Pet Advice

Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language – From Eyes to Tails

Dogs are very expressive animals. They communicate when they’re feeling happy, sad, nervous, fearful and angry and they use their faces and bodies to convey much of this information. Dog body language is an elaborate and sophisticated system of nonverbal communication that we can learn to interpret.  As you get to know your dog and spend more time with your pups, you can learn their non-verbal communication fairly predictably.

Dogs use facial expressions, ears, eyes, tails and their overall demeanor to signal their feelings to others. There are so many nuances in understanding your dog’s body language and one way to approach a fundamental understanding is to learn what their different body part are telling us.  This can also be helpful when approaching or meeting a new dog.

Your dog’s facial expression

Your dog’s basic facial expressions can tell you a great deal about how he’s feeling.  You can see it in his or her face whether he or she is content, scared, sleepy or just calm.  It’s the first place to look and then you can get more specific.

Your dog’s eyes

The direction of your dog’s eyes can also be telling. Dogs rarely look directly into each other’s eyes because this is considered a threat. However, most dogs learn that it’s okay, even pleasant, to look directly at people. A dog who looks at you with a relaxed facial expression is being friendly and hoping that you’ll notice him. A dog who looks directly at you, actually staring at you with a tense facial expression, is not exactly friendly. A direct stare is much more likely to be a threat, and if you’re near a dog with this expression, you might want to look away!

Dog Body Language Parts

This is my friendly look!

If your dog doesn’t look directly at you, but instead looks out of the corners of his eyes so that you see a more of the whites of his eyes, he might be leading up to an aggressive outburst. This usually happens when a dog is guarding a chew bone, toy or favorite spot. It’s different than the eye of a dog who is resting with his head and opens his eyes to give you a sideways glance. In this case, he won’t appear rigid or tense, and you won’t see much of the whites of his eyes.

Your dog’s mouth

Dogs do a lot more with their mouths than just eat and drink. Even though they can’t use their mouths to talk, the way they position their lips, jaws and teeth speaks volumes. When your dog is relaxed and happy, he’s likely to have his mouth closed or slightly opened. If your pup’s mouth is open, he may be panting-this is how dogs cool their bodies. You might see his teeth because his mouth is slightly opened.

A dog that is frightened or feeling submissive probably has his mouth closed. His lips might be pulled back slightly at the corners. He might flick his tongue in and out, or he might lick if he’s interacting with a person or another animal. When he’s feeling uptight, he might yawn in an exaggerated fashion.

Some dogs show a half grin when they’re feeling submissive. They pull their lips up vertically and display their front teeth. This half grin is usually accompanied by an overall submissive body posture, such as a lowered head, yelping or whining, and squinty eyes. Only some dogs “grin” this way.

Your dog’s ears

When your dog is relaxed and comfortable, he’ll hold his ears naturally. When he’s alert, he’ll raise them higher on his head and he’ll direct them toward whatever’s holding his interest. Your dog will also raise his ears up and forward when he’s feeling aggressive. If your dog has his ears pulled back slightly, his intention is to be friendly. If his ears are completely flattened or stuck out to the sides of his head, he’s usually frightened or feeling submissive.

Your dog’s tail

When your dog is relaxed, he’ll hold his tail in its natural position. If he’s feeling happy, he may wag it gently from side to side. If he’s really happy, like when he greets you after being apart from you, his tail will wag more forcefully from side to side or might even move in a circular pattern. If your dog feels nervous or submissive, he’ll hold his tail lower and might even tuck it between his rear legs. He may still wag it from side to side, often at a more rapid pace than if he’s relaxed. If he’s really scared or feeling extremely submissive, he’ll hold his tail tucked up tight against his belly.

When your dog is alert or aroused about something, he’ll probably hold his tail higher than normal. He’ll hold it stiff, without any movement. If he’s standing his ground or threatening someone (a person or another animal), your dog might holds his tail stiff and high and moves it rigidly back and forth. It might look like he’s wagging his tail, but everything else about his body tells you that he’s not feeling friendly at the moment.

There are so many nuances to understanding your dog and as you get to know the different body parts and what they are ‘telling you’, you can interpret in advance how your dog is feeling as a whole!

 

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Why Do Our Cat’s Meow?

 

While our cats are usually quiet little felines, and don’t ‘bark’ as much as dogs, they do meow as a way to communicate with us. Adult cats don’t actually meow at each other, just at people (unless they are provoked or attacked). Kittens meow to let their mother know they’re cold or hungry, but once they get a bit older, cats no longer meow to other cats. Cats also yowl—a sound similar to the meow but more drawn out and melodic (also known as the night meows).

