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How to Keep Kids From Getting Bit Helping with Dog Training

As a professional dog trainer for many years, there are many things I have had to learn to do differently when working with the dogs around children versus what I would normally do.

Things that I would not typically think twice about, I must when kids are around…. Because they tend to copy everything – and some things may be quite dangerous for them to copy without the know-how and quick reflexes.

Some commands are simple to teach, and for those, the children can be around without encountering any issues, for example:

Sit….Stay….Down….Off

All of those commands are simply taught using some treats and simple leash work. Not only are they simple – they’re predominately safe – meaning if your child is practicing this with the pup later on, and he or she hasn’t mastered the art of “sitting”, it is highly unlikely (unless it a 180 lb mastiff and sits on your 3 year old) that there’s a hospital trip in your future

There are however, other commands that I would highly suggest teaching the dog when the children are NOT around, and show them the after-results – such as:

  1. Corrections of negative behaviors
  2. Drop It
  3. Leave It

There are very specific reasons these aren’t taught around children, and I will explain these in detail below. However, the one reason above all that I want to emphasize is that we train our dogs because it keeps our whole family safe, including our pup. The 3 commands I mention above (correcting negative behaviors, Drop it and Leave it), while not particularly complicated, have the potential to endanger your child if they attempt them on their own (ranging from simple emotional distress to a bite).

Correcting negative behaviors

I typically avoid teaching this when working around children because sometimes a pup may require firm quick corrections on a leash – which can cause problems for children:

  • A more sensitive child can get upset when a negative behavior such as jumping on people or guarding a toy or food requires a quick, firm correction with the leash. They do not always understand that corrections of bad behavior are just as imperative as praising the positive, and that we are not hurting the pup or dog.
  • On the flip side of that, a more confident or bold child may try to emulate what we are doing, but in the process may unintentionally hurt the pup or dog because they do not yet know or understand the amount of pressure required on the leash to make the correction yet not hurt the dog in the process.

Drop It and Leave It

These two commands are typically not taught around children for safety reasons. Kids do much better working with these commands after your pup has mastered them.

I also want to clarify here that when I say ‘teaching these commands’, I am not just referring to specific focused moments of training, like when you’re with a trainer, or even when you plan a specific time to work with your pup. I am speaking in general. Any time training takes place – because impromptu training takes place ALL THE TIME. You feed the dog, you want him to sit before he eats, you’re training.

You need to be careful though with impromptu “Drop It” and “Leave It” training. Remember – kids copy everything. Take for instance a dog that just grabbed the TV remote.! The dog has obviously not taken it to switch channels, so chances are it’s taken to become a new chew toy! And they are not cheap to replace! That is when our ‘protect the item’ Instinct kicks in.

Usually the first thing we do is call them to us. We are never thrilled in these moments, so the call unintentionally gets done in an angry voice (“COME HERE!!”) which clearly told Fido you are not happy with him! Of course, now that he knows you are angry, not only does he ignore your call, but he took off in the opposite direction! So what happens next? We jump up to chase them and retrieve the item back.

It is at this point that one of two scenarios ensue:

  1. The kids join the chase… it becomes a big game to both kids and dog, and you end up with more aggravation and pandemonium on your hands, or:
  2. You ran to chase the dog (which was loads of fun for the dog, as he now has your full attention and is playing the “You can’t catch me” game!) and when you finally get him, your kids see you reach in and grab the item from his mouth.

Now some time passes, and you may have forgotten all about this incident…. But your kids haven’t. So the next time Fido grabs something he should not have, such as one of their toys, your kids repeat what you did… only now the dog also remembers it, and also remembers once you caught him, you took the item away, so this time he is more possessive and guarding the item. This is behavior your child did not see last time, and the next thing you know, they reach out to grab the item back, and the dog strikes out and bites. Impromptu Drop It training gone really wrong.

So how could all of this have been avoided? We start with PLANNED Drop It training when the kids aren’t around.

