Are you dogs and cats happy? Here are some great ways to keep your pet’s mind and body occupied this winter and reduce his stress levels.
Keep That Tail wagging!
If you have a puppy or adult dog with lots of energy, you know how much work it is to keep your pet entertained. The colder weather and COVID has kept a lot of us indoors which adds another challenge. Lack of exercise and mental stimulation can raise the frustration and stress level for both pet and their people. You’ve probably noticed how your dog’s stress level—and yours—goes up when he’s not getting enough exercise. High-energy dogs can develop behavior problems if they don’t get enough exercise and stimulation. Here’s how to keep your canine happy:
Play dates. If your dog likes the company of other dogs, invite one or more of his furry friends and their owners to join you in a group walk. Be certain that the canine companions know each other and have proven that they get along. Double check that your equipment fits properly. There are many local parks in New Bern to enjoy.
Hidden Treats. Gather a handful of treats and show them to your dog. Place your dog in a sit/stay (or have someone hold him on a leash) and let him watch you hide the treats in front of him in safe places like under a pillow or behind a door.
Let him go and encourage him to search. When he discovers a treat, praise him. After a few of these sessions, he will get the idea. You can then start hiding treats in other rooms, and he will stay busy hunting them down. We call this the “Find It” game at my house. Your can graduate from treats to toys or even hiding yourself and calling your dog to search for you.
Winter walks. Be on the lookout for a break in the cold and seize the moment. Even a short walk can give your pet some exercise and mental stimulation. A good ten-minute “sniffari” is fun and fulling for your pet. Or add some novelty to your dog’s walks by discovering a new place or adding some games to the outing.
Puzzle toys. Invest in a puzzle toy or two to keep your dog’s mind occupied and provide an opportunity to challenge your dog’s problem-solving skills. The toy rewards the dog with a treat when he figures out the puzzle. There are a lot of choices. One of my favorites are the puzzles that replace the food bowl. This gives your dog a chance to hunt for his meals on a daily basis. I also use a snuffle mat with dry treats or kibble tucked inside or a licky mat smeared with peanut butter to engage my dog’s culinary senses.
Kong toy. This is a long-time favorite at my house and is great for keeping dogs from being bored or for encouraging them to settle in their crate or on their “go to” place. This tough rubber concoction can be filled with peanut butter, soft cheese or Kong Stuff’N, and keeps dogs busy as they work on removing the food with their tongue. I put a few treats inside a peanut-butter filled the Kong that I let freeze in the fridge. This keeps my pets busy longer.
Tug and ball. These are good indoor or outdoor games. If you have some space, you can toss the ball down a long hallway or down a staircase for a game of fetch. If your dog likes to tug, get him a new tug toy and play with him until he gets tired. I like to keep some tugs and balls just for indoor use.
Trick training. This is something my dogs, Davy and Ginger, had fun with during the pandemic. I printed out the AKC Trick Dog List and started crossing new tricks off as we learned them. We added roll-over, crawl, and give me your paw to our repertoire. Now we are working on closing open drawers. There is a long list of fun activities to learn.
Make Your Cat Purr!
There are a lot of things that you can do to support your cat’s mental and physical well-being while keeping him safely inside. Cats love to climb, play, eat, observe, explore, hide, perch, scratch, groom, and hang out with their favorite human. Here are activities that fulfill these needs.
Environmental Enrichment. Provide cat trees, window perches, and hiding places from a simple paper bag, empty box, or tunnel to shelving, walkways and catios. Scratching posts give cats an acceptable place to scratch and trim their nails. There are many varieties of scratching posts, but the best ones are sturdy and steady. Keep in mind that cats like to extend their full body for a good scratch.
Social Interactions. Cats are social animals and like to interact with you when they are in the right mood. Don’t push yourself on them, but do be ready when they are asking for your attention. They prefer to be touched around the cheeks and head and most enjoy being brushed on a regular basis. We find some cats love to be read to or given a gentle massage, and quality lap time.
Visual Enrichment. An interesting view of the yard enhanced with a bird feeder can keep them entertained all year. Laser pointers, blowing bubbles, pinwheels, and interactive toys are great boredom busters.
Auditory Enrichment through calming music. – Yes, there is music especially for cats that will reduce stress, boost moods, and improve physical and emotional well-being. Through a Cat’s Ear is an example of cat specific music that is popular with veterinary practices and pet sitters. The tones of cat-specific music are best played softly as cats hear much better than we do. The pet cube that I use for my pet sitting clients play sounds in a lower register (matches a cat’s resting pulse rate) and are slower (not great to hum along to, but cats like it!).
