Mar 6

Ruth & RustyWow, I can’t believe that it’s been 20 years since I jumped into the world of pet training.
I’ve been lucky to enjoy the last 15 of those years as a self-employed pet trainer/behaviorist.  I’ve met countless amazing dogs, cats & people along the way.  The true blessing is that they’ve all (humans & animals, alike) been my teachers & inspirations.  But, it’s time for a change.  I’m taking a break from training to follow my heart in a different direction:  writing for my new site, The Soulful Pet.

The Soulful Pet is a creative outlet where I can explore & celebrate the bonds we share with our pets.
Pet guardians know that a life well-lived with animals is a unique one.  Pets are family members.  We learn from them, share with them, care for them, & cry for them.  Of course, we hope that their lives are enriched thru these bonds, as well.

As a writer, trainer/behaviorist, & pet guardian/advocate, I am excited about the endless possibilities of The Soulful Pet.
I hope you’ll join me to create a community where we can share what we love about life with animals, on both the site & the FB page.  I’ll cover all aspects of this sweet lifestyle:  Foodie topics (recalls, recipes, healthy ingredients); product recommendations; social issues & commentary; pup culture; recommended reading (blogs & books); insights & inspirations; entertainment; and much more.  I also hope to spotlight special people who do great work with animals, as well as animals in need.  I’ll invite guest bloggers to tell their stories about how their lives have been touched by animals.

I did consider that there are countless blogs about people & pets.
But that’s a good thing.  The more, the merrier, I say.  It’s a group swim, and I’m jumping in to add my voice to the convo.  What’s changed?  I won’t be writing about the step-by-steps &  how-tos anymore.  They’re important, but talented others, whose works I’ll highlight, quite ably handle those.  Instead, I’ll focus on helping folks understand their pets better by relating to them on a more equal level:  We all share the same world & similar experiences.  If it affects you, it affects your pet – and vice versa.  If you see your pet thru your own experiences, you’re more empathetic.  (I’m keenly aware that we are different species.  Pets are not people, and I honor & cherish those differences.)  Empathy creates understanding, compassion & patience.  In turn, an enlightened human is a better teacher, companion & guardian for a pet.  If an enlightened human pays very close attention, she’ll learn about herself thru her pets.  It flows both ways, folks.

What else makes my voice worth adding to the convo?
In the last year,  I’ve learned that I need to listen to my heart more.  In doing that, I realized that I was ready for something new.  My journey will inform my writing.  In a way, The Soulful Pet is an integration of my spirit & my work that I’m sharing with you.  It will be different:  personal, honest & opinionated, non-PC, quirky-funny, philosophical, possibly political, random & heartfelt.   Dare I say, “smartly soulful”?

The Soulful Pet is an opportunity for all of us to thank & celebrate the animals in our lives.
Let’s collectively spread the word that understanding, compassion and a positive training approach enrich & save lives.  Along the way, we’ll laugh, cry & learn together, from each other.  I’m hoping for many moments where we find ourselves saying, “Huh, I never thought about it that way before.”  Or, “I can’t wait to try that!”   Hmmm……  Does that make me your critter-life coach?  Or you mine?  Or are our pets ultimately our best life guides?  So much to explore!


PS – My little muse, Rusty, will be hanging out with me on The Soulful Pet.  He’s relieved of his duties @ Rusty’s Dog Blog for now.  I’m thrilled to have him as my teacher & friend.  Join us there, won’t you?  Woofs & hugs from us to you!

© 2013 Critter Consulting

Aug 11

Hey, we know you’re busy.  Whether it’s summer activities, back-to-school prep, or hectic holidays —– life happens.     You put pet training on the back burner because it’s just one more thing on your overflowing, overwhelming to-do list.  You’ll get to it later.  Besides, how on Earth could you possibly divide up your attention & time any further?

