Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Zen Litter Box

Some Things To Keep In Mind:
~ Cats have a better sense
of smell than we do.
~ Cats are finicky about cleanliness.
A clean litter box is one that will be used.
Multiple Cats:
~ Need multiple litter boxes. Have one more box than you have cats. (2 cats = 3 boxes, etc.)
~ Keep the litter boxes in different areas of the house.
~ Scoop more than twice a day for multiple cat boxes. Use gallon baggies, seal, and then throw out at the end of the day.
The Box:
~ Ever use a “Porta Potty”? That’s what a
traditional litter box smells like. Yuk! Lids off!!
~ Try plastic storage boxes with flat bottoms and high sides. They are sized better for a cat.
~ Empty the box totally at least once a month and clean with a gentle non ammonia cleaner.
Whatever your cat likes is the best of course. Try something other than clay though. Better for your cat’s lungs and better for the environment.

Tracy B Ann – Radio Host “The Politics of Dogs”

Solving The Chewing Problem

Dogs chew. That’s non negotiable.
You get to pick what your dog chews. Ask yourself, “Have I met my dog’s basic needs today?”
~ Did my dog get enough exercise?
~ Is my dog’s food loaded with sugar?
(Beet pulp, sorghum, corn syrup, grains? All code for sugar). High in protein & sugar = “rocket fuel”. Might be good for sled dogs, but for yours? Not so much.
~ Do I have enough toys? Six minimum - a wide variety. Squeaky, rope, stuffed, bones (as in a piece of cows leg sterilized, packaged for sale at pet stores) and balls.
To Interrupt Chewing:
~ On Your Furniture or Belongings - say “Oops” and redirect to a toy. Keep your house puppy proofed, everything up and out of reach.
~ On You - YELP (go for an Academy Award) and freeze. When your pup let’s go, redirect to a toy. Playing with other dogs is great for learning “bite inhibition” and it does transfers to humans.

Tracy B Ann – Radio Host- The Politics of Dogs

Help Save My Hammock Please!

Tracy, About 3 months ago, we bought a rope hammock and set it up in the yard. Our 1 year old lab mix was not interested in it at all, but a week ago, she started chewing it up. I thought she might not be happy with her toys, so I went out and bought some new toys. She didn't chew it again, for a week, but then I got home today and the hammock is in the worst shape yet, she really went to town. I don't want to have to keep putting the hammock away, and I don't want my pup chewing it. Any suggestions? Cheers,Iain

What happens on those days when she chews Iain? Is it trash day? Does a meter reader come? Is it windy so the hammock moves? If so, those would be good days to keep her in the house.
A year old lab mix is a pup still. Generally dogs mature according to size. Labs are large dogs so I would expect them to chew everything in sight until about 2 ½ years old. Keeping her inside crated when you can’t watch her until she matures is an option.
You could booby trap the hammock. Set a few mousetraps on the hammock (upside down so she won’t get hurt) so that when it rocks from her chewing, the mousetraps will go off, startling her. Be sure to set them up when she is not watching. You can use anything that will make a racket, won’t do her any harm and will lead her to believe that the hammock is possessed and best left alone.
Let me know how it goes! (Oh and be sure at least one of those toys you got her is a rope toy!)
Tracy B Ann

Saturday, March 17, 2007

3 Little Strays

What a busy month for strays! It started off with Petey. He showed up with the neighbor dog and was a bit shy at first but was soon literally eating out of my hand.

A perfect dog. Got along great with kids, AND cats, and as a bonus was healthy and housetrained.

I don't want another dog right now though. If you read my blog enough you know that my own puppy, Said keeps me pretty busy!

I was able to get Petey into a pretty good private shelter in town. They kill dogs only if they have bad temperaments or have health problems. (I have no problem with that.) Due to that policy though, they have limited space for admissions so I kept Petey for 10 days or so until they had an opening.

The intake officer quite liked him and thought he would be adopted out quickly. It was a pleasant experience and I felt hopeful.

Our city run shelter (God love them) kills 400 dogs a week, each and every week. They have a very low adoption rate and dogs get 3 days before they are killed. They do accept each and every animal brought to them though and they get big points in my book for that.

A few days after taking Petey in I found another stray. He had a collar, leash and rabies tags on so I knew that the city shelter would be able to identify him and return him to his owner. This was Saturday so I had to keep him till Tuesday when the shelter reopened.

