PetPsych

Animal Behavior & Training

Those Long Summer Months...



With temperatures reaching triple digits in the summer, it can be hard to know what to do to keep your pets busy. Here are a few ideas...

Dogs

Unfortunately it's too hot in the summer to walk dogs during the day, but a few short walks a day can be equally beneficial (if not more so as dogs have little - if any - sense of time) as one long walk. Take your dog out for 10-15 minutes early in the morning, again around 7pm when the sun goes down, and again around 10pm when it is a bit cooler. It is still hot and humid even at those times, so keep a close eye on your dog and if he/she looks to be struggling, take him/her straight home.

Try to think in terms of how many 'highlights' a day your dog has. Food is usually one of these, as is contact with its owner, games and/or toys, chewing, digging, a training session or exercise (amongst others). So having two-three walks a day instead of one gives the dog an extra highlight or two a day. This can be invaluable in boosting a dog's mood state, thereby making him/her less restless or frustrated at being cooped up inside all day. Chew toys are also excellent. They keep dogs busy, help them relax and help keep their teeth clean.

Feeding toys are great for keeping dogs occupied. Suddenly, instead of your dog wolfing down its dinner in 10 seconds, it will now have to work for it by using its brain to figure out what to do to get the food. Treat balls are great for this, as are Kongs (pictured). Put your dog's meal inside one of these and sit back and watch it take much longer than usual to shovel down its food. The feeding process is one of the most positive in your dog's day, so by dragging it out for longer your dog is happier for longer. And a contented dog is a well-behaved dog! Also, by making the dog use its brain you have ensured that your dog will be less emotionally reactive. Intellectual arousal and emotional arousal are incompatible - your dog (and you for that matter!) can only do one or the other at a time. A relaxed dog is a well-behaved dog!

Clicker training is a great way to get your dog to use up some energy. It is fun, safe and positive, and a 10-15 minute-session can be as tiring for a dog as an hour long walk. Mental challenges can be just as tiring as physical ones! Plus, clicker training can be done inside the house, ensuring that you and your dog stay cool and focused. As your dog gets better, raise the bar - make it harder so that you are constantly presenting him/her with new mental challenges. See Clicker Training for details.

Cats

Cats are often able to tolerate high temperatures better than dogs, so don't be surprised if your cat spends half the day in the garden, in spite of the heat! Indoors, you can enrich your cat's environment by providing lots of little hidey-holes (cardboard boxes are great for this) and three-dimensional space as cats love to sit in high places. Cat climbing frames are ideal for this.

Also good for cats are treat balls (see left), which dispense food when the cat rolls them around. These provide a good outlet for a cat's hunting instincts and are especially recommended for apartment cats. You can add shelving or high walkways in certain parts of the house, stick a load of cardboard boxes together with 'tunnels' for your cat to crawl through, make a mobile out of CDs that catch the light for your cat to bat around or flash a laser pen around the ceiling while you are sitting watching television. In the end, it really depends how innovative you want to be!

For the ultimate in kitty home entertainment, see The Cat's House.




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