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Clicker Training for Your Chihuahua

Recently, an entirely new training method has emerged and gained rapid popularity for training certain types of dogs like Chihuahuas. Using a clicker, and the old principles of conditioning and positive reinforcement, a pet can be trained to perform a task for a reward in a fairly brief period of time.

Each clicker training session makes use of positive reinforcement, wherein the dog is given some kind of treat as a reward for accomplishing the task. The clicker is a small handheld device made of metal, which is encased by a plastic coating. Each time the dog trainer depresses a strip of metal on the device, it generates a ptopping sound which sounds exactly the same every time it’s done.

The point of using the clicker in this training technique is to convey to the animal the precise moment when a task is to be performed, and if the dog reacts appropriately to the sound, positive reinforcement is provided in the way of a reward.

The thing that makes this technique so effective is that the clicker designates a precise moment in time, and it is exactly the same every time, so there is no possibility of misinterpretation or confusion on the animal’s part.

During ordinary training which involves human voice commands, this kind of misunderstanding is possible, because there can be minor little differences in tone and voice fluctuation which the dog could easily misunderstand. From the standpoint of the dog, it’s a very simple situation – the same clicker sound is made, a task must be performed, and a treat gets provided.

Controversy About the Training

Some detractors point out that this training method has some drawbacks, in that it won’t work if the trainer does not have a reward ready to give to the dog. If the clicker is not visible, or for some reason is inaudible, the dog will miss the signal entirely, and not realize that a task should be performed.

Other points of contention are that it may cause the dog to gain excessive weight, when sessions are extended to include multiple rewards for multiple tasks, which is, of course, common at the beginning of the training routine. It has also been pointed out that if the dog becomes too old to adequately hear the clicker, or of any other environmental distractions interfere, the signal could be missed, and the training would be voided.

 

A Chihuahua responds to a audible cue and looks up at its owner during a clicker training.

Chihuahuas are very good at picking up on audible and visual cues in their trainers making clicker training so effective.

Converting Clicker Training

One way to avoid some of the potential pitfalls of clicker training is to gradually phase out the clicker routine after it has been sufficiently learned by your pet so that a similar routine could be implemented with the same results. For instance, the clicker itself could be replaced by a simple hand gesture or a verbal cue, and the concept can even be extended to phase out the reward part of the training as well.

Granted, this will take a bit longer with most dogs, but it has been shown to be effective in situations where the dog first understood the concept of the clicker routine very well. Transitioning to cues other than the clicker are readily adopted by many dogs once they have an understanding of the process, although the absence of a reward may take a little longer to impress upon your trainee.

How the Training Works

Before you begin your first training session with the dog, you have to convey the notion that each time he hears the clicker sound, a reward will be forthcoming. This is the critical component of the training, and it is very important that the association is made in the dog’s mind.

It won’t take long before a dog quickly learns to perk up or react to the sound of a clicker, because it sounds like nothing else in nature, and it means something special is coming. In the first phase of training, the most important thing is to establish this association, where clicker sound equals treats.

In phase two of the training, the desired task needs to be introduced to your Chihuahua, and the first tasks that you choose should be things that your dog is likely to do anyway, such as laying down or sitting. When your dog successfully completes the task, immediately follow up with another click sound, and then a reward.

The reward aspect is also very important, because it will provide motivation for your Chihuahua to complete the task, and it’s also critical that the reward is immediately forthcoming, so it is directly associated with the sound of the clicker, and the completion of the task.

Something you should not do during training is to make extra body gestures or any other sounds which might cue the dog to perform an action without the clicker sound. You don’t want the dog performing the action simply because he expects to hear the clicker.

The whole point is to trigger the proper behavior from the dog only when it hears the sound of the clicker. Keep in mind that Chihuahuas and dogs, in general, are extremely good at picking up on body language and voice fluctuations, so all these need to be filtered out during your training sessions.

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Purchasing the Right Dog Bed

If there’s one accessory that you go out an purchase for your dog, it should be a nice, soft dog bed that your pet can claim as her own, and which she can withdraw to whenever she’s ready for a nice snooze, or just for a little relaxation time.

It’s well-known that dogs are territorial creatures, and that this characteristic usually expresses itself in those things that your dog considers as her own. One of the most important such objects is the place where she sleeps at night or just retreats to when she’s tired. Some dogs, of course, prefer to spend the majority of their relaxation time on the sofa, or on someone’s bed, but it’s still worth your while to have a designated dog bed set up for those times when she really prefers to snuggle up into her own little cushion.