Take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee and spend 10 minutes with this post.  (You have 10 minutes, don’t you?)  Our short training tip list is designed to easily slip into your on-the-go lifestyle.  You’ll see immediate improvement in your relationship with your dog (or cat).  And that might inspire you to fit a little more in each day, right?  Read on……

  • Pick 3 training goals.  Write them down & go public:  Post your list in a prominent place.  (Isn’t that what your frig is for?)  Be realistic & specific about your goals.  Tell housemates about the list.  If they want to help, involve them in the list-making process, and/or share the items so that each person has only 1 or 2 goals to reach.  Studies show that you’re more likely to achieve goals if you put them in writing, tell others about them, and make it a group effort.  It works for keeping resolutions like weight loss, so why not dog training?
  • Notice & reward the good stuff.  The happy truth is that Pup offers desired behaviors more than unwanted ones.  Human nature drives us to focus on the unpleasant.  Ironically, responding to “misbehavior” usually reinforces it.  Frustrating, right?  So switch gears & try a new approach.  Put some of your dog’s daily kibble allotment in your pocket @ the start of each day.  (Really, just do it.)  Consider your list & what you’d like to see more of in the future:  not jumping, quiet rather than barking, focus on you, calmly relaxing on a bed, etc.  You get the idea.  The instant Pup does any of these on her own, praise & treat!  (Or click & treat if you’re clicker training.  Got another 10 minutes?  Watch this tutorial.)  Pup will eagerly repeat whatever made you happily produce pocket-goodies.  Trust us:  If you have kibble in your pocket (or a pouch), you’re more likely to notice when Pup’s an angel, your reward timing will be amazing, & Pup will learn faster.  Think of yourself as a canine slot machine.  She’ll play your game in hopes of your payoff!
  • Set Pup up to succeed.  Prevention & exercise are key to success.  Prevent when you can’t train so you make more progress when you can train.  Baby gates; crates; supervised, indoor-only leash dragging; chewies & food-dispensing toys as distractions – all help immensely.  Prevent today’s unwanted behaviors so they don’t become tomorrow’s hard-to-break bad habits.  Think puppy-proofing.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Exercise Pup routinely & adequately.  Dog-to-dog play is a great mind & body energy outlet, for example.  A happily-tired pooch is truly a better-behaved pooch.  You’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Pup’s more likely to contentedly rest @ home than to challenge boundaries.  Voila!  Human stress-buster & time-saver!
  • Slip training into your routine.  It’s simple:  Ask Pup to do a command or trick before she gets things she wants.  So if a great recall (“come”) is on your list, for example, call Pup to you for fun things like leash-ons, doors opened, meals, games, etc.  You were going to do these things anyway, so take an extra second to train.  Pup will love it.  She’ll be highly motivated & focused because she’s working to get things she really wants.  Instant canine connection & confidence booster!
  • Mix it up to keep it fun.  Variety truly is the spice of life for people & pets.  Vary your commands to keep Pup guessing.  That ups your “watchability” factor.  Vary training locations so Pup listens to you wherever you are.  Vary the people who work with Pup so she listens to whoever she’s with.  (Why not trade training items from your frig list every week?)  Training fails when boredom set in.  Try incorporating game play into your routine:  Why not have Pup “sit-stay” before you release her to “find” her meal, or maybe her leash before a walk?  Are you gardening today?  Take a break & call Pup to “come” as you run away from her.  Or call her to “come” back & forth between family members while you soak up the sun.  Play these games on your away-from-home outings, too – @ a park or a friend’s house.  We love Pat Miller’s book, “Play with Your Dog” for more boredom-busting game ideas.  Bonus:  It’s a great summer read, loaded with ideas for rainy-day play!

So our time’s up, and we know you have to go.  Consider our tips.  If all goes well, and you find training time you didn’t think you had in your day – fabulous!  It’s more doable than you thought.  Maybe add a few new items to that list on your frig.  By year’s end, you’ll reflect on your terrific progress.  Best of all:  You & Pup will be better friends.

We wish you & your pets a playful, wonderful rest-of-the-summer!

“Feels like Home” from Roberto Musicorio.

