Easter Egg Hunting Has Gone to The Dogs!!!

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Easter egg hunt with zoo animals and pets_dogs easter ideas

What are you doing for Easter??  We are going to have an Easter Egg hunt with our dogs! No joke.

I am writing this the day before Easter, before we do it, because I am hoping to inspire you to do the same with your family!

Here’s the idea behind it: If you have been following my blog, you know that I used to be an Enrichment Coordinator at the Audubon Zoo so I am crazy passionate about enrichment at home with pets (and dog and child safety).  What most people don’t realize is, all animals in captivity need environmental enrichment whether they live in a zoo, shelter, laboratory, sanctuary, or your home.

So I am going to show you why your dog needs enrichment and why an Easter egg hunt is just the ticket.

PicMonkey Collage

What Enrichment Does

Studies have shown that when animals are given an enriched, stimulating environment (a variety of things to do, smell, and explore) they live longer, are better adjusted, more relaxed, better able to develop problem-solving skills, and they remember what they learn.  This directly relates to your dogs at home!  Bored animals are easily frustrated, and frustration can lead to destruction.  You can avoid boredom, obesity, and wanton destruction by enriching your dog’s life!

Enrichment at Home with Your Dog Will Help To:

  • Curb boredom and restlessness of your pup
  • Reduce frustration
  • Reduce destructive behaviors
  • Increase natural behaviors (foraging, hunting, using their canine senses in a healthy way)
  • Increase your dog’s health and longevity
  • Teach you new ways to engage and play with your canine companion

Science Insights:  A study showed that when dogs solved a problem and earned a reward they wagged their tails more. These dogs were also more likely to try to solve the problem again, rather than if they were just given a reward.  The study also found that food was a preferred reward, compared to spending time with another dog, or being petting by a familiar human.

So what does this research mean for you and your dog?  It means that when you give your dog a healthy challenge (like searching for a hard boiled egg in the backyard – hint hint) your dog is going to be so excited to use all of his/her dog senses to solve the problem of finding the hidden egg! Your dog is going to go bonkers with excitement that he/she was able to hunt down those eggs!


Dog DNA

Hunting and foraging are in your dog’s DNA. This is something they need to do. And it’s healthy for them!  Dogs have evolved over thousands of years. They once relied on their hunting and foraging skills to feed their families and themselves.  This helped to exercise not only their bodies but their minds.  Much of a dog’s time was spent foraging for food, or preparing for the hunt.

hunting squirrels dog foraging and hunting behavior

Hocus hunting squirrels

What Does Your Dog Need?

Fast forward to today. Most family dogs are lounging around the house, bored out of their minds!  And dog obesity is on the rise. The family dog is not receiving enough daily mental and physical “foraging and hunting” like their early ancestors did. All dogs need enrichment. – Dogs of all ages and stages:

– Do you have a dog with a lot of excess energy? This is a great way to provide mental and physical stimulation!

– Is your dog sedentary or overweight? This is a great game to encourage your plump pup to get moving!

– Do you have a senior dog that has slowed down? This is an easy game to help your senior dog feel alive again and stretch those old bones and muscles!

It is very easy to watch our senior dogs or cats lie around snoozing. They look so content and they have done so much for us. But you would be surprised what good a little exercise will do your senior – how it can improve quality of life and perhaps even slow the progression of aging, including the advancement of dog arthritis.

Exercise stimulates all tissues as it increases blood flow. Tissues become oxygenated and toxins are removed from them more readily. In addition, exercise helps bowel function enormously. This is especially important in older pets.


Animal enrichment promotes naturalistic behaviors that stimulate the mind and increases physical activity.

easter egg hunt with pets and zoo animals

Easter Egg Hunts at the Zoo

Back in the day during my Zoo Days I used to go into an animal’s exhibit before we let them out in the morning. I would would hide various food items or novel toys.  Around Easter I would do this with any species that loved to eat eggs. This could be anything from a ferret to a Komodo Dragon.  The idea was to hide the eggs, and let the animal’s senses help him or her to “hunt down” the egg.  It was always a riot to watch them search for the raw or hard boiled goodie, and the visitors loved being able to see animals behaving in a way that particular species would behave naturally in the wild.

