During my 20+ years working with families, the biggest question I get is...
"How Do I Know For Sure Things Will be OK With My Dog and Baby?"
(TL; DR: Dog bites to children are almost entirely preventable. Our online courses and friendly community will put your mind at ease!)
Answer: You Become The Guide
A guide is so much more than a "supervisor" of dogs and kids. The guide knows where they're going and anticipates the common hazards (and opportunities!). The guide is always assessing their team, helping them build skills and making accommodations so everyone succeeds together.
You have the power to make any situation safer and more relaxing for your whole family. Let's learn how to use it.
I’m Madeline Gabriel. I’m a Certified Professional Dog Trainer specializing in helping families like yours peacefully integrate their dogs and babies and young children since 2002.
Let me show you my safe, easy, proven path from pregnancy through preschool so you can best equip your family team and lead them to happily ever after.
You are the parents now. How's your family going to roll?
How Can I Help You?
Every family comes with their unique set of hopes and fears that usually include some combination of:
- Will my dog hurt my child?
- Will I still get to love my dog after baby arrives?
- What if it's too much work to manage everything?
Without safety, I think we can all agree that everything falls apart. Dogs don't bite out of the blue and dog bites to children are predictable and almost entirely preventable when you know what to look for.
I want your child to grow up to be your dog's next best friend and for your child to have beautiful memories of their time together. But even more, I want to help preserve your relationship with your dog so you get to enjoy your dog as a welcome companion every step of the way along your parenting journey.
Let's Make It Easier on You
There's no doubt managing everything with kids and dogs and overall parenting life can be a big pain and, sometimes, seriously overwhelming. Our courses and community are focused on helping you get set up for success and make it through the day-to-day with friendly support, doable training and easy quick fixes so you can have some peace.
Come Train With Me!
I've taught in-person versions of this material hundreds of times, and I love how well it translates to an online course and community. No more cramming or sitting in uncomfortable chairs! You get to learn at your pace and make a plan for your own family in the virtual company of other parents working towards the same goals.
Online Prep Course
Start right away, in the comfort of your own home, with compact lessons to keep you on track and stimulate family discussion.
Ask questions in-lesson and get personal answers from me. Compare notes with other students to make friends and share ideas.
Alumni Community Support
Join our friendly Alumni Community to keep up with training and fun activities to support your goals.
Live Happily Ever After
Because we address from pregnancy through preschool, you get to look ahead and set your family up for success.
What Else Do You Want to Know About Madeline?
I was managing the Behavior and Training Program at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA while I was pregnant with my first child so I put together a class for expectant and adopting parents and did some local TV segments and then mostly went back to "normal" dog training and shelter work while going on with my life at home with baby and two dogs.
The eye-opener came when I brought my one year old son to puppy class as a socialization/exposure opportunity for the puppies.
Sitting on the floor together, a grandmother asked me, “Why isn’t your baby reaching to pet the puppies when they come by?”
Feeling perplexed, I answered, “I’m not sure I understand. Why should he be trying to touch the puppies?”
We talked a bit and I tried to recall the number of times he might have touched our dogs at home in his first year and came up with, I don’t know, 12-20 times?
Now it was the grandmother’s turn to look surprised, “My grandkids touch the dog that many times in an hour!”
Oh. That’s different, isn’t it?
In my case, going into parenthood a little bit baby phobic informed my expectation that my dogs might not necessarily want anything to do with my baby. I wanted my dogs to be with me and my baby and I did not want any of us to be annoyed with each other. Because of my baby phobic predisposition, I assumed baby/toddler would, pretty much by definition, be annoying to a dog and I also wanted my dogs to remain part of the family. So we set it all up to be together in friendly ways that worked for everyone.
Until that puppy class, however, I didn’t realize that was not typical for how other babies and dogs were interacting. I found myself with a growing practice of dog and baby clients, sharing how to “demagnetize” babies and toddlers and allow the relationship to blossom without relying solely on the dog’s ability to “tolerate” normal (but annoying and often frightening!) toddler behavior. And, boy, did it work! While I continued to work with individual families to fix troublesome situations, what I really wanted to do was help families avoid those problems in the first place.That's what I did in 2004. I put my primary emphasis on Dogs and Babies work and started teaching prenatal classes at the major San Diego hospitals and working individually with families to resolve troublesome dynamics. My programs grew to reach hundreds of families per year. And then my husband wanted to move across country to North Carolina. I ended up closing my business and restarting in an online format that is so much better!
