Easter Egg Hunting Has Gone to The Dogs!

Easter egg hunt with zoo animals and pets_dogs easter ideas

April 2015

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 this 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!  Most people don’t realize that all animals in every kind of captivity need environmental enrichment, whether they live in a zoo, shelter, sanctuary, or your home.

So today, we are going to show you why your pets need daily 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 pet’s life!

Enrichment at Home Will Help To:

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

 

Science Insights

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 smelling and searching for squirrels

 


What Does Your Dog Need?

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.


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!

easter egg_komodo_reptiles_dragon

 

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


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!


🥚Hounds Hunting for Eggs!🥚

The egg hunt was a success!🥚 You can watch Hocus Pocus and her best bud, Annie, in action here: 

VIDEO: “Easter Egg Hunting Has Gone to The Dogs!”

Note: Our dog (Hocus Pocus) is the canine without a collar (for safety).  The other dog (black German Shepard) is our neighbor’s dog, Annie, a very sweet girl.  They are best buds.  In this video, we are at our neighbor’s 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.)

free range eggs for dogs

Questions or concerns about feeding your dog eggs? 

Read HERE and HERE


🥚HAPPY HUNTING!🥚


P.S. This can be modified for other companion animals who LOVE to eat eggs or egg yolks!  Think about how you can encourage your ferret, iguana, etc. to have an Easter Egg Hunt at home! 


P.P.S Got a senior cat who needs some fun physical and mental stimulation? Check out this video:  Wake & Hunt!

Conscious Companion ®

Hugs and Hostages?

Image

 

2014

It’s National Hug Your Dog Day!  Let’s dig deep into the science of hugs!

I will be the first to admit: Sometimes I want to hug our dog and cats (and other animals) like the Abominable Snowman in the bit from “Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters” cartoon.   But I don’t.   I know they don’t enjoy receiving hugs as much as I love giving them.  And frankly, I would not enjoy it if someone did that to me without my consent.

Been there; had that.

This might sound crazy, but sometimes a hug to our animal companion is more like holding them hostage.  Obviously they aren’t really our “hostages”, but we may be unknowingly forcing them to interact with us in a way they would not choose on their own.


Don’t just take my word for it.  Do some dog-behavior-digging for yourself: 

Have someone take a picture of you holding your animal hostage (I mean, hugging and squeezing them).  Then look carefully at the expression on their face.  

NOTE:  Before you do this activity, make sure you know the stress signals that dogs display when they are uncomfortable.  Then go back and look at the picture and be really honest.  Ask yourself:  Are they truly enjoying it, or are they tolerating it?


dog behavior
The Dog Behavior Continuum by Colleen Pelar, CDBC, CPDT-KA

 

 

 

 


If I found out that a person I loved to hug only tolerated my touches and squeezes, I would put an end to it.  Mainly because I would feel weird now, but I also wouldn’t want to push myself onto someone that didn’t want my affection in that form.

Most people don’t want to hear this, but animals are no different in that way.   A lot of animals really don’t want to be manhandled and coddled. Most of them will offer and solicit affection on their terms.  And every species has their own unique way of displaying affection.  And within each species, each individual as their own preference for affection. 

As Conscious Companions, we need to be aware of this. 


 

cuddling pets

 


Dog Detective

Let’s look at two dogs receiving hugs from a human.  One dog is not enjoying the hug and one is cool it.  Spend a few minutes carefully reviewing the two photos below.  See if you can identify the emotional state of the dog in each pic.

dog-no-hug

In the top photo, the dog is leaning (or at least trying to lean) away from the human. His ears are held tightly back, his eyes are more tense with a slightly furrowed brow, and his mouth is closed. While there isn’t anything about the dog’s body language that says he will lash out, it is abundantly clear that the hug is not comfortable or appreciated.

In the bottom photo, the golden retriever is not leaning away from the hugger. His ears are relaxed, his eyes are soft, his mouth is open and lips are not tense, and the tongue is draped out in a relaxed pant. (Yes, even the way a dog holds his tongue is potentially a clue!)

dog-ok-hug

 

 

“It takes a lot of experience, it turns out, to be good at reading signs of fear or stress or discomfort on the face of a dog.”  —McConnell.


