Taking the plunge with dogs and kids: Part 1

Many families like to vacation near beaches, rivers or lakes and all of these have one thing in common – water!  When there are large bodies of water present, we should always think of the safety of our children and our dogs.  This two-part series looks at how to keep dogs and kids safe so that everyone can have a fun and safe time on vacation or on weekend trips.

family-in-pool-on-vacation

Part 1: Kids

Ideally, swimming is an activity that should be introduced when children are still infants.  Many pools and community programs offer instructor-led “Mommy and Me” swim sessions that allow the babies to get used to being in the water and are great for Moms and babies to bond further.

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It is preferable to then progress to swimming lessons with a trained swimming instructor who can show your child the correct techniques from the beginning – it is a lot more difficult to unlearn bad habits and techniques.  This type of swimming instruction is usually available on a group or an individual basis.  Group sessions tend to be less expensive, but as there are more children involved there tends to be less actual swimming time.  If your budget won’t stretch to professional lessons, you may want to consider teaching them to swim yourself. This does not always work, as learning to swim can be a frustrating process and sometimes kids will take instruction better from a swimming instructor than from a parent. It is also problematic if you have multiple children. If you are keen to give it a go and will be working with just one child, here are some ideas to make parent-child swimming instruction successful.

Make it a regular date

In order for parent-child swimming instruction to work, kids need to swim regularly and preferably once a week.  Make a point of assigning this time in your calendar once a week and sticking to it, except when your child is sick.

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Keep it short and keep it varied

Swimming is a very tiring activity and as much as we want our kids to sleep well at night, having prolonged swimming sessions when they are learning to swim can be counterproductive.  It’s far better to keep it short (15 – 20 minutes for very young and new swimmers) and to keep lesson activities varied.

Make it fun

Making the swimming lessons fun with games and other activities is crucial to keeping children engaged and in building their confidence in the water.  For very young kids, use games involving nursery rhymes and plastic toys.  As they get older, continue to use those techniques, but also introduce games such as “red light, green light,” (where children kick like crazy on green, slow down on amber, and stop on red) to help improve specific swimming techniques. As they get slightly older, drop the nursery rhymes and include the use of more games, varying the games from session to session.

Kids of all ages will learn better if there is variety in the lesson.  If they get to use kickboards, pool noodles, and other flotation devices once in a while this will be beneficial.  Using these items helps to improve stroke technique, keeps them interested, and will leave them wanting to come back for more.  Not all community pools will allow their use, so check on that before taking yours along.

boy-swimming-with-kick-board

 

Make swimming enjoyable

Building up confidence in the water is vital so that kids are not afraid of the water and want to swim. As your little swimmer progresses in ability and confidence, you may want to think about enrolling in swimming clubs where a range of swimming and social opportunities will be offered.

Set rules

Make sure that your children know how to stay safe near a swimming pool.  They must always ask for permission to go in a pool and must have adult supervision during this time.  Rules such as not running by a pool are really important to follow. Use life vests or floaties for young kids when they are not actually practicing their swimming strokes, but do not rely on the floaties for safety. For young kids and those who are not strong swimmers, life vests should be worn for activities such as river floating or when in lake water.  If swimming in the ocean, be conscious of the tide and possible currents.  Where possible try to swim in a lifeguard supervised zone.

river-float-with-kid

 

Even when your child has become a good swimmer, it is possible to get into difficulties in the water.  Always ensure that children are supervised to minimize risk and ensure that you are all able to enjoy a fun and safe vacation.

Learning to swim is not a luxury, it is a necessity! Being able to swim is such an important skill to have.  Swimming provides fantastic exercise for able-bodied children and those with physical challenges and is an activity that can be continued throughout their lives.

Some of my happiest and most memorable times have taken place around water with my children. What experiences have you had? We’d love to hear about them.