This is to your advantage as well, since it can keep your pet off the cold floor, and it can go a long way toward keeping fur and pet dander off the furniture, and isolated on the dog bed. If anyone in your family has allergies, this is especially important, because the dog bed can be situated somewhere that allergy sufferers will be less affected by it.

Your dog will love you for providing her with something warm and insulated in cold weather, and for providing the sense of security which all dogs need to have. Here are a few tips on how you can go about finding exactly the right dog bed to please your pooch.

The Way Your Dog Sleeps

Before you begin your purchasing quest, you should understand that all dog beds are not the same and that they can be different in a wide variety of ways. You will be able to find dog beds which are heated, made of memory foam, mattress style, sofa style, various geometric shapes, orthopedic, and even constructed in cot style.

It may be a bit overwhelming at first, but if you have some kind of idea what you’re looking for, that can make things a whole lot easier. The first quality you need to consider when looking for a good new dog bed is your dog’s sleeping style. In the same way that humans have various sleeping styles, so do dogs, with some preferring to curl up into a ball, while others sprawl out to their full length.

Some dogs like to burrow into their bed like a mole and feel that security around them, while others prefer to simply lean up alongside something while they rest. Take a few days to scout your dog’s actual sleeping behavior before you go shopping so that you’ll know the style of bed you really need to purchase in order to please your pet.

Level of Activity and Physical Size

Another major factor in choosing a specific kind of bed for your dog will be its physical size, and this should be large enough to accommodate your dog as it sleeps. You will have learned all about this from your observations already, so you can look for a bed size which is somewhat larger than your dog’s overall length during sleep. An active dog will require a sturdier bed, with a cover that’s thicker, and more durable than would be necessary for a relatively passive dog.

A large golden retriever rests in its large durable bed selected based on the activity level and size of the dog.

The physical size and activity level of your dog are two factors that will affect which bed you should buy.

Washing Instructions for the Dog Bed

This might sound a little curious, but another criterion for determining the kind of bed you buy will be its washing instructions. You will undoubtedly run into the need to wash your dog’s bed multiple times over the course of its life because assuming your dog makes regular use of the bed, it will quickly become dirty and probably cluttered with fur and hair.

If your dog tends to be somewhat smelly, that fragrance will be imparted to the fabric of the cover, and if your dog has any problems with urine leakage, that will also be imparted to the cover.

When you don’t purchase a dog bed which can be easily washed, you may end up throwing it out after some period of time, and simply buying another one to replace it. There are dog beds which come with removable covers that are easily unzipped and washed, and these are ideal for many situations.

Budget Issues

You probably won’t have to worry much about being stuck with a dog bed that looks grossly out of place with your existing decor, because these days you can find dog beds which can fit in with almost any style of interior decoration.

Of course, that may cause the pricing to be escalated somewhat, so you may want to consider what kind of price range you can afford for your dog bed before you even begin shopping. Chances are though, that if you’re willing to look around and shop at more than one store to find just what you need, you’ll be likely to find two, three, or even more good candidates at least.

Then the only problem you might have is trying to decide which of several good possibilities you want to purchase for your beloved pet.

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Keeping Chinchillas as Pets

Chinchillas are a rather unusual pet for most people, but they can be wonderful little companions if you’re not bothered by having a relatively high-strung creature as a pet. They’re a bit like squirrels in their quirky, active natures, but they don’t emit any loud or obnoxious noises, they don’t develop any unpleasant odors, and they have relatively long lifespans, so they’ll be with you a while. You will also love picking them up and holding their luxuriously soft fur. Here are some of the things you need to consider if you’re going to make a chinchilla your next pet at home.

Getting the Right Cage

You could make your own cage if you have those kinds of skills, but most likely you’ll want to buy one online, or simply go to the local pet shop and pick one up. The only real characteristics you need to allow for are making sure that it’s roomy enough to accommodate your new pet, and that it can be comfortable when it’s looking to relax.

As a general rule, it would be better to get a bigger cage than you think you need because they’re very active little creatures that do a lot of climbing, jumping, and running around. It’s a good idea to purchase a cage that has several levels to it and is taller than it is wide.

Air Temperature

Once you’ve got your cage picked out, you should figure out where in the home you’re going to position the cage, so that the temperature is right for your new pet. Obviously, you should not place it next to a door or a window, because temperatures have a tendency to fluctuate in those situations.

If you can situate your cage in a spot that has a steady temperature between 60 and 75°, that will be just fine. Don’t allow the temperature around the cage to exceed 80 degrees, or it will be subject to heatstroke, and humidity should be kept below 60%. If you see your chinchilla’s ears starting to turn red, that’s a telltale sign that overheating is in progress.

