Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Always CONSISTENTLY Enforce Your Boundaries

theme-candid-portraits-smile-woman-girl-40064.jpeg In the last blog, I talked about Leadership and how it does not equal dominance. Leadership also means being consistent and having boundaries. One of the top reasons a pet will become destructive or “pushy” is because there may not be proper boundaries in place. Or if there are boundaries, enforcing them is not consistent.

Setting a boundary doesn’t have to be draconian. It’s as simple as having your dog sit before they get a treat, and they get a treat on your terms. One thing that I had incorporated (as well as a few others I know) is that when I was out for a walk with my dog, and we came to a street corner, the dog needed to sit until I said it was ok to cross the street. In a suburban or country area where there isn’t a lot of traffic, that may not seem to be a big deal. But, if you live in a heavy populated city (like New York or Washington D.C.) this particular command and boundary is critical!

Boundaries help keep chaos to a minimum in the house. If there are multiple people living in the house - then everyone needs to be on board and enforce the boundaries in the same or similar way. You know what happens when boundaries are not consistently enforced by everyone in the house? The pet will play you. Don’t believe me? How about this situation: Person A gives in every time the dog (or cat) looks cute and gives them a treat, while Person B only gives treats when the pet has worked for it. Does this sound familiar?

The above is just one example. Other boundaries include: going outside for elimination, chewing on the proper toys (instead of furniture), listening to commands.

Are there any unique boundaries you have set for your pet? How do you enforce them? I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Yes, Your Dog or Cat is Still a Predator

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Some people don’t realize that their dogs (and cats as well) are still predators. Their eyes are set in front of their heads so they can see and focus directly in front of them. Prey animals by comparison, have eyes set to the sides of their heads so they can see what is around their sides and towards the back. Birds are an exception to this – I might address that in a future blog post.

Being a “predator” means that an animal naturally preys on other animals. While they are far removed from their wild cousins, the instinct is still there. Some of you may have a pet that has a knack for going after the local rodents or insects. In my own experience, I had one dog who managed to kill 5 groundhogs in two weeks. She was methodical and quick. She also enjoyed eating them (which made giving her a bath quite the undertaking..)

In addition to the natural prey drive that most dogs and cats have – they also have the gift of sharp teeth and claws. If they are cornered, or forced into a situation they don’t want to be in – the person doing the forcing can get hurt. Think about if a child is insistent on chasing or approaching a pet and there’s no way out for the pet? The child might very well get bitten or scratched. Think about the times an older teen or adult might rough house with the pet or hold them down and the pet vehemently objects? Again, the person doing the coercion is the one who may get hurt.

There are times when we have no choice but to force our predator pets to do something they don’t want to do. Like taking medication or going to the vet. Their flight or fight response will still kick in and they will still try to avoid you by any means necessary. The only thing we can do is to remain as focused, calm and as confident as possible while we gather them up to be crated, given meds or treated for something (like getting something out of their mouths).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How to keep your pets safe through Halloween

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Fall/Halloween - the time of year where wonderful items like hot apple cider, pumpkins (pies and spiced lattes) and colorful changing leaves are in abundance (depending where you are in the world).

Another thing that’s in abundance are Halloween parties, trick or treaters knocking at your door and of course..CANDY. For some pets - they can handle people coming to the door and they can work a room full of people because they enjoy being social. However, not every pet can handle every situation. Here is a short list of tips you can implement to help your pet through handle people coming to the door or being in a large crowd.

-> Board Your Pet Overnight: For the pets who cannot in any way, shape or form deal with the constant sound of the doorbell, or crowds - see if you can find a reputable kennel to board them overnight. They will be safe and under supervision.

-> Sit Outside to Hand Out Candy: One thing you can do (if you’re able) is to set up a chair outside, sit and wait for the trick or treaters and hand out candy. This way, you won’t have to worry about the constant ringing of the doorbell or knocking on the door. While the dogs may still bark at knowing there are people outside - they won’t be as frenetic with the sound of a knock or doorbell.

-> Answer the Door with Your Pet on a Leash: If your pet doesn’t listen to a sit/stay, or they are small enough to squeeze by to walk out of the door, you can put your pet on a leash to ensure they don’t bolt. If you have a pet who is aggressive at the door for any reason - you can sequester them in another room with something (like a stuffed Kong) to keep them occupied.

-> Keep the Candy Up and Away: The metabolism and digestive system of our pets is more sensitive than ours. Excessive chocolate and sugar can cause a host of problems. The best way to ensure your pet does not eat their body weight in candy and chocolate is to place it well out of their reach. Here’s a great article about what to do if your dog ingests chocolate (there’s even a link for cats).

Do you have a tried and true method that you like to use for your pets during Halloween? Do your pets enjoy getting dressed up for a Halloween party? I’d love to hear from you or see a picture of your favorite pet in costume!

