By Veronica Mountain
Most cats have toys, a lot of toys...jingle balls, catnip mice, toys on wands...the list goes on! However, a toy that doesn’t move, or moves in a predictable way, will not keep a cat’s interest for long. That’s where you come in, the hero of our story that will turn a toy alive! All of a sudden your cat is now off its bed, stalking, waiting, and finally rushing in for a tackle.
So how exactly do you get a cat to play? What does play look like? How do you know which toy to choose? Why is play so important?
Let’s start with the why. Playing with your cat offers great exercise and stimulation. It also promotes a healthy weight, helps decrease destructive behaviors and strengthens your bond with your cat. Additionally, because hunting is so ingrained in cats (even domestic house cats), engaging in play allows your cat to practice their genetically predisposed hunting techniques. Doing so will deter your cat from finding his own outlets which could lead to problem behaviors.
Although cats can differ in preferences, you can get most play started with a wand-type toy. My favorite is “Go-Cat Da Bird” and can be found at most pet stores. It is a wand with a string and replaceable feathers on the end. The key is to move the feathers on the ground and through the air in an unpredictable way. Let the feathers stop still and then dart back into action! Most of cat play is stalking. So although they may not be running around your living room for 30 minutes straight, trust me, this process is important and will mentally and physically stimulate your cat! Let your cat watch the toy, rush in for a pounce, and then run back to watch again. Some cats like to watch from above, some from under cover. After some practice, you’ll learn how your cat likes to engage with this toy.
End play sessions with their meal or just by tossing down a few treats where their “prey” was. Feather toys should be safely put away when you are not playing. With your cat’s energy now drained and snack eaten, they will likely groom themselves and fall asleep. Job well done!
By Sierra Hampl
My last five clients have had house training concerns. Their dogs ranged in age from five months to seven years old and some were from breeders and some were from rescues. This example shows that house training is a common problem and frustration across the board for dog owners. House training doesn’t need to be complicated and it definitely shouldn’t be a long lasting battle. I’ll share some common mistakes and simple changes so you can turn those mistakes into successes. Whether you’ve just brought home a puppy or you’ve rescued an older dog from a shelter, this post will help take you step by step to house training success.
These common mistakes can be turned around and you can house train your dog within just a few weeks or less if you follow these rules:
Turning Mistakes into Successes
2. Keep your eyes on the prize! In this case, the prize is your dog. After I brought home my puppy I joked with people that I’d ignored my children for nine days in order to get him house trained. It wasn’t really a joke. My kids probably did feel ignored, but one thing I didn’t want to worry about in the long run was house training. I literally stared at my puppy for days just so I wouldn’t miss a single cue he gave for needing to go outside. This also meant that my puppy didn’t have any chances to wander around unsupervised.
Who wouldn’t be excited to show a dog around their new home! Of course we want our dog to enjoy everything our home has to offer, but some freedom needs to be earned, so while you’re working on reliable pottying outside, use baby gates to block off rooms, and even tether your dog to you with a leash that way they can’t wander off.
Troubleshoot! I need to take a shower, now what?! When you can’t have your eyes on your puppy or newly adopted dog, put them in a crate. This is also why crate training is so important, but that’s for another post. The crate is a safe place for your dog to hang out when you need to get stuff done.
3. Create a schedule and be consistent. A young puppy will need to go out quite often. Sometimes every 20-30 minutes. An older dog can last a little longer--maybe 60 minutes if you just adopted an older dog, but I still tell clients that if you see your dog spend any amount of time at the water bowl, be prepared to take them out within twenty minutes or less. A schedule allows you to frequently reward your dog for going potty exactly where you want--outside! It also decreases the likelihood that your dog will have an accident. Don’t worry, you won’t always have to stick to the schedule. Hang in there for a few weeks and it will really pay off.
4. Ditch the pee pads. Nothing sets off more alarms than when I walk in a home and see pee pads. Assuming you want your dog to do his business in the grass, begin your house training outside, not inside.
5. Instead of Punishment, redirect to the correct location. Maybe you felt it was okay to let your guard down and out of the corner of your eye you see you dog about to squat. Don’t panic, just ask your dog in a happy voice if they need to go potty and immediately take them outside and reward once they do their business.
House training doesn’t need to be complicated. It really comes down to restricting freedom in your home, frequent trips outside, and rewarding on location. If you devote a couple weeks to following these steps you should have a successfully house trained dog.