New Baby on the Way?

New Kid In Town: Preparing Pets For Baby’s Arrival

Got a baby on the way? While you’re painting the new nursery and stocking up on diapers, don’t forget to involve your dog or cat in the new life joining your family. Well before your baby is born, you can begin to prepare your pet for this momentous change that will affect his life—in a great way if things go right. Here’s how to help ensure that your cat or dog becomes fast friends with his two-legged sibling.

The first step may be the most difficult. While you will still love your pet, there’s no denying that you will have less time to spend with him. Help accustom him to the change by gradually adjusting the amount of time you interact with him.

If he’s not already in the habit, now is the time for your pet to become comfortable staying on his own. Every pet, whether or not he lives in a family with kids, should be accustomed to having some “me time.”

Instead of taking him everywhere, as you may have done in the past, offer several short playtimes or attention periods during the day. To keep your dog or cat busy and prevent boredom and destruction, provide food puzzles, treat-dispensing toys, and other interactive playthings.

Consider a training refresh, especially if your pet has any problem behaviors such as jumping up on people, food- or object guarding, or housetraining lapses that could be a concern in a home with an infant or toddler. If necessary, work with a trainer or behaviorist who is certified in Fear Free techniques.

Take your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup. He should be in good health and free of parasites that could be spread to your new family member.

Dogs and cats rely more on scent than sight. Help them associate the smell of baby products such as lotions and creams with you and, eventually, your baby. Apply them to your hands before handling your pet’s toys and playing with him.

Sound is important to pets, too. Prepare them for baby noises by playing the a CD such as Preparing Fido. Start it at a low level, giving your pet his favorite treats, and gradually increase the volume. Reward him for staying relaxed as he hears the unfamiliar sounds of crying, laughing, screaming, giggling and more.

Using a doll, practice doing “baby things” such as changing a diaper or going for a walk while pushing a stroller. (It might be good practice for you, too.)

When the baby is born, have your spouse or another family member bring home a blanket, diaper or other item with the baby’s scent. That person should let your pet sniff it and give him a treat and praise him as he does so. This will help him to associate the baby with good things.

At home, greet your pet first without the baby. Then introduce him to your little one, giving him a favorite treat or toy during the encounter. With this foundation and careful supervision on your part so you can teach them how to behave toward each other, you will have started to build a happy, lifelong relationship between your children and animals.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT

Pick the Purrfect Pet Sitter

Perfect Pet Sitter? Here’s What To Look For

If you have a fearful pet or you simply prefer that he stay in familiar surroundings while you’re out of town on business or vacation, you likely have hired or considered hiring a pet sitter. That’s smart. Dogs and cats thrive with a routine, so when their family leaves on a trip, it can turn their world upside down. Being at home can help to ease their anxiety.

Part of ensuring your pet’s emotional and physical wellbeing when you’re away from home is not just finding a pet sitter but finding one who can help your pets adjust to your absence with the least amount of stress.

It’s no wonder that animals left at home can be fearful, anxious or stressed, even in the care of the most loving pet sitter. They’re alone, and then a stranger whom they may have met only once pops in and stays for half an hour.

Pet sitters can be a little anxious themselves. In my 25 years of caring for pets in their homes, I’ve visited many frightened animals. It’s always a concern that a terrified dog may bolt out the door before the leash is attached. And a worried cat can hide so well that the only way I know he’s still there is by checking the litter box and food bowl.

There’s no such thing as a Fear Free certified pet sitter—yet—but it’s easy to recognize one who has the skills to help your dog or cat feel comfortable when meeting him as well as when you’re away. Here are some things to look for in a pet sitter who uses stress-busting techniques to meet a pet’s emotional as well as physical needs.

When your prospective pet sitter arrives for a get-acquainted visit, observe how she interacts with your pets. Does she:

  • Let your dog or cat approach when they are comfortable or does she try to pet them before they are ready?
  • Use body language to appear less threatening? Does she get down on the ground at their level and sit sideways with minimal eye contact to encourage them to approach?

