Have your kids been begging for a dog? I adopted a puppy about a month and a half ago, and I’m here to confirm what you probably already know: it’s a blast but so much work at the same time. One of the trickiest parts has been sorting through all the conflicting training advice. Everybody has a different opinion on what to do, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and concerned that I am somehow setting my little furball up for a lifetime of problems. (Yes, it’s a little like parenthood!)
I spoke to renowned dog behaviorist Cesar Millan, known for his work on the television show Dog Whisperer, and here are his recommendations for families raising a puppy:
Make an agreement as a group. “Everybody focuses on what kind of breed they want, but first you need to all commit to the work ahead of you,” Millan explains. Often, a dog is brought into the family because the kids push for it, regardless of whether or not they are ready for the responsibility. Everyone needs to be prepared—and Mom and Dad need to make the ultimate decision together.
Consider fostering a dog before you bring home your own. Everybody benefits this way: The dog gets to experience a house with a loving family, and you can get insight into whether or not your clan is ready for a permanent pet.
Look for a dog with low or medium energy. “It has nothing to do with breed,” Millan says. “In a family of three kids, one will often be more active than the others even though they have the same parents. It’s the same with dogs.” Puppies with lower energy levels are more likely to be followers and won’t try to become the leader of the “pack.”
Don’t try to be your dog’s best buddy. “Dog lovers want to be friends with their pet rather than the authority figure,” Millan says. This can cause serious behavior problems from a young age. Millan adds, “Discipline is not punishment. It’s teaching him how to behave. In the long run, giving your dog constant affection and no discipline is far more hurtful to him.”
Let children help out by walking the dog. “Most kids want to chase dogs, but that’s encouraging a predatory behavior,” Millan explains. “They also like to carry puppies around like a baby. But puppies need to walk to experience their own environment. Otherwise, they’ll never learn the boundaries and rules around the house.”
Start training young. Sure, he’s just a puppy right now, but if you let him get away with jumping or barking from the get-go, you will have serious trouble setting boundaries later on.
For more expert advice, check out the finale of Cesar 911, which airs tonight on Nat Geo Wild. (But first, watch our video on teaching kids to be responsible pet owners below!)
Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners
One of my favorite children’s movies last summer was Turbo, a fast-paced adventure about a snail who dreams of racing in the Indy 500. The film is full of humor and heart that kids and adults can enjoy—and who can resist Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of a snail?
So naturally, I was excited when DreamWorks released five episodes of the animated series Turbo FAST (that stands for “Fast Action Stunt Team”) on Netflix during the holiday season. Picking up right where the movie ended, the show is full of crazy stunts, thrilling races and all sorts of new challenges for the wacky group of friends. Now, the next batch of episodes will be released on Netflix tomorrow, April 4. Take a sneak peek at what’s in store with this exclusive clip from an upcoming episode:
Plus, families can prepare for the release with the viewing party kit, which offers instructions for creating a racing obstacle course, coloring pages, trading cards and more. (Personally, I’m looking forward to trying the instructions for creating your own taco stand!)
Here are some of our favorite new movies, games, and more!
Movies and DVD
In Rio 2, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway), and their kids leave Rio de Janeiro for an adventure in the Amazon rain forest. They soon discover that the jungle is under threat and that their nemesis, Nigel the cockatoo (Jemaine Clement, from Flight of the Conchords), is seeking revenge. G; opens April 11
Embrace Earth Day with Disneynature’s newest wildlife documentary, Bears. Follow a mother and her two cubs for a year, as they emerge from hibernation and evade predators. G; opens April 18
Spring may be here, but there’s still time to enjoy Disney’s Frozen. The hit movie based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” warmed hearts of all ages over the holidays. Now, Blu-ray bonus features include deleted scenes, music videos, and behind-the-scenes footage. PG; $45
Set sail on a magical journey with Sofia the First: The Floating Palace. When our heroine visits the mermaid kingdom, she soon becomes involved in an attempt to rescue her friend Oona. Luckily, Princess Ariel is on hand to help. 3 years+; $20
Doc McStuffins: Mobile Clinicteaches that helping others is a delight. Doc and her dad have built a mobile clinic, and they’re now making house calls to fix toys in need—and singing some songs while they’re at it, of course. The DVD comes with a reusable tote bag too. 4 years+; $20
BatteryPOP is a new and free kids entertainment platform—and a safer alternative to YouTube. All of the videos are curated by Nickelodeon vets, so content is age-appropriate. Your kid will enjoy watching tutorials and sharing videos with friends.
