The 8 Most Important Things to Teach Your Puppy

Puppy parents are eager to teach their new family member skills that will set everyone up for success long term, but ‘sit,’ ‘stay’ and ‘come’ aren’t the most important lessons to focus on. This list of what puppies really need to learn builds a foundation for the confidence and trust puppies need to learn before voice control commands.

The world is a safe place:

Teaching your puppy to socialize safely builds the puppy’s confidence in themself and the puppy’s trust in you. Facilitate enjoyable, worry-free experiences for your puppy by first paying close attention to their physical cues for stress and fear. While playing with another puppy, walking in a busy place or meeting new people at a barbecue, don’t rush, force or coerce your puppy to interact with things they are tentative around. It is your job to protect your pup from well-meaning but overwhelming folks or from too-intense experiences.

My human will protect me:

Dogs protect themselves with fight or flight, so if your puppy does not feel safe, he might bite or run away. To build trust with your dog, you must try to understand, listen to, and respect how your dog feels. This includes preventing your puppy from getting into situations in which the puppy will feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Alone time is okay:

Before you came along, your puppy was likely with their littermates and never experienced alone time. Because dogs are not allowed everywhere, it is important to teach puppies that alone time is okay. Start with crate or confinement training. For more information, read our blog post  ‘Confinement Training and Why It’s So Important.’

Riding in the car is fun:

No matter how much time your dog will spend in the car in the future, it is important your puppy learns the car is not a scary place. For many puppies, they are afraid of the car because it makes them feel motion sick and they have associated the car with leaving their littermates or going to the vet. Without force, before even turning the engine on, train your puppy to feel comfortable in the car by creating a safe place with a crate or a dog bed and a high reward delicious treat.

House training:

Teaching a puppy where they are allowed to go to the bathroom is essential for everyone’s health and happiness. Crates, puppy pads, consistency, attention, understanding and patience are keys to house training your new puppy.

What is appropriate to chew on:

Puppies explore the world with their mouths and adult dogs chew to relieve stress so teaching your puppy about what is appropriate to chew on will set everyone up for success in the future. Just like house training, good management is important to teaching this lesson. Provide your puppy enjoyable chew toys and keep the chew toys exciting and interesting by mixing them up throughout the week. For more enrichment ideas, read our blog post ‘Indoor Enrichment Activities.’ 

Resource guarding prevention:

It is natural for dogs to protect their food, toys and safe place so it is important for puppy owners to teach dogs positive association with humans approaching their food bowl, taking a toy out of their mouth or entering and exiting their safe space. There is no telling which puppies will be guarders. Even if your puppy shows no signs of guarding, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure with resource guarding.

Health and wellness tasks:

Grooming, baths, toenail clipping, ear drops, eye drops and taking medicine are all tasks you can help your puppy get comfortable with when they are young. High reward treats, saying ‘yes!’ and belly rubs are great ways to build positive association with everyday activities.

This is a long list, we know, but once you have helped your puppy grow to be a confident and happy youngster, you will have a foundation for a happy life together.

Questions? Check out our virtual and in-person Behavior Workshops as well as the Resources Page of our website!

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Reliable recall is essential to a trustworthy dog human relationship. If you plan to have your dog off leash outside of a fenced in yard or park, try this two-part method to teaching your dog to come when called.

Part 1: Name Recognition

This is one of the most important of all skills that we ask of our dogs and the first step to coming when called. To teach your dog to immediately respond to her name, practice the Name Game. This simply involves saying her name when she’s not looking at you and when she turns around to look at you, mark (say YES) and reward! You will start this when you are right next to your dog. Her name just means “pay attention” so you will reward just for her turning and looking at you. (Remember, if you teach your dog their name means “Come”, it makes for a less versatile dog, because you have no way of getting their attention if it’s safest they stay where they are.) If your dog is unable to respond, don’t say their name again! Your dog is telling you it’s too hard. Before you say their name again, change something so it’s more likely your dog can succeed. You can get closer to her (sometimes, right down next to her ear, especially if she is focused on looking at or smelling something) or move her a little further from the distraction. In the meantime, also be sure not to use your pup’s name too often or it will become unimportant to her. We suggest you make up nicknames instead.

Part 2: Asking a Dog to Move To You

Once a dog is reliably responding to their name in a variety of circumstances, start asking them to move towards you. Again, start with easy, controlled situations. When teaching any behavior, first teach your dog the behavior is valuable. So, only say the cue ‘COME’ when you are almost 100% sure she will! What if you aren’t sure your dog will come? First and foremost, set your dog up for success as much as possible. If you aren’t sure your dog will listen and move towards you, adjust the situation so they can succeed. If that’s not possible, go and get your dog instead. Use inviting ‘prompts’ such as short, staccato noises, crouching down to make yourself more appealing, or moving in the opposite direction, all which dogs often find instinctually inviting. Don’t hesitate to be silly and make it a game! You want moving towards you to be fun and rewarding!  Over the next few months, gradually increase the distance you call your dog from. Then increase the level of distraction. Don’t push the process. and don’t ask for recalls beyond your dog’s skill level. That will only be frustrating for you, and it teach your pup the cue is irrelevant. Take this training slow and steady.

