I prepare frozen treats for my dog all the time, but they’re not usually as adorable as these festive candy corns. This fall season, I thought I would try my luck at being the cool mom that brings to life the latest Pinterest project. I’m happy to report that Hope has taste tested and approved my version of this dog-friendly Halloween treat. Check out my adaptation of Beagle and Bargain’s recipe below and let me know what your pup thinks.
Candy Corn Frozen Treats
Yield: 29 3″ treats
18 oz Plain Yogurt
15 oz Canned Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Purée
2-3 Bananas or 23 oz Applesauce Unsweetened
Layer 1 1/2c of Yogurt into base of trays. Fill 1/3 of each paw and bone.
Freeze for 1-2 hours.
Mix 1.5c Pumpkin Purée or Sweet Potato Purée with 1/4c of Yogurt.
Spread into tray another 1/3 full. Freeze for 1-2 hours.
Mix 2-3 Bananas or 1 1/2c Applesauce with 1/4c Yogurt.
Spread into tray and fill to top. Freeze for 1-2 hours.
Fall is my absolute favorite season, especially since moving to the Carolinas. The leaves changing color. The cool mornings and crisp nights. The spices in the air. Everything about fall is a celebration of change. Another reason I love fall is that we promote shelter dog adoption throughout the month of October. Shelter dogs also happen to be a favorite of mine. Their resilience, their eagerness, their innocence. Few folks I’ve known handle change as well as a good shelter dog can.
One of the most obvious changes a shelter dog goes through is one we often take for granted. Most dogs entering the shelter system get a new name. The ones coming in off the streets can’t give us the details of their former lives. There are also some dogs whose names are known but have been associated with too many negative things. Those poor pups often benefit from being given a new name. Whatever the reason, naming a shelter dog is a fresh start.
It is a widely known fact that clever, creative names help shelter dogs get noticed. Common names, on the other hand, can cause dogs to get lost in the shuffle. I remember a time when we had five dogs named Max in one shelter and the patrons had a hard time keeping them straight. You’re more likely to skim past Max 1-5. Yet, I guarantee you’ll think twice about the dog called Flapjack or Harry Pawter. Let’s face it, fun names make being a shelter dog a little more fun!
We know how important it is to get shelter dogs into good home quickly. To help, we’ve put together our list of favorite festive fall-themed names for dogs. If you’re adopting, fostering or volunteering to help shelter dogs this month, consider naming one of your furriends after this wonderful season. Happy Harvest!
Squash-themed names for litters or families:
Halloween-themed names for litters or families:
Thanksgiving-themed names for litters or families:
A few days ago, I shared about the first dog bite I sustained. I was six years old and unintentionally provoked our family dog to snap at my face. Max had his fair share of behavior problems, which were no doubt a result of the heavy hand he experienced throughout his life. For my parents, the bite to my face was the last straw. And just like that, Max was gone.
I wish I could say that I learned my lesson with Max, but I didn’t. Shortly after we sent Max to the pound, my parents bought a little Shih Tzu from a hobby breeder. As with Max, I was frequently left alone with Bruno. Lucky for me, Bruno didn’t share Max’s inner demons. Unfortunately for Bruno, I still treated him like a toy. Nobody taught me what was appropriate and inappropriate. After all, he was a pet.
I was roughly 10 years old when Bruno bit my hand. This time I knew better than to say anything about it. I hid the small scratch, but not after popping Bruno on the nose for it. That is how we handled discipline in my house, so that is what I thought was correct. I also learned that it was okay to tease our dog, especially when my rowdy cousins came to visit. Bruno quickly figured out how to stay out of arms reach during those visits. He would hide under my parents’ bed until the coast was clear. We were very lucky that in the 15 years we had Bruno there were no additional severe bites.