Related posts & pages:

Are you catching us between posts?  Visit us on our Facebook page.

We update it daily with all the latest & best in recalls & other pet-related news; behavior/training tips; & entertainment.  Join us there to laugh & learn.  Stop by & share how you & your pets are spending your summer.  We’d love to see your ideas, pictures & videos.  Keep cool!

© 2012 Critter Consulting

Jun 12

We love Kongs.  But we have a Kong conundrum:  They are beloved, classic toys with a million and one uses.  Yet, they are THE toys that our clients complain about the most.  We know that’s partially because Kongs are so popular that nearly every dog guardian has one.  But the main complaint is, “My dog won’t play with it.”  So, we’re writing this post to help you & your dogs love your Kongs again!

Very young puppies will play with almost anything.  They especially love Kongs because they bounce & roll unpredictably.  But as Pup grows, she might ignore any toy that remains stationary, read as boring.  Think about it:  Why do dogs love tennis balls?  Because they interact with you via the ball.  If you put the Kong on the floor & never touch it again, your dog won’t either.  Try turning your Kong into a more interactive toy:  Play fetch with it!

If Pup isn’t impressed by a game of Kong fetch, don’t despair.  Pick the Kong up & put it away.  This recreates it’s novelty value so that the next time you bring it out, you’ll peak Pup’s interest.  A word of warning, though:  A naked Kong that’s been ignored by a dog, even as a fetch toy, is likely to be ignored again.  So don’t reintroduce pup to her Kong until you’ve dressed it up a bit.  How?  Stuff it!

There are endless ways to stuff a Kong and countless benefits from doing it.  Let’s start with the benefits.  Dogs who forage for food from Kongs eat slower, which is healthier for them.  Feeding Pup meals or nutritional snacks from multiple Kongs improves her behavior & builds her confidence, too.  Give Pup her fave food in a Kong before you leave her alone or before/during thunderstorms or fireworks, for example.  Occupy Pup with a Kong when you have guests, on rainy days, or in the evening when you want to unwind.  Use food-filled Kongs to help Pup like her crate or to prevent destructive chewing.  You get the idea.

We’re often asked:  “But isn’t it cruel & frustrating for my dog?”  Not if you present it as a toy with goodies inside, cheering Pup on as she works to empty it.  Dogs are natural foragers & problem solvers.  If given a fun task, involving her nose,  Pup’s confidence can blossom.  But set her up to succeed & enjoy it.  Only gradually increase the Kong’s degree of difficulty as Pup masters the previous, easier-to-empty stuffing style.  Minimize frustration to maximize persistence!

We found a few videos that nicely illustrate the art of Kong stuffing, keeping Pup’s level of expertise in mind.

For the beginner, hesitant or easily distracted dog:

For problem-solving, persistent Pups who’ve mastered simple Kong stuffings:

(Much thanks to eileenanddogs for the above videos!)

One more video that we love.  Rick Woodford, aka “The Dog Food Dude”, focuses on a healthy homemade, low-fat stuffing that’s better for Pup than gobs of peanut butter & cheese.  Check out his quick, easy recipe.  (We also like Rick’s recipe book, “Feed Your Best Friend Better”.)  Bonus tip:  Did you know that Kongs are dishwasher safe?  Awesome!

Related posts & pages:

For summer, puppy adopters & Dad’s Day!

Are you catching us between posts?  Visit us on our Facebook page.

We update it daily with all the latest & best in recalls & other pet-related news; behavior/training tips; & entertainment.  Join us there to laugh & learn.  Stop by & share how you & your pets are enjoying the sun & celebrating Dad’s Day.  We’d love to see your ideas, pictures & videos.  Keep cool!

© 2012 Critter Consulting

Mar 21

This post is purely for fun because it’s our favorite season.

We think the happy little dogs in our video collection capture the joy of spring perfectly.

 Woohoo, woofs & wags!




The cutest happy-dance ever, Boston terrier style:


How much happiness can a squeaky toy create?  Ask Andy!



