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outdated.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?

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 22, 2017

Quick Tips for Moms with Pets

theme-candid-portraits-smile-woman-girl-40064.jpegOne topic that tends to garner a lot of discussion and debate is children around pets. By the time a concerned parent comes to an animal communicator, some damage has already been done with a child being bitten or scratched due to a lack of supervision of some kind. Ultimately, it is the pet who will pay the price and wind up being re-homed or in a shelter.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Kids do not need to wind up with bite marks and the pets do not have to be re-homed or surrendered. For this weeks blog, I’d like to share information from my experiences as an Animal Communication Counselor to help you have a better sense of understanding and help your pets have a great relationship with your (or anyone’s) kids. Since the topic of pets and kids is a large one, this blog will be broken down into a series of posts touching on the important elements of not only building a good relationship between kids and pets, but giving a clear picture of what responsible supervision looks like.

The pets relationship with the child begins in utero. A lot of new parents will be concerned about how the pup will react to having a new baby. As long as the new parents can include the pet (this includes cats) in the activities of getting the nursery ready and even telling them about a new being being added to the pack/family unit, that will go a long way to avoiding jealousy or destructive behaviors.

Once the baby is born, again..let your pet be involved with taking care of the baby! If you constantly push the pet away anytime you are doing an activity with your newborn, you are inviting destructive behaviors to happen (chewing on the furniture, peeing/pooping on the carpet, chewing things that belong to the baby..etc). Of course you want to make sure that your pup isn’t getting into the diaper genie or trash can to shred used baby wipes!

As the kids begin to get older, some may feel that chasing the dog (or cat) is a fun activity. For most pets, this isn’t fun at all. Make sure that your pet has their own “Safe Space” that is off limits to people. This is usually a crate or some form of secluded area. As the parent - make sure the kids know and understand that when your pet retreats to their safe space, they need to be left alone.

Remember, our pets understand things on a much deeper level than what we once thought. Talk to them like the intelligent beings that they are to let them know a change is coming (if you are expecting a baby). Really let them be part of the family and part of the process. Pets have been known to be closer and more “clingy” to the mothers when they are pregnant. They get it.

Compassion and Understanding is for all beings.

Family Paws is an excellent resource for families with pets and children of all ages!

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!