Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dog Kills Toddler

In a tragic incident in Florida this week a dog killed a toddler at a party.

News report #1

News report #2

According to news reports 20 month-old Dallas Walters dropped a cookie and when he went to pick it up the dog attacked. He died later in hospital. The attack occurred at the child's aunt's house during a party.

Our hearts go out to the family at this very sad time.

Doggone Safe cofounder and animal behavior specialist, Teresa Lewin said to me once: "Trust is a dog's worst enemy". This incident is an example of this. People trust their dogs too much. People make assumptions about their dogs based on general ignorance of dog behaviour. People do not know how to read dog body language and do not see accidents waiting to happen.

This accident did not just happen out of the blue with no warning. This dog was stressed beyond its limit. There were certainly warning signs, but no-one recognized them. Many factors (some of them undoubtedly unreported in the news story) combined to result in this dog attacking the child. These include:
  • Dog loose among guests
  • Dog stressed by noise and people
  • Dog stressed by people with food
  • Toddler + food + dog (always a dangerous combination)
  • Toddler in close proximity to loose dog
Unfortunately this exact set of circumstances will occur in many homes over the holidays and there will be more bites as dogs are pushed past their limits, trusted too much and misunderstood.

Please visit the Doggone Safe page with holiday bite prevention tips. This includes a press release that you can send to your local media.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dog Bite Victim Rehab - Part 2

Teresa Lewin (cofounder of Doggone Safe and dog behaviour specialist) has developed some interesting ways of using TAGteach to help dog bite victims overcome fear of dogs.

In a previous post we presented the first in a series of videos. This shows Paige identifying characteristics of dogs in photos from the Doggone Crazy! board game and the Be a Tree teacher kit (available from Doggone Crazy!). She receives a tag for providing the correct answer. This helps her in two ways: 1) she is learning about canine body language and becoming empowered with the knowledge that lets her judge what kind of mood a dog might be in; 2) she is becoming desensitized to the presence of dogs without any risk.

The second two videos show Paige being tagged in the presence of a dog and then being tagged for actually working with the dog. The tag points relate to physical signs of relaxation produced by Paige.

Click here for more information about TAGteach.

Helping Troubled Teens Overcome Fear of Dogs

by Heddie Leger

We have been called upon to visit and work with youth that have less than fortunate home situations. Some are pregnant teens. Many, if not most have a great fear of dogs. There is a difference between fear and respect and we try to help them understand this. Our first meeting is without the dog(s). We bring in pictures, trading cards, photo albums and let them see the dogs doing things with people to encourage their curiosity. We provide Doggone Safe cards and other information regarding safe interactions with dogs. We teach the "Be A Tree" and just purely do relationship building exercises.

The next visit we bring the dog(s). We are very careful to bring only dogs with entirely neutral body language and a very calm temperament. Sometimes the youth are curious enough they will want to meet the dogs. Most of the time they will clutch their babies (ages 1-4) close to them and transmit their fear. This is where we feel most effective, as we help them understand that we understand their fear and how painful it can feel. We try to communicate to them how they are teaching their children to also be fearful. Most of the time they will agree that their fear comes from a bad experience, and that they would like their children not to live with the same fear and that they would like to learn to deal with and conquer their fear. This sometimes takes several visits.

The complex thing of these visits is that there are also toddlers (ages 1-4) in the room with us. We have multiple layers of ages. This is where the Doggone Crazy! board game comes in handy. Some of the youth will play the game while others engage the younger children, then they will switch. The cards, questions and game board are wonderfully interactive. With this grouping, often there are a few that will visit with the dog(s), and provide a positive role model of a safe interaction with dogs. Many of these youth have seen dog fights and have fears due to those experiences. The game really helps them learn on three facets, seeing the photos, participating in an interactive experience during the game by reading and answering questions, and then by seeing others interact with dogs in a positive manner. Even if they are too fearful to interact with the dogs directly they are learning positive interactions in a fun and entertaining manner from the game and from personal observations. Since there is not direct interaction with the dogs, they become more comfortable each time. The majority of the time by the end of a month, they are willing to at least brush the dog, even if they are not yet comfortable enough to touch the dog with their hand. We again reinforce the Be A Tree as many times as they need it.

Of all the visits we provide, these are some of the most intense, they are also the most rewarding.

Our other visits we provide range from hospice, to READing with the Dogs in school with at-risk children, to working with PT patients in a hospital or the psychiatric unit. Oh, and by the way, the game is equally as effective with children at a psychiatric unit. It engages them, even if they do have a short attention span. Sometimes we will continue the game through several visits.

Click here to learn more about Heddie

Click here to learn more about the Doggone Crazy! board game and Be a Tree teacher kit mentioned in the article.

Why Do Dogs Bite Children?

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that resource guarding was a major cause of dog bites to children and that discipline measures were a key bite trigger. These results support our contention that training without force or punishment leads to reduced bite risk and that preventing resource guarding is critically important.

See our previous post about how to prevent resource guarding.

Click here to see the research article abstract

Click here to read an excellent and detailed review of the BMJ article by Eric Goebelbecker published at the Dog Star Daily blog. Thanks to Eric for taking the time to share this important information. All dog trainers and dog owners should read this!

Laura Monaco-Torelli Wins Best Dog Trainer Award

Doggone Safe member and Be a Tree presenter Laura Monaco Torelli was named the winner for "Best Dog Trainer" in the Readers Choice 2009 Chicagoland Tails Pet Magazine. Congratulations to Laura!

Laura is a clicker trainer and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner. She is having a strong influence in promoting force-free humane dog training and dog bite prevention through education in Chicago. Thanks Laura!