Installing Cage Bedding

Some woodchips are harmful to chinchillas, so it’s very important that you get the right kind of bedding to put at the bottom of your chinchilla cage. Avoid any kind of bedding that includes cedar or conifer chips. The ideal chips to use for your chinchilla cage are those which are non-treated, preferably of a type like Appletree, Willow, Birch, or Aspen. At least once a week you should clean out your chinchilla’s bedding, and replace it with some fresh material.

Accessories for the Cage

One of the first things you should buy as a cage accessory is a large wheel because exercise is very important to the chinchilla’s health. Most of the time, it will be sleeping through the day and will be more active at night, so it will be best if you have some kind of appropriately sized den for them to sleep in throughout the day.

Little plastic dens are perfectly all right, and you can even make your own by just poking a hole in the side of a container that’s large enough for them to pass through. Make sure to include a few chew toys and a few sticks for your chinchilla to chew on, because their teeth require constant gnawing in order to keep them correctly sized.

A chinchilla is feds a delicious snack that chinchillas enjoy that keep it healthy and happy.

It’s important to make sure you get the proper food for your chinchilla so they remain healthy.

Food for your Pet

Chinchillas are unable to digest most kinds of green plants, and they don’t do well with protein or fatty foods either. In fact, the only kind of food that a chinchilla really does care for is hay, so if you can supply them with some fresh timothy each day, that will be all they really need.

If fresh timothy is not readily available all the time, you can also supply your chinchilla with hay pellets in a bowl, and they’ll be munching on these contentedly throughout the day or night. If you want to mix things up briefly sometime, you can give them a treat consisting of lettuce leaves and nothing else.

It’s better that you don’t mix up their diet much at all, because even small variations tend to give them digestive problems. In short, feeding your chinchilla is going to be one of the easiest aspects of its care, because there isn’t really anything that they like to eat other than hay.

Chinchillas Baths

The first thing you need to know about chinchilla baths is that you should never get your chinchilla wet because their fur is so thick, it’s literally impossible to ever get it dry again. Since this is the case, fungi can start growing in their fur, or it can begin to rot away.

If you happen to accidentally get your chinchilla wet, you should dry it off immediately to the best of your ability, making sure that you use both towels and a hairdryer which blows no heat.

The chinchilla baths that you purchase in a pet shop actually hold dust, which is necessary to soak up the oils and dirt which are on their skin and on their fur. Most chinchillas will do this at least a few times a week on their own if you leave the chinchilla bath in place in their cage, but some enjoy it so much, that they’ll do it several times daily without being prompted.

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How Can Therapy Dogs Change People’s Lives?

Pet therapy centers are springing up all over the country these days, as more and more people are beginning to realize the highly therapeutic effect that pets can have on humans. Building on knowledge learned about how dogs can help humans recover from feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem, these centers are being established for the purpose of providing that kind of assistance to humans who have been diagnosed with those particular issues. Often working with medical specialists, these therapy dogs are matched with human counterparts in need of companionship, to help them cope with their particular mental or emotional issues.

The Physical Aspect of Therapy Dogs

The benefits received by the human partner don’t end with mere companionship, however. In addition to the emotional and mental support provided by therapy dogs, there can be a physical component which is just as important to the relationship.

In the same way that studies have borne out the emotional benefits of pet companionship, similar studies have demonstrated that having a regular pet companion can contribute a great deal to the physical aspect of a person’s life. Numerous studies have shown that the majority of people who have pet companions are more active, because they take them for walks at least once a day and usually more, and they engage in other activities like play time with them.

The increased activity, in turn, is a great exercise that triggers the release of endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones in the body, responsible for improving mood and making people feel better. In the same way, petting and stroking a dog’ fur is also therapeutic, in that it soothes and relaxes, and at the same time tends to shift a person’s focus away from themselves onto their pet companion. This is ideal for patients with mental issues because at least temporarily, it allows them to forget about their own problems, and project outwardly with another creature.

Therapy dogs are being pet by hospital patients which helps relieve their stress and anxiety from their treatment.

Therapy dogs can have a positive, calming effect by simply being physically present in patients lives.

Dog Therapy Certification

Of course, all these benefits provided by therapy dogs are not quite left to chance, in the hope that any given dog will prove to be a suitable companion for a person troubled by mental issues. There are centers around the country which have been implemented for the purpose of selecting dogs with the right characteristics to become therapy dogs, and these dogs are then put through a program to learn skills which will enhance their already suitable nature for this kind of work.