Below are some of the reasons why our cat’s meow:

Cats will meow as a meet and greet

Your cat will usually greet you when you arrive home, when he or she meets up with you in the house or and when you speak to her.  They will often look you in the eyes and meow to say ‘hello’.  Or if not the meow…it’s the beautiful double closed eyes which means they adore you!

Why do our cats meow loud

Cats will meow to get attention or noticed

Most cats enjoy social contact with people and some will be quite vocal in their requests for attention. Your kitty will meow because he or she wants to be pet or stroked, played with or simply talked to. Cats who are left alone for long periods of time each day may be more likely to meow for attention.  They are lonely and want you to pay attention to them!

Cats will meow to ask for food

Most cats like to eat, and they can be quite demanding around mealtimes. Some cats learn to meow whenever anyone enters the kitchen, just in case food might be on its’ way. Other cats will meow to wake you up to serve them breakfast as they are hungry! Cats also learn to beg for human food by meowing.

Cats will meow if they want to go outside (even if you won’t let them)

Meowing is the cat’s primary way to let you know what she wants. If your cat wants to go outside, he or she will learn to meow at the door. If you’re trying to transition a cat from being indoor-outdoor to living exclusively indoors, you may be in for a period of incessant meowing at doors and windows. This is a difficult change for a cat to make and it will very likely take week for the meowing to stop.

An older cat will meow out of a pain and confusion

Elderly cats suffering from mental confusion, or cognitive dysfunction, may meow if they become disoriented—a frequent symptom of this feline version of Alzheimer’s.  Or sometimes they just meow out the window for no reason at all.  But, not to worry, this is normal.

If your cat meows excessively, take him or her to the vet

A cat that meows excessively should be checked thoroughly by a veterinarian to ensure a medical condition is not the cause of the cat’s distress. Numerous diseases can cause cats to feel unusually hungry, thirsty, restless or irritable, any of which is likely to prompt meowing. Even if your cat has a history of meowing for food, you should still have her checked by your veterinarian. As cats age, they’re prone to developing an overactive thyroid and kidney disease, and either one may result in excessive meowing.

When your cat meows, don’t ignore your kitty or scold him or her

Do not ignore your cat when she meows. The one exception is if you know that she’s only meowing to get you to do something she wants. Otherwise, it is safe to assume that there is something wrong.  It could be as simple as he or she is hungry, the water bowl is empty or your cat might not have access the litter box.  It also could be your cat is in pain.

Don’t ever scold your cat for meowing too much. While the yelling may just send your cat running away, it will not have a lasting effect on her meowing behavior but instead will make your kitty fearful of you. So, then you end up with two problems.  Just sit down and pet your cat instead and the meow will most likely end up in a purring session.

 

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Crate Training Your Dog Can Be Effective When Done Correctly

While not all dog owners like the idea of crate training their puppy or dog, there can be many benefits.  The experience can actually be positive for both dogs and their owners. In fact, crate training your dog can provide your dog with a sense of security. Dogs naturally live in dens. Dens protect them from danger, keep them warm and dry, and help them to keep their young safe and protected.

By using a crate as a modern dog den, your dog’s natural instincts will ensure they keep their crate clean and dry. So you’re not only providing a safe and comforting place for your dog to rest, you are using the den to help with house training.  However, each dog is different and you need to decide whether crate training is even an option.

Crate Training For Dog Owners

 

Crates can be easily misused, however. Crate training is best used as a relatively short-term management tool, not as a lifetime pattern of housing. Your goal should be to work on any behavior problems and train your dog so that it’s not necessary to crate her 8 to 10 hours every weekday throughout her life.

Using a Crate to House Train Your Dog

You can use a crate to safely contain your dog during the night and whenever you can’t monitor her behavior closely. Dogs don’t like to soil their sleeping areas, so your dog will naturally avoid eliminating in her crate. If used for house training purposes, the crate should be sized so that your dog can lie down comfortably, stand up without having to crouch and easily turn around in a circle. If the crate is any larger, she might learn to soil one end of it and sleep at the other. If the crate is any smaller, she might be uncomfortable and unable to rest.

Using a crate will help you predict when your dog needs to eliminate and control where she eliminates. If she’s been crated overnight or for a few hours during the day, the chances are extremely high that she’ll eliminate as soon as your dog release her from the crate and take her outside.

