Your New Baby Safely Met Your Dog … Now What???

Last updated on September 13th, 2015 at 12:14 am

So you followed the guidelines I wrote to “Safely Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby“, maybe added a few of your own ideas, everything went so well, and your dog seems pretty well adjusted to the baby’s arrival… but what can you do to ensure this relationship remains solid for the next several years, so they grow up and stay best friends?  There are actually a few things you can do….starting with:

Canine etiquette.

happy-mom-baby-petting-family-dogIt is not only important to teach your dog to accept the change in his life and be well behaved around the baby… it is also important to teach your baby what we refer to as ‘canine etiquette’ around dogs.

What is ‘canine etiquette’? Canine etiquette is teaching the baby from a young age what is okay and not okay to do around your dog. Before I go too far – the most important thing…. NEVER leave baby alone with the dog. I don’t care how wonderful they are together, or how well your child has learned canine etiquette. I touched briefly on how dogs rely on instinct in my last post, but I would like to get into it a bit more. When a dog (or any animal for that matter) feels nervous or threatened in any way, they are not capable of recognizing a helping hand in that moment, and can easily strike out at anything around them when they are afraid. Has your dog ever gotten their paw stuck, and nipped at your hand when you were trying to help them? All they know, in that instant, is they are in pain.

My Mom used to tell the story of the very calm collie mix we had when I was a baby named Nosie. I was a very hyper child, and one day when he was sleeping at the top of the stairs, I flung myself onto him to give him a hug, and he went flying down the stairs. Going forward, when he heard me coming, or when I called him, he took off and hid. What we didn’t know back then was how lucky I was that our dog’s reaction was to run and hide when he saw ‘the threat’ (me) coming instead of reacting aggressively.

When you are holding your baby and they grab your hair, it hurts! Well, it hurts the dog too. The difference is, you can rationalize that the baby is not meaning to hurt you. You also have two hands; you use one to hold their hand, while you use the other to disentangle your hair from their grasp. And as you probably know, it is not a simple task! They have an amazing grip at that young age!! Dogs do not have two hands to accomplish this task, and they also don’t understand why this baby hurt them. A dog does not want to be around something that consistently causes pain. You may be reading this and thinking “But the baby doesn’t know any better! They don’t mean to pull the dog’s hair!” And you are absolutely right. But they can learn by consistency, just like the dog can. So when the dog approaches you and the baby, you take the baby’s hand and make long strokes along their fur. (Many parents coo “Nice Doggy” as they do this.) You are holding the baby’s hand and constantly moving it, so they do not have the chance to grab a hunk of hair. Now your dog associates your baby as gentle and loving, and learns to enjoy the baby’s company.

Baby Gates (AKA Puppy gates)

Many new parents make the common mistake of thinking they do not need to put the gates up until baby is mobile. And some of you may have put gates up when your dog was a pup, but have not needed them in years. Even if your baby is not mobile, your dog is. There are many interactive newborn toys to keep baby’s attention that feature a mat that you put on the floor to lie them down on, and a mobile that they look up at. These are great toys to stimulate their senses, seeing, touching, etc. But if the dog is on the move, this is a potential recipe for disaster. Remember, dog and baby should ONLY be together when you are there to supervise.

Respect and Dominance

One thing I explain to all of my customers is about being the “Pack Leader”. There are certain actions that a dog takes as submission, and these are things to be aware of between your baby and dog. Your baby will not always be a baby, and there must be a certain level of respect that your dog needs to learn. Your dog needs to see and respect your baby as a small human, not as a weak and helpless creature; and definitely not as puppy that is theirs to correct. How does a dog correct a puppy? With growls and little nips; which are harmless to a puppy, but not so to an infant. I am going to give you a few insights into the dogs mind, so you can understand this dynamic a bit better, which can help you to avoid these situations.

Eye contact: In the wild, the dominant dog (or pack leader) will perceive it as a threat when a member of the pack stares them down. They will go nose to nose with them and the leader NEVER looks away first. When the pack member looks away, they are showing their submission to the leader, and the dominant dog ‘wins’ the battle and maintains their role as leader. Babies tend to ‘stare’ at everything. This is how they are learning their environment.  Now, since a baby’s attention span is short, they will stare at the dog for a few seconds, and then with a jerky type of movement, look away. So back to my example of in the wild, how did the dog perceive the baby’s dead-on stare and then baby looking away? – Dog has “won” – they are the leader.

