Keep Your Cool

How many times have you been told “Calm down” or “Keep your cool” or something like that? In most cases, someone may be telling you that because you are in an emotional state and either the other person can’t handle it, or they want to help you through your stressful situation so you can make logical rather than emotional choices.

The same idea can be applied to our animal companions.

Remember.. our animals are thinking, feeling, sentient beings with a full range of emotions and their own opinions about the world around them. A key component when working with them (especially in training) is to always keep your cool: remain calm and level headed. When you stay calm,they will intuitively know that you can guide them, and be their “leader”.

Think about the difference between a supervisor who is respected and trusted by his/her employees and the one who is not: the defining factor is often that they are level-headed individuals who not only support and respect their team – but also do not become overly emotional during times of stress or chaos.

This is a hallmark of leadership when it comes to our animal companions. Animals and children are amazing at detecting the difference between when you are truly being calm and focused, and when you are not.

So how does one become calm, focused and the leader that our animals need us to be?

Step 1. Take A Deep Breath! This is a critical step in all things! Take a moment to let the emotional outburst (or knee jerk reaction) pass through and regain your composure. You can also count down from 20 before you react verbally or physically towards your pet.

Step 2. Be Genuine and Focused. What you are thinking and what you are feeling must match! If you are giving your animal a command (let’s say a dog in this case), and you want them to sit, your tone of voice needs to be direct and matter of fact. Your thought must also focus on your dog performing a successful sit. If you don’t think your dog can do it – or if you have no confidence in your dog to successfully sit – neither of you will get very far in the training.

Step 3. Be Consistent! How many of you have ever had that work supervisor who wasn’t consistent? They would essentially, not follow through with their promises or action steps. And you knew you could get away with not fully completing a task. In our example with the dog, – sit must always mean sit. They must always listen to you when you are out for a walk or anywhere else.

It’s important to also remember that your emotional state travels down the leash (or lead rope if you have a horse). If you are the calm presence your dog needs in any situation, then your dog will be more likely to listen and obey commands, and you both will be more happy with these clear boundaries!

But, What if I Want My Animal to Understand ME?

Why won’t my pet understand me? I WISH my pet would understand me!

How many times have you or someone you know asked these very questions?

What most people don’t realize is that intuitive animal communication is a two way street. For as much as people wish that they could understand their animals – they also wish that their animals could understand them. The key here is that they can and do understand us – more than we give them credit for. At the very basics – our animal companions understand what we are feeling as well as our intent. Words are simply icing on the cake.

Take for example the times when you are sick and your animal companions stick close to you. They understand and know that you are not feeling well. So they want to help you or be a source of comfort for you.

Always remember that animals are thinking, feeling, sentient beings who have their own opinions about the world around around them.

I’d love to hear from you about the times when you knew that your animals really understood you.

Eyes Up and Pay Attention!

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.

Keeping your Furry Family Members Happy During Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, feasting and usually family or large crowds. Here are a few tips to keep you beloved animal companion(s) happy and safe during this time:

Keep all of the food on the table. Begging can become problematic down the road and most foods can’t be processed well by your pets digestive system.

Let them have their own space if they are stressed. Most pets will run away to a different room if they are stressed or overwhelmed by too many people. Let them have their own space and give them something to chew, such as a stuffed frozen Kong or toy.

Keep all garbage away. If you want to keep your pet our of trouble and prevent a medical emergency (swallowing bones or excessive sugars or fats) keep the garbage secured and away from prying noses!

For a more detailed list of what your pet should and shouldn’t have, here is an article from the AVMA on keeping your pet safe and happy during Thanksgiving.

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!

Keeping Your Pets Safe on Halloween

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!