SDOS Episode 18 – How to deal with kids and dogs with Leah and Justine

Episode 18 If you have ever tried to deal with the overwhelm of having children and a dog then you will LOVE today’s show. Dom has his first double guest interview and is talking to Leah Hatley and Justine Chater Shuurmans from The Family Dog. These awesome dog trainers have niched down into helping out families who want to have a stress free like with their new dog or puppy. In this episode they share some of their secrets and wisdom so you can do the same.

[.44] Buy my book! (got that one in early this time) [1.50] How to handle your dog over the busy Christmas period [2.38] Today’s guests are Leah and Justine [2.51]What is the Family Dog [3.34] The Greyhound Round [5.30] Justine’s embarrassing hotdog story.. [6.45] Leah’s embarrassing dog thief story..[8.20] Where did it all start for Leah and Justine [10.30] Leah and Justine’s book recommendations [12.30] What are the top three problems that Leah and Justine’s clients come to them with? [13.40] How to deal with the overwhelm of a new dog? [14.12] How to deal with kids and dogs [16.59] How to ‘manage’ your dog [17.50] How do the girls like to bond with their dogs? [18.35] A cool indoor training tip [19.10] What is the best advice Leah and Justine have ever been given [25.45] Where to find out more about what the girls are doing! [22.00] How do the girls chill out? [23.46] What to buy yourself for Christmas? (HINT- it’s Dom’s book!) [24.35] Coming up next week…

Mentioned in this episode

Dom’s book

Full Transcript

Leah:     A success right off the bat is really important and then you can make very few training skills do everything you need, a dog doesn’t need more than a couple.

Dom:     Hello, me bonnie bairns and welcome to episode 18 of the Superhero Dog Owners Show. Don’t worry Alex, I’ll never do that again. My name is Dom Hodgson, I’m your host and I am the author of the best-selling, “How to be Your Dog’s Superhero”. I’ve been the best-seller for about a whole week anyways Alex, but I was very pleased about it.

Alex:      It’s still a best-seller.

Dom:     Yeah, true. I’m joined by my good friend Alex the video guy.

Alex:      Hello, good-afternoon or more like evening by the looks of it.

Dom:     Good middle of the night. It’s all right, it’s not too bad, it’s actually not as cold as last week Alex, it’s not raining anymore but I still think, I’m going to treat you to a fireside podcast.

Alex:      Yeah, I’m still waiting for this, you promised me this a few weeks ago.

Dom:     Maybe not next week, maybe we’ll do a Christmas one, late at night, get the logs on the fire, glass of whisky for myself, you can have a cocoa and we’ll treat the viewers to a fireside doggy podcast.

Alex:      Lovely.

Dom:     Talking about Christmas is coming and it’s a time when a lot of families come together, don’t they, hopefully anyway. This can sometimes be quite stressful for the dogs.

Alex:      Okay.

Dom:     If the dogs aren’t used to people coming or maybe it’s the dog’s given too much turkey by different people but I think in general putting the dog into the mix, or throwing the dog into the mix, with a busy family and most families are busy these days with both parents working and ferrying the kids to dance lessons, in my case, and different things, and trying to manage your dog with the time that you’ve got can be really really difficult.

I have two super awesome guests this week who run the Family Dog programme in America, it’s Leah and Justine and I talked to these guys, I’m a huge fan of what they do, they run an on-line dog training programmes, similar to what we do Alex as well. There’s enough dogs to go around, I’m happy to promote other people as well because if they’re doing awesome stuff then I want people to know about it.

Alex:   Yeah.

Dom:     This is the interview that I did with Leah and Justine, if you’ve got a dog and you’ve got a family, you’ve got kids and stuff then you really need to watch this interview, so, roll the tape Alex.

My guests today are both dog trainers who are based in New Jersey, they run the Family Dog website. This is an in-home dog training company and it brings practical solutions to families in need of some training with their dogs.

Their website’s awesome, it’s got a lot of great resources on there, we’re going to talk about those in a minute. I really like what these girls are doing with the … Just the whole message, it’s really easy to understand, it’s practical, it’s safe and I think every family will benefit from listening to what they say.

