Dog Training – Preventing separation anxiety – Teaching your dog to cope with being alone

<A version of this article was published in The Maine Edge on March 2, 2016 – click to view>

naughty playful puppy dog after biting a pillow-canstockphoto11002737Dogs are social animals and actively seek out our companionship. They can quickly become accustomed to being part of a group 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whenever a new dog is brought into a home, especially a young, playful puppy, people have a tendency to interact with them constantly. While this interaction is a very important part of socialization and bonding, you need to make sure that you are not setting your puppy up for a big disappointment when you must leave him at home alone. Including some “alone training” right from the beginning will be beneficial to both your puppy and you.

Older dogs, depending on their previous circumstances, might also need to learn how to cope with being alone. For example, a dog that was housed in a shelter or kennel situation where other dogs and people were always around may have trouble coping being by themselves.

If you have not already done so, start leaving your puppy/dog alone for brief duration’s throughout the day. He needs to learn that 1) people are not always around and 2) you will come back. When leaving your puppy/dog alone, put him in his crate or a puppy-proof room. Be sure to give him some of his favorite chew toys so he can have some fun while he awaits your return. Do not make a big deal out of leaving. Just pop the puppy/dog in his area and leave.

Your puppy/dog may start to whine or bark when you leave. This is very normal. Your first impulse may be to return to the puppy/dog and try to calm him, however, that is the worst thing you can do. If you want him to stop whining, you must make sure you do not reward the puppy/dog for whining. Do not pay any attention to your puppy/dog and do not let him out until there is a lull in the whining. Reward him for being calm and quiet.

Leaving your puppy/dog at home, at the veterinarians, at the groomers or a boarding kennel should also be a very low-key, non-emotional event. Likewise, the same applies when returning to your puppy/dog. If you make leaving or returning into a big event, with lots of cuddling and petting, your puppy/dog is more likely to be stressed by your arrivals and departures. You can, and we hope you do, miss your puppy/dog when he is not with you. We just do not want to let him know that.

Start your alone training by building time slowly. Five to ten minutes is a good place to start if your puppy/dog has never been out of your site for that length of time. Like all training, we want to work in small achievable increments that the dog can handle. Continue leaving your puppy/dog alone for longer and longer periods of time.

If this behavior does not improve after a few days, consult with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) or Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). They can help you assess the behavior and make recommendations on how to help your dog. If your dog exhibits destructive behaviors such as digging, scratching or chewing on themselves, house soiling, destructions of objects, extreme vocalization, constant pacing, digging and scratching at exits such as doors and windows in an attempt to reach you, and following you excessively, never letting you out of sight, then you should immediately discuss this situation with your veterinarian.  These are symptoms of separation anxiety which may require treatment with appropriate medications and a behavior modification program specific to separation anxiety. Your veterinarian will probably refer you to a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) to develop a behavior modification plan for your dog and your family.  Resolving separation anxiety will typically involve changes in your family’s behavior in addition to your dogs.  This is typically not an easy problem to resolve and becomes more difficult to resolve the longer it goes on. That is why teaching your dog to cope with being alone is an excellent investment of your time.

Recommended Resources

Alone Traininghttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/01/dog-training-alone-training/

Canine Behavior – ADAPTIL™/DAP COMFORTZONE™http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/14/canine-behavior-adaptild-a-p-comfortzone/

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stresshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/

Dog Behavior – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxietyhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/01/30/dog-behavior-crate-habituation-to-reduce-anxiety/

Bach Flower Remedies – Bach Rescue Remedy®http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/06/22/bach-flower-remedies-bach-rescue-remedy/

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©13-Mar-16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Cat Litter: Who Gets to Choose?

A version of this article appeared in the 22DEC15 issue of The Maine Edge

Cartton Cat in Litterbox-canstockphoto10613617Cat litter is not a topic that typically comes up in polite conversation. Unless you own a cat, you probably don’t think about cat litter at all. The initial premise behind cat litter, which was “invented” back in 1947, was to provide cats with an indoor bathroom. Cat ownership has steadily increased, and as more people keep their cats inside all of the time, cat litter has exploded into a $2 billion per year industry.  The ASPCA estimates the average cat owner spends around $200 per year, per cat, on cat litter, $60 more than the average family spends on toilet paper in one year. On an annual basis, in the US alone, the need for cat litter results in the mining of five billion pounds of clay. Manufacturer’s process and package the litter that we then pour into our cats litter box. Our cat “uses” their box and then we scoop out the soiled litter and eventually dispose of it in a landfill. Cat litter has a significant monetary and environmental impact on the world.

Version 1.0 of cat litter was pretty simple. It was a type of clay made of Fuller’s Earth that readily absorbed cat urine and thus helped to control the odors associated with cat waste. Since cats normally would urinate and defecate in the dirt outside, they easily adapted to using a box filled with this new “dirt-like” product.

