Monday, March 9, 2015

Older Disney Movies That Are Actually Disturbing to Animal Lovers and Are Totally Not PC!

After doing what ANY mother would do when her child is being bullied, Dumbo's mother is chained up.

A lot of us are familiar with the old Disney classic movies.  They're movies that we're supposed to love because they're considered classics.

But as an animal lover, I have tried to watch some of these movies with my daughter, and I actually found them disturbing now that I'm an adult and notice more things than I did as a kid.

Every generation of Disney movies will have characteristics that people will find to be on the questionable side.  People will complain that today's movies have princesses/female characters who show a lot of cleavage and have a big rack (meaning she 's rather robust in the chest area).

Well, the old movies are disturbing to me as well.  I am appalled at the treatment of animals in these older movies.  I watched some of them while I was a child, and the treatment of animals in these movies never bothered me - or at least as much as they do now.

I can't watch "Dumbo" anymore.  I hate it when they chain Dumbo's mother and throw her in a cage as a "mad elephant" after she is protecting her baby.  Dumbo had unusually long ears and was jeered by everyone but his mother.  If my daughter were being bullied, you better believe that Mama Bear will emerge from my 4'8" body!  The circus people knew that Dumb was being mistreated by some circus fans, but they did nothing to help or stop it.  Did they expect his mother to just stand by and do nothing?  

And then there are the other female elephants who gossip about her and Dumbo.  No compassion by these other mothers!  Ladies, let this movie be a lesson to you on how NOT to act when another mom is going through a rough time!  Also, the other elephants make fun of Dumbo as well.  Way to set an example and be adults about people who look "different."

Bambi's mother gets shot.  I know you hunters will blast me for this one, but it's heartbreaking to see someone just kill a doe who has a little fawn to raise. Now that fawn is without a mother and has to fend for himself, which he may or may not do too well without his mother.  Bambi is left orphaned as a result of his mother getting shot.  Thankfully, his dad, The Great Prince of the Forest, is no longer a dead beat dad and raises his son.

Cruella DeVil and her damn fur coat!  She's willing to kill over 100 sweet puppies, skin them, and have another overpriced, fashionable coat made for herself!  She is nothing but a heartless bitch!  I hope that she dies of lung cancer from all the smoking that she does!  And her hired animal abusers, Horace and Jasper... not only are they stupid, but they're mean!
Cruella DeVil sporting her fur coat.  Sorry, Cruella, you're not getting a Dalmatian spot coat! Try prison stripes.

There  are only two complaints about animal cruelty here.  The first one, which is only speculative, is where did the Lost Boys got their animal skin clothes?  I am sure that Neverland doesn't have a faux fur store.

The other one, which is more obvious.  George Darling, the husband of Mary and father of Wendy, John, and Michael, drags the family's dog (and the children's "nurse") down the steps from the top floor of the house down to the back yard to put her on a tie out when he loses his shit about the Peter Pan nonsense.  He's already stressed out because he and his wife are trying to get ready for a party, and he can't find some of his accessories.  Then he finds out that his sons were using them as treasure and a treasure map when they were pretending - ya know, that imagination thing that kids are supposed to have - and finds out that they got the idea from Wendy, his eldest child, who tells them the Peter Pan stories.  
Believing that his children should skip childhood and act like mini adults, he loses his temper and takes it out on the dog, Nana, who did nothing to deserve it and yet gets banished to the back yard.  Her back has to take a beating being dragged down a couple flights of steps by the collar.  Yeah, tell me that her backbone wasn't bruised from that and she wasn't being choked either.  Get some anger/stress management skills, George!

However, this is where the political incorrectness comes into play.  Yes, I realize that this is an old story and movie, but I get so angry watching it! Peter Pan is the boy who never grew up, and it shows.  He's all about himself and his ego.  Wendy idolizes him, and I want to just shake some sense into her and say, "Honey!  He's a player!  He's not that into you!"  I mean, he flirts and supposedly kisses Tiger Lily, he lets the mermaids try to drown Wendy and trash her like a bunch of catty high school girls just because they're jealous of her presence around Peter - of which he does nothing to defend her, and he eats up Tinker Bell's jealousy for him playing her, too. If Wendy and Tink were both smart, they would've dropped him like a hot potato and moved on. I don't see anything appealing or heroic about Peter Pan at all except for when he saves Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys in the end.