Many dogs which have been rescued from less than ideal home situations, or which have been abandoned, are considered for inclusion in the program, provided they demonstrate the qualities deemed desirable as therapy dogs. The organizations which seek out these candidates, look for qualities in a dog such as being fun-loving, devoted to a master, active and playful, and with no trace of meanness or aggression.

Once a dog has been identified as being suitable for the program, they are put through a series of courses designed to improve on these qualities and to help them respond better to human instruction and commands. Dogs which successfully complete the course are then certified as therapy dogs and are made available to medical professionals who are aware of the program, and understand what can be accomplished with human patients in need of this kind of companionship.

Other Uses for Therapy Dogs

The scenario described above is not the only way that therapy dogs can provide tremendous value to persons in need of their friendship. Some owners of therapy dogs contribute their time and their pet’s time in situations where they can provide benefits over a short period of time, in settings like nursing homes, hospitals, and schools.

This, of course, is not usually an ongoing benefit to the people in those institutions, but even a relatively brief exposure to therapy dogs can literally light up a person’s day and improve their attitude noticeably.

It should be noted that therapy dogs are not the same thing as service dogs, because service dogs actually are given special training that helps them perform pre-defined tasks for persons who are in some way disabled. A good example of a service dog is one who has been trained to lead a blind person safely through social situations without harm.

This type of dog would be one which stays indefinitely with its master so as to provide ongoing service in that same specialty. While therapy dogs do undergo training, it is not specialized training to benefit someone who is disabled, but the training is instead more focused on providing companionship and affection on a more limited basis.

Those dogs which been certified for this kind of service receive a title of AKC Therapy Dog, but they do not have the same status as service dogs, which are allowed on planes, in grocery stores, and other settings where ordinary pets would not be allowed. This is because service dogs are necessary at all times for a disabled person, regardless of wherever they happen to be. The same cannot be said of therapy dogs, even though their companionship is very often considered essential by a partner.

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Dog Dental Care: Tips on Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

The most common of all diseases affecting canines is dental disease, and fortunately, it is also one of the most treatable and preventable of diseases. You maintain healthy dog dental care by providing a crunchy diet, regular chewing treats and making sure that your dog’s teeth are brushed daily to keep them in good shape.

You may have some difficulty when you first start brushing your dog’s teeth, but soon it will become a matter of a daily routine, and then your dog may even look forward to it, because of the attention you give during those sessions. Here is a guideline you can use for dog dental care.

Start Young With Dog Dental Care

It’s very important to start good dog dental care habits as soon as your pet comes into the home, ideally while it is still a puppy. At that time, most things are new to your pet, so tooth-brushing is just one more new thing your canine will have to get used to. It’s always best to get your pet started off with a healthy, clean mouth early in life, so that a pattern of good dental health can be established and maintained.

Materials Needed

You won’t need much to get the job done, but you should make sure you have the right materials when brushing your dog’s teeth. This calls for a soft bristled toothbrush and a special toothpaste which you can get from your veterinarian. It’s not advisable to use baking soda or toothpaste meant for humans, as these can cause problems for your pet.

The toothpaste that you get from your veterinarian will be specially formulated for pets, and it will usually have appealing flavors that your dog will like. Make sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush, because it’s critical to brush below the gum line, and only these kinds of toothbrushes are effective for that purpose.

A vet brushing a dog's teeth for optimal dog dental care.

For optimal dog dental care, it’s a good idea to get your pet a professional teeth cleaning at the vet’s office. Your vet will use a special toothbrush to remove plaque and tartar buildup in your dog’s mouth.

The Importance of Daily Brushing

Daily brushing of your dog’s teeth is essential, especially with using a brush that will remove plaque from below the gum line. Plaque is constantly collecting the surfaces of teeth and near the gumline. In less than two days, this plaque can become mineralized into a substance called tartar. Tartar can’t be removed by simple brushing, but can contribute to periodontal disease in your pet. Give special attention to the upper back teeth in your dog’s mouth, because historically it’s this area which is affected first and most severely by periodontal disease.

Designate a Time of Day for Brushing

Try to make the time of your teeth brushing sessions convenient for your pet, and something which minimally disrupts the daily routine. If you plan your brushing sessions right before a daily walk, or directly before you give out a special treat, your dog will associate teeth brushing with a pleasant experience and look forward to the brushing.

Getting Started

At the very beginning, it’s best to just familiarize your dog with the taste of the veterinary toothpaste, by dabbing a little on your finger and running it along the gum lines of your dog’s mouth. Then you can run your finger around the upper teeth and lower teeth to get your dog used to the sensation of pressure there.

