Cap’n Krunch

Cap'n Crunch



As many of you know, I am not only a great lover of cats but an owner of many.  My neighbor commented the other morning that I looked like “the crazy cat lady” as I went out to retrieve my newspaper and four cats followed me down the driveway.  Mind you only one of the four was actually mine, that was Sarafina.  She is my 10 year old tuxedo cat that lives in the garage.  What they don’t know is that I have numerous kitties who live in the bedroom and travel in and out of the house by way of a cat door.  Most everyone in the cul-de-sac thinks that I have the one lone cat, little Sarafina!!  My other kitties prefer the backyard because it backs up to a huge wooded area that is owned by State government.  No one will ever  own that land and no one will ever develop it.  Sweet, right?  So my kitties get to spend their days frolicking in the woods, chasing all sorts of critters, climbing trees and basically goofing  off.  After that they come home and take over the bed to get their necessary 16 hours of sleep.

One evening, as I was preparing to settle in bed with a good book, I heard an unusual sound from underneath the dresser.  It was a loud “crunch, crunch” sound. “Odd” I thought. ” I know we have dry cat food under the dresser for my timid eaters, but I’ve never heard it sound quite so crunchy.”  Taking a moment to look under the dresser I see Mr. MacCafferty, my big, orange tabby.  And wouldn’t you know, Mr. Mac has brought some scrumptious delicacy from outside to enjoy in my house.  I was freaking out!!  ” What now?”  I thought. ” It’s too big to be a baby mole – which we have had several of, but not as big as a squirrel- yes, Mr. Mac has taken down squirrels that were as big as he was”.  Upon closer examination, I realized it was a bunny. Yeah, a sweet little fuzzy bunny.  How horrid! and right there in my bedroom.   At this point, there wasn’t much left of the bunny and I knew better than to reach my hand in there to claim his prize.  Shoot, I’d have to fight off the other four cats who were hanging around waiting for the leftovers.  It was like watching a pride of lions; the male was devouring the kill as the rest of the pride waited their turn. Natural instincts kick in no matter how long they have been domesticated.   Actually it’s  pretty fascinating once you get over the gross factor.  The truly amazing thing about this whole grizzly episode is that Mr. MacCafferty is not a cat that appears capable of bringing down anything. Just check out his picture.   He was born without eyelids, the poor little guy.  We adopted him from the vet and she agreed to perform a surgery that would basically attach skin that would function as his eyelids.  So he had that going.  Then about two years ago he got in to something in the woods that caused an infection in one eye and it had to be removed.  Add to that the fact that his remaining eye is losing vision and finally, Mr. Mac will be 13 this year.  I am always in awe of the ability of animals to overcome what we mere humans would see as a disability.  Mr. Mac didn’t know he was different when he was a kitten, so he acted just like the other cats.  He learned how to hunt and prey by watching the rest of my crew.  After he lost his eye, it took some time for him to adjust to the changes in how things look, gauging depth perception and general functioning.  But he soldiered on.  He never gave up.  He kept doing the things he loved to do.  The vet said, after removing his eye, that it would be in Mr. Mac’s best interest to keep him inside from now on.  I beg to differ.  Mr. Mac needs to live his life as he always has, on his own terms.  If something happens to him, well he certainly has had some amazing experiences!

Why don’t you tell me about some of your cat experiences?  We all love a good story!

Is Your Dog Jerking You Around?

In a previous post,”Dog Walking- Why Does My Dog Pull Me?”, I discussed why your dog pulls you on your walks.  I would like to take the opportunity to expound on that topic.  Most of my discussion was centered on the type of collar used during the walk.  I stressed the importance of being in control of the walk in order to make it as enjoyable as it should be for both you and your dog.  No one wants to have their sweet dog pulling them down the street in what looks like a tug-of-war with the leash.  Can you imagine the horror?  Besides that, it can be harmful for your dog.  As your dog pulls on the leash, the collar is pressing up against the esophagus.  The more he pulls, the more pressure on the esophagus and the result could be a trip to the vet.  If nothing less, your dog will be coughing and choking and people will think you are just plain mean.

Many owners will see this problem and think “I know, I’ll get a harness.  That will be so comfortable for my dog.”  This may be the solution.  If your dog will remain calm and walk at your side while wearing his harness, then great.  However, if he is going to simply substitute harness pulling for leash pulling, we are back to square one.  To make matters  worse, when you strap that harness on your dog, you are actually  giving him some serious leverage.  Your dog’s shoulders are one of  the strongest muscle groups in his body. To think that he wouldn’t use this to his advantage is folly.   People who harness their dogs are typically preparing for them to work, to pull something.  Maybe a wagon, or a tree trunk, or a sled but definitely not them.  In fact, there are competitions for this very activity because it is a natural instinct.  It is amazing to see these dogs at work.  They can pull over a thousand pounds, absolutely awesome to watch.  But I digress.  Suffice it to say, that if some dogs can be trained to pull that much weight, why not just pull you??