Then all of a sudden there was a new dog hanging around. This one looked just like Petey so we called it "Nupity" (for New Petey). She was about 4 months and very, very shy. It took many days for her to come within feet of me. Luckily the wonderful neighbor kids were patient enough to sit still until she came to them.

I got her into my yard and Said (9 months old now) got her into the house). I called the low kill shelter and was told to come in 3 days from then and they would be able to take her. I was a bit dismayed that I would not have time to tame her as much as I had Petey, but I didn't want to miss out on her chance to find a great home. I also didn't want to get too attached. She really touched me.

I delivered her with a heavy heart and pulled up horrified to see a line out the door. If I was horrified, imagine Nupity's reaction. She was just starting to show interest in small numbers of people. She went into shock and peed on me.

I'm not sure what all the people were doing there but we went ahead of them for our appointment.

I was asked much different questions than before. Why was I giving her up? Did I just have too many dogs or did I just not want her? I was stunned. I thought I was doing a good deed, helping a poor abandoned pup find a home. I was not shown gratitude but rather was made to feel like an irresponsible owner.

Now, I do know what it is like to work an intake desk at a shelter. The last shelter I volunteered at kicked me off the intake desk because of my inability to be friendly to people who were bringing in their dogs 3rd litter of pups or their cat because it didn't match the new couch. One guy said he was moving out of state so he couldn't take his dog and I asked him if he was moving to a state that didn't allow dogs because I had never heard of any such state. (That was the last day I was allowed to do intakes!)

It's pretty clear though (or should be) that I am a professional when I bring these dogs in, complete with a temperament test, photo's, food, free certificates for my training services and anything else I can think of to help them be more adoptable.

We have a huge problem with pet overpopulation in this country. The answer to it is a multifacted approach that is hard to implement (animal people don't usually work or play well together). It will take everyone working together and I try to do my part. I get many calls every day about strays people have found and I see many myself.

I can't keep them all or I will be one of the well meaning but very crazy people with housefuls of pets who aren't really well cared for at all. I am a dog trainer and radio show host. Rescuing dogs isn't really my responsibility. I'm not sure Nupity realizes that though and I can't stop thinking about her.

I totally understand why most people DON'T do anything about the dogs they see roaming the streets (let alone the cats). Most peole don't have the resources or expertise that I do. NO ONE wants to be made to feel as bad as I did, I'm sure.

I'm not going to let that stop me from doing what I feel is the right thing and helping out the animals that come into my life. I'll just find a different way to do it from now on.

It reminds me of a conversation I was having about poverty with a friend recently where he said that he did not believe at all that we would be the generation to end poverty. That didn't seem like a very positive attitude to me until then he followed that comment up by saying "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything we can to try".

The pet overpopulation problem may not be solved in my lifetime as politicians, shelters, rescue groups, trainers, etc. lose focus of the real problems, but that doesn't mean I am going to stop doing the best I can. And I will be encouraging everyone else to as well!

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Dog Is Great At Home....

I have been thinking of getting T-Shirts that say that. I hear that all the time. "I don't know why my dog isn't listening, he's great at home". "He sits at home every time."

Yep! I know that one. I am great at home too. Not only am I kind and nice and patient, I am also tall and thin with long blonde hair. I'm not sure what happens when I leave the house. All of a sudden I am fat and fifty and have no patience whatsoever.

It's easy to be nice and kind when there is no one around.

It's easy for your dog to sit when there is nothing else to do.

But when your dog can sit with 10 other dogs around, 15 people, a fruit stand and a busy street, well, then you have a dog that can sit. One that will sit instead of chasing squirrels, cars or kids. One that will sit instead of run away.

That's why a group class is so great. If your dog can learn to sit there it can sit anywhere. All it takes is practice.

Your dog can't stay at home "being great" for the rest of it's life and neither can I.

Perhaps with enough practice, I will be able to be kind and patient when surrounded by people. Who knows? Maybe I can even be tall thin and blonde.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Dog Is A Beserker

Oh my! My cute little puppy who followed me everywhere and was quiet and compliant has become a complete nutball!

A total teenager. I have to hide the car keys or I am pretty sure he would go joy riding with my car.

He used to come everytime I called and walked right by my side with no leash. I believe he still would do these things if I were holding a live squirrel.

