Oh Mr. Postmaaan…

one day the mailman is going to

 

Our U.P.S. delivery dude is pretty hot.

He’s also a total sweetheart.  Our mail person is adorable as well.  She sings songs so loudly from her postal vehicle I can hear her from inside my house.  It always makes me giggle and smile.  

But what I think of our postal and package delivery people doesn’t matter; what does matter is what our dog thinks of them.

Now that the holidays are here, I am unbelievably grateful that our dog adores the Dudes and Dudettes Who Bring the Boxes.  In fact, our dog thinks the UPS people and their big brown sleigh are hawt-doggity-dawg.

But she didn’t always love them.

In fact, she used to go absolutely insane when the postal people came; you would have thought our house was being invaded by a SWAT team every time the truck pulled up to our house, or when he came to the door.

dogs barking at post man
Is this how your dog sees the delivery people?

 

Let’s Get A New Perspective:

Imagine what it must feel like to your canine companion:  You are resting comfortably on your cushion in your canine castle. Then all of a sudden a loud, intrusive rumbling sound comes racing down your street.

Rumble! Bang! Boom!  Metal clangs and rattles.  Door slams.

You leap up from the comfort of your canine bed, wide-eyed and wildly wondering: 

Is that thunder!??  

Take Cover!!!  HIDE!!
No.  Wait.  It’s just a car.

Now the doors are slamming!!  OMG! Someone is here!!!

I will alert my people with my canine call!!!

They will be so glad I told them!

WAIT. Do I know this person?!!?

NO!  Agh!  It’s a stranger!!

DANGER! 
All canines on deck!!! 
Oh noooo! He is getting out of his monster machine and coming up to our house!!! — MY CASTLE!

Must defend my canine castle!!!

Must alert my people more loudly!  They don’t understand the danger!

Knock-Knock. Doorbell rings.

AGH!!! The Chimes of Doom!   

People …. HELP!!!!!
Now he’s banging on the door!!!  He’s coming in! OMG! I must defend my canine castle!!!

All life forms in your home fearfully flee the scene, or they do the opposite: They physically go after your invisibly-caped canine crusader to make her shut-the-heck-up and calm-the-heck-down.


 

Does this sound familiar?  As chaotic as that scene sounds, it’s all too common in family homes, but it can and should be prevented. 

We prevent this by removing fear. 

Think about it: Everyone’s response in that moment was based on fear. If you have a cat or dog that flees (or fights) the dog when she goes nuts, it’s a behavior that stems from fear.  The other animal is either trying to keep themselves safe from the threat, or he/she is trying to eliminate the threat.   If you go after or scream at your dog when he/she is screaming at the perceived threat, you are experiencing anger (which is actually just a mask for fear).  And, anyone or animal that goes after the dog when the dog is in the middle of a full-on-freak-out, that animal or person is only adding more fear and frustration to the already out of control fire.

Let me repeat that:  If you are reactive to your reactive dog, you are adding fear-fuel to the fear-fire. 

Hollering and forcing a dog into a position to make them “behave” isn’t going to help.  This approach can backfire. It’s very dangerous and honestly, very irresponsible.  And it’s only teaching your dog (and any other animal or child in the house) that there is something to be afraid of when the “stranger-danger” appears.  If you are reacting angrily when your dog reacts, what are you teaching them?


 

The flawed idea that a dog will only learn to behave through force and fear is sad and misguided, but people are still misled into thinking that these methods are the right way to go. This leads to elevated stress levels that could be avoided if time was taken to understand how dogs’ learn and how they can be taught effectively. Choice training is a beacon of hope in what is still a dominating world. -Victoria Stilwell, world-renowned humane dog trainer


 

So, what do we do instead of screaming “SHUT UP!” or wrestling the dog away from the door or window?

–> We teach the dog that the approaching monster man in his monster machine is A MA Z I N G, and something to look forward to! 


Here are a few (very simplified) steps to get you started:

1.Form a friendly relationship with your postal service people. These people have a very exhausting job this time of year, so go out of your way to have some compassion for them.  Find out their names.  Ask them how their day is going.  Maybe even ask how their family is doing.  Care about them, instead of seeing them as the people who drop off the-item-you-have-been-waiting-for-forever.  Not only is doing this a kind gesture, but it will pay off tremendously when you ask for their help with calming your chaotic canine!

 

2. Explain to your postal person that your dog is having a hard time with him/her coming to your house.  Just take a few minutes to let them know that you are working on helping your dog to be more calm around them. They might appreciate that you are making their life easier! They may even have some suggestions or offer ways to help you.

 

3. Ask them how they feel about dogs.  –If you know their perspective on dogs, you can know whether you need to keep your dog away from them, or allow your dog to eventually say hello calmly.  Remember that some postal people may be just as fearful of, or frustrated with dogs as your dog is to them!  Learn what their comfort level is and be respectful of it.

 

4. Change how your dog feels about the postal people.  –Many dogs who lunge or bark have been “corrected” (punished) for their behavior.  This kind of reaction has only added to their fear or frustration.  If your dog has never been corrected in any form, congrats to you, but your dog’s fear or frustration about the postal people is still present, so we need to address it.   We do this by changing the association that the dog has with the perceived threat.  We use food to transform the dog’s negative emotions to positive emotions by pairing pleasant things with the appearance of the unpleasant thing (Mr. Postman).  When done correctly, this results in a dog who turns and looks happily and expectantly at his person as soon as the dog spies the stranger-danger that used to elicit a reactive outburst.

Ever since Hocus became reactive (barking and going berserk) around the UPS and mailman vehicles I decided to rain down delicious treats when they approached.   Note: The key word is DELICIOUS.  Don’t grab a dog biscuit. Get the bacon, people.  

 

Science of how food helps in dog training

 

If we were in the house I calmly presented any one of Hocus’ favorite treats (like bacon, cheese, cat food, or chicken) to Hocus when she heard them pull up; I did this on our walks when they rumbled by; I did this when she saw them in the window; I did this anytime she heard or spied them coming.  (This video from Urban Dogs is a great example of how this can  be done outside.)  Eventually her fear and frustration turned to glad, calm anticipation.

 

5. Change how YOU feel about your dog going berserk.  Folks, you are the adults here.  You can see the full picture.  Have compassion for your canine.  Learn to control your reaction to your dog.  Take a deep breath and remember that your dog truly believes he/she is doing their job!  Thank them for doing such a good job of letting you know the postal person is here!  Remove your frustration!  Don’t allow yourself to go into your own fear or reactivity.  That only creates more confusion, fear, and frustration.

 

6.  Help your dog to focus on something else.   If you are inside and the monster machine arrives, tell your dog you will take over from here, and ask them to focus on something else that they do really well.  We call this an incompatible behavior.  Identify a behavior that’s incompatible with, or cannot occur at the same time as, the problem behavior. For example, your dog can’t be at the door barking if she’s going to get her favorite toy.