This is what enrichment does; it promotes natural behaviors!


How You Can Have an Easter Egg Hunt with Your Dog

You are probably wondering, what does a Komodo dragon have to do with my dog?  A lot actually. Everything I just described can be duplicated at home with your dog! I will walk you through it.

Imagine an animal’s outdoor exhibit at a zoo.  Now imagine your backyard.

Imagine me hiding eggs for various species while the animal was still inside their indoor enclosure.  Now think about where you can hide eggs in your yard while your dog is inside the house.

Imagine what an Orangutan, Komodo, or ferret did when we let them outside into their exhibit and they began looking for the eggs.  Now think about what it will be like when you finally let your dog outside into the backyard to search for the eggs!

Imagine the excitement on the visitor’s faces when they watch the zoo animals searching for the eggs and gobbling them up.  Now think about how fun this will be for your kids and family to watch your dog do the same with eggs in your backyard!


Egg Tips

Boil the eggs, then make sure they are cooled to room temperature before you hide them in the yard. (Don’t dye the eggs.)

Peel some of the eggs, but leave the shell on some. Or just peel a portion of the egg.

If you have kids, let them hide the eggs! This is a great way for kids to be involved in the game! This game allows everyone to play safely together.

Don’t feed too many eggs at once. One or two is a good start if your dog has never had a hard boiled egg.

(We have 2 dogs doing the egg hunt. They have eaten hard boiled eggs before, so each dog will get 3 eggs.)

Questions or concerns about feeding your dog eggs? Read HERE and HERE

free range eggs for dogs


We will have our hunt tomorrow. I will record it on video and share it with you later on this post!  So be sure to come back to see the video.  I hope to see all of the creative ways that your family and your dog had an Easter Egg hunt together!

HAPPY HUNTING!

 

Monday April 6 Update: The egg hunt was a success!  Here is a sneak peak! (full video to come later in the week)

Note: Our dog is the one without a collar.  The other dog (black Shepard) is our neighbor’s dog, Annie, a very sweet and gentle Shepard.

The Deadly Dangers of Lilies

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easter lilies cats toxic plants

My collection of lilies on my front porch in New Orleans. I grew them all from seeds.

Easter is almost here!  Right now flowers seem to be everywhere I look.  I want to bring them all home, but I have to resist. Few of my readers know that I am a huge plant lover.  It gives me so much pleasure to grow all kinds of things from seeds. Lilies and orchids are my favorite. Just looking at them makes my heart swell!  But these days, I keep the lilies outside. They are not allowed inside the house – ever. Why?  Because we have cats and a dog


Did you know?

There is another plant far more dangerous to pets than poinsettias.

Meet the beautiful and deadly lily.

easter lily grown from seed_toxic to cats_poisonous plants

I grew this Lily from a seed! Isn’t she beautiful?


Facts about Lilies:

  • Lilies are one of the most dangerous flowers to have around cats.
  • They can send a cat into acute kidney failure (which can be fatal).
  • There are several types of lilies that are toxic to pets.
  • It takes only a nibble on one leaf or stem, or the ingestion of a small amount of lily pollen (easy to do when a cat grooms itself) to send a cat into acute kidney failure and you rushing to the emergency vet.
  • Lily of the valley (Convalaria majalis) affects the heart, causing irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure, and can progress to seizures or coma (in cats and dogs).

There are benign and dangerous lilies. So it’s important to know the difference.  

  • Benign lilies: the Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies; these contain insoluble oxalate crystals that cause tissue irritation in the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus.
  • Dangerous and potentially fatal lilies:  The “true lilies” (the Lilium or Hemerocallis species): the tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, Japanese Show, rubrum, stargazer, red, Western, and wood lilies
  • Other types of dangerous lilies include lily of the valley. This type does not cause kidney failure, but can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias and death when ingested by dogs or cats.

