Helpful Pet Info

Rules, Boundaries, and Limitations, Tips from Ceasar Milan, The Dog Whisperer


A dog's mother begins training puppies from birth. She makes them wait for food; she controls when they play and how far they travel. Adult dogs need these same rules, boundaries, and limitations from you, their pack leader.


A pack leader doesn't project emotional or nervous energy, so neither should you. In the wild, the pack leader uses calm, assertive energy to influence how the dog interacts with his surroundings. She enforces these laws in a quiet way, as is the case when a mother picks up a puppy by the scruff of the neck if he strays outside the den.


Ownership of territory is very important. Dogs in the wild claim space by first asserting themselves in a calm and confident way, and then communicating this ownership through clear body language signals and eye contact. A dog who understands that you, as the pack leader, own the space in which he lives will respect your asserted authority.


Waiting is another way that pack leaders assert their position. Puppies wait to eat, and adult dogs wait until the pack leader wants them to travel. Waiting is a form of psychological work for the dog. Domestication means dogs don’t need to hunt for food, but they can still work for it.


Establish your position as pack leader by asking your dog to work. Take him on a walk before you feed him. And just as you don't give affection unless your dog is in a calm-submissive state, don’t give food until your dog acts calm and submissive. Exercise will help the dog, especially a high-energy one, to achieve this state.


In all of these ways, the pack leader in nature sets rules, boundaries, and limitations for her pack, and in doing so, nurtures her dog's healthy state of mind.




The Right Vet For Your Pet


One of the most important people in your pet’s life is your veterinarian. You’ll rely on your vet for a wide variety of services: checkups, vaccines, diagnosing and medicating infections and illnesses, treating wounds, setting fractures, performing surgery, advising about nutrition & consulting about behavior. So choosing the right doctor requires careful consideration.


Friendly advice


While veterinarians must conform to established educational degrees and licensing standards, you’ll find as many personalities and philosophies among vets as you will among people in any field. That’s why a good place to start is with a recommendation from a friend and fellow pet-parent whose opinions you trust.


Local breeders or animal shelters can also be a good source for vet referrals, as can trainers and groomers. If you’re new to an area, you can check the yellow pages or search online.


But getting a name is just the beginning. Make an appointment to meet the doctor, and prepare to use your powers of observation and judgment, following these guidelines.


Examining the vet


When you visit the vet's practice, be observant. Things to look for include:


  • A clean facility
  • A comfortable waiting room
  • A pleasant and helpful receptionist
  • A professional, courteous staff
  • Kennel areas
  • Geographic proximity, easy access, and convenient parking
  • Office hours that work with your schedule
  • Endorsements from other people in the waiting room


When you meet the doctor, ask questions, listen to the way the answers are given, and watch the way the vet interacts with your pet.


  • Is the doctor thorough?
  • Does the doctor explain things in a way that you can easily understand?
  • Does the doctor take time to get acquainted with your pet?


Don’t wait for a crisis


The time to discuss subjects like emergency services and financial issues is before you’re in a crisis situation. Find out whether the doctor is available 24/7 for emergencies. If not, you should know which emergency animal hospital you’ll be referred to and where it’s located. You may also want to know which diagnostic tests your doctor can do at the practice and which will need to be performed by a specialist.


One way to help avoid preventable crises is to practice prevention. Know from the start how often your vet will need to see your pet for routine checkups. Find out when you should have procedures such as teeth cleaning performed. Be on the lookout for any conditions or diseases that are prevalent in your pet’s breed.


Another thing to discuss ahead of time is fees. While you may find it awkward, it’s better to find out what your costs are likely to be, and help your vet understand your expectations before you’re surprised with an unexpectedly large bill. Every blood test, urinalysis, and medical procedure is a line item on your bill. Ask what the vet’s fees are for routine checkups and vaccinations. If finances are a major concern, make sure your vet understands this. You should expect a written estimate for any and all medical and surgical procedures. Conversely, if you want all possible treatment for your pet, regardless of cost, your vet should know this, too. (This might also be a good time to look into pet insurance.)


The more the merrier?


While many vets are solo practitioners, you may also have the choice of a group practice. Both offer advantages. Having a relationship with one vet can offer the benefits of familiarity. You may feel more comfortable and secure with a vet who really “knows” your pet. A group practice can offer different kinds of benefits:


Diagnostic equipment. A group practice may be more likely to have state-of-the-art equipment on site.


Specialists. Group staffs may include doctors who specialize in various areas of veterinary medicine.


Coverage. Since on-call duty can be shared, group practices may provide 24-hour coverage. And having more doctors available may make appointments easier to get on short notice.




Education and training. Vets must graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree from a 4-year program at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. The Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) establishes accreditation standards.


Licensure. All States and the District of Columbia require that veterinarians be licensed before they can practice. They must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, an eight-hour national board examination. In addition, each state requires a specific state licensing exam.