 

dog behavior_stress signalsjpg
The Family Dog “Cheat Sheet” by Colleen Pelar, CDBC, CPDT-KA

 

 


When you take your dog to the dog park, or even just to a friend’s house where she can play with another dog, how do the dogs greet one another? There are myriad ways dogs say hello depending on if they know each other and are reforming old bonds, or are meeting for the first time and feeling each other out as they establish the pecking order. There is face smelling, rump smelling, tail wagging, play bowing… but there is never hugging. Even among the best of friends. In fact, the closest approximation dogs have to a hug as we know it actually means something other than friendship. —Dr. Patricia McConnell, certified applied animal behaviorist,

 


Beyond Tolerance

If you discovered that your animal companion really didn’t enjoy your hug-a-palooza, would you continue to force it on them?  I hope not.  But what if you learned how your particular pup enjoys receiving and offering affection? That would be a game changer! 

The hard truth is simple.  It’s not in a dog’s nature to show affection by hugging.  Many dogs don’t really enjoy being petted or hugged.  They tolerate it.  

Many very tolerant dogs, who allow the “kidnap cuddle”, can go from tolerant to intolerant very quickly under “the perfect storm” conditions.  We must become dog aware and teach others how to do this as well, especially children.


Conscious Companion_dog safety
Hocus teaching Girl Scouts a more safer and polite way to pet dogs

 

 


Safety Concerns

Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. Many bites happen when children are hugging their dog and holding him/her “hostage”.

Studies have shown that dogs who bite children involved familiar children, who were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog.

 

no_hugs1

 

Although some dogs are not reactive about being kissed and hugged, these types of interactions are potentially provocative, leading to bites.  In a study we published in a journal called Injury Prevention, we looked at dogs that had bitten children and found that most children had been bitten by dogs that had no history of biting.  Most important here, familiar children were bitten most often in the contexts of ‘nice’ interactions — such as kissing and hugging with their own dogs, or dogs that they knew. ~ Dr. Reisner, Veterinary Behavior & Consulting Services

 


Different Strokes for Different Species 

One of the biggest hangups with hugs is how hard it is for many pet parents to admit to themselves that their dog doesn’t enjoy their hugs.  I see this resistance and disappointment with new clients a lot.  But here’s the human-doggie deal:  Hugs are a natural and primary way for most of the human species to show affection.

Research on primates, especially chimpanzees and bonobos to whom we are most closely related, reveals that hugging is an integral part in giving and seeking out comfort and affection.  But it’s not in a dog’s nature to show affection by hugging.

primate hug_dog hug
Two juvenile Bonobos embraced in a hug

 


 

If you watch little kids, tiny little kids who are just barely able to stand on their legs, they wrap their arms around another to express affection, empathy and love by hugging. It’s just so hard-wired into who we are and what we do.  And so I think when we tell people that dogs don’t like hugging, it’s like some primal, limbic part of our brain says, ‘You mean my dog doesn’t love me?!’ — Dr. Patricia McConnell, certified applied animal behaviorist


Languages of Love

Just because your pup might not enjoy receiving your hugs as much as you enjoy giving them, does not mean your canine companion doesn’t love you with all of his/her heart.  Dogs love us (and their animal companion friends) in their brilliant and beautiful Canid way, while we, as their humans, love them in our primate way.   

Dogs and humans are two incredibly different species. But, through the centuries, we have become intimately connected.   But thousands of years of co-evolution doesn’t erase millions of years of separate-species evolution.

This is why it’s important to look at the social science of what a hug really means to dogs.


 

—> Please take a moment to check out this brief and insightful post, You’re Making Me Uncomfortable!” to understand how uninvited hugs can adversely affect both dogs AND people! <—

 


 

Check out this video about Dog Body Language:

 

Next time, you go in for that monster love hug, ask yourself:  Is this dog (or cat) really enjoying the hug?  Or is he/she just enduring/tolerating it because they know it will be over soon? 

Consider asking them to come over to you, instead of coming into their space.

Next time you see your child (or someone else’s child) going in for the monster hug to the family dog (or cat), please stop the child and show them safer ways to love an animal.

Let’s encourage our pets and other companion animals to offer affection and attention (that we so deeply appreciate), on their own terms. 

 


Below are some great examples of happy hugs, where both dog and human are enjoying the interaction as a consensual canine team 😉

 

copyright-amy-martin-conscious-companion-dog-trainer-dog-behavior-animal-communication-empath-intuitive

Hugs-from-Toby

Ocytocin_Love hormone_bonding with dog

  One of my dearest friends and her dog Cara, displaying what it looks like when the person AND the dog are enjoying a hug.

princess-elizabeth-hugging-a-corgi-dog-in-july-1936

 


This is a judgement free zone!  All comments and feedback are welcome!  I deeply understand that most parents and guardians are doing the best with what they have, and what they know how to do.  This post is meant to help and educate families living with pets. We would Love to hear from you!

