Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Seeking Small Dog That Likes Cats!

I think we've talked about this once before, but I'm thinking it bears repeating because I was asked again about choosing "the perfect small dog breed to live in a home with cats." Although, to be honest, maybe the last time I was asked it was about the "perfect breed of dog for a busy house full of young children." LOL. I think you get the picture. So, let's talk about the perfect breed of dog.

There isn't one.  There. I said it.  There is no one perfect breed of dog for every situation.  That truly is the beauty of dog breeds.  There are so many of them, and endless combinations of breeds as well.  Sure, I have favorites as do many of the other pet professionals I know.  However, I also know that my favorite breed, the Collie, isn't for everyone.  They have A LOT OF HAIR.  And they will shed that hair EVERYWHERE.  I should own stock in lint rollers.  Everything sticks to their coats as well; they are like giant fluffy magnets for debris.  They have long noses that they stick in everyone's business. They are 80 lb lap dogs that also bark. A LOT. So, while I love Collies and know that they are perfect for my home, they aren't perfect for everyone.  Which brings me to my point.  Within any given breed, there will be individual dogs who are perfect for whatever situation you are living in and seeking a dog for.  Thus, while it may be generally said that Terriers, as a whole, are less likely to do well in homes with cats due to their innate high prey drive, I have certainly been in home with cats and terrier dogs and everyone gets along just great.  It also goes without saying that I've been in homes where the terrier dogs torment the cats causing enormous amounts of anxiety and stress for the people and the animals.

So, when selecting your next dog, you need to take into consideration all of the facets of your family; where you live, your yard size, the amount of time you have for grooming, exercise, training, etc., whether you have kids or elderly people in your home; and certainly your budget is important as well. You don't want to choose one of the more inherently expensive breeds (what some of my veterinarian friends refer to as "money pit dogs") if potentially high veterinary expenses aren't in your budget. This is why I encourage anyone who asks me about "the perfect breed of dog" to actually sit down with me and schedule a session where we can explore their needs in depth, look at their situation, and choose a dog with our brains, not just our hearts.  And it is definitely the case that I have done exactly this and discovered that the family I am working with isn't looking for a real dog. They are looking for some Disney/stylized/unattainable dog that just doesn't exist.  Dogs are not perfect.  People are not perfect.  But a good match is out there if people have reasonable expectations and a real desire to open their hearts and their home to a new canine family member.

Bottom line; Yes, there are small dogs that get along well with cats.  And there are definitely small dogs that don't.  Knowing that your home is better suited to a small dog is a good place to start, but there is still a lot of work to be done before we find the right one.  So, let's get started!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Science of Animal Behavior

During a recent board meeting with the National Association of Animal Behaviorists (NAAB), we started discussing how important science is to our field of study. While many of us are interested in finding practical solutions for our clients whose pets are experiencing behavior problems, the bottom line is that we hope there is good science and solid evidence that those solutions we are promoting actually work. We have all been frustrated more than once by someone who is purported to be the best in the business promote a solution that we know is faulty, doesn't have the scientific evidence to support it, or, in fact, has ample evidence that the method DOESN'T work/isn't safe, etc. Sometimes these well-known individuals have an obvious agenda. They are trying to sell their new book, their new training video, their new TV program, their new seminar series, or their new dietary supplement.  Obviously, it falls on consumers, and in this case pet owners, to decide who to follow and what to try for their own four legged family members.  However, we do feel that some of these folks with the notoriety aren't really as concerned with whether what they are saying is actually true; they are more concerned with promoting their agenda.  Bottom line is this: if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.  And if it seems unkind, then don't do it. Just because someone is on TV or has their own line of products, doesn't make them the expert on YOUR pet.  You are the expert on your own animals.  This is not a one size fits all profession.  There are numerous possible solutions to any behavior problem.  One of those solutions is likely better for your pet (and you!) than the others.

And the hope of all of us on the board of directors for the NAAB is that we will maintain and promote high standards for our members so that the information you take away from our website resources is fact-based, with the science to support it, and practiced by well-trained, knowledgeable individuals truly interested in the physical and psychological well-being of animals and the people who care for them.

We are still getting ourselves organized, but you may want to bookmark the website and like us on Facebook so that you can access more quality content on issues in animal behavior of interest to you in the future.

Desi helping me bookmark the NAAB sites on my phone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hi! My Name Is...

Had a really fun conversation with a client recently.  They had just picked up their new puppy from the breeder and were trying to decide what the pup's name should be.  They were hoping to make the decision democratically, letting each family member have input, but as of this writing, they still hadn't settled on a name!  She even asked for my input, so here is what I told her:

Pick a name that doesn't have any negative/scary/weird connotations.  Meaning don't name your dog Killer, Cujo, Bane, Trouble, or Psycho. Likewise, don't pick a name that has emotional baggage for you.  That is, don't name your new pup, Buddy, if that was the name of your last/favorite/childhood dog.  Those are big shoes to fill and that's a lot of pressure for your new pup.

She also asked if I'd ever made a mistake naming a pet.  Sigh.  Yes, I have.  In college, my roommate and I adopted an adorable orange Tabby kitten.  He was so precious!  He had really cute, white markings on his face, so we named him Gizmo after the cute Mogwai in the movie "Gremlins."  You guessed it.  Gizmo matured into his name and became nothing short of the crazy gremlin that Gizmo turned into when exposed to bright light, water, or fed after midnight. Our Gizmo became our nightmare. He stalked us and attacked us in our sleep, leaving deep bite marks and scratches.  He grew enormous and those stripes on his face became quite bright making him look even more like the crazy Mogwai alter-ego, Stripe. No amount of behavior modification worked on Gizmo and we finally had to re-home him out at the horse barns where my roommate rode everyday.  He ended up being the best mouser that barn ever had. And he ruled; no other males allowed. 

Now I know darn well that Gizmo's personality was in no small part due to the fact that he was a kitten born to a feral mom. However, I can't help but feel that naming him Gizmo certainly didn't do him any favors!

Have you ever named a pet something and had them live up to that name in a bad way? A good way?  Do you think what you name a pet is important at all with respect to their behavior?

Gizmo as a 6 week old kitten. Before we added water after dark ;)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

When Loud Noises Are Just Too Much

It's a fact.  Loud noises can be startling.  For some animals (and some people as well), loud noises can be more than just startling; they can cause profound anxiety and lingering stress.  While repeated exposures to loud sounds like thunder, trains, and fireworks can work to desensitize some animals, it doesn't work for all of them.  And some animals are so noise sensitive that even relatively common sounds like a dishwasher running or an ice machine making ice can cause them to react. So, what can be done to help a noise sensitive pet?

I think it goes without saying that the easiest way to treat a noise sensitive pet is to work with them outside of the provocative/noise-producing setting. Trying to work with your dog in the middle of a thunderstorm or on the 4th of July is too daunting of a task, to say the least!

I will once again be offering a seminar series aimed at helping noise sensitive dogs and their owners gain relief.  While the timing of the class is set to help those who are particularly concerned about upcoming 4th of July fireworks, the strategies we will cover in class work well for any and all noise sensitivities. I plan to cover why some animals are more noise sensitive than others, as well as holistic, traditional, and behavioral modification techniques to help dogs with noise sensitivity become less reactive.

If you think this seminar would be helpful for your dog, you can get more information and sign up as well at And if you have questions, or would prefer to work one-on-one with your pet's noise sensitivity, just let me know.