Answer your kid’s toughest questions, such as why people speak different languages, with the Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) app. Or click “Surprise Me” to learn new info. 4 years+; $2 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
Make meals more fun for little ones with Yo Gabba Gabba! Party in My Tummy. The colorful characters encourage both healthy eating and trying new foods in this cute animated app. After feeding time is over, your child will need to help his friends clean up—and join them with a song and dance too. 3 years+; $2 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
Young Luna visits her grandfather and learns all about his exciting job in The Cloud Factory, an interactive storybook. Help gather ingredients for the clouds by swiping and tapping the screen. The black-and-white illustrations and smooth accompanying music give the app a classic and inviting feel. 5 years+; $2 for iPad
If your preschooler is interested in cars, she will love Things That Go ~ Touch, Look, Listen. The visual dictionary features interactive 3D-style animation, cheerful narration, and bright photographs of more than 55 vehicles such as trucks, tractors, and trains. And if your kid is bilingual, you can also let them learn in French, German, Spanish, or Chinese. 2 years+; $2 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
Anglophiles won’t want to miss Alph and Betty’s Topsy Turvy World, a charming storybook created by a development team that includes those who worked on the Harry Potter movies and Doctor Who. The tale follows an older British couple living in a house full of gadgets and inventions. Puzzles and mini games encourage letter recognition, rhymes, and alliteration. 3 years+; $3 for iPad
Fans of the TV series will love Lego Legends of Chima Online. Customize your outpost and your armor, complete missions, and explore new environments. Plus, a variety of parental controls provide peace of mind for Mom and Dad. 7 years+; free for basic version, with membership options available for extra features, for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and PC
Get three games in one with Cut the Rope: Triple Treat. Help the green monster Om Nom fill up on candy by avoiding obstacles and collecting bonus stars. With more than 650 levels to defeat, the challenges are exciting enough for adults, while still entertaining for young kids. 7 years+; $30 for 3DS
Help a little armadillo named Armillo travel through space while protecting the galaxy from Darkbots. Gamers roll and jump through different worlds, solve puzzles, and gather power-ups and orbs to gain more power. A variety of 2-D and 3-D graphics make the action even more interesting. 6 years+; $8
Here are some of our favorite new movies, games, and more!
Movies and DVD
An intelligent dog (Ty Burrell) and his adopted son (Max Charles) time-travel in Mr. Peabody & Sherman. While the two experience world-changing events and meet some of the greats, including Mona Lisa, King Tut, and Abe Lincoln, Sherman almost alters world history, with comical results. *What’s in it for you The goofy sense of humor and one-liners will bring out your inner kid. PG; opens March 7
The gang returns with Muppets Most Wanted. The sequel to the popular 2011 film opens with the characters on a sold-out tour around Europe. But mayhem begins when Kermit’s doppelganger—and the world’s number-one criminal—appears. PG; opens March 21
Action fans eagerly awaiting the next blockbuster can prepare with Transformers Prime: Ultimate Bumblebee. The DVD release features four exciting episodes about the brave and determined Autobot. 7 years+, $10
The DVD release of Strawberry Shortcake: Berry Big Help features three episodes focused on teaching children to help out whenever they can. Whether it’s Strawberry babysitting or Orange adopting a homesick tadpole, the girls learn that a little assistance can go a long way. 2 years+, $15
One of the highest-rated sports-game franchises is back with MLB 14 The Show. Realistic enhancements let users play faster than ever before, as well as save games to be carried over to future versions of The Show. 6 years+, $60 for PS3 and PS4, price not yet released for PS Vita
Mario lovers will want to check out Yoshi’s New Island, the third installment in the popular franchise. Use Mega Eggdozers to mow down obstacles, destroy pipes and blocks, and reveal hidden doors. The new binocular ability lets players uncover hidden areas and improve their aim. 6 years+, $40 for 3DS
School-age kids can test their vocabulary skills with the WordGirl Superhero Training app, based on the PBS Kids TV series. Players choose a superhero name, customize an avatar, and complete mini game challenges involving logic, navigation, and memory to defeat the evil villains. 6 years+, $2 for iPad and Android
Learning the alphabet is a blast with Jamaroos Musical ABCs. There’s an animal and an instrument for each letter. When you put them together, it creates a fun medley of music and sounds that will help preschoolers develop reading skills. Bright colors and bold graphics make the app even more engaging. 2 years+, $3 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android
Pet Bingomakes learning basic math—including addition, multiplication, and geometry—a playful and fun experience. As kids solve problems and complete bingos, they earn virtual pets. Plus, a Report Card section lets Mom and Dad keep tabs on all the activities. 4 years+, $2 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
Both kids and adults will get a kick out of Skee Ball Arcade, the only officially licensed game from the classic franchise. It’s all the fun of the original activity, without the need to spend your quarters or carry around a big bag of tickets. A variety of different challenges and power-ups keeps the activity fresh and exciting. 4 years+, free for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
The Sesame Street gang is here to help your little one build her vocabulary with Big Bird’s Words. Using augmented reality technology, the app’s Word-o-Scope recognizes 1,500 food words through the device’s camera. As your kid hunts for certain items at home or in the grocery store, Big Bird offers trivia and encouragement. 3 years+, $1 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android
Here are some of our favorite new movies, apps, and more!