There has been some  progress made in the world of dog harnesses.  Joseph Sporn came up with an idea that would change the effect of pulling and he put that into a harness/ halter.   This harness transfers pressure from around the neck where the collar is to underneath the legs.  At this location, the dog is just sensitive enough for the pressure to cause him to back off the pulling.  The restraints are attached to the front of the collar then looped under the legs and anchored at the top of the collar.  It comes with sherpa sleeves to make the restraints more comfortable for your dog.  A very interesting concept that has been tested by dogs and their owners for over a decade.

So, back to the collar .  My previous post described the proper use of a choke collar and it’s cousin, the pinch collar.  To some dog owners these measures may seem extreme, even cruel.  But I have used them with great success and taught others how to use them as well. I truly believe that with many dogs, this is the best collar option that the owner can make.  There are alternatives.  Cesar Millan, known to many as “The Dog Whisperer”, has written numerous books on dog training and a lot of his materials cover the topic of dog walking and controlling the walk.  He has developed an innovative collar that he calls the “illusion collar”.  It is basically a choke collar with an added base to keep the choke in it’s most effective position- high on the neck and behind the ears.  This position is the most sensitive for the dog and therefore the most effective.  You have seen this leash position on show dogs in the ring.  The show collars are high to give the handler more control over the dog’s behavior.  Exactly what you want when you have your mutt out in the park!!

Finally, let’s talk about leashes.  I mean a proper leash.  My personal preference is leather.  A good width for your hand, so that will be specific to your palm size. These leashes give you a firm hold on the dog, will weather well and are tough as…leather!!  I have seen some very nice webbed, nylon leashes that are durable and sturdy.  The webbing gives the leash a round shape that is easy to hold and won’t tear your skin.  My first gripe is a flat, nylon leash that can cut through your hand when a dog makes a quick jerk or lunge.  They often seem slippery and the grips are not comfortable.  My second gripe is those flexi-leashes or whatever they’re called.  They remind me of a broken fishing reel, it can be let out, but can’t be pulled back in!!  I think they are a danger to mankind and dogkind for that matter.  Your dog goes free-wheeling down the street as the tiny nylon string unwinds and if some sort of danger arises – say a loose dog approaching- you have no way of getting your dog back to you and to safety.  Add to that the risk of nylon burns if the leash is dragged across your legs, the major hassle of unwinding the spaghetti of  leashes if walking two dogs and the possibility of severing a finger if the nylon string wraps around it and the dog really pulls.  Phew!  That should convince you.   I have used a great leash from Cesar Millan.  It is a diamond-braided rope similar to a mountain climbing rope.  The unique feature is the padded hand grip.  It is ergonomically designed to give you the Cadillac of walks when it comes to comfort and as a dog walker, I am all about comfy walks!!

This Big Guy won't jerk you around!!

Chronic Barking

Can You Make Me Stop?

It is important to first understand why dogs bark. Our trusted companions often bark to alert us to neighborhood sounds, children playing, sirens or cars driving by our homes. A dog that feels lonely or afraid will bark out of frustration. New dogs are often showered with attention when they first get home and when this stops, the barking is a way of expressing the dogs need for more attention. Probably the most important and useful bark is the one that indicates your dog needs to go outside – “Good Puppy”  Then consider that breeds such as terriers, Yorkies,beagles and dachsunds were developed with the intention of their barking being an inherited trait. It’s hard to compete with Mother Nature in these incidences. Couple that with the fact that many smaller dogs live in apartments and you have a problem that will keep you and  your neighbors up.
Before we discuss what to do with your barking Fido, let’s cover what you shouldn’t do. Yelling at your dog, using a shock collar designed to control barking or squirting your dog with water are punishment tactics that rarely work. Other behaviors to avoid are petting your dog to calm him or yelling “no,no,no” which can sound like “go,go,go”.  These tactic are  actually rewarding the behavior and making it more difficult to control.
Here are some techniques that have been shown to work:
Teach your dog the game “Focus” .   Start in a distraction-free zone of your home with just you and your dog. Call his name and wait for him to look at you and then sit.   Give your dog a treat. Repeat this behavior while you are walking through your home. Each time you call the dog’s name, he follows you then stops to sit, reward him with a treat. Once he has learned the connection- I focus, I get treat- you can use it when a car passes by, or children are playing loudly outside.
Use a shout-out. If you have an outside barker, begin by going outside with your dog each time you let him out . When he barks, call him inside. Repeat this over and over.  Your dog learns through repetition and he will quickly realize that barking will seriously limit his outside time.
Bark on cue. If you teach your dog to bark on command, you will have an on/off switch that will control the barking. Start with your dog sitting in front of you and show him the treat. Wait patiently as your dog attempts ways to get the treat. When he makes any sound, give him the treat. Repeat this many times and soon your dog will bark for the treat.  Use this same process to teach the “quiet” command. When the dog is barking, wait for a quiet moment, say “quiet” and give him the treat. Repetition and consistency are key in teaching new tricks, so don’t give up.
Ignore the behavior. Dogs hate to be ignored. This goes back to basic instinct and pack behavior. When your dog barks, leave the room. This exercise will need to be repeated several times for your pup to learn that barking makes you leave and quiet brings you back.
Separation anxiety presents it’s own issues when dealing with a barking dog. These dogs require a combination of techniques to teach them appropriate behavior. They need to learn more independent behavior, such as lying quietly on their bed.  They may need some kind of medication to calm them. This should be done under the supervision of your vet .  And you may need to  practice redirecting the dog’s attention to a favorite toy.
Owning a happy, well- adjusted dog is the desire of nearly all dog owners. Some of them just take a little more TLC to get the job done. However, the years of companionship and unconditional love you get from your dog more than make up for the time you spend training them to be happy members of your family.