Although I eventually grew out of my obnoxious behavior around dogs, it took tremendous study and practice to learn how to speak dog well. Unfortunately, humans are very good at making excuses for not changing our ways. I can’t tell you how many adults I see behaving in the same obnoxious way that children who provoke bites do. The difference is that adults get away with it more than toddlers do. This is a problem because we are leading by example. And that particular example leads to a very disappointing experience for both humans and dogs.
So, how can we parent our dogs (and kids!) well? Here are my top pawrenting-for-peace priorities:
Teach your dog bite inhibition
Bite inhibition is trainer jargon for a dog’s ability to use his mouth at varying degrees of pressure. There is a longstanding myth that we must teach our dogs to never use their mouths. That’s about as absurd as asking you to never use your thumbs. Dogs need to learn how to use their mouths appropriately. Denying them that knowledge is like living with a ticking time bomb. All dogs, even the most unassuming ones, can be pushed to bite. When a dog with poor bite inhibition finally does bite, the damage is most severe.
Dogs learn bite inhibition best from socializing with other dogs. That’s why there has been a huge industry shift that promotes puppy play dates from a very young age. Playing with their own species teaches a dog what is too rough. If a dog uses his mouth too hard on another dog during play, the game ends or the other dog tells him off. Most dogs are motivated to continue the game, so the offending dog learns to be gentler the next time around.
Another way to teach your puppy how to use his mouth gently is to actually allow him to explore the world with his mouth. There is an unfortunate rumor that continues to circulate, advising pawrents to slam their dog’s muzzle shut to stop mouthing. I have heard that this punishment is similar to what a momma dog would do to her pup for nipping too hard. While momma dogs do teach their offspring a thing or two about bite inhibition, can we all please agree that our dogs are smart enough to know that we are not dogs? Not only is this a physically violent practice, it also teaches your dog not to trust you. Most importantly, it robs him of the ability to learn how to use his mouth gently.
By, instead, allowing a puppy to explore the world with his mouth, we can offer feedback about pressure. People often look at me like I have two heads when I allow a young pup to lick and lightly gnaw on my hands or arms. Why are you doing that? Isn’t that bad? Actually, it’s very good for them. Because if the puppy gets too rough, then I whimper and/or take my hands away. I have yet to meet a puppy who couldn’t learn how to be gentler with his mouth or that needed some archaic form of punishment.
Teach children about “good touch”
It’s not enough to only teach the dog. We also need to teach our children how to use their bodies gently. Kids need to learn what good touch and bad touch is like for the dog, in the same way that we teach them how to recognize good and bad touch from other humans. It’s important that from a young age, we are learning to respect dogs as more than just a pet. Dogs, like us, thrive on trust and a sense of security. We rob them of that when we allow kids free reign over the dog. We wouldn’t expect kids to be okay with anyone petting them, hugging them or climbing on them. So, why would we teach them to do that to dogs?
One of my favorite graphics is from Family Paws Parent Education. (Please go follow their Instagram for more). If there is only one thing you teach your child, may it be the mantra: “One hand enough; two hands too rough.” Keeping it simple for our kiddos will keep them safer. Because even if your dog tolerates hugs and rough touch from the kids she lives with, it is unlikely that other dogs will be as tolerant. By teaching kids how to behave safely around their own dogs, you are setting them up for success around all the other dogs of the world.
Facilitate safe interactions between kiddos and doggos
As the adults in this equation, it is important that we are taking ownership of our dog’s every interaction with a kid, and vice versa. I don’t blame kids for feeling an urge to squeeze a dog until his eyes bulge out of his head. Though I’m older than I care to admit, my inner child still go bonkers at the sight of a cute dog. I want to hug and squeeze all the dogs! But I know better than to act on the urge. We need to teach our children the same impulse control. Kids with impulse control will stay safer around dogs, but also learn valuable life skills.
