Is your Dog Depressed?

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Dogs may or may not suffer from depression in the same way humans do, but they definitely experience mood and behavior changes that are typically short-lived and the result of a recent event in a dog’s life.

Some dogs feel let down at the start of the school year when their playmates are no longer around. Often, an existing dog shows signs of sadness when a second dog is added to the family. Dogs who suffer the loss of a family member (human or pet) often go through a grieving period. And of course, many new canine residents at animal shelters suffer a period of sorrow and uncertainty.

The problem with diagnosing clinical depression (which is different from transient episodes of depressed behavior) is that even in humans, there’s no biological test to identify the condition. A physician makes note of symptoms and what the patient tells them about their feelings and arrives at an “educated guess” diagnosis.

Using our powers of observation you can determine if your animal companion is feeling blue. Generally speaking, when a vet or veterinary behaviorist describes a patient as depressed, the dog is displaying a change in normal behavior.  Dogs can talk with an animal communicator so please contact Diane at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com if you believe your dog is suffering from depression.

Possible Causes of Depression in Dogs

Lack of exercise — Some dogs actually become socially inhibited when they aren’t getting enough exercise and playtime. This can take the form of a decrease in interaction with other family members or choosing to isolate themselves in their crate or another room. If your normally happy dog suddenly isn’t, consider the possibility that she needs more exercise. A lot more daily exercise.

Most dogs need much more physical activity than their owners realize. Your dog should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three.

Minimum exercise requirements prevent muscle atrophy, but don’t necessarily build muscle mass, strengthen tendons and ligaments, hone balance and proprioception, or enhance cardiovascular fitness, which is why more is always better. If you can provide your dog daily walks as well as additional daily training sessions to meet your other exercise goals, even better!

Lots of long smell sessions, as a part of your dog’s “cool down” period after exercise, is a fantastic way to let your dog meet her daily outdoor sniffing requirements, another important behavior that can provide tremendous mental enrichment. I believe sniffing isn’t just enjoyable for dogs, it’s a requirement for healthy cognitive stimulation.

Lack of human interaction — A healthy dog who is feeling depressed may lose interest in eating or playing, become destructive, have accidents in the house, or stop running to greet you when you come through the door. Like a sleepy, sluggish dog, a depressed pooch often just needs more quality time with his human.

Get into the habit of spending an uninterrupted hour with your dog each day engaging in physical pursuits, grooming rituals, training exercises, and good old belly rubs. It will lighten both your moods!

Punishment — Dogs who are punished for undesirable behavior instead of being rewarded for positive behavior may stop interacting with their owners in an attempt to avoid mistreatment. They adopt a depressive state of mind called “learned helplessness” because they feel powerless to avoid negative situations.

I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of positive reinforcement behavior training, not only to help your dog become a good canine citizen, but also to preserve and protect the all-important bond you share with him.

Undiagnosed medical problem — If your dog’s behavior changes, even if you suspect you know why, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Many changes in behavior symptomatic of depression, including lack of appetite, potty accidents in the house, sleeping more than usual, reluctance to exercise and sudden aggressive behavior in a dog who has never shown aggression, can also be signs of any number of underlying medical conditions.

You’re depressed — Your dog is very sensitive to your emotional state, which she can detect by observing the tone of your voice, your body language and other subtle clues, including your pheromones (how you smell). The way you move, speak and behave all send subtle signals to your dog that indicate your mood.

For example, when you’re in a situation that’s stressful to your dog, such as at your veterinarian’s office, she’ll look to you to help her calm down. If she senses tension in you, she’ll likely become even more anxious. Your dog is extremely intuitive; so, if you’re feeling blue, don’t be surprised if she seems depressed as well.

Loss of a human family member or pet — It’s not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person or animal friend they’re bonded with. Experts in animal behavior believe dogs feel the same basic emotions humans do, including grief, fear, anger, happiness, sadness, and even possessiveness.

When a dog is mourning a loss, depression is common. Signs of depression in dogs mimic those in people, and include sleeping more than normal, moving more slowly, eating less, and showing a limited interest in playing.

If your dog seems depressed at the loss of a person or animal he was close to, engage him in daily activities he enjoys, such as a walk, a game of fetch, or a trip to the dog park. It’s really a matter of distracting him with things he enjoys until sufficient time has passed and he’s no longer looking around every corner for the one who is now absent from his life.