 

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Why Mom was Right About Spring Cleaning: Part 3, Lifestyle

 

Part 3: Your lifestyle

 

When you are a busy adult, whether because of work commitments, child care, caring for senior family members, pet care,  or perhaps all of the aforementioned, it is often easy to make the mistake of putting yourself last.  Admittedly in this 3-part series, I am posting this last, which shows I’m as guilty of thinking along these lines as anybody.  Whenever I’ve put my needs first, I’ve always felt a little bit guilty, but recent events at my veterinarian’s office made me rethink what I had previously thought of as selfish actions on my part.

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I was attending an appointment with my dog when another dog’s owner experienced a heart attack in the waiting room. Fortunately, the outcome of a long and convoluted story was that the dog’s owner recovered well and the dog received care during the recuperation period.  It left me with the realization that in order to ensure someone else’s welfare, we need to ensure our own welfare. Ultimately, if we don’t take proper care of ourselves, we become unable to care for others. Isn’t it, therefore, a wise investment to make time for yourself this spring by reviewing your lifestyle and maybe giving it an overhaul if it is falling short?

 

 

Rethink your workout habits

You work out to stay fit and healthy, but if your routine hasn’t really changed in many years, maybe it could do with a refresh to keep you interested and challenged.  If you enjoy working out with your dog, activities like canine parcours or doga could be of interest to you.  If you love walking with your dog, but are thinking about progressing to running, maybe alternating jogging with walking with your pup may be a good way to ease both of you into the sport.

yoga

Improve your diet

We’re not talking about dangerous diets or detox programs, but simply evaluating what you eat and seeing how you can boost your nutritional intake can be beneficial.  An easy way to start is with a food diary, in which you write down what and how much you have eaten for every meal for a couple of weeks (or longer if you prefer).  You will probably be surprised by the results.  If you find your diet is particularly low in vegetables, that is an easy fix.  Additionally, if you notice that there is a lot of repetition in your meals, you can add more variety to give a broader range of nutrients and more interest for your palate. In the last couple years particularly, many  TV chefs, TV doctors, and celebrity fitness trainers have been focusing on increasing nutritional value in meals to try to help people reduce weight, prevent disease, and ultimately add years to their lives. Their suggested recipes are often simple to fix, absolutely delicious, and many are available free online – it’s worth googling.

superfood-salad

Take more time for yourself

No matter what hobbies you have and how you prefer to take time for yourself, make certain that you build some of this time into your week. Make a list of the things that you really want to do for yourself and the things that help you relax. Then look at what you actually do on a daily basis and determine what tasks can be eliminated or even outsourced.  If you spend all your spare time catching up on household duties, maybe some of those tasks can be shared with a spouse, leaving you some time to attend a language lesson, catch up on a good book, or whatever you want to do that’s just for you.

Nurture your friendships

Friends getting together

Friendships are vital, whether we have busy lives or not. Try to stay in touch with friends on a weekly basis, even if just by phone, and try to get together as often as possible. Friendships help us to feel connected, boost happiness levels, reduce stress, and may even help in preventing early onset dementia.

best-friends

 

Your Mom was right,  spring cleaning is an important addition to every person’s calendar, but not just for keeping your house spiffy. Take time for yourself, it’s not selfish, it’s essential!

 

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Love Me, Love My Dog!

Change can be hard.  This is true for people and dogs alike and as we progress through our lives with inevitable changes along the way, we may encounter some interesting situations with our loved ones, whether human or canine. Dating or embarking on a new relationship can be one of those times.  Relationships are complex and if there are animals involved, things can get more complicated. A study published in a British newspaper in 2012suggested that dogs can cause more than 2,000 arguments in a household over the dog’s lifetime. In a poll conducted in October 2010 by the Associated Press-Petside,approximately 14% of people would choose their dog over their own spouse.  These remarkable statistics prove that Shakespeare was not wrong and “the course of true love never did run smooth.”3  If you’re reading this and seeing some parallels with your own life, what can be done to make things a little less choppy?

