Archives for May 2016

Socializing Your Adult Dog

dogSocialization does not end after puppyhood. While it is ideal for the foundation for acceptable behavior to be laid early on (pups are most adaptable between three and twelve weeks of age), continuous encouragement and reinforcement is a must. But what if you were lax in the socialization department when Bella was a baby, or you adopted Angus when he was four years old… is it too late for them to learn? Absolutely not! Most canine behaviors can be positively impacted with effort, time and – most importantly – patience.

Just as socialization among humans is important, teaching us how to get along with others, it is also vital for your canine companion. Proper socialization teaches her how to respond in a healthy way to things that may make her anxious or afraid, such as people, other animals, noises and objects. Help your adult dog become confident and friendly with the following exercises.

Family First

Your family is your dog’s pack; the group with whom she will spend most of her time. The safer and more comfortable your dog feels at home, the less fearful and anxious she will be. When welcoming a new, adult dog to your pack, keep attention and affection set at a slow yet consistent pace. You don’t want to overwhelm her or, on the other end of the spectrum, invite separation anxiety to develop. In the beginning, it’s better to have a slightly bored dog than one who is over-stimulated. Spend a few weeks to allow your furry friend to build a bond with her pack. In this time, do not introduce her to anyone outside her pack, or take her to any new places.

Introduce New People Slowly

Try to introduce your dog to only one new person each week. If your pooch is aggressive, it’s best to keep her on a leash during introductions, until she becomes familiar and settles down. On the other hand, when introducing a nervous or timid pooch, let her take her time approaching her new friend when she sees fit. Upon meeting, have the visitor speak in a happy, low tone and offer your pooch a treat, imprinting the interaction as a positive one.

Visit the Dog Park

It is important for your adult dog to develop a well-balanced behavior around other dogs; you don’t want her to be too ambivalent or too aggressive. After her first few weeks alone with her human pack, leash her up and take her to the local dog park. But… stay outside the fence, giving her an opportunity to smell the smells, see the sites, hear the sounds… get accustom to her surroundings. Each time a dog comes to the fence to check her out, give her verbal praise and a treat to make the experience a positive one. It may take just a few visits, or a dozen, but once you feel she is comfortable with her surroundings, and confident she will interact well, take her inside for some more personal interaction.

Enroll Her in Class

If your own training techniques fall short, or it seems your adult dog is just set in her ways, enlist a professional trainer to help. Not only an obedience class a great way to socialize her with other dogs and people, it will also teach you both learning commands that can make the socialization experience a more comfortable and successful one.

Providing for Your Pet

pet careWe love our pets dearly, and it saddens us to think of what little time we actually have with them, with their lifespans being so much shorter than our own. Typically, we outlive our pets, but what if that’s not the case? Have you thought about what would happen to your pet if something were to happen to you? Have you taken the time to make arrangements for your canine or kitty companion to ensure he is protected? Should you become seriously ill or injured, and unable to care for your pet, or if you should pass away, it is critical that you have plans in place.

Designate a willing, responsible friend or family member to care for your precious pet. Speak with those closest to you (and, preferably, already familiar with your pet) and decide who is most willing and able to serve as an emergency caregiver should something unexpected happen to you. Give that person keys to your home and a list that includes important information such as the name and phone number of your veterinarian, your pet’s feeding and care instructions, and the locations of your pet’s leash, food, toys, bedding, etc.

Carry an alert card in your wallet. Make a wallet-sized card that specifies you have a pet at your home who will need care. Include the name and contact information for your pet’s emergency caregiver, as well as your pet’s name.