Visit Laura's website

Friday, November 20, 2009

Continuing Education Credits for Veterinarians

Veterinarians in the province of Saskatchewan can now earn continuing education credits in the non-scientific category for taking the Doggone Safe online course: Basic Body Language. This course teaches about dog body language and is informative for veterinarians who may not have had much training in dog behaviour. Understanding the subtleties of dog body language helps veterinarians assure the emotional well-being of the dogs they handle as well as helping them to avoid provoking a bite to themselves, their staff or the client. For veterinarians with good knowledge of dog body language, this course provides the key information that veterinarian can point out to their clients. There may be some cases where the client might even be advised to take the course in order to prevent an incident at home with the dog. The course provides free handouts suitable for client education.

Dr. Barbara Evans of Saskatchewan conducted a survey to determine the continuing education needs and goals of veterinarians. Here is an excerpt from her report, published in the fall issue of the SVMA News:
The participants acknowledged, the while continuing education programs were critically important to the professional development of veterinarians, such programs should also include practically relevant information that they could readily pass on to their clients in the form of client education. Suzanne's comment about CE programs focusing on: "something that my clients would like to know and would be interesting to them" was typical. The participants noted that whether they brought specialists to their clinic for discussion sessions or sought out specific learning material that would benefit their clients, what was important is for the material to be current and be quickly adapted to their clinical practice. The desire by the participants to focus on the need for CE programs to include and address the learning needs of their clients was a key finding in this study.
Click here to read the entire study report - reprinted by permission from the SVMA News, Fall 2009.

For more information about the Basic Body language course please visit

Dog Bite Prevention in Northern Communities

Every year dedicated volunteer veterinary teams from Saskatchewan, Canada visit isolated communities in the north. In September Team North visited Sandy Bay, a community of about 1300 people, surrounded by spectacular wilderness. The veterinary team provided examinations, de-worming and spay/neuter for about 57 dogs and 3 cats as well as educational programs for local school children.

The report of this latest Team North adventure was written by Dr. Lesley Sheppard and printed in the Fall 2009 issue of the SVMA News. Here is an excerpt:
There were many stray dogs in the community wandering around. When we arrived, we were met by a group of about eight dogs, not aggressive, just checking us out. ... Emily Jenkins and I gave several talks about veterinary medicine and dog bite prevention to the school... In light of the recent dog bite incident at Ile-a-La-crosse, the need to continue the program is evident. The combination of spay/neuter, education, dog bite prevention and a town dog catcher will help these communities a great deal.

Doggone Safe is very pleased to note that these professionals consider dog bite prevention education to be an important part of their mission.

The incident in Ile-a-la-crosse (another northern Saskatchewan community), to which Dr. Sheppard refers, involved the serious mauling of a 6-year old child by a loose dog. This town has responded by rounding up the loose dogs and shooting them. This tragedy highlights the need for dog owner education, bite prevention education, access to spay/neuter clinics and animal control. Click here to see a photo of the victim (graphic) and to read a news report.

Thanks to Team North for doing what they can to try to prevent this type of situation. if you would like to donate money or supplies to the next Team North trip in the spring, please contact the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association for information.

Click here to download the entire article. Reprinted with permission from the SVMA News, Fall 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Member Event: LOL 4 Pets

Dubbed LOL for Pets, a Comedy Night/BBQ Dinner to benefit the St. Augustine Humane Society on Sunday, December 6th at Gypsy Cab in St. Augustine, is a sure bet for a good laugh and a good cause.

Ponte Vedra's own Johnny Mac, who acted in the movie "Recount" with Kevin Spacey and Dennis Leary and has opened for such notables as Lily Tomlin, headlines the evening. Johnny's quick wit and sense of timing make him a favorite for adult humor (but not x-rated) from coast to coast. Johnny, who originally lived and performed in New York City, is an avid sponsor of animal rescue, and the proud owner of four dogs of his own. Award-winning comedians Amy Beckham and Andree Holloway complete the comedy roster.

Amy writes her own comedy, and her style is energetic, good-natured and clean. She was Gypsy Comedy Club's "Last Comic Survivor" in 2005.

Andre Holloway's act is typically clean but innuendo-ed, (a word he believes he made up). His following tends to call him a "thinking persons comic". He's the winner of the 2004 Comics Choice award in St. Augustine Florida.

A delicious Gypsy BBQ buffet will precede the performance, featuring: ribs, chicken, coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread, apple waldorf salad, and non-alcoholic drinks. A cash bar is available, and the Humane Society will hold a raffle where audience members can win cash and prizes. Tickets for the dinner and show are available for a $25 donation.

For info or tickets contact

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Help Doggone Safe When You Shop

We have signed up with to raise money for our efforts to help dog bite victims. This is essentially a rebate program, whereby online retailers give you a rebate and you in turn donate it to Doggone Safe. The rebates from each purchase are small, but many of them together will add up to benefit Doggone Safe.

There are over 700 online retailers participating in the program. Major retailers such as Expedia, Chapters, Kodak Gallery and Amazon participate. The prices are exactly the same as if you were not going through In fact there are often special discount offers and coupons for igive customers. The buying process is exactly the same as any online buying except that you log into your igive account and then you access the store so that they know to give a rebate.

You can also raise money by searching the web after logging in to your igive account, even if you don't actually purchase anything. $0.02 is donated for each search.

What you do if you want to help:
  1. Sign up for an account at igive by clicking here
  2. When you are asked to choose whether to receive a check, a tax receipt or no tax receipt, please do not choose to receive a check or the rebate will not go to Doggone Safe.
  3. Go to the igive list of retailers and bookmark it, or even drag it to the task bar of quick links near the top of your screen for easy access.
  4. Go to the isearch page and bookmark that in case you want to search for something to buy.
Here is an example.

Say you wanted to buy something from Home Depot. You would go to and login. Type "home depot" into the search box and you will get a result showing the US and Canada stores. You can check out the coupon links to the right or just go straight to the store and buy whatever you want. There will be no more interaction with igive and your shopping experience will be the same as always. The rebate will automatically be credited to Doggone Safe.