The “Drop-It” command is a simple task to teach, and can be accomplished using one of their simple rope toys:

  1. Get them interested in a toy by playing with it with them.
  2. Once they are engaged in the play, bring the hand holding the toy closer to your body to stabilize it and hold it still…. This ‘discontinues’ the ‘tug’ action of the game.
  3. Grasp the toy with your free hand right in front of their mouth, and start creeping your hand forward, all the while saying, “Drop-It”. This forces them to lose their grip on the toy.
  4. As soon as they do, praise them, and begin again.

Essentially what this does is show them that you are not just taking the item away from them (which can create some ‘possession aggression’) but rather that the game can continue…. but only if they drop the item when you tell them to.

Now, let’s revisit that scenario. To start with, during the early training stages with your dog, the leash needs to be a vital part of his everyday life. Leash equals control.

  • Dog grabs remote, but since the leash was on, you can step on it and then reel him back in!
  • You have already taught the dog the ‘drop it’ command so the kids never see you reach into his mouth to retrieve the item.
  • You can calmly tell the dog to drop it, they do, you praise them, and the moment is done.

Now, the biggest difference between “Drop-It” and “Leave-It” is that Drop It is used when they already have the item they are not supposed to have, while Leave It teaches them not to pick it up in the first place! To teach “Leave-It” we use desirable ‘training traps’ (things that your dog loves to grab) and the leash. Throw the item on the floor, and when they run to grab it, give a quick, firm tug on the leash and say Leave-It!”. Continue doing this until you can drop the item and they do not lunge forward to get it.

Leave-It is especially important for the safety of BOTH the kids and the dog…. if you accidentally drop a pill on the floor, with the Leave-It command, they will not lunge for it. Also, if your child is eating and they drop a piece of food, using the Leave-It command will avoid the dog racing to grab it, and more importantly, the child reaching into their mouths to get it back!

My last piece of advice…. If you have not had the option to teach them yet what ‘Drop It’ or ‘Leave-It’ means and how it is done, and Fido gets ahold of something you do not want him to have, Distraction is always a great alternative. Grab a very high-value treat (a piece of cheese, a piece of hot dog, etc.) something they do not get often, but they will choose over a tasteless remote. Start off standing still and show it to them, and if they do not come immediately, take tiny steps backwards (movement is very interesting to dogs and gets their attention quicker… moving away from them means they should follow or they may miss out on that treat) Try to make it a treat or an item that they can’t gobble up in one bite, giving them ample time to return to the discarded item faster than you can. What you do not want is a race back to the original item…. I can pretty much guarantee they’ll get back there first.

I also want to note that this last piece of advice should be used as an emergency back-up plan, and not a go-to plan of action. The reason being we do not want the dog to learn that if they want a good high-quality treat, all they need to do is grab something they re not supposed to have, and we’ll replace it with something awesome!!

Being one step ahead of a potential disaster is always preferable to the alternative! So teaching your dog these basic manners when the kids are not present will keep everyone safe, happy and healthy!!!

Why Your Child Should Be Using LinkedIn

Most parents may not have considered how LinkedIn could be part of their children’s social media experience. In my opinion, it has the greatest potential to help (or hinder) a teenager’s future by how it impacts their Digital Footprint – the evidence that we all leave behind when we go online. And not just by what it says about them, but about what it might not say about them.

Smart Social, used by over a million parents, educators and students each year and whose tagline is “Learn how to shine online,” recommends that every high school student should be using LinkedIn. In fact, they recommend that teens start preparing for their LinkedIn profile even before they’re actually using the service.

Why LinkedIn?

As the number one social media network across all professions, LinkedIn is in a unique position to help just about everyone who uses it, regardless of what educational and professional future lies ahead of them. There are reportedly over 180 million people in the U.S. using LinkedIn and close to a billion worldwide.

LinkedIn puts students in a position where they can reach out to people with a wide variety of backgrounds as well as the schools and companies that they may wish to engage with in the future. As far back as 2017 (further than that, really), Forbes Magazine has been recommending that parents help their children use LinkedIn.

