Is your kitty shy? How do you bring her out of her Shrinking Violet shell? (Image copr. Missi Hostrup via Flickr, a picture of Tiger Lily)
Do you have a scaredy cat? Working with fearful and scared cats can be a challenge. Does Sheba hiss at strangers? Does Tom dive under the bed when the doorbell rings? Do your kitties attack other pets (or humans)? What can you do to stop bad behavior if even a mild correction sends the cat into fearful meltdown? Alexa posted her Ask Amy question to my Facebook page, and the answer is in today’s video.
Helping Shy & Scaredy Cats
We often feel that our fur-kids must have been abused and feel bad to make THEM feel bad. But they still need to know limits. One of my favorite ways to train is using positive rewards. Instead of waiting for kitty to scratch the wrong object and then interrupting the behavior–why not REWARD her when she scratches the RIGHT object?
Using kitty clicker training can also build confidence in shy cats by teaching them what happens is in their paws. Here are more tips for dealing with scared cats.
Stranger Danger & Fearful Felines
While a normal dose of caution keeps cats from becoming coyote kibble, extreme fear makes cats miserable and disrupts your happy home. A hiding cat may not bother you, constant anxiety increases stress that can make cats sick. For instance, stress can aggravate bladder inflammation (cystitis), which prompts hit-or-miss bathroom behaviors from feeling pain. Even when the bladder doesn’t hurt, anxious cats use potty deposits or will increase scratching behavior to calm themselves—sort of the way nervous humans bite their fingernails. Noises can scare cats, and this post about dog noise fear may help kitties, too.
More Tips for Helping Shy Cats or Stressed Out Kitties
Of course you can find lots more fur-kid care tips in the pet books. Many of the tips in MY CAT HATES MY VET! will also help. But I hope anyone with a burning furry question (or heck, ANY question! *s*) will share in the comments and perhaps it’ll be a future Ask Amy feature!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE:Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Several years ago when I wrote for the puppies.about.com site (now TheSprucePets) I took issue with a promotion advertised by a big-name pet food company that encouraged people to post pictures of themselves hugging dogs. Hoo-boy…Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.
The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!
Uh, no. And glory be, the promotion lives on. Today, September 11, has been named “National Hug Your Hound Day.”
WHY HUGS CAN BE DANGEROUS
There’s a reason that veterinary behaviorists, dog trainers and savvy owners blanched when they learned about this promotion. Why is that? Because while hugs are a natural HUMAN expression of comfort and love, they can send the opposite signal to your dog.
Children get bitten in the face as a result of inappropriate dog interaction (often hugs). Learn ways to help prevent dog bites here. There are other safer, more appropriate ways to show affection to dogs that the dog actually prefers!
“Oh no, you stupid, clueless person–you’re wrong wrong wrong, because MY DOG loves hugs, and every dog I’ve ever had loves hugs and everyone that I know has dogs that hug them back and loves hugs and…”
Good. In this case, I would LOVE to be wrong! If you have a dog that loves hugs and hugs you back, bravo. But that also begs the question, how do you know your dog “loves hugs?”
A hug is an embrace, right? Arms go around the body and squeeze–that’s a hug. When do dogs clasp forelegs around another creature and squeeze? I can think of three scenarios:
So when your dog “hugs” you, what is he saying? And what do your hugs tell him? As a vet tech years ago, I was taught the “hug-restraint” technique to immobilize dogs for treatment. I suspect the dogs were not fooled into thinking that expressed affection. Today, of course, we know better ways to reduce fear and anxiety in dogs so we don’t have to hold ’em down.
Thank heavens our dogs for the most part are very flexible and forgive humans our sometimes clueless nature, LOL! I know that I’m grateful Magical-Dawg made allowances when I didn’t understand what he tried to tell me. At least with people, you can explain your intentions. That can be a challenge with dogs.
FORCING HUGS—IS IT FAIR?
I don’t have two-legged children. But I’ve witnessed gatherings where babies and toddlers get passed around to strangers who hug, pinch cheeks, bounce up and down, and ooh-and-aw over the cuticity. I think we’ve all seen kids wail in protest or fall silent with fear while a clueless relative or acquaintance—or a pediatrician?–insists on continued “loving but unwanted attention.” When you were a kid, do you remember that certain relative who caused no end of angst because, as a kid, you had no choice but to put up with the hugs, smooches, and cheek pinches? At least with older children, parents can explain what’s going on and help guide the adult (hopefully) into less scary interactions.