If you are looking for Canadian stores, use the search box rather than the Canadian stores list, since there are many stores not listed in the Canadian stores list.

Try it out when you do your online Christmas shopping. It is very easy!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to Teach your Puppy not to Bite - Part 2

By Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin

This is the second article in our series on how to teach a puppy not to bite.

Please note that these instructions are intended to prevent guarding. All puppy owners should do these exercises even if the puppy is not guarding. It is much easier to prevent guarding than to cure it. We will post a future article about how to cure guarding in a puppy.

Many bites to children occur around the food bowl. We are frequently told that the dog growls (but he would never bite of course) when the kids go near him while he’s eating. This situation is easily prevented if the puppy is taught that people approaching the food bowl means good things for the puppy.

The best way to prevent food guarding is to go up to the puppy while it is eating (adults only; not children at first) and toss something extra yummy near the food bowl. Progress to adding the treats right into the bowl. Children can toss treats towards the bowl once the puppy gets the idea that people approaching is a good thing. Soon the puppy will welcome the approach to his bowl with a wagging tail. If the dog raises his tail when a person approaches the food bowl, this is a serious warning. Watch out for this raised tail warning. Other signs that the dog is worried about people stealing his food include, blocking the food bowl by moving his body, growling, freezing and staring at the food or the person, or gobbling at an alarming rate. Recognize these warnings as an impending problem and go back to conditioning the dog to welcome approach by adding yummy treats once again.

This approach can be used to prevent other types of resource guarding as well. For example, if the puppy is lying on his mat chewing a bone, the kids can walk past and toss really yummy treats onto the dog’s mat. Similarly if the dog has a toy, the kids can toss treats in the direction of the dog and keep walking. The puppy will soon come to view any approach by a person as benign and will not become defensive.

Many people are of the unfounded belief that taking the bowl (or other high value object) away and giving it back is a way to teach the dog to accept this. Actually this teaches the dog to mistrust people coming near the bowl. The action that occurs immediately following the approach of the person is the taking of the desired object. Even if the object is subsequently returned, it is the taking away that becomes associated with the approach of a person. Using this approach could increase bite risk for children and visitors to the home since the dog will assume that any person intends to take his treasures and he may be less tolerant than with the ruling adult.

Another important lesson is the exchange. Obtain two identical bones or Kongs and stuff them with goodies and give one to the puppy. Take the second one and show it to the puppy right under his nose. When he focuses on the second one and starts licking it, take the first one away. Repeat several times per session by walking away and returning to make the exchange. The puppy will soon get the idea that people taking things away is a good thing. If a child ever takes from the dog the possibility of a bite is greatly reduced (children should still be taught not to take anything away from the dog, but best to be prepared in case it does happen). The exchange can also be used to regain stolen objects from the puppy. Instead of punishing the puppy, trade for something the puppy wants more and say “give” or “off” at the same time. The puppy will learn to give up objects willingly at the “give” command, thus reducing the likelihood of a tug-of-war happening between child and dog.

If resource guarding problems do develop despite your best efforts to prevent them, or the dog is an adult rather than a puppy, don’t delay, seek professional help from a trainer that will use positive methods to solve the problem. Remember, it is critical that the puppy or dog learn that it is a VERY GOOD thing when people come near. Any training approach that involves punishing, startling or frightening the puppy to distract him from growling will make things worse. Never punish a puppy for growling, or allow others to do this. The puppy may learn not to growl and may go straight to a bite the next time, or when you are not there to mete out the discipline. The puppy may become even more worried about kids around his food or toys if bad things happen in the presence of kids.

Resource guarding can develop into a very dangerous situation – a ticking time bomb – with a tragic outcome becoming more and more likely as time goes on. Click here to find a trainer.

Click here to download this article as a PDF. You may copy and distribute this article.

Read the rest of the articles in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Dog Bite Victim Rehab

Doggone Safe cofounder and dog behaviour specialist Teresa Lewin has developed some creative approaches to help dog bite victims overcome fear. Teresa has worked with psychologists to help child dog bite victims. Teresa's approach includes using photos and games to help young victims become more confident around dogs. The intention here is to help with desensitization before moving to the presence of a live dog and also to teach about dog body language. Children who can understand dog body language are not likely to assume that all dogs have aggressive intent and are more likely to act rationally and without fear. This in turn makes them less likely to scream and run away from dogs, actions that could easily cause them to become bite victims again.

Here is a video that shows Teresa working with Paige using the cards from the Doggone Crazy! board game and the large photos from the Be a Tree Teacher Kit. Teresa and Paige are using the TAGteach approach to reinforce the correct responses.

Click here for more information about the Doggone Crazy! board game and Be a Tree Teacher kit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Dog Body Language Products

Doggone Crazy! has released 3 products for download to help teach people (especially kids and parents) about how to read dog body language and prevent dog bites.

These products are available for purchase, but the previews are free and contain lots of useful information. Even if you don't want to purchase you can view the information and even link to the demos if you want to share this information with your clients and web visitors

Dog Body Language Flashcard Kit

This kit comes as a download only. It contains the following:

  • 24 8x10 Flashcards (48 files for front and back) that you can print. Click here to see an example of 2 cards.

  • 12 different dogs showing contrasting emotional states

  • PowerPoint presentation showing these same images that you can use as is or in other presentations (click here to view a demo as a Flash slideshow)

  • PowerPoint show that you can view even if you do not have PowerPoint

The photos in this kit are the same as those in the Flashcards eBook show below, but the 8x10 photos in this kit are suitable for individual printing.

Dog Detective Part 2 - Flashcards (eBook)

This ebook by award winning authors Teresa Lewin and Joan Orr shows photos of dogs that illustrate various emotional states. A list of clues are given at the beginning so that children know what to look for in the photos that follow. There are contrasting photos of 12 different dogs showing both "safe" and "dangerous" emotional states. Each photo is repeated with the clues marked by arrows in a "flashcard" type format so that readers can guess whether the dog is safe or dangerous and then turn the page for the answer. The information is suitable for children and their parents, but would serve as a good primer for anyone who wants to know the basics of dog body language. Click here to view a demo as a Flash slideshow.

