Our name might be DogZenergy, but we love our good karma kitties too! Over the years we’ve taken care of many cats in San Diego, but we realize that our name can be misleading. That’s why we’ve decided to dedicated a whole new part of our company to our Karma Kitty Care program. We have so many cat lovers here at Dogzenergy that we want to make sure we specialize our cat sitting and make sure that we are training our staff to give top of the line care to our feline friends.
A lot of people assume that cats can just be left alone for long periods of time as long as they have a few litter boxes and enough food and water. But this is just not the case. Cats are often more independent than dogs, but cats really need consistency and attention when needed. A lot of cats suffer from separation anxiety, which can lead to behavioral issues and unwanted “displays of dissatisfaction”.
For example, a kitten that my husband rescued many years ago was separated from his mother when he was only a few weeks old. Because of this he had major abandonment issues and would be so distressed when left alone for a night that he would eliminate all over the house. It was extremely stressful for everyone and he quickly learned that he needed a reliable overnight cat sitter to ease his cat’s anxiety.
Another friend of mine had a cat who would mark his territory on her bed if he was left alone. He was neutered late because he was a tom cat found on the streets. Even though her roommates were home, he wanted to let everyone know that he was very distressed that my friend had left him to fend for himself. Many cats do not do well with change and have a tendency to communicate this by marking in unwanted places, crying out, scratching furniture or acting aloof and depressed.
Happy cats love routine. It’s so easy to make cats happy if you are able to meet their needs and expectations. Daily litter box scooping and weekly litter box disinfecting is so important for their well being. Water should be changed everyday and food should not always be available for your adult house cat. It should be given in measured portions every morning and night. Wet or raw food is also very important for their health to make sure they do not develop bladder or kidney issues later in life. Many house cats are severely obese because they are fed freely and living indoors without the freedom to chase, run and climb outside. It’s so important to make sure they are getting the appropriate amount of food, exercise and mental stimulation. Cat wands, fake mice, and cat nip toys will keep your cat engaged and in shape. It will also lead to a happier and sometimes more cuddly cat after a fun game of chase with you.
Giving your cat a perch to look out the window is a great way to give them their own TV channel to the outside world and it’s a way to give them their own space away from other pets in the household. Mental stimulation is so important to keep your cat happy and stress free.
Kitty cuddles should always be given when a cat asks for it. It’s never a good idea to pursue a cat and “force” it into cuddling with you. If a cat comes up to you and sits on your lap, it should be looked at as a privilege. You are the chosen one! Cats love to have the sides of their face stroked, behind their ears scratched, or the base of their tail and back scratched. Gentle patting on their back and a stroke of the tail are also fan favorites. Avoid patting them on the top of the head or rubbing their belly. Every cat is different so it’s important to read their body language and respond to their cues.
If you are looking for a loving, dedicated, reliable cat sitter in La Jolla, Pacific Beach, UCT, Clairmont, Point Loma, Del Mar or any part of coastal San Diego, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We would love to help you take the best care of your cat!
Dear Zen Dog Girl,
I have a 10 month old golden retriever puppy who is house trained and is pretty used to being left alone for long periods of time when I go to work during the day. Is it alright for me to leave him overnight for a quick trip up to LA. I'll be gone from 6pm on Saturday and I'll be getting back in the morning at 9am. Do you think he'll be ok or am I being a neglectful dog owner?
Dear Concerned Golden Owner,
Thank you for writing! Unfortunately, we can't take our dogs everywhere with us even though most of us wish we could. Leaving your dog by himself overnight can be risky. In the event that an emergency happened (a fire, gas leak, flood, etc.) your dog would be trapped in the house and wouldn't be able to get out. It's important that if you do choose to leave your dog by himself that you alert a neighbor and make sure that you leave a spare key and emergency contacts with them just in case. It's also important to have a friend, neighbor, or better yet a professional dog walker or sitter to walk and feed your dog at the usual times that you would at night and in the morning. For example, if you are leaving at 6pm in the evening, schedule to have someone come by at the usual time that you would potty your dog at night, say 8:30pm and then have them return no later than 8am in the morning if your dog is used to holding it this long overnight. If your dog is crate trained this may be too long of a time and an overnight pet sitter who sleeps at your house may be necessary. If your dog is hardly left alone during the day and/or suffers from any degree of separation anxiety he should not be left alone overnight. Also, ten months is still pretty young and your puppy might get into trouble if he's left for a long amount of time. If you're going to be gone for more than one night at a time, it's very important to hire a professional dog sitter or to have a friend that you trust with your life to stay with your dog overnight because it can be very stressful for most dogs to be left alone for a long period of time. Stressed out dogs show signs of depression and anxiety by not eating, excessive chewing and scratching, salivating, lethargy, listlessness, pacing, destructiveness, scratching on doors, digging, barking, whining, etc. If your dog shows any of these signs of separation anxiety it's very important that you don't leave your dog overnight for any period of time because they can do great harm to themselves. With a loving, caring, compassionate pet sitter, they will feel right at home, safe and secure, and you will feel at ease knowing that your dog is having fun, getting lots of exercise and has someone to snuggle with at night. If you have any questions or if you'd like to schedule a free consultation with one of our professional loving pet sitters please feel free to call us at (858) 349-5700.
