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.