The Vocal Dog ~ Train Your Pooch to Quiet Down

barking dogBarking comes naturally to dogs as a form of vocal communication but, in excess, can be quite a nuisance for the human members of their pack, as well as their neighbors. If your pooch barks incessantly when left home alone, bellows at birds and squirrels he spots outside, or becomes overly vocal when visitors arrive, a bit of proper training can help.

Often, a pet parent’s immediate reaction to a barking dog is to shout at him. Unfortunately, since your dog responds to tone, he probably misinterprets your yells for barking, thinking you’re joining in on the fun. As well, your shouting may influence Fido to bark even more, as it’s a form of attention. He may even begin to bark at nothing, just to get a reaction from you. Most forms of verbal or physical discipline will be perceived as attention from his human. Once the attention stops, he will likely continue to bark assuming more attention will follow.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

There are many reasons why dogs bark ~ to show excitement, distress, affection, nervousness, boredom… they simply can’t express emotions the way people do, so they bark their emotions. Your dog considers barking a solution to a problem. If he barks when you leave him home alone, upon your return he thinks his barking called you back. If he barks at your neighbor taking a leisurely stroll down your street, once the neighbor is no longer in site, he thinks he successfully chased off a threat.

Possible Solutions for Possible Causes

Pent-Up Energy ~ While there are emotional factors at play, one of the main reasons these emotional factors result in boundless barking is simple ~ your four-legged friend has pent-up energy. Be sure to fulfill your dog’s mental and physical needs on a daily basis. Challenge him with brisk walks in new environments, obedience games and play time. This alone may do the trick. After all, more exercise = less energy = diminished desire to bark.

Seeking Attention ~ Another possible solution is to change his belief that barking results in attention. Rather than scold or give him physical contact when he barks, silently turn your back to him and walk away. Be patient and wait as long as it takes for him to be quiet. Hopefully, he will soon learn barking is counter-productive.

Stimulation ~ If your dog barks at a specific stimulus, such as other dogs or the vacuum cleaner, work to desensitize him to the stimulus. Begin with the stimulus at a distance and gradually work it closer to him, rewarding him with treats for every few feet the stimulus moves toward him. You want to teach him to equate the stimulus with something good ~ yummy treats! Repeat the process as often as it takes, and keep in mind it may take a few days or even a few weeks for the new behavior to be learned.

The Bait and Switch ~ Finally, try teaching your pooch an incompatible behavior. When he starts barking, command him to do something else. Perhaps toss a treat on his bed and say “go to bed.” Teach him to react to a stimulus that would otherwise make him bark by commanding him and rewarding him to do something else.

Don’t let your dog drive you barking mad! Work with him to curb his undesirable behavior and remember, reward is the best motivator. Praise him as he does the right thing, not afterward. Hopefully this will eventually teach your dog to do the right thing next time!

 

It’s Not Always “In the Bag” When it Comes to Your Cat’s Food!

cat foodDoes the food you provide your cat fulfill his nutritional needs? Not sure how to answer that very important question? Then, chances are, the answer is “no.” You see, cats require several different nutrients in their diet in order to maintain a healthy life. These nutrients include amino acids from protein, fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. A better understanding of how your cat uses these nutrients and how much he needs is a good starting place for determining which food is best.

Cats are carnivores, which means they obtain most of their protein from meat, fish and other animal products. Consider this ~ in the wild, cats hunt and kill, thus meeting their needs for protein and water. But as a domesticated pet, unless he goes out on the prowl regularly trolling for mice, he relies on you to fulfill his nutritional demands. And a diet based solely on dry kibble simply won’t do the trick.

 Dietary protein contains 10 essential amino acids that your cat cannot produce on his own. They are the building blocks for a healthy diet, and also assist in glucose production to provide him with energy. Amino acid deficiencies can result in serious health issues. For example, insufficient amounts of the amino acid Taurine in your kitty’s diet can cause retinal degeneration and blindness, deafness, heart disease and heart failure, a poor immune system, reproductive failure and birth defects in offspring. While it is found in abundance in animal-based proteins, Taurine is either entirely absent or present in only trace amounts in plants.

Dietary fats provide the most concentrated source of energy, containing twice as much energy as protein and carbohydrates per gram. These fats supply your cat with fatty acids that play a very important role in cell structure and function, and keep your feline’s skin and coat healthy. The fact that they also make your cat’s food even more tasty and appealing is just the icing on the cake!