Peter is more likable in Return to Neverland.

And then there's the issue of the portrayal of the Indians.  Need I say more?

Aunt Sarah pulling Lady on the chain.  What is this dog hater trying to do... break Lady's neck or strangle her?
I HATE AUNT SARAH! Why on earth would John Dear and Darling leave their dog-hating aunt in charge of their home WHICH HAS A DOG IN IT while they're gone is beyond me!  They also treat Lady poorly after they find out that they're expecting a baby.  Blame the pregnancy hormones all you want, Darling, but it's no excuse to be mean to your dog.

Back to hating on Aunt Sarah and her sneaky felines who go out of their way to get Lady in trouble... this horrible woman blames Lady for the chaos that her Siamese cats caused and gets Lady muzzled for the duration of her visit.  Oh really?  How is Lady supposed to eat if she's muzzled?  Maybe Aunt Sarah's intention was to kill Lady by starving her.  Not ruling it out.  As much as I would never wish harm on a child, I kind of wanted the rat to bite the baby so that John Dear and Darling would see that Lady tried to warn the bitchy aunt about it, and she didn't listen. She was too busy focusing her anger on the dog.  Maybe then they would realize that Aunt Sarah is to never be trusted with their child or dog ever again!  I'll say it again... why would they leave a dog-hating aunt in charge of their home with a dog in it? I guarantee you that if we can't take Sydney on a trip with us, I am not leaving her with just anyone.  She usually stays with my parents or my in-laws, all of whom I trust to treat her with the same love and attention that we'd give her.

John Dear and Darling do redeem themselves when they adopt Tramp, a long-time stray, into their family.

Some of you may think that I'm over analyzing these movies, especially since they're from a different time in which animals weren't seen as family and could be mistreated/killed, it was okay for guys to be players with girls, and to portray Native Americans in such a poor way.  Still, how did kids back then not find some of these things disturbing?  Like I said, I can't even watch some of these movies anymore without feeling a lot of anger and sadness.

By the way, I'm not trying to stir up a controversy or promote hate on Disney.  I love Disney movies.  I love Disney World!  Just trying to get people to think when they watch some of these movies with children and maybe point out to children what not to do with animals and people who are different.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

You actually celebrate your dog's birthday? You betcha!

Sydney receiving a birthday gift last year.
Sydney receiving a birthday gift last year.

So, here we are... February 25, 2015.  That means that our beautiful Shih Tzu, Sydney, is 7 years-old today!  Later on today we plan on having dinner, doggy birthday cake, and gifts for Sydney.  Some people might roll their eyes and think, "She's treating that darn dog like a kid again!  Doesn't she realize that it's JUST a dog?"

Why, yes, I do realize that she's a dog.  But to us (Matt, Taylor, and myself), she is not "just" a dog."  She is a member of our family.  She is a part of our family that we love and can't imagine not having in our family.

Sadly, there will come a day when she won't be in our family anymore because she is a dog, and - even in optimal health - will not live as long as we will.

Someday, Matt or I will be taking her to the vet's office for the last time and will come home without her.  We may even have to make the decision at the vet's office to end her suffering (if she's suffering), if we haven't already discovered that at our home and taking her there to have the vet's office take care of her body.  She will be a geriatric dog someday whose body will start to show old age, just like a geriatric person's body does.

And most heartbreaking of all, someday we will have to break the news to Taylor that her doggy sister is gone, and we will have to watch her mourn losing her sister in addition to dealing with our own grief.

We will live many years after Sydney does, and we will always remember how happy she has made us and what a wonderful part of our lives she has been.  Even if we were to get another dog, no dog will ever take her place.

But not yet.  Hopefully, not for years.

It is for these reasons that we celebrate our dog's birthday.  Each year that we get to February 25th with that adorable little Shih Tzu cuddling on Matt's or my lap or to see her playing fetch with Taylor - seeing this dog turn another year older is a GIFT.

Technically, each day is a gift for ALL of us.  However, each day and birthday with Sydney is a gift.  It's a gift watching this dog still play and frolic.  It's a gift watching Sydney greet her neighborhood doggy buddies.  It's a gift watching this dog still play and have energy like a puppy!  I love watching her get the "zoomies," the act of running around the house at full speed randomly with a burst of excitement.

Sydney, herself, is a gift.

And there is absolutely no shame at all in celebrating another year with her.

