On this episode, I interview child and dog expert and trainer Michelle Stern, owner of Pooch Parenting. Michelle helps dispel common and oftentimes dangerous myths surrounding child and dog safety and empowers parents to keep their children safe and their dogs relaxed when combining the two in one household.
Michelle and I address doodle-specific issues and genetics to consider when looking to add a doodle to your family or to keep in mind when managing and training a doodle around children.
Supportive and informative, this episode is rich with great takeaways from anyone who has a child who might be near a dog or has a dog who might be near a child!
Download Michelle's free checklist “Why Did My Dog Growl at My Toddler?” at poochparenting.net/why-did-my-dog-growl-at-my-toddler/.
Want to join the live Q&A's with The Doodle Pro's guests? Join The Doodle Pro™ Society the next time doors open.
Follow me, The Doodle Pro™, at instagram.com/thedoodlepro to see behind-the-scenes pics of her children safely loving and receiving love from doodles daily!
Welcome guests to The Doodle Pro™ interview with parent and dog expert, Michelle Stern. I'm so happy to have her here today. She has been a school teacher and is a certified dog training expert, and I'm thrilled to have her with us today to talk about dog and child safety together. Hello. Hi, thanks for having me. How are you?
I'm great. Thank you. I cannot guarantee that my foster puppies won't cause a stink because they're very tired, but they have bully sticks. So hopefully they'll stay quiet. Wonderful, fingers crossed. I know I didn't give your background justice. If you can share a bit more for our listeners about your background and what brings you to this point in your career today?
Well, first of all, thank you for inviting me. I know that doodles are a super common breed that families get when they have kids, because they can be so awesome. So I am a mom and I was a teacher for 16 years and I've always loved dogs. They've been a part of my life forever, but it was only about five years ago that I refocused my energy on taking some courses with a mentor that I had when I was younger.
And I felt like it rekindled the fire. And I was at a crossroads. My kids were going off to college and I was ready to do something new. And it just got me so excited that I could help families like mine, who had kids and dogs and use my experience as an educator, as my empathy as a mom. And then my experience, understanding dog behavior and training. And it's kind of a unique mish-mosh because not a lot of dog trainers really understand family dynamics with children of different ages, stages, neurodiversity, et cetera, and I've lived at all. So, Oh, that's wonderful.
I know that you have such a breadth of what you offer. I remember when we were preparing for this interview, I shared, I don't know, a book's worth of questions that our members had for you. We seem to encounter like three areas in our work with doodles of where people are coming from when they're looking for help with their dog and children. The first seems to be that they already have their two legged children. And often they think that bringing a dog into the home would be a great addition to their family or their children are a little older and have been begging for a dog.
This second is that their four legged family member is their first and they're bringing home their first baby. And then the third is some empty nesters or people who don't have children nor plan to add human children to their family. But they're going to be having grandchildren over or are worried about how to have other people's children interact with their dog and how to make it comfortable and safe for both of them.
So with all of those categories, we want to focus on the first. So I hope to have you on for another interview so I could get some more questions answered, but to narrow our focus a little today, I wanted to focus on those doodle parents who already have children at home and either are looking to add a doodle or have, and are bumping into some problems.
Yeah, I have to say, I, I know that doodles can come up against some hate, you know, there are some haters and whatever. I have met a lot of doodles. I've worked with a lot of doodles because they're so popular. You know, people want shedding dog and they're so cute. I mean, seriously, they're so cute, but I have to say like, and this is not coming from a place of hate at all. This is just an observation after years of working with them. And in fact, I, I just literally just the other day visited a former client who was like my best client for, I saw them forever. And, and Lulu is a little red.
She's a miniature labradoodle. She's not tiny. She's, you know, like 30 pounds. And she, she was probably the hardest puppy that I've ever worked with. And what I say by hardest, I mean, most energetic. She was the mouthiest puppy I've ever worked with. She's the only puppy I've worked with that's torn multiple items of either my clothing or their clothing.
I mean, she was on a lot of dogs. And what was interesting is these, these were a couple, they did not have human children and they were giving their whole heart and soul to Lulu. And she was alive and Lulu reduced them to tears. Multiple times just was hard. And so the reason I'm saying this is because I think that people often have an expectation that a dog that they're getting is the dog that they've met, that someone else has already had for three or four or five years. Right? So They've hit this plateau of like calmness and good manners and all these things, but it takes a lot to get there. And so while doodles are amazing dogs, I just don't think it's fair to tell somebody, okay, you've got kids get a doodle puppy because I think that we may be setting them up just for misguided and misguided experience.
I'm not saying it's not going to be great. I'm just saying that any puppy is hard. Anybody, no matter what breed you're getting. But I think that a lot of people underestimate the youthful silliness that doodles bring with them. And I love that. I think that's fun, but, but it, for a lot of families, it's more than they bargained for.
So let me give you another, I totally agree with you and I, and I know you do because this is your thing. So I mean, my whole, my whole approach with families is I want to be totally honest with you because I want your dog to have a successful placement. And I want your kids to have a successful experience, loving a dog. And I want parents to feel not insane and not feel like what the heck have I just done? I bit off more than I can chew? What the heck was I thinking? I wish I had two heads and forearms and 16 eyeballs so that everybody at the same time, and I'm not saying that's unique to doodles, but I am saying that it is likely to happen because I've never met like a super chill doodle puppy or adolescent, but that's not a bad thing. It's a fun thing. And it's exciting, but you have to be able to, to divide your attention and conquer, you need to be good at multitasking and management and setting up systems so that I know my toddler is busy doing this activity over here. And I know that they're in a safe zone so that my doodle can't go steal their shoes and their art supplies and their Legos, you know, so that I can focus on making breakfast. Right.
