FAQ’S – Frequently Asked Questions about me, Didga, Boomer and cat training

September 24, 2015

I get a lot of questions about Didga, training cats, and (sometimes) me.

Here are the Q & A’s

First, a little about me: I’m an American now dual citizen, living on the Gold Coast of Australia. I moved here from Los Angeles/Ventura area. I’ve been a professional animal trainer / behaviourist for over 33 years. (If you’d like to learn more detail about me and my training experience, click here

About Robert

Once arriving in Australia, I opened my dog training business conducting private one-on-one lessons. I had extra time on my hands so I started making YouTube videos using my clients dogs. It was during this time I was longing to get another cat and start another YouTube channel “CATMANTOO” (I’m a dog person/trainer but I’m a CATMANTOO) to educate people about cats. I was hoping to dispel many of the myths associated with cats, i.e. like they can’t be “trained”, they need to roam to be happy, they need to be declawed so they don’t scratch the furniture (unfortunately declawing is still practiced in the U.S.) and many other myths. The cat I was looking to adopt was going to be an ambassador for shelter cats, so I needed a confident cat to teach amazing things to, this will help bring attention to my channel and the causes. At the shelter I looked at many kittens but this cute little energetic and confident 13 weeks old kitten caught my attention the most, she was just the cat I was looking for.

Side Rant: Between the over 33 years of animal training experience, experience in the animal acting film industry and making videos for all my clients, plus living here in beautiful Australia, and most importantly, finding an amazing cat like Didga. This is the “purrfect” storm for what I do on CATMANTOO. So please DON’T “try” with your cat many of the things you see Didga and Boomer do, and understand that lot’s of time, weeks, months, even years is put in before filming even starts. I would feel bad if your cat got injured or you “forced” them to do something they didn’t like. Even something like walking a cat on the leash requires patients and a specific teaching technique that needs to be followed. If you’re expecting immediate results when teaching animals, especially cats, then you’re doing it wrong.
If you would like to learn how to teach your cat the basics, watch the tutorials available on my YouTube channel.…

Now, a little about Didga and training
Q #1. How old is Didga? [Did-ja]
A: 4 years old. Born January 1st, 2012
Q #2. Is Didga a boy or girl?
A: A GIRL. FYI – In many Countries, if the first name ends in an “A” it generally means female/feminine
Q #3. Why the name “Didga”?
A: Didga is short for Didgeridoo (Australian musical instrument). I came up with the name while on my way to pick her up at the shelter. There’s a breathing exercise I learned while learning to play the Didgeridoo, the exercises went like this, “DIDGA, DA-DIDGA BREATH”. (repeat several times). that’s when it came to me.
Q #4. What breed is Didga:
A: Domestic shorthair/Tabby
Q #5: Are cats ever too old to learn?
A: No, cats at any age can learn. obviously there are things you should be aware of, like physical limitations on young kittens and older cats (geriatric), also mental memory limitations. the optimum age for teaching them is between 5 months to 3 years Adjust the training accordingly. What’s more important than age is technique (Follow my tutorials to learn the right technique)
Q #6 Can any cat be trained?
A: Pretty much yes, but cats with higher “food drive” will learn faster. Younger cats (under 2.5 years) are more active and generally have a higher food drive and are generally less fussy about what they eat. Older cats (over 2.5 years) generally are less active and will eat less, and are generally fussy about what they eat. Less training sessions = slower rate of learning. With older or food finicky cats you need to raise the value of their rewards to keep their attention.
Q #6: How do I get my cat interested in food/treats?
A: Even the most finicky eaters eat something, try a gamier meat to entice them, and most important make “training” times the only times they eat. you’ll notice your cat is more active and will start to pay attention during training sessions.
Q #7: What kind of food/treats do I recommend?
A: I can only tell you what I use for Didga and Boomer. 90% RAW MINCE and the rest a high quality holistic kibble & can food. Cats are meat eaters, the gamier the meat the better. Raw being best, I don’t buy “human grade” because I noticed a behaviour change after feeding it to Didga for 6 days. Her energy level went down.
High quality raw foods may be a little bit more expensive but I always say, pay for it now in high quality food or pay for it later in vet bills.
There is a raw dog food company out there called B.A.R.F. Biologically appropriate raw food and I had Didga on that for a year until I found a a raw mince that Didga went crazy for and is what I still feed today.
Because I do a lot of training, I buy the food frozen, measure out portions in individual bags and freeze for later use. I place the bags in my “bait bag” and use a spoon to deliver smaller bite size rewards.( It’s weird to be mostly vegetarian but feed your cat mostly raw meat.) In summer hot months or for cats that don’t drink a lot of water, add water to the raw food.
NOTE: Whenever abruptly changing an animals diet, it should be done gradually over a two week period.
Q: Are some breeds easier to teach than others?
A: Sort of, but there can be other reasons ‘known’ teachable breeds aren’t as teachable. “BOOMER” (a bengal) known to be one of the most teachable cat breeds isn’t as teachable as Didga, especially once we get outside with all the distractions. (At this stage of his life, things can change as he ages?) or it could be I’m just spoiled from having a special cat like Didga? (from the shelter).  What’s probably more important than a particular breed is “high food drive” cats with it can learn faster and can learn more things. This is a big factor of Didga’s amazing talent.