My husband and I (literally) say, “Hocus, you did a great job letting us know they’re here.  We will take over from here.  You are safe. We are all safe!  Now go get your Kong and bring it to me!”.   Once she brings us the Kong or squeaky toy, she gets rewarded with something that will keep her attention and focus for a while  (usually via frozen stuffed Kong or pig ear).

Remember to stay calm. Take deep breaths!  Be easy.  Think about what you want your dog to do instead!  By the way, “not barking” doesn’t count. What could your dog be taught to do instead of her self-assigned job of Caped Canine Crusader?  Be playful and easy about all of this while helping your dog to move her energy into something healthier, and more peaceful and fun!

 

7. Ask the postal people for their permission. If they are comfortable with it, and you have already been working on counter conditioning your dog to the sights and sounds of them from a distance, bring your dog out on a secure leash and harness. Then offer irresistible treats to your dog.  You don’t need to be close to the postal person at this point.  Merely standing on the doorstep while they are at the street can be too much for some dogs.   Just let your dog see them while you offer the tasty treats.

 

food for dogs anxiety and fear

 

8.  Ask the postal people for their participation. Not only is our UPS dude a hottie, but he is well prepared for pooches.  He has a huge bag of dog treats that he drives around with, ready to offer to dogs at the houses he visits.  All of the dogs on our block love him!  All the pups know that whenever a package arrives, a treat will be arriving too!  Our dog learned very quickly that the stranger-danger coming to the door was not only bringing a boxed goodie for her people, but she gets goodies too!

 

 

9.  Make safety a priority.   Always err on the side of caution, and if you are not sure about these steps, hire a force-free professional to help you. If your dog is displaying aggressive behavior, please consult a force-free animal behavior consultant .  Don’t try to fix this on your own.

 

NOTE:  Hocus Pocus is not aggressive towards humans.  She absolutely adores people, but can become quite frustrated and vocal when she cannot get to the person.  She has a history of reactivity to loud, unexpected sounds, and to some dogs.


 

dogs and mailman_pets and UPS man_reactive dogs_conscious Companion

 

Don’t let the fear of the postal people be the Fear Grinch that steals your holiday cheer.  Show your dog that there is nothing to be afraid of.  Teach your dog that all is well, and that he/she is safe.

🎄Merry Christmas and Holiday Blessings to you and yours! ⛄❄️

 


 

Recommended Reading 

 

 

Honoring a King, Whose Death Sparked Outrage Around the World

All things are connected like the blood that unites us. We do not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. – Chief Seattle

Cecil the Lion

I was deeply saddened and angered today when I learned of another senseless and preventable death.  His name is Cecil. He was a 13 year young African male lion (Panthera leo).  Cecil was a regal male who was breeding and helping to increase Africa’s lion populations.  Cecil was -and remains- a symbol of strength, beauty, and courage. Cecil was in the prime of his life just weeks ago.

His body was found decapitated and skinned outside of his preserve earlier this month.

This Was Not an Honorable Death

According the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), a charity which focuses on the conservation and preservation of wildlife in the southern African country, Cecil was lured from the safety of the private safari across an old railway line, which acts as an invisible boundary, onto hunting lands.  It was here where the hunters were waiting to take advantage. They used a goat carcass to bait Cecil onto their land -an all too common and dirty practice seen throughout Africa.

Cecil was then shot with a crossbow in the Gwaai concession about 1,100 yards from the protection of the national park. Cecil did not die immediately; it took two days to track the lion and kill him with a rifle.  Cecil was then skinned and his head was removed as a trophy.  They left his body there to rot.

Hwange conservation consortium says this hunt was illegal.

Although it is legal to kill Big Game such as lions, giraffe, elephants in some of these areas, the hunters claim they had not realized who this lion was: “It was a magnificent, mature lion,” they said.  “We did not know it was well-known lion.  I had a licence for my client to shoot a lion with a bow and arrow in the area where it was shot.”

Apparently, there were other irregularities in the hunt which are being investigated, including the fact that in the Gwaai Conservancy no lion hunting quota was issued for 2015, and the GPS collar on Cecil was destroyed by the hunters.

Cecil was wounded by a crossbow and arrow, and then killed, skinned and decapitated 40 hours later


Cecil Was a Part of a Conservation Research Program.

When he was killed, Cecil was wearing a GPS-collar.  A team of researchers in Hwange National Park have been conducting an ongoing study on behalf of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University since 1999.  It’s been an ongoing ecological study of African lions in Hwange.  They are measuring the impact of sport-hunting beyond the park on the lion population within the park, using radio-telemetry and direct observation.  The research they have gathered to date is startling.

34 of 62 tagged lions died during the study period; 24 were shot by sport hunters.  These sport hunters killed 72 percent of tagged adult males from the study area. This caused a decline in numbers of adult males in the population.


Cecil’s Prides

Conservationists are concerned that by killing Cecil, his death leaves as many as 12 cubs vulnerable to infanticide by male lions who will assume leadership of Cecil’s prides. (Males commonly kill the cubs of ousted pride leaders so that they may sire their offspring with the females they inherit.)  Cecil was in coalition with another male lion, Jericho.  Between them they had two prides that consisted of six lionesses, and about a dozen cubs.

Cecil lion cubs pride

Cecil’s death is a tragedy, not only because he was a symbol of Zimbabwe, but because now his cubs will die too; a new male won’t allow them to live, to encourage Cecil’s three females to mate.  Hunting predators on the boundaries of national parks such as Hwange causes significant disturbance and knock-on effects such as infanticide when new males entered the prides.  As a single male, Jericho will be unable to defend the two prides and cubs from new males that invade the territory. This is what we most often see happening in these cases. Infanticide is the most likely outcome.

 -Dr. Andrew Loveridge


 Cecil the African Lion in Hwange, Zimbabwe

The video below shows Cecil, like many of the species in the area, enjoying life on the preserve with his family.

Footage of Cecil with one of his prides

Tourists from only one lodge collectively pay $9,000 per day. Zimbabwe could have brought in more in just five days by having Cecil’s photograph taken, rather than being shot by someone paying a one-off fee of $45,000.
Tourists from only one lodge collectively pay $9,000 per day. Zimbabwe could have brought in more in just five days by having Cecil’s photograph taken, rather than being shot by someone paying a one-off fee of $45,000.


Lions Are Complex.

A recent study conducted on the socio-spatial behavior of lion population following the perturbation by sport hunting shows that there’s growing evidence that lion populations which are socially disrupted may be more prone to coming into conflict with human communities on the boundaries of protected areas.  They believe this is largely because movement patterns become erratic and lions are more likely to leave the park.

