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Category: “Pet Care Tips”

Introducing a New Cat to a Resident Dog

Dogs and cats that are not familiar with each other will require some extra time to become accustomed to each other. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats are usually afraid and defensive. You can use any of the techniques described in “Introducing a New Cat / Kitten to Your Current Cat.” In addition:

  1. If your dog does not already know the commands “sit, down, come, and stay,” you should begin working on them. Little tidbits of food increase your dog’s motivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of such a strong distraction as a new cat. Even if your dog already knows the commands, work on obeying commands in return for a tidbit.
  2. After the animals have become comfortable eating on either side of the door, and have been exposed to each other’s scents, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Put your dog’s leash on, and command him to either “sit” or “down” or “stay,” using food tidbits. Have another family member enter the room and quietly sit down with the cat on his/her lap. The cat should also be offered some special tidbits. At first, the cat and dog should be on OPPOSITE sides of the room. Repeat this step several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each other without fear, aggression, or other uncontrollable behavior.
  3. Next, move the animals a little closer together, with the dog still on a leash and the cat gently held in a lap. If the cat does not like to be held, you can use a wire crate or carrier instead. If the dog gets up from its “stay” position, it should be firmly repositioned, and praised and rewarded for obeying the “stay” command. If the cat becomes frightened, increase the distance between the animals and progress more slowly. Eventually, the animals should be brought close enough together to allow them to investigate each other.
  4. Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with the cat in unacceptable behavior, your dog must also be taught how to behave appropriately, and be rewarded for doing so (e.g. sitting, coming when called, or lying down in return for a tidbit). If your dog is always punished whenever the cat is around, and never has “good things” happen in the cat’s presence, your dog may redirect aggression toward the cat.
  5. You may want to keep your dog on a leash and with you when the cat is free in the house during the introduction process. Be sure that your cat has an escape route, and a place to hide. Keep the dog and cat separated when you aren’t home until you are certain they will both be safe.

Precautions: Dogs like to eat cat food because it is very high in protein, and therefore very tasty. Keep cat food out on the dog’s reach (in a closet, on a high shelf, etc.). Why dogs like to eat cat feces is not well understood but it is a relatively common behavior. Although there are no health hazards to the dog from this habit, it is usually distasteful to the owners. Attempts to keep the dog out of the litterbox by “booby trapping” will also keep the cat away as well. Punishment after the fact will NOT change the dog’s behavior. Probably the best solution is to place the litterbox where the dog cannot access it – such as behind a baby gate, or in a closet with the door anchored open (from both sides) just wide enough for the cat. Always feed your dog alone. Cats should not eat dog food as it may cause dietary deficiencies.

Written by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Denver Dumb Friends League (Humane Society of Denver)

When Problems Arise with Crate Training

Eliminating in the Crate

Elimination in the crate could be due to a number of causes:

  • Was the puppy crated longer than he was able to “hold it”?
  • Did the puppy drink an excessive amount of water before he was crated?
  • Did you take him outside and give him a chance to eliminate before he was crated?
  • Is the crate too big, enabling the puppy to get away from his mess?
  • Is the bedding material absorbing his mess so he is not severely inconvenienced when he urinates in the crate?

Never rule out medical problems when your pet’s habits seem to change. Some dogs and breeds are easier to crate train than others, so keep trying and do not get discouraged if there are occasional mess-ups.

Barking in the Crate

Puppies may bark when they are first put in the crate. In most cases, if you ignore the barking, the puppy will stop because he is not getting what he wants — attention. Do not allow family members to let the puppy out of the crate when he barks. If you do, you run the risk of training him to bark so he will be let out. If the barking persists over days or weeks, you can try covering the entire crate with a blanket or sheet. Try this method for a few days to see if it reduces the puppy’s barking. You can also try leaving a radio playing to mask sounds and keep the puppy company when you are away. Surprisingly, yelling “be quiet” at a barking dog may actually reinforce its barking behavior. For many dogs any type of attention is rewarding — even reprimands.

If crate training problems of any type persist and you have had the puppy’s health checked by a veterinarian, seek help from a professional dog trainer/behaviorist.

Introducing Your New Cat/Kitten to Your Current Cat

Most species of cats, including the domestic cat, do not normally live in social groups. Although cats can form close attachments to other animals, they are basically solitary.