The photos in this kit are the same as those in the Flashcards kit shown above, but are presented in eBook format suitable for electronic viewing or printing in a small size.

Dog Detective eBook

This ebook by award winning authors Teresa Lewin and Joan Orr shows photos of dogs that illustrate various emotional states. A list of clues are given at the beginning so that children know what to look for in the photos that follow. Under each photo is a caption that explains what the dog is thinking (I am happy, I am afraid, Back off! etc). The information is suitable for young children and their parents, but would serve as a good primer for anyone who wants to know the basics of dog body language. Click here to view a demo as a Flash slideshow.

For more information or to purchase these downloads please visit

Friday, October 23, 2009

CE Credits for Basic Body Language Course

Doggone Safe offers an online course that teaches about dog body language.

CE credits approved for dog training/behavior professionals are as follows:

IAABC 2.5 credits
IACP 2.5 credits
CCPDT 2.5 credits

CE credits approved for Veterinary Technicians/Technologists are as follows:

OAVT 2.5 credits
SAVT 3 credits
CACVT 2.5 credits

Download a free demo

Find out more and register

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Rose for Judi

Thanks to Judi Dowson for sharing this lovely experience she had as a result of offering the Be a Tree program in her local community.

Our local (as local as I can get since I am out in the boonies) shopping centre held a "Family Day". They cordoned off most of the parking lot and had all the local stores participating in kind of a sidewalk sale, magicians, contests, doggie events, etc. I put up a small table to promote my dog training business and also St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs. Of course, my attraction was my little Italian Greyhound who is proudly displaying a bright yellow splint due to a broken leg.

I had a number of kids come up to me calling me "Judi" and after the first three or four, I finally asked one little girl how she knows my name and promptly did the "Be A Tree" pose. I was tickled. But what impressed me the most was the parents who thanked me profusely for going to the schools and teaching this to the kids. One lady, after talking to her for a bit went into the florist and came back with a single rose for me. Darn near brought tears to my eyes!

Find out more about the Be a Tree program at

Doggone Safe Course Review

Educating clients has never been easier!

By Tamara Leader - President-elect of the SAVT

Recently, I took the online Doggone Safe dog bite prevention course. This course is a great opportunity to learn some new canine behavioural tips and to earn 3 CE points! As a special offer to members of the SAVT we’re offered a permanent discount, so we pay $20 as opposed to the regular $30 fee.

The course is set up in a simple, easy to view format. It’s broken down into Lessons so you can do a few and then go back and do some more. The thing I liked the best about this course is how detailed it is! There are lots of videos and pictures that really help get the point across. It also gives a more complete overview on the important points that we need to emphasize when we’re teaching the dog bite prevention course, and/or when we’re educating clients.

The idea of a quiz at the end may scare most people but you get 3 chances to pass it with 100% so there’s no pressure!

Listed at the end of the course, as well as on the doggone safe website,, are some very useful websites for yourself to reference or to recommend to pet owners coming into your clinic .

I think this course is a great resource to recommend to new or potential new pet owners. As an additional step, after taking the course yourself, you may want to take the initiative to promote this to your local SPCA/ Humane Society as something for them to promote to people before they purchase their new pet. The more education we can get out there to our existing and potential clients, the more we as techs can prevent unnecessary dog bites!!

For more information or to register visit

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fun at Camp!

Thanks to Gail Skee of Mis Amigos Pet Center for sending us this description and photos of her kid's summer camp program. Gail is a Be a Tree presenter and she understands the importance of teaching kids how to read dog body language and to act safely around dogs. Kids at her camp learn these things and more and have a ton of fun doing it!

The kids camp was open to kids 8 to 12 years of age. I limited it to 12 kids but only had seven which was a nice size for my facility. We charged tuition and I was able to get sponsors for three kids. The kids and their dogs had to pass an interview and we actually had to turn one young lady down because her dog wasn’t well socialized. We offered a loaner dog (one of my dogs) but she wanted to work with her own dog.

The camp was five days long Monday thru Friday 8:30 am to 3:30 pm with a dog show Friday evening at 6:30pm. I had to experiment with activities trying to balance and gauge attention from both dogs and kids with energy levels of both. That along with the hot June sun was a challenge. I do have an event tent over one of my play yards that came in handy for practice in the shade. Anyway we would start out with agility in the morning then a nap time for dogs and snack for kids. Then we would do an activity for kids and sometimes this would include dogs sometimes not. We had lunch and another activity/game, snack and then home at 3:30. I had to be flexible but I think by the end of the week we had a working plan. I will have a better idea of what works next year.

Some of the activities included learning how to read dogs, comb and brush dogs, train dogs to touch a target, we made several dog toys (fleece), other dog related crafts (picture frame and we inserted a picture of the child and their dog doing the agility course), we had camp t-shirts that we handed out, of course we played “You Don’t Say” and “Doggone Crazy!”. hope to have camp again next year and if anyone has any ideas to share I would love it. I know there were things we could have done better and hope to next year.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Be a Tree Feedback

We get lots of great feedback from kids, parents, teachers and presenters about the Be a Tree program. The program is intended for kids, but we have been told over and over that adults learn a lot from it as well, and appreciate that this is available for their kids. Yamei Ross (pictured at right) of Canine SOS in Oshawa ON sent us this note:

I have thoroughly enjoyed doing the presentations. The kids are very enthusiastic and love participating in the role playing activities. I had some parents come up to me after the workshop thanking me for presenting this type of program. They were so appreciative that an organization exists that is willing to take the time to educate and properly inform families and kids about dog safety.