My primary credential is Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed, since 2002. This certification requires testing, professional recommendations, documented hours of experience and, most important, on-going continuing education, as well as adherence to Professional Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.
I am very proud to be a Level 3 Certified TAGteacher since 2012. TAGteach™ applies the science of human behavior to break down instructions to observable, achievable steps towards the overall goal. This tool/understanding helps me teach parents how to teach their very young children what TO do around dogs so they can give their children safe habits and raise kids dogs feel safe with.
Certified Family Dog Mediator® is a new in 2021 credential demonstrating education, understanding and commitment to helping dogs and their families live well together, with everyone's needs met as easily as possible for all concerned. Family Dog Mediation® is a certification from Kim Brophey's L.E.G.S.® Applied Ethology program that looks beyond just trying to train the dog to assessing opportunities found in all the L.E.G.S® : Learning, Environment, Genetics and Self. This credential helps me steer families towards solutions they may not have considered that may even be easier than a full blown training effort. It's a great fit with my focus on supporting dogs' coping skills and helping the whole family live happily together.
As an AKC Canine Good Citizen® Evaluator, I am approved to teach prep classes and administer the baseline CGC test, as well as, the next step options in the AKC Family Dog Program: AKC Community Canine and Urban CGC. These programs focus on real life skills, and it can be fun to have a structured goal and achievement for your dog! We can work on skills virtually, but testing is done in person other than the AKC Virtual Home Skills program which will be incorporated in our Alumni Membership.
My professional memberships in the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)/Supporting Member provide ongoing education and mutual support with other dog behavior professionals and require adherence to professional standards and codes of ethics delineated by each organization.
Click on the logos above to learn more about the organizations.
Short answer: I'm a positive reinforcement based trainer. If you already know that's what you want, you're in the right place. If you're coming from a different background or perspective, you are very welcome here! Give it a try and see what you think about instilling some helpful habits in your dog's repertoire.
My training recommendations are all going to be based on training from a point of success.
Every dog’s got one! It doesn’t matter how “bad” your dog’s behavior is — well-done reinforcement-based training empowers you to “claim” the good responses and shape them into new habits. Whenever you start from what your dog CAN do, you’re in a good position to build the behavior you want. Somehow, dog training has narrowed in the public perception to only being about trying to make the dog stop once he’s already doing what we don’t like.
Personally, I don’t choose to work from a point of failure.
I like to take whatever an individual dog can do and make it stronger — until the dog’s habits and responses better fit the family’s needs and everyone enjoys each other’s company. Often, there are also small changes we can make to how things are set up that require minimal training, and that's enough to make everything easier to manage.
When it comes right down to it, we all want dogs that fit in with our families and basically fit in with our routines without having to micromanage them. Pretty much by definition, “training” must lead to visibly different behavior choices in the future. Otherwise, it’s “attempted training.”
And, that’s what I often see — a lot of effort, good intentions, money and time invested, etc. and still there’s frustration in place of joy. The dog only responds to one person in the family or will only do it if you have a treat or won’t listen in certain situations or you have to repeat yourself a number of times or pull on the collar or whatever. Modern reinforcement-based training has so much more to offer!
Yes! My kids are now 17 and 20 and were an integral part of my dogs and babies reality from the time I was first pregnant with my oldest. At the time, I was running the Behavior and Training Department at the San Diego Humane Society and being pregnant was a great "visual" to pitch for additional TV air time so I did live demos on very dog trainer-y things like how you can teach your dog to pick up things you drop when it's hard to bend down or send your dog to fetch things when you have baby in your arms. And then when real life started, I paid close attention to easy ways to make it easier for all of us to live peacefully and happily together through all the stages.
