There aren’t many moments greater than welcoming a new baby animal into the family. You think of all of the fun times you’re sure to have together as your puppy, kitten, rabbit, or other animal grows up.
But to your baby animal, you’re essentially a stranger, and the world is a big (and sometimes scary) place. In order for your new friend to fit into your family and society and to grow into a happy, healthy adult, you need to socialize it.
Read on to discover why kitten and puppy socialization matters and how to socialize your new furry friend. While we focus on cats and dogs here because they’re most likely to be around a variety of new people, animals, and environments, other animals—like rabbits, horses, etc.— can benefit from socialization too!
Why is socializing important?
Socializing your baby animal will have a huge impact on the quality of life for both you and your pet. Kitten and puppy socialization gives your pet the tools it needs to adapt and adjust to new people, other animals, and new and different situations and environments. When you socialize your pet, it develops into a happier, healthier, and calmer animal and will have better experiences when interacting with other humans and animals.
What happens if you don’t socialize your pet?
If you don’t socialize your pet, it won’t know how to handle new people, animals, places, or things. This can lead to growing up to be fearful and anxious, not to mention at risk of developing severe behavioral problems, like aggression.
When should an animal be socialized?
The most critical time for socialization is at the beginning of an animal’s life, when you can lay a foundation for its future personality and behavior. For kittens, the most critical period is between 2 and 14 weeks. For puppies, it’s between 8 and 12 weeks.
Before you begin socializing your animal, it’s imperative that it is properly vaccinated. Just like human babies, baby animals have weaker immune systems and are more prone to picking up common infections and diseases from other animals.
How to Socialize a Kitten
Remove yourself from the equation.
The first step to successfully socializing a kitten is to give it a little space! When you bring your kitten home, give it a day or so to adjust to its new surroundings before you bombard it with attention—even positive attention. This will allow your kitten to get comfortable and adapt to its new environment.
Once your kitten is settled in, you can start building a bond with it. Speak softly, and move slowly when you approach your new kitten, so you don’t unnecessarily startle it.
Use food as a gateway.
One of the keys to socialization is food. When you feed your kitten, stay in the room, so it begins to connect you with delicious treats. Each day that you feed it, move its bowl closer to you. If it becomes afraid, back off for a day. Eventually, you want to be able to place the bowl in your lap, with your kitten comfortable enough to crawl onto you to get food.
Once it’s comfortable eating out of your lap, you can start petting your kitten while it eats. Graduate to picking it up and holding it close to you. Whenever you pet or hold it, give a treat as a reward.
After you’ve gotten to the point that your kitten allows you to hold it, do so as much as possible. You can also introduce it to friends, family, and other pets. The more interaction your new kitten has with humans and animals during this period, the more comfortable it will be with those types of interactions as it gets older.
How to Socialize a Puppy
Puppy socialization is a bit different than socializing a kitten. Most puppies are naturally more affectionate than kittens, so petting and cuddling them will be a lot easier. It’s important to pet, stroke, and cuddle your new puppy as often as possible. Pet it in a variety of ways:
- Rub its nose.
- Scratch behind its ears.
- Stroke its belly.
- Scratch its back.
Varying the way that you pet your puppy will make it comfortable with different types of touching, which is important, since not all people pet animals in the same way.
You want your puppy to get comfortable with the variety of sounds that it will be exposed to on a daily basis. Leave the television on, have your puppy in the kitchen with you while you empty the dishwasher and cook dinner, or pet it on the porch while a noisy firetruck drives by. Don’t overwhelm your puppy with too many noises too quickly, but do acclimate it to the day-to-day sounds of your home.
Approach the food bowl.
Just like with kittens, food is an important part of socializing your puppy. Dogs can get very territorial over their food, so it’s important for your puppy to get comfortable with people approaching its food dish. One great way to do this is to approach your puppy while it’s eating, and pop a treat in its bowl. Then it will associate people approaching its food bowl with getting an extra-special goodie!
Introduce your puppy to new people and new animals as often as possible. As with socializing kittens, the more people and animals your puppy interacts with, the more comfortable it will be with those interactions as it grows.
Leave your puppy alone.
The last major component of socializing your puppy might sound counterintuitive, but it’s really important that you leave your dog alone for a short period of time every day. Dogs that are never left alone can develop separation anxiety, which can cause them to get anxious or depressed when you leave the house, and they may act destructively in your absence.
The key to successfully socializing your baby animal is to be patient. Socialization doesn’t happen overnight. It takes dedication and daily practice to make your kitten or puppy comfortable around you, your family, other animals, and the world in general! But remember that socialization is an absolute must for the long-term happiness of your pet.