And it’s best not to expect a quick fix. It can take from a few weeks to a few months before your dog’s depressed mood begins to lift. Planning several engaging activities each day during this time is the best way to help him out of his funk.

5 Tips for Helping a Depressed Dog

  1. Keep daily routines as consistent as possible — Pets do best when they know what to expect from one day to the next. Try to keep mealtimes, exercise, walks, playtime, grooming, bedtime and other daily activities on a consistent schedule. Exercise is a powerful tool to help increase your pooch’s endorphins, or “feel good” hormones. Lots of walks (with plenty of opportunities to sniff) can be a powerful mood enhancer.
  2. Keep your dog’s diet and mealtimes the same and spice up the menu — It’s important to continue to offer him the same food he’s used to, at the same time each day, but if you find your dog isn’t interested in eating much, consider offering a yummy knucklebone for dessert, or make a tasty treat for training time that he hasn’t had before.

Store what he doesn’t eat in the fridge and offer it to him again at his next regularly scheduled mealtime. Use his hunger to help him get his appetite back by resisting the urge to entice him with unhealthy food toppers.

  1. Use natural remedies, if needed — There are some excellent homeopathic and Bach flower remedies that can be easily administered to your depressed dog until you see an emotional shift for the better. Some of my favorites include homeopathic Ignatia, several Bach flower remedies including Mustard and Honeysuckle, and Green Hope Farm Grief and Loss. Diane can make a special blend of Bach Flower essences for grief and loss if your pet has experienced these issues.
  2. Be careful not to inadvertently reward your dog’s depression — It’s only natural to want to comfort your sad pet, but unfortunately, giving attention to a dog who is displaying an undesirable behavior can reinforce the behavior. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is reward a lack of appetite, inactivity or other types of depressed behavior in your dog. Instead, you want to help her over the hump.

A better idea is to try to distract her with healthy, fun activities that provide opportunities for positive behavior reinforcement. This can be a walk, short training sessions, a game of fetch, nose work or offering her a food puzzle toy or recreational bone.

  1. Give it time — Your dog’s depression may take a few days or even weeks to blow over, but eventually most pets return to their normal lively selves. If at any point you feel your pet is suffering unnecessarily or there is something more going on than a case of the blues, I recommend discussing the situation with your animal communicator, vet or a veterinary behaviorist.

 

Additionally there are essential oils that can lift the spirits of both humans and pets that can be used daily.  Contact Diane for recommendations and links to purchase these oils. Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com

Happy Cat??

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

How to Create a Happy Cat

In addition to feeding a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate diet, keeping kitty at a lean-and-healthy weight, and providing exercise incentives, there are several components to her indoor environment that you’ll need to consider from her uniquely feline perspective. These include:

  1. Litterbox location — In the wild, cats not only hunt prey, they are prey for other animals. Certain activities make them vulnerable to predators, including eliminating. This vulnerability is what causes anxiety in your kitty when her litterbox is in a noisy or high traffic area.

Your cat’s “bathroom” should be located in a safe, secure location away from any area that is noisy enough to startle her or make her feel trapped and unable to escape.

  1. The opportunity to “hunt” for meals and snacks — Your cat, while domesticated, has maintained much of his natural drive to engage in the same behaviors as his counterparts in the wild, including hunting for food, which also happens to be excellent exercise. A great way to do that with an indoor cat is to have him “hunt” for his meals and treats.

Separate his daily portion of food into three to five small meals fed throughout the day in a variety of puzzle toys or indoor hunting feeder mice (available for raw and canned food, too!). You can also hide his food bowls or food puzzle toys in various spots around the house.

  1. Places for climbing, scratching, resting, and hiding — Cats are natural climbers and scratchers, and those urges don’t disappear when they move indoors. Your cat also needs her own resting place and a hiding place where she feels untouchable.

Cats prefer to interact with other creatures (including humans) on their own terms, and according to their schedule. Remember: well-balanced indoor kitties are given the opportunity to feel in control of their environment. Jackson Galaxy has written several books on creating feline environmental enrichment around the home that I highly recommend.

  1. Consistency in interactions with humans — Your cat feels most comfortable when his daily routine is predictable, so performing little rituals when you leave the house and return can help him feel more comfortable with your comings and goings. A ritual can be as simple as giving him a treat when you leave and a nice scratch behind the ears as soon as you get home.