Now it’s time to practice both!

Depending on the situation when out on walks, you can practice the Name Game as well as coming when called. You will have to adjust your standard to what your dog is ready for based on how distracting the situation is. Work on just the Name Game if it’s a highly distracting situation such as seeing a deer or another dog. Practice recall if it’s a moderately distracting situation such as smelling another dog’s pee. Once your dog can reliably respond to her name around big distractions, you can work on calling. her away from them. To start, get close to her to make it easier on both of you. Once your dog can reliably move towards you in a particularly difficult situation, start using the cue ‘COME.’

Questions? Check out our virtual and in-person Behavior Workshops!

A Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner

We are so excited to announced Aska’s Animals new resident dog trainer, Ramsey Schatz.

There are several ways to help homeless animals in Teton Valley, but the addition of Ramsey’s expertise to the AAF team adds an unprecedented level of support to pets and pet owners. Part of our mission is to provide compassionate support for animals and pet owners so that people are happy with the animals in their homes. Ramsey will support animals and their new families before and after adoption to ensure everyone feels set up for success which keeps animals out of the shelter system.

Thank you to everyone who has donated, volunteered, liked and shared AAF…we can provide the community this much-needed level of support because of your generosity.

Ramsey’s love of animals became evident when, as a little kid, she spent hours moving worms off the Portland, Oregon sidewalks after rainstorms because she didn’t want the worms to get squished. She brought the love inside by training her family cats, dogs and mice to do tricks. At just ten years old, she adopted her first dog named Gismo.

Her professional training began in horse stables when she interned at a farm sanctuary and participated in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Program. Then, she spent two years at the Arabian Horse Rescue and Education in Oregon City, Oregon.

After experiencing chronic pain from working with such large animals, Ramsey switched species from horses to dogs. For four and half years at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, she worked as a canine caregiver overseeing the daily training maintenance and care of dogs in their program. She specialized in working with dogs who had significant bite histories and behavioral issues. A lot of dogs she worked with came from the Navajo Reservation. These dogs were extremely shy or had never been inside a house before. The relationships she developed with dogs at Best Friends inspired Ramsey to study dog training at the Karen Pryor Academy. After six months at the fear-free, positive reinforcement training program, she became a certified trainer.

At Aska’s Animals, Ramsey looks forward to working with the human and the canine communities of Victor, Driggs and Jackson Hole. She’s especially excited for the opportunity to work with puppies because like us, she believes giving puppies the best start to life with appropriate training and socialization will keep dogs in loving homes and out of the shelter system. In collaboration with the Animal Adoption Center, she’ll host weekly Puppy Play for dogs under sixteen weeks old that have recently graduated from the AAF Puppy Palaces. She’s most curious about the psychology of animals and how dogs are more similar to humans than we think. Like creating a new habit for humans, it’s important to focus on what you do want your dog to do versus focusing on what you don’t want them to do.

Ramsey has three dogs of her own – Pixel (5), Bucket (3) and Olive (2).

Welcome to the team Ramsey!

It’s the time of year that dog owners head to the parks, trails and friend’s houses for barbecues. But what does this mean for your furry friend who you may not want to leave at home? Here’s a list of guidelines to ensure your dog and your dog’s friends are in safe and appropriate playgroups.

Let’s start with a conversation about choice. Ask your dog, ‘what game do you want to play?’ Obviously, your dog won’t be able to use words to tell you his/her wishes so it’s important to pay attention to their body language. If your dog is excited to see their friend(s) (wagging tag, dancing feet, etc.) that indicates they want to engage in group play. If your dog hides, pulls their ears back or bulges their eyes at the sight of other dogs, group play might not be their preferred form of enrichment. Visit our blog post about other enrichment activities if this is the case!

If your dog is excited to join the playgroup, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Always have a supervisor. Never leave dogs unattended. The supervisor’s job is to keep the arousal level low. If you notice one dog getting over-agitated, competitive or aggressive, step in to distract the animals so the elevated behavior stops until they’re calmed down and can re-engage in more optimal styles of play.
    • Watch out for one dog getting their jaw caught in another dog’s collar. If this happens, both dogs might panic causing one dog to be choked and the other to break their jaw. You can remove collars to eliminate this risk. If collars are on, supervise closely to ensure safe play.
  • Make sure the dogs have enough space to play. For big dogs, it’s recommended to have at least 100 square feet per dog. For small dogs, 40 square feet per dog will be enough. Never enclose the dogs in a small space like the trunk of a car or a bathroom.
  • Group dogs together by size and play style. Just like you wouldn’t expect a toddler who just learned to talk to have fun with a group of teenagers playing charades, a twenty-pound dog won’t have as much fun keeping up with a pack of huskies.
    •  No matter how well they play, there’s always the risk of a smaller dog getting hurt accidentally. In addition, the high-pitched noises small dogs make while being chased can activate predatory instinct in large dogs.
    • Puppies shouldn’t be in large dog play groups either, but a puppy paired with a single socially appropriate adult who enjoys puppies can be a great experience.
  • There are four standard play styles to be aware of:
    • Neck biting or mouthing – this style of play is when dogs gently mouth other dog’s necks or chins. Usually, it looks like wrestling or rolling around on the ground making playful noises. Dogs who enjoy this style of play don’t bite, they mostly slobber.
    • Chasing – this style of play is exactly what it sounds like. Hide and seek, tag you’re it, running hot laps around the yard, etc.
    • Body slamming – dogs who enjoy this style play hard and they get physical. Every seen a dog play so hard they fall into a pool or run off a deck? Dogs who like ‘body slam’ play have high pain tolerances and bounce back quickly
    •  Cat-like – a calm and quiet type of play that involves pawing, rubbing up against the other animals, and running in circles around the dogs doing any of the other three styles.
  • Things to watch out for:
    • If one dog repeatedly pins another dog down, it’s probably because the pinned dog doesn’t like the body slamming play style. The pinned dog is most likely not having fun so it’s time to intervene.
    • If one dog won’t stop playing while the other needs to take a break, separate the dogs every few minutes to give the slower dog a break. Uninterrupted play can become a source of aggression if one dog becomes excessively annoyed with their play partner.