DVDs and TV
Walk on the wild side with The Jungle Book Diamond Edition. The beloved film is coming to Blu-ray for the first time February 11.
*What’s in it for you Grown-up fans won’t want to miss the bonus features: behind-the-scenes interviews, an alternate ending, and a “Bear-E-Oke” sing-along. Rated G, $40
If your family loved The Lego Movie, continue the fun with The Lego Movie Videogameon February 28. Help Emmet save the world—with the help of some new friends, of course. 10 years+, price varies by platform for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, PC, and Wii U
Gamers of all ages will love celebrating the Olympics with classic characters in Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Compete or work cooperatively in 24 exciting events including bobsleigh, skiing, figure skating, and snowboarding. 6 years+, $50 for Wii U
Football season may be over, but your little athlete can keep playing with Madden NFL 25. New technology allows gamers to have more control over moves and makes the physics seem more realistic. Plus, the brand-new Owner Mode lets your kid manage personnel, set prices, and build a new stadium. 6 years+, $60 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, and PS4
Experience The Little Mermaidlike never before with Ariel’s Musical Surprise app. Your child can explore Ariel’s grotto, teach fish to sing, and even create her own music. Unlock even more games by purchasing select toys, like a light-up dress or musical-instrument set. 4 years+, free for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Help little ones recognize faces with NameGames. Start by uploading pictures of family and friends and record your voice saying each name. Young kids can then play games that will help them learn the important people in their life. 8 months+, free for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android
Kids can learn geography with Travelzoo’s Map the World app. Players select from nine interactive maps including the 50 states, oceans, and seas around the globe. A narrator announces the name of each place, so little ones can learn correct pronunciation. And for those looking for a challenge, the timer monitors speed. 4 years+, free for iPad
Encourage healthy habits with a new app from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. I See the Animals Sleeping stresses the importance of getting enough rest, whether you’re a child or a critter. Explore different sleeping habits from around the world with a story, coloring pages, a puzzle, and quiz games. 3 years+, free for iPad and Android
Sofia the First: The Floating Palace takes readers underwater for a thrilling adventure. In the interactive story, our heroine befriends a mermaid and must help save her kingdom. After the story is over, your little one can create and record her own virtual puppet show. 4 years+, $5 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
Gather up to four players around your device for some word-building fun with Sushi Scramble. Compete or work cooperatively to collect letters from sushi boats, and complete challenges—such as creating the highest valued word—to “serve” customers. 4 years+, $3 for iPad and Android
Did your family catch Free Birds when it was in theaters this past holiday season? The animated film tells the story of two turkeys traveling back in time to make some alterations to the original Thanksgiving menu (perfect for vegetarians!) Stars Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler all lend their voices to the zany comedy.
Now, the movie is coming to Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, February 4. Aspiring film buffs will get a kick out of the bonus features, which offer an in-depth look at the production process, including the animation and composing the score.
Get a peek behind the scenes with some of the filmmakers in this exclusive clip:
Are you home with your kids this Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Then you’ll all be around for a children’s television event: the premiere of the first Western for preschoolers! Disney Junior’s Sheriff Callie’s Wild West follows a loveable feline law enforcer (voiced by Mandy Moore) and her friends on their adventures in the frontier town Nice and Friendly Corners. Each animated episode features two 11-minute stories focused on teaching valuable life lessons, such as the importance of sharing, honesty, and being a good friend.
We’re particularly excited about Sheriff Callie because she’s a positive female role model for kids. And as you would expect from a show utilizing the talents of singer Mandy Moore, each episode also features two original songs. Plus how can you resist that adorable cactus-wearing a cowboy hat?
Be sure to watch this exclusive preview of the show, and tune in on January 20th at 5pm EST/PST on Disney Junior!
