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Ask a Vet: Tricks can improve pets mental health
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One of my favorite quotes is from the 1990s. “Snoop Doggy Dogg. Need to get a jobby job.”

It’s from a music video, back when MTV used to show those.

It’s always struck my friends and me as very funny. As we completed college, it became a sort of gallows humor regarding trying to find a full-time career-type job.

But as with most things I fixate on, there’s some philosophical truth inherent there. Jobs give us a fixed point to help add meaning to our day. If you work in an office, if you protect our country with a tank or if you entertain children with balloon animals, you get a sense of worth from the work.

Research in human and animal behavior supports the idea that having something to do increases quality of life and mental health.

Yes, your dog may suffer ennui, or a lack of spirit. The old saying about idle hands applies to paws as well. Even cats can suffer boredom-related behavioral issues if their waking hours are devoid of activity.

Bored dogs can become destructive to their surroundings and themselves. Many intelligent dogs become downright neurotic and full of worry if they don’t occupy their minds with constructive activities.

Bored cats can hunt feet for sport. This tends to impair the bond between human and feline.

So my recommendation is to give your pet something to do.

All pets can be trained. Many techniques work. A trick is just a normal behavior aimed in a controlled way. All dogs can sit down. If they do it when you ask them to, it’s a trick.

The same is true for cats. If you want your cat to use the toilet (yes, the bathroom), it can happen.

Our pets are very intelligent, but like an intelligent child with nothing to do, they can invent their own pastimes. And not all of those are productive.

If you have concerns about your pet’s down time, consider a few tricks. You’ll be surprised at how it improves quality of life.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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