These tips are especially important if you bring your dog to a dog park where many different play styles are represented. If your dog is consistently becoming frustrated with the way other dogs play, consider setting up a playgroup with dogs who have similar play styles.

Like we said at the beginning of this post, it’s important to recognize that not all dogs enjoy playing with other dogs. Many people expect their dog to love playing with other dogs and if their dog doesn’t, the dog is a lemon. This is far from the truth. In puppy classes, dog trainers teach puppies to be comfortable in the presence of other dogs, but playing isn’t required. Often, dogs lose interest in playing with other dogs as they grow up and that’s normal too. Have questions or concerns? Contact Aska’s Animals Dog Behavior Specialist to learn specific tips for your dog and their style of play! If you’re interested in learning more on your own time, check out which highlights best practices for managing inter-dog play.

With spring break around the corner and lots to prepare, we thought it would be helpful to provide you with a checklist of things to get your pets and your pet sitter ready for your vacation.

To ensure a relaxing vacation, ensure your pet sitter is qualified and reputable – someone you trust to stay in your home, or their home is somewhere you trust your pets to stay while you’re away. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. If your pet is staying at someone’s else, we highly recommend you visit the location. If you’ve never met this pet sitter before, ask if they’re licensed and bonded.

Schedule a trial to make the transition less stressful. Just like with human children, a parent will schedule several shorter babysitting experiences (such as a date night) before leaving their child with a sitter for several days. It’s important your pets are comfortable and friendly with the sitter before you leave town. This might require multiple visits.

If the pet sitter is staying in your home and you have a social pet who has had no issues with visitors to the home, invite the sitter over for lunch and do your typical introductions plus a house tour. If you have a long trip planned, schedule the pet sitter for a one night ‘practice stay’in advance. This gives the animals the opportunity to get comfortable with the pet sitter and it gives the pet sitter the opportunity to ask questions or express concerns.

If your social and confident pets are going to the pet sitter’s house, you’ll also want to do introductions beforehand. If the pet sitter has dogs, schedule a dog walk on neutral ground to introduce them. Then, visit the pet sitters house to smell the space with you by their side. Next, book a “practice sleepover” there to help your pet become familiar and hopefully have a good time.

If your pet is more reserved, uncomfortable with strangers, generally timid, fearful, or new to you, utilize this safe and slow introduction routine:

Step 1: Olfactory introduction    

  • Before any in-person introductions, ask the pet sitter to loan you something with their scent on it (such as a shirt or scarf) and leave it in a common area in your home so your pets can become familiar with their scent before meeting face to face.
  • For cats, do the olfactory introduction and then jump ahead to step 3.

Step 2: Meet the pet sitter in a neutral location

  • Often, dogs who are concerned with people entering their home do better when meeting in a neutral location. Go for a walk together before going to the house.
  • On the walk, start with you holding the leash and if your dog is comfortable, have the petsitter hold the leash while you drop back a little way.

Step 3: Invite the pet sitter into your home 

  • You can walk into the house with the pet sitter as you return from a walk.
  • Alternately, you could crate your dog with something delicious to chew on when the sitter arrives. This gives your dog some time to acclimate to their presence before bringing them out into the main room.
  • Use your body language and friendly voice to express to your pet that the pet sitter is a friend of yours who is welcome in your home.
  • Let your pet decide when they’re ready to interact with the sitter. There’s no need to force or bribe contact. Chat with the pet sitter and instruct them to ignore your pet while your pet sniffs them and if your pet isn’t ready to interact yet, you can have the pet sitter toss them treats from afar. Aim behind the pet instead of luring them closer which is a no no. Know that building trust and comfort with the pet sitter may take multiple visits.
  • For cats: have the pet sitter fill the cat’s food and water bowl. The cat will begin to
    recognize that this person is here to feed them.
    o Special notes: start these introductions weeks ahead of time and slowly transition your pets to whatever the new routine will be. If you’re home all day and your sitter won’t be, that’s going to be a really big and difficult change for most pets.

Stock up on extra pet food and medication in case you experience flight delays or need to elongate your trip.

Call your vet and let them know you’ll be out of town. Tell them who your pet sitter is and that they have your permission to call the vet in case of an emergency. This is especially important if you’re going out of cell service!

