When it’s not safe to be outdoors in the heat, games are a way to keep your pets and children from being bored. And I don’t mean board games! These games are just active enough where you won’t break a sweat, but you will still be mentally engaged.
Hide & Seek – Ask your dog to sit, go to another part of the house to hide, call your dog’s name, reward with a treat when you are discovered. Or your child hides with a handful of treats and then calls the pet’s name. When the pet comes running to find the child it is presented with a yummy treat as a reward. This is a fun way to practice recall and for your pet to learn listen to your child’s voice.
Find it – Use toys instead of treats. Let your child hide your pup’s favorite toy; the one that he knows by name. After it is hidden, have your pet hunt for it by saying their name to get their attention, give the command “Find” and the name of the toy. This is a little advanced so let your pet watch you set up the game first a few times. Then see how he does solo.
Find the treat – You and your child can hide treats throughout the house on different surfaces and varying heights (keep it safe). In addition to treats, you can do this with your pet’s meal instead of placing it in a bowl. Mix a variety of textures (chewy, soft, lickable, or crunchy) and observe your dog finding them. Dogs love this stimulating activity and their preferences may surprise you.
Tricks – You and your child can teach your dog some fun tricks. Start with the easy ones: give me your paw, spin left, spin right before adding more advanced tricks like beg, play bow, leg weaves, go around, and so many more. Click here to see instructions for some easy tricks and keep it fun.
Hide Treats in a box – Have your child place a treat in a box and then ask your pet to find it. When your pet understands the game, add more boxes some with and some without treats. Your dog will love the chance to hunt. This is a calming, fun, activity for dogs of any age.
Children and pets can be a great combo. Games and activities can build confidence in our pets and create a strong partnership with children. How we guide their interactions will them help create fond memories that will last a lifetime for them and us.
I walk my dogs daily in my neighborhood where we often encounter children playing. It’s common for them to run toward me expecting a happy, furry greeting as they shout cheerfully, “Can I pet your dog?” My pets aren’t used to kids and, I don’t know if the children have been taught to approach dogs.
The answer when walking Davy, my German shepherd, is a clear, “No… We are in training right now.” I would never put him at risk. Sometimes, I will ask the children if they want to give Davy a treat for doing something I ask him to do. Then I will hand them a treat and ask Davy to perform one of his tricks. A good spin left, spin right, down, sit, or paw always elicits a smile from the audience and the children can toss a treat on the ground in front of him for his reward.
With my Walker Hound, my answer to the petting question is, “You can try, but she is very shy.” I’m careful with my dogs around children. Ginger is skittish of many things. I ask the children to let her choose to approach. Then I give them a treat to offer her. She is getting good at this because she is greedy about yummy food, but not because she likes other people.
In both scenarios, I make it a good experience for everyone. I know my dogs well and understand their body language. But I am aware that most dogs don’t like close encounters with people they don’t know well. I am happier keeping mine in our comfort zone.
Ginger is a rescued Walker Hound that was found running down HWY 70 in Havelock. The story I concocted about her previous life is that she was never socialized well and didn’t turn into a good hunting dog. When she went missing from her pack – no one ventured to find her. I met her at a local rescue where she was in foster care. She hid behind her foster Mom’s legs when I went to see the pets available. “I’ll take that one,” I said and took her home. After ten years, she is still shy.
Davy, my GSD, got a great start in life. Good breeder, excellent lines, and a caring home. He joined my family when he was nine weeks old. I followed the “puppy right start to do” list so was able to shape his experiences. His exuberance, high-energy, low impulse control, and loud bark are in his genes. He is a good dog for me, but not a magnet for petting by strangers. He gets a lot of attention for his good looks, but I keep him at a safe distance from people on our walks.
Do your dogs enjoy being petted? Do they like strangers? Have they been socialized to children? What does your dog want to do? Some dogs love attention from people of all ages and sizes and some don’t. Can you read your dogs body language well enough to know if they are “into” greeting strangers or not? If that stranger is young, do you know if their parents have taught them how to approach dogs? These factors contribute to a pleasant or unpleasant experience for a pet. This is one area when I chose to play it safe. When children ask me if they can pet my dog, my answer depends on what benefits my pet in that moment and whether they consent to the greeting.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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Turn reactivity to calm confidence with our new program.