Ask questions about her methods:

  • What kind of equipment does she use on walks? Head halters? Front-clip harnesses? Treats? Beware of a pet sitter who needs to use prong collars or shock collars. Go for a walk with her and your dog to make sure you’re comfortable with the way she handles and interacts with him.
  • What does she do after the walk? She might spend a few minutes calming your dog, so she doesn’t leave him amped up and frustrated.
  • How does she administer medications, if applicable? She might wrap your cat in a towel to calm him while she gives an insulin shot. She might let your dog lick peanut butter off a toy while she medicates his injured foot.
  • What does she do during visits? She might sit with your dog while brushing or petting him. She might turn on soft music or leave the TV on so your pets hear familiar noises of regular household activities. (One of my clients left the shopping channel on, so her Bulldog heard only happy voices.) She might sit near your cat just for company, or let him take a nap on her lap.

Once your pet sitter gets to know your animals, they will greet her like an old friend and enjoy her visits. If you need help finding a pet sitter, check out a list of Fear Free certified veterinarians in your area and ask them for a referral to a pet sitter whom they know and trust.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Combat Counter Cruising

Got A Counter Cruiser? How To Get Your Cat To Keep Four On The Floor

Many cat parents struggle with this common problem. Old suggestions like spraying cats with water don’t work and aren’t kind. To make matters worse, these punishment-based techniques make cats scared, anxious, and stressed.

So, how do we get our cats to stay off the counter?

First, let’s look at why they are up there in the first place.

Cats need to climb and perch. Cats are predators, but they are also prey. They are instinctively driven to find the highest place in their environment to climb and perch so that they can survey the environment. This makes them feel safe.

Once we humans understand this, we can start to look at the problem differently.

What is the highest place in your kitchen that your cat has access to?  I am betting it’s your counter. Now you understand why your cat wants to be up there, right? It makes her feel safe.

Instead of scaring your cat and punishing her in ways she doesn’t understand, turn the tables and give her an even better place in your kitchen to feel safe. A climbing and perching kitchen solution for your cat can be a cat tree, bookshelves, or even a beautiful climbing wall.

Once you install your solution, your cat might take some time to get used to the new and improved perching place. Don’t get frustrated.

Try putting your cat’s food and treats up on the perch to encourage exploration. Every time your cat jumps on your counter, gently and kindly pick her up and place her on the new perch. Give her a treat or a bit of catnip to encourage her to stay there. Depending on the setup, you could even feed her on her new perch. Tell her she’s eating the same way as her leopard cousins in Africa.

Soon enough, your cat will prefer her cozy new option to your counters.

That’s how you make a Fear Free Happy Home for your cat!

5 Things Every Pet Needs

Whether you are a dog or cat person, any pet owner would agree they would love to know just what their pet really wants. Well here is a short list the most important things your dog or cat needs from you.


Dogs: Our dogs want to be part of a family. That includes the humans in the household, but your dog may also count the other dogs, cats, rabbits, or other animal friends as part of his extended family group.

It’s not quantity, but quality of companionship. One human can be enough, by spending time with the dog and providing what he or she wants. That might be belly rubs, or trick training, or just sweet lap-sitting time.

Cats: Cats are not solitary by choice, and even feral felines develop relationships with other cats. Owned kitties bond closely with their humans, as well as with other companion animals in your home. For instance, my Karma-Kat mourned deeply after his dog-friend passed away and slept with his collar for two weeks. Companionship may not look the same in the “cat world,” but it is no less real. Simply sharing the same room may be your cat’s equivalent of a declaration of adoration.

Listen to what your cat wants, too. Some want cuddle time, and others prefer interactive play. There is no one-size-fits-all, and figuring out what your cats want is true kindness.


Dogs: Your dog might change that word to “treats.” Depending on the dog, some may live to eat and try to gulp anything that doesn’t move faster than they do (can you say Beagle and Labrador?). All dogs require balanced nutrition to stay healthy, and special treats offer added value to a dog’s day.

Consult your dog’s veterinarian to help choose the best nutritional options. Certainly be kind to Bella and Bentley with healthy treats, too. Common sense yummies make the best bonuses, too, if they’re not offered every single day. That makes that bit of bacon or cheese even more of a kind gesture, and keeps him from packing on the pounds and risking his health.

