7 Things You Can Do to Prevent Dog Bites

Some sobering facts:

  • Each year 4.5 million people in the US are bitten by dogs and 1 in 5 of those bites require medical attention.
  • Of the 800,000+ people bitten who need medical attention, at least half of them are children.
  • Children are the most common victims of dog bites, and are more likely to be severely injured, and about 75% of them are bitten by dogs they are familiar with .
  • As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the likelihood of being bitten. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home.

Dog bites are preventable. Set up your family and your dog for success by following these 7 tips.

Set your family up for success:

1. Adopt the right dog

Research dog breeds before select your new dog or puppy. Be realistic about the needs of the breed and breed traits – are you active enough to satisfy a border collies need for mental and physical stimulation? Would a senior dog be more your speed?

Do you have the time the dog will need to be adequately exercised & trained? If you don’t have the time to exercise your dog every day, is dog daycare something that will fit into your budget?

Sociability – is the dog you are considering friendly & politely soliciting attention? Does he seem reluctant to be petted? Is she bouncing off of you with excitement? Is a shy dog or an over-exuberant dog a good fit for you? (i.e. are you up to the task of lots of socialization time and effort to help the shy dog feel more confident and exuberant dog to learn how to be calm?)

What can you find out about the dog’s history? Things like multiple re-homings, abusive situations, or a dog with a bite history can all be a lot for a new dog owner to take own. If you aren’t sure what you are in for with dogs like these, ask a trainer to help you evaluate the dog before you sign on the adoption contract dotted line.

Considering bringing home 2 dogs at the same time? If so, be ready to take on three times the work for training, exercise. A better idea is to adopt one dog, train, and get used to one dog. Then, if you still want a 2nd dog, you are better positioned for success in bringing home #2.

2. Learn how to read dog body language. Understanding and being able to read dog body language is essential to preventing dog bites.

  • Do you recognize the signs of fear and stress in dogs?
  • Do you know that a wagging tail doesn’t always mean a dog is friendly?
  • Doggonesafe has great resources on reading body language and keeping kids safe.

3. Teach your children how to safely and appropriately interact with dogs

  • Hugging, ear pulling, tail pulling, climbing on the dog all put your child at risk for a dog bite.
  • Even if your dog is tolerate of your kids doing these things, teach you kids they are not appropriate behavior – not all dogs will tolerate children behaving like this.
  • Teach your children respect for strange dogs – ask before petting, appropriate petting, and knowing when they should get away and how to safely do it will all help keep your children safe around dogs.
  • Always actively supervise kids and dogs – the ASPCA recommends that kids younger than 10 should never be left alone with a dog – even their own dog.

How to Set your dog up for success:

4. Socialization is key for puppies – take a puppy class that includes supervised off leash play & encourages kids to come to class

  • Puppy classes can help prevent puppies from developing fear issues as adolescents and adults
  • They teach puppies to be more comfortable with new dogs and people.

5. Training

  • Plan to do it – even if you adopt older dog. Dedicating 1 hour per week for 6 weeks (the length of a typical basic manners class) and doing the homework for class is a great way to get your new dog’s training career started with you – and the accountability of going to class will help ensure you do the work each week!
  • Have kids take part in training once you know the basics (it’s easier to coach/teach kids to do something you already know rather than have them learn from you while you are learning – and supervise them while they train the dog.
  • Use positive reinforcement training techniques– they can be safer for kids and less stress on dogs and people.
  • Don’t punish growling – this just tells your dog it isn’t safe to growl when he feels afraid or threatened – and can him more likely to bite. Instead, work to understand why the dog is growling and solve the behavior issue at the root rather than just suppressing the expression of it.

6. Get to know your dog

  • What does your dog like? Not like? Men? Loud noises? Children? By knowing what your dog doesn’t like, you can prevent him from feeling threatened, and with the help of a trainer, help him learn to more comfortable with previously scary things.
  • If you don’t know if your dog likes other dogs don’t take him to a dog park to find out. Ask a trainer for help in determining how your dog feels about other dos.
  • If your dog was in pain, would you recognize it? Vet check ups are important to maintain your dog’s health – and also reduce the risk of pain or injury related aggressive incidents.
  • Use daycare, do walkers/you walking, play time to tire your dog out before high activity times in your home or times when you know you won’t be able to pay attention to your dog.
  • Crate train your dog – and teach kids that crates are dogs safe places so no kids allowed in or on crates.
  • Learn ways to occupy your dog – food puzzles, stuffed kongs, and safe chew toys can all be great ways to keep your dog busy.