This canine classic puts a smile on our faces every time.  Happy spring!


Related posts:

Are you catching us between posts?  Visit us on our Facebook page.

We update it daily with all the latest & best in pet-related news; behavior/training tips; & entertainment.  Join us there to laugh & learn.  Stop by & share how you’re welcoming spring with your pets.  We’d love to see your ideas, pictures & videos.  Let’s celebrate together!

© 2012 Critter Consulting

Feb 23

Psssst…. Can you feel it?  Spring’s just around the corner!

We just had to share this spring-fever-inspired, pet-friendly list of ideas to welcome our fave season:

  • Keep Kitty fit & entertained, whether she’s outdoor enjoying the delightful weather, or she’s indoor-only.  Check out our post:  “Let’s Play!”
  • Spring brings puppies & kittens!  If you’re considering adopting a pet of any age, ask us for help, proactively.  We’ll guide you in choosing the right pet for you & your family.  If you just adopted a pet (of any age), we’ll help the transition go smoothly for all, including resident pets.  Watch the lovely video, “To everyone who loves dogs“, from our post on the spirit of adoption.  Start training now to enjoy the rest of your year with a happy, well-mannered furry family member!
  • Our past spring posts are packed with sweet videos & helpful seasonal safety tips.  We’ve covered gardening with pets, Easter safety tips, spring cleaning, avoiding tick bites, flea prevention, skunk season,  & swimming dogs.  Whew!
  • ‘Tis the season for road trips!  Visit three of our fave pet-travel blogs:  Dog Jaunt is for folks traveling with small dogs.  DogTrekker finds the “best places in Northern California for you and your pup to stay, eat, hike, swim and play”.  Go Pet Friendly personalizes your trip according to your destination, number of people, and number/type/size of pets.  Use their road trip planner to locate pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, camping & activities along your route.  Brilliant!

Speaking of road trips, we took an epic one up the northern CA coast for some R&R with our pal, Rusty.  (He blogged about it.)  Enjoy this adorable, spring-like scene that we encountered along the way.  Warning:  Our spring fever is contagious!

Are you catching us between posts? Visit us on our Facebook page.

We update it daily with all the latest & best in pet-related news & entertainment. Join us there to laugh & learn.  Stop by & share how you’re welcoming spring with your pets.  We’d love to see your ideas, pictures & videos.  Let’s celebrate together!

© 2012 Critter Consulting

Feb 2

Valentine’s Day has us thinking about all the animals we’ve loved. 

We’d like to share an article inspired by Charlie, the most amazing cat we’ve ever met.  He came to us as a sickly stray, and moved right into our home & hearts with pure grace.  Keep in mind that it was a full house with 2 other cats and a dog.  So perhaps “grace” is an understatement of the ease with which Charlie joined our family.  Anyway, we felt so blessed to have Charlie in our lives that we wrote about the joys of adopting an adult cat in this article.

And, as always, we’re so grateful to have our miniature poodle, Rusty, in our lives.  He’s another example of how wonderful it can be to adopt an adult pet.  He’s been blogging about it since he came to live with us.  Check out Rusty’s Dog Blog!

Visit your local shelter or rescue. Lots of loving dogs & cats are just waiting to charm their way into your home. We can help your adoptions go smoothly.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you & your pets (even the prickly ones!)

Are you catching us between posts?  Visit us on our Facebook page.

We update it daily with all the latest & best in pet-related news & entertainment.  Join us there to laugh & learn.  Plus, you’re welcome to post pics on our page of your adopted Valentines – anytime!

© 2012 Critter Consulting

Jan 30

True confessions time ….  How are those pesky resolutions really going for you?

Now’s the time of year when our good intentions start to fall by the wayside.

