You n'I Animal Wellness

You n'I (友愛) Animal Wellness    720-509-9764

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training | Dogs & Cats Problem Behavior Counseling | Aurora Colorado and Surrounding Areas

Connecting the Dots Between Your Furry Kids Health and Behavior

Category: Training Tips
Posted: 08/27/2015

Our grumpy cat, Oryo (pronounce as O-re-yo) the dragon is always hungry. Every morning and evening she’ll give me a dirty look if I’m not ready to feed her. Since we feed her raw food, her mealtime is the same time as our dogs; twice a day, and no grazing allowed. This way, I know for sure how much she eats every day and keep her at a healthy weight. (Dr. Barrow, one of my favorite veterinarians at Parkside Animal Health Center, wrote an excellent blog more on healthy weight.)

Not long ago, my husband and I noticed that Oryo hadn’t eaten her meals at all for a few days, this was on Saturday, the day before the forth of July when many veterinarians get busy treating animals with “Holiday injuries/sicknesses” (like, heat stroke, food poisoning, indigested holiday ornaments etc.). We called Parkside to see when they could get Oryo in, they kindly took us in on the same day. Dr. Barrow thoroughly examined her, and thankfully she couldn’t find any serious illness. Dr. Barrow then mentioned to us that Oryo has some decaying teeth that need to be extracted, and it probably was causing her to not want to eat. My original thought was “Oh poor cat, she already had a dental surgery 2 years ago, not again!” But then of course, I want her to feel better, so we made an appointment to go ahead and have the surgery done the following week.

After the surgery, she recovered in no time; although she now only has 12 teeth left, her appetite was back immediately, and my husband and I were happy that she was back to her normal self, the grumpy cat, Oryo the dragon!

But recently, we noticed that she is getting more active, visible and confident. She was so skittish before; she’d get scared if anything moved that made a noise, so she really didn’t want to play with anything. We had to be flat on the floor, look under the bed to say “hello” when we would come home from work because usually that was where she stayed. But now, she started to play with a little piece of paper and/or strings, she’ll some times even come and see me when I’m working in my basement office to get attention. I’m not so fond of this behavior, but she hisses, teases, and challenges our sleepy dogs from the top of the bed/couch, and the funniest thing is that she uses them as an obstacle course for her, and it’s becoming her daily routine. (She zigzags between Midori and Sakura, jumps over them, and/or passes by their noses and/or ears as close as she can while the dogs are sleeping.)

So I thought, hmmm, she must be feeling really good after the surgery, and maybe she needs more environment enrichment. So I grabbed a food dispenser toy and gave it a shot to see if she could figure it out. My husband and I both thought that she wouldn’t even go near it and run away from it. Amazingly, it only took a few trials until she became more confident to use her nose and paws to get treats from the toy. I was so thrilled when she started using the toy! I was so excited; I ended up buying a kitty puzzle from Kriser’s (my favorite pet supplies store) with a bit of doubt that she may not use it at all. But my guess was again, wrong! Ever since she started using her paws and nose to play with the little food dispenser toy, it seems like a little light bulb went off in her head! It took a few days for her to figure the puzzle out, but hey, no problem. She now started drinking water from our pint glass by sticking her paw in and scooping up drips of water and licks her paw. She started playing with a string, and also she finds herself entertained by “shredding papers”; she uses her paws, grabs pieces of paper, chews it, and rips it off! (Some times she eats it, too. Oh boy…)

I am amazed by her transformation from being just a grumpy cat to now the “Happy”-grumpy cat, Oryo the dragon, and you know what? It all started out when she stopped eating her meals; very unusual behavior from a cat who loves and demands her meals every day. If your furry kid starts acting strange, please check with your veterinarian before you “assume” it’s behavioral. Observe how your furry kid normally eats, plays, and interacts with you. Animals can’t tell us when s/he is hurt or in pain, changing their behavior is the only way for them to tell us “something is wrong with me”. Watch your furry kid’s daily routine, their activity, food intake and their personality very carefully every day, and if anything changes, don't ask “Dr. Google” and/or other free advices on the Internet and Social media. The Internet can’t observe and exam your furry kid from inside out like Dr. Barrow can. This is the reason why I always want to rule out any underline medical cause before I work with my clients and their furry kids; and I’m pleased to say that our dragon cat, Oryo the “Happy”- grumpy cat proved it!