Over the years, efforts have been made to sell more cat litter by creating illusions of convenience and by making the litter box smell less stinky. Companies now use many alternate materials for cat litter. Among them are clays that readily clump around the urine, which makes the litter in the box last longer. In an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of clay litter, other materials are being used. These include; recycled newspaper, corn, wood pellets, environmentally-sustainable wood shavings and even green tea. Additionally, to make the litter more consumer friendly; basically to stink less after use, litter companies have added a plethora of chemicals to their basic product. These include things as simple and innocuous as baking soda, and less desirable ingredients like chemical deodorants, clumping agents, and even Teflon.

Litter companies advertise their latest innovations in an attempt to get your attention. You decide that cat litter that stinks less is a great idea and then rush out and buy a bag without first consulting with your cat. When you run out of the old litter, you fill Garfield’s box with the new miracle product, proud that your home is going to smell better. That night you come home, sit down on your bed and feel the wet spot. One smell and you know that Garfield has decided your bed, with its new expensive mattress, is a better place to pee than the litter box. Cats are pretty particular about where they choose to go to the bathroom. If your cat dislikes where you have placed their box, if they don’t like the tactile sensation of the litter material; admit it you don’t like the rough tissue paper used in many public restrooms, or if they don’t like the cloying chemical smell of the litter, they will find a better place to perform their bathroom activities.

So the answer to “Cat Litter: Who Gets to Choose?” is your cat. Whenever switching litters, provide your cat with two litter boxes; one containing the litter they have been using and one with the new litter. See which litter your cat prefers and if after a week they are not using the new litter, take a hint. NOTE: Male cats can urinate in inappropriate places if they are experiencing a urinary tract infection. This is not something to take lightly and minimally requires that you at least call your veterinarian.

Other rules of litterbox etiquette that will make life with your cat or cats more pleasant.

  • Have one litter box per cat, plus one. So if you have three cats you should have a minimum of four litter boxes.
  • Do NOT have the litter boxes all in the same space, side-by-side, but instead have them located throughout your home.
  • Make sure the litter boxes are not located in “busy” areas or any area where the dog can access them.
  • Avoid placing litter boxes next to machinery, like a furnace that may startle your cat if it turns on while they are using their box.
  • Scoop each litter box at least once per day, and clean it thoroughly once a week.

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Seasonal Issues – Cold Weather and Holiday Tips for Pets

<A version of this article was published in The Maine Edge on November 18, 2015>

Updated 3NOV18

< To listen to a podcast from The Woof Meow Show on this topic, click here >

WINTER IS COMING-Dulcie-Winter 07-080-51 edited-square 800x800Like or not, winter is here, and we need to consider how this change in seasons affects our pets.

Dealing with the Cold, Snow and Ice

  • Once the temperature drops below 20 degrees, it’s time to bring your pet indoors. When they are out, make sure they are not exposed to the cold for extended periods of time. Be aware that the wind chill affects your pet just like it affects you.
  • Shorter haired dogs or dog’s acclimated to warmer climates may need a coat to stay comfortable when it gets cold outside.
  • When your dog is outdoors, make sure they have access to adequate shelter at all times. Dog houses should be positioned or designed such that the wind does not blow through the door into the house.
  • If your pet is outdoors, make sure they always have access to fresh water. If the temperature drops below freezing, you will need a heater for their water bowl. Snow is not an acceptable substitute!
  • When your pet is indoors, make sure they have a warm, dry spot that is away from drafts. Tile floors and uncarpeted areas may become cold and uncomfortable.
  • If you have a long-haired pet, make sure you keep them groomed and free of mats and tangles. While long hair will act as an insulator, it loses its insulating properties when it becomes matted.
  • If your pet has long hair on its feet or in between their pads, you may want to have your groomer cut that hair short, so it does not accumulate snow when your pet is outdoors.
  • If your pet is out in the cold a great deal, you may want to increase the amount you feed them, as they will be expending additional calories to stay warm.
  • If your pet gets wet in the rain or snow, dry them off with a towel when they come back inside.
  • If your pet has been walking on areas that have been treated with salt or any deicer, wipe their feet and pads with a damp cloth. You may want to consider using one of the pet safe products for melting ice.
  • Leaving your pet in a car can be just as problematic in the winter time as it is in the summer. If you leave the motor running, always leave a window partially open in case you have an exhaust leak.
  • Be careful if your pet has access to frozen ponds or streams. They can slip and[ File # csp15483120, License # 3214320 ] Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php) (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / stefan11fall in, or the ice can break and they can fall in.
  • Crusty snow and ice can have sharp edges that can cut the skin and pads of some of the thinner skinned breeds.

Other Seasonal Hazards

  • Antifreeze, which often collects on driveways and roadways, is highly poisonous. Although it smells and tastes good to your pet, it can be lethal.
  • Be very careful of supplemental heating sources, especially those with a flame. Fireplaces and portable heaters can severely burn your pet. Make sure all fireplaces have screens and keep portable heaters out of reach.
  • Make sure your wood is stacked securely so that your pet cannot cause it to fall over.
  • Be aware that cats often will crawl into an engine compartment of a vehicle to keep warm. Slap your hood before starting your car in the morning.
  • Like people, pets seem to be more susceptible to illnesses in the winter. Do take your pet to a veterinarian if you see any suspicious symptoms.
  • Don’t use over-the-counter medications on your dog without first consulting with your veterinarian.

