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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.

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.

Dog Toys: Getting Your Pup the Right One

Golden retriever puppy on the grass with the ball in his teeth, which is one of his dog toys.

Dog toys make a wonderful gift for your pet.

Dogs can be messy, they can be mischievous, and they sure are hairy. However, overall, they are just bundles of joy. These pets know just when to give you proper love and affection and it’s time you returned the favor. There is nothing that makes a dog wag their tail harder than a new toy to play with. Dog toys are a great gift to give your pet, and they provide the perfect opportunity for a bonding experience. Find out which toys are the best for your dog.

Dog Ball

Dogs and their love for balls. It’s a tale as old as time, and it’s still true today. A dog ball is one of the best toys you can give your pet. The look on their face as their eyes widen in the presence of a ball is almost too precious to bear. They know a game of catch is about to occur.

One of the reasons that a dog ball is an excellent toy to give to your pet is because it’s healthy for them. Your canine friend spends most of their time loafing around the house whenever you are away. Playing a game of fetch with a ball gets them running and jumping, giving your dog the exercise they need.

Bones

A dog with a bone. They’ll sit on it, hold it close, and nibble on it all day long. Dogs love the taste of a good bone and it’s almost a challenge for them to try and break it down. There are plenty you can buy for your dog, some of which come in all different types of flavors. Supplies have everything from bacon to peanut butter flavored bones.

The best bones are the ones that are healthy for your dog. A dog’s mouth is often difficult to clean, as they don’t like to have them brushed. We suggest buying dental sticks or bones. They are a great way to clean your pet’s teeth and keep them healthy. The best part is that your dog won’t know the difference between this and a regular bone.

Chew Toys and Ropes

Bones aren’t the only thing that your dog likes to chew on. You can also buy them chew toys, ropes, and other chewable items. Some dogs are even known to grow attached to a cute plush chew toy in the shape of a dinosaur or animated character. It’s downright adorable. There are even plastic chew toys in the shape a bone. Dog toys like these are just as good for their oral hygiene as regular dental bones.

Ropes are a great toy for both you and your dog, as they are a great way for the two of you to play together. Your pet will grab one end while you grab the other, and an intense game of tug and war ensues. It’s a fun bonding experience that gets the blood pumping and their tail wagging.

Buying Dog Toys

The Pet Shop caters to all kinds of animals. Come down to our shop in Allston, Massachusetts and browse for yourself. You are sure to fine the right toy for your best friend.

Picking the Right Terrarium for Your Reptile

A small lizard crawling on the wood inside a terrarium.

Is your pet’s terrarium suitable?

A reptile is one of the few pets that needs a specialized environment to live in. You can’t just bring one home without knowing the type of reptile you have or the living conditions that need to be met in order for it to survive. At the Pet Shop, we can help you give your special scaly friend the home they deserve. Here are a few factors to consider before you decide to pick up your brand-new pet and its terrarium.

How Big Is Your Terrarium?

The size of your terrarium matters for many reasons. The first is the size of your pet. For obvious reasons, you’ll need a space that is big enough from your reptile to fit in. The second factor to consider is their behavior. Research is important before you buy any pet. You have to be able to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you planning on bringing home multiple reptiles?
  • Do they work well with others?
  • Does your reptile like to move around or stay still?

The answers to these questions will influence your choice. You’ll be surprised to know that most larger reptiles don’t require a lot of space to move around in. However, others are more territorial and will want their own space within the terrarium. In this case, you will have to find a way to arrange the contents of your terrarium for multiple reptiles.

Placing your Pet’s Living Space Within Your Home

Terrariums come in all shapes and sizes. Most reptiles will be able to function in an all-purpose terrarium. These living spaces are usually twice as long as their width and height.

In rare instances, you may decide to bring home a lizard that requires a space that is different from the norm. Reptiles that are used to living in high places, like trees or walls, will need a tall terrarium. This will give them a home that feels familiar.

As you are looking at terrariums, think about where you are going to place it within your home. Make sure you have a safe and secure spot for it. That way your pet is comfortable for a long time.

Reptiles Require Proper Ventilation

Reptiles need fresh air. Unfortunately, pet reptiles live in an enclosed space, which normally doesn’t receive proper ventilation. You can change that with the right covering and side-wall ventilation.

A roof covering must have a large wire screen, with the right size and weight. This allows a flow of air from the top of the terrarium. A side-wall ventilation should have the same kind of wire screen mesh. It is usually placed in the bottom corner of the terrarium.

There are two things you should avoid with a roof covering. The first is to avoid a wire mesh that will allow food to escape. The second is to make sure that the roof is not made of plastic, which can fall apart under intense heat.

Buying Your Reptile

Hopefully, this will make thing easier when considering a pet reptile. We have several reptiles and terrariums available at the Pet Shop. Visit today, and bring a special friend home with you.

