Category Archives: Socialization

Have A Holly, Jolly and Oh-So-Safe Holiday!

Have a Safe Holiday Season

Walking in a winter wonderland of waving Santas, prancing reindeer and swirling snow globes may seem like paradise to us but it can feel like a battleground to a nervous pooch. Remember when dealing with a Nervous-Nellie introduce new, scary, stimuli slowly and with a lot of patience and praise.  To keep your dog under the threshold of having a freak-out, we want to start changing your dog’s association to new the items.  The secret: start well in advance of his anxiety, try to anticipate things that will be stressful, and reward and praise your dog profusely as you approach and pass the item.  You should be as jolly as a little elf yourself, praising your dog for bravery as you pass. Your happy body language is key to building your dogs confidence.  Remember if you are tense yourself that communication transmits down the leash and only feeds your dogs anxiety. My rule of thumb is if I don’t feel silly and over the top I’m not doing it right!

Ultimately if your pet ever starts to really react negatively to an item and you can’t divert their attention, do the emergency u-turn and give them some space.  Let them sniff the object while you praise like crazy, and never force your pet or drag them over to “meet” something scary.

Of course you want to include your furry companions in the festivities,  but as you celebrate this holiday season, try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. And to keep your pet safe and decking the halls for years to come,  the ASPCA has the following great tips for pet holiday safety:

O Christmas Tree Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he decide to drink it, so discourage this behavior.  You may even have to barricade the bottom of the tree area so that curious pets don’t make the tree dish their own personal drinking fountain. Or worse yet, decide you brought the outhouse into your house, and mark the tree!

Tinsel-less Town
Some pups love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.

No Feasting for the Furries
By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising pooch will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

Toy Joy
Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Choose gifts that are safe.

  • Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallowing the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. I recommend staying away from un-processed rawhide.

Forget the Mistletoe & Holly
Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.

Leave the Leftovers
Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.

That Festival of Lights
Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!

Wired Up
Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth.

House Rules
If your animal-loving guests would like to give your pet a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session. Keep  a lot of fun toys on hand so that dogs can be encouraged to fetch a toy and not mouth a guest. Go-get-the-toy is a great distraction for a dog that loves to jump on guests as they enter and hasn’t perfected his sit-to-greet.

Put the Meds Away
Make sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.

Careful with Cocktails
If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

A Room of Their Own
Remember your normally quiet home may have a lot more hustle and bustle than usual. Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.

New Year’s Noise
As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a dog’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.

Take into consideration all these tips and your holiday season is sure to be merry and bright for all the members of your family!!!

This article taken directly from the ASPCA website at :

Welcome to the Family: How to Introduce Cats and Dogs

Animals are wonderful creatures and it is always fun to have at least a couple in the house. Despite what you may think, you can teach your kitty and pooch to live harmoniously together in one household. The key to getting your feline and canine to get along has to do with the introduction. The following are tips to help train your cat and dog to get along without attacking each other

Things to consider before the introduction:

When you add a new pet to your household, there are several things to remember. Your older pet is the king or queen of the castle. Your new pet will be an intruder. You need to treat them that way for a little while. For example, if you have had your cat for awhile, then your cat will see the dog as an unwelcome guest. You should not let the new dog have the run of the household for at least a while. Give your cat and dog time to adjust to each other slowly. Keep the new pets separated in other rooms for a couple of weeks and allow the introductions to happen over a few days. Let them get used to each others new smells and all the new stuff before you start introductions.

You will have better chance of success if your dog is a puppy. A puppy who grows up with a cat is likely to see the cat as part of the pack. Puppies can meet older assertive cats (cats who stand their ground and don’t flee) very successfully.  It is more difficult to introduce a young fearless kitten to a high energy prey-driven dog.

Combinations that will definitely clash:

  • If our dog has an aggressive or predatory nature. An aggressive dog can seriously injure or kill a cat. Dogs with intense prey drive are tough to counter condition in this case, the chase instinct can be too hard-wired.
  • If your cat is a small kitten, or is declawed, handicapped, or elderly. A kitten can be injured by an overly playful dog., older, or handicapped cats are less equipped to defend themselves so they will usually bite a dog as a first line of defense since they have no other weapons. This is not good for cat or dog.
  • If your cat is very skittish and prone to fleeing. This makes they cat appear like prey and can induce the chase instinct in the dog. Remember most dogs will chase rapidly moving objects. So if a cat gets frightened and runs, a dog often feels honor-bound to chase it. It’s important to nip that in the bud. If you don’t, the result can be injury, and even death, for the cat.

Two Basic Rules

Here are the top two rules to follow when you introduce a new cat to a dog household, or add a dog when you already have a cat:

  • Make sure your cat has total freedom, and can run and hide if desired.
  • Make sure your puppy or dog is well restrained and can’t follow a fleeing cat.

The reason for these rules is simple: In any cat-dog introduction, there’s more potential danger to the cat than to the dog. If there’s going to be a problem during cat and dog introductions, it’s usually caused by the dog, says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, PhD, James Law Professor of Behavior Medicine – Emeritus at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Preparation steps – Important!

  • Get to know your dog and cat well. Be able to interpret their body language and sense their moods.
  • Your dog should have some training, and respond to commands to come, stay, and sit. Leave-it (turn away and make eye contact with you) is also a good one to have on board and should be heavily rewarded.
  • You should also know how to blend mild discipline and positive redirection to gently influence both pets behavior.