Unlike many other social media platforms, the minimum age for using the service is 16, as long as your local laws don’t require something older. No access until age 16 means teenagers are under a tight time constraint if they want their Digital Footprint to help them achieve their immediate goals of getting a better job or into a good school. By the time your child is a sophomore or junior in high school, they need to be active on LinkedIn. The more time they get to spend on it, the bigger the impact it can have on their future.

LinkedIn As a Blogging Platform

Having an online presence where people can demonstrate their knowledge and skills is an important part of crafting their future. Unfortunately, creating a personal website where people can post their own content isn’t for everyone. That’s where LinkedIn can really help.

Unlike other platforms that might limit what a user can post in terms of topic, length or features, LinkedIn’s Articles can provide a robust platform and demonstrate that your child is a thought leader and lets them engage with others in a way that no other platform can.

Groups! Groups! Groups!

Most social media platforms have groups, but not like LinkedIn does. Students can use these groups to reach out to graduates, faculty, student groups and more from possible future institutions where they may wish to attend after graduating high school. My own alma mater has over 70 groups on LinkedIn. This can help focus attention on the schools that best fit their interests. As a parent, it can save families from making cross-country trips to visit potential schools only to find out that they aren’t a good fit for your child.

Groups can also be used to find other individuals who have similar career interests. The most important part about being in a group is to be active in it. That may sound like common sense, but the people in the group need to see that someone in the group is engaging with others and not only doing “hit and run” actions to get attention. If your child uses the articles feature mentioned above, it’s a great place to share those posts with people who are likely to be interested in what your child has to say.

Job Hunting on LinkedIn

One of the best ways to use LinkedIn is to prepare for sending in resumes and job interviews. Applicants can learn more about what the company does not only by looking at the company’s page, but by seeing what employees post about the company (you can search for people by where they work).

You can also see what groups people belong to, read their posts, etc. to help get an edge on other applicants. The more competitive the job is or the school that someone is applying to, the more that every advantage can mean the difference between getting accepted and being passed over in favor of someone else.

The Bottom Line

What it comes down to is that if schools and employers are going to be using a candidate’s Digital Footprint to help make acceptance decisions, then everyone should be making the most of their opportunities.

Most people think of LinkedIn only as a way to connect in terms of sales leads and having others contact them for job opportunities and while it certainly does that, it’s capable of so much more if used properly. LinkedIn has the potential to be of tremendous value to school and job applicants.

One word of caution: like any social media platform, there is always the risk inherent with using it. While I haven’t seen any of the issues of pornography or sexting that can happen on other platforms, I have seen what could pass for cyberbullying when people engage on hot button topics, such as politics.

That said, once someone becomes active on a social media site, including LinkedIn, the algorithms that help determine what people see online can get their profile noticed by people that otherwise might not get the opportunity to learn about your child. The key to using any experience, online or offline, is to use it to their greatest benefit.

First impressions make lasting impressions. Make it count!

Children and Accidental Poisonings: What You NEED to Know

?????????????????Keeping your children safe, this is the goal of every parent. We all want to keep our children safe and secure and help them live to their full potential but with over 350 children a day in the United States ages 0 to 19 being treated in emergency departments, and two children dying, as a result of being poisoned, the concerns of children and accidental poisonings are more prevalent than ever. These concerns are always the topic of extended discussion during our training classes both here at the fire department and in our community training classes and come down 3 main points.

  1. Precautions
  2. Identification
  3. Action

1. PRECAUTIONS.

Taking the steps before something bad happens is always the first step in any plan to keep children safe. Children are naturally curious and don’t yet know the dangers involved with chemicals and may easily confuse a glass cleaner or floor cleaner with their favorite drinks as well as confusing medicines and pills for candy. Properly storing and locking away chemicals and medicines in special child safe storage containers is one of the best ways to keep naturally curious children away from these dangers. Along with securing chemicals, knowing who to call in an emergency is key as well. Placing emergency numbers around all phones and in all cell phones is a great precaution to take as well. 9-1-1 is always an easy number to remember but placing the number for the national poison control centers 800-222-1222 and any other numbers and information is advised as well.