Lilies toxic to cats

Watch this 1 minute video to learn about Lily Toxicity:

The outlook for cats with acute kidney failure resulting from eating lilies can be good, so long as early and aggressive treatment is pursued. But if too much time passes before ingestion is recognized and appropriate treatment is started, the outlook becomes much worse and death from the disease or from euthanasia is more likely. The sad truth is that without treatment, acute kidney failure is going to be fatal.

Common signs to watch for:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting (pieces of plant in the vomit)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased urination, followed by lack of urination after 1 to 2 days
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Diarrhea
  • Halitosis
  • Inappropriate urination or thirst
  • Seizures
  • Death

dangers of easter lilies and cats


Safety Tips:

  • If you live with cats, never have lilies in the home. It’s not worth the risk!
  • If you want to send a bouquet to friends or family members with cats, specifically request “no lilies please!”
  • If you love lilies, keep them outside on the porch where cats cannot reach them.
  • Keep your cat indoors.  Lots of folks have lilies growing in their garden, and many grow wild along the roadside. If your cat is outdoors, you have no way to prevent your cat from eating or rubbing up against those wild lilies.
  • Click here for an extensive list of poisonous plants & flowers (and some non-toxic alternatives)

Cats jump, dead leaves fall, vases spill, and pollen travels on breezes – any of these scenarios can kill your cat.

Easter is just around the corner! Please be sure your home does not have these very dangerous flowers. And please share this with your friends, colleagues, and family!

easter lilies and cats

My beautiful but deadly lily plant


Sources and more resources:

Pet Poison Help Hotline

Lesser Known Pet Toxicities: Lily Toxicity in Cats

Want to Be a Dog Whisperer? Try THIS.

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blahblah_gary larson ginger dog what dogs hear

Gary Larson Comic

It’s not very often that I come across an article or post from other dog trainer that makes me yell, YES! PERFECTION! THANK YOU!! 

I found one today.

I am taking the time to sit down and share this with you because it is one of the most powerful and effective ways to listen and communicate with your dog. And it’s simple.

Check it out.

Whisperering: What is it Really?

Challenge for the day…. Don’t talk to your dog today.  Instead, talk only with your body language and see what happens.  You’ll find out how much you chatter to your dog, meaningless words and wonder why she tunes you out.  A surprise may be that your dog pays closer attention because she’ll have to rely on your body language (her first language).  This is the tip of the iceberg in training.

If you aren’t aware of your own body language and energy around dogs you will have very little idea what kind of training your dog needs. Your dog is responding to your body language first, secondarily the words coming out of your mouth.  I love this cartoon [Gary Larson above] because it speaks brilliantly to how we relate to dogs. We are relating to a different species entirely yet we are relating to them as if they are human.  This is why trainers have jobs, people get bitten, dogs don’t pay attention to you, they are destructive, they play chase when you are trying to call them to you, and the list goes on.  It’s a total disconnect without this awareness.

Let’s dissect this cartoon. Our friend with the glasses is clearly in a reactive state; pointing fingers, yelling, bending over/leaning forward, big energy. The dog is sitting there trying to figure out what this man is saying.  Is this dog just sitting there calmly listening to his owner letting it blow over his head, tuning him out?  If you said YES, you are incorrect.  Everything in this dogs’ body language is saying “I”m stressed”: Direct eye contact, alert forward ears, closed mouth, wondering whether to flea or retreat but by no means calm and relaxed.  If the dog did something offensive to the owner like take a sock or not come when called and this is the reaction of it’s owner don’t you think the dog may not want to ever come when called or try to make a game out of getting the sock to perhaps change the tone of the owner and get a game of chase going?  Dogs do things to engage us and if we don’t know who we are being or how to read a dog’s language, we’ll have little success with a healthy relationship with our dog.

Okay, if you can’t do it for a whole day try using body language for 2 hrs while you’re interacting with your dog. If you find yourself in his face to get his attention then you’re a prime example of a dog owner with a dog who has learned to tune you out.

