Cats are not small dogs, part 2.

Bella1Last week I did a blog on cats and I only had space enough to cover inappropriate elimination and a bit on cat diets. This week I wanted to look at the spacial needs of cats, especially cats in multi species households. While cats may well want to decrease the distance between them and the pet gerbil, they can also be equally determined to increase the distance between them and the family canine. Cats, upon seeing the lumbering approach of Fido, will scurry away as fast as feline legs and motivation will carry them. Unfortunately, running can be a trigger for dogs to chase, and thus set up the predator/prey relationship you, the owner, would just as soon avoid. So what’s a multi-species household to do?

There are several options actually, not all of which work for every household. The most effective for dogs and cats who seem to be constantly plotting the demise of one another is to provide separate household zones. Indoor cats may have the luxury of the upstairs, while Fido’s realm is the first floor.

Another option is to set up gates so that the cat can move through various zones that the dog Carlson dog:cat gatecannot.  The picture to the left is of the Carlson 0930 Extra-wide Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door that you can get on Amazon for  $38.34 ( There are a variety of gates with pet doors on Amazon, but this picture clearly illustrates my point. The nice thing about this gate is that there is a person door as well, so that you do not have to take the gate down every time you (or Fido) want to walk through to the next room.


Cats love to get vertical. If in doubt, go up. Providing Mr. Mittens with several easy and comfortable places to get out of reach of Rover will help to increase domestic harmony. Astute reader, cat lover, and multi species person, Laura Sommers, introduced me to CatastrophiCreations on Etsy which has several wonderful solutions that allow Mr. Mittens to survey his domain from the soaring heights afforded by the living room wall (limited only by the ceiling height!). Here are a couple of my favorites from the CatastrophiCreations catalog, (or click here to go to the main shop):

1) Cat lounger with escape hatch, $78.00 The cat lounger is a heavy duty fabric hammock firmly attached to the wall by posts on either end. “Each post is very strong and reinforced with three layers of board and attach to the wall with large 4″ brackets.” Situated above the hammock is another shelf with a hole, hence the escape hatch.

2) Stylish Cat Wall Shelf w/ Stretched Fabric Raceway Lounge/Cat Bed, $38.00: What can I add, the name says it all! This is an inexpensive way to provide your cat with a place all it’s own where it can be a part of the household on its terms and at its own altitude.

CatastrophiCreations Cat Maze

CatastrophiCreations Cat Maze

3) Fabric Cat Maze, $140.00: piece has 5 wooden planks and one 18″ shelf with hole cut into it to access it from underneath. This extra-large hole is lined with sisal. The entire piece reaches 11″ away from the wall. Attaching all of the shelves is a stiff bottomweight fabric.” This piece is super for multi-cat households as it provides a safe place to play that is above canine reach and it has three places for cats to lounge about. Similar to the maze is the Deluxe Play Space ($125.00). The play space has a nifty ladder, but fewer lounging areas.

For those of you wanting to give your indoor cats a taste of the great outdoors, and keep them safe from marauding canines, you might want to consider a “Catio”. Here is a link to one that shows a great management of space  for cats and dogs.  This site also features cat enclosures that you can mount to the side of your house, so your cat can get out of doors, and you don’t have to remodel the entire outdoor living space!


Catio Window Box

” Catio Window Box

Catio Spaces in Seattle sells pre-assembled Catio Kits that come in two designs: Window Box and Garden Window which:

“can be mounted to your home’s wood siding or window trim if it is 2-3” wide and “flush frame” (flat) all the way around the window.  Or, if mounted to your siding, you are not limited to the size of your window frame as you can extend the catio length to provide more space for your cats.”

Of course, depending on where the window is located in your house, your dog may be able to stick his head inside a Catio window unit, thus violating the separation of church and state clause in their constitution. But that snafu can be eliminated if the entrance to the window box/catio is made small enough for a cat, but too large for a dog (or out of reach of small dogs). Another solution is to use a pet gate to cordon off the room with the feline garden. Consider putting a pet gate at the door to the room with the cat window even if the window opening is too small for Fido, as this insures that Mittens has an escape route and is not panicked when heading towards its exit.