That’s why I invited them on the podcast, I think we’re going to get a lot of value from it so I’d like to welcome my first double guests, Leah and Justine. Welcome to the show.

Leah:     Hi.

Justine:                Hi.

Leah:     Thanks Dom, that was a nice introduction.

Dom:     You’re very welcome. Are you guys okay today, you cool? Oh, it’s stopped.

Dom:     It’s frozen, but we’re back, that’s fine. Okay, we’re going to dive straight in with the greyhound round. This is a quick fire round, I want to get to know you guys a little bit better so we’ve got some quick fire questions. You can answer one each or you can just fire answers out. Are you guys ready to go?

Justine:                Yes.

Leah:     Ready.

Dom:     All right then, your favourite superhero?

Justine:                Batman. You have to say-

Leah:     Me, a favourite superhero, oh gosh, I don’t know, I’m not sure I’m that super.

Justine:                Yes you are, she’s her own superhero.

Leah:     How about that woman that does the stretching, and she can reach everything.

Dom:     Yeah, yeah.

Justine:                I don’t know but I want to be her.

Leah:     I know.

Dom:     Do you prefer Indian or Chinese food?

Leah:     Indian.

Justine:                Indian, both of us.

Dom:     Good stuff. Are we early birds or night owls?

Justine:                Night owl.

Leah:     Yeah, early.

Dom:     Okay, good. Nice subtle contrast there. Do you prefer red or white wine?

Leah:     Red, no question.

Justine:                Red.

Dom:     Your favourite animal that isn’t a dog?

Justine:                I don’t know, just in general we’re animal lovers, as long you’re not a mosquito or a tick, any animal is pretty good with us.

Leah:     I could … Watch for hours, we love animals.

Justine:                Monkeys, cows, goats, oh my gosh, pygmy goats, there’s so many.

Leah:     Goats.

Dom:     Very good, okay, I’m going to give you a nine out of ten for that, you did very well there girls. You were very enthusiastic. Let’s get into it now, you guys are both dog trainers, we have a lot of pet dog owners who watch this show and I like them to see that us trainers, we get lots of things wrong as well all the time. We make many many mistakes with our dogs and we’ve made all-

Justine:                What are you talking about, no we don’t.

Dom:     Okay, I’m just talking to you Leah now. Can you guys share with me a story of something embarrassing that’s maybe happened to you while you guys were training, either your own dogs or somebody else’s?

Justine:                Dominic, I love this question because I think it’s really important that we tell everybody that we are always making mistakes, that’s just the way it goes, we’re human so we’re not perfect. I have a pretty good story, I went for a hike with my first dog as an adult, with my then boyfriend, now husband, and we were in the woods and we came across a bunch of guys who were sunbathing in a riverbed, naked, reading newspapers.

Don’t spit out your water, and it was really embarrassing, we sort of decided we would give them some privacy so we turned around and hooked back on ourselves at which point there was a guy walking towards us who was also going to join the gang, naked, but wearing a backpack and hiking boots.

My dog just ran full speed towards him, jumped up on him and just licked him exactly where you would not want a dog to lick anybody, and the only thing I could say was, “I’m so sorry, he’s all wet.” I could not call him back, he was having none of it.

Dom:     No, okay, there’s are many many things I could say now but I won’t.

Justine:                Be careful of training your dog with hot dogs, maybe that’s it.

Dom:     That’s the thing, yeah, definitely. I always wondered what went in the hot dogs but now I’m even more confused.

Justine:                You don’t need to think about that.

Dom:     Okay, and what about you Leah?

Leah:     This was also with my first dog as an adult, my little Sheltie, she was good, we trained her to leave it around food and she needed to be asked, she needed to ask before we gave her anything but we got a second dog and put her on a diet and food became a little more valuable.

Then we had our first baby, we had the first birthday party for her and we invited everybody, it was a big deal but they were all in our backyard. We had 85 people or 100 people in our backyard, you can imagine there’s a lot of people milling about, there were a lot of hot dogs and hamburgers and stuff.