Exclusive: Mandy Moore on "Sheriff Callie's Wild West"
Need something to entertain your kids while the family is stuck indoors this winter? Here are some of our favorite new movies, apps, and more!
A squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) is banished from his park and must learn to survive in the city in The Nut Job. He stumbles upon Maury’s Nut Store, and wacky heist hijinks ensure.
*What’s in it for you Adults will get a kick out of stars such as Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser, and Liam Neeson voicing the crazy critters. PG; January 17
In The Lego Movie, a case of mistaken identity takes Emmet (Chris Pratt) on a quest to defeat evil President Business (Will Ferrell) with the help of an old mystic (Morgan Freeman), tough girl Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Batman (Will Arnett again!). *What’s in it for you This flick is a fun Lego experience for the family — sans cleanup! PG; February 7
DVDs and TV
Bigis turning 25! In his first Oscar-nominated performance, Tom Hanks stars as a 12-year-old who wakes up one morning to discover that he’s turned into an adult. The special anniversary edition offers plenty of bonus features including deleted clips, extended cuts, and behind-the-scenes footage. Rated PG, $20
Celebrate the season with Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Ice Skating Spectacular!Our heroine comes to the rescue of the Snow Princess and the Snowy Forest creatures when the Ice Witch steals their skates. The DVD comes with two other bonus episodes for extra fun. 3 years+, $15
Flint Lockwood’s infamous machine cause enough trouble the first time around, but in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, the mayhem has only just begun. Now, the device has started creating crazy food-animal hybrids such as Wild Scallions, Shrimpanzees, and the fearsome Tacodile Supreme. Rated PG, $31
Based on the beloved children’s book by Sam McBratney, Guess How Much I Love You: Hidden Treasureexplores the world of Little Nutbrown Hare and his father. This debut DVD release features seven episodes of the Disney Junior series, in which the son learns important life lessons, like embracing others’ differences and the value of friendship. 3 years+, $13
All aboard the Dinosaur Train! PBS KIDS is airing a new hour-long special called “Nature Trackers Adventure Camp.” Watch the family of pteranodons participate in fun activities ilke rafting and ziplining as little ones learn all about paleontology and geography from the lovable characters. 3 years+; January 20
Educate on the go with Sesame Street Family Play, which offers more than 150 games organized by curriculum, location, character, and mood. Simply input where you are — such as at the grocery store or in the kitchen — and the app will suggest a learning activity that doesn’t require screen time to play, such as organizing food items by size. 3 years+, $1 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Turn learning a language into a game with Quick Tap Spanish. Players gather around the device and race to match Spanish vocabulary words — in categories such as numbers, colors, and time — with the English translation. The app is also available for French, German, and Portuguese. 5 years+, free for iPad
Toddlers and preschoolers pick up knowledge while feeding their virtual pet with Sago Mini Pet Cafe. Games such as sorting treats and creating fruit smoothies teach about shapes, numbers, and colors. The critter animations are adorable and there are no in-app purchases, making this a great app for young children. 2 years+, $2 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Fans of the PBS Kids’ series can join in the fun with Peg + Cat BigGig. Your child can make music by solving simple addition and counting problems — hitting the correct answer plays the next note. Aspiring composers can create original songs as well in Sound Check mode. 3 years+, $2 for iPad and Android
Snuggle up in bed with Goodnight Moand your little one. The e-book — which features pop-up-style illustrations — tells the tale of a friendly monster winding down and preparing for sleep. The soft music will have everyone yawning in no time. 15 months+, $3 for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android
Animal lovers can get up close and personal with Zoo Tycoon, available on Xbox for the first time. Design and manage the zoo, and take care of all the different species — and your customers too, of course. The game’s development team worked with experts to make sure everything is scientifically accurate, so kids can learn about the real environments and feeding habits while they play. 6 years+, $50 for Xbox 360
Explore the paper world of Tearaway. Gamers will meet a variety of friends and challenges while on a quest to deliver a special message. The technology of the PlayStation Vita allows players to actually see their fingers appear inside the game when they place them on the back touch panel. 6 years+, $40 for PS Vita
Get your groove on with Just Dance Kids 2014. For the first time, the hit franchise features original recordings of popular songs by artists such as Selena Gomez, One Direction, and The Wiggles. Younger children can develop their skills by moving to nursery rhymes and the Family Fun mode lets gamers play cooperatively. 6 years+, $30 for Xbox 360, Wii, and Wii U
Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches
The Nut Job image courtesy of Open Road Films/Toonbox Entertainment