Cats: Cats rely on humans to provide the best nutrition for them. Many cats also relish treats, although a kitty’s idea of treat (mousies, anyone? Or cricket snacks?) may make humans gag. Remember that cats nibble throughout the day rather than gulp, so a kind way to feed includes mouse-size servings several times daily. Foraging feeds cats the way nature meant them to hunt, a value-added benefit for kitty’s health.

A Home

Dogs: Protection from the weather goes beyond a fur coat, and is especially important for very young, very old, or health-challenged dogs. It also extends to keeping dogs safe from outside threats by providing fenced yards, following leash laws, offering shady spots from burning sun, or warm houses that offer shelter from cold or icy conditions.

Cats: Cats love home turf, and whether they live with you in an apartment, a mansion, or a barn, they need their own space. Within that territory, they need protection from the weather or from outside dangers. Feral kitties want and need that for their babies, and humans want and need protection for the cats they love. Even though outside unowned felines are good at keeping a protective distance from perceived dangers, being kind means protecting both owned and unowned cats from bad weather, predators, car accidents, and more. For beloved indoor-only cats, giving kitties enough territory—such as cat trees and tunnels where they can hide—reduces stress and the potential for behavior problems.

Health Care

Dogs: Dogs may love the vet—or fear the visits—but all dogs need and want to stay healthy. Good health fuels their day and provides energy for play and exploration, interactions with their human and furry family members, and everything else that makes life worth living. Preventive veterinary care extends not only the years you share love, but also the quality of the life you share together.

Cats: Sadly, it’s the rare cat who loves a vet visit, but all kitties require good health to be happy. A healthy cat can hunt, play, claim territory, and happily interact with humans and other companions. Today, cats live longer, healthier lives because of preventive veterinary care that extends their years and improves the quality of the life—and love—you share.

Fear Free Life

Dogs: Fear cripples and quashes the joy from the human-animal relationship. Dogs are experts at finding joy in everyday experiences—from tracking a bug or wrestling with littermates, to clowning to prompt a beloved human’s smile. Every dog (and pet parent) deserves a fear free home, to allow relationships to blossom and happiness to fuel the wags. That’s the kindest gift we can give our dogs!

Cats: Fear destroys the happiness that the cat-owner bond celebrates. Cats live each day to the fullest, with purrs and trills of delight chasing a feather toy, seeking out puddles of sunshine in which to bask, or pillows to share nose-to-nose time with beloved humans. Every cat (and pet parent) deserves a fear free territory. Only then will relationships bloom, and joy fill your hearts. That’s the purr-fect kindness we can give our cats!


This article was combined from two articles reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Snuggling or Separation Anxiety?

Shadow Effect: Is It Closeness Or Anxiety?

Herding dogs aren’t the only ones who like to shadow their owners. Many breeds, especially those bred to work for or with people, prefer to be close. Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers, both large, imposing breeds, are usually found within arm’s reach of their owners. Other breeds, including Pugs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, were bred to be companions.

Companionship Should Be Comfortable

A dog who is your shadow wants to be close to you. They are usually in the same room with you and will follow you as you move around the house. If you go outside to do some yard work, they will follow you there, too, although they may move to the shade to take a nap.

There are varying degrees of closeness, depending on the individual dog and person. For example, as I write this article Bones is asleep on a dog bed behind my desk chair. Hero is asleep, too, but under my desk. Both dogs are with me, but neither is touching me.

A shadow dog prefers to be with you and will follow you from room to room. Many will keep an eye on you and are great at anticipating your actions. They want to be in the middle of any activity. However, if left home alone, they are fine and don’t stress.

Close, Closer, Clingy

Some dogs take closeness a step further. They want to reach out and touch someone. A friend’s Doberman Pinscher likes to have a paw on her foot, or a nose touching her hand. If she’s relaxing on the sofa he’s curled up next to her. That’s normal for him, but sometimes closeness becomes clinginess. These dogs may seem dependent, anxious, or worried.

If a dog who is not normally clingy suddenly becomes so, there is usually a reason. Many dogs become clingy around holidays that are normally noisy; Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve are two common anxiety-producing holidays. If you’re hosting a party and a number of strange people are coming in and out of your house, your dog might be worried and become glued to you.

