By Stefania Butkovic

Teach your kids to read dog body language.

Before and during the greeting or petting of a dog, it’s important to recognize what the dog’s signs and signals are in case of discomfort or anxiety. Now that you’ve taught your kids how to greet a dog, it’s time to dive into recognizing body language.

Some dogs may be ok with hugs and kisses. I have another dog other than Bruna, our Minpin Cassie, and she is a HUGE lover of being all up in my face and for me to be all up in hers. Bruna, on the other hand, will let you know if she wants you close enough to even just pet her on the head..or not… every dog is different!

There have been some pretty scary youtube videos out there showing kids “playing” with their dogs, where the dogs are showing very clearly that they are extremely uncomfortable. Some of the clips below might make your stomach sink, so I will warn you right off the bat that it is quite unnerving to watch the third video in particular. Please do watch all three if you can, it will show you just how important it is to become familiar with dog body language for yourself, but also for the children in your life. All three are great examples of dogs showing some stressed out body language that was being ignored or not noticed by the adults around them.


Today we’re featuring a special poster that helps to really understand dog body language, and it’s super easy for kids to follow along with too 🙂

dog-body-language copy









On Saturday May 28th, Mindful Mutts will be hosting a “How to Greet a Dog” workshop! Kids of all ages are welcome. We’ll be covering in depth everything from appropriate greetings, to do’s and don’t when petting, and of course, body language! The best part? Playful, friendly happy pups will be there to meet and practice on! Follow us on Facebook, instagram, and twitter or visit our website for more details which will be released Monday!

Thank you for letting me be part of the awesomeness that is Kids New West!



Why teaching your kids “How to Greet a Dog” is so important.


Some may argue that it’s enough to teach a dog to be tolerant of ear and tail pulling, to be ok with having a teeny unpredictable human screaming loudly at them or running towards them at full speed. To put it simply- it just isn’t. A dog can only be so tolerant before we’ve missed all of their signs and signals showing discomfort and anxiety.

Conditioning your puppy (or adult dog) to not be bothered of a child’s unpredictable, erratic movements is absolutely (in my opinion) one of the most important things you can teach them, especially at a young age. In fact, puppy socialization classes exist for that reason. They are there to help you learn how to introduce your dog to new things, new people, new sights and sounds-and kids as well as adults. But this is only half the job if you have children in your life at all whether they are your own, or your nieces and nephews for example.

Teaching kids to respect animals, interact with them appropriately, and read dog body language is the other half of the responsibilities that we as the grown-ups have when it comes to bite prevention. This means explaining the ways that are and are not okay for greeting, petting, and what to do if they are uncomfortable around a dog who looks a little scary. This also means teaching them what not to do; such as ear and tail pulling, and respecting their furry buddy’s space. Had we taught Bruna as soon as we adopted her that she doesn’t need to be fearful of kids as well as to have excellent recall, things could have taken a less dramatic turn. Perhaps, if the neighbours son was taught what to do in the event that he caught the attention of a dog who was highly suspicious of his motives (when running into the yard), we may not even be having this conversation. It doesn’t mean that neither Bruna or the boy would have been unafraid in that instance, but the course of events could have been mighty different.

I’ve attached a couple more of Dr. Sophia Yin posters specifically directed towards kids and dogs, as well as a link to her website that will go into detail of each portion of images.

Thank you for reading the latest post, join me tomorrow for a bit about dog body language 🙂


How NOT to interactHow TO interact


Teach kids to respect dogs and their boundaries.


The next time that our niece, Charlotte met our dogs she was probably around 4 or 5 years old. About a year passed by since the last time she and Bruna had seen each other, and a lot of time has gone by since Bruna had her scary encounter with the neighbour’s kid (read first 3 entries on Kids New West for the story if you missed it!).

After searching the web for just a short amount of time for some kids educational programs I was happy to have found a plethora of useful graphics and blog entries by some very credible and educated veterinarians, dog behaviourists and trainers. I also came across a lot of information for myself as an adult and instantly became enthralled with the new data I was absorbing about canines and their interactions with humans of all ages, shapes and sizes (thus, the rebirth of Mindful Mutts).

Well, I’ll fast forward through Bruna’s training because we did a lot of desensitizing and counterconditioning with her to get her to be less fearful around kids (at the recommendation of professional dog trainers). This is a whole other aspect of the “Bite Prevention” topic that should be discussed on an individual basis with a trainer who is able to assist.

