m not saying to become permissive, but remember to reward the positive, and, whenever possible, encourage rather than coerce. Then you’ll be well on your way to getting enthusiastic responses to your requests from the two legged as well as the four legged members of your family.

Sick as a dog…

Well, I’m finally back at the top of my game, after over two weeks of being on-and-off sick as a dog, following a flu shot, which turned into what I called the “fake flu”. As if that weren’t enough, as I was recovering from that, I got a nasty cold that ended up derailing everyone in my household along with me. Fortunately, the kiddo got the least of it, and her reaction to the flu shot was not nearly as bad as mine. While I was barely able to keep up with my regular work, much less my writing, I did have plenty of time to reflect on illness and training.

Sick Dog image from 123RF.com

Being sick is no fun

Back in my single days, I remember getting ill with a flu that knocked me down for 4 days – VERY long, considering that I don’t usually get that sick, flu shots notwithstanding. On the third day, as I was lying on the couch wishing for the fever to finally break, my border collie, Claire, decided that she needed to play. When dancing her front feet on the couch next to my head proved ineffective, she took to dropping a Kong toy on my head. I’d like to say that was also ineffective, but I’d be lying, as it did serve to get me up and start a ball-throwing game in the yard with her despite myself.

While children may not be quite as bad – and mine does show sympathy for other people’s “owies” – most still don’t have a complete appreciation for Mommy’s (or Daddy’s) illness. On the day after our flu shots, our 2-year-old was feeling as down and out as I was, so we spent the day on the couch together, sleeping off the mild fever. Recovering quickly, she was raring to go the next day. Unfortunately for me, I came down with the bad cold several days later, and needed to spend another day off resting (which those who know me understand to be a rarity.) I am convinced that if it had not been for my husband’s intervention, our kid would have been dancing on my head to get me to play with her, too.

The fact is that parents – and particularly parents with additional jobs outside the home – don’t get the luxury of taking a lot of sick days. I have made meals, cleaned the house, fed the dogs and other beasts, responded to emails, and even taught dog training classes while feeling under the weather. It’s just something that I assume as my responsibility, and so I take it. I have a hard time explaining to people that I am a full-time mom during the weekdays and full-time business owner during evenings and weekends. Add dogs to the mix, and the schedule does not get any easier.

The upside is that I love all that I do; I love being Mom to our little girl, I love being a “dog-mom“, and I love the work that I do as a professional dog trainer and behavior counselor. So I suck it up and power through at times, with the trade-off being that I seldom feel like complaining about having to go to work, or having to clean up after a messy youngster. Life, overall, is good, and I am, for the most part, happy for the paths that I have chosen.

When Helping Isn’t Helpful

Our daughter is at an age now where she wants to be involved with pretty much everything that we do. She likes to “help” us with chores including sweeping, cleaning, making the bed, and feeding the dogs.  When walking the dogs, she insists on holding the leash. So I’ve adopted the “two-leash” system of dog walking, with her holding one and an adult holding the second leash, both attached to the collar. This morning, she even helped us set the course for an agility demo at a local dog event for the Humane Society Silicon Valley.

The two-leash system

The two-leash system assures control while allowing the child to “walk the dog”.

While I truly appreciate that she enjoys picking up after the dogs – something that she only “gets to do” supervised – her helpfulness can also slow things down considerably.  And at times, helpful could simply get in the way.  In feeding the dogs, for instance, if I’m in a hurry to get out of the house in the morning, I’ll often feed them in stealth mode before she gets up, so that she does not hear me and insist on helping, which can triple the time it takes to get it done.

Picking up poop at Grandma's house

Helping to pick up after the dogs.

The other day, after feeding our pack (they are fed in crates) I briefly left the room to let them finish. I heard a suspicious noise in the front room – anyone with a toddler understands about suspicious noises – and I went in to find that our 2-year-old had let my husband’s dog out of his crate and was taking his bowl out to put it away. We are very fortunate that a) he was done eating, b) he never guards food and c) he is the most tolerant of our dogs around her. Nevertheless, I made a mental note that the dogs in “closed” crates need more supervision.  Fortunately, the other crates have different latches that are difficult even for adults to open, much less a toddler. We’ve also discussed changing out my husband’s dog’s crate for a similar model.

The point is that even in the most benign of settings, a completely well-meaning child may put himself in danger. I recently read an article from Animal Behavior Associates describing a tragic situation in which a previously “good with children” dog was pushed beyond his limits. They go on to describe how this heartbreak could have been prevented; all in all, it comes down to more supervision, not just for the child’s safety, but for the dog’s as well.

