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5 Remedies for a Bored Dog

Play the Shell Game/3 Cup Game

The shell game is a simple problem-solving game for dogs. To play the shell game with your dog, let your dog watch as you place a treat under one of three cups. You then shuffle the cups around and encourage them to “find the treat.” The shell game gives your dog plenty of mental stimulation and helps them work on their problem-solving skills.

Teach your dog the names of their toys

Start by playing with one specific toy and giving it a name while you do. After some practice & praise, your dog will assign that verbal name with the chosen toy. Once your dog has learned that specific toy’s name, you can test their skills by seeing if they can pick it out among their other toys.

Dogs can learn hundreds of words. Start teaching your dog the names of his toys and play a game of “go find Rocky Racoon” with them.

The “Go Find It “ Game

Once your dog knows the names of some of their toys, teach them the “go find it.”

Game. Have your dog’s toys in a pile or container and tell them to “go find” their

favorite toy. Keep it fun for them by rewarding them with a treat or a quick game of tug when they succeed. This game will give your dog a great mental workout.

Master the basics of obedience training

Does your dog know all of the basic obedience commands? Does he have

a reliable recall and stay? Even well-trained dogs need a refresher course now and then to keep them sharp. All dogs should have a reliable sit, down, stay, drop it, and come here. A few quick training sessions (5 – 10 minutes) each day are a great way to help your dog master the basics and help keep your dog mentally stimulated.

The Muffin Tin Game

Keeping your dog mentally stimulated and enriched is just as important as exercise. The muffin tin game only requires a muffin tin, a dozen treats, and some tennis balls (or other tennis ball-sized toys) to get started. Set – up is also simple – you deposit a treat in each cup of the muffin tin, cover it with the ball or toy, and wait for your dog to sniff it out. The muffin tin game does an excellent job of keeping your pup stimulated. Your dog will need to use their nose to sniff out the treat, their mouth (or paw) to remove the balls, their eyes to spot the remaining toys, and their brain to focus on the remaining treats since all the muffin tins will retain the scent of the food. The game appeals to your dog’s instinct to sniff, hunt, and explore the world around them. It’s also perfect for dogs of all ages, sizes, and physical abilities since it’s low impact.

How to Stop Unwanted Biting in Cats and Kitten

Why do cats bite? The short answer? For a reason. Like many other animals, feline aggression is based on various circumstances, history, and personality. A cat’s biting or aggressive behavior is often provoked, whether it’s clear to us humans or not. Below, we’ve outlined some helpful info on how to redirect unwanted biting, and a few tips for kitten owners. Read more below…

The saying goes: a tired dog is a good dog. With our felines, a happy cat is one who thinks he’s killed something everyday. Whether or not they actually have is not important, explains certified feline behavior consultant Sally J. Foote. What’s important, rather, is that they have had ample chance to engage in daily predatory play, “including the opportunity to grab, pounce, and sink their teeth into something to simulate killing.” If you have an active cat, make sure to schedule in a daily play session that engages their hunting instincts. 

If your cat has a bad habit of biting, however, it could be the result of unintentional reinforcing from their kitten years. During a cat’s youngest years, they are driven by the desire to practice their hunting skills as much as possible. This includes the artful “pounce and bite,” a hunting tactic that utilizes felines’ quick reflexes to catch prey. If you have a cat who is frequently nipping or biting you or a family member, experts agree that the best response, rather than a reprimand, is to disengage by simply turning away and leaving the room, or redirecting with a toy. This mimics how a mother cat would handle aggression by teaching the kitten appropriate social boundaries. Luckily, this tactic has been shown to work with cats of all ages, whether it’s a kitten or older adult cat. By leaving the room or abruptly disengaging with your furry friend, they’ll quickly learn that a “time out” is associated with biting. 

Lastly, be mindful of your cat’s body language. A thrashing tail, stiff body or pinned back ears are all signs that your cat is on edge, and they’ll be more likely to bite if they feel that their message is not being received. We wrote a blog post about feline body language here (include link). 

Of course, if you find your cat’s behavior worrisome or difficult to manage, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinarian or seek out a veterinarian who specializes in feline behavior who can help brainstorm possible ways to reduce anxiety. 

What do you think? Please feel free to share any tips or suggestions in the comments below!