Meanwhile, watch this short video of our dragon cat, Oryo having fun playing with her new puzzle toy!

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Understanding the 4 Learning Stages for Training Your Dog

Category: Training Tips
Posted: 08/13/2015

Photo courtesy of Maria Chavez
Photo Courtesy of Maria Chavez
One of my hobbies is practicing Muay Thai Kickboxing at my favorite gym. (Muay Thai of Colorado) I have been going to this gym religiously for almost 10 years. I love the challenge my teachers give me at the gym, the sounds of Thai pads when I kick, and the movement of sandbags when I punch. I knew I was out of shape, I knew I’d be sore for the next few days, and I knew I’m getting old and slow, but I decided to get back to the gym last week. Although I haven’t been to the gym for a few years, I saw a few familiar faces and they all smiled and welcomed me back, and I felt at home once we started practicing the techniques.

After I had a great session and sweat my butt off at the gym, I felt great and I was (of course) thinking about “Training” on the way back home. I was thinking how my teachers and partners helped me train at this beautiful art, Muay Thai Kickboxing, and it reminded me how animals learn. (Including humans!)

There are 4 stages of learning in animals, let’s use my experience to help explain.

  1. Acquisition- an animal learns a new behavior
    Example: I learned how to kick- My teacher shows me a technique, and s/he supervises my moves closely.
  2. Fluency- Combination of error and rate (How well an animal can perform the behavior under giving circumstances)
    Example: I can kick in the right position using the right power 6-8 out of 10 times on Thai Pads- When I first started going to the gym, one of the students asked the teacher “How can I get better?” He smiled and replied. “Consistency-If you can kick 1000 times, then kick 5000 times more”. I went to the gym 5 days a week because I wanted to be good at it, and practiced a number of kicks and punches. My teachers no longer have to supervise me so closely when I use the techniques, but s/he will point out a few things for me to get better.
  3. Generalization- How well the behavior has been generalized
    Example: I can kick in the right position using the right power 6-8 out of 10 times in the ring with a sparring partner- When I was allowed to spar in the ring, I realized that I haven’t learned anything when I thought I knew everything. So many thoughts were crossing my mind yet my body wasn’t moving the way I learned! How could this happen to me? I’ve been consistent, and I’ve been practicing it for several years, yet I felt like a deer in a head light! Although I had experiences using the technique on Thai pads, I didn’t have a sparring experience to use the technique I knew. Eventually, I learned how to spar and use the techniques I learned on Thai pads with not only the same sparring partner, but different partners as well.
  4. Management- Remember, behavior is like our body muscle. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!
    Example: I couldn’t kick 10 times on Thai pads without being out of breath after 2 years of absence but I still remembered how to kick. I will be able to kick without being out of breath if I continue to go back to the gym.

Now, getting back to training our dogs. Think this “4 stages of learning” for your dog before you say “My dog is doing this (whatever the unwanted behavior) because s/he is stubborn” or “S/he should know what to do by now”. When you feel like your dog is hitting a plateau or having a set back, stop working with your dog and think for a moment. Did you teach her what you want her to do? (Acquisition) Can your dog “Sit” 8 out of 10 times in the kitchen when you ask her to do? (Fluency) If so, that’s good. How about in different context? Have you asked her to “Sit” in a different room, the back yard, the front yard, or at the stop sign? Dogs cannot generalize well; just because s/he can “Sit” in the kitchen 8 out of 10 times, it doesn’t mean she can do the same in a different room. Perhaps you may raise the bar too high too quickly after your dog acquired a new behavior? (Generalization) Perhaps your dog was able to “Sit” in different context most of time and you don’t ask the behavior so often anymore? (Management)

Living with dogs is like having a homestay student who is trying to learn our culture and language from a different country. We must help each other and learn from each other to develop the skills, just like I had my pad partners, sparring partners, and teachers who are all so patient, and each and every one of them are helping me to achieve the correct position and techniques. Everyone has a different and unique way of learning, and you know what? I keep going back to the gym because my teachers and partners always make me want to learn more and I always have fun there. I’m sure your dog will perform whatever the behavior you want her to do when she is having lots of fun with you while she is learning! So don’t forget to have fun while you train your dog!

