Category Archives for "Kids: 7-10"

What is “Resource Guarding” and What Can I Do About it?

My bloodhound died a few months ago, and I found a bloodhound puppy available through a local rescue group. When I applied to adopt her, they turned me down because I have young grandchildren who sleep over sometimes. They said the puppy had a problem with “resource guarding.” What is that and why is it a big deal for my grandkids’ visits? Is this something I could train out of the dog? ~ Ellie

“Resource guarding” is when a dog is willing to growl, snap, or bite to protect something she has. Some obvious possibilities are food and rawhides, but the tricky part is that the dog gets to decide what’s worth guarding. I’ve known dogs who guard Styrofoam balls, wet bathing suits, spilled cereal, food wrappers, and plastic toys.

Mild resource guarding can respond well to behavior modification in an adults-only household, but it’s a very tricky problem to manage with kids around. Kids have trouble reading a dog’s body language and usually don’t recognize some of the early warning signals, such as stiffening or curled lips. Also with kids, food and garbage are much tougher to manage. Kids frequently spill their plates when carrying them to the sink, miss the garbage can with their napkins, and carry a cookie as they walk from room to room. A resource-guarding dog could become aggressive at any of those times.

If the rescue group turned you down, they must think this dog has a serious resource-guarding problem. I’m sure you are disappointed, but I think you’d be wise to look for a different pup.

Honesty about a Dog’s Death

Please help! Last evening our dog, Cocoa, was hit and killed by a car. Our 8-year-old daughter, Julie, had been in the back yard playing with the dog and when she was ready to come in, Cocoa didn’t come when she called her, so Julie left her in the yard. Later Cocoa climbed the fence and ran into the street.

We don’t know what to tell our daughter! Should we tell her the truth? I don’t want her to feel that it was her fault and keep thinking of how her dog was killed. Should we tell Julie her dog ran away? She will want to look for Cocoa and put up flyers to find her. What is the best way to handle this? ~ Kim

As hard as it is, I recommend telling Julie that Cocoa was hit by a car. I’m sure she’ll feel terrible, but maybe you can diffuse her guilt somewhat by saying that you noticed Cocoa in the yard and forgot to let her in too. Stress that it was an accident and that no one intended Cocoa any harm (you, she, or the driver); it was simply a situation that Cocoa couldn’t understand so she ran out into the road.

I know many people who were told as children that their dog ran away. They tell of looking for the dog and hoping for its return for years–far beyond the dog’s logical lifespan. In response, you’ll find yourself trying to distract Julie when she talks about Cocoa, which may make her think that you don’t care that Cocoa is lost.

Telling your daughter the truth will be painful, but you’ll be able to talk things over and move forward. Give her time to grieve and remember that kids process things very differently. Many kids look for a silver lining and will say things that sound hurtful. For example, one of my sons told me that he was glad when our golden retriever died “because now we can get a black dog.” Ow! He was 7 and didn’t understand; that was just a child’s way of trying to find the good in the situation.

The loss of a pet is often a child’s first experience with death. Your support will help Julie deal with Cocoa’s death in the best way she can.

Is My Dog a Danger to Kids?

I’m in a desperate situation. I have a 2-year-old German shepherd. Last week, he bit my neighbor’s 7-year-old girl. They had been playing fetch, and he nailed her in the back of the head. She needed 12 staples. Needless to say, I’m sick over this. I have 5-year-old twins, and they can do anything to him. I will say when kids are over he avoids them and seems almost afraid of them. He has growled before, but usually he will just leave the room when kids visit. So I don’t know if this bite was intentional, a reaction out of fear, or a mistake. In any case, I cannot risk him biting again. How can I know if he’ll be safe around kids in the future? ~ Susan

There are several red flags in your letter. First, your dog growls at visiting children. This is his way of expressing discomfort. Never punish a dog for growling; warnings convey valuable information! But whenever a dog growls at a child, you need to carefully assess the situation to prevent it from recurring. By leaving the room, he is telling you that he would like to be away from visiting kids. For now, be sure to put him in behind a locked door whenever children are visiting.

