The other day the “Boss” was laughing about a holiday on March 3rd, If Pet’s Had Thumbs Day. Visions of high fives and thumbs up suddenly came to mind. After thinking about it for a minute, I knew this was something I could sink my teeth into, so I decided to bark out my own list of what I’d do if dogs had thumbs.
You Tube videos. Yep, I’d film and post funny hooman videos. It’s fun to watch those hoomans – such interesting creatures. I can see it now, Keikei, the internet sensation of the Doggiesphere, made possible with opposable thumbs. The boss is always cackling over videos of my canine cousins chasing their tail or doing a slow motion shake. I’d film hoomans in super slow motion trying to keep up with us at the dog park. Especially their face when we’re doing something they think we shouldn’t be doing. Hoomans can move pretty fast sometimes. BOL.
The remote control would be mine. I like to watch Animal Planet as much as any doggie, but it would be nice to surf for something else and change the channel without having to use my nose or teeth. I would go with an exciting canine action flick or maybe a canine thriller. And I’d have my own bowl full of CANIDAE TidNips™ and Snap-Bits™ to munch on. I might even sprinkle in some FELIDAE TidNips™ to kick it up a notch.
Texting looks sort of cool. I like the noise it makes. I’d text my doggie pals in the neighborhood to coordinate a specific time when we all howl. Oh wait, this is even better – we could stare at a wall and pretend like we see something the hoomans can’t see. That always gets them.
You know how some hoomans love to sit around playing cards for hours? I’d get my own card game going! We would play the doggie version of Go Fish. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s called Go Cat. If we get the wild card, we have to chase a kitty up a tree.
My friend Karen recently adopted a senior dog with general arthritis and hip dysplasia. Good for her, right? It started with a conversation we were having about the high number of senior dogs in shelters, and how sad it was for an older dog to live out his or her days behind bars. In our local shelter, senior dogs make up about 10% of the overall population at any given time. When trying to understand why, a shelter worker told us that oftentimes families surrender their senior dogs when they reach an age where they require extra care. What a shame.
Karen’s goal is to provide her new dog, Goldie Girl, with a safe and comfortable home during her twilight years. Their union is heartwarming; it’s amazing how quickly Goldie Girl and Karen have bonded. And the dog seems to have turned back the clock several years. She holds her head a bit higher and her limp is less pronounced. Karen attributes the quick bonding and Goldie Girl’s improved physical state to massage.
The article I wrote titled The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Pets helped convince Karen that her new dog would get a lot out of regular massages, but she didn’t want to cause Goldie Girl any additional pain. Having no experience with massage, Karen went looking for advice on how to massage an older, arthritic dog. She found what she was looking for on The Dog Channel, where there is a helpful tutorial on massaging a senior dog. Here are some simple pointers.
Why massage an arthritic dog?
Arthritis is a degenerative disease that causes pain and soreness in a dog’s joints, specifically the hips, lower spine and knees, and, less severely, to the elbows and shoulders. Massaging your senior dog’s aching muscles a few minutes every day will help slow down the degenerative process of arthritis. Furthermore, massage can help relieve some of your dog’s arthritis pain and reduce some of the muscle tension associated with the disease.
It’s not uncommon to find a sleeping dog or cat curled up into a ball on a chilly winter day, even though it’s cozy inside. With their nose tucked into their tail, and feet covered with their body, this position gives them warmth to help ward off a winter chill. Sleeping curled up in a ball is not exactly a comfortable position for pets to be in for long periods of time. However, there are a couple of reasons why a curled up position is favored at times, and it has to do with evolution.
Both reasons go back to our pets’ wild roots. We give our dogs and cats soft beds for comfort and warmth. In the wild, there are no cushions, and a cold night requires a bed that’s been scratched, trampled, and dug out in dirt or tall grasses. Scientist are still trying to figure out why dogs do some of the things they do, like walking in circles before lying down, but they believe the behavior is a hard wired survival tactic against the weather, predators, and hidden insects or snakes.
Dogs and cats are no different from us when it comes to wanting to be cozy in their surroundings. Curling up into a ball on a cold night is the best way to conserve body heat, and provide enough warmth to ward off the sting of a cold bed. This is also the best position to protect themselves from predators that may decide to attack. The curled up ball protects vital organs and their stomach area.
Sleeping curled up isn’t an ideal way to get a restful sleep. In order to stay in one position, the muscles remain tensed up which doesn’t allow pets to relax enough to move them into the rapid eye movement (REM) part of sleep, something we all need for a proper night’s rest. Our pet’s sleeping position tells us a couple of things. If a dog or cat sleeps on his back in a more relaxed posture, he’s warm or even too hot or he feels so comfortable in his surroundings that he doesn’t feel a need to protect himself by curling up.