Cats are very territorial and do not develop the same type of social hierarchies or “pecking orders” as do dogs.  Cats who live in the same house may never become the best of friends, but can usually learn to at least tolerate each other with a minimum of conflict. You will need to take some time to introduce your cat to other family pets in order to prevent fearful, aggressive and behavioral problems from developing.

  1. Confine the new cat to one medium sized room with its litterbox, food, water, and a bed. Feed the present cats and the newcomer near either side of the door to this room. Don’t put the food so close to the door that the cats are too upset by each other to eat. This will help to start things out on the right foot by associating something enjoyable (eating) with each other’s presence. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until the cats can eat calmly on each side of the door. Next, prop open the door just enough to allow the cats to see each other, and repeat the whole process.
  2. Switch sleeping blankets between the new cat and resident cats so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other’s scent. Also put the scented blankets underneath the food dishes.
  3. Once the new cat is using its litterbox and eating regularly while confined, let it have free time in the house while confining the other cats. This switch provides another way for the cats to have experience with each other’s scent without a face to fact meeting, and also allows the newcomer to become familiar with its new surroundings without being frightened by other animals.
  4. Avoid any interactions between the cats that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It’s better to introduce the animals to each other so gradually that neither cat becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don’t give them the opportunity to intensify. If either cat becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them and continue the introduce process in a series of gradual steps, as outlined above.

Precautions: You’ll need to add another litterbox, and probably clean all the boxes more frequently. Make sure that none of the cats is being “ambushed” by another while trying to use the box. Try to keep the resident cat’s schedule as close as possible to what it was before the newcomer’s appearance.

Cats can make a lot of noise, pull each other’s hair, and roll around quite dramatically without either cat being injured. If small spats do occur between the cats, you should not attempt to intervene directly to separate the cats. Instead, make a very loud noise, or throw a pillow at or a glass of water on the cats in order to separate them. Give them both a chance to calm down before re-introducing them to each other. Be sure each cat has a safe hiding place.

Successful introductions require time and patience. Don’t expect things to be perfect overnight!

Written by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Denver Dumb Friends League (Humane Society of Denver)

Head Collars

Is that a muzzle? Does that dog bite?!!

Many of our dogs wear a head collar called a Promise collar or a Halti. Often people ask us if dogs wearing these collars bite or if the collar is a muzzle. Head collars are not muzzles at all. They are designed to aid in training and controlling dogs. Dogs are free to open their mouths, pant, get a drink, and yes, they could bite if they were so inclined.

How do head collars work?

Head collars loop around the dog’s snout and the leash is attached to the collar underneath the dog’s jaw. When the dog pulls on the leash, the dog’s head is pulled downward which stops the dog from pulling. Additionally, when walking a dog you can easily control the direction of your dog’s movement. A little tension on the leash moves the dog’s head which easily and effectively changes the dog’s direction.

What are the benefits of using a head collar?

Head collars are more humane. They do not pull on the dog’s throat, as do other training collars. Nor do they work by causing pain to the dog. The dog will not damage his throat or choke himself when he pulls.
Head collars allow people to have better control of their dogs. When wearing a different type of collar, strong dogs are able to yank the leash, sometimes pulling away from or dragging their owners, simply because they are stronger than their owners or they outweigh them. With a head collar, the dog is unable to pull away because he is pulling against his own strength.
Head collars are self-correcting. When the dog pulls on the leash, the dog’s head is immediately pulled downward. You do not need to yank (or “pop”) the leash to correct your dog. The immediacy of the correction from a head collar helps the dog learn more quickly.
How long does it take after your dog pulls on his leash before you correct him? Head collars correct immediately.
How many times does your dog pull and you do not correct him? Head collars correct the dog every time he pulls.
Head collars offer you peace of mind and more peaceful walks. You have better control of your dog so you can relax and enjoy taking Rover for a walk.

What types of dogs would benefit from using a head collar?

  • Large dogs.
  • Strong dogs.
  • Dogs that are highly excitable, that jump about and pull while on leash.
  • Dogs whose owners have difficulty holding and controlling them on leash.
  • Dogs that pull when on leash.

What types of dogs are not appropriate for a head collar?

Most dogs do benefit from head collars. The following are examples of dogs for whom the head collar might be unnecessary or not beneficial.