Our next door neighbour had an adult son who unfortunately had a brain tumour as a child, so he was wheelchair bound and didn’t have a lot of mobility but he did have a cookie. He did have the cookie in his hand and it was right over the wheelchair, dangling near the ground and my little Sheltie just could not help herself and she ran right up, snatched the cookie out of his hand and ran away. That’s pretty embarrassing when your dog is stealing food from disabled people. We’re not perfect.

Dom:     Very good, so both kind of food related stories there in their different ways. Good stories. Let’s go back in time a little bit now, I know you guys have lots going on at the minute but where did it all start for you? What was your relationship with dogs as you were growing up, how did you get into dogs?

Justine:                It’s really weird, we tried to be different in so many ways so that we have our own personalities but the story of dogs really is the same for both of us. We both loved dogs growing up and the dog training journey really began with our own dogs.

When we first had dogs as an adult, the amount of fun we had just taking other people’s training classes. Just going to training and seeing the connexion that you can make with your dog, and the kind of language that you can have between you and the bond that you can grow together. That was the start of it for both of us I think.

Leah:     Well …

Justine:                Not for Leah.

Leah:     That was the starting of really training-

Justine:                Yes, not the early part.

Leah:     I was lucky in that my parents let me have a dog growing up and just seeing just how to beg for a dog for years and years and years.

Justine:                I only had my grandma’s dog, I wasn’t allowed my own dog growing up.

Leah:     Isn’t that sad? I did have a dog though and at the time dogs were just, run free and I guess we had a leash somewhere, I’m not really sure we even had a leash. My parents didn’t neuter him, when I asked them, they were like, I said, “Why didn’t you neuter him?”

“I don’t know.” They never even sort of considered it-

Dom:     Not an issue.

Leah:     Even though he was roaming free in the neighbourhood so there were puppies. It was … We had a dog house for him, he ended up not living in the dog house but that was the thought at first. Dogs were outdoor animals and they were animals, my father grew up on a farm so it was a whole different concept.

I do remember that my dad, using a rolled-up newspaper to tell him get out of the kitchen when we’re eating. He didn’t hurt him but that was what he knew, just shoo, get away. I loved the dog and I wanted him to do tricks so I got out treats and I taught him to do all kind of tricks with treats just hit and miss because there was no training, we never did any kind of formal training, and they worked. They worked really well, so there was no going back for me, that was just a pivotal moment that-

Dom:     Yeah, a specific moment, I like that when you kind of … A few people have said that where they’re, you know, something happened like that and they realised the possibilities of what they could do with the dog and obviously it’s led you to where you are now, that’s fantastic, good stories.

Was there anybody who inspired you to learn more about dogs, either when you were younger or inspired you to become trainers and stuff?

Leah:     My dog is what she was saying earlier.

Justine:                You’re talking about people though, you’re saying people in general?

Dom:     Yeah.

Justine:                I think, for me, when I started training my own dog the dog was definitely the inspiration for sure and the connexion that we had, but I remember the first book that got me, and I was like, “I’m done.”, and that was “The Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson.

It just changed everything for me and I was like, “Oh, this is what I want to do.” I go so excited about the idea about her perception of dogs and the way that she saw the world of dogs. The hilarious thing is that my dog who’s now 14 chewed up that book, my dog actually ate my homework, one of my, another embarrassing story.  That book changed a lot for me.

Dom:     Very good. We’re finished with embarrassing stories now, no more embarrassing stories, okay?

Leah:     Yeah, no more embarrassing stories.

Justine:                There’s plenty, there are plenty.

Leah:     If your listeners want another good book, the one for me that changed everything was Patricia McConnell’s, “The Other End of the Leash”.

Justine:                Oh yeah, that’s classic.

Leah:     I read that and I was like, “Wow.”

Justine:                That’s essential,

Leah:     It’s everything it can be.

Dom:     Yeah, great books. Really good books them, yeah. Let’s move on to what you guys are up to at the moment and what you’ve been working on the last couple of years. You run the Family Dog website and like I said there’s loads of free resources on there, I do like the way you guys make the dog training very easy, it’s something that I like to do as well.