As much as we want to believe they read our minds and understand our words, dogs misunderstand a lot—and we misunderstand an equal portion of what they say. Hugs are supposed to express affection and love. So if a hug causes stress, fear, discomfort to the dog you adore, is it fair to inflict those feelings because it “feels good” to the owner?
BUT—MY DOG LOVES HUGS!
Yes, many dogs can learn to tolerate–or even love hugs from a trusted human. For those who have taken the time to do this, BRAVO! Many dogs also can learn to tolerate or love tooth brushing–so is it responsible for a company with dental products to promote sticking your hands in the dog’s mouth, or is it better to explain how to do so safely?
Magical-dog loved close contact. He often pushed his head and shoulders into my lap or squeezed his face under my arm. Was he asking for a hug? Shadow-Pup does the same. I suspect it’s this type of behavior that confuses many of us–but see, he controls that interaction. My arms haven’t come down around him to capture/hold/prevent movement. So some of the confusion, I suspect, has to do with semantics and how people define a hug.
How do you know your dog “loves” hugs? What does your dog do when s/he receives a hug? Do you know what each of these signals mean? Are you sure? Click on a link or two to see if you’re right!
Perhaps your dog loves hugs. That’s great. But my entire purpose with these blogs, my books, pet advocacy and more is to EMPOWER PET OWNERS TO MAKE INFORMED CHOICES.
To stand silent and do nothing hurts my soul. I was an expert witness more than a decade ago in a trial where a dog tragically attacked and severely injured a child—and they adored each other. We don’t know why (no witnesses to the attack), but I remember this case every time a clueless cute-and-fuzzy promo makes the rounds. Read about that in this blog post.
If hissing off some readers saves one child from the trauma of a bite, or one family from the heartbreak of losing a beloved dog by mis-reading intent—I’m fine with that.
Now then, I’ll don my flame-resistant sparkles and prepare for comments. Do your dogs like hugs? How do you know? For trainers and behavior folks out there, how do you help people understand safe dog handling? Do tell!
Potty Training Puppies? Here’s the Best Ways To House Train a Puppy
Do you have a dog or puppy with potty woes? Whether you have a tiny puppy, like when Shadow-Pup arrived, or a big old dawg — my Bravo (below) at one time tipped the scales at 120 pounds — potty training puppies keep your house hygienic and offers discipline and routine to our dog. Puppy pooping in crate? Here are my tips for the best ways to house train a puppy.
A new puppy brings great joy, but potty training puppies can lead to frustration. Puppy potty accidents start your relationship off on the wrong paw. Without the right training, he won’t know how to please you. He may not even know how to go potty on grass. Even older dogs can benefit from refresher training if they’ve had potty training lapses.
House Train Dogs—Listen to Their Needs
When Magic came to live with us at 8 weeks, he already knew a potty word — “take-a-break” — and never had an accident in the house. His breeder did all the prep work for us, but of course, we still had to follow up. However, our Bravo-Boy had spent his whole 12-weeks of life outside on a ranch. He got to “go” when (and wherever) the urge struck. Oy.
Think of potty training from your puppy’s point of view. When he has to go, he won’t wait–he simply squats in place. He won’t understand why you’re always mad when you come home. If he’s punished but not shown what you want, he’ll think you don’t want him to potty at all. Rubbing his nose in it makes him wonder, “She want me to eat that stuff?” Punishing teaches puppies to potty when you’re not watching, or to hide deposits more carefully.
Potty Train Puppies by Catching Him In The Act
Timing is key when teaching cause-and-effect. He won’t understand your anger has anything to do with the deposit he created five minutes ago. Unless caught in the act, or pointed out within 30-90 seconds, correcting the baby won’t work.
Instead, catch the pup in the act…of doing something right. Then throw a happy-dance praise party to tell him how smart he is! People work more eagerly for a bonus than a reprimand, and dogs are no different. Once he learns he gets paid to go in the right spot—positive reinforcement—he’ll virtually cross his legs to please you.
Oh, and be sure to clean up the mess so the smell won’t draw him back to the scene of the crime. Here are some tips for cleaning up potty accidents.
How to House Train Puppies: How Long Can He “Hold It?”
Pups need a bathroom break after every meal, nap, and playtime. Depending on his age and breed, feed him two to four or more times a day. Prevent potty accidents and puppy pooping in crate by anticipating when the puppy needs a break. Your pup has a baby-size bladder and limited capacity to “hold it” no matter his best intentions.
