BARKS from the Guild November 2015

Page 54


Setting Up Military Families for Success

Amy Martin explains how trainers and behavior consultants can go beyond the basics of


dog training to help their military family clients

amily is a key component of life for members of the military. As we discussed in the first article of this series (see The Perfect Storm, BARKS from the Guild, September 2015, pp. 53-55), military life is a challenge in and of itself. Often, a new chapter in life opens: babies are born and juggling military life with dogs and babies can seem impossible at times. But there are compassionate solutions and resources available to support and guide our military families.

They DonÊt Know what They DonÊt Know

Most young military parents-to-be may not believe they need to learn about safe parenting with pets. They do not need help with their dog, because “their dog is so good, and she loves kids.” Plus, they have “loved and known dogs their entire life.” What else is there to know? Frankly, there is a lot. The danger lies in expecting parents not having a grasp on the reality of what is really in store for them with a new baby in addition to their menagerie. One of the key components to setting everyone up for success is empowering military parents with knowledge, awareness and appropriate skills. This extends well beyond dog training and basic supervision of dogs and babies. The idea that you can “just let the dog sniff your baby’s blanket and everything will be fine once you bring your baby home” and call yourself prepared could not be further from the truth. Military members and their spouses have plenty on their plate while serving their nation. Once they combine this with becoming a new parent, they find themselves pulled in many directions at once. All too common distractions, such as making sure their loved one who’s deployed is safe, texting, talking on the phone, watching television, being on the computer, doing the laundry or dishes, or breast feeding can create multitasking mayhem for new parents. Dangerous accidents between children and dogs happen in an instant in homes, especially when a new parent is being distracted. To ensure everyone's safety, proactive and active supervision is required when there is a baby in a home with dogs (see graphics on page 55).

Invites Decrease Bites

One of the most important home management techniques is inviting the dog to interact with the child, rather than allowing the baby to crawl over to the family dog. It is imperative to allow the family dog to choose to come over to the parent and child. If the dog chooses not to participate in petting or close interaction, that is the dog's choice, and is perfectly fine.

Dog bites are a symptom of a larger, usually chronic problem that may have been avoided with proper education, intervention, and management. – Jennifer Shryock


BARKS from the Guild/November 2015

In Guided Touch, a parent is always holding the baby’s hand in interactions with the dog

Many dog owners misread a dog’s exploratory behavior as a dog showing “love” or “affection” toward a baby, but that is not always the case. We need to ensure that all parents understand why it is never a good idea to allow a baby to roll around and freely explore the family dog. Families can learn to encourage inclusion of the family dog in activities with their baby, but within safe, structured guidelines. To do this, we recommend using Guided Touch™. With this technique there is always a parent holding the baby’s hand when touching the dog. It sets up a successful encounter and creates a safer situation for both baby and dog. Guided Touch allows the family dog to interact with an unpredictable baby in a way that is guided by a trusted adult. We recommend practicing Guided Touch with a stuffed animal before practicing with the family dog. This helps everyone to change some of their expectations of their baby and dog prior to the two making contact. Parent “Guided Touch” is the only way young babies or toddlers should interact with a dog or cat. It's the safest technique for everyone involved. – Jennifer Shryock


Each parent’s dog and baby supervising style varies, so they must learn how to communicate what type of supervision works for them and what does not. New parents must understand that both parents need to adhere to the same rules they have decided upon as a team. This consistency helps the dog to trust that his trusted people will be there to intercede on his behalf when needed. Consistency decreases the likelihood of the family dog feeling like he must always be vigilant, or have to react on his own whenever their toddler is around. Helping parents to understand how their dog communicates his stress level, and rec-

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