Dogs are smart animals. Some are so smart, in fact, that they can hold jobs!
In addition to holding the title of man’s best friend, dogs can also lay claim to a number of different job titles across a number of industries. What kinds of jobs are best suited for our four-legged pals? Some of these jobs for dogs might surprise you!
1. Police Dog
Police dogs, typically known as K9s, have long been used in police forces to back up their human counterparts. K9s are highly intelligent pups that are trained to help law enforcement in the day-to-day operations of their work.
Dogs have been used as police support throughout history, most likely starting in the Middle Ages, when local constables used police dogs to help them hunt fugitives. Police dogs were also used throughout history in Scotland. Scots referred to police dogs as “slough dogs,” or “sleuth hounds”, which is where the modern term “sleuth” came from.
Today, law enforcement relies on K9s for multiple areas of police business. There are:
- Search-and-rescue dogs – They help to find missing persons and rescue civilians in crisis.
- Attack dogs – They are used to apprehend and subdue suspects.
- Detection dogs – They are used to sniff out drugs, explosives, and other harmful materials at places like airports, stadiums, and more.
What makes a good police dog?
A police dog needs to:
- Be strong
- Be aggressive (at the right times)
- Have an excellent sense of smell
- Be loyal
- Be very trainable
Retired police dogs need homes!
Unfortunately, once a police dog’s career days are over, their future is uncertain. If they’re not adopted by their handler, they can have trouble getting placed due to their attack training and any injuries they may have sustained on the job,
But retired police dogs make excellent companions. They’re fiercely loyal, intelligent, and protective, making them a great option for people who live alone and for families.
If you’d like to adopt a K9, search for a local organization that specializes in placing retired police dogs.
2. Movie Star
If you think your dog has the cutest face since Lassie, then a career in entertainment might be in Fido’s future! Since the beginning of the film and television industry, there have been countless movies and television shows that not only featured playful pets but were dedicated to our canine companions.
From old Hollywood tearjerkers like “Old Yeller” (1957) to modern classics like “Air Bud” (1997), dogs have been making their mark in the entertainment industry for decades. Dogs are often the stars of shows and the focus of plots, outshining their human costars.
What makes a dog shine on screen?
No matter your dog’s personality, there’s probably a role for them. From heroic dogs like the collie in “Lassie” to loyal companions like the Jack Russel terrier in “My Dog Skip” and mischievous-but-lovable types like the Labrador retriever in “Marley & Me,” there’s a spot for every type of dog under the bright lights of Hollywood.
And just like there are roles for every puppy personality type, there are also roles for every breed! While purebreds have traditionally been more visible in film (like the St. Bernard in “Beethoven” and the huskies in “Eight Below“), there are plenty of mixed breeds on the silver screen as well. Remember the original Benji? He was actually a shelter dog!
Get your dog camera-ready!
Did you know that you can train your dog for a life in show biz? Movie dogs have to be able to take direction well, so invest in some advanced obedience classes to get your pup trained and camera ready. And even if your best pal doesn’t land a movie or TV gig, you two will have some awesome tricks to pull out at parties!
3. Guide Dog
Guide dogs are hugely helpful to the blind community. They help visually impaired people navigate their day-to-day lives by:
- Leading them around obstacles
- Giving them cues about upcoming steps and uneven surfaces
- Assisting them in safely navigating through traffic
Guide dogs are 24/7 companions to their humans and are allowed everywhere their humans are, including places that would otherwise have pet restrictions, like restaurants.
What kind of dog can be a superhero?
Guide dogs are put through intensive training from the time they’re puppies, and since they’re essentially going to be in charge of their owner’s safety, they have to be hugely intelligent. Guide dogs have to learn how to follow commands and help their owners move around safely. They also have to learn to identify potentially dangerous situations and avoid them, even if their owners try to direct them there. For example, a guide dog would have to refuse to walk into traffic, even if their owner commanded them to!
Typically, guide dogs are Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, a mix of the two, or German shepherds. These dogs are chosen because they handle stress well, they’re willing to work long hours, and they’re easily recognized when out and about in public.
Train your puppy to be a guide dog, or get one for yourself.
If you need a guide dog for yourself, or you want to know whether your puppy qualifies for enrollment in guide dog training, visit Guide Dogs For The Blind for more information.
4. Therapy Dog
Another role in which a dog can be of service to a human is as a therapy dog. In their line of work, therapy dogs boost people’s moods, help them to manage their stress, and give them support in dealing with mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
The main job of a therapy dog is to make people feel better. Studies show that dogs help reduce stress, and interacting with dogs, even for a short time, can have a huge effect on a person’s happiness. Colleges sometimes bring in dogs during finals week to help calm students’ nerves. Hospitals, like Atlantic Health, allow therapy dogs to visit with patients.