So how are you going to manage your space so that the dog doesn't make mistakes and drive you nuts? How are you going to set the space so your kid feels safe and loves the dog, right. And how are you going to manage your sanity? Because parenting kids and dogs at the same time, it's just really hard. So I feel kind of guilty because I'm starting this on it's it feels kind of like a downer note, but it's really, I just want you to go in like, knowing like, yes, with kids and they're asking for a dog, first of all, kids change their mind all the time. And maybe they like the idea of a mellow dog or a stuffed animal dog, or like a tongue out and easy all the time. But it's you, you're the one who has to parent this dog. Like, don't do it unless you really want a dog. I don't care how much your kids beg for you. We bred for it because they're going to get interested in Minecraft and other things and not, and lose focus. I mean, some kids, it's the rare child that maintains that level of passion and will help you. But really only do this. If, if this is what you want, you want a dog and you're good at multitasking and you can handle it. Right. So I have a client she's taught me before she got her dog and she was getting, this was a Bernedoodle and it was 11 months old and already like 80 pounds, like huge dog. And it lived with a family before where the child wasn't nice to the dog. And so the dog had distrust of children. And so my client, I was so excited because she reached out to me before she got the dog. And we talked about some of this stuff, but I feel like I didn't do it fully for her. The, what I'm doing right now.
I don't think I was as honest as like, it's not that I wasn't honest. I think I just wasn't as clear, you know, to help her really identify, are you ready? Right. She thought she was ready. And in three days she decided she wasn't ready. And she was like, That's okay. And it's totally okay. And I had to validate like, okay, here's the thing. Some parents have zero tolerance of risk. And if your child is afraid of this giant dog, who isn't sure about kids, that's okay. And we're going to find this dog somebody else can help find this dog, maybe a family without kids where it feels safer. Or maybe somebody who has older kids who aren't so nervous or who,
but I'm never going to judge a parent for thinking, oh my God, this is way more than I can handle. But on the other hand, I wish I did a better job saying to her, listen, this is going to be really hard. And we can take a few weeks for this dog to understand that it's in a new home and that you're going to keep it safe.
And that your five-year-old is not the same as the five-year-old in the other house. Your five-year-old is sensitive and swt, isn't going to kick the dog the way that the other five-year-old did. Right. So I just, it's such a hard thing where I want to, I want to give everybody so much love and support, but I also feel like I'd rather just say to you from the get, go, like, this might be harder than you think. And if you're really down, then let's go let's rumble and let me help you plan. And we'll do all the things together and I'll help you. And I'll help you with games and activities. And, and I have a membership like you do. So, you know, we can get ongoing support and learn about body language so that your kids feel safe, your dogs feel safe, all of it, but we really have to know like, are you ready? This is a big deal. And I think that's incredibly validating doodles right now are the first family dog choice often. And people will save up to afford their doodle. They're selecting them from a breeder they're picking, or do I want the tri color or the red, et cetera. And when you pay that premium price, you kind of expect a perfect being and doodles have a longer puppy hood than a lot of other breeds. Yeah. So this is really validating if somebody is listening at home and this is hard that you're going through something normal. And Michelle, I can imagine that people as you're a specialist that helps with resolving some of the safety conflicts or issues that people often are self-selecting coming to you.
So you're hearing those who are having the most frustration. Yeah. So people who are having difficulties, please feel validated by Michelle. You're not the only one. This is really challenging. And we see a lot of doodle re homes at adolescents, which happens in general with dogs, but with the extended puppyhood. Yeah, we see it a lot. So you'll see when a doodles being shared to be rehomed, they'll say no young children, no children at all, et cetera. And that's where that's coming from. So if someone wants to be proactive, they get that. This is, they are going to be the one doing the work and they hope their child finds it rewarding. Even if they don't do the chores and pick up the poop in the yard, like they expect. One of the questions that I thought was really crucial to start with is explaining to parents and children together. What sort of body language is a dog using to show you? Cause they can't talk to us that they're uncomfortable and that things might be getting unsafe. I love this question. Body language is like, gets me all excited. You know?
I'm like, oh my God, I feel like I have this like secret key that I can unlock these mysteries for people like, oh my gosh, did you realize that your dog talks to you? Right. So it's pretty exciting. And I hope you don't mind. I mean, I'm sure you totally relate. So I have a jar of treats here, dogs. My, my older dogs are being a little, you know, because I'm on an interview, of course, Just like our human children. They see when we're on our phone, they need us. Okay. Body language love this. There's a few things. And I want to just point out maybe three or four that are like, you know, big, like blinking beacons of an indication to you that something is going on right. Then your dog, isn't super, just soft and relaxed and happy. Now, before I tell you what those look like, I want to give you some clues as to when you might even see these kinds of behaviors, right? So the dog may start to give you body language cues when let's say your toddler's having a tantrum because they're loud and they're a little annoying. Let's be Frank. I mean, I love toddlers. I think they're hilarious. The same way that I like adolescent dogs. I think they're hilarious. But I also was a high school teacher. So obviously I like interesting things, but what is really interesting is if your toddler's having a real hard time, they're not quiet about it. And also when a toddler's really happy, they're not quiet about it. And that could be that they're banging on a drum. It could be that they're singing a song really loud, or it goes quiet and then it gets loud. So it feels like it's very unpredictable or maybe they're learning to walk in, they're pushing a toy, that's blinking and flashing lights and things like that. Right. It could be that your baby is in a swing and some doodles, you know, depending is it an Aussiedoodle? Is it a Bernedoodle? Is it a dog that has sensitivity to motio These dogs may get really stimulated and worried or excited by the motion of a baby in a swing.