Crate training can prevent destructive behavior

Dogs and puppies need to learn to refrain from doing a lot of things in their homes, like digging on furniture or rugs, chewing table legs, cushions or other household items, and stealing from garbage cans or counters. To teach your dog not to do things you don’t like, you must be able to observe and monitor her behavior. Confining your dog to a crate can prevent unwanted behavior when you can’t supervise her or have to leave her home alone.  Again, this is a temporary solution and should only be done while training.

Choosing the correct crate for your dog

Crates come in every size, shape, material, and color. Before purchasing a crate, consider the size of your dog and how the crate will be used. Your dog's crate should be just large enough for him to stand up and turn around. If it is too big, it won’t feel comfortable for him. If you’re buying a crate for a new puppy, choose a crate size that will fit him when he’s an adult.  Simply block off the excess crate space so he is unable to eliminate at the back and sleep in the front.

You need to work with your dog in short sessions to use the crate effectively

Depending on the age of your dog, you’ll have to time your crate use strategically. Young puppies can’t hold their bladder and need to go outside every hour or two. Once they’re more than three month’s old, they are able to hold their bladder a bit longer.   You will get the hang of it depending on your dog’s needs.

An older dog sometimes has elimination issues as well.  Therefore, at this point in his or her life, you will need to monitor his needs when he or she is in his crate.

Don’t ever use a crate for punishment

Don’t ever use the crate for punishment. Your dog’s crate is supposed to be a safe and happy place. It is where he or she sleeps and will become his little home. If you use his crate for punishment, then it loses its value. It is no longer a safe place and will lead to resentment and potentially destructive behaviors.

If you use a crate correctly and not for a long term solution (unless your dog just loves it in his or her crate), crate training can be a very effective house-training solution.  If our dog whines or is unhappy in it and/or scared, try to find another way to train your puppy or dog.

 

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How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching Your Furniture

Our cats love to scratch anything and everything.  Scratching is a normal, instinctive behavior that you don’t want to discourage altogether.  However, you do want to have your kitties scratch the appropriate item such as a scratchpad or post and not your furniture.  Since declawing is not an option (and inhumane), there are other ways for you to keep your cat’s nails intact and have your furniture in shape.

The reason cats scratch is to remove the dead outer layer of their claws, mark their territory by leaving both a visual mark and a scent and to stretch their bodies and flex their feet and claws.

Therefore, it is important to figure out how to get your kitty to scratch the correct, acceptable objects.

Try to figure out when and what your cat is scratching

Watch your kitties’ patterns and try to figure out when they scratch and what they are attracted to claw.  Most cats like a textured surface or anything they can really sink their claws into; yet, each cat is different.  Some cats scratch as they stand up against a vertical surface; others like to scratch on all fours and stick their butts up in the air for a good stretch. Some cats enjoy both ways.

 

scratching cat on furniture

I love my scratching post!

Try to figure out when they scratch…after they wake up from a nap, when they want to mark their territory, or when they’re excited about something, like you coming home from work.  If you figure out when, you can redirect their behavior with a toy or to the appropriate scratching post.

Use harmless covers for the objects that your cat likes to scratch

There are many quick fixes that you can do at home to keep your cats away from your couches, bedsprings or whatever they like to scratch.  Cats like texture so cover the areas where you don’t want your cats to scratch with things they will find unappealing on their paws, such as double-sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, sheets of sandpaper or a plastic carpet runner with the pointy side up.  Many cats don't like the odor of citrus or menthol so you can even put that smell on the above to double the effect.

Cats love scratching pads and rope

A sturdy rope-covered upright post, a flat scratch pad of corrugated cardboard, the back side of a square of carpet are all different post and pads that your cat will like.  A scratching object can be free-standing, lie on the floor, or hang from a doorknob, whatever your cat desires. Rub a little catnip into the post or attach a toy to the top to make it even more attractive. 

Once you find the best post for your cat, spread the love

It's a really good idea to have more than one scratching post, especially if you have upstairs and downstairs areas, your house is large, or you have more than one cat. This will lessen the possibility that your cat will resort to furniture in other rooms without scratching posts and if you have multiple cats, one won't have to use a scratching post, and the other scratches the furniture.

Place the posts in your cats’ favorite scratching places

Watch for which pieces of furniture your kitty has clawed and their locations. If it is always the chair you sit in most, locate a scratching post near it and maybe leave a piece of your laundry on the top for a while or use its top tray as a drop spot for personal items so that your cat sees it as part of your territorial marker, like your favorite chair.

Cat trees are a great way to give your cats their own ‘homes’ where they can scratch and sit.  Once your cat gets used to the new alternates, he or she will gravitate towards it. 