Have a safe and wonderful Halloween!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Leadership is NOT Dominance

When dealing with and working with pets, you’ll hear terms like “being the dominant one” or being the “pack leader”. There are a lot of resources out there that will talk about one or the other, or both. Just like anything else – there’s a lot of good information out there and there’s information that is, well..outdated.

What I want to go over today is Leadership IS NOT Dominance.

Leadership is being able to be the guiding force or the “pillar” for the pet (even for people). As an example, think about the team leads or people in a leadership position that you have had that have instilled a sense of confidence within you. I know the people that I have enjoyed as my mentors and team leads have always had a calm, confident nature about them. When a reprimand was issued out – it was done with focus and again – calm. In a pack or herd (or flock for that matter) situation – the members of that group will follow a leader who isn’t frustrated easily and doesn’t have a “freak out” moments in cases of an emergency. Would you want to follow someone who is nervous all the time or has a mental break down at every little “emergency”?

Dominance is who controls the resources. Dominance isn’t necessarily a “power over” mentality. It also isn’t something that is brutal or abusive. As far as our animal companions are concerned – a lot of behavioral issues can be corrected (or at least modified) when you set a boundary by making a pet work for their treats or their food. Any time before meals, they must sit before you put their bowl on the floor. This enforces your leadership as well as dominance. With my own dogs for example - they loved going out for a walk. They knew that they had to sit and stay where they were until I said “Okay”. If either of them moved when I opened the door (after leashes were on), then I closed the door and we did it again until they stayed put and not move until I said it was ok.

Some pets will push your buttons and see what they can get away with. They want to see how serious you are and if you can waver from your decision. In this case – leadership is you enforcing your boundary by sticking to what you said. Did you also know that you can enforce and enhance your leadership with active playtime with your pet? If you can have fun with them and teach them as you go (make things a learning experience) – this will also go a long way towards your pet listening to you in the future. There is also a greater emotional component on behalf of the owner – but that will be for another blog.

What can you do in the meantime? If your pet already listens to you and respects you – FANTASTIC! You are doing a great job! For the folks who may still have an issue with their pets listening to them, the first thing you can do is breathe. Take a few deep breaths to calm and focus (or center) yourself. Work on your basic obedience tasks. If your pup doesn’t listen or won’t sit (as an example) – then they don’t get a treat and they don’t get to do anything else until they sit. You don’t get upset or emotional – it’s just matter of fact.

The more consistent you are with your boundaries and how you handle things – the more your pet will want to listen and follow your leadership. Pets, much like children need consistency, boundaries and focus which is all wrapped up into leadership.

Monday, September 18, 2017

When Extra Supervision is Needed for Preteens/ Teens with Pets.

When it comes to mixing adolescent and teenage kids with pets you can either get a good mix of love, kindness and respect or you get a near apocalyptic catastrophe. As an Animal Communicator and even in my experience in general, I’ve seen teenagers approach and view their family pets with respect and I’ve also seen kids be nasty to animals as well. One day at a day camp I was attending, it was in the morning before line up and one of the boys had a bag of Twizzlers. They were hanging around the pony pasture and one decided to stick one of the Twizzlers up the ponies nose. The pony didn’t appreciate it and they took it out. Had a supervising adult been around, I’m sure they would not have done that. They thought it was funny – it was anything but.

I’ve also heard from one of my clients that she’s had a friend over with a couple of her kids (a girl and a boy). The girl listened to my client and was gentle with her dog (a toy breed). When the boy tried to pet my clients dog, the dog (who is a rescue) snapped in the air as a warning to the child. The boy thought the dog bit him and proceeded to periodically swing at the dog during their visit. My client told the boy repeatedly to stop swinging at her dog and that no - the dog didn’t actually bite him. But the child didn’t listen.

This begs the question then – who is responsible for the actions of a child when they are in someone else’s house? There’s the old adage of “My house, my rules” and therefore the pet owner could have said something more to the child. There’s also the statement of not disciplining other people’s children. If the mother barely has any control over her children in her own house and this child in particular has a habit of swinging at the pets in the house, what then?

Granted, the above is a more extreme case that would require a lot of deep discussion and thought.

The general thing that needs to happen is the teens/preteens need and must respect a pet’s space and agency. If they don’t – that’s how bites happen and that’s how people and animals get hurt. At best – the kids will listen to their parents when they tell them not to chase or poke at a dog or cat. At worst – the pet owner will send their pets to a pet hotel or day camp for the day or night.

As a pet owner, if you know for a fact that your pet either does not get along well with kids or has a problem with a small crowd – boarding them or having them stay with someone can be an option.

All of this to say, my dear readers – what can you do to supervise your teens or preteens around pets? If you’re the pet owner who dreads having someone’s kids over because they terrorize your pets – could you talk to the parent and open up a dialogue? For the overwhelmed parent that has a child that won’t take that “no” for an answer – is there additional help you can get? The greater challenge here is to get a conversation going so we don’t wind up with a crippling phobia of kids for pets and vice versa.

Are you up for that challenge?