How to Prevent Your Puppy From Destroying Your Favorite Shoes

So you have a puppy, adorable even when it misbehaves. But even when they are at their most clueless, it can be hard to feel patient when you come home to find that they have treated your favorite shoes like their favorite chew toy. Below, we’ve rounded up our top tried and true tips for dog owners that have a teething furry baby on their hands…

  • Puppies are like toddlers. The Humane Society says it best: “Puppies, like infants and toddlers, explore their world by putting objects in their mouths.” When your puppy starts teething, they’re experiencing the growth of 42 permanent teeth. During this roughly 6 month period, chewing facilitates growth and eases some of the gum discomfort. 
  • Talk to your vet about which chew toys are the safest option for your four-legged member of the family. They may recommend a softer yet durable toy like a Kong. 
  • Set your puppy up for success by keeping your prized possession items out of your dog’s reach. This includes objects you may not think would entice your puppy — like sunglasses and books. 
  • Consider setting up an area of your home that is puppy-proof, with fresh water and safe toys.
  • Give your puppy plenty of opportunities to play and exercise! A young dog with lots of energy will be looking for ways to expend it. If possible, find a dog walker that will take your furry pal for an engaging and brisk walk. Click here for Pampered Pets walking services.
  • Redirect unwanted chewing behavior. Puppies have a hard time knowing what they can and cannot chew (remember — they’re like babies!). If your puppy is chewing on a household item, try interrupting the behavior with a loud noise, taking the item away and quickly replacing it with a chew toy. Then praise, praise, praise!
  • Don’t chase after your puppy. If they aren’t letting go of something, don’t make it a fun game. Instead, try distracting your puppy with treats or a squeaky sound, then swifty take away the object.
  • Remember it’s just a phase. This one might be the hardest, but keep in mind — at the end of the day, our four-legged friends want to please us. You may not be able to prevent your puppy from making a few mistakes, but eventually, they’ll grow up, they’ll learn, and you’ll look back on these tiring puppy years with fondness. 

Anything you’d add? Congratulations to any new dog parents!

Dogs May be Smarter Than We Think

Even so, there is still a lot we don’t know about how much dogs truly understand. MRI results of the canine brain show us that dogs are wired differently than us, and this may impact how they process language. For example, it has yet to be proven that dogs visually conjure up the image of the word “bone” when they hear it. Still, it hasn’t been disproven that dogs don’t associate certain words with certain experiences or even feelings. It’s no coincidence, for instance, that Juniper drops her tail and starts to quiver when I gather her shampoo and towel and say “bath time.” 

How smart is your dog? Ask any dog owner, and they’ll undoubtedly say that their dog understands them. Juniper understands many words — not just the classics like ‘squirrel’ (favorite word) and ‘bath time’ (least favorite word), but ‘walk’, ‘treat’, ‘peanut butter’, ‘chicken’, ‘vet’, and the names of all her dog friends. 

A recent research study (link) has validated what we’ve long believed to be true: dogs can recognize many words and even differentiate language. The surprising findings? “They could recognize a word no matter who was speaking,” reported lead author Holly Root-Gutteridge. While I’ve long believed that dogs understand words because of the context in which they are spoken, the study suggests otherwise. Researchers noticed that when listening to a series of words, the dogs in the study would perk up and refocus their attention when they heard a new word. 

As research continues on canine intelligence and the continued impact of domestication on our furry friends, the larger implication of the study has us intrigued. After all, science has long considered language to be an exclusively human trait; humans are uniquely able to create and make speech sounds that no other species can. But with our four-legged friends evolving with us for centuries, we can’t help but wonder: one day, maybe centuries from now, maybe not — will Fido say, “I didn’t do it!”

Great News for People with Cat Allergies

From resident blogger Joy: When I was five years old, we had to give away Pepe, our sweet black and white house cat. My dad had found him as a kitten, meowing from a recycling bin by the West Side Highway. When I was born, Pepe was already a beloved member of the family; he loved to lick the oily remnants from a tuna can, he enjoyed hiding behind doors to “scare” us as we passed, and he especially liked to send us all into a panic by sitting on the edge of our 9th story window sill. I can picture Pepe now, sprawled out in his favorite chair, the sun warming his fur. And then, very suddenly, I developed an allergy so severe that after a year of wheezing and sneezing, my parents were left with no choice but to send Pepe to a nice family in Connecticut. We were devastated.

Many years later, and I am still just as (if not more) allergic to felines. As a cat lover, it breaks my heart. I have been known to double up on Benadryl just so I can spend half an hour cuddling with my friend’s cat, Mole, who seems to only love people with cat allergies. 

All this to say, my interest was piqued when I saw an article about a new vaccine created by scientists in Switzerland that could drastically lower feline-related allergy symptoms. The vaccine, if approved, would be administered on your four-legged friend by your veterinarian, and would produce antibodies which would bind to the target allergen (Fel d 1) and neutralize its allergenic effect on humans. The vaccine has already shown great success in efficacy trials, with a total of 54 felines tested. If HypoCat passes European and US regulators, it could be a much-appreciated new addition to the veterinary market. And most importantly: the future Pepe’s of the world could grow old curled up on that chair, with just a quick visit to the vet. 

What do you think about this vaccine? Feel free to share in the comments! 