Dog Walking- Why Does My Dog Pull Me?

Who's walking who here?

Oh, if I had a dollar for every time a dog owner asked me that question!  The reason your dog pulls you is… you LET them.  Simple.  You grab your precious pup, hook on the leash and away you go.  Flying down the street like a madman trying to keep up with your dog and hoping it looks like you are somehow in control.  Not likely.

Control is the key here and if you have not taken your pup to obedience training, then you should at least do some reading to find out about the walk.  I have to say, there is no greater joy than walking with your dog.  The key phrase here is “walking with your dog”.  Your pup will go where ever it wants as long as you allow it to.  I know that the cute pup is too adorable for you to even consider restraining it, what with puppy enthusiasm and all,but consider the future consequences.  Teach your pup early what you expect it to do on your walks.  The first step is choosing a collar.  The collar, or restraint, used when walking may be different from what your pup wears all the time.  I have clients that I walk using a harness while the collar stays in place.  I also have dogs that wear choke or pinch collars on their walks in place of their everyday collars.  It all depends on the dog and the level of control you need during your walks.

If a dog has learned that it can pull it’s owner around on it’s walks, I usually want to intervene with a restraint that will let the dog know that I am in control.  I would begin with a choke collar.  This is the chain link collar with rings at each end.  The chain is slipped through one ring and forms a circle that is loosened or tightened by a quick snap of the leash- also known as a “correction”.  Many people think a choke collar is meant to actually choke the dog, not true.  The action of quickly snapping the leash to bring in the excess chain and tighten the hold on the dog causes a sound that the dog learns is the correction.  When walking your dog, be sure that you are always working with some slack in the leash.  This makes a correction very simple.  As you walk; your dog should walk at your side, not out in front of you.  When the dog starts to lead you, you quickly drop the slack, turn around and head off in the opposite direction.  This will cause the choke to zip through the ring making a startling sound and the dog will be forced to turn and follow you.  You may have to repeat this maneuver several times before your dog figures out that you are leading and he/she is to follow you.  There are certain breeds that need a greater restraint when on a walk.  My first dog was a Chow.  She was beautiful and headstrong, both characteristics of the breed.  Chows have thick fur at the neckline and fewer nerve endings in the skin of the neck because they were initially bred as protectors.  If they were to be engaged in a fight, the extra fur and less sensitive skin worked to protect them.  It also means that a correction may need to be a bit firmer in order for the dog to recognize it.  I used a pinch collar in obedience training with my chow.  The pinch collar is cousin to the choke with the addition of prongs to the inside of the collar.  The correction is made in the same manner as a choke, a drop of the leash slack and abrupt change of direction to engage the prongs and get your dog’s attention.

Walking with your dog should be fun and you can make that happen by employing some simple training tips and using the right equipment.  For a tutorial on choke and pinch collar use, click below!

Introducing a new kitten to your cat.

Safety is key when inroducing new kittens

I can’t tell you how many times I have a client call and excitedly tell me about the kitten they have just brought home.  Of course, the next conversation begins with “Why won’t my cat play with the new kitten?”.  As hard as this is to do, I tell them that the best way to bring these two together is to keep them in separate spaces.  That’s right.  They have to be separated from each other for several days before you allow them to be in the same space.  I recently brought three kittens into my home which already had a few mature cats.  First, I put the kittens in the master suite closet along with a bed, a litter box, food and water. Everything they needed and room to play.  In this scenario, my cats could approach the door and sniff underneath to become familiar with the scent of the kittens.  And the kittens could do the same. The kittens had a place they knew was a “safe” spot and the established cats could become familiar with the new kittens without confrontation.  After several days, I then put up a puppy gate  to use as a barrier instead of the door.  Again, the kittens were “safe”.  They could retreat to a corner of the closet when a big cat came sniffing or the braver ones could approach the big cat using the gate as a protective barrier.  This is an awesome process to watch.  Some of my cats were very curious while a couple just didn’t care.  Cats… so aloof!  The kittens soon developed their own personalities and when I finally took down the barrier, they could interact with the big cats knowing they could always retreat to their “safe” spot.  When dealing with new kittens or puppies in a home, my first instinct is safety.