2. IDENTIFICATION.

Identifying the signs and symptoms of a child that has a definite or suspected poison ingestion are of the upmost importance. Some of the signs of poisoning: Besides finding an open container or bottle, look for these signs if you suspect your child has swallowed something dangerous:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips (a sign your child drank something caustic)
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Burns, stains, and smells on your child, her clothes, or elsewhere in the house
  • Vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, confusion, or other strange behavior
  • Drowsiness, Dizziness, or weakness
  • Breathing problems
  • Rashes
  • Blue Lips or Skin ( cyanosis )

3. ACTION.


If your child is awake and stable:

  • Remain Calm.
  • Don’t give ipecac syrup or try to make them throw up — doctors say this can do more harm to your little one. Instead, call the poison-control center at 800-222-1222
  • Tell the person who answers as much information as you know: What you think your child swallowed, when, and how much. (It helps if you have the bottle that contains the poisonous substance.) Then follow instructions on what to do.
  • If the poison-control expert tells you to go to the ER and you have the substance container, then take that with you to show the ER doctor exactly what your child ingested. Calling 9-1-1 is recommended in an emergency, driving to the ER is not recommended in an emergency due to the lack of focus on the road and the increased possibility of accidents.

If your child is unconscious and not breathing:

  • Call 9-1-1 and give the information requested
  • Start CPR and wait for Emergency response.
  • Do NOT attempt to drive to the ER.

There is no way to prevent every possible scenario, but it is possible to be prepared in case of an emergency and as always, a little preparation goes a long way.

Be Safe

Greg

Can Your Pediatrician Help With Your Child’s Weight Control?

Boy on scaleOne of the most frequent problems I run into as a practicing Pediatrician is overweight issues in children. It is a very prevalent problem now in Pediatrics as the population as a whole is overweight and this issue tends to begin in childhood and tracks through to adulthood. It is probably true that overweight parents tend to have overweight children; not out of any malicious cause but for a number of reasons including poor education and parental observation and habits.

When I tell an overweight parent that his/her child is overweight (using height and weight charts and BMI as back up data) or even obese I receive one of two responses. Either they have been aware of this but totally unsuccessful at any attempts to alter that situation, or they seem to be totally surprised at the assessment. The first response is a good one although not optimal; the second response is very difficult to work through. Everyone seems to be aware that obesity can and does lead to such adult life shortening diagnoses such as Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac events and strokes among the top of the list – there are others.

It is my responsibility as a Pediatrician to alter the course of these diagnoses by working on the problem during childhood, and helping to educate a family to all that I mentioned above. I have failed when an overweight child becomes an overweight adult – and I don’t like failure.

I believe that most Pediatricians feel the same and take this responsibility very seriously. Your Pediatrician is, along with you as parents, your child’s advocate and this is clearly stated in the mission of the Academy of Pediatrics. You have a passionate ally in your effort to keep your child healthy but you must listen to the education and suggestions of that person and try to incorporate that into a new family philosophy. Weight loss is much easier when begun early in life and becomes as difficult as in adults after the age of about 11-13yrs old, but not impossible. It will take commitment and energy to keep your child on the course of a healthy life style so that overweight issues are brought under control – and the natural course is interrupted.

My ultimate goal initially, is not necessarily weight loss but involves attempting to slowly change life styles so that weight loss becomes the eventual outcome. This will take a long time to accomplish but if one can only keep his/her eye on the goal – we can make it happen.

Want to Know How to Get Your Kids to Really Talk to You?

Does it seem like an effort to get your children to say anything to you besides, “Fine” and “What’s for dinner?” Lack of communication can make parents feel closed off from their own kids.

But don’t despair! You can get kids to talk to you — really. Try these six suggestions from experts:

1: Don’t compare yourself to TV families.

