Barking Dog? That’s Ruff…

Barking-DogA barking dog can be annoying, but we know that it’s just as unreasonable to expect a dog not to bark as it to ask a human not to speak.

Barking is a dog’s way of communicating, and under different circumstances, barking can mean different things.  Dogs bark to let their family members know when there’s something going on – someone passing by outside, a strange noise, a visitor coming towards the house.  They bark to warn intruders to stay away.  They bark to greet.  They bark out of boredom.  They bark to seek attention.  They even bark compulsively or because of separation anxiety.

You can’t teach your dog not to bark – barking is an automatic behavior – and dogs are stimulated to bark even more when you shout “shut up!” because they think you’re joining in.   Altering this behavior may seem entirely hopeless, but believe it or not, you can create an “off” switch by teaching your dog to be quiet on cue.  The Sacramento SPCA behavior and training department offers these five steps:

  1. Arm yourself with some type of high-value food reward – tiny pieces of nitrate-free hotdogs, meat, or cheese, for instance.
  2. Each time your dog starts to alarm or “watchdog” bark, say the command Quiet! or Enough! while holding a yummy treat in front of your dog’s nose.  Let him sniff the treat, but don’t let him have it just yet.
  3. While your dog is distracted from barking and has their attention on the treat, repeat Quiet! or Enough! over and over for five seconds.
  4. Give your dog the treat after five seconds of perfect quiet. If the dog starts to bark again before the five seconds are up, repeat the process until you get five seconds.  Just be careful to never reward the dog while it is barking.
  5. Don’t be discouraged if your dog doesn’t get the concept immediately. This procedure needs to be repeated consistently for 4-6 weeks in order to be completely effective.  Cut the treats back gradually on a schedule – something like this:
    1. Do the sequence for two weeks with treats 100% of the time.
    2. Do the sequence for two more weeks with treats 75% of the time.
    3. Do the sequence for two more weeks with treats 50% of the time.
    4. Do the sequence for two more weeks with treats 25% of the time.  After this, no more treats are needed, although you may want to offer them occasionally to reinforce good behavior.  Always praise your dog for complying!
    5. You can also gradually increase the amount of time you expect your dog to be quiet before they get the treat.

Practice at first in set-up situations; your dog will need some time to learn before they can apply it in real world situations.  Once your dog is responding to these cues reliably, you can start to use your quiet cue in real-life situations.  Practice makes perfect, so practice your Quiet! command whenever you get the opportunity to build up that behavior for a well-behaved dog.

Staying Safe Under the Sun


The days may be getting shorter, but tomorrow’s temperatures are predicted to be hot, hot, hot! The Sacramento SPCA would like to remind the region’s dog-lovers to leave their faithful companions at home when the temperatures climb.

Sacramento summers bring plenty of opportunities for two- and four-legged fun, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind to make sure your furry friend stays safe! Never leave your pet in the car during warm weather – just a few minutes can be life-threatening, and costly!  In the Sacramento heat, the inside of your car can reach a deadly 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.  In addition, under new California law, leaving a pet in a hot vehicle can result in a fine of up to $500 and as much as six months in jail. If you see a dog in a parked car on a hot day, try to locate the owner and let him or her know that the situation is urgent; otherwise, call 911.

Additionally, it is important to remember that cars aren’t the only things that get hot when the temperatures rise. Sun-baked pavement is also a danger. Streets, parking lots and sidewalks can easily burn tender paws during warm weather. Remember to exercise dogs in the morning and later evening hours, and keep to the grass whenever possible – and make sure your pets always have access to plenty of fresh water and shade during the hot summer months.

A few simple precautions can save lives and prevent injury. When in doubt, leave them home where it’s cool, and everyone will enjoy the last remaining days of summer safely.

