The Impetuous Pet, or
Understanding Animal Behavior
When Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus became a bestseller, that said a lot about how difficult it is for the sexes to understand one another. Because people from different sexes, races, religions, cultures, generations, and socioeconomic classes miscommunicate, problems often arise. Now imagine trying to relate to another species altogether! Living with an animal can be challenging, particularly if that animal has developed a behavioral problem.
Animals are highly sensitive and emotional creatures that, like children, often express unhappy feelings by “acting out.” They may soil the house, destroy things, or become aggressive, compulsive, or overly “talkative,” and it can try our patience. Indeed, a behavior problem is the number-one reason animals are euthanized. But such a drastic measure is unfortunate and unnecessary, once you realize that there are many ways to prevent problems from developing and change the patterns of already troubled animals. First, it helps to understand how emotional and behavioral problems arise.
WHAT CAUSES PROBLEMS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
An animal’s troubles may begin early in life, as when a puppy or kitten is weaned too early or becomes the recipient of abuse, abandonment, or other trauma. The stress of a dysfunctional household, poor nutrition, vaccinations, medications, or illness can also take their toll on an animal’s emotional health at any point in life. A situation of chronic conflict can ensue if a person chooses the wrong pet for his or her lifestyle or personality. Moreover, some animals are purposely raised to be fierce and aggressive. Another big, and sad, source of problems is breeding practices.
Because greed is at the core of this practice, the animals live in hideous conditions. Females are constantly made pregnant, as their sole purpose is to produce litters to stock pet stores. They are kept in very small cages and are surrounded by dead animals, animals infested with fleas and parasites, and sickly animals that are miserable and antisocial because they spend most of their time locked up without human contact. They may be exposed to the elements or receive inadequate ventilation. Food and water are usually kept to a minimum, with just enough provided to keep them alive. “These animals are bred for profit,” says Angeli, “not health or temperament.”
An unsuspecting person who adopts a puppy from a pet store may be in for a shock. For one thing, these animals often inherit physical weaknesses. One such Dalmatian lost all its teeth within the first two years of life from congenital gum disease that was traced to a mom at a puppy mill that had the same experience. Another problem is that their early traumatic experiences cause emotional and behavioral problems. They are generally weaned way too early. Animals taken from their mothers too soon and thrown into the world are not yet ready. They feel terribly vulnerable, and, in their attempt to cope, they may become frightened. As a defense, they can become overly aggressive.
Legislation is under way to put an end to these nightmarish conditions, but in the meantime, you can do your part by not purchasing puppies from pet stores. Buying these animals only encourages the continuation of puppy mills. There is an exception—pet stores that showcase homeless animals from shelters. Indeed, with millions of unwanted shelter animals, you can easily adopt a wonderful pet and save a life. If you are looking for a special breed, contact a rescue group that specializes in that particular type of animal. You will be able to purchase a wonderful friend at the fraction of the cost of going to a breeder. But if you do decide to adopt from a breeder, be sure the person is responsible. A good breeder will not over-breed and will only breed a certain dog when there is a request or a waiting list for that breed. Moreover, that person will consider the temperament of the animal as well as the look, and will take into account the personality of the pet and prospective owner when making a match.
As is the case with humans, the physical and the emotional are inextricably connected in animals. So you’ll find chronically stressed pets with digestive upsets, vomiting problems, skin conditions, or inflammatory bowel disease. What happens is that long-term stress wears down the immune system and, thus, becomes a contributing factor in disease. Veterinarian Lester Morris has noted the relationship between the family dynamic and the animal many times throughout his career: “Often dogs are brought to me sick and very emotional. I’ll place them in the hospital for a few days, and they will clear up spontaneously without medication. Then they will go back home, and their problem will return. We try to explain this to the owners. If they correct their household situations, it can help the animal a great deal.”
