learning by heart

learning by heart header

As pets age or suffer certain medical conditions, they can experience loss of vision, hearing or even loss of a limb. If your pet experiences this kind of physical change, it’s important to ease his transition. As a first step, regardless of the change, ask your vet about using pheromones to help your pet adjust at home. There are feline and canine versions of these “feel good” scents, and they can help ease the anxiety of an uncertain pet. Here are some other things you can do:


for pets with vision loss:


  • same old setup: Don’t rearrange furniture or your pet’s belongings. Your pet already knows the commonly traveled pathways, so don’t confuse him by suddenly putting a couch where his food bowl used to be.


  • work around: Work new commands into your pet’s vocabulary that help mark obstacles, like “Step up” and “Step down.”


  • head start: For walks, consider using a head collar (such as a Gentle Leader®) to make your blind pet feel more confident.


  • follow your ears: For playtime, scent your dog’s tennis balls so she can find them, or insert a jingle bell into a ball.


for pets with hearing loss:


  • read the signs: Teach your pet hand signals for commands and praise. Every dog likes to know you think he’s a good dog. Teach him the hand signal and watch his eyes light up when he “hears” his favorite words. A certified dog trainer can help you both in this endeavor.


  • see it coming: Don’t sneak up on your pet; startling a dog or cat is a good way to get an inadvertent bite. Stomp on the floor or wave a flashlight so your pet can see you coming before you surprise her with your presence.


for pets with limb amputations:


  • slow and steady: Give your pet plenty of time to recover from surgery. Most healthy pets will heal quickly, but pushing too fast could result in infection or injury. Follow your vet’s recommendations for slowly getting up and about.


  • rug around: If you have hardwood floors, make sure there are rugs covering the common pathways to prevent slipping as your newly tri-pawed pet learns to navigate in a new way.


Most owners are relieved to find that pets adjust quickly to these changes, especially if they have other four-legged friends in the house to act as guides. This sibling relationship may need an initial reacquaintance period, but before you know it, the whole pack will be back to business as usual.



teen trouble


If you thought adolescence was just a problem for parents of two-legged teens, think again. Your polite puppy is about to make you wish you could pack her off to college ASAP! Adolescence in young dogs is a trying time for owners, but understanding the stages may help you exercise patience when you’re at your wit’s end.


Your dog’s “teen years” actually occur somewhere around 6 to 8 months of age. During this time your dog’s brain and hormones develop, along with new interests and a desire for independence (usually expressed as impulsiveness). Adolescent dogs are less likely to listen, too distracted to follow the rules and too interested in smelling the roses to remember that pulling on the leash is a no-no.


But just as human teenagers eventually settle down, your pup will, too. Here are some tips to help you survive in the meantime:


  • head start: If possible, train your dog while she’s a puppy; bad behavior is easier to prevent than to correct.


  • tay firm: Be consistent with the rules, even though your dog isn’t interested in following them. If you backslide now, she’ll have the upper hand.


  • go, girl! Actively look for desired behaviors from your teenage dog and reward them highly.


  • no “pun” intended: Avoid harsh punishments for undesired behaviors. Never, ever physically punish your pet.


  • social life: Continue to introduce your dog to the world around her, and encourage interaction with other dogs. Your dog may become less friendly to other dogs or people, so keep practicing her social skills.


The good news is dogs tend to outgrow this behavior by their second birthday — third at the latest! If you’re at the end of your leash and feel like giving up, call your veterinarian for more advice on weathering the terrible teens.