Monday, November 27, 2017

Eyes Up and Pay Attention!

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This topic will usually get me a little riled up. One weekend I saw someone walking their dog (no big deal, right?). The person had their phone out and nose down whilst walking. The big reason why this bothers me is because the dog walker was not very aware of her surroundings! Any number of things could have happened! her dog could have picked something up and eaten it, pooped without her picking it up, another dog could have approached without it’s owner, a child could approach the dog without permission, the dog could take off running after something - or she could have been assaulted.

Awareness of your surroundings is not only beneficial for you and your pets, it’s also critical. Remember, you are the one who has the authority to grant permission for someone to say hello/get close to your pet and you are the authority that will and can keep them from harm.

In my experience (mostly with small dogs), the pet is shy when meeting people. This is usually brought on by other people picking this dog up when it didn’t want to be (and as a result, possibly being dropped). In these cases, it’s important for the pet owner to be the advocate for the pet and to physically get in-between the pet and the other person. Hopefully, the other person will respect you and your pet enough to ask if they can approach your pet. From there you can say yes, but please go slow or you can always say no.

Granted, if you have a pet that feels the purpose of the human race is to give them loads of pets and attention – then this isn’t as big of an issue. However, as the pet guardian – you still want to let the other person know about your pets more gregarious nature.
There are a lot more factors that go into being aware of your surroundings. It seems like nowadays everyone’s nose is down and their phones are out. Please folks – when you are out with your pet, keep your eyes up and the phones away. Your attention to and with your pet goes towards strengthening the bond between you.

Strengthening the bonds between you and your pet? That’s for a whole other blog post. But for now, please – pay attention.

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).