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Yikes! My Dog Can’t Cope With Being Alone

Posted on: November 23rd, 2007 by

Posted by Kim Campbell Thornton on 11/23/2007 in Dog Behavior

Dogs are pack animals, and they love to be with their people. That’s one of the many reasons they make such great companions. In some cases, however, a dog’s need for human attention becomes extreme, making him prone to separation anxiety when no one’s home to keep him company.

If your dog pees or poops in the house when he’s left alone, chews destructively, especially at doors and windows, or the neighbors report that he barks when you’re gone, he’s not necessarily misbehaving. He may have separation anxiety, a behavior problem that affects up to 15 percent of the nation’s 73.9 million dogs.

Dogs with separation anxiety are unable to cope with being alone. They may have been poorly socialized, lack self-confidence, or simply have never learned how to be alone. Besides being noisy or destructive, dogs with separation anxiety may drool excessively, pace, lick themselves incessantly, or refuse to eat or drink. When their people are home, they may be clingy, insisting on being as close to them as possible. While separation anxiety can be frustrating, behavior modification can help.

It is vital to teach your dog that arrivals and departures are nothing to worry about. Whether you’re leaving or coming home, be matter-of-fact. Overly emotional greetings or farewells can teach your dog that your absence is something to worry about.

Set up cues that will help your dog feel comfortable with your departure. Give a treat or a special toy before you depart, leave a t-shirt with your scent that he can snuggle with, or turn on the radio or a CD.

To use music as a way of calming your dog, start by playing it during a relaxing time of day, such as when you’re getting ready for bed. Your dog knows that you’re going to be there for a while, so he’ll settle down and go to sleep. Choose something like soothing harp music. Give your dog a few days to associate the music with this relaxing time, then set up a departure conditioning experience, combining the music, a special treat, and your departure and quick return. Your dog learns that good things happen when you leave and that you come back right away.

If you start early, you can teach a puppy that being home alone need not involve chewing the woodwork, barking, or licking himself raw. With patient conditioning, older dogs and newly adopted shelter dogs can learn this lesson as well. If your dog is crate-trained or in the process, put him in the crate while you’re doing housework or otherwise going in and out of the room. Seeing you go out and come back every few minutes reassures him that you’ll always return.

If you have an older dog with some obedience training, place him in a down-stay as you go in and out of the room. At first, you may only be able to leave the room for 10 seconds before he breaks his stay and comes in search of you. Don’t scold, but place him back in position and leave again. Return quickly before he has time to get up. As he becomes comfortable with this, gradually increase the amount of time you’re gone: 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, and so on.

You can also condition your dog to short periods of your absence by taking him with you on errands. Leave him in the car while you pump fuel, run into a convenience store for a quart of milk, or make a bank deposit. Your dog learns automatically that you’re gone for a minute or two, you come back, and being left alone isn’t a big deal. Of course, it’s important to take into account the weather and your schedule. On hot days, cars heat up rapidly, even with the windows cracked. Never leave your dog in the car on a hot day unless you can see the car and know you’ll be only a few minutes—picking up the dry cleaning, for instance. And don’t take your dog if your errand will take more than five minutes.

For dogs alike, part of successfully staying alone is the ability to entertain themselves. Whether your dog stays in a crate, in an exercise pen or dog run, behind a baby gate or is well-trained enough to stay out on his own, he needs toys or activities that will stimulate his mind without encouraging destructive behavior. Treat-release toys, or food puzzles, are ideal solutions. These toys all work by extending the time it takes a dog to get a treat or kibble. He focuses on getting at the food rather than being anxious or distressed by your absence. Match the food puzzle to your dog’s personality. You don’t want to make it so easy that he doesn’t have to spend any time at it or so difficult that he gives up in frustration.

Give your dog plenty of attention and play when you’re home. That way, he’ll be more satisfied and comfortable when he needs to stay by himself. Get involved in a dog sport such as agility, teach him to track, go for a walk at the same time every day, or simply set aside a regular time for the two of you to be together while you read or watch television. Even a regular grooming session is a good way for the two of you to share quality time.

The ability to hang out comfortably while you’re away is one of the most important skills your dog can learn and will benefit both of you throughout his life. With training, exercise, and preventive measures, you can help him develop the self-confidence he needs.

– By Kim Campbell Thornton, author of 10 books. She writes a monthly pet column for MSNBC.com and lives in Lake Forest, Calif.

Making the skies feline friendly

Posted on: November 16th, 2007 by

By: Arden Moore

In my role as editor of Catnip, the author of 17 books on cats and dogs and an animal behavior consultant, I travel coast to coast to make presentations about pets. Usually, I fly solo and hire a professional pet sitter to take care of my two cats and my two dogs. They seem – well, the cats, Callie and Murphy – quite content to stay home while I hop form one time zone to the next.

