Cat People and Dog People.

Cat Person: I just don’t know how you do it, putting up with all that bouncing and walking and noise. Dogs are just so… boistrous.

Dog Person: Now, I don’t think you’re being fair. Dogs can be energetic, but many dogs are also calm, peaceful animals.

CP: But they all still need walks and exercise. Dogs were literally bred to be dragged around doing work. If they aren’t they get badly behaved.

DP: Not all dogs are quite that energetic.

CP: But you DO need to walk your dog, right?

DP: Yes, but the rest of the time she’s very quiet and well behaved. A walk is hardly boistrous.

CP: Look, a dog will never compare to a cat in terms of peacefulness. My cat gets let out in the morning, goes and hunts around a little, then comes home and sleeps.

DP: That’s not less energetic, that’s just an animal that sleeps eighteen hours a day and doesn’t want you in its life. I prefer a creature that wants to have fun with me.

CP: But dogs are just so NEEDY. They just want more, more, more. And they take it personally when you don’t have the time or energy for them.

DP: But that’s what makes them great. They’re there, they’re your buddies, they’re willing to go the extra mile to save you and protect you.

CP: Because it’s in their genes! Dogs care about you because they had to to survive. They’re just mindlessly doing what they were programmed to, or they would have died out. Cats on the other hand are independent, when they save someone it’s actually virtuous.

DP: Virtuous? Most cats are entirely useless. Dogs have been by our sides for thousands of years and have been herders, hunters, searchers, they’re even finding more uses for them, like cancer dogs. What have cats done? Catch rodents.

CP: But humans were just fine without dogs. Sure, they helped, but we would have managed. Without cats all our harvests would have gone to rodents and we would have been overridden by disease.

DP: Without cats we would have trained dogs to catch rats… oh look we did!

CP: But you have to feed and train and exercise that dog. What a waste of time and money! You just got a cat, back in the day, and let it out to hunt for you.

DP: Yeah, and then it would run away because it doesn’t need you and you’d have to get another cat.

CP: Would still cost less than a dog. And what’s wrong with an animal having some independence? You just want something to control and manipulate. I pity whoever you date.

DP: You just want to excuse your lack of empathy and responsibility. I pity your children.

 

Isn’t it daft how we keep trying to persuade each other that cats make a better dog and dogs make a better cat?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

7 Things Dogs Can Teach You About Life.

Having a dog is a good reminder of the realities of life, from the good to the bad to the essential, bare-bones of existence, if you can pardon the pun. So here are seven things my dog reminds me of on a daily basis.

1: There’s no such thing as unfair.

If we’re playing tug of war with a rope and I use one hand and she grips with her mouth and uses her paw to loosen my hand, she isn’t cheating. If she shakes her head violently, she isn’t cheating. If I shake the rope and pull it away, I’m not cheating. If I hold it out of her reach with both hands I’m not cheating. There is no such thing as fair or unfair in reality. You can’t explain these concepts to a dog. They’re human ideas designed to keep a human social order, that vary from culture to culture, person to person and day to day. In life, anything that gets you ahead is fair. All anyone can do is stop you getting ahead.

2: Violence is necessary.

Puppies and dogs play by fighting. Their games involve ripping, tearing, pouncing, chasing, crushing, pinning… They learn the pressure points on each other and on you. They learn bite inhibition: how hard they can bite before it hurts. Their entire entertainment package is fight, fight, fight.

Because violence, whilst not completely inevitable, is necessary. You need to be able to vanquish your enemies, kill your prey and scare off your predators. You need to learn to be violent even if you’ll never use it, whether you’re a rabbit, a dog or a human.

3: Prioritize your long-term survival.

The average dog doesn’t think twice about stealing your food when you aren’t in the room. It takes a long time to teach them not to steal because their basic instinct is to eat. You need to teach them that their wellbeing is at risk if they steal. This is because a dog puts its long term survival ahead of anything else. The main drive is to survive as long as possible and whatever gives the best odds of that, wins.

