Four Legged Friends and Survival

In this article we are going to take a look at an often overlooked area of prepping for when TSHTF, pets. In particular dogs and cats, though the points outlined in this article apply to everything from hamsters to snakes.

Our Animals

We have a variety of pets in our family, 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 ferrets, a ball python, and a bunch of mice.  Each of which have their own unique needs when it comes to survival and prepping.

Our Min-Pin, Sheena, going after a field mouse.

Our Min-Pin, Sheena, going after a field mouse.

Our Husky, Sadie, lazing in the shade on a bug out camp out.

Our Husky, Sadie, lazing in the shade on a bug out camp out.

One of our cats, Rudy, hunting birds off our back porch.

One of our cats, Rudy, hunting birds off our back porch.

Another of our cats, Rico, looking all innocent.

Another of our cats, Rico, looking all innocent.

Our 13 year old cat, Petey, doing what he does best.

Our 13-year old cat, Petey, doing what he does best.

My wife's Ball Python, Harley, out for a "walk".

My wife’s Ball Python, Harley, out for a “walk”.

Our latest edition, Brea, rolling about while out camping.

Our latest edition, Brea, rolling about while out camping.

Each of these animals is an integral member of our family and our prepping plan reflects their needs.

Dogs
Training

When it comes to dogs you need to keep a couple of things in mind. Dogs ARE pack animals and you and your family ARE their pack. Because they are ingrained with this pack mentality unless you take the time and effort to TRAIN them they will constantly be pushing you for leadership of the “pack”.

It is up to you to teach your dog (puppy to 10 year old dog) that YOU are the Alpha male/female in your “pack” and that they are in a subordinate role to you, your spouse, and any kids. This is easily done by taking the time to train your dog. It doesn’t require yelling, hitting, or other negative reinforcement. If you are the kind of person who thinks the only way to show dominance over a dog or train a dog is by hitting them or screaming at them every time they don’t follow a command than please do me and everyone else here a favor… Get the fuck off of the page and don’t come back!

It should take no time at all to find out what motivates your dog, remember they truly do want to do nothing more than please YOU, their pack leader. Some dogs will be motivated by food, so treats will work to train them (they get a treat every time they do what you want). Others will be motivated by praise (they get, “Good boy! That’s a good boy!” and some petting when they do as you ask). Still others will be motivated by a certain toy (they get to play with the toy when they do what you ask). And a small minority will be motivated by a combination of these POSITIVE reinforcements.

Once you have found what motivates your dog they can easily be trained to do all sorts of “Stupid Human Tricks”, everything from basic obedience (Come, Sit, Stay, Down, Crawl, etc) to more advanced things like not eating until they are told to by you (or someone in their “pack”, attack on command and more important to stop the attack INSTANTLY upon command.

The two most important keys to successfully training your dog is consistency! Everyone must use the same word, the exact same hand and arm signal, etc each time you are teaching your dog a new command so they don’t get confused as to what you (or your wife or kids) want. The other key is that rewards must come the instant your dog does what you want. For example- If you are teaching your dog to come when you call the second your dog gets to you they get their “treat”. Always be sure to praise your dog for following your command, even if they a food motivated. Eventually you want your dog to follow commands with nothing more than a few words of praise.

Cats
Training

Unlike dogs cats don’t need to be part of a “pack” and are typically solitary animals. Though they will gather in groups on occasion for short periods of time.

Contrary to popular belief you can actually “train” a cat though it is far more difficult and time consuming than training a dog. You aren’t trying to train your cat to do all the same things your dog does (though it would be great if you can) but rather you want your cats to come when you call them and not when they damn well feel like it and to follow you on command at the very least.

Like a dog cats have their motivations which are (mostly in the area of plotting your demise) useful in training your cats to obey a command or two.

If you can raise your cats and dogs together from a young age the dogs will consider the cats as part of the pack to be protected and not eaten and your cats will tend to act more like dogs and follow some basic commands.