7. When you think (or know) you have a problem with your dog, get help BEFORE your dog bites

  • Trust your gut – if you think some of your dog’s behavior to be dangerous or threatening, you are probably right.
  • Does your dog growl when you come near his toys or food bowl? Growl at strangers? Get help before he bites
  • Is your dog fearful, skittish, or untrusting of strangers? A good trainer can help your dog learn to be more comfortable and teach you how to recognize when your dog needs help.

It is impossible to say that your dog will never bite someone. The better your understand canine body language, know your dog, and set your dog and your family up for success, the more you reduce your risk of dog bites.


Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training in Chester County, PA. We also teach Basic to Advanced Manners classes and offer in house dog training at Dogtopia of Chester Springs.

Head trainer Deb Murray, CPDT-KA is certified by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, an AKC Evaluator, a Doggone Safe Be a Tree Presenter, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.


How is it going with that puppy from Santa? 5 things you can do to survive the first few months with your new puppy

Christmas morning, 3 weeks ago almost to the day, there under the Christmas tree was the puppy that Santa left for the kids.

No doubt the morning was thrilled with hugs and kisses and squeals of joy. How are things going now? Has the reality set in that, on behalf of kids, mom and dad have made a 10-15 year commitment to another mouth to feed? Have you had buyer’s remorse? Has the thought of getting Santa to take the puppy back crossed your mind? It’s OK to answer “yes!” to both of these questions. Really, it is. Moments are regret, buyer’s remorse, mouthing “this was your idea! Why did I say yes to a puppy?!?!” to your spouse over a pool of puppy pee – the 5 th pool of puppy pee you have cleaned up today – are all normal responses to the stress that adding a puppy to your already busy home can do to an otherwise caring and loving parent. Relax, you can handle this. Don’t give up. You can do this.

This time of year rescues start getting calls from newly minted puppy owners at their wits end. Or the call doesn’t come and the puppy shows up on the breeder or shelter’s doorstep. By March the surrendering is in full force. But it doesn’t have to end this way.

5 things you can do to survive the first few months with your new puppy

  1. Sign up for a puppy class. Well run, safe puppy classes can be a great way to learn to communicate with and understand your new puppy. Teaching your puppy to sit, lie down, and walk on a leash will make living with your puppy much more pleasant and manageable. Puppy classes are also a great place to ask questions – lots of questions about housebreaking, crate training, barking, nipping, and jumping – all the things you are dealing with right now – and you can do it for the low price of puppy class admission!
  2. Put your puppy on a schedule – for potty breaks, meals, exercise and play. Dogs do much better when they have a routine and a schedule – and you will find you do too!
  3. Daycare – once your vet says your puppy has enough vaccinations on board, a safe, well-run daycare can be a great place for your puppy to get tired out (and learn great dog social skills) and you get a much-deserved break!
  4. Help your puppy get used to being left alone in his or her crate. One of the worst calls to get as a trainer is “my dog goes bananas when I leave him alone”. Separation anxiety, where your dog cannot tolerate you leaving him alone to the extent that he will hurt himself to get out of a crate to follow you, can be heartbreaking and frustrating for owners. The good news is almost all cases are preventable. It is not only OK to leave your puppy alone in the crate for short periods of time – it is a great thing to do! The sooner your puppy learns that you leaving is no big deal because you always come back the better!
  5. Have your puppy meet lots and lots of people! The more happy and positive encounters your dog has with people of all shapes and sizes as a puppy the more likely he or she will be to meet strangers throughout his or her life. Socializing your puppy is key to his or her – and your – long-term happiness together.

Now you have 5 things you can do to move past feelings of remorse for getting a puppy – get started on them today! The trainer you hire – either via a class or a private in home lesson – can mean the difference between 15 years of happiness with your dog and sad little faces in March when the puppy goes away. Please, ask for help.

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training in Chester County, PA. We also teach Basic to Advanced Manners classes and offer in house dog training at Dogtopia of Chester Springs.

Head trainer Deb Murray, CPDT-KA is certified by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, an AKC Evaluator, a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer of the Catch Canine Academy, and APDT C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator and Instructor.

Pepper’s Paws New Year’s Resolutions

2016 is here – what are your New Year’s Resolutions? What do you have planned for your dog?

Every year many of us make New Year’s Resolutions – to lose weight, exercise more, read more, watch less TV – the list is endless! As you make Resolutions for yourself, how about some for your dog? Training goals, one-on-one sessions, getting involved with dog sports, taking a group obedience class (or getting to the next level) are all great ways to get you and your dog moving and enjoying each other’s company like never before! We at Pepper’s Paws have some dog related goals and plans we’d like to share with you – and perhaps even inspire you too!