Of course, cats need energy to sustain their daily activities. While protein and fat contribute greatly, so do carbohydrates. Just like a runner who splurges on a pre-race carbo-loaded meal, your cat’s energy soars when he has carbohydrates in his diet. Major sources of carbohydrates in commercial feline fare include legumes and cereals. However, while beneficial, there is a thin line between too little and too much. It is best to select a food that has less than 10% carbohydrate calories. Diets high in carbs negatively impact the blood sugar levels of cats.

Vitamins and minerals take part in a large range of metabolic activity, and deficiencies can cause a myriad of health problems. The following are vitamins and minerals that should be present in your cat’s meals:

  • Vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, D, E and K
  • Folic Acid
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Riboflavin
  • Calcium
  • Chlorine
  • Cooper
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc

So what should you feed your favorite feline? The answer is simple ~ wet food. Dry kibble may be cheaper and easier, but most commercial brands lack what your cat needs, mainly because: A) they are water-depleted, which inhibits urinary tract health, increasing your cat’s risk for urethral obstructions; B) they are high in carbohydrates, which negatively impact your cat’s blood sugar levels and can result in a serious hypoglycemic state; C) the bulk of protein included is from plants, whereas your cat needs animal protein; and D) they are highly processed, resulting in the destruction of nutrients. On the other hand, most wet foods provide a high water content, low carbohydrates, animal-based protein and are more easily digested and utilized by your cat’s body. Besides these health benefits, the variety wet foods provide keep your cat from getting bored by eating the same dry kibble meal after meal.

Need help determining which wet food is best for your furry friend? Read the label on the can ~ the first ingredient should be meat. Don’t be concerned if there are no grain ingredients, and steer clear of foods with fillers like corn and rice. Remember, if cats were in charge of the commercial pet food industry, they would package meals with instructions reading “remove mouse or rabbit from freezer, thaw and serve.” Give Fluffy what he wants and needs ~ a diet of yummy, nutritious wet food.

Nutritional Supplements for Your Pet

pet supplementsA recent study showed that nearly half of adults in the U.S. take one or more nutritional supplements regularly in an effort to improve their overall health and well-being. Supplements do just as the name suggests – they supplement our diet with the vitamins and minerals that may otherwise be lacking. Ideally, we would get all that we need from the food we eat, but with today’s society of fast, processed and pre-packaged food, that just isn’t the case. So, if people benefit by adding supplements to their daily diet, wouldn’t it make sense that your precious pet would benefit as well?

Your pet’s nutrition is important for living a long, happy and healthy life. As with the food we eat, many of the pet foods on the market today are overly processed and contain fillers to provide non-nutritional bulk. While premium foods are ideal and often provide a well-balanced diet, a bit of supplementation based on your pets needs can be quite beneficial.

Choosing the Right Supplements

The most common supplements for pets are used to aid joint health, condition and protect the skin and coat, improve digestion, and increase overall well-being. While there are several marketed supplements, it’s likely you have what your pet needs right at home in your kitchen pantry or medicine cabinet.

Coconut Oil. We’ve all heard of coconut oil’s many benefits for humans, but did you know it is also safe and effective for your pet? Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a “healthy” saturated fat that boasts antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Fed regularly to your furry friend, coconut oil can clear up skin conditions, prevent yeast and fungal infections, soften and deodorize coats, improve digestion and nutrient absorption, increase energy, reduce kitty’s hairballs, aid in ligament and arthritis issues… just to name a few.

Pumpkin. It’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore! Fiber-filled pumpkin is safe for your pet and can aid in constipation relief; promotes a sense of fullness for pudgy pooches, possibly aiding in weight loss; helps with hydration (pumpkin is composed of 90% water); and is a natural source of vitamins and minerals that benefit day-to-day cellular function. Be sure to use all-natural, canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling!

Vitamin E. Key for healthy skin and eyes, as well as strong immunity in people, those Vitamin E softgels in your medicine cabinet can also be beneficial to your pet. Great for dry skin, softgels can be popped and the liquid inside massaged directly into your four-legged friend’s skin, added to bath water, or dribbled onto your pet’s meal. Vitamin E, when ingested, also benefits pets who experience mild arthritic discomfort.

Yogurt. Plain yogurt is a delicious treat for your cuddly companion. Just as with humans, the live cultures in yogurt keeps the good bacteria in Fluffy and Fido’s gut balanced. If you have a puppy or a dog on antibiotics – both of which are prone to yeast infections – a little yogurt as a snack can help keep the infections at bay. Keep in mind, adult cats are lactose intolerant, so don’t overdo it!

