Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why Does Doggone Safe Teach that Panting Dogs are Safe?

Here is one of the most frequently asked questions about the content of the Be a Tree program:
Panting can be a sign of stress in a dog - why do you tell children that panting dogs are happy?
A panting dog is dealing with the stress by panting. A stressed dog that is not panting is much more dangerous because it has no mechanism to relieve the stress and is therefore more likely to react. Not all stress is bad stress. The dog might be waiting for a child to come and say hello. The waiting and wondering causes mild stress and the dog starts to pant. "Are we going for a walk?", "Are you going to throw that ball?", "Am I getting the cookie?" These are all circumstances that will cause panting due to mild stress and anticipation. We are trying to keep things simple for children and not providing an exhaustive course in dog behavior. Children obviously cannot be expected to tell the difference between a dog panting under mild stress or a dog panting with rapid frantic breaths that indicates extreme stress (still a dog less likely to bite than a highly stressed dog that is not able to pant).

Other things that the children learn during the program should prevent them from interacting with a dog panting out of extreme stress. They are taught to stand sideways and allow the dog to come to them to sniff their fist. A very nervous dog is apt to move away and not come forward to sniff - so they would leave that dog alone. They may also see the half moon eye, yawn, lick or the fore paw lift and realize that the dog is anxious. They are taught that if the dog stops panting if they come closer, that the dog does not want to meet or interact with them. Hopefully, handlers whose dog are very anxious will say no, when a child asks to pet the dog.

So for the most part a panting dog is a dog waiting with happy anticipation for something good to happen, or at least is a dog that is dealing with its stress. The panting/not panting differentiation is simple for children and immediately rules out many dogs that they may otherwise have wanted to pet and gives them a way to decide whether their own dog (who is the one most likely to bite them anyway) is open to interaction with them. We also teach that children should ask the dog handler to tell the dog to sit before they meet it. The cue "sit" is a stress reliever for most dogs because it is familiar and generally has a positive association and gives the dog some control of the situation. A dog that does not sit for the handler is not under sufficient control for a child to pet. An extremely anxious dog is unlikely to follow instructions and is ruled out on that basis, whether panting or not.

To summarize (so that a child can understand):
Panting and wiggly = safe
Not panting and stiff = dangerous


International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge - Get Involved!

Doggone Safe has announced the International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge for 2012. It challenges its presenters to visit schools and educate 50,000 children about dog safety in a single month. The Challenge is to celebrate Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 20-26, 2012). Non-profit Doggone Safe has more than 800 presenters in 17 countries, 11 Canadian provinces and 43 states in the USA.

Dog bites to children are considered to be a serious public health problem by public health agencies and veterinary medical associations worldwide. Statistics show that most bites are by the family dog or other dog known to the child. “Experts agree that public education has an important role to play in reducing dog bite risk to children, and the Be a Tree program is one of the ways Doggone Safe is contributing”, said Teresa Lewin, vice president and cofounder of Doggone Safe.

Doggone Safe administers the “Be a Tree” dog bite prevention program for school children. The program is delivered by Doggone Safe presenters, veterinary technicians, dog trainers, dog behaviorists, public health nurses, emergency medical services personnel, animal control officers, police officers, teachers and humane educators. Presenters use a teacher kit which contains large format photographs showing dog body language signs, games and activities. Program sponsors can purchase supplementary branded learning materials such as coloring books, paint sheets, a story book, a poster, stickers, bookmarks and fridge magnets. Over 700,000 children worldwide have experienced the Be a Tree presentation since 2004. Through the International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge, Doggone Safe aims to increase this by almost ten percent.

“I love ‘be a tree’ (and ‘be a rock’). It's the best of its kind. This information has to get out there”, said Jean Donaldson – Internationally recognized dog behavior expert, award-winning author and director of the Academy for Dog Trainers.

For more information about the Challenge, to become a sponsor, to book a presentation for your school or to register as a presenter please visit the Doggone Safe website at www.doggonesafe.com.

We Need Your Help!
Here are some ways you can help

Do a presentation. If you are a Be a Tree presenter, please join the Challenge! Talk to your local schools and organize one or more presentations. We have a letter to the principal and letter to the teacher that you can download, edit and use to explain the program.
Become a Be a Tree presenter. Click here for more information. The Be a Tree Teacher Kit Plus PowerFlashPoint Show are now on sale for $70 (that's $30 off!) from now until the end of May. 
            Buy from Canada
            Buy from the US
                      Buy from Elsewhere (note delivery can take up to 4 weeks)
Send out our press release. Download our press release and send it to you local media. If you are a presenter and have your own business, you can download and edit the press release template to help promote your business and get some media attention for yourself and Doggone Safe.
Blog about the Challenge. If you have a blog, please copy this blog post, use one of our prewritten articles or write your own article about the Challenge.
Share on Facebook and Tweet about the Challenge. Here is a link to our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DoggoneSafe. Like our page and then share the post about the Challenge. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dog Awareness Signs - Get Yours Today!

The Liam J Perk Foundation has created a terrific sign that is very reasonably priced for parks and playgrounds to remind kids to be safe around dogs. If your community group is looking or a fund raising project, this would be a terrific project that will benefit the community for years to come. With Dog Bite Prevention Week coming up in the 3rd week of May, this is a perfect time to get started raising funds to get one of these signs.

Click here for more information about the sign and for an explanation of what all the symbols mean.

The sign will have a QR code so that people with smart phones can scan it and go directly to the Liam J Perk Website for additional information. Doggone Safe supports the Liam J Perk Foundation and is pleased to partner with them to help spread our messages about safety around dogs and educate about dog body language.