Remember, the idea behind all of these systems is to reduce the stress of everyone in the household and to help promote civility between the species. If your cat doesn’t have to run to get away from the dog, and has an easy escape route (up and/or out), then your dog will have less motivation to chase the cat. However, if chaos still reigns even with the addition of a feline Taj Mahal, then I recommend that you find a good trainer or behaviorist in your area who is experienced with cats and dogs to help  you find a peaceful solution that sees to the needs of all involved.

Toy Box or stuff that doesn't fit neatly elsewhere2 comments

Cats are not small dogs.

I will not lie, I am a dog person. But, some of my best friends own cats.  And I have a grandcat named Strumpy who was rescued at 1 week of age by my older daughter (who with 3 children under the age of 5, really needs another small defenseless creature clambering for food and attention.*) I also have several clients with multi-species households. Moreover, I have come to appreciate cats for their uniqueness, which is why every year at the Midwest Veterinary Conference, I spend one full day in lectures on cat behavior.

I have learned that there are a couple of areas of cat behavior that many owners do not realize the full importance thereof, especially if they have more than one species hanging about their abode. For example, not only are cats obligate carnivores (i.e.: meat is a must in a cat’s diet. Dogs can be vegetarians, but not cats), but they need to eat every day. Dogs, believe it or not, can go up to 2 weeks without eating, but cats cannot). Therefore, if you suspect that your cat has not eaten in a day or two, consider calling or visiting your vet to be sure everything is okay with Mr. Mittens.

But, perhaps the most common frustration for cat owners is inappropriate elimination, especially since it is suppose to be easy to train your cat to use a litter box. So, why is it so many cats don’t get it? Perhaps it would be constructive to look at it from a feline rather than a human perspective.

Litter and litter boxes are a BIG deal to cats. The type, depth, and smell of the litter matters a lot as does the size, style, and cleanliness of the box. Owners like to place litter boxes in remote locations, put lids on the boxes, fill them with a shallow layer of perfumed litter, and keep the number and size of the litter box(es) to a minimum. All if this is quite understandable as no one wants their home to smell like cat poop!

Cats however, have a different perspective. They do not like the smell of poop either, but find that covered boxes keep the smell contained in such a way that it becomes very unappealing to use the box. Perfumed litters can overwhelm a cat’s sensitive nose and may cause her to reject the litter box entirely.Bella3

Cats like to dig and scratch in the box and bury their litter, and they do not like to have their urine pool at their feet. So if the litter isn’t deep enough they will find someplace that better suits their needs. They are also particular about the type of litter they use. Sandy, clumping litters that allow them to dig and bury their duty are popular with most felines.

Cats prefer litter boxes that are accessible and tidy. Put the box somewhere that the cat can get to easily and feel safe that nothing is going to spring out at it (like a dog coming thru a dog door), or make a sudden noise (such as stereos, dishwashers, washing machines). Being startled too many times next to the litter box is a surefire way to convince your cat it is a bad place to be. (Think about how you feel when someone barges in on you in the loo!) If possible, clean the box twice a day to keep the odor at a reasonable level for both of you. (When I pet sat, I cleaned litter boxes at every visit because it reduced the stress the cat felt at having a stranger in the house.) Another way to make sure there are clean facilities available is to have a litter box for each cat, plus one. So, if you have three cats, you ought to be thinking about four litter boxes.
EmmyOne final thing to consider is the size of the box, if your cat is constantly missing the box,  it might just be too small for him! Ideally the box should be 1 1/2 times the length of your cat from the tip of the nose to the tip of his tail. For example, if your cat measures 18” from nose to tail, the litter box should be 27” long.
Following these guidelines should help to reduce or stop inappropriate feline elimination. If you continue to have problems, you may want to consider contacting Dr. Meghan Herron, veterinary animal behaviorist at The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Herron can help to diagnosis and treat your cat’s behavioral problems. See for more information.

*Strumpy, needing to eat every 2 hours, was an impromptu guest at the wedding and reception of my younger daughter. Many thanks to Lydia Hill, my assistant trainer, and her husband John for aiding us in keeping Strumpers fed and happy throughout the day.

