Preparing a Pet Friendly Home for the First Child

Dear reader, thank you for the question and congratulations on your bundle of joy! As a new mother myself, it was very important to me to have a successful union between my son Wyatt (now 8 months) and my Velcro pup, Lily. With Lily having no previous exposure to children and already being an adult dog, I had to have realistic expectations. I had some planning/preparing to do.
Small children can be enormous sources of stress for the canine. We all know that dogs’ senses are much stronger than ours; so the barrage of new smells and deafening cries can weigh heavily on the family dog. The baby’s erratic movements and direct stares (never allow) can all be very intimidating. A dog’s breed, age, socialization, environmental exposure and past experiences can all dictate their reaction to this stressor.
Prior to Wyatt’s arrival, I worked on resolving unsafe attention seeking behaviors, like pawing, jumping, etc. Since Lily has a sensitivity to sounds, I played a low recording of a baby’s cry with increasing volume while administering treats. My husband, while I was still in the hospital, even brought home one of Wyatt’s onesies so she could get acquainted with his smell.
When you come home, it’s important to form very positive associations with the new baby in your dog’s mind. Allow your pup to calmly investigate baby at his own pace. Reward positive interactions with treats and attention. Pet/reward your dog for lying calming at your side while you are holding your baby, take him on his regularly scheduled walk with the baby, etc. We want Fido to learn that GOOD things happen when baby is near. Constant reprimand in proximity of the baby will only serve to confuse and
form negative associations. It’s important to pick your battles and choose management techniques over scolding tailored to your specific situation.
Easing your pup’s anxiety with proper and planned interactions set the positive foundation for your baby becoming mobile; an entirely different topic.

How Do I Calm My Dog During A Thunderstorm?

Many dogs have sound phobias. Take a close look at your pup the next time a thunderstorm rolls into your area. Is he panting when he should not be hot or thirsty, repeatedly yawning when he should not be tired, pacing as
though he is looking for an exit or being hypervigilant (looking in many directions)? These are all signs that poor Fido is experiencing some extreme anxiety. Dogs with sound phobias will not get better with reprimand or inundation. In fact, improper exposure with no safe refuge will make the sound phobia much worse.
There are many management techniques that can be adopted to ease your pup’s anxiety, but your empathy is paramount. By providing love and reassurance you are not rewarding the behavior as many believe. The only thing that will reinforce fear is more fear. During a thunderstorm or fireworks event, always make sure your pup is wearing up to date ID tags and you have a current photo of your pup. Exercise your pup very early in the day if you are able to anticipate the event. Allow Fido to find refuge in the innermost and quietest room of your home and turn up all the TVs to drown out the noise.
There are so many tools on the market such as thundershirts, DAP diffusers, essential oils, bioacoustic music for dogs (Through the Dog’s Ear), etc. that have proven clinically effective. In a few rare cases, the fear may be so extreme that prescription medication may be needed. These are all management techniques however, not to be seen as a cure.
In order to rehabilitate the dog’s sound phobia, you must change the emotional state of the dog. You must condition the dog to have a positive association with the thunderstorm, rather than a fear association. This can be done by using counter conditioning techniques in conjunction with desensitization. has a wonderful collection of CDs, “Canine Noise Phobia Series” which provides desensitization tools along with behavioral modification protocols for owners looking to treat the cause instead of the symptom.

How Do I Welcome My New Dog into its FUR-ever Home?