We should note that sometimes the reputed traits of a breed are not really innate, but are a result of training. This is the case for pit bulls. Members of this breed have a notorious reputation for being dangerous when, in actuality, they can make great, friendly pets. The problem is that reprehensible people train pit bulls to fight because their endurance levels are high. Macho teens, in particular, treat these dogs roughly to turn them into super killing machines. To that end they do hideous things—injecting the animals with steroids, running them on treadmills, weighing them down with heavy chains to strengthen their neck muscles, and hanging them on tires suspended from trees to strengthen their jaws. Most abhorrent, live animals are given to these animals for food. They learn to tear live animals to shreds and become bloodthirsty (a reason to be careful about who you give your puppies and kittens to!) Anyone aware of this or any other cruel activity should, without hesitation, contact a humane society. Pit bulls, then, can be made to live up to their reputation as the dog everyone fears, but so could other animals treated that badly. Pit bulls have a strong desire to please, and advocates for this breed say that they can just as readily be made into friendly, affectionate, and fun-loving family pets.
Be sure to get the animal that’s right for your lifestyle. Don’t choose a Dalmatian or Great Dane to guard a small apartment. Lack of room will frustrate the animal. Consider a silky-haired Pomeranian instead. These dogs can offer you excellent protection and not mind the limited space. Take your personality into account, too. If you love cats and have a laid-back nature, the common American shorthair is probably just right for you. You can find a variety of these beautiful cats—tabbies, calicos, tortoiseshells, or pure-colored—at any neighborhood shelter. These cats have an even temperament, attach themselves easily to loving owners, and stay close enough to their human companions to be good company without begging for constant attention. But if you’re seeking lots of affection and devotion, consider a Siamese. These complex, sensitive animals have undying love for their owners and enjoy nothing more than draping themselves around their person’s neck.
While animals of a particular breed are not carbon copies of one another, they do have general behavior traits that may or may not be well suited to your own. Read up on the personalities of different breeds or talk to experts about the animal type before bringing a pet into your home and your life. Taking care of an animal is a responsibility that should also be fun for you and the animal—that is, after all, one of the points of having a pet!—so you want to match your temperaments as carefully as possible.
An owner who does not understand how to communicate with a pet may, out of frustration and anger, resort to screaming. This is particularly detrimental to a puppy or kitten that, in the first year of life, is still developing its nervous system. Plus an animal’s hearing is much more sensitive than our own, so screaming at the animal can cause physical pain. What’s more, yelling at a pet can actually intensify behavior problems, rather than correct them. If you scold a dominant dog, for example, it is going to respond by becoming more aggressive, while a timid dog will only become more fearful. Pet owners need to learn to show dominance through body language, not screaming.
Most behavior changes can be accomplished through positive reinforcement. Often, it’s a matter of understanding what the animal requires. Your cat is not maliciously trying to destroy your carpet and furniture. It just has an innate need to scratch; it is a cat, after all. Rather than yelling, an owner should provide the kind of scratching post cats respond to—sisal or carpet wrapped around a log with the jute backing exposed. Applying a little catnip can make the accessory more attractive. You can discourage your cat from scratching the wrong items by placing double-edged tape over the area—they dislike getting their paws stuck—or aluminum foil. But, most important, give your pet praise each time it scratches its post.
If all your positive reinforcement fails to work, some discipline may be in order, but it should be reasonable and related to the animal’s action so that it starts to make the connection. In Conversations With Animals: Cherished Messages and Memories as Told by an Animal Communicator, author Lydia Hiby tells of one technique she used with a rebellious cat—kitty jail. When her Russian Blue, Thomas, refused to stop bullying the other family cats, Hiby issued a warning to “stop, or else.” The next time he engaged in his unruly behavior, she covered him with a plastic milk crate turned upside-down and placed him in the middle of the room just long enough for all the cats to see. This, Hiby feels, caused Thomas great embarrassment, and after two repeat offenses and short prison sentences, Thomas was reformed. Hiby advises anyone using this method to warn the animal ahead of time, keep the jail time short, only use a plastic, see-through, milk-type crate, and place the jail in a central location so that the animal is embarrassed, not isolated or terrified.2
UNDERSTANDING DOGS: GOING BEYOND TRAINING
Traditional methods of obedience training only address the problem on one level—your dominance over your dog. Conventional dog training is based on conditioning, using the old Pavlovian model. But this approach to training a dog is backwards, asserts dog teacher Alan Finn, owner of Designing Dogs in Old Forge, Pennsylvania. Finn deals with many dogs exhibiting behavioral problems, such as biting, tail-chasing, and other compulsive behaviors. To properly understand how to teach our dogs, he believes we need to rethink and undo most of what we ourselves have learned about how to handle dogs.
