Aug 27

We’re looking back on a great summer with friends, family, clients & pets.  And, of course, there’s lots more fun to come!

“Feels like Home” from Roberto Musicorio.

Related posts:

© 2011 Critter Consulting

Aug 16

Our clients ask great questions about dog-dog play:  Is that play, or are they fighting?  How do I know my dog’s having fun?  Should I break it up or let them work it out?  Of course, the best answers are given while observing dogs in action.  But we think these general tips will set you on the path of understanding pooches @ play.

Good play is a lot of give & take, where dogs take turns with toys & chasing/being chased.  If one dog isn’t comfy (retreating, tail tucked, belly up, ears back, yelping) and is feeling bullied because the other dog isn’t letting up, it’s time to step in.  Happily interrupt & redirect the dogs from each other.  Keep calm, with no tension in your voice or body.  Decide if the dogs can resume playing after a short break, or if  their play styles are a mismatch.  We love this video.  Whether your pup is @ a dog park or having a play date, you’ll learn how to recognize happy, healthy play.  Watch:

Dogs usually pace the play by taking breaks along the way.  Notice that one pup might walk away, shake as if drying themselves, drink water or lay down.  This signals the other dog that they are pausing.  In nice play, the other dog will respect the break and relax, too.  Here’s a great example of how intense play could be mistaken as fighting.  But notice that the dogs’ play styles are well matched, and they use breaks to pace the play:

Some dogs don’t pace themselves well and/or they don’t respect another dog’s break request (calming signals). They get overly excited during play.  Often these are young puppies & adolescents with unrefined social skills.  You can help your dogs enjoy longer, calmer play sessions by initiating proactive play breaks.  Teach them that a phrase (like “all done!”) means head to you to sit for treats.  Reward their calm sits by releasing them to play again:  “Go play!”.  Keep it fun so the dogs don’t mind interrupting their play for you. (Of course, @ a dog park with other dogs, you shouldn’t use food. A calm pet or praise will do.)

Speaking of social skills, it’s OK for dogs to fairly & clearly define their personal boundaries with each otherHere’s a lovely example of a tolerant, socially skilled adult dog calming & setting boundaries for a bouncy puppy:

(Much thanks to the folks @ Castor & Pollux for sharing this adorable video of Walter and Charlie the puppy with us!)

Recommended reading – from the best of the pack!

Article:   “Dog Park Etiquette” by Pat Miller

Blog posts:

Video:  Turid Rugaas on Calming Signals  (a must-watch for all dog guardians!)


© 2011 Critter Consulting


Jul 22

What’s better than a swim in the summer heat, right?  Your dog may agree – or he might have an aversion to water.  Perhaps somewhere in between, like this creative canine?

Ideally, prevent your dog’s access to your pool when you can’t supervise,  just as you would your kids.  Teach your dog how to swim and how to get in & out of the pool, even if you don’t want him to be in your pool.  That way, he’s less likely to panic if he falls in, and he’ll know how to get back out if you can’t get to him in time.  Watch:

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We love the products mentioned in video above: Skamper ramp; Safety Turtle pool alarm; and Outward Hound’s swim vest. Wendy Diamond has more details on teaching Pup to swim, via the Today Show. (Does the pool in this video look familiar? It should if you follow Rusty’s Dog Blog! It’s a perfect pool substitute for small and/or water-timid pooches.) Watch:

Got it? No force; go @ Pup’s pace. This isn’t a sink-or-swim lesson, after all.  Show Pup how to get in & out.  Go in with him to help him float. (The Outward Hound vest has a handle on top in case you need to lift or guide your dog.)  Relax & wait until you feel Pup relax.  You’ll know he’s ready for more when he starts to paddle on his own to explore the water.  Word to the wise: If you’re getting in with Pup, wear a t-shirt & board shorts! Until he relaxes, he may grab on to you or paddle frantically. Clothing will protect you from his nails. Have fun with it & stay safe, but don’t go overboard.  Your dog will thank you for respecting his dignity.

Enjoying our summer film fest? We can’t leave Kitty out of the fun. This kitten’s having a blast in the tub…. who knew?!

© 2011 Critter Consulting

Jul 8

We hope your summer has been amazing so far!  As we take a bit of a break between posts to enjoy the sunshine, we’ll leave you in Tillman’s capable paws:

Keep your pets cool in the sun.  Remember, on a hot day it only takes 10 minutes for the temperature inside a parked car to reach 110 degrees.  That’s deadly for kids & pets.   Wonder how hot it is in SR in a parked car right now?  Check here for real-time readings.  Our related posts (below) are packed with ideas for beating the heat.  And we love these tips for cooling Kitty.

Of course, our pal, Rusty, has chillin’ down to an art.   Watch!

