Due to quarantine, many people felt it was the perfect time to get a puppy. Now that things are opening up, the pups need to adjust.
Some of my professional pet sitter colleagues have been seeing more aggression, separation anxiety, and fearfulness than ever before with young dogs. We believe the rise in these issues is because people have not been able to properly train or socialize their new pets during the pandemic.
These young dogs are going to be coming out of their quarantine just like we are. But unlike us, they don’t have memories of what it used to be like and are forming their impressions day by day. That can be overwhelming and it’s no wonder they may be insecure or uncomfortable. It’s important for them to be introduced safely to the new experiences.
Here are some examples that I have encountered. There is a dog that I watch named Willow whose world was turned upside down when her owners lost their farm and they couldn’t keep her. She is sweet, but mistrustful. She went from knowing one home to being placed in foster care and then being adopted by my client – all in a few months.
That was a lot to take in. At first, Willow stayed in the closet during my visits. She wasn’t scared of me – but was more at ease watching rather than engaging. I earned her trust with hand feeding, brushing, and playing games. She now joins me in the living room, sits next to me for petting, enjoys being brushed, and even lets me trim her nails without any fuss. We continue to make steady progress.
My sister, who lives out of town, adopted a Beagle puppy when he was almost four months old. Sammy has separation anxiety. He follows her from room to room rarely leaving her side. When my sister goes out (even for a few minutes) the dog is overly stressed. Lucky for Sammy, he has my sister who is patient and doesn’t hesitate to follow my advice. Sammy is learning to cope and is becoming more independent – one small step at a time.
Your dog must be handled with patience, kindness, and praise through this sensitive adjustment period. This is where our knowledge and experience can lead to a smooth transition for you and your pet. We will devise a plan using our training and Fear Free techniques to build your dog’s confidence to calmly face the world as it opens up. We will introduce him to people, places, and things that may be perceived as threats and turn them into challenges and wins. Our approach includes games that are fun and build confidence resulting in a dog that is more comfortable in the real world.
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.
A blind rescue dog brings special challenges but more than enough love and personality to make a perfect match.
What made you decide to adopt a blind/deaf dog? We never really decided. It just happened. We did foster him for close to a year, and only started thinking about adding him to our pack about 9 months in
Where did you find him? A very good friend of ours started her own 501c3 special needs rescue. Chato was one of the many visually and/or hearing-impaired dogs in her group. We met him for the first time at a rescue event.
What are the challenges, and how did you deal with them? The challenges of bringing a blind/deaf dog into a home with dogs and cats that can see and hear are very real. A dog that cannot see or hear relies on his other senses. He knew immediately we had other dogs in the house and wanted to try and find them. Three out of our four at the time were okay with an introduction, one was not. It took a very long time to make that introduction. We had a very alpha female in the house, and she was jealous of the attention the new dog was getting. Once we got past the helicopter parent stage, things got much easier for Chato, our other dogs, and for us as well. The biggest challenge was getting past the fact he was born with no vision and ability to hear and wanting to coddle him and protect him. It was a human challenge, not a canine challenge.
How does the dog fit in with other pets? Chato adjusted quite well once he figured out how many other pets were in the house and could identify them by their smell. He took to our Golden Retriever Leo immediately. Chato and Leo are still best buds. We always take Leo with us when we take Chato on an outing. I think it gives Chato a sense of comfort knowing his big brother Leo is there. Chato does well with all his current canine and feline siblings.
What advice would you give to others who may be contemplating a deaf and blind dog? My advice would be to fully understand the commitment you are making to this dog. Understand there will be a period of adjustment for the dog, any other pets and humans in the house. I would suggest any pet parent of a blind/deaf dog take a pet first aid and CPR class. My first aid training has paid off quite well with Chato and his little scratches and occasional run in with another dog’s mouth. Be prepared to give this dog a safe space to claim as his or her own, whether a bed, crate, or another room in the house.
How do you communicate with a dog that is deaf and blind? Training tips? The answer to both questions is patience. Chato responds very well to touch. I have found touching him near his shoulder blades gets his attention. Once I have his attention, I run my hand down his spine to get him in a sitting position. Once he is sitting, I rub him under his chin to reward him and give a treat if we are in training mode. Just like a dog that can see and hear consistency is critical.
What accommodations have you made for his special needs? We have not moved any furniture since he came to us. He knows how to find his way around the house quite well. We feed him in the same place twice a day. We have a few dog beds scattered throughout our house and he knows where each once is, especially after the last potty break before bed. He knows he gets a night-night treat. Who trained who?
Did you choose him, or did he choose you? I think it was mutual. It was love at first sight for me, and love at first sniff for him.
To see Chato in action, he has his own Facebook page The Adventures of Chatopotomus, @chatopotomus.
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?
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.
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.
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 FreeElite 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.