Twelve staples means your dog did not show good bite inhibition. Most dog bites do not puncture the skin. In this case, your dog created a large gash. If he were to bite again, the injury would probably be similar.

And the ages of your kids and of your dog are another cause for concern. Kids between 5 and 9 (like your kids and most of their friends) are bitten more often than people of other ages. Also dogs grow into their level of aggression. Most serious dog bites come from dogs between 2 and 5 years old. Your dog is at the earlier end of this time frame.

I strongly suggest you take your dog for a professional evaluation to get a better idea of your dog’s social drive, tolerance levels, and reactivity. This information will help you decide how best to ensure the safety of your kids and their friends.

Shy Dog Reacts to Kids Changing Clothes

I have a really sweet dog who can be shy when she first meets people. She’s good with my kids and their friends if we do nice introductions at the door. I ask the kids to stand still and let her sniff their hands. She usually comes over to check them out and then is fine with them being in the house.
But when we have a sleepover, she sometimes barks at them after they change into their pajamas! Why does she do that? What could be scary about pajamas? ~ Kathleen

It’s not so much that she’s reacting to pajamas, but that she’s reacting to change. Shy dogs tend to be very attuned to their environment and immediately notice when things change. Because shy dogs tend to worry, they often respond to something new as if it were something bad.

When you have kids stay over, keep her near you while they go change and then have them come back over for a quick reintroduction. It sounds like she just needs your support to help her understand that, although their clothing changed, the kids remain the same. This will be much easier for her if you take the time to do introductions once again.

photo by: Sahsha Kochanowicz Photography

Touched-Out Teachers Have Dogs Too​​​Today's post is written by Debra Murray of Smartypaws Dog Training.

​While chatting with a teacher friend today, it was brought to my attention that teachers with dogs and kids have some unique challenges when adjusting to back-to-school schedules.  All day teachers pour their energy into other people's children and come home to their own households and families with important physical and emotional needs that must be met.  

Then, the family dog, who had access to people, play, and ample potty breaks throughout the summer, is ready for rambunctious interaction or inseparable snuggles.  Yet teacher parent is tired and touched out.  They just need a few moments to breathe without the world around them urgently demanding something every single second.

Dear Teachers,

I hear you! I hope these 6 suggestions* can help you find at least 15 minutes of calm in the craziness of raising kids and dogs together while teaching and inspiring our children daily.

(Good news!  You don’t have to be a teacher to try these Back-to-School Doggy Dinners.)

  • Take-Out (scatter feeding):  Let the dog out to potty when you get home while you get the kids and their school stuff situated.  Let pup back in and send the kids out with dog’s dinner.  Have the kids toss and scatter doggy’s food around the backyard.  Call the kids in, then send the dog out for dinner.
  • Tasty Tosser (kibble toss):  This can make some of my teacher friends cringy, but ideally the mess that is made will be cleaned up by the dog.  Children of just about any age can participate in this feeding fun.  Separate dog and children with a sturdy baby gate.  You can take a seat on either side of the gate – probably closer to whichever “animal” needs you most, but being on the same side as your child is optimal.  Have your young kiddo pour dog food in a pile on the floor next to where you are seated sipping cider and gathering your thoughts.  Of course, you can keep the kibble in a bowl or container next to you if you prefer, and sip whatever you choose.  Encourage the child to grab a piece or handful of kibble and toss over the gate to the dog.
  • Homework Helper:  Since doggy snuggles can be nice, sit on the sofa and snuggle and scratch your pup the way you enjoy lovin’ together.  You can play, too if that helps settle your stress.  Use a baby gate to keep pup from interrupting the kids if necessary.  Have the kids practice their letters, spelling words, or math facts by writing them with kibble on the kitchen floor.  When they are finished, switch your snuggle partner.
  • Burrowing Blankie: This is similar to scatter feeding, but indoors and a little different.  Have kids spread dog’s food on the floor while pup is outside or with you in a different room.  Let them lay a blanket or towel over the food for Fido to burrow under and find his feast.  They can use more blankets and towels and spread the food out farther. 
  • Jr. Trainer (hand feed):  Let older children (8+) who have helped with training hand-feed Fido as a training exercise.  Instruct the child to ask for basic behaviors the dog knows well (e.g.,  sit, down, find), and feed or toss a piece of kibble when dog responds correctly.  It’s important only older children who won’t tease or frustrate pup implement this strategy.
  • Brain Toys and Puzzles:  Have kids fill food puzzles and let pupper play engaging in mealtime enrichment.  Check out Smartypaws January and February blogs with mealtime enrichment ideas:

* The above suggestions are for family-friendly dogs without a history of resource guarding or aggression.