What to Look for in Your Cat’s Pet Food

A gray cat walking on a window sill and looking at his pet food.

Choose your cat’s pet food wisely.

Taking care of your pet is a lot like taking care of a child. You will always want the best for them. More than showing them tender love and care, you have to feed them right. For your furry feline friend, their pet food is extremely important. What’s in their food can make the difference between them being healthy and them having a poor diet.

Stick to Wet Pet Food

Wet food is just easier to eat for your pet. While dry food may look enticing because it requires less clean up, they are high in carbohydrates. This can cause tartar and plaque to grow in your cat’s mouth. Avoid it and stick to the old, reliable can.

Look for Foods With Better Nutrition

Just like humans, your little kitty needs to eat the right nutrients. First, avoid pet foods that use grain as an ingredient, as this has a high concentration of carbohydrates. The reason you want to avoid giving your pet a lot of carbs is because it is harder for them to digest.

The next thing to look for is protein. Cats should be eating the same kind of meat we eat. This is where they will get their necessary intake of protein. It comes from real beef, chicken, and turkey. And the food that they eat should be all natural. This means no GMO’s and the food is organic.

Scale Back the Fish Food

When you think of cats, you think of fish. Their love for fish is as old as time, but believe it or not, they shouldn’t have it all of the time. Some fish has high amounts of heavy metals, toxins, and phosphorus. These can cause your pet to develop health issues. So, stick to feeding them this type of food only once of month.

Keeping Your Freshwater Fish Happy

A green, beautiful, and planted tropical freshwater aquarium with several freshwater fish.

Treat your freshwater fish with care and keep them happy. 

Fish lovers are often misunderstood as shy introverts. However, they are also the funniest and most engaging of pet owners. If you are a freshwater fish owner, then you know that your wonderful personality is due in part to your aquatic friends. Here are some tips to keep your pet just as happy as you are.

Freshwater Fish Tips

Freshwater fish are at their happiest when they have a clean environment to swim in. So, in order to keep them happy and healthy, you need to properly maintain their aquarium. Here are a few things you should remember to do:

Keep Your Fish Safe – Before you can start cleaning your fish’s aquarium, you are going to have to find somewhere safe to put them. Place your fish in a large glass with water from its tank. Using the same water for the tank keeps them comfortable.

Keep the Aquarium Warm – Freshwater fish love to swim in waters that are 72-78 degrees. Buy a heater to keep their aquarium warm and use a thermometer to monitor its temperature.

Keep the Water Clean –  An important part of maintain your fish’s aquarium is to replace at least 25% of its water with tap water every two weeks. Turn off all heaters, pumps, and filters before you change the water, and remove any decorations and pants from the tank. Also, change your tanks filter every two weeks as well, so it is operating at peak performance.

Keep Gunk and Algae OutAlgae can build up quite often in your fish’s tank. This happens when there is too much fish waste dissolved in the water. Changing the water can help prevent this, but we recommend buying an algae scrubber to scrub away any algae and gunk.

In short, a clean tank makes a happy fish. Take good care of them and they will stay with you for a good long time.

Keep Your Pet Hamster Happy with a Clean Cage

A cute pet hamster (syrian) climbing out of its cage.

Keeping your pet hamster happy requires knowing the right way to clean its cage.

Since hamsters are a part of the rodent family, you may not think of them as being a particularly clean animal. However, cleanliness is very important to hamsters, and keeping your pet’s cage in the right condition will be a big part of whether or not your pet hamster is happy. Here are a few tips for making sure your habitat is in good shape for the well-being of your furry little friend.

Occupying Your Pet Hamster During Cleaning

This quick little animal can easily make a break for it during the cleaning process. Therefore, it is a good idea to move your pet hamster somewhere else while you care for the cage. An exercise ball that allows your hamster to explore the home outside of the cage while you do maintenance is a great idea, and also gives your pet some needed exercise and recreation.

Care for Toys Properly

First, take all of the toys out of the cage. Use warm soapy water, and be sure to rinse all of the toys thoroughly so there is no chance of the soap making your pet ill. Leave the toys on a paper towel so they can dry while you care for the cage itself.

Cleaning the Cage

Remove all of the bedding. Then use a specially designed hamster-friendly disinfectant to clean the cage. If you don’t have access to a safe disinfectant, you can make your own with a 1-1 mixture of water and vinegar. Leave the cage to dry completely before you lay down the new bedding and return the toys to the cage.

Important: Your pet hamster will remember where everything was when you removed him from the cage. Thus, putting everything back just so is important to keep your pet happy. You might want to make a note in advance before you remove everything from the cage to make sure you can replace it in a reasonably similar way.

That’s all it takes to clean a hamster cage. Clean your cage weekly if it is a smaller-sized one. Larger cages can go a little longer between cleanings.

Caring for Your Fledgling Bearded Dragon

A bearded dragon can be a fantastic pet, providing the owner years of satisfying companionship. But how do you care for a bearded dragon that is still in its early months? Here are a few tips for first-time owners.