Write down emergency contact information such as the vet’s phone number and address as well as a backup pet sitter should your pet sitter need to cancel last minute. Make sure to confirm your backup pet sitter is available if needed!

Do a thorough house and yard check.

With a new routine and perhaps the stress that results from you leaving town, your pets might be more inclined to dig through garbage or chew shoes so tuck all potential chewable items away.

Make sure doors and windows are closed, gates are securely latched, and fences are properly fenced. Pets might wonder where you went and try to go looking for you. If your dog is crate trained, leave extra blankets, towels and comfort toys accessible so the pet sitter can keep your dog’s safe space clean and welcoming.

Confirm your pet’s collar is up to date with your contact information. If you’re going out of cell service (such as down the Grand Canyon), consider getting a pet tag made with the pet sitter’s phone number.

Provide extra treats and enrichment such as peanut butter kongs for dogs and feather wands for cats. This helps the animal trust and bond with their pet sitter.

Leave detailed instructions about your pet’s routine including what time they wake up, what time they eat, how much exercise they’re used to, where they have alone time (are they crate trained?), etc. Whether the pet sitter is staying at your house, or your pets are going to the pet sitter’s house, don’t forget to educate your pet sitter about house rules such as if animals are allowed on the couch and in the bed.

The more you communicate with your pet sitter, the better care they can provide.

Happy travels!

Thank you for supporting Aska’s Animals in 2022! We grew because of you! Our mission is possible because you’ve donated, volunteered, and followed us on social media. With your help, we can continue to expand and help more homeless animals in our area.

As we reflect on 2022, we have so much to be grateful for…thanks to donors and volunteers like you,

  • We added 2 new puppy palaces
  • We housed 102 puppies
  • We cared for 30 kittens
  • We welcomed 6 pigs for long-term residence
  • We used approximately 2,000 puppy pee pads
  • We went through about 50 jars of peanut butter
  • We hired our first part-time employee and started the process of hiring our first full-time employee
  • We strengthened our relationship with regional shelters

The additional puppy palaces give us the space to say ‘yes’ to more homeless puppies and their moms, reducing the amount of overcrowding in our local shelters. Daily, we provide training, enrichment, and exposure to a variety of volunteers, so the puppies are well-adjusted and highly adoptable dogs entering the communities of these various partner programs. The thoughtful work we do in the first eight weeks of a puppy’s life support their family once they are adopted into new home.

Ali, our Animal Care Coordinator, joined our team this year. She has helped us increase our capacity for animals, increase our volunteer program and allowed our Board to push forward pressing items that are not just about picking up poop and managing day-to-day operations.

We hosted 3 free Dog Behavior Workshops with Krissi Goetz of JH Positive Training. Community members circled around the barn to learn about cortisol and the dog’s brain as well as to ask questions about their pets. We also hosted 6 Volunteer Orientations where members of the community got to learn about our mission, meet like-minded animal lovers and participate in the daily routines of Aska’s Animals.

We hosted our first Pig and Puppy Yoga thanks to the Animal Adoption Center in Jackson. 10 people soaked up the sun while stretching and hanging out with our long-term resident pigs in addition to our adoptable puppies. We have always imagined Aska’s Animals as a place for animal lovers to gather to enrich their lives and the animals’ lives. This event was a huge success, and we can’t wait to do more events like it in 2023.

We now have 11 long-term pig residents. Sometimes, people don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they buy a pig as a family pet…we are grateful to be able to have the space and the support to allow pigs to live out their lives in a safe place where pigs can be pigs.

In 2022, we strengthened relationships with regional shelters. We added the Behavior Modification Program which allows us to provide dogs in local shelters a much-needed retreat to Aska’s Animals where they can de-stress in quiet accommodations and learn new skills, making them more adoptable. We also facilitated our first ‘trade’ with another animal rescue to provide behavioral support for two of our residents – a pig and a dog. This is a great reminder that although we want to provide temporary and (when needed) long-term housing for all homeless animals, sometimes, we aren’t the best place for the animal.

2022 was a fantastic year at Aska’s Animals. Thank you for your support. You play an essential role in our mission; to provide a progressive environment for animals through rehabilitation, adoption, education, and community outreach, and filling the critical gap between shelter and permanent rescue. We look forward to 2023 and the opportunity to expand our program!

Thank you,

Aska Shiratori-Langman

Founder & Board President

At Aska’s Animals, we provide a safe and calming environment where animals can relax and play while we work to find them their family. Once the animal’s new owner comes along, we value setting the owner and the animal up for success in the period of time it takes for the animal to adjust to its new home. For some pets, the adjustment period is short (a few days) and for some pets, the adjustment period is long (up to a year). There is no way to predict the length of the adjustment period so we want to provide you with as much information as we can to foster the relationship between the new owner, the new pet and the home’s current animals to ensure everyone in the home is happy.

Below is some general information to integrate a dog or cat into your home (with or without other pets). If you have questions before adoption, please ask!

This process starts before you visit the animal shelter or rescue for a meet & greet. Begin by evaluating your household. Ask yourself these two questions.