First of all, congratulations on your new family member! I recommend acquiring a crate, a front attaching harness, a hands free leash, a Kong and
other food dispensing toys, a treat bag, and some low calorie treats. With these items, you have everything you need to help your pup get off on the right paw.
For several weeks or even months your furry companion will be unsure of his new environment and will be on his best behavior – I call this the Honeymoon Period. As he adjusts, you may start to see certain undesirable behaviors arise. However, by properly establishing your bond with Fido, you can avoid this common phenomenon.
The crate: You’ve just rescued this pup from what can only be described as a doggie jail. How can you sentence him to further imprisonment? However, too much freedom too soon can cause stress which can manifest into separation anxiety. Destructive behaviors due to separation anxiety are one of the main reasons dogs are returned to a shelter. We want to set Fido up to succeed!
The front attaching harness is imperative for pups that haven’t been properly leashed trained. The EasyWalk pulls the pup off his center of gravity and is a humane solution that discourages pulling behavior in even the largest dog.
The remaining items are needed to teach your pooch that certain behaviors reap rewards and remember: What gets rewarded gets repeated! By using a pup’s kibble, you literally have 100’s of moments where desirable behaviors can be rewarded instead of serving up a ‘free meal’. Reserve treats as high value rewards in distracting situations. By keeping Fido close with the Buddy System, you won’t miss a good behavior or accidentally allow a problem behavior to occur. Use the Kong or other toy puzzles to feed them
the remainder of their kibble (in the crate) and keep their mind stimulated while you are absent.
By consistently rewarding behaviors that you want to
see (sitting for pets, loose leash walking, etc.), you instill good habits, impulse control and become the leader your pup can trust to guide him!

Are All Dogs Capable of Killing a Human?

A reader submitted an article that summarized a veterinarian’s opinion on why human babies and children are attacked by dogs. He stated that no matter how well trained, dogs will resort to their natural instincts when
threatened, especially around babies that make sounds that entice their prey drive. He suggested that dogs will feel ‘jealousy’ towards the child since dogs obey a social hierarchy. He concluded that “every dog has the capability to be a dangerous wild animal.”

While I agree that no matter how many silly human tricks Fido can perform, it bears no weight on how he handles a perceived threat. There are many reasons why children are bitten by dogs. Prey drive and the suggestion that there’s a dangerous wild animal lurking within your Pomeranian do not make the list. In fact ~15,00 years of domestication eliminates the validity of the word ‘wild’ when referring to the family dog.
To say that a dog is threatened by the social position of the child in the pack is to say he feels the child threatens his resources: territory, food and right to progeny. Dogs do not have a rigid social structure that they obey like their very distant ancestor, the wolf. They do not have the same fight for survival and there is no evidence that dogs consider us part of their social structure. Dogs also do not consider us food, so a child’s cry does not waken the vicious carnivore within Mr. Fluffy.

So why do dog’s bite? Body language, resource guarding, anxiety or simply; plain ole’ bad handling. The bite is the dog’s last attempt to communicate the need for distance and is ALWAYS provoked. Children are bitten because they are naturally aggressive with their body language and are not taught how to respect dog’s boundaries. With 37-47% of all households in the US owning a dog, I shudder to think what percent took the time to study canine body language and behavior. A topic that is not even required in the curriculum of many veterinarians.

Simply because canines communicate differently and part of that communication is the bite, then I completely agree we should never leave them alone with our children. However, it’s time we take responsibility for these preventable tragedies and learn more about the family member at the foot of our beds – and stop blaming the big bad wolf.

Cox authors ‘How to Safely Greet Dogs’