He is 6 months old now. 50 pounds and about 4 feet long. He is a very busy guy. I am quite sure he thinks I have changed his name from Said (Sigh-eed) to "What do you have in your mouth now?"

He moves so fast and furiously he is almost always limping. I hate to have to do it but I guess I'll have to start training him! (ha) He does do the basics no matter what the distraction - sit, down.

He knows to always sit before he comes in a door but his butt barely touches the ground. He does a hilarious stay. He will sit and then throw humself into a down. I don't care which he does, a stay is a stay is a stay to me. Though he does push the definition of stay to the limit.

He is in his sit, then a down, then remarkably he can, without getting up from that sit, propel his body about 3 feet to the side where he is still doing a sit. I am sure in his mind he feels he is complying!

Needless to say after seeing this a few times I no longer use the word stay, which he obviously thinks mean stay sitting (And technically, I suppose he does.)

I now use the phrase "Be still". I use my hands to hold him in place. Not touching him mind you. I don't touch dogs when I train them. I hold the space in front of him with my hands up in a gentle "Supreme's" type "Stop" gesture.

And that's when I see my puppy again. He lies there looking up at me with those big eyes. I see my puppy when I come home everyday also, when he races up to me and promptly sits to be petted.

And I saw the wonderful dog is he becoming when this morning I sat his food down (he eats a raw Pitcairn diet) and one of my cats came over and started to eat off Said's plate. Said sat back and nicely waited for the cat to be done. He is no fool, he know who rules in this house!.

When he wakes up in the morning he stretches, first his front legs then his back and then comes to me and sits to be petted. He head butts me like the cats and likes to have the sides of his face rubbed.

I am absolutely in love. Now if only I can survive this beserker stage! o

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Only Brush You'll Ever Need

I will admit I am no expert on brushing. Last year on my birthday I threw away all my brushes deciding life was just too short for that sort of thing (and so is my hair!).
Once when my Chow boy Peace was 10 years old I got the wild notion to brush him. I didn't really know what kind of brush to use and I was too embarrassed to ask his groomer, Lisa, in case she wondered what I had been using for the last 10 years, so that notion went with the wind, much like my boys hair.
I have started brushing the visiting dogs at my house though, and I kind of like it. It's either brush the dog or sweep the floor and brushing the dog lowers my blood pressure way more than sweeping.
One of the women at Nashville Pet Products in Bellevue tried to get me to buy this new brush called the FURminator. Well, the medium size one is like $40 and I am Scottish, need I say more?
I resisted the purchase until one day I realized that it had a 30 day money back guarantee. So, if I didn't love it I was taking it straight back.
Turns out I left it on a low shelf one day and my new puppy chewed the handle. I doubt that's covered in the money back guarantee. It didn't matter though, no way was I returning it!
This thing is incredible. At first it scared me a little. It looks a bit like a razor blade.
I would brush a dog ten strokes with what I thought was a good brush and then ten strokes with the FURminator. The difference was amazing. I got a nice little pile of hair with the brush I had thought was good, but the FURminator pile was twice as thick and had a line of dander at the edge.
Convinced that this new brush was actually cutting the hair off the dogs, I cleaned it and used it on myself.
Not a single hair came out, just that lovely line of dandruff! (Might not be a bad idea to market to people as well.)
So, this brush does a great job of removing hair AND allergy producing dander from dogs and cats.
And get this--- pets like this brush!
You know how when you are brushing a cat and trying not to get bloody in the process, you find the one place the cat likes to be brushed and repeat that spot in between brushing all the other spots the cat doesn't like? All the while ducking and weaving so you don't get bit or scratched.
You don't have that problem with the FURminator. I'm telling you, pets like it. They let you brush places "no one has ever gone before".
Tails used to be a huge problem. Nope, they like that now.
Legs are often a problem. Not anymore.
There is something about this FURminator that does the job and causes no pain.
You and your pets dream come true.
Shedding is one of the most annoying things about owning a pet and trying to maintain even the resemblance of cleanliness.
The fact that it removes the allergy producing dander is a great gift to those of us who score high on allergy tests.
I am often asked if I sell this brush or work for the company. No! (But I might if they asked.)
This is just one of the things that can make your life easier and help you enjoy your pet more.
Some other key things I have found to help with shedding are a good diet and supplements. A homemade diet designed by a veterinarian like Pitcairn or at least a human grade dog food that passes USDA inspection along with fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
Omega 3, 6 and 9's (Fish Oil, Flax Oil and Borage Oil) work wonders and frankly we all should be taking them whether we shed or not!