The best way to keep your pet cool, safe and exercised in our hot Sacramento summers is to stay indoors.  What if you have a young energetic pooch?  Here are seven fun games to play that will help keep Fido happy inside:

  1. Find the kibble.   Put your dog’s food to work for you.  Temporarily crate your dog or close him/her in a room while you hide small piles of kibble around the house.   Initially make the kibble easy to find.  As they get better, the hunt can become more difficult.
  2. Fetch/Tug-o-War. These games really doesn’t require a lot of room.   A long hallway is great for throwing and fetching soft items.
  3. Food dispensing toys. Bust boredom by filling a Kong with peanut butter or a Busy Bone with small treats .  In the last few years, the dog toy market has expanded with many puzzles and other exciting games for our canine companions.
  4. Teach new tricks! You can buy a book, search for a YouTube video or attend a class, but dogs of any size, shape or temperament can be taught a trick or two.  Make sure you’re armed with plenty of tasty treats for rewarding appropriate behavior.  Teaching high fives or lying down is great mental exercise, but there are a number of tricks that can poop out your pooch physically as well.  Set up an item like a kitchen chair and teach him/her to go under it, then around it then over it.
  5. Climbing up and down stairs is tremendous exercise for both you and your pet.  Or, sit at the top of the stairs and toss a tiny treat to the bottom.  Once they run down and get the treat, call them up for another one.  In no time you’ll have a tired, well-exercised pup.
  6. Work on loose leash walking. Walk around the house with your dog on a leash.   Go up and down stairs, take 90 degree turns,  start and stop suddenly,  walk around obstacles, all the while clicking, treating and exuberantly praising when your dog walks loosely on the leash.   In no time you’ll have a dog who will walk perfectly on a leash outside when the weather turns nice once again.
  7. Set up an obstacle course. You’re stuck inside – why not?   Set up such obstacles as a box with two open ends to crawl through,  a kitchen chair to jump up and down from, a pole on two stools or boxes to jump over.

Friends with Benefits


Your dog, cat or even your hamster may be just what the doctor ordered.  Owning or interacting with a pet has some surprising health benefits, not to mention the fact that pets can be excellent company!

  1. An animal’s unconditional love makes it easy to smile and banish any negative thoughts you may be having.  In particular, dogs have a way of ramping up the feel-good hormone, oxytocin.
  2. Strolling with your pooch makes you much more likely to get the recommended level of daily physical activity.  People with canine companions are less likely to be overweight.
  3. And on that note, taking a regular walk with your dog can help to ease joint pain and stiffness in knees, hips and ankles that you may experience.
  4. Interacting with your pet is a natural mood-lifter, helping to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol. Playing with your pet not only elevates your dopamine levels, but can help you stay calm and more relaxed.
  5. Owning a pet can increase your longevity by lowering blood pressure rates, thus reducing your risk of heart disease.  The purring of a cat apparently helps even more as cat owners are about one-third less likely to die from a stroke or heart attack.

Visit the Sacramento SPCA adoption center Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 6pm. You just might leave with a new best friend!


Five Common Misconceptions About Pet Adoptions

Thinking of adopting a pet? Uncover these myths and discover why adoption really is the best option!

Myth #1: I don’t know what I’m getting
There may in fact be more information available about an adoptable pet than one from a breeder or pet store.

Many of the pets at shelters or posted on Petfinder are in foster care. Foster parents live with their charges 24-7 and can often tell you, in detail, about the pet’s personality and habits. If the pet is at a shelter, the staff or volunteers may be able to tell you what he or she is like.

At the very least, you can ask the staff if the pet was an owner surrender (rather than a stray) and, if so, what the former owner said about him or her. Quite often pets are given up because the owner faced financial or housing issues (more on that later). You can also ask about the health and behavioral evaluations the pet has undergone since arriving at the shelter. In contrast, pet store owners rarely have an idea of what a pet will be like in a home.

Myth #2: I can’t find what I want at a shelter

If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for in your local shelter or on Petfinder, don’t give up. Some shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)

Myth #3: I can get a free pet, so why pay an adoption fee?

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy approximately 65% of pet parents in the U.S. get their pets for free or at low cost, and most pets are obtained from acquaintances or family members. The NCPPSP also reports that pets acquired from friends make up more than 30% of pets surrendered to shelters.

While getting a “free” pet may seem like a bargain at first, you’re then responsible for veterinary costs that shelters and rescue groups usually cover, including:

  • Spaying/neutering $150-300
  • Distemper vaccination $20-30 x2
  • Rabies vaccination $15-25
  • Heartworm test $15-35
  • Flea/tick treatment $50-200
  • Microchip $50

Myth #4: Pets are in shelters because they didn’t make good pets

In fact, the main reasons pets are given up include:

  • Owners are moving to housing that don’t allow pets (7% dogs, 8% cats)
  • Allergies (8% cats)
  • Owner having personal problems (4% dogs and cats)
  • Too many or no room for litter mates (7% dogs, 17% cats)
  • Owner can no longer afford the pet (5% dogs, 6% cats)
  • Owner no longer has time for the pet (4% dogs)

As you can see, many of the reasons have nothing to do with the pets themselves. Working with shelter staff and volunteers can be a great way to figure out the best match for you and your home.

