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The Best Therapy Animals

therapy dog

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Many people require different kinds of assistance in order to complete daily tasks in life. Some people cannot live independently without the services of people and specially trained pets. Others simply benefit from a visit with an animal that provides them with a sense of calm and relaxation. Therapy animals provide this special service to people.

Not to be confused with a service dog or an emotional support pet, therapy animals are socialized and trained to provide comfort and affection to people in various stressful environments. Therapy animals are most commonly seen in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and disaster areas, and are classified as one of three types: therapeutic visitation animals, animal assisted therapy animals, and facility therapy animals.

The most common kind of therapy animal is a therapeutic visitation animal. These are often pets that go to various places, such as detention facilities, to visit with people who may miss their own pets, but return home with their owner at the end of the day. All kinds of animals are utilized as therapy animals but regardless of the species, they typically go through a veterinarian’s assessment, have received basic training, and have been screened to ensure they do well with people. Therapy animals are not protected by any federal laws but some states have their own laws to grant rights to the owners and their pets. Vests, collars, registration and other services are available through the National Service Animal Registry.

  • Blonde goldendoodle with senior citizens

    Getty Images / Yellow Dog Productions

    Definitely the most commonly seen type of therapy animal, dogs come in all shapes and sizes and make ideal therapy animals. Many people have probably come across a therapy dog at one point or another in their lifetime. Therapy dogs are often seen in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, detention centers, and other public places where you may be surprised to see a dog walking around.

    Dogs are classic companions for humans so it is very natural for people to enjoy their presence. Studies have shown that dogs help calm and relax people and therapy dogs are a testament to this. Larger breeds, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, are most often seen as therapy dogs, but that doesn’t mean other breeds can’t make a good therapy animal. As long as a dog is friendly towards people, and knows basic obedience commands, it could probably become a therapy animal!

  • Therapy Horses
    Therapy horse being ridden by a boy with autism and cerebral palsy outside.

     

     Therapy horses may be used for all kinds of therapy, including therapy with autistic children. 

     Getty Images / Tom Ervin / Stringer

    Horses, while much larger than dogs, make excellent therapy animals. You won’t see a horse walking through a school (unless it’s a miniature horse) but you will often seen equine-assisted therapy techniques utilizing therapy horses. Therapy horses are great animals to aid in mental health and are also used in equine-facilitated psychotherapy by addiction treatment centers, veterans groups, and other mental wellness facilities that are overseen by medical professionals.

    Grooming a horse is often touted as being very therapeutic and the human emotions a horse mimics have been shown to be very beneficial for people battling many different types of psychological issues. Horses also help teach people a variety of things, such as trust building and work ethic, in addition to dealing with emotions.

    Therapy horses may or may not be ridden.

  • Therapy Cats
    Cat giving five on a tablet to senior citizens.

     

     Therapy cats can make great therapy animals for visiting the elderly. 

    Getty Images / Sean Gallup / Staff 

    A less obvious choice than dogs or horses, many cats can make great therapy animals. Just like dogs, cats are easy to bring into indoor facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals to aid in comforting anyone who may be missing their own pets. Many therapy cats learn to walk on a leash and can have a very calming presence for children in school, elderly in assisted living facilities, and other situations. They are also a great indoor therapy animal option for people who may have a fear of dogs.

  • Therapy Rabbits
    Pet Therapy – Senior woman with rabbit at home

     

    FredFroese / Getty Images

    Sometimes a small, quiet therapy animal is needed and when this is the case, a rabbit makes a wonderful therapy animal. Rabbits are easy to transport, do not bark or meow, and are excellent options for people who may be frightened of both dogs and cats, since a fear of rabbits is not very common.

    A therapy rabbit needs to be calm, well-socialized, and enjoy being handled and petted by people. It is ideal if a therapy rabbit is also litter box trained. Not all rabbits fit this bill, but if a friendly rabbit is comfortable in a harness and four foot leash, they might make a great therapy animal.

    source: https://www.thesprucepets.com/therapy-animals-4174886 

1 Billion Animals Perish in Australian Bushfires

kangaroo

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Five best cat toys

kitty playing

Playing with your cat is a great bonding experience for both cat and owner. It also helps channel their natural hunting instinct into a less harmful activity.

With so many toys to choose from, you’ll probably feel a bit confused about which ones to get your feline friend. So we’re here to help you out with the best five toys for your cat.

 

Fishing rod

Cat toy - Fishing rod

Fishing rod toys usually have a mouse, feather or something light on the end to temp your cat to chase it! This is perfect for teaching your kitten how to play appropriately, using the rod to create some distance between sharp claws and your hands.

Treat balls

Cat treat ball

Cats are very intelligent and their natural instinct is to hunt for their food, so they can find hours of entertainment with a treat ball.

Batting around the ball to shake the treat loose encourages cats to use their brain and provides great mental stimulation.

Catnip mouse

Light blue catnip mouse

Anyone who owns a cat will know the madness that follows when they are given something with catnip.

Catnip mice are great fun for your cat to play with solo. Plus, you get the added bonus of watching them go from cool, calm and collected to crazy in three seconds flat!

Kickeroo toy by Kong

Kickeroo toy by Kong

Kickeroo toys are made for cats who like to kick out with their hind paws when they are in the mood to play.

Encouraging your pet to wrestle on this toy provides both mental and physical stimulation and means your furniture and legs are saved from excited claws!

