Who got a Puppy at Christmas?
Christmas Puppies and Kittens - Start the First Days off Right
First Puppy Exams - It's about Training as much as Shots
When the weather gets horribly cold, it is really difficult to give our pets as much exercise and play outside. Both dogs and cats that go outside may act up due to boredom. Feet freeze, making in painful to walk very far. It is harder to find the ball in the snow or chase mice and birds that are hunkering down in the shrubbery. Sometimes dogs may have accidents in the house because it is too hard on their feet to get "in position" to potty. Their toilet area may be covered with snow or just frozen, making it hard to smell the area. Accidents are forgivable; they are also very aggravating. Other ways that pets may act up in the winter is being more mischievous in the home. Cats may be knocking more items off your dresser or getting on the counters. Dogs may be pulling things off shelves to get your attention. You may hear more barking at squirrels out the window, or your cats may be swatting at each other more.
What to do? First of all, try to understand why your pets are behaving badly. The house is no where nearly as fun as the great outdoors. There are not as many places to sniff out, dig out or climb on top of. So, to help cure cabin fever, make the indoors more interesting. First be sure to keep the routines regular such as feeding and going outside. When you do feed make feeding time more interesting by using food puzzles rather than just feeding out of a bowl. Both dogs and cats get a lot of mental stimulation figuring out how the heck to get the food out of the toy. Meals in the puzzle, not just treats. You can see some videos starring Bella and Ranger using food puzzles on my youtube channel.
To avoid accidents in the house, keep your dog on a feeding schedule. They will typically need to toilet about a half an hour after eating. You can now predict when they will need to go and not have to spend so much time outside. Take your pet out for short but more frequent breaks and praise praise praise when they get it right. You may give them the first chance to eliminate, come in for 5 minutes (keeping them confined) then go on out again to finish up. Outside cats may still demand to toilet outside. If you let them out, give them some super yummy canned food just inside the house door to reward them for coming home.
Offering a potty pad in the home may be another way to help out the toy breeds. Reward the dog when they use the pad. Shoveling off some snow or making a path can also help the small dog go outside. For the housebound cat, reward them after using the box and keep the box absolutely clean. As soon as it is used, scoop it.
Increasing exercise cuts down on boredom and can help pets get along. Walking, even limited, is still good in the cold. Booties and coats help and there are sizes for the large to small pets. More frequent short walks going in different areas can help to minimize the frozen paws and still provide variety and some outside time. Head halters and front attaching harnesses can make walking easier and safer for the humans as well. PetSafe and other makers have various halter models that are easy to use.
Lastly, find ways to play and get exercise in the house. Games of chase up and down the stairs, review obedience commands or teach them a new trick. This will decrease naughty behaviors that come from boredom.
For cats use laser pointers they can chase, stuffed toys they can pounce on or boxes they can investigate. Cats really need to have their toys rotated every day to keep it interesting. You don't need many; just keep most up taking one or 2 down a day. Be sure you have enough places for the cats to lay and perch on. A step ladder set up with towels on the tread can increase the space to the cats. Placing this near a window can relieve much boredom.
Make the home mischief proof at this time. Remember that both cats and dogs can smell much better than us. So even though you put the chocolate brownies way back on the counter, your dog or cat will be very interested in getting to them. Be sure your garbage has a closing lid as well.
To learn more about pet behavior, tools to use and understanding your pet read my blog and look out for our events announced in our newsletter.
If your pet is driving you crazy, give us a call. Take a look at the behavior services we offer.
Christmas Puppies and Kittens - Start the First Days off Right
Christmas is a time for gift giving and receiving. Personally, I would rather see people give or receive a pet at a less stressful time of year, but people still get pets at Christmas. If you are set on getting a pet at Christmas, please do not make this a total surprise to the receiver. If you do add a pet to your home, please be sure to follow this information to make this addition a good experience.
The first stop should be to a veterinarian who offers fun puppy and kitten exams. I stress the fun because this pup or kitten needs to have some treats and good experiences at the clinic to learn to like the veterinarian. Seek a clinic that offers low stress/pet friendly handling for this important first visit. Vaccinations can wait a week or so, but if fleas or worms are present those need to be treated. Most clinics will give away a puppy/kitten care kit which will have a lot of training and good health information to help you get off to a good start. When you get home - read the information! So many clients get this free resource and make little use of it - I love it when people actually read the information in the kit and use it.
