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Walking made easy

posted October 27th, 2014 by
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As a stay-at-home mom, I often find myself home alone with a couple of kids, a couple of dogs and, lately, some gorgeous fall weather.

Playing in the backyard is fun, but a change of scenery is always nice. Giving your dog the opportunity to explore new and uncharted territory can make a huge difference, especially when it comes to behavior. Check out this PetMD slideshow for nine more benefits of walking your dog.

IMG_0998Logistically, however, I’ve been a little at a loss as to how to take all four of my kiddos on a  walk on my own.

And then I discovered the hands-free leash along with the take two coupler. Of course, the coupler works best if your dogs are of similar size and walk at about the same speed.

A baby carrier allows me to wear my son on my back and the hands-free leash means my daughter can hold my hand and feel like she is helping walk the dogs. My dogs were never able to get the hang of walking with a stroller.

After our first walk in what felt like ages, I was feeling a little bit like a supermom. I only hope we don’t run out of beautiful fall weather to enjoy!

- Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Who is training who?

posted August 6th, 2014 by
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We are nearing the end of summer and everyone in my house is getting a little anxious and antsy for our usual routines that come with the school year.

The other afternoon I decided to kill two birds with one stone and attempted to keep my boys and toddler all entertained at the same time. It seemed like a great idea to teach my toddler how to give commands to our two Bostons and reward their behavior with treats.

While I definitely accomplished my initial goal of keeping everyone entertained for the afternoon, I think I also stumbled on to a great exercise as far as teaching my daughter patience with our animals and teaching our animals to listen to our toddler.

At first, things were a little chaotic and it was a free for all with my toddler yelling ‘sit!’ while making it rain treats on the dogs. Once I regained possession of the treat bag and a little control, we started to make some progress.

We kept it simple. Sit. Stay. Lie down. At the end, we added high-five for fun. I had my daughter say the command and use a hand signal at the same time (sometimes toddlers are hard to understand!). This was an easy refresher for my boys, they have been through training before. Admittedly, around the time my daughter was born, we stopped practicing so much.

My dogs loved having the attention of my toddler and got some extra stimulation (and a lot of extra treats!). My daughter got to see what it was like to be in charge and tell someone else what to do, with the added bonus of experiencing the frustration of not being listened to. I don’t think she liked it!

Both toddler and dogs need to work on their technique, but all in all, it was a successful afternoon and an activity we will repeat in the future!

– Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

I am a proud pet parent

posted January 9th, 2014 by
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Have you seen the post on Slate in which the writer complains about the phrase pet parent? In it, the author asserts that the phrase pet parent has been pushed on us by the pet industry and that parenting means preparing another human to survive and thrive in the real world. And since her cat isn’t going to grow up and get a job anytime soon that makes her a cat owner not a pet parent.

As a parent to kids, cats and dogs, I take issue with this. So what if the pet industry made up Pet Parents Day? I’m pretty sure Mother’s Day was made up by the greeting card industry, but it doesn’t make the title of mother any less valid.

And as for the author’s narrow definition of what it means to be a parent, I’m sure any mother or father of a special needs kid will be quick to point out that that is not what parenting is all about.

In my humble opinon, being a parent has more to do with the unconditional love and care for another being. Whether or not that being is covered in fur or walks on two legs or four legs makes no difference to me.

I own my car and clothes and countless other items, but I do not include my pets in that category. They are a part of the family, not possessions.

So what do you prefer, pet owner or pet parent?

– Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Have you heard of the Yellow Dog Project?

posted January 6th, 2014 by
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I had not heard of the Yellow Dog Project until a friend shared this link on Facebook the other day. As a parent of both pets and kids, I found the idea exciting.

Basically, a yellow ribbon tied on a leash signifies that the dog should be approached with caution. This could be for any number of reasons: the dog may be highly excitable, anxious or nervous, a working dog, etc.

Before I had kids, I was always concerned by the number of children who would seemingly appear out of nowhere to pet and play with my dogs while we were out walking. Thankfully, my dogs are very kid friendly. But what if they weren’t?

And now that I have kids of my own, I understand just how impulsive they can be and how helpful a simple visual cue could be.

