Ask Riley

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Our planet is amazing, and there’s so much to learn. On this page, I will be answering your questions (with some help from my friends) about pets, wild animals, and the environment so that people, dogs, raccoons and everyone else can learn about this place we call home – no matter where that is! Send me a question and I might answer it here. 



Dear Riley,
I want my dog to be happy, but how do I know how he’s feeling if he can’t talk to me?
Sincerely, Amy

Riley This is a great Question

Hi Amy!

People have done a lot of research into how we can understand animals. It turns out animals – including people! – say a lot with their bodies. You can also listen for sounds that your dog makes to help you understand what he’s trying to say. The most important thing to do is understand when your dog is feeling comfortable or uncomfortable. Here are some things to look for to help you understand how your dog is feeling:

Comfortable dog:

  • Wiggly body
  • Open mouth
  • Perky ears
  • Tail hanging low with big wags

 Uncomfortable dog

  • Closed mouth
  • Ears back, sideways, or down
  • Tail raised high or tucked between back legs
  • One paw raised
  • Growling or snarling

Sometimes a dog can do something that means he is comfortable in one situation, but uncomfortable in another! You will want to pay attention to what’s happening around your dog to help you understand what he’s “saying.” If he does something that doesn’t make sense, like yawning when he doesn’t seem sleepy or licking his lips when there’s no food around, he’s probably not very comfortable. There are a lot of great online resources with information on understanding our dogs. Check out this video for more examples on dog body language.

Some people go to school to understand how animals are feeling, but if we look for clues, we can understand what our dogs are trying to tell us, too. Good luck, and give your dog a pet from me – if he seems comfortable, of course!

Riley the Raccoon 


Dear Riley,
I heard that you’re not supposed to pick up a baby bird and put it back in its nest because the mom won’t take care of it anymore. Is that true? What do I do if I see a baby bird that needs help?
Sincerely, Tyler

Albert Hi there my name is

Hi Tyler!

I am going to be helping Riley answer some of the wildlife questions on this page. Thank you for caring about animals and wanting to help baby birds! The good news is that touching a baby bird won’t make its mom stop taking care of it. However, if you do see a baby bird that’s not in its nest, you should make sure it doesn’t need any help from a wildlife rehabilitator like the ones working here at PAWS. Check and see if the baby bird looks hurt or sick before you decide what to do next. For example, is the bird bleeding, shivering, lethargic, or can you tell it’s been attacked by a cat or dog? If the bird does look hurt or sick, you’ll want to call a licensed rehabilitation center like PAWS.

If the baby bird does not look sick or hurt, you can decide what to do next depending on how old the bird is. If the bird doesn’t have any feathers and you can see the nest, feel free to put the bird back inside – but it’s a good idea to wear gloves when you do. If you can’t find a nest or the nest is broken, you can make a replacement nest to keep the bird in nearby. Either way, watch from a safe distance and see if the parents visit the nest with the baby bird. If they do, that’s great! You’re okay to leave the birds alone. If not, you can call a licensed rehabilitation center like PAWS to figure out the next step.

If the baby bird does have feathers and is hopping around on the ground, keep any pets away from the bird and watch from a distance to see if there are parents nearby. If they are, the baby bird is okay and you can leave it alone. If not, call a licensed rehabilitation center like PAWS and they can help you figure out what to do next.

If you need more help, check out this chart or call a licensed rehabilitator!

Thanks for being a champion for animals, Albert


Dear Riley,
Can cats learn tricks? 
Sincerely, Tyler

Cali This is a great Question

Hi Angel,

I’m Riley’s friend Cali, and I know all about cats and dogs. Many people know that dogs can be trained, but it turns out that cats can, too! The easiest way to train a dog or cat is through clicker training with rewards. A clicker is a little tool with a button that makes a click! sound when you press it. You can buy a clicker at most pet supply stores. For training a cat, you’ll want to use a clicker with a quieter sound. The louder clickers can scare cats.

Here are the steps to clicker training your cat!

Step 1: Teach your cat that the click! sound means they’re going to get a reward. Press the clicker button and then immediately give your cat their favorite treat. Do this a bunch of times over the course of a week or two until your cat looks excited when they hear the clicker.

Step 2: Pick what you want to train your cat to do! Start with behaviors cats do naturally, like sitting or looking at you. Let’s use sitting as an example.

Step 3: When your cat does what you want them to do, press the clicker and then give them a treat. In our example, you should press the clicker right when your cat’s bottom touches the ground.

Step 4: Choose a command or hand gesture for this behavior. For our sitting example, you could choose to say “sit,” or point down. Try to say or do your command right before your cat does what you want them to do. If your cat does it, then follow up with the clicker and treat like before.

Before you know it, your cat will be sitting on command, or whatever else you train them to do! You can train cats to have better manners, or to do fun things that help keep their brains active. Training can even help cats in animal shelters feel more comfortable and outgoing.

For lots of tips on training cats, check out this guide from the Jackson Galaxy Cat Pawsitive project. It talks about the training that PAWS is doing with some of our cats!

Thanks for being a champion for animals, Cali



Dear Riley,
How do I know if my pet likes its treats?
Sincerely, Jason

Buddy Question Headers

Woof! I love treats, so I’m excited to answer this question. Treats that your pet likes are really helpful for training.

The best way to tell how your pet feels about their treat is to pay attention to their body language. You can read more about understanding a dog’s body language in Riley’s answer to Amy on this page. A dog that likes a treat will be eager to gobble it up. It might even let out a little whimper or whine when it sees the treat in your hand. A cat might meow or reach out with its paw if you’re holding a treat it really wants. If your pet doesn’t like a treat, they will usually give it a sniff but not take it. They might even walk away. If your dog or cat never looks excited when you try to give them a specific treat, they probably don’t like it very much.

Some dogs, and some cats, don’t like treats very much at all. Instead, they might like a game of fetch or a good chin scratch as a reward. I think that’s okay, because it means more treats for me!

Thanks for being a champion for animals, Buddy