4: Don’t hold grudges.

Whether you “cheated” in a game, punished them for stealing food or unknowingly hurt them, they don’t care. After the act, once the order is re-established, they just want to carry on as normal. If you are repeatedly hurtful, they adapt their behaviour but do not become vindictive. A dog lives in the moment, adapts to change and, as such, does not hold grudges against you, even if you hurt it.

5: Learn as much as possible.

The puppy can’t keep anything out of under her feet, in her mouth and up her nose. Leaves, dirt, dead animals, flowers, bottles, toys, ropes, wires… It takes a long time to chase her away from exploring.

On the flip side, she is always eager to please. It may take 20 or 40 goes, but she will learn that command and enjoy learning it, whether for praise, treats or just the fun of it.

The point is, she’s always ready to learn. The more you know and adapt, the healthier, more efficient and happier you are as an organism. And dogs have this nailed. Learning is a pleasure to them.

6: The pack order is your existence.

Dogs are constantly vigilant for changes in the pack order. They work out who’s in charge very early on and act according to the perceived pack order. Some dogs may decide that the teenage son is clearly running the house and some bitches put themselves before the children after their first season. The pack order dictates every part of their life and it needs to make sense to them.

There is always someone leading and if you refuse to lead they will lead for you.

There is always someone issuing commands and if no commands are issued they will worry.

Every position in the pack is always moveable and if they think someone has dropped out, they are eager to fill in.

And even in human society, if we adopt the same approach we make progress.

7: Enjoy life.

Ultimately, whatever you’re doing with it, strive to have fun. Dogs will turn training into games, enjoy learning new words, practise fighting and role play as different pack members. They will run and jump when there’s free time, grab the best bites of food when they can, cuddle anyone who’ll cuddle them back and try and ensure everyone else is doing the same thing.

After all, whether you’re on this planet for fifteen or eighty years, it’s way too little time to have it all and way too much time to be so serious about it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… introduce a puppy to new things.

As you may or may not already know, we recently got a puppy. Well, by recently I mean two months ago. And those two months have been pretty awesome, but also a bit of a trial, as all puppies are. However, between our shared knowledge of dogs Jon and I managed to completely calm her about new things in a matter of weeks. So this is how we went about doing it.

1: Noises.

Dogs don’t like new or loud noises. Even grown dogs get stressed by things like fireworks. But when you live on a junction with fields everywhere, there are plenty of loud sounds. Clattering, banging, large engines, fast bikes, sheep being transported… She couldn’t really afford to be scared of all of them. But she was.

The way we diffused this was by making sure she didn’t have an excuse to panic when we were in the patio. We kept calm ourselves, after all, she won’t die of being a bit scared. If she was running and playing, we would encourage her to keep playing. If she ran inside we would call her out and pet her and comfort her. If she stayed out we would give her repeat praise until the noise had gone on its merry way. This way she slowly learned not to run from these sounds. They still startle her, but she no longer barks, urinates in fear or runs away.

2: Other dogs.

I find it very odd when a dog is not good with other dogs. It’s often because of poor socialization as a puppy. If you had a puppy that lunged at every person who walked in the house, would you hide it away and let it continue the aggression, or would you punish it for violence and slowly socialize it? Just as we make sure our pets are fine with other humans, we need to make sure they are fine with other dogs.

Lamu is encouraged to meet other dogs when the owner says they are friendly. For small dogs we let them communicate on the same level. For large dogs, we first hold her up as they sniff her, then place her on the ground if they don’t get too excited. She knows she can hide behind us, but gets plenty of gentle praise for positive interactions.

3: Other pets.

We also had Wallace the cat. Wallace is a very sociable cat and needs a lot of physical attention, fuss and love. Which meant he saw the new arrival as a challenge. On the cat front, we had to make sure his needs were met: food, shelter, attention, freedom. He became very outdoorsy and avoided the dog at first, but as he grew familiar he became comfortable with being in a room with her and eventually with sitting together on the sofa.

