A charming pup is convinced the world is against him! It takes patience and positive training to teach him how to relax.
This February, my friend, Thressa, asked if I could help her dog, Loki, a ten-year-old Portuguese Water Dog who is extremely well trained at all the basic commands but has been plagued by lifelong anxieties. He is fiercely afraid of other dogs and hypervigilant about anything coming near him, his humans, home, or car, reacting with loud barking, growling, and lunging at the perceived danger. None of their three previous trainers had been able to help Loki be more comfortable in the world. Thressa wanted Loki to enjoy walks around their neighborhood and hikes through parks with her, not pulling at his leash, scrambling to return to the safety of his home or car. She also had plans to meet up with friends, family, and their dogs later this summer but was anxious herself about how that could even be possible. After reading my newsletters and other socials, she became hopeful that I might be the missing link in their training. I immediately recognized that Loki is a “reactive dog,” and I agreed to offer my advice to help lower his anxiety.
We got together once or twice a week for two months. We made some seemingly minor adjustments to Loki’s world, such as not feeding him in a bowl and preventing his access to a window view, that had major positive effects. We identified his triggers and then modified his reactive behavior by using fun focus games, lots of Loki’s favorite treats, and calming activities, building positive associations with all of Loki’s triggers and teaching him how to relax. This process not only helped Loki but gave Thressa the tools to feel more in control of situations at home and out on walks. She reframed her mindset from “Oh no, here comes a dog!” to “Oh good! Here’s an opportunity for Loki to reframe his mindset.” We kept track of Loki and Thressa’s “wins” and “areas that weren’t quite there yet” and narrowed the gap between them every week. By the end of two months, we had changed threats into challenges and then successes, counting daily wins instead of disappointments.
Working with Thressa and Loki turned into a power-up experience for all of us. I was delighted when Thressa said, “Working with you has been the best thing that ever happened to me and Loki!”
Even before you picked out your pooch, you were daydreaming about serene strolls around the neighborhood or out in a park. Is that your reality?
It’s enjoyable for you.
It’s enjoyable for your dog.
Both you and your dog feel better at the end of your walk than when you started.
Those three things sound so simple, don’t they? Yet there are so many things that can get in the way of a happy dog walk: a squirrel, a cat, another dog, the mail truck, skateboarders, bicycle riders, birds, airplanes, loud noises, neighbors coming and going, voices, laughter, windy days, thunderstorms, lightning, and a dog that pull’s us down the street with or without the presence of these triggers. Some days the activity we most looked forward to doing when we first got our dog has become one of our most challenging experiences.
The struggle is real for both ends of the leash. Having a stressful walk is horrible. We tend to tighten our grip, pull back on the leash, and let our frustrations get the best of us. Our dogs get all worked up and may pull, lunge, bark, and embarrass us. Subsequently, these responses are just the opposite of what we dreamed walking our dog would be like, look like, and feel like. So how do we fix this?
Our Walk and Train programs are designed to help you understand your dog and take the steps needed to reach the results you want. We offer training programs that will help you and your pet live a happier life. We look forward to helping you both. Our website has more details. Message us or call us to schedule a consultation. In a short time, you and your pooch will be enjoying your new partnership.
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?