“Teaching” is the key word here. It is far better to teach and communicate with a dog, Finn feels, than to simply condition it through bribery with food or fear-inducing yelling. Above all else, dogs need to be in tune with their owners. As a dog owner, you need to understand your dog so that your dog can understand you. There’s no need to yell at a dog to discipline it. In fact, yelling, especially at a puppy, can induce negative behaviors. A dog’s hearing is much more sensitive than ours, and Finn would urge us to imagine how a dog hears and experiences being yelled at. Puppies’ nervous systems take a year to develop fully; if they are yelled at throughout that time, a dominant puppy will turn more aggressive, and a submissive puppy will become more fearful.
One of the most important tools an owner has is his or her voice. When speaking to your animal it is important to keep your voice low, and draw your vowels out. An example: “Ni-i-i-i-ice dog.” Using a low, calm tone with drawn-out vowels relaxes the animal. One of the reasons this works is that you can feel your own body relaxing as you speak. You re not holding any tension or stress in your muscles, and you do not have a defensive body posture (muscles tensed, teeth clenched, head held high). Animals exhibit this same posture of conflict that releases when they are relaxed.
Dogs can think, states Finn, and they can understand much more than we humans generally realize. They can count, and they also interpret human body language. This is another way that dog owners inadvertently create behavior problems. When a dog jumps, often the first reaction of the dog’s trainer is to push the dog away and say, “Down!” But to a dog, the motion of pushing it away means “jump.” So being pushed away and told “down” is actually a mixed message to a dog.
Usually, the owner needs to take a good look at his or her own behavior and make some changes before being able to effectively teach and communicate with a dog. Don’t yell at your dog, and don’t try to condition it. Nor should you repeat commands, because dogs can count. If you say, “sit-sit-sit,” the dog will become conditioned to sit on the third repetition. Finn recommends mixing up commands and changing routines, as opposed to keeping your approach static. This keeps the dog engaged, focused on you, and thinking. Use appropriate body language. Don’t hold a leash tightly, and frequently change directions when walking with your dog so that it will have to focus on you and your actions.
And you can teach old dogs new tricks. Your dog loves you and is always ready to try again—so be positive, and don’t be afraid to start over if you have negative patterns in place. September Morn, who teaches basic obedience and canine good citizenship at Dogs Love School in Bellingham, Washington, knows this for a fact. Ms. Morn helps animal shelter dogs relearn trust and openness. Animals that have been hurt become guarded and tense around humans, but they can learn to associate touch with good feelings and relaxation. She notes that “… any dog that you get second-hand is going to have second-hand behaviors. They’re going to have habit patterns learned from the last people who had them. You’re going to need to change those so the dog can fit into your household and your style of living.” Remember that dogs want, more than anything else, to please their owners. Successfully communicating so that your dog can do what you want will make it, and you, very happy.
THE INS AND OUTS OF HOUSEBREAKING
While most kittens readily take to their litter boxes, housebreaking a puppy takes time and patience. Dogs do not automatically know to bark when they need to go out, nor do they innately understand that some places are off limits. Dogs need to be housebroken and their owners need to learn the right way to train their pets.
Dog owners can easily become frustrated and angry when their carpet or bed is soiled. Inexperienced and impatient people who yell at their pups and put their nose in an accident only confuse their animals and incite fear and trauma. Housebreaking a pup needn’t be painful and traumatic. In fact, it can and should be an important part of building a trusting relationship. The art of housebreaking in a loving fashion is explained by experienced professional dog trainer September Morn, who teaches her clients how to effectively train animals in a gentle fashion. Communication with the animal is the key to success. These are her suggestions:
It’s important to be observant, Morn stresses. You will need to recognize behaviors that indicate the need to go to the bathroom: sniffing the floor, turning in circles, running back and forth. Puppies may appear to look for something when there’s nothing to find. What they’re actually seeking is a place to empty themselves. Sometimes they move quickly, spinning, or appearing anxious. Puppies will give you a very short time to figure out what they’re saying, so you will need to act on their signs immediately. As soon as you notice a signal, say something like, “Do you need to go outside?” so they see that you are paying attention to them. Pick up your puppy and carry the animal outside or onto its paper. Dogs that are a little older can be put on a leash before being taken for a walk. Older dogs, except ones with poor bladder or bowel control, will give you more of a warning. Animals on medication might give you a shorter cue, as the effect of the drug might make it difficult for them to control their urges.
