BUSY SUPER MOMS: the Job, the Kids, the Dog… Oh My!

by Camilla Gray-Nelson

The Sanchez FamilyYou’re home from work, trying to get some kind of dinner on the table, the kids are running wildly around the house and suddenly you hear “Mom! The dog is jumping on me! He has my Barbie and he won’t give her back.” Before you can wash the meatloaf off your hands to get in there, the crying begins.  You’re yelling at the dog, yelling at the kids, yelling at your husband for not stepping in – it’s chaos!

I hear versions of this scenario every week at my Dairydell school. I explain to busy super moms that the secret to getting the household under control, and the dog better behaved with the family is less yelling, and better management.  More supervision, less freedom. Greater status for you in your dog’s eyes that will allow you to more quietly take control of every situation.

Changing a few little things in how you manage the family dog will result in significant changes in his behavior and restore greater peace to your household.

woman in drivers seat of model t ford with lab on running board

Woman managing jobs & dogs, family responsibilities and training is not a new challenge! Photo: circa 1933

Here is my advice to all busy moms:

1. When you cannot supervise the dog, don’t leave it up to your husband or the kids.  In the real world, it will be your responsibility.  No worries.  Crate the dog or let him hang out in his dog run. This goes for when you are at work, fixing dinner, or any other busy time that you are not able to keep an eye on the dog.

2. Young children must not play with the dog without you there to supervise. Dogs will do whatever they want unless someone with status stops them. They do not see children as having any status in the family, so do not obey them. Instead, they ignore or dominate them, by taking their things, jumping on them, etc.  The kids can play when there is an adult supervising the interactions, ready to step in and take control when necessary.

chow family dog napping on floor near dinner table3. Own your personal space. Don’t let your dog lean on you, crowd you, or get too close to the kitchen table begging for food, etc. Define your personal space and then own it. This is a sign of status.  If your dog gets too close, use a series of quick shakes of a penny can between you and him to “drive” him back a bit*. Don’t yell when you dog this!  Yelling is a sign of weakness to the dog.  It will destroy your status.  Keep defining this space as yours, not his. Owning and protecting your personal space tells your dog that you have a higher status than him, and will make you more effective in getting him to listen to you later on. [* A penny can can be made by putting 15 pennies into an empty soda can, and duct taping over the hole].

4. Don’t allow your dog to jump on you. Teach him the “Off” command, using your penny can as a “bark”. When he tries to jump on you, give a quick, CALM but decisive shake of the can directly toward his eyes. (This is where dogs bark at each other to say “Dont’ jump on me.  I outrank you”). DO THIS CALMLY AND QUICKLY with no lurching. If you yell , it will be ineffective. DON’T PUSH THE DOG OFF OF YOU. Dogs love touch. They’ll keep jumping if you touch them.

5. If your dog jumps on visitors when they arrive, have a tether and a dog bed ready by the front door. This tether can be a leash or 3′-6′ chew-proof tie down cable, secured to something sturdy, or an eye bolt in the baseboard. When the doorbell rings, quickly attach the dog to his tether near his bed, and softly say “Manners”, as you open the door. the tether will keep him where he is and prevent him from jumping all over the visitors.  When the dog is sufficiently calm, you can attach his leash and untether him. The leash will allow you to stay in control of the situation, calmly teaching him that jumping and bumping guests is siimply never allowed in your household.

6. For dogs that continually misbehave in the house, even when you are supervising, try having them drag a leash whenever they are indoors. This will give you control when needed, and control IS power in your dog’s eyes. Remember, when you cannot supervise the dog, he is PUT AWAY in his crate or dog run.

These are just a few tips to help you calm the chaos and regain control of your dog and your household. Oh yes – here’s one more tip:

7. Sign up for dog training!


Family Dog at Dinner Table: Quinn Dombrowski / License: Some Rights Reserved
Woman in Model T Ford: Doc Searls / License: Some Rights Reserved

About Camilla Gray-Nelson

When I started training dogs professionally, it was women who sought out my help. Responsibility for the family dog typically falls to them, after all. Their homes were in chaos; they were yelling at their dogs – and their kids – and couldn’t control either one. The life skills of personal power that I learned as a child (and assumed everyone else had, too), turned out to be rare among my clients. Since that time, it has been my personal goal to share Nature’s message of quiet power with women (and men) everywhere to help them become more effective not only with their dogs, but in their greater lives as well.

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