Follow that up with the toothbrush itself, so that your dog can become familiar with the feeling of the bristles against its gums and teeth. If you encounter serious resistance from your pet, you may have to limit yourself to these familiarizing exercises for a few days, without actual brushing.

Once your pet has become sufficiently acclimated to the feeling of the brush against its teeth and gums, you should immediately begin actual brushing sessions. Your technique should be to angle the bristles of the brush slightly upward on the upper teeth (and downward on lower teeth) part of the mouth so that the brush is sure to get under the gum line.

It’s best to work from the back toward the front, moving the toothbrush in slow circles that will dislodge any plaque which has already built up. It should take under a minute to address all tooth and gum surfaces in your dog’s mouth in this manner, unless you encounter difficulty with your pet’s behavior. If this should happen, make sure that you always start with the upper back area because it’s the most important one, and it’s the one you don’t want to miss each day.

Professional Dog Dental Cleaning

Unless you know for sure that you’re doing a great job every single day brushing your dog’s teeth, it’s a good idea to seek a professional clearing periodically just to be sure. Just like with people, daily brushing should catch most problems before they can degenerate into a dental disease, but in practically all cases, a professional cleaning catches material that was missed in the daily routine. An extra level of attention is always appropriate for maintaining good dental health in your pet, and you can be confident of avoiding any dental disease.

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Puppy Grooming: When Is the Right Time to Start?

The right time to start grooming your puppy is a more important question than you might think because grooming too soon can be just as bad as starting the process too late. The ideal time to begin puppy grooming has to wait until after it has been weaned from its mother, which in most cases is in the neighborhood of eight weeks or so.

It should also be after your new puppy has become acclimated with its new surroundings in your home, and with all family members as well. A good ballpark figure for when to start is at around 12 weeks, which accounts for weaning, adjusting to its new home, and readiness for new experiences.

It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t overwhelm your puppy at that first grooming session because it will be very difficult to have your puppy stand still for an extended period of time. This will run counter to its natural instincts, which for many types of dogs includes being full of energy and enthusiasm, and not standing still for grooming.

The First Grooming Session

If nothing else, your first puppy grooming session should include a bath, and possibly blow drying, and even this is quite an accomplishment, because it calls for getting your puppy used to standing in a tub, relatively quietly. This should not take a great deal of time, so it will not put undue strain on your puppy to remain in place for too long.

If your puppy tolerates the bath and blow drying fairly well, you can add nail clipping to your grooming session. When it becomes fairly obvious that your puppy has grown used to grooming sessions, you can also attempt to do some hair trimming wherever it’s needed. Trimming fur from around the eyes is one of the places where it’s most needed, but that’s also one of the more difficult areas to get your puppy used to.

This of course, calls for considerable caution with your scissors, but once you have your puppy used to the sight, sound, and feel of scissors, you’ll be able to do whatever hair trimming is necessary. Not all puppies will take to the notion of standing quietly on a table or in a tub, so this along me take some getting used to, but it’s an essential part of the grooming process, so you have to stick with it.

A full haircut for your puppy will probably not be necessary for the first few sessions, so only fur trim should be attempted. By the time your puppy has become used to trimming, a full haircut will not be much of an extension.

A pet store professional puppy grooming.

Starting puppy grooming when your dog is just a few weeks allows them to establish good habits before they become harder to train.

Why Start Puppy Grooming Early?

It may seem that starting your puppy grooming at between 8 and 12 weeks is too early and that it might be better to do it later when it’s a little more mature and perhaps less energetic. In truth, however, it’s much more challenging to begin grooming with a puppy more than a few months old. In those first six months of its life, your puppy will have already developed particular fears and which can inhibit the process of grooming, and make it more difficult.

In many cases, puppies who have reached the age of six months or over are also much more aggressive and are much less tolerant to the kind of patience and restraint necessary throughout the grooming process. If puppies reach the age of six months without already having been exposed to bathing, brushing, blow drying, nail clipping, and haircutting, it will undoubtedly be a much more difficult process to get them used to. You can expect to spend a lot more time trying to get your puppy used to all the activities associated with proper grooming if you don’t initiate the process before the age of 12 weeks.

Puppies Grow Up Fast

Your dog begins maturing at around six months, which is another good reason why your puppy grooming should start well before that. Part of that transition involves having your puppy’s fur change over to an adult coat. It’s especially crucial during this period that you do thorough brushing and combing of your puppy’s coat, because if left unattended, it can become matted and tangled in with the emerging adult fur.

