As most cat owners know, our cats can be very independent and like to get their own way. Yet, as we get to know our cats, we find out what their motivations are and/or how they respond to certain situations. Some cats, on their own, are very responsive to their owners’ gestures and voice commands to certain situations. But, can we train our cats and teach them tricks? For most cats, the answer is yes.
Cats only respond to positive reinforcement
Cats should only be taught new behaviors with positive, reward-based training. Punishment and and/or yelling at are cats are not only destructive but not effective. Punishment creates stress, and stress is one of the most common causes for problem behaviors in cats, including eliminating outside of the litter box and compulsive grooming and should never be used under any circumstance.
Use your cat’s favorite treats as a reward
The best reinforcements or rewards you can use for cats are treats as they need something special to motivate them. This means you shouldn’t use kibble, but look for the food and/or treats that your cat really loves. Small pieces of chicken or turkey, low-sodium tuna, meat-flavored baby food and commercial cat treats might be effective, depending on your cat’s individual preferences.
Use treats as a reward to your cat’s correct training response
Try to get your kitty used to receiving rewards in response to specific behaviors. Start with a simple trick like jumping on your lap to show your cat that good things happen during your training sessions. Once your cat jumps on your lap, praise her and give your kitty a treat. Or try another simple trick like having your kitty greet you at the door when you walk inside.
Reinforce the behavior
You need to repeat your training and practice with your kitty. You don’t want to wear your cat out or bore your feline, but you do want your kitty to understand the relationship between a particular reward and behavior as well as the command associated with that behavior. You will, however, want to repeat the routine again the next day and continue it on a regular basis so that your cat doesn’t forget what he’s learned.
Some cats respond to clicker training
It’s important for your cat to be rewarded as soon as she performs the desired action, but it can be difficult for many people to time their rewards precisely with their cat’s behavior. A clicker can help with timing by introducing a sound that tells the cat that what they just did was a good thing. However, if your cat doesn’t respond to the sound of the clicker then try a simple high loving voice as a reward. Cats do recognize a loving voice and a nice rub down as a sign that they did something correct and/or you are happy with them.
You can then move on to other tricks
Once your cat has fully mastered his first trick, move on to others. Using treats, the clicker or whatever motivates your cat the best, you can introduce common tricks like “stay” “give me a kiss” and others. Some cats can even be taught how to walk on a leash or even open a door.
As most dog owners know, leash training looks relatively easy but in reality, it takes some work. Some dogs adjust readily to leash walking, while other dogs need a little more guidance. In fact, it’s very common for a dog to pull on his or her leash as it constrains his or her natural behavior. Some dogs are determined to run around as fast as they possibly can while on a leash, while other dogs want to stop, sniff and urinate on anything and everything in their paths!
Therefore, until you learn how to stop your dog from pulling on his leash, it will be a constant battle for you when your take your dog on his daily walks.
Below are some tips to help:
Take short walks while you train your pup
Until your dog learns to walk without pulling, consider all walk as training sessions. Keep training sessions frequent, short and fun for your dog. As soon as your dog gets the hang of the proper way to walk on a leash, you can then go on longer walks.
Tire your pup out before you take him on a training session
Since loose-leash training sessions will be too short and slow to provide enough exercise, find other ways to exercise your dog until he’s mastered loose-leash walking. In fact, you’ll need to find a way to tire your dog out before taking him on a training walk. Dogs pull, in part, because they’re full of excess energy. So unless you can expend that energy, your dog will find it hard to control himself. Before you train, play fetch or a game to wear him or her out.
Walk at a quick pace. If your dog trots or runs, he or she will have less time to catch a whiff of something enticing and will be less inclined to stop and eliminate every few steps. Additionally, you are far more interesting to your dog when you move quickly.
Take these training walks while your dog is calm
If your dog gets excited before you even start your walk, you need to focus on that first. Walk to the door and pick up the leash. If your dog races around, barks, whines, spins or jumps up, just stand completely still. Do and say absolutely nothing until your dog calms down a bit. As soon as your dog has all paws on the floor, slowly reach toward him or her to clip on the leash. If your dog gets jumpy, you should bring your hands (and the leash) back towards your body.
Wait until your dog has all four paws on the floor again. Then slowly reach toward your dog again to attach her leash. Repeat this until your dog stands in front of you, without jumping up or running around, while you clip on her leash.