For puppies get a crate and start using it the first day. Puppies have to learn to like the crate, so toss treats and feed the puppy in the crate. We have articles and videos on crate training on our clinic website to help you with crate training. Always make it a happy place for them. If your puppy is stressed in the crate, use the mother dog pheromone spray Adaptil/Comfort zone. Spraying a small amount in the crate or on a bandana before crating helps the puppy to settle. The spray can be used for car trips, on a bandana to wear when people come over as well. Our puppy kits include a coupon for Adaptil and I find it helps a lot of puppies adjust to the new home. Have the puppy sleep in the crate and never use it for punishment. If you use it for banishment, the dog learns to be afraid in it and that leads to crate anxiety.
For kittens, get a low sided box; a disposable lasagna pan with only one inch of litter in it works well. It has to be easy for the kitten to get in and out of so they can use it. Clean the box daily!!! For kittens, going to the bathroom is a marking behavior, so if it is dirty they will want to go elsewhere. The plain clay or activated charcoal litter is what most kittens like. Confining the kitten with the box at night helps them use it regularly.
Proper play is important for exercise, socialization and learning good manners for both dogs and cats. For puppies, have a ball, a tug rope and stuffed toy to choose from. Toss the toys around and get the puppy to play at least 15 minutes per day. If the puppy starts to nip or bite stop all play. For kittens, get a small ball, feather on a stick, and stuffed toy for the kitten to attack. Do not allow the kitten to grab or bite onto your arm. If they do, stop play and when they let go toss the toy away from you to have them direct play away. For adult pets, play is also important. Follow the same guidelines to start off a great relationship.
Take your new puppy or kitten out for car rides that are to fun places like the pet store. When people come over to your home, have them toss treats to your pet to have the pet learn people are good. This is socialization and is very important especially for our dogs. Don't let the harsh weather hold you back too much. Even a short trip in the car is good for them.
If you are adding a new friend to your home, there are some special rules for you to introduce and set up the home for pet harmony. It can get pretty detailed and I have articles at my website, but to make it simple - dogs and cats do not like to share. So every pet has it's own bed,food bowls, toys and do not allow them to swap or bug each other around these items. Feed pets in completely separate areas and remove the food bowls. Greet, feed and play with the established pet first and make time equal between both pets. These are some of the most essential rules to keep harmony with adding a dog or cat.
First Puppy Exams - It's about Training as much as Shots
A new puppy is so much fun. You want to have them be healthy and well mannered. Getting the best information about care and training comes from your veterinarian and staff that are trained to help you. Knowing the accurate facts about the best way to train you new friend where to potty, have fun meeting and greeting people are as important as the proper diet and vaccinations. Actually, socializing your puppy will help to build their immune system and health. Socialization must be done in a way that builds on the puppy's curious nature in a positive way, and done at the right stages of life.
Puppies are open to the world, curious and not usually afraid of much until the age of 14 weeks. If your puppy is timid or shy, seek help from your veterinarian staff that is trained in puppy behavior. Get that check up and ask for advice on how to positively promote your pup to be friendly. Use the food kibble as rewards and take your puppy everywhere you can. Give your pup a kibble one by one as you have the pup in the car, go on walks, visit the bank and other places. Have strangers give your pup one of the kibbles you carry around. If your puppy is too shy to take it from someone's hand, toss the kibble to the pup. They may take a while but soon they will make the connection that good things come from all sorts of people.
After 14 weeks, puppies go into a normal fear period. This is like the toddler child who is now shy of the photographer, or your aunt Mary. The purpose of the fear is to help the puppy learn to avoid things they do not know if they seem scary. So, if a 10 week puppy is not exposed to lots of things, like car rides, trains going by, or strangers they will often be fearful when they get around that at 5 months. They missed the opportunity to learn that those things were not scary at a young age. The older pup can still learn, it will take more rewards and exposure to loud noises and things to help them learn all is okay.
Some pups are easy going, and calm natured. Some pups are timid or shy no matter how much you try to reward them. They need more than the rewards to help calm them. There is help for these pups. Often these puppies need some Adaptil to help make that transition from mom to growing up. Adaptil is a pheromone spray that imitates the calming pheromone the mother dog makes to calm her pups. Even adult dogs still have the brain receptors for this product. So spraying a bandana with Adaptil spray or using an Adaptil collar on these pups for a few months can help them take rewards and become less timid (more social!)
Good health care is of course important. A puppies first check up should be within the first few days of getting your puppy even they have already been vaccinated. At the first exam, your puppy should be screened for hereditary conditions, parasites, and at least half the time should be covering house training and socialization of your puppy. A positive exam filled will lots of gentle handling and rewards is important for your puppy to like veterinary visits. Our staff has seen a tremendous improvement in the attitudes of dogs visiting the office since we only use rewarding and positive handling at Okaw Veterinary Clinic.
For more information, see our website and check out the pet library and articles online.