What has been your experience with hugs?


 

Recognizing our own mistakes helps us to empathise non-judgmentally with others and helps enable us to understand their issues.” ― Jay Woodman


 

Recommended Reading/Resources 

 


 

ConsciousCompanion.com

Education Is Prevention.

dogs-and-kids-safety

Education is the key to many things, including safety and wellbeing in our homes.   This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.  It’s the perfect time to reflect on how we can better understand our canine companions, educate and guide children of all ages, and share what we have learned over the years with everyone we know.  It’s also important to set aside judgement and focus on compassionate education.

FAST FACTS:

  • There is an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households right now.
  • Nearly 5 million (reported) dog bites occur in the United States each year.
  • Most of these bites involve children.
  • Children love to kiss and hug dogs, even though these expressions of affection do not translate well in the dog world.
  • Fast movements can stimulate a dog’s prey drive and/or chase instinct.
  • Higher pitched voices can sometimes startle a dog and make it fearful.
  • A dog can be frustrated through rough play or by teasing and a child can inadvertently inflict pain with the pull of a tail or a poke in the eye.
  • It is also hard for a child to read and understand a dog’s body language, therefore missing vital signals that can put them in harm’s way.
  • Children are most likely to be bitten in the face as they are closer to a dog’s eye level making it easier for a dog to feel threatened by eye to eye contact.
  • The majority of reported dog bites occur between the family dog and a family member.
  • It is unlikely that you will be injured by a dog you do not know.
  • Dog breed does not predict behavior.

Any resource that lists dogs who are “most likely to bite” by breed are a distraction from preventions that actually work.  Visual breed identification is notoriously unreliable, breed does not predict behavior, and there is no standard reporting system for reporting or recording dog bites (nor is there a need for a system).  Articles focused on breed are an easy way to get “clicks”. It’s fear mongering, not fact-based reporting. ~Animal Farm Foundation

 Check out this graphic from the National Canine Research Council.  This graphic puts (reported) national dog bites into perspective.  We need to focus on facts, not fear when educating. 11162194_10152898759502076_8619681291936299363_nIn rare occasions (0.01%) dog bites result in an incredible amount of physical damage.  However, this still means that we need to understand what happened, so we can prevent it!  You can read more about this here.


Here’s the GOOD News: We can change those statistics!  The majority of dog bites, if not all, are preventable. That’s where YOU come in.  

It’s our duty as dog guardians, parents, educators, and family members to teach children how to understand and respect our canine companions. Kids are great imitators; let’s show them what we want them to imitate!

If we want to become serious about preventing dog bites, and rehoming family dogs, we need to encourage and teach appropriate supervision habits at home.  This excellent video from Family Paws Parent Education explains the 5 Types of Supervision that we recommend:

 


Below are a few common questions we often hear from parents with ‪‎kids‬:

  • How do we know when a dog is the right fit for our family?
  • Does the breed of dog matter?
  • Are some dog breeds better for some kids?
  • What should we do to ensure we set everyone up for success?

Jennifer Shryock, founder of Family Paws Parent Educationanswers all of these questions and more, here.


Education IS Prevention.  Prevention Leads to Safety.

Learn how you can be a part of safety and prevention HERE!

Teach a child_save a dog_

 “You can’t prevent what you can’t predict.” ― K.M. Mac Aulay

YOUR Role In Dog Bite Prevention

When you know better you do better. – Maya Angelou

 

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is here!  This entire week is dedicated to educating people of all ages about how to becomes more Dog Aware, and increase the safety of kids and dogs.  We are focusing on the facts, not on creating fear.


NOTE: There is a lot of information in this post. I recommend bookmarking this page, so you can read through it all when you have time, and so you can reference it when you need it later!


Dog Bite Prevention
(Graphic provided by Dr. Yin)

The Humane Society of the United States reports that 50% of children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday.  Children under the age of five are most likely to be bitten and most of these bites come from a dog that the child knows; the family dog or that of a relative or friend.  Children are most likely to be bitten in the face as they are closer to a dog’s eye level making it easier for a dog to feel threatened by eye to eye contact.  Children love to kiss and hug dogs, even though these expressions of affection do not translate well in the dog world.  Fast movements can stimulate a dog’s prey drive and/or chase instinct.  Higher pitched voices can sometimes startle a dog and make it fearful.   A dog can be frustrated through rough play or by teasing and a child can inadvertently inflict pain with the pull of a tail or a poke in the eye.  It is also hard for a child to read and understand a dog’s body language, therefore missing vital signals that can put them in harm’s way.