Make formal care arrangements for your pet. Of course, no one wants to think about their own passing, but advanced arrangements should be made for your pet in case something happens to you. Sometimes, it’s just not enough that your family member or close friend promised to take care of your pet. Things happen ~ people lose touch, relocate, change their minds, have kids… To be on the safe side, and to ensure your pet is cared for in your absence, make formal arrangements to cover his sufficient care. You may find it necessary to work with an attorney to create a special will, pet trust, or other legal document that details the specific care and guardianship of your pet, as well as the dollar amount necessary to sufficiently care for him. However, keep in mind designating a guardian in your will may not be enough. Wills divide property; they do not serve as custody agreements and your wishes may or may not be followed. And, who will take care of your pet until your will is enacted?

To safeguard your pet with care per your wishes, it is a good idea for pet parents to file with the courts a completed Pet Protection Agreement, a simple agreement that allows you to designate a pet guardian to take care of your pet, and gives you the ability to leave funds to care for your pet in the event you cannot do so yourself.

Many pet parents consider their pets to be family members, an integral part of life who we care for and love. In the same way that responsible parents plan ahead for the care of their children, plans should be made for furry family members. After all, they provide you with unconditional love and affection every day; it’s up to you to ensure they receive the same, even if you’re not there to provide it for them.

With Cats, a Bite Isn’t Always Just a Bite ~ Find Out What Your Cat’s Nip Means!

CatYour fluffy feline may be the sweetest cat around, but that doesn’t mean a nip here or a bite there might occur. While the action may seem unprovoked to you, it makes complete sense to your cat. Some kitty custodians lovingly refer to their cat’s nip as a “love bite,” while others take it as a form of aggression. Well, both are correct. Here’s how you can determine what your cat’s chomp means and how to curb it.

Play Aggression

 Remember when your kitty playfully nibbled at your toes and you thought to yourself “Oh, that’s the cutest thing ever!”? What may have been cute when Fluffy was just a tiny fur ball, likely isn’t so cute now. Cats stalk, chase, grab, leap and ambush random objects in the name of fun, and to catch vermin. Your bare toes wiggling around may look like something tasty to your cat, resulting in him pouncing and taking a bite.

So what can you do to keep Fluffy from pricking her teeth into your little piggies? Well, the obvious option is to wear socks! But another solution is to use playtime as a learning experience in how to be careful and gentle. Start by inviting your feline friend to a mellow game of play “fighting.” Consistently praise her while she remains gentle, and gradually increase the intensity of the game. As soon as you see Fluffy getting overly excited or exposing her teeth or claws, tone down the play session or quickly freeze and “play dead.” This technique should result in a calmer kitty. If not, and Fluffy proceeds to pounce, abruptly scream “OUCH,” and walk away, ignoring Fluffy. Unexpectedly ending a play session sends a very powerful message. After a few repetitions of this scenario, your cat will recognize that her own aggressive behavior equals the end of an enjoyable play session.

Petting-Induced Aggression

Remember last week when you were sitting on the sofa, watching your favorite TV show with Fluffy in your lap as you gently caressed her from head to tail? And remember when, out of nowhere, she bit your finger and ran? Animal behaviorists theorize that too much physical contact may irritate a cat if she has a low threshold for stimulation.

Watch for warning signs of an impending bite that include a quick turn of the head toward your hand, flattening or rotating of the ears, twitching of the tail, restlessness and dilated pupils. If you notice any of these warnings, stop caressing your kitty and place her gently on the floor. Or, if you realize your cat often becomes over-stimulated at the five minute mark of petting, then stop after three minutes. Be aware of her behavior and you’ll likely be able to foil an attack.

Redirected Aggression

Remember when Fluffy became irritated when she spotted another cat on your patio, and she took out her irritation on you in the form of a bite? That was the result of her perceived inability to defend her territory. Since she couldn’t reach the trigger of her anger (the cat on the patio), she lashed out at you because you were in close proximity.

To keep from being bitten in situations like this one, simply steer clear of your agitated cat. Walk away and give her time to calm down.

There are many solutions for curbing your kitty’s biting behavior, but the most important step to any solution is to be realistic and patient. Don’t push your cat beyond her limits and then get frustrated because she isn’t catching on as quickly as you’d like. As with most things in life, patience is a virtue!