Do not proceed with the introduction until you have completed the steps in this section.

The Introduction

  • Beforehand, exercise your dog and feed him a nice meal; put him in a relaxed mood. Put your dog on a short leash or in his crate.
  • Put your cat in her carrier if she’s a scaredy-cat by nature; otherwise let her walk around. Be armed with lots of treats for good behavior.
  • Let dog and cat check each other out at a distance. Pet and talk to your dog soothingly. It’s not time for dog to approach cat just yet. Give your dog and cat some treats and praise as rewards for calm behavior.
  • Encourage your dog to do the sit/stay or down/stay while being HEAVILY rewarded for being calm around kitty.
  • If your dog bolts toward your cat, correct him with the leash. If he shows any signs of excessive excitability, calm him. If this doesn’t do the trick, cut the visit short and try again later when the dog is calmer.
  • Repeat these short visits several times a day, gradually giving your dog more leash as appropriate.

Do not move to the next phase until you have several consecutive days of incident-free visits in which both animals demonstrate to your satisfaction that they are comfortable with each other.

Helpful Gear

To keep all the pets in your home safe during introductions, the experts recommend using this gear:

  • Cat trees or perches. Whether your cat is the newbie or the senior pet in the house, before making cat and dog introductions, be sure your cat can move freely. Make sure there are “perches or cubbies for hiding, someplace where the cat can get off the floor and settle in somewhere,” says Christopher Pachel, DVM, a Portland, Ore. veterinarian who focuses on animal behavior issues. “You basically want an elevated resting place” for the cat.
  • A dog leash. Make sure your dog is safely restrained so it’s not able to chase, even if the cat darts away. This is a bigger issue with herding breed dogs, who have a prey instinct, but it’s really a hardwired response in all dogs to chase small fluffy things running away quickly.
  • Baby gates can help you gradually introduce dogs and cats, and the barrier minimizes danger to the cat. A baby gate is often better than a cat carrier because it gives the cat much-needed freedom.

Providing hiding space and perches for your cat, and finding a way to restrain your dog — and doing these things before anything is expected of the pets — sets the stage for a calmer introduction. Just make sure the dog is comfortable, the cat is comfortable, the dog can’t chase, and the cat can get away.

The Next Phase

Once your dog and cat consistently get along during leashed visits, you’re ready for the next step. Take your dog off the leash, and supervise the two closely. If you see problems, and they don’t abate with a few simple voice commands, back up to the previous phase for a few days. Gradually make the no-leash sessions longer. Do not leave the cat and dog alone until you’re sure they’re both fully comfortable with each other and there will be no trouble. Make sure your cat has places she can jump to for safety. Make some private space in your home for each animal. Use cat doors or baby gates if practical, as well as gentle discipline and rewards to enforce the rules. Keep kitty’s litter box and food bowl out of your dog’s reach.

Now relax and give these guys some hugs.

Don’t Do This

Here are common mistakes that people make when introducing cats and dogs:

  • Just throw them together and let them work it out! Not only is this dangerous, but it sets the stage for disaster. First impressions are everything to a cat and a bad experience makes it nearly impossible to get them to want to participate again.
  • Forcing physical proximity: Picking up your cat and holding him or her in your dog’s face by way of introduction will tempt your cat to scratch the dog and encourage the dog to really not like the cat. Always let kitty decide when or if it will approach the dog.
  • Not knowing the background of the dog you adopt. Adopting a dog from a shelter is often a wonderful idea, especially if you don’t have other pets, but Houpt notes that people rarely know a shelter dog’s background. “If a 2-year-old dog is looking for a home, there’s usually a good reason,” says Houpt, who also professionally consults on animal behavior issues. In some cases the dog may be aggressive, destructive, or have other problems. If you want to bring a canine into a feline household, Houpt usually recommends getting a puppy.
  • Not preparing your pet for change: Pachel suggests making changes — like moving your cat’s litter box, putting up a baby gate, or closing certain doors — before you bring your new pet home. That way, your long-time pet has a chance to get used to the changes before the new pet shows up.
  • Not thinking about your pet’s reaction. Try to think about the changes you’re making in your home from your pet’s perspective. For example, be aware that if you move the litter box and the cat has to walk past the dog’s kennel to get to it — and the dog is barking — that’s stressful for the cat.

When it Doesn’t Work Out

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it wasn’t meant to be. Some dogs are simply too dangerous to be around cats (occasionally the reverse is true). If your gut is telling you that this isn’t working out, respect that message. The humane thing to do in this case is  find a good cat-free home for the dog or dog-free home for the cat. In the interim, keep dog and cat separated and give them both lots of love.

Dogs and cats can usually live together peacefully, although creating a harmonious “blended family” requires some planning, patience, and careful guidance on your part. In some cases your dog and cat will become best friends. Some dogs unfortunately will be too dangerous for your cat, and one of the most important points of this article is that you need to recognize when this is the case. Like any love affair, you shouldn’t force a relationship that just isn’t working.

Excerpted from Introducing Cats and Dogs Without Re-Writing the Movie By Gary Loewenthal
and When Dog and Cat Meet By Wendy Fries