Getting a Dog Could Help you Live Longer

According to a recent study published in an academic journal on cardiovascular information and outcomes, dog ownership is linked to a 21% reduction in the risk of heart disease or complications in people.  The study, which comes from the Swedish National Patient Registry, tracked thousands of patients who had previously suffered from a heart attack or stroke between the years of 2001 and 2012. Their findings suggest that individuals who also reported having a dog had a significantly lower risk of death in the year after a heart attack, as compared with non-dog owners. 

While the numbers are astounding, the overall suggestion that four-legged members of the family are good for our health comes as no surprise. After all, time and time again, studies prove that having a furry companion can lead to all sorts of health benefits; everything from lowering blood pressure, increasing oxytocin, helping maintain a healthy weight, improving your social life, decreasing stress, lowering chance of allergies, and staving off depression. 

While the correlation is clear, it’s hard to find the direct causal relationship between the benefits of owning a dog and the decrease in risk of heart attack. Is it because dog owners experience less social isolation? Or because they exercise more, a key component to rehabilitation after a heart attack? “The association between dog ownership and improved survival is real,” states cardiologist Dhruv Kazi of Beth Israel Medical Center. He goes on to say that “dogs offer companionship, reduce anxiety and loneliness, increase self-esteem, and improve overall mood.”

While the study didn’t extend the research to include cats, there has been at least one previous study linking cat ownership to the reduction of risk in cardiovascular diseases. 

The way we see it? Having a furry friend is the ultimate act of self-care. Amidst the chaos and ups and downs of everyday life, loving a furry creature could simply be the most restorative, mood-stabilizing, feel-good experience of modern-day living. And we’ll take it! 

What it Means When Your Dog Shows Their Teeth

Dogs have many ways of communicating with one another, whether to establish dominance, express anxiousness or uncertainty, or to send a message of appeasement. Unlike humans, much of this communication is sent via nonverbal body language. A tight tail wag, a pinning back of the ears, a show of the belly; all of these motions send clear signals (everything from “love me!” to “back off”). Today, we’ll be unpacking what it means when a dog shows its teeth to other dogs or to humans (spoiler – it’s not always aggression). Read on to learn more…

One of the many trends of photos we’re seeing online is videos or photos of dogs “smiling” for the camera, like this Golden Doodle that can grin on command. The cheesy, wrinkled nose smile is endearing to say the least. But what exactly is the dog thinking or feeling at the moment? 

According to Vet Street, dogs show their teeth for a few different reasons, depending on the circumstance. The most commonly understood reason is aggression. A teeth-bearing growl is hard to misunderstand, along with the stiff body posture and the pinned down ears. Dogs will commonly do this when they aren’t in the mood to share a bone, or someone or something is infringing on their space. But dogs also show their teeth to one another or to humans for submissive reasons, and to show signs of appeasement or deference. In this case, the body language may also reflect a submissive stance; they want everyone to get along. In the case of dogs that “smile” when they see their owners, there could be a simple explanation: what was initially expressed as a sign of natural appeasement (dogs will often display submissive behavior when greeting their owners) could have become positively reinforced by praise. Either way, a surefire way of decoding teeth-bearing is to take a look at their body language as a whole. Is it tense, defensive? Relaxed? Neutral? Our four-legged pals don’t generally try to trick us, but if in doubt, it never hurts to bring up any puzzling or confusing behavior with your veterinarian. 

Have you seen a dog “smile”? Share in the comment section below! 

New to the Field: Veterinary Social Workers

The last decade has seen many advances in the pet and veterinary world; everything from pet insurance as part of benefit packets at work, to groundbreaking studies about how our furry companions have evolved over the years. 

And now, there has been increased interest in bringing social workers to the veterinary field. Veterinary social workers are relatively new, and their role is multifaceted, but it could be a game changer. They can interact with pet owners and offer support in various ways, whether it’s helping someone make a difficult decision having to do with their pet, offer emotional or grief support, facilitate communication during end of care life for a furry friend, be present during a euthanization, or connect someone with a grief support group. They can also serve an important role for veterinarians as well, especially in regards to mental health and compassion fatigue. When veterinarians are limited by their back-to-back schedules, a social worker can spend extra time with a patient if needed. 

In this day in age, most people consider their pets members of the family, and owners have higher expectations when it comes to the quality of care their four-legged child is receiving. We dedicate so much time making sure our pets are living healthy, happy lives that it only makes sense for a social worker to be involved. “The ability to have somebody else go in that room and help [owners] with the emotional pain allows me to step away and have time for other clients and patients while still providing a very high level of support for the client as they need it,” states a veterinary oncologist quoted in this article: (include link). 

While Veterinary social work is still new, it’s possible to find someone if you’re in need of extra support. In New York, the Animal Medical Center has one on staff. Click here to read more about veterinary social work, and sending a big hug for anyone going through a hard time with a pet.