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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy New Year with your pet

New Years is just a day or 2 away.  Most of us are probably thinking of making some resolutions for this New Year.  Kept or not, we look at the upcoming year as a fresh start - a chance to "do over" for some of us.  It is doubtful that our pets think about ways of improving their lives.  Resolutions and "do overs" are not likely high on their list. If we want our pets to act better this year, we have to  know them better.

Bella and the book!
 Many of our pets do things that drive us crazy, and may act guilty  for it.  Often I hear clients say
 " She knew she was bad when she grabbed my book and ran around the house with it!". I hear my own daughter  Glenda say that about our young dog Bella.  Even I begin to think that way when Bella starts nosing around the book shelf looking to grab a brightly colored book..  Now for Bella, she may first have fun cavorting around the living room with said book in her mouth, but when Glenda starts commanding Bella to
"drop it!"  Bella looks guilty because she knows Glenda is upset but she does not understand why.  Even though Glenda knows that Bella takes the book to get attention, Glenda at times still thinks of her own need to watch TV or whatever rather than give Bella really what she wants - appropriate play time. 
 Our pets can't always figure out all that we want from them.   Many times our pets seem to understand  what we  want -  a warm nuzzle, or a pestering "take me out" to help raise us out a down mood for example.  Dogs, cats, and other pets are always observing us, noting what they do that leads us humans to behave the way they want.  They gain that  understanding of us just by observing. It  is not in any way complete, yet it is pretty good. 

 To begin to understand what your pet needs, or why your pet does the crazy things it does, start by just observing the behaviors.  When Bella starts to nose at the book shelf, Glenda now remembers to get the ball and start a rousing game of fetch.  Actually they are both learning to start the fun before Bella goes to the book shelf.   Bella needs lots of aerobic activity to be a good dog.  Starting a game of chase was her way of getting the activity she was craving.  Getting yelled at or commanded to drop the book was not really getting things better. So watch what your pet is doing ( jumping on the counter) and what good thing is there for your pet ( eating food, investigating things) and what can you do to fill that same need ( hide food around the house in appropriate places for your cat to find). Start by  observing your pet  without judging.  It will help open your eyes to knowing your pet. 

Bella and Butter playing nice
So, here's to a Happy New Year of knowing your pet and beginning an understanding of them.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

getting started

I decided to start a blog as a way to reach more readers about pet behavior, especially how pets may differ from each other in their behavior. If you have had more than one dog or cat  in your life, you would certainly agree!Our office cats, Ranger and Mercy are very different in many ways.  My staff often considers how much more play Ranger needs to be happy compared to Mercy who likes more " alone time".  Giving Ranger more active play in an area away from Mercy helps them to get along.  If Ranger does not get his "play with the box "  time, he will pester Mercy like an obnoxious younger brother.  Knowing this helps to keep things more harmonious between the two cats.  You can read about Ranger and Mercy at my clinic website

 Paying attention to what is going on when your pets are happy or upset will help you to begin to know your pets better. Does your cat always run under the bed when someone arrives, or only when children come over?   What to do with this knowledge is where I come in.  Learning about how a pet's nutrition, illnesses, past injuries, and home life can affect thier behavior is one way to learn more about why your pet may be acting a certain way.   A big reason why Mercy does not like active play with Ranger is because she had hip surgery when she was young, and has some arthritis now that she is older ( 14 yrs).  We give her joint supplements and pain medication to help her.  It is not likely she will want to play hard because of her hip, and knowing that helps us to understand her behavior towards a young cat like Ranger.

 Your veterinarian needs to know your pet also.  We can not know them as well as you can since we do not live with them.  We can learn from owners what your pet's likes and dislikes are, how they are behaving and use that information to help diagnose health problems that may be the root of the behavior. So, the better you know your pet, the better veterinarians can help.