Playtime should also be consistent. Learn what types of cat toys he responds to and engage him in play, on his timetable. Of course, while you can encourage him to play, it’s pointless to force the issue. Oh, and when he’s had enough, he’s had enough!

  1. Sensory stimulation — Visual stimulation: Some cats can gaze out the window for hours. Others are captivated by fish in an aquarium. Some even enjoy kitty videos.

Auditory stimulation: When you’re away from home, provide background noise for kitty that is similar to the ambient sounds she hears when you’re at home, for example, music or a TV at low volume. Olfactory stimulation: You can stimulate your cat’s keen sense of smell with cat-safe herbs or synthetic feline pheromones (e.g., Feliway).

All in all, paying attention to your kitty, interacting and talking with them will go a long way to ensure their happiness. Provide stimulation—you get bored right?  Well, they will to!   If they seem upset or sad consider what may have changed in their life or environment to have caused their issue.  When all else fails, contact Diane who is an animal communicator at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com.

 

Does Saying Goodbye Help Prevent Dog Separation Anxiety?

By: Dr. Wailani Sung and comments by Diane Weinmann

Are you one of those dog owners who says goodbye to your pets as you walk out the door? Don’t be embarrassed—you are not alone.

 

Why do many dog owners feel the need to say goodbye or tell their dogs that they will be back?

 

Pet parents will say goodbye to their pets mostly because it is part of our human culture to notify our family of our imminent departure or to let them know when to expect us back.

 

But the question is, does your dog care if you do or don’t? Find out if it means anything to your dog, whether it actually makes things worse, and what you can do about dog separation anxiety.

 

Does Your Dog Need You to Say Goodbye to Him?

 

Research on dogs suffering from separation anxiety has indicated that dogs know well in advance when their owners are going to leave.

 

You may not realize that you are projecting your pending departure as you prepare to leave—well before you say “goodbye.” Most people will put their shoes on, grab their jackets, pick up a bag or purse and keys, and head towards the front door.

 

Some owners may put out special dog toys or treats for their dog right before they leave. These are all signals that tell your dog that you are going to leave.

 

Other pet parents will go through elaborate displays of affection such as hugging their dogs and/or kissing them and telling them they love them and will be back.

Animal communicators can tell you that your dog can read what’s in your head and that’s how they know you are going on vacation or to the grocery store.  Granted, picking up coats, keys and locking doors are outward indicators that you are leaving but for the most part, your dog can be sleeping in a bedroom on the bed completely away from visually seeing you perform these tasks and they will still know you are leaving—that’s how they miraculously show up as you are leaving the house!

 

Every dog’s reaction to their owner’s departure will vary according to their personality. It is not unusual to hear dogs vocalize after their owners leave. Some may whine, bark or howl briefly as the owners leave and, within a few minutes, settle down.

 

These dogs are exhibiting contact-calling behavior, which is a series of vocalizations some social species will use to try to contact other members of the group that may have wandered off beyond the immediate area. Dogs will typically demonstrate this behavior with barking or howling; it’s like they are saying, “Hello, are you there?”

 

Some dogs may even scratch at the door or run to the window to watch their owners leave.

 

The majority of dogs appear to tolerate their owners’ absence with minimal drama. However, 14-29 percent of the dog population may suffer from owner-separation-related distress.

 

For a dog with separation anxiety, making the departure and return greeting routine very exciting and dramatic may enhance the dog’s anxiety when they are all alone.

 

How to Know If Your Dog Suffers From Separation Anxiety

 

Most pet parents rely on signs that something’s amiss in their home—such as scratches on the door, items that are chewed up, or evidence of house soiling—to detect separation anxiety. If they do not see anything amiss, they usually think that their dogs were fine.

 

Some people may not find the house torn apart but may later hear from their neighbors or landlord that their dogs were vocalizing intensely when they first left or throughout the entire length of their absence.

 

If you are unsure whether your dog suffers from separation anxiety, record his behavior for 15-20 minutes after your departure using a device such as the Petcube Bites Wi-Fi pet camera or Pawbo+ Wi-Fi interactive pet camera. You can also use the camera on your computer or leave your phone behind to record their activity.

 

It is really important that you actually walk out the door, lock it, and walk or drive away. The dogs will know if you are just pretending to leave because they won’t hear the familiar indicators, such as your footsteps fading away or the start of the car engine.