When that happens, grooming becomes much more difficult, and can be more uncomfortable for your pet. Some breeds of dogs do not naturally shed their juvenile fur, and that means it has to be vigorously brushed out during grooming sessions. If properly attended to, this will allow your pet’s adult coat to grow in naturally and smoothly, and result in a very healthy and attractive-looking coat.

By starting your puppy out with good grooming sessions at an early age, you can ensure that your pet will enjoy the experience much more, and will always look its best.

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Helping Your Overweight Cat Stay Healthy

It has been conservatively estimated that at least half the domestic cats in this country are overweight. This is a situation which real pet lovers should take seriously, rather than brushing it off. In fact, it’s very unhealthy for your cat to be overweight, and it can seriously affect its overall health, as well as the cat’s expected lifespan. Excess weight is relatively easy to identify in your cat since pouches of flesh can protrude on both sides. A healthier, slimmer cat will have a ‘straight-line’ profile down to the ground, rather than the saddle-bag look characteristic of an overweight cat.

Given the fact that your cat’s health and longevity can be severely affected by being overweight, as a pet owner, you should do what you can to help your cat lose weight so that it can enjoy better health and greater longevity.

Manage Calories and Fat Intake

The healthiest foods for cats are highly digestible, with a high meat content. Domestic cats have evolved over centuries from predators in the wild which were obligate carnivores, creatures with digestive systems adapted to extracting their nutrition from meats. Domestication has changed many of the habits of house cats, but not their natural digestive systems.

A great way to control fat intake for your cat is to feed it canned or raw foods. If your cat’s primary diet consists of dry foods, make sure that the dry foods you’re feeding it are specially formulated to promote weight loss. These kinds of dry foods will include sufficient levels of nutrition, with only small amounts of calories and fat.

In general terms, the most beneficial approach to feeding your overweight cat is similar to the ideal eating approach for humans – feed them smaller and more frequent meals. Most packaged or canned cat foods will include guidelines for how much to feed your cat each day, and in some cases, will even recommend measured portions.

This is a good idea, because these recommended portions do follow nutritional guidelines on how to maintain good health. You can go a step further by calculating the total recommended food portion to be given your cat each day, and dividing that into five or six smaller portions. This way, the total amount will be the same, but smaller portions each time will space out the meal times, and keep your cat from feeling too hungry.

An overweight cat eats wet food.

Even though cats prefer dry food, it’s high in carbohydrates. Often, wet food is a better option for helping overweight cats slim down.

Keep Your Overweight Cat Active

Studies have shown that pet owners who play with their cats frequently, and who encourage their cats to play on their own with toys, will generally have healthier pets that are less prone to being overweight. There are of course, other benefits to frequent playtime with your cat, such as bonding more with family members, but keeping it more active with increased play is one of the most beneficial for its overall well-being.
It may take you a while to find out which kind of toys your cat prefers, but start out with toys that look like prey, such as a mouse, a big insect, or a bird. Many cats also have favorite colors, and with a little experimentation, you might be able to find out if your own cat has a favorite, which you can then exploit by purchasing toys of that color.

You can also increase your cat’s interest in any particular toy by including a dab of honeysuckle or catnip on the toy, which will appeal to its sense of smell. If you want to get creative, you can build your own indoor obstacle course or fitness trail, where you create little tunnels, plank ramps, chairs, and tables for your cat to navigate. By including healthy treats along the way, you will encourage participation, and increase the likelihood of their continued interest.

Cater the Environment to the Cat

In some cases, you may need to adapt your home environment somewhat to encourage more active behavior from your cat, especially in situations where you have multiple cats at home. It’s typical in such cases for one cat to be more dominant, and to eat a larger share of the food provided. You can prevent this by feeding the larger cat on the floor, and create feeding areas more elevated for the other cats, or you can feed the less dominant cats in separate rooms entirely.

In single-cat homes, you can add to your cat’s enjoyment of the home environment by providing empty boxes or bags, paper towel tubes, or toilet paper tubes, cat trees, or scratching posts to make your cat more comfortable and more active. When a cat feels less anxiety or stress at home, it will generally be more inclined to participate in fun activities that represent good exercise and healthy activity, all of which contribute to helping your overweight cat shed pounds and enjoy better health.

 

 

 

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5 Tips on Caring for Your Pet Salamander

Salamanders can be a wonderful source of joy for owners, so it’s important to know how to care for them properly. Since keeping a salamander in your home is far from its natural environment, it stands to reason that the best way to make any pet salamander comfortable in its new surroundings is to provide as many natural features possible.

