Several years ago, Julia wrote a thoughtful article about Including Family Pets in Your Holiday Plans. With the season upon us, I thought it would be interesting to take a poll to see if my friends included pets in their holiday traditions. I’m happy to report there are no “Scroogely Curmudgeons” among my friends!
Many people hang stockings for their pets and give them special presents. In fact, lots of my friends acted surprised that I even asked; I received answers like absolutely and of course and even a few why yes, don’t you?
Sherrie’s pets receive presents and get extra treats. Christina’s dogs get presents – toys, cookies, clothing, the works – and they let their dogs open gifts before the people do. Sharon’s dogs have stockings and get special gifts and doggie treats. Jo says: “Of course our furbabies get some Christmas dinner and they have stockings with toys and treats. Don’t all pets?”
Brandi’s dog and birds have stockings hung right alongside the family’s, and theirs are always filled, just like everyone else’s. Rissa’s dog has a stocking and gets gifts; he loves getting all his new toys on Christmas morning! Luchrisa says her pets help her and her husband open their packages and then have a great time playing in the wrapping paper.
Alina hangs tiny stockings filled with a few treats for their cats. Her kids think it is the funniest thing ever. Michelle always makes sure to buy a little stocking for each of her animals and puts them up on the fireplace with treats in them. Scott’s pets all get their own stocking on the fireplace filled with goodies. His family thinks making the stocking with their pet’s names in glitter is part of the fun.
I got a lot of answers that involved dressing up or otherwise adorning pets for the season. Tania’s greyhound is going to get a red scarf-type collar with bells this year. And she always paints her Diva dog’s toenails in Christmas colors. Starr’s dogs wear Santa or elves hats and have their own stockings filled with CANIDAE treats. Deborah’s “little girls” each have her own Christmas sweater; one says “Naughty” and the other says “Nice.” David dresses up his dog like Santa, but he says the dog acts more like a devil.
A few years ago, there was a serious tropical storm that resulted in it pouring rain in Charleston for over a week. As luck would have it, this happened the very month we rescued our puppy. To make matters worse, I was under a tight deadline to finish up an important project that week. As you might imagine, our dog was going bonkers. I needed to entertain her to the point of exhaustion so I could get some work done, and we couldn’t go outside.
At that time our dog was young, but dogs of every age need exercise and mental stimulation regardless of the weather. In fact, this past summer it was so hot and humid that we didn’t think it was healthy to let our dog romp around outside for too long. We needed to help her burn off energy in the confines of our air-conditioned home.
My point is, there are days when you can’t offer your dog the necessary exercise and mental stimulation she needs in the great outdoors. Here are a few creative ways to entertain your dog when you can’t run around outside:
Find a friend with a dog and a basement. Seriously, my neighbor has a small dog and a large basement. When the weather isn’t conducive to outside play, she always wants me to come over with our dog so they can play together. We let the dogs wrestle and chase one another around until they wear themselves out. It’s great for them and fun for us too; we just hang out and chat. When I load our pup back in the car and get home, she takes her rightful place on the sofa for a long nap. On the flip side, if you have the space you can have the “play date” at your house. I can assure you that your friends will be grateful!
Stuff your dog’s toys. We have a few treat dispensing toys that help relieve boredom. I’ll stuff a rubber toy tightly with CANIDAE TidNips and let our dog entertain herself for hours. I’ve gotten good at packing the dog treats in so they’re hard to get out and it drives her crazy, in a good way. There are lots of puzzle toys and treat dispensing toys that can keep your dog occupied while indoors.
I’ll admit it: watching a dog happily chase a pinpoint of light can be hilarious. But it turns out laser pointer games have a dark side that can actually harm a dog’s mental wellbeing. It was a heart-stopping moment when I discovered this, having enjoyed just such a romping good time visiting a Pitbull pup we had rescued at his new home.
I was quick to let his new owner know the ramifications of his puppy’s favorite game and suggest some better ways to play with the laser pointer, if he wasn’t willing to completely stop using it as a toy.
Haywire Prey Instincts
The problem with letting a dog chase after a laser pointer beam is that it triggers their prey drive – what makes them hunt and chase after small things that move – without the satisfaction of ever catching the red dot. This may sound like a small thing, but it can actually cause an obsession in dogs to chase light. As in, it actually makes them a bit crazy. Many dogs will begin pouncing on any beam of light they see, just dying to finally catch it.