To link to the FURminator -
For info on diet and supplements listen to my radio show "The Politics of Dogs"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Watching vs Whispering

I met a cute little bean of a dog today. She ran right up to my car to greet me. A 15 month old 22 pound mix of a thing, with the most appealing face. I was actually there to teach her tricks. Not exactly my specialty but I was game. It turned out though that she was too nervous for most tricks.
While she didn't hesitate to run up to me and at one point even jumped into my car, she did hesitate when I touched her and she flinched at any sudden movements whether they were directed at her or not.
She has only lived with her owner for 3 months and the previous year of her life is anyone's guess but my guess would be that it was not too pleasant.
I did my usual out of the box training. Taught her to sit, down, stay and come in just a short bit of time. She learned everything very fast. I would break it down into steps and when I would move to step #2, she would jump to #4.
I couldn't teach her any tricks that involved my putting my hands over her head (like rollover) - it made her too nervous. She was hyper vigilant, watching everything and everyone while listening to all indoor and outdoor noises.
How exhausting!
Mostly though I just watched. I'm not real big on whispering. For me listening is so much more important.
So I watched how she interacted with her owner and I watched her body language and his and tried to figure out what she was trying to communicate to him.
Most humans spend so much time and effort trying to communicate TO
their pets instead of WITH their pets.
When he asked her to sit she would take a step or two back and then sit. I'm willing to bet some bad things have happened to her while sitting close to people.
And don't get me wrong, this man loves this dog and she loves him, that's obvious, but they are only 3 months into a relationship and trust takes a while.
Sometimes when he would ask her to sit she would stand there and not move, just look at him. I could see very clearly where another trainer might label that as defiance and the ever dreaded "dominance" issue.
As I stood and just watched that for what seemed like the longest time, I noticed how soft the dogs eyes were and I felt the need to hold my heart and my eyes filled with tears.
What I saw was a dog who really, really wants to please "her man" but she was trying to figure out a way to stay safe at the same time.
I trust that she is smart enough and her owner is kind enough that she will soon figure out that she IS safe.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My Cats Are Slackers

Oh yes, they are. Supposedly nocturnal, I was up all night last night and couldn't help but notice that all they did was lie about and sleep. At one point one of the boys, Stuff, was lying next to me all stretched out poking me with his little feet while I was quietly reading on a narrow little corner of my queen sized bed.
And don't get the wrong impression - they are not that active during the day either.
They appear to be mastering the fine art of slacking. :-)
Kidding aside, it's quite normal for a cat to sleep 18 hours a day.
If reincarnation exists, please let me come back as a cat!
Whether they slack off or not, my two boys Shades and Stuff are both wonderful.
I marvel at this on a regular basis. They were outside cats that "found" me and moved in.
They blended in nicely with my three older cats who have since passed on, all living to the age of 19.
Shades was someone's pet who didn't want him anymore. He calmly moved in and proceeded to get very fat.
Stuff was feral and it took me over a year to "tame" him. I give some of the credit to my neighbor kids, who love my cats and are loved by my cats. Shades talks to them -long stories full of meow this and meow that while he rarely give me a pip or a squeak.
Stuff watched them from the next room when he first met them (4 loud, boisterous children who squeal a lot), and decided within 5 minutes to join them and he has loved them ever since. So much for being feral.
Neither one of them seems to want to go outside. I leave the door open while I load and unload things into the house and they don't make a move for it.
Maybe because everything they need is inside already.
They have all kinds of toys, including the best cat cigars money can buy. They have a very fancy climber, nice window seats and heated pillows to rest on.
They have a new puppy to play and cuddle with and to boss around - which they sure do!
One of the most important things that they have is a clean litter box (well two actually). Never, never, underestimate the importance of a clean litter box to a cat.
I don't. I share with them the belief that the way to prevent odors and all kinds of problems is to keep the litter box clean.
Well... that and I have ADHD and dial up internet connection. I can't do less than 2 things at once, so I download, scoop the litter box, put the clothes from the washer into the dryer, open mail, read now downloaded info, download some more and start the process all over again.
If I ever get fast internet access the cats are in trouble but for right now I have all the time in the world and two very happy cats to spend it with!

(For litter box help see the "Tips" page at )