My two dogs, Chipper and Cleo, are always up for any trip – be it a road trip, on a boat or on a plane. They just love sharing the chance to get from here to there with me.

I am about to embark on a national multi-city book tour to promote my latest releases, The Cat Behavior Answer Book and The Dog Behavior Answer Book. The tour is aptly being called, “Arden Moore Unleashed for a Pet-Friendly America.”

One of the “pre-tour” trips called for me to appear in New York City and to discuss cat behavior for a satellite media tour. About 20 big and small television news stations all over the country lined up to ask me about why cats do what they do.

The sponsors of this satellite media tour requested that I bring one of my own cats to New York. Murphy performs a lot of tricks, but unfortunately, she gets motion sickness and tends to make anything-but-pleasant vocals inside a carrier. The natural pick was Callie, my 12-year-old calm calico.

Callie has flown before – but it was seven years ago. So, I took the necessary steps to ensure her flight was as stress-free as possible. I booked a non-stop flight from San Diego and New York City and verified with the airlines that Callie was indeed listed as my travel mate. I recommend you do the same because airlines limit the number of pets who can travel in the cabin. Sometimes, that number per flight is as low as four.

I also had Callie receive a head-to-tail physical examination by my veterinarian who signed the necessary health certificate that airlines require. I also trained Callie to enjoy being inside a soft-sided, airline-approved carrier by feeding her favorite healthy treat inside it.

Callie’s packing needs included a harness, leash, an ID tag on her collar that listed my cell phone number (she also has a microchipped ID), an absorbent pad (in case of an accident), treats, collapsible water bowl and a small, comfy bed.

What I didn’t anticipate was the new rule at airport security screening areas. We’re all now used to taking off our shoes, pulling out our computer laptops and putting loose change and metal objects in the trays.

In addition, you are ordered to take your cat out of the carrier and hold her as you walk through the security sensor door. I was at a crowded airport full of impatient people wanted to get to their gates. I tried to remain calm as I removed Callie out of her carrier and held her tightly in my arms as we were screened.

Once I put her back in the carrier, I realized how lucky we were. Imagine if she had panicked and wiggled free and ran loose in a large airport?

The lesson I pass on to those of you who find the occasional need to have your cat join you on an airplane is to always fit your cat with a harness before putting her inside the carrier. At the airport, attach the leash to the harness as well. This way, when you are told to remove your cat from the carrier, the chances of escape are minimized.

As for Callie, her trip to the Big Apple was full of adventure. From the hotel window sill in our 20th floor room, she could watch tourists in Times Square and actually look down as some birds. She flirted with the TV cameras and tolerated being oohed and aahed and petted by feline fans at the studio and inside the hotel.

Now, it’s time for me to pack my suitcase and begin the official launch of the book tour. Callie is happy to remain and enjoy the comforts of home.

It’s Potty Time! Tips for Housetraining a Puppy or New Dog

Posted on: November 16th, 2007 by

Posted by Kim Campbell Thornton on 11/16/2007 in Training Tips Articles

Successful housetraining has one simple rule: consistency. Housetraining your puppy, or even an adult dog, will go more smoothly if you establish a potty schedule from day one. Taking a puppy out at the same times throughout the day helps establish in his mind that outside is the proper place to eliminate.

Let’s rundown seven tips for success, which apply to both puppies and adult dogs:

1. Recognize that puppies have a physiological need to eliminate when they wake up, after they eat, and after they’ve been active. Take your puppy out first thing in the morning, right after he eats, as soon as he wakes up from a nap, and after he’s through playing.

2. Don’t just send your pup outside and expect him to know what you want. Put him on leash and stay with him until he potties. Then praise him. “Good go potty!” This is how he learns that you want him to pee or poop outdoors.

3. Be determined. If your puppy doesn’t pee or poop when you take him outside, bring him back in and put him in his crate. Try again in 20 or 30 minutes. Don’t let him loose in the house until he has eliminated outside.

4. Heap on the praise. Bring a clicker and some treats with you every time you take the puppy out. As soon as he starts to potty, click once. When he’s finished, give him a treat. Puppies learn quickly that good things happen when they go outside to potty.

5. Understand your puppy’s physical limitations. Until a puppy matures physically, his bladder isn’t able to hold urine for long periods. Take your puppy out as often as possible. Set a kitchen timer as a reminder to take him out every hour or two when you’re home. When you’re not home, confine him to a crate or leave him in a puppy-proofed room, preferably one with an easy-clean tile or linoleum floor. Put papers on the floor to make cleanup easy.