Toy Box or stuff that doesn't fit neatly elsewhere2 comments

The Best Deal on the Planet

Rebel in the garden.

As a trainer I am often asked such questions as: “How do I get him to come?” “At what age should I start training? “How do you stop him from jumping on my kids?” and “How do you know when to let go?”

The answers, in order for the first three, are: 1) Reward him heavily when he comes to you and never punish him for coming; 2) It’s never too early (or late) to start training (we start the day the dog comes home); 3) Prevent him from jumping in the first place and train an incompatible behavior.

The fourth is, without a doubt, the most difficult and there is no magic formula for knowing when to say goodbye to your beloved pet. But, I do have some suggestions that might help you to make the right decision at the right time.

1. Build a close relationship with your pet and trust your instincts.
As those of you who are my training clients know, I have a 3 part training program, the second part of which is Relationship. Building a relationship with your dog based on co-operation and trust will help you not only in training but in knowing intimately your pet and his needs, wants, and quirks. It will aid you in knowing when your dog is in pain or discomfort and when or what sort of relief he may need.

This week our faithful Golden Retriever, Hudson, passed away peacefully and surrounded by his people. Of the many dogs we have loved in the course of 33 years of marriage, this is only the second one who died naturally. The others we had to make the hard decision to euthanize. A few years ago our old dog Rebel’s motor co-ordination began to deteriorate rapidly. We headed to the vet and decided that because he was not in pain, we would put him on prednizone to try and stabilize the condition so that our older daughter Ellie could get home from college to see him.

The steroid improved his condition temporarily and Ellie got to spend a few days with him while he was cognicent. He lost the ability to walk, but we carried him and repositioned him when he needed it. He ate popcorn while we trimmed the Christmas tree and the retrievers tag-teamed being with him. As long as he showed interest in life, was eating and not in pain we were unwilling to put him down, despite having to carry him everywhere and manage his incontinence.  When one night brought violent seizures and the next morning he could not eat or drink, we knew that the time had come to put him to sleep so he would no longer suffer. We knew when it wasn’t time, and we knew when it was, primarily because the relationship we built with him helped us to know and trust one another.


Hudson just had to hold things!

2. Find a way for everyone in the family to participate in his care.
One thing that I think comes from this mutual trust is an understanding that we humans have a stake in the relationship as well. Rebel was Ellie’s and my husband Brad’s special dog. I felt it was important for Ellie to have a chance to be with her dog and say goodbye in an unhurried fashion and Brad dedicated himself to Rebel’s care during his last two weeks of life. Hudson was Emma’s beloved retriever and she and her new husband, Thomas, took the lead in making decisions about Huddy when they arrived back from their honeymoon. I would strongly encourage any parent or spouse to try and find a way for each member of the family to care for or attend to an ill or dying pet, so that each person who loves the dog has a concrete way to say goodbye and to know they contributed to the greater good of their pet. It will make your dog’s passing easier on all involved.

3. Work with your vet.
I have nothing but gratitude and praise for Dr. Chad Herrick and the staff at Northtowne Animal Clinic. Dr. Herrick understood the severity of our dogs’ conditions, as well as our need to keep Rebel comfortable, our hope in managing Hudson’s pneumonia and kidney disease, and our desire to do what was best for all involved. He not only clearly explained to us each situation, but trusted we would do what was right for us and for our dog and supported us through the whole process. Building a good relationship with your vet will give you another valuable asset to help you with tough decisions.

4. Resources.
Helping your children deal with the loss of a pet is hard, and you will likely find yourself having several difficult discussions with your children about it. Chapter 10 (Saying Goodbye: Life without Your Dog) of Colleen Pelar’s book “Living with Kids and Dogs…with out Losing Your Mind” has good advice and valuable resources to help you work through this loss with your children.

“Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant, is a wonderful book for kids and adults. Ms. Rylant obviously has a deep understanding and love of dogs and her book is a comfort and joy for all of us who have loved and lost a dog.