“These cats are complex, which is why disturbance of their social system has such far reaching knock-on effects.” – Dr. Loverage


Lions By the Numbers

  • 600 lions are killed by tourists each year.
  • Lions have vanished from over 80% of their historic range.
  • Lions are listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
  • In West and Central Africa, the species is now classified as Endangered.
  • Lions exist today in 29 countries, including 28 countries in Africa and 1 country in Asia.
  • Illegal killing, relentless habitat loss, and over hunting of wild prey by humans have left lions precariously close to extinction.
  • Kenya loses 100 of its 2,000 wild lions every year due to killing by humans.
  • At this rate, lion experts believe there will be no wild lions left in Kenya by 2030.
  • 100 years ago there were 200,000 lions living in the wild in Africa. Today there are fewer than 30,000.
  • Lions are extinct in 26 countries.

The premature death of this lion highlights a sobering reality: lion populations are in catastrophic decline across Africa. A century ago, more than 200,000 lions roamed the continent; yet recent surveys estimate that in the last two decades alone, lion numbers have decreased from approximately 30,000 to around 20,000. –Panthera

Africa’s Lions Face a Tri-Fold Threat:

  1. Retaliatory persecution by herders and farmers
  2. Dramatic loss and fragmentation of habitat
  3. Scarcity of wild prey due to overhunting by hu­mans.

lion
Graphic from Panthera

Lions have slipped under the conservation radar for too long. If we do not act now, lions will find themselves in the same dire predicament as their Asian counterpart, the tiger. – Dr. Guy Balme, Panthera’s Leopard Program Director


Weighing In

Below are recent statements from sport hunters and conservationists in the area where Cecil resided.

Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides AssociationJuly 23 at 10:33am ·

“Zimbabwe Parks Wildlife Management Authority, are currently still conducting an investigation on the legalities of the hunt that took place and for which they are the appropriate authority to do so. We therefore can not and will not comment on the legal aspect, whilst this investigation is ongoing. ZPHGA are working together with ZPWMA and Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ).  ZPHGA confirms the Professional Hunter in charge of the Safari is a member of ZPHGA. Therefore ZPHGA can make a ruling on the aspect of ethics and his membership at this time.  ZPHGA in the follow up of the investigation concludes that in regarding the responsibility of his membership, the PH was is in violation of the ethics of ZPHGA.  ZPHGA therefore with immediate effect, suspend his membership indefinitely.  The professional hunter and company he works for have been co-operative in the investigation.  ZPHGA re-iterates it will not tolerate any illegal hunting or any unethical practices by any of its members and their staff. ZPHGA will await the completion of the current investigation by ZPWMA before commenting any further.  We ask all members of ZPHGA, as well as the general public, to please respect the ongoing investigation underway by the appropriate authorities ZPWMA.”

——

Bhejane Trust  July 23 at 1:58am · An update on the killing of Cecil, the famed Hwange lion.

“The PH, Theo Bronkhurst, and the concession “owner”, one Honest Mpofu, were arrested and appeared in Hwange Magistrate court on the charge of illegally killing a lion. According to sources, there was no permit for lion on their hunt, and the concession area (Antionette) does not have any lion on quota. They have been remanded out of custody until August 6th. so Parks can continue their investigations.  Cecil was shot at night, no doubt after being blinded with a spotlight, undoubtedly over a bait which would have been dragged along the Parks boundary (supposedly for a leopard!) – indicative of the poor ethics and the poor quality hunter that we see too often these days. Undoubtedly, the PH intended to do a “quota transfer” where Cecil would have been recorded as shot in another area which had a quota and permit – the satellite collar blew the plan ( although Bronkhurst apparently tried to destroy the collar and all evidence of the dead Cecil). Had this lion not been collared, Bronkhurst probably would have got away with this crime, and I very much doubt this is the first dodgy episode in his hunting career.   Lets hope that corruption does not prevail and the full force of the law falls on both these characters – we do not need these types operating in Zimbabwe.”

Latest update on Cecil’s killing, July 28:

JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY ZIMBABWE PARKS AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY AND SAFARI OPERATORS ASSOCIATION OF ZIMBABWE ON THE ILLEGAL HUNT OF A COLLARED LION AT ANTOINETTE FARM, HWANGE DISTRICT ON 1 JULY 2015 IN GWAYI CONSERVANCY BY BUSHMAN SAFARIS

“Theo Bronchorst, a professional hunter with Bushman Safaris is facing criminal charges (VIC FALLS Police CR 27/07/2015) for allegedly killing a collared lion on Antoinette farm in Gwayi Conservancy, Hwange district on 1 July 2015. The lion named ‘Cecil’ was well known and regularly sighted by tourists in the Main camp area of Hwange National Park. It is alleged that the hunter connived with the Antoinette land owner, Mr. Honest Trymore Ndlovu to kill the lion. Ongoing investigations to date, suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the land owner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015. Therefore, all persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges.  Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management as the Regulatory Authority and custodian of all wild animals in Zimbabwe issues hunting permits and hunting quota for all hunting areas in Zimbabwe so that only animals on quota are to be hunted. In this case, both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota to justify the offtake of the lion and therefore are liable for the illegal hunt.   Both professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst’s licence number 553 who was involved in the hunt and the owner of Antoinette farm, Mr. Honest Trymore Ndlovu are being jointly charged for illegally hunting the lion. The two are due to appear in court on Wednesday, 29 July 2015. Efforts are being made to interview the other professional hunter, Zane Bronkhorst, licence number 558, who was also involved in the illegal hunt. The Professional Hunter Theo Bronkhosrt’s Licence has been suspended with immediate effect. The lion trophy has also been confiscated. The relevant stakeholders have been informed and are being updated about this matter.”

Cecil the Lion
Cecil in his prime


Cecil Is Not the Exception. 

The premeditated killing of Cecil is tragic and heartbreaking.  People all around the world are in shock.  But be aware, friends: This situation is not the exception, but rather the rule all around the world.  American hunters kill hundreds of African lions each year. – 600 in fact. That’s almost 2 per day.  Poaching, sport hunting, illegal animal trade, and everything between happens every day.  Most people don’t know about it until a story like Cecil’s strikes a deep nerve.

The loss of Cecil is absolutely reprehensible, and sadly, this case is not an anomaly. Many people around the world are unaware that what happened to this lion is happening all over Africa, dozens of times a day. Illegal killing of lions is a real threat to the species’ survival. If we are to save the lion, the international community must come together, as it has in support of Cecil, to fund conservation initiatives that are mitigating the species’ greatest threats. -Panthera’s President, Dr. Luke Hunter

A 19-Year-Old Cheerleader Who Hunts Endangered Species
A 19-Year-Old Cheerleader Who Hunts Endangered Species

We are all outraged today because an iconic animal and protected species was lured out of his sanctuary and murdered for sport, but this kind of business has been, and continues to happen in every country in the world.  And what’s really happening is a much greater problem than we are willing to recognize and admit.  Killing for sport, trophies, profit, and fun is happening within younger generations.  We are even seeing young girls being encouraged to hunt and kill for the thrill of taking life.

Cecil’s story has gone viral within hours, but there are countless other species whose lives have ended for much less profit; species far less iconic and less “attractive” than Cecil.  Whether it’s critically endangered species such as the Blue Iguana, Pangolin, or Northern white rhino, people are treating all species as if their lives don’t matter.