Crockett’s Critter Care is now offering reactive dog training. As I have been working with several pets and their owners, I’ve created an eight week program to take reactive dogs to calm confident companions.
During this pilot program, your feedback will be invaluable to refining this new specialized training. As part of the first session you’ll have input on determining handout effectiveness, communication between sessions, and confirmation of the success of your practice sessions. In appreciation for your contribution this eight-week individualized course is being offered at introductory rate of $600.
The pre-launch session has just a few more spots available for this summer. If you have a reactive dog that you’d like to train to be calm and confident, contact me to learn more and reserve your spot.
It is uncomfortable when you have a reactive dog. I know what it’s like: you peek out the window to see if it is a good time to venture out. Then holding the leash very tightly in your hand, in case your dog pulls, lunges, or barks, you head out the door. You dread it when a bicycle rider approaches, children ask if they can pet your dog, or the mail truck passes you on the street. And worst of all is the cat or squirrel that magically appears and sends you pet into full alert.
Having a reactive dog can be worrisome, isolating, and physically wearing. Walks are a challenge, going to the vets is a nightmare, and you stopped inviting visitors over a long time ago. You love your dog, but sometimes you don’t like him.
I’ve been there. In fact, that is why I am so excited about helping you and your dog cope with reactivity, calm your anxieties, and develop a better partnership.
The program I offer is science-based, positive, fun, and a game changer. My formerly reactive German shepherd Davy and I can now walk in the neighborhood, meet other dogs for a walk in the park, and remain calm when faced with challenges that used to be seen as threats. Take advantage of the pre-launch introductory rate package of $600 for the full eight week program and transform your relationship with your dog.
You and your dog don’t have to swelter in the heat and humidity on hot summer days. There are awesome alternatives to walking your dog that can be done inside the comfortable temperature of your home. After all, why do we walk our dogs? We want them to have exercise, mental stimulation, a chance to rummage around a bit, and have a special time with us. But, when the weather too hot, there are other options.
Exercise can be high or low impact. For an active experience – take them to a secure field, a friend’s large yard, a tennis court, or a dog park. For low impact exercises, ACE (Animal Centered Education) Free Work such as distributing food on different surfaces and at different levels instead of filling a bowl, provides opportunities to seek, find, chew, and eat.
Swimming is a fun activity that dogs love. Games are awesome activities – try a flirt pole, urban agility (rudimentary course on your property – Parkour can even be done in your living room), tug games, playing pattern games (left to right, up and down, circle, figure 8’s), tossing a Frisbee or a ball are all great forms of exercise in place of a walk.
Mental stimulation can be satisfied through games and smell. Consider sniffing games, scent work, sniffaris, hide and seek around the house, snuffle mats, licky mats, food puzzles, and trick training.
Scavenging – snuffle mats, snuffle boxes, ACE Free Work, and peanut better filled Kong toys can delight your dog for longer than it takes to catch a treat!
Companionship – play games, give your dog a brushing or a massage, talk to them or just relax with them.
Davy, my German shepherd, loves attention, being brushed, brainwork activities, and exploring. Ginger, my hound dog, likes sniffing and eating. Both are easy to please without taking them for a walk on a hot summer day. You can keep your dogs safe, comfortable, happy, and content with some new exciting choices. What would your dog choose if they could? I challenge you to include three things besides a walk that you can do with your dog this week. Share your experience with a post and a picture.
Spring has arrived! Here are some tips to keep your pets safe and happy as the weather warms up.
- Use pet-friendly products for spring cleaning; follow the directions for cleaning and storage.
- Hide the antifreeze. If you suspect your pet may have come in contact with or ingested a poisonous substance – call the Animal Poison Control Center immediately at (888) 426-4435.