Cat activity centres

Cat activity centre

The cat activity centre plays an important role in a cat’s day to day life and provides entertainment for them too. These are made up of multiple levels with string toys attached to encourage cats’ playful nature.

Your cat loves to climb and explore, and the little hidey-holes in an activity centre are perfect for them to escape to if they feel a bit cautious or worried about a situation. Allowing them to get up a bit higher and observe the goings on from a safe space, which is especially useful in multi-cat households.

Tip: Don’t stroke your cat or be tempted to pick them up when they’re on the activity centre – this is their safe space where they can go when they don’t want to be disturbed.

Source:  Bluecross https://bit.ly/37rohH9

 

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Γιατί ένας σκύλος μπορεί να δαγκώσει ένα παιδί;

Mε μεγάλη μου λύπη διάβασα για το χαμό του βρέφους μέσα στο σπίτι του από τον σκύλο του σπιτιού. Είναι πραγματικά τραγικό να χάνονται αθώες ψυχές με τέτοιο τρόπο.
Είναι πραγματικά τραγικό να μη μπορούμε εν έτη 2019 να προστατεύσουμε τα παιδιά μας.

Γράφει ο Δρ. Χρήστος Καραγιάννης, Συμπεριφοριολόγος Κτηνίατρος, MSc, Dip. ECAWBM(BM), MRCVS, Πανευρωπαϊκά Αναγνωρισμένος Ειδικός Συμπεριφοριολόγος Κτηνίατρος, www.behaviour.gr.
Επιστημονικά Υπεύθυνος της Pets Pro Academy (www.petsproacademy.gr) και του Ελληνικού Ινστιτούτου Συμπεριφοράς & Εκπαίδευσης Σκύλου & Γάτας (www.dogtrainingschool.gr)

Για τη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση δε γνωρίζουμε τι έγινε, ας δούμε όμως γενικά τι μπορεί να φταίει και ένας σκύλος να φτάσει στο σημείο να δαγκώσει ένα παιδί.

Σκύλος και Παιδιά, μια ιδιαίτερη σχέση

Η σχέση σκύλων και παιδιών είναι ιδιαίτερη και στην επικοινωνία τους συχνά υπάρχει πρόβλημα.
Δυστυχώς, πολλοί σκύλοι δεν έχουν συνηθίσει την παρουσία και τη συμπεριφορά των παιδιών με αποτέλεσμα κάποιοι σκύλοι να τα φοβούνται.
Τα παιδιά δε συμπεριφέρονται σαν ενήλικες, κάνουν απότομες κινήσεις, τρέχουν γρήγορα, κουνάνε τα χέρια τους, και η φωνή τους είναι υψηλής συχνότητας, στοιχεία τα οποία είναι πιθανό να τρομάξουν πολλούς σκύλους. H επιθετική συμπεριφορά έχει κατά κανόνα τα αίτια της στα αρνητικά συναισθήματα του σκύλου και κατά συνέπεια δεν είναι κάτι που ο σκύλος απολαμβάνει να κάνει, αλλά είναι η τελευταία του προσπάθεια όταν με άλλους «ειρηνικούς» τρόπους δε γίνεται κατανοητό στον άνθρωπο τι ενοχλεί τον σκύλο και τι τον φοβίζει. Από τη μία δηλαδή είναι ο σκύλος ο οποίος αν δεν είναι συνηθισμένος στην παρουσία των παιδιών μπορεί να θεωρήσει κάποιο παιδί ως «απειλή» και από την άλλη, τα περισσότερα παιδιά, ιδιαίτερα αυτά που είναι μικρότερα από 8 χρόνων, τα οποία άθελά τους με τη συμπεριφορά τους μπορούν να ενοχλήσουν ένα σκύλο και ταυτόχρονα να μην καταλάβουν ότι ο σκύλος ενοχλείται και να συνεχίσουν άθελά τους τη συγκεκριμένη συμπεριφορά.
Χαρακτηριστικό παράδειγμα που δείχνει πως τα παιδιά παρεξηγούν τη συμπεριφορά των σκύλων είναι το ότι παιδιά μέχρι 5 χρόνων περιγράφουν ένα σκύλο που τους δείχνει τα δόντια του ότι τους χαμογελάει και όχι ότι τους προειδοποιεί.