Let's face it- owning a dog takes lots and lots of time and time is a very precious commodity in this day and age. Luckily, if you have a well-trained, calm, happy, Zen dog, the time that you spend with your dog should be the most relaxing and enjoyable out of your 24 hour day. The problem occurs when people are just too busy to give their dog the attention that they need, deserve and require, which results in "bad behavior". There's no such thing as a bad dog. DogZenergy truly believes this and we also don't believe in bad owners. Dogs are a constant source of love, but also a constant source of guilt. Most of us are really busy. I'm a dog trainer and I find myself feeling very guilty all the time about not giving my dogs enough off-leash time and/or not playing enough training games with them. I am the first to admit it- it's tough to be the perfect dog owner. It's also important to realize that trying to be perfect in any way creates a lot of stress and anxiety that your dog will pick up on. However, always trying your best and not being afraid to ask for help is a must. Ask a neighbor or a friend who doesn't have a dog, but loves them, to borrow your dog for a jog or a trip to the coffee shop. They'll be happy, your dog will be happy and you'll be happy too! Or you can hire a professional dog walker (insert shameless DogZenergy plug here ; ) or sign your dog up for weekly dog park visits. Just by being out and about all day with doggy pals, your dog will be better behaved and more mellow by the time you get home from work. Plus, dog walkers spend all day with dogs so they're very well trained in dealing with doggy problems and if they're good dog walkers, they'll happily help you with any behavioral problems that you've been dealing with. Because I spend all of my time with dogs or with my own dogs, I don't have a ton of time to read, but when I do get around to reading, it's usually about dogs. The last book that I read is called The Tao of Puppies: How to Raise a Good Dog Without Really Trying by Krista Cantrell, and I absolutely loved it. Cantrell's training style closely aligns with the DogZenergy Method in that all training should be an effortless mindfulness all throughout the day. Cantrell emphasizes that people need to relax a little (or a lot) and go with the flow of puppyhood. It's not easy having a puppy, but patience and awareness of puppy behavior will make the process much easier and more fun. Being consistent, but not too rigid is key. Some puppies have different personalities, which she describes as being Ying or Yang. Yang puppies are more active, brave and assertive, while Ying puppies are more submissive, shy and quiet. Both need different approaches to training. She also talks about how every command has a pair. For instance, sit/down, take it/leave it, up/off etc. It makes perfect sense to pair the commands for a puppy's optimum understanding and performance. It also controls the puppy's behavior and their endless energy. Energy has to go somewhere and to deny outlets for it results in resistance. Cantrell offers a very clear, successful approach to puppy training and I would advise everyone to pick up her book, The Tao of Puppies before bringing home their new pup.
To train your dog with little time, it's important to be mindful of your everyday interactions and habits with your dog. That being said, understand that your dog is constantly understanding you through the process of operant conditioning- the law of cause and effect. If your dog does something and you give attention to it or not, your dog will learn based on the observation and experience of that moment. You may be busy, but taking a second out of your day to quickly reward your dog for good behavior will make the world of difference. For example, if your dog comes up to you and automatically sits patiently without nudging, jumping or whining, reach down and give your dog a pet and a "good girl". I promise it will only take a second. If your dog is quietly laying on her bed instead of the couch or in your guests lap, walk over and give another "good girl". Capture the good moments with positive reinforcement and praise and you will quickly and easily shape your puppy into a good dog.
Weaving in good dog owner habits throughout your day will also shape up your dog and encourage good behavior. For example, simply asking your dog to sit and "leave it" before putting his food bowl down will foster your dog's self control and calmness. Your dog will learn to follow your wishes instead of charging or lunging for anything that he wants. Same goes with the front door, back gate, the car, or any access to fun and exiting things. By teaching your dog to sit and wait for things that he wants, you are actively training your dog throughout the day to ask permission for all things good. Does your dog want a belly rub? Ask for a down/stay first. Does your dog want to jump up onto the couch? Teach him to wait for permission only and invite him with the "up" command. Does your dog want to go for a walk? Ask for a down before putting on the leash. Does your dog want sniff and smell on a walk? Ask him to heel for fifty feet and then reward the behavior with "Ok, go ahead". You should be the gatekeeper to all things good in his life and your dog should be rewarded with these things if he follows your clear, consistent and benevolent leadership all throughout the day. All of these things require mindfulness of your dog's daily interactions with you, but it only requires a few minutes here and there to shape up your dog's behavior. So go get busy! Just kidding!