Allow us to re-inspire you with this post.   Instead of thinking about your goals as resolutions, consider them to be “lifestyle goals”.  We quit resolutions if we haven’t reached them by January 31.  Don’t give up!  Instead, gradually incorporate your goals into your life so they’re doable & fun.  Ask others to join you to hold you accountable.  For example, if one of your goals was to get moving, let your pet be your personal trainer.  One look @ that adorable face will remind you to get up & walk, run or play.  Just get going, and you’ll be rewarded with personal satisfaction, as well as all the wags & purrs you can stand!

A few fave articles, posts & pages to get you started (again) on the right paw:

  • “Let’s Play!” – Feeling stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Got the blues?  If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then your cat probably can, too.  We have the solution for both of you:  Dust off those cat toys & get busy playing!  (Bonus:  A tired Kitty is less stressed & better behaved.)
  • “7 Resolutions your pet can help you reach”
  • “New year?  New training goals!” – Combine exercise & training to improve mind & body.  We can help you improve Pup’s leash manners & training to get you both going!
  • “A new kind of resolution” – Don’t have a dog?  Why not volunteer with your local shelter or rescue as a dog walker?  Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your mutt match!  (Plus, we list lots of other ways you can feel good while making a difference.)
  • Our toy recommendations – for your dog and your cat.
  • “I workout!” – Our poodle pal, Rusty’s post is loaded with inspiration!

Most importantly, have fun!

And do it with a sense of humor!

© 2012 Critter Consulting

Jan 25

We’re so excited about the year to come!  What exactly gets us wagging & barking for joy?  We love bringing pets & their human guardians together via positive training.  We live for those “light bulb” moments where guardians suddenly understand where their pets are coming from & why they do what they do.  And the “ah-ha” moment crossing a dog’s or cat’s face when they finally get what their people have been trying to teach them all along?  It’s priceless.  Essentially, we bridge communication gaps between species to improve relationships.  Along the way, we meet and learn from amazing animals & people every day.

Want to get started on the right paw with your pet this year?  Why wait?  We’d love to hear from you!  We help people have happy, well mannered dogs & cats.  Got a  new puppy?  Or an older dog that needs to learn new tricks?  Is Kitty stressed?  We work with all ages, breeds, and issues via in-home consultations in Sonoma County.

As always, we’ll continue to inform & entertain via this site, our Facebook page, our newsletter, and Rusty’s Dog Blog.  After all, it’s much more fun to learn when you’re laughing.  So dig in & stay in touch.  Woofs & wags to you & your pets!

Related posts:

© 2012 Critter Consulting

Nov 22

We’re looking forward to spending the holidays with close friends, family & lots of great food!
We’re so grateful for all the wonderful people & animals in our lives.  Our clients are amazing in their dedication to & love for their furry family members.  It’s such a pleasure to do what we do!

Speaking of great food…..  Our clients often ask what they should be feeding their pets.
Our answer is simply:  Feed your pets the best food that you can because they’ll live longer, healthier & happier lives.  What constitutes a high quality diet?  Choose a grain-free, moisture-rich diet packed with protein that your pet’s body can use without metabolic stress.  Watch as one of our fave veterinarian bloggers, Karen Becker, describes your non-kibble options.  Keep in mind that the best diet is one that fits these criteria; is doable for you; & helps your pet thrive, as an individual with unique dietary needs!

Foodie goodness aside, what else are we thankful for this holiday season?

We owe a huge “thank you!” to everyone who selfishly helps animals on a daily basis.  Whether you work or volunteer @ a shelter/rescue; work @ a veterinary hospital; or have adopted/fostered strays or orphaned animals – – – – You make a huge difference!  Touching human & animal lives truly captures the holiday spirit.

Thank you for all you do!

Wishing you wonderful holidays & a Happy New Year!

Related posts & pages:

© 2011 Critter Consulting

Nov 8

We’re taking a brief break between posts.  In the meantime, you can catch up with us on Facebook.  We update our page daily with timely, educational & fun info for pet guardians.  We’d love to see you there!  And, if you need help with your pet’s behavior & training, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  

We do have a purrfect excuse for our paws between posts:

Related posts:

© 2011 Critter Consulting

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