Pet cleanliness – your pets’ grooming habits

We’ve all watched our cat in fascination during their immaculate self-grooming, and studies have shown that a healthy cat spends up to 50% of a normal waking day grooming themselves – which puts us humans to shame! Cats’ physical attributes are cleverly designed to aid their self-maintenance habits, in particular their barbed tongue which serves many purposes including helping to rid their fur of any fleas or parasites, increasing circulation, speeding up healing and controlling their body temperature. Self-grooming can result in the ingestion of lots of loose hair which can form fur-balls in the cats’ stomach. It’s important, therefore, for cat owners to groom their pets regularly to remove as much loose fur as possible and avoiding the cat ingesting any more than necessary; short coated cats should be groomed once or twice a week and long coated cats daily. Cats, however, rarely require baths or being washed which means that any unusual odours (including their breath) could indicate an underlying issue, and so you should consult a vet upon noticing this.

Dogs, on the other hand, need to be groomed and bathed regularly to avoid giving off unpleasant smells as most dogs groom only their feet and private parts. This means that dead skin cells and dander have a tendency to cling to dogs’ fur which can result in odours. Due to natural oil that their coat produces, dogs are in general regarded as more likely to give off a smell but this is not something you need to put up with as this can be minimised by grooming and bathing by their owner.

Dental care is a necessity for both cats and dogs to encourage cleanliness and avoid any plaque build-up and gum issues. This is one area pets do need a helping hand in, so regular cleaning of their teeth will help to reduce the bacteria in their mouths. Controlling bacteria and mouth odour also helps avoid pets spreading bad breath to their coats through self-grooming.

So now, every time you undergo your own grooming, think about your pets too. Our furry friends rely on us to maintain them and keep them healthy; trust us, they’ll thank you for it!

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Training your new puppy – worth the effort!

A new puppy is a wonderful, adorable, precious bundle of fur that will enrich your life; the same new puppy may also be a crazy, frustrating whirlwind of sharp little teeth, slobber and destruction – it’s a lucky dip! Raising a puppy to be a polite, well-mannered adult dog can be achieved with a blend of socialisation, management and training. This article covers the following important questions you need to consider when training your new puppy:

  • What do you want him to learn?
  • Are you effectively communicating?
  • Are you being consistent and patient?

What do you want your puppy to learn?

Which behaviours does he do that you feel are inappropriate? What would you like him to do instead? Take some time to really think about the behaviours you want to teach your puppy; no doubt the list is long and includes house training, appropriate play, sit, stay, to come when called and walk politely on lead to name a few. Write all the behaviours down then sort them by which are the most important to you. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the things you want your pup to learn, start with the top three and figure out how you can incorporate the training into your daily routine. For many, the most important cue to train a new puppy is to come when called, and the perfect time to practice learning to come when called is when you’re ready to feed your pup a meal. Call him to you and give him a meal – he will definitely come for dinner and the meal is the reward. Behaviour that gets rewarded gets repeated so look for small ways throughout the day to reward him for behaviors you love. Never ignore a puppy that is doing something you like whether it is asking to go out, playing with a chew toy or sitting politely. Always take a quick moment to praise, pet, play with or give a small treat to a puppy that is being good!

Are you communicating to your puppy in a way he understands?

Dogs don’t have a verbal language like we do, so we can explain in great detail what we want them to do but it won’t achieve anything. They can learn to associate certain words and gestures with specific actions or items, for example your puppy will associate the word “sit” with the behaviour of putting their behind on the ground, however it takes repetition and practice for the learning to occur. Clicker or marker training is an extremely effective way to train because it allows simple, clear communication; it is also fun and easy for you and your pet. You use the clicker or another sound or word to mark the behaviour as it happens. After you mark the behaviour, immediately give a small treat reward, because the dog has learned the marker predicts a small treat reward he learns exactly what behaviour is being rewarded and wants to repeat it again and again! Once you know the puppy is going to do the behaviour you can add a name like sit or down. Not only can this be used to train any behaviour it can be also be used to redirect a puppy doing something you don’t like to do something you do like, it builds focus on and a strong bond to you, the trainer!

Are you and everyone involved in your puppy’s training being consistent and patient?

Puppies can easily get confused if behaviours are taught differently from lesson to lesson or person to person. Keep training sessions short, 5 minutes at a time, because your pup’s attention span is very short, and decide ahead of time what behaviour you are going to work on and keep it simple. Wait for or lure the behaviour, mark or click when it occurs, then immediately reward with a small treat. If your puppy is not focused, just wants to play or doesn’t seem to understand, be patient. Consider training when he is a little hungry, like right before his meal or when he is calmer after a walk. If several family members are all training, practice together sometimes and check in to see who is making progress. You will also want to ensure each behaviour has only one name or cue. For example while “Get Down” and “Off” may mean the same thing to you as applied to a puppy jumping up, he probably doesn’t understand either. If you have been working on “Sit” you can ask him to sit instead of continuing to jump as a puppy that is sitting can’t be jumping.

The best thing about training a puppy is he doesn’t have any “bad” behaviours yet! You can teach him all the wonderful things you want him to know. There are so many fantastic resources for everything from house training to agility. Look for training resources from certified pet training and behaviour professionals. Checking out a puppy socialisation class is also a great way to get started and to give your puppy positive experiences to other dogs, people and places.

You are always training your puppy whether you realise it or not, so use every moment to your advantage!

 

Michelle Mullins, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP

PetSafe Training and Behavior Education Manager

 

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Tips on bath time with your dog

Bath time is not most dogs’ favourite activity; however, it may be necessary to keep them clean and fresh! Some dogs love water and others find it an unpleasant experience, so the key to successful bathing lies in teaching them association of the routine with good things and appreciating quality time with their owner.

As with most pet activities, keeping calm to avoid frightening you dog and following bathing with rewards will go a long way to ensuring that your dog will learn to enjoy and not fear such activities. Anything from a new toy to treats, dinner or play time will encourage your dog’s acceptance and compliance with bath time. This is best done throughout the process of bathing, and not just at the end. Why not start with small food treats when they successfully enter the bathtub.

Stay calm throughout the bathing procedure because your dog will pick up on any signs of agitation or nervousness from you, and these can cause them to worry too. Keep talking to your pet throughout using a gentle and reassuring voice, praising their good behaviour where possible.

Before you begin, make sure the bath is a lukewarm to warm temperature and that you have a suitable dog shampoo for your pet; human shampoos are too harsh for their fur and can dry out dogs’ skin by removing the natural oils. Dog’s skin generally has a neutral pH so dog shampoos are generally neutral on pH in order to maintain this; human skin, however, is generally acidic and so most human shampoos are acid. Brushing their coat prior to bathing is a good idea to remove any loose hair and help reduce any tangles, making them easier to comb out later.

To help the shampoo spread evenly through your dog’s coat, first wet the coat and dilute the shampoo. When massaging the shampoo into their fur, be careful to do this slowly and gently to make your dog feel at ease but also to avoid causing them any discomfort, and do your best to avoid getting any in your dog’s eyes, ears or mouth – it’s just as horrible for them as it is for us! Thoroughly rinse through their fur afterwards to prevent any shampoo residue which could lead to skin irritations.

After the actual washing process is over it just remains to dry your dog thoroughly using a towel. The best way to do this is to place them on one towel and take a second towel and place it over their back and gently but firmly rub their fur in circular motions, and be sure not to miss little places such as their ears.

If you follow these steps bath time can actually be a fun experience for you both which results in one clean and lovely smelling dog – even better for all those snuggles!

4020 - DOG bath FINAL

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