  1. What lifestyle will you provide an animal? Relaxing? Active? Indoor? Outdoor? There’s no wrong answer here. Arrive at the shelter knowing what lifestyle you can provide your new pet so you make sure to pick an animal that will thrive in that environment.
  2. What personality type will fit best with your current pets? Lazy? Playful? Introverted? Outgoing? Make sure your current pets’ needs are met when introducing a new friend. The animal shelter’s staff should be able to provide information about the ‘adoptable animals’ personality traits and individual needs.

Here’s what you’ll need on hand when you bring your new dog home.

  • Create a safe space for your dog to settle in. Because the transition from shelter to home is stressful, dogs often forget the skills they’ve learned such as potty training. And there’s a chance, your new puppy isn’t housebroken. We suggest the kitchen, a spare bathroom, or a laundry room – somewhere with tile floor for easy clean up.
  • Have a crate or confinement tools ready. Make it cozy for them. Food, water, a soft blanket and a few toys will help them feel at home. Check out our blog post about Confinement Training and Why It’s Important.
  • Dog-proof your home for the first few months. Again, your new dog will be nervous while adjusting to their new environment and nerves can lead to naughty behavior so set him/her up for success by removing anything you don’t want ruined or that could be chewable. Tuck away electrical cords, put away shoes, store breakables up high, ensure chemical cleaning products are out of reach, close toilet lids, and install baby gates if needed, etc.
  • Bring a collar and an ID tag with you to adopt your dog. You don’t have to know the dog’s name yet to have an ID tag made at the local pet store! With your name and phone number on the tag, if your new dogs gets spooked and runs away before you’ve established where home is, you’ll have a better chance of getting him/her back. Remember, your new dog probably doesn’t know its name or homebase yet!
  • Food and fresh water.Ask the shelter what type of food the dog has been eating and at what times of day. You can continue to feed the dog that type of food or if you choose to change foods, to prevent causing an upset stomach, you’ll need to mix the two foods together for at least three days. Typically, dogs eat one cup of food per day.
  • Toys and enrichment activities. Check out our blog post about Indoor Enrichment to keep your dog happy and healthy.

Helping your new dog settle into your home:

  • Step 1: On the drive home from the shelter, make sure your dog is safely secured in a crate or someone in the vehicle is holding the leash. Some dogs get stressed in the car and we don’t want your new dog to run away or cause damage to your vehicle, your passengers or themselves.
    • It’s important to note that you should utilize a leash for several weeks after adoption. This ensures your dog is physically safe and emotionally supported as they learn their new home and owner.
  • Step 2: Immediately upon arriving home, show your dog where it’s safe to go to the bathroom. Spend time together in this space several times a day so the dog has a chance to establish his/her scent and you can provide high reward treats whenever he/she uses the bathroom there. Be gentle with your dog if they have an accident…a new home with new people and new animal friends can throw off the most well-behaved dogs.
  • Step 3: Don’t introduce new people or pets right away. To avoid overwhelming your new dog, only introduce him/her to your closest human family or humans living in the home. Imagine living in a loud, crowded shelter for weeks on end…you would want time to decompress too! We suggest keeping your other pets away from your new pet for at least an hour upon arriving home. (More on pet introductions later…)
  • Step 4: Show your new dog his/her safe space. Give your new dog some down time to decompress in this safe space with food, water, toys, or enrichment activities – maybe twenty to thirty minutes. This allows the dog to establish their quiet space, away from noise, kids, and other pets and to regulate their stress hormones. Read about Cortisol and Your Dog’s Brain here.
  • Step 5: If you have other pets, do slow introductions. To avoid stressing out your new dog, only allow the old and new animals to sniff each other in the crack underneath a door. If your new dog shows friendly curiosity about the other animal, you can crack the door and allow the two dogs to sniff each other. If one of the dogs shows signs of aggression, close the door, and try again later. Remember to take it slow…there will be some territory negotiations going on. If your old and new pets aren’t getting along after the first couple of days, call the shelter or a dog trainer for support.
  • Step 6: Establish a schedule. Your new dog will benefit from predictability and calm. Avoid dog parks or excitable neighborhood children. Feed your dog at regular times. Take them out to the bathroom and for walks at regular times. Keep calm and quiet around your new dog as they settle in.
  • Step 7: Schedule a vet appointment. Bring your new dog to the vet to meet their medical team in case of emergency and to discuss any pre-existing or future medical conditions. It’s important for you to know who to call should something come up!
  • Step 8: Schedule a training session with Krissi Goetz of JH Positive Training. Set you and your new dog up for success with a one-hour training session with Krissi. Adopted dogs begin to show their true personality after a few weeks of getting to know you. At this point, a dog trainer will help you meet your unique dog’s individual needs to ensure everyone in the house is happy.
    • If you need animal behavior support, we provide free or subsidized one-on-one training with Krissi.
    • To apply, please fill out this form (
    • If you’re able to afford dog training services, please be in direct contact with the talented dog trainers at JH Positive Training ( Your veterinarian will have great information and resources too! Also, Krissi has a column in the Jackson Hole News and Guide called ‘Good Dog.’ Check it out!
    • (

Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand when you bring your new cat home.