One last thought….dogs are amazing creatures. I don’t know about cats, birds, bunnies, horses, or other animals that share our lives, but I do know that most dogs readily give us their entire hearts and in exchange they ask only for a small corner in ours. And that is probably the best deal on the planet. So, in memory of Rebel, Hudson, and all the wonderful dogs who have populated my life, I would ask you to look into the eyes of your favorite canine and say thanks for the gift of unconditional love.


Bingley, Rebel, and Hudson.

Care and management or living together in harmony4 comments

To pee or not to pee…inside…

Guilty as charged?

Guilty as charged?

House Training: the bane of all new dog owners!

  • For all dogs, but especially for small dogs such as Puddles the Peek-a-poo, house training is a big issue. But, it doesn’t have to be the breaking point for you and Puddles if you follow these basic principles:

1) choose a place outside where you want Puddles to potty;
2) reduce the possibility that Puddles will piddle in the wrong place;
3) ignore mistakes; and
4) reward heavily when Puddly-poo is successful.

And please note: punishing Puddles for inappropriate piddling won’t solve the problem. Rather, management is the key to setting any dog up for successful house training! Here are some basic management techniques that will make your life easier and help Puddles make good decisions.*

  1.  While training Puddles to go outside it is important to reduce as much as possible the opportunities for mistakes. Do not leave Puddles unsupervised until you are sure he is asking to go out on a consistent basis. (My rule of thumb is 3 weeks without an accident).
  2.  If you cannot supervise Puddles, have him in a crate with a Kong, chewy, or anything that will keep him happy and occupied in the crate.
  3.  When Puddles is with you, have him on a leash that is tethered to you or a piece of furniture near you so that you can keep an eye on him and get him outside when he shows signs of needing to eliminate. When Puddles does start to act as if he needs to potty, take him outside on his leash so that you have control over where he goes and he can’t just wander off.
  4.  Keep in mind that dogs’ bladders tend to “wake-up” during transitions between activities, such as, the transition from playing to not-playing, eating to not-eating, sleeping to waking, etc. When Puddles transitions, snap a leash on him and take him outside immediately. If he does not potty in 5 minutes, put him in a crate and wait 10 minutes. Take him out again, leash him, and lead him outside. Repeat this 5-minutes-on-10-minutes in crate pattern until Puddles piddles. Then reward him with treats, praise, and play.
  5.  If Puddles starts to eliminate and you can catch him, interrupt the process with a “Whoopsie!”, and get him outside as fast as you can. Even if he only passes a small amount of urine or feces, reward him heavily for going in the right place.
  6.  If you find an “accident” just clean it up and keep trying!


61_dog_peeing on mailbox

Puddles and Pee-wee go postal!

*For information on how to get your dog to tell you he needs to go outside, check out this Sept. 2013 blog post: 

House Training Informational or Doggie Demographics Training or "Why, Why, WHY?" Your new dog or puppy0 comments

Zen dogs

One of the reasons people have dogs is because they love it when their dogs curl up next to them in the evenings while they read or watch TV. This doggie ambiance doesn’t have to be something that happens by chance, but can become an integral part of your dog’s routine. Here are some suggestions for creating a Zen dog that I have gathered over the years from experience and other trainers.

1) Exercise! How much exercise does your dog get? A healthy adult dog needs about 1/2 hour of hard 54_dog_chasing ballsaerobic exercise each day. (By this I mean running after balls, dogs, etc., not a 1/2 hour stroll around the neighborhood). Remember: a tired dog is a well behaved dog! I have one dog asleep in the chair next to me, one in his bed, and one at my husband’s feet sound asleep because we took them for a 45 minute run through the woods (which included swimming in a pond, chasing after each other and after sticks, and gathering approximately a quarter ton of burrs…). Besides, playing with your dog is fun for both of you. So get out there and move!

2) Aroma Therapy works on dogs too! A few drops of lavender oil between your dog’s shoulder blades can be very calming. You can also sprinkle a few drops on his blanket or bed in the room where you hang out and watch TV, or use an essential oil diffuser to help everyone in the room chill out! Another relaxing essential oil is peppermint. Put some on a cotton ball and dab it onto the pads of your dog’s paws. Most health food stores have good essential oils (as well as diffusers), or contact me if you are interested in Doterra oils.