  • Dogs that are exceptionally well trained do not need head collars.
  • Dogs that walk slowly and do not pull might not benefit from a head collar.
  • Dogs that are small and are easily handled due to their small size. Note that a head collar might benefit them in terms of walking more calmly with less pulling, but due to their small size their pulling and yanking on the leash does not cause a problem in terms of controlling the dog while on leash, regardless of what collar they wear.

Where can I get a head collar?

Head collars are relatively new and are not carried in all pet stores. Locally in Greensboro you can purchase head collars at All Pets Considered (ask for a Promise collar) or at PetsMart (ask for a Halti). Other pet stores in Greensboro may carry them as well. Haltis are the more common brand of head collars sold in stores, but the Promise collar is available in a variety of collars. Be sure to bring your dog with you so that you can get the right fit.

Disclaimer: Animal Rescue & Foster Program does not benefit from the sale of these collars. Although we do feel that head collars are an extremely helpful training device, we do not offer any type of warranty regarding the use of a head collar. We recommend that you consult a dog trainer who is knowledgeable in the use of head collars for more specific information regarding training with head collars or any other type of collar.

Play Biting

One of the biggest complaints we hear about puppies is about their play biting. Puppies begin to learn bite inhibition from their litter mates and mother when they are young, and it becomes our job to continue this education. At the same time play biting seems to be self-reinforcing to the puppy; it just plain feels good to chew on us, especially during the teething stages. Unfortunately, we sometimes unintentionally reinforce the problem by letting little puppies nibble on our hands (when it doesn’t hurt at all), and by letting them pull on our pants legs and bite our shoe laces ( when they are too small to do any damage).

Puppies must learn that biting is never acceptable, even in play. Traditional force methods such as clamping down and holding the muzzle shut or jabbing your finger in the puppy’s mouth, are not effective in 90% of dogs and can be very dangerous. These methods can make your dog afraid of you as well as turn him into an aggressive biter.

As with most behavioral problems, mouthing and play biting usually stop once the puppy learns more acceptable ways of getting attention. If you teach your puppy to Sit and to Sit for Attention, then you can tell the puppy to Sit whenever he starts to present an unacceptable behavior. By distracting the puppy away from negative behavior and having him respond with a positive replacement behavior, the negative behavior will often go away with out stern physical corrections which, if used, could lead to more serious aggression.

The games you play with your puppy and how you play them are very important. Rough play such as pushing side-to-side or back and forth at the shoulders, tug-of-war, or chase games result in an adrenaline rush which encourages play biting and mouthiness — behaviors which could continue for the rest of the puppy’s life. Until your puppy understands the command “Enough” and instantly stops whatever he is doing, you should not rough house with your puppy. Aggressive play lessens bite inhibition and is actually a “game” used to teach protection dogs for “bite” work.

What should you do about play biting? First, teach Sit. When your puppy starts mouthing, withdraw your hands, tell him to Sit, praise calmly and offer an acceptable chew toy. Never let children put their hands in or around the puppy’s mouth. Do not ever let the puppy use you or any family member as a chew toy, but do not make a big fuss out of play biting, either! If you give play biting too much attention, you are still reinforcing this unacceptable behavior.

If your puppy is wound up and totally out of control, help calm him down and start to learn self control. Say “Enough” in a calm , but firm voice. Take him out side to run off excess energy, try a toy of play fetch. Whatever you do, suspend the play that was resulting in play biting. At times, some puppies can get so wound up and overstimulated that a quiet time-out for a nap in a crate will help. Since some puppies can only handle very limited playtime with young children before biting gets out of control, it is especially important to supervise these interactions. The puppy must not be allowed to practice this unacceptable behavior, and must learn respect for the children as well as adults.

If your timing is right , a loud and dramatic “Ouch” or a moderate scream of pain the instant the puppy bites can be very effective. You really have to mean it (which usually is not hard since play biting can hurt). Then, stand back and fold your arms and give the puppy a disapproving look, and then turn your back and walk away, as if to say, “I won’t play this game.” Ignore the puppy for a minute or two and then call him to you, have him Sit, and offer praise and reward in the form of a dog treat or play toy.

Another option is the “freeze and ignore” technique. If the puppy puts your hand in his mouth , stay still, do nothing — do not even look at the puppy until he gets the message that biting is not getting your attention. When he quits biting, you should praise him, tell him to Sit, and calmly praise and pet him. If he goes for your hands again, freeze and totally ignore him (no eye or physical contact) until he sits, repeating as needed until he understands that biting gets nothing, but sitting gets positive attention from you.