Another one of my favorite graphics is from Lili Chin. Whether you’re the human parent or the dog parent in this situation, it is your responsibility to advocate for the little one in your care. We often put our dogs or kids in unsafe situations because of the social pressure to have a friendly dog, and because of how difficult it can be to say “No, you may not pet my dog right now.” Well, let me be the voice of reason here and assure all dog moms and dads that your dog can prefer to not meet strangers and still be considered friendly. I mean, I’m a fairly kind person but that doesn’t mean I let just anyone rub my belly or pat me on the head.
I was recently at an adoption event where I had to facilitate safe interactions between a mouthy puppy and children. The more bored Callahan got, the more incessant his rowdy jumping and mouthing got. He even tried to take a playful chomp out of a little girl’s Sunday dress. When I got the leash, I focused on keeping him busy with training games and toys. When Callahan was going into deep puppy snooze mode, four little girls appeared out of nowhere. As they all reached for his face, I asked them to move to my side where they could pet his side or back. I let him acknowledge the new visitors before they pet him. It was that simple. “Please pet him here, not there.”
Pay attention to your dog’s needs too!
Being a multi-species parent is hard work. Our little two- and four-legged creatures need so much from us. We start to fall apart when our own needs go unmet, and the same is true for our dogs. I have heard a lot of people criticize dog parents for treating their dogs like children. Or worse, for putting the dog’s needs above the kids! Does it really have to be one over the other? Why can’t it be both? Well, I’m here to tell you that meeting our dogs’ needs and our kids’ needs can go hand in hand.
One of my secret weapons for parenting is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Dog Needs. All of the behavior problems I have been consulted on can be traced back to a gap in the dog’s basic needs. Fill in the gaps, and life with that dog suddenly gets easier. More than that, it makes having a dog more enjoyable. I absolutely love giving my dog the things she needs. We exercise together, we learn together, we snuggle together. And we both feel a little fuller because of those things. Finding ways to fill up the emotional piggy banks of your dog and child will give you a sense of peace that fills you up, too.
Supervise! Supervise! Supervise!
Do you remember what the common theme was during both the dog bites I sustained as a child? I was left unsupervised with the family dog. These were not new dogs that we did not know. These were dogs we had lived with for months or years. When it comes to kids and dogs, we need to keep our guard up. Because at the end of the day, a child is still a child. And in their innocent attempts to show dogs love, they make a lot of mistakes. Similarly, no matter how reliable our dogs are, they have only so many ways of communicating what they need. And biting is every dog’s last resort.
The truth is that children are most frequently but by a dog they live with. I remember hearing an internationally renowned dog expert emphasize the parent’s need to supervise, supervise, supervise. Does she really think parents have time for that? I thought. Well, if we want to have safe dogs and safe kids, then we are going to have to make the time. Most of the dog bites to children I have seen occurred when they were left passively supervised with a dog they knew. We can save ourselves (and our dogs & our kids) a lot of heartache and fear by committing to active supervision.
What are some of the ways you keep your dogs and kids safe around each other?
When I was a little girl I got bit on the face by our family dog. I was 6 years old.
Max the cocker spaniel was never very fond of me, but he was accepting of my teenage sibling. He’d even stand with his paws on her shoulders for pictures. My parents thought it was the cutest thing. The cooing over how adorable they looked was a reminder that I wasn’t very lovable. I was told that was why Max didn’t like me. Six-year old me wanted desperately to be loved… and hugged by our family dog.
Max came from a rotten past. My parents got him from a neighbor who had posted ads about a dog for sale. I remember visiting him at their house. The little girl was my age and scary. She showed me how she would yank Max’s ears and make him scream. Meanwhile, her parents showed my parents the broom they kept on the back of the front door. That family frequently disciplined Max with it.
My mom said that after meeting them, she no longer wanted to bring this dog home. She actually refused to purchase Max. But the family then offered to give him away for free. Mom tells me she couldn’t say no. She was afraid of what his life would be if she left him behind. And so, in 1991 we got our first family dog.
