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TRUE TALES: Loki, a new dog

A charming pup is convinced the world is against him! It takes patience and positive training to teach him how to relax.

Loki, the Portuguese Water Dog

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!”


Three Simple Goals for a Successful Dog Walk

Three Simple Goals for a Successful Dog Walk

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?

  1. It’s enjoyable for you.
  2. It’s enjoyable for your dog.
  3. Both you and your dog feel better at the end of your walk than when you started.
Misha’a morning walk and train

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.


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

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TRUE TALES: Adjusting Quarantined Pets

TRUE TALES: Adjusting Quarantined Pets

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.

Sammy the dog
Sammy the Beagle

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.

Being home is normal for newly acquired pets. They haven’t met the world yet. We have! If your pet needs help adjusting to the real world, contact Crockett’s Critter Care – we can help. Our dog walking and training packages are proven, fun, and safe to help enrich your dog’s world.


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.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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

Summertime Pet Adventures

Summertime Pet Adventures

One thing I love about summertime – the days are longer. That means I can take my dogs out for an early morning and late evening walk when the temperatures may be a little cooler and the daylight is stretched to the limit. It’s good for them and for me. There are more hours to explore new places. I know people who take their dogs to the beach or the river on a nice day.

Park Place

I have found a new place close by to explore. It’s the Martin Marietta Park in New Bern. It’s still being developed and, sometimes, Davy and I have the park all to ourselves. Progress is being made with the boat ramp, restrooms and more. When this park is complete, it will have about 850 acres with activities for adults, children, and pets with forest, lake and river views. For now, even in the early phase of its development, it is pet-approved by Davy.

There is a 3.2 mile park loop that allows dogs on leash. Davy loves the exercise and the opportunities to sniff and smell. I love a good outing and the chance to see birds that I don’t get in my backyard. I can’t wait to see the birding activity that the fall migration will bring.

Short Leash = Safe Dog

When we are walking in the neighborhood, we spot a lot of squirrels, bunny rabbits, baby birds, and an occasional possum, or deer. I keep Davy’s leash short so he doesn’t have a snake encounter (they are out now too); I want to see exactly what is in front of his nose. My neighbor’s dog was frolicking in the park when she heard a yelp followed by her dog limping toward her. It turned out to be from a snake bite. If you have ever seen a dog swollen and whining in pain from a snake bite, you will think twice about letting your pup get too far ahead of you on the trails. A vet visit, pain meds, antibiotics, and time allowed her pup to fully recover.

On the Road…

Car rides are fun – now that they don’t always end up in the vet parking lot. Davy is happy to jump into his crate in the back of the SUV. An interesting side note: He knows by the direction I turn the car where he is likely to end up. When I drive him to school, he faces the back window; when we go to the park, he faces the front window. I can tell that he is happier going to the park!

Curious Kitties

Cats enjoy the summer too. They gravitate to their perch to watch the birds come to the feeder. Many of my clients have their feeders lined up with their cat trees by a window so the cats can get a bird’s eye view. Cats also love to find a sunny spot to snooze and summer provides them with comfy rays of sunshine almost every day. Kitties love to climb on the screen by the open window to get as close as they can to the flowers, animals, and scents on the other side.

Bird’s Eye View

I have a few clients who place their bird’s cage on the porch or patio on nice days so their birds can enjoy the scenery and the sun. I imagine that it feels good to a parrot, cockatiel, parakeet, and conure to have some wind under their wings and to hear our yard birds up close.

Staycations

Your caged pets like bunnies, hamsters, gerbils, lizards, and your indoor cats are best left inside to stay out of harm’s way. They can have a fully enriched indoor space with toys, perches, hiding places, boxes and games where they can play in a safe and healthy environment.

Summer affords us a lot of extra daylight and nice warm temperatures to enjoy with our pets both inside and outside.