Ατυχήματα μέσα στο σπίτι

Ειλικρινά, δεν παίζει κανένα ρόλο αν γνωρίζουμε ή δε γνωρίζουμε το σκύλο, αν είναι εκπαιδευμένος, αν πιστεύουμε ότι μπορούμε να τον εμπιστευτούμε ή όχι, αν είναι τάδε φυλής ο σκύλος ή δείνα.
Τα συχνότερα ατυχήματα μεταξύ παιδιών και σκύλων γίνονται κατά κανόνα με το σκύλο του σπιτιού και με αγόρια μικρότερα από 8 χρονών, όταν δεν υπάρχει επίβλεψη και όχι με κάποιον άγνωστο σκύλο και χωρίς να παίζει ρόλο αν οι σκύλοι αυτοί είναι εκπαιδευμένοι ή όχι. Δεν έχει σχέση αν ένας σκύλος ξέρει το «Κάτσε», το «Μείνε» και άλλες εντολές με το αν θα φτάσει στο σημείο να δαγκώσει.
Στο δάγκωμα φτάνει ένας σκύλος συνήθως λόγω κάποιων αρνητικών συναισθημάτων και κάποιων εμπειριών. Συχνά ατυχήματα περιγράφονται με σκύλους που έχουν μάθει να χρησιμοποιούν επιθετική συμπεριφορά όπως αυτοί που χρησιμοποιούνται για φύλαξη, ανεξάρτητα φυλής και άλλες φορές όταν ο σκύλος για κάποιον λόγο πονάει ή ενοχλείται από κάποια πάθηση και οι κινήσεις ή οι φωνές κάποιου παιδιού είναι το ερέθισμα που ξεχειλίζουν το ποτήρι των αντοχών του. Ο οποιοσδήποτε σκύλος μπορεί κάποια μέρα να βγει από τα όρια του και να δαγκώσει, χωρίς όμως αυτό να σημαίνει ότι όλοι οι σκύλοι είναι επικίνδυνοι, όπως είπαμε άλλωστε είναι η τελευταία προσπάθεια του σκύλου για να εκφραστεί. Αντίθετα, σημαίνει ότι εμείς οι άνθρωποι πρέπει να διασφαλίσουμε πως δε θα φτάσουμε το σκύλο στα όρια τους.

Επιθετικές φυλές:

Η φυλή του σκύλου δεν αποτελεί αξιόπιστο παράγοντα για να προβλέψουμε τη συμπεριφορά του. Υπάρχουν κάποια συγκεκριμένα χαρακτηριστικά, τα χαρακτηριστικά εκείνα για τα οποία έχει δημιουργηθεί η κάθε φυλή τα οποία μπορούν να είναι κοινά μεταξύ των ατόμων της ίδιας φυλής, όπως σκύλοι που έχουν αναπαραχθεί για να φυλάνε πρόβατα, να τραβάνε φορτία ή να χρησιμοποιούνται στο κυνήγι, τα οποία όμως αποτελούν πολύ συγκεκριμένες ιδιότητες και δε σκιαγραφούν το χαρακτήρα του σκύλου, π.χ. αν μία φυλή είναι πιο επιθετική από μια άλλη. Άλλωστε η φυλή των σκύλων και από γενετικής άποψης δεν αποτελεί έναν ομοιογενή πληθυσμό. Σημαντικότερο ρόλο από γενετικής άποψης στο χαρακτήρα ενός σκύλου παίζει η » γενετική γραμμή» η οποία έχει προέλθει, η άμεση δηλαδή οικογένεια του, οι κοντινοί συγγενείς του, και όχι η φυλή γενικότερα. Για παράδειγμα, περισσότερα κοινά χαρακτηριστικά στη συμπεριφορά τους έχουν μεταξύ τους οι σκύλοι διαφορετικής φυλής που έχουν αναπαραχθεί για ένα συγκεκριμένο σκοπό, π.χ. εργασία ή σκύλοι για dog shows, παρά σκύλοι που ανήκουν στην ίδια φυλή π.χ. Λαμπραντόρ, αλλά ανήκουν σε διαφορετικές γενετικές γραμμές, π.χ. Λαμπραντόρ εργασίας σε σύγκριση με τα Λαμπραντόρ για σόου. Άρα, όσο υπάρχουν φιλικά και επιθετικά Λαμπραντόρ, άλλο τόσο υπάρχουν φιλικά και επιθετικά Ροτβάιλερ.

Επιθετικές φυλές και κοινωνικά στερεότυπα:

Δεν είναι δηλαδή η φυλή λοιπόν που περιγράφει το χαρακτήρα ενός σκύλου, για τις διάφορες φυλές που ακούμε ότι είναι επιθετικές φυλές, το θέμα είναι κοινωνικό. Άνθρωποι που θέλουν να έχουν επιθετικούς σκύλους παίρνουν σκύλους φυλών που έχουν ακούσει και πιστεύουν ότι συμπεριφέρονται με επιθετικό τρόπο. Με τη συμπεριφορά τους οι άνθρωποι αυτοί κάνουν τους σκύλους επιθετικούς (γι΄αυτό άλλωστε πήραν τους συγκεκριμένους σκύλους), ενώ ταυτόχρονα πιθανόν και κάποιοι εκτροφείς σκύλων να διαλέγουν να αναπαράγουν γεννήτορες με επιθετική συμπεριφορά, για να πουλήσουν πιο εύκολα τα κουτάβια στο συγκεκριμένο κοινό. Αποτέλεσμα αυτών να δημιουργείτε έτσι ένας φαύλος κύκλος, για τον οποίο είναι υπεύθυνος ο άνθρωπος. Ίδιας φυλής σκύλοι σε άλλη χώρα με διαφορετικά στερεότυπα για τους επιθετικούς σκύλους έχουν διαφορετική συμπεριφορά. Δεν είναι η φυλή του σκύλου λοιπόν, αλλά ο άνθρωπος. Δεν είναι τυχαίο άλλωστε που σε χώρες με νομοθεσία που απαγορεύει συγκεκριμένες φυλές σκύλων ως επιθετικές, όπως η Αγγλία, η νομοθεσία αυτή έχει αποτύχει, συζητείται έντονα η κατάργηση της, και τα δαγκώματα από σκύλους είναι της ίδιας συχνότητας και έντασης με οποιαδήποτε άλλη χώρα που επιτρέπονται οι φυλές αυτές.