It is possible, however, for a slick dog to send a false alarm. Some dogs will ring the bells just to go out and play in the sunshine. This might be alright if you don’t mind letting your dog frolic in a fenced-in yard. But if the animal is in the house-training process you want the bells to signal only the need to potty. To minimize the desire to play, do not play with your pet when you take it outside to do its business. Stay out for five minutes only; that should be plenty of time for the animal to eliminate if it has to go. An exception is the puppy so excited by the outside world that it forgets its purpose. To minimize the chance of an accident, be sure to watch the pup once you return indoors. If the animal starts to give “potty signs” again—sniffing, or running back and forth, for example—say something like “You need to go potty” and go out again. This is why it is very important to stay with your dog when taking the animal to its outdoor “bathroom,” especially during training times. You want to be sure the animal actually does take care of business in the appropriate place.
Keep a dog’s elimination area far from its food, water, and bedding so that it doesn’t accidentally soil its eating or sleeping quarters. Also, if your living space is large, close off certain sections. Puppies sometimes mistake a little-used area of the house—a guest room or sewing room, for example—for their bathroom space. So limit access during this learning phase. Otherwise, knowing what to do in such a big space might be more responsibility than a young puppy can handle.
Some puppies will try to engage you in play instead of attending to their business. When this happens, Morn suggests doing the “boring” walk. What that means is you calmly stand there, perhaps taking a quarter turn away, shifting from foot to foot, or occasionally taking a step back. You become boring to the pup, which then loses interest in playing with you. Soon the animal realizes that the only excitement is the inner feeling of eliminating.
At the same time, use a verbal cue that your puppy will learn to associate with going to the bathroom. “Go potty,” “do business,” or any short phrase that you use only at this time will do. Again, you want to avoid excitement, so use a flat voice. It might take a little time for your puppy to associate your words with bathroom time, but it will eventually catch on. Afterwards, praise your pet in a subtle (still boring) voice, saying words to the effect of “good do business” or “good potty.” Any excitement might prevent any remaining urine or excrement from being released until later.
Avoid rewarding Rover with food. Its value is too high for potty training. Food is so stimulating to animals that their desire to attain it might override everything else. A puppy might only half finish, or squat, do nothing, and run back to its owner, as if to say, “Give me my cookie.” You would be, in effect, setting the animal up to have an accident indoors.
You should also avoid bending over and petting your dog during the training process, as the dog might mistake this for play. (Bowing is a way of saying, “Let’s play.”) Touching your pet at this time sends the wrong message, and that could confuse your puppy. Just stand there and repeat the phrase “good potty” or “potty more” a few times. After awhile your dog will learn that “potty” means what you do first and “potty more” means completing anything you didn’t finish.
When an accident occurs, clean up the area with a paper towel while saying to your friend, “This is bad potty,” or “We don’t potty here.” Never say “Bad, bad, bad!” and never show anger. Just use an instructional tone of voice. You will want to take your animal’s deposit to the proper place. On your way out the door, ring the string of bells to help your dog associate going to the bathroom with going outside. Or, if you’re training on papers indoors, take it there. Drop the stool to the ground or rub the area with the urine-soaked paper (take the actual towel away). Say words to the effect of “good potty outside” in your boring praise voice. The puppy will be watching and learning from you, and seeing that you are pleased with the outdoor location.
Sometimes puppies have accidents for psychological reasons. There are dogs that are followers and dogs that are leaders. A dog that is a follower by nature may have an accident because he or she relates to you, a big towering person, as the “top dog.” The dog may get so excited while greeting you that the animal wiggles all over and loses control of the bladder or bowels. Don’t punish the dog, because it is only trying to express its love for you and truly means well. You appear all-powerful to the animal, and punishment makes you appear more awesome still.
The best method for dealing with this behavior is to open the door and let the dog greet you outside. That way the animal might piddle on the porch rather than on your floor. Getting the dog into the yard is even better. You could say, “Come outside; let’s potty,” and if your puppy eliminates on cue he or she feels worthy of praise for doing something good instead of ashamed for doing something forbidden. Another strategy is to keep a toy by the door—a stuffed toy or ball perhaps. Redirect your pet’s attention by throwing the toy for the dog to retrieve. A handful of treats will also do because a dog won’t feel submissive to a toy or a treat. Hopefully, your dog’s excitement will subside, leaving you enough time to attach a leash to your pup and walk it to the potty area.