So that's another example of something where we just really have to look out because the last thing we want is for your baby to be bait for your dog to go play a chase game, right? It's obviously not out of any maliciousness in that case, it's just literally dog. The dog is doing what it has been bred to do for hundreds of generations, which is I gotta, I gotta keep things in their place. And I want to put them where I want to put them. And a swing is very weird because you can't put it anywhere because it won't stop moving and it can get some dogs, just a little upset. So other things that can get a dog really nervous if you, if your child has a play date and you, maybe the child isn't the visiting child or children is not super familiar with dogs, or maybe they have their own dogs that behave differently than your dog does. Maybe they're running around crazy. And your dog is like, okay, that's just too much. Like, I, that's more noise than I want to put up with right now. Or, you know, maybe, maybe that other child is, you know, wearing like a Cape, you know, kids dress up or maybe your dog is just not comfortable with. Okay.
So all these circumstances aside, what can your dog do to tell you they're uncomfortable? Well, one sign is that they start to yawn and they're not yawning right when they woke up or right when it's time for bed, the yawn seems to come out of nowhere. Okay. And that's a release of stress. We do it too. And what I want you to do is your first little homework assignment. Everybody is when your dog yawns, all I want you to do is just take a quick inventory. Just pause and think, huh? What is going on around me that might be causing my dog some discomfort.
And it could be nothing, but it could be, there's a siren going down the street. It could be like, in my case lately, we've had these, these murders of crows coming down to my bird bath and they, they make a record. Right? And so it gets real excited about that wants to chase them. But he might yawn first before he decides to go chase.
So I want you to just pause and look around you and think, okay, what's going on? Oh, there's a new, noisy toy. Interesting. And then we need to take some action. And what we need to do is we need to tell the dog, I see you. I see that something made you nervous. And I'm either you have two choices here.
I'm either going to move you further away from the trigger, right? The triggers, the thing that made the dog yawn, or I'm going to move the thing that made you nervous further away from you, right? And the dog will begin to build this really beautiful level of trust with you, because you're going to say to your dog, it's sort of this contract where you're like,
I see the thing I see, you're nervous and I'm going to do something about it. You don't have to do something about it. That's my job. As the adult in the room, it is not your job as the dog. So the dog should not approach the thing and say, get out of here. Right. That's where we get into some danger zones.
Is these dogs feel like it's their responsibility because we are not stepping up and doing our job as the parent. Right. What we need to do is say to our dog and I talk to my dogs all the time. I'm like, oh, something made you nervous. Let me take care of that. I'll I'll fix that for you. Right? Okay.
Yeah. Yawning is one example. Another example is you start to see the whites around their eyes, where they look really surprised. Exactly. And you can really see the whites and usually it's, they, they start to look away and you can really see that. We call that whale eye in dog language, right? Whale eye, whenever I don't know why, but that's what we call it. If you start to see the whites of their eyes, something alarming is generally going on. Another one is lip licking. So that's not because you have a smell of sandwich or snack that they want. You know, that could be, I suppose they could be hungry, but generally it's, again, it's like the yawn.
It's something is going on near them. That makes them uncomfortable. Now this is very common. If the toddler runs past too close to the dog, the dog starts licking their lips and you look, and you're like, oh, you little stinker. You're playing your game too close to the dog. Let's get you over here. And let's play over here instead.
Right now, one thing that really is helpful in these circumstances when we are responding to these body language cues, is that we need to do it in a really happy way, because if we run over and we're like, no, no, no, no. To our kid, the dog, then the dog realizes they actually have something to be worried about.
So we have to do it the opposite. We have to like fake it. We have to be all nice and sweet. Even if we're screaming inside and we have to be like, oh, let's not play here. Let's play over here and slap a smile on our face. Even if we don't mean it because our dog is watching. And if I'm really nervous, my dog is going to think, oh, you know, little Sally is someone to be nervous of. Like, she's on, she's not safe around me. I should worry more. Right. And vice, if the dog starts to play too close to where the kid is building their Jenga tower and we're like, nah, don't knock over the kid's thing.
Right. Then the dog is going to think the kids are going to think the dog is something to worry about. Right? And I mean, maybe a doodle tail is going to knock over your beautiful tower, obviously, but that's not dangerous. It's just annoying. And we don't want the kids to be devastated and sad. So we want it. We want to set up these different layers of protection so that you're reading the dog, oh God, here he comes again. He's going to ruin all my toys and he's going to get, pick them up in his mouth because that doodles like to carry stuff and you know, or whatever his tail is going to be the wrath of doom or whatever, or creation or whatever. So I think I answered your question with a lot of extras.
