Anniversaries

This week we've been celebrating a couple of important anniversaries around out house. First, the six month anniversary of Gandalf's adoption. As you may know, Gandalf's adoption was a bittersweet experience. While we were already in love by the time we had hoisted him into the car (no jumping for that boy if he can get someone to lift him up or give him what he wants), we had always envisioned bringing a greyhound home to be a companion to Sirius Black. Bringing our first one home after Sirius was gone was a reminder not only of that loss, but also of the various factors that had prevented us from adopting a greyhound earlier. Despite this less than optimal beginning, Gandalf has brought us so much happiness. His goofy behavior and affectionate personality are beyond endearing. Watching him discover, sometimes excitedly and sometimes skeptically, life beyond the track, has been extremely rewarding. Second, or perhaps it should have been first, on October...
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Day 31: Social Play

Play is important for dogs. However, not all dogs are instinctively good players, and not all dogs are good play matches. If possible, try to find good play matches for your dog(s). Puppies and teen dogs may benefit from socialization classes to build or improve their social skills, and even some adult dogs may do well in social play classes. Negative interactions with dogs can be harmful to social skills, especially for young dogs and teen/young adult dogs in sensitive socialization periods. Look for positive interactions, and don't be afraid to step in—calmly—if you feel a situation is getting out of hand. Thanks for joining me for 31 days of dog training! Keep training!...
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Day 26: Interspecies Relationships

Dogs are social creatures. They can form friendships with humans and other dogs, but also with cats, birds, and small animals. Of course, the potential for such friendships varies based on the temperament and socialization of the animals involved. It also varies based on management. Good relationships depend on strong management by the human members of the household who keep everyone safe and reduce stress levels. ...
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Preparing for a Post-Surgery Routine

Note: I wish this were going to be a post full of answers, but it is mostly full of questions. The answers are something I am still looking for. There are three things you should know about me to understand this post: I have lived almost my whole life with either cats or dogs or (most frequently) both. I travel fairly frequently, and have practiced routines in place to care for my animals when I travel (if they don't come with me). I had the first surgery of my life that required anesthesia and a significant recovery on March 17, 2016. I knew that I this surgery was coming for several months before it actually happened. I thought I had had time to prepare. My husband and I tried to be prepared and ask my doctors every question we thought would be relevant to my recovery. We missed a few, of course, but overall, I thought we did a pretty good job. I thought I did...
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A Mile on Someone Else’s Leash

A few times a year, we will have friends or family bring their dogs along on a visit.* For someone who has not brought a new pet home in more than a half decade (more about that next week), it can be easy to forget the experience of having a new pet in your home. When you bring a new pet home, whether it's your first or your fifth, there is an immediate change to your schedule. It just takes longer to feed, walk, and play with multiple dogs than it does to do the same thing with one. And so often they need to be fed separately. Or what if the new dog won't eat? What if all the dogs just want to eat someone else's food? When you step out of the house, the issues continue. Will the dog react to a squirrel? What about a rabbit? A jogger? Another dog? When I walk with Sirius Black, I more or less...
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An Ounce of Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We've all heard it, but we don't always apply it successfully to our own lives. However, prevention, often in the form of management, is a key aspect of training and behavior modification. This is especially important when we bring a new pet into our lives. Of course, no new pet, whether 8-weeks-old or 8-years-old is a completely blank slate; but, when we bring a new pet into our homes, we are creating new relationships and setting new patterns for behavior. At this point, we have the opportunity to act to prevent many behaviors that can cause problems in the future. One important step in this process is taking stock of the environment your new pet will be entering. Are there items a puppy or an anxious dog might chew? Expensive or irreplaceable items that might be knocked over or destroyed? For cats, is there an easily accessible litterbox that is not being used...
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How I Got Here

How I Got Here

My parents were visiting this weekend, and that got me thinking about a question I am asked fairly often: How did you become interested in working with multi-pet households? It's a question that I am never sure how to answer because I have never felt that it was something I became interested in, but rather, that I was born into. When I was born, my parents' household consisted of three dogs and a cat. One dog and a cat were my mother's from before their marriage, while one dog was my father's. They had rescued the third dog when they found her running loose in a grocery story parking lot. While these animals were a story of integration themselves, throughout my childhood, the animal composition of our household changed several times. As exciting or painful as each change was in itself, every change also necessitated a process of integration help new and resident animals adjust to new routines. During my childhood, I was...
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Road to the “Peaceable Kingdom”

This post tells a personal story. In subsequent posts, I will address some of the details of introducing new pets and dealing with conflicts. A lot of people ask me how long it will take to reconcile their new or newly conflicting pets, especially their cats or their dog and cats. People would really like a timeline, a “drop-dead” date by which they will no longer have to engage in the complicated ballet of managing multiple pets who do not get along, must be kept separated, requiring two separate routines and extensive demands on people’s time. People would also like to know when they can expect to see progress, and how much they can expect to see, what it will look like, and so on. I call this process—the process of moving from managing multiple pets who are in major or minor conflict to one in which everything is running smoothly in an integrated household—the road to the “Peaceable Kingdom” (a phrase...
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Doggy Play

Growing up in a house with one dog (and, for a long time, one dog who didn't like other dogs), I never really appreciated the nuance of dog play. Sure, watch dogs run around a field together and it looks like they're having fun, but I never looked beyond that level. Once I began working in shelters and had more opportunities to watch dogs play, I started to more fully appreciate the elements that go into dog play. That appreciated has only been more fully developed as I have moved into teaching - especially teaching puppy classes, which provide more opportunities for free play than most adult dog classes, as well as the unparalleled opportunity to watch dogs learn to play from week to week and develop their communication skills.* This first video shows two puppies - chocolate lab Molly, 12 weeks, and pekingnese/cairn terrier Spartacus, 7 months - who have just met and are playing for the first time....
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5 Bad and 5 Good Reasons to Expand Your Family

"Should I get my cat another cat?" a friend of mine asked me today. "I worry that he's bored." That question, and this weekend's upcoming Sliding Into Home event at the Washington Humane Society, has me thinking about when, how and why we expand our (animal) families, and when, how and why we should. 5 Bad Reasons: Some of these reasons can be fine as a secondary reason to get a new pet, but they fall short as a primary reason. Fluffy (or Fido) wants a friend. Let's start with the idea that began this post. Sure, it's easier to add a new pet to your home if your existing pet(s) get along well with others. However, new pets add new (and often unforeseen) complications to relationships between both pets and people. You need to be ready to deal with these changes, as well as the training, medical and emotional needs of your new pet. It'll teach the kids responsibility. Would you trust...
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