Tί κάνουμε εμείς για την ασφάλειά μας;

Ας αφήσουμε όμως τη φυλή των σκύλων στην άκρη, γιατί όπως είδαμε δεν παίζει ρόλο η φυλή και κάθε σκύλος εν δυνάμει μπορεί να δαγκώσει και ας επικεντρωθούμε στη σχέση σκύλου και παιδιού.
Yπάρχει όπως γίνεται κατανοητό μία δυσκολία στην επικοινωνία μεταξύ των παιδιών και των σκύλων, γι΄ αυτό και πρέπει να μάθουμε στα παιδιά μας πως να συμπεριφέρονται στους σκύλους και πως να αναγνωρίζουν τις προθέσεις τους, γιατί χωρίς την κατάλληλη διαπαιδαγώγηση δεν είναι κάτι που μπορούν να γνωρίζουν από μόνα τους, ιδιαίτερα τα παιδιά μικρής ηλικίας. Ταυτόχρονα, όσοι από την άλλη έχουν σκύλους για φύλαξη ή σκύλους που συμπεριφέρονται επιθετικά να τους περιορίζουν αυστηρά όταν βρίσκονται παιδιά στο χώρο. Ταυτόχρονα, κάθε σκύλος όσο γίνεται νεώτερος, πρέπει να κοινωνικοποιείται με τα παιδιά και να του μάθουμε πως η ύπαρξη των παιδιών στο χώρο είναι κάτι θετικό και όχι μία μελλοντική απειλή. Τέλος, ακόμα και αν γνωρίζουμε κάποιον σκύλο και πιστεύουμε ότι τον εμπιστευόμαστε επ’ ουδενί δεν πρέπει να τον αφήνουμε μόνο του με κάποιο παιδί, ιδιαίτερα με παιδιά μικρότερα των 8 χρόνων. Ιδανικά, συνίσταται η ύπαρξη ενός ενήλικα για κάθε παιδί και ενός ενήλικα για κάθε σκύλο, δύο ενήλικες δηλαδή στην περίπτωση που συνυπάρχουν ένα παιδί με ένα σκύλο για να υπάρχει επίβλεψη τόσο του παιδιού όσο και του σκύλου.

Η αρμονική συνύπαρξη σκύλων και ανθρώπων όμως είναι θέμα παιδείας, διαπαιδαγώγησης, τόσο των παιδιών όσο και των ενηλίκων, και σε αυτό πρέπει να εστιάσουμε.

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Brain Boosting Games

brain boosting dog games

Are you a crossword addict? Sudoko fan? Or maybe a bridge fiend? If so, you’ll be happy to hear that brain games—activities that demand mental problem solving—aren’t only fun, they are also good for the mind… both human AND canine.

The Importance of Brain Games in Dogs, and Humans 

  • Keep memories sharp and reduce memory loss 
  • Slow down age-related brain changes
  • Get a smarter and more trainable dog 

Memory and learning ability tend to decline with age, in both people and dogs. In fact, the types of brain changes, from normal aging to diseases like Alzheimer’s, are so similar between dogs and people that dogs are used as a model to study mental decline in human aging. The good news is that brain games help reduce some age-related brain changes.

While it isn’t clear yet which specific cognitive exercises work best, the general consensus is that “use it or lose it” holds as true for human and canine minds as it does for our bodies, so Fido better perk up his ears if he wants to keep track of where the bones are buried in his sunset years. To help you keep those canine cognitive wheels well greased, here are a few awesome brain boosters that most dogs rate with two paws up and a big wag of approval.

teaching your dog to bring toys by name

Teach Your Dogs the Names of his Toys

How many toys does your dog know the names of? Increase his vocabulary by teaching him to retrieve each toy by name. Start with his two favourites, and teach him to fetch them by name one at a time, in a room with no other toys to choose from. If he isn’t a naturally motivated retriever, use lots of praise, tug, or treats to reward the good fetches.

Once he knows the names of two toys, put both on the floor and ask him to fetch them one at a time. Reward correct choices with whatever turns his crank, and by continuing the game. Respond to incorrect choices by repeating the request, and eventually guiding him toward the right toy if he really needs help. If he can succeed with two, try three or more.

This is really tough brain work, so expect to build up his vocabulary very gradually. 

Teach Your Dog the One, Two, ThreesBoost brain by teaching your dog to count

Get some small healthy treats, or kibble. Hold six pieces in one closed hand, and two in the other. Ask your dog to sit, hold your hands shoulder width apart, about arm’s length from your dog, and then open your palms and say “small.” Only let him chow down if he picks the smaller group—just close your palms and start over if he picks the bigger one. You can hand him the six after he gobbles the two—as an added bonus for choosing correctly. Randomly switch up which hand has the smaller number so he isn’t just learning to choose “right” or “left.”

If he’s SUCH a chowhound that he just beelines for either hand willy-nilly, make him wait a few seconds before you say “small” so he takes the time to think. The closer the quantities, the tougher the task: if he can choose correctly between four and five you may need to enroll him in a doggie PhD!

Play the Hot-Cold Game with Your Dog

hot or cold game with dogsThis is a top pick for lazy owners with brilliant dogs. Sit back on the couch with your choice beverage in one hand, and a handful of small healthy treats in the other. Ignore any attempts by your dog to approach you directly for food. Think of a doggie action, like walking over to the bookshelf and making contact with it. Watch her for ANY movement in the right direction, and when you spot it say “HOT!” in an excited tone, and toss her a treat, but not too close to you OR the bookshelf. Gradually hold out for movement that is closer and closer to the action on your mind, and see how she reacts.

