Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Animal advice from an, er, expert

Speaking of Rams!

I always have to laugh a little bit at some of these funny titles these days, many of them not requiring degrees or years of knowledge.  Animal behaviorist, animal psychologist, name it, there is an expert out there for it.  Now, don't get me wrong,  I am by no means dissing them, the title comes from me doubting myself, just a little.

I have been living with and loving animals most of my life.  Although Mom was raised on a farm in Iowa and was not fond of taking care of critters we did always have outdoor cats and dogs as kids.  Then within about a week of Tom and I cohabitating we realized that life with just two people was very boring after living in a house with all of his buddies; so we got our first orange tabby; Razz.  As you know, the story has grown and multiplied over the last twenty years...dramatically.

Even before I met Tom, I was an active volunteer with various rescue groups.  If I remember correctly, the first being the Inter-mountain Humane Society, or was it the Evergreen Animal Protective League?  I don't know which came first and it doesn't really matter, the point is, is that I have been doing this a long time, and I still doubt myself as an expert in the field of animals; crazy!

That is why you always have a good team to back you up.  Mentors are my first line of defense.  And I have different mentors for each group of animal; sometimes it is the person I got the animals from (like the sheep breeder or a llama breeder).  But most of the time, you need to search out your own mentors, maybe this can be your vet, or even someone you meet online; but make sure you have that person to call (or e-mail) for advice at a moments notice.  It goes without saying, that a person with animals needs a good, trustworthy vet.  Not a vet that you are intimidated by, or don't share beliefs with, but one that you know will come out for any reason what-so-ever!

But the most important thing a pet owner can have is common sense, no really.  Common sense enough to trust your own instinct when it comes to your critters.  Watching them and knowing them is the very best preventative medicine you can do for them.  Almost every training method (100% success rate) that I have come up with has come from simply watching the behavior of my animals and adjusting the routine.

Take for instance our dog Rosie.  She was depressed and getting aggressive.  How do you tell a dog is depressed?  Well, she attacked a cat, she was not hanging out with the family, when she did she had her head down, etc, she just seemed depressed.  She was also very aggressively going after Gigi, my little dog that we had recently inherited from my Grandma; so it didn't take a genius to figure out what was causing her depression.  She had been my Baby and now Gigi was going everywhere with me.  So, I started taking Rosie with me everywhere; she no longer had to be in the fence with the rest of the dogs she got treated exactly like I treated Gigi (the only reason Gigi wasn't in the fence was because she could squeeze out of the wire!)

Now, as for the aggressive behavior towards the cat and Gigi, I was not taking any chances there (not with kids and small animals in the house), and I got aggressive myself.  I attacked her back just like another dog would.  It scared the crap out of my kids, I must tell you, but it got the point across to Rosie as well.  I yelled, and growled and rolled her over in a submissive position and held her there until she knew who was boss.  Between doing these two very easy and minor things Rosie is a very happy and normal companion now.

Let's move on to my problematic Rooster while we are talking about dominance here, because this is a new battle for me.  As I mentioned dominance is something that I believe you should always show in your herd, so to speak.  But, this is just a chicken, a bird for goodness sake!  Really, what harm is he going to cause me, and why do I have to win that battle?  It really took some re-thinking on my part.  I realized that every time the roo would see me get worked up, so would he, and if I would just hold still...he would fluff his feathers and move on.

So I tried this new thinking with my teenage son yesterday when I made him go gather eggs for my friend Janet.  I told him exactly what to do, even though he insisted the rooster would not attack him.  Well, he said that bird followed him around trying to get him into battle.  He did exactly what I told him to do.  "No, chicken", and hold still.  The funniest thing was his response.  He said that it went against his grain.  He said "you know Mom, I'm a teenager, and I really wanted to teach that chicken who was boss, it felt like I was letting him win!"  It's very hard to turn the other cheek sometimes.

Speaking of battles you can't win, remember that it is time for the rut, people.  Elk are bugling, the deer have that wild look in their eye, and my ram Paco, well, he looks like he's gonna knock me flat on my ass.. So as soon as I can catch him, he will be locked up with his girlfriend Esther.  And let me tell you, I won't be catching him with my hands, that sheep has one crazed look about him, I will wait until he is in the right pen, and then I will simply close him into it.  Yeah right, and then watch him ram the hell out of the gate, but that is why they call them rams I guess!

While we are talking about advice, I thought I'd mention a trick I have been using lately on the dogs various leg injuries.  It is total and complete immobilization.  Iowa has hurt her leg twice since we have brought her home, and now Gigi has a hurt leg.  When a dog is limping there can be many causes; check the foot first looking for any burs or cuts on the pad.  If there are none, you may need to try this trick, and it has saved me big bucks, because all of the times I thought I was headed to the vet.  Although it seems a bit drastic, put the dog in her crate for a minimum of two days, only walking her on a leash for potty breaks.  The problem is that dogs don't know not to run on an injured leg, and will still run to the front door to bark or whatever.  This really is the only way to completely immobilize an animal, lock them up.  I always feel terrible doing it, but when the leg is better, I know I have done the right thing.

So how about you, do you have any great pet advice to share?  How about pet stories or pics?  I'd love to see them and share them here and on my Facebook page.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

I'm enjoying the Rooster story! Teenager wanting to show him who's boss - gotta love it.