Well-meaning dogs can also present problems. I have heard many stories of overly exuberant dogs accidentally injuring children by knocking them down or scratching them. And stories of dogs “protecting” (which is often actually resource guarding) children to the detriment of visitors or passersby.

Having children and dogs together is a decision that should not be taken lightly, regardless of how “rock solid” our dogs are, or how well behaved our children are. Good intentions are not always well-received by dogs or by children. We must remember that, as parents and dog guardians, our job becomes all the more demanding in order to keep everyone safe and comfortable.

Over protective or overly permissive?

I recently came across an interesting article in the New York Times about the perils of “overparenting” versus “underparenting”.  Among the challenges mentioned included parents who were overly permissive as well as parents who were overly controlling. According to the article, “the happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.” In other words, parents who balance control with freedom as needed.

There is also a balance with regard to living with children and dogs.  While being overly passive and leaving children unsupervised around dogs is clearly negligent, unless the dog is actually child-aggressive, it is may not be to the child’s benefit to prevent him or her from having any interactions whatsoever with the family dogs. Children need to learn how to behave around dogs, how to pet them, what they should and should not do, etc. Simply telling children that they can never ever go near any dogs has the potential to do more harm than good.

Georgia and her boy

Demonstrating petting at arm’s length.

In my work with dog bite prevention education, I have run into many people with fears of dogs. With few exceptions, they tell stories of how dogs always want to attack them. It appears that fearful people are more likely to be attacked than people who aren’t afraid possibly because of the way in which they react: staring at the dogs, potentially screaming and running away, etc. In children’s safety courses, I teach children to “be a tree or a log” and never to run away.  This is particularly difficult to teach to fearful children.

From www.drsophiayin.com

From Dr. Sophia Yin, here is a classic example

If we instead teach children how to properly pet dogs at arm’s length, allow dogs to approach them rather than approaching the dogs, petting under the chin instead of the top of the head, etc., then they will go out into the world with a clearer understanding of these animals with which we live in our communities. Avoiding dogs altogether is just not really possible in today’s society. They are a part of so many families, and increasingly, venues such as shopping centers, coffee shops with outdoor seating, and even baseball parks are not only allowing them but actively encouraging their presence.  Trying to teach children to steer clear of all dogs would be akin to trying to teach them to steer clear of bicycles or cars; unless you move to a remote island, it just won’t happen.

The same goes for teaching our dogs. While it is not reasonable to expect them to put up with harsh, punishing treatment such as ear pulling and pokes in the eyes, we can teach most dogs to tolerate the presence of children and to choose to walk away when they feel uncomfortable, instead of opting to try to “defend themselves.”

All in all, it is a balancing act: teaching our children respect for dogs – and all living things for that matter – while supervising sufficiently to prevent mishaps. And for our dogs, more “micromanagement” may be needed, all the while protecting them from harm. I’ve said it before and will repeat here: raising children and dogs together is certainly more work than raising children alone, but the long-term benefits for all involved are worthwhile.

Kids Welcome?

I read an article the other day about the “Top 7 Good Habits of Great Veterinary Clients”, which listed, among the others, “The last thing an upset animal patient needs is a rambunctious or ill-mannered child in the mix. There are also safety concerns when small lively kids are roaming around a veterinary hospital or exam room.”

While it specifically states “rambunctious or ill-mannered”, I recognize that it is not always possible to leave the children behind when it’s time to take Fido to the vet. For me, since I work evenings and have my daughter with me during the day, I often have little choice but to take her with me to routine vet appointments unless I have family available to help out. That said, I do understand the sentiment.

A well-behaved child knows not to interfere with the veterinarian or trainer.

In training classes, I encourage people to bring their well-mannered children, and many of my students do bring them. I even wrote an article about this for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers’ Chronicle of the Dog some years ago, which was re-published in the book, The Dog Trainer’s Resource. When children are well-behaved, they can be an asset to a class, as they provide just enough additional distraction to help the dogs to learn to deal with them. On the other hand, when they are overly rambunctious or out of control, they can pose a danger to themselves as well as to the dogs.

So, what should a well-behaved child do in a vet office or training class, or other dog-centric venue?

  1. The child should absolutely NOT run around the dogs! Sometimes a young child will suddenly realize that he wants to be there and not here, and will run off. As a parent, you should be aware of this possibility and head it off quickly.
  2. The child should NEVER approach dogs other than his or her own! Regardless of the dog’s temperament, a classroom, or especially a veterinary office, can be a stressful place, and a dog’s reaction may not be what he would typically do.
  3. The child should be, for the most part, QUIET. This means no screaming or loud yelling. I realize that many children do not quite have the concept of the “indoor voice”, but at the very least, discourage loud screaming or squealing.

