Friday, May 31, 2013

The Latham Foundation Wins Telly Award!

Doggone Safe partner, the The Latham Foundation, wins a Telly Award for their wonderful video, Faith and hope on a Farm.

Faith and Hope on a Farm is an inspiring reminder of why we teach compassion, empathy, and respect to help break the cycle of abuse.

The film highlights Forget Me Not Farm in Santa Rosa, California, where at-risk children and animals bond and heal to break the cycle of abuse. Children learn gentle touch and respect for both other humans and animals through animal-assisted and horticultural activities at this safe haven.

The film features Faith, a formerly-abused child who was adopted by wonderful parents. You'll see her blossom at Forget Me Not Farm and you'll be reminded that where there's life, there's hope.

"Sometimes, I don't be gentle, now I'm practicing". "Sometimes when I keep something in my heart, it stays there". - Faith

(All ages; 15 minutes. Social Studies, Science)


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tip of the Day: Teach Your Children to Speak Dog

Dogs are giving us information all the time about how they are feeling and what they might do next. If every child and dog owner knew how to interpret dog body language and paid attention to what the dog is saying, there would be many fewer adverse interactions with dogs. Here are the key signals that everyone should know:


Do you love this poster? Get yours today from the Doggone Safe Store for only $5.50 each!

For more information about dog body language, take our online course: Basic Body Language - on sale for $20 until the end of May. CE credits from many organizations.

Check out our Speak Dog slide show:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tip of the Day: Dogs Don't Like Hugs and Kisses (What?!)

A different kind of love


One of the most important things you can teach your children is that dogs don't like hugs and kisses. This is a tough lesson, because many (if not most) dog owners simply do not believe it themselves.

Children learn early on that giving hugs to parents, siblings, and stuffed animals is a way to show love and affection. The desire to show affection extends naturally to the family dog. To a child, the family dog is just an animated stuffed animal.

Sadly, this desire to show affection to the family dog is a major cause of facial bites to children. Dogs may tolerate hugs from kids, but few actually enjoy this type of attention. If a dog does more than tolerate this inappropriate handling, it is only on the dog’s own terms—when the dog comes to the child for attention, and only if the child does not hug tightly or hang on too long. There is no dog that loves hugs from kids anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

Teach children to pet with one hand and to wait for the dog to come to them for attention and then to leave the dog alone if he moves away.

Listen to the experts, including the dogs!


How do we know this? In part it is because every dog behavior expert tells us so. For example, world renowned expert and author Patricia McConnell in her wonderful book "For the Love of a Dog" says that she has at least 50 photos of kids hugging dogs and in not one of them is the dog happy about it. We also know because dogs tell us and dogs don't tell lies.

If your dog is enjoying a hug he will do one or more of the following:
  • Ask for more if you stop
  • Lean into you
  • Relax and close his eyes
  • Pant and wag his tail with a loose body
If your dog is not enjoying a hug he will do one or more of the following:
  • Turn his head away from you
  • Lick your face repeatedly
  • Lick his lips or flick his tongue out
  • Yawn
  • Lick or chew at himself
  • Sneeze
  • Wriggle to get away
  • Hold his body tense
  • Shake off vigorously when you let go
  • Show a half of moon of white in his eye
  • Wag his tail stiffly

If you hear yourself saying, "he just loves the kids, they can do anything to him", then take a close look and see what the dog is really saying. In the vast majority of cases, the dog will be saying (at least some of the time), "I don't like this, please make it stop". You love your dog, so why would you want him to have to tolerate hugs when it makes him uncomfortable? You love your kids, so why not teach them this simple safety rule: pet dogs with one hand.

Prevention is the key


When the dog tells us and we don't listen, eventually he may come to the point that he just can't take it anymore and his only recourse is to use his teeth to say clearly "stop that".

Be an advocate for your kids and your dog, intervene and allow only interactions that the dog truly does enjoy.