Those are all great. And I imagine on your last point, tell me if this is correct, that if a child is doing behavior, that's uncomfortable to a dog and you reach in and like, no, I told you not to do X with the dog, that scolding of the child could be received from the dog as scolding of them and create a conditioned emotional response. It can be. But, but I think, I think one of the ways that, you know, that I'm unique in the work that I do is that I understand more child development than the average dog trainer. Right? So when you are frustrated and you just are at the end of your rope and you open up Google and you're like, who's a local dog trainer near me, they might be great, but they really are unlikely to really understand what you're living with and what you're coping with. And they may really not have that level of experience to have someone, you know, I see all my clients online. So I see people all over the world. And when somebody comes to me,
I can say, okay, you still have another year or two before your child can understand multi-step directions. And then that sets an expectation, right? To tell them you're mad at your kid because you've told them a hundred times, but a child at this age is developmentally incapable of processing what you're saying. And it's because they don't want to, they really want to, they're trying so hard. You have such a great kid, but they can't like it's in and out. It's like water just off a duck. It just goes. And it's not because you have a bad kid and dogs have similar developmental stages. It takes repetition over and over, but it also takes brain development, right? So you can't have these wacky expectations that your six month old is not going to pull your doodles fur.
So in that sense, what are we going to do to prevent them from pulling, your doodles fur? You can't just say, well, I told them not to do it. And he kept doing it. And then my dog bit him, well, I'm sorry, your child shouldn't have had their hand near your doodle enough that they could have grabbed the fur and gotten themselves bitten in the first place.
And that's so hard to hear, but you need to hear it because we have to set you up for success because I'm going to tell you a dog who's bitten a child has a really hard time getting rehomed. Yes. I mean, there are lots of adults who want doodles and that's fine, but depending on the severity of a bite, a dog that does damage to a child, doesn't always get to stay alive. And as you say, they have a shorter lifespan. It sounds very depressing. It's taken me a long time to just tell people the truth. Like, because I don't want to disappoint them. I don't want to, but I've learned, and I've seen so many times dogs make mistakes that sometimes cause plastic surgery as a requirement or whatever else.
And they don't mean to, but we could have prevented it. Right. So we need to learn like, what are some steps that we can do to keep everybody safe, right? And sometimes that means you need ongoing support. It means you need a community or a group or somewhere where you just check in every once in a while, where you have access to me or other parents.
And you're like, oh my God, what's the best playpen to use. And you know, here's some activities that I gave my dog to do so that I could play Lego on the floor with my kids or whatever this is. You're not alone. But I think that it feels like that because social media is so like, look at my perfect family and look at my perfect dog.
And they're never going to admit the scary stuff. They're never going to tell you that their dog growled at their kid, they're never going to tell you that their toddler or their kid got out of bed in the middle of the night and accidentally stepped on the dog's tail who was in the hallway. And like, because that's embarrassing, it shouldn't have happened, but it's embarrassing. And then people are like, I don't know what to do. And I can't talk to anybody about it because that's like, you know, who knows that kind of stuff. And I love that about your background, Michelle, because I, I too have a background in education and especially special ed. And I see working with dogs and children.
My perspective is that it has three areas working with the dog training the dog, training the child, and management. And when either of those other two aren't developmentally ready or fall through, as they inevitably do. And you'll find a lot of dogs, or I've found a lot of dog trainers who say they get into dog training 'cause they don't like people, they like dogs and they feel like they speak dog. And so when you're working with the child element, which is so crucial of this finding a positive reinforcement, a certified dog trainer that understands some development is extra important in this area. It is. I agree with you. Yeah. I mean, I think honestly, in order to make any progress with any family, regardless of what your challenges with your dog, like whatever is the reason you picked up the phone and ask for help or filled out a form. If, if the person you're working with doesn't have the people skills, you're the one who's writing the check. You're one who's paying the adult in the room is the one that you have to connect with. And if you can't connect with them and help them to understand the stakes that are involved and, and, and how it's going to be. Okay.
And sometimes we cry together and whatever, but if you don't feel safe talking to the trainer or whatever, as the parent, no progress is going to happen because there are dog trainers, I have to open a gate, Go ahead. There are, there are, There are dog professionals that make you feel guilty, you know? And there are dog professionals that shame you for not doing your homework or whatever. And I am very much of the mindset of like your kids come first. Obviously your dog is up there because your dog is like a kid, but safety of everybody is super important. But if you, the parent are too stressed, too overwhelmed, feeling unable to cope then without that, without you being intact emotionally, spiritually with mindfulness or whatever, I'm not a woo-woo person, but I fully understand, like you have to feel capable of functioning. If that, if I'm not going to take care of you first, then nothing else is going to change. Right? And so there are people who, you know, I mean, they joke, they're like just tell people not to have children. And then the dogs will be fine. And I'm like, C'mon! People have kids like, let's, let's meet people where they're at. They've got kids, they love their kids. I love my kids, you know? And, and I love my dogs. The relationship can be so beautiful and so rewarding.
But you've got to set it up right. You have to set it up right. And the risk that you face too, is that you have to have this healthy attitude of, I would rather you be overly cautious and be pleasantly surprised than the other way around, because I think that most parents approach all of this with a hope for the best attitude. And that's not going to keep anybody safe, hoping for the best usually results in a problem, because it means you don't understand, you know, your dog's body language, for example, just hoping, because when you were a kid thinks things were fine. Right.
I mean, when I was a kid, we didn't have car seats, like I'm old. Right? So like, my mom tells us stories of like way back when, when they had these things called car beds, where they would like lay the kid down in like the back of the station wagon, you know? I mean just cause things were fine and you got lucky. It doesn't mean that you can't do better. We often have a fuzzy recollection of the adult dog. Totally. We grew up with, there was a perfect dog and you're like, oh, I forgot the times you used to run away. Or the times that he used to chase the mailman or the times he went after the handyman who came to fix the toilet or you're like, oh my God, you know, it's not all perfection, but I, I really do think that, you know, we have to start by supporting the parent because the parent is the glue that holds everybody together.
