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?

Monday, September 4, 2017

SUPERVISE! SUPERVISE! SUPERVISE!

To put it bluntly - any child needs to be supervised when they are around pets. This also holds true for children around the 5-8 year old age range as well. Babies and toddlers are not in control of their motor skills. Our pets don’t like something that just moves without control and heads right for them. In some cases, the pet will move away. This is their clear sign that they don’t want to be bothered. It’s up to you, the parent to be sure the child doesn’t chase the pet around (that will only cause stress and the child could be bitten or scratched).

Supervision is an active and ongoing process. You need to be not only aware of where your child is, but where the pet is and what body language is your pet saying to you? For example, ears back, panting and or licking is a sign of stress in dogs and they are not happy. Is the child pulling at your pets ears or tail? Are they grabbing at your pets skin and fur? Is the pet showing teeth when the child comes near them or when the child touches them? Is the child trying to pet them while the pet is eating? (That is a guaranteed bite waiting to happen).

Supervision is not scrolling through social media on your phone with the dog and baby on the floor or running around the house with one chasing the other. It only takes a moment for an accident to happen.

FamilyPaws.com is a great resource for new parents and for parents of toddlers with dogs. They have a wonderful webinar on the details of what proper supervision is. The webinar is about 30 minutes and it is time well spent. Click here to watch their webinar. I hope you enjoy it!

Remember folks, you are the one to enforce the agency of your pet when it comes to either kids or people in general invading their space.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.. It goes both ways

When people have an animal in their life, they usually set boundaries, encourage training and have playtime with their pets. Every now and again, someone will say “I feel like they don’t respect my leadership/authority”. So they try a harsh training method, or begin to yell a command or anything of the kind with still no desired result in terms of the animal companion listening to their person’s command.

I’ve got news for you folks - respect goes both ways. The critical thing to understand is that animals are thinking, feeling, sentient beings who have their own feelings and thoughts about the world around them. If you as the caretaker, can understand where your pet is coming from and not place them in a “one size fits all” model - then they will begin to respect and honor your direction and leadership.

Here are a few tips to help facilitate a mutual respect with your pet:
-Recognize that your pet has their own set of thoughts and feelings about the world around them.
-Keep your boundaries clear and keep them consistent. In the absence of a clearly defined and enforced boundary, your animal companion will have no reason to genuinely listen to you and they will make up their own rules.
-KEEP CALM! I cannot stress this one enough! When you are in a “freak out” mode and you are incredibly upset/irritated, your pet won’t want to listen to you. Leadership is acknowledged and respected when the leader can remain calm and focused in any given situation.
-Have plenty of one on one playtime. Having a playtime is just as important as training. Our pets want us to have fun and have fun with them. This can be playing fetch, tug, hide and seek or even going on a long walk to help strengthen the bond with your pets.

If you need help or some feedback on what is going on with your pet, I’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Let Your Pet Growl

animal-dog-pet-dangerous.jpg Of all of the physical signals that dogs have to communicate with us, one of the most misunderstood – is the growl (cats growl too – but only in cases of aggression) Just because a dog is growling – it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is an act of aggression. There can be growling during play (with people as well as other dogs) or when your pup is barking an alert (or getting ready to alert the house). The growl can also serve as a warning signal for you to stop what you’re doing because the dog is becoming uncomfortable. The growl is one of the first lines of defense before a dog escalates to a bite.

It is very important to understand that when you (or someone, like an unsuspecting child) intrudes on a dog when they are eating, or disturbing them while they are focused on something else – they growl as a warning to create a distance between you and them (same thing with showing teeth). They are setting a boundary. It is important to honor that boundary and not reprimand them for utilizing one of the only clear lines of communication they have.

If you need to approach your pet from behind – make sure you get their attention first. In general, most pets don’t like being snuck up on. I realize that some people find this practice hilarious. Maybe some pets can tolerate it. I highly suggest against this particular practice. Remember, your pets are thinking, feeling, sentient beings who have their own thoughts and opinions about the world around them. When their boundaries are not honored or respected (basically ignored), then they will find another way of getting their point across (like snapping at you or barking).

Do you feel your pet is growling excessively and you’d like to find out why? I’d love to talk with you.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Understanding Your Pet Part 2: How to overcome these top 3 destructive behaviors..

Whenever you bring home a new furry family member, or even if you have an established animal companion - destructive behaviors and accidents can happen. In today’s post - I’ll review the top three destructive behaviors, their potential causes and what you can do to fix them.

Pet has accidents in the house: If you have adopted a rescue of any age is you will have to housebreak them. They are entering a new house and a new routine - so there may be some accidents. It’s up to you to show them where it is appropriate to go potty and to learn what your pets cue is. If your pet has been with you for years and accidents are happening - make sure the pet doesn’t have a medical cause (such as a urinary tract infection or kidney stones etc). The other thing you want to look at is how often is your pet getting exercise or play? Letting them out in the back yard isn’t enough. Ideally, taking your dog(s) on a brisk or long walk (something where they can get a good sniff at the different surroundings) will help with inappropriate elimination. For cats - make sure the litter box is clean, the cat can access it easily and it’s in a well ventilated area.

Pet is chewing things: The act of chewing can stem from a variety of reasons. If the pet is young, they could be teething. Your pet could also be bored. If your pet is bored, then get creative with the games you play - or change up the route you go on when walking. In the moment you can offer your pet something appropriate to chew and keep the things you don’t want to be chewed out of your pets reach (ex: keep shoes in bins on a high shelf or behind a closed door).

Pet is aggressive: This one is a little tricky. Is the pet guarding a resource like toys? Is the pet food aggressive? Is the aggression coming from fear? In all of these cases - if other dogs or small children are involved you need to manage the situation. If you have multiple dogs - every dog should have their own space to eat away from the other dogs. Fear can be lessened by building up your pets confidence (basic obedience training with positive reinforcement is a great start). Sometimes an aggression issue requires more in-depth work with a specialist.

Once you are in a place of understanding about your furry family member (whether they are a rescue or not) - you and your beloved pet(s) will have a long and happy life together!

Do you need help with any of the above behaviors? Schedule a free strategy session today!