Meanwhile, watch this short and cute video of 6 months old Missy who is learning to get on a skateboard with lots of treats, praise (acquisition), and all of us are having fun!!

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Dealing With Pet Loss Beyond Tragedy (Part 2)

Category: Training Tips
Posted: 06/25/2015
The last blog I wrote was focused on “General Grief Stages” and went through some emotional responses and recovery process to the loss of our furry friends. In this blog, I’m writing about “Why we should seek a counselor when we lose our beloved furry friends” and some “Practical suggestions” for us to heal from the loss.

Why should seek a counselor when we lose our furry friends?

Although the society we live in has become much more pet friendly, at our workplaces, even friends and family may still not support, allow, or give appropriate recognition to such a grief (pet loss). There are many people who are not pet-oriented people, even well intentioned people can’t always understand that we must go through a deep, and very personal mourning period and grief process when we lose our furry friends. “Pet loss” and/or “death” in general is still a big taboo in our society, which leaves us nowhere to reach out for help when we lose our beloved furry friends. Some of us will be confused, lonely, and distraught by the loss for a long time because of the lack of understanding from society.

As a Pet Loss Counselors I can help people who go through loss of their furry friends and help them realize that they are not alone. We provide a safe place to share how you feel about the loss, we will gently guide the mourning period so it will be shorter and to be more constructive by allowing ourselves to speak about our loss and grieve freely. We will also guide them to be patient with people who don’t understand the bereavement, learn to be cautious and avoid hasty, angry overreactions, yet to acknowledge and be grateful for any sincere attempts by others.

Many pet loss counselors also provide Anticipatory Bereavement support, for those who need comfort and someone to talk to, as their companion gets older. We are there to provide a safe place to discuss fears and anxiety, and to help those struggling with their pet’s end of life needs.

Practical Suggestions

1.) Find trusted people (a pet loss counselor) or support group to share your feelings. Avoid people who try to give you their own opinion, advice and/or suggestion when all you need is someone to listen to your feeling. But most importantly, you need to surround yourself with gentle people who can accept your raw feelings, and help let your feelings out.

2.) Write a poem or a letter to your furry friend. How much you loved and are missing her/him, how much fun you had with her/him, how much you wish s/he is still with you. Try to remember how s/he lived, not how s/he died when you write the letter. You can also list the things that your furry friend di that made you smile, laugh, even worry or mad, and also the achievement s/he had with you (title of agility competition, certification from basic obedience class etc.)

3.) Have a ritual or service for your furry friend. You can either have a ritual/service by yourself, or invite good friends. You can bury the letter in the soil, and plant a flower that will come back every year. You can read out loud the poem or the letter that you wrote for the furry friend, you can have a candle light service, you can go to places where you and your furry friend loved to visit, and take some photos of the view. The purpose of doing the ritual is for you to be able to express your spiritual values in a loving way; it’s a very import part of healing process for you and to create loving memories for the lost furry kid.

4.) Be gentle to yourself. Pamper yourself if you can. I believe our furry friends come to our lives to teach us “the meaning of life”; How to enjoy the moment, how simple things make us smile, what “unconditional love” truly means, and the life beyond the death. They all come to us and show us how to “Live the life to the fullest” and “Live in the present”. It’s our turn to show our beloved furry friends what we received from them, so they can be proud of being the great teachers to us, and smile down on us at the Rainbow Bridge.