We have a feedback form for teachers and parents to fill out in order to help us assess the effectiveness of the presentations. A big thanks to Teresa Lewin, Yamei Ross, Esther Horn, Tonji Stewart and Sally Cleland for sending in these forms representing the views of 70 adults who have observed the Be a Tree presentation. The responses are summarized below:

The respondents answered each question (A-H) on a scale of 1-5. The numbers on the vertical axis of the graph represent the number of people responding. The questions were as follows:
A: How much did you learn about bite risk reduction?
B: Did you enjoy the presentation?
C: Do you think the children enjoyed the presentation?
D: Do you think the children will be safer around dogs?
E: Was the presentation age-appropriate?
F: Did you find the photos helpful?
G: Were the role playing and Simon says activities helpful
H: Would you recommend this presentation to others?
We find it very interesting that 94% of these adult observers chose a value of 4 or 5 on a scale of 5 to represent how much they learned about bite risk reduction. Most people think they know quite a bit about dogs, but the key body language information that we teach in the Be a Tree program is not known to most, as these survey results indicate. Many of the parents and teachers who included written comments noted that even adults can learn from this.

Even though the presentation is geared for children, 96% of the adults chose a value of 4 or 5 on a scale of 5 to describe whether they enjoyed the presentation. A similar percentage felt strongly that children would be safer around dogs now. Everyone felt that they would recommend the Be a Tree program to others.

Many of the adult observers were kind enough to provide written comments as well as filling out the questionnaire part of the form. Here are a few of these:

Very informative and very fun for the kids. - Parent

It was very good. Even I learned a few things! - Parent

Love the photographs! Love the tree metaphor and the practicing of it. - Parent

It was a very informative session. The presenter was interesting and kept the children focused. Most/all children have some experience with dogs, so I felt it was a very necessary session. - Teacher

Excellent - should be used with all grades - Teacher

The children were very attentive during the presentation they seemed to be learning a lot. - Teacher

Thank you. It was very informative even as a dog owner. - Parent

Great interactive presentation. - Teacher

This was a very practical presentation and age appropriate. I feel it would benefit all grades k-6. Thank you very much for helping to make our students safe. - Teacher

Fabulous presentation - even experienced "dog people" can learn from this. - Teacher

I was totally impressed with the presentation and observed the children respond in a manner which reflected their understanding. The information was delivered in a clear, engaging manner and even the adults learned from it. Thank you! - Teacher

For more information about the Be a Tree program visit

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Canine Behaviour Seminars at Seneca College

The Faculty of Continuing Education and Training of Seneca College will offer two seminars on Understanding Canine Behaviour by Kerry Vinson. The public is welcome to attend.

Date: Tuesday Oct 22
Time: 7-10 PM
Location: King City Campus
Cost: $45

Date: Tuesday Nov 3
Time: 7-10 PM
Location: Markham Campus
Cost: $45

Download the flyer for additional information

Bite Prevention Presentation a Hit at Animal Welfare Conference

Dr. Sally Cleland gave a presentation on dog bite prevention at the 5th annual Animal Welfare Conference hosted by the Saskatchewan SPCA last week in Saskatoon. Dr Cleland's talk was well-received and we have received lots of positive feedback as well as media coverage as a result.

Here is a link to the Star-Phoenix coverage.

A big thanks to Sally and the Saskatchewan SPCA for their support of Doggone Safe and the Be a Tree program!

Be a Tree PowerPoint Now Available

In response to many requests we have created a PowerPoint version of the Be a Tree program. This is now available in the Doggone Safe store. The price is the same as the Be a Tree teacher kit ($100). The package of both the physical teacher kit and the PowerPoint costs $120. If you have purchased the Be a Tree kit in the past, you can send us an email asking for instructions to purchase the PowerPoint for $20.

See the presentation as a Flash file (use the player buttons to move the slides forward or back).

What you will get with the PowerPoint

  • PowerPoint show with 21 slides that will play whether you have PowerPoint on your computer or not.
  • PDF with Simon Says and Toolbox card text.
  • PDF file with notes to explain the animations and to remind you of what to say about each slide.

What is different about the PowerPoint compared to the teacher kit version?

  • Several new graphics like the one above to illustrate some of the concepts.
  • A "strange dog" moves across the screen at several times during the show. This is instead of the "snarly dog" that you hold up during the live presentation.
  • There are various arrows that move to indicate and highlight specific aspects of some of the photos.
  • A video that demonstrates how to be a tree is included. Watch the video.
Available from the Doggone Safe store

Join Doggone Safe for $10

Doggone Safe memberships are now $10 for the period Oct-Dec 2009. Member benefits include:
  • $10 off the Be a Tree teacher kit
  • $10 off the Basic Body Language on-line course
  • $10 off the Be Doggone Smart at Work online course
  • Press releases that you can customize to promote your business
  • Free resources that you can customize to promote your business
Click here to see a full list of member benefits and find out how to join.

Body Language Postcards and Posters

We have made a change to our popular Body Language Postcard. It now shows how to Be a Tree as well as the various key body language signals that kids, parents and dog owners need to know. These are available at our resources page for free download. You can buy the printed version at the Doggone Safe store in volumes of 10 or more postcards. If you are Doggone Safe member you can add your own logo and contact information to customize the postcard. Find out more at the Member Web Page (password required).

Postcard Side 1

Postcard Side 2

We have also created a poster version of this in two different sizes: 8.5 x 11 and 11 x 17. These are available for free download. You can have them printed at your local printshop.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Seasonal Safety Tips to Prevent Dog Bites During the Holidays

Now that the fall season is well underway most dogs have adapted to the back to school routine (hopefully). Just as things have settled down into a predictable pattern, we throw them for a loop with new and strange activities. Thanksgiving is coming for Canada, followed by Halloween, then American Thanksgiving and then Christmas followed closely by New Years Eve. An Australian study found that there are more dog bites reported over New Years than at any other time of the year. Many factors can account for this, including changes in routine, the presence of visitors in the house, the combination of accessible food and children and lapses in supervision. Dogs can become stressed and anxious at these busy times.