My family has 4 great dogs – and they don’t know it yet, but I have big plans for them in 2016!  We just added an Agility for Fun 1 class – click here for more info.  All 4 dogs will start to learn some basics of Agility.


Pepper:  Pepper is ball crazy and loves to play. Pepper started learning the Agility jumps today and had a blast!  She is about 10 years old but don’t let her age fool you – this year in addition to starting Agility and my goal is for her to finally get her Intermediate Trick Dog Title from DoMoreWithYourDog.com  (Stay tuned for more on Trick classes this year).


Shadow: Shadow isn’t quite as nimble as Pepper, but he will do anything for food.  We are going to work to improve his excitement when he sees other dogs and increase his overall activity level through Agility! Shadow already has his Intermediate Trick Dog Title and he’ll start on his Advanced title this year!


Bear: Bear is going to learn to do Agility as well as Nosework (Pepper’s Paws is planning to offer a Nosework class this year – look for more info on this soon!) And Bear will be helping me with private lessons – he is a calming influence and is great at not reacting to reactive dogs.


Sammy: Ah Sammy, my fearful, reactive, unsure little guy!  He is going to do Agility in private sessions with me as well as Nosework, and you may even see him attend a group class with us too! Sammy is already working on his Intermediate Trick Title.

Pepper’s Paws has new series of Agility for Fun classes and programs to kick off 2016.  We have tricks classes, dog sports training classes, advanced obedience and K9 Fit Club (for people and their dogs to work out together) planned for later this year. Click here to see our complete list of our next round classes. Will any of these classes and programs help you and your pup achieve your New Year’s resolutions? We hope so. What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Tell us in the comments below!

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training in Chester County, PA. We also teach Basic to Advanced Manners classes and offer in house dog training at Dogtopia of Chester Springs.

Head trainer Deb Murray, CPDT-KA is certified by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, an AKC Evaluator, a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer of the Catch Canine Academy, and APDT C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator and Instructor.

Take a Hike – With Your Dog!

Days are getting a little short, there is a slight chill in the air, Autumn is here. The cooler temps provide a great opportunity to get outside and take in the beauty natuer without the crowds and heat and humidity of summer. This is a great time to take up a new hobby – hiking with your dog!

Prepare for Your Hike:Carlie

Bring water for you and your dog and doggie water bowl

Dress in layers – wear non-cotton wicking layers closest to your skin and windbreaker as your outermost layer

Bring snacks – for you and treats for your dog (think tasty tidbit for your dog, not full meal)

Try a hands free leash – they keep your dog safety on leash and let you use your unencumbered hands for balance

Wear proper footwear for the terrain you are hiking on – Eastern Mountain Sports is my go-to place for hiking footwear

Take pictures – if the scenery, your dog having fun, and of course a dog-mom/dad/kids selfie!

Get a map of the area you are planning to hike (and make sure you know how to read it :))

Make sure your dog has a secure collar with identification tags and a sturdy leash

Getting Started

Check with the Park Ranger – if hunting is allowed in the park, consider finding a park that does not allow hunting or wear bright orange and stay on well known and marked trails, hike as part of a group if possible

Make sure dogs are allowed in the park or area you are planning to hike – not all parks allow dogs

Even if the park or area allows off leash dogs, consider keeping your dog on leash the first few times (and ALWAYS on leash if your dog doesn’t have a rock solid recall)

Start on easy terrain for your first few hikes. Starting easy and gradually hiking more challenging terrain will make the experience more fun for you and your dog – give yourself and your dog time to learn to maneuver on steep inclines, over rocks, and around obstacles – a hike really can be more than just a walk in the woods!

Don’t over do it – too many miles too fast can result in injury/excessive soreness for you and your dog. It is no fun to realize halfway through a hike that you over-did it and now have to limp back to your car.

Remember to take breaks for water. Stop at least once per hour for a water break. Let your dog drink until he says he’s done – and while he’s drinking water your should too!

While on the Trail

Remember not everyone likes dog – be respectful of people who don’t want your dog to come say “HI!”

Not all dogs like other dogs – don’t allow your dog to visit other dogs that are overly excited, barking aggressively, or cowering away from your dog. The purpose of the hike is to bond with you, not every dog that comes down the trail.

Be prepared for the unexpected – look ahead down the trail you are on – if another dog comes, what is your plan? Have treats ready to distract your dog if needed. If you see an over-excited dog coming towards you on the trail, plan an exit strategy – don’t wait until the dogs are nose to nose to decide you need to get your dog out of there.

