Training Your Kitten to use the Litter Box

Kittens explore the world with their mouths just like human babies. Using clay clumping litter with kittens under 8 weeks old is dangerous.  This litter is highly toxic if eaten.  The best litter for young kittens is recycled newspaper.  These litters have newspaper that are pressed into inch long pellets, which is too large for a kitten to swallow.  The newspaper won’t hurt the kitten if they chew on the pellets.  The newspaper pellets should be placed in a low-lying open box/pan that is easy for the kittens to get in and out of.  A rabbit litter box is a good height for young kittens.

To start litter box training the kittens, stimulate them to go potty in the box after every meal.  Leave the soil pellets in the box, so the kittens can smell where they have gone before.  Scent is a big part of litter box training.  Some kittens will start pottying in the box very quickly, others take several days of repetition.  Praise the kittens for successfully using the litter box.  Don’t scold them if they go outside the box. 

As kittens are learning to go potty without being stimulated, they will have very little warning that they have to go potty.  Keep the litter box in the same room as the kittens at all times.  The litter box should never be more than 10 feet away from young kittens.

Set up the room so that the litter box is at one end of the room and their toys and beds are at the other.  Kittens naturally don’t like to potty where they eat and sleep.  Placing puppy potty pads under the litter box will making cleaning up mistakes easier.  Kittens will already have a natural drive to cover their potty, so allow the kitten to cover their potty even if they are scooping the litter pellets out of the litter box. 

Clean the litter box multiple times a day, as the newspaper pellets will get quickly soiled.  Kittens are naturally clean creatures and won’t want to use a dirty litter box.  To clean the box, scoop out the soiled pellets and wipe down the sides with a damp paper towel.  After a few times scooping the box, it will be time to dump the entire box and put fresh pellets in.  Do not use scented soap or cleaners when you are wiping the box down, this hides the kittens’ scent.  The kittens will go potty where they smell that they’ve gone before.

For kittens under 12 weeks old, it is dangerous to use clay clumping litter in the litter box.  Remember, kittens still put everything in their mouths and clay litter is dangerous for them to ingest.  After they have learned to use the litter box and are consistent with going on the newspaper pellets, transition them to a natural ground litter, such as corn cob litter.  Initially mix the newspaper pellets and corn cob litter together, so the kittens don’t stop using the litter box.  After a few days of them using the combination of litters, you can fill the litter box with corn cob litter only.  This litter will have a similar texture to the clay clumping litter but is much safer for kittens if they do put some in their mouths.  Corn cob litter will absorb odors and clump just like clay litter, so it’s easy to scoop.  Corn cob litter allows the kittens to use their instinct to dig before they go potty and then bury their potty.

Clumping cat litters are those that are designed so that urine and feces can be removed easily from the box without having to empty the entire box.  Most contain a material known as bentonite that allows the litter to form a nice solid clump as the litter absorbs liquid.  It is important that the cat litter is low in dust.  Cats naturally dig in the litter before and after they go potty, so they are very susceptible to inhaling dust.  Cat’s respiratory systems are very sensitive, so inhaling large amounts of litter dust can lead to serious health issues.  Look for litter that has 99% dust free on the packaging.  Avoid litters that are heavily scented.  The scents won’t hide the odor any better and can irritate cat’s respiratory system.

The pet stores carry a scoop-able litter that is designed for kittens.  It is ground to finer size so it doesn’t irritate kitten’s paws.  It also contains kitten-specific natural pheromones so kittens are curious to use the litter box. This litter can be used in the entire box or mixed in with other clay clumping litter.

Fourth of July Pet Safety Tips

Fourth of July is a holiday full of pool parties, cook-outs, and fireworks. But many of these same things can be dangerous for our pets. Here are some tips to help keep your pets safe this holiday:

  • Leave your pets at home. The safest place for your pet is inside your home. Pets will be stressed by the noise of a backyard pool party or cookout. The large crowds and louder booms at firework displays can cause pets to panic and run away.
  • If you are hosting a party, remember that alcoholic beverages are poisonous to your pets. Make sure these drinks stay out of your pet’s reach.
  • Don’t give your dog scraps from the table during your cookout. Fatty meats are too rich for pets, corn on the cob could cause an intestinal blockage, and chocolate is poisonous to your pets.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with an identification tag on them so they can be returned if they happen to get out.
  • Fourth of July can mean hot temperatures outside. Make sure you pets aren’t left outside for extended periods of time or left waiting in a parked car.
  • Be aware of matches and lighter fluid as these can be dangerous to pets skin and cause severe illness if ingested.
  • Provide a safe space for your pets to stay during the fireworks. This safe spot could be a closet or a crate. Many pets have a favorite hiding spot that they go to for security. This is where your pet will want to be during the fireworks.
  • It sounds like a cute photo opportunity to adorn your pet in glow sticks or glow jewelry, but these items glow because they contain chemicals inside. If your pet chews up the glow stick, the chemicals inside will be harmful to your pet. You pet could also choke on the plastic pieces.
  • Be aware of matches and lighter fluid as these can be dangerous to pets skin and cause severe illness if ingested.
  • Never use fireworks or sparklers around your pets. Your pets may spook and run away in panic. Or your pet may be curious about them and get burned or ingest the hazardous pieces.
  • Keep your pet’s veterinarian number with you as well as the local after hours emergency animal clinic numbers. Contact your vet immediately if your pet exhibits unusual behavior.