  • Create a safe space for your cat to settle in. Somewhere quiet, with hiding places and natural light. A spare bedroom, guest bathroom or laundry room is a great place for your new cat to get comfortable in your house. It will become a place they can rely on for a comfortable bed, a litter box, food, and water. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be the place they spend the rest of their lives. We encourage you to spend at least one hour a day in this space with your new cat to create a bond and observe your cat for signs of stress such as excessive meowing, decreased appetite or diarrhea. If your new cat appears stressed, please consult your veterinarian, and consider adding pheromones to the space.
  • A litter box and litter. At first, we suggest using the same litter the shelter used. This will prevent accidents! If you decide to change litters, mix the two litters together for at least three days before making the full transition to the litter of your choice.
  • Food and fresh water. Ask the shelter what type of food the cat has been eating. You can continue to feed the cat that type of food or if you choose to change foods, to prevent upsetting their stomach, you’ll need to mix the two foods together for at least three days. Typically, cats eat a half cup of food per day.
  • A scratching post. Scratching posts allow your new cat to stretch his/her body and tend to his/her nails. Also, providing a scratching post will prevent your new cat from scratching your furniture! To encourage good behavior, we recommend you give your cat praise and treats when you see him/her use the scratching post.
  • Toys! Toy mice, balls, feather wands, cat nip, pet-safe lasers. Most cats love to play with toys. Cat playtime is considered enrichment because it encourages overall health and well-being. Playing provides a safe outlet for your cat’s predatory instincts and encourages exercise. Playing relieves him/her of boredom which will prevent naughty behavior. Thirty minutes of playtime a day should do the trick.
  • Brush! Brushing your cat is a great way to spend time together and encourage them to groom themselves. Brushing prevents shedding, dandruff, furballs, mattes and dreadlocks. Many cats love to be brushed and will start purring immediately, but if your cat doesn’t love to be brushed, that’s okay! If that’s the case, we recommend using Cat Grooming Gloves, which allows you to brush while petting.

Helping your new cat settle into your home.

  • If you don’t have any other pets in your home:
    After 3 or 4 days in the safe space, at a quiet time of day, open the door and allow your cat to explore a little more of your house. Make sure your new cat has access to his/her safe space (leave the door open or the room accessible). It is important that a cat always has an exit strategy if someone new walks into your home or you accidentally drop something and make a loud noise.
  • If you have other cats:
    Step 1: Keep the door to your new cat’s safe space closed for 3 or 4 days. Encourage your other cats to smell one another through the gap of space under the door.
  • Step 2: After 3 or 4 days, you can open the door 2 inches and allow the cats to greet one another. One or both cats might be shy so please don’t rush this step. If there are obvious signs of aggression, close the door and only allow the cats to smell one another thought the gap of space under the door for a couple more days. If the cats appear comfortable or unbothered with the door open just 2 inches, you may open the door to allow the cats to have a full interaction. After a few minutes of smelling and greeting, separate the cats again so the new cat still has his/her safe space. Repeat Step 2 twice a day for 2 days (this will vary per household). Keep a close eye on the first few interactions like this. If the cats begin to show aggression such as hissing, claws out swatting or chasing, separate the cats and go back to step 1 for a few days. Remember, the cats most likely won’t be best friends immediately. If the cats don’t appear to care about one another at all, that’s okay too.
  • Step 3 if the meet & greets are going smoothly: You can allow the cats to interact freely. Continue to honor your new cat’s safe space for at least one week before you move his/her litter box, food and water. We encourage you to move it slowly, about 10 feet at a time, closer to the place it will be long term.
  • Step 3 if the meet and greets are NOT going smoothly: If the cats are not having peaceful interactions, it is time to incorporate store bought pheromones. Pheromones are a chemical substance naturally created in a cat’s cheek glands that alleviate anxiety and share information about the cat’s personality. It’s helpful to provide artificial pheromones to alleviate anxiety at this stage of integrating a new cat into your home. You can do this several ways. First, we recommend the ‘Sentry Calm Collar.’ It’s exactly what it sounds like, a collar with pheromones on it that calms the cat down. Put a calm collar on both or all the cats (they usually come in a set of 3). Within a few hours, the stress of a change to the environment will be alleviated. Second, we recommend a ‘Feliway Classic Calming Diffuser.’ By diffusing the air with cat pheromones, you create a sense of security and familiarity that allows cats to relax. Calm Collars and Calming Diffusers can be purchased at most pet stores.

*It can take months for cats to become friends. Like dogs, some cats will become friends immediately and some cats need time to learn to share space. Be patient and don’t feel discouraged! Repeat Step 1 and Step 2 for as long as necessary.

If you have dogs:

  • between Step 2 and Step 3, put a gate in the doorway of the cat’s safe space for a week or more so the cat can continue to venture into the house and still escape into its safe space. The dog and cat will naturally want to interact through the gate and it’s up to you to encourage good behavior here with high reward treats and praise for both animals.

Congratulations on your new furry friend! Your new pet can’t wait to share love with you. A general rule of thumb is called ‘the rescue pet honeymoon period’ or the ‘3-3-3 rule.’ In the first 3 days, your new pet might be shut down and scared, or naughty like a teenager trying to test their parents’ limits. After 3 weeks, the pet will start to feel more comfortable in their new home, understand the daily routine, and start to show their true personality. After 3 months, your pet will hopefully enjoy their routine and trust you.