You can easily shift this dynamic so your dog still sees your child as “the leader”. While you are holding the baby, be aware. When the baby stares at the dog, and you see they have caught direct eye contact, calmly shift baby up to your shoulder so the baby’s back is to him. You’ve accomplished two things: the baby didn’t show submission by “looking away first” plus – added bonus – your child has turned their back on the dog – something that only a pack leader can do.

Top Dog: In layman’s terms – the pack leader’s head is higher than that of all the rest of the pack, he is always “on top” or above. For this reason, it is important that your baby not be lying on the floor with the dog standing over them.  So put up the baby gates if you want to lie baby down on the floor. It may be a bit annoying, but it guarantees the only time your dog is around your baby is when they are up in your arms and their interactions are being monitored – and baby’s head is always higher than your dog’s head.

Add Some New Commands.

Dogs are happiest when they are learning; so now may also be a good time to introduce the command “PLACE” if they do not already know it. For this command, you want to pick a bed of theirs or a mat, and pick a space where they can pretty much see everything. Remember that it is their ‘job’ to keep an eye on things, so you don’t want to put the bed or mat in a corner or area where they are isolated from everything. Use their leash in the beginning if you need to, and walk them to their mat or bed, and say, “GO TO YOUR PLACE” and guide them onto the bed. When they are completely on the bed, give them a treat and praise. Repeat this several times each day until you can say it and they will go there without the leash. Once they are consistently doing it, add the “SIT/STAY” to the command. If you make them sit and stay every time they go to the bed, it will become second nature to them to sit and stay on the bed when told to go to their place. The other positive about this is that everything in the beginning is about the baby, and the dog can tend to feel a bit ‘left out’ and rely on some negative behaviors to get attention. This assures that he will also get some attention from you every day.

At this point you’re probably thinking:  “canine etiquette, watch out for baby staring down the dog, keep baby’s head higher at all times… this is all a bit much!” And it’s all on top of dealing with a new infant. But really, what are we talking about? Just a few simple things that will keep BOTH your baby and your dog happy and safe.  You love them both…and you want them to be best friends.  A few simple guidelines established right from the beginning and you’re setting them up for a lifetime of love and friendship.

I will end this similarly to how I ended my last post….. Why take chances, or leave things to ‘luck’ when just a few simple steps can ensure a great outcome?

Eating Disorders in Kids: Advice for Parents

Last updated on August 12th, 2015 at 07:39 pm

If your child develops an eating disorder, you may feel unsure how to help and how to act around them.

Parents arguing with teen girl over foodUnderstanding Your Role

Your son or daughter’s behaviour may suddenly become very different from what you’re used to: withdrawn, touchy and even rude. This can make it very difficult to talk to them at a time when communication is so important.

It can help to remember that they are likely to be defensive because their eating disorder is their way of coping, and therefore they will be reluctant to let go of it, at least at first.

If your child is receiving treatment for their condition, the treatment team will play an essential part in their recovery. But don’t underestimate the importance of your love and support.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the charity beat, explains: “Everyone who recovers from an eating disorder tells us how important it was to have unconditional love and support from those who care about them, even when they knew their behaviour was quite difficult to understand.”

Speak to one of the health professionals in your child’s treatment team about your role as parent and carer, and get their advice on what you can do at home to help. The following tips may also help with communication and dealing with mealtimes.

Tips For Talking

Talking to your child about their condition can be very difficult, especially if they still can’t understand that they have a problem. However, communication is essential to help with recovery, so keep trying.

When you want to talk to them directly about the eating disorder, Susan Ringwood advises that you:

  • Prepare what to say.
  • Don’t blame or judge.
  • Concentrate on how they’re feeling.
  • Stay calm.
  • Have resources to refer to.
  • Be prepared for a negative response.