If she’s a quick giver-upper you’ll need to make it easy for her so she doesn’t quit on you. If she’s a real tryer, you can let her get frustrated and rack her brains a bit harder. If you stumble on an action that will make a neat party trick, just throw in a command once she’s good at it, and you’re set.

Earning the Kibble by Helping to Find Lost Items

Do you waste time and get aggravated searching for your misplaced purse or keys? Let your dog earn some of her kibble by helping you out. Dab these items with the tiniest drop of her favourite essential oil—so little that you don’t even notice it—and teach her to find them by scent, on request. Rewarding successful search missions with a stuffed chewtoy will keep her content as you head out the door, and motivate speedy and reliable retrieves.

Ever find yourself half asleep in bed, only to realize you didn’t close the bedroom door or turn off the light? Hop online or pick up a book on “targeting and clicker training” and teach your dog to use his snout to shut the door, and his paw to flick off the light switch. If you aren’t a morning person, you may want to put him in charge of turning the lights on to get you going. And no, you cannot safely teach him to make you a coffee!

Where is the Treat? The Cup Swapping Game

Play brain games with dogs, cup swapping gameHave your dog sit, and let him see you hide one piece of kibble under a cup on the floor. Tell him to “take it,” and when he noses or knocks over the cup let him eat the kibble it was hiding. Once he’s good at this he is ready for the shell game. Rub kibble on your fingers and along the inside of three mugs lined up in a row, so the smell of it is everywhere—this is a visual tracking game and we don’t want him cheating with his talented nose! Let him see you hide a piece of kibble under one of the mugs. Tell him to “take it” and give him the kibble when he makes the right choice, no matter how long it takes him, and no matter how many mistakes he makes.

Do this many times, hiding kibble under each of the three mugs, one at a time. When he’s good at this step, slide just the kibble-hiding mug to a different spot before telling him to “take it.” This is pretty tough, and not all dogs can do it. Finally, if your dog seems gifted, try swapping two mugs and see if he can track the kibble-hiding one. This game is EXTREMELY challenging, so don’t start out working him like a grifter or you won’t get anywhere! Success at any level means he is no Forest Gump!

Overall Brain Boosting and Bonding 

Interactive brain games are a fun way to socialize with your dog, while encouraging healthy intellectual exercise at the same time. If you and your pooch enjoy physical activity as much as brainwork, there are also oodles of organized dog sports—agility, tracking, and flyball, to name a few—that work your minds and bodies together. Learning to engage your dog in these activities at just the right skill level is hard brain work for you, too, so now you have lots of activities to choose from that will help keep you BOTH mentally sharp!

 

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8 tips to keep your pets happy and healthy this spring

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Spring has sprung! Keep your pet safe and happy all season long with these helpful tips.

Spring is a wonderful season – especially if you’re a companion animal. Warmer temperatures mean longer walks, plenty of mud to roll in and more birds to watch through the windows. But there are also a few dangers associated with this time of year, and it’s your responsibility to keep your cat and dog safe. Follow these tips for a happy, healthy spring!

1. Prevent seasonal allergies

Does your pet start to itch as soon as the snow starts to melt? Book an appointment with your vet to determine whether he’s suffering from seasonal allergies. If so, help relieve his symptoms by boosting immunity, transitioning him to an anti-inflammatory diet and doing your best to limit his exposure to common seasonal allergens such as pollen.

2. Scan for toxic plants

April showers bring May flowers! Just be sure they aren’t going to harm your cat or dog. Take a stroll up and down your street to identify any toxic flowers or shrubbery. When walking your dog, keep him far away from these dangerous plants. While you’re at it, check with your neighbors to determine whether they’re using any toxic fertilizers or pesticides that can make your pet sick if accidentally ingested – and stay away from cocoa mulch!

3. Secure open windows

Kitties love to lounge in open windows, breathing in the fresh, spring air and soaking up the sun. There’s no harm in this pastime, just be sure your screens are safe and secure, and patch any holes that may have materialized over the winter months.

4. Protect him from the sun

In some locations, heatstroke and sunburn won’t be much of an issue until the summer months. If you live in the south, however, it’s important to be aware of these environmental threats. No matter where you live, keep in mind that your pet is transitioning to warmer temperatures and stronger UV rays the same way you are, so don’t let him run too hard or bask in the sun unprotected for extended periods of time.

5. Keep him away from wildlife

Hibernation season is over, and creatures large and small are lurking in forests and fields. If you’re in the habit of walking your dog off-leash, teach him to leave wild animals alone.  This will keep him – and all his fellow critters – safe from harm’s way.

6. Safely store chemical cleaning products

Starting your spring cleaning? Always store any harmful chemical-based cleaners where your animals can’t access them. Better yet, switch to all-natural cleaning solutions – they’re safer for you, your pets and the environment!

7. Exercise caution around streams and rivers

Like children, companion animals are at risk of falling into fast-flowing bodies of water. Thawing ponds and lakes also pose a risk to off-leash dogs who don’t know any better, so be sure your dog is well trained if you plan to let him roam free.