Doggone safe has tips for parents and dog owners to help reduce the risk of the family dog becoming stressed to the point of biting or having the opportunity to bite anyone.

Please visit our Holiday Tips page and our Halloween Tips page

Download our Holiday Tips press release and our Halloween Tips press release.

If you are a Doggone Safe member, you can download versions of these from the Members web page which you can customize.

Friday, September 25, 2009

How to Teach Your Puppy not to Bite - Part 1

By Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin

This is the first in a series of posts with tips on how to stop your puppy from biting. We get many emails with questions from puppy owners about biting. This series of posts is intended to answer these questions. If you have a question about puppy biting that is not answered in this series, please ask your question in the comments or post to our Facebook  page comments

Our extremely popular Be a Tree program teaches kids to stand still if a strange dog comes near or any dog is bothering them or acting too frisky. Every major dog bite prevention program and dog behaviour expert recommends some version of standing still and avoiding eye contact as the best way to prevent dog bites. This is because movement is a powerful trigger for dogs, whether they are in predatory mode, are threatening or guarding or are simply playing. Being a tree is boring and non-threatening to dogs and they will soon lose interest and go away. Read more about why and how to Be a Tree.

But what happens when the Be a Tree strategy does not work right away? In some cases a dog is so excited that it jumps up, pokes or nudges, nips or pulls on clothing even if the person stands still. No matter what the dog does it is always best to remain still. Any movement will make the dog even more excited and will make the situation worse. Even if the dog does bite, pulling away or moving could cause the dog bite again or to bite harder.

What if Being a Tree Doesn't Work?

Parents have sometimes reported to us that this is all very well, but their puppy sometimes gets hold of the child's clothes and keeps on tugging and sometimes nips by accident even if the child stands still. This is a particular problem with toddlers and preschoolers, who really can't be expected to stand still while the puppy is tugging madly at their clothes. Even if there is a rare toddler that can stand still, there is still resistance for the puppy to tug against and this can be enough fun to keep the puppy at it.

There is no question about it ... puppies love to chase toddlers. They are small, they squeal, they run, they behave erratically. They meet every requirement for the perfect squeaky toy as far as the puppy is concerned. It is so much fun for the puppy to chase the toddler and tug on his clothes, that even repeated punishment and scolding from the parents is not enough to stop it. In fact adding the parents to the chase can often cause the puppy to reach even greater heights of wild excitement.

Puppies naturally like to play rough games and they will play this way with your toddler and young children if they get the opportunity. It is essential that the puppy and the children learn how to behave appropriately around each other. Watch this video to see how wound up puppies can get. You certainly don't want your puppy to try to play this way with your children!

A Multi-Faceted Approach

The best way to solve the problem of puppy biting is to take a multi-faceted approach. Here we will talk about two things that you can do. We will discuss further measures in future blog posts in this series.
  1. Institute a management program to limit the interaction between the puppy and small children.
  2. Teach the puppy to chase and bite a toy instead of you and your children.
A Management Program

Dog behaviour and training experts agree that it is essential to institute a management program to keep both children and puppies safe. This includes using a crate for the puppy to sleep in, placing gates to restrict the puppy's access, teaching children to respect the puppy's sleeping and eating areas and his toys and supervising all interaction between child and puppy.

Parents have said to us, "We got the puppy for our child. What is the point of having a dog and keeping it locked in a crate all the time? We want the dog to be part of the family."

Of course you want the dog to be part of the family! But a family member who chases and bites the toddler is soon out of favour and no-one is happy. The best way to keep both toddler and puppy safe and happy is to keep them apart until they both learn how to behave around the other and to supervise closely when they are allowed limited contact with each other. It is best if the puppy never learns to chase and bite the toddler. If he never has the chance to do this, then he will never do it. If he has already had some fun with this, it is not too late to prevent it from happening again and to teach him more acceptable forms of entertainment.

Here is a link to a great book you should buy (pictured above) that will help you create a situation in which the puppy becomes a great family member.

Let's talk briefly about crate training. Crating a puppy is not cruel, in fact if the training is done properly the crate is a sanctuary for the puppy. It gives him a safe and comfortable place to go to sleep, chew on his toys in peace or to get away from noisy children. Watch this video that shows two different puppies who can't wait to get into their crates.

Here's another example of a dog that loves to go into her crate:

There are lots of resources on the internet that describe crate training so we won't go into that here. Be sure that all experiences with the crate are positive and your puppy will love the crate too. Here is a link to a free e-course that will help you with crate training among other things.

It is not unusual for a young puppy to sleep 20 hours a day and there is no reason why all this napping should not be done in the crate. When the puppy is out of the crate he should have your undivided attention for play and training. Once he is tired out, back he goes into the crate with a stuffed Kong, bone or other special chew toy for another nap (we will do a blog post on our recommended toys). We know that you are desperate for the puppy and toddler to nap at the same time. We have been there and we know how exhausting it is to look after a toddler, puppy, baby, other kids and dogs etc. If there are times when they are both awake at once, then it is essential to supervise at all times. You may need to put the puppy on a leash so that he does not get the chance to chase the toddler.

Give the puppy access to only his own toys. The child's toys should be in a playpen, or in an area to which the puppy has no access if the puppy is allowed to roam the house. Once the puppy is older and has some training you can teach him to leave things alone that are not his, but at first he will not know the difference between his toys and the child's toys. Remember the puppy is just a baby too and you can't expect him to know anything about how things work in a human household until you have taught him.

Teach the children that when the puppy is in his crate, no-one is to bother him. With your permission they can give him treats in the crate by dropping them through the bars. Teach the children to respect the puppy's toys and bones and never to bother him while he is eating or to take anything away from him. Teach the children to Be a Tree if the puppy gets excited and never to run away screaming. We will discuss this further in subsequent blog post in this series.

