Why Parrots Love Bird Toys

Many pet owners who have previously had parrots or other kinds of birds in the home are aware of the fact that many bird pets seem to really need a variety of different bird toys that they can play with. At first glance, it might seem that the primary need for these toys is to fulfill the parrot’s innate desire to chew on things and to keep its beak strong.

This is without a doubt one of the instinctive appeals for parrots, because their beaks are strong enough to crack even the most stubborn nuts out in the wild, and it’s just a natural thing for them to want to maintain that same kind of strength in their beaks. But there are other aspects of their natural lives in native habitats which have additional powerful influences on their behavior, even when they are in a domestic environment, in someone’s Massachusetts or Nebraska home.

In their native environments, parrots are predominantly involved in finding food and water throughout the day, as well as fleeing from natural predators. Over centuries of development, this has given them skills in the areas of intelligence, physical capabilities, and exceptionally sharp memories. Memory function comes in very handy when they need to recall the precise location of safe trees and shelters, as well as areas that provide life-giving food and water.

When developing naturally, parrots are also very strong flyers, unless their flight feathers are clipped at a developmental stage, and when that happens they never become good flyers, even when their flight feathers grow back.

So how do all these natural capabilities translate to domestic situations, wherein parrots are maintained in a caged environment, with all their real needs provided for them? This is exactly the point where pet toys can come into play because they can allow parrots to exercise those natural abilities and instincts, even though they are far removed from the rainforests native to their species.

As pet owners, we should all recognize that these are very powerful instincts, ingrained into the birds over many, many years and that if they don’t get the chance to express these instincts in their current environments, they might become anxious, unsatisfied, and downright unhappy.

Below are described several categories of parrot toys which fulfill these basic needs for the birds, giving them a chance to act out their natural instincts in ways that are suitable to their domesticated circumstances.

Foraging Bird Toys

These kinds of toys fulfill the need for parrots to forage for food because that is an activity which would ordinarily take up almost 90% of their time in a natural setting. In order to fulfill the struggle which a parrot needs to obtain its food, you should put small amounts of food in places where the bird must navigate around or through some kind of toy, in order to get the prize it is seeking.

There’s no problem with leaving small amounts of readily available food sometimes, but if you can devise ways of making your parrot work to get its food and water, it will instinctively appreciate the exercise and feel more in tune with its new environment.

Gymnastic Bird Toys

There are a number of swinging-type toys that you can install in your parrot’s cage, such as braided rope, swings, bridges and other such items, which will help to approximate its natural treetop environment, and which will allow it to engage in healthy exercise. All these things encourage movement from your parrot, and that is greatly preferable to having a disinterested bird which sits in a single location, doing pretty much nothing.

A green parrot sits in a cage full of bird toys that help keep it healthy and intelligent.

A healthy parrot needs a variety of different bird toys that it can chew on, forage in and problem solve.

Puzzle Bird Toys

Some pet shops offer puzzle bird toys which are similar in construction and intent to those which are sold in toy stores, and which are intended for use by small children. Some of these are brightly colored offerings, so as to catch the bird’s attention, but all of them have some basic problem to solve, and that’s the appeal to your parrot.

This is where its strong memory comes into play, as well as its natural intelligence, and when you find a puzzle toy which particularly captivates your pet, you may notice that the bird spends many hours of the day trying to work out a solution to that particular puzzle.

Chew Bird Toys

Almost any kind of a wooden chew toy is a great distraction for your parrot, as long as the wood is not made from cedar or any of the conifers, because these can be harmful to your bird. The wooden toys are excellent for parrots to gnaw on and chew, because they do a great deal of this in their rainforest environment, and they will still feel the instinct to do the same thing in a more domesticated situation.

You may even want to provide your parrot with some kinds of nuts because many different parrots are downright experts at cracking open nuts and eating the sweet treat inside. The only trick to this will be to find the kind of nuts that your parrot prefers, so that it will be motivated to break into it, to obtain the treat.

Keep in mind that many species of parrot are fairly intelligent birds, particularly the African Green Parrot and the Eclectus Parrot, so when you provide your pet with different kinds of toys, you may have to change them out periodically, in order to keep your pet engaged. By providing your smart, feathered friend with new toys every so often, you will spark its interest repeatedly, and ensure that its natural instincts are allowed to have free reign in its new environment.