The team of hunters who killed Cecil are going to be prosecuted, but honestly, I am not focused on blaming this guy and his hunting team in particular, because there are a thousand more rich Americans who are willing to do what he did, and they do it legally every day.  In fact, while we all mourned Cecil’s death, 5 of Kenya’s endangered elephants were killed.  This is insanity to me.

I have to ask,  Where is the disconnect?  

When did honor and dignity of life become so undervalued?  

How did we become so disconnected from the other lives with whom we share this planet?  

How are so many of us behaving unconsciously?  

Where is the compassion and connection? 

Big 5: Jones says her first kill was a rare African white rhino, part of her quest to bag the Big 5 African game animals (rhino, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and lion)
Jones says her first kill was a rare African white rhino, part of her quest to “bag the Big 5” African game animals (rhino, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and lion)


May Cecil’s Death Shed Light On Our Darkness …. and Our Ability to Love.

Conservationists are heavily involved in working to stop this illegal (and legal) activity.  These people and organizations are incredibly passionate and dedicated, but they have their work cut out for them.  I know because I have been involved with various conservation projects for decades.  In the process  I have witnessed incredible people doing amazing things to save species and conserve lands, but I have also witnessed more ugliness, greed, disdain, complacency, and tragedies than I care to recall.

Along the way I learned something: When we are disconnected from ourselves, each other, and the world that surrounds us, people can easily do what we have witnessed with Cecil.

Understanding this fact has helped me to rise above the disgust, anger, and judgement that I initially feel.   When I see blatant disregard and respect for life I am urged to look at the situation from a broader perspective.

Once I get the anger and sadness out, I am free to be able to ask, What can be learned from this?  How can we grow from this?  How can we guide and inspire others to respect all life?  It’s not enough to be angry and judge “the people who did this”, or merely want things to change.  We have to do more.

Change Begins with Each of Us.

If you want to see change, look within.  Once we look within and are honest with ourselves we are better equipped to make a real difference out there in the world.  This current situation with beloved Cecil is an opportunity for that.

If we want to end this kind of heartless and disconnected behavior around the world, we must ask ourselves tough questions:

What are we looking away from that needs to be discussed?

Are we idly sitting by and allowing this to happen?

Where can we take productive and meaningful action?

Have I done something like this to another species?

How can we remove the hate and prejudices that blind us?

Am I  withholding love to anyone or any form of life?  

Have I taken any specie’s life without forethought?

Am I disconnected from others?

Am I disconnected and from nature?

How can we maintain and enhance our connection to all life?

How can I become more connected?

How can we remove judgement and blame and find solutions?

How can we infuse Love into situations like these?

How can we do our part to protect species and the Earth?

How can we encourage children to appreciate all people and all species of life?

What are we teaching our children?

Before we judge anything outside of us, before we throw hate, anger, and blame at others, we must look within.  


Honoring Cecil

Cecil’s death has inspired millions of people to see things from a different perspective, and to take action around the ongoing global issue of animal abuse. His death has shined light on how disconnected so many are from our fellow travelers on planet Earth.   Cecil, thank you for bringing awe, joy, and awareness into countless people’s lives while you were here with us.  Thank you for the lessons that you continue to teach us.  May your soul be at peace.  May the circumstances of your death be the catalyst for change.  May all nations learn from this.  May one day, we all see every living being as our kin.

Cecil the Lion
Be at peace, brother.

I see a world in the future in which we understand that all life is related to us and we treat that life with great humility and respect.  -David Suzuki 


Recommended Related Reading

As the world mourned Cecil the lion, five of Kenya’s endangered elephants were slain 

Rich American tourists kill hundreds of lions each year, and it’s all legal. 

The State of the Lion.

–> Project Leonardo: Saving Africa’s Lions

–> How you can help Lions right now

–> Panthera and WildCRU Call for Global Efforts to Conserve the African Lion

Petitioning CEO, Delta Air Lines and 4 others to End the Transport of Exotic Animal Hunting Trophies

Promises Fulfilled

Happy New Year_Inspiration 3

I feel keeping a promise to yourself is a direct reflection of the love you have for yourself. I used to make promises to myself and find them easy to break. Today, I love myself enough to not only make a promise to myself, but I love myself enough to keep that promise ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

So often around the New Year we make promises and resolutions for ourselves that we never seem to keep. Did you know that less than 8% of New Year’s resolutions are kept?  I’ll admit that I usually set pretty high stakes for myself and then I fall into that 8 percent. This year I thought that maybe I could keep my new year’s intentions if I made them about something greater than myself. I started to ask myself these questions:

What if I set the intention to be a little kinder and more patient with myself? Would this carry over to my family members and our animal companions?

What if I focused more on what I saw was possible in myself, instead of only what I see now? Would this help me to do the same with my animal companions and the people in my life?

What if I listened more, and observed more, and reacted less? What would happen?

The answers were clear to me; What I give to (or withhold from) myself will parallel how I treat others. What I practice in life will parallel life with others, including my animal companions.  As I reflected on this before and after New Year’s, I was inspired to share some of the things that I have learned over the years, and what I have set the intention to focus on, and improve upon in 2015:

 

Daily Does It.

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” ― John Mayer

Setting your mind up to start a new habit, a new way of thinking, or anything that you want to do with your animal companion takes daily determination. You have to choose to do it over and over.  However, it doesn’t have to take an hour. Set aside 5 minutes each day.  Make a point to repeat your new behavior, or the behavior you are working on with your companion animal every day.  Aim high! Shoot for 40-days straight!  Science has shown us that doing a quick but daily repetition changes the neural pathways in our brains and helps to create long-lasting change. I have tried this and it really works!  Be dedicated to it.  Daily repetition creates permanent change.

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Have Fun or Let It Go.

When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really PLAYED. ― Dr. Seuss

I love to laugh, and I live to have fun.  Ever since I was a kid I felt that if it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t worth it doing.  Don’t you think our animals want this too?  Ask yourself: Are you having fun with them?  Are they having fun when you are training or working with them?   The best way to make any resolution stick is to have fun with it.  Do you dread doing something?  Find a way to make it exciting and something you look forward to doing!  Get creative!  Be playful!  Add music into it!  Make it a game or a challenge with an awesome reward!  Use some of that positive reinforcement on yourself!  Animals and people learn so much faster when they are having FUN!

happy pets, happy animals

Question Everything.

Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system. ― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

I cannot even begin to tell you all of the myths and nonsense that I have been taught since childhood, even up to today!  Teachers, friends, family, doctors, nutritionists, veterinarians, and even other animal trainers and educators have shared some real whoppers with me.  None of them were trying to deceive me.  They had been taught a particular belief so they were just passing it onto me.  It was up to me to either digest the fact or barf it up, so to speak.