We have lots of happy photos with Max, but the photos fail to tell the whole story. Max used to attack the vacuum like a beast, but run from the broom like he was about to die. He frequently scratched up any visitor to the house. Most notably, he fiercely guarded his sleeping space and my mom. I’m honestly not sure how my family managed to have only one bite incident in the months Max was with us.
The day I got bit was like many other days. My parents left me unsupervised with Max. I don’t know why I became so determined to get a hug from Max in that particular moment, but I did. He was going to hug me. He was going to love me. This would prove to everyone that I was lovable.
I remember scooting up to Max and grabbing one of his paws to place on my shoulder. Before I realized it, his muzzle gave me one snap across the face. I don’t remember exactly what happened next. I probably screamed and cried. The bite left me with small, but visible punctures.
I can still remember my overwhelming embarrassment and fear. But in that moment, I wasn’t afraid of Max. Growing up in a physically violent home, I was deathly afraid of getting in trouble. So, when my parents asked me what I did, my first instinct was to lie. I told my parents that Max attacked me out of nowhere. It wasn’t until later that I told the truth. But it didn’t matter. My parents had had enough. Max was going to the pound.
Later in life, my dad told me about his experience dropping off Max at the local shelter. He told them about the bite. No doubt he called it an attack. As he handed Max’s leash off to the staff, Max started to growl. The shelter worker shook his head and told my Dad, “You’d better get out of here.” I know Max was killed that day. And I have always felt it was my fault.
Though I frequently reference that bite, I rarely speak about Max. For as long as I can remember, I felt responsible for his death. I now know that it was my parents’ responsibility to manage safe interactions, but my feelings of guilt will always be there. Poor Max. He didn’t ask to be tossed from one dysfunctional family to another. But he was. And it ultimately cost him his life.
So why share this sad story? Because what happened to me and Max is a very common occurrence.
It is estimated that 50% of children will sustain a dog bite by the age of 12 (Stilwell 2013). Bites to children are usually corrective in nature, meaning a quick snap to the face. These types of bites are, among other things, a request that you back off. Under normal circumstances most dogs won’t escalate to the point of a bite. When they do, it is only after their previous attempts to communicate have been ignored.
Despite what we like to think, humans are not born with a natural ability to speak dog. In fact, we anthropomorphize our dogs to their detriment. Dogs coexist with us so well because they have become experts at reading us, not necessarily the other way around. Despite their keen human-deciphering skills, dogs remain a completely different species that speak a completely foreign language. And when pressured to their breaking point, even the best dogs can bite.
That is why it is so important to proactively teach dogs and children how to coexist peacefully. It’s not enough to throw them together and hope for the best. Nobody wants to be in the position my parents found themselves in. Trying to figure out what to do with a dog that bit your child is no easy task. Even for the most seasoned shelters/rescues, placing a dog with a bite history remains a very controversial practice.
As a dog trainer, I can tell you that I would much rather prevent a bite than deal with the consequences. Although a bite – provoked or not – may not always mean a death sentence, it sure does change life as we know it for that dog. And his/her family! I’m also certain that a bite has a lasting effect on the victim. It may instill fear, bias or shame. Either way, I’d much rather contribute to a world with fewer dog bites. Wouldn’t we all love to get along better?
As a dog mom, the power of prevention is in my hands. I don’t have any kids yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help teach the ones I know to be safe and appropriate around dogs. Children aren’t play toys and neither are our dogs. Both flourish when given choice, just like both deteriorate when stripped of their right to consent. That is not say that kids and dogs can’t have fun together. We just need to show them how to have fun and stay safe.
Headlines like the one I chose for this post often blame the dog. Continuing to blame the dogs isn’t going to get us anywhere. Responsible multi-species parenting will. For this reason, I’m sharing some of my favorite resources for child-dog safety. Bonus, they come with a few good chuckles! Check out the links below and share them with other pawrents. Then, stay tuned for our next post on positive, proactive parenting tips.
It’s Barktober! More importantly, it’s National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. To celebrate, we are recapping our Dogust & Puptember series promoting shelter dog adoption.