You know? But I do think, I don't, I feel like this is so depressing. I'm sorry you guys, but like, if you have kids and you're thinking about getting a dog, I love it. And what I love even more is that, you know, we have you or me or anyone else on your team ahead of time. That's like the dream is that you're proactive in learning.
So let's say you've narrowed it down to a doodle, whatever kind of doodle. There's a million of them. You've narrowed it down to a doodle, but then there's still individualities within that. Right. So like I was, I just spent a whole day with, with two breeders and it was so interesting because we were talking about like, what would I want in a dog versus what would a, a sports, enthusiastic sports dog enthusiast? You know what I'm trying to say? Like somebody who does agility or something, what do they want in a dog? Right. And I told him, I said, listen, first and foremost, I want a nice housemate. I want a nice calm, I mean, not calm all the time, obviously.
But like, I want a dog who is who I'm going to like living with, first of all right. And I want a dog who's going to greet my parents and be happy to see people because I like to do therapy work with my dog. Do I need a dog who goes all day? No, thank you. That's not what I'm looking for.
Right? So within a litter, even your breeder is going to look at each dog. And they're also gonna look at each family and say, okay, family A goes backpacking and camping and whatever. They need a different dog than family B who does movie night and game night and their home, which is not to say there's anything wrong with either of those choices.
There are dogs appropriate for either of those families, but it's, it's figuring out what you need specifically. Maybe you don't have a huge budget. So what we need to do is maybe you don't get the non shedding coat because that takes a lot more grooming. Right? A lot more grooming, maybe it's okay if they shed a little bit to get the personality you're looking for, and maybe you end up, like, I know somebody who has a golden doodle that literally looks like a golden retriever. Yes, that's called a flat-coated. Yes. I was like, whoa. And literally like, and I, and I know it has doodle. It has poodle in it, but you don't see that. But the dog has a lot of doodle tendencies, which is super cool. But that dog is going to take less financial resources for the grooming aspect. Right. So you need to be very honest, like how much investment. Cause my parents, I am telling you, they spend like more than a hundred dollars, like 150 bucks every four weeks on each of their two standards. That's what I spent on my late standard.
Yes. And I'm like, oh yeah. I mean, it's, I mean, could I afford it if I had to maybe do I want to know, but some people don't mind, their dogs are gorgeous. They never get matts. They're taking really good care of them. Right. But that comes at a financial cost. Right. And you raise an excellent point with the breeder piece, sometimes breeders hear, so people will say, yeah, we have young kids. We're really active. I, this is a pet peeve of mine. What does active mean? Does it mean that you guys are going to soccer games all the time on the weekends and your kids are running around in the house a lot. And if you go hiking a lot, is that on every other Saturday? Yeah. Because a true working dog needs a job every day and herding your children isn't the job you want to give them. So we get a lot of families where the breeder herd, they have young kids and they're really active. Being sedentary versus being working dog active is really different. Well. And I love that you said that because the parents feel active cause they're shuttling everybody around.
But going to a soccer game is really, first of all, it's overstimulating from an emotional perspective for the dog because they're watching everyone run and scream and they don't get to do it. And they're stuck sitting on the sidelines having to be still, which often leads to a frustrated dog who's barking and lunging and acting out. And it's, it's, it's not satisfying for that dog.
Not be able to execute, like to be able to run and chase the ball with the kids. Like that's probably what they want to do. And so in those cases, it may be better for you to leave your dog at home, which again, sedentary, right? You're not actually. So you feel active cause you the parent or your busy alll over the place.
You're busy, busy and active are not the same thing. I love that you pointed that out. That's a really important distinction. Thank you. I have another question for you. As I specialize with just doodles, I get to see what the trends are with breeds and popularity and Australian shepherd mixes, Aussie doodles and sheep dog mixes, sheep doodles are really like the new it doodles and people know, yeah, they're working dogs and they work with sheep or are herding dogs. Can you help us make the connection of what a herding dog means with active children? I love this question. So good. I think it's so important to distinguish behavior and appearance, right? I think the reason people love, shepadoodles Aussiedoodles and Bernedoodles, which are very popular where I am.
Yes, because they are so cute. You have a better chance of getting a multicolored coat, a parti coat than you do with a labradoodle, for example, which is possible, but parti poodles, aren't the most common dog. So get that multicolored coat pattern in a Labradooodle or goldendoodle is less likely than if you breed in Aussiedoodle Aussies, come in a million different colors.
Right? Gorgeous. They're so cute. Yeah. But with that cute comes behavior, right? Because a coat color is just one aspect. It's the least important. Even though your heart may be like, oh, but I really like this. It's huge when it comes to behavior, right? So an Aussie is a working dog. They move sheep around, you know, generally sheep. It could be other livestock, typically not cattle. They would be cattle dogs for that, which God, please don't breed cattle dogs with poodles. Knock on wood. I haven't seen that. I'm sure someone has. It's really hard because cattle dogs have such a harder bite than other Aussies and border collies, sheepdogs, and Australian shepherds. We sometimes call them the fun police because they, their job, their whole purpose of being is to control. Who goes where? Right. That's what they were bred to do. I need to contain these sheep. If somebody runs off, I need to bring them back. Okay. Now imagine, let's say you have multiple children.