Stop Your Dog from Jumping Up

In order to get your dog to stop this behavior you have to stop rewarding it. What do pet owners usually do when the dog jumps up? Usually they look at the dog and say something like “OK, Rover, OK, down, down, OK, good dog, go away now, enough, OK…” and may even pet the dog during the episode. All this attention is PURE REWARD to the dog, and only encourages the jumping up behavior. What needs to be done is the withdrawal of all attention. When the dog jumps up, quickly turn away from the dog, fold your arms, make no eye contact and say nothing. Once the dog has settled down THEN give it loads of attention and serious petting. The dog will need to learn this with every family member and everyone should act the same way to be consistent.

Once the dog learns that jumping up gets it NOTHING, the behavior should lessen or stop. Often the combined use of the sit command to refocus the dog’s attention is a great way to speed the whole process. As the dog is calming down, give the sit command and reward the dog for the good sit. This is especially good when you are on walks and the dog encounters a human it wants to greet. Just before it gets excited, give the sit command, then reward the dog with food, petting, toys, etc. Get the human to come down to the dog’s level and greet the dog that way. A dog that is busy sitting can’t jump up if it’s on a leash.

Four Keys to Training Your Dog.

Reinforcement

Dogs engage in a behavior because it is a reinforcing behavior.  For example: The dog jumps in the pool so as to feel cool, the dog scratches on the food bowl so as to get fed.  Also, the dog stares at you and barks so as to get you to feed him from the table, or the dog jumps up on you so as to get your attention.  These examples are about a dog doing something to get a desired consequence.  At one point in their history, the action paid off with a desirable consequence to them, and so they do it again.

In dog training, we take advantage of this fact of life and teach the dog that a particular action on their part will result in a positive consequence.  In other words, we reinforce that particular behavior.  So, in training, we will be strengthening the behaviors we want by rewarding them with food, praise, toys etc.

Consistency

When training your dog, you are essentially teaching him a new language- the language that will serve as a communication bridge between you and him.  What this means is that you must always be clear and consistent.  The rules being taught must always apply so as to not confuse him.  Think of dog training as a black and white concept, as opposed to a gray one.  Gray areas are obstacles to the bridge we are building because they don’t give the dog sufficient feedback.

Timing

The amount of time it takes a dog to associate the consequence of an action with the action itself is approximately 1.5 seconds.  In other words, you have a 1.5 second window of opportunity to teach a dog something.  For example: the dog sits beautifully, right after he is told to do so- the reward should come at or very close to 1.5 seconds so as to show the dog you are happy with his actions.  The longer you take to react after this, the more unlikely it will be that the dog associates the action he preformed, with the consequence you provide.

Attitude

When training your dog, there is really no room for anger.  Anger tends to frighten a dog, which will only set you back in your training and get in the way of your bond with him.  When the dog behaves in an undesirable fashion and we feel anger, then it is best to leave the training for a later time when we feel more even-tempered.  It is important to have fun with your dog during training.  Indeed, it requires discipline and attention on both of your parts, but it should be a happy, entertaining activity that you both enjoy.  That will only increase the likelihood of your dog’s full attention during training and help strengthen your relationship

Problem Barking

The sound of a dog’s bark is a common and not all together unexpected sound in neighborhoods, apartment complexes and anywhere people live among each other.  Barking is a means of communication, but when it reaches an excess in both pitch and frequency, the potential for conflict between neighbors grows. 

Barking is a symptom of something deeper and in order to find a solution, the reason behind the barking needs to be determined.

Lack of Exercise

If a dog is not exercised sufficiently on a daily basis, the extra energy may be released through barking.  For example, the dog learns that he gets a quick walk in the morning, and then is left inside, full of pent up energy with nothing to do and no one to do it with. The act of continuous barking releases the energy, eventually he gets tired and is able to sleep or remain in a calm state for a few hours.