Looking for a reason to adopt a shelter dog? We’re giving you one reason for every day of this glorious month. And then some. So, take your pick of the litter, and then bark all about it in the comments!
I have always felt that numbers alone simply don’t cut it when it comes to orphan shelter pets losing their lives. The numbers are staggering. They are larger than anything we can wrap our heads around. And no matter how hard we try, there is no way any one of us can lend enough time or attention to fully appreciate the value that is annually lost in each one of those 1.5 million orphan shelter pets.
When I think about those numbers, I see the faces that I’ve known and loved. After 14 years of befriending orphan shelter pets, that’s a lot of animals. I can’t even remember how many times I have said goodbye to a perfectly good dog or cat. Trying to quantify those losses fails to convey the injustice and inhumanity of it all. Remembering each individual and all the little details that made him or her unique is far more likely to make that point.
This is the problem with numbers alone. They fail to elicit that guttural response from people. You know what I’m talking about. That physiological reaction that you can’t control. Though mask it, you may try. In writing these words, I myself have been surprised by the emotions that surfaced. Tears that felt like they started in my gut have gushed out of my eyes as I type. No matter how many times I revisit them, these bittersweet memories of my lost friends always bring me to my knees.
“Unnecessary euthanasia – killing – of these magnificent pets has to stop. And the only way it’s going to stop is showing the public that we collectively can do something to make a difference. And Remember Me Thursday is the catalyst that’s going to help us get there.” – Mike Arms, President/CEO, Helen Woodward Center
It’s not fun to think about the ones we lost. But it’s not right to forget them, no matter how painful it was to see them go. In fact, letting ourselves feel that internal turmoil can motivate us to fix the problem. Sharing their stories can show us what could have saved them. It’s in motivating each other and identifying specific solutions that we’ll get anything done. If we want to end the unnecessary deaths of more orphan shelter pets, we must remember the ones that died. Every. Single. One.
We must remember them. That’s why I love this campaign from the Helen Woodward Center. Remember Me Thursday® is “a global awareness campaign uniting individuals and pet adoption organizations around the world as an unstoppable, integrated voice for orphan pets to live in forever homes, not die waiting for them.” Help spread awareness about the importance of pet adoption by sharing your #RememberMeThursday story in the comments below or tag us on instagram. And don’t forget to light a candle, for all the ones we couldn’t save in the past but will in the future.
If you’ve been following our series promoting shelter dog adoption, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. What is the number one reason to adopt instead of shop for your next dog? It’s your one chance in life to be a Superhero!
If you don’t believe me, you should come hang with me and my dog Hope. She thinks I’m the best thing since squeeze cheese. In fact, I’m pretty sure she sees me as one giant piece of string cheese with legs.
Truly, adopting a shelter dog is your one chance to save a life. Without risking your own. Without breaking the bank. Without giving up everything. You may go viral, but you also may not. Regardless, you retain superhero status as long as you both shall live.
Adoption is kind of like marriage, but better. Sorry to my hubs. With a dog, you gain a partner in crime who refers to you as boss. A constant companion who doesn’t mind if you always lead. A loyal furriend who will never tell anyone about the box of Girl Scout cookies you “snack” on every night. Or that you fart in your sleep.
Your adopted dog would solemnly swear to tell you exactly what you want to hear. That is, of course, if he could talk. But since he can’t use human words, he uses dog antics to tell you you’re a star.
The face she makes when she’s sitting at the side of the bed waiting eagerly for me to rise in the morning. The kisses I get during our morning chat on the back porch. The way she dances every time I walk through the front door. My dog constantly reminds me that I’m her hero.
So what’s the difference between a shelter dog and every other kind of dog? A shelter dog knows she’s been saved. She remembers how bad it once got, and is satisfied with the little things in life: stability, a sense of security and noms. A shelter dog’s love is like no other. It inspires, heals and transforms.