Back to Charlotte’s next visit….Just before she entered the room, I explained to her what Bruna’s boundaries were as simply as possible and that this advice was important for her to remember on each encounter she has with dogs from this point on. Granted, being so young, it was definitely important to reiterate everything she was learning each time she met Bruna after that, as well as each time she met a new dog from here on out. We also looked at some instructional images and went over some of those very useful infographics together, just as I did with other kids prior to Charlotte’s visit.

I prefer not to reinvent the wheel in the case of kids and dogs, especially since there are others with far more experience and education behind the issue of safe human-dog interactions, so instead I love to share the data created by the late Dr. Sophia Yin. Dr. Yin was an internationally recognized Veterinarian and Animal Behaviourist. I now practice using her methods and techniques in educating humans of all ages on bite prevention, but also in how I handle, train, administer medicine and walk dogs that I care for on a regular basis including my own.

Below is the poster I shared wth Charlotte, I shared it with Kids New West last year as well. Take a gander. On tomorrow’s post we’ll go into depth on why each portion of the poster’s images and information are so, so, sooo important.

How to greet a dog copy



The first step in bite prevention is prevention.


Yesterday we left off wondering what went wrong when Bruna decided to chase the boy from next door out of our yard, nipping his ankle. Let me start off by saying there is no one easy answer to this.

First and foremost- as a pet care professional it is very important to me to explain how crucial it is for dog owners to explore training with a qualified, reputable, experienced, and (possibly) certified pet dog trainer…especially if your dog exhibits signs of fearfulness or reactivity (aggression) towards anyone, be it human or animal. If you have a dog who is reactive towards children, this is a serious issue that should be handled with the care and attention that a well educated, professional dog trainer should be hired to help you with. If you require assistance in finding someone you can feel good about bringing in, I would be more than happy to help you find just the right person for the job! The first step in bite prevention is prevention after all, and that’s what I am here to encourage 🙂

The next step in bite prevention, is to educate yourself in dog body language and appropriate interactions between people and dogs so that you can pass that knowledge on to your kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandkids, and so on. There are a number of educational tools that you can use to help kids of all ages understand the best ways to greet and interact with dogs, as well as what to do if they feel afraid and intimidated by one that may seem dangerous or they may be afraid will come running after them (the way Bruna ran after the boy next door).

Because there is so much information to cover, we’ll be starting tomorrow with a few days of do’s and don’t and why’s and why not’s. For today, I’ll leave you with a glimpse of Bruna and my neice Charlotte’s present day so you can see that with the right training for both the dog AND the child, friendships can certainly blossom!

Bruna and her minpin sister Cassie, loving on their best bud Charlotte, who is 6 years old in this photo.
Bruna and her minpin sister Cassie, loving on their best bud Charlotte, who is 6 years old in this photo.





What Went Wrong?

Illustration by Jon Woo.
Illustration by Jon Woo.








There were a few different things that didn’t quite work in either the neighbours son or Bruna’s favour that day when he ran into the yard.

  • The boy took off, throwing his gift of scraps for the chickens in the air as he ran back to his mum who was waiting for him in the front yard all the while listening to the sound of a screaming dog who’s 35lbs but sure does sound bigger than she actually is.
  • Bruna didn’t understand why he was throwing things at her, yelling at her, and running away from her so she assumed this was someone she should be afraid of. She chased him out of the back yard, into the front yard, and nipped him in the ankle. No skin was broken, but there were visible marks on the boys leg where her teeth met his flesh.

Throughout the entire encounter, adults and other kids were hootin’ and hollerin’ because the boy sounded like he was in trouble and Bruna had gotten loose from the back yard, this was just adding to the commotion.

No adults knew what was going on until the boy and Bruna were in the front yard. I took her by the collar and led her back into the house so I could go check on the neighbour’s and their son. In my opinion, no amount of apologizing for this incident was good enough. I think I was as traumatized as the boy and the dog were, and at that moment I knew that I had to work harder and faster at getting Bruna on track with kids so that we never saw a repeat of the day’s dramatic turn.

At this point I felt that I had failed my dog, my family, and my neighbourhood. My husband and I had no idea there were kids next door, we had no idea they freely came into and out of the yard, we had no idea Bruna would do anything but run away to hide behind a tree or underneath a table. It was only our second day in the new place, we were still unpacking, still getting to know the community and the people that we lived next door to. So how do we help this unsuspecting child from developing a greater fear of dogs than he already had, and how do we get Bruna back on track because it was one thing when she felt kids were scary and would choose to run away, now we’ve found out that she will actually use her teeth on kids when fearful.

Stay tuned 🙂


Kids and Dogs: Bite Prevention!


It’s time to talk kids and dogs, but more specifically, bite prevention.

This is an important topic to me. Not only do I have a 6 year old niece who loves to looooveee my dogs, I also have a dog who’s only just now, 3 years after having been adopted by my husband and I, getting comfortable with kids.

