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.