Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Happy, healthy pets this Christmas - top tips!

The Christmas holidays brings with it wonderful times amongst those that we love, laughter, fun and all of the trimmings. But sometimes the furry members of our homes can become stressed by the changes that the holidays bring.

Here are a few top tips to help you enjoy Christmas with your beloved animals;

From now until January we change our home environment to accommodate the abundance of decorations that we have collected over the years. Cats are highly territorial, and even the slightest change to the home can evoke stress, leading to numerous behavioural problems, most often urination in the home, straying or aggression. Dogs are also adversely affected by the changes to their home, again triggering stress that could negatively impact their behaviour.

To avoid any problems developing this season, ensure that there is a room in the home, perhaps a spare bedroom or utility room - a room that is not altered or decorated as the rest of the home is. In this space set up a 'bolt hole' or 'sanctuary' where your cat or dog can retreat to during the season. Include bedding, treats, chews, toys, scratching posts, water bowls to help your pet feel that this is 'their' space for the season. This stability can really make the difference as to whether you end up calling on a behaviourist in the New Year!

It can also be useful to purchase a plug-in diffuser called FELIWAY (for cats) and ADAPTIL (for dogs) from your vets, plugging it in this 'bolt hole' or 'retreat'. These products have developed a synthetic copy of the natural comforting pheromones that your dog or cat would be exposed to when with their mothers, and have been found to help young and older dogs and cats cope with change. 


Further to this, it is really helpful to designate one responsible member of the household to watch over your pet. This person is responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient water, appropriate feed, chews, regular litter tray checks or regular walks and toileting breaks, throughout each day. Crucially, this is the person that has read this blog and therefore understands how stressed your dog may be becoming in the range of situations throughout the holidays.

Thirdly, during the holidays we have an abundance of visitors of all shapes and sizes. This again can bring a major change to your pets environment; with the doorbell ringing more than usual, people rushing around, high pitched voices around the games table, new toys with all manner of noises entering the home. 

With the increased excitement in the house, cats often cope by hiding away from the hustle and bustle, however dogs can find this difficult - caught in between "I want to be involved" and '"Wow this is scary!" - this can often lead to difficulties in jumping up, barking, urination and defecation, stealing food, and aggression.

Using new, tasty, safe chews, for example the KONG rubber hollow rubber toy stuffed with dog food (soaked if using dried feed) is great for distracting your dog onto an appropriate settling behaviour, e.g. lie on your bed licking at this chew for 20 minutes. These KONGS come in different sizes and rubber strengths dependant on whether you have a puppy or a heavy chewer.

Extra tip: freeze the soaked feed or dog meat to make the KONG chew last even longer!

Be aware of loud noises like crackers, champagne popping, screaming, loud music, flashy lights, even dancing, may be scary for your pet. Make sure that they have the opportunity to retreat to their 'bolt hole' at all times.

Lastly, it is really useful to note the details of your emergency vet, as this time of year brings a range of poisonous treats into the home. Keep alcohol, chocolate, coffee, salt, cooked bones, raisins, holly, mistletoe, lilies, and yew trees (to name a few hazards!) out of reach.

Follow these tips and you can ensure that everyone, human or otherwise, will have a wonderful  Christmas.

Happy Holidays!


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Understanding your Dog - Canine Communication

The dog has essentially 4 behavioural responses to tell us that they feel worried by something. 

It may be that they are worried about something that we are doing to them, grooming them or taking them to the vets for example; it may be that a certain object in the home is causing then anxiety; or it may be even that they are worried by something that we cannot even see! The problem is that if we misunderstand or misinterpret the early signs that our dog feels under threat, we can all too easily risk setting up a dangerous situation.

Take a look at the above image, if you notice that your dog is showing any of these signs, it is important to identify what it is that is causing this. This way you can take action to ensure that no behavioural problems develop over time. If you feel that your dog is displaying any signs of FIGHT behaviour, it is vital that you (a) immediately remove yourself and others from danger, and (b) assess the situation for the long term. 

Immediate action: 
Stop the activity that you are doing with the dog 
Give the dog the chance to take ‘flight’ - putting space between you and the dog. This may mean you moving away from the dog’s space. Have a confident, calm, positive approach 

DO NOT in any way punish the dog, the dog is behaving this way as it is feeling threatened, therefore any form of punishment will cause a more dangerous situation to occur.

Long term action: 
Seek veterinary advice, to check for medical causes of aggression, obtaining a referral to a qualified behaviour specialist where necessary. 

I hope you find this useful, as always, feel free to get in touch at if you have any questions at all. 

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