Myth #5: Shelter pets have too much baggage

Rescued pets have full histories … something that can actually be GREAT for adopters. Remember, all pets– even eight-week old puppies and kittens — have distinct personalities. Those personalities will either jive with your home and lifestyle or not.  Work with rescue group or shelter staff to find the right fit for you.


Peanut butter and jelly. French fries and ketchup. Adoptable shelter pets and … Transformers?

Yes, it’s just one more creative avenue the Sacramento SPCA is taking to let the world know about the fantastic dogs, cats and more we have available for adoption. Members of the local cosplay community (cosplay, or costume play, is a performance art in which participants wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character or idea) joined forces with us recently for a rollicking photo shoot designed to raise awareness about the animals of the SPCA. Cosplayers decked out in their G.I. Joe, Halo, and steampunk finery posed with our canine and feline guests, and the results became a Facebook sensation.

We’re working hard to spread the word that the Sacramento SPCA is our region’s premier destination for animal adoptions. Our hard work is paying off, as we’ve recently completed some amazing placements that in years past would have been nearly impossible to accomplish.

Take Body and Lady, for example. One elderly Boxer would be difficult enough to place, but a bonded pair? It took some time, but the perfect adopter finally made her way to the shelter and it was love at first sight. That bonded pair is now a trio (if you count their new human companion, and we do!), and their happily ever began just a few weeks ago.

And then there was Buddy. The 11-year-old pug found himself at the SPCA last month, surrendered by the family who’d had him since he was a puppy. Buddy was depressed and didn’t show that goofy-but-endearing sparkle that so many pugs exhibit. He was in good health, however, and we placed him on the adoption floor with high hopes. Just two days later, a retired local woman whose previous pug had died at the age of 18 heard about Buddy and came in to meet him. Buddy sat in her lap, smiling a classic pug grin, tongue lolling to the side as she stroked his back. “There’s a lot of love left in this boy,” the woman declared, and adopted him on the spot.

It appears our less-than-conventional approach to informing the community of our amazing animals is paying off. Look for more innovative, fun adoption promotions from us soon! Have a creative idea of how we can share the joy with the greater Sacramento region? Email with your stroke of genius.

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Thank you for Dashing

Many thanks to all who helped make our recent Doggy Dash event a smashing success! Whether you made a monetary pledge to a participant, registered and did the official walk with your favorite four-legged friend, or just came by to partake in the spectacular carnival-themed pet festival, we appreciate your contribution. More than $169,000 was raised to benefit the animals of the Sacramento SPCA!

Of course, we couldn’t have done it without our hardworking special events volunteers. From pre-registration to traffic control to clean-up, and everything in between, our volunteers make special days like the Doggy Dash possible.

Sacramento resident Barbara Kluender has been an SPCA volunteer for more than five years. “Cat socializing was my main focus at first,” Kluender says. “I wasn’t in a position at the time to own a cat, and I thought it would be a great way to get my kitty fix. Then I did a little bit with the dog training program, and I loved doing mobile adoptions. But once I started doing special events, I was hooked.”

She helped oversee the pre-registration portion of the most recent Doggy Dash, and also performed countless tasks during the event itself . “The people who come out to that event are fantastic, and there’s such camaraderie among the group, particularly the volunteers. It’s such a fun time for everyone involved,” says Kluender.

Kluender is also a constant presence at the SPCA’s bi-annual book sales. “The book sales are one of my favorite events to volunteer at,” she says. “The people who come to the book sales are so great, avid book readers who tell you about their favorite authors and favorite books, or they’re animal lovers who want to tell you all about their pets. They’re the sweetest people in the world.”