 

Then you can review your dog’s behavior and show the recording to your veterinarian or a trainer or behaviorist. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety will exhibit the most intense anxiety and distress during the first moments the owners are absent.

 

Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs

 

If your dog does not appear to get upset after you have left, then you can continue to say goodbye to them when you leave.

 

If you have determined that your dog does get upset in your absence, it is best to seek professional help right away. They can help determine whether your dog is suffering from mild, moderate or severe separation anxiety.

 

Mild Separation Anxiety

 

Dogs that show some mild anxiety may be less upset if they receive long-lasting dog treats, like WHIMZEES Stix dental dog treats, or if they have to work for their favorite treats in a dog puzzle toy, like the Milk-Bone Active biscuit-dispensing ball.

 

Moderate to Severe Separation Anxiety

 

For dogs that exhibit a moderate to severe level of anxiety, it is best to downplay your departures by not saying effusive goodbyes or greeting them excitedly when you return home.

 

A board-certified veterinary behaviorist can provide a diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan that includes immediate management options, behavior modification exercises and the potential use of anti-anxiety medication, if warranted.

 

Other educated dog professionals, such as Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB) can also help but will not be able to make any recommendations regarding pet behavior meds.

 

Dogs that become so upset that they exhibit panicked behavior that may cause injury to themselves or damage the house might need prescription pet medication. In some cases of severe separation anxiety, injuries have included dogs breaking their teeth, pulling out toenails, jumping out of windows, or chewing holes through the walls.

 

When the owners do not have other options, such as the use of daycare or a pet sitter, medication can sometimes help to decrease the dog’s anxiety so that they can tolerate being left home alone.   Also, holistic avenues should be explored such as Bach Flower Essence Rescue Remedy and essential oils such as Calm-A-Mile by Dr. Melissa Shelton DVM to bring relief to your pet!

 

The distress these dogs experience is a mental health crisis. The quicker the problem is addressed, the better the prognosis.

 

 

 

Resources for Pet-Friendly Travel

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

The following resources provide a wealth of links and information on pet-friendly hotels, vacation rentals, timeshares, campgrounds and RV parks, restaurants and bars, attractions and activities:

PetFriendlyTravel.com Bring Fido
GoPetFriendly.com PetsWelcome.com
Take Your Pet DogTrekker
PetFriendly.Travel Pet Hotels of America
Pet Friendly Travel on Facebook National Geographic’s The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel
AAA Pet Travel

 

 

7 Tips for Safe Air Travel With Your Dog

With that said, if you do decide to bring your pet on a flight, here are some tips to help keep her safe and relatively comfortable:

  1. Make sure your dog is fit to fly — Very young animals, elderly pets, ill pets, pets with a chronic health condition, pregnant animals and brachycephalic breeds are among the types of pets for whom air travel is in my opinion an unacceptable risk. In fact, many commercial airlines have in recent years banned flat-faced pets from their planes due to the significant health risks involved.

Talk with your integrative veterinarian about whether your dog is a good candidate for air travel. You’ll also want to get any required health certifications, for example, pets traveling to a different state by air must have a current rabies vaccination and a certification of veterinary inspection within 10 days prior to travel.

  1. Make sure your dog is very comfortable in her carrier before heading to the airport — Long before your scheduled flight, your dog should view her carrier as a safe place. Purchase it well ahead of time and get her used to hanging out in it at home.
  2. Make sure your dog is wearing a secure collar and a current ID tag — Also keep a photo of your pet on your person to help with identification in case he is lost.
  3. Bring your dog in the main passenger cabin with you if possible — Whether or not your pet can fly in the passenger cabin will depend on his size and the airline you use. Most if not all airlines only allow dogs in passenger cabins that can fit in a carrier small enough to slide under the seat.

Having your dog right there with you, in a climate-controlled cabin, has obvious benefits and is by far the best way to travel by plane with a pet. Book your flights as early as possible since airlines only allow a certain number of pets to travel in the passenger cabin.

You won’t be able to remove your dog from the carrier during the flight, so make sure he isn’t traveling on a full stomach and has an opportunity to relieve himself shortly before you board the aircraft.

  1. Avoid flying in very hot or cold weather and book nonstop flights whenever possible — In warmer months, book morning or evening flights so you’re traveling during the coolest part of the day. In cold weather, try to fly during the warmest part of the day.