What makes a soothing pooch?
There’s no specific breed that succeeds most at being a therapy dog. The only job requirements are to be loving, affectionate, and gentle.
5. Sled Dog
Immensely popular and useful throughout history, sled dogs are employed in Arctic areas as means of transportation and to help deliver supplies and packages to remote towns, where intense weather conditions make it difficult to get around and connect with others.
Sled dogs are mostly used in Canada, Alaska, at the North and South poles, and in parts of Greenland. They make it possible for towns to endure incredibly harsh seasons and get the things they need to survive. These hardworking dogs also allow for further exploration of incredibly harsh terrain, particularly around the North and South poles.
While sled dogs aren’t commonly used for transporting supplies in modern society, there are still very active recreational sledding communities that hold races and events year-round.
What kind of dog loves the snow enough to pull a sled through it?
Clearly there are a number of jobs for dogs. But do you know what their top—and most beloved—occupation is? To be your best friend!
When people think of walking their pets, it’s long strolls with dogs that comes to mind. Rarely do you see a cat owner putting Fluffy on a leash and taking her for a walk! The possibility is something few pet owners have considered.
But when you do give it some more thought, walking your cat makes sense. Like dogs, cats need exercise to stay fit and healthy and to boost their chances of living as long as possible. A good walk can also help to calm a pet down. If your kitty loves to jump on things she’s not supposed to and scratch at everything in sight, a walk could allow your cat to channel its energy in a safe and productive way.
Which cats can you walk?
Taking a walk isn’t for every feline, however. As any kitty lover will tell you, cats come with all sorts of personalities. Some love people, love attention, and curious enough that they could prove that old adage true: “Curiosity killed the cat.” They’ll bounce around, nuzzle any human they see, and run around the house. These types of cats are perfect for walking. They’ll love the change of scenery, the new sights and smells.
Then there are the antisocial or skittish kitties. These felines hiss at strangers, keep to themselves, and experience anxiety whenever their environments change. They should generally not be walked, and, unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you’ll get an antisocial cat to change, although you might try walking it around the house just to see how it reacts to the equipment.
Should you choose a harness or collar?
Is your cat a good candidate for walking? Great! Now you need to get Mittens the right equipment. A normal collar won’t work, as your kitty will slip out of it easily. Instead, buy a collar suited for walking a cat. They’re available both online and in pet stores.
A harness is also a great option. Harnesses tend to be safer than collars (although some don’t allow you to put ID tags on them). If your cat jumps and runs, for instance, a collar could choke it, so should consider buying a harness to walk your cat.
The next necessary pieces of equipment are a proper leash and ID tags for your collar or harness. These help keep your cat as close to you as you like and prevent it from staying lost should it go too far!
Another important part of the equation is your cat’s health. Be sure Fluffy is up-to-date on her vaccinations before venturing into the great outdoors.
Slow is the way to go.
Once you strap walking equipment on your cat, make sure you give it time to get accustomed to it before you take it out for a walk. Even if your cat is outgoing, don’t go on an hour-long jaunt right off the bat.
Start out by walking around the house. Then go for a short stroll around the yard. This step is especially important for cats that don’t spend time outside, and it might be a long (but very necessary) part in the process.
Work your way up to the park. An outgoing cat still can get stressed by a sudden change in environment, so make sure that Fluffy is used to walking before you go on any adventures.
While you walk your cat, keep an eye out for any signs of stress. If your cat begins meowing, flattens its ears, sticks up its tail, or trembles, it’s probably nervous. Try petting your cat to comfort it. If your cat won’t even allow you to pet it, return home and allow your cat to readjust. You can always try again, but remember to take it at a pace that your furry friend is comfortable with
For most cats, a walk is worth a try! Just remember to have all the right equipment, take it slow, and look for any signs of stress. Check with your vet if you have any specific questions about the health and safety of walking your feline. Your newest and best walking companion could just be your cat!
There are many decisions you have to make when you bring a dog home and throughout the time it lives with you. Which breed should you choose? Should you adopt or buy? What training methods should you use?
One question you might not have considered – but definitely should – is: Harness vs. collar? Which should I choose?
What’s the difference?
First, let’s discuss the thing a harness and a collar have in common: Both are used to strap on a leash. And that’s where the similarities end.
Which should I choose?
At first, choosing between a collar or a harness for your dog may seem like an aesthetic decision, but there are important factors that you should consider that go beyond how your dog looks wearing one or the other.