Is your partner a dog lover?

a-house-is-not-a-homeWhether your partner is a dog lover or not is a question that ideally needs to be answered at the beginning of a relationship, because if he is not and you are, there could be trouble ahead.  Some people cannot possibly imagine being without a dog in their home, whereas others cannot imagine sharing their home with a pet.  It can be very difficult for someone who does not like (or is perhaps afraid of) dogs to adjust to having a pet in his or her space. If your partner is allergic to pets, it can be downright disastrous. A dog sensing fear or dislike from your partner does not make for a comfortable situation. Determining what will work for you both at the outset, could be a smart move in the long term.

Blending households

Introducing a new person into a household can be extremely confusing for dogs who are pack animals and enjoy the comfort of knowing where everyone sits in the pecking order.  Your dog’s home is his territory and he will protect that territory as much as possible. Introduce a partner gradually with initial contact being on neutral ground.  By the time you get to the moving-in stage, your partner and your pet should be very used to being around one another. When the partner does move in, try to make sure that the pet’s normal sleeping areas are not compromised, as dogs are creatures of habit and will not necessarily feel comfortable with lots of change.  If you are blending households that both contain pets, you have another variable to add to the equation.  Again, make sure that initial pet introductions are done on neutral ground.  The pets should be very familiar with each other before living under the same roof.

cake-topper

Compromise

For many dog owners, the dog is often treated like a substitute child or grandchild, but just as parents would with regard to raising children, owners should discuss how they both feel about dealing with training, behavioral issues, and how much time, money, and attention should be devoted to the dog.  As with any relationship, compromises should be made while respecting wishes on either side.  Disputes over the dog can include who should walk the dog, where the dog sits in your vehicle, money spent on the dog, feeding the dog from the table, or damage caused by the dog, to name just a few.  Sit down with your partner and determine what the issues are in your household and how you can resolve them. For example, pets on the furniture may be acceptable to one person, but not to the other.  This is particularly an issue if you like your dog to share the bed, but your partner doesn’t. Talk about what you can both tolerate and when you decide on a household rule, stick to it.

dogs-on-the-bed-cartoon

Don’t expect your partner to love your pet as much as you do.  As long as your pet is treated well by your partner and your pet is friendly in return, that can be OK.  Try to share out tasks involved in the care of your pet between you, but if your partner is just not keen, be prepared (and content) to take on the lion’s share of the work.

Coping with jealousy

You mean everything to your dog and you mean everything to your partner! Sometimes it can be difficult for your dog and for your significant other to see affection being directed elsewhere.  Don’t neglect to spend time with your dog after your partner has moved in and try to ensure that your partner also builds a relationship with your dog by spending time, giving treats and other attention.

Tackle issues before they escalate

If your normally well-behaved dog starts acting out or behaving badly, that could be a sign that your pup is not happy with the new situation.  Don’t allow your dog to get away with bad behavior, and try to tackle the issue as soon as possible.  It may be that you need to call on the help of an expert, whether a trainer or a veterinarian, to see if there is an underlying concern that needs addressing.

Whatever the problems that you encounter, don’t just let them fester.  Communicate with your partner so you are aware of each other’s feelings.  If you are comfortable talking with friends about your situation, they might be able to assist in problem resolution. If this doesn’t help or is not a good option for you, a licensed marriage and family therapist, who will be familiar with these kinds of issues, could help steer your relationship to a better place.

If you’ve had some pup-induced relationship challenges, why not share how you were able to resolve them?

Sending love to all our Pet Barrier blog readers this Valentine’s Day.

dog-with-rose-in-mouth
Hope your Valentine’s Day is pawsome!

References

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2084835/Mans-worst-friend-Average-dog-causes-2-000-family-arguments-lifetime.html#ixzz4W2PLYhQ2
  2. http://www.apgfkpoll.com October 2010.
  3. Shakespeare, W. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act 1, Scene 1. 1600.