It’s been couple of weeks since the shelter-in-place policy went into effect. Are your closets all organized and drawers cleaned out? Watched all the videos and read all the books you had saved up? Are you bored yet? So are your pets! Although they are probably loving all the attention with everyone home now.
Remember that you can still (at least at the time I’m writing this) take your dogs for hikes and long walks. That would do everyone some good and get you out of the house for a bit and away from the fridge! But if the weather is bad or you’re looking for things to keep an elderly dog or even a cat occupied here are some suggestions. Get the kids involved and it can become a family project and a learning opportunity for your child as well.
Mealtime: make mealtimes last longer than the 30 seconds it takes most dogs to inhale their food by using their kibble (or canned food) for a variety of activities. Handfeeding a pet is a great bonding exercise and establishes you as their leader without any force needed. After all, you control the most important necessity in life so you must be lord and king! You can also freeze or just stuff their meal in Kongs so they have to really work on getting it out. For frozen kongs, you can use a little chicken broth to moisten the food and for fresh stuffed, fill the kong with kibble and seal with either canned food or peanut butter. Don’t forget your cats! You can toss their kibble and get them moving to “catch” it or divide their moist food into several smaller dishes and place them in unusual places around the house. Cats in the wild would have to “hunt” for their food and there’s no reason you can’t make them search a little inside your house!
Tricks: With plenty of time on hand it’s the perfect time to teach your dog a new trick, or two! Figure out something that would be useful or just fun to teach. The key is patient repetition and lots of rewards. Start with something basic like how to shake with a paw. A simple way to do this is to hide a treat in your hand and let your dog sniff it. When he lifts his paw to try to get the treat say “yes” and immediately open your hand so he gets the yummy reward. Some dogs just naturally use their paws more than others so how long this takes will be different for each dog. Very important to “mark” the behavior the second your dog does it with either a clicker or a “yes.” There are so many tricks you can teach a young dog; roll over, take a bow, figure 8 weave between your legs (then on to doggy dancing, or Freestyle!). You can google any trick you want to teach and see hundreds of “how-to” videos.
The benefit is that not only will you come out of this forced staycation with a better-behaved pet, but you and your children will have learned patience and great training tips that will last forever. Ever notice that really good dog trainers are good parents too? That’s because the principles are the same. Consistent rules, reward behaviors you want, and ignore or redirect behaviors that you don’t like. Training is also a great way to build a stronger bond with your pet; as you spend more conscious time with your pet you learn to read her body language and communicate better. Cats too can be taught simple tricks, and so can bunnies or other small pets.
This can be a really fun family project with lots of positive results. Teach your pet a new trick and post the video on our Facebook page and we will share it with everyone. Let’s see whose pet can learn the most!! Ready, set, go!
Postponed – Sonoma County Bunfest originally scheduled for March 28. New date announced so check our Facebook page or sign up for our emails on our website. (rpanimalshelter.org).
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $100 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.