Now that I know about this project, I plan to teach my kids about dogs with yellow ribbons and promise to use a yellow ribbon if my dog ever needs one. Let’s spread the word on this great idea and keep our dogs and kids safe and happy.

You can learn more about the Yellow Dog Project at its Facebook page here.

– Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Dogs and kids, part 2

posted August 20th, 2013 by
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Since I am nearing the end of pregnancy, I have babies on the brain. I recently wrote this response to an article advising couples who want kids to not get a dog.

I’m pretty sure the writer could use the help of Family Paws Parent Education, the parent organization of Dog & Storks and the Dog and Baby Connection.

According to its website, the group’s goal is “to increase the safety of children and the success of dogs in homes with children. We seek to decrease the number of dogs surrendered to shelters due to easily preventable behavioral problems and common conflicts.”

For anyone who has small children or is expecting, the site has some excellent resources for parents including a blog, webinars, and links to useful articles and websites.

Topics include preparing your dog for baby, dog and baby safety, dog and toddler safety,  tips for nursing moms, baby equipment and safety and more.

Preparation is definitely key for your pets when expecting. Our veterinarian gave us some great advice when we were expecting our first child that we are using again during this pregnancy:

• Before baby arrives, let your pets investigate all of the new baby equipment. Put a baby doll in the swing and start it up. Be sure to start establishing boundaries as well, for instance, no cats in the crib.

• When baby is born, bring home a blanket or clothing item for them to smell if possible. When bringing baby home, Dad should introduce baby after Mom greets all of the furry children empty handed.

• And once you are settled, try to include your animals as much as you can, give them a job. I started referring to my dogs as the Diaper Changing Committee, they would dutifully follow me to the nursery and stand guard every time. If only I could have taught them to actually change the diapers.

For more tips and information on integrating your furry children with your new human children, visit

- Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]


Dogs and kids?

posted August 14th, 2013 by
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I recently stumbled upon an article headlined “The One Thing No One Tells You Before You Have Kids: Don’t get a dog.” Since I am expecting my second child any day and share my home with 6 furry children, I clicked on the title intrigued and already a little put off.

And then I read this:

“It’s not that I don’t love my dog. It’s just that I don’t love my dog. And I am not alone. A very nonscientific survey of almost everyone I know who had a dog and then had kids now wishes they had never got the dog. This is a near universal truth, even for parents with just one child, though I have more.”

I cannot disagree more. And my very nonscientific survey of almost everyone I know who has pets and kids also disagrees.

The writer of the article sounds like someone who was unprepared for the realities of pet ownership and parenthood. Neither are easy and both are very messy and chaotic.

And it’s always been my understanding that love can only grow, as was the case when my husband and I welcomed home our baby (human) girl two years ago.

There was so much more love in our home it almost burst. The love of parents for their daughter and her love for us, the love (and protectiveness) our animals clearly felt for her and her love and delight in them.

As she gets older, that love and bond they have gets stronger. And seeing how my animals love her makes me love them even more! See? Our house is going to explode from all the love when the second one arrives!

Our pets not only have a third person paying attention to them, playing with them, and most importantly sneaking them food under the table, but they go on on just as many family outings as they ever have. Maybe even more.

It’s been a fun summer of camping, parks and the drive-in. I’ve found that most places that it is acceptable to bring a kid, you can also bring dogs. Not that I’m comparing the two or anything…

And I certainly can’t imagine depriving my child of all of the unique learning experiences that come with pets. They were some of her first friends and continue to be her best buddies.

She loves to let the boys out of their crates first thing in the morning and pour food in their dog bowls.

She puts the cat food bowls on the floor and calls all four cats to come eat by name.

And she has learned that she can tell our dogs to sit before giving them a treat.

I think all of that is pretty impressive for a not quite two-year-old.

And I truly believe that her love of the animals in our home has sparked a love and curiosity of all types of animals. She has picked up and kissed a few large bugs in our backyard that I won’t even touch.

Having kids and pets is a juggling act. I’m not perfect at it. I get frustrated with all of the ‘children’ in my home at some time or another. But stop loving them? Never!

-Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]