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How To Greet A Dog Or Cat

Would you go up to a stranger at a cookout and pat them on the head? No way, right? Why do so many people do that to our pets? It's hard to resist a puppy or kitten! Our pets rely on us to speak for them, so when you see a cute dog or cat, ask their human if you can say "hello" to them. 

We must remember that not all dogs (or cats) enjoy being petted by strangers. Some fear genders, hats, masks, sunglasses, children, noise, or canes. Both puppies and kittens can get overstimulated by their environment and could nip or scratch when they become fearful. This is why it is best to ask before greeting a new animal.

If the pet's person tells you it's ok to pet Fido or Fluffy, there is, of course, a right and wrong way to approach an unknown pet. First, crouch down to the dog so you are not doing the "overhead dread." Fido could fear a person standing over him and reaching toward his head. Also, turn a bit sideways, so you are not staring at him, and don't make direct eye contact. Otherwise, you may be perceived as a threat causing the dog to become nervous.

Let the dog come to you. Many people reach their hand out to a dog so they can smell it. However, this is unnecessary since a dog's nose is so finely tuned he can smell you just fine a few feet away. Some rescue dogs that may have been in an abusive situation will shy away from a hand or outstretched arm.

If the dog comes to you, he's saying he would like to meet you. Don't pat him on the top of the head; many dogs don't enjoy that; instead, stroke him on his back, neck, or sides. Do not make any sudden movements and talk to the pooch in a quiet happy voice.

Don't encourage bad behavior; if Fido jumps up and the owner pushes him down, don't say, "It's ok, I'm fine with jumping." Help the owner by gently pushing Fido off, backing up a bit, or asking him to sit instead of jumping up. You don't want to instigate bad manners.

Here are signs of a relaxed, happy dog: soft eyes, relaxed ears, an open mouth, loose calm body, wagging tail, and seeking out contact. Signs that a dog is uneasy: lip licking, blinking, a closed mouth, ears pinned back, turning his head away from you, wide eyes with the whites showing, a stiff body posture, or trying to walk away from you. Don't pet that dog; he's frightened. Just talk to him in a friendly, calm voice; that may be all he enjoys.

If you're meeting a cat, again ask if she's friendly, and allow the cat to decide how fast and far the meeting should go. If the kitty seems interested, try offering her a single finger. This is a very non-aggressive way to show you're interested in getting to know her. The cat may sniff your finger or rub against it (which is saying she would like a scratch). If so, hold out your entire hand, let Fluffy sniff it, and stoke her around their ears, cheeks, and under her chin. If she looks uncomfortable, don't go in for the pet. Just talk to her in a quiet calm voice and wait for Fluffy to get comfortable.

Teach these "rules" to your kids too. When you follow these tips, you'll make a lot of new canine and feline friends!

Demand Behaviors - Who's The Boss?

Some pets are polite, and some are a little pushy, but now and then, most of our best friends can exhibit some demand behaviors. Maybe Rover barks at you non-stop for another treat, keeps putting his nose under your hand for a pat, or drops his tennis ball at your feet repeatedly. Fluffy may jump on the computer keyboard. It's cute the first couple of times - after that, most people will say that your buddy is getting annoying.

Let's step back and look at demand behaviors a bit differently. What's happening is that your pet is trying to communicate with you, which is a good thing. While not all demand behaviors are good, some are. So before you tell Rover to "go lay down," you may want to focus on what he's trying to tell you.

If he is scratching or barking at the door, ask yourself when he last went out. If he's constantly dropping the ball at your feet, perhaps he's not getting enough exercise and outdoor time (call us; we can help).

Sometimes Fluffy and Rover want more attention, even when exercised, played with, and patted. So what is the best way to handle this situation?

It may be hard to ignore them, but it eventually works. If they demand attention and you give it to them, they win and are rewarded with your attention. Even if it is just for a fleeting moment (when you say, "go lay down"), they bothered you and got rewarded. However, if you ignore them, they often will up the ante, barking louder or nudging more. If you've chosen to ignore them, you can't end up caving when they bark more; you'll have to ignore them until they stop. Otherwise, they have learned that they will get what they want if they make a fuss!

Some trainers suggest teaching them an alternative behavior - for example, using buzzers and bells to go out. Hang a bell on the door and teach Rover to nudge and ring it when he needs to potty. Use a buzzer (example from Amazon here) for him to press when he wants to play. They are, after all, two different behaviors.

Lastly, be sure your dog and cat are not only getting a good amount of physical and mental stimulation, but they also need snuggle time with you!

It's not difficult to nip demanding behaviors in the bud; remember, you always get the behavior you reinforce, so be sure to encourage the ones you want!

My Cat Is Coughing And Sneezing, Now What?

Everyone coughs and sneezes now and then, including your cat. And if it's just a bit of coughing that resolves itself, that's fine. But if your kitty is coughing persistently or the cough seems severe, it may be time to see the vet.

The list of reasons your cat is coughing and sneezing is a long one, but the most common reasons are:

Asthma - any cat can have allergies. Pollen, dust mites, and mold can trigger a coughing episode.

Respiratory Infections - bacterial and viral infections (including feline pneumonia) are common causes of feline coughing.

Foreign Objects - your kitty can inhale a grass seed, bug, or bit of food and will have a coughing or sneezing fit to dislodge it. However, occasionally they can't dislodge them. Then, of course, a vet visit is in order.

Tumors and Polyps - frequent coughing can often be the first sign of this problem.

Hairballs - as you know, Fluffy grooms herself frequently, and that process causes her to swallow a lot of fur, which can form hairballs in her tummy. Fluffy will often cough, gag, and barf them up to get rid of those hairballs. So if your kitty is coughing up an occasional hairball, it's gross but normal; no need to worry.

Heartworm - we've mentioned before in this newsletter that although it's not common, cats can get heartworm. Their symptoms are usually very subtle, but one of those symptoms is a chronic cough.

Coughing and sneezing are often harmless; we all do it - cats, dogs, and people! Most of the conditions we've listed can be treated or managed. However, should that cough persist for more than a few days, or if it's severe, it's time to take Fluffy to visit your veterinarian.

Great Pet Links!

October is:

Pet Wellness Month
Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

October 1 - National Black Dog Day
October 16 - National Feral Cat Day
October 27 - National Black Cat Day
October 31 - Halloween

Halloween Safety Tips
Pets Having Halloween Fun
Fall Activities for Dogs
Fall Activities for Cat


October 2022 Newsletter