Always bring treats and rewards along
Teaching a dog to walk without pulling requires plenty of rewards. Use highly desirable treats that your dog doesn’t get at other times. Soft treats are best so your dog can eat them quickly and continue training, that you can just give one at a time. And, make sure to praise verbally as well with positive affirmations – “Good Boy” – for doing the right thing.
As always, the more you practice these exercises with your dog, the more your pup will get used to this behavior and walk without pulling. Keep consistent, give your dog a lot of praise and in no time, your dog will be walking correctly on his or her leash.
We love our pets and would do anything for them; however, sometimes our little fur kids can get expensive! Of course, we don’t have to put our pets through school or college (like real kids), but the bills, supplies and unforseen expenses can add up.
Below are some tips for keeping down the costs for our furry friends:
Give your dog or cat a regular home check up
Weekly home checkups are a great way to check for potential health problems. Check under your pet’s fur for lumps, bumps, flakes or scabs. Check your pet’s ears and eyes for signs of redness or discharge. Make note of any changes in her eating or drinking habits. If something seems off, call your vet right away.
Learn how to clean your pet’s ears, especially if your dog is prone to ear infections. Your vet can recommend a good, safe cleaner for your pet.
Brush your pet’s teeth regularly with a toothpaste formulated for pets, and check his gums. Dental visits can become costly, so if you can brush your pets’ teeth, it can help with unforseen dental issues.
Keep up with your regular vet visits
Veterinary exams can catch potential health crises early on and can save you a lot of time and money. Some of the unforseen treatmens can includes heartworm treatment, flea and tick control, and a thorough check-up of your pet’s gums, teeth, heart, lungs and internal organs. If it’s been a year or more since your pet has seen a vet, make an appointment soon!
Before subjecting your cat or dog to the general vaccinations, ask your veterinarian which vaccines he or she recommends. For instance, an indoor cat might not need the same vaccinations as an outdoor dog. If you have a good vet, they will be up front about the necessary vaccinations and/or shots.
Spay/Neuter Your Pets
Spaying and neutering your pet will have a dramatic impact on your pet’s health. Spaying and/or neutering can dramatically reduce the potential for breast and ovarian cancer in cats and uterine cancer can almost disappear in most male dogs. It also helps potential behavioral issues in both cats and dogs.
Unforseen accidents or medical conditions can be costly. Pet insurance is one way to take some sting out of the bill. The cost of a typical pet insurance policy runs about $250-$400 per year and many cover both regular and emergency visits. Get a free quote from a reliable insurance carrier and compare the different plans and options.
Buy premium-quality food
If you spend a little more money on a good, healthy dog or cat food, that can help your pet’s overall health. A high quality pet food has less digestible filler material and artificial colors that offer no nutrients and can contribute to allergies and digestive problems. A high-quality, age-appropriate food results in a healthy, slimmer pet!
Choosing a veterinarian
When looking for a reliable, cost-effective veterinarian’s office, check out a few before you settle on one. Ask for recommendations from pet owners you know. Most vets’ offices also offer multi-pet or senior pet discounts. Compare fees and be sure to find out what is covered during a routine visit in each office. Of course, your vet’s fees will depend on where you live, but you can check out a few in your area to get an idea of the costs.
Buy supplies online or in large supply. Keep in mind that it’s wise to get product recommendations from your vet first. Online or store-bought products that you know nothing about could prove to be harmful or of poor quality. You can also get creative and make some home designed toys for your pets. Cats love boxes and grocery bags, while your dog might just love a bone from your butcher.
If you plan ahead and get creative, you can reduce the costs of our furry family members.
February is dental health month for our pets. It’s a reminder to pet owners that our dog or cat’s overall dental health and condition are very important. Pet owners should be mindful of our pet’s teeth and overall dental condition as lack of proper dental care can lead to many health risks for our beloved cats and dogs. Regular home check-ups and brushing your dog’s and cat’s teeth can improve their dental health.
Below are some ways to check your dog or cat’s dental health.
1. The Breath Test
Take a sniff of your pet’s breath! It doesn’t have to be a long one and it doesn’t have to smell like perfume, but it shouldn’t be offensive either. If your dog or cat’s mouth has an abnormally strong odor, he may have digestive problems or a gum condition such as gingivitis, and should be examined by a vet.
2. Take a look at your dog or cat’s gums
With your dog or cat facing you, gently push back his lips and take a look. The gums should be firm and pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. The teeth should be clean and free of any brownish tartar, and none should be loose or broken.
