Friday, February 2, 2018

Understanding an Animal’s Body Language

animal-dog-pet-dangerous.jpg In this week’s blog, I’ll be talking about dogs and cats. Of course other species will have their own set of body language to be mindful of and to acknowledge.

Most people feel that when they see a dog with a wagging tail that it’s perfectly okay to approach them and say hello. Or an owner will drop their dog off at a doggie daycare or dog park and the dog doesn’t engage, they sit there and either pant or lick their lips with their ears back. Not all body movements or body language is the same or carries the same meaning.

Let’s take tail wagging in dogs. If the dog is giving a long, full tail swing wag – that is a definite indicator of being happy and excited (which is different from being irritated and excited). If a dog has their tail straight up and just the top portion (1/3rd or ½) is doing a small wag from side to side, that’s usually a sign of being on guard or cautious.

Raised hackles: Again, in dogs – raised hackles are a sign of being excited or on guard – not necessarily that they are angry or irritated. The same goes for cats.

Showing of teeth: Not all showing of teeth are the same. There are some dogs who “smile” and the raise of their lip is different than when they are baring their teeth as a warning.

Each animal is different when it comes to their cues and their body language. Ears back and lip licking is usually a sign of discomfort for a dog. Some dogs will make a vocalization that indicates they are very happy, but it can sound like they are irritated. By paying attention and being mindful of an animal’s body language, we can avoid an encounter that results in a bite or scratch.

Does your animal companion have unique body language cues? I’d love to hear from you!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Happy New Year and Two Posts for the Price of One!

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Happy New Year folks!

This month has been incredibly full and exciting and well, I’ve been neglectful of the blog. This is why this entry is two for the price of one!

First topic - getting back to the basics of how you can start to understand your pet. First and foremost - know that they are a fellow being who has their own set of feelings, opinions and thoughts about the world around them. Secondly, Take a moment to take a breath and be quiet and still. From this point you can begin to allow yourself to be open to what your animal companions have to say. You may get feelings, you may get a visual, you may get a sense of knowing. Notice these things as they happen and keep practicing!

Second topic - Pet etiquette with people. A lot of animal companion etiquette around people can be traced back to obedience training with the owner. Does the owner let their furry family member get away with anything and everything? Are the boundaries in place and are they enforced? Consistent enforcement of boundaries, what is and is not appropriate is critical for having a well mannered member of canine society. Cats need boundaries too.

This is all very general of course and every situation will be different. This is one place to start.

Here’s to a great 2018!!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Keeping You and Your Furry Family Member Safe and Sound this Holiday Season

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The holidays are upon us (that was fast)! In this weeks blog, I wanted to go over a few things to help you and your pet be safe during the holidays.

The Poinsettia: The main part of this plant that is toxic is the sap. It tends to cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea etc. While there haven’t been that many fatalities due to ingestion of the plant (according to the poison control hotline), you want to try to keep the Poinsettia away from any nosey pups or cats.

Sweets, Food and More Sweets As a lot of you may already know - our animal companions digest and metabolize food in a different way than we do. If you must give your furbaby some veggies (green beans or carrots) or protein like turkey or ham, remember that moderation is key! A little bit here and there shouldn’t cause a problem. A huge amount will cause a problem.

Remember: Onions, Garlic, Raisins, Grapes and Chocolate are absolute no-nos!

Crowds Some of you may have pets that simply adore being the center of attention in with crowds and they know how to work a room. Or they simply don’t care and will go to another room. If your pet would rather be in another part of the house - let them be and respect that decision. Especially if there are little children who only want to say hi and pet the animal companion in question. Little kids energies can become too intense for some animals. It’s going to be up to you to say no (depending on how well behaved the child is with your pet).

I hope everyone has a safe and healthy holiday season and a bright new year! Do you have a favorite game or pastime during the holidays with your pets? I’d love to hear from you!

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!