  • Before leaving your dog for any period of time in which he will bark, take him on a walk, play a game of fetch or any activity that will burn off all excess energy.  A tired dog has stands a much better chance of being a quiet dog.  The key in knowing that your dog has received enough exercise is to be able to physically see your dog is tired.
  • Sometimes physical exercise is not enough to keep a dog quiet.  Many dogs, sporting and herding breeds, were bred for a specific purpose and need a “job” to keep them busy.  Mental exercise is just as important and can be found in the form of items which are safe to chew on in your absence. For example, a Kong Toy may be “stuffed” with the dog’s food, hard dog biscuits and then topped off with peanut butter, low sodium is best.

             Your veterinarian is a good source for safe chewing alternatives.

Boredom

  • Enroll in an obedience or agility class.
  • Play on a regular basis.
  • Plan daily activities-Include the dog on runs to the bank, go to the park, rotate his toys every week so they stay “new”.
  • Make time for your dog every day.

Barking for Attention

Barking becomes a way to receive attention and negative attention is better than none. 

  • Do not give your dog attention if he is being pushy-barking, whining or pawing at you; wait until he is calm so that he understands calm behavior gets attention.
  • When he is calm, give a command such as “sit”, and give him a couple of pets and move away.
  • If the dog does not calm down within a few seconds or the barking becomes more intense, give a one word command, such as Hush! in a firm tone and command a “sit”.
  • If the barking has become habit or the dog does not take you seriously, the use of a startle tactic may be necessary to stop the behavior.  The most commonly used and effective means of this type of correction would be a small spray bottle of water, a sealed metal can full of pennies or a loud whistle.  The object used must be small enough to avoid being seen by the dog for the startle element to be effective.
  • When the dog begins to bark, give your one word command and then follow immediately with a stream of water, a loud shake of the can or a loud blow of the whistle.  This should capture the dog’s attention and stop the barking.  When the barking stops, call the dog, command a sit, praise lightly and walk away.
  • Continue practicing until the dog stops barking for attention and respects your one word command without the use of a startle tactic.

Being Territorial or Protective

If a dog has been encouraged to react to strangers, animals and noises outside, he is being taught to respond to those sounds regardless if anyone is home.  The barking becomes problematic when there isn’t anyone around to tell him to stop and in many cases, the dog is more “on guard” when left alone.  A dog’s perception of a “trespasser” can be anyone who is not supposed to be there.

  • When you are home, allow the dog to bark several times, then tell him “Quiet” and call him over to you and ask him to sit and then reward.  If the barking continues, remove the dog from the room and stay with him until he is quiet.  Repeat this procedure until the dog learns not to bark past the initial “free barks”.
  • Do not allow him to decide who gets to come in the house, rush the front door or jump on anyone entering or be pushy for attention.
  • Have a door strategy when guests or repair people arrive, place the dog in a sit stay or put him in an area away from the door and keep him on a leash if the dog’s obedience is still a work in progress.
  • The dog is greeted last and is not acknowledged at all until he is calm and under control.
  • When he is calm, have the guest give the dog a treat, so the dog will eventually learn that people in his house are a good experience.
  • Repeat this procedure until the dog is well behaved and confident around guests and anyone in your home.
  • Do not encourage barking at outside noises, for example, saying “who is that?” or “get’em!”
  • If your dog’s body posture is stiff, tail and ears are erect and he will not settle down or relax his body, and ignores any attempt of control, consult a professional.  This is an example of a dog with more serious issues.

Fearful Barking

A dog that barks at thunderstorms, firecrackers, loud noises or construction equipment is a fear barker.  A fearful dog will have his tail tucked under; ears back, and may be crouched low to the ground, freeze in one spot or have frantic movements, like he is trying to escape.

  • Move the dog away from outside stimulus-in inner room or basement, draw the blinds, and block doors and windows from view.
  • Leave a radio or television on to help drown out any frightening noises.
  • Do not soothe or comfort your dog when he is frightened by petting or saying, “it’s ok, sh”, the tone of voice being used sounds like praise and you are inadvertently teaching him to act fearful.
  • Seek professional help to help desensitize your dog and build confidence.

Separation Anxiety

The anxious dog will begin barking when you leave or briefly afterwards, the dog displays a deep attachment to you by following you from room to room, greets you in a frenzied fashion and seems anxious when your are about to leave.  A dog suffering from separation anxiety will always bark, regardless of how long you are gone.  The problem can become worse if there has been a change in the dog’s life, a move, a new roommate or pet, being left alone for a longer period, the loss of a family member or if the dog pet has recently been adopted from an animal shelter.