Consistency is crucial! All family members need to handle the play biting problem in the same way. By addressing the playbiting problem while it is a minor behavioral problem, you can prevent it from becoming a major and painful (for you) lifetime habit. The sooner you interrupt the play biting cycle by helping the puppy understand every single time what behavior is required, the faster the puppy will become a welcome and well-adjusted member of your household.

The above information was furnished by Melanie Schlaginhaufen and Judy Allen of Best Friends Bed and Biscuit. Reprinted with permission. For more information or a consultation contact Best Friends Bed And Biscuit @ (336) 643-9096.

Spay and Neuter to Save Lives

During puppy and kitten season animal shelters and rescue groups are overwhelmed with litters of puppies and kittens looking for homes. While ARFP is a no-kill rescue group, not all rescues and shelters are. This year, an estimated four million animals will be euthanized in shelters around the country, simply because they don’t have a home. You can help prevent this tragedy by having your pet spayed or neutered. Not only does spaying/neutering help with the pet overpopulation problem, but it also has many health and behavioral benefits for your pet. Consult your vet today, or contact one of the organizations listed below for information on their low cost spay/neuter programs.

Piedmont Communities Spay Neuter & Wellness Clinic
4527 West Wendover Ave.
Greensboro, NC 27409
299-3060

Triad Spay/Neuter Clinic
3163 Hines Chapel Rd.
Greensboro, NC 27405
375-3222

Low Cost Spay Neuter Clinic
2780 West Mountain St.
Kernersville, NC 27284
723-7550

Jumping Up on People

Most normal young dogs have the tendency to jump up on people they greet. Many of us have  unintentionally conditioned our dogs to want to be near our faces by picking them up and holding them up to our faces when they are young. This causes problems later on when the dog is large and insists on jumping up on us in an attempt to be closer to our face. This jumping up to greet is seldom appreciated and can be dangerous when small children are involved. Since the majority of serious dog bites are to children’s faces, it is important to teach the dog not to instinctively reach for the child’s face for attention.

It is wise not to let your puppy lick your face, and children should be taught not to get right into a puppy’s face. Dominant/submissive roles are often expressed this way in canine behavior, and the dog can misinterpret an action and become aggressive when not handled properly by children.

When calling your puppy to you, greet him while crouching down and pet him while he is in the sitting position. Do not let him jump on you to be petted. It can be cute when small puppies run up to you and jump up to be petted. However, if you allow or encourage this behavior, you are unintentionally training the dog that jumping up leads to affection. Never pet or praise the puppy while he is jumping up or immediately after he has done so. Simply put, If he learns that jumping up leads to affection, he will continue to jump.

If your puppy or dog has all ready developed a jumping up habit, you can help him break it. First of all, make sure you are not unintentionally encouraging the dog to jump with your hand motions. If you wish to use a command, such as “Off” or “No Jump,” be sure to use downward hand motions. Most people pull their hands to their chests and yell “Get Down!” when a dog starts to jump. For several reasons, this actually makes it more likely that the dog will jump. First, the upward hand motion encourages the dog to jump on your chest. Second, the yelling excites the dog’s adrenal system, making it more hyperactive and less likely to respond calmly in its attempts to secure your attention. Finally, your reaction definitely gives the dog the attention, and though its negative attention, the dog gets what he was after.

We have found the most effective and humane way of reversing the jumping up habit is to try to replace the behavior with a “Sit” command. If you have trained your dog to sit this should get him off of you. Try to keep treats in your pocket and use the “praise – pat – treat” method of reward for sitting. If your dog will not sit when you give the command then completely ignore him while he is jumping up – – do not even look at him. Your dog will soon tire of leaning against you, especially if if he is not receiving any attention and he will get off. Then, tell him to sit, and if he does, use the “praise – pat – treat” method. If he gets excited and jumps up again, completely ignore him. most dogs will learn in 5 – 10 days that sitting is a more effective way of getting attention than jumping up. Make sure you acknowledge your dog when he comes up and sits in front of you. Give lots of positive reinforcement for good behavior.

Until your dog understands that jumping up results in ZERO attention, you must be patient and ignore the jumping up behavior.