What to Consider When Buying a Bearded Dragon

First of all, be sure to get your bearded dragon from a reputable source. This is not a difficult animal to care for, but you want one that is healthy and has been treated properly from birth to the time when you take over the role of caregiver. If the bearded dragon is less than a month old, it’s really not ready for you to bring home yet. In fact, buying a full-grown bearded dragon can help ensure that it is a strong and healthy pet.

One thing to keep in mind is that bearded dragons are pretty solitary in the wild. They often interact only for the purpose of mating. So unless you intend to become a breeder, you really don’t want to have more than one in a tank. Even if they grew up in the same tank, you would want separate tanks for your pets as they reach adulthood.

How to Take Care of Your Pet

If you do happen to get a one-month-old bearded dragon, you are going to want your terrarium to be a minimum of 20 gallons. Keep in mind that by six months you will need to upgrade the tank size, so you may want to skip the tiny tank and go straight to an adult-sized tank. Be sure that the substrate of your tank is the right material. Sand mats or slate tile are perfect for bearded dragons.  You can also use paper towels, which are a better option than things like play sand or cedar shavings, commonly mistaken as acceptable substrates.

Other considerations are the need for a light bulb that provides the proper basking temperature; include proper tank structures for both climbing and hiding (remember, these guys are introverts); and have the proper supply of water and food. A young bearded dragon will eat anywhere between 20 and 60 crickets or roaches per day.

Finally, don’t forget to locate a veterinarian in your area who has experience in dealing with reptiles. Most vets are more experienced with cats and dogs, so only take your pet to a vet that knows reptiles.

Obesity in Pets: Don’t Let Polly Have Too Many Crackers

Obesity is a major health issue in the United States, and doctors are working hard to counter the many health effects that being overweight can have on people. However, overweight pets also suffer from health issues. If you allow it, one exotic pet that will eat itself into an early grave is the parrot.

Obesity in Parrots and Other Exotic Birds

Actually, this applies to various bird species and many varieties of parrot. Why are birds so prone to obesity?

We love our pets and want them to be happy. Pets always seem to be happy when we give them food, right? So we end up feeding them way too much, and most birds don’t know when to say no.

The truth is that when a bird spends most of the day in a cage, it gets bored. Guess what a bird does when it gets bored? The same thing we do. It forages around and eats.

If a person makes it into his or her middle years without ever having a healthy diet or exercise, it can be difficult to make a lifestyle change, even if a doctor says that it is vital for the person’s health and well-being. The same is true for a parrot. If your bird lives for 10, 20, or more years eating anything it wants while living a sedentary life, it is going to be tough to teach that old bird some new tricks. It is better to train your feathered friend starting at a young age.

But don’t give up if you have an older bird. It’s really important to encourage a healthy lifestyle for your pet in order to avoid things like arthritis and diabetes (yes, birds get those too).

How can you keep your pet in shape? Try a pellet diet instead of always using seed. Also, if you can’t let your pet fly around your home—sometimes a bird’s wings may have been clipped, depending on where or how you got it—at least let it out to walk around outside its cage every day.

If you are putting your pet on a diet, keep in close touch with your vet so what you do is done in a safe manner.

Keeping Your Pet Rodent Happy

Unfortunately, when most people think about the word rodent, they reach for the phone to call the exterminator. While you don’t want an infestation in your home, many varieties of rodents make excellent pets. Sometimes people forget that favorites such as gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are all rodents. Plus, domesticated mice and rats are some of the best pets you can ever have.

Today we are going to talk about what a pet rodent needs in order to be happy, and to stay engaged.

Community Dwellers

Most rodent species love to be in groups or at least to have one good buddy, so unless you plan to spend a few hours per day with your pet rodent, you may want to get two or more. Obviously, unless you plan on breeding, you are going to want your pets to be of the same gender. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule. Female guinea pigs will get along a lot better than males in close quarters. Hamsters are the one antisocial rodent, so if you have more than one, they should have separate dwellings.

Be careful not to overcrowd your pets. They may love company, but two rodents will need double the space of one in order to thrive.

Additional Needs of a Rodent

  • Light – Most rodents sleep during the day. Don’t leave the cage in direct sunlight or they may get too hot (not to mention an overdose of vitamin D). They need a place in the cage to hide from the light as needed, or you may end up with a stressed-out little companion.
  • Bedding – What you use for bedding will change from pet to pet, but the key is to change it out frequently enough to keep ammonia from building up. Don’t change all of the bedding at once, or your pet will think you moved them to a completely new home. Smell is important to rodents.
  • Toys – Your rodents will be a little calmer and less likely to attempt an escape if they have something to play with, something to gnaw on, and places to burrow.

It really doesn’t take a lot to keep rodents happy. You may find they are very enjoyable pets.