3. Look inside your dog or cat’s mouth
Watch for any of the following signs that could indicate problems in your pet’s mouth:
Dark red line along the gums
Ulcers on gums or tongue
Difficulty chewing food
Excessive pawing at the mouth area
4. Dangerous Swelling
If you find any swelling or inflammation, you should take your dog or cat in for a veterinary exam. If left untreated, gum disease can develop, possibly leading to tooth loss or inability to eat. Inflammation may also point to an internal problem like kidney disease or a virus.
5. Tooth Decay
Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause a buildup your dog or cat’s teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. Regular teeth cleanings, of course, helps combat tooth decay (as it does in people).
6. Try to brush your cat’s or dog’s teeth
While it’s not always easy, it’s important to brush your dog or cat’s teeth. You’ll need cotton swabs and a small toothbrush and a type of toothpaste formulated for dogs or cats. You can also use salt and water. Ask your vet to suggest some brushing supplies and be sure never to use toothpaste designed for people as the ingredients can be unhealthy for your dog or cat.
8. Chew Toys Can Improve Dental Health
Chew toys can satisfy both your dog and cat’s natural desire to chomp, while making their teeth strong. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help floss your pet’s teeth, massage their gums and scrape away soft tartar.
9. Choose a food that promotes dental health
If your dog or cat has dental troubles, ask your veterinarian to recommend a food that keeps your beloved’s teeth healthy and helps to remove plaque buildup. There are a lot of different type of food on the market today that are made specifically for your dog or cat’s dental health.
If you take the time to check your dog or cat’s mouth regularly and make sure that your Vet checks your pets’ teeth, you can help your pet’s long term dental and overall health.
If you have recently adopted or purchased (please adopt if possible) a rabbit, you will be excited to bring this wonderful adorable creature into your home. They are a lot of fun with big personalities. However, similar to cats and dogs, they need the correct diet, housing and exercise.
Below are some tips to consider:
Rabbits need room in their homes
Rabbits need room in their homes for running and jumping. They need plenty of out-of-cage exercise time, as well as a cage that allows them to move freely. The minimum recommended cage space for a single rabbit is 2’ x 2’ x 4’. Although wire-bottom cages are common, they can ulcerate a rabbit’s feet. If you have a wire cage, cover the bottom with a piece of wood or corrugated cardboard. Better yet, buy a cage with a floor.
Make sure your rabbit gets exercise
Your rabbit needs a safe exercise area with enough room to run and jump, either indoors or out. Any outdoor area should be fully enclosed by a fence. Never leave a rabbit unsupervised outdoors even for a few minutes. You can rabbit-proof an indoor area by covering all electrical wires and anything else your rabbit is likely to chew. Recommended exercise time for indoor rabbits is several hours per day.
The most important part of your rabbit’s diet is grass hay which keeps the intestinal tract healthy; feed it free-choice, daily. In addition to hay, rabbits are also fed commercial rabbit pellets and fresh, dark green leafy vegetables. Until they are fully grown (around six months), rabbits can have all the pellets they want. After that, assuming the animal is also getting hay and vegetables, pellets should be limited to 1/8 to 1/4 cup per day per 5 lbs. body weight. Pellets should be fresh and plain, without seeds, nuts or colored tidbits.
As with all pets, fresh water should always be available for your furry friends.
Rabbits are very clean by nature and do their best to keep their living quarters clean. Most rabbits will choose one corner of the cage as their bathroom. As soon as your rabbit’s choice is clear, put a newspaper- lined litter box in that corner; fill it with hay (or any other grass hay not alfalfa). Pelleted-newspaper litters are also acceptable. If the litter spot is changed daily, your rabbit’s home will stay fresh and odor-free. Don’t use pine or cedar shavings and avoid using clay cat litters (both clumping and non-clumping); these may result in respiratory or gastrointestinal problems.
Handling your rabbit
Pick up your rabbit by supporting his front legs with one hand and his hind legs with the other—failure to do so can result in spinal injuries to the rabbit. Never pick up a rabbit by his ears; this can cause very serious injury.
Brush your rabbit regularly with a soft brush to remove excess hair and keep his coat in good condition. Have your veterinarian clip your rabbit’s nails or show you how to do so.
Rabbits should be spayed or neutered
Rabbits should be spayed or neutered by an experienced veterinarian. Spaying or neutering prevents breeding, spraying (males) and uterine cancer (females). Rabbits should not be housed with other rabbits unless all are spayed/neutered and they are introduced in neutral territory under careful supervision.
As with any new pet, it just takes a little time to get accustomed to his or her needs. Rabbits are great friends that need love, care, brushing and the right diet to thrive.
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