Traditional training methods of kneeing the dog in the chest and stepping on his feet are usually not effective and can be dangerous to the dog. Plus when you make intentional contact with the dog, you are giving him exactly what he wants — attention! Dogs prefer negative attention to no attention at all!

Jumping Up on Children

If you have children old enough to understand, have them practice telling the dog to sit for praise and treats after you have already taught the “Sit ” command. The most important thing in teaching a dog not to jump on children is teaching the child how to react when they see the dog coming. Tell the child to say “Sit” very cheerfully (but not yelling); also, tell them not to run, and not to yell “No” at the dog, and not to pull their hands up toward their chest or face. Instruct them to push their hands downward as they say “Sit.” This will help them teach the dog that he receives attention when he is in the correct position.

No puppy is too young (or dog to old) to learn an acceptable way of greeting. Starting your relationship with your new puppy or dog by establishing a good family routine will help prevent and deter the undesirable jumping habit.

The above information was furnished by Melanie Schlaginhaufen and Judy Allen of Best Friends Bed and Biscuit. Reprinted with permission. For more information or a consultation contact Best Friends Bed And Biscuit @ (336) 643-9096.

Crate Training

The most talked about new method of training dogs is crate training. More and more dog owners  and their pets are learning the benefits of starting puppies on crate training as soon as they arrive in their new home. Crate training is the use of a plastic airline crate or a wire cage to confine a puppy when the family is not home or is unable to supervise the puppy’s activities. The crate in effect, becomes the puppy’s bed. Other terms used interchangeably with crate training are den and kennel.

You may feel that it is cruel to confine a dog to a crate. It would be cruel to just close him in the crate and leave. But if you introduce him to the crate properly, you will find that your puppy will quickly come to prefer it for sleeping and quiet time. Too many dogs are surrendered to animal shelters because of the damage done while they are unattended. Since over 85% of these puppies are euthanized, it is kind, not cruel, to crate train a puppy to prevent behavioral and housebreaking problems.

Why Crate Training is Recommended

Dogs in the wild live in dens. The den provides wild dogs protection from predators as well as the elements, and it allows for a feeling of security. That’s why you often find dogs curling up under a table, chair, or bed. By giving dogs a secure place that is all their own, pet owners can take advantage of a dogs’ natural instincts to help the dog feel safe, thus reducing isolation-induced stress.

Crate training, if done properly, is a wonderful training tool with many benefits. Apart from the obvious uses for transporting dogs, a crate can be used for short term confinement –to keep your puppy out of mischief so he does not develop bad habits when you cannot give him your undivided attention. A crate can also be used to develop good habits –to housetrain your puppy, to establish a chew-toy habit, and to reduce inappropriate barking and digging. Also, if your dog ever injures himself or becomes ill, the crate will be invaluable during recovery. If you move, your dog’s adjustment to a new home will be quicker and less stressful if he is crate trained. If you stay in motels or visit relatives, your dog will be “damage-proof” if he travels with his crate. If you travel by car, placing the dog in the crate will keep him out from under your feet, away from the driver, and more safe in case of an accident.

Who Should Crate Train

Owners of new puppies and any adult dogs with destruction and/or housebreaking problems should crate train. The only time crate training would not be advisable is in a situation where a puppy will be left alone for an extended period of time and a family member cannot come home to let the puppy out during the day. It is a dog’s natural instinct to keep his crate/home clean, so he will “hold it” as long as he can before eliminating in the crate. The maximum time an 8 week old puppy should be in his crate without a break is 4 hours. Puppies younger than 8 weeks have to “go” about every 2-3 hours so they should be given a crate-break at those intervals. Except for overnight sleeping, crate confinement approaching 8 hours is strongly discouraged. As the puppy gets older (4-6 months) you can gradually leave him in his crate for longer periods of time, but you should never exceed 8 hours for any dog.

If a family member is unable to come home midday to let the puppy out, there a couple alternatives. The most desirable would be for a pet-sitter, relative, or neighbor to come by the house and let the puppy out while he is young. If this is not an option, leave the puppy in a confined area with his crate with the crate door open. This way he can sleep in the crate and come out of his crate to use the bathroom. A collapsible wire barrier called an “exercise pen” (or X-pen) can be used to create a damage proof, safe inside area or a small bathroom can be used. However, using this type of set-up will lengthen the housebreaking process because the puppy will be learning to eliminate in the house. Also, some puppies can quickly learn to climb out of the X-pen.