Food

Pet food is expensive to say the least and if you have a limited prepping budget stocking up on pet food can be difficult, if not impossible, when you are trying to make sure your wife and kids are going to have enough if TSHTF.

All of our dogs are very active and require lots of protein and carbs to keep them going, especially during the winter. We looked into many different dog foods before settling on Pedigree Adult Dog food. After comparing ingredients, cost,  history, reviews, etc it is the best choice for us and our dogs. A 44 pound bag of Pedigree costs us $17.99 and lasts us approximately 6 weeks feeding twice a day for the 3 dogs. We have budgeted for 2 bags each time we go to the grocery store and have about 18 months worth of dog food stored.

Living in the country on 43 acres our dogs have no shortage of critters to chase. They have all shown they are very capable of hunting and killing prairie dogs, field mice, rabbits, squirrels, and even a couple of birds. We encourage our dogs to hunt and they are rewarded for doing so. The reason for this is simple, even our little Min-Pin can provide food for us if need be and for themselves should they need too.

Cat food is no different, though a couple of bucks cheaper. A bag of cat food lasts about 2 months so we started buying a 22 bag every other month to make sure we have the same supply of food for the cats we do for our dogs.

Medical

Keeping each of your pets up to date on all their shots is the first step but what about when TSHTF?

I have taken the time to read about basic veterinary medicine and the most common ailments dogs and cats may get and how to fix them. And we are lucky we have a vet that is willing to teach. He isn’t a prepper (yet) but he understands my desire to learn certain things that will keep my pets happy and healthy.

If you have a good relationship with your vet, ours was built over many years BEFORE I asked him to show me anything. Before that I paid attention and asked pertinent questions. It won’t hurt to ask him or her to teach you a few things in case TSHTF. If you are lucky like we were they will say yes, if you are really lucky they will be preppers too.

When it comes to things like medication this relationship is handy because we can keep our pets up to date on their shots should TSHTF. IV solutions, antibiotics, and most pain medications that will work on you will also work on your dog or cat. The same is true of the equipment and medications you would use to suture wounds on yourself or a member of your family. Just make sure that you learn the correct dosages for your pet, information, you can and should find now and keep handy in case TSHTF tomorrow. Google is your friend.

Most, but not all, Farm and Ranch stores (there is one in even the biggest cities) have the most commonly used medications in the correct dosages for your pets and they don’t require a prescription. If you can’t find what you want or need at a local Farm and Ranch store again, Google is your friend. I have found and used an online vet supply house to get 1000 cc bags of Normal Saline and Lactated Ringers, both micro and macro IV administration sets, and the all important IV catheter all without a prescription and without question. The same is true of antibiotics and with a little more searching lidocane and pain meds in dog and cat specific doses.

DO NOT PERFORM ANY PROCEDURE OR ADMINISTER ANY MEDICATIONS TO YOUR PETS WITHOUT PROPER TRAINING!
Security

Aside from the hunting, our dogs each provide security and early warning in their own way.

Sheena alert and scanning for the source of a noise while out camping.

Sheena alert and scanning for the source of a noise while out camping.

Our Min-Pin, Sheena is our alarm. She always seems to be on full alert and can hear the slightest noise. She will start by growling and looking in the direction of the “threat”. If we don’t take notice of her she will let out a series of short, low whines to get our attention if, after the growls and whines, we haven’t noticed what she is looking at/towards she will bark like a mad man.

We reward her for this behavior, especially when we are out in the woods to encourage her to do exactly as she does. She has alerted us to everything from mountain lions circling our camp to two legged animals approaching our camp long before they ever got close.

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Our Husky, Sadie, is laid back and quiet, until she is told not to be.

Our Husky, Sadie, is one of the best dogs in the world. She is calm, quiet, and very protective. Like all our dogs she is a rescue, We found out she had spent her entire life on a five foot chain outside regardless of the weather. When we first brought her home we literally had to pick her up to get her in the house because the previous “owner” had smacked her anytime she tried to get inside.