Bruna, our pug mix rescue pup, came from a background we knew nothing about. All we knew was that the picture we saw in our newsfeed of her adorable face was worth helping her overcome whatever psychological or behavioural problems she may have had from her past. We knew we had to make her a very loved part of our family. Little did we know that her biggest issue was with anything and anyone who moved erratically, unpredictably and/or was smaller than she was- be it canine or human.

The first time we introduced Bruna to kids, she hid. This became a regular occurrence when around children. When our niece, Charlotte, met Bruna for the time they were both pretty young, and they seemed to be attuned to each others desires to remain at a healthy, respectful distance from one another (Charlotte was only 3 or 4 years old). We encouraged this behaviour from both of them, because we weren’t sure how Bruna would react to Charlotte getting any closer, but also because we weren’t exactly sure how to go about getting them to be comfortable with each other safely at first.

Fast forward 4 months after adopting Bruna to a move from an apartment in Uptown New West to a house in Sapperton. Our nice new neighbours had a son about Charlotte’s age. He ran into our (fenced and gated) back yard to feed the previous tenants’s chickens some dinner scraps, not realizing dogs lived there now and that the chickens were no longer requiring his feeding services. He spooked Bruna who was quietly sunbathing on the lawn. She chased him out of the yard and nipped his ankle (no real damage was done) but the poor little guy was rather traumatized, as was Bruna. After our initial shock, embarrassment, confusion, and sadness over the encounter, I immediately began my journey to learn about bite prevention, appropriate greetings and interactions between kids and dogs (and certainly adults and dogs too), and educating my community.

For the next week, I will be sharing with you some important tips, tricks, do’s and don’ts when introducing your children (or anyone’s children really) to any dog. Because rescue pooch or not, a child’s unpredictable sounds and movements can intimidate even the friendliest of dogs enough to bark, lunge, and very possibly even bite. Thank you for joining me in creating a safer space for dogs and children in our community!



Hume Park- Fun for the Entire Family!

Hume Park is located in the Sapperton area of New West and is my favorite park in the city. Not only is there an off-leash dog park, but there’s also a great playground and newly upgraded spray park for the kids! The spray park upgrade includes new water features and rubber surface made from recycled tires; which is excellent for providing traction for all the little feet running around. There are picnic tables,   baseball diamonds, lacrosse boxes, an outdoor pool…. everything you need for the kids, the dogs,              and even the adults in your life! Here’s where you can find more information:


Kids and Dogs

taken from

During the weekend I had the pleasure of hanging out at Bosley’s in Columbia Square on Sunday afternoon. The mission was to talk to parents and kids about knowing how to interact with dogs, and I would definitely say that my mission for the day was accomplished!

For those of you that missed the workshop, here is some information directly from Dr. Sophia Yin’s website. I’ve shared a free poster from the website in my past KNW blogs on this topic, but this website will explain each of those important steps in detail which I’ve found to be very helpful! Prevention is key to making sure dog bites and other injuries do not occur. Safety first!



Dog Friendly Banana Ice Cream Recipe!

dog eating ice cream

On beautiful sunny days like today everyone likes to enjoy a little ice cold treat! Sometimes we even share those treats with our dogs.  Plain ol’ vanilla ice cream has been a long time fave in our house but since it’s usually high in sugar and fat, we started looking for homemade options that would still be delicious and refreshing, without compromising our dogs’ health.  Here’s one of the most newly loved ice cream recipes that our dogs go bananas for 😉

Ingredients for dog friendly ice cream:

· 1 ripe banana
· 2 cups of plain organic yogurt
· 1 cup of organic peanut butter (make sure there’s no sugar added!)
· 1-2 tbsps. of honey


1. Stir the banana into the yogurt, but first- MASH MASH MASH to get the creamiest consistency!
2. Warm the PB on the stove (if you need to use a microwave that’s fine, I try to avoid it whenever possible)
3. Now add the banana/yogurt to the warmed PB and stir in the honey.
4. Mix it all up until its creamy, well-combined, and few or no lumps can be seen.
5. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays, cup cake tins or other non-stick containers.

Special toppings that are safe to use:

· Applesauce
· Honey
· A bit of tofu (my dogs LOVE it!)
· A sprinkle of cooked meat
· Dashes of toasted sesame seeds

The best part of this recipe is that this ice cream can be modified to include the things your dog loves the most! It’s also tasty enough for humans to eat! If you’re going to share, I suggest substituting sprinkles and fudge as toppings for the humans instead of meat or tofu… but that’s just my opinion!

Happy Sunday!