The sign comes in two versions. One is complete with a stand that you can mount in concrete and the other in an insert that you can attach to your own existing stand or to a fence or building.

You can customize the sign with the following information:
  • Park/location name w/logo
  • Donated by/event name or what ever you like to put in this area
  • Frame Color  - you can choose the frame color from a variety of choices
The cost of the sign with arch frame is $500 (price subject to change)

The cost of the insert is $375 (price subject to change)

Shipping cost is extra and will be quoted to you when you inquire about ordering a sign.

There is also a mini versions available in poster size for dog trainers, shelters, vet offices, pet stores, and groomers.
To order a sign, please contact Carrie Perk: carrie@liamjperkfoundation.org

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dog Body Language: How to Tell if a Dog is Happy, Frustrated, Scared, Annoyed

By Laurie Luck
This is reposted with permission from the blog http://smartdog.typepad.com/ by one of our favorite dog trainers, Laurie Luck of Smart Dog University

I don't have the luxury of watching "feel good" segments or programs that contain dogs. Because I "do dogs" for a living, I see all the little signs, the communication signals a dog is sending, and nothing is ever cute anymore, but rather just filled with warning and distress signals from dogs.

Take this morning's "feel good" segment on The Today Show for example. It piqued my interest because it was about a service dog for a little girl who is connected to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day. The family procured a service dog to carry the oxygen tank for the three-year old girl.

The anchors on the show, the parents, and the little girl were oblivious to the many signs from the dog that he wasn't a happy camper. Based on all the publicity Kyle Dyer, NBC anchor in Denver, received when she was bitten on the face by a dog live on the air, I was hopeful that people had started to pay attention to dog body language.

Sadly, I was wrong. Below is the segment. Watch it once without reading the warning signals I've listed below. Then watch it again, looking at the specific minute and second spots.

Some things to know before you take a look at the video. The red bandana is used to cover a prong collar on Mr. Gibbs, the service dog. A prong collar is a collar fitted with special barbs or prongs, that lie against the dog's neck. When pressure is put on the collar by pulling on the leash, those prongs dig into the dog's flesh around his neck. The pain from the prongs are supposed to be a correction to the dog so he won't do whatever it was again.

1:24 - Mr. Gibbs ignores the girl. Girl pulls hard on the leash. Those prongs are now digging into the dog's neck.

2:39 - Girl is pulling Mr. Gibbs with the prong. Pause the video here and you can really see the pulling.

2:42 - Mr. Gibbs tries to go with the trainer (instead of the girl) and he gets a BIG yank from the girl. Do you wonder why the dog doesn't want to be with the girl?

2:56 - The first sign of stress from the dog: a lip lick and a look-away. These are both classic stress signals from a dog.

3:13 - "He gets beat in the head," the little girl says. Apparently she likes to swing a lot, and Mr. Gibbs cannot get out of her way. The father repeats the little girl's sentiment and laughs a little sheepishly.

3:30 - "What do you say to him," the anchor asks. The girl answers "Down!" and "At ease." Both are dog training cues -- not "I love you!" or "Good boy!"

3:32 - Hit pause here. Is this dog looking to interact with the girl? Does he even acknowledge her?

3:34 - Slight "whale eye" from Mr. Gibbs. The whale eye is another sign of stress. This happens when the girl is laying on the dog. The dog has no escape, no say in whether or not he can get out of the situation. This is a recipe for disaster.

4:11 - We're now in the live interview with the anchor, parents, child and Mr. Gibbs. Pause the video at this spot. See the girl tugging on the prong collar? Every tug on the collar brings discomfort to Mr. Gibbs.

4:14 - The girl gives a double-tug on the prong collar, hard.

4:18 Another tug from the girl. The father finally rescues Mr. Gibbs from the daughter's tugs by placing the dog back onto the couch. I wonder why the dog was trying to get down in the first place?

4:54 - Mr. Gibbs looks to the father for help out of the situation.

5:01 - There's a big lip lick and a yawn. Two classic signals that the dog is stressed and would like to leave. He keeps trying to get down off the couch.

5:15 - Another lip lick from Mr. Gibbs. The signals this dog is throwing are increasing.

5:17 - Mr. Gibbs turns his head away from the girl to try to break off contact, but she just gets closer to Mr. Gibbs. He's trying very hard and his patience is admirable.

5:57 - Mr. Gibbs is resigned to his fate.

6:15 - Girl squeals, maybe there's a little bit of a squeeze by her, Mr. Gibbs tries again to get up and leave.

6:20 - Another head turn by Mr. Gibbs -- another attempt to break off contact with the girl, but again she follows.

6:35 - Girl grabs Mr. Gibbs' head, pulls it down, and grabs his eyebrows.

6:41 - Girl grabs Mr. Gibbs' prong collar and pulls off the bandana covering the prong collar.

6:45 - Pause it here and just look at the picture. Is the dog happy about his circumstances?

6:53 - The girl is now pulling the bandana back onto Mr. Gibbs, getting it caught in his mouth.

7:01 - Mr. Gibbs is nearing the end of his attempts to get out of the situation and/or get some relief from this girl from the other people in the room. Finally he lies on the girl as a last ditch effort.

It looks very cute, but in reality, Mr. Gibbs lays on her in resignation -- not enjoyment.

There are reasons why most service dog agencies won't let a young child have a service dog. Unfortunately, this segment highlights the many reasons why. The child is far to young to have the responsibility of caring for a dog, her parents haven't taught her how to kindly interact with a dog, and everyone is ignoring (or doesn't recognize) the dog's many pleas to be removed from the situation.

For more insights from Laurie, read Part 2 of this post.