Nonstop flights are highly preferable to connections, especially if your dog is flying in the baggage compartment or cargo hold. Keep in mind that direct flights are neither nonstop nor connecting but are preferable to a connecting flight. If your pet will be traveling in the baggage or cargo area, retrieve her as quickly as possible when you land at your destination.

  1. If your pet will be traveling in the baggage compartment or cargo hold, invest in a good-quality carrier — Defective or inappropriate carriers are behind most of the problems with escaped or injured pets during air travel. A suitable carrier will be TSA-approved, have secure construction (for example, locking bolts), metal doors (not plastic), metal rods that fasten the door to the container, a strong and effective lock mechanism, and no wheels.
  2. Reduce your pet’s anxiety with natural remedies — I’m not a fan of sedating pets for travel except in the most extreme circumstances, and only in consultation with a veterinarian. If your dog is so anxious she needs to be tranquilized to fly, she really shouldn’t be put through the experience if it can be avoided.

If your dog must be sedated for travel (usually due to hyperactivity) she must be in the cabin with you so you can monitor her throughout the flight. Never, under any circumstances, sedate a pet that cannot be supervised. Natural calming agents that may be beneficial include ashwagandha, holy basil and rhodiola.

To help reduce your dog’s anxiety during a trip, consider giving flower essences such as Jackson Galaxy Solutions orally before, during and after travel, and mist her carrier with specially blended pet-friendly essential oils such as those from the Earth Heart line. I also recommend homeopathic aconitum for extreme fear, if warranted. CBD oil can also be very effective at reducing stress. Try out the protocol prior to travel to make sure you’re happy with the results.

Diane recommends Rescue Remedy Bach Flower Essence 4-5 drops directly in mouth or on treat throughout the travel to keep your pet calm.  It also helps to have an animal communicator talk to your pet before the journey to explain everything that is going to happen to help alleviate stress for your pets.

If your dog has never flown before, you can gauge her potential response to air travel by how well she travels by other means. If she relaxes comfortably in her crate during car rides, chances are she’ll handle air travel reasonably well.

Most if not all the major air carriers have information about traveling with pets on their websites. If you’re thinking about flying with your dog, I recommend you contact the individual carrier as a first step. Find out what pet restrictions apply, approved carrier/kennel dimensions and other critical information you’ll need for planning purposes.

This is the time of year when many people, weary of winter, start looking forward to the warm months ahead and summer vacation. If you’re a dog parent, you’re probably also facing the question of whether to bring your pet on your trip this year or leave her at home.

Traveling with dogs is commonplace these days, but the fact is, as bonded as we are to our furry companions, we’re much better equipped to handle disruptions in routine than animals are. As much as our dogs love to be with us, they thrive in a familiar setting with a structured daily routine.

Taking your dog away from home and her daily schedule for several days or weeks can generate a level of anxiety even your constant presence can’t overcome. Now, that’s not to say you absolutely shouldn’t bring her along or that she won’t have fun, but you should be aware that her travel experience will be very different from your own. If you do intend to bring your dog with you on vacation this year, plan ahead and keep your pet’s safety top-of-mind.

Traveling Safely by Car With Your Dog

Putting your dog into a crate, carrier or secure harness is for their safety as well as yours. An unrestrained dog or cat can be a distraction while you’re driving and can become a projectile in the event of an accident, which is life-threatening for both your pet and other passengers.

You’ll want to choose a crate or carrier that fits your dog snugly, with enough room to be comfortable but not excess room (which poses a risk in the event of an accident). The crate or carrier should then be secured into the back seat or cargo area of the vehicle — not the front passenger seat.

While you can fasten almost any crate or carrier in your vehicle using elastic or rubber bungee cords, this method may not be secure enough in an accident, putting your pet at risk of injury. In addition, many pet restraint manufacturers claim their products are crash-tested and safe for use in a vehicle, but there are no established test protocols or standards required to make such claims.

Fortunately, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru have collaborated to perform crash tests on a wide range of harnesses, carriers and crates on the market. CPS actually provides a list of crash test-certified pet restraint systems (up to date as of November 2018).