They're running around, they're moving around. You have play dates. Their kids are over. When more kids are around, there's more chaos, a lot of momentum and movement. Some of these dogs have a really hard time with that. So they watch, they come around, they try to bring you back. And how do they do that? By nipping at your feet, your ankles, the backs of like your calves, which can be really hard. This is the summer. So we're likely to get teeth on skin because you're wearing shorts or flip-flops. So your Achilles tendon is available, which is really painful. If it gets bitten, the dogs are not being mean. They're doing their job. Right? And so what we need to do is we need to help the dog understand, first of all, I am the one in charge of the kids. The kids are my responsibility. They're not your responsibility. So then what we have to do is give the dog its own responsibility. I want you to do this other job instead. So maybe you teach them there's this new popular game it's called Treibball, which is essentially called urban herding.
And what it is is you can teach your dog to move balls into like a goal. It's almost like soccer, but for dogs and use these big balls, that kind of look like yoga balls, sort of. Yeah. And you can essentially teach the dogs to move the balls around a space and get them into a targeted zone. Now that would be a constructive use of the energy that those dogs have, that you don't want them putting that energy on your children. Right. So giving them another job instead. Okay. There are some people who are blessed to live in areas where there are actually places you can go and teach your dog to actually herd animals like sheep. That's so cool. It's not something that I have available to me, but there are places that do that and let you and give your dog a natural outlet for what they're bred to do.
If you can find something like that, please think about doing it because by giving your dog a real appropriate outlet for what they were bred to do, it is going to pay dividends later because you're going to have a calmer dog at home. It's going to feel satiated like, oh, I did the thing. Now I can focus on my family and just be social.
Right? Sometimes we need management and we need to say, okay, kids, you're going to play tag and be running around crazy and having a great time or you want to play in the sprinklers. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to have the dog with me in the, in the kitchen where I can see you through the window and you guys are going to be outside and the dog is going to be in with me because then the dog can't chase the kids or vice versa.
I'm going to be playing with the dog in the yard. You guys play, run around crazy in the house. Now you have really little kids. You can't leave the kids unsupervised. So this is where, when you very first get your dog. If we teach your dog, that normal means that sometimes we hang out in a crate, in a pen, in a bedroom, a safe room with the door closed in, you know, a zone. You have your own zone, whatever that looks like to you, then the dog can learn to chill in their zone while family chaos is happening. But the zone, you know, it's not Siberia. It's not you're there all the time. I'm not telling you your dogs and kids can never be together.
Some people are like, you're breaking my heart, Michelle. Like I didn't get a dog to have it always, always be separate. And I'm not saying it always has to be separate. I'm saying you need to prevent accidents. And so sometimes we need to manage that. Sometimes it means leashing the dog to your belt loop. And you just know where your dog is because it's literally attached to you and then kids can still play near you, but your dog can't go chase them. And then when the dog makes a good choice and is calm, then we reward the calmness because dogs do what they practice. They repeat what they practice. And so if we can reward good behavior, we get more good behavior. Right? So I love that. You asked that question because we need to remember that a huge component of who your dog is, is what their genetic input is. And no matter if you're just thinking, oh, science doesn't matter, I'm sorry. You're wrong. It does. It matters. And the dog that you chose, cause it's cute because of its coat pattern. It got its coat pattern because they bred a herding dog into it. You're going to get herding dog behaviors.
You don't only get the coat color. You get other things that come with it, right? So sometimes we see that in Labradors or even in red poodles, that there is, there tends to be a higher level of energy in labs that are more red than yellow because there's come from hunting lines. Those are working line dogs. And that color is more prominent in working line dogs.
That is not the same as the couch potato dogs, right? Your goinng to see patterns, right of behavior that are connected to physical appearance. And so you may need to tease apart. Like I really love this coat pattern, but I don't want somebody who's going to cause chaos and hurt my children. Then maybe you can find a parti poodle mixed with a Labrador or a golden retriever and still get a cute coat color, but not have the herding tendencies quite as much. And the genetics piece comes in as well with the goldens, as the fielding goldens are more working line, higher energy. So reds are the most popular color for doodles. There are a lot of breeders that just do reds. And if I had my druthers, I would have a small red doodle named Archie as I was obsessed with Archie comics when I was little.
But that is all about appearance and if that fits into my life and into our family life is a different story. And so that's why I have my black lapdog Nestle named after chocolate. And while we're being kind of the fun police, and we're talking about genetics, when one thing struck me that you, that you had said, so I have a wonderful client, she's got the best heart. This is their first family dog and their sweet little bernedoodle. We were talking about some reactivity. And she said, well, I mean, he couldn't bite because bernedoodles don't bite. And they look like little Teddy bears. Like they do look like not even an animal. Sometimes I always say, if they have a jaw, they can bite. Yeah. Do you have anything you want to add with that? No, I, I think, I think it's really just so important. I here's what I hear a lot. My dog would never, my dog would never, my dog would never hurt a fly. My dog would never bite my kid. You're wrong and I'm sorry.
And your dog doesn't want to, no dog wants to bite, but they bite out of fear or out of surprise or out of pain or out of any number of things overstimulation. Right. And mean dog, even like a toothless Chihuahua can bite you that I, we always used to say if it has teeth that can bite, but I, you know, there are toothless dogs. I liked that. You said if it has a jaw can bite. Cause I think that's a more accurate statement. And it's really hard to imagine that something that is so deliciously adorable can bite and cause damage, but it can, And I can tell you, my 10 year old would never hit someone ever. If he was backed into a corner and he felt trapped and threatened, he would. And that has nothing to do with morals. Or if he's a bad kid, just like, it's not a bad dog. So if we are coaching, I talked about kind of the triad that I see of training, the child, the dog and management, if we're training the child, what are some things that children do unintentionally that make dogs uncomfortable or feel unsafe?