Pheromone Spray. If you have a cat that is nervous or anxious, you can add Feliway pheromone to help them calm down. It comes in sprays, collars, and plug-ins. I particularly like the sprays on bedding for car travel or veterinary visits. The spray lasts about four hours. Plug-ins are great for the house used in the room where the cat spends most of its time.
Food Foraging. There are interactive toys that you can stuff with kibble giving your cat an opportunity to hunt. Place or hide these toys around your house. Many behaviorists are suggesting we stop feeding our pets out of food bowls.
Training your Cat. Yes, cats can learn many tricks – fetch, high-five, rollover. They are very smart… after all, they train us! To teach the tricks have some good treats handy, a clicker for training, and have fun with your feline.
Our pets have preferences too. Get to know your pet and find out what they like or don’t like. It’s a great way to build the bond you have between you and add to the quality of their lives. After all, don’t we all want our pets to be happy?
By Cindy Cook Abby is a smart bundle of happy energy and she doesn’t shed!
My daughter Jill and I got Abby at 8 weeks old from Kinston, NC. She stole our hearts from the get go. She is an F1 Schnoodle meaning that her dad is a poodle and her mom is a Schnauzer. That makes her a great dog for allergies, for she doesn’t shed and her dander is very low.
Abby is so smart and loves to learn new things like playing peekaboo and is becoming a calm walking partner thanks to Crockett’s Critter Care. She is full of energy and loves her walks, will do tricks for treats, and is always ready for snuggles. Her intelligence amazes me every day. Her favorite toy is a worn out stuffed cat named Maw-Maw and her other loves are cheese, duck treats, and Mom’s cooking. For us, she is a small child in a “Fur-Suit” and we could not love her more.
What is your proud pet story? Contact us so we can all hear it.
A coat for your pet is not just a fashion statement, it is a safety measure. Even with shaggy fur coats your pets can still suffer the impacts of cold weather.
Just like people, your pets all react to cold differently depending on age, breed, and size. Like most seniors, older cats and dogs have a hard time maintaining body heat. Meanwhile, puppies and kittens shouldn’t be outside in the frigid air even when well-dressed because they don’t have the fat, metabolism, or the full fur coat they need to stay warm when temperatures plunge.
Of course, it’s not a good idea to shave your dog’s coat during colder seasons. The fur helps keep your pet comfortable so just wait until spring to give Fifi a new do.
A fabric coat or knit sweater for your pet can be fashionable and warm. Add a reflective collar or some reflective accents on the covering to make it easier to spot you and your dog on the dawn and dusk patrols. Take the coat off as soon as your pet comes inside and never leave a wet coat on your pet otherwise they will get chilled from the damp material and you’ll have defeated the purpose of the protective garment.
When it’s cold or wet out, veterinarians say it’s vital to keep young, old, and sick pets indoors. If the temp is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too cold for pets to be left outside for extended periods and below 32 degrees is when frostbite occurs. It’s up to you to watch the thermometer and keep your pet warm and snug.
Rather than chilly hours in the yard unattended, keep those outdoor breaks short, just 10-15 minutes for a romp 3 or 4 times a day is a better option. When it is cold, watch your pet closely for signs of distress which may include shivering, lethargy, disorientation, and whining. If you think your pet is hypothermic, call your vet to determine the best way to warm them up.
While you can’t bundle up your outdoor pets, expect to add 10-15% more food in the winter. Birds (and squirrels) love to get peanut butter and suet when it is cold outside and those extra calories may help maintain their body heat.
Thankfully, we in NC don’t have to contend with severe and lengthy bitter cold seasons like other parts of the country. Our cold snaps may be brief but our concern for every pet’s well-being is for all seasons.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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I have owned more than a handful of dogs and have prepared many foster dogs for adoption. Along the way, I have met some interesting and challenging canines. One such dog was Duke, The Found Hound. I was buying groceries at the Food Lion in Bridgeton. Every time the door opened, this large, bony tick-ridden hound walked in sweeping his tail from side to side. He entered the store three times and each time he was forced back outside. After the third time, the store employees were ready to call Animal Control. It was Thanksgiving week, and I figured the fate of this dog in the hands of Animal Control would not have a good outcome.
In the parking lot, the dog was going up to everyone in the same friendly manner that he showed as he entered the Food Lion. Everyone brushed him off –that is, everyone but me. I saw something in him that I liked. No one knew anything about this dog so I considered him abandoned. It was clear by looking at him that he hadn’t been well cared for. He was severely underweight and his coat was in poor condition.
