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100 Tips for Nannies and Families

The advice in this book comes from Candi Wingate, President of Care4hire.com.
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Becoming a Better Pet Parent

For many of us, our pets are people.  We love them and count them among our children.  Like all good parents, we strive to be better parents with each passing year.  What steps can we take to be better parents to our four-legged children?

1.      Observe your pets’ actions, facial expressions, body language, and vocal characteristics to learn about your pets, and be responsive to what you learn from your pets.  For example, when your kitty walks near you, pauses, and cocks his/her head such that his/her forehead is tilted toward you, is your kitty seeking affection from you?  When your dog’s bark takes on a high pitch, does that mean that s/he is alarmed?

2.      Read instructive books about the kind of pets you have.  Dogs and cats can be very smart, and wise pet parents can often observe clear flows of logic as their pets go about their days.  To construe these flows of logic correctly, parents need to have not only strong observational skills but also an understanding of their pet’s native culture.  Wait, what?  Our pets come from a different culture than ours, so wise parents seek to understand the culture-based perspectives of their fuzzy babies.  For example, why does your kitty get upset when you make sustained eye contact with her?  The answer is that, in kitty culture, sustained eye contact is seen as a challenge.

3.      Forget dominance and embrace partnership.  You don’t want to be a dictator to your human children, right?  So why be a dictator to your fuzzy babies?  Yes, you need to establish that you are ultimately in charge.  However, when you want “X” and your dog wants “Y”, the wise parent will occasionally let the dog have his/her way or at least engage in compromise.  For example, if you need to be going to work on Saturday to play catch-up on a major project, but your dog offers you a Frisbee as you head for the door, can you make a little time for Frisbee before you go to work?  If your kitty wants to sharpen his/her claws on the edge of the sofa, you may not convince kitty not to sharpen his/her claws at all, but you may compromise with kitty by offering kitty an alternative that is more acceptable to you (i.e., a scratching post placed somewhere near the sofa).

4.      Understand that most of your pets’ communication is non-verbal (i.e., most of their communication does not involve barking or meowing) and choose your non-verbal communications appropriately.  Our pets are hardwired by their culture to have keen observational skills regarding our body language and vocal characteristics.  We may not be aware of how harshly we have just spoken or what our body language is communicating.  To communicate better with our pets, we need to be mindful of our body language and vocal characteristics.  When you are praising your pets, ensure that your body language is open and friendly and your tone of voice is happy.  When you are redirecting your pets, ensure that your body language is disapproving and non-aggressive and your tone of voice is firm, disapproving, and non-aggressive.

5.      Communicate love every day.  While you have a lot of elements to your life (your job, civic involvements, church involvements, family, friends, and neighbors), your pets’ lives focus solely on your immediate family.  You get your needs and wants met by a large group of people and organizations (i.e., work provides you with the money you need to buy the things that are important to you, church provides you with faith-sustaining experiences, family and friends provide you with love, etc.).  Because you are your pets’ whole world, it is vitally important to them that they feel that you are willing to meet their needs and at least some of their wants.  Your pets must feel that you protect them and keep them safe, attend to their needs and wants, and love them.  You don’t have to say, “I love you” every day to your pets, but you do need to project your love through your non-verbals each and every day.

By following these five tips, you can take steps to be a better parent to your four-legged children.

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