Never yell at your cat for inappropriate behavior.

Scolding your cat only works if you catch her your kitty in the act of scratching. If you correct your cat after the fact, she won't know what she’s done wrong and could learn to be afraid of you.   Never hit your cat or yell at him or her; a simple “no” will do. If you do catch your cat shredding a "naughty spot," interrupt your cat by making a loud noise (clap your hands, shake a can of pennies or pebbles, slap the wall) and redirect her scratching to one of the acceptable items. Do this consistently to teach her that your furniture is bad, your scratching post is good!  And praise your cat with a nice rub down.

Trim your cat’s claws every few weeks

Indoor cats don't wear down their claws as quickly as outdoors ones do, so they can overgrow. Untrimmed, claws can grow into the cat's pads, leading to infection, pain, and difficulty walking and using the litter box. Check your cat's claws every couple of weeks to see if they need to be clipped. If it is too hard for you to clip them, a groomer can help.  And, of course, the shorter the claws, the less likely they will scratch your furniture to get rid of their claws.

 

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How to Stop Your Dog from Chewing Everything!

 

Dogs love to chew on bones, toys and other chewy items.  And, of course, every puppy or even older dog will at some point chew on items that they aren’t supposed to…your favorite shoes, or even the corner of your couch!   Once your dog starts to chew on an undesirable item, you need to direct the chewing to the appropriate items so your dog isn't destroying things you value or harming himself.

Reasons dog like to chew

Puppies, like babies, explore their world by putting objects in their mouths. And, like babies, they teethe for about six months, which usually creates some discomfort.   Adult dogs, on the other hand, may engage in destructive chewing for any number of reasons. In order to deal with the behavior, you must first determine why your dog is chewing and to always remember that he's not doing it to spite you.

Below are some reasons why your dog might be engaging in destructive chewing:

  1. As a puppy, he wasn't taught what to chew and what not to chew.
  2. Your dog is bored.
  3. Your dog suffers from separation anxiety.
  4. Your dog’s behavior is fear-related.
  5. Your dog is trying to get your attention.
  6. Below are some ways to get your dog to stop chewing your belongings:

Put your shoes or temping items away!

If you don't want your shoes in your dog's mouth, don't make them available. Keep clothing, shoes, books, trash, eyeglasses, and remote control devices out of your dog's reach.  Instead, give your dog toys that are clearly distinguishable from household goods. Don't confuse your dog by offering shoes and socks as toys and then expecting him to distinguish between his shoe and yours.

 

Chewing Dog on Shoe

I’m not supposed to chew this ?

Supervise your dog inside and outside until he learns what to chew

Keep an eye on your dog in the house so he can't make a mistake out of your sight. Confine your dog when you're unable to keep an eye on him. Choose a safe place that's dog-proof and provide fresh water and safe toys (if the chewing is very destructive such as your furniture).  If your dog is crate trained, you may also place him in his crate for short periods of time.

Your dog won't know how to behave if you don't teach him alternatives to inappropriate behavior, and he can't learn these when he's in the yard by himself.  Watch your dog and if he is chewing, stop him from chewing the bad item and give him a chew toy instead.  And, as always, praise your dog for good behavior.

Make sure to give your dog plenty of exercise

Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise. If your dog is bored, he'll find something to do to amuse himself and you probably won't like the choices he makes. On the other hand, a tired dog is a good dog, so make sure he gets lots of physical and mental activity. The amount of exercise should be based on his age, health, and breed characteristics. 

Don’t yell at your dog for chewing anything but use a strong “no”

If you catch your dog chewing on something he shouldn't, interrupt the behavior with a serious “no”.  Don’t yell at your dog as this will scare him or her and not correct the behavior.  Instead, you should give your dog an acceptable chew toy and praise him when he puts the toy in his mouth. Or, you can offer your dog a treat in exchange for the item in his mouth. Don't chase your dog if he grabs an object and runs. If you chase your dog, you are only giving your dog what he wants. Being chased by his owner is fun and a game! Instead call your dog to you and offer him a treat.

Be patient as this can take some time

At some point your dog will inevitably chew up something you value; this is often part of the transition to a new home or even a new piece of furniture. Your dog needs time to learn the rules and you need to remember to take precautions and keep things out of his reach.  Don’t ever discipline or punish your dog after the fact. If you discover a chewed item even minutes after he's chewed it, you're too late.

With time, practice, and patience, you can get your dog to stop chewing your valuable items.

 

 

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