I asked some people to help me get him into the backseat of my car. They asked me what I was going to do with him, and I said I’d adopt him out or keep him. They looked at me like I was crazy. My intentions were to get him fully vetted, neutered, trained in some basic obedience, and then adopt him out through the humane society. After I got home, I named him Duke, and started his rehabilitation. He impressed me with his intelligence, athleticism, and willingness to learn. I worked on calming his reactiveness to other dogs, eliminating his food aggressive issues, and taught him basic skills and house manners. When he was ready, I took him to an adoptathon. To my dismay, he was ignored because he was too big. Everyone passed us to view the little dogs. I decided that no one would ever do that to him again and took him “home.” He was mine!
This dog that no one wanted went on to receive a Canine Good Citizenship certificate, had a blast learning agility, and excelled at obedience. He remained my faithful companion for eight years. To this day, he holds the title of being the most frustrating and challenging dog I’ve owned. But he also taught me the most and took me to places I never would have gone. For that, I am forever grateful.
If you have a dog that is a challenge, we may be able to help. We’d love to improve the outcome of your story. Contact us so we can all hear it.
I love Walker Hounds. They are quiet, kind, and athletic. Plus, they get along well with other dogs, children, and adults. They are easy, no muss-no fuss, pets who like to cuddle and relax on the couch. When I adopted my first Walker Hound, I found out just how misunderstood they are. I was told by a breeder that they don’t make good pets, are difficult to house train, and would probably be an escape artist.
I met my first Walker Hound, Savannah, standing by the trunk of my car. She approached me cautiously as I carried a bag of dog food to the house. She remained outside my front door so I went to see if she had any ID on her collar. She did. I called, left a message, and never received a call back. I gave her some food and water, brought her into the house, gave her a bath, and let her stay. True to her breed, she did try to get out of the yard a few times by literally climbing up and over the fence. Once out she was a blur as she sped away. I made a point to go out with her after that.
When our dog park opened, we were a regular. She would run around the perimeter faster than any other dog in the park. She was fast. Mostly she was very quiet. On special occasions (meeting her first turtle) she would let out a melodious bay. She was my first hound dog, and I was hooked on hounds after that. When she passed, I knew I would have another Walker.
I went to Colonial Capital Humane Society to see if they had any. Sure enough – they had several. One of them was so shy it hid behind the foster mother. I thought that she would be overlooked by others wanting a pet so I said – I want that one. I put her in my car, changed her name from Jackie to Ginger, and added her to my pet family. In a few days, she was at ease and enjoying her new home. Ten years later, Ginger is still very shy, doesn’t like noise, and prefers to stay at home. But in her zone, she has a ton of personality and brings so much joy to my household.
She is smart and can hold her own in a class of German Shepherds and Boarder Collies. Her recall is the fastest in the class. If she were more at ease with new sights and sounds, I think she would have made an awesome agility competitor. But I have learned to love her as she is and not flood her with too many triggers. It doesn’t bother me if she is shy. We still fit in three walks a day – short, sniff sessions instead of endurance walks. She’s content to spend time on the couch or the bed and the highlight of her day is mealtime when she lets out a roaring bark. Ginger turned out to be a happy and delightful pet who is adored by her owner.
What is your proud pet story? Contact us so we can all hear it.
Maxi is a star in my neighborhood. He is a hound of uncertain registry. His owner, Fiona, dotes on him and takes him for walks all over the county. I know him well. He bays when he sees me and trots over for some treats. Ginger, my hound, is quite smitten with him. We occasionally join them on walks.
Maxi came into Fiona’s life about twelve years ago when a co-worker asked her if she was still thinking of getting a dog. She replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes”. The co-worker then asked if she was interested in a puppy – to which she emphatically answered, “No”. This small, pathetic looking puppy arrived at the office the next day and stole Fiona’s heart and changed her life.
On their first day together in Maxi’s new home, they made a special trip to PetSmart where it was discovered that Maxi loved balls. He chose a little green one and proceeded to carry it everywhere he went. Over the years his ball collection grew as he found more balls on his trip to the park. In fact, Fiona’s car is full of balls because Maxi’s philosophy is that every stray ball needs a home with him.
Maxi is Fiona’s first dog. It is amazing to me to see the joyful bond between them. True to his “hound” nature, he is a “good dog ambassador” to all of the children in the neighborhood who can’t resist giving him a pat on the head during his daily walk. He has made a long and successful journey from his pathetic puppy beginning to a charming happy hound. Woof woof!
What is your proud pet story? Contact us so we can all hear it.