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!

Ruth

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.

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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

May 9

Are you hitting the road with Pup?  Make it fun & safe:  Dogs should definitely ride inside!

When it comes to traveling with Fido, everyone has their personal preferences regarding seating arrangements & gear.  Whatever setup you choose, it should fit a simple criteria:  Pup should be secure in the back seat, so she can relax & not be a distraction to the driver.  We’ve heard horror stories about pets riding freely in front seats or on laps.  One that comes to mind happened to a client of ours who was driving with her little dog loose in the front passenger seat.  She had to hit the brakes to avoid rear-ending a car that stopped suddenly in front of her.  The abrupt stop propelled her dog under the brake pedal.  As a result, she did hit the car in front of her.  Thankfully, she & her dog are fine.  But a valuable lesson was learned.

What system & gear should you choose?  That depends upon your dog’s preference & size.  In general, if being able to see outside of the car relaxes Pup, consider a barrier between the front & back seats, a doggie car seat, or a tether system.  If the view out the window makes Pup anxious, let her ride in a crate.  Here are a few of our favorite products for canine car trips:

  • Car seat & harness (for little dogs) – Make sure it’s the right height for your dog and that it can be belted into the back seat.  Of course, it should also include an attachment for your dog’s harness.  By the way, many of the items in our list are harness-based.  So get Pup a comfy, padded harness, and help her acclimate to it on walks or supervised @ home.  That way she can relax while wearing it in the car.  For small dogs, we like soft neoprene harnesses, like Puppia or Cloud.  (The Cloud harness is shown in the video, below.)  Our Rusty showed off his car seat, which admittedly was a worthwhile splurge.  We chose it for its height, soft sides (chin rests), and the cover’s wash-ability.
  • Harness & tether (for larger dogs) – As mentioned above, get a padded one and acclimate Pup to it ahead of time.  We like the Bergan seatbelt harness (tether included).  If Pup already has a comfy harness, tether her to a seatbelt with the Ultimate Seat Leash.  It fastens to any seat belt & adjusts from 16″ to 24″.
  • Front seat barriers To keep Pup in the back seat if she’s not tethered.  The Screen Barrier covers more space between front seats & is “claw-proof”.  The Kurgo barrier also allows Pup to see through it.  These options are pricier, but they’re well-made.  If Pup relaxes best when she can see through the barrier, then these are for you.  If Pup doesn’t mind a barrier that blocks her vision, consider the more affordable Kyjen Outward Hound barrier.
  • Backseat slings or hammocks – Want a safe alternative to tethering?  These seat covers prevent Pup from falling onto the floor behind the front seat.  They also double as a front seat barrier.  Here’s a nice example.  Know that there are many types in all price ranges available.  Bonus:  Slings protect your car from fur & muddy paws!
  • Seat extenders – These only prevent Pup from falling onto the floor behind the front seat.  They do enlarge the backseat to accommodate a larger dog.  You’ll need another system to restrict Pup’s movement, though.  Here’s an inflatable version.
  • Overhead backseat cables  – This system also requires a harness/tether setup, but Pup can roam the back seat.  Just make sure Pup can easily sit & lie down when she’s tethered.  The Kurgo Automobile Zip-Line includes a tether & a harness.
  • Cargo barriersThese grates essentially turn the back of your SUV or van into a crate, so that the backseat is available for humans.

Let’s take a break here and check out the Cloud harness (mentioned above).  Our Rusty loves his!  Watch Jess Rollins & her adorable pooch, Bingo, demo it for you:

OK – Back to the gear.  What if Pup likes to feel the wind in her fur?

We strongly discourage folks from allowing their dogs to ride with their heads outside car windows.  Yes, it’s cute.  That is until Pup gets something in her eye or escapes from the car – just to name a few of the things that can go wrongWindow screens let the breeze in while keeping Pup safely inside.  On the high end (design, durability & cost) is the BreezeGuard.  On the low end (cheaper & less durable) is the window ventIf you must allow Pup to hang out the window, protect her eyes…. we love Doggles!

Still need to see dogs free in cars?  Watch this video.  It’s 5-minutes of cuteness:  Dogs riding in cars, heads hanging out windows, in slo-mo.  These dogs are doing it, so your pooch doesn’t have to!

Related posts:

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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 traveling in style &  enjoying the sun.  We’d love to see your ideas, pictures & videos.  Happy trails!

© 2012 Critter Consulting

Apr 4

We cat-ified our site by adding even more helpful resources for cat lovers!