Related posts:

© 2011 Critter Consulting


Jun 14

At the risk of dating myself, remember when “Seinfeld” coined the term “close talker”?  Watch these quick, funny excerpts to see what I mean:

Notice how each character has a different reaction to the “close talker”? Now apply this to your pets: From their points-of-view, we humans are all close- talkers! (Your pet’s tolerance of our “rude” human behavior depends on her temperament, socializing history & social skills.) Before you rule yourself out as a close-talker, consider this: We live in a society that respects eye contact & a firm handshake. We learn to interact with fellow humans this way, so it’s natural for us to interact with animals in the same manner. And then there’s the group of well-meaning people who are the worst of the human close-talkers, from Fido & Fluffy’s perspective: The folks who insist on interacting with your pet, saying, “I just love animals” – or – “animals love me”.  On the other hand, dogs reduce social pressure by avoiding face-on approaches & direct eye contact.  Watch this video:

What’s a pet guardian to do? Protect your pets from well-meaning “close talkers”.  Here are a few general ground rules to follow to properly socialize any dog, or to relax a nervous pup. Keep in mind that many of these guidelines will help shy Kitty, too:

  • Space & time: All interactions between well-meaning people & pets should be initiated by Pup.  Let her relax @ a comfortable distance until she’s ready to approach.  Never insist; never force.  If folks can’t respect that rule, they shouldn’t meet Pup.
  • Don’t play “Pass a pup”:  Small pets who are passed from person to person aren’t necessarily willing or happy participants.  Encourage folks to sit down & wait until Pup approaches them, as above.
  • One @ a time:  Never put Pup in the position of being surrounded by people (especially children), all petting @ once.  It’s overwhelming, and it can make her feel trapped.  Only one person meets her @ a time, following the above rules.  If Pup wants to leave, let her.
  • Leash law:  All the above rules definitely apply to leashed dogs.  Unless a guardian gives you permission to pet and Pup happily approaches you, walk away.  Many dogs feel trapped & defensive on a leash because they aren’t ready to approach people or dogs they encounter.
  • Listen to little dogs:   If a small dog barks or growls @ you, respect that.  Walk away.
  • Never punish a growl:  If a nervous dog is growling, it’s a very helpful warning that can save someone from a bite.  If you teach Pup not to warn by punishing the growl,  she becomes more dangerous.  She’s learned that bad things do happen when she’s nervous, and that she should skip the growl.  She’s likely to bite sooner rather than later.
  • Patience, socialize & trainFearful pets are behaving defensively, not dominantly.  Drop your ego, take a deep breath, and teach your pet she can trust people.  Contact me for help with your fearful pet, sooner rather than later.  Most aggression is fear-based.  I can help you understand where Rover & Fluffy are coming from, and how to help them relax & trust.  This goes a long way toward preventing and/or treating aggression!

Need a great example of a fearful pup turned around via understanding, space & time? Look no further than our fave poodle, Rusty.  The day we adopted him, my hubby, became a “close talker”.  He greeted Rusty a little too enthusiastically.  Rusty felt trapped because he was on the couch, & his new “dad” got on his level, eye -to-eye, to say hello.  Rusty moved away & fear grimaced, showing his teeth.  What would you have done?  My hubby sat on the floor, with his back to Rusty.  Rusty approached, and all was forgiven.  For the next week or so, we let Rusty make all the 1st moves.  It went so well that Rusty raves about his “dad” in his latest post!

© 2011 Critter Consulting

Dec 15

Enjoy this collection of holiday safety tips, gift ideas, and fun new videos!

Keep your pet safe & happy this holiday season:

  • “Fact or Fiction:  Are Poinsettias Poisonous?” Read the ASPCA’s update on the low toxicity of this popular plant.  Take note that other holiday growies are dangerous to your pet:  Just a nibble of a lily can cause kidney failure in cats. Holly and mistletoe can cause GI distress and cardiovascular problems.  Bacteria & fertilizers in tree water can also trigger tummy upset.  Cats often vomit after eating evergreen needles.  Per the ASPCA:  “If you suspect that your animal companion has eaten a potentially toxic substance, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s emergency hotline at (888) 426-4435 for round-the-clock telephone assistance. A fee may apply.”
  • “Veterinarian Urges Pet Safety During Holidays” by Russ Krebs (, 12/08/08).
  • Browse our Thanksgiving post, “You Are What You Eat” for holiday food safety tips.
  • Read our articles, “‘Tis the Season for a Change in the Weather” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” for tips on keeping pets cozy this winter.
  • Help Fluffy & Fido relax:  Pet-proof your house, and keep your pets away from holiday chaos.  During festivities, find a quiet place in your home where they can relax without being scared or overstimulated.  Stick with your pets’ routines, including lots of exercise, to help them cope with holiday unpredictabilities.  Stay on top of house training; many pets regress due to schedule changes, stress, and unpleasant weather.  Read more tips, and contact us for additional advice.