- Clean up the yard. Pick up sticks and acorns that you pet could chew on. These can cause harm to your dog’s mouth and throat. Remove leaf litter where ticks and fleas could hide. Make your yard and garden unattractive to snakes by keeping them tidy.
- Cats and screens: Be careful to use strong and sturdy screens in your windows and have them fit snugly. Curious cats can pry screens off their hinges and storms can blow screens off their frames.
- Never leave your pet in a parked car. Travel with pets inside the car (not in the back of a pickup) and in a secure crate or seat belt harness to keep them safe, unable to stick their head out the window, or interfere with your driving.
- Watch your pet for signs of seasonal allergies. Pets can be allergic to pollen, dust, grasses, and plants. For many pets, this reaction shows up in skin issues. You may notice itching, minor sniffling and sneezing or life-threatening anaphylactic shock from insect bites and stings. If your pet suffers each spring, see the vet to ease their suffering.
- Flea and tick control. Check your pet for these pesky critters regularly – especially after they have been in tall grass.
- ID tags will help your pet be returned to you, if they go astray.
- Xylitol poisoning: there is a significant increase in pets being poisoned by ingesting this artificial sweetener. A tiny amount can be fatal. It can be found in some sugar-free gum, candies, breath mints, baked goods, pudding snacks, cough syrup, children’s chewable or gummy vitamins and supplements, mouthwash, and toothpaste. Xylitol is also showing up in over-the-counter nasal sprays, laxatives, digestive aids, allergy medicines, and prescription human medications, especially those formulated as disintegrating drug tablets (sleep aids, pain relievers, anti-psychotics, etc.) or liquids.
- Prep for storms. Gather your hurricane kit together, teach your pet to go into a crate or carrier, and have important papers handy. If your dog is frightened of thunderstorms, ask your vet about medications that can ease your dog’s fears.
- Standing water can cause health concerns (Leptospirosis) so don’t let your pet drink from puddles. Steer clear of communal water bowls.
- Blue-green algae – keep your dog out of water sources that have been known to be contaminated with this toxin. Always wash your dog after swimming outside. Last August three pets died hours after swimming in a pond in Wilmington, NC.
- Sign up for alerts from Dog Food Advisor regarding pet food recalls.
- Take your dog out for a special treat to any of our beautiful parks.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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Willow is a shy golden mix learns to warm up to the world.
I was delighted to hear from a returning client that she had adopted a rescue and wanted to schedule regular dog walks. I met Willow, an adult Golden Retriever mix, in December. Little is known about her past. She was raised as a farm dog, owners lost the farm, and she ended up in a rescue. She is an adult dog with good house manners. She likes food, brushing, cats, and her new owner. She dislikes car rides, noise, and nail trims. She is anxious around strangers. The only one she will go for a walk with is her owner. She has a lot of boundaries and won’t cross them unless she wants to.
At first, she remained in the closet on my visits. I lured her out with food – mostly string cheese. She would eat kibble in her bowl and retreat to the closet immediately after. A walk was not happening. This was our routine for about one month. Then I started distributing her kibble and a few treats around the house instead of in her bowl. At least she would have to sniff and move to eat. I started getting creative and placing food at different levels, surfaces, and hiding places. She’s a good hunter and sought out every morsel. Still no walk, but she would let me attach her leash. If I tried to get her to walk with me, she sat and put on the brakes.
She was getting used to me and would sit next to me for petting and brushing after her hunting expedition instead of retreating to her quiet spot. I always held back something yummy so she would associate me with things she liked. She didn’t mind dragging the leash around, but still sat when I picked up my end. Not going to walk outside for me yet. By now I am visiting Willow four times a week for four months. Our progress is measured in baby steps and wanes from time to time. I decided it was time for her to meet one of my employees. David is kind and gentle with animals and was able to entice Willow into the backyard first. Little breakthroughs finally led to a big win.
I’m glad that Willow has a wonderful home with a doting owner. Willow has come a long way from our first meeting. We still dream of taking her for a walk, but we will let her decide when that will happen. For now, we take pleasure that has accepted us enough to venture out of the closet to spend time with us and will go outside for a midday potty break. Our patience and kindness paid off.