There is one safe way for kids to kiss their dog. Check out this terrific video from The Family Dog TV:


Learn More About Dog Body Language

Learn more about dog body language by taking our online course: Basic Dog Body Language, and also from the Doggone Crazy! Board Game, available in the Doggone Safe store.

Be a Tree Rap Yo!

We love to get pictures and letters from presenters who pass these on from the kids they have taught. We have never before received a rap about Be a Tree and so we were delighted when presenter Michelle Hunting of  Miss Belle's Etiquette School for Dogs posted this on our Facebook Timeline (be sure to turn your volume up!):



Click here for more information about the Be a Tree Program.

Tip of the Day: Teach Kids to Be a Tree So a Dog Goes Away

Dogs are stimulated by movement and noise and children are known for their movement and noise! Still, it is possible to work toward and achieve positive and comfortable relationships between dogs and kids.

One of the most valuable skills that children can learn is to stand still and “Be a Tree” if a strange dog comes near them, or if a dog is bothering them or becoming too frisky (even their own dog).

Here is how to Be a Tree:


  1. Stop
  2. Fold in your branches (hand folded in front)
  3. Watch your roots grow (look at your feet)
  4. Count your breaths in your head until help comes or the dog goes away
"Trees" are boring to the dog and the dog will just sniff and then go away. No matter what the dog does, just stand still, avoid eye contact (by looking at your feet) and stay quiet.

You may have heard of other versions of being a tree involving moving hands up under the chin or under the arm pits and/or looking at the sky. We have done experiments and have consulted with many experts and have concluded that the Doggone Safe way to Be a Tree is the safest and easiest for kids to actually do. For more information on the reasons for this please click here.

Here is a video that shows how this works. (Please note that other videos that YouTube might display after these videos are chosen by them and may not be related to us or our messages in any way)


And another one. Notice that as soon as the person stops moving the dog loses interest. Please note that this video is for illustration purposes to demonstrate how well being a tree works with a frisky dog (using a teenager and a well trained dog). This is NOT a safe game for a child to play with a dog. If your dog gets too frisky and overly aroused, the kids should Be a Tree and then you should intervene and redirect the dog to another activity where he is no longer around the children.


Practice, practice, practice


It is not enough just to tell your kids about this, they need to practice it in a low stress environment to have the best chance of being able to do it under real life conditions if a dog threatens them. One way to practice is to play the Doggone Crazy! board game. Another way is to play role playing games where everyone takes tuns pretending to be a dog and the others practice being trees when the dog comes near them. You can also practice this with a stuffed dog. If you have a puppy or a small dog, you may be able to play with the real dog. Every one moves around and when the dog comes up to them they assume the tree position. The adult says the dog's name before he gets to the child and gives the dog a treat (or better still, clicks and gives the dog a treat). This way the  dog is rewarded for keeping all his feet on the ground around the kids. He will soon learn that when the kids do the tree that no-one is going to move or play with him anymore and he will see this as a cue to stop chasing or trying to play.

With a larger dog or a very frisky dog, start with the dog on a leash. Approach one of the kids in the game, the child will be a tree and you will say the dog's name, ask him to sit and give him a treat. Repeat until the dog automatically looks at you and sits when he sees a kid being a tree. Keep things calm with the kids. It is not a good idea for them to run around and get the dog all riled up.

It Works!