Looking for the purrfect gift for your cat, dog, or pet-loving friend?

  • Never, ever, ever give a pet as a surprise gift! If you’re considering adopting, make sure the whole family is in agreement, and do your research first.  Take your time choosing your new family member.  We can help!
  • We’ve seen a lot of impractical lists of pet gift ideas this season.  NAPSI’s list is one of the best.  Visit our always-updated recommendations for dog products & toys, as well as cat products & toys.
  • You can find great gift ideas & discounts @ our favorite catalogs & online shops.  Check the list for the latest discounts offered by each company.  And please support local pet stores and shelter gift shops.
  • Your pet doesn’t care how much you spend on a gift.  Playtime; homemade gifts; an extra walk; or a romp @ the dog park are wonderful – and free!
  • A recent study showed that 84% of Americans would rather receive a gift that gives to someone else than something that’s just for them.  Why not make a donation in a friend’s name to your local shelter or favorite rescue group ?
  • Every shelter has a wishlist of items they really need.  Check their websites or call ahead for the list.  You can make a big difference with items you have around your house – no monetary donation needed.  Or, volunteer your time – it’s priceless!
  • It’s always nice to curl up with a good book or video.  Our reading lists (dog & cat) are always updated for browsing.
  • And – Critter Consulting offers gift certificates for pet training (for dogs & cats of all ages)!

Fun videos in time for the holidays:

Warmest wishes to you and your family: two and four-legged, alike!

© 2008 CritterConsulting

Jan 1

Winter is approaching, and the days are getting shorter, cooler, and wetter.   Help your pets adjust comfortably to the new season.

Christmas Boxer

Shorter days can be unnerving, and possibly dangerous for your pets.  Consider your evening walks with your dog.  Lately, they’ve been well lit, but with dusk coming sooner, you may notice Rover’s anxious reaction to familiar  places and things along the way because everything looks different in the dimming light.  To help your pup relax, go for short daily dusk walks at first.  Take a few of Rover’s favorite things (treats, ball, squeaky) with you.  If he gets nervous, help him have fun via play and praise or treats  to reward bravery.  Or pick up the pace and jog a bit with your dog.  (Make sure you discuss any increase in your dog’s exercise routine with your vet first.)  As Rover relaxes, gradually increase the length of your walks.   It’s important to your dog that you feel safe also, as he can sense your emotional state and will react to it.  So make sure you walk where you feel comfortable.  Consider  wearing reflective clothing.   (For your pup, has a new reflective leash and collar.  Reflective vests are also available). Be sure to bring your indoor/outdoor cat in sooner, before dusk.  Cats are naturally more active at dusk, and will begin roaming sooner as the days get shorter.  To enrich Kitty’s longer nights indoors, consider several short,  interactive play sessions.  Start playing before sunset so your cat won’t mind being in with you.  This is a great outlet for her predatory instincts, and it can be very helpful with the “nighttime crazies”, including ankle ambushes, experienced by owners of young cats.

………….for a change in the weather

Cold, damp conditions aren’t any more pleasant for your pet than for you.  Keep them warm and comfortable through the winter months.    This is especially important for short-coated pets who are less insulated from temperature extremes and for senior or arthritic dog and cats.

Consider bringing your pet indoors as much as possible.  A warm place to snuggle is greatly appreciated.  Try a cushy bed  for your dog (his joints will thank you), with an extra blanket  to help him conserve body heat.   Your cat might enjoy a “cup” style bed lined with a newly warmed towel from the dryer.   Other helpful items include sweaters or jackets for pup (not just a fashion statement!) ; plastic heating discs that can be warmed in the microwave to provide all-night comfort; and heating pads.  Just be sure to supervise your pet closely when you introduce these items .  Safety must be considered along with comfort.  For example, chewing puppies cannot be trusted with heating devices.  If you have concerns, discuss them with your veterinarian.

The rain is here.  Along with muddy paws, stormy weather can bring about house soiling problems.  Dogs who use pet doors may suddenly choose to potty inside, where it’s warm, dry, and well lit.  Increase your supervision with Pup, perhaps closing the dog door until you’re sure he’s making good choices.  Cats who eliminate outside in pleasant weather will appreciate a litter box indoors, in a private location.

Many pets (and people) are afraid of thunderstorms.  Generally these fears intensify unless you help them cope.  Try playing with your pet, rather than petting & soothing him.  For more info on how to help your furry friend relax, or to prevent a fear from developing, call Critter Consulting for ideas.  Each pet requires a positive, unique approach to resolving this common anxiety.

© 2008 CritterConsulting