Side Rant: Rule #1 Never get an animal solely based on looks, Temperament should be #1 reason. That’s how I came to get Didga and Boomer, it was their personality/temperament, their beautiful looks were just a bonus. Bengals are beautiful but are not for everyone, they require a lot more of your time (which I’m able to give), they need more daily stimulation than other cats. I explain to people who are thinking about getting a bengal, if your a cat person a Bengal may not be right for you, it’s more like raising a puppy cross monkey 😉 – if your not prepared to deal with their energy level and naughty nature, especially during the kitten phase, a bengal is not for you, also be careful to add a bengal if you already have an older cat. Without constant supervision, Bengals can be extremely antagonistic. You don’t want your first cat to be unhappy or you may end up unhappy having to give your Bengal away. I guess this could be true for other breeds as well. Please make sure you’re 100% committed thinking everything through before adopting. I tell people that instead of getting a Bengal, they can live vicariously through me 😊 One more thing for dog and some cat owners, if you’re thinking of getting not one but two pets at the same time, because you want them to keep each other company while you’re away for those long hours at work. In my opinion, you’re getting the animals for the wrong reason. Animals need a lot of human contact, especially young puppies (less with kittens, but still). Look for my post “don’t get a dog” for more advice if you’re considering adopting a new pet.

Q: Do I let my cats roam free (unsupervised) at all?
A: NO WAY! They are both indoor/leashed outdoor cats, however because they’re trained and as they get older, I can allow them off the lead to explore and for filming purposes in specific areas but only under direct supervision.
Q: Do I answer training/behavior questions on here or other social media pages, i.e. Facebook, etc.?
A: Sorry, not that often because I get many questions, and there is no time to answer them, besides I shy away from answering because as a behaviourist Its important to get a lot of other information about their home environment before determining the best course of action to take. When I did home lessons, I needed to spend about and hour and a half with the clients, so a quick email with a question isn’t professional, besides, that’s why I made this FAQ and why I make tutorials.

Q: How do you get 2 animals to get along?

A: I made a video tutorial with tips for a dog and cat relations (video on my YouTube channel.) For introducing a cat to an existing cat(s), look for the post on this website.

Q: Why are your cats so comfortable outside and not afraid like other cats?

A: It helped that they were both confident and showed little fear as kittens, also I taught them to walk on leash and other tricks using lot’s of food reinforcement, this helped build their confidence even further. Clicker training is a great way to creates a more positive association to scary things. exposing them gradually to those things they fear using the clicker and high value food (or play) to reward them, if they don’t eat or play when exposed to the fearful thing, you’re probably trying to hurry up the process. FYI – it can take many many weeks of practice to get them over fear, and that’s if you’re doing everything right. NOTE: First I took them around in their pet carrier, getting them used to the sites and sounds of places, usually the same places everyday. while there, I practice their training (outside the carrier) behaviours that were first taught in the home, As I noticed them improving and showing less fear, they more time would be spent out of the carrier, until I only needed the carrier on occasion (eventually not at all). Be aware that the carrier idea only work if they love being in their carrier, I’m sorry but I don’t have a tutorial on that… yet.

AGAIN: That’s why I’ve made several training, and a few behavioural training tutorials (for cats & dogs) available (free) on my YouTube channel. I will have other training advice available to read on my website, and social media pages where I occasionally give advice. Follow/subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram @catmantoo

If you’re still reading this, comment below with a “hello”

Thanks for listening
Robert, Didga and Boomer

Top Tweets

November 10, 2009

I’ve posted over 1800 tweets on twitter and have over 5000 followers.  The 10 tweets listed below are ones that other people have either responded to or re-tweeted to their followers.