And whether or not you wanted to, adopting a shelter dog turns you into a real life superhero.
Shelter dogs accept us for who we are, regardless of our flaws or shortcomings. They’re the nonjudgmental friend we always wanted. The ride or die furball we wish would live forever.
Some of my favorite moments of dog parenthood are the ones that won’t ever appear on an Instagram feed.
Like when I eat cake for breakfast and my dog gazes at me with approval. Or when I cook dinner pantless and she doesn’t bat an eye. And how she joins in when I start singing and dancing like I’m on broadway in my living room.
She’s never once made me feel like I’ve got something to hide. She must think, that’s just mom being mom. And she’s a big fan of all things mom.
There are the times I’ve been bawling on the floor and she licked my face until I laughed so hard that I cried some more. Or how she always drapes her head over me while we sleep when the hubs is away. And how she’ll follow me anywhere, even if it scares her.
She is the perfect picture of what it means to be a girl’s best friend. A constant companion when I need her the most.
Of course, you don’t ever hear me talk about her habit of putting two paws up on the counter after I vacate the kitchen. Or how she has discovered that she can scarf down deer poop in the time it takes me to get serious about calling her. And don’t even get me started on our battle over a teddy bear the hubs gave me.
Even in her “disobedient” moments, I fully appreciate her. Because that “disobedience” isn’t about love or respect. It’s just about being a dog living in a human world. And being a dog is why we love them. At the end of the day, my dog remains the best friend I could ask for. Even if she kisses my face after licking her butt.
My dog is a former shelter dog. I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m the best thing since squeeze cheese. That’s why I can always count on her to love me, in her doggo way, unconditionally.
These days, shelter dogs come with their own fairy godmothers. These are the women and men who have invested in your shelter dog. Trust me, they are just as invested in ensuring a fairytale ending for their fairy-dog-children. This means that your shelter dog comes with a community of support to help you make adoption work for the long haul.
There is a lot of data about pet retention; i.e. what causes pets to stay in homes or end up in shelters. Some of the top reasons dogs end up in shelters or are returned to shelters include housing and cost of care. Another reason typically sprinkled in there is a perceived behavior issue. The problem with behavior challenges is that owners wait an average of three months before attempting to resolve the issue. By then, they are pretty set on giving up the dog.
If you’re like me, you read the above and thought, “that would never be me.” Let me unpack that a little bit. Yes, that has never been and never will be me. But that is not because I am have better moral compass than owners who relinquish their pets. “That will never be me,” in large part because I have a community of support that would risk a lot to help me keep my dogs.
Truth is that a time or two in the past, I have been broke off my a**. I have had incredible vet bills that I had no way of paying off. I have even lost two of my dogs before (one for eight days)! And the only reason I was able to find affordable pet-friendly housing, pet-centered financial assistance, and eventually find my dogs alive was because of the people around me that offered their support.
My point is, we need the support of other dog-loving human beings in order to make it in this dog eat dog world. Whether they help us in our day to day or in emergency situations, we are better off with them than without them. Luckily, shelter dogs have a way of generating a web of support that sticks with them in the real world. Many shelter dogs I have had the privilege of knowing had their own fairy godmother (or two or three!).
These fairy dog-mothers earn their title. I have seen them raise funds to help a shelter dog with on-going or acute medical expenses. I have seen them take the mangiest, scrappiest mutt and love him into a regular Prince Charming. Giving him baths, teaching him manners, and helping him stay sane until his new family finds him. Those relationships are worth gold. These are the humans that can teach you about your dog’s quirks, helping you make the right adoption choice for you and your family. They are also willing to help should you run into any issues transitioning your dog into home life.
Who benefits from that kind of support? Exactly. Every-pawdy.
Adopting a shelter dog with a fairy godmother gives you access to support and resources. Making you more likely to live happily ever after with your new best furriend. If that’s not a good reason to adopt (not shop!), then I don’t know what is.