The CPS and Subaru also crash-tested pet travel seats. These are portable booster seats for small dogs that are placed on the passenger seat or console to elevate small dogs so they can see out the windows. None of the four tested seats safely restrained the (stuffed) dogs in the crash tests,1 .

 

The Ultimate Guide to Travel with Pets

https://www.comparetravelinsurance.com.au/resources/the-ultimate-guide-to-travelling-with-pets

 

Training Kitty to Come When Called

 

Training Kitty to Come When Called

by Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

Can you imagine your cat coming when called just like your dog?  Well, it can be done and he/she might already be trained to respond you just don’t realize it.

So why would you need to have your cat respond to you when called?  Life and death situations come to mind in the event of a natural disaster or fire.  It’s also important not to use this training to call your cat for anything he might (or will surely) find unpleasant, like giving him medication or taking him for a veterinary appointment. In those situations, says Christensen, it’s better to go find him so that he doesn’t make any associations between being called and a negative result.

You may not realize it, but your cat probably already comes when he’s “called” by any sound that tells him it could be mealtime, such as the whir of the electric can opener. If there’s no sound involved, he’ll be called by the aroma of his meal being prepared. Since he’s already answering these calls, you can easily build on this foundation, says veterinary behaviorist E’Lise Christensen in an interview with Adventure Cats.1 The trick is to pair calling your cat with something he’s already responding to.

First you need to decide precisely how you’ll call him from now on when you want him to come to you. For example, you can call him by his name using a different vocal inflection, or by his name followed by “come” (“Fluffy, come”) or preceded by “here” (“Here, Fluffy Fluffy”). The key is to consistently use the same words and tone of voice each time you call him to you.  According to an animal communicator, it helps the “call” if you visualize the cat coming to you in your head as you call their name.

You can also use high-value treats to train kitty to come when called. Standing next to him, call him to come and then immediately give him a treat. When it’s obvious he’s made the connection between your call and yummy treats, you can start increasing the distance.

Move a few feet away from him, call him, and when he comes to you, give him a treat. Once he’s doing this consistently, gradually increase the distance between you. If things go according to plan, he’ll be reliably responding to your call from all over the house. Keys to successful training sessions:

  • Plan to do several sessions each day to help your cat maintain his training; keep each one short — no more than five minutes
  • Never, ever punish your cat for not coming when you call — it’s ineffective and can cause him to become stressed or fearful
  • Always reward him, no matter how long it takes him to respond to you; remember that you’re asking him to do something entirely unnatural for a cat

9 Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pet

By Dr. Karen Becker with comments by Diane Weinmann

So you are thinking about adopting a pet…good for you!  Now have you thought of these topics:

  1. Do you have time every day to devote to a pet? — Even relatively low-maintenance pets require attention from their humans, so if your life is already very busy or you’re not home much, a pet may not be the best idea.

Many animals, especially dogs, exotic birds, and yes, even cats require lots of daily interaction with their humans. Pocket pets and other animals who live in cages or other enclosures need supervised time outside their habitats each day. Without social interaction and stimulation, pets tend to develop behavior and emotional problems.

  1. Do you have the energy to dedicate to a pet? — In addition to spending time with you, your pet also needs and deserves to be exercised, played with, trained, groomed and cuddled. If you come home every night exhausted, you should think seriously about whether you have the energy reserves you’ll need to offer an animal companion a good quality of life.
  2. Can you afford a pet? — Caring properly for a pet can put a dent in your bank account. You should think realistically about whether you can afford the cost of a high-quality diet, toys, other supplies, obedience training, wellness visits to the veterinarian, etc.

In addition, your pet could get sick or injured, and you should have a plan in mind for how you’ll pay those vet bills in the event something serious happens to your animal companion.

  1. Is everyone in the household sold on the idea of a pet? — It’s ideal if everyone in the family or household is onboard with getting a pet. Otherwise, resentments can build, and relationships can suffer. It’s a good idea to involve all members of the household in the decision-making process, openly discuss concerns and determine who will have primary responsibility for the pet’s care.
  2. Does your prospective new pet come with emotional or behavioral “baggage” you can accept or commit to dealing with? — Behavior issues are the No. 1 reason pets are dumped at shelters. Most of these animals didn’t have the best start in life. For example, they weren’t socialized at the ideal age, were over-vaccinated or endured traumatic events that created behavioral quirks you will need to be prepared to deal with.