"How much exercise does my dog need?" We get this question a lot and the answer varies by the breed, temperament and age of the dog. Take the lovable, chubby, short-nosed breeds for example. An Old English Bulldog only needs as much exercise as he can physically handle. Some bulldogs can play, run and wrestle for quite a while, but others are happy with taking a walk around a few blocks. One thing is for certain, a bulldog is never going to lap a Viszla. Viszlas, German Short-Haired Pointers, Labs, Goldens, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Malinois and other similar working breeds are made to run and well, work. These dogs can literally keep up with their handlers all day long. They've been bred to be guard dogs, bomb dogs, scent tracking dogs, service dogs, bird dogs, rescue dogs and much more. They can work all day long and they absolutely love it. Now imagine taking that job away from them and not giving them the outlet to expend their energy. It has to go somewhere. These dogs have been bred for centuries to not only be our companions and look pretty, they've also been bred to go to have the brains, stamina and function to work by their humans' sides all day long. Unfortunately, it's not realistic for all of us to take our dogs to work (although there's some awesome companies that do allow it!), so our dogs wait at home for us while we go about our days. During this time, it's like a pot of boiling water with paws, waiting for us to come through the door so they can explode with energy and excitement. I probably shouldn't say this, because as a dog trainer I'm putting myself out of work, but I'd say 80% of behavioral problems simply come from a severe lack of exercise and mental stimulation. Plain and simple- modern dogs are bored out of their minds.
Growing up, we lived on a mini ranch in Temecula with no fences and our dogs had complete freedom. They were never ever cooped up in the house and they could go on adventures wherever they pleased. They could lay in the grass in front of our house all day under the willow trees, they could eat as much horse poop as they wanted and they could gorge themselves on avocados, which became quite a problem when the avocados were ripe and falling off the trees. Let's just say they were very pleasantly plump and shiny! The dogs walked themselves and ran around when they wanted to. They were never very hyper and they hardly ever got the crazies. They didn't have any behavioral problems (except for our dog Griffey got into a chicken coop one day and helped himself to a few). When Griffey was a puppy he also had a field day with a package dropped off by UPS full of my dad's robotic parts. Other than that, the dogs could be dogs and they were the best most well behaved dogs that I've ever met. Even more well behaved than my two goldens that I share my life with now. Why? Because they were free to be happy animals outside- running, playing, sniffing, smelling and exploring. It was totally and utterly completely natural. We must remind ourselves that dogs are not born as little humans with dog coats. They're also not born with built in knowledge about how to live in a human's house with humans who are pretty darn boring sitting in front of computer and tv screens. Naturally, a dog would pee wherever they want to outside, they would run to whatever they want to smell at the moment not constrained by a leash around their neck, and they would chew on whatever stick they could find. In our human world, we require them to be so subdued in the house. We want them to just lay there or cuddle with us and look cute (I'm so guilty of this). Most dogs are inside the majority of their lives with just a few quick potty breaks and maybe an hour walk around the neighborhood to break up the day.
We need to change this. We need to get our dogs outside more and get them closer to their natural habits. They need to be outside breathing in fresh air and stimulating their minds with socialization and adventures. Back to the original question of "How much exercise does my dog need?" the answer is- as much as possible especially when your dog is a puppy and full of energy and curiosity. Even if you have a short-nosed bulldog, he needs to have companionship, fresh air and mental stimulation. Even if it's just a car ride or a few hours hanging out with you while you do dog-friendly errands, he'll be so much happier and well behaved when you get home. For others with GSPs, GSDs or Viszlas, you better lace up those running shoes and start training for some marathons. You must work with your dog as a young puppy to be off-leash because your dog is going to run circles around you. You might run 5 miles on a trail, but your GSP is going to run 20 with all of the tracking and zig zagging he's going to do. Even better than taking your dog for a jog, is taking your dog to a dog park or to a friend's house to play with his or her dog. Wrestling, rolling around and chasing each other is the ultimate way to wear a puppy out. They're not only getting physically worn out, but also mentally. So many endorphins are released after a dog has played with his friends. They'll be panting with a happy face and a twinkle in their eye. If you have a dog who loves water like I do, take your dog to the beach, a lake, a pool, any body of water and let them swim. If you need any proof as to how natural and fun it is for a golden to go swimming, you must see this video . I dare you not to smile. In fact, I dare you to to do one thing that makes you incredibly happy and one thing that makes your dog incredibly happy everyday (bonus points if it makes both of you incredibly happy at the same time!). If that's too much to handle, make it weekly. Whatever you do, be sure to have fun with your best friend because life is short and sadly our dogs' lives are even shorter. All we can do is make the absolute best out of our time together and have as much fun possible doing it! Run, play, smile, explore and see the world from your dog's eyes. You'll be so happy you did!