A good time for the toddler to interact with the puppy is when the puppy is tired out. The toddler can sit with you and the puppy and gently pet the puppy and talk to him while he falls asleep. When the puppy is asleep, pick him up and put him in the crate.

Once the puppy learns to chase a toy and bring it back, young children can participate in supervised games of fetch.

Download the Doggone Crazy parent guide that has a section about safe and dangerous games.

Teach the Puppy to Chase and Bite a Toy

A great way to teach your puppy not to bite you and your kids is to drag a toy on a string for him to chase. This is great fun for the puppy and conditions him to run with kids without biting them. When we have a puppy around we take the toy on a string everywhere. We always keep one in the car so we won't be without it. Always trade for a treat to get the toy back. If young kids are going to do this, then it is up to the parent to get the toy back. We have a video showing this with a 5 year old child and an 8 week old puppy on our Clicker Puppy DVD.

Here is a video showing the same thing with an older child. This is a sneak peak from our upcoming DVD: Positively Perfect Puppy. This dog is a Puli, which is a sheepdog bred to chase and nip. Even with this breed of dog which is hard wired for chasing and nipping, the toy on a rope is irresistible and more fun than biting at the child. Occasionally he does get interested in the child and tries to pull on her clothes. She stands still and gets him interested in the toy and the game is back on. She is teaching the puppy to give the toy back using food and a clicker. She puts the food near his nose and when he lets go of the toy she clicks and gives him the treat. Soon he will let go on his own as soon as she stops and she will be able to reward this by starting the game again.

If you have young children, play this game with the puppy yourself for a while until he is very engaged with the game before your kids try it. Be sure to supervise to make sure that you are there to take the toy back and get the game started again and to prevent the puppy from becoming interested in chasing the child rather than the toy.

Read the rest of the articles in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Monday, September 14, 2009

World Rabies Day Resources

World Rabies Day is on Sept 28. Doggone Safe is proud to be a World Rabies Day partner. We have posters and post cards available for free download and instructions for having the postcards printed by Vista Print. Visit our resources page for these.

If you are holding a Rabies Day event, you can get promotional materials from the World Rabies Day site.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Be a Tree Helps with Neighbour Relations!

Submitted by Joanne Wilk of Setter Sanctuary

The building I live in is full of adults and children who don't know how to act around dogs. Well one day I got tired of the kids screaming in excitement whenever I took the dogs out that I decided to show them how to Be a Tree. Since then, they've been amazing around my boys and, of course, my dogs have been calmer around them. One of the neighbourhood kids actually came up to thank me and said that since I showed her what to do, she hasn't been bitten by her little dog! I didn't even know her dog was biting her! I also showed my new neighbours who are new to this country and are afraid of dogs and she thanked me and was amazed that even she or her kids could tell my dogs to sit and they would. It's amazing how something so simple can make such a difference in improving neighbourly relations, not to mention stopping a dog from biting its child!

More on Dominance as an Explanation for Dog Behavior

We have posted several times in the past about the debunking of the dominance theory. You can find these previous posts by looking in the Keyword List section of the blog (look down the left side) for "dominance theory" and clicking on this.

The reason that Doggone Safe is interested in this topic and tries to spread the word is that we want to discourage dog owners from being rough with their dogs in the misguided attempt to "dominate" the dog, or to punish the dog for what is seen as "dominant" behaviour. Pinning, shaking, alpha rolling or other forms of physical force can lead to retaliation by the dog and result in a bite or in a dog that is more likely to bite in the future if it feels threatened again. Younger and weaker members of the family are more likely to be victims than are the ruling adults.

Karen Pryor, in a recent letter, summarized the results of a newly published study by British scientists in the field of veterinary behaviour as follows:

According to these specialists in companion animal behavior, training approaches aimed at "dominance reduction" vary from worthless to downright dangerous. Making dogs go through doors or eat their dinners after you, not before, will not shape the dogs' overall view of the relationship, but will only teach them what to expect in those situations.

In other words, that stuff is silly, but harmless.

"Much worse, techniques such as pinning the dog to the floor, grabbing the jowls, or blasting hooters [noise makers] at dogs, will make dogs anxious, often about their owner, and potentially lead to an escalation of aggression."
Click here to see Karen's entire letter and for links to the original study and a summary of the study.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Advice for Be a Tree Presenters

This was posted to the Doggone Safe presenters Yahoo group today by Kerry Potter-Kotecki of Doggone Safe. I thought it might be useful to all of you Be a Tree presenters...
My name is Kerry and I became involved with Doggone Safe after my daughter was mauled by neighbor's dogs several years ago. Fortunately she survived and is doing just fine, but I am also passionate about teaching dog body language and safety. I have been presenting for about 6 years. Through the years I have learned what techniques seem to keep the kids the most interested. One of them I got from our educator Jen Shryock:

Right after teaching the "how to be a tree" part I then ask the kids to think of a squirrel.... I say "what does a dog do when it sees a squirrel?" They will respond - he chases it. Then I say - so if you run, move around or make a lot of noise, then you are like a squirrel and the dog will stay interested in you. Instead be a tree ... trees are boring and the dog will lose interest.
To find out more about the Be a Tree program visit

Kathy Sdao Clicker Workshop in Calgary

Doggone Safe member Tammy Brooks of Sit Happens Dog Training in Calgary is hosting an advanced clicker workshop with Kathy Sdao in Feb in Calgary.

The Advanced Clicker Training Workshop is designed for the experienced clicker trainer who understands and can apply this dog-training technique. Created as a follow-up to Kathy’s highly successful “Know Way, Know How” workshop, the “Advanced Clicker Training Workshop” will further your knowledge and training skills, offer insights and guide you to the next level of skill.