Very practical so that people can … They don’t have to study canine psychology for four years, they can just learn some of it and get on with it, it should be easy. Dog training should be easy and it should be fun. For newer and less experienced dog owners who don’t have the time to do, to join a competitive or obedience class or something like that, they just want to enjoy their dog and they want to have fun with it, what do you guys find the top three problems that people come to you with?

Justine:                We work predominantly, not predominantly, exclusively with families so they have young children. We have just a section of the population really, this isn’t your everyday, could be a young couple that get a dog, they wouldn’t be our clients.

Typical ones we get would be puppy mouthing and scaring the kids because I think the family has a really beautiful picture and they’re going to get a dog, it’s going to be awesome. The kids have probably been hitting them up to get a dog for about the last three years and they finally said, “Yes, pull the trigger, let’s do it.” The puppy comes home, they all love the puppy for about three seconds until it nips at somebody and those teeth are so sharp, kids start crying, they’re standing on chairs and the moment of paradise is so short lived.

Leah:     Even if they don’t get a new puppy another one of the two big things that people come to us for is just overwhelm, even if they adopt a dog they have that picture and then the reality of the dog and everything it takes for the dog to become acclimated to the house, and the scheduling, and him moving in, and who does what, and he has some issues, it’s a lot.

Dom:     Definitely, yeah.

Justine:                That was probably the birth of our simple style of training-

Leah:     Yeah.

Justine:                You just can’t throw so much at these families that are struggling just to keep their heads above water. If you try to make it too complicated, too scientific, they don’t care. They just want to be able to put one foot in front of the other and get the kids off to school in the morning without killing somebody.

Dom:     Yeah, definitely, yeah. That’s true, I know that’s true.

Leah:     We know how that feels.

Dom:     Even if you don’t have a dog, so yeah.

Justine:                Exactly.

Leah:     Right.

Dom:     So touching on that then, what you were just talking about there, if there’s people watching this and they’re going to get a puppy or a rescue dog in the next couple of weeks, what advice would you give them to help with that overwhelm and to help put some building blocks in place for them to have a successful family life with their new dog?

Leah:     The first thing is management, really you have to triage when you first get a dog. Keep him in a smaller area, he doesn’t need to be out in the whole house, manage the situations, so he’s not stealing food from the kids at the dinner table because he’s not at the dinner table.

He can be in his crate, make the crate a really great place to be. So, manage and get him on a schedule, scheduling helps both the dog and you so the dog knows what to expect, “Okay, I am going to get to go out, I can maybe hold on for a couple of minutes, I don’t have to bark and whine at everybody.”, because they get used to that.

Also, you know what you’re doing next, it’s so overwhelming when you just don’t know what to do, sometimes all you need is a plan. We have an on-line programme that includes a schedule so that you can print it out, who’s doing what and when and making sure that you’re getting things in for the dog, it’s just such a relief.

Justine:                I think some of the … Also just to add to that is that in the planning stages is so often when somebody gets a new dog they’re running behind them saying, “No, no, no.” Dogs naturally do so many things that are difficult for us to live with, they pick up stuff off the floor, they try to steal food, they chase, they jump, they bark. It’s very easy to say no to almost everything that they do, so what we typically say to our clients is, try and think of the situations that you are really struggling in.

What’s the time, maybe the front door has become an issue already, maybe mealtimes or packing lunches is a time when your dog’s trying to get up at the table, trying to get at the counter. What’s your plan? How can you set your dog up totally to be successful so you can say, “Yes, I love that.”

You can chase them around all day saying no but unless you’re telling him, “Yes, I like what you’re doing.”, and you’re rewarding him for that, he can’t repeat it. If you just say no, if I just said to you, “No, Dominic, no.” What is it, no don’t wear a grey shirt or no don’t sit down or no stop smiling?

Dom:     I can’t do any of those things.

Justine:                You don’t know what the no is and the puppy certainly doesn’t know what the no is because he doesn’t speak english so try and figure out where you can set him up for success and give him a yes, what is the thing, I like what you’re doing.

Leah:     After you set him up for success and you’ve managed the situation, let’s say, and you’ve got calm in your house and everything’s on a schedule, that’s when you can think about training so that you have a language with the dog and then you don’t have to keep him on a tether at the dinner table because he understands to lie down on this bed until you’re done. Don’t worry about introducing that too early when no one is going to be successful. Success right off the bat is really important-

Dom:     Yeah, I like that.