Now retired from the State Controller’s office, Kluender and her husband share their home with Leya the tortoiseshell cat (“She was a ‘foster failure,’ Kluender laughs, “part of a litter we fostered that we just couldn’t give up”) and Onyx, a 14- or 15-year-old Australian shepherd mix. “Onyx is kind of rambunctious,” she says. “Her surrender form said she was 14, but she still has quite a bit of pep.”

Kluender recommends the SPCA’s volunteer program to “anybody who loves animals or people. To me, the shelter is just a really fun place to be. The volunteers who come in love animals and are supportive of one another, and the staff is so appreciative of any help you can give them. You get lots of love from the animals – you always go home feeling loved.”

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Summer Safety for Pets

dogheatSacramento summers bring plenty of opportunities for two- and four-legged fun, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind to make sure your furry friend stays safe!

  • Never leave your pet in the car during warm Sacramento weather – just a few minutes can be life-threatening, and costly!  In the Sacramento heat, the inside of your car can reach over 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.  In addition, under new California law, leaving a pet in a hot vehicle can result in a fine of up to $500 and as much as six months in jail.  If you see a dog in a parked car on a hot day, try to locate the owner and let him or her know that the situation is urgent; otherwise, call 911.
  • Make sure your pets always have access to plenty of fresh water and shade during the hot summer months.  Limit summer-time exercise to morning and evening hours, and remember that asphalt can be very hot on pets’ feet.
  • Leave your furry friend home when you head out to July 4th celebrations and other crowded summer events like concerts and fairs.  Loud noises, combined with the heat can be stressful and even dangerous for pets.  Secure animals in the house on July 4.  Dogs will jump fences or go through windows when frightened.  Cats will also try to escape.  Pick a quiet room where your pet feels safe.  Close the shades and play soothing music or talk radio to help drown out the noise from outside.
  • Pets and water can equate to disaster.  Prevent (or carefully supervise) access to pools and open waterways.  Fatigue can set in wheil swimming, and currents in rivers and other waterways can prove dangerous to canine swimmers.
  • Protect your pets from fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.  Use flea and tick treatments recommended by your veterinarian and check with your veterinarian to see if your pet should be taking heartworm (transmitted by mosquitoes) preventative.  Heartworm disease can be fatal in both dogs and cats.

Looking for a new best friend to share your summer (and life) with?  Visit the Sacramento SPCA and meet our adoptable dogs, cats and small animals.  The SPCA is located at 6201 Florin-Perkins Road, and is open Wednesday – Sunday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.  Visit the Sacramento SPCA online at to learn more about adoptable animals, pet care, training and behavior tips and much more!

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Join the Kong Brigade

Do you remember the fundraiser we did last year to purchase Kongs for the dogs for Christmas? Well, it was a gift that just keeps on giving. Thanks to our “Kong Brigade” volunteers who stuff the Kongs with delicious canned pumpkin or peanut butter, banana and kibble recipes and then freeze them, the dogs in our care get a special treat and have something to do throughout the day by working on a stuffed Kong.

“Stuffed Kongs are a great way to reduce a dog’s anxiety and provide hours of enriching entertainment – and that’s always a good thing,” says volunteer Manina Machemer. She also tells us the Kong Brigade can always use more volunteers, as well as peanut butter and canned pumpkin. Please join us or donate a jar or can the next time you drop by the SPCA!

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Big DoG

Well, the Sacramento region’s Big Day of Giving is over and together we raised over $64,000 for the animals – more than any other participating animal welfare organization! Our goal was to raise $50,000 and we more than doubled what we raised last year.

We ended the day in the top 10 out of 529 organizations for the total amount raised and won three $1,000 bonus prizes. Of the 600 donors who gave on the Big Day of Giving, nearly 100 are new to the Sacramento SPCA!

Thank you for everything you did to help make the Big Day of Giving a truly BIG day for the Sacramento SPCA!!

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Yappy Hour Fun

Who puts the Yappy in your Yappy Hour? Plan to invite him or her along and join us on June 23 from 5-7pm at Oak Park Brewing Company for an evening of yapping good fun! Bring your two- and four-legged friends and meet new ones while enjoying delicious food and drink, raffle prizes, and an all-around good time.

Oak Park Brewing has gained a reputation for serving up an impeccable menu and signature libations. On June 23, the SPCA and some of our friends will take over the patio and make some memories. Oak Park Brewing is located at 3514 Broadway in Sacramento. Mark your calendars!

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