Combine a lack of healthy socialization with the potential for negative, fear-based training or a neglectful/abusive first few months, and you have the recipe for a lifetime of dysfunctional behaviors and responses to everyday life in the animal you just adopted.

Are you committed to a lifetime of “damage control” when it comes to positively addressing negative behaviors and phobias that your newly adopted furry companion may arrive with? And can you trust everyone in your household to participate in positive training to correct behavior issues?

Knowing your every response will fuel or diffuse unwanted behaviors can be daunting, so having a positive trainer or behaviorist on hand will be crucial in helping you deal with unwanted behaviors in a way that enhances your relationship with your adopted pet. I strongly recommend low-stress welcoming techniques the minute your new addition arrives home.

  1. Will your existing pet (if you have one) accept a new pet? — You definitely need to plan ahead if you already have a pet and want to add another to the household. Most animals can learn to get along or at least tolerate each other, but there are situations in which it’s just too dangerous or stressful to keep two poorly matched pets under the same roof.

If possible, introduce your existing pet to your potential adoptee in a neutral setting and see how they interact. If it doesn’t go well, I encourage you to consult with an animal behavior specialist before throwing in the towel on adopting a second pet. Often it just takes some time and a few helpful tips to put an existing pet and a new one on the road to a harmonious relationship.

  1. Are you prepared to prioritize your pet over your belongings? — Pet ownership means there will be the inevitable accidents and other messes in the house, furballs on your furniture and bedding, and the random destroyed slipper or other personal belonging.

If you can’t tolerate the thought of a less than perfectly clean house, you might want to reconsider the idea of pet ownership. Even the most well-behaved, well-trained animal companion makes the occasional mess or forgets his manners.

  1. What kind of relationship do you want with your pet? — It’s important to think about how you’d like your new pet to fit into your lifestyle. For example, if you do a lot of traveling and want to take your pet along, a small dog is probably a better choice than a large breed or a cat.

If you plan to jog with your pet, some dogs are better suited to long runs than others. It’s also important to think about what you can offer a potential pet. If, for instance, you’re the outdoorsy type who enjoys hiking and camping, those activities have tremendous appeal to certain dog breeds, such as retrievers and retriever mixes.

Ideally, you do plan to include your pet in many of your leisure time pursuits, so it’s important to give the subject some careful thought.

  1. What changes do you expect in your life in the next five, 10 or 15 years? — While we can’t predict the future, most of us have a vision for our lives that extends years down the road. Regardless of the type of pet you’re considering, you’ll be taking on a multi-year commitment. It’s important to be reasonably sure your lifestyle will be as pet-friendly in five, 10 or 20 years as it is today.

Any addition to the household should we well thought out.  Additionally, contacting an animal communicator for the potential adoptee along with talking with any existing fur family members is helpful for a smooth transition.  Do not underestimate the opinions of your current pets (if applicable).

 

Hug and Kiss your Dog(or cat )!

By Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Scientists who specialize in studying all things canine are building an impressive body of research on the extraordinary bond between people and their dogs. Of course, those of us who share our lives with dogs reached the same conclusion long ago, but it’s still nice to have our suspicions confirmed!

Indeed, studies prove there is true chemistry between dogs and their humans. Daily interactions with your canine companion have a measurably uplifting effect on your biochemistry, thanks to a hormone called oxytocin, sometimes called the “hug hormone” or the “love chemical.”

Oxytocin is a naturally occurring substance in the body that makes skin-to-skin contact feel good. It also acts as a natural painkiller, and lowers stress levels and blood pressure.

It has long been established that human-to-human contact, for example, bonding with children or partners, triggers the release of oxytocin. More recently, studies have revealed that bonding with a completely different species also promotes release of this wonderful hormone.

When You Interact With Your Dog, Feel-Good Hormones Abound

In 2003, a study conducted at the University of Pretoria in South Africa revealed some fascinating insights about the interaction between dogs and their humans.1 Dog parents sat on a rug on the floor with their dogs and for 30 minutes, they focused solely on their pets. They talked softly to them, and stroked, scratched and petted them. The owners’ blood was drawn at the beginning and again at the end of the 30-minute session.

The researchers found that the dog owners’ blood pressure decreased, and they showed elevated levels not only of oxytocin, but also several other hormones. These included beta-endorphins, which are associated with both pain relief and euphoria; prolactin, which promotes bonding between parent and child; phenylethylamine, which is increased in people involved in romantic relationships; and dopamine, which heightens feelings of pleasure.