My family's dog, Rocky, a Pekingese, lived to be 16, and he lived a good life. He was my furry brother from the time I was in 4th grade until I was almost 26.  He cuddled next to me when I was sick, cuddled me and gave me doggy kisses when I was sad, and made me smile and laugh MANY times.  I miss him every day!

I also loved my grandma's two dogs that I knew as a kid - Chi Chi, a Poodle, and Tobie, a Pekingese, who was Rocky's life companion! I miss them as well!

Sydney's biological father, Koda, died at age 5 of kidney disease.  His family misses him every day.  The fact that his "children" and his partner, Zonie (the puppies' mother), have outlived him and are pretty healthy makes his family happy as well.

Celebrate your dog's life.  Celebrate your cat's life.  Celebrate your horse's life.  Celebrate your (insert whatever pet you have)'s life.  Someday, you won't be able to celebrate it, and you will wish that you had.
"Our family is not complete without Sydney!" - last page of Sydney & Me
"Our family is not complete without Sydney!" - last page of Sydney & Me

Monday, February 23, 2015

JODI'S OPINION ON BEAUTY: What we need to stop teaching our daughters and sons

Cinderella and Prince Charming - the handsome prince and beautiful maiden at the ball 

I'm going to step away from the usual child-dog topic for a day and focus on something that bothers me.  A lot.

After thinking about it out of no where, I decided to put my thoughts in writing and share them.

Keep in mind that this is all my opinion.  I am not a licensed psychologist, relationship expert, or anything like that.

I was talking on the phone one day to someone who was complaining about her daughter's boyfriend.  Some of the complaints were legitimate: he stays too late to visit, he doesn't bring her home on time when told what time she has to be home (this is partially the girl's doing), and he doesn't speak much to the parents.  But the biggest complaint about the boyfriend?

"I don't know what she even sees in him! He's not that great looking!"

And cue my forehead slap and eye roll.

Let's step outside the Disney fairy tale world of the beautiful princess meeting a handsome prince living happily ever after, shall we?

I know that our society has been stuck on good looks for centuries.  So, I'm aware of the fact that this one blog post about it will not change the way everyone sees good looks and what kind of people they find attractive.

But what I do want to accomplish with this is to at least get some of you thinking on what things we say on a frequent basis that might be teaching our sons and daughters the wrong thing on how to pick a mate in life.

Cinderella was a beautiful young woman whose heart was also kind.  Prince Charming was a good looking young man who also seemed to be a kind young man. He and Cinderella seemed to destined to be together.  In "Cinderella II," they are just as much in love.

This is not necessarily reflective of real life and relationships in the real world.  Good looks are nice to have, yes.  But they do not guarantee a happy relationship or marriage. They will not guarantee a happy life or being with the perfect person.

I am not saying that "all" good looking people are conceited and selfish, but let's assume for a moment that they are.

How many of you know that guy who is gorgeous? His hair is never out of place.  He flashes that seductive smile that drives the girls crazy and makes them squirm. He dresses better than many other people. He says all the right things.

Rather than thinking that Mr. Dreamy has finally arrived, you should be raising red flags.  If he seems too good to be true, he probably is.  If he spends that much time making himself look good and knows what to say to get a girl to fall for him, his focus is on himself, not his potential girlfriend.  He KNOWS that he's good looking.  He may also think that he's God's gift to women.  If he's selfish and all about himself, do you really think that he'll be faithful?

Again, this is not to say that ALL good looking guys are like this, but it's a common enough characteristic.

And the same with a beautiful girl... she may have Barbie-doll good looks, perfect body, perfect hair, and the best dresser.  However, she may think that she's too good for just anyone.  She may have no problem cutting down another girl that she sees as beneath her.  Conceited, self-centered, and shallow. 

And, yes, not all pretty girls are like that, but it's a common enough occurrence.

This is why we have to watch how often and in what context we bring up another person's good or bad looks.  Your children are listening to what you say, even when they seem like they aren't.  When they hear you say, "What does she even see in him?  She's too pretty to be dating someone as average/overweight/ugly like that guy!" (And vice versa for a good looking guy dating a not-so-good-looking girl.  This can also apply to same-sex couples.)

What message are we getting across?  Good looks should be the #1 priority when seeking a relationship with someone.