 * Keep dogs and kids separated when eating (except older children for hand feeding)

* Always supervise kids and dogs and remember baby gates are not a substitution for supervision.

Debra L. Murray of SmartyPaws

About the author:  

Debra L. Murray is the owner of Smartypaws LLC Dog Training and Family Education in Lee’s Summit, MO.  She is a licensed educator for Family Paws Parent Education, AKC Canine Good Citizen and S.T.A.R. Puppy Evaluator, professional member of Heartland Positive Dog Training Alliance, and presenter for Good Dog in a Box Dog Smart Education.

Debra also is a homeschooling mom committed to promoting safety and creating harmony between dogs and their families. Currently, she has a rescued Great Pyrenees/Border Collie mix named Dolly, a husband of 20+ years, and 3 beautiful children.

​Photo credits: Child spelling "dog" with kibble by Sahsha Kochanowicz Photography, photo of Debra Murray by Tim Galyean

border collie puppy

Kids in Dog Class

Our 11-year-old daughter loves dogs, and we recently bought her a border collie puppy. Since she’s the dog’s owner, I want her to be the main trainer. However when I tried to register her for a class, I was told that she couldn’t be the primary trainer. Why not? ~ Marie

Most 11-year-olds are very good trainers. Some trainers enjoy having kids in class, and others don’t. I’d love to have a motivated 11-year-old bring her dog to class!

Look around in your area for a trainer that welcomes kids. Ask questions and go watch a class or two before signing up. (The how to choose a trainer post may be helpful.)

When kids come to my classes, I require a parent to stay on site and help the child if needed. With a child as old as yours, you could probably just sit and watch, but for younger kids, it’s very helpful to have the parent hold the leash so the child can train hands-free.

The biggest challenge for most kids is keeping the dog close by, so if you take care of maintaining the dog’s location, the child can focus on training and rewarding the dog. As the dog’s behavior improves, there will be less need for you to pitch in.

As much as possible, let the trainer teach your child and let your child teach the dog. It’s really tempting to coach your child, but far too often, I see kids becoming self-conscious and inhibited if they get too much guidance from mom or dad.

Encourage her to ask the trainer questions and practice outside of class. She may also enjoy Puppy Training for Kids.

Siblings and dog

Playing Favorities

My 10-year-old son’s feelings are hurt because our dog seems to like my 7-year-old daughter better. To be fair, she’s more of a dog person than he is, but how can I help improve the relationship between my son and the dog? ~ Allanah

Dogs will have a unique relationship with each member of the family. Some people, like your daughter, naturally form a strong bond with a dog, but the good news is that there are lots of easy things you can to do help your son as well.

First buy some extra-special dog treats that only he can give the dog. (Freeze-dried liver is a favorite.) He can use these treats to play simple games with the dog. One popular choice is a version of the shell game in which your son will hide a treat under one of three overturned plastic cups. Then he’ll mix up the cups and let the dog knock over the cups to find the treat. Some dogs will know immediately which cup has the treat; others will investigate every cup.

He can set up trails around the house for the dog to follow using one treat every 3 feet or so. It’s also fun for kids to teach dogs to navigate obstacles. He can encourage your dog to jump over a broom balanced on the rungs of your kitchen chairs or crawl under your coffee table. Remind him to reward the dog often so that the dog doesn’t get frustrated trying to figure out what your son is trying to teach him. Reading Puppy Training for Kids (it’s not just about puppies) or enrolling the two of them in a training class that welcomes kids would also be a great idea.

dog wearing birthday party hat

Birthday Party Bliss or Bedlam?

My 8-year-old daughter was invited to a “bring-your-own-dog birthday party” where each guest (or rather each guest’s parent) is supposed to bring her dog for the first hour of the party.