Continuing education. In a dynamic field like veterinary medicine, continuing education and access to up-to-date information are important. Check to see whether the vet you’re considering is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a not-for-profit association that offers ongoing learning for vets.


Join the partnership


Whichever kind of doctor you choose, you and your vet will be partners in helping to keep your pet healthy. Here are ways for you to do your part.


  • Be preventive. See your vet regularly for checkups, not just when your pet becomes ill.
  • Don’t delay. If you think your pet is sick, don’t wait until the situation becomes dire to see the vet.
  • Show up on time. Be considerate of the vet’s schedule.
  • Call ahead. If you have an emergency during office hours, call before bringing your pet in. You may be referred directly to an emergency clinic.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Don’t expect your vet to diagnose your pet’s problem over the phone.


Trust your "animal instincts"


Remember that while the vet is the medical expert, you’re the expert on your pet. No one knows your furry friend better than you. By recognizing what’s normal for your pet — and what’s not — you can provide the information your vet needs to make accurate diagnoses, intervene when appropriate, and provide the best care for your pet. Be open and honest with your vet; he or she is there to help. And trust your instincts. If you aren’t happy with the treatment you or your pet get, find another practice.






Separation Without Anxiety


Making sure your pet is well-cared for when you travel


Your pet is a member of your family, but there are times when it’s not possible, convenient or well-advised to include your furry friend in your plans. Whether you’re visiting relatives for the holidays, traveling overseas, attending a family event, or vacationing at a resort that doesn’t allow pets, you want your pet to be well cared for—and feel secure—while you’re away.


There are a number of options available. The one you choose will depend on your personal comfort level, convenience, budget, and what’s best for your pet.


Leaving Your Pet With A Friend


Leaving your pet in the home of a friend, family member or neighbor can be an inexpensive and reassuring solution for you if your pet is familiar and comfortable with the person — and the person is willing and capable. You may want to offer your friend payment, reciprocate by taking her pet when she travels, or simply bring a small thank-you gift when you return.


Say hello before you say goodbye


Before your trip, visit the friend’s home with your pet, several times if possible. You may even want to go on a short errand to get your pet used to the idea that this is a “home away from home.”


Packing list


To make your pet more comfortable during his or her visit, pack the following items:


  • Your pet’s bed
  • Your pet’s food and water bowls
  • More food than your pet will need in case you’re delayed getting home
  • Favorite treats and toys
  • Any medications you pet may need, with clear instructions
  • Your vet’s phone number
  • A shirt that has been worn one or two times (and not washed) so your pet can have the familiarity of your scent
  • Leash and collar with your cell phone number or your friend’s phone number. An otherwise obedient pet may run off to try to find you, so warn your friend to be extra vigilant.




When you say goodbye, whether it’s for an hour or a week, be positive and convey confidence. Sounding apologetic or sad can foster anxiety in your pet. Keep your attitude upbeat and your behavior casual. And leave a favorite chewy toy behind. If your pet does feel nervous, gnawing can help relieve stress.


Leaving Your Pet At Home


If you can’t leave your pet at a friend’s home, you may want to arrange for someone to visit your home every day and look in on your pet. While this has the advantage of enabling your pet to stay in the familiar environment of your home, it tends to be better for cats, who don’t need the same level of attention as dogs do.


Caring for your cat


Stopping by once a day to feed your cat, give her fresh water, and tend to the litter box should suffice for a few days, although if your cat craves affection or loves to play, she may need an arrangement that affords her more companionship.


Walking your dog


Having someone stop in once a day is not a good option for dogs. They need to be walked several times a day, and most require more exercise than a quick visit can provide. A dog walker can help.


To find a dog walker, start by asking for referrals. Your vet may know one. Pet parents at a nearby dog run may be able to provide you with names. If you observe a local dog walker who appears to have good control over—and affection for—his or her charges, ask for a business card.


Once you have the name of a dog walker, check references and make sure the walker is bonded and insured. While dog walking is an unlicensed profession, there are professional organizations, like the International Association of Canine Professionals, that provide standards for its members. It’s also a good idea to have a written contract specifying the details of your arrangement. Dog walking rates vary, but for a 20-30 minute walk, the fee is generally around $10-15.


Hiring a pet sitter


For more comprehensive pet care at home, a pet sitter offers companionship and a continuation in your pet’s routine in addition to attending to his or her physical needs. You can opt to have a pet sitter come in several times a day, or to double as a house sitter and remain in residence while you’re away. Pet sitting can cost anywhere from $10-$20 per visit, with overnight rates generally charged as a flat fee of $40-$80.


To find a sitter you and your pet are comfortable with, make an appointment to meet in your home. Here is a list of items to help you conduct your interview:



Can the sitter quote established fees? What do the fees cover?