Well, you know, I think one of the biggest challenges with kids is that naturally they want to hug and snuggle dogs and especially doodles. Cause they look like stuffed animals, right? I mean, let's be honest. They are cute. They're so cute. And the floofy ones really just look like toys. And so I think that it, you know, we have to understand that humans express love and emotion differently than dogs do. So we get up in there and we're like, oh God, I love you. You know? And I, it took me a long time to stop, stop nibbling my daughter and just be like, you know, where you're just like delicious and, and, and dogs, can't say with words, don't bite me anymore. Don't nibble me or don't get up in my face, but they will start to yawn, lick, lick, lick, or move away or just, you know, or there'll be like, I don't like that. Stop it. And so the problem is, is we hug each other and we kiss each other.
And that's how we express love to our family members and good friends or whatever. And, and we're modeling that with our babies, for their whole life, we were snuggling them and hugging them. And I love you so much and kissing their tummies and all that stuff. But then they think that that's how we express love to things. And then they want to give your dog a kiss on their tummy.
And, oh my gosh, that's such a bad idea. So, you know, oftentimes we model for kids. Sometimes I'll even, you know, Melissa, the brand that it's a toy company for humans, they're called Melissa and Doug and they make traditional toys. And Melissa and Doug makes
I have a big stuffed toy that looks like a real dog. And I use it with the Lab or which one did you get The lab? I have the yellow lab, but I actually had to sew the ears up because to make it look more, less, more threatening anyway. But my puppies, my current foster puppies are blind. So they have no idea.
It's actually dog, but I've worked with other dogs that can see it. And they're like, what the heck? But my point is is that Melissa and Doug makes these dogs of all different sizes. And so sometimes I like to encourage families to get, get a dog for their child and we practice what's appropriate. Right? And we, you know, we practice petting inappropriately. We don't hug it. We don't squeeze it. We don't sit on it. God forbid like do not sit on the dog because those are muscle memory. And the thing you do with this stuffed dog, because it looks very real. That's going to be integrated into your muscle memory of what you're going to do with your real dog.
Now, if you want to give them something to love and snuggle and kiss, make it look as opposite your dog as possible. Right. Get one of those giant, like sometimes Costco has like these big bear, like beanbag things, like get one of those or get something that's like completely the opposite color, something different than your dog stuffed bunny or whatever.
They can hug that they can kiss that they can snuggle that in their bed. Right. They can do with all the lovey snuggling things with that, but not with the drug and not with the toy that looks like the dog. Right. We have to start to practice what looks different. So I think the main thing is that we, we just touch them too much, you know, and kids, they they'll want to lean against the dog or, or always have their hand on the dog. We're watching a TV show and we're always petting the dog. And the dog's like, Stoooooop you know, and, and especially for kids that like that soft texture that doodles often come with, right, is that they want their hands in that fur, and if you've got a kid who's neurodivergent or who's on the spectrum fur, hair, whatever can, can go either way. For some of them, they don't want to touch it.
And for some of them and they want to touch it all the time. So we just have to be really aware of that because it's very possible that, you know, a lot of doodles have so many issues being groomed because, you know, it's, they have sensitive skin or whatever it is. And if we're constantly tugging on their coat to try to keep their coat clear, if your kid is also constantly touching them, they just really have a hard time teasing apart. Like, is this grooming, is this affection? I just don't want my body touched. And so with doodles learning, all that consensual contact is really important. And our kids have to really kind of learn what consent looks like. You know? Yes, my dog is interested. No, my dog is not interested. What does that look like? When do I stop? And what do I do instead with my, with my body? What's your rule for when a dog is sleeping?
When you, what you tell children, No touch, no touch, no approach, no touch. The dog is sleeping totally off limits. And in fact, I have a reward chart. I have a free one somewhere on my website. You could probably type, I think it's on a blog post and type in reward chart. And one of the things it's like a sticker chart, one of the things is I let my dog sleep in peace. And so throughout the week you can give your child stickers or stamps or whatever on the reward chart for multiple times in a row of leaving the dog alone, when they're resting. That's fantastic. And that really helps the younger developmental ages with kids. Again, repeat kids, repeat what they practice dogs, repeat what they practice. So we see the dog sleeping. We can use that as an opportunity. You understand education with kids, it's constant language acquisition of like, oh, Fluffy's asleep. We're going to leave them alone. Or for older kids, sometimes I'll, that's funny. I I'll use like blue painter's tape because it doesn't leave a mark on the floor and I'll make a zone around the dog and I'll tell them that it's hot lava and they can't cross the hot lava.
Right. And so we'll, we can't cross the hot lava. That's fluffy sleeping zone. You know, we don't go in there and cause a lot of kids need visual cues as well as auditory cues. It depends how your kids learn. So, you know, we like to show them, sometimes I have kids decorate stop signs that are near the dog's bed.
And so if they, most kids recognize what a stop sign looks like. And so I create the stop sign and put pop prints on it or whatever. And then we put it near where the dog is sleeping. We can then practice language like, oh, what is the stop sign mean? You know, why, how are we gonna respect the stop sign?
Or what do you know, what should we do with our bodies? When we see the stop sign out, you don't leave it out all the time. Right? You just write the dog's asleep, you put the sign out and it's like, oh, I see the stop sign. What are we going to do? Puppies asleep. So stuff like that.
And your guidance when a dog is enjoying their meal or a treat or a bone, Same, stay away. Let them enjoy it. And peace. I mean, you all hate when a waiter comes and is like, can I take your plate? Can I take your plate? Like, let me enjoy my food. I'm paying good money for this.