Watch your footing – take your time – learning to hike with a dog who may be pulling in the beginning and be over excited or distracted requires a different level of skill and coordination than just walking your dog down the street.

Post Hike

Cool down – don’t go from full exertion to dead stop. Gradually decrease your pace and incline so that by the time you and your dog get back in the car both of your breathing has returned to normal. Drink more water during this time too!

Water, water, water

Depending on where you hike you may need to clean your dog’s paws. Use a wet, warm towel to remove mud, debris, snow, etc. from your dog’s paws.

Take a minute to jot down a few notes about your hike – Did your dog like it? Did you? Too easy/hard/just right? Ideas for next time you hike there? Do you want to take a different route or direction next time? Anything else you should bring (or leave home)?

Share your picture on social media! You just may inspire someone else to take a hike with their dog – or you may find yourself with new hiking buddies! If you have taken a hike with your dog and want to share your pics feel free to post them on our Facebook page

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training in Chester County, PA. We also teach Basic to Advanced Manners classes and offer in house dog training at Dogtopia of Chester Springs.

Head trainer Deb Murray, CPDT-KA is certified by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, an AKC Evaluator, a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer of the Catch Canine Academy, and APDT C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator and Instructor.

7 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe on Halloween


Halloween can be a time of costumes, candy, and fun and games for kids. For dogs? Not so much. For dogs, Halloween can mean scary looking people, people carrying strange things in their hands, the over-stimulating and sometimes over-whelming sounds of children’s laughter and screams, and the ever-ringing door bell and lots of strange people visiting their home. PepperUnexpected surprises and sounds can rattle even the most socialized dog. So what is a good dog owner to do?

1. Take you dog for a nice long walk or training session – before the sun goes down and the Trick-or-Treaters come around. Or better yet – take your dog on a long walk that includes some basic manners training along the way. Have your dog Sit, Down, Stay, or do a hand touch at each mail box or driveway you come to. Mix up the rewards for the doing the behaviors too – sometimes a Sit gets a treat, sometimes some pettings, sometimes the reward is “Let’s go!” and the walk continues. The goal is to mental tire your dog out while he/she is exercising – a great way to twice the bang for your dog walk buck!

Bear2. Arrange for your dog NOT to have access to the Treat-or-Treaters. Set up a secure area for your dog – a crate in a room far away from the door, behind a bedroom door, on a leash with a person in another room are all good options. To help your dog want to stay away from the excitement at the door, turn on the TV or radio for your dog and give him/her something yummy to chew on – a Kong stuffed with a yummy treat (Kongcompany.com has some great recipes!), a long-last dog treat, or a fun toy that your dog loves. The idea is to remove your dog from the action of Halloween and reward them for doing so!

3. Prevent Trick-or-Treaters from using the doorbell! Cover the doorbell and hang a sign saying “Please Knock – Doorbell Broken” – or plan to hang out outside your home during Trick-or-Treat time. Reducing this one excitement inducing sound can make the difference between your dog having a bad night or a great night!

4. Make sure your dog has ID tags on at all times around Halloween – if he/she does manage to slip out in all the commotion of Halloween, you have a better chance at having a swift reunion if your phone number is on your dog’s collar.

5. If you insist on taking your dog out Trick-or-Treating (and by the way, we suggest you do not) don’t take your dog to each house, have the dog holder wait on the street while the Trick-or-Treaters go door to door. This will keep everyone safer (imagine your dog’s surprise is a scary monster answers a Trick-or-Treaters knock – it could be scary for all involved).Justice League Gang

6. Remember Halloween costumes can be scary for dogs. When people don’t look or sound like the dog expects (i.e. sans masks, carry fake swords, or walking like the Hunchback) – dogs don’t know what to make of it – so he/she may bark, lunge, growl, jump, or all of the above at the costumed person. Wouldn’t it be a better idea for your dog to think Halloween is just a day for him/her to get a great treat and some quiet time?

7. Halloween candy – in a word: NO. Chocolate, artful sweetness, and all the other goodness that ends up in Trick-or-Treat bags can spell trouble for dogs. Keep all candy, sweets, gum, and their wrappers away from dogs. Top of the fridge or in the hall closet are great places to store them (and it makes it harder for kiddies to over-indulge as well!)

Halloween is a fun time for kids and adults – let’s make it fun for dogs to by following these 7 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe on Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training in Chester County, PA. We also teach Basic to Advanced Manners classes and offer in house dog training at Dogtopia of Chester Springs.

Head trainer Deb Murray, CPDT-KA is certified by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, an AKC Evaluator, a Distinguished Graduate and now Mentor Trainer of the Catch Canine Academy, and APDT C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator and Instructor.