1. NEVER use laser pointers as a chase game for dogs! It may be entertaining 2 U, but it literally drives dogs crazy! Really!..Warning About Laser Pointers

2. If you’re wondering if you should get a dog or not? I say, Don’t Get A Dog ….(DON\’T GET A DOG)

3. You’re saying “goodbye, be a good doggy”, they hear nah nah I’m leaving you all alone, all by… (NO EMOTIONAL HELLO’S)

4. Pointing only gets them to look at your finger, it’s not until they’re trained do they know what your pointing at.

5. Around 5 MILLION dogs and cats (in U.S.) are euthanized each year. Leave breeding 2 professionals. Spay /neuter your pet!

6. Dogs are unaware of the dangers and social expectations within the human world. It’s your job to educate them

7. It’s just a tennis ball to us, to them it’s NIRVANA!

8.  Your dog’s mind is a terrible thing to waste, educate, don’t dominate

9. For many years I’ve questioned the veterinarian immunization schedule for dogs because I believe immunizations can…(SHORTNING A DOGS LIFE)

10. Why the pack leader mentality 4 training and living with your dog is out of date and inappropriate. The dog training…(Old vs. New)

A few of my favorites:

Little dogs don’t know they’re little but owners keep trying to convince them they are.

A dogs “G” spot is behind the ears, the chest or tummy and right b 4 the tail on their back.

A dog living in the backyard will only learn things that will keep them there.

Follow me @ MalibuDogTrainr

It’s us, not the dog

October 7, 2009


Puppy Mill Awareness Day

September 17, 2009

This past weekend, was Puppy Mill Awareness Day in a few cities across the U.S. and Canada. Actually, everyday should be Puppy Mill Awareness Day. If you haven’t yet, please read my blog Pet Shops and Puppy Mills. Also below is a link  to a news story about this past weekend, where Victoria Stilwell  (whom I like better than any other trainer on t.v.) of Animal Planet It’s Me or the Dog fame, celebrated Puppy Mill Awareness Day in Intercourse, Pa. Other Puppy Mill Awareness days are scheduled over the next couple of months. Please lend your support when one comes to your town

Blog Pet Shops and Puppy Mills.

News story from Paw Print Post Puppy Mill Awareness Day

Boarding a Dog part 2

September 10, 2009

All my friends

All my friends

This is a continuation to Boarding your dog, part 1

Part 2:  As the manager of a Pet Hotel for several years I have some insight and tips to help you save money and find a good safe place for your pet to stay.

There is an airborne virus called Canine cough but many people refer to it as Kennel cough, because dogs can catch it while staying at a kennel. However, dogs can catch it anywhere, even in a vet office. Just like us catching a cold from a co-worker or a child catching something from a classmate, dogs can catch things from other dogs. In my opinion, the less your dog is around other dogs, the more susceptible they are to getting sick, that’s because their immunity is not as strong as the dogs that get out and around other dogs, but it also can depend on the individual dog and the strength of their immune system. This is why kennel operators require the Bordetella Vaccination. It’s best your dog gets it several days before boarding but be aware that having the shot doesn’t always protect them against every strain of the virus. If your pet was exposed to the virus, it could take a few days for them to show the symptoms. I’m not telling you not to seek attention from your vet if they start making a gagging or coughing sound,  I’m just saying if your dog is eating and playing (on their own) somewhat normally, I wouldn’t rush them to the vet. If however, they weren’t eating, showing a temperature and frequently gagging and coughing, then by all means seek medical attention. The antibiotics the vets gives don’t cure the dog from what they’ve caught but help avoid any secondary infections. Just like a child with a cold/flu, rest, lots of fluids (low or no temperature) the virus will run it’s course. FYI- Symptoms usually run their course in 3 – 7 days but can last as long as 14 days. (Use common sense, so when in doubt, seek medical attention.)

note: if your dog gets sick, in most cases, it’s not the kennel or managers fault, just like it’s not the Principles fault if your child catches a cold from another student. It is part of being a dog owner.

Boarding dogs can get very expensive, if you have more than one dog or you are a frequent boarder ask for a discount. You never know unless you ask. I would give discounts to military, seniors, students or people who were going to causes I thought were worthy of a discount.

Ask what dog food they feed, or ask if you can bring a special diet and do they charge extra for that? Buying a good dog food in bulk can get very expensive, so don’t expect the best quality food at the kennel, although kennels are now paying attention to what the costumer wants.