8. Keep bugs at bay

Ticks and fleas and mosquitoes – oh my. As temperatures rise and insects start breeding at high rates, it’s time to ensure your animal is protected. Start by removing all stagnant water sources – AKA bug breeding grounds – from your property. Next, look for natural insect repellents rather than chemical spot-on treatments, which are harmful to his health. Finally, boost his immune system to offer an extra layer of protection from bug-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, malaria and heartworm.

Shake off those winter blues and enjoy everything spring has to offer you and your pets – just be sure to keep all these safety tips in mind!

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How to play with your cat

Kittens and cats need to play so it is important that you provide an appropriate outlet for play either by playing interactive games or by providing suitable toys. Playing with your cat regularly will teach you about your cat’s personality and strengthen the bond and trust between you.

Why play?

Play assists young kittens’ physical development and coordination. By playing with their siblings they also improve and refine their social and communication skills. As kittens grow older their play changes and by the time they are 14 weeks old their play is mainly directed towards objects, which they stalk, pounce on, bat, grasp and bite. These are the skills they need for hunting. Play provides an outlet for your cat’s predatory instincts and also relieves boredom, prevents behaviour problems and provides exercise which reduces weight gain and future health problems. This is especially important for cats without access outdoors.

Toys

There are many toys available from pet stores including fishing rod type toys, balls and artificial mice. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Feathers, balls, cotton reels, paper shopping bags (not plastic) and cardboard boxes can all be great fun. Whatever you use, make sure it is suitable for your cat – avoid items with small attachments that could break off and be swallowed.

What do cats like to play with?

Cats like movement so the toy must be one that can move in rapid and unpredictable ways, just like a mouse or bird. Toys that reflect light or appear to change in some way are particularly attractive. Cats also like toys with different textures that are around the size of their natural prey (such as mice). Many cats love squeaky toys but some cats are startled by them so introduce them carefully.

You can increase the interest your cat shows in a toy by rubbing the toy in catnip (Nepeta cataria). About 50 per cent of cats will respond to the active but harmless chemical in this herb, by miaowing and rolling.

Cats can become bored with the same toys so be sure to swap the toys every few days to keep your cat interested.

Interactive games

Different cats will prefer different types of games, but don’t play rough and tumble games or tease your cat by moving your fingers or feet under duvets and rugs. Both are great games but can encourage your cat to grab and bite you.

A few short daily sessions are better than one long session as this mimics the normal activity patterns of your cat.

Fishing-rod-type toys (get ideas here)

Don’t lift these toys so high that you encourage your cat to jump up. Allow your cat time to “catch” the fabric creature with its paws and bite at it, otherwise your cat may get frustrated or lose interest. Always tidy this type of toy away after play as your cat could get tangled in the string or tear off small pieces of fabric and swallow them.

Climbing

Cats love to climb and a tiered scratching post is ideal for this purpose. This type of design helps your cat feel safe as it provides hiding places and a high shelf from which to watch the world go by. Find climbing toys here

Food games

Pet cats don’t have to hunt for their food but you can add some excitement and activity into feeding time by using a food ball. This is a ball just bigger than a tennis ball, in which you can put dried cat food. As the cat pushes and bats the ball with its paws the pieces of food fall out. A piece of tuna or cat treats in a scrunched up piece of paper can also provide fun for your cat.

Balls

Make balls more interesting by pulling them along on string or throwing them up the stairs so that they bounce back. See if your cat can catch them before the ball reaches the bottom.

Scratching

Cats love to scratch and stretch and need to exercise their paws and keep their claws in good shape. Make sure you provide a scratching post (the taller the better).

Hiding

Cats like to hide and pounce in and out of boxes and small cat tents or a tunnel. These can also be used when your cat needs some privacy. Encourage your cat into these areas with toys and food.

Training

Training your cat to do tricks can be good fun for both of you and it keeps your cat’s mind active. Keep the training light-hearted and fun – never force your cat to do anything.

Remember:

  • Play for a few short sessions every day
  • Allow your cat to catch and grab the toy at the end of each game
  • Provide a variety of toys
  • At the end of each session tidy away toys with string, or anything that might present a danger to your cat
  • Never force your cat to play or be trained
  • Have fun!

Source: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/how-play-your-cat

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The Journey of a Puppy – the Stages of Puppyhood and How to Handle Them

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by Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Getting a new puppy is such an exciting time.  All the fun, games and mischief that ensue make it a wonderful period with lots of great memories and plenty of fantastically cute photos to look back on.  It is, however, easy to get carried away with the anticipation and thrill of it all and forget to consider the crucial practicalities and the needs of your new puppy.

It is really important to remember that your puppy will need to be introduced to the big wide world in a careful and considered way.  This helps set them up for the best and most happy future.

It is also extremely important that if you are choosing to get a puppy from a breeder rather than adopting, that you take the time to research very carefully.  The way that the pup has been raised in the crucial early weeks can also have a big impact on the future behaviour of your dog too.

Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time but making sure you are helping your puppy to deal with their different developmental stages is also vital (photo credit: Pixaby)

Want to know more about your puppies life stages and what they mean?  We have pulled together a handy summary below.

1. The Neonatal Phase (birth to 2 weeks): Mum is key right now

What to look for:  During this phase, your puppy is at their most helpless, they will not be able to open their eyes yet and many people don’t realise that they can’t actually hear when they are first born too.  They are totally reliant on their mother during this phase. She stimulates their bladder to ensure that they go to the toilet and she makes sure that they stay warm and nourished.

