Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
With autumn just around the corner, the warm and sunny days of summer are drawing to a close. While summer has likely been a time of frequent outdoor playtime for your kids and pets, here are some ideas for indoor activities to try during the cool and rainy days ahead:
Indoor water play: This is a favorite in our house. Our dog, Clyde, loves sitting in his pool. I set up a kiddie pool for Clyde with a bit of water inside, and another for my daughter, Gabriella. I also set out a few buckets, as Clyde likes to get a “bath” from Gabriella. If you have a waterproof indoor space, water play is sure to keep everyone busy for the afternoon!
Learning stations: Utilize stations to practice various tricks with your pups. You’ll need paper, markers, bath mats or towels and treats. Create signs to hang at each “command” station—such as Sit, Stay and Paw. We walk Clyde around to each station and repeat the command, and reward him with a treat once he performs the trick. You can also swap between verbal commands and hand-signal cues.
Homemade treats: If your kids love to help out in the kitchen, consider whipping up a batch of homemade dog or cat treats. Clyde’s favorites are peanut butter dog biscuits and canine carrot cookies.
Hide and Seek: To incorporate our dog into a classic game of Hide and Seek, we hide a few of his treats around the house. I limit the number of treats for this game so both Clyde and Gabriella know when the game is over. This can be done with your feline friends as well!
Grab a book: For the restful part of the day, Gabriella picks one or two books to read to Clyde. She loves to show him the pictures and make up stories. This is another activity that can be done with dogs and cats.
Playing indoors with can be a fun bonding experience for kids and their pets. But don’t forget, everyone still needs some outdoor time—even if only for a few minutes a day!
Guest blog by Emily Schneider, a proud mom of two feisty Yorkies and a two-year-old living in the Garden State. Emily works in media and public relations for the ASPCA. Find her onTwitter.
I read recently in a New York Times article that doctors are encouraging parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, as it enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills in children. I also learned that reading has benefits for shy or timid four-legged family members as well.
I asked ASPCA animal behavior experts if reading is a good socialization activity for dogs nervous around people, and found out that reading helps fearful dogs become more comfortable with people without forcing interaction. As an individual reads out loud, he or she is focusing on something other than on the dog. In turn, the dog grows accustomed to the person’s presence and voice, which is much less intimidating than being handled or stared at (see the ASPCA’s article on canine body language. If you have a dog who is terrified of people or specific individuals, you may want to seek professional help to find out how to help reduce your dog’s anxiety.
Reading is also a good activity for those who aren’t yet skilled enough—e.g., my two-year-old son—to handle a timid dog. If there’s a choice between playing with your iPhone and reading a book, encourage your kids to go for the book and make it a family activity. You might be surprised by the results, as I was—my dogs Olive and Mikey sat quietly nearby while we read a story about Splat the Cat. Our next book? Skippyjon Jones, a story about a irrepressible Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua.
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
Happy birthday, dear Moose! Our chocolate Labrador is turning eight, and we are planning a birthday party for him. With family, friends and neighbors’ special dates to remember, I must admit that our dogs’ birthdays have sometimes slipped through the cracks. But this year, Moose is getting the royal treatment. Here are three reasons why you should celebrate your pet on his birthday, or anniversary of adoption, too:
Fun for the whole family: What child is not gleeful at the thought of a birthday party? Let your kids create decorations, plan refreshments or shop for an edible gift for your pet. We once held a festive 100th birthday party for our first dog, Choco, estimating this milestone when he turned 13.5 years old. Typically, though, our “parties” have entailed singing “Happy Birthday,” giving our pup a chew stick gift and sharing a few extra hugs.
Special attention for your pet: In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sometimes our pets don’t receive extra helpings of attention. Here is one day to shower him with the love you feel but might not always have the time to show.
Along with the 30 men and women we visit weekly, I will sing “Happy Birthday” and eat a cupcake in my pup’s honor. I’ll get to share the love I feel for him with others. For both Moose and me, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Are you making plans for a family outing this weekend? If you’re in the New York City area, you can join Disney Junior’s Jake and Sofia on Friday, July 25 for the next stop on the Pirate and Princess Power of Doing Good Tour.
The event will take place in Harlem’s Riverbank State Park from 8:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. and is open to the public at no cost. Kids will have the opportunity to participate in engaging activities related to nature, animals, storytelling and giving back to the community. There will also be a sing-and-dance-along with Jake and Sofia. The ASPCA has teamed up with Disney Junior to provide educational resources that will help children about animal welfare.
So far, the tour has made stops in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and will visit Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles in August. Entry to Friday’s event will be open on a first come, first served basis. You can follow all the action by searching the #PowerofDoingGood hashtag on social media.
Guest blog by Kathleen Makolinski, DVM, ASPCA Senior Director Shelter Medicine Service and Shelter Research and Development. Kathleen gradu¬ated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. After working as an associate veterinarian for five years, she served as Director of Veterinary Services for a non-profit animal shelter. Since then, Kathleen co-founded and served as president of Feral Cat FOCUS, a community advocacy group for free-roaming cats and co-founded Operation PETS, a stationary spay/neuter clinic in Western New York.
I am very fortunate to have an 8-year-old son named Charlie who is very eager to learn about every type of animal. Given his seemingly insatiable curiosity, my husband and I search for opportunities for Charlie to interact with and build respect for many kinds of animals. These opportunities often include summer day camps, books from the library and internet research, as well as visits to nature centers, animal shelters and museums.
One great way Charlie has learned about animals is in his classroom at school. These “classroom educators” have included a bearded dragon, a turtle, a betta fish, African clawed frogs, finches and gerbils. Students in Charlie’s class provide these pets with regularly scheduled feedings. They also learn about the animals’ anatomical features and how such animals live in the wild. Together, Charlie and I have learned about these animals’ nutritional, lighting and temperature requirements. We have implemented environmental enrichments and shared newly discovered information with his fellow students and his teachers. This summer, we are caring for Charlie’s classroom’s turtle, Zippy.
It’s important for teachers, parents and students to consider the following questions before acquiring a pet for the classroom:
How will classroom pets be obtained—from a shelter, pet store, student or teacher, or from the wild? What are the ramifications of each choice?
Where will animals go and who will provide care during breaks from school?
Is the classroom’s ambient temperature appropriate for the animals when school is not in session?
Who will finance food, habitat furnishings and veterinary care?
Are related zoonotic diseases—contagious diseases spread between animals and human—understood and are steps taken to minimize them?
Are allergen sensitivities adequately addressed?
Given the numerous demands on teachers, do they have enough time to maintain animal habitats?
Although there may be great educational benefit for students who have animals in the classroom, some animals may be better suited to this environment than others. Perhaps students and animals can optimally benefit from a mix of interactions with classroom pets, animals who visit occasionally and during field trips.
Have you or your children interacted with classroom pets? Please share your experiences in the comments.