A collar can carry a few risks, depending on your dog’s breed or behavior. Since a collar goes around an animal’s most delicate spot, its neck, a risk of injury exists should your dog lunge or move ahead quickly while you’re walking it. Bigger dogs are better able to tolerate collars, but if your dog is small, choking as a result of a collar could cause serious injury! For toy pups, especially, harnesses minimize risk.
Collars also have more of a tendency to slip off than harnesses do. If your dog is prone to running away or slipping out of restraints, a harness is a good option.
However, if your dog is medium to large, doesn’t lunge when you walk it, and is in the prime of its life, a collar is likely a fine option.
What are the cons of harnesses?
It may seem like collars have disadvantages, and a harness is the perfect option! However, there are a few cons to harnesses as well. For example, a harness could be uncomfortable for your pup at first, especially if it’s used to a wearing a collar. It might also be an adjustment for you, as a harness may require a little bit more time to put on your dog, and more attention may need to be paid to fit at first.
Also, some harnesses don’t have the option to attach identification. The standard collar can hold ID tags, which is important for any dog, regardless of whether they’ve been micro-chipped or not. If you do choose to walk your dog with a harness, be sure to purchase one with the option to attach ID tags. They could be the difference between a lost dog and a found one.
What’s the verdict?
There’s no one right choice for all dog owners. The decision you make depends on your dog’s breed, its age, and its behavior. Next time you take your dog for a walk, observe whether it’s prone to getting distracted, jumping, running forward, and lunging suddenly. If so, you should probably walk your pup in a harness to avoid injury.
For toy-dog owners, collars aren’t the best option. They can push against a toy’s delicate neck, causing it to choke. A harness is a better option if your pooch is tiny.
If your dog is an adult, is fully trained, and is a larger size, consider a collar.
While the equipment you use to walk your dog may take a backseat to things like playing with it, petting it, and generally having fun, take some time to consider which option – a collar or a harness – will keep your dog safest and happiest.
Brrrr! Winter is finally here for most of the U.S., and as dog owners, it’s time to make some preparations. Although Fido has a furry coat, he’s still prone to cold temperatures. If it gets below freezing, your dog could develop hypothermia, which is potentially fatal, or it could get frostbite.
Of course, every dog needs exercise and a little time outside! Here’s how to keep your dog safe and exercised in chilly temperatures.
Know your breed.
Different breeds of dogs tolerate cold temperatures better than others. One classic cold-loving breed is the Siberian husky, a fluffy dog that originated in extremely cold Siberia.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the Chihuahua, a short-coated breed that originated in the Mexican heat. If you have a Chihuahua, it likely hates the cold!
Both Siberian huskies and Chihuahuas are dogs, and both make awesome pets, but both have extremely different relationships with cold weather. This shows that it’s important to do research about your dog before setting out on a chilly jaunt.
How should you walk your pup in the winter?
All year long, you should strive to keep your dog fit, as well as yourself. However, it’s a little more difficult during the winter. After all, you can’t take your pup to the gym! Still, you can walk your dog daily, even if it’s cold outside. In fact, many dogs love the snow! You just need to make a few preparations before you head out.
Use doggie clothing.
Just as you would put on a coat or mittens before you go outside, you should outfit your pup as well. There are plenty of coats to keep your dog warm and mittens/boots to keep its paws snug. Be sure to put these on your dog before you go outside into the cold. Boots also make great protection against the salt that’s used to melt ice on wintery sidewalks.
Watch out for ice!
It’s just as dangerous for your dog to slip on ice as it is for you. Avoid walking your pooch in places with ice, especially if your dog will be going outside without a leash.
Take it indoors.
If it’s below 0 degrees F and icy, consider keeping your pup indoors when it’s not time for a bathroom break. There are great ways to exercise your dog inside. Here are a few ideas!
- Hide some treats for your pup to find — It’ll expend all its energy looking for that yummy snack!
- If you have the budget, consider a dog treadmill — If you have a normal treadmill, you can use that as well, but supervise your dog to prevent injury.
- Take your dog to a fitness center — There are some for pets! Alternatively, a few indoor pools allow pets, and swimming is great exercise for Fido!
The cold and sometimes wintery weather doesn’t mean your pup should stay inside all the time, but it does mean you need to be aware of how to keep it safe. Take precautions when walking your dog, and provide some indoor entertainment, and winter will be just as much fun as spring and summer
This article is about the appropriate amount of exercise necessary for your dog. Obesity is the main factor to combat by not giving your dog enough exercise. Dogs may even chew destructively or whine if they are not getting adequate exercise. On the other hand, smaller breeds and older dogs could possibly get too much exercise. The basic ranger of exercise your dog should get is 30 minutes to two hours daily.
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