With some dogs, switching dog food abruptly can cause intestinal problems. In our facility we had a great track record with No bloating problems and only a small percentage of dogs having loose stools because  of the food change. If your dog has been on the same food all it’s life, you probably want to bring your own food. If your dog is accustom to a variety of foods, or a variety of high quality food, they probably wont have a reaction. My perceptions is, going from a low quality food to a high one usually causes the loose stools, I don’t find it happening as much the other way.

Do they do anything to help calm dogs nerves like having a T.V. on during the day (not animal planet). Air fans or a ticking clock during the day or night which helps drown out other dog or outside noises.

Does the kennel accept Titer verifications: You can get a blood test instead of giving a shot. The blood test is called “titer”. I believe over-immunizing can shorten your dog’s life. Read my blog “shortening a dog’s life”

A few other questions you might ask is what Vet do they use, is someone there at night and do they have an evacuation plan?

If you have any questions or comments for me, please fill out the comment form.

Boarding Your Dog

August 17, 2009

doginrobePart 1:  As the manager of a Pet Hotel for several years I have some insight and tips to help you find a good safe place for your pet to stay.

Referrals are best; find a friend who likes a particular place, or ask a Vet or any dog business.

When you first call a boarding facility, make sure you ask what the business hours are. I only mention this because many people would arrive at our place after business hours and never called or checked our website to find out. I guess some people just thought because the dogs are there all the time the facility must be open to humans all the time.

Price: Some places charge by the night some by the day; some places have specific  check in and check out times. If they charge by the day, they usually throw in a free bath or at least they should. Some throw in a free bath with several nights stay.  Charging by the night is the best, that way you don’t have to worry about specific check in and out times and your dog can have fun all day before picking them up. Just make clear what your being charged for  before any bookings. The facility I managed charged by the night and no check in or out times. We also offered (for a small fee) after hours drop off and pick-up as late as 9pm.

I used to laugh when clients would tell me other facilities needed to meet their dog before allowing them to board. What are they Dr. Doolittle? Having to meet your dog would only be if your dog was going to be socializing with other dogs, and you can’t tell a dog’s aggressive nature just by meeting them. Usually just a few questions over the phone is enough a knowledgeable dog person needs to determine a dogs aggressive nature, as long as owners were being honest. I could usually tell if something didn’t sound right. If we still had doubts about the compatibility of the dog, we would require them to come stay for a doggy day care session (minimum 5 hours). The fact is some dogs are overly assertive once they get there and then mellow out. Other dogs are really mellow when they first arrive but get more aggressive as the day goes on. There’s a process to determine which dogs are aggressive (or not) without any dog getting hurt, but you can’t tell in all cases just by “meeting” the dog.

If the facility offers doggy day care, it might be a good idea to bring them a few times or for an overnight stay. This helps them get used to the place and people before a longer stay.

Ask the manager if they can show you around. They may not be able to show you the full facility but if they have nothing to hide they should be able to show you enough to satisfy you.  I’ve heard of places that say because of their insurance they are not allowed to let people in. We never had problems with our insurance. I would just ask those people, “You expect me to leave my dog here, without seeing what the conditions are?”

On your dog’s first day of boarding, when you first arrive at the facility, don’t read into your dog’s reaction. Our facility was a great place for a dog to socialize and build their confidence, but occasionally when a new dog came in, they appeared so frightened we practically had to carry them inside. After an hour or so they were running around having the best time. Dogs do adapt quickly to things, especially if the owners aren’t around. It also helps if you find a place with a knowledgeable staff and great clientele with great dogs. Hopefully the managers has a lot of experience working with dogs like a trainer, behaviorist, veterinarian and not someone who just thought it would be nice to open a kennel.

If the facility states they walk the dogs on leash twice a day and when you’re there inspecting the place, you should see dogs being walked. It’s a very time consuming process. Especially if it’s around a holiday weekend, facilities usually double or triple the amount of dogs they have, so walking dogs on leash is almost impossible during those times. Some places will still charge you for the walks but don’t walk the dogs! Our facility had 5 one hour long (off leash) group play times, even a late night play session between 8 and 9pm. It didn’t matter if it was a holiday or not. The dogs all got out and by the end of the day, they were all pooped out.

Keep in mind that the reality of group dog play sessions, on occasion, a dog can get hurt, just like kids at a playground. One dog pushes a dog who bangs into another, like when kids play, every once in a while someone gets a scraped knee.

I will post part 2 at another time.  If you subscribe with just your email you will be notified when I post something new.

