Category Archives: Dogs

The little world of Dwarf hamsters.

Russian Dwarf Hamster1Dwarf hamsters are much smaller sized hamsters than Syrian or Golden hamsters and have become a popular pet for children, teenagers and even adults.

But looking after a Dwarf hamster requires a great deal of responsibility.

This guide will provide a general overview to Dwarf hamsters; what you will need and how to look after a happy hammie.

Why are they called Dwarf hamsters?

Syrian hamsters are the most popular type of hamster sold as pets in Europe. However, Dwarf hamsters gained their name because they are half the size (fully grown) of Syrian hamsters. Hence the name dwarf.

What types of Dwarf hamsters are available?

There are many types of dwarf hamster, but the ones sold by pet stores and breeders are:

Which kind of hamster should I buy?

Before purchasing a new pet hamster, it is advised to research into each type of hamster and understand which one would best suit yourself and your personality.

For example, do you plan to keep a small cage because you do not have enough room for a 60×40 (internal floor space) cage/bin? If so, maybe a hamster is not the pet for you.

What will I need to keep a new hamster in my life?

Just like owning any pet, they require love, attention and a good environment. Dwarf hamsters LOVE space. A nice big cage or bin will prevent biting, aggression and attempts to escape the cage – and making a lot of noise doing so.

When caring for dwarf hamsters you will need:

Cage  A cage will provide a home for your hamster and the biggest mistake people think is “It’s a small hamster so it will need a small cage.” WRONG. Anything bigger than 60×40cm (floor space) will be a good size. The more space the better – you will be surprised how much energy they have.

Bedding  Bedding is the material that goes generally on the floor around the cage or tank. It provides protection, helps encourage natural foraging and burrowing. Bedding will also help keep their environment cleaner while soaking up hamster waste. A good bedding brand is Tumblefresh.

Accessories – These are the toys, extra mineral licks/blocks and chewable sticks within the cage. Dwarf hamster accessories will help prevent biting of the bars, wanting to escape and unhappiness. The more accessories i.e. tubes, chewable flavoured items and toys (wheels, platforms or seesaws) the happier your hamster will be. Accessories are very important in a hamster’s life – Chinese Dwarf hamsters love climbing but Russian Dwarf hamsters cannot climb as well and prefer burrowing and tubes.

Food  There are more than enough brands supplying small hamster foods however they can seem misleading. A healthy balanced diet is very important and will help prevent diabetes or obesity. Pellets are a preferred option as they contain a mixture in each pellet. Dwarf hamsters prefer