Before suggesting any laser pointer games to play that will satisfy your pet’s need to be a predator, I would like to emphasize that not playing with a laser pointer at all is really the safest option.
Also keep the beam out of their eyes, as it can cause blindness in dogs just as it does humans. Since a lot of dogs will bite at and pounce on the red dot, keep it off of other pets and people. Oh, and never point the beam at anything you don’t want to see broken.
Video chatting isn’t just a great way for us humans to stay in contact—it can also keep our dogs in touch with those they love. I have one dog, Cody, who always gets face time with the camera when someone he knows comes up on chat. Okay, to be honest, sometimes people come up on chat just to say hi to him. (Like a lot of animal lovers, I’ve made peace with the fact that my pets are more popular than I am.)
Cody doesn’t make much noise when his friends (mostly my nephews) video chat with him, but his crazy-happy tail thumping shows how excited he is.
Checking in on Vacation
Like a lot of responsible pet owners, we always have a pet sitter stay at our house when we go on vacation. Given how stressful not seeing us for a week is on our three dogs, I wish I would have thought of checking in via video a long time ago. Video chatting can work both ways when it comes to separation anxiety during vacations. Not only does your pet get visual affirmation that they will see you again, but you also get to actually see how well they are being taken care of.
Keeping Tabs on Loved Ones
From going to college to divorce to moving and more, there are many reasons dogs get separated from people they are used to interacting with daily. With video chatting, dogs don’t have to wait months or even years to see them again. Don’t forget closely bonded animals that get torn apart for some reason or another – say your roommate and her cat move across country. They may appreciate seeing each other on the computer, as opposed to never having any type of contact with each other ever again.
Who hasn’t known a dog that has struggled with going for what they want as soon as they see it? From snatching food to chasing squirrels and bounding out the door, to jumping on their favorite people, the wonderfully curious and energetic nature of dogs can lead to all sorts of impulses. These urges need to be kept in check for their own safety as well as the safety of other people and pets. As responsible pet owners, it is our duty to help our dogs with impulse control. Here are five simple tips to help work towards better impulse control:
Even the most well-behaved pets have that one thing that really messes with their control. For one of our dogs, Dusty, it’s mail. He has the clichéd need to get at the mail carrier, and knows that those envelopes and packages are delivered by his two-legged nemesis. Since we recognize that this is an impulse trigger for him, we can take steps to avoid getting him riled up in the first place and work with him on not eating our bills.
By noticing when your dog acts up, you can do the same. If you don’t instantly notice a pattern, you can try keeping a behavior diary. Note what your pet did, where, the time of day and if any other pets or people were present.
I have to admit to a bit of pet envy when it comes to dogs who are able to speak a few words or “sing” a song. It’s not that my three guys aren’t smart—they are—but they don’t have any linguistic skills to speak of (pun intended) when it comes to verbalizing anything in English. So while we do plenty of dog dancing, we won’t be down for any karaoke duets anytime soon.
It’s not that I need my dogs to actually be able to tell me, “I wub you,” but imagine how cute it would be! As it stands now, I can get my fix of doggie talk from YouTube videos and my parents’ dog, Rascal, who has some verbal talent. His favorite phrase involves getting just “one more” dog treat or more when showing off his words.
Do Dogs Really Talk?
According to scientists, dogs only talk if you count barking. Research has been done that proves what most pet owners have figured out on their own: that dogs communicate with each other and even attempt to speak to us through specific barks and tones. It’s this sensitivity to tonal nuances that make it seem as if dogs have learned to talk when they are really just imitating human speech patterns. Even dogs who master certain phrases aren’t thought to know what the words mean.
Are the Voices In Our Heads?
Scientific reasoning and research are all well and good, but it’s hard to coincide that with what we hear and experience. I’m not saying I don’t get that repeating a word and offering a yummy CANIDAE dog treat as a reward are stacking the deck, but imitation seems to be a fairly important aspect of how we learn to speak a language ourselves. And I would double dog dare you to tell a parent that the first word their child utters doesn’t actually qualify as talking.
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