Does the sitter use a formal contract? It should list services performed and the fee for each.



Is the sitter bonded and insured? Ask for proof.



Can the sitter provide proof of a background check? Professional pet sitters should have documents verifying that they have no criminal record.



How much time will the sitter spend in your home, caring for your pet? A standard amount is 30 minutes, two or three times a day.



Does the sitter seem proactive and responsible, professional and competent? Does the sitter seem comfortable in a caretaking role? Do you feel confident entrusting the care of your pet to this person?


The right fit

Does the sitter appear to have the right instinct for handling your pet? Watch how they interact. Does your pet sense that this person is friendly and safe?



What happens if the sitter gets sick? What if there’s a bad storm? Does the sitter have a contingency plan?



Can the sitter easily provide references? When you call them, ask if there was anything they were unhappy with, and whether they would use the sitter again.


Boarding Your Pet


Boarding kennels (which are different than breeding kennels) offer the advantage of having your pet supervised all day long by experienced caretakers. 30,000,000 pet parents in the United States and Canada board their pets each year, and facilities reflect the popularity of this option. While some are no-nonsense and utilitarian, others are downright luxurious. Kennels that earn accreditation from the Pet Care Services Association, a nonprofit trade association (formerly known as ABKA or American Boarding Kennel Association), must comply with over 250 standards. Prices vary depending on which area of the country you’re in, the size of your pet, the type of facility, the services provided, and other criteria, but generally run from $15-$65 per day.


The best way to find a boarding kennel in your area is to get referrals from satisfied customers, research your choice online (many kennels give virtual tours), then make an appointment to visit the facility. If you’re planning to board your pet during a busy time of year, such as the winter holidays, make sure the facility has room. It’s best to start early. Before you board your pet, he or she must be vaccinated.


Dogs should be immunized against:


  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Parainfluenza
  • Parvovirus (DHLPP)
  • Bordetella (kennel cough)


Cats should be immunized against:


  • Rabies
  • Panleukopenia (distemper)
  • Feline rhinotracheitis
  • Calici virus
  • Pneumonitis (FVRCPP)


Here's what to look for on your tour:


The facility should be clean. Daily cleaning procedures using disinfectants should be observed. Solid animal waste should be picked up, areas where pets urinate should be disinfected, and the area should be odor-free. There should be no fleas, ticks or flies.


Pets should be unable to escape. You don’t want your dog or cat locked in a cage all day, but you do want a facility that is designed to prevent an animal from running away. Indoor playrooms should be separated from outdoor areas by more than a single door. Fencing should be sturdy and in good repair. If your dog has been known to dig under or jump over fences, let the facility operator know. Cat areas should always be covered.


Sleeping areas should be separate. Your pet should have a secure space to relax and sleep in without feeling threatened by unfamiliar animals. The area should be clean, dry, and provide enough space for your pet to comfortably stand up, turn around and stretch out. Find out whether you’ll be able to bring your pet’s bed. Most kennels will give you this option, and it can make your pet feel more comfortable.


Pets should look happy and well cared for. If you’re unable to visit the areas where the pets reside, it may be because the facility operator wants to avoid over-stimulating or startling pets who may react unpredictably to strangers. They may also wish to avoid exposing the pets to germs you may bring in with you. They should, however, have viewing windows.


Clean water should be available to each animal. Each pet should have access to his or her own bowl. Feeding procedures vary, with some kennels stocking preferred brands and others asking that you bring your own. Find out the kennel’s policy about sending along your pet’s favorite treats.


Indoor climate should be comfortable. Appropriate temperature and good ventilation are important to a healthy environment. Daytime lighting should also be at an appropriate level.


Exercise areas should provide protection from the elements. This includes direct sunlight as well as inclement weather.


Dogs should have room to run. Some kennels provide each dog with his own exercise area during the day, while others provide exercise time on a rotating basis. You know your dog best, so make sure you find out how much exercise time is permitted. If you feel it’s not enough—or too much—for your pet, let the kennel operator know.


Cats should have roomy quarters where they can stretch comfortably and have access to a regularly cleaned litter box. They don’t require the same kinds of exercise areas dogs do, but some kennels provide additional space for cats that enjoy wandering around a bit.


Pets should be monitored by trained professionals. This includes physical and behavioral supervision. A good kennel will employ an experienced staff who can recognize when a pet is distressed or ill. If the facility has group playrooms, personnel should also be able to evaluate behavior and place pets in appropriate groups based on size and play style. Dog playrooms should allow about 75 square feet per dog (less for smaller dogs, more for larger, more active dogs) and have several observant staff members present any time dogs are together.


Less anxiety for your pet — and for you.


Whichever option you choose, the right decision is the one that works for both you and your pet. It should provide for your pet’s physical, mental and emotional well-being, as well as for your peace of mind.



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