If you don’t know anyone who has a pet salamander, and you haven’t encountered them in the wild, they are charming little amphibians with slender bodies and long tails. They have no claws, which adds to their appeal as pets, and they generally have five toes behind, with four toes in front. Most salamanders fall within the range of 4 to 8 inches long, and must be provided with a water source, so they can keep their skin moist.

Although as a pet owner you might never see this in action, the salamander has the very useful ability to regenerate limbs and other body parts which have been somehow lost or removed. In order to get the most enjoyment out of your pet salamander, and to keep it healthy, make sure to take note of these five tips.

A Natural Diet

Salamanders don’t usually eat the grain meal and packaged foods you find in pet stores because that’s not what they eat in their natural habitat. They love to chomp on earthworms, woodlice, and slugs – you might be surprised to find that you can purchase these creepy crawlies at your local pet supply store. It’s best to feed your pet salamander at night since they are nocturnal creatures who become active in the twilight hours.

A pet salamander in a moist leafy habitat.

A pet salamander likes moist leafy habitats because they mimic the features of their natural habitat.

Housing Arrangements

As mentioned above, the very best housing arrangement you can establish for your pet salamander is to approximate conditions it would encounter in its natural environment. Salamanders enjoy moist habitats with many nooks and crannies where they can nestle and hide.

You don’t have to buy an elaborate setup that costs a fortune. You can make your own salamander habitat starting with a clear, easy to clean container that comes with a secure lid. The container will have to have holes which are smaller than the salamander’s body size, for ventilation and air flow.

Then you can place wood chips, potting compost, and other absorptive material on the flooring. Next, you should include a few objects like rocks or pieces of wood, which the salamander can hide behind when it wants to. When you’re selecting a place in the home to situate your salamander box, make sure that it never receives direct sunlight, because that would create uncomfortable temperature conditions for your pet. Don’t forget to include a water dish, so your pet salamander can stay well-hydrated.

Environment Control

As we mentioned before, salamanders do not like warm temperatures, and that’s why direct sunlight is such a bother to them. They prefer temperatures between 55 and 65°F, which means that your salamander housing should be stored in a cool place that doesn’t get day-long heat. This is especially important during the summertime when temperatures can soar. A salamander left at home with no air-conditioning will be in serious jeopardy. Place a small thermometer inside its container for convenient temperature monitoring. Since your pet salamander will always need to maintain skin moisture, it must be provided with standard dampness as part of its environment. If nothing else, a dish full of water should be kept in its environment at all times, and this water should be changed daily, so it’s always fresh.

Handling of Your Salamander

Many pet owners enjoy cuddling with their pets as one of the primary perks of ownership, but this is a temptation you’ll have to overcome with your pet salamander. Keep in mind that salamanders have very delicate, moist skin which will not tolerate handling to any degree. It’s best to have the understanding at the outset that you will handle your salamander as little as possible, and just enjoy observing it.

Making Sure Your Pet Salamander Stays Healthy

Whatever kind of housing you’ve set up for your pet salamander must be cleaned approximately every two months. When you do this, make sure to use nothing more than warm water and a very mild cleaning agent, such as dishwashing detergent. There are many kinds of cleaning agents and disinfectants which can be very harmful to your pet salamander (chlorine, for instance), and these must be avoided at all costs. It’s best to not get too adventurous with cleaning solutions and just stick to mild soap and water. Your pet salamander will appreciate the clean environment, especially if their home is free of harsh cleaning agents.

 

Cat Toys: Giving Your Feline Something to Play With

Cat playing with cat toys on a cat scratch stand.

Does your pet have any cat toys?

Cats are interesting house pets to have. They move to their own tune and have such quirky personalities. Often, cats can seem like they want to be left alone. While they are quiet and keep to themselves, they do need some love and attention. One of the great ways to interact with your whiskered friend is to buy cat toys.

Cat toys are a great way for you and your pet to bond. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are also designed to keep your cat’s attention as these pets are naturally attracted to these items. Finding the right ones will get them active and improve your relationship with your cat. Here are a few cat toys you should be on the lookout for.

Scratching Posts

A scratching post is an old favorite. Over the years, they have taken all sorts of shapes and sizes. What you want to look for are height and sturdiness. The tall, the better. Cats are compelled to fully stretch out and work to explore every inch of a scratching post. They will be happy climbing and trying to reach the top.

Cats also love to mess with posts to no end. Between climbing, scratching, and putting the extent of their full weight on a post, you’ll need something that can take punishment and is sturdy. Otherwise, the post will just end up toppling over every time your feline friend messes with it.