  • Provide the dog with structure and consistency in his daily routine.  This will allow the dog to become familiar with what to expect and give him less things to worry about.
  • Teach him simple obedience commands, for example, sit and down stay to build his confidence and allow him to receive rewards when he is “away” from you.
  • Do not make a big deal out of leaving or coming home.  When it is time to leave, walk out of the door in a matter of fact manner and ignore the dog for a few minutes when arriving home.  This will allow the dog time to calm down and then receive attention when he has settled.
  • When you are not leaving, practice the triggers that cause the dog to become anxious and anticipate leaving, for example, putting on a coat or shoes or picking up a purse, briefcase or keys.  Pick up the keys and hold them until the dog is calm, do not say anything to the dog, when he is calm, put the keys down and move on to a common activity, reading a book or watching television.  Repeat this exercise daily until the dog can remain calm and watch the procedure.
  • Many cases of separation anxiety are severe will take the help of a professional trainer or veterinarian to resolve.

Positive Alternative

  • Dog daycare-an excellent resource for teaching the dog that he can have a great time in your absence and you will return to pick him up.  The dog will return home exercised and will be able to remain calm for a longer period of time.

Remember:

  • Regardless of the reason your dog barks, all dogs need regular exercise.
  • Don’t punish after the fact-if you don’t catch the dog in the act of barking, the effectiveness of any correction is lost.
  • Enlist the help of a friend or neighbor to assess the length of time the dog barks, when and if the reason can be found.

Summer Shedding

Summer heat means, your dogs and cats are shedding. While you might be annoyed at the extra hairball tumble weeds on your floor, remember that all that loose hair isn’t good for your pet. Dogs and cats require a minimum of weekly brushing year round, even if they are indoors. Long haired cats and dogs may require daily brushing.

The best products I’ve found to help me manage my dog and cats’ shedding are the Furminator products.

Furminator makes stainless steel blade brushes in many varieties to fit every coat length and type. The brushes are very effective at removing not only the top coat, but also the loose undercoat that can cause matting if left on your pet. The brush blades are well made and don’t scratch your pets skin or pull on their fur. I’ve found that brushing my dog and cats with the Furminator brush twice a week really controls my pets’ shedding.

Furminator also makes many waterless sprays that aid in the effectiveness of brushing.. I’m going to tell you my two favorites.

The first one is for cats. I’ve been using Furminator Hairball Prevention spray on my cats for years. It helps reduce shedding and prevents hairballs in cats without having to bathe them. The spray contains Omega 3 Fatty Acids and other natural ingredients that help keep my cats fur shiny and healthy looking.

The second spray is for dogs. I use Furminator detangling waterless spray. My Shih-Tzu has curly fur that gets easily tangled between grooming appointments. This spray is very effective in loosening the tangles, so I can brush through it without pulling his fur. Like the Hairball Prevention spray, the detangling spray is made with Omega 3 Fatty Acids and other natural ingredients to promote healthy fur.

Furminator products will help you keep the excess hair off your dogs and cats so they can enjoy the summer with you. Happy brushing!!

How to Stop Your Puppy from Chewing

1) Puppy-proof your home. Instead of constantly reprimanding a young puppy for getting into things, puppy-proof any areas of the house to which your puppy will be given access, in much the same way one would child-proof an area for a baby:
 

  • Temporarily take up any throw rugs.

  •   Place all plants, poisonous substances, household cleaners, trash receptacles, paper products (such as tissue and toilet paper), shoes, and any small chewable objects out of reach.

  •   Remove, cover or tape down all accessible electrical wires.

  •   Remove or secure heavy objects which could fall or be pulled down and cause injury to the puppy.

2) Limit the number of toys. While all dogs should have toys to play with, the problem with providing your dog with too many toys is that it makes it more difficult for the dog to differentiate what’s his from what’s yours. Do not provide a destructive puppy with more than a few toys at a time.  Rotating your dog’s toys will keep the toys new and exciting to your dog, so he would go looking for new toys.

If your dog is chewing on soft items such as sofa cushions or pillows, do not give your dog any plush toys.  Plush dog toys with squeakers, often increase your dog’s prey drive, making them want to destroy and get the squeaker out.  Once the dog has destroyed his toys he will go looking for something else to “kill”.

3) Safely confine your puppy. Use a suitably sized crate or wire-reinforced puppy gate whenever you’re unable to safely supervise him. When introduced properly and used correctly, crate training is a safe, preventive, effective and humane housetraining tool, which provides the puppy with a secure, protective den, while offering his owner peace of mind. Please note: Introduce your dog to his new crate using positive association and never use his crate as a punishment.