Their movement is very restricted although they can crawl a little and you will hear them to start to make small vocalisations when looking for their mother.

What action should you take:  At this stage, the puppies should start to experience very gentle and short periods of handling.  They are more susceptible to germs so it is very important that you thoroughly wash your hands and keep everything very clean and disinfected (with an appropriate product that is suitable to be used around young puppies).  Be respectful of Mum, she will be feeling very protective and worried about her pups at this stage.

Pups are at their most helpless in this stage and need their mum to protect them

2. The Transitional Phase (2 to 4 weeks): The Introduction of novel objects

What to look for: The pups hearing starts to develop and their eyes start to open and they begin to respond to light and shade, although they will not be able to see fully yet.  Their sense of taste and smell is heightened, their crawling capabilities will increase and they will start to stand and try a bit of a wobbly walk. You may even see them start to wag their tail a bit and there will be more definite interaction with their littermates.  Their little teeth also start to come in. They start to defecate without the assistance of mum at this stage too.

What action should you take: Continual gentle daily handling and gentle chatter to get them used to a human voice are still crucial during this phase.  You should also be starting to introduce new, safe items to the puppies at this point, without overwhelming them with too much.  Items like knotted towels and cardboard boxes (if supervised with them).

If you want the puppies to have an increased likelihood of getting on with cats and there is one in the household, this is the time to start careful and highly supervised introductions.

If there is a cat in the household, now is the time to start introductions with the puppy to help maximise the chance of a good relationship in the future 

3. The Awareness Phase (4 – 5 weeks):  Starting the weaning process and have a stable environment

What to look for: The pups are becoming much more independent now.  They don’t need mum to help regulate their temperature anymore and they are little sponges, soaking up all the new experiences around them. This is the phase when learning really begins and you will see them start to play with their littermates.

What action should you take:  It is vital that the puppies have a very stable environment at this stage, don’t make any big changes.  Their learning is starting and bad experiences can have a big negative impact. They should never be separated from mum and their other littermates at this stage.  It is also crucial that, whilst you want to continue exposing them to new things for short periods in their environment you do not want to stress them out by overloading them with too much too soon.

The pups can also start the gradual weaning process from mums milk and onto solid food.

You will start to see puppies initiate play with one another during this stage 

4. Canine Socialisation Phase (4 weeks to 7 weeks): Pups learn to be dogs

What to look for: They start learning about body language, facial expressions, bite inhibition, vocalisation, how to invite play and social hierarchy including learning to use submissive postures and accepting discipline.  The pups will start to develop their own distinct little personalities.

What action should you take: It is really important that pup continues to remain with mum and littermates during this time to allow them to learn all these new social skills.  Some pups can be removed too early to go to new homes and this can have a huge impact on their future ability to socialise with other dogs appropriately.  They may be fearful, not understand how to communicate or read signals from other dogs or not have learned bite inhibition and be too rough.

At this stage making a distinction between sleep and play areas is important. Some breeders will introduce puppies to a crate at this point and it can help with future house training.

The introduction of positive reinforcement training can now begin and pups can perhaps be separated from their littermates for very short periods at this point to spend time with humans only and this can help avoid it being such a startling change when they go to their new homes.

Puppies start to learn to read body language and their social skills with their littermates grow 

5. Human Socialisation Phase (7 to 12 weeks): Making the transition to their new family home

What to look for: pups can form very strong and deep bonds with “their” humans at this stage.  From 8  to 11 weeks the pups also go through what is known as a fearful stage.  They are extremely sensitive to scary experiences.  If something frightens them it can be very traumatic for them and can influence their future behaviour greatly.  If they have a scary experience with a child in this stage, for example, it can mean they will likely carry a fear of children into adulthood that will be much harder to deal with.  See our article on how to have a harmonious relationship between dogs and children.

Puppies learn at an extremely fast rate at this stage and experiences in this phase can have the most lasting impact on their future life.

What action should you take:  It is important to ensure they are continuing to be exposed to new people, environments, objects and experiences but in a very considered and positive fashion.  This is the time, for example, when you may want to take your pup to the vet, just to get everyone to give them lots of tasty treats and cuddles or start getting them used to going into the car, building up to short trips.  

Positive introductions to dogs outside their litter group is also important at this stage.  Consider taking them along to a well-managed puppy class which involves careful introductions and positive training methods.  A puppy socialisation class where all that happens is free for all puppy play is not the right sort of environment for your puppy.

Make sure any training you are doing is short, fun and very positive.  Puppies only have a very short attention span so you don’t want to try to do too much and risk them losing interest.  Go with our much-used mantra of “setting your pup up for success”.

Introductions to children need to be calm, positive and gentle 

6. Seniority Classification Phase (10 to 16 weeks): Pup starts pushing the boundaries

What to look for:  Your pup is going to start to look for more independence and trying to figure out who the boss is, they may start to puppy mouth and bite more frequently.  They will be testing the boundaries.

What action should you take:  it is really important that in this phase you reward the behaviour you want and redirect the behaviour you don’t.  See our article on further tips for dealing with puppy biting.

It is important to discourage rough mouthing and puppy biting which can increase during this stage

7. Flight Instinct Phase (4 to 8 months): Suddenly your pup has no recall

What to look for: We so often hear new puppy owners say they are surprised how good their pup has been when off leash when they first start going on walks.  This is usually just because the pup is in their first fear phase and they stick close to their humans because they are a bit nervous about the great unknown.