On the puppy front, she was obviously too boistrous for a cat. To balance this we introduced them both on the floor in an open area, holding her and letting him decide how close he wanted to get. After a few encounters she realized he didn’t like too much fuss and submitted to him, which is fine as they now don’t interfere with each other’s lives too much.

4: Hoovers and loud appliances.

Like loud noises outside the house, except these are inside. Within five minutes Lamu went from being nervous about the hoover to being fine with it.

Step one was introducing her to it, letting her sniff around it and inspect it.

Step two was moving the head of the hoover without putting it on.

Step three was putting it on with a warning (“go”) and then turning it off after a few seconds, repeating until she was used to it.

Step four was letting her get near when it was on.

Step five was combining movement and sound for short bursts of hoovering.

Step six was hoovering properly.

During the proper hoover session she urinated in panic, but quickly calmed down and watched it after that. She was given a treat for following as I hoovered and watching me put the hoover away.

This whole process may need to be repeated the first five times you hoover around your puppy.

5: Collars and leads.

Third attempt at collar training. Already comfortable in it.

Third attempt at collar training. Already comfortable in it.

I suggest starting with the collar first and introducing the lead properly later. Get your puppy still in the calmest way possible (I found that restraining was too upsetting, but lightly controlling her with my arms as I buckled the collar was easier for both of us) and slip the collar on and into the right position. Immediately feed her a treat and praise her. Leave it on and distract her from it by playing or cuddling for an hour or two. Then, remove it and give her another treat and praise.

The third attempt she stopped trying to remove it and just kept wearing it. It was a bit itchy, but other than that she didn’t mess with it. She even napped in it.

The one thing I would advise is not to leave puppies unattended in full collars as they aren’t collar-aware yet and may get it caught and hurt themselves.

For lead training, start with just passive lead use. Attach it to the collar when the puppy will be mostly carried or sitting down, like at the vet or in the car. Build walking by using treats and toys to tempt the puppy forwards whilst wearing the lead. Eventually it won’t bother them and the walking training can begin.

6: Enclosed spaces.

Pups may often need to be enclosed for car trips, visitors, vet trips or bedtime, to prevent mischief. But puppies also hate being left alone in enclosed spaces. We used crate training to keep her calm when it was bedtime, house-break her and make sure she was fine with a crate for when we need to contain her as an adult.

You need to start by introducing the puppy to the space. Let them walk around in it, in and out, sniff it and roll on the ground. This will make it more familiar when the time comes as well as get their scent on it. The bedding should be nylon so it can’t be damaged and can be wiped clean.

Encourage them in and out of it and to think of it as a nice space by putting treats in it and keeping the door open. Practice closing the door and then feeding treats through the bars for further reinforcement. Also plenty of praise for calm, quiet behaviour.

When the time comes, make sure the crate is pleasant. A dog-safe hot water bottle and an item of your clothing will ease the puppy’s nerves a little. Make sure they have made their ablutions (gone to the toilet) before putting them in. Encourage them in like it’s just training, close the door and feed a treat. Then cover the main entrance for nights and moving. Plenty of praise for good behaviour.

For night-times, after a certain time do not check on the puppy. The first few nights it may be distressed, but reacting to the noise will reward the puppy. Instead, make sure the puppy is well around 10-20 minutes in and then leave it. It should be calmer by the fourth or fifth night.

7: Get em early.

The crucial part to all of this is that it must happen when the puppy is young. The longer you wait or the more you drag out the training, the longer it will take to calm your puppy down. If you introduce new things within a week of getting the puppy then you will save yourself a lot of trouble.

And that’s how we got Lamu calmed down and settled into her new home. It helped that she was a very young (8 weeks), fairly confident puppy already, but this advice applies to most puppies in their new homes.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!