Leah:     Then you can make very few training skills do everything you need, a dog doesn’t need more than a couple.

Dom:     No, you’re dead right.

Justine:                No.

Dom:     That’s fantastic advice, I like the idea, I teach that a lot as well. We always talk about who’s a good boy and you have to tell the dog that he’s a … He has to know what it is to be a good boy or a good girl, obviously. It gets tiring and frustrating, doesn’t it, if you’re an owner and you feel like you’re just telling your dog off all the time.

We’re coming towards the end of the interview now, what are your favourite kind of activities that you like to do with your dogs to have fun with them and just to bond and connect and generally have a good time?

Justine:                What we do now is definitely different to what we used to do, before we had kids and we had a little bit more free time, we liked the dog sports stuff, we did agility and I did rally and Leah did nose work-

Leah:     Nose work, yeah.

Justine:                We love all of that stuff, it’s a little bit hard at getting to classes now because our kids need running here, there and everywhere after school, so it’s tricky. We’re both big walkers so we like to hike and definitely with our dogs, swimming-

Leah:     Swimming, hide and seek.

Justine:                Hide and seek is great, we’ll play that ourselves or we’ll get the kids to play and it’s raining here today so if the dogs don’t get much exercise we give each kid a little treat bag full of treats and just tell them to run across the house and call the dog’s name. The dog comes running to one kid, they get some treats, and they say, “Done.” The other kid calls the dog and they’re in a different hiding spot, dogs run, treats, “Done.”

Dom:     That’s a great game.

Justine:                That’s a really fun game.

Dom:     Yeah, that’s a good game, brilliant, and you should try it without the treats as well and see who’s the favourite kid.

Justine:                Oh yeah, exactly. They have a sniff and be like, “You’ve got nothing.”

Dom:     That’s awesome advice, I like that a lot. What’s the best bit of advice that you guys have ever been given in your life? This can be dog related or something else entirely.

Leah:     All things in moderation.

Justine:                That’s a good one.

Dom:     Can you give me an example of … Obviously red and white wine aside.

Leah:     I would love to say that it was great advice and I totally got it, and I do everything in moderation but of course, that just isn’t the case. I think it’s great advice because I need to hear it a lot, so as soon as I find myself doing too much, I’ve gotten all into work and I’m giving no family time, I have to think about that and go back to a little bit more balance in my life. You drink a glass … All things in moderation, or maybe a little not moderation one day and a little more moderation another.

Dom:     Good one and what about you Justine?

Justine:                For me, I’m one of those people that just loves all those kind of quotes, I get a lot out of that stuff, but if I had to pick one, my favourite one would probably be, “Progress is more important than perfection.” I really love that and I think that’s something that we all have to remind ourselves of regularly because I’m a perfectionist, I’m a pain in the neck, Leah will tell you.

It’s hard for me to just let go of some things but also sometimes when our kids struggle with school work and stuff they want to be great at everything so quickly and just to remind them that you’re not going to be great overnight, it’s just not going to happen. Take time and just see the tiny little increments of progress, they all add up and eventually you’ll be in a place that you’ll be super happy.

Dom:     Yeah, definitely.

Leah:     So the same with dog training.

Justine:                Yeah, exactly.

Dom:     Definitely, yeah, I agree. Good enough is good enough isn’t it? Yeah, I like that.

Justine:                It really is, and keep trying, the progress is to keep trying, don’t give up.

Dom:     Yeah, very good. Where can people go to find out more about you and what you guys have got to offer then?

Leah:  That’s “The” the word T-H-E FAMILYDOG.COM. There’s loads of resources if you click in the parent section, some quick fix videos that are two minutes long and will bring you some peace and there’s an on-line programme there that will take you A to Z, everything you need to know, get the whole family on board-

Justine:                The on-line programme for families is actually really awesome because if you take a dog to dog training classes the dog’s getting trained, which is great because as we talked about the dog needs a language, when you say, “Sit.”, he can understand what sit means, it’s not just yelling some babbaly word.