I’m worried my dog won’t behave well around dogs she doesn’t know. What do you think of this party idea? ~ Candace

I don’t like that idea at all. There are way too many variables to deal with there:

  • Dogs that don’t know each other
  • Dogs that may not be comfortable with groups of children
  • Dogs in an unfamiliar environment
  • Kids whose behavior may be unpredictable around dogs
  • Far too much excitement

No, I don’t think this is a good idea. Each of the dogs may be lovely in her own home, as yours is, but they probably won’t be at their best at a party.

A trainer friend of mine recently participated in a birthday party for a dog-loving child. At this party, she and her trained dog were hired to come to the party for 45 minutes. She taught the kids a little about canine body language and how to train a dog. Then her dog showed off with a variety of tricks. Each child was allowed to come meet Willow and pet her at the end of their visit. The party-goers loved spending time with the dog, and it was a much safer way to have a dog-themed party for a child who really loves dogs.

girl and dog

A Bite Without Warning

My daughter and her friend (both 10) were playing with our dog, Zorro, the other day. The girls were both petting and hugging him when, without warning, he bit my daughter on the nose! Nothing like this has ever happened before. How can I trust Zorro around kids again? ~ Debbie

It sounds to me like your dog was a little overwhelmed. A common problem in kid-and-dog interactions is that the dog is telling the kids he’s uncomfortable, but since the kids don’t “speak dog,” they miss the warning signs. Very few dogs like to be hugged, and being hugged by two affectionate girls may have been too much for your dog.

Carefully supervise when Zorro is around kids, even when it’s just your own kids. Look for signs of stress, such as yawning, turning away, licking his lips, or panting. When you see any of those signs, separate the kids and dog for a while. Later watch to see if Zorro seeks them out again. The best family dogs really enjoy kids, but all dogs will have moments when they are uncomfortable. With a little space and downtime, many dogs will be eager to rejoin the activity.

Intervene early and often when kids and dogs are playing. It's always better to leave them wanting more than to wait until someone get cranky.

Never punish a dog for giving warning signals, such as snarls, growls, or even snaps. Warnings are valuable information! Parents must immediately intervene and take steps to prevent similar scenarios from occurring (such as allowing a dog to feel smothered by well-intentioned hugs).

If you see many stress signals or early-warning signs, I strongly suggest you have a dog trainer provide some personalized advice. This post has some tips for finding a good trainer.

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two golden retriever puppies

Should I Get Two Puppies?

I would like to get each of my daughters a puppy. One of my neighbors said she heard it was a bad idea to adopt littermates. Is that true? Should I get the dogs from different litters? ~ Wendy

Wendy: Don’t get littermates. In fact, don’t even get two dogs.

I think having a dog is a great experience for a child, but ideally the dog should be part of the family, not a personal pet. As the parent, you are the one taking ultimate responsibility for each dog in your household.

Each puppy in a litter will have its own personality, which means that one of your daughters will have a dog that is (pick a characteristic) smarter, more obedient, more social, less jumpy, less prone to chewing, more easily housetrained, and on and on. This could cause friction between your daughters if one perceives that the other has the “better” puppy.

Just as the puppies will be different, your daughters are too. One is likely calmer, more patient, more consistent, more clear, or gentler than the other. Many times family dogs will prefer one child over another. You really don’t want to have to explain to one of your girls why her dog actually seems to like her sister better. That’s a tightrope conversation because it can be hard to explain without sounding like you are judging your daughter’s behavior as being less worthy of a dog’s affection.

All of this is before we even address your daughters’ levels of responsibility. Will they be equally reliable? Would they prefer to do half as many dog chores by sharing responsibility?

In addition, your odds of dog-to-dog aggression issues increase when you have two dogs of the same size, age, and gender. It’s quite common for littermates to not enjoy each other’s company as adults and to sometimes behave aggressively toward one another.

All of these factors make me strongly in favor of families adding one dog at a time and giving that dog all the attention and training it needs before adding another.

Note: The writer didn’t tell me how old her daughters are, so I assigned this letter to the 7-10 age category as a guesstimate.