4) Offer him lots of outdoor exercise. Dogs that are destructive indoors need one to two hours of active outdoor exercise daily, provided they are fully immunized. Teaching your dog to retrieve a ball, toy, or Frisbee will help cure his chronic chewing problem.

That Saturday Feeling

Do you wonder if your pets love Saturday and Sunday as much as you do? Watch for simple signs to let you know they do. While all animals are different, the following behaviors and body language signals usually indicate your pet is most likely happy and, more important, healthy. 

  1. A healthy appetite means your pet is in a good mood. But if your pet’s appetite drops off, it could be a sign she’s bored, depressed, or lonely,
  2. Pet’s body language conveys how they are feeling. 
    Here are the body cues that your dog is relaxed: a soft, partially open mouth, ears that are relaxed, not pulled back or taut with alertness, overall relaxed posture, with a raised head, relaxed tail, and confident stance, a tail wag that involves whole-body wiggles, rolling over to show their belly, making a “play bow,” with their rear in the air and chest lowered to the ground as an invitation to play.
    Signs that a cat is relaxed include resting with her feet tucked underneath her body, not being overly startled by sounds or movements, and having an overall calm demeanor.
  3. Pet’s engaging in play is one of the most reliable signs of happiness.
  4. Your pet enthusiastically greets you when you first wake up or when you come home from work.  This is your pet’s way of saying she’s happy to see you.
  5. Pets use their body to mark you as theirs.  Dog’s do this by leaning against your legs, sometimes placing a paw on your foot too.  While cats do this by rubbing against you and weaving around you.
     6. Happy dogs and cats enjoy positive interactions with their owners and other people in their environment.
  6. Their fur is shiney and well maintained.  Cats and dogs that are happy will groom themselve on a regular basis to keep their fur looking it’s best.
  7. Your pet’s eyes can tell you a lot about her emotional state. Resting with her eyes half closed shows she is relaxed and doesn’t feel threatened

Dog Rearing: The Essentials

Attention, Exercise, and Mental Stimulation

Dogs need social interaction, physical exercise, and mental stimulation – just like children do – in order to grow up to be healthy and well adjusted.  When these needs are not met, many behaviour problems can develop. 

Attention:

How much daily social time does a dog need? A good rule of thumb is that a dog should spend at least half his waking hours each day interacting with other dogs and people.  Like humans, most dogs enjoy a mix of old friends and new encounters – so make sure your pup meets at least one new dog or person each day.   While dogs do need to learn to spend time alone, too much isolation will make them antisocial, anxious or depressed.  Allowing your dog regular access to his familiar doggie buddies as well as the chance to meet new dogs will increase the chances of him being socially content and well adjusted. 

Physical Exercise & Mental Stimulation:

Your dog’s brain and body BOTH need lots of exercise. Swimming, playing tug & fetch, and playing with other dogs are good brain AND body work-outs.  Walks on leash are not always physically exerting, but they do provide a lot of mental stimulation: all the outdoor smells, sights and sounds are very interesting!  Working on obedience skills requires lots of doggy concentration, and your dog will love the mental challenge of figuring out new things.   Make sure you exercise your dog’s brain AND body each day.

Pet sitting Guidelines

Find out the pet’s normal schedule and routine from the owner.  Follow it as closely as possible.  Pets are creatures of habit and their routine will comfort them while owner is away.

Find out about pet’s normal eating habits- do they scarf their food or do they graze on it all day?  This will be important for you to know if the pet is stressed while their owner is gone.  Not eating is a common symptom of separation anxiety in pets and needs to be monitored closely and taken to the vets when necessary.

Find out if the pet’s favorite spots in the house- cats might hide under the bed or in a closet while owner is away, dog might lay on a couch or bed that is forbidden when owners are home.

Make sure the owner leaves you phone numbers where they can be reached, an itinerary of their travel plans, and pet’s veterinarian number. Ask for written instructions for pets feeding and medication instructions so you have a reference sheet. Take notes as the pet owner explains their pets’ daily routines.

Remember even though the pets are in their own home, they will still be stressed to some degree while their owner is away.  Use common sense when it comes to caring for the pets and don’t expect them to behave for you the same way they do for their owner. 

Find out the owner’s weekly schedule- do they work from home or do they go to the office 5 days a week? A pet that is used to a person in the home all the time is going to be a lot more stressed, staying in the house alone.

Know if the pets have had pet sitters in the past or if this is the first time.  A pet that’s never been left before is more likely to stressed than a pet that is left on a regular basis.

Find out expectations from owner as to communications.  Some clients will want a call or text every day from the pet sitter, while others only expect a call if there is an emergency.