Creating an instructional, but loving, atmosphere is all-important. Your animal will get the message, not tense up, and know it is pleasing to you. Animals that are punished during the house-training process become afraid of eliminating in front of their owners because they begin to believe that their owners do not want to see them go. All you want to teach is that there is a right place and a wrong place. There’s no need to bring negativity into the experience. Quietly telling a sensitive puppy that it’s in the wrong place to potty is punishment enough. What you want to be communicating is, “We don’t want to see it there, but we’d love to see it here.”
By the way, you may be wondering whether you could have someone else train your puppy for you. The answer is that, sure, you could, but then you’d be missing out on an important bonding experience. Housebreaking occurs during the time you are forming your initial relationship with your companion animal. Turning the responsibility over to a trainer or some other person will probably result in your dog developing a relationship with that person instead of you.
One of the more common problems that prevent proper elimination is cystitis, also known as urinary tract infection. When a dog’s urinary tract becomes inflamed, an animal will often try to hold in its urine as long as possible to prevent pain. In addition, the animal might experience loss of control over its sphincter muscle, which causes the dog to leak urine or drip a lot. Your pet might also associate his or her usual place of urination with pain and seek a more comfortable place inside. The owner’s soft bed or sofa might become the animal’s place of choice. Urinating there will be just as painful, of course, but the animal is hoping this more cushiony place will help him or her to feel better.
Cats commonly experience cystitis too, and behave in a similar fashion, avoiding their litter boxes and relieving themselves on the furniture or floor instead. In fact, veterinarians are generally more aware of the problem in cats than in dogs, so it’s important to remind your dog’s doctor to check for cystitis.
With dogs, as with other animals, you need to make sure that fresh drinking water is available at all times. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a dangerous condition that can lead to cystitis. Symptoms of dehydration are panting and the skin being very tight against the body. By the time a dog, particularly a puppy, becomes dehydrated, the situation is already critical, and you need to get to your vet right away.
Parasites can cause other elimination problems. They irritate the stomach and intestines and cause loose stools.
Other physical problems to check for are endocrine diseases. A full blood panel will screen for thyroid, kidney, and adrenal disorders. Any of these hormonal problems can interfere with house training and the ability to properly eliminate. Spayed females sometimes develop estrogen-deficiency incontinence. Some people think that the dog is getting too old and that it should be destroyed, but an estrogen deficiency can be medically treated.
DOG BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS
Many dog behavior problems are a result of isolation, and the often-ignored reality is that dogs should not be left alone for long periods of time. The animal might go into a frenzy, chewing on anything and everything, breaking into containers, and possibly hurting itself. Dogs left alone in a yard or house often develop the habit of incessant barking. Dogs that are accustomed to living with people get used to the sound of voices and movements, while those left alone often develop antisocial behaviors. They may become fearful and run from people or, alternatively, they can become overly protective and aggressive. Dogs, like humans, need people around them to learn, to grow, and to be happy. In fact, I feel that many dog owners should actually have become cat owners, because these people are simply away from the house too much for dogs, as opposed to cats, which can remain happily alone for longer periods. But note: Cats need love and contact too. Don’t adopt a cat if you are going to treat it like a piece of furniture and ignore it. And if you are going away for any length of time, taking a vacation or going on a business trip perhaps, be sure that you have a qualified person look after your cat or dog.
It is also cruel to leave a dog alone for many hours because the animal may need to relieve itself. Unless the dog is trained to use papers or litter in the house, it may suffer needlessly or lose control of its bladder. This is especially true for puppies, which need to be walked several times a day. Holding in water can also lead to the development of cystitis.
If you can’t corral your pet into a small, safe area, try letting the dog sleep in a travel kennel, the same crate den that helps prevent housebreaking accidents. The plastic type is best because it filters out light and noise and promotes a relaxing sleep. If all you have is a wire cage, cover three sides with a tablecloth or towel. Use this until your animal gets past the chewing stage. You will be promoting safety and comfort.
