Saturday, October 21, 2017

Why Boredom is Bad

Money isn't the root of all evil, boredom is. Boredom is defined as feeling weary as a result of repetitive, uninteresting activities or pursuits. Boredom isn't just a people issue. It's a real concern for animals as well, and certainly true for our dogs. Bored dogs get into trouble.

I have had more than one client argue with me on this point saying, "My dog has a million toys, a yard to play in, etc. How in the world can you say he is bored?!" My response is to say that is exactly why he is bored and then give a human example of the woman standing in front of a closet full of beautiful clothes lamenting, "I have nothing to wear!" Doing the same activities day in and day out, always seeing the same toys on the floor, in the basket, and around the yard, leads to a lack of interest in those things and the search for new stimulation. And it is certainly the case that the mall is full of enticing store windows for the woman who needs something new to wear!

So, how do you deal with bored dogs? You need to get creative. It isn't expensive to treat boredom, but it does require work. Start by picking up all of your dog's toys....yes, all of them. Put them in a box in a closet. Now, select out a couple of those toys that your dog hasn't had any interest in of late, and start a game with him. A few hours later, pick those up and put them away, choose something else to bring out. Maybe it's time for a bone or an edible "toy" such as a Nutrident Bone, bully stick, etc. Experiment even with the edibles you give your dog. If you gave a bone today, then tomorrow give your dog a homemade pupsicle. Or if you used a Kong one day, then the next day give a Busy Buddy toy, or one from Starmark. I have a dozen interactive toys for my dogs from the Busy Buddy company and Starmark that I rotate in with bones, bully sticks, and frozen treats. Dogs do not have object permanence so if you put toys away, or change the edibles you provide for their enrichment, they think whatever you are giving them is new and exciting. Toy rotation makes the toys last longer too! You are basically creating novelty for your dogs by rotating their toys and chewing options so that no two days in a row are the same. In addition, you will want to observe your dogs and "feed" their needs. For example, if you have a puppy and he is chewing on your wood furniture, that is a pup looking for something hard to chew on, with a bit of give, something like a bully stick. Or, if you think your puppy is teething, how about a rope toy soaked in water and then frozen for a maximum gum soothing chewing option?

Treating boredom does not have to break the bank. I love buying new toys and treat games for my dogs and consider it to be a job-related expense, however that may not be the case for everyone. Rotating the toys you already have, adding a few new ones on occasion, and getting creative with boxes, egg cartons, or making your own treats is the key to creating novelty and keeping your pets brains engaged, stimulated, and out of the bored zone.

The collies chewing on "Dogswell Boundless Chew Bones!"

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kids Say The Darndest Things!

I do so enjoy working with kids. This summer, I had the opportunity to do three different visits with kids in animal-themed summer camps. The kids ranged in age from 5 to about 9 years of age.  At the end of each of my presentations, I told the kids that they could ask me any burning, animal behavior related questions they had. And they had some doozies. After each camp, I made a point of jotting down some of the fun, entertaining, and amazing questions the kids asked me. Here are just a few of my favorites to give you a chuckle today. And if you have kids, see what their answers are!

1. Why does my dog scoot scoot his butt on my mom's favorite rug? (I have to say, this question came up twice this summer and both times there was a lot of nodding...and giggling)

So, dogs scoot like this when they have an issue with their anal sacs. The sacs may be full, inflamed, or impacted meaning the dog is unable to empty the sacs by themselves when they go to the bathroom, so they scoot on the floor to try to do it that way. You can certainly encourage your dog to scoot around outside, rather than in the house, as if they do get those anal sacs to empty, it will be stinky!  And if they keep doing it, take them to your veterinarian for a check up.

2.  How come dogs don't like cats? (I got this one twice as well and both times it started spirited discussions from kids whose dogs and cats are buddies)

Dogs and cats can certainly be friendly with each other.  In fact, many people raise their dogs and cats together and they get along quite well, even playing and sleeping together. Even if you see a dog chasing a cat, that doesn't necessarily mean that the dog doesn't like cats. Dogs respond to movement by chasing. That's why they chase squirrels too, and run after each other.  It is often the case that if a cat doesn't run, the dog will walk up and start sniffing them socially.

3.  How come some dogs don't have tails?

All dogs have tails, it's just that some of them have very short, stubby tails that are incredibly close to their rear ends. These dogs with stubby, almost non-existent tails are built that way because having a tail would have gotten in the way of the original job they were bred to do. So, for example, French Bulldogs have a very short nub of a tail. Since all bulldogs were originally used for bull-baiting, not having a tail meant the bull couldn't get a hold of the dog that way and hurt them.

4.  How come dogs sniff other dogs pee?  (Another one of my favorites for the number of giggles from the kids, and sighs from the grownups)

Dogs can tell an awful lot about other dogs from the way that their urine smells and tastes!  They "sample" the urine, using their tongues to push it up against a special organ back where their noses join their mouths. The vomeronasal organ is a dog's chemical analyzer and they will often make a funny face as they are processing the smells. It is called a flehmen response. And they aren't the only animals that have them!

5.  How comes dogs don't talk? (This is one of my favorites!)

I always say that if dogs could talk, we'd all be in trouble!  Quite literally, dogs cannot form words because they lack the ability to use their tongues and lips to form words the way that we do, and their brains are built for more important tasks such as processing smells and sounds. However, dogs are very good imitators and there are certainly dogs that can make sounds, modifying their pitch, tone, and volume in a way that makes it sound like they are saying certain words. Dogs do, however, have the capacity to learn words and more than one language and respond to those words accordingly.

Given how easy it is these days for kids to just "Google" anything they want to know, I find it refreshing that they are still willing to raise their hands and ask questions...and learn from real people and the real world around them.

Flehmen face in a zebra!