If you have puppy-friendly adult dogs, your puppy often will copy the adult dog’s behavior. So if your adult dog has good potty etiquette, that can speed up the process. Bravo helped me teach Shadow his cue-word to go to the bathroom: “Take A Break.” You’ll love having a cue word especially late at night, or during inclement weather! Learn about puppy intros to other pets here.
It can vary a bit between breeds with large and giant breeds having a bit more “storage” capacity and Toy breeds a bit less. Learn more about puppy development here. In general, here’s what to expect:
Two-month-old pups need a break about every two hours
Three-month-old pups can hold it for four hours.
Four-month-old pups can wait five hours
Five-month-olds can wait about six hours
Seven-month-old pups should be able to wait about eight hours.
8 Steps to Potty Training Puppies
Dogs can be potty trained at any age, but puppies learn much more quickly than adults. Puppies are so cute that owners forgive puppy-size accidents, but adult-size deposits aren’t cute and often lose the grown-up pet his home. Use these 8 puppy potty training tips to housebreak puppies and ensure he grows up to be the best friend he’s meant to be. Learn more about caring for your puppy in the book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE.
Create a schedule. Base potty breaks on the pup’s age, activity level, and mealtimes.
Choose a location. Dogs rely on scent cues to remind them what’s expected. Whether you create an indoor toilet spot with newspaper, pee-pads or a doggy litter box, or select an outdoor potty, take him to the same place each time.
Concentrate on business. Keep him on leash until he’s productive, or he’ll only play and then have an accident inside. Take off the leash for a playtime as part of his reward for eliminating.
Name the deed. When he squats, say a cue word that identifies the action. I’m teaching Bravo the same “take-a-break” command that means to get down to business. It’s a bit less off-putting than saying “poop & pee” if your dog is in public. *s* Make sure your entire family uses the selected cue consistently. Once the puppy has been productive, reward with lots of praise, play or a tiny treat that doesn’t upset his regular nutrition.
Confine and supervise. Puppies don’t want to live up close and personal to their own waste, so confinement can be a great tool. A small room won’t work-he can poop in one corner and sleep in the other–and be sure you’ve puppy proofed the area to avoid danger. If the pup isn’t productive after fifteen minutes during a potty break, confine in a crate for fifteen minutes and then try again. If he potties in the crate, that confines the mess to an easily cleaned area. He’ll have to live with his mistake for a short time. The next time he’ll be more likely to empty when offered the opportunity. Alternatively, hook his leash to your belt so he can’t sneak away and do the dirty deed.
Watch for warnings. Puppies sniff the ground and walk in circles before they pose. If he squats inside, pick him up so he stops the process, and move him to the designated legal toilet area. Give your cue word, and praise when he’s successful in the right spot.
Clean accidents. Use an odor neutralizer to eliminate the smells that lure your puppy back to the scene of the crime. We also confine the new pet to an easily cleaned area of the house, using baby gates.
Roll up newspaper. When you find an accident, it means you’ve not paid attention to his needs. If you’re feeling really aggravated, don’t hold back. Roll up that newspaper—and hit yourself over the head with it, and resolve to do better next time. Just like puppies, owners take time and patience to learn important lessons.
Mosquitoes swarm these days when I work in the garden. I worry about dog heartworms with the increase of these buggy pests. Are your dogs protected? Do you know how dogs get heartworm? Read on!
I hate mosquitos not only because they’re itchy aggravation, but these nasty vampires spread deadly dog heartworms. That can make your dog sick or worse—it could kill her. Dogs are the natural host–but they also can affect cats–and heartworms have been a problem at least since 1922 when they were first discovered. Today heartworms are found all over the world.
The heartworm Dirofilaria immitis belongs to a group of parasites called filarids, and is a type of roundworm. They live in the right heart chambers and pulmonary arteries—the lungs—of infected dogs. As you can imagine, lungs and heart filled with worms can damage and interfere with normal organ function. You won’t be able to tell if your puppy has heartworms. You can’t see them the way you can fleas or ticks. And your dog won’t even act sick until she’s been infected for quite a while.
Despite the availability of effective and easy to use heartworm preventive options, the disease appears to be on the rise. In just two years, from 2013-2015, there was a 166 percent increase in reported positive heartworm cases, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Additionally, the American Heartworm Society (AHS) has tracked the geographic spread of heartworm disease to all 50 states and its increased prevalence in several regions of the country.
So what’s a pet parent to do?
UPDATE ABOUT DOG HEARTWORMS & MOSQUITOES
A groundbreaking study by John McCall, MS, PhD addresses this concern. He investigated the effectiveness of stopping heartworm disease at the buggy transmission source. His research shows that a multi-modal approach (adding mosquito repellents and insecticides alongside standard heartworm preventive protocols), offers even better protection for our dogs.