Expect lots of dog training and demonstrations, as well as Kathy's cogent lectures using lots of visual aids. Topics include:
  • The Core of Clicker Training;
  • Shaping with Purpose;
  • Technical Breakdowns;
  • Adding the Cue and Stimulus;
  • Chaining;
  • When to Stop Clicking;
  • Reliability;
  • Advanced Concepts Dog Training.
Kathy works with an assistant, Dorothy Turley, providing support, positive reinforcement and an overall excellent learning environment for all participants.

When: Feb 20-21, 2010

Where: Sit Happens Dog Training, Cagary AB

Click here for more details

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kids Learn to Be a Tree at Puppy Pawlooza

Thanks to Melissa Vincent of In Dogs We Trust dog training of London ON for sending us a photo and update. Melissa offered a free Be a Tree demonstration at the Puppy Pawlooza festival earlier this month. Meilssa says...

The children, parents and others in the audience thought that it was an excellent program. As do I, which makes it so easy to promote. I have included some pictures of myself and my helper giving the demo.

Reinforcement - Give 'Em What They Want!

This post was originally posted to the TAGteach blog and is being posted here as well, since there is a lot we can all learn from kids!

What do kids really want for reinforcement? Candy, for one thing; money for another. This according to an article published in the the Summer/Fall 2009 issue of the Latham Letter and written by social worker Lynn Loar and five young co-authors. Parents and other adults need to realize that it is all very well to hope that an innate sense of moral obligation will cause Jimmy to clean his room, but if you want the job done easily and well, then you need to pay with currency that kids value.

Kid authors Hilary Louie, Evelyn Pang, Michelle Ma, Maya Rankupalli and Geoffrey Pott are experienced with clicker training, TAGteaching and the concept of reinforcement and they explain why certain things are reinforcing and in what context. Lynn Loar sums it up as follows:
So, there you have it. Be generous, sincere and specific. Use candy and money as reinforcers, even if you prefer other things. As Maya shows, children move on from candy, pennies and toys to more mature and altruistic reinforcers when they are ready. Clicker trainers know to let the learner set the pace; let your students develop this broader perspective at their own pace and don’t begrudge the candy and pennies in the meantime.
Click here to read the entire article.

Hilary and Evelyn are also the authors of the Clicker Training for Kids pamphlets and the book "Good Dog" that are posted at the Doggone Safe Clicker Training Page.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Case File: Expect the Unexpected

"Mommy, I have to go pee!"... the battle cry of the toddler that is reserved for the most inconvenient of times and is delivered in the loudest of voices. "Maybe there is a bathroom in the house...let's go see", Angela steers the child toward the house, certain that the proprietors of the garden centre wouldn't mind an emergency trip to the bathroom. The door is open and Angela opens it and ushers Susie inside, only to come face to face with the family's two large dogs. Susie starts to scream and the dogs rush towards her, growling and barking and fighting with each other. They push the frantic toddler and her shocked mother out of the way as they rush outside in a frenzy. The dogs have no idea what the screaming is all about and luckily they go outside in their confusion.

Margaret, the lady of the house was baking in the kitchen with the dogs at her feet, when someone came in and the dogs got up to look for the cookies that they customarily receive from visitors. Startled by the screaming they became alarmed and then aggressive with each other. Fortunately they took it outside and no-one was hurt. Margaret was shaken and disturbed by the incident and the thought of what might have happened. She was right there behind the dogs but the whole thing was over before she could even react. Angela was similarly shocked and could not have got her child out of the way of the dogs.

The lesson here is expect the unexpected. Never assume anything where dogs and children (or even customers) are concerned. Margaret has since taken steps to ensure that the dogs have no access to the front door, even when she is with them in the house. Angela, one expects would knock the next time and enter a strange place ahead of, rather than behind her child. Susie is likely even more terrified of dogs than she was previously and this makes her more likely to run away screaming from a dog thus precipitating an attack. We hope that our programs and materials help children like Susie get over their fear as they become empowered with the knowledge of how to tell what a dog is thinking and how to control a situation with a dog by standing still and being a tree.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Be a Tree Earns Top Ranking

Doggone Safe US President Kerry Potter-Kotecki offered the Be a Tree program at the Robert Wood Johnson Community Hosptial Safe Kids Fair in October 2008. Teachers bring their students to this event to learn about all aspects of personal safety. We just received the teacher rankings from this event and are thrilled to learn that the Doggone Safe program received the highest rankings among the various programs offered. The ranking was 3.8/4. The statements the teachers were asked to give a score from 1-4 were as follows:
Information is relevant for my students.
Information is age-appropriate
Information is presented in an understandable & clear way
My students learned new information today

Family Dog Takes Baby from Crib

A tragic story was reported from Kentucky, where the family dog took a 4-day old baby from his bassinet and carried him 200 yards to the woods behind the house. The baby, Alexander James (AJ), suffered multiple injuries. A week later AJ is improving but is still in hospital in serious condition.

Read the first new report
Update 1 week later

The dog has not shown any aggressive tendencies according to the family. If the dog had intended to hurt the baby, he would have been killed says the dog owner and father of the baby. Indeed it is unlikely that the dog had any violent intent and was probably carrying the baby for the purpose of moving him. Dogs do sometimes move their puppies from place to place and there have been other instances reported of dogs carrying newborn babies.

A newborn baby is something very strange and confusing for the family dog. The smells and sounds that a baby makes can be intriguing or disturbing to the dog. Baby sounds are similar to those made by animals in distress. This could trigger an instinct to move the baby to a "safer" place or could trigger a predatory instinct. Either way, the outcome would not be good for the baby.

This very sad situation for AJ's family serves as a reminder that the family dog must have no unsupervised access to the baby. Closing the baby's door is the best way to ensure that the dog cannot access the baby.

Our hearts go out to AJ and his family as we hope for his full and rapid recovery.

Doggone Safe recommends the Dogs and Storks program for expectant parents who want to prepare the dog for the arrival of the new baby.

Read an article with tips for expectant parents