Boarding your dog part 2 BOARDING PART 2

Pet Shops & Puppy Mills

August 3, 2009


Many reputable breeders will not sell their dogs to pet shops. Why? Because breeders take pride in their work and absolutely care where the puppies are placed (homed).  Breeders want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, they don’t want their dogs offspring to end up being abandoned or given to a shelter or worst?  Many Pet shops only care if you have the money to pay for the over- inflated priced dogs. I’ve read up to 95% of Pet shops in the U.S. get their puppies from puppy mill type operations and big corporations are backing puppy mills. The sad fact is these operations care more about the money and not about the living conditions of the dogs.  Big Corporations are getting into the action and making lots of money because people don’t think things through before buying a puppy and mostly buy on impulse. Some of the pet shops show what appears to be legitimate paper work from a reputable breeder but you can trace it back to a puppy mill operation. Many new regulations have made it more difficult for pet shops to buy puppies from puppy mills but like everything, they find a way around it.  So unless you have time to do the research I would stay clear purchasing a puppy from a pet shop.  Here’s some advice on what to do and what not to do if you want a puppy.

Don’t be spontaneous! I know that puppy in the window is cute, but all puppies are cute and you dont know without research where that puppy in the window came from.

Do your homework. Getting a dog is a big responsibility and you need the right breed to fit your lifestyle.

Take the family and go to a dog show. There you will learn about the breed you are interested in. Talk to the breeders who know the breed the best. They may even tell you about a litter of puppies that are due in a week or so.

Here are some more reasons to buy directly from a reputable breeder:

1. Puppies are in better living and health conditions.

2. Puppies stay with the mother and litter-mates through the crucial imprint period 6-8 weeks.

3. Most Breeders make sure the puppies are handled by adults and children. They also become familiar with household sounds.

4. Breeders introduce the puppy to the concept of housebreaking; they may have been introduced to a crate. This will make housebreaking much easier for you.

5.  Breeders have a health history of the puppy’s parents. Good sound and healthy parents produce good sound healthy puppies!

Problems that could arise when buying from a pet shop:

1. Puppies may be taken too early from the mother and litter-mates, this can have an affect on their temperament latter in life.

2. In pet shops, puppies can be confined for sometimes weeks. Eating, playing and going to the bathroom all in the same small area, can make it extremely difficult to housebreak them.

3. If the pet shop is getting dogs from puppy mills, those dogs are not the best of that breed. Health risks are usually inherited by parents. The puppy may look healthy, but problems can arise later in the dog’s life. Sick, genetically defective or ill tempered dogs reproduce the same.

Another option instead of a breeder or pet shop, you can always adopt a dog from a shelter. When I trained animal actors we would rescue dogs from the shelter and make them working actors. Adopting a pure or mix breed from a shelter is a good thing.  Mix breeds tend to be more intelligent and have less health issues than pure breeds.

My experiences about this subject is primarily directed to the U.S.A. I am not aware of other countries practices, although I’ve heard from one pet shop owner, that Australia has strict guidelines for pet shops who sell puppies. Let’s hope they all adhere to the rules. (oopps I guess they dont either, read comments below)

Here is a group that works very hard to get the word out about puppymills

DNA Breed Identification Test

July 28, 2009

dogSince I’m around dogs and dog owners a lot, I find they are really curious about what exact breed or mix their dog is. The question is would they be willing to pay to find out? There are several DNA dog breed testing companies you can find on the Internet and a few pet stores. It’s a painless procedure, just cotton swab a little of your dog’s saliva, send it through the mail and within a few weeks you’ll get the answer.

Although knowing might help alert you to some potential health risk common in particular breeds, would there be anything you could do about it and because mix breeds don’t always suffer the same health risks as the pure breeds, would it just be  a lot of worrying for nothing? So from my perspective, the only advantage knowing is well, knowing.

If you just gotta know, DNA kits are available here DNA BREED TESTS

Top 10 Smartest Breeds

July 10, 2009

bordercollieSome of the more-trainable breeds were tested to determine which breeds might be smarter. The tests judged how quickly they learned obedience commands and how quickly they solved problems. Regardless of who’s #1 a lot of our dogs potential depends on us, the more active we are with them, the more knowledge we have, the more training we do, our dogs will become smarter.  So keep reading from blog sites like mine and your dog will be competing for a spot in the top ten. However, don’t get your hopes too high as I think the breed in the #1 spot has nothing to worry about.

10. Australian cattle dog

9.   Rottweiler

8.   Papillon

7.   Labrador

6.   Shetland Sheepdog

5.   Doberman

4.   Golden Retriever

3.   German Shepherd

2.   Poodle

1.   Border Collie