Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
As the school year draws to a close, children become giddy with the anticipation of summer vacation. Once they toss their backpacks aside, consider using the next three months as a perfect time to ramp up the training for the four-legged members of your family. Guiding your kids as you work together to train your dog or cat can be a fun and instructive summer activity for them, as well as a way to enhance your family’s relationship with a better-behaved pet.
An excellent place to design a summer curriculum is the ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist, where a library of training tools is available sorted by dog and cat care. The site includes dozens of easy-to-read and informative articles on every aspect of the care and training of pets of all ages.
Our family includes two chocolate Labradors, Moose and Gus, who are eight and four. Though they understand the basic commands of Sit, Stay, Down and Come, they have a terrible habit of jumping on anyone who walks into the house. In the Virtual Pet Behaviorist, I learned that dogs like to sniff the faces (and other body parts) of dogs they greet. Naturally, since humans stand considerably taller, dogs follow their instinct for a face-to-face “hello” by jumping up on us. Through the years, we have been inconsistent in our response to Moose and Gus and their exuberant greetings, so it is no wonder that this problem persists. This summer, once our dog-loving teenage daughter is out of school, I plan for the two of us to train the dogs to NOT jump on our friends and neighbors. I printed a guide about this very topic from the Virtual Behaviorist for some great training tips.
As in all pet care, it is we pet parents who need to be trained to help our pets learn positive behavior. Once we welcome an animal into our homes and hearts, the next step it is to teach them how to behave. While your kids take a break from their lessons, think about using their down time to start summer school for your pet.
Guest Blogger Emily Cappo is a writer and blogger at Oh Boy Mom. She is a mom to three boys and one girl dog named Matilda, a sweet and cuddly Labradoodle. Matilda and Emily are also a certified pet therapy team.
Matilda is the 6-year-old furry member of our family who makes us laugh constantly. She is the goofiest one in our household, even though she probably isn’t aware she is being funny.
Every time we take her for a walk, she only wants to walk a certain route. If I try to take a left turn when she wants to go right, she will stubbornly hold her ground and look at me as if I’m crazy to want to go a different way.
Matilda can also sing. Whenever one of my kids plays the piano, Matilda starts with some quick barks, slowly transforming into a prolonged howl. We all crack up. I’m not sure if Matilda’s singing is unique—I’ve seen a video of a dog who sings and plays the piano with his clumsy paws. However, our family considers her to be a gifted pup.
Another one of Matilda’s talents is that she can jump high. She never jumps on people, but if she’s running through our yard, she’ll jump over bushes like she’s running hurdles on a track. We laugh out loud and say she’s got “good vertical,” something my basketball-playing boys strive to achieve on the court.
Matilda seems to bring out the goofiness in all of us. My husband and I pretend to compete to find out who Matilda likes better. I say it’s me, because Matilda follows me everywhere. My husband claims she loves him more, because Matilda literally hugs him. She wraps her long legs around my husband’s waist (or neck, if he’s sitting) and stays that way while he scratches her ears. My brother and I had a similar contest with our Bichon Frise, Barley, when we were kids. We’d put Barley in between us and then we’d tell him to stay, while backing away from him. When we were equidistant apart, we’d both call Barley at the same time and whomever he ran to was the one we claimed he liked best. Although we haven’t subjected Matilda to the same contest, we joke about who she loves more.
Of course, we know that Matilda loves us all equally and we are fortunate to have such a fun and loving pet in our family.
Guest blogger Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter, or Facebook.
We are a multi-pet family. We have two dogs, three cats, two turtles, a frog and some goldfish. Like our human children, our furry children sometimes have trouble getting along. I have to admit that it is easiest to soothe arguments between my human children because we can talk things through. However, when my geriatric cat, Lily, struts across the living room, a place that my three-year-old Labrador claimed as her private territory, there is no time to talk before Django springs up and runs after the little old lady. Sometimes, I see the potential conflict before it happens and say, “Django, be good.” This nearly never works. Of course, my husband just has to say, “Hey,” and she will stop in her tracks.
In all other ways, Django is the sweetest and most loving dog I have ever had—she just will not relent in her pursuit of our cats. She doesn’t bite them or act in a vicious way, but simply runs after them. Hayley, our aging Chihuahua, used to do the same. In fact, it was she who indoctrinated Django at just eight-weeks-old to treat the cats as nothing more than an eternal game of tag partners. But now as Hayley has slowed down, she doesn’t run after the cats anymore. Perhaps she believes she has taught Django well and doesn’t have to do more than supervise.
The only time my cats and dogs truly get along is when I am preparing their meals. They smell the engaging aroma, and soon enough, everyone inches toward the kitchen while meowing, sniffing and begging at my feet. At dinnertime, there is no dog versus cat game, no frenzied runs across the dining room, no feline swats and no canine growls. Ours is a happy family at mealtime—until last licks take place, and then it’s game-on!
Mother’s Day is just a few days away, and here at the ASPCA, we plan to celebrate moms of all types of kids, furry and otherwise. We appreciate those moms who spend countless hours packing school lunches, coordinating the carpool, helping out with math homework and still find the time to take Fido for a brisk neighborhood stroll every evening.
If you’re still looking for the perfect way to salute the moms in your life this Sunday, May 11, look no further: Please consider making a Mother’s Day Honor Gift to the ASPCA. This Honor Gift is a meaningful way to celebrate moms who love animals. Your donation comes with the customizable e-card pictured above for your recipient, and the e-card is sent immediately after your donation is processed.
We’d like to thank all of the moms who make a difference for animals each and every day. Happy Mother’s Day from the ASPCA!
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
Moose is my seven-year old chocolate Labrador and we are partners. While I hold one end of the leash, he goes to work: he leans in, patiently, delighting in the ear scratches and hugs that follow. It is not uncommon to watch him dissolve onto the floor for full-out belly rubs. We are a pet therapy team and this is how he comforts our clients, psychiatric patients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains, New York.
Before we began working there as volunteers, we were trained and certified by Pet Partners, a non-profit organization that has long promoted the health benefits of the “human-animal bond.” (You can learn more about Pet Partners on the ASPCA website. Our first class was a refresher obedience course and helped me gain better control over my then, still puppy-like, two-year-old dog. The second taught me about the professional protocol expected of a therapy team.
Every Monday we visit men and women whose health challenges include schizophrenia, depression, addiction and other mental illnesses. Those who call his name are delighted when he trots over, greeting them with a friendly, tail-wagging response. The broad smiles on every face in the community room reveal a general sense of contentment as I take a moment and stop to let each person stroke Moose’s back and velvet-like ears.
Enthusiastic greetings and smiles are outward signs that Moose’s visits are a source of happiness, if only momentarily. What is not visible but, perhaps, even more compelling are the deeper benefits that can come from animal therapy.
In an article published by CNN Health Hal Herzog, professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, says evidence suggests that for some people, interacting with pets produces biochemical changes in the brain. Psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman notes in the article that caring for a pet helps people become less frightened, more self-sufficient and secure.