I first reported on this study back in Fall 2016. The study, sponsored by CEVA, explored the efficacy of a new “Double Defense” protocol. John McCall is a professor emeritus in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. After fighting heartworm the same way for decades, McCall says it’s time for a new approach that includes fighting the mosquito as well as the heartworm.
PREVENTING VS TREATING HEARTWORMS
Preventives that address heartworms are one important part of canine health care. But until recently, preventing the vector (mosquito) hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, according to Byron Blagburn, MS, PhD, DAVCM, a professor of parasitology,, researcher, and author of the mosquito control guidelines.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) included more information on how to control mosquitoes, adding science-based evidence to these guidelines on mosquito control. New recommendations include choosing heartworm and parasite prevention products that also address the mosquito menace. Several canine products are available, and you should consult with your veterinarian for the best choices for your individual dogs and circumstances.
According to the Heartworm Incidence Survey from the American Heartworm Society, the average number of dogs diagnosed per clinic in 2016 rose by 21.7 percent over 2013 numbers (date of the last survey). AHS president and veterinarian Dr. Christopher Rehm says that the distribution of cases hasn’t dramatically changed, 24% of respondents said the average number of positive dogs has increased since 2013.
2021 Heartworm Predictions–Keep Dogs Safe!
LEARN MORE ABOUT DOG HEARTWORMS
Please ask YOUR veterinarian about how you can best protect your dogs from mosquitoes and dog heartworms. Learn more about Dr. McCall’s CEVA-funded study in this short video.
Several years ago, I interviewed Dr. Wallace Graham about prevention, treatment and more in my Pet Peeves radio show. Much of this information is still valid, so find out more about how to keep cats and dogs safe from heartworm disease in PET PEEVES, HEART-TO-HEART ABOUT HEARTWORMS.
It’s NATIONAL DOG WEEK! How will you spend your celebration? Wait, your dog didn’t tell you? Well, for Bravo, it’s “dog week” every week of the year, but the “official” celebration takes place the 4th week of September every year — and has been celebrated since the first event in 1928.
Captain William Judy, a WWI veteran (Silver Star recipient) and dog lover, launched the first week-long celebration to honor the loyalty and service of our canine companions. He purchased and continued to publish Dog World magazine, and advocated for dogs his entire life. National Dog Week every year offers a focus for doggy fundraising activities, adoption ops, volunteer assistance programs, and canine education for everyone who shares their life (and maybe a pillow) with a dog.
I’ve offered puppy proofing tips for National Puppy Day and posted a popular roundup back in 2012 from my puppies.about.com features. But the popularity ranking has changed. So now I’m celebrating National Dog Week with this roundup of my latest top 6 puppy posts on the blog. Some of the popular (or is that pup-ular?) content may surprise you.
Yes, the top performing post on my blog these days is all about puppy diarrhea, home remedies, and when to call the vet. This post explains the various reasons behind the problem, with some home remedies. It also offers guidelines how long you can safely wait before you must call the veterinarian. Puppies are fragile little critters and diarrhea and/or puppy vomiting can turn deadly very quickly.
Oh my, this is a real concern at my house these days! Bravo-Pup must have something in his mouth, it seems, pretty much all the time. We go outside for a potty break, and he first must find a stick or rock to carry around. In the house, his chew toys must be supervised to be sure small pieces aren’t ingested. This post details the dangers of swallowed inedibles, the signs of problems, and what you can do if you see your pooch gulp the wrong thing.
This topic ranking so high in popularity surprises me. There must be a LOT of happy tail-waggers out there! If your Labrador or other tail-injury-prone pooch needs trauma attention, this post offers some tips for treating your pup’s injured ass-ets.
When you’re looking for that next pup-of-your-dreams, how can you predict personality? The answer — you can’t, not with any guarantees. That said, there are well-known breed tendencies, and temperament tests performed correctly also offers insights. Read this post to learn what puppy temperament tests can (and cannot) predict, before your next furry wonder adoption day.
Yep, lots of folks acquire youngsters while they have resident pets. Proper intros can make the transition go smoother. At our house, we had to introduce Bravo to Karma-Kat and teach him that kitty is the boss and can whip your furry tail into shape (he still does that, even though Bravo now outweighs Karma more than 10-to-one).