There is more to a person than their good looks - or lack of. Maybe there are kind people out there who also happen to be good looking.  However, we need to teach them that it's not everything.

You can still point out if a girl is pretty, but make sure to make an observance (if you can) about how she is acting.  "That girl is pretty, but look at how rude she is to the server."

Here's another: "Look at how beautiful that girl is, and I love it how she's helping the server clean up that water spill at their table."

"That guy is hot, but he seems to be ignoring the girl that he brought with him."

"That's guy over there is gorgeous, and look at how he just opened the door for that elderly couple that just walked in."

"That girl over there isn't that pretty, but they guy with her seems crazy about her!  They seem very much in love."

"That guy who just walked in with that very beautiful girl is kind of heavy, but he's just opened the door for her, pushed her chair in for her, and seems to be very kind to her."

Surely, you can find other examples of what kind of person someone is (or first impressions) other than just their good looks.

And if your son or daughter ends up dating or marrying someone who is not physically beautiful by society's standards, you can bet that your son or daughter found something beautiful inside that person's heart that trumps what any pretty face, perfect body, and flawless hair could ever have. Or maybe that there is nothing on the surface that you can see, but for some reason, that couple just has chemistry that not even they can explain.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Child & Dog Safety: Don't Leave Them Alone! EVER!

"Mommy and Daddy like to keep playing safe and fun for Sydney and me!" - Sydney & Me on leaving small children and dogs alone together.

Three years ago I was watching the news.  I learned of a heartbreaking story of a young mother losing her 2-day-old baby after her husky had attacked her baby.  The baby was asleep, and the mother left the room to use the bathroom for just a couple of minutes.  When she came back downstairs, she found the most traumatizing scenario that parents of a human and pet child could ever imagine.

Her baby's head was bleeding, and her husky was standing over the baby.  Apparently, the husky attacked the sleeping baby boy.

It's unclear what led to the attack.  The husky was partially disabled and was a rescue. No one really knows what trauma this dog may have endured prior to adoption to suddenly attack a baby out of no where.  Also, this baby could have looked like prey to this dog.  We don't know.

It's a situation that I cannot fathom happening in my home. I felt horrible for the mom discovering that her husky had killed her new baby.  If it ever happened to Taylor and Sydney, I don't know what I'd do.  I really don't.  I don't know what my husband would do.  It would tear our family apart.

For this reason alone, it should be clear that you should NEVER leave your dog and small infant/child alone together. A lot can happen in a short amount of time.

When my husband and I took the Baby-Ready Pets class at Animal Friends before our daughter was born, the instructors of the class said that animals have natural instincts.  They also may not see the new baby/child as dominant over them in the "pack" (family). Bringing a new baby into the pack is a big change for them, just as it would be for an only human child who now has a new sibling.

With that in mind, don't take any unnecessary chances on leaving a child and dog alone together.  It only takes SECONDS for something tragic to happen.

The best advice that we received in our class was this: take one or the other with you.

If you have to leave the room, take either the baby or the dog with you.  Sometimes it's easier to take the baby, and sometimes it's easier to take the dog.  Use your judgment on which to take with you.

Baby carriers make this easier for taking a baby with you.  I had a baby sling, and Taylor loved to be in it!  She'd sometimes feel so relaxed being close to me that she'd fall asleep in there!  So, I didn't have to choose which one to take with me to put away dishes or something like that.

Sometimes if Taylor fell asleep in the bassinet, it was easier to bribe Sydney with a doggy treat and have her come with me to the kitchen or where ever I had to go.

Just don't take the chance on a tragedy happening.  What you may be doing may only take a minute or two, but what can happen in the room you just left a child and dog alone in can take only seconds to occur.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Canine Body Language and Being Proactive on Preventing Aggression

A lot of people would find this picture cute, but just seconds later, the photo could have been anything but cute. Reading canine body language could prevent your child - or anyone for that matter - from being bitten or attacked by a dog.  Once you're reactive, it's too late.

"Stay away from me!" "Leave me alone!"  "I'm scared!" "You're bothering me!"

These are things that you will likely hear a child or adult say when they're distressed and want to signal to other humans when they want to be left alone.  We only act in aggression when our verbal cues are not honored.

Dogs do not have that ability to verbally communicate distress to us.  They can't walk up to you and say, "Hey, the little girl is getting in my face too much. I don't like it.  I also don't like it when she tries to take food away from me."