Pay attention to these things:
What is your facial expression when interacting with your dog?
Is it hard not to talk?
Do you have big energy?
Is your energy relaxed and calm?
Are you reactive?
What did you notice in your dog?
Do you use your hands a lot or a little?
When you ask your dog to do something what is your body doing? What position are you in when asking your dog to COME to you?
When walking on the leash, how are you holding the leash?
What do you do when you see a dog approaching while walking on the leash?
What do you do when you stop to speak to a neighbor?
What is your dog doing when you stop to speak to a neighbor?
What else did you observe about using your own body language with your dog?

Relying simply on your body language should prompt a whole slew of awarenesses you had no idea of about yourself in relating to your dog. This awareness could raise the bar to the connection you have with your dog because you are now actually whispering/speaking in a language your dog can understand. It’s not magic, it’s awareness and understanding.

Once you’ve become more aware of who you’re being, try this. As you begin to speak to your dog, whisper. Literally, whisper the cues/commands you are asking for, along with a hand signal for the command and see how much more attentive your dog will be to you. This takes practice. Learning to understand body language, yours and your dogs can be the connection you’ve longed for and will be life changing. ~ Jill Breitner


I absolutely love this!  And I couldn’t agree more with Jill’s expert advice.  This method of compassionate awareness is what I teach kids and clients.  For some, it’s very hard to do at first, but with practice, you can learn to do it every day with your dog!  I promise you can.  I learned how to do it, and so can you.

I learned the method of “becoming more aware” way back in the day when I first started training komodos, crocs and giant tortoises. Take a guess who is not listening to you ramble on while you’re training them.  Reptiles. They want the food. Not meaningless words.

This was a huge challenge for me.  Keeping my mouth shut was not easy.  I used to talk a lot, and didn’t listen very well back then.  But one thing you learn very quickly when working with a crocodile (who has you on their menu) is to shut up and listen.  If I wanted a hungry crocodile, a clever Komodo Dragon, or a 500 pound tortoise to station, target, or give blood voluntarily, I used training tools, not my words.  My words were meaningless to them.

Oh, and I should also mention that back in the day I was kind of a spazz, too.  Flailing my arms and body around didn’t help anything.  In fact, moving quickly and without forethought was dangerous.  I learned to slow down, and to think before I moved or reacted.  I learned to be aware of the power of body language; it was a direct line of communication to these animals.  I could speak to them softly with my body language, or I could speak loudly and become a threat. Speaking softly was always the better choice.

I also learned how to read their body language.  I watched their very deliberate moves.  Even a subtle shift in weight was a huge signal!  By watching and observing them, I was listening to them.  I learned what they wanted. And I learned how to ask for what I wanted.  It was a cooperative dance. I learned how my energy affects the animal I am working with. And I learned to honor and respect their space.  I never intimidated them or pushed them around.  I was never a bully.  I treated them all with the utmost respect.  Always.

We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.― Zeno of Citium

Now fast forward to today. I don’t live with crocs or komodos, but what they taught me carries over to how I interact with my dog.  I listen more than I talk.  I watch more than I move.  I observe. I absorb. Then I assess.  I don’t react.  I redirect. And I set my dog up for success.

I don’t yell at her – e v e r.  I don’t poke, jab, hit, kick, or harass her.  I don’t hurl oppressive cues like tssst! at her, or snap my fingers in her face.  I don’t steal things from her to teach her I am the boss.  I respectfully ask her to do something when I need to, or redirect her attention.  Because of this we have a relationship based on total and complete trust.

I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness. ― Mother Teresa, A Gift for God: Prayers and Meditations

These days I listen more than I talk. I observe more than react.  But most of all, we always have fun together.

I am not special.  I made mistakes and learned from them. Now I do better because I know better.  You can, too! Becoming aware of yourself and your dog will change your lives. I promise.


This is dedicated to every animal who taught me how to talk less, observe more, respect every animal, and to remember to have fun in the process!  Thank you Chopin, Zazous, Coal, Magma, Kadar, Corky, Feldspar, Xaviera, and Obsidian.


Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.


Recommended:
Dog Decoder – learn to read your dog (app)
Special thanks to She Whisperer;  thank you for teaching the world how to be a compassionate, science-based Dog Whisperer.