Interestingly, all the same hormones were also elevated in the dogs, which suggests the feelings of attachment are mutual. Next, the dog parents sat in the room and read a book for 30 minutes. None of the hormones, including oxytocin, increased as much as they did during the session with the dogs.

A decade ago, a Japanese study proved that when our dogs gaze at us, our oxytocin levels increase.2 The study involved 55 dogs and their owners. The people whose dogs gazed at them for two minutes or longer showed higher levels of oxytocin than owners whose dogs gazed at them for less time, and claimed to be happier with their dogs than owners whose dogs’ gaze was only around a minute long.

In a 2011 Swedish study, researchers found that people who kissed their dogs frequently had higher levels of oxytocin than other owners.3 And along with kissing, there were two other factors that contributed to elevated levels of oxytocin. One was that the owners perceived their relationship with their dog to be pleasurable rather than difficult or a chore, and the other was that they offered fewer treats to their pet, preferring to offer attention and affection instead.

Diane feels that what this proves that we should all hug and kiss our pets repeatedly several times a day for long periods of time (at least 30 minutes) in order to maintain good health and happiness!  She is making that her goal although, in reality she probably does it more than that right now!

Another joy she loves is gazing into the big blue eyes of her husky.  In fact, she studies her dog daily for several minutes memorizing his every hair and movement and she could pick out the exact color of her dog’s eyes before she could find her husbands’!  LOL!!!!  The connection between Diane and her dog as they gaze at each other is priceless.  Peace enters her very soul and she knows it happens to her dog as well (she’s an animal communicator)!  Try it yourself with your pet—you’ll feel an immense love and connection that will bring peace and serenity into every fiber of your being.

More Proof of the Bond We Share: Dogs Can Read Our Facial Expressions

Last year, a team of Italian researchers published a facial expression study involving 26 dogs.4 As the dogs ate, the scientists showed them photos of the same two human faces (a man and a woman). The pictures were deliberately positioned to the sides of the dogs’ line of sight, and showed the humans intensely expressing one of six emotions — anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise or disgust. A second face displayed a neutral (non-emotional) expression.

The researchers observed that when the dogs saw facial expressions such as anger, fear and happiness, their heart rates accelerated and they tended to turn their heads to the left. They also took longer to resume eating than when they were shown the neutral face.

The scientists concluded the dogs were experiencing more stress while these three particular facial expressions were displayed, and theorized that the happy face caused stress because dogs instinctively view bared teeth as threatening. Interestingly, when the dogs were shown surprised facial expressions they remained relaxed and tended to turn their head to the right. They showed no “side bias” with their heads when shown pictures of sadness, disgust or a neutral expression.

These study results are further evidence of just how closely connected dogs are with people. According to the researchers, the dogs turning their heads either left or right also suggests our furry companions use different parts of their brains to process human emotions.

The right side of the brain plays a more important role in regulating the sympathetic outflow to the heart, and is fundamental in controlling the fight-or-flight response necessary for survival. Arousing, negative emotions seem to be processed by the right hemisphere of a dog’s brain, and more positive emotions by the left hemisphere.

And Still More Proof: Dogs Respond to Our Communicative Intent

Research shows that dogs track human eye movements, and eye movements are linked with intent. A study published in 2012 in the journal Current Biology compared this ability in dogs to a similar one shown by human babies.5 For the study, 16 dogs were shown videos of a person turning toward one of two identical objects. In one video, the person looks directly at the dog and says in a lively voice, “Hi dog!” In the other video, the person avoided eye contact and said “Hi dog,” in a low voice.

An eye tracker was used to capture the dogs’ reactions, and researchers concluded from the data collected that the dogs were more likely to look at the object in the video featuring the more communicative person. This was the first study to use eye-tracking techniques to observe how dogs interact with people.

The study brought out an additional aspect of dogs’ attentiveness to humans by demonstrating that when a dog’s gaze follows a human, it’s not simply a reflex. It’s linked to the human’s “communicative intent.”

Even though your dog’s brain doesn’t process information the same way a human child’s does, his ability to interact with you at this level helps strengthen the bond you share. And when you consider the biological differences between humans and canines, the fact that we’re able to communicate back and forth is pretty remarkable!