It took a great deal of training and love to get her to be the dog we knew she could be. We have been training her to be a protection dog, a job at which she excels. Though she is not aggressive in any way (unless she sees a threat or is told to be) she knows that protecting her “pack” is her job. She will take a bullet or rip someones nuts off if they even attempt to hurt anyone in her “pack” (that includes the cats).

Brea is our latest rescue and one hell of a dog!

Brea is our latest rescue and one hell of a dog!

Brea was rescued out of a high kill shelter in Texas when she was just 7 weeks old. She was brought to the shelter after being hit by a car. She suffered a broken leg, shattered pelvis, and her diaphragm was completely torn away.

Brea before her 1st of 4 surgeries.

Brea before her 1st of 4 surgeries.

Even with all of these injuries she was energetic, alert, and eager to please. Literally the day after we got her home her training began. In a very short time she had all of the basic obedience commands down  pat.  Since she is a little sponge when it comes to training she even tries to emulate her bigger sister, Sadie, when we do her protection training.  Brea is fast becoming another layer of our security and protection.

All of our animals are trained not to eat or take food until they are commanded to do so. I have had a couple of people tell me that I am being cruel having my dogs sit patiently looking at their food until they are told to eat. My answer is that my dogs aren’t going to be eating tainted or poisoned food someone may use to get by them because they have been taught not to take or eat food from anyone without a specific command to do so.

We have trusted friends that can feed our dogs when we have to go someplace we can’t take them or we go on that rare and elusive vacation.

I suggest that you train your dogs in a similar fashion to avoid a potential health risk to your dog and to increase your security.

Pets Other Than Dogs and Cats

As I said in the beginning of the article we also have 2 ferrets and a Ball Python as pets that we have to prep for too. First the ferrets.

Jack and Rommel are a couple of lazy little clowns, if they aren’t sleeping they are doing funny ferret stuff like trying to climb up your pant leg, so what to do with them?

Well that is simple, train them too. Ferrets are very smart and inquisitive little critters and while training them isn’t easy (it easier than training a cat) it can be done. We started by training to walk on a leash, once they had that down we extended the length of the leash a little at a time (about 18″ per leash extension) until they would come to their name on a 25′ leash.

Now that they have the leash training down we have recently started on training them to hunt. We attach their leash and take the for a walk into one of our pastures (keeping them close until we want them to hunt) to one of the multitude of prairie dog mounds we have and let them go down and hunt.

They are becoming pretty good at grabbing up prairie dogs, ground squirrels , rats, and field mice. Not only can they provide food for themselves but small game for us if need be.

Our Ball Python just kind of sleeps (lies in wait more accurately) all day and stretches out and slides about, that’s it. She has her own lined and warm pocket in my wife’s Bug Out Bag and with the abundance of field mice and rats out there combined with the fact the snake is of a size and age that she can go 4-6 weeks between feedings that there isn’t really a whole lot we need to do for her other than make sure she is warm and has water.

If things got to the point that, for whatever reason, we couldn’t provide the snake with warmth and water we have decided that one of tow thing will happen:

  1. We will let the snake go in an area that offers her the best chance of survival.
  2. She will become a meal for the family

Some out there are going to scream and shout how cruel either of those options are and my response to them is they are far better than the snake staving to death slowly with no chance at all to survive.

As for the mice we have, they aren’t really pets, they are kept for snake food. Our kids are accustomed to seeing their mother and I take a mouse or two and seen the snake snatch them up and gobble them down. If TSHTF and we have to bug out the mice will be released into our barn, we aren’t worried about them surviving, they are mice, they will be fine.

If TSHTF we have a plan for our four-legged family members that is included in our food storage and bug out plans, like children far too many people forget they have to provide for the four-legged members of their family too.

Thanks for reading! I look forward to seeing your comments and as always, Train to Survive!

Tom

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