Dealing with the Holidays

puppy chewing ornamentNovember and December are filled with wonderful opportunities for us to gather with family and friends. These gatherings can be a hectic, intimidating time for our pets. Dogs and cats do not always enjoy meeting new people or the frenetic activity that often comes with any holiday gathering.

  • While many of us enjoy the holidays, they can also be very stressful. Your pets can feel this stress as well, especially if they are not used to the frantic activity and houseful of guests that often accompany the holidays. Make sure your pet has a quiet, comfortable hideaway if they choose to abstain from holiday festivities. Sometimes boarding your pet can make the holiday more enjoyable for them, you and your guests.
  • Pets do not make good holiday gifts, especially if the person receiving the gift is not aware of it. If you want to get a pet related gift for someone get them a book on selecting a pet, or a leash or toy for the pet to come.
  • Many holiday plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are poisonous to pets. Make sure they are someplace where your pet cannot get to them.
  • Be cautious about where you leave holiday gifts, especially those with food inside. A misplaced box of chocolates can kill a dog.
  • Candy and other holiday treats sweetened with Xylitol can also be fatal when pets ingest them.
  • Keep lights and fragile ornaments off the lower branches of your holiday tree where your pet can get to them.
  • Make sure all electrical cords for holiday lights and decorations are located Kitten w-ornamentwhere your pet will not become entangled in them or attempt to chew on them.
  • Avoid using edible ornaments on your tree.
  • Tinsel can be very attractive to dogs and cats and can also be fatal if ingested.

 

 

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonam.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2018, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved < Click for Copyright and Use Policy >

Canine – Behavior – Is it OK if our dog sleeps in our bed?

<A version of this article was published in The Maine Edge on 25FEB15>

Tikken under the duvet
Tikken under the duvet

I do not know how many times a year we are asked “is it okay if our dog sleeps in our bed?” or someone with a very apologetic look on their face states, “I know I’m not supposed to, but I let the dog sleep in my bed.” The reality is there is nothing inherently wrong with your dog sleeping in your bed and contrary to popular belief, sleeping in your bed does not make a dog dominant (see Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth). If you do allow your dog to sleep in your bed, you’re in the majority. In an informal survey I conducted via FaceBook, 75 respondents (77.32%) indicated that their dog is allowed to sleep in bed with them, whereas only 22 respondents (22.68%) indicated that their dog was not allowed to sleep with them.

However, sharing a bed with a dog is not for everyone and not all dogs are fans of sharing sleeping space either. Therefore, before inviting Sparky into bed, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your partner comfortable with your dog sharing the bed? If not or if you are unsure, a discussion with your partner is in order.
  • Is your dog housetrained? Until a dog is has gone at least 6 weeks without an accident inside, I wouldn’t think of allowing the dog to sleep anywhere other than a crate.
  • Is the dog going to enjoy sleeping in bed with you or are they perhaps happier sleeping in their own crate or bed? Sleep habits vary widely between people and pets. If anyone of you is a restless sleeper, the others may be miserable. Many dogs are just as content to sleep beside your bed in their own bed or crate.
  • Is your pet going to be safe? A small dog could easily get hurt if someone accidently rolls over on them and they may even bite in that situation.
  • Is there room enough for everyone? A six month old Golden Retriever puppy is still growing for another 7 to 8 months. As space shrinks, allowing the dog in bed may no longer be as popular.
  • How will you feel about sharing the bed if you, your partner or the dog are sick? Some people desire closeness when ill while others cannot stand being touched.
  • Do you have other pets and how many in bed is too many? Always keep in mind that the bed may become a valued space that one dog may choose to resource guard.

My wife and I have had ten dogs in our life together and only two have had bed privileges. Gus, our Cairn Terrier, had privileges for a short time, but lost them because he would grumble every time we moved. He was simply of the temperament that he did not want to be disturbed when he was sleeping (I am sure we all know people like that). Gus really was more comfortable and well rested when he slept in his kennel in our bedroom rather than on the bed. Tikken, our Golden, was allowed in our bed once she was completely housetrained. During the winter months a better foot warmer could not be found however, in the heat of the summer, she would often choose to sleep on the floor. If one of us was restless, she would simply hop off and sleep elsewhere.  While there were times when I described Tikken as the “great immovable object” because she would not move when I tried to stretch out, allowing her to share our bed worked well for all of us.

So ultimately, the decision is up to you. There is simply no right or wrong answer about whether or not you choose to allow your dog to sleep in your bed. If it works for you, never apologize for letting your dog in your bed. If you would rather not share your sleeping space, that is okay too. Just remember, once you start letting your dog sleep with you, they will expect it. If you change the rules months or years down the road because you now have a child, a new partner, or some other life change, it will take time and work to help your dog adjust to new sleeping arrangements.

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>