Then try a twofold approach, using commercially prepared bitter-tasting substances that will discourage chewing on the one hand, and toys that your puppy can freely chew on the other. Put the bitter gel on objects your dog likes to chew but shouldn’t, such as the corner of the steps, and plants. (Be sure to buy the right stuff, as different products are designed for different types of objects.) At the same time, make the “do chew” toys available throughout the house, placing two or three in each room. This way you will be teaching your pet not to chew on items you value or that pose dangers, and at the same time you’ll have something to offer as soon as Fido feels the need to chew.
This combination method of chew-taming works far better than scolding. All your pet has to do is taste a pair of horrible-tasting shoelaces once or twice and he’s going to learn that shoes are no good. (Note: If you don’t want Fido to chew on your good dress shoes, you shouldn’t let him have any shoes, including toy shoes or old beat-up shoes, to chew on. Dogs can’t make those kinds of distinctions, and you’ll only confuse him.) If your pet chooses the wrong object to chew on you can show mild disapproval—“No, don’t chew on that.” Then you follow with something positive–“Here’s your puppy toy”—which keeps your relationship constructive and upbeat.
UNDERSTANDING CATS: FELINES JUST WANNA HAVE FUN
Cats sometimes behave in ways that puzzle and upset their owners. These are some common behaviors demonstrated by felines and some thoughts about what these actions mean and what, if anything, you should do about them:
There’s a right way and a wrong way to introduce a new animal into a household. Your natural inclination might be to fawn over your precious new pet, but this is not a good idea if Kitty Number One is around. Always give the older animal more attention, deferring your affections and loyalty to the other animal, so that the older one doesn’t feel threatened or jealous. And it will, if you don’t play your cards right. In effect, you have to be somewhat indifferent emotionally to the new arrival so that the older animal does not feel abandoned, or get anxious that there’s something new that’s going to take its place in your heart. Let the older animal create the bond with the new animal.
So when you bring a new cat into your house you might consider leaving it in the carrier for a short time and not paying it any special attention. Your old cat will walk by, smell the newcomer, and start to become familiar with it. The next step would be to let it out into a different room with a gate in between the two animals. Now they can see as well as sniff each other. Watch their behavior. Watch as their tails wag, as they rub up against the barrier. See if the ears and hair are up or down, showing signs of passive or aggressive behavior. Pretty soon your first cat will feel like the new cat belongs to it, and they should get along fine.
WHAT IF YOUR ANIMAL IS TROUBLED?
If you are trying to help a behaviorally or emotionally troubled pet, there is plenty you can do on your own and with the help of an experienced professional. Here is some advice to consider:
One thing Dr. Kruesi discusses is the value of whole foods nutrition for good mental health. Often he advises a dietary change that involves taking the animal off commercial junk foods—foods with a lot of salt, byproducts, and rendered fats—and adding more green vegetables to the dog bowl. “I’ve never met an aggressive vegetarian,” Kruesi notes.
In addition, lab work is done to determine the animal’s unique biochemistry. “You can’t separate the mind from the body,” Kruesi says, stressing that medical reasons, not psychosocial factors, often cause behavior changes. A lab test will determine specifics of nutritional therapy that can make a difference. Perhaps vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, a homeopathic remedy, or a western or Chinese herb will be indicated. Often more “stress nutrients” are needed—B vitamins, magnesium, choline, and inositol.
Next on the agenda is an exploration into the animal’s environment and lifestyle. Dr. Kruesi will determine whether the client is living in a new house or an old one, if there are other dogs and cats, and, if so, how many. When did the symptoms start? What time of day do they worsen? Does the animal sleep well? Are there fumes or noises or lights being turned on in the middle of the night that might cause a disturbance? Lastly, the doctor will discuss ways to cope with challenging situations. The animal might need to exercise more. Or some sort of behavior modification program could be used. “There’s no magic bullet that I’ve seen,” says Kruesi, who explains that working individually with each pet is what’s required.
If you choose to treat your animal homeopathically, a physician will try to determine the cause of the problem. This could be a lengthy trial and error process, but once the cause and the correct formula are determined, the animal usually improves.
Related to homeopathy is the use of flower essences, which some practitioners assert is a simple way to establish balance in an animal’s “personality.” Sharon Callahan is an animal communicator who specializes in flower essences, the formulas for which she creates herself. Callahan explains that the essences are made by floating specific flowers on the surface of a bowl of spring water that is left in the sun for three hours. The idea is that, during this time, the vibrational imprint of the flower is transferred to the water, which is then saved and used for the therapeutic products. To purchase ready-to-use flower essences, try your health food store.