6. Watch your puppy carefully. His body language can signal that he needs to go potty. Puppies who are good communicators may stare at you or jump up on you. Others stand at the door and look outside. Hang a bell on the door and ring it every time you take your puppy out to potty. He’ll soon learn to ring it himself when he needs to go out. If you see him sniffing and circling, hustle him outside fast!

7. Teach your puppy or dog to stay comfortably in a crate. Dogs are programmed not to eliminate where they sleep. Choose a crate that’s big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in but not so big that he can potty at one end and sleep at the other. To create positive associations, give your puppy a treat when he goes in the crate, feed him inside his crate, and don’t let the kids don’t bother him when he’s in it. He’ll view it as a cozy hideaway all his own.

Parting advice: Puppies need time to grow up. Don’t expect your tail-wagger to be reliably housetrained until he’s at least a year old and has had the benefit of a consistent schedule, consistent expectations, and consistent praise when he does the right thing.

Halloween Safety Tips for Spooktacular Pets

Posted on: October 31st, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 10/31/2007 in Lifestyle

Happy Halloween! As pet owners everywhere gear up for the spookiest night of the year by shopping for costumes, getting out the doggie glow sticks and hiding the chocolate, we wanted to share a list of quick tips to help you and your pet have a spooktacular night.

Be sure to keep chocolate, raisins and other potentially harmful food away from pups. In some cases, chocolate has proven lethal.
Think like your pet. As cute as that Wonder Woman costume is, if your pet seems miserable, she probably is. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have her in it long enough to snap a few hundred photos or so! On the flip side, if your dachshund absolutely loves his new skunk costume or your Siamese makes the cutest devil you’ve ever seen, remember to supervise him closely as costumes can be easily chewed or caught in surrounding trees or bushes when outside trolling for candy.
Realize that children knocking and a doorbell ringing every few minutes will most likely create moderate to severe anxiety in your pets and trigger the protective instinct in dogs when it comes to guarding their pack. Providing them with a safe place to wait it out—like the bedroom or their crates—will help alleviate some of this anxiety.
If your pup is out on the sidewalk and streets, pick up a Halloween glowstick for his collar. Not only will the kids think it’s great, but he will be more likely to be seen by trick-or-treaters and drivers and not as likely to be trampled underfoot.
Lastly, as much as we hate to mention the tricksters of Halloween who seem to take pleasure in spoiling a perfectly good celebration, Halloween does seem to be the night that malicious pranksters enjoy preying on our precious pets. Knowledge is power, so understanding that not everyone that night has good intentions may prompt you to leave your furbabies in for the night. Know your neighborhood and realize that Halloween offers a chance for kids and teenagers to be naughty, as well as nice.

Be well, be safe and most of all, enjoy the fun!

Gearing Up for Winter: Preparing for Jack Frost Before He Comes

Posted on: October 31st, 2007 by

Brrrrrrr! Is it just us, or has anyone else noticed that winter is rapidly approaching? As the cooler nights begin, it’s more than just your car and house pipes that need winterizing. The outdoors for our four-legged friends can be more than just uncomfortable: they can be downright dangerous.

Shore up for winter by purchasing jackets and blankets with your pet in mind. Inexpensive blankets can be found at any local thrift store, but be careful as blankets have a tendency to trap moisture. No one wants to sleep in a wet bed! Also, be sure that if your pup is outside for more than a few minutes in a chilly environment that he has adequate shelter with lots of clean, thick bedding and clean drinking water (not frozen) at all times. One solution we have found to the frozen water dilemma is to purchase a heated water bowl. No more frozen water!

Dog houses can be warmed with hot water bottles, special heat-radiating pads or cedar chips. Some dog houses even come with their own electric heaters, though the risks should not be taken lightly. If the doghouse is wooden, be sure to raise it up off the ground several inches to prevent rotting and keep out rain, and cover the door of the dog house with a mat, piece of plastic carpet runner or carpet to provide an adequate door to keep out the snow and rain.

Remember, too, that dogs lose most of their heat through their paws, ears and skin, so extended exposure to cold will have an effect on them. Long-haired dogs like Elkhounds and Huskies fare better than smooth-coated dogs, Boxers and Greyhounds, for example.

All breeds, however, including cats, are susceptible to de-icing products, including salt. Be sure to wash their paws with warm water after walking on any of these substances.

Speaking of substances, be sure to monitor your car for any anti-freeze leaks and wipe them up immediately, as these can prove lethal for both cats and dogs. Also be sure to give a good tap to the hood before you start your car in the morning if you have kitties in your neighborhood who enjoy the warmth of your car motor. (Or if your own kitty sleeps in the garage at night.)

The general rule of thumb, as always, is to do unto others as you would have done unto you. Gearing up for winter before she comes blowing in will save you and your pets some frozen preparations later.