Well, there are a lot of new owners out there who want to know what to expect. Did you know that different breeds mature at slightly different rates? Or that newborns can’t regulate body temperature–in most cases that means they can die from hypothermia (the cold) but in this heat wave I suspect newborn pups might also be at risk for heatstroke.
It follows, I suppose, that folks want to know what to expect AFTER the adoption. How old was your pup when he came to live with you? Magic was 8 weeks old, but our first shepherd came to live with us at five months, and Bravo arrived at 12 weeks. And when does junior-dog become an adult? When can you expect juvenile delinquent behavior to kick in?
Okay, it’s your turn. What do YOU have planned for National Dog Week? Why do you think these subjects top the popularity list? Have you had issues or interest with any of them? What are other subjects that deserve more attention? I’m scheduling my puppy-licious writing calendar for the future months, so please send me suggestions!
Yes, it’s happened again and the culprit is salmonella. But it’s not home cooking folks or raw feeders, but commercial foods once again. BRAVO to Diamond Foods, the manufacturer/packager of a number of brands, that kicked off a VOLUNTARY RECALL as a precaution even though only small amounts of product actually was suspected to be a problem. Since that initial announcement, additional foods–dog, puppy, cat, kitten–and brands have been added to the recall list. Brands include:
Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul
Taste of the Wild
You can find links to the various products along with batch codes and dates to ensure your pets’ foods are still safe or should be returned in this recall blog.
PET FOOD SELECTION
How do you know a pet food is the best for your furry wonder? Every pet is different, of course, but there are ways to figure things out. Reading labels gets you part of the way there–but the labels are a legal document and serve to satisfy the regulators more than they do to inform the public. There are terms that have legal definitions but can be misinterpreted by pet owners (ain’t that the way legalese works?), and even some ways the labels can mislead (accidentally on purpose, LOL!) to get you to open up your wallet. After all, dogs don’t have thumbs or bank accounts so it’s up to us to choose wisely.
Here are a few links to further information about pet foods–much of this applies to cats, too:
So what do you feed your furry wonder? What does your veterinarian recommend? Do you rely on other “expert” advice and if so, where do you get your information? Have you been affected by the pet food recall? How do you advise your pet-loving friends? Do tell!
I missed posting Tuesday Tips, the next in the Kindle-ization series, and I’m HISSED OFF! You see, I have most all of that series done, and ready to go. They’re all on my laptop.
The laptop that DIED this week. Thpbpbpbpbpbpb! (that’s a virtual raspberry)
Actually, we suspect the battery ran dry–and it won’t run on just the plug. I’ve ordered a new battery, and hope for the best–but prepare for the worst. I guess the old laptop served well–letters on the keyboard had worn off and a couple of books were written on it including all the updates to the newly Kindle-ized titles. Come to think of it, that’s where I kept the final versions of the updated manuscripts.
I’m the person who always arrives early for meetings and circles the block until it’s not embarrassing to show up. With few exceptions, I meet or beat deadlines. And I angst and grow gray hairs and sprout crow’s feet lines when I can’t cross off each item as finished. These days, though, with 5-10 blogs a week plus two weekly columns and the puppies.About.com stuff–oh, and a co-written musical play to produce, fiction WIP, acting gigs– keeping all the eggs in the air without scrambling them on impact takes a toll.
So my blog schedule and backing up files fell to the bottom of the to-do list. Often I can get a few done early on weekends, but–well, over Memorial Day I actually shut off work and played with the Magical-Dawg and Seren-kitty! So I planned to post Tuesday’s blog on Tuesday morning (instead of days or at least the night before). Fortunately I had edited and uploaded the Ask Amy youtube videos for this week so yesterday’s Woof Wednesday and tomorrow’s Feline Friday are ready.
Just a week or so ago, one of my colleagues lamented the crash of her entire computer and loss of files. That was a wake-up call. I nearly subscribed to an online backup service but was instead convinced by my tech-guy husband to use thumb drives. So nearly all of the work on the !@#$%^&! laptop had been saved just a few days ago–but not the Ebooks and not the blog notes and content.
I can re-created it but at the moment the pity-party-whine-fest is much more satisfying. Oh, I quick-like-a-bunny bought a new laptop with higher speed, larger storage, and updated software. And I’ll get a few more of those thumb-drives and put it on my schedule for backups with more religious fervor.
How do you procrastinate? Has it ever bitten you in the ass-ets? What are your top reasons to THPBPBPB? Don’t be shy–vent away. And bookmark this blog to remind you what crappiocca can happen to derail even A-type go-go-go plan-ahead people like you and me!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!