In her practice, Callahan initially treats all her animal clients for fear, even if they’ve been handled with love since infancy. She believes that animals are highly sensitive creatures that can sense the brutal treatment of animals over the centuries. This collective fear must be addressed so animals can live comfortably in the present, Callahan believes. She chooses a remedy called Return to Joy for this purpose.
Lab results showed significantly lower levels of Cortisol in the experimental group of animals compared to the controls. Clinical observations confirmed these findings: The experimental group did not pant or pace as much. Also, their heart and respiratory rates were slower. These are all indications of the calming effect of classical music. So the next time you need to leave your animal alone for a while, call on Mozart or Vivaldi to “baby-sit” for a portion (but less than several hours) of that time. It’s also a good idea to play fine music when your cat, dog, horse, bird, ferret, or other animal is suffering emotionally because of a debilitating disease. It may help the healing process.
TRY TELLINGTON TOUCH
Animals, just like people, have emotional needs. They require daily attention to help them feel a sense of belonging. Otherwise, they may begin to exhibit signs of depression or loneliness. This is especially true for the animal that spends long periods at home alone waiting for its person to return from work. And when the caretaker does get home, there is no guarantee that much time will be spent together. These days life is complicated, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in whatever else is demanding our immediate attention—dinner, children, bills, etc. With so much on our minds, we just might ignore the animal sitting quietly in the corner waiting for his or her turn with us.
One of the most attractive features of Tellington Touch, also known as TTouch, is that it can create quality bonding in a short time. Even novices are able to apply its techniques successfully after just a few lessons. A person can spend just a few minutes a day communicating with an animal at a very deep level. (This is not to say, of course, that you should spend only a few minutes a day relating to your pet!)
One of the most appealing aspects of Tellington Touch therapy is that it is mutually beneficial to both recipient and practitioner. Often it is the animal’s owner that gives the treatment, and both individuals receive the benefit. The idea behind this modality is that it fosters communication on a cellular level, and when you touch another being at such a basic and intimate level, both of you are affected. You establish a new connection and level of trust with each other.
Doing TTouch on a regular basis will help develop a relationship of trust and cooperation between a human and an animal that can help the animal get through stressful times. Consider a trip to the veterinarian. It is not uncommon for animals to resist these visits ahead of time. Some pets seem to have a psychic knowledge that something undesirable will be happening, and they begin to react even before they are placed in their carrier. Others experience a full-blown panic attack at first sniff of the office, which is only made worse by the scents and sounds of other frightened pets. Then, the examination itself, perhaps consisting of an unknown person poking in untoward places, adds to the anxiety. Such stresses can be alleviated with the regular use of TTouch. Learn to work on the animal’s body, particularly special points located around the ear and mouth, and notice the difference at your next veterinary visit. Your pet will probably be more calm and focused.
TTouch is a remarkable therapy that has a wide variety of benefits for an animal’s emotional and physical well-being. To learn more about its history and other uses, see Chapter 5.
Don’t give up on your pet! An animal in your charge is your responsibility and you owe your friend the best care possible. Once you learn the proper way to work with your pet, you might just find that resolving behavioral and emotional issues is much easier than you anticipated. Often a little—forgive the pun—horse sense is all that is needed to help humans and animals lead a more harmonious existence. Some problems, of course, will take considerable time and effort to resolve—as example would be helping to undo the effects of severe early life traumas—but with love and persistence, this too is not only possible, but also extremely rewarding for both of you. If you are unwilling or unable to work with your pet’s problems and you feel that you must give your pet up, always do so in a humane fashion. There is no need to shorten the life of a healthy, adoptable animal. See, Chapter 9 to read about the options.
1. Winter, William G., The Holistic Veterinary Handbook: Safe, Effective Treatment Plans for the Companion Animal Practitioner, Galde Press, Lakeville, MN, 1997, p. xvii.
2. Hiby, Lydia, with Bonnie S. Weintraub, Conversations with Animals: Cherished Messages and Memories as Told by an Animal Communicator, NewSage Press, Troutdale, OR, 1998, p. 70.