I was lucky in that social media was not yet a thing and I could just raise my kids without all the comparison and social pressure new parents are faced with today. My hope for you is that you can do the same. That's why my classes revolve around the concept of, "YOU Are the Parents Now" and strive to support parents with information that will help you decide how your family is going to roll.
My dogs now are Juna and Ted. Juna is an English Shepherd and Ted is a Flat-Coated Retriever. She's almost two now and he's ten! My kids mostly grew up with our rescue mix, Betty, and various foster dogs. Notice the dirty socks on the couch? Sorry, boy life.
Between my classes and private training clients, I've worked with over 1,000 families. No one has had any surprises that I know of or situations where the Baby Safe Dog Training framework failed them. However, that does not mean that every family kept their dog in their home. And that's where it gets tricky in terms of what you are counting on as success or failure for your family. Every family has a different risk profile and different opportunities to compensate for gaps in their framework.
One family's call on whether they feel safe and capable of managing the needs of everyone - dog, baby and parents - is not going to be everyone's call. What you get with this program is a clear, informed assessment of risk and opportunity so you can make the best call for your family situation.
Sometimes there are just too many non-dog challenges going on and the family has good options with extended family or friends to take the dog so there's no shame in that. This is the most common outcome when a dog does not remain in the home. Prepping your dog to be the best version of himself or herself expands your options for a happy placement.
Decisions that have ended in behavioral euthanasia, in my experience with clients, have never been about the baby, per se. Instead, there were pre-existing conditions that were already unsafe. No one makes these decisions lightly, and it is very helpful for students and clients to get the full picture of what can theoretically be done and then evaluate what can realistically be done to ensure safety and well-being for that individual family unit. Every situation can be made safer and easier to manage.
Almost every one of my bite clients were able to happily and safely keep their dogs in their family. Of course, it should be obvious that we are talking about very minor bites. The exceedingly rare situation where a dog has seriously injured a baby or young child is not, in my opinion, one that I am comfortable giving any assurances about.
As I started writing this, I realized that my more interesting fun facts are related to getting to live my dreams AND that lots of fun things happened after I had kids, too. So, if you are worried that your life will change after baby, my wish for you is that you keep finding lots of dreams to come true. In vaguely chronological order:
- I grew up in NYC and moved to California as a young adult. California!!
- I learned to drive a stick shift when I bought a used Mustang convertible without asking about the transmission. The guy I bought it from gave me a lesson in a parking lot and I drove it over the Bay Bridge and home to San Francisco, trying to avoid any hills. Which was essentially impossible of course.
- My husband and I took our Guide Dog in Training to the top of the original World Trade Center. The elevator operator eyeballed us and said, "That dog's not going to sh** in my elevator, is he?"
- Twice, I was chosen to move from back row to front row at Bruce Springsteen concerts. Front row!!
- I'm not a confident rider, but I got to lease a horse for more than two years. My own horse friend!
- When our kids were 9 and 12, we sold our house, took them out of school for a year, bought a used RV and drove around the United States to see as many interesting things as we could. This was a consolation prize for agreeing to move from San Diego to North Carolina.
- I've designed two IKEA kitchens and three IKEA bathrooms and my house might resemble an IKEA catalog but messier. Guess where we went on a big family trip a few years ago? Stockholm - which was awesome - and yes, we went to IKEA.
- It took me two years to work up my courage to join a kickboxing gym in 2018.
- Right before Covid hit, I finally got the English Shepherd puppy I wanted for years and years. We name all our dogs after people we know. She's Juna - after a little girl whose family adopted one of our foster puppies.
- Besides my dog training business, I also work part time at Trader Joe's since 2019. I couldn't resist when TJ's finally came to Greensboro. I have a super flexible schedule and 70+ new friends of all ages and backgrounds - how often does that opportunity come around? What's your favorite TJ's item? Mine is currently the Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer.
What's On Your Mind? Let's Talk!
Prep for Life With Dog and Baby Online Course - Join Us!
Due to unexpected family obligations, the official launch is postponed probably at least until 2024. Until then, I am working with interested families in a "behind the scenes" combination of personalized support and early access to recorded lessons and community participation.