If your dog is doing that, then see a psychologist because who knows what else you're hearing or seeing with those hallucinations?

But I digress.  

They don't use the same body language that you or I would use.  They can't cross their arms or pout when not happy.

When they're feeling like they need to go on the defensive, they're giving you clues that you may just not pick up on because you don't recognize them.  When you learn canine body language, you can foresee a possible ugly situation before it happens -- and keep it from becoming worse than it has to be -- if not preventing it altogether.

When you fail to see a dog's signs of being stressed or signs of aggression, you're putting the dog in a position where he or she has the mentality that, "I told you that I didn't want you to get in my face, but you wouldn't listen.  So, I had to bite you!"

You wouldn't like it if someone pushed you (even if unknowingly) to the point of acting out in aggression even if you tried to warn them.

Learning when a dog is trying to tell you this will help to prevent danger -- even a tragedy!

Things to Remember:

1. Tail wagging does NOT always mean friendly or happy.  Sometimes this indicates alertness and nervousness. It's like the equivalent of a person's nervous laughter.

2. Always ask a strange dog's owner if it's okay to pet him or her.  You just never know what trauma that dog has been through earlier in his or her life.  For instance, a rescue dog may have been abused by a grown man and may not trust all grown men.  Certain hand gestures may also make the dog think that he or she will get struck.  Check first to be safe.

3. Teach children not to look a dog in the face directly.  Some may find this threatening (some may not).  Also, they may find this annoying.

As for body language, the following pictures show postures that indicate when a dog is alert, scared/nervous, friendly, submissive, and aggressive.

If you see posture that indicates dominant, frightened, dominant, anxious/nervous, and aggressive, use extreme caution.  Better yet, turn your head and look down to avoid further interaction.  This shows the dog submission and peacefulness.  If this is shown toward a child, intervene (without making any abrupt or quick movements to further agitate the dog).  

The picture below shows similar postures as the one above, but there are also tips on what to do when you come across a strange dog.  

B. Bring in your arms to your body.  You'll look harmless.
C. Look at your feet and count in your head until help arrives.

More details on facial expressions and postures are available through the ASPCA

Modern Dog Magazine goes into details about these postures and what to look for specifically.

Understanding these signs and acting appropriately in a timely manner could be the difference between no problems and an attack -- especially a tragic attack. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Getting Your Dog Ready for a New Baby and Introducing Them

Adding to your family is one of the most exciting moments in life.  If you're the couple like my husband and I were, we added to our family with our dog, Sydney, before we had our daughter, Taylor.  Getting Sydney ready for life with a human sibling was not something that we took lightly.  We also wanted to make sure that Taylor's homecoming would go smoothly for Sydney with this small person "invading" her "territory."

Sydney is and always will be our first baby.  We began to call ourselves Mommy and Daddy when we brought that adorable Shih Tzu puppy into our home in 2008.  Matt and I don't see Sydney as a pet or "just a dog."  She's our furry daughter and so much more.  So, when I unexpectedly got pregnant with Taylor, we knew that this baby's entrance into our lives would change ALL of our lives - that includes Sydney's!  Hearing a baby cry frequently, noticing her parents' attention shifted to this little person and not as much toward Sydney, and still having her own needs fulfilled was going to be a huge change for Syd!

According to the ASPCA, there are ways to get your dog ready for the new family member. The main two objectives in preparation involve 1) teaching your dog to interact safely with the new baby and 2) help your dog adjust to the new upcoming experiences as much as possible.

Consider working on some obedience training to help manage your dog's behavior once you have your hands full with a new baby IN ADDITION to doggy.  Sit, stay, down, and stop jumping on people are good examples of behaviors to correct early. Leave it and drop it are also good since your dog will be exposed to new toys in the house - that are NOT hers!  I have had to confiscate a pacifier from Sydney a few times because she liked it as a chew toy.  It was a chew toy; just not hers.  Over some training and time, she eventually learned that certain verbal cues from me meant, "Don't even think of putting that binky in your mouth!"  All I did was teach her that the verbal cue "Ah-AH" meant no (said in a very stern tone of voice to catch her attention).  This has to be done repetitively to learn it.

If you have any trouble training your dog on your own, an obedience class is a good option.