Thank you very much. Right? So leave them alone. If they, She says that you should put your hand in a lot and train them or have the child take it away. No, God, no, God, no recipe for disaster. No way. No, we eventually later on we teach trading these days. I have to say, there's something going on with golden retrievers, golden retrievers are experiencing higher levels of resource guarding and, and growls and bites to kids than I've ever seen. And people are following really bad advice and dangerous advice. And so it, first of all, it's never the child's responsibility to train a dog to tolerate anything. Tolerance is way too low of a bar. It's the adult's job to do any of that stuff.
And if we ever have to take something from a dog, we need to give them something better. And often than we give them back, the thing to show them like, it's cool. I'm no threat. Like this is cool, but it is. I don't want kids ever involved in any of that kind of training. It's not safe. I completely agree.
So we take care of doodles in my home with a 10 and a 13 year old. And they know if a dog has something that isn't allowed mom, they need to Trade. We're not playing chase. They don't bear responsibility and I'm not putting them in that scenario. Our final question, I think, is really important for families with kids of all ages, zero to 18 and on, should we punish a dog? Excuse me, should we punish a dog for growling or snarling at someone else? That's if they're feeling unsafe, et cetera, if they're showing others other signs, if they get to a growl, do we punish that? Yeah. That's such a good question. You know, your first instinct is to freak out.
If the dog is growling it to be like knock it off. Right? Well, you know, if we punish the growl, we really risk that the dog stops communicating with us. Yes. And the growl usually comes after all the other stuff we talked about. Right? They don't usually growl out of nowhere. They start with other signs. And if we're really watching your dog shouldn't ever grow, and if your dog does growl, then we miss something and it's okay. So easy to miss. I mean, I'm not blaming you. I'm just saying you probably missed something. And if they're growling, then we need to say, well, I'm so sorry. Come on kiddo. Let's get out of the way. The dog's upset and let the dog work out.
Whatever it needs to work out. But you need to get kids out of the way. If you punish the growl, then the risk is that the dog just bites next time without the growl. And then I get the call that says he bid out of nowhere. It came out of nowhere. I didn't see it coming. And there are unusual circumstances where you, where you don't see it coming where it did come out of nowhere, but those are usually with an underlying medical condition, a neurological problem, a chemical imbalance. There are some dogs that are off that aren't right. It could happen, but that's so much the minority, right?
The most common thing is we've somebody pissed the dog off and we need to realize that your kid did something or you did something, right. You didn't listen to your dog. I haven't, I have another free checklist called why did my dog growl at my toddler? Right. And it's literally a checklist. Did your kid do this? Did your kid do this? And it's not blaming in any way, it's not like a shame and blame worksheet. It's literally like, oh my God, that was terrifying. And you never want that to happen again. What are some things I should look out for? And I have to accept some responsibility that I, or my kid did something that upset my dog and that's okay, Because We know the better you're going to do. Right. And you just won't repeat those kinds of things before.
Thank you, Michelle. We are going to stay on afterwards where you get to answer questions exclusively for The Doodle Pro™ Society. But first I want to know for people listening on our podcast, I know that you have a freebie gift for them. I don't remember which one, which one did I tell you? I was getting That's okay. I think the toddler one sounds wonderful.
Yes. Remember where they could find that I will give you a link, right? I'll put it down. Actually. I can give you a gist. So my website is bridge parenting, pooch, parenting.net. And it is I it's one of my most popular blog articles. So if you go to the free resources section, even may even be pinned to the top.
Otherwise there's a search bar and you can type growl at toddler and I guarantee it'll pop up and all you have to do is type in your name and email address, and it'll send it right over to you. Awesome. So you mentioned your website, please mention it again. If people want to follow you for more advice, where can they find you?
Thank you. So my website is Pooch Parenting, so it's pooch parenting.net. I'm also poochparenting on Facebook and Instagram. I'm kind of lame on Instagram though. True confession. So Facebook is more, my Facebook is more my jam, but my website has all of that. I also have a podcast called the Pooch Parenting can Podcast. Sometimes I interview experts on parenting and dogs, not together. Some parenting experts, some dogs for sometimes it's just me, but I've done some great episodes about like car safety with kids and dogs and things that you have never thought about on like barking and nap, time and things of that nature. So there's all kinds of stuff. It's the only podcast that I know of. That's out there that is really specific to families with kids and dogs and just living the life, like honest, honest, real talk. And I've really enjoyed listening to it. Myself. I just was listening to your episode where you kind of dissected a controversial Facebook post with the mom visiting her. In-laws I Love that. It's science-based and it starts with a place of empathy and understanding for all. Yeah. You know, there's, there's so much emotion when you're a parent, you know, you feel guilty, you feel guilty. Like you feel mom guilt, you feel dog, mom, guilt. You wish you could do better. Maybe your in-laws drive you crazy. Like the post that you're just there, the face, I'm sorry. The podcast episode you're talking about, I just released this week, you know, was like conflict between a woman in her in-laws and she had expectations of what the in-laws would do with their dog.
And they had a different set of expectations. And so I broke it down from everyone's perspective. What is an appropriate, fair expectation from the mom's perspective, the grandparents' perspective, the dog's perspective and the baby's perspective. Like how should you approach these kinds of situations? Right? Because we all have family members, whether we want to or not. I mean, let's be real sometimes. There's not always harmony there. So Yes. Thank you so much for joining us, Michelle. It was an honor, I loved it. Thank you.