Here are some testimonials from people who have found being a tree to work in a real life situation with their kids:
Jake jumped back (the dog followed barking) and Jake snapped into the Tree pose so fast I thought I'd seen him turn to stone. I couldn't believe he actually thought to do it - it had been over a year since we've had time to play Doggone Crazy. The dog immediately stopped barking, jumped back into his blankie and further trouble was thus averted. Beth Wheeler, Marblehead MA
One day my [4 year old] son was outside playing, those dogs were in their house, I was standing in our doorway watching Thomas play. Suddenly the back door to the house behind us opened and out flew the dogs. The male spotted Thomas immediately and charged him, clearing the fence easily, Thomas saw this and began to run for me. I yelled immediately for him to STOP and stand like a "tree". Thankfully Thomas did both, for the dog stopped, looked around and then headed back over the fence to his own yard. Another call went out to animal control, and a big hug to my son. Kerry McDonald, Pembroke ON
As an Animal Behaviourist who has testified in numerous court cases as a designated "expert" witness in the field of canine aggression in Ontario, I came accross some information relevant to Doggone Safe when reviewing material for a recent case. The parents of a young child credited this program with saving their [3 year old] daughter's life when she was confronted by a large, aggressive acting dog. According to them, had they not taught her the principles outlined in the 'Be a Tree' program, the results of their daughter's incident with this dog could have been disastrous. This account should tell you everything you need to know about the efficacy of Doggone Safe. Kerry Vinson, Animal Behaviour Consultant, Roseneath ON

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tip of the Day: Talk to Your Child After a Dog Bite - It is NOT the Child's Fault

It is Child Mental Health Week and Dog Bite Prevention Week, so we are starting off our series of daily tips on the topic of emotional support for children after a dog bite.

Children who are bitten by a dog often experience significant stress that can persist long after the incident. The may feel betrayed if their own dog bit them, guilt if the dog is put down or sent away, anxiety due to the distress that this has caused their parents and fear of some or all dogs. Signs that your child is experiencing emotional distress or even post traumatic stress include, nightmares, social withdrawal, fear of going outside or other changes in behavior that surface after the incident.

Please remember that no matter what, it is NOT YOUR CHILD'S FAULT that they were bitten by a dog. If the dog was supervised and secure the child would not have encountered the dog. Be sure to reassure your child that it is not his fault and avoid using language that might add to a child's guilt ("you should have..." or "why didn't you..." or "if only you had..." or "I told you not to..."). In many cases neither the child nor the supervising adult, nor the dog owner realized that there was a danger of a bite because the dog was a generally friendly family pet. In other cases the child encountered a strange dog running loose, a situation that should have been prevented by the dog owner. Learning about dog body language and how to read the signs from a dog will help prevent these types of bites in the future and will be empowering for the child. We do not blame the victim, but we do encourage education for children just as we would for any hazard. The more they know, the less likely they are to be hurt.

Child psychiatrist Dr. R. Larry Schmitt recommends that parents repeatedly encourage and allow their child to talk about the incident and their feelings.

Read an article by Dr. Schmitt about why it is important to keep encouraging your child to talk about the bite or attack and more importantly to listen to your child.

Find out more and read answers by Dr. Schmitt to frequently asked questions from parents.

Dr. Schmitt will be giving a lecture for parents about how to help a child after a dog bite. This will be held at the San Diego Humane Society on May 22 from 6:30-8:00 PM. If your child has been bitten, be sure to attend so that you know how to prevent lasting emotional effects.

Click here for more information or to register. 
Help us with our research into the lingering effects of a childhood dog bite by taking our survey:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Do Your Kids Speak Dog? Woof, Woof!

You may be surprised to learn that dogs can say a lot more than "woof", but they say it with their bodies not their voices. Make sure that your kids know how to speak dog. Even if you don't have a dog, you can be sure that many of your child's friends do.

Most dog bites to children are by a family pet known to the child. Most dog owners don't know the signs warning of an eventual bite and although they may be supervising they are surprised and shocked when a bite happens. Dogs don't bite out of the blue, and the dog will have been giving warnings, but no-one was listening Just because the adults don't know stuff, is no reason for kids not to know it.

Dogs are everywhere and the vast majority are nice dogs. Nevertheless, all kids need to learn how dogs communicate and when to stay away or leave them alone. Treating dogs respectfully is good for kids and dogs.

Watch and sing along with this fun and educational video from The Family Dog, dog trainers in New Jersey.