Really good talk is pricelessIf you’ve ever watched shows like Modern Family or The Middle and wondered why your kids aren’t as chatty as the kids on those shows, you’re not alone. “Parents see kids talking to their parents on TV and they start worrying that they’re not doing enough of it,” says Carl Grody, LISW, MSW, a social worker who specializes in child, adolescent and family therapy in Columbus, Ohio. “Those [TV] parents have scriptwriters and 22 minutes of airtime to solve problems. In real life, it takes longer to make changes, but the changes are real, not made up.”

2: Pause and take a deep breath.

Telling your kids you’re upset about their one-word answers will only make the problem worse. “If you seem jittery, you may be projecting this to your kids and that stress is more likely to push them away than it is to draw them in,” Grody adds. Calm down and put things in perspective. You’re probably doing better than you think in the communication department.

3: Quiet your inner interviewer.

Instead of peppering your child with questions every day, ask him just one. “This may seem insufficient, but as you have more success getting him to answer you once, your child will feel more comfortable chatting and may even start volunteering more information,” Grody says.

4: Put down your phone!

If you want your kids to talk to you, set aside your cell, tablet or any other electronic distraction, says Loni Coombs, author of You’re Perfect…and Other Lies Parents Tell. Make your body language open and assuring: Turn your whole body toward your child and make eye contact. “This is important, because when there is something really important that they need to talk about, they will feel like they can come to you because they know you will listen.”

5: Make meals fun.

Since mealtimes are often when most families gather, make that time an enjoyable one. Draw out your kids by hiding questions under each plate. Or have each family member write out a question, suggests Coombs. “Everyone feels more talkative when there’s food involved,” Coombs says. “Sharing in the preparation of the meal is also a good time to talk.”

6: Consider instituting family meetings.

To create an environment where conversation is encouraged, schedule times several days a week to get together and share your thoughts as a family. “This becomes part of the family ritual and encourages conversation and sharing,” says Richard Horowitz, a parenting coach and author of Family Centered Parenting.

And to keep things going, avoid asking open-ended questions. “Instead of asking, ‘How was your day?’, which often leads to one-word answers, ask, ‘What was the best thing and worst thing that happened in school today?’” Horowitz suggests. “And always respond with non-judgmental comments.”

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Imaginary Friends

Why Imaginary Friends?

Being a toddler can feel very restrictive. Always being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Older siblings and friends want your toys and you are always competing for attention. Imaginary friends are the ideal companions. They never take your toys, they do what you say, and never steal your attention. They can also serve as an outlet for children to express their emotions, a scapegoat to blame things on, and can serve as a protector when kids are scared.

Imaginary friends can worry parents. We are afraid that something is wrong with our child or that they won’t ever have real friends. There is no need to worry. Good research shows us that kids who have imaginary friends have plenty of real friends. They are creative, independent and sociable.

As parents, how should we talk to our children about imaginary friends?

DON’T make fun of imaginary friends, or make your kids feel dumb for having them.

DON’T initiate, by asking about the imaginary friend. Wait until your child initiates to play along.

DON’T let your child use their imaginary friend as an escape goat.

DON’T use the imaginary friend to get your child to do what you want.

  • DO welcome and accept the imaginary friend. Just keep it in the context of pretend. As adults, we can pretend too.
  • DO provide lots of opportunities for your child to use their imagination. Play with them so they learn how to role-play and make believe.
  • DO spend plenty of time with your child so they aren’t making up friends because they aren’t getting enough attention from you.
  • DO provide opportunities for your child to communicate and express their feelings, so they don’t use imaginary friends to communicate how they feel.

And most important…

  • DO learn from the experience. Imaginary friends can give valuable insight into how your child really feels. If the imaginary friend is scared of the dark and doesn’t want to go to bed, it could mean your child is afraid of the dark. Listen to what your child’s imaginary friend is saying and be open to the insights it might provide.

Having an imaginary friend is very normal. Unless your child is becoming withdrawn, and refusing to interact with others, you can usually rest assured that after a little time, the “friend” will be dismissed.

Until then, be open and kind to your family’s new addition.

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