Everyone has an opinion on something they are passionate about, but it doesn’t make it a fact.  I used to teach my interns and volunteers at the zoo to question everything they heard, even if it came from me, or another highly respected staff member.  You may be wondering why. Well, think about the “facts” that you were once taught, only to find out later on that a fact turned out to be a myth or a popular misconception that merely spread like wildfire from passionate, well meaning friends or colleagues.  When you hear a fact, a suggestion, opinion, or something about an animal, especially yours at home, question what you’re told.  Do your own research about it.  Read as much as you can on that subject. Become an expert on it, or find an expert with credentials.  And remember that just because it’s on the internet or T.V., that doesn’t make it true. You get to decide what’s true for you and your animal family members. Go with what resonates with you.

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Easy Now. Be Like The Duck.

The best way is not to fight it, just go. Don’t be trying all the time to fix things. What you run from only stays with you longer. When you fight something, you only make it stronger. ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Be easy with yourself, your partner, your kids, and your animal companions.  Let mistakes happen and forgive them.  Don’t hold onto the mistakes and mishaps of anyone, including yourself.  Let yourself, your partner, family member, coworker, boss, and your animal off the hook!  Release the judgments, guilt and blame – especially the ones about yourself!  We are all doing the best we can with where we are.  Animals don’t waste a single ounce of energy on any of those and that’s a powerful life lesson that we can all learn from them. Let it roll off your back like water on a duck!

duck water be the duck

Embrace the “Inner Ding”. 

Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of my biggest deterrents is doubt.  I used to always look outside myself for answers.  I never believed that I had the knowledge or experience to do something out of my comfort zone, or share something personal with others without the fear of criticism.  But over the years I have learned how to better rely on my (as Louise Hay says) “inner ding” to validate my thoughts and feelings instead of doubting them.  Spoiler Alert: The Answers Are Inside YOU. They are not “out there”!   If we can learn to slow down, step away from the situation, remove the emotion, and tune into our own built-in, inner guidance system, we will live life as mother nature and animals know how to do naturally; they flourish without doubt or worry, and they don’t look for answers outside of themselves.  Sure we can read books to learn more, we can go to educational conferences, and we can ask others we respect for their opinions and get their advice, but remember to ask yourself those same questions first and last.  When we strengthen our inner awareness, our outer experience becomes miraculous.

Oh, and about the criticism issue: the only one really criticizing and judging you is yourself.  One way that I started to overcome this fear was by asking myself this question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”.  You’ll find that when you ask yourself this question, the answer you receive is pretty cool every time. Try it the next time you are afraid or intimidated to do something. Your “Inner Ding” won’t fail you. And you never know how much of a difference you might be making in other’s lives!

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Trust the Process

Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you’d see. ― Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal

Patience has never been my strongest quality but working with animals has certainly helped that. Giant tortoises were the first to teach me how to just chill out, slow down, keep it simple, and celebrate the heck out of every little success, no matter how small it seems. Change within ourselves, and our animals doesn’t happen overnight.  So be patient with yourself and with them.  We are all trying to better ourselves, but let’s face it; it’s a lifelong process for us stubborn, thick-headed humans.  Animals don’t measure things as successes or failures, so why should we?  It’s ok when things don’t happen right away.  Remember that every little success adds up!  “Each subtle shift creates a new experience of positive change.”   Then, before we realize it, new behaviors are created!  You’ll look back and those small successes will turn out to be huge leaps.  Keep it simple.  Miracles are in the subtle details of life.  All good things will grow with time.

Magma The Aldabra Tortoise

Observe More. React Less

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. ― Marilyn Vos Savant

I admit it; I can be sassy as heck when I am tired or stressed, and in general I tend to talk more than I listen.  Just ask my family; I have been mouthy ever since my mother can remember, and my husband must have the patience of an oak tree to deal with me some days.  Sometimes I find myself reacting to comments or behavior instead of observing quietly, without judging or taking things personally.  Interestingly, our dog is reactive sometimes when she is stressed or tired.  I now know that her canine peace of mind can only come when she learns how to observe things (from a safe distance) instead of overreacting to them.  We work on this daily with her. When she is calm and feeling safe and secure, the world and all of its normal chaos does not affect her negatively.  She watches instead of reacts.  I see this in myself as well.  We are both a work in progress in many ways, but with a lot of patience and a lot of daily practice, I know that I can become a conscious observer every minute of the day, and she can too. “Be Passersby”.  You don’t have to react to everything you see and hear. Communicate clearly, but listen and watch more.

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Flaws and All

Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her. ― Laozi

Here are the Cliff notes: You’re good enough, for whatever it is.  In fact, you are perfect, and so is every one of your animal companions -just the way they are.  Sure, they may have a few (or a lot of) behavioral issues that can be modified so they can function better in our human world, but so do we.  It’s a constant challenge for me to embrace all of my many flaws.  Loving and accepting ourselves exactly as we are is the first step in accepting others – including our animals – for exactly as they are.  If we are hard on ourselves, or judge and criticize the flaws, we are bound to view others this way too, including our animal companions.  I don’t believe that animals have “flaws”.  They are products of their genetics and their environment. So are we.  But we are not our past, and neither are they. We are who we decide we are going to become.  When we are able to look past the “flaws” and “imperfections”, and instead, consciously choose to focus on what’s possible, and what he or she can become, miracles occur.  Fear, judgement, and criticism are limitations. They only hold you and your animal companions back.  Instead of constantly reliving or talking about your animal companion’s hard or tough past, focus on where they are headed and what they are capable of becoming.  Believe in the impossible.  Embrace the flaws and all.

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Your Presence Is Needed. 

The greatest gift you can give yourself or anyone else is just being present. ― Rasheed Ogunlaru

My mind is always racing, and I am easily distracted. (Anyone that knows me well is probably laughing out loud at that statement.)  Thankfully I’ve found many ways to quiet my mind over the years, but I still find myself not being fully present when I’m with a friend, a family member, or my animal companions.  I catch myself thinking of what I need to do next, or a conversation that happened earlier.  A year ago I decided to remove all of my social media apps off of my phone because I found myself mindlessly checking them instead of just being aware of what was going on around me!  It has made a huge difference in helping me to be fully present.

One of the things that I admire about animals is that they are always fully present in the moment; they aren’t thinking about what happened yesterday, or what is going to happen tomorrow. They are always here, now.  I’d like to suggest that you try this: when you come home from your busy or stressful day, make a conscious effort to spend a few minutes of your “decompressing” time with your animal family members. Pet them. Throw the ball. Play tug.  Brush them.  Look at them in the eye.  Be fully present with them.  I promise that doing this will turn your day around and uplift you. Their presence is a gift to us. Your presence is also a gift to them.