Thank you for providing a home for an animal in need. You are saving a life by choosing to rescue.

Short, cold winter days means a lot of pets don’t get as much activity as in spring, summer, and fall. Some pets love the extra rest while others start to display questionable behavior. We’ve put together a list of indoor enrichment activities to keep your pets happy and healthy. Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise!

Enrichment activities provide opportunities for your pet to engage in species-specific behaviors with the goal of improving their well-being. Who doesn’t want their pet to be happy and healthy? While physical activity like going for walks, playing with other dogs, and chasing a tennis ball can be considered enriching for many dogs, there are a lot of other species-typical behaviors that dogs find enjoyable, stress reducing, and satisfying such as licking, chewing, sniffing, and shredding. The same goes for cats. Cats love to hunt, hide, play, and scratch. Used well and often, enrichment increases the quality of life of your pet, and it builds emotional resilience by preventing boredom and providing mental stimulation.

Remember, just like humans, not all pets are alike. You may love running and your best friend prefers mountain biking. You may love downhill skiing and your brother prefers video games. Enrichment only works if your pet is interested in the activity. Try a few of these enrichment activities and see which one your pet enjoys.



  1. Hide and Seek: it’s as simple as it sounds. You hide and your dog seeks. Tell your dog to stay. (If you’re dog doesn’t know ‘stay,’ you could ask a roommate or friend to hold onto the dog until you’ve found your hiding spot.) Once you’ve found your hiding spot, say ‘release’ or ‘okay,’ or whatever word you use to release your dog. Your dog will sniff through the room or the house until they find you. When your dog finds you, give them a high reward treat to reinforce the ‘find me’ behavior.
  2. Hide and Seek Toys: hide your dog’s toys around the house. Tell your dog to ‘stay’ and then perhaps put a tennis ball under the couch, a stuffed animal behind a pillow, or a bone on a low bookshelf. ‘Release’ your dog, instructing them to find the hidden toys. Over time, you can make this more challenging by hiding toys in a basket of blankets, under blankets on the couch or even inside cabinets. When your dog finds the toy, give them a high reward treat to reinforce the rules of the game.
  3. Lick Mats or Kongs: lick mats and kongs serve more than 1 purpose. Not only do they provide your pet with a tasty snack, but they also slow down your dog’s eating and they are a stress reliever because licking is calming. Try peanut butter, pumpkin, or yogurt. For a more advanced option, freeze the lick mat or Kong after you’ve applied the tasty treat. If you prefer to make your own, put a schmear of peanut butter, pumpkin, or yogurt inside of an empty cardboard toilet paper or paper towel roll. Shredding is a natural, calming instinct so we suggest you supervise this activity to make sure your dog doesn’t ingest any cardboard.
    1. If you want to purchase a reusable lick mat or Kong, we suggest this lick mat ( and this Kong (
  4. Puzzle Toys: dogs love to have a job and puzzle toys give your dog something to do. Yummy treats become an incentive to solve a problem. If you want to make your own puzzle, put kibble in a muffin tin and then cover it with tennis balls.
    1. If you want to buy one, we suggest this slide puzzle ( or this plush puzzle (
  5. Doggy Ball Pit: if you want to take dog entertainment to the next level, try a doggy ball pit. Fill a plastic kiddie pool or your bathtub with tennis balls and then sprinkle kibble or high reward treats on top. As your dog searches for the kibble, the balls will get in the way providing lots of fun. If you have a nervous dog, start with a few balls, and gradually add more balls as they become more comfortable.



  1. Slow Feeder: cats love to hunt and play with food so a slow feeder will entertain by activating your cat’s natural instincts. For a DIY option, use a toilet paper roll. Fold and tape the ends closed. Cut a hole in the middle and put kibble or high reward treats inside. Your cat will have so much fun trying to get the kibble out.
    1. If you prefer to buy a reusable slow feeder, try this tunnel slow feeder
  2. Bird TV for Cats: yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Make your cat a comfy place to rest and then on your TV or on an iPad, log into YouTube and search ‘bird tv for cats.’ These cat friendly videos will provide hours of mental stimulation. Try this 8-hour video and see if your cat likes it
  3. Cat Tunnel: cats love to hide, pounce, and play. You can make your own tunnel by laying cardboard boxes on the floor or order this 3-way reusable tunnel
  4. Cat Scratcher: whether or not they have claws, cats love to scratch. Scratching allows cats to flex their toes, activate scent glands to leave a scent trail, and if they do have claws, shed the outer layer of their nails. A great cat scratcher you may already have on hand is a classic door mat made with coconut coir like this . Sprinkle some cat nip on top to attract your cat and reward them with treats to encourage the scratching behavior on a safe, cat-friendly surface. If you prefer to buy a scratcher, we recommend these basic scratchers or this standing scratcher
  5. Cat House: as mentioned above, cats love to hunt, hide, and play. A new interactive cat house could be just the thing to entertain your feline friend this winter. If your inspired to make your own cat house out of cardboard boxes, watch this how to video and if you prefer to buy one, we suggest this one


If you discover your pet loves one or all these indoor enrichment activities, take a video, share it on social media and tag us @askasanimals. We love to see what you and your pets are up to!

