Animal-care spotlight: Preparing for changes

May 21, 2021 - 9:51am

A recent survey from Banfield Pet Hospital found 32% of people with pets have asked veterinarians how to make their return to the workplace easier on their furry friends. As life starts to gravitate toward some new version of normal, experts suggest working with animals now, in preparation for venturing into the world without them.

When Oregon Zoo care staff anticipate a change — such as a new animal arrival or an upcoming trip to the Veterinary Medical Center — they get to work helping the animals acquire the skills to stay comfortable and relaxed.

“I begin by looking at the space,” said Julie Christie, a marine life keeper at the zoo. “Gauge their comfort level and make it a positive area.”

For crate training a puppy, for example, Christie recommends adding toys, treats and comfy bedding to the crate, and starting with very small time increments — then gradually increasing the time while adding steps, such as opening and closing the crate door.

“Make them feel safe,” she adds. “It’s a very positive thing for them – you go into the crate and very good things happen.”

While each animal’s needs might be different, here are some of Christie’s recommendations:

  • Know what motivates them: for some animals, food might motivate, while others might prefer a favorite toy.
  • Start with short training sessions and work up to the desired skill.
  • Make the area feel secure, safe and homey. Know the animal’s natural behavior and give them what they need, like a hiding place or somewhere quiet.

Banfield Pet Hospital also recommends making sure your pet continues to get plenty of exercise, and focusing on positive reinforcement. For more tips, visit