It can also help to:

  • Learn as much as possible about eating disorders. It helps you understand what you’re dealing with.
  • Emphasise that no matter what, you love them and will always be there for them.
  • Avoid talking about their appearance, even if it is meant as a compliment. Try to build their confidence in other ways, for example by praising them for being thoughtful or congratulating them on an achievement at school.
  • Avoid talking about other people’s diets or weight problems.
  • Talk to them about the range of professional help available, and say that you’ll support them through it when they’re ready.
  • Talk positively about activities they could be involved in that don’t involve food, such as hobbies and days out with friends.
  • Try not to feel hurt if they don’t open up to you straight away, and don’t resent them for being secretive. This is due to their illness, not their relationship with you.
  • Ask them what you can do to help.
  • Try to be honest about your own feelings. This will encourage them to do the same.
  • Remember that the feelings behind the eating disorder may be really difficult for them to express. Try to be patient and listen to what they’re trying to say.
  • Be a good role model by eating a balanced diet and taking a healthy amount of exercise.

Tips For Mealtimes

  • If they are in treatment, ask their treatment team about the most appropriate way to arrange your mealtimes.
  • Consider going shopping together and agreeing on meals that are acceptable to you both.
  • An agreement with the whole family about what and when meals will be can help to set everybody’s expectations.
  • Agree that none of you will talk about portion sizes, calories or the fat content of the meal.
  • Avoid eating low-calorie or diet foods in front of them or having them in the house.
  • Try to keep the atmosphere light-hearted and positive throughout the meal, even if you don’t feel that way on the inside.
  • If they attempt to get too involved in cooking the meal as a way of controlling it, gently ask them to set the table or wash up instead.
  • Try not to focus too much on them during mealtimes. Enjoy your own meal and try to make conversation.
  • A family activity after the meal, such as a game or watching TV, can help to distract them from wanting to purge themselves or over-exercise.
  • Don’t despair if a meal goes badly, just move on.

Help and Support

If you need further support, there are a number or organisations that can help you. It is important that the whole family understands the situation and gets support. See your GP (family doctor*) as soon as possible. Your GP and your child’s treatment team will then be able to offer advice. Alternatively, you can call the beat helpline on 0845 634 1414 (in the UK*) to speak to an advisor about any issue related to coping with eating disorders, including how to find local self-help and support groups.

Carers Direct provides a wealth of information on caring, including day-to-day living, claiming benefits and advice on combining caring with work or study (see US resources below**).

Editor’s Note: * clarification provided for our U.S. audience.

** In the US, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has an excellent Parent’s Toolkit with information on eating disorders, supporting your child, getting treatment and navigating insurance issues.


Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 03-09-2015 to 03-15-2015

Last updated on March 24th, 2015 at 11:10 am

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Car seat a big factor in survival of baby found alive nearly 14 hours after crash.
note: baby was in the proper car seat for her age and the seat was properly attached!

Warning Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied …And What To Do

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 01:34 pm

REALITY CHECK: Research finds that 49 percent of kids say they’ve been bullied at least once or twice during the school term, but only 32 percent of their parents believed them. 

One study found that one out of every four children will be bullied by another one boy hitting anotheryouth in school this month. If your child is bullied, it means that peers are intentionally causing him pain. Reports also confirm that bullying is starting at younger ages and is more frequent, intense, and more aggressive that ever.

I have worked in hundreds of schools to reduce bullying. My proposal to stop school violence was passed into California law in 2005 (SB1667). We know that bullying can not only be reduced but also prevented. We also know that a mere one-time school assembly or lesson on bullying is ineffective. Posters on walls or campaigns to stop bullying, while a first step, do little to turn around aggressive behaviors and eliminate this behavior.

What does work to reduce bullying: Consistent, unwavering commitment by a group of adults to turn aggressive behaviors around, rebuild empathy, and changing a school culture. I’ll address my own 6 R’s to Reduce Bullying, but my purpose today is to help you learn to spot the signs that your child may be bullied.

Do know that if your child is bullied chances are he or she did NOTHING to cause it. The bottom line: bullying behavior must be taken very seriously and in most cases an adult must be there for a victim to advocate for him or her, create a safety plan, offer solace, rebuild self-esteem and teach new habits.

Your first step to helping your son or daughter is to know the warning signs that your child may be bullied and needs your support. If your child complains of being taunted, picked on, or threatened by a peer, please take him seriously. Unfortunately, however, chances are that if your child is bullied, he won’t tell you. He may be embarrassed, doesn’t want you to be involved in the situation  or feel you won’t take him seriously. So watch for the changes in your child’s typical behavior.