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Be In Gratitude.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even in the crappiest moments in life I can find something to be grateful for.  I am not a Saint by any means, but I have learned to do this.  This technique has changed my life in more ways than I can explain. I now know that my moods directly affect everyone around me, especially my animal companions.  Whether you know it or not, our animal companions are sponges for our emotions and moods.  They are soaking up all that we are sending out.  Now I can catch myself when I start to send out negative energy.  This is how I do it: If I am feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, (insert any emotion), I choose one thing that I am grateful for.  I say it out loud or to myself.  When I do this my mood will start to shift. I can feel myself lighten up and feel better. I start to focus on more things that I am grateful for, and whatever I was so upset about starts to fade. Try it. The next time you are upset, reach for a thought that helps you to feel better; find one thing to be thankful for. More will follow.

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Last year before New Year’s Eve I asked a few friends, colleagues, and close acquaintances what their resolutions and intentions were for their animal companions and themselves.  This is what they graciously shared with me.  (If you don’t have Adobe PDF reader, click here to read Promises from around the world.)

I haven’t had a chance to ask anyone what intentions they have set for this New Year, but I would LOVE to hear yours! Did you make any promises to yourself or your animal companions for 2015?  Please share them with us in the comment section below!

Happy New Year_pets_Inspiration

Go for it, while you can. I know you have it in you. And I can’t promise you’ll get everything you want, but I can promise nothing will change if you don’t try.  ― J.M. Darhower, Sempre

From Cat-Nappings to Trusted Travels!

how to get my cat to the vet
King Albert The Grey carefully checking out the cat carrier

Traveling with your cat doesn’t have to be a crazy, stressful experience. It can, and should, be a stress-free even for both of you!  You can take trips together, and you go to the vet when needed, without having to catnap your cat.

Below are some tips and techniques that I have had success with over the years, with wild and domestic felines.  I hope these tips can help you and your feline family members, too!   Please note: this is an abbreviated list. If you would like more detailed help, feel free to contact me.


Your Goal:  Turn the Cat Carrier into a Safe Place.

How:  

  • Leave the kennel out weeks prior to transporting your cat to the vet (or any car ride).
  • Better yet, leave the cat kennel out all the time; it looses its “fear factor”. Your cat will start to see it as neutral as the rest of the furniture.
  • Put your cat’s favorite treats, food, catnip, and toys in the crate to help  your cat associate the “scary kidnap machine” as a yummy, fun, safe place!
  • Play games around the cat carrier.
  • Place familiar scents (ones that you know your cat feels safe with) in the kennel. This can be a blanket, your sweater, their bedding, etc.
  • If the sound of the metal carrier door is a fear trigger for your cat, remove the door. You can put it back on after he/she is using as a kitty condo.

Your Goal: Reward Your Cat for Being Near the Carrier

How:

  • Reward your cat when s/he looks at the cat carrier.  Toss treats in her direction when she glances at it!
  • Have a Treat Party and praise her calmly when she walks near it.
  • Offer huge rewards if she peeks her head into the carrier.
  • It’s ok if your cat walks away. You are building up her confidence of just being near the carrier.

 

Your Goal:  Build Up to *Asking* Your Cat to Go Into the Carrier

How:

  • Reward your cat for walking in, then close the door for a few seconds. Open the door, toss treats, then walk away.  This teaches your cat that you’re not going to slam the door on him and CatNap him/her.
  • Gradually work up to keeping the door closed for longer periods.  Always reward your cat.
  • Your cat will learn that the door closing will open again soon.  This helps cats to feel safe, and not trapped.

Your Goal: Quick Trips

How: 

  • Once your cat is feeling safe at this point, and walking in and out of the carrier, you can carry her around the house, then let her out.
  • Remember to reward and praise!
  • Slowly build up to walking outside to the car with your cat in the carrier.  Keep it short and sweet.  Continue using lots of treats and praise.
  • At this stage, you don’t need to even turn on the car, just place the carrier inside the car, offer your cat treats, and see if she’s calm enough to eat.
  • After your cat is feeling comfortable and safe with this stage, you can turn on the car, offer treats, and then turn off the car and end the session.
  • Eventually you can work up to driving down the street, then coming right back home.
  • All of this will involve lots of treats, praise, and patience.

Your Goal:  Go Slow.  Be Patient.  Allow Choices.

How:

  • Cats respond well to slow and steady progress.
  • Cats respond positively to being given choices.
  • Choices create security, safety, and improve their well-being
  • Forcing cats to do anything only creates fear.
  • Fear creates distrust, anxiety, and even health problems.
  • Forcing your cat to do anything they are uncomfortable with breaks down your bond and erodes their trust.
  • Your cat is very sensitive to your energy. Be mindful of this!

Remember: Always ASK, REWARD, ENCOURAGE, and BE PATIENT!

You and your cat will make tremendous progress together, and create life long bonds if you can remember these 4 things.


Kitty Tip:  Easy-Traveler has also helped to transform car rides for our cats! I highly recommend it!

Spirit Essences helped Albert and the other cats to relax the entire 10 hour car ride!
Easy Traveler allowed Albert and the other cats to relax and fee safe the entire 10 hour car ride!


 Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them. – Jim Davis

King Albert The Grey enjoying a much needed break out of his kennel to do manly cool cat things. This was at the 7 hour mark of our trip to our new home.
King Albert The Grey enjoying a much needed break out of his kennel to do manly cool cat things. This was at the 7 hour mark of our trip to our new home.

How have you transformed your cat-nappings to safe travels? Please share your tips with us!

What you do makes a difference.

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“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”― Dr. Jane Goodall

Things That Go BOOM In The Night

fireworks

Soon people all over the U.S. will be celebrating the Fourth of July and our neighbors to the north are preparing for Canada Day!  Folks everywhere are getting ready for the visual and sound Smörgåsbord paired with good food, great friends, and family.  However, most animals would probably order the food, but hold the fireworks. So while we are preparing to party, let’s prepare our pets, too.

If you have worked or lived with an animal, you know that most of them are frightened of loud or startling noises.  The fear of loud sounds is called noise phobias.  Even if your animal companion has not displayed this fear before, the sights and sounds on The Fourth of July could easily bring out their most intense fears.

scared-parrot
“What are those loud sounds and flashing lights?!”

Put yourself in their position.  Imagine the scene: what is normally a peaceful evening at home suddenly turns into chaos.  All of a sudden there are bright, flashing lights, loud banging sounds, people hollering boisterously, and things exploding over and over.  These stimuli, paired with the unusual smell of burning sulfur and smoke, can bring on a full blown animal panic attack.

Even children can be frightened by all of this, but since parents and kids both communicate in the same language, we are able to explain to them what is happening.  When our rabbit, cat, dog, or parrot is freaking out during moments like this, we cannot just sit down with them and have a calm little chat to explain, “There is really nothing to fear, so just settle down.”  Anything unexpected, out of their ordinary routine, or that involves sensory overload, is a recipe for a full-on Animal Freak Out.

Whether you will be enjoying the festivities at home or away this year, you will need to prepare your home well before the festivities begin.