Another aspect of the post that you want to focus on is the material. With so many different types to choose from, it can be hard trying to find the right one. We suggest something that is satisfying for your pet to scratch on but lasts for a long time. You’ll also want to avoid anything that resembles carpet. It will make your pet feel like that material is okay to scratch on.

Cat Wands and Charmers

Have you ever held a piece of string in front of your cat? It’s fun to see them jump up and down as they try to grab it with their paws. Well, you’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of cat toys that provoke the same reaction and do it better.

Cat wands and charmers are simple. It’s essentially a stick or wand with a piece of fabric or toy hanging off at the end. They are far more intuitive to use than a piece of string. You hold the wand or stick in front of you and wave it at your pet. They play with it and have a great time trying to grab the fabric or toy.

What makes the wand or charmer a better option is that it minimizes your risk. Cats are a bit reckless when it comes to playtime. When you wave something tempting in front of them, they are ready to pounce. With items like a short piece of string, your cat can accidentally claw and grab onto your hands, leaving cuts and scratches. These products allow you to have fun together and keep you safe.

Catnip Stuffed Toys

Cats love nothing better than catnip. They are instantly attracted to the substance and will go anywhere it goes. You’ll often find that their personality completely changes when they are exposed to the oil. If you want to keep your pet preoccupied, buy cat toys stuffed with catnip. The ones shape like mice are the usually the best. Cats love playing with mice and a toy shaped like one will astonish them with delight.

Cat Tunnels and Tubes

While cats generally stay indoors most of the time, they do like to explore. If you pay attention, you’ll often find them in the strangest places of your house. Some cats even favor squeezing themselves into tiny boxes and spaces. Cat tunnels and tubes are a great way to facilitate that need. Some of these structures even come with a toy inside, helping your cat to make the most of toy time. When searching for options, look at the ones that best fit for your cat and your home.

Buying Cat Toys

You can buy plenty of cat toys at the Pet Shop. Just come down to our location in Allston, MA and our team will be more than happy to help you out. We guarantee that you’ll find the right deal for you – we even have cat food. Plus, your cat will look forward to all the new toys you bring them. Don’t wait, call us at (617) 787-0857 and find out what we have available.

Owning a Healthy Pet for an Everlasting Friendship

A healthy pet dog is being examined by a veterinarian.

There’s nothing better than a healthy pet!

The friendship between you and your pet is a special bond. As an owner, you have the responsibility of taking care of your pet and making sure that friendship lasts a long time. The best kind of pet is a healthy pet and that depends on you. How you manage their well-being can make a difference in their quality of life. Need help figuring out what you should be doing? Well, if you focus on any of the following then you’ll be on the right track.

Find the Right Food

If there is one thing that we as humans are constantly careful about, it’s what we eat. We agonize over every piece of food and how it effects our body. That’s because we don’t want to do more harm than good. The same should go for your pet. You should be carefully curating the type of food you are feeding them. Do some research, find out the best diets for dogs, cats, bird, lizards, etc. It all depends on the type of pet you have. You should also focus on key health points like:

  • Building the immune system
  • Maintaining proper digestion
  • Keeping bones and joints healthy and strong
  • Avoiding unhealthy foods

Don’t Overfeed Your Pets

One mistake that a lot of new pet owners make is overfeeding their pets. As eager as we are to make sure that they are eating enough, we tend to overdo it. Pets can suffer from obesity. In fact, it’s a common problem amongst pets that decreases their life expectancy. Moderate how much they eat by checking serving sizes. This will prevent conditions like heart disease and diabetes from cropping up.

Keep Their Mouth Clean

Oral health is important for anyone – pets and owners alike. A healthy pet has healthy teeth, otherwise, they will end up suffering from dental diseases that cause all sorts of problems. No one should have to see their pet struggle to eat because their teeth hurt. Also, the longer you leave the issue untreated, the worse it will become. We suggest finding inventive ways to clean your pet’s teeth like treats and toys.

Don’t Skip the Vet

While you can do everything to clean, feed, and groom your pet, you have to prepare for the unexpected. That means taking your pet to the veterinarian regularly. A professional veterinarian will be able to look for and find signs of trouble that you are certain to miss. Even more, they’ll pass on knowledge and advice to help you keep your pet in great shape. It’s important to find issue early before they become a problem you cannot handle.

Choose Healthy Pet Food and Accessories at the Pet Shop

If you need the right food or toys to help your pet stay healthy, visit us at the Pet Shop. We have plenty of food, toys, and accessories to choose from. We offer the best brands available and cater to a wide variety of pets, so we’re sure you’ll find just what you need. Don’t let your pet’s health slip by, keep them with you for a long time.