The latest addition is our article, “You CAN train your cat!  In it, we describe what cat training involves, and how it differs from dog training.  When we help folks with their cats, we’re usually changing undesired behaviors that result from Kitty being stressed.  You can certainly teach your cat commands, as you would a dog.  But with cats we’re most often guided by a few key, cat-centric questions :  How can we make you happy?  What message are you conveying with your behavior?  How can we bridge the communication gap between you & your humans, so they can see things from your perspective and have the patience to make the changes you need?  And, voila! –  We develop a personalized behavior modification plan based on a detailed history & personality profile of Kitty.

Are your home & routine cat-friendly?  Read our articles for tips on cat-ifying your feline’s life:

Have fun with it, and you’ll see wonderful changes in your favorite feline!  Be proactive whenever possible.  If you cat-ify, Kitty’s less likely to stress.  But if problems arise, don’t wait for undesired behaviors to become bad habits.  (With cats, that can happen quickly, as with house soiling and cat-cat aggression, for example.)  Don’t hesitate to contact us for help with your cats & dogs, of any age, for any issue.

 

It looks like Simon could cat-ify his feline’s life a bit, too.  Some environmental enrichment (interactive play sessions, cat shelves & perches with views, food puzzles, treat hunts, etc.) would be purr-fect for Simon’s Cat!

 

And a Happy Easter to everyone from us & our favorite porcupine, Teddy!

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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

Apr 3

You’re not alone.  It’s a love-hate thing.  Elizabethan collars (or e-collars) serve pets well as they heal from surgeries, allergies or injury.  But many cats, dogs & humans can’t wait to get rid of them.  The classic “cone” makes eating difficult.  Its rough edges are tough on guardians’ bare legs & can scratch furniture.  It impedes your pet’s peripheral vision, and it makes getting into a crate seem impossible.  Unpleasant, to be sure.

 

Did you know there are alternatives?  If you seek them out proactively, you’ll be prepared when your pet suddenly needs them.  Most of the options we list below are easily available in pet stores & online.  Some have additional uses in life with pets.  For example, if you have a secure deck with vertical railings, the Cloud Collar can prevent Pup from chasing toys through railings & off the deck.  Regardless of your product choice or use, your pet should only wear them when supervised, for safety’s sake.

  • Cloud Collar – Easier for pets to play & eat in.  Peripheral vision is good, but access to crates may be thwarted.
  • EZ Soft Collar –  For small dogs & cats.  Softness means it’s easier to sleep & maybe eat in.  Still obstructs peripheral vision.
  • Comfy Cone – For cats & dogs of all sizes.
  • Clear E-collar – Edges are padded for your pets’ comfort, and to minimize impact on items (or humans).  Peripheral vision is a bit better.  Otherwise, it’s the classic “cone”.
  • BiteNot collar – For dogs & cats.  (We suspect this would be hard for most cats to acclimate to.)  Makes eating, playing & getting into crates/cars easy.  Peripheral vision isn’t affected.

Why are we posting this info now?  It’s allergy season for pets, too.  Skin irritations lead to self-harm (licking, chewing & scratching).  Or, you may be welcoming a puppy or kitten into your home this spring.  Plan on neutering/spaying him/her.  If your pet insists on fussing over the healing area & isn’t easily distracted from it, your vet may recommend a cone.  We hope these products help reduce your pets’ stress and speed their recovery!

Try as you may to keep Fluffy & Fido comfy in this gear, there will be an adjustment period for them.  Watch how clicker training can help them acclimate without fear.  Don’t have a clicker?  Use a praise word like, “Good!” or “Yes!” to mark Pup’s approaches to the cone.

 

Try not to laugh too hard @ them, as their dignity is in jeopardy.  🙂  Watch as Lucy navigates steps in her cone-of-shame:

 

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

Mar 6

Catnip’s wonderful effects are often undervalued and overlooked.

Our clients are frequently surprised when we recommend catnip as part of a plan to resolve their feline behavior problems.  If used appropriately, catnip can help Kitty deal with emotional states that are at the root of unwanted behaviors.  Perhaps you & your cat can benefit from the effects of catnip, too.

Is your cat crazy for catnip?  Find out how to make the most of it in our article.  If you’ve got spring fever & a green thumb, start some catnip in your garden.  Your cats will love you for it!

We’re still laughing @ this highly anthropomorphized video.  Enjoy!

How about a touch of the Irish for Kitty?  We love this DIY clover catnip toy.  Suggestions: Make more than one; follow the instructions in our article for keeping catnip toys fresh; and …. block the space under your fridge!

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

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