HOW TO MAKE YOUR HOME A SAFE, CALM PLACE BEFORE THE FIREWORKS BEGIN:

  • Sound Therapy:  Playing calming, classical music is beneficial for many species.  Therapeutic music such as Through A Dog’s Ear and Through a Cat’s Ear has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and have calming effects on cats and dogs!  It is psychoacoustically designed and clinically demonstrated to calm the canine and feline nervous system.  However, it’s most effective when you play the music well before the fireworks begin, at a time when the cat or dog is already relaxed.  Animals will start to  associate the music with being calm and content.  Then you play the music a couple of hours before the fireworks start and continue to play through bedtime.  Check out these free sound samples!
  • Sound Therapy combined with Desensitization:  The Canine Noise Phobia series (CNP) consists of four CD’s that can be used individually or as a set: Fireworks, Thunderstorms, City Sounds, and Calming. CNP is an innovative desensitization training tool that combines three distinctive elements for the treatment and prevention of sound-sensitivities and noise-phobias.  This article by Mary Strauss, published in the Whole Dog Journal, gives a comprehensive overview of possible treatments for sound phobias.
  • Scent:  Homeopathic relaxation supplements such as Canine CalmAviCalmFeliway, and D.A.P (dog and cat appeasing pheromones), Spirit EssencesHomeoPet, and Pet Rescue Remedy are extremely helpful with calming an animal’s nerves on the big day.  Pet Rescue Remedy works on everything from horses to reptiles.  You can find Pet Rescue Remedy at most health food stores or animal supply stores.  Applying a few drops to their food, water, or directly into their mouth BEFORE the booms begin can do wonders for stress levels!  Essential Oils such as lavender and valerian can also help with various anxieties. Learn how here.  Note:Feliway is a liquid synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure.  You can sprayitontheirfavoritenappingspotstomakethem feel more secure.

    Homeopathic remedy can provide relief from fear of Fireworks.
    Homeopathic remedy can provide relief from fear of Fireworks.
  • Tactile:  There are two wraps on the market that reportedly help sound phobic pets.  The original Anxiety Wrap uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce stress.  Thunder Shirts have been successful with calming many dogs and cats.  Over 85% of Thundershirt users see significant improvement in noise anxiety symptoms.  The Storm Defender Cape has a metallic lining that discharges the dog’s fur and shields them from static charge build-up before and during storms.  Rubbing an animal down with scent-free dryer sheets can help with reducing the static charge as well!
  • Visual:  Close the blinds or anything around the house that will help to eliminate the visual assault on their senses.  Turning on lights around the house will also help to block out the flashes from the fireworks.
  • Fort Hideout:  Set up a “fort” or safe place of refuge for them in the home.  If you don’t have a “safe room” for your pets, I strongly recommend that you create one.  Itcan be as simple as a chair covered with a blanket, a comfy “hidey” spot in the back of the closet, the bathroom, or a covered crate that feels like a real den.  Even the space underneath a bed can comforting.

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    Hocus Pocus finding comfort under the bed

    TIP:  If you are not sure where to set up this safe zone, observe where each of your animal companions chooses to retreat when they are over stimulated.   Ask yourself: Where do they go when company comes over, the big game is on TV, or when a storm hits?  Where do they hide?  That’s where you’ll want to start building Fort Hideout.

NOTE: Be sure to set up this safe zone away from windows where the sights and sounds are loudest and brightest.  Acclimate them to this safe zone before the firework festivities begin.  Offer treats and attention when they are in this area.  By doing this, you are creating positive feelings with this safe zone.

If you have a nervous kitty like we do, prepare ahead for their comfort and safety.  Make sure they have their favorite cozy hideaway ready.  If they love boxes, bring one or two for them to explore. You can also consider adding a dash of catnip to get them relaxed and increase their confidence! (note: some cats become relaxed on catnip; others can become very wound-up.)

The most important thing an owner can do for their fireworks-phobic dog is to provide them with a bolt hole – a place where the dog can escape to when the festivities begin.  Providing the dog access to this safe place is essential at all times, particularly during an owner’s absence.  This might be a closet, bathroom or a basement, the best places usually being the ones that have no windows, but with plenty of artificial light (to mask flashes of fireworks).  Music can be played close to the safe haven so that sounds can be masked.  ~ Victoria Stilwell, internationally respected dog trainer

 

You are welcome to share this image with others!
You are welcome to share this image with others!

 

 



Conditioning a dog to feel differently about the sound of fireworks can be achieved by gradually exposing the dog to audio recordings of fireworks at low volume levels and, if the dog appears relaxed, playing his favorite game or feeding him his favorite food.  Allowing the dog to play and relax in the presence of the soft noise for a period of ten minutes, taking a break of five minutes and repeating the exercise ensures that the dog doesn’t become bored with the training.  Introducing the audio at a low level again and slowly turning up the volume if the dog continues to be relaxed and able to concentrate on playing the game or eating the food allows the dog to habituate to the noise without a fear response.  If the dog shows signs of stress, going back to the previous level and building up the noise level again will take pressure off the dog.  The object of noise desensitization is to gradually expose the dog to louder and louder sounds over a period of time, progress being determined by the dog’s reactions.  Going too fast might make the dog even more frightened, so taking things slowly will ensure maximum benefit from the process.  Some dogs will respond well to all of the above therapies, but will become panicked when the real fireworks start.  It is therefore important to tackle this phobia in other ways by using effective management strategies and by masking any audio and visual stimuli that elicit a fear response during an episode.

~Victoria Stilwell, internationally renowned dog trainer


IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • Ideally, you should desensitize them to loud noises well ahead of time.  When you have the opportunity, gently pair loud or startling sounds with their most favorite treats, new toys, and playtime.  You don’t have to walk around the house banging pots and pans, but you can  help them to associate startling, loud sounds with positive treats … days and weeks before the fireworks begin.
  • If you know when the party and fireworks will begin, get potty time, walks, and dinner done ahead of time.  If these noises are frightening to them, they will often refuse to eat, go outside to do their business, or even use the litter box.  Getting these evening “business” routines done ahead of time will make everyone more comfortable. When walking them, be sure to have a secure hold of them; fireworks can start earlier than you expect and could easily startle them!
  • Get them tired! (not exhausted): If you can give them a day of play at a puppy daycare facility, or even a just couple hours of romp and play time before the Big Bad Bangs begin, their stress levels can be greatly reduced if they are already content and tired from a fun day of play and exercise.  Healthy play and exercise is great for reducing stress in cats, too!
  •  Know the signs of STRESS! Cats and dogs, birds and other exotic companion animals show anxiety and stress in a variety of different ways.  Be a Conscious Companion; learn to recognize their individual stress signals, which may include any (or all) of the following:

                           – Panting

                           – Drooling

                           – Pacing

                           – Hiding

                           – Decreased appetite

                           – Abnormal urination or defecation

                           – Dilated pupils

                           – Excessive grooming

                           – Feather plucking + other signs of stress in parrots!