If you need to move some of your dog's stuff, such as food and water bowls, her bed, and any other of her belongings, gradually get your dog used to the new location early.  Move it a little bit at a time. Once that baby comes, your life may be turned upside down until you get more into a routine.  Moving your dog's stuff somewhere else is going to turn her world upside down as well!  She will get stressed out, and then you'll feel like you're ready to pull your hair out with a screaming baby, barking and whining dog, and probably very little sleep for you!

We took a Baby-Ready Pets class prior to Taylor's birth.  One interesting thing that we learned was to get a baby doll (as close to real as possible) and get the dog used to seeing you hold a baby.  If your dog sits on your lap without you inviting her first (assuming you have a lap dog), start to teach her to wait to sit by you or on your lap until you invite her.  You can use the baby doll in this training as well.

Visit the ASPCA's web site for more ideas on how to prepare your dog for the baby.  Decide on whether or not jumping on furniture will be allowed, sleeping in bed with you (dog, that is), and other things that may not seem like a big deal now but could become a problem down the road.

As for the first introduction between your furry baby and your human baby, there's away to make this first meeting go smoothly.  Every dog is different, and there is no guarantee that this first meeting will go 100% well, but this idea of the first introduction can help.

I will first tell you what Matt and I did when Sydney met Taylor, and then I will provide more expert advice.

The night before Taylor and I came home from the hospital, Matt took home one of the little onesies that Taylor had been wearing that day.  When he got home that evening, he let Sydney sniff the onesie to learn Taylor's scent.  We ourselves can't smell this "scent," but animals can detect this scent.  This scent becomes ingrained in her memory so that when this little baby comes in the house, her scent is not new.

So, Matt came back to the hospital the next day to bring his recovering wife (from c-section) and new daughter home. Before we entered the house, Matt carried Taylor into the house because Sydney, who would be excited to see me after I had been gone for 3 days, could greet me and get some attention from me upon my entry into the house. Sydney really did miss me!  I had trouble leaning down to see her with the big surgical incision in my lower abdomen, but I managed.

Then I sat down on the couch, put a boppy pillow around me, and took the baby from my mom (who had also joined us for our trip home).  I invited Sydney over to the couch cushion next to me, and I watched her every move as she leaned in to sniff Taylor.  Sydney's reaction was cute.  She did not rush over to sniff Taylor at first.  She was rather timid about it!  Sydney sat next to me on the couch, but she was unsure about coming over to see this little baby and get too close to her. She got used to her though.

Now, here is what the ASPCA says about bringing the baby home:

They suggest to put the dog on a leash before the baby comes in the house.  We didn't do this for Syd, but it's a judgment call for you.  They also suggest to have some treats ready for your dog's first moments around the baby to reinforce/reward good behavior or a bribe to discourage any bad behavior.

As your dog and baby meet, you need to remember that if you're anxious and nervous about this, our dog will pick up on it and also be nervous and anxious.  Do not teach her to be nervous and anxious around the baby as this will create a negative opinion of the baby.  Calm, happy voice is the key to teaching your dog that this baby is a fun and good thing, not a bad thing!

Learn canine body language to assess whether or not things are going well and your dog is relaxed.  It is up to you on when to let the dog sniff the baby and get close to her.  Again, remember to STAY CALM!

Once you're ready for their first interaction to take a little break, treats and toys are a great distraction for your dog.  Have someone else (husband, friend, relative who is present) do this distraction with the dog.

So, now that you've integrated your baby into your family's life, remember this VERY IMPORTANT TIP about life with a dog and baby: Even if you think you can trust them alone together, NEVER leave them alone together!  If you have to leave the room, take one of them with you.  Sometimes it's easier to tell your dog to "Come," than it is to wake a sleeping baby to carry him or her with you.  I used a baby sling at times, which Taylor had fallen asleep in anyway, and that way had the baby close to my body while still able to be hands free.

One tool to help with certain times that may involve baby and dog separation (these aren't always bad): BABY GATES.

Your dog may adjust to a mostly sleeping newborn at first, but that baby will eventually become a grabbing and mobile baby.  This is when you need to watch and be proactive to prevent disasters (such as a curious, crawling baby trying to grab the dog's tail or ears) in which your dog may have to defend him or herself!