The Link Between Cortisol and Behavior


As we discussed in the ‘Is Your Dog Trying to Talk to You?’ blog post, all dog behavior is communication. And canine behavior is influenced by many factors; genetics and breed, age and phase of development, gender, learning history, environment, pain levels, quality and quantity of sleep, quality and quantity of exercise, emotional state of the dog and those around them, and stress levels.


This blog post focuses on stress levels, and how stressors can change cortisol levels in your dog’s body. Both overwhelming and overstimulating experiences can result in significantly increased cortisol levels, which can then cause all kinds of stress-related behavior such as hyperactivity, reactivity, compulsive behaviors, and yes, even increased “aggression”.


Cortisol, just like in humans, is the primary stress hormone…it also helps regulate body weight, blood sugar, and other aspects of general health and well-being. But cortisol is probably most well-known for activating the sympathetic nervous system and preparing the body for ‘fight or flight’. Just like in humans, prolonged stress and excessive cortisol not only results in less than ideal behavior, but it puts health at risk. Stress hormones can accumulate and take some time to dissipate….it can take up to 72 hours for cortisol levels to return to normal, which means it can trickle down into behavior for days. And for dogs who regularly experience overwhelming or over arousing events, cortisol levels stay elevated long term. Just like with people, this means a more touchy and edgy dog in general who is quicker to overreact to things.


What causes a surge of cortisol in your dog? It depends on the dog! 


For some dogs, car rides are extremely stressful. Does your dog bark, whine, or chase cars through the window? That might mean that car rides are too stimulating for your pet. One way to reduce stress in the car is to put your dog in their crate and cover the crate with a blanket. Provide your dog a chew toy or food puzzle to relieve stress. 


For some dogs, playing fetch is too over arousing. Does your dog show obsessive or addictive behavior about tennis balls? That might mean that 15 minutes of fetch is more overstimulating than exhausting for your dog, and all that cortisol produced can tip your dog over into undesirable behavior. When you only have 10 or 15 minutes to exercise your dog before, during, or after work, you may think your dog wants to play fetch, but if your dog shows signs of overstimulation with the tennis ball (can’t think or respond to cues, dilated pupils, happy to run through a brick wall to get the ball)…that’s not healthy or beneficial. We’d suggest you go for a bike ride or jog instead. 


For some dogs, having other animals or children around is too stimulating. Does your dog excessively bark, pant, or yawn in the presence of other animals or kids? That might mean that the park, outdoor seating at a restaurant, or a friend’s backyard barbecue is more stressful than fun for your dog. Perhaps you can walk your dog someplace quiet before the event and leave him home to enjoy a big fat bone to gnaw on instead.


How do you reduce stress in your life? Many humans use walks in nature, meditation, and yoga to reduce stress and lower cortisol levels. Your dog needs to reduce stress too, and low stress levels are key to good quality of life. Dogs find sniffing, chewing, shredding, and licking all soothing and stress reducing, and these activities lower canine cortisol levels. Let your dog be a dog and fulfill their biological needs with enrichment (visit our ‘Resources’ page for more enrichment ideas) and you’ll notice a more contented dog and better behavior!

Confinement connotates isolation or punishment, but really, it’s the opposite. Confinement Training is teaching your dog that it’s safe and comfortable to be in a clean, cozy space by themselves for a short period of time. For example, Crate Training is Confinement Training. Confinement Training isn’t punishment for naughty behavior, it’s appropriate and healthy down time to prevent over-stimulation and stress. Confinement Training will reduce anxiety in your dog and make your life a whole lot easier. It’s a great tool to use if you’re cooking and need your dog out of the kitchen, you’re having friends over for a party, your dog jumps on house guests, your dog is struggling with potty training, your dog isn’t getting along with other animals in the house, you’re cleaning and your dog is afraid of the vacuum, etc.


The first step to Confinement Training is choosing a clean, safe, and cozy space for your dog. If you use a crate, continue to do so. If you don’t use a crate, choose a room in your house where your dog won’t cause damage to your belongings and where your dog won’t have accidental access to unsafe chemicals such as cleaning supplies. Perhaps the laundry room (with a window) or a bedroom. Next, set up the safe space with a comfy bed, a bowl of water, and a few toys. Then, guide your dog into the space with a peanut butter Kong or a bowl of food. Once the dog is eating the food or licking the Kong, close the door and listen for them to finish. After they finish the treat, wait one minute, then open the door and congratulate your dog with a high reward treat and verbal praise. Gradually, extend the time your dog spends in the safe space and tada! You’ve created a comfortable confinement space for your pet. You can now use this safe space when someone knocks on your front door, or you are anticipating guests. Before you answer the door or welcome people into your home, say, ‘just a minute,’ and guide your dog to their safe place.

Like with all training, set realistic expectations for your dog depending on his/her individual needs, breed, genetics, age, etc. Confinement Training and Management Training go hand in hand to prevent over-arousal that causes naughty behavior. If you want to learn more or have a specific Confinement Training question, check out Aska’s Animals Free Dog Behavior Workshops on the ‘Events’ Page or contact Krissi Goetz at JH Positive Training.

Sign up for the Dog Behavior Workshop HERE!!