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Adventure Walks

Adventure Walks

How to Spice Up Your Walking Ritual

Most likely your daily walk is pretty boring for both you and your dog. Here are ways to make it memorable.

Many dog owners view their walk with their dog as a cornerstone of their routine. But it doesn’t have to be just a potty break. A run-of-the-mill dog walk can be turned into an exciting and enjoyable daily adventure by spicing it up with fun, novel activities, and new games.

An adventure walk is a great way to burn off extra energy, solidify obedience skills, soothe nervous dogs, improve your dog’s fitness, and strengthen your bond. Let ho-hum walks be a thing of the past. Different activities result in different benefits and dogs love to learn and try new things.

Training during a walk is not just heelwork and basic commands. It can involve game playing that makes your dog think and respond. Engaging your dog leads to happier vet visits, calmer walks, easier nail trims, better manners, and less reactivity to triggers (cats, other dogs, delivery trucks, or loud noises).

In general, games are an important way to enrich your dog’s life. Besides being fun for you and your dog, they promote:

  • Physical Exercise – including a 3 to 5 minute sessions of play can make a huge difference. Frisbee or playing with a flirt pole (high-energy dogs in good shape) are physically demanding so adding them to your dog’s regular exercise routine is a great way to let off some pent-up energy.
  • Mental Stimulation – games have some basic rules and your dog learns to use his brain to figure those out. A ball needs to be dropped in order for it to be thrown again.
  • Stress Buster – games are a simple way to improve your dog’s mood. They bring you together and can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Social Skills – exposing your dog to new scents, sights, and things is good for them at any age.
  • Decrease Problem Behaviors – engaging your dog in regular play keeps boredom at bay which means they are less likely to entertain themselves with chewing and barking.
  • Bonding – games are a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. For dogs, playtime can be the highlight of their day and engaging with their owner can make this their favorite pastime.
  • Training – games are a fun way to reinforce some daily training like sit, stay, down without it feeling like a drill.

These are simple ways to bond and train your pet while obliterating boredom for both of you. To make it even easier for you, Crockett’s Critter Care is now offering Adventure Walks.


For Fear Free professional pet sitting and dog walking, contact Jeanne Crockett, owner of Crockett’s Critter Care.

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DID YOU KNOW? -How to keep your pet happy, fit, and healthy for a lifetime

DID YOU KNOW? -How to keep your pet happy, fit, and healthy for a lifetime

Here are 7 simple things you can do to ensure your pet’s health and happiness.

Happy Dog
  1. Feed them a good diet. This promotes a shiny coat, healthy skin, and bright eyes. It also strengthens your pet’s immune system, helps maintain their intestinal health, increases their mental acuity, keep their joints and muscles healthy, and good nutrition means a happy pet.
  2. Keep your pet lean. Obesity is a huge problem today and can shorten a dog or cat’s life span by as much as two years. Being overweight or obese puts your pet at risk for joint disease, heart disease and diabetes. Since you can control what your pet eats, it is up to you to count their calories.
  3. Take your pet to the veterinarian regularly. Pets that are getting older should see the vet twice a year. In many cases, an early diagnosis improves the chances of successful treatment of minor problems before they become serious and costly health issues.
  4. Keep your pet’s mouth clean. Yes, brush your pet’s teeth! You can also provide dental chews and drops in their water. Untreated dental issues can contribute to heart and kidney disease. It’s best to introduce this to cats when they are kittens.
  5. Supervise their outdoor activities. Roaming pets are subject to car accidents, predation, exposure to contagious diseases, exposure to poisons, and other dangers. Protect them by not allowing them to wander without you.
  6. Exercise your pet. It’s good for the mind and body. It lowers stress, increases endorphins, and balances their mind. It helps maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass.
  7. Provide positive attention. Give them affection with petting, grooming, kind words, and enriching activities. Our loving companions deserve to be appreciated and well-cared for.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!


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DID YOU KNOW? – Cats are Complex Creatures

DID YOU KNOW? – Cats are Complex Creatures

Cats have always been mysterious and even mystical as well as the first defense against rodents. Here are some cat facts to help you understand your feline companion.

It’s in the genes! You know a lot about your cat except, for many cat owners, you don’t know what type of cat you have. Basepaws, an animal health company specializing in genetics, can analyze your cat’s DNA for breed type, health markers, and its wild heritage. (You may have a cute kitten that is descended from a lynx!)

How it works: you purchase their kit, send them a cheek swab, and wait for your cat’s genetic report. You’ll discover what breeds and breed groups your cat descended from and what health issues can affect your cat’s life.