This can all change in the Flight Instinct stage as dogs start to really develop their independence and their sense of adventure and go through a puberty type phase.  They might stop listening when they are called, even if you have worked really hard on getting a solid recall, and be more inclined to venture further afield. They may also up the ante with their mouthing behaviour (they will also have their adult teeth coming through).

What action should you take: We would recommend keeping your dog on the leash during this phase and working on loose leash walking, you could always use a long line to allow them a great sense of freedom.  If they keep running off and being rewarded by lots of fun and adventures, perhaps play with other off-leash dogs,  and you are not able to get them back they will learn that running away is more rewarding than coming back when called.  

Keep working on recall training whilst you use the long line and heavily reward any good behaviour.  See our recall article for more information on getting your pup to come back to you reliably.

We would also recommend having lots of safe and appropriate chewing items for you to redirect your dog to if they start becoming mouthy.  See our article recommending some safe interactive toys.

Make sure you have plenty of appropriate chewing toys available for your pup during this stage 

8. Second Fear Phase (6 to 14 months): Your pup suddenly starts to get nervous around things they were fine with before

What to look for:  Your dog is in their teenage phase now.  They are starting to reach maturity sexually and you will start to notice your male dog cocking his leg and female dogs will go into heat.  Your dog may suddenly start to react fearfully or aggressively towards things that they had previously been totally fine with and new things may frighten them more than they did previously.  Their hormones can make them a bit ‘flaky’. During this phase, maturity can take longer to appear in larger breeds.

What action you should take:  If your pup is showing fearful behaviour it is really important not to punish them as this can make their fear even worse.  It is important to reward any positive/ non-fearful reaction or when there is no reaction to something new or that they have developed a fear of.  For more information on how to deal with this please read out fearful dog article.  Try not to overwhelm your pup with too many new experiences during this phase.

9.  The Full Maturity Phase (between 1 and 2 years):  Your little puppy is all grown up!

During this time your dog will reach their full size and their full sexual maturity.  This generally relates to the size of the dog. Usually, the bigger breeds take a lot longer to reach full maturity than the smaller dogs, some can actually take up to 4 years to reach full sexual maturity.

If there have been particular problem behaviours that you have been lax in working on during the puppy phases these can really embed in your dog during this time.

It is really important to keep up the training, positive reinforcement around behaviours that you are looking for and making sure you offer plenty of enrichment and stimulation to keep your dog healthy and happy.  

Larger breeds take longer to reach maturity

How to include your pet in your wedding

Dog at a wedding - top image How to include your pet in your wedding

For centuries, brides and grooms have had their nuptials witnessed by their nearest and dearest, and now more pets than ever are appearing on the guest list. If you’re getting hitched and think you may like your pet to play a role in your special day, here are some questions to consider before making your cat best man or asking your dog to be ring bearer…

Should I bring my pet to my wedding?

Even without weather worries, dress disasters, late caterers or missing rings to worry about, your wedding day can be an incredibly nerve-wracking experience and having your pet by your side might just help settle some of those jitters, as long as you take steps to ensure that your pet is comfortable too.

When thinking about the role you want your pet to play, consider their personality. For example, you might want your dog to be maid of honour, but do they get stressed in crowds? If they do and you’re having lots of guests, or if the venue is cramped, it might be better if they didn’t come to your wedding. Be sure not to put your pet through anything that will make them uncomfortable or scared.

A good rule of thumb is to have your pet along for no more than two hours, so they can join in the fun without getting tired or stressed.

 

How should I plan for my pet on the big day?

If you’ve decided bringing your pet along is an ‘I do’, the first thing to do is find your four-legged friend an assistant for the day. Having someone familiar on hand who can keep your pet company during their duties, take them away from the festivities after a couple of hours, and home when they need to leave, will mean you don’t need to fret about pet care on the day.

Check the venue is pet friendly in advance – you would be incredibly disappointed if you turned up on the big day only to find out your beloved pet isn’t allowed inside.

Notify the photographer (and your pet!). Make sure your wedding photographer and/or videographer knows in advance that your pet will be involved in any shoots so they can think of some creative ideas of how to get them involved. Get your pet used to the camera too; give them a treat every time the camera makes a noise so they associate the sound with something positive and practice poses if you can.

Be treat conscious. Although weddings are typically a time for you to overindulge on multiple courses of food and drink, you should make sure that your pet isn’t doing the same. Give guests a heads up that treating your pet with human food isn’t a good idea as they may not be aware what foods are safe for animal consumption. Raisins in wedding cakes can be fatal to dogs, for example.

Pick your flowers carefully. If your cat’s coming along, make sure bouquets and flower arrangements don’t contain lilies as these are toxic to cats and could see your big day end in an emergency trip to the vet’s.

 

What should I do if I can’t take my pet to my wedding?

Weddings aren’t right for all pets, and even if your pet would be just fine, you may not want the worry of making sure they’re ok while the festivities of the day are ongoing. If having your pet at your wedding would be stressful for them or you, book them into a friendly pet sitter so you know they’ll be relaxing in safety while you can get on with enjoying yourself – once you’re through those jitters, that is!

Could your pet join you on your honeymoon instead? Britain is blessed with many great dog-friendly escapes so there is no shortage of options for a staycation. If you’d prefer to go abroad, you’ll need a pet passport. Ask your vet for advice.

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