Here’s the Good News:  We can change the statistics!  And, the majority of dog bites, if not all, are preventable.  That’s where YOU come in.  It’s our duty as dog guardians, parents, educators, and family members to learn how to read dogs better, and teach children how to learn dog “language” and to teach children to respect a dog’s space. The graphic below from Doggone Safe shows us a few signals that dog display when they are stressed.

Dog bite out of nowhere myth
Graphic provided by DoggoneSafe

 Researchers found that “Children from 4-7 years misinterpret dogs’ facial expressions.” They found that a full tooth display from a dog is not an effective way to teach a child to back away and leave them alone.  Their research suggests that young children might be interpreting an offensive tooth display on a dog’s face as an expression of friendliness rather than a threat.  Given that so many bites are to children, this is an important piece of information. ~ Dr. Patricia McConnell


Check out this video about Dog Body Language:



Pet. Pause. Respect.

A very handy technique that I’ve learned, and now share with my clients is the “Pet-Pause-Respect Test”.  This helps everyone in the family to know if the dog really wants attention or NOT.  I highly recommend that everyone use the Pet/Pause/Respect rule when interacting with all pets.

 

This is not cute. This is dangerous.
This is not cute.  This is dangerous.  The dog is being forced to interact with the child, and has limited options to get away.


Doggone Safe shares 5 Important Tips to Teach Kids:

1. Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses — Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face.  Hugging the family dog or other face-to-face contacts are common causes of bites to the face.  Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.

2.  Be a Tree if a strange dog approaches — Teach kids to stand still, like a tree.  Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away.  This works for strange dogs, and any time the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.

3.  Never tease a dog.

4.  Never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating, or protecting something.

5. Teach your kids to Speak Dog, and only interact only with happy dogs! Watch this short slideshow that shows you how to read dog body language, and other safety tips.

press_release_distribution_0200462_37638

Familiar children were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog. 

Dog bite prevention week

What Parents Can Do:

1. ACTIVELY Supervise — Passive supervision is something we are all guilty of, even if you don’t have kids.  But active supervision is a must when there are pets and children in the home!

Supervision means different things to different people. To some parents, supervision means just being home, to others it means watching out the window while the kids play with the dog outside while to others it means having hands on and being part of the interaction between the child and the dog. Many dog bites have happened to children while the parents were ‘supervising’.  – Jennifer Shryock, Family Paws Parent Education

2. Know signals that dogs display.  If you see these behaviors, intervene quickly (but calmly) and redirect the child or dog onto something positive.  These behavior signals include:

3.  Learn the Dog Behavior Continuum:  We hear it all the time, “Kids and dogs should never be left unsupervised”.  That’s great advice, but what else should we be doing??  Supervision only works when we know what to look for and when it’s time to intervene.  We have to know when a dog is going from “Enjoyment to Tolerance, to Enough Already“and back again.

4.  Don’t assume your dog is “good with kids”.  All dogs have their breaking point.  We all do.  Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten before, why take a chance? Toddlers, babies, and dogs don’t need to physically interact!

5.  Train your dog positively Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down, or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson.  Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on other family members.

6.  Involve older children with positively training your family dog (while supervising).

7. Don’t allow children to punish the dog, and don’t punish the dog yourself.

8. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

9. Understand and learn to recognize Trigger Stacking.

10. Understand and recognize the Ladder of Aggression. 

5-types-Supervision-
What’s Your Style of Supervision?

Actively Supervise! Supervise your dog around children at all times.  If visiting children are bothering your dog (or other pets in the house), put the pets away safely, or send the children home.   Be your child and your dog’s advocate.    Parents and guardians must be responsible for their dog at all times, without exception, and especially around children.  A child should NEVER be left unsupervised with any dog at any time and dog and child should only be together when a responsible adult can actively supervise.  This keeps both children and dogs safe.  

A child should never be left unsupervised with any dog at any time
A child should never be left unsupervised with any dog at any time


To learn more about what you can do check out:


“My dog would never bite anyone!” Are you willing to bet your dog on that statement?
“My dog would never bite anyone!”
Are you willing to bet your dog  or your child on that statement?  Why take the risk?

There’s no better time than now to educate each other about how each of us has the power to keep everyone happy and safe. This week is the perfect time to reflect on how we can ensure our canine companions, children, and others steer clear of unwanted and preventable circumstances.  Education is the key to safety and well being for everyone in the home.  Please share this to help educate others so we can all work together to keep dogs, kids, and families happy and harmonious 365 days a year!

 Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ― Nelson Mandela