Personality
Is your cat social, confident, and easy going or timid, shy and unfriendly? Studies have confirmed that not only is personality inherited from the mother, but that friendliness specifically is, in part, inherited from the father. The best time to begin gently handling a cat is before 8 weeks old. Feral cats may become adjusted to humans who regularly feed them, but they generally don’t like to be handled.

Foraging
Cats in the wild eat numerous small meals each day and spend a lot of time hunting. This is why food puzzles instead of food bowls are so enriching. They mimic the cat’s natural choice.

Senses, habits, and interesting facts:

  • Each cat has its own signature scent. They spread their scent over their fur through grooming. Friendly cats rub up against each other to transfer their scent. This friendly behavior is called allorubbing.
  • Cat’s ears can be rotated at 180 degrees. The average cat’s hearing is at least five times keener than a humans.
  • Domestic cats spend about 70% of the day sleeping and 15% grooming.
  • Most cats don’t have eyelashes.
  • Cats can jump up to six times their length.
  • Cats use their whiskers to feel the world around them and to determine if they can fit into small spaces. A malady called whisker fatigue is caused by too much stimulation. For this reason many cat owners prefer to feed their cat on a plate instead of a small bowl.
  • Cats were first brought to America during Colonial Times to hunt rats.
  • Two hundred feral cats prowl the park at Disneyland on rat patrol.
  • Cats have also contributed to the extinction of 33 different species. Placing bird feeders in safe areas will save a lot of feathered beings.
  • Kittens often seek warmth in car engines. Always thump on your hood before starting your car to scare them off to a safer space.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!


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Happy Pets = Happy Home

Happy Pets = Happy Home

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?


For Fear Free professional pet sitting and dog walking, contact Jeanne Crockett, owner of Crockett’s Critter Care.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!

Get more pro tips to take care of your pets by subscribing to our newsletter and blog.

DID YOU KNOW? – Furry Pets Still get Cold!

DID YOU KNOW? – Furry Pets Still get Cold!

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.

Winston in red sweater
Winston in red sweater

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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Fear Free For Me!

Fear Free For Me!

At the 2016 Pet Sitter International’s Conference, I heard a veterinarian named Dr. Marty Becker give a passionate talk about a program that he called Fear Free.  It was about taking the “pet” out of “petrified” and lowering a pet’s anxiety regarding veterinary visits. 

Dr. Becker realized that vets have been doing it wrong and pets were being terrified as a result.  Some of the examples discussed were how nail trims were done and how cats were scruffed for common procedures.  In too many cases the mind set was this is how it has always been done, and it was also the quickest way to get things done. (I had worked at a veterinarian’s office for three years so I could relate to what he was saying.)  In his heart, Dr. Becker knew there was a better way.  He did his research and talked to colleagues and the Fear Free movement began to take shape.    

He and his colleagues discovered ways of low stress handling, use of calming music and pheromones, compression garments, and therapeutic massage.  They promoted better methods to reduce a pet’s stress before, during, and after a vet visit from the ride from home to the office, into the lobby and on to the scale, and finally the exam room and kennel.  Everything was scrutinized and solutions were implemented.

Fear Free Certified Compassion Cat
Fear Free Certified Compassion Cat

Dr. Becker explained how easy it is to recognize fear by understanding a pet’s body language and how to use techniques to lower it.  As he talked, I was reminded about how having this knowledge would benefit the pets that I care for.  I considered some of the many challenges pet sitters face and knew that this program was for me.  As I was leaving the presentation, I said to one of the leaders in Pet Sitters International that I was going to pursue Fear Free certification in the coming year.

The program was in the early stages and the only Fear Free program available was the veterinary program which I took and then became the first Fear Free pet sitter in North Carolina, and the first Fear Free professional of any stripe in New Bern.  It was a difficult course and each year additional credits are required to maintain the certification.  After three years of study, I am now qualified for the Fear Free Elite Status. This distinction makes me confident that I am providing the best possible care for all the critters that are entrusted to me.

I have so much respect for the methods and how much they have benefited my clients.  Fear Free starts with how I introduce myself to a new pet client, it aids the elderly pets at medicine time, it helps pets overcome their separation anxiety, makes the trips to the vets more comfortable, and employs rewards and praise for training pets to be calm walking companions. The Fear Free methods ensure that I and my team give priority to each pet’s emotional and physical well-being in everything we do.

This program has shaped the path that I have taken and provided me with the best tools to offer the pets in my care.  When a pet owner entrusts their pet to me or my team they know that they have hired a qualified professional.

Fear Free Elit Professional
Fear Free Elit Professional

For Fear Free professional pet sitting and dog walking, contact Jeanne Crockett, owner of Crockett’s Critter Care.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!

Get more pro tips to take care of your pets by subscribing to our newsletter and blog.