First time and seasoned dog owners can benefit from training their canine companions to obey various commands or perform certain tasks and tricks. Hand targeting is just one of many training tools used. In fact, this version of “come” is easy to teach, easy to learn, and can be taught by dog owners of any age or experience level.
About Hand Targeting and Its Benefits
Hand targeting is a command that teaches the dog to touch his nose against the palm of the hand. As with the more basic and simple verbal “come” command, hand targeting is considered basic obedience. It should be mastered thoroughly before the dog and trainer move on to more complex tricks such as “sit pretty” or “jump.”
Benefits of this training command vary based on the desire of the trainer. It can help teach a dog to respond to visual cues, which can be beneficial when calling the dog from far distances or even for more complex future training such as agility training. It can help teach a shy dog to be more trusting of new people, and it can be beneficial to dogs who are hearing impaired.
How to Teach a Dog to Hand Target
To start, a container of their favorite CANIDAE treat should be on hand at all times. In the beginning, it is beneficial to rub the treat against the palm of the hand to help encourage contact with the dog’s nose. This is considered the easiest and most efficient way to teach hand targeting, as the aroma draws the dog’s nose in.
“Like a kid on Christmas morning” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt waiting for the Fedex guy to show up with a package the other day. I got up extra early, because I knew I’d have to sign for the package and I didn’t want to be in the shower when he arrived. Overkill, yes – but I wasn’t taking any chances on missing this delivery! As it happened, he didn’t arrive until nearly 4 p.m., and by then I was ready to crawl out of my skin. Have I mentioned that patience is not one of my virtues? LOL.
I carefully opened the big box so as not to damage the precious cargo within. One look…and I was smitten. My smile was so wide I could have eaten a banana sideways. Maybe even two bananas! So what was in there that had me so ecstatic?
It was a painting of my sweet girl kitty, Annabelle, and it was even more beautiful than I knew it would be! This was something I’d wanted to do for some time. My relationship with Annabelle is just so extraordinary that I wanted something to treasure forever. She’s almost ten years old, and though I hope to have at least ten more years with this special one-in-a-million kitty, we just never know how long we’ll have with those we hold dear.
The photo Sue used
I’ve never loved a cat so deeply and completely as Annabelle, and I’ve never felt so loved in return. I wanted a way to honor the beauty of our unique relationship while she’s here, as well as a way to keep her memory alive once she’s gone. To be sure, she will live in my heart for all time, but I think this painting will be a wonderful way to keep the connection strong.
I chose artist Sue Hains after seeing a photo on Facebook of another pet portrait she’d done. It was of Gwen Cooper’s Homer the Blind Wonder Cat, and it perfectly captured his personality. I looked at the other portraits of cats, dogs, horses and birds on Sue’s website, and I just knew she would do a great job. We exchanged several emails and then I had the difficult task of deciding which photo to send Sue. In the end, I chose one that I loved for the sweet, soft expression on Belle’s face.
We enrolled our new dog in a group training class and the experience has been eye-opening. The class is filled with all kinds of dogs and all kinds of people. Some dogs catch on to the commands immediately, while others take a long time to learn what’s expected of them. One gal is having a hard time with her dog. She told the trainer that her dog acts crazy at home too, and she’s sure her dog is mentally ill. The comment stimulated a class discussion about whether animals can actually be mentally ill.
According to the University of Melbourne’s research department, the answer is yes. Dr. Gabrielle Carter, a faculty member of the University’s Veterinary Science department, specializes in animal behavior. Not only is Dr. Carter an expert in her field but, because this is a relatively new area of study, she is an advocate and is working hard to increase awareness of mental illness in pets.
Dr. Carter explains that even though there are tremendous dissimilarities in different mammals, their biological systems, brains and nervous systems share similarities. She reasons that if humans are known to have mental illness based in altered brain function, then it is sensible to expect the same holds true for other animals.
Mental illness in different animals manifests in different ways. For example, dogs may suffer from noise phobias, separation anxiety and aggression. Cats may compulsively over-groom themselves and spray inappropriately.
Through behavioral therapies and in this case, medication, Dr. Carter recently helped a dog that had inexplicably developed a fear of her own backyard. The dog wouldn’t go into the yard she had once loved. If she was forced into the yard, she would desperately try to escape. The dog’s mental issues got worse; she became acutely fearful of anything unfamiliar, developed generalized anxiety issues and extreme noise phobias. It got to the point where the dog spent most of her time cowering in her owner’s bedroom.
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