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Dealing With Pet loss Beyond Tragedy (Part 1)

Category: Training Tips
Posted: 06/11/2015
My heart has been heavy for the last few weeks. My dear colleague was devastated by the news that a car hit and killed her student’s young, beautiful dog. A few days ago, Colorado Dog Trainers Network which I am a member of, received the horrible news that one of our colleagues who is a service dog trainer, was in a horrific car accident; one of her service dog was killed at the scene, she and her other dog are now fighting for their lives. I can’t even imagine what kind of emotional roller coaster these two and their families are going through. My prayers and thoughts are with them and their families through out this difficult time.

As a certified pet loss grief counselor, I’d like to share how we grief, how we can recognize our feelings, why it is important to recognize, and how we can make peace with the loss. In this blog, I will write about general “Grief Stage” to help you understand some of the emotions and changes you may encounter when you experience “Loss”.

“Shock & Disbelief”-When a tragedy happens, and we lose our beloved furry kids, we go through the stages of grief. “Shock and Disbelief” are the first responses. It’s a way of brain to protecting itself from having to handle too much information, too soon. Disbelief is also normal mental defense; we all know very well with the expression, “I can’t believe…” When we lose our loved one, this question will keep coming back and forth in our minds, even if we have specific information and/or proof of the death.

“Anger, Alienation, and Distancing”- Sometimes when we hurt the most, anger will cause us to be very narrow-minded, selfish, and become judgmental of others. When we lose our furry family, we may convert our anger to blaming others, such as veterinarians, clinics, and medical staff or any person or organization that were involved with the death. Sometimes we are so angry at ourselves that we actually create chaotic situations with others that force them to leave us, make them hopeless to helping us, and permanently alienating or distancing ourselves from them. Anger can be turned inward just as easily as outward. It is normal human response to blame ourselves for all kinds of weaknesses and faults.

“Guilt & Depression”- When anger is turned inward, it becomes guilt too. Guilt can affect our healing process because strong guilt feelings are traumatic. It may lead to a vicious cycle that seems endless, and hopeless to find a solution of how to end this cycle. During the early stages of mourning, anger and guilt can overwhelm us. We also tend to withdraw from the world; we experience great scale of depression throughout the entire mourning process. We feel it’s impossible to accept that any good or healing will come out of this. The pain of the loss is so deep and personal, we feel it’s unbearable for anyone else to understand our loss, we hide our feelings and we don’t share our true feelings with anyone.

“Resolution (Closure)”- “Resolution” is the time of spiritual healing. We release our pain without fading all the memories we shared with our beloved furry family. This is the time of closure when it starts to change from a chained up pain to precious remembrance, and we are starting to discover our new self. We learn to accept the reality and how it’s affected our lives. We also learn to live with our wounds, letting go of our chained up pain and anguish, and become a wiser and better person because of this experience. It doesn’t mean that we forget about our beloved furry family, or stop having all the memories that we shared with them. The healing process doesn’t happen overnight, it involves pain, time and self-respect. But it will also make us stronger and better, and will achieve a beautiful memory, filled with loving sentiments that will stay with us when we find our own resolution.

In my next blog, I will write about “Why Grief Counseling, and Some Practical Suggestions”.

It’s going to be a long recovery journey for our colleague Rebekah who is in critical condition at ICU, her dog, Kenzie who survived, and her loving family. Please visit her “Go Fund Me” page to help support her and Kenzie’s medical expense. Rebekah will need several surgeries once her condition has stabilized. Thank you! 

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Is your dog scared of thunder? 8 Tips To Help Your Dog

Category: Training Tips
Posted: 05/14/2015

Wow, what crazy weather we’ve been having here in Colorado for the last several weeks here in May! 75 degrees sunshine one day followed by a few days of rain/hail, and finally got winter weather storm with SNOW! I love what Mother Nature does in Colorado, some times you can experience all 4 seasons in one week! But many dog guardians are not enjoying all the crazy weather when it comes down to “Thunder”.

