Guest blog by Emily Schneider, a proud mom of two feisty Yorkies and a two-year-old living in the Garden State. Emily works in media and public relations for the ASPCA. Find her onTwitter.
I read recently in a New York Times article that doctors are encouraging parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, as it enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills in children. I also learned that reading has benefits for shy or timid four-legged family members as well.
I asked ASPCA animal behavior experts if reading is a good socialization activity for dogs nervous around people, and found out that reading helps fearful dogs become more comfortable with people without forcing interaction. As an individual reads out loud, he or she is focusing on something other than on the dog. In turn, the dog grows accustomed to the person’s presence and voice, which is much less intimidating than being handled or stared at (see the ASPCA’s article on canine body language. If you have a dog who is terrified of people or specific individuals, you may want to seek professional help to find out how to help reduce your dog’s anxiety.
Reading is also a good activity for those who aren’t yet skilled enough—e.g., my two-year-old son—to handle a timid dog. If there’s a choice between playing with your iPhone and reading a book, encourage your kids to go for the book and make it a family activity. You might be surprised by the results, as I was—my dogs Olive and Mikey sat quietly nearby while we read a story about Splat the Cat. Our next book? Skippyjon Jones, a story about a irrepressible Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for over 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter, or Facebook.
For my kids, summer equals water: the pool, ocean waves and even the garden hose will ensure sunny day amusement. Nearly every day since school ended has involved time spent in the pool. Our dogs, Hayley, the Chihuahua, and Django, the Lab, enjoy accompanying us to the pool. They sit with us by the water and join the party. They snack, run and play, so we thought they must want to swim, too. Especially Django—her breed is known to enjoy the water.
Dogs will naturally start “dog paddling” when they find themselves in water, but that doesn’t mean that they can stay afloat for any length of time, that they like being in the water or that they can safely swim.
To see if our dogs would even enjoy being in the water, we bought a child-sized pool, filled it halfway and placed Hayley in the water. She swam across it, paddling her little paws non-stop. She really seemed to enjoy it. But Django wanted to get out of the pool immediately. She didn’t like the water and didn’t attempt to swim. Later on, we let Hayley in our 4-foot pool with my daughter staying right by her side, ready to intervene if she needed help. Hayley made her way across the pool and then we took her out. She was one proud and cool girl.
Every dog is as individual as is each person, and although dogs of a specific breed may embody similar personality traits, they certainly won’t display every characteristic of their breed. The most important thing as a pet parent is tuning into your dog’s individual personality—just as you do your child.