Ill and injured dogs often seek out their owner for comfort as do adolescent puppies in the throes of hormonal changes. Older dogs experiencing physical changes such as vision and hearing loss often become clingy. A dog who likes to be your shadow is seeking your companionship, but a clingy dog needs you for reassurance, protection, or stability.

The clingy dog is always with you, like the shadow dog, but is more often touching you or on your lap. He may walk under your feet almost to the point of tripping you. Rather than simply watching you, he may stare, trying to make eye contact. Whining for attention is common.

To help the clingy dog, try to figure out what he’s trying to communicate, especially if this behavior is new. A visit to the veterinarian for a complete examination is usually a good first step. If he checks out healthy, refresh his training and challenge his brain to help build his confidence. Play games, use food-dispensing toys, and increase his exercise if appropriate. Teach him some tricks.

Separation Anxiety Is A Bigger Issue

While shadow dogs want to be close to you and clingy dogs want to be even closer, dogs with separation anxiety panic when not with you. Shadow dogs are showing normal behavior for many dogs, and clingy dogs are normal depending on the cause of the attachment. Dogs with separation anxiety, however, have gone beyond that.

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety are unhappy, worried, anxious, or fearful when separated from their owner. They may pant, drool, bark, or howl when left alone. Some dogs will urinate or defecate in the house when alone. Pacing is common, as are efforts to escape from the house or yard, including tearing out screens, chewing on doors and door frames, and more.

If your dog displays these characteristics, contact a veterinary behaviorist for help. Separation anxiety rarely gets better on its own and, in fact, often escalates.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Chewing is for the Dogs

Dogs use their mouths the same way we use our hands. That means nearly everything goes into a puppy’s mouth as he explores the world. Chewing is more than exploring, though. Teething pups chew to relieve discomfort as their permanent teeth come in. Some dogs never outgrow the gnawing habit, though, and that can get them in trouble.

Many years ago, our first dog loved to hide in my closet and sleep among my shoes. He chewed off the high heel on one out of each pair of my favorite dress shoes. He also destroyed two television remotes. And our most recent dog stole my husband’s socks (the dirty ones) and gnawed them to pieces.

You Smell So Good!

Bored, lonely, and stressed dogs chew more, because it helps to relieve tension and pass the time. When a dog has a strong bond with a person, your soothing scent helps to reduce stress. After all, a dog experiences much of the world through odor, so the pleasant scent of a favorite person brings him a feeling of safety and can be a great comfort.

That’s why our first dog preferred to sleep in our closet where clothes and shoes held strong scent-reminders of me. He also found my husband’s scent-permeated items attractive—the TV remote (heaven knows I never got to handle that!), and repeatedly chewed them up. Dirty laundry, especially socks and underwear, has your personal signature scent all over it, and can prove irresistible to dogs.

Your Favorite Things

Think about the items you handle the most. These likely are important to you, or they wouldn’t be in contact with you so much. Your dog may target items that are accessible and easily fit into his mouth, especially if they give a satisfying CRUNCH when he bites down. Wallets, cell phones, tablets, purses, and laptop bags all come to mind.

Those chew marks are a back handed compliment, though. If your dog didn’t care about you so much, he’d ignore such things. Chewaholics need help, though, and the key to eliminating the problem is reducing your dog’s opportunities to chew illegal items.

Reduce The Risks

Make a list of tempting objects, and make sure they’re out of reach. Canine chewaholics force us to be better housekeepers.

When you can’t supervise, confine chewers in an area where they can’t damage property. I had nobody to blame but myself by allowing our first dog to sleep in the closet among my shoes! A crate, filled with legal chewies with treats inside, can be a wonderful and safe place for dogs to spend alone time.

Offer at least three to five “legal” chew options for your dog, and rotate a couple of times a week. That keeps your pet happy and your favorite property safe from his teeth.

Ask for Help

Stress and anxiety can fuel chewing. A Fear Free Certified Professional can help you find professional assistance to address your dog’s chewing habits.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT. Thanks to author Amy Shojai for helping our patients and their owners.