Our younger dog, Sakura is a very noise sensitive dog, and she has trouble with thunder as well. I hope I can help these dogs who are scared of thunder and its guardians by sharing what I’ve been doing to help Sakura to be “less” sensitive to thunder.


Thunder Shirt- Many people are now aware of this body wrap for dogs that supposedly has a calming effect for their anxiety. However, make sure your dog is used to the sound of Velcro before the Thundershirt goes on/off. Be sure to also associate it with something pleasant, and encourage her/his calming behavior with lots of yummy treats and/or long, soft petting. You also want to put Thundershirt on your dog BEFORE the thunder starts. It is safe for her/him to wear it for all day; you want to put it on your dog when the weather is still somewhat calm. Remember, dogs can feel thunder way before we can hear it.

Other things you can help reduce your dog’s fear/anxiety

  1. Use some white noise or play some classic music. My husband used an ocean sounds CD as white noise for Sakura when she started to bark during a stormy night, and it seemed to help her calm down. (NOTE: You must play loud enough to muffle thunder noise.)
  2. Take your dog to a bathroom, basement, walk-in closet, underneath a table, or behind a sofa. (Preferably with Thundershirt on) Some dogs seem to feel comfortable lying on or near porcelain surfaces, maybe because they feel secured and safe that it provides some protection from static electricity. I know one of my client's English Bull Dog goes in between the bathroom sink and toilet when thunder starts. My other client's St. Barnard goes in the bathtub until thunder goes away. Be sure to stay with your dog and be calm, and try encouraging her/him to look at you for security and reassurance, but not being overprotective, or making a big deal out of her/his fear.
  3. Pet your dog with fabric softener dryer sheets. This supposedly helps to reduce static charge buildup, and decrease discomfort and anxiety.
  4. Use “Adaptil” (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) and/or “Composure” (Calming chew tab). You can spray “Adaptil” on to your dog’s scarf or crate, and ask your veterinarian to see if you can give extra doses of "Composure" for your dog during the thunder season.
  5. Desensitizing your dog to thunder by “Through Dog’s Ear” CD. It’s best to get your dog used to thunder with this music CD BEFORE the actual thunder season starts. You can help reduce your dog’s anxiety by making pleasant association with this CD, and also gradually increase the intensity of the noise with it. Your dog will be exposed to the noise enough times so that it’s no longer unfamiliar to them. (Practice makes perfect, right?)
  6. Make Thunder as a “Cue” to have fun! If your dog is like our dog, Sakura, who can tell the difference between the thunder CD and actual thunder, try to make thunder as a “Cue” for you and your dog to do something fun.

    Start out when the thunder is still far enough away and while it’s making the littlest noise, or catch your dog’s first sign of stress/anxiety. (Remember, dogs/cats can sense a storm way before us!) In Sakura’s case, I can tell her stress level goes up when her ears perk up, when she growls, and/or starts to pace on a stormy day. As soon as I see any of these signs from her, I call her out with “Is it time for thunder treats?” or something silly, like “Wanna dance with me?” to distract her with happy cheerful voice, and give her yummy treats. Once I get her attention, I do a few tricks with her while the thunder gets closer and louder. I stop playing with her by saying “That was a good thunder treat/dance, wasn’t it, Sakura!” again, with happy tone of voice once the thunder is gone, and she shows calming behavior. This is how I change her emotional response from "Oh No, that scary noise!" to "Oh lucky, I get treats and get to dance with my mom every time I hear the noise!” and gradually get her used to louder thunder. You can also build your dog’s confidence by doing things that s/he enjoys, like fetch and/or other games if s/he will play with you.
  7. Always ask and discuss with your veterinarian if medication, such as fast-acting tranquilizer will be appropriate to use for your dog to get through the thunder season.
  8. As much as you want to stay with your dog during the storm, we know we can’t always predict the weather, and can’t be with them all the time. Consider taking your dog to a doggie day care so the thunder can be masked by other noises.

Hope you and your dog can get through this thunder season, contact us to see how we can help reduce your dog’s fear/anixiety/phobia!

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