Turmeric. This pungent, bitter flavored spice is used as a supplement for preventing cancer and to reduce inflammation from arthritis. Simply sprinkle on your pet’s food, beginning with just a quarter teaspoon per day, and gradually increase to up to one teaspoon. Introduce the spice slowly to avoid shock to the digestive system, and discontinue if side effects appear.

While the above supplements are safe for most pets, always consult with your veterinarian before using, to determine the proper serving size, and to avoid any possible adverse reactions, particularly in pets taking medication.

Selecting Your Child’s First Pet

pet ratChoosing a first pet for your child can be a daunting task. A young child may not comprehend the needs of a pet or be able to recognize the proper way to handle one. And, with pets having much shorter life spans than humans, introducing a new pet may also result in your child’s first experience with death. Yes, there are many questions to ask yourself before making the commitment to bring a pet home for your child – Is my child old enough? Will he be kind to the pet? What pet would be best suited for him?

If you have a toddler, it likely isn’t a good choice to introduce a pet such as a hamster or fish. Not only do they have short lifespans – which will inevitably lead to the explanation of death – they are small, fragile and require sensitive care. Yes, it may be a good learning experience, but always keep the animal’s safety and needs in mind.

Hermit Crabs. Believe it or not, hermit crabs are actually an ideal first pet for a child. They are interesting, low-maintenance, extremely social and can live ten plus years with the proper care. And their regular molting and new shell growth will likely intrigue your child. Yes, a hermit crab is a great option for introducing your child to the world of responsible pet ownership.

Rats. If you and your family aren’t the skittish type, a rat may be an ideal first pet. Though they come with a negative association, rats are actually quite intelligent, social and easily tamed creatures. They often become emotionally attached to their humans and even enjoy a good cuddle. Despite popular opinion, rats are quite clean, when purchased from a reputable source. They can live up to two or three years, with proper care and exercise, and thrive when they have a rat companion by their side.

Cats and Dogs. Of course, when most of us think of a proper pet for our child, we think of a cat or a dog. Indeed, cats and dogs are wonderful pets, but be conscientious of the fact that cuddly kittens and precious little pups usually aren’t an ideal choice. They require a lot of patience and training in order to grow into well-adjusted adults, and a child likely can’t fulfill that need. Sure, you can take on the task yourself, but do you have the time and the composure to handle a child and a fur baby? Instead, consider adopting a more mature dog or cat. Adult animals are typically more tolerant of children and have likely been trained to some extent, making it an easier transition into your home and into your child’s heart.

A first pet can be a lesson in responsibility for any child. To ensure a pleasant experience for everyone – including the animal – be confident that your child is ready for a pet and do your research before making a pet choice. And, as importantly, be willing and prepared to take on the responsibility yourself, as any pet comes along with certain expenses (food, veterinary care, etc.) and requirements (regular feedings, exercise, training, etc.).

Four Nail Trimming Tips for Your Furry Friend 

pawGiving your four-legged friend a paw-dicure can be quite the task for some. Whether it’s the result of an accidental cut of the quick in a previous nail trimming session or the dislike of having his paws touched, your pet’s aversion to nail care can take a stressful toll on both. Seeing the fear in your beloved pet’s eyes can be heart-wrenching, but if that fear results in flailing, snapping or biting during the nail trimming process, it can also be dangerous for you both. But don’t despair; if your dog or cat runs for cover at the mere sight of nail clippers, there’s still hope!

It’s important to keep your pet’s nails trimmed for many reasons: doing so prevents breaking and bleeding of nails that grow too long; long nails can interfere with normal paw movement; and unkempt nails can scratch your furniture and floors – not to mention you! –  as well as snag your rugs and upholstery. While it’s ideal to familiarize your pet with nail clippers and regular nail trims early on in his life, that isn’t always possible. Teach your furry companion to relax during trim time with these helpful tips…

Begin with a clean slate. Pets often have a negative association with clippers that have been used on them in the past. Think about it… if your mother nipped your skin while clipping your nails as a child, making you bleed, wouldn’t you be a bit hesitant to let her have a go at it again? Try purchasing a new pair of clippers that are distinctly different in appearance from your current pair.

