Bless Your Pet!
Hello and welcome back to the blog!
I know this might be a strange blog post, but I'm suddenly in the mood to write a post about pets. Now I know and trust that you already know how to care for your pet as you see fit, but I still thought it would be nice to share some of the ways I have fallen into a nice rhythm with my own pet to hopefully inspire some future pet owners in the audience, OR anyone looking to change things up with their pet.
I know that a lot of pets don't get the pleasure of routine as many PEOPLE don't even get the pleasure of having a daily routine, but I do think that if it is at all possible, you should engage in routines with your pets.
This doesn't even have to be full day routines; it really could just be little rituals like how you feed him, how you say goodnight, or how you greet him when you return home. Animals appreciate routine and consistency, and they like to feel like they've "figured you out." So as best you can, try to have a routine or rituals with your pet.
One of my favorite Instagrammers always puts her dog Henry to sleep every night with belly rubs, and ear strokes. Now I know that might seem silly or too wacky-Western lady for you, but I think we can all learn a bit from Henry and his owner: having a small ritual at night or in the morning with your pet can really help include them more and improve their life.
Routine also includes the communication that you have with your pet; try to set up training and signals that your pet understands, so that they can do their best to obey. Train your dog, and try to do the training yourself to provide consistency. Be wary of training facilities, as these places can sometimes be overly aggressive with training. There is no need to hit or yell at your pet. Remember-- they cannot speak English!
Try your best to patiently train your pet, and remember that if the pet is not well trained, it's not their fault, it's YOUR fault. But have no fear, this can be easily remedied by a few solid weeks and/or months of consistent training, communication, and rewards. Take the time to train your pet, engage in rituals or routines, and always remember that training is all a buildup of the small moments. Do not be aggressive with them if they fail to understand you or if they are naughty; simply enact some form of discipline and try again.
Not all pets enjoy people, but that doesn't mean we should leave them to be anti-social or even worse... fearfully aggressive in social situations. Teaching your pet the difference between strangers and friends is very important. If you have a dog, it is essential to let them gain experience in a variety of social situations so that you won't have to leave him cooped up at home 24/7!
Introduce your dog gently to social situations, and show him through your energy and body language that you are comfortable. Project peace and assertive gentleness, and teach him how to approach friends. Also, teach your pet not to jump up on strangers or greet them too aggressively, lest the people around you get spooked or annoyed. I can't stand when dogs jump up on me, even though I'm a dog owner myself! It's hazardous to my clothing, and frankly unpleasant.
Dogs do not always adjust to social environments, especially if they were isolated from a young age. Thankfully our dog was raised in a daycare for the first 6 months of her life, so she was heavily socialized around young children, adults, and lots of people. She loves kids and understands that she cannot play with them the same way she can with adults because they are fragile and small. Now, I'm not encouraging you to let your dog run loose in a daycare, oh my LOL, but I am saying that if an opportunity arises for you to teach your dog the difference between children and adults, take advantage of it!
Focus on projecting calm assertive energy, and never show your dog that you are nervous when you are in social situations together, otherwise that will make him feel nervous too. Let your dog get coached by other dogs in the dog park, and try to be assertive if he becomes aggressive or unfriendly to other animals.
It is ESSENTIAL to play with and exercise your pet. Do not get a pet unless you have the time and/or energy to mentally and physically stimulate their life. This includes rabbits, cats, docs, and other mammal pets that need care and attention.
Take your dog for frequent walks, play fetch, and take him with you out and about as much as you can. Play with your cat frequently, and give her places to perch in your home to feel vertical confidence. Ensure that your rabbits, birds, and other pets are also getting the exercise they need, and don't allow your pets to become complacent and depressed. A small addition of a toy in a bird cage or an obstacle course for a cat can add a lot of stimulation and interest to a pet's world.
Proper physical exercise is essential for a healthy pet, and playtime is also important. Animals naturally socialize and play with each other in the wild, so it is important for you to offer that to your pet as well. Even 15 minutes of fetch with your dog or hide and pounce with your cat can go a long way.
Make sure your home is pet friendly, but also try not to let them take over the house. Ask a friend to be honest with you if your house smells like dog or cats, and try to make sure you are doing a good job to serve the needs of your pet. Clean out your cat's litterbox, and pay attention to signs that your cat is suffering in the environment it is in. I highly recommend the show, "My Cat from Hell."
As far as dogs, it's important for your dog to understand the rules of the house; where he can and cannot go, as well as place she can be comfortable, look out the window, and feel stimulated. Set up his environment so that he has access to his toys, his food, his water, and anything else. Notice when he is trying to communicate with you by sitting by the door if he needs to go out, or if he's crying by his food dish.
In general, make his environment as pet friendly as possible, and avoid setting out distractions that are too tempting. It's not a good thing if you expect him to avoid eating your trash or the food on your counter, but you also constantly leave the trash overflowing or food on the counter. Don't intentionally set up situations that make it difficult for your pet to obey you, and make sure that they can have access to views of the outside, as many pets enjoy listening, looking at, and engaging with the sights of birds, squirrels, and trees.
In general, make sure their environment is mentally stimulating. You do not want them to lose interest in life or in you. Try to ensure that the pet is in the best environment it can be to feel physically and mentally stimulated. This includes having places for cats to perch, dogs to rest, and places outside for dogs to run around.
If you travel often or need to keep your pet somewhere for a period of time, make sure that you are doing proper research. Many dog kennels only let the dogs outside for two sets of 15 minutes per day, and leave them in cages for the rest of the time. If at all possible, leave your pets at home with a trusted house-sitter that the pet knows and loves, or if you have to, leave the pet with a trusted and familiar friend's house. I would not recommend transferring cats unless absolutely necessary, as that can be quite traumatizing for them.
Dogs are much more easy-going and tolerant of change, but do not underestimate the impact of a changed environment. Make sure your dog feels comfortable with the people you leave them with, and plan ahead far in advance on what you will do with them when you travel.
Try to put more forethought and energy into vet appointments, daily walks, and even quality time with your pet, to make sure they are getting the most out of life. Plan ahead for their needs, and make sure they are treated with care.
Our dog is very eager to please and has a strong understanding of our expectations of her. We let her roam free outside the house, even for hours at a time if she likes, without a fence, a shock collar, a chain, or a leash. We trained her to do this through clear expectations of the rules, training, and discipline. She sniffs human food but does not eat it, and is extremely obedient when we ask her to do things.
However, we do not have a perfect dog and we are not perfect owners. The reason she obeys is because we take every small opportunity to train her that we can. We keep absolute 100% consistency with the rules to keep as much clarity for her as possible.
I once heard in one of my psychology classes that one of the most stressful things a person can experience is when an authority figure has unclear or ambiguous expectations for them. I try to keep things as clear as possible, and as a result, she usually shows us with her shameful body language if she has done something against the rules, even before we find out LOL!
In total, I don't believe pets are more important than people, but I do believe that if we take it upon ourselves to care for an animal and be their guardian, we enter into a promise to help them live a thriving life.
Try your best to make your pet's life stimulating, consistent, and comfortable, and you will both get more out of the experience: I know I certainly do!