3) High quality food. Dogs with poor diets can show ADHD-like behavior. There are many high-quality foods on the market made with real meat, vegetables, and starches other than corn.* There are also several grain-free, or limited ingredient foods available for dogs with food sensitivities or allergies. The hardest question is not where to find it, but what to choose! Here in Granville we are blessed with two stores that stock premium dog foods: Village Pet Market (740-587-3656) and Bath & Biscuits (740-587-0011). I can, with good conscience, recommend any food that either of these stores offer, and the owners are great at helping you to choose the best food for your dog. If you want to learn more about choosing a good food, check out The Whole Dog Journal.

4) Teach your dog to relaxI got this idea from Colleen Pelar on her Living with Kids and Dogs website:

Sue Sternberg of Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption deserves the credit for this idea. It’s one of my favorites for calming dogs down. Start in a small, quiet room. Be boring. Just sit and read a magazine while paying peripheral 37_dog_dreamingofrunningattention to your dog. When he finally lies down, click and throw him a treat. Yes, that will cause him to come running over to you in the hopes of some interaction. Nope, sorry. You are too busy reading your magazine. Soon he’ll go lie down again. Click and throw him a treat. Gradually, your dog will learn that you really like when he is still. Be sure to keep rewarding him the longer he’s quiet. The more effort you spend on training this, the less you’ll have to do it over the course of the dog’s life.


5) Through a Dog’s Ear Music. This music is designed to sooth the savage beast and promote a canine meditative state of being. There are 3 volumes (though I have only used Volume 1) and you can find them at:

This can be used in the car, post surgery, while your dog is crated and you are out of the house, while you sit and read, basically whenever you want to promote calm and quiet behavior. Beware, however, it has been known to put humans to sleep as well!
*Corn is not easily digestible, is low in nutrition, is used as a filler in dog food, and many dogs can have allergies to it. And, in some dogs it acts like sugar in a toddler!


Care and management or living together in harmony0 comments

Updates and other things of utmost importance…

Bingley contemplates tick removal devices.

Bingley contemplates tick removal devices.

I promised in my May 19th post Fleas, ticks, and pests, oh my!  that as soon as I had the opportunity to use my new flea removal instruments I would let you all know how they worked. Well yesterday I had the opportunity to remove a large tick from the base of Bingley’s tail using the Tick Lasso, and it worked just as promised! It was easy, painless for Bingley, quick, and removed the entire tick (head and all). I heartily recommend it! Since he only had one tick, I was not able to use the tick Key, but I will let you know how that goes when the time comes.

On other fronts, Reisner Veterinary Behavior and Consulting Services (if you haven’t “liked” them on Facebook, take a minute, click on the link above, and do so now!) posted this Tuesday’s Pearl:

Tuesday’s Pearl: Socialization is often pushed too hard onto worried dogs.

If you live with a worried dog, taking her to public places to ‘socialize’ her is not necessarily a positive experience – for either of you. This is most often a problem with newly adopted young adult dogs whose backgrounds are unknown, but applies to anxious puppies as well.

The post goes onto list several drawbacks to socializing timid dogs without giving due diligence to their special needs. Here is a summary of those drawbacks: (check out the complete post here)

Quiet dogs need time and space to get use to new things.

Quiet dogs need time and space to get use to new things.

1. Anytime the social or physical environment is unpredictable, you’re taking a risk that your dog will be startled or frightened…

2. As an extension of #1, it’s not possible to control what other people do in public spaces. Those unfamiliar people may come too close, too quickly or touch and interact with your dog inappropriately…

3. An anxious dog needs to move towards confidence at her own pace… (check out my blog about forced novelty: Beware of Cement Pigs)

4. A worried dog is always at risk of biting the person/animal who worries them – and those triggers of fear-related aggression can be very subtle. Don’t set your dog up for failure by forcing interactions…(check out my blog: Stand Back Earthing! for more suggestions on helping your shy dog).

In other words, don’t force your sensitive dog to be a social butterfly and put him into a situation that will overwhelm, rather than encourage him. Rather, accommodating your dog’s limits will do more to build his confidence, then will forcing an uncomfortable or scary (for him) encounter upon your dog.