The first time you introduce the new clippers to your pawsome pet, act excited, with a positive and happy tone in your voice; be fun and dramatic; reward him with ample treats, rub downs and cuddles. After a few minutes, put the clippers away, as well as the treats. A few moments later, let the party begin again. Repeat this process as often as necessary to allow Fluffy and Fido to grow a new, positive association with the clippers. It may be helpful to bring the clippers out of hiding periodically, even if it’s not time for a trim, just to reinforce the positive association.

Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t attempt to get all of your pet’s nails trimmed at once. Start with one, and reward your fur baby with a treat. You can even enlist a partner to hold a spoon of peanut butter within licking distance to keep Fido’s thoughts otherwise occupied. Speak as you trim, maintaining a calm and soothing tone, as you progress slowly, working your way from one nail to the next. If you’re weary of accidentally cutting the quick, trim a little bit of each nail at a time, and have styptic powder nearby just in case. Remain mindful of your pet’s body language to alert you if you cut too close or if agitation sets in. If he becomes anxious or uncomfortable, stop the session and start again later, allowing him time to relax and unwind.

Scrub-a-dub-dub. Your pet’s nails soften while being bathed, so clipping after his bath may make the process easier – although this probably won’t help if your fur baby is a feline! If your pet is fond of bath time, try combining the two activities. A friend of mine suggested I clip my ornery Pug’s nails while he was in the tub, his feet soaking in warm water. I was skeptical, but it actually did the trick! The warm water soothed and distracted him, softened his nails for easier clipping, and made the process virtually stress-free for us both. Be sure to clip the nails prior to bathing, to avoid any exposure to soap or other irritants should an accidental bleed occur.

Seek professional help. If all else fails, there’s always your trusty veterinarian. If you or your pet are still weary of nail trimming time, make an appointment for a nail clipping at your vet’s office. The staff there know all the tricks of the trade and will get it done painfully and correctly. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Interesting Facts About Your Favorite Feline

catHave you ever looked at your whiskered, finicky, four-legged friend and wondered about her heritage, capabilities, habits and so on? Have you ever thought to yourself, “it sure seems like Fluffy sleeps too much”? Well, perhaps these interesting, amusing and remarkable cat facts will shed a little light on your ponderings about your favorite feline!

 

  • According to a study done by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats who fall from a distance of 5.5 stories up to 32 stories have a survival rate of approximately 90% (assuming they are treated for any injuries that may occur because of impact with the ground).
  • Talk about a cat nap ~ cats spend 70% of their lives sleeping!
  • When cats grimace, they are usually “taste-scenting.” The expression permits air, which contains organic molecules, to waft close to a special organ (located between your cat’s nose and incisor teeth) for processing. The cat’s tongue may be recruited to help move and circulate the air, sort of like the feline version of wine tasting.
  • The average litter size for a cat is four to six kittens. But, in 1970 a Burmese/Siamese cat gave birth to a record 19 kittens!
  • In the 1960s, the CIA tried to turn a cat into a bona-fide spy by implanting a microphone into her ear and a radio transmitter at the base of her skull. She survived the surgery but sadly was hit by a taxi on her first mission.
  • Cats’ ears are quite amazing. They can hear sounds as high as 64 kHz – compared with humans, who can hear only as high as 20 kHz; they can move 180 degrees; and they can move independently of each other.
  • King Charles I of England(1600-1649) had a black cat that he loved dearly. Stories have been passed down through the generations that the king’s black cat brought the king good luck. The day after his black cat died, the king was arrested and later beheaded, thus supporting the belief his cat provided his luck.
  • Most cats don’t like water because their coats do not insulate them well enough. However, a cat breed known as the Turkish Van does not have the insulation problem and LOVES water!
  • Adult cats spend as much as half their waking hours grooming (licking) themselves.
  • In ancient Egypt, cats were held in the highest esteem. When a cat dies, their human family would go into a deep mourning and shave their eyebrows as a sign of respect. The cat would be mummified and buried in a pet cemetery or family tomb along with such provisions as milk, mice and rats. A tomb in Beni Hassan (an ancient Egyptian burial site) discovered in 1888 was found to contain approximately 80,000 buried felines.
  • The oldest cat video on YouTube dates back to 1894 (the year it was filmed, not the year it was posted on the internet!). It features two cats boxing and is aptly named “The Oldest Cat Video on YouTube: 1894 Boxing Cats.” Check it out!

We’ve always known cats are incredible creatures, but did you ever realize their history, abilities, habits and lives were so intriguing?