For many of us the love for pets originated from our childhood. We learned to interact, bond and take some responsibility of feeding, cleaning etc. (but let’s be honest, usually it’s our moms). Julian and I also had the privilege to grow up with pets. My sister and I grew up with a dog, birds, fish, hamster, turtles to name a few. Hence, we always felt connected to animals.
However, no one told you that raising a dog or a cat can be best described as a rollercoaster ride. It is true, there is no better feeling than welcoming a new pet into your home. In the first few weeks, everything is fun, and love is in the air. It is downright addictive. But those first few weeks are also critical to setting up your new pet for a successful integration into the home, getting used to routines and so on.
Our take on this is that we all can learn from our mistakes, so here are 3 mistakes we did (not knowingly).
It seems logical to think back on it now, but we always thought that feeding our cats and dogs a decent brand of kibbles was enough to provide a balanced, healthy diet. But we were wrong! After a lot of research, we learned later on that the majority of pet food companies do not have pet’s best interest at heart.
Not to lie, our cats grew up eating kibbles and wet food and they still are. It is our responsibility to provide our pets with the best possible options as they depend on us. So, what has changed? We now focus on the ingredients, quality, and natural ways to supplement to improve their health and prolong their life. We are still trying to transition our cats to raw food which is what they are meant to eat being an obligate carnivore, but no success yet (we will keep trying). However, our dogs have successfully transitioned to raw food, and it was the best decision we have made. They are healthy, at optimal weight, no allergies, perfect skin and coat and we hardly visit our vet.
2. Training Methods
This is our biggest regret so far. When we first fostered Nala, Julian and I had less experience on how to raise and manage a dog. All we saw was a scared girl hiding under the steps at a boarding facility and all we could think of is to help her. Yes, I grew up with a dog, but it was my mom who raised the dog.
As many rescues Nala came to us with some behavioural “problem” and we did what most people would do? We YouTubed “dog training” and guess who came up on the search? A well-known person calling himself “the dog whisperer”! With our lack of knowledge at that time we thought he was the coolest dog trainer ever. So, we went to the pet shop, bought a slip leash, and started working with Nala. He would recommend pet parents to take a stand as an alpha, jerk the leash every time your dog would react or display unwanted behaviour etc. Boy, soon we felt that this isn’t right, this is not how we want to bond with our dog.
Thereafter, we started our research and got in touch with a reputable trainer who uses positive reinforcement and force free methods to help us gain understanding of dog behaviour and how best to work with our girl. It was the beginning of a new journey for us as a family. The journey hasn’t ended yet, it has become my personal passion and my mission to share and educate myself and others. Despite all the difficulties, the bond between our dogs and us are so strong. We know they feel safe, secure and loved.
We are no exception and must admit that it is not easy to be consistent. Your new pets won’t know the house rules when they join the family, so it’s up to you to teach what behavior is and isn’t acceptable keeping in mind that after all they are animals. If you do not want your cats on the kitchen counters or your dogs on the sofa, be consistent with your rule enforcement and do it in real time so that your pet makes that association. Food and praise are great motivators, so be sure to reward your pet appropriately. Do not use any aversive methods verbally or physically.
For example, Max, one of our cats loves to drink from the running tap and refuses to drink water out of the bowl no matter how fresh it is. So, we have introduced a fountain thinking that it will mimic the running tap and he will automatically drink from it. Nope, he is still sitting by the kitchen counter every time we open the tap! Typical cat lol.
Nevertheless, we learned to be more consistent by not allowing him to drink from the tap but redirect him to the fountain. Most of the time it works but you know how cats are lol. Tap is still his favorite. Therefore, consistency is key!