Signs and Symptoms of Bullying  (pg. 324 The Big Book of Parenting Solutions)

  • Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises and scrapes, or torn clothing
  • Unexplained loss of toys, school supplies, clothing, lunches, or money
  • Afraid to be left alone: doesn’t want to go to school; afraid of riding the school bus; wants you there at dismissal, suddenly clingy
  • Suddenly sullen, withdrawn, evasive; remarks about feeling lonely
  • Marked changed in typical behavior or personality
  • Physical complaints; headaches, stomachaches, frequent visits the school nurse’s office
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, cries self to sleep, bed wetting
  • Begins bullying siblings or younger kids
  • Waits to get home to use the bathroom
  • Ravenous when he comes home (lunch money or lunch may be stolen)
  • Sudden and significant drop in grades; difficulty focusing and concentrating

Your first step is to calmly listen to your kid and gather details. Let your child know you are always available to listen and will be there anytime to help him feel safe. And please do not promise your child you will keep this a secret. Chances are your child will need help from an adult and may not be able to handle the bully on his own.

If you suspect your child is bullied and the measures could affect his physical or emotional well-being, do not wait. Your child’s l safety may be at stake. Also, do not assume this is a phase which will go away. Bullying is almost always a repeated behavior and bullies generally choose their targets and continue to prey. 

If the bullying offense is serious in nature, find out WHERE and WHEN the bullying incidents happen. Hint: Bullying usually happens in the same locations, 120 feet away from a building and where adult supervision is least. Tell your child to avoid “hot spot” areas such as bathrooms, the edges of playgrounds, behind stairwells, lockers, and the back of the bus.

Set up an appointment immediately with the teacher, counselor, coach, or principal. Demand to know what they plan to do to keep your child safe. Then monitor, monitor, monitor.  If you do not get help, go up the “ladder” and meet with the superintendent, board, or if necessary the school board. In some cases you may need to remove your child from the school.

Bottom line: Bullying is serious and has severe emotional consequences to our children’s self-esteem. We are seeing that in some cases bullying can lead to bullycide (a victim who commits suicide).


************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

When Should I Start Giving My Baby Solid Foods (Weaning)?

Last updated on August 30th, 2015 at 11:08 pm

baby first foodYou should start giving your baby solid foods, often called ‘weaning’, when they are around six months old. Health experts agree that this is the best age. Before this, your baby’s digestive system is not developed enough to cope with solid foods.

If you’re breastfeeding, feeding only breast milk up to around six months will give your baby extra protection against infection. Breastfeeding beyond six months alongside solid foods will continue to protect your baby for as long as you carry on.

If you’re bottle feeding, you should give your baby infant formula until around six months and continue it afterwards along with solid foods.

If your baby seems hungrier at any time before six months, give them extra milk feeds.

Babies born early (prematurely) may be ready for solids at different times. Ask your health visitor (or pediatrician or pediatric nurse practitioner*) for advice about what’s best for your baby.

How I know if my baby is ready for solids?

Signs that your baby is ready for solids include:

  1. They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
  2. They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth, all by themselves.
  3. They can swallow food. Babies who aren’t ready will push their food back out, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths.

Baby food

Your baby’s first solid foods should be smooth, simple foods they can easily digest, such as vegetables, fruit or rice. You could try:

  • mashed or puréed cooked parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, apple or pear
  • mashed or puréed rice or baby rice (mix the rice with a bit of your baby’s usual milk)
  • pieces of soft fruit or vegetables that are small enough for your baby to pick up

It can be useful to have a few jars, tins or packets of ready-prepared baby food in the cupboard, but it’s not recommended that you use them all the time.

Read more information, tips and advice about your baby’s first solid foods, including foods to start with and foods to avoid.

Read the answers to more questions about children’s health.

Further information:

Editors Note: a health visitor is a qualified nurse with extra training in child and family care. Their services are provided as part of the UK Healthy Child Programme.  Clarification provided for our US audience.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 03-02-2015 to 03-08-2015

Last updated on March 24th, 2015 at 11:09 am

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
iCanHelp Delete Negativity: step by step instructional videos show how to block people that are harassing you on Twitter and Instagram