I hope you had a pawesome weekend!
Today’s guest blogger is Craig Espelien, Chief Experience Officer at Anser Innovation, and he’s got super interesting things to say about pets – and happiness.
Perhaps Charles Schulz said it best: “Happiness is a warm puppy” (as stated by Lucy van Pelt in the April 25, 1960 Peanuts strip – click the link here to see it). He even published a book in 1962 expanding on things that might make you happy. But, because we love our pets, let’s explore what happiness might mean to your dog or your cat. Since they provide us with so much happiness, perhaps we should focus a bit on how to make them happy – even when we can’t be there.
Dogs (and cats) are pack animals – and they are always either the alpha or looking to the alpha for guidance. In most households, the pet parent is the alpha (and in two parent households, there is only one alpha and the pet will always fall to #2 or perhaps to #3) and the pet reacts to everything the alpha does – when the alpha is present. So, they follow you (or follow you to simply ignore you like some cats might), they seek your approval, they beg for food and they become agitated if they can’t be with you.
But what is it about you that makes them happy? Is it a sense of order (when you are there all is right with the world), is it your smell, voice, face, attention or just the fact that you control access to food? Probably a combination of all or most of those factors – but all uniquely associated with YOU.
You = Leaving
Do you find your pet lying either by the door you left from or on some of your clothes or shoes when you come home? They are seeking comfort – and you provide that (in this case, through scent you have left behind or the final visual cue of you closing the barrier between you and them). This is why they also like some of their toys better – you may have left more scent on them (and they also smell familiar) – so they find these toys more comforting. Dogs are especially prone to this – while cats will rub up against you (to leave their scent on your or to cover up other unfamiliar scents) to mark you as theirs.
So, when you leave, your goal should always be to make sure they are reassured that everything is okay and that you are coming back. Pet anxiety (both dogs and cats can suffer from this) usually manifests in the first 30 minutes of your departure – when they are most impacted by being alone. We all are pretty aware of the potential outcomes of this anxiety – excess noise (barking, meowing), excess curiosity (which may manifest in destructive behavior), unwanted elimination (those not so pleasant “gifts” you find in the wrong spots) and other anxiety related stuff that is not part of who they really are.
This is when the familiar becomes important – reassurance that they are not truly alone. See one of my past posts (click here) for an infographic with more information on anxiety related behavior in dogs and cats. Read on for things you can do to create this comfort and memory of “you”.
You – and Food
Let’s face it, our pets associate us with keeping them fed and watered (dogs especially tend to be food motivated while cats require a bit more engagement at times) and from a training perspective, treats tend to be used as just that (something different for their diet) but also as rewards for doing the things we want them to do (or even avoiding the things we don’t want). For any treat, quality and nutrition are important but not the only aspect – taste and “different” tend to be things both humans and animals look for. In a training environment where multiple treats can be used to reinforce behavior, quality suddenly becomes much more important as we do not want to load them up on rewards that do not play nice with their digestive system or their overall health.
When training (or other heavy treat times) we always recommend a high quality product – meat first, no grains (corn, wheat, etc. are fillers that do not add a lot of nutritional extra for your pet) with few, if any, artificial additives. Actually, natural is a great way to go for both dogs and cats.
You and Them – the same but uniquely different
Humans sort of take for granted that the world conforms to their way of interpreting things. This means visual is our main source of initial information, then hearing then touch then smell and then taste. This drives a lot of our perception of the world and our interaction with it. Dogs and cats, however, have different sense priorities. The most important factor for both types of our furry friends is that their perception of the world is both simpler (expressing feelings is more limited) and more involved – as they tend to use multiple senses to interpret the world around them and to learn more about what is happening.
As an example, while a dog’s sense of smell is much sharper than a human (as is their hearing), and this enhanced sniffer is what drives their initial perception of things around them (sort of like how humans use their eyes). They can smell it and hear it better than we can – but if the animal stays still, they are not able to pinpoint it through sight like humans can (they need movement and/or contrast). We may see the animal (but can’t hear or smell it) and get confused as to why our pet can’t – again, putting our interpretation on how we want them to view the world.
For our four legged friends, this means a multi-sensory engagement is the most satisfying – and if we can tie something about the parent (you, once again!) then we link the familiar to their way of experiencing the world.
You – Keeping them Happy
So, your pet(s) look to you to complete their happiness – but you can’t always be there. Even the five minute trip to the garage can cause your pet to react happily upon your return (or with concern that you are leaving). Not necessarily different than if you return from the store, work or even a longer absence. Since we are such a big part of our pet’s happiness, how can we make sure that they know we have not left them?
While this is potentially more important with pets that have behavioral or separation issues, all pets can benefit from knowing that their best friend is watching (really you can) out for them. A few suggestions:
* Crates or other “area limiters” – most dogs are comfortable within their crate for shorter periods and many owners keep their cats more confined (basement, laundry room, etc.) and this can help keep your pet from straying too far from their “comfort area”.
* Safe areas – creating a place where their bed, their food, their toys (and for cats their litter box) are all in one area and training them that this is a great place for them to be can be beneficial to helping them deal with you being gone.
* Monitoring – being able to keep an eye on them – whether through pet sitters, dog walkers or electronic means – can make their day a bit better. The only missing element here is – drumroll please…You!
What if you could take monitoring to the next level? What if you could engage a variety of senses with your pet? What if they could see and hear you (and you could see/hear them), you could diffuse a calming scent to keep them relaxed, you could dispense a treat to reward them for just being so darn cute? What if you took it one step further – what if you could let them reach out to you as part of your day? What if you could create a “game” for them to help ease their time alone?
You and the IoT – for Pets!
Most people by now are familiar with the Internet of Things (IoT); the concept of an interconnected system of electronics that lets you monitor different aspects of your life from a remote location (via smart phone, tablet or computer). From car performance to temperature to the price on that next great purchase, we are more connected than ever.
Multiple companies have launched products in the pet space to help consumers keep tabs on their beloved four legged friends. Several of these products engage one of your pet’s senses, some of them begin to engage with a couple. Only one however, PetChatz® from Anser Innovation, will let you engage in a complete multi-sensory way. From calming scents (that they will associate with you and the comfort you represent) that are specially formulated to work with the stronger sense of smell dogs and cats have, to two-way audio and video (you can talk to, see and hear them – and they can see and hear you – look for future discussions on the sight issue which is fascinating in its own right), to treat dispensing from the PetChatz app (mobile and computer), to the PawCall® accessory that lets your pet call you and lets you schedule “Game Time” for your best buds to Silent Mode – the ability to monitor activity in your home and see what your pet is up to without disturbing them (plus noise alerts that let you know something might be awry in paradise).
Now you can enhance your peace of mind and make their day that much better by inserting the most important aspect into their daily routine – a steady dose of YOU!!
To learn more about our product, learn more about how it works and to become a Member of the Pack, here is a link to the website: http://www.petchatz.com/. Now you can truly Be There From Anywhere!!
Craig Espelien is Chief Experience Officer at Anser Innovation and a student of the consumer decision making process.
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