So, before you try to find your dog a new home before the baby arrives or have a hard time dealing with your dog's stressful adjustment (leading to finding her a new home), do some preparation to make this transition as smooth as possible!  Parenting a new baby is hard enough.  Parenting a new baby with a stressed out dog makes it harder.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dog-Care Chores: Getting Children Involved in Their Pet's Care

"Mommy gives me Sydney's treat jar, and I tell Sydney to, 'Sit,' and then put the treat in her mouth."

Some parents may feel overwhelmed taking care of their human children and then furry children as well. It's true that children and pets are dependent on the adults in the house for their needs.  Although parents are still primarily responsible for their pet's care, does this mean that children can't help out with the pet-care chores?

Certainly not.

Helping out with the family's furry (and scaly, feathery, and slimy, if you have those) members has many benefits for your young family members.  They learn to bond with them.  They learn responsibility and to have a good work ethic.  They learn some degree of selflessness.  There are probably many more benefits, but those listed above are to name a few.

I am focusing on dog care since that is what I'm familiar with, but if you have cats or other animals, you can apply some of these ideas to those animals as well.

When is too young to start?  Well, as the parents knowing your own children and furry babies, that is completely up to you.  Use your judgment and common sense.

Some web sites that I browsed on this topic started their chore suggestions at age 4.  My daughter, Taylor, however, has started to help out with our dog, Sydney, at age 3.  She does simple chores for now, but they make her very proud of herself.

One of the topics that "Sydney & Me" touches on is how Taylor helps out with Sydney's care.  At this point in her life, Taylor can't walk Sydney by herself yet -- Taylor can't even take herself for one yet for that matter -- but she likes to hold a part of the leash while my husband or I walk her.  It makes her feel like she's doing the dog walking while I still have control if Sydney sees a squirrel and starts to make a mad dash for it.  It seems like a minor chore, but it's the start of her learning how to do bigger Sydney chores in the future. Someday Taylor will be able to handle the dog walking on her own.

Per the above picture, Taylor's favorite chore is giving Sydney a treat after Sydney has gone to the bathroom outside.  We have a special treat jar for Sydney, and the lid seals pretty tightly when closed.  So, I open it for her (if she did it, who knows what would happen?), and Taylor gets a treat from it.  She has seen me tell Sydney to sit before giving her the treat many times, so Taylor started to do this as well on her own. A child will have to be taught how to hold the treat so that the dog does not accidentally bite his or her little fingers as the dog takes the treat in her mouth.

I looked on a page called, which had this article on age-appropriate chores for children to help with dog care.  It starts at age 4 and states chores through age 15.  Keep in mind that these are guidelines.  Again, as the parent, you know your kids and furry kids as far as how many of these chores are appropriate for your child.  If you look at age 4 ideas, petting the dog may not seem like a "chore," but petting is important because it makes your dog happy.  If your child isn't comfortable having the dog take a treat out of his or her fingers, you can do what this article suggests - let the child drop the treat on the floor and let the dog pick it up. Taylor started out doing that, but now she has learned how to put the treat in Sydney's mouth without her fingers accidentally getting bitten from it.

By age 9, children should be able to help their parents bathe the dog.  By age 12, your child can teach your dog new tricks and learn how to give your dog a "checkup" (check for any obvious problems that may require an adult's or vet's care and/or first aid.  For instance, your child may feel a bump on the dog that may indicate a tick or some type of injury.  Or your child can spot any abnormalities in the eyes or ears.  Show the child while the dog is completely without injury or problems what a healthy dog looks like.  If they find something that could be out of the ordinary, they are not to hesitate to tell their parents.  Finally at age 15, they should be able to do all of these things plus pick up poop in the yard.

Another web site called has some other very similar suggestions in their article about pet chores for kids by age. Their suggestions start at age 2, which are playing with the animal with parental supervision and picking up the animal's toys. As the child grows older and more responsible, he or she will take on more responsibilities for the pets.  By their mid-to-late teenage years, he or she should be able to do most of the chores that the parents can do (maybe some emergency situations will require just Mom and Dad though).

As with any chlid-dog interaction, NEVER leave a young child and animal alone together!  Even if your child and dog have good temperaments, you just never know when something bad could happen.  Don't put your child in a position of being vulnerable to an animal's attack, and don't put your animal in a position of feeling like he or she needs to defend him/herself by using aggression - thus possibly resulting in the animal being put down.  As the parent, you are the "pack leader" and will need to lead the child and animal in building their relationship, and that may include being the buffer between a tragic disaster and no disaster.