 


  • BEFORE they are even beginning to show signs of fear and anxiety, offer them Good Things! Be playful with them!  Play games and break out the treats!  You can also offer novelty items such as cat nip, frozen soup (marrow) bones, Bully Sticks, and enrichment toys, such as KONG for cats and dogs! If you have parrots, check out these goodies from The Leather Elves.  Grab some of that recycling material and create a fast, homemade puzzle toy!  The idea here is to turn Fright Night time into Fun Night!
  • TIP: Withholding these items for a few days or week ahead of time will make these treats even more special on the Night of Assault on the Senses.
  • Medication alone is generally not going to “fix” much of anything.  It’s can be a helpful intervention, but not a specific treatment.  It needs to be paired with counter conditioning techniques. — Read how and why here.

scaredy cat
“My world is exploding all around me. Help me!”

  • Avoid scolding or reprimanding them when they are frightened or nervous.  Their anxiety doesn’t have to be understood, but merely respected.  Many animals have fears that to us are not “rational,” but they are still very real for them.
  • Note: Always comfort the animal. You cannot reinforce Fear! If you don’t believe me, read this!

It is essential that if an owner is present, time be spent with the dog in the safe haven or attention given to the dog if it comes to seek comfort from its owner.  Far from reinforcing fearful behavior, an owner’s comforting arm and presence can help a phobic dog to cope as long as the owner remains calm at all times.  ~ Victoria Stilwell, internationally renowned dog trainer


If you absolutely must take them with you during the fireworks show, always keep them on a safe, force-free harness, or in a fortified carrier.  When an animal becomes startled or frightened they will run, and often run very far.  Keep them attached to you at all times.  Make sure their identification tags and your contact number are clearly marked on their collars; if they do break free from home, or from you, they can be reunited faster and more easily.  Having your animal companion microchipped is also another important safety measure.  It’s inexpensive and can be done within minutes at your vet. More pets go missing on the 4th of July more than any other day of the year.

Animals are family, so it is natural to enjoy having them around you when you are celebrating.  However, the 4th of July is not be the best time to have your animal companion tag along if you’re headed out, even if you’re going to what is supposed to be a “pet-friendly” party.  If you have set up safe zones, prepared the house, and your animal companions appropriately, they are going to feel safe at home when the noise chaos begins.  Home is familiar, and home is safe – so please keep them inside until the celebration is well over. 

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Suggested reading for cat guardians: Fireworks & Festivities Cat Safety Tips!


Setting Aside Judgement – Focusing on Education

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.” ― James Thurber

Hocus Pocus and I teaching our local Girl Scouts how to be Canine Safety Smart this week
Our local Girl Scouts learning how to be Canine Safety Smart!  Hocus Pocus and I had the pleasure and honor of teaching and learning from these amazing youth leaders.

2014’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week is wrapping up.  It’s been a tremendously positive week with so many great messages about safety, prevention, and dog awareness being spread across the nation and world.

The goal that we educators and dog trainers are trying to reach this week is simple, but profound: educate the masses so we can change the statistics.   We can do this by teaching dog lovers to become more “Dog Aware” as Jennifer Shryock, Founder of Family Paws Parent Education, explains here.  We can change these statistics by changing the way we individually interact with, and think about dogs.  We teach our future leaders how to safely interact with dogs, and before we know it, they are teaching their community about dogs. Change begins with educating our youth.

The goal of this week is not to instill fear, to judge, or to place blame on people who unknowingly put their dog or children in precarious scenarios.  Rather, it is to help all of us become more aware of our dog, others’ dogs, children and family members, guests in our homes, people and dogs on the streets, and anywhere else you can think of that involves a dog.  This week is about educating people on how to be a more “dog aware”, and a responsible Conscious Companion to dogs everywhere, every day of the year.

Dogs are part of our families.  They are our companions, our friends. To many, they are our furry kids. But we must remember that dogs are hardwired to be dogs!  It’s in their DNA.  We must honor this fact buy allowing them to Be a Dog. When we anthropomorphize them, and when we put them on a pedestal and expect perfect, angelic behavior, we do them a great disservice.  We aren’t allowing them to be who they are – a dog, with flaws and all.

Instead of assuming that our dog is incapable of inflicting harm to another person or animal, let’s assume for a minute that they are capable of out-of-the-ordinary behavior.  What would that mean for you and your dog?  Would you begin to take more precautions around kids, other dogs, other people, and other animals?  Or would you continue to convince yourself that “my dog would never…”?

Any dog, of any breed, of any age is capable of biting.  Anything with a mouth is capable of biting! Acknowledging this fact can only help. It’s merely something to recognize and be proactive about.  We prevent dog bites through compassionate, science-based education.

If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog, it’s not something to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about.  If you have a dog that lunges at people or other dogs, don’t be ashamed or pretend that it’s not an issue.  Ask for help.  Find a qualified force-free trainer that understands your needs, and your dog’s specific needs.  There’s no need to hide and be embarrassed.  We learn from these experiences.  Sometimes our worst experiences help others.  There is a compassionate community that does care, who will not judge and condemn, and who wants to help parents and families in need, without blame and judgement.  But this does come with individual responsibility.

It’s our duty as dog guardians and parents to recognize when we need help. We must also learn how to recognize our dog’s specific canine needs, understand their subtle behaviors, know their thresholds, recognize when they have had enough, set them up for success, and to be their advocates every day.  We all “love” our dogs, but true, selfless love is doing what might not be easy or convenient to us.  We may have to move out of our comfort zone. We show love to our dogs when we take the time to educate ourselves, so we can truly understanding their nature and their needs. We show love to our dogs by learning how to read them, respecting their boundaries, training them without punishment and fear, being their advocate, and honoring them as dogs.

Dogs can be some of our greatest teachers if we allow them to be.  But we have to be willing to learn.  When we set aside fears, judgement, and blame, and we choose to focus on creating and participating in fun, compassionate education, we create a safe place for people to come and share their stories.  We create a prevention-focused, educated community.

“Over the years I’ve come to appreciate how animals enter our lives prepared to teach and far from being burdened by an inability to speak they have many different ways to communicate. It is up to us to listen more than hear, to look into more than past.” ― Nick Trout, Love Is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian about Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles

Fortify the barriers! Be proactive instead of reactive!

dog fears

Today’s tip for ‪#‎NationalDogBitePrevention‬ Week:  Be proactive instead of reactive!

If you are expecting a certified letter or a package to be delivered to your front door, place your dog(s) in a separate room, and securely close that door before you open your front door. Dogs have been known to break through screen doors and even plate-glass windows to get to the “Stranger Danger”.

This playful video from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) demonstrates how to calmly redirect your pup from the “intruder”, and not yell at the dog, while the dog is upset:

It’s our job as dog guardians to remain calm, and be proactive.

To learn more about how to counter condition your dog to “intruders”, check out my tips, “Calming the Canine in the Castle”.

dog behavior mailman barking
Be PROACTIVE! Don’t allow this to happen.

It is far better to be proactive than reactive. – Che Garman