MADISON – After extensively working with dogs, Melissa Cox has authored a children’s coloring book, “How to Safely Greet Dogs.”
“My father was a three-time world champion dog handler and trainer. I grew up in a multi-dog environment and was taught very young how to handle myself around strange dogs,” Melissa said.
However, she often observes children who approach dogs incorrectly, which can be dangerous. She hopes the book will be a conversation piece
between parents and children on safe introductions.
In addition, Melissa and husband Mike Cox own Petz Carlton, a home-based business offering an alternative to traditional boarding. Petz Carlton has three home sites in Madison for owners to take their dogs for care.
To download the coloring book, visit and click the logo for “How to Safely Greet Dogs.” Nathan Payne illustrated the book.
The Coxes offer free printing on request for school demonstrations. “We’ll bring the book’s stars Kya, our Irish Wolfhound, and Lily, our Shih Tzu, and give children the chance to practice the illustrated techniques,” Melissa said.
Both children and adults make common mistakes when meeting dogs:
* Reaching out your hand for the dog to sniff provides a hand to bite if the dog feels threatened.
* Approaching by curving our walk to their side, so as not to be intimidating especially to a leashed dog.
* Approaching a service dog or a dog with a yellow ribbon on his leash. A yellow ribbon indicates the dog is sick or in training.
* Misjudging a dog’s distrust, even before a growl.
* Patting a dog’s head. (After meeting a dog, only gently stroke the dog’s side.)
“Always ask the owner before approaching their dog. Some dogs … may fear children, tall men or large hats. Kneel, turn your side to the pup and allow the dog to solicit the meet,” Melissa said. “Any breed (can) experience anxiety and bite out of fear.”
State Farm approached the Coxes about sponsoring school visits. “Dog bites are one top claim on homeowner’s insurance. They believe the coloring book can help reduce that statistic,” Melissa said.
For information, call 256-682-4078 or visit or Facebook/Petz Carlton.

Petz Carlton gives pets a home away from home

MADISON – A bad boarding experience for their pet Shih Tzu led Mike and Melissa Cox to open Petz Carlton, an alternative to traditional boarding.

“We integrate your pup(s) into our home and treat them like part of our family while you travel. We keep your pup’s normal routine and provide personalized care,” Mike said.

Petz Carlton hosts are trained “in canine body language and behavior” and certified in pet first aid and CPR by American Red Cross. Never isolated, pets constantly socialize with other pups under professional supervision.

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Life in Edgewater Sponsor Highlight

Have you ever had to leave your furry babies to go on vacation? It can be a stressful time for both pet and owner. What if there were a place where your dog could be as happy and stress free as if he/she were at home? Thanks to Petz Carlton this dream is now a reality! Whether your pooch needs a place to play for the day or for an extended stay, owners Melissa and Mike Cox have opened their home to your dogs for a happy stress free experience. Not only that, but they have stepped up the game to give spa experience and even fun photo shoots to pamper your dog to the extreme. They even send you Facebook updates to see what your pooch is doing while you are out of town.

Melissa and Michael Cox are both Alabama natives with a shared passion for man’s best friend. Melissa moved to Huntsville after graduating from the University of South Alabama and met Michael (a Madison native) after a co-worker recommended his construction company to Melissa for a kitchen remodel. Obviously things worked out well on that remodel, and they are married and expecting a baby this year. Melissa’ s father was a four time World Champion Dog handler and trainer, so I guess you could say loving dogs is in her blood. Melissa began keeping pets in her home to help her pay for college. After graduating she was pursuing a career in computer science, but then fate stepped into her and Michael’s lives. While on a trip the couple fell in love with a Shih Tzu they would name Lily, the only problem was they had a non-refundable trip scheduled the following week. They decided to board the puppy at the vet but worried the entire time! “Was she being let out enough?” “Would she remember us?” “What about her potty training?” Needless to say the trip was ruined and the experience inspired Melissa to re-open Petz Carlton. They have been happily in business ever since.

Petz Carlton is a unique place; it is the Cox’s home, not a kennel, no concrete and no artificial turf! When you bring your dogs to Petz Carlton, they conduct a professional and stress free meet and greet for you and your pet. They welcome their guests in their REAL home, and they are REAL dog lovers. Their pack includes:  Izzy, an American Eskimo; Lily, a Shih Tzu; and last but not least is Kya, a two year old Irish Wolfhound with the gentlest personality I have ever seen in a large dog.

Petz Carlton has multiple locations to better serve the area. All Petz Carlton hosts are trained to have a professional understanding of dog behavior and to interpret canine body language. They offer not only personalized overnight care but professional techniques that build confidence and social skills in your pup. That is the Petz Carlton difference!

The Petz Carlton family is dedicated to their clients. They maintain continuing education to provide a better experience for you and your furry family. Visit their website for more information or to join the pack.