If you don’t have an option but to bring a young child with you to a training class or veterinary office, consider bringing quiet toys to entertain the child and keep him hushed. Books, coloring books, blocks, puzzles, Legos, or even a tablet computer with a nice game and the sound turned down, could go a long way to avoid troubles with a young child in such a setting.

When you are able to focus on your child, you could take advantage of the great learning opportunities: explaining what the various dogs are doing, what types of dogs they are (OK, maybe this one is just a dog trainer’s custom) and emphasizing why they shouldn’t try to pet them. In the habit of turning everything into a learning exercise, I engage in counting games with my toddler, ask about big and small, color identification, and remind her not to approach any animal without first checking in with me, and then asking the owner.

In the end, it is not just about polite manners and keeping the stress levels down for all of the pets in the vet office or training class, but also about safety for everyone involved. By remaining vigilant and teaching our children good pet manners, we can help our children to be welcomed in more dog-centric venues.

Where is common sense?

Last week, in one of the trainers’ forums which I follow, somebody posted the following photo:

Selma Blair straddles her son over her boxer.

In discussions over the photo, all agreed that this was not appropriate to be teaching a young child, since riding a dog is not good for the dog and potentially dangerous for a child should the dog object. We also agreed that, based on the Boxer’s body language in the photo, he was uncomfortable about having the child on his back, though he appeared to be tolerating it.

While I understand and completely concur with the concerns about this photo, my deeper concerns were about the tone in which some of the critics posted. The comments of the trainers in the discussion ranged from “what was she thinking” to more scathing and enraged remarks regarding parents who should absolutely know better. Ms. Blair is not necessarily a bad parent, and she apparently really loves dogs; she just needs better information.

Years ago, the owner of a dog training school for which I worked complained incessantly about how ridiculous people were when training their dogs, and how they “should know better.” Completely indignant, she expected everyone to naturally understand how dogs learn and what the latest training methods were. I was uncomfortable whenever she made such comments, because I wondered how on earth people could possibly know what was right unless somebody told them. With children, as with dogs, we don’t expect them to automatically know what is right. Instead, we spend time diligently teaching or training them regarding the rules. Yet in many aspects, adults are expected to naturally understand what is “right” and “wrong”. And in today’s technologically driven society, this expectation is driven even higher. However, when it comes to dog training, animal behavior, and even parenting with children and dogs, many of the messages are, sadly, very mixed.

Our parents were very different with their dogs than the way we are today. Even many of our childhood dogs lived differently than today’s pampered pooches. “Back in the day”, the dog that misbehaved or bit someone was either put to sleep, or labeled as a “biter” and kept away from people. Today, we have trainers and behavior counselors and veterinary behaviorists to help rehabilitate many of these dogs. Yet, the mixed messages persist, making it difficult for the average parent with a dog to know what is best. We see frightening images in the media touted as “cute”, fall prey to their “adorableness”, overlooking the fact that the situations represented are potentially dangerous. Then we are shocked on the rare occasion when the inevitable happens and someone is actually injured.

This series of photos has been making the rounds for years, and it still terrifies me.

But, if people can’t be expected to automatically “know better”, then what are we to do to keep our children safe? To start, gentle education can go a long way toward remedying the profusion of misinformation. Encourage your friends to look to science instead of “hype” when it comes to dog behavior and training. And when someone is doing something dangerous, rather than condemning them outright, politely show them what is appropriate. If you can’t convince them, then is the time to be more forceful.

Meanwhile, focus on your family, friends and those close to you. It is much easier to have an impact on friends than strangers – or movie stars, for that matter! With social networking as powerful as it is these days, share your trusted child and dog sites with everyone you know, and let them share with those they know. Sites such as Family Paws, Living with Kids and Dogs, and KADIE offer solid, reasonable advice for living safely with children and dogs. And if you’re still unsure, join a forum such as the Crates and Cribs Facebook page, or other groups for parents with children and dogs.

And don’t stop studying. Every day, we learn more about dogs and dog behavior through the research of fantastic experts such as Patricia McConnell, Roger Abrantes and Brian Hare. Then, when someone comes to you with a new training technique, or some trick that their child is doing with their dog, you can look at it objectively, and make the decision for yourself as to whether you want your child to do this with your dog. Then share with your friends yet again. And if anyone out there is friends with Ms. Blair, share this with her as well and encourage her to join Crates and Cribs or a similar kids and dogs group.