One last thought: remember that all obedience training is about impulse control!  We are striving to help our puppies learn that calm, controlled behavior is the best choice they can make. So, if you want Sit! to be your dog’s go-to behavior when he doesn’t know what else to do,  practice it in a variety of places, times, situations, and with diverse distractions so that controlling his impulse to surge ahead or jump on guests is second nature.


SIt is good!

SIt is good!

Behavior or "What the heck?" Dog products, training aids, recipes, instructions, etc. General Informational or Doggie Demographics Your new dog or puppy0 comments

Stop, Look, and Listen!

If I were to do a survey of the most common canine issues, one of the top five* would be “I want my dog to stop pulling on walks.” Here are some suggestions that we have used in class that can help you to be more successful walking your dog on lead.

Exercising before a walk helps to keep your dog calm on lead.

Exercising before a walk helps to keep your dog calm on lead.

1) Exercise your dog first.
Take Pumbles out in the yard and play chase, or fetch or some other aerobic activity for 15 minutes before you put her leash on. If she is a bit tired or has gotten the willies out first, then she will be more likely to settle into walking nicely on lead.
2) Keep your walks short.
Begin with 15 minutes or less. I would much rather have you take three 15 minute walks rather than one 45 minute walk as this gives you good practice at being on lead, but is short enough to be fun and successful for both of you.
3) Start by walking short distances.
Walk (15-20 feet) then stop, have her sit at side, give her a treat, and then say “Let’s go” and move another 15-20 feet, stop sit, repeat. By having you stop and sit frequently to start, your dog is set up to be successful because you are only going a short distance before you reset. Then, as Pumbles begins to check in more, pay more attention to you, etc, you can begin to increase the distance between sits, until you are hardly stopping at all!
4) Speed. 
It is easier for your dog not to pull if you walk faster! A dog’s natural gate is a trot, equivalent to a fast walk in humans. It is more comfortable for her than walking or running and is easier for her to settle in to. If you speed up, your dog won’t feel the need to surge ahead of you because you’re right there with her. You can also use speed as a reward or as a tool to get out of sticky situations. For example, the use of speed as a reward may look something like this:
  1. Pumbles gets distracted.
  2. I call Pumble’s name and back up a few steps to encourage Pumbles to move towards me.
  3. Pumbles comes towards me.
  4. I turn so that we face the same way and I speed up for a few steps to make it rewarding and fun for her to walk with me.
  5. 6-7 steps later, Pumbles gets a treat.
Voila! I have rewarded and engaged Pumbles with the use of speed and I have rewarded her staying with me with a well timed food treat.
Stop and have your dog check in with you.

Stop and have your dog check in with you.

5) Stop.
If you feel as though you or your dog are about to lose it stop. Collect yourself. Get situated. Do a sit, a down, whatever you can think of to get your dog refocused before you continue. I would rather you stop and collect and settle yourself than continue walking and allow all heck to break loose as the 2 of you become more and more frustrated and discouraged!
6) Use a lure.
If you really need to get somewhere but loose lead walking is not in the picture, get a fistful of treats, put  it right at your dog’s nose, and lead her where you need to go. It’s better that you lure her somewhere and avoid practicing bad behavior than to give up and let her pull or allow yourself to become frustrated!
7) Above all: No violence on the leash. Ever.
If you use jerking, pulling, or tension, to get what you want, then your dog will also use jerking, pulling, and tension to get what she wants. Set the standard and be the example to your dog of how to behave on the leash and what is expected. The calmer you are on the leash, the less stress you are sending down the leash for Pumbles to pick up on and respond to.  The more stressed you are, the more stressed she will get. It’s like static on a telephone line: You can’t hear anything, and you can’t send a clear message. So keep it static free and only send the communication you want your dog to have, namely, calmness, peace, rationality, and good decision making.

* The other four would probably be jumps on people, won’t come when called (or won’t listen in general), barks too much, and is too mouthy.

Loose Lead Walking Training or "Why, Why, WHY?"2 comments