11 Fascinating Facts About Parrots you Never Knew

There are several different types of parrots, but they all share at least a few things in common, starting with their classification as members of the order called Psittaciformes. In this animal order, there are approximately 350 different kinds of birds, including cockatoos, cockatiels, macaws, and parakeets, as well as the different types of parrots.

The characteristics which all parrots have in common are their curved beaks, and their four toes, two of which point backward, while the other two point forward. Most parrots prefer the warmer climates found in the southern hemisphere, although some are also situated in South America, Central America, Mexico, and Australia.

While everyone has probably seen a few parrots up close and personal, or at least in zoos, there are probably a lot of fascinating facts about these beautiful birds that many people are unaware of, some of which are detailed below.

They Like to Destroying Things

Most parrot toys are constructed so that they can be easily ripped apart and destroyed, and in fact, any parrot toy which you purchase that can’t be destroyed by the bird will probably hold very little interest for it. Out in the wild, parrots spend just about all their time searching for and eating food, so when maintained in a captive environment, they feel the need to search for things anyway, often instinctively destroying it.

Some of them are Poor Flyers

In many places where parrots are captured for sale, it’s a common practice to clip their flight feathers at an early age, when they would naturally attempt to fly. This of course results in the parrot being unable to fly not only at that time but at any other time in its life as well. By the same token, if you cage a parrot at that critical development time, in a structure which is too small for flight, it will never be a good flyer in its lifetime.

Some do not Speak

Virtually all parrots have the innate ability to learn how to speak the human language, but not all of them care too. Some of the most adept species at speaking English is the Yellow Forehead Amazon parrot, the Jacob, and the Budgie.

They Need Regular Baths

Parrots’ general need for taking baths stems from the fact that in their native rainforests, they are usually rained on at least three or four times every week. Parrots are quite happy to take a shower or a bath along with you, and they don’t have any problem with being put in the sink and having tap water splashed over them.

A parrot owner holds their white parrot in their arms but is cautious to avoid getting bit as many breeds do.

Even though its safe to hold parrots, you must be careful because many breeds enjoy biting things that are close to their beaks.

Parrots Tend to Match with Their Mates

For the most part, males and females for parrot species look very much the same, so much so that it’s virtually impossible to tell them apart. One of the few notable exceptions to this rule is the Solomon Island Eclectus parrot, and the male and female of this species are so completely different, that it was thought for many years they were two completely different species.

They Have Zygodactyl Toes

Like a number of other bird species, parrots have four toes on each foot. However, in contrast to other species which have three toes forward and one behind, parrots have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward. This amounts to having two pairs of opposable thumbs, and when this capability is coupled with their powerful nut-cracking beaks, they can be extremely good climbers and very powerful eaters.

Not All Parrots are Tropical

As mentioned previously, many parrot species inhabit the southern hemisphere countries, but there are some notable exceptions to this rule. Some parrots reside in the mountainous regions of New Zealand and actually make their nests in burrows. The rare Maroon-fronted Parrot of the Sierra Madre range in Mexico makes its home in an environment 6,000 feet above sea level.

They Taste Things in an Unusual Way

Since some parrots have taste glands situated near the backs of the throat, their taste buds are correspondingly located on the upper part of their mouths, with a full complement of 300 or so taste buds. While this may seem like a pittance compared to the 10,000 taste buds in a human’s mouth, parrots are perfectly capable of differentiating between various tastes, and actually, crave certain kinds of foods.

They are very Social

Most parrots live in flocks and enjoy being surrounded by others of their species. African Grey parrots for instance, routinely live in flocks of between 20 and 30 birds. Most parrot species mate for life and raise their young together in a collaborative effort. Communication between parrots is via certain kinds of vocalizations, combined with significant tail feather shaking that carries specific meaning.

Their Feathers Have Antibacterial Pigments

The brilliant feathers that you see on parrots are not just for show, because this extraordinary plumage actually provides protection against certain kinds of bacteria that could be harmful to them.