Our on-line training programme has a whole section for parents on how to survive with a kid and a dog in the same house and also a whole video programme for kids as well, so that they can do the right thing because sometimes they can’t really get that information anywhere else. It’s hard to teach family skills in a dog training class because not everybody has kids so this was meant to be complimentary medicine to a puppy class or as an add-on …

Dom:     Yeah, definitely, I like that.

Justine:                It’s fun, we’re being silly in it, we dress up and we’re just, you know …

Dom:     You do, yeah. Thanks very much for your time. When you’re not getting interviewed or you’re helping dogs, dog owners and putting stuff on your website, how do you guys like to chill out and relax and not dropping your kids off at competitions and school? …

Leah:     I read, I love to read and remember that glass of wine I told you about?

Dom:     Yeah.

Justine:                She’s drinking it in moderation, I’m not, but she is. I love yoga, any chance I get to nip out of work and drop the kids off and do an hour or so of yoga, that’s definitely my thing, but to be honest, I know it sounds a little hokey because we’re talking about dogs, but I think there’s nothing better than being in the woods with your dogs.

Dom:     Yeah definitely.

Justine:                Or being in a big field and watching them run, that’s pretty awesome.

Dom:     Yeah, I’ve heard that a few times as well, that’s a popular answer. Thank you very much for your time today ladies, I’ve really really enjoyed it, I’m sure everyone listening and watching, really enjoyed it as well. I’ll put the notes for your guys website in the show notes, the link in there so people can access that, they can check out all the great free resources that you’ve got and I look forward to having you on the show again sometime if you’re up for it.

Leah:     Sure, thanks Dom.

Justine:                Thanks so much for having us Dominic, we appreciate it.

Dom:     No worries, take care of yourselves.

Justine:                Bye, you too.

Leah:     Bye.

Dom:     So there we go, how awesome was that? They were a lot of fun though, weren’t they Alex?

Alex:      Yes, they were, we laughed a lot in that one.

Dom:     We did, it was good-

Alex:      I tried not to behind the camera but, you did.

Dom:     Yeah, well I always laugh anyway, but they were great and the message is fantastic. The message is simple to understand, for you, and you should definitely go and check out their website. I’ll put the link again in the show notes but you should go check out the website, they’ve got a lot of free resources on there for you to check out. They have nice … They get dressed up and they sign songs and stuff for the kids, it’s fabulous stuff, so definitely check that out. Christmas is a coming Alex …

Alex:      It is.

Dom:     Whether you like it or not it’s coming, I know you already have a copy but if you don’t have a copy then you should make an effort to go to and you can get a copy of my best-selling dog training book, “How to be Your Dog’s Superhero”.

The book cost £19.97, I’ll throw you a free gift in there as well and I will even sign the book for you too and I’ll post that anywhere in the world and it don’t cost you any extra for the postage. The book has 60 plus reviews on Amazon and all but one or two of them, from grumpy people who didn’t like it, all but one or two of those reviews, say that it’s a great book, it’s a really easy to understand book, it explains dog training in a way that’s [adept 00:24:32]. Pet dog owners that don’t know anything about dog training can understand and so make an effort to get a book or buy it for a friend who has a dog who’s having trouble with because that will help them too. That’s it for us this week, Alex.

Alex:      Is it?

Dom:     Next week’s show we’re going to be having another guest, Alex.

Alex:      Excellent.

Dom:     This is fantastic dog trainer called Sian Ryan, she wrote a book called … She co-wrote a book I think called “No Walks, No Worries”. It’s an awesome book, it’s a book that I bought and used myself when Sidney, my little Cocker-Spaniel hurt his cruciate ligament and so he had to have a lot of crate rest.

She’s just generally a super awesome knowledgeable dog trainer who talks a lot of sense and I think you’re going to get a lot of value from next week’s interview. If you’re enjoying the show, please go and leave us a review and a rating on Amazon, that will make us very happy and we’ll see you next week when we’re talking to Sian. Thank you Alex.

Alex:      No problem, thank you Dom.

Dom:     If we don’t see you through the week, we’ll see you through the window.



Meet the Author

Dom Hodgson