Originally published 11/8/2017

8 Winter Weather Tips for Pets

Baby, it’s cold outside! Temperatures are quickly dropping in Central New York. With news folks chatting about winter weather and freeze warnings on just about every channel, we thought it would be a good idea to send some tips your way to help you make sure your pets stay warm, healthy and happy in the chilly days ahead!

  • Inside is the place to be! Never leave your dogs or cats outdoors. If they get too cold or wet, they can get sick, just like you!
  • Keep your pets hydrated! Trying to stay warm will take up a lot of your pet’s energy. Make sure there is always fresh water available for your animals! Don’t forget — your pet will need extra food during the winter months, too!
  • Dress for the season. Have a shorthaired dog? He may be more cozy in a doggie sweater during walks. Try to find a coat or sweater with a high collar (think turtleneck style) and coverage all the way to the belly. Just because you’re a pup doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable!
  • Cozy up! Just like you, your furry companion wants a warm place to sleep. A dog or cat bed with a blanket or pillow away from drafts is purr-fect!
  • Never leave your pet alone in the car! In the winter, the car can become a refrigerator, causing your pet to freeze to death.
  • Put the clippers away! Never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter — his coat will provide warmth. And if your dog needs a bath, dry him off completely before taking him outside on a walk.
  • Heading for a snowy hike? Don’t let your dog off leash. Dogs can lose their scent easily and become lost in the snow. Don’t forget to make sure your pet wears an ID tag and has a microchip (with up-to-date owner information linked to it).
  • Be cautious when you start your car. The warm engines of parked cars are a magnet for outdoor cats. They love sleeping under the hoods when it’s cold outside, but when the motor starts, the kitty can be injured — or even killed — by the fan belt. Bang your hood loudly before start the car so cats have a chance to move away!

Special thanks to the Animal Foundation for these helpful hints!

Teaching to Roll Over

Teaching dogs new tricks is always a fun challenge, and we’re here to help! Check out our tips below for teaching your dog how to roll over.

  • Ask your dog to be in the “down” position (laying on their stomach)
  • Hold a small treat by the side of their head, near their nose
  • Move your hand from their nose toward their shoulder, this will lure them to their side
  • Repeat this a few times, praising them each time
  • Now continue the movement, having them go from one side to the other, rolling over!
  • Once they consistently roll over add the verbal cue “Roll Over” so they can learn the command

Click here to learn more and check out a video from AKC.

Giving Medication

Just like us, not all pets like taking medicine. This can be a stressful experience for you and your pet, but we are here to help! When it comes to oral medications we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves.

  • Hide the pill
    • many pets will take a pill if it is hidden within peanut butter, hot dogs, cream cheese, etc.
  • Crush the pill
    • always ask your veterinarian if it’s safe to crush the pill first
    • if it’s safe, take the powder and add it to canned foods, like tuna
  • 1-2-3 Trick
    • prepare 3-5 “treatballs”, and have one of them contain the medication
    • give your pet 1 or 2 of the treats, then casually give them the one with medication
    • follow this quickly with a “chaser” treatball

For more tips and tricks click here.

Dogs in a Cat Household

There has always been the stereotype that dogs and cats don’t coexist well; but that isn’t always the case. There are many ways to acclimate dogs and cats, and a few pointers are below!

  • “Match” your dog and cat
    • consider both pet’s personalities and energy levels
    • Example: if your dog likes chasing things, a shy cat probably isn’t the best fit
  • Introduction process
    • 1. Choose the location for their first meeting
      • do not bring your cat(s) to meet the dog at a different establishment (shelter, etc.)
      • meet at your home, where they will be coexisting in the future
    • 2. Separate them
      • spread between a few days, rotate which animal has freedom in the house – this allows each of them to investigate the other’s  scent
    • 3. Leashed introduction
      • have both animals in the same room but keep your dog on a leash
      • continue this until the dog is calm and ignores the cat, and the cat is calm (eating and using their litter box normally)
    • 4. Unsupervised interaction
      • proceed to this step once there has been some time where they have been supervised together, and you are positive they won’t harm the other

For more tips and tricks click here.