They Like to Bite

As many pet owners have discovered already, parrots don’t have any problem with biting the hand that feeds them. In the vast majority of cases, however, parrots do not bite out of aggression but out of anxiety or fear. Biting is also one of the ways they communicate, both with each other and with human owners.


7 Essential Accessories New Pet Owners Need to Be Prepared

If you’ve been thinking about bringing a pet into your home, you may already be aware of what a tremendously rewarding experience you are in for, assuming friends or relatives have been sharing their own experiences with you. There’s no doubt that owning a pet can be one of the most satisfying and fulfilling kinds of activities that you ever embark on, but in order to get the most out of your time with the new household addition, you should be as prepared as possible.

For instance, if you’re thinking about purchasing a dog from your local pet store, you can browse around and see which types are available here, or you can take a different approach and research which kind of dog you’d like to have, and then see where you can find it.

Either way, regardless of the type of dog you are going to purchase, you should learn a little bit about its characteristics and its traits so that you know what to expect once it arrives in the household. Some dogs, for example, require a great deal of exercise because they’re very active, whereas others are much less active, and prefer a more passive lifestyle.

Once you’ve selected the type of dog that you want to have, and you know a little bit about its breed, you’ll want to be prepared in your household in other ways for the coming of your new friend. That means you’ll have to go out and make the necessary purchases to accommodate the daily needs of your new pet so that you both can enjoy your time together. Below you’ll find a checklist of those items which you should purchase, to be well prepared for your new arrival.

Collar and Leash to be prepared

Most dogs require at least some kind of exercise, and you’ll want to take your dog for a walk every day at least once or twice, simply so they can relieve themselves after the stimulus of walking. You’ll need to have a collar and leash for these walks, and you might even enjoy the process of searching around for one which looks good on your pet, and which has a style that you appreciate. Your collar and leash can be a combination of useful necessity and style, but it will also be the place where your dog’s identification tags are attached.

Leash Bag

The leash bag can be clipped to the end of the leash, and its purpose is to contain several plastic bags which can be used on your walk through the neighborhood. Most towns and cities have rules and regulations about cleaning up after your pets, so you’ll want to be prepared with the necessary equipment to make this as painless as possible.

Coats and Sweaters

Some breeds of dogs have very thin coats, which means they have little natural protection against cold weather. Unless you intend to stop taking your dog for walks as soon as the temperature drops, you’ll need to prepare your dog for cold weather walks, so it can stay comfortable regardless of the weather outside.

The good news is that there is an enormous variety of coats and sweaters available in pet shops and elsewhere, so you’ll certainly have no trouble finding them, even if you do have trouble picking out exactly the right style you want.

A good dog is prepared to go on walk with his  new leash his owner just purchased in his mouth.

All new dog owners will need to buy leashes to be prepared for walking your new friend.

Dog Bed

You’ll definitely want to get a nice, comfy dog bed for your pet, even if it seems to prefer resting on your sofa most of the time. Dogs need to feel safe and secure, and having their own bed will also satisfy their territorial instinct, having their very own resting place that no one else uses. It’s also a good idea to provide your pet with a good dog bed so that you have a single location in the house which collects the hairs and dog fur, when shedding time comes around.

Food Bowls

You’ll need to have a bowl for water, a bowl for food, and it’s probably even a good idea to purchase a mat upon which both of them can be placed, so spills and messes can be isolated to the mat rather than on your kitchen floor. The mat will also help to avoid the possibility of having bowls sliding all around the floor, especially when your pet gets a little enthusiastic at feed time.

Umbrella Leash

When you get caught in the rain once with your pet, you’ll probably have a strong incentive to not let it happen again, because you may get soaked yourself, and your pet will have the wet dog fur syndrome. By including an umbrella leash along on your daily walks, you’ll always be prepared to pull out some protection for you and your pet against those unexpected showers.

Collapsible Water Bowl

The need for this might not be obvious, especially since you’ve already purchased a food bowl and a water bowl for your pet. However, when you’re out and about with your dog, especially on a very hot summer day, it could happen that your pet becomes somewhat dehydrated from the heat and humidity.

If you have a collapsible water bowl with you, you can quickly pour some fluid from your water bottle into the bowl, and let your pet re-hydrate. When thirst has been quenched, the bowl can be collapsed and replaced in your pocket.



Cure for Bad Breath in Dogs

For most dog owners, one of the favorite ways to spend time together is cuddling and being close together on the sofa, possibly even watching television together. Some of the appeals of being close to your pet can be diminished when you realize that your pet has such bad breath that you’d prefer to keep your distance.

Many owners have simply accepted this as a fact of life, something that is just natural for dogs, given the kinds of foods in their diet, and the fact that they don’t practice anything like the good oral hygiene that humans do.

While it may certainly be true that dogs don’t brush their teeth three times a day, it doesn’t necessarily mean that better oral hygiene wouldn’t improve their breath. Bad breath in dogs is not something that you need to accept as an owner, and it’s definitely something that can be managed if you’re willing to take the time and help your dog maintain a fresher mouth, so she can be a better company.

Causes of Canine Bad Breath

Your dog’s breath doesn’t smell bad because of the food it eats, nor because it doesn’t brush and floss afterward. The most common causes of unpleasant breath in your dog are really that bacteria is building up inside its mouth around food particles which have not been removed.

Dogs are really subject to the same kind of bacterial growth that humans are when food particles are left in the mouth, and not removed by brushing and flossing. Once those food particles stay a while, plaque builds up around them, and a yellowish-brown material called calculus eventually forms.

Both these substances give off an unpleasant odor, and they can cause even worse problems. If this situation goes on unchecked, it will eventually attack the teeth and gums in your pet, potentially causing gum disease and other problems with your pet’s teeth. Your dog will be irritated by the action going on inside its mouth, but of course, it has no recourse other than what you as master and friend choose to do.

If gum disease does is allowed to form, that will contribute greatly to the bad breath problem, and also jeopardize your pet’s teeth for the long-term. Needless to say, this should not be allowed to happen inside your dog’s mouth, and there are some very definite steps you can take to help alleviate this before it ever gets started in earnest.

an owner inspects their dogs teeth that has a build up of plaque which can cause bad breath.

A very common source of bad breathe in dogs is a build of plaque on their teeth.

More Serious Causes

In some cases, bad breath in your pet can be caused by a more serious situation, for instance, mouth problems, or issues which are developing in the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, or even with internal organs. If you notice that your dog’s bad breath persists even after measures have been taken to remediate the unpleasant odors, it’s certainly worth taking your pet to the veterinarian for an examination.

If there is something serious going on internally, and you didn’t have it checked out, you would more than likely feel some major regret later on. Another telltale symptom of something potentially serious is when the bad breath condition develops very suddenly, where none was in evidence before.

When your dog’s breath is fruity or sweet, that could be an indication of diabetes, especially if you’ve noticed excessive drinking and urinating from your pet lately. If your dog’s breath smells like urine, that could be a sign of kidney disease, and any foul odor which is accompanied by vomiting might be a sign of a liver problem developing in your pet.

Treatments for Bad Breath

One of the easiest and most natural ways to help your pet maintain healthy gums, healthy teeth, and reasonably pleasant breath, is to provide it with products that aid in the cleaning process, and which are at the same time, at least tolerable to eat as food. There are a number of products on the market which help in this regard, and some of them even promote good health for the teeth by encouraging a good chewing action.

It might take a little bit of experimentation to find a brand of dog chews that your own pet will appreciate, but it’s certainly worth it, because if you can find one your pet likes, you’ll be able to make it part of the regular diet, and it can be a significant contributing factor to good oral health.

There are also some products which are not intended to be ingested by your pet, but which simply promote chewing action, along with at least modest cleaning action. Many of these are marketed as much toys or rawhides, and they can easily become your dog’s favorite chew toy.

You should be able to tell after a week or so of having your pet chew on one of these, whether or not it’s doing any good with oral health. There are also products on the market which are billed as tartar removal products, and if your dog will tolerate these, they can be very helpful also.

If you are a really committed master, you could even go all out, and buy your dog its own toothbrush and dog toothpaste, and try to establish a regular routine where you clean the dog’s teeth to the best of your ability.

While some dogs are not especially inclined to sit through such brushing sessions, if you can train your pet to sit at least semi-quietly through them, it will certainly go a long way toward improving its oral health and having much fresher breath for those pleasant evenings together on the sofa.


What are The Best Cat Treats You Can Buy for Your Cat?

It seems strange to say, but in terms of special little food items like cat treats, most pet owners tend to treat their companions better than they do themselves. While there are a great many health-conscious people who do their best to avoid sweet treats, there are still a lot of us who just can’t deny ourselves those delicious sweet confections.

That’s why there are so many bakeries, ice cream stores, and specialty dessert shops all around the country, catering to that sweet tooth that most of us have a predisposition for. We all know how bad all that sugar is for the body, and what terrible things it does over a period of time, but still, the majority of Americans just can’t resist the occasional sweet treat.

Oddly enough, most pet owners don’t extend that perspective to their dogs and cats – treats that we give to our pets are generally much healthier than the ones we eat ourselves. Here are some of the best treats that you can provide to your cat, all of them lacking the empty calories, food preservatives, and sweet tastes that we as humans, like to indulge ourselves with.

Oral Hygiene Chews from Virbac

The great thing about these small cat treats is that they deliver a kind of scraping action when chewed, which helps remove plaque from your cat’s teeth. If allowed to remain in place, plaque cannot only cause bad breath in your pet, but it can also generate bacteria that can lead to gum disease and tooth problems.

Short of brushing your cat’s teeth, there’s probably no better way to remove all the nasty plaque and food particles which tend to remain lodged in your feline’s mouth. In addition to the scraping action, these chews have natural enzymes which resist the formation of new plaque. Made from freeze-dried raw catfish, these tasty little bites are loaded with nutritional ingredients that your cat will love, and which will provide good oral health as well.

Purebites Freeze-dried Cat Treats

These particular cat treats are made from freeze-dried meats, which means that your cat will absolutely love them. They’re low in calories and high in protein content, with a great flavor to boot. As soon as your cat gets a whiff of the great aroma of these treats, there will be a rush to the food bowl to begin the fun.

Since the meat content has been freeze-dried, all the flavor and all the nutrition is kept intact, while excess moisture is removed. These are especially good for cats who may be a bit overweight because there are only 2 calories in each bite. If your cat is the finicky type, you will certainly be able to find a variety of Purebites which suits your reluctant pet, since they come in flavors such as salmon, shrimp, chicken, and beef.

A cat owner checks the teeth of his feline friend after giving him a cat treat that is good for its oral hygiene.

Unlike human treats, cat treats can be great for the oral hygiene of your cat.

Wellness Kittles Crunchy Cat Treats

If your cat is one that prefers a crunchy kind of treat rather than a soft and moist texture, these are the treats you should buy. Wellness Kittles Crunchy Cat Treats offer the perfect combination of nutritional value and flavor, because they each include one of six very meat-rich flavors, with no grains, artificial additives or food by-products mixed in. Not only are these extremely flavorful and nutritional for your cat, but the crunchiness also serves to help clean your pet’s teeth, so they contribute to good oral hygiene as well.

Yeowww! Catnip

When you’re thinking of various kinds of cat treats, probably something like catnip does not come to mind right away. However, as most cat owners already know, catnip is a treat that most felines just go crazy for, and can’t get enough of. Catnip is made from the Nepeta Cataria plant, which is in the family of mint plants and bushes.

The plant itself makes a chemical known as Nepetalactone, which is a naturally-occurring pheromone that is very similar in composition to the pheromones which cats themselves produce. There’s nothing addictive about catnip or the active ingredient it contains – it’s just one of those natural substances that make your cat feel like it’s king of the world.

A single exposure to some good catnip will produce effects that endure for 20 minutes or longer, and during that time, your cat will probably be doing things that dazzle, amaze, and amuse you, but for your companion, it’s just a great feeling.

The particular brand favored by many pet owners is Yeowww! Catnip, because it comes in loose bags, is organically grown, and is packaged as a blend of flowers and leaves. There are no stems included in the catnip bags because they lack the active ingredient and would just add weight, but little value to the mix.

This means you get a very high-quality mix, which your cats will just go berserk for, and which you will enjoy because it’s so appealing to your pet. Because it’s organically grown, the Yeowww! Catnip brand has a very powerful scent which cats and kittens just adore, and which lasts longer, so as to extend their enjoyment.

You can buy this product in half-ounce bags or 1-ounce bags, and every bag is filled to the limit. If you’re looking for a really nice non-food kind of treat for your cat which will be wildly appreciated, you can’t do any better than this wonderful little treat.


Where Does Your Dog’s Food Come From?

Have you ever thought to read the label closely on the dog food which you purchase for your cherished pet? Does it matter who manufactures the food, and where the product is even made in the first place? In many cases, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’, and the discussion below will point up why it matters both to you and to your dog, and why you should pay close attention to the ingredients, and the process used to make the food which is intended to keep your dog active and healthy for its entire life.

You Owe it to Your Partner

When you become a pet owner, there’s a certain implied responsibility involved, because that dog is trusting you to provide it with the nourishment that it needs to live a full, healthy life. For its part, the dog will provide companionship and loyalty, and depend on the breed and personality of the dog, it may even provide a good amount of affection as well.

You can count on your dog being a reliable partner in all your endeavors, and even just for quiet times at home, so you need to be just as reliable in your support of that partner. A big part of your dog’s natural motivation in life is to eat, both regular meals and the occasional treats, which you supply daily to meet their needs.

This makes a very important that you provide your pet with food which is safe for them, which is nutritious, and which is sourced from well-qualified manufacturers in the industry. To be sure that your pet is getting everything it needs from high-quality dog food, your best bet is to always look for American-made products, and which are almost entirely natural in content.

All-natural foods are best for your pet, as opposed to a lot of fillers and additives which provide almost zero nutritive value, and are simply meant to fill your dog’s stomach. That’s why it’s important for you to check the label on any dog food purchases you make, so you can be sure you’re providing quality food to your favorite pet. Here are some other advantages of being very conscientious about what you feed your dog.

A red bag of dog food spills onto the floor because its lower quality than other brands and makes exaggerated claims about whats in it.

Some dog food brands make exaggerated claims about whats in their food in order to sell more bags of dog food.

Benefits of US-Manufactured dog Food

There are some very strict rules and regulations imposed by governmental agencies in the U.S. regarding the manufacturing of dog food and its distribution throughout the country. In fact, there are rules and regulations about affixing the ‘Made in the USA’ label to any product which is made for sale as pet food.

This is closely monitored by the Federal Trade Commission, and all pet food manufacturers are held accountable to this high standard. Absolutely everything which goes into the manufacture of dog food must be ingredients entirely produced in the United States, without even trace elements of any foreign products being included.

If the ingredients in any particular pet food product are not 100% produced in the United States, the label cannot be affixed to the package, or there must be a clearly visible disclaimer notifying consumers of the trace ingredients and their content volume.

This is one of the reasons why as a consumer, you should avoid all the flowery language on the front of the package, which makes extravagant claims about health benefits and nutrition, and go straight to the label on the backside. You can be sure that everything listed in the packaging label is 100% accurate because it’s completely monitored by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, relative to the accurate listing of all foodstuffs and ingredients, and the percentages of each within the package.

One other thing you should check on the label of your pet food is who actually manufactured the product. Many companies do not actually make the product themselves, but simply have it made for them, and cover it with their proprietary packaging.

The reason this is important is that those companies who actually produce the pet food products themselves tend to have somewhat higher standards which they adhere to in the process. Companies which simply purchase it from a source producer and apply their own packaging, are not quite as interested in high quality from the pet food producer.

Check with Professionals

If you’re having trouble finding just the right pet food product to feed your dog, and you’re finding it difficult to sort through all the claims and hype surrounding a number of those products, you may want to simply consult with professionals.

Keep in mind that many pet food companies are aware that consumers are seeking products which are ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ and ‘loaded with nutrition’, so they deliberately stuff those words all over the packaging, and in their commercials to get your attention.

Much of this hype can be misleading, and you could easily end up with an inferior product if you don’t take a little bit of time to research it. A good bet would be to consult your local pet shop management and find out from them whether a product you want to buy is a good nutritional product that would be helpful for your pet.

Most pet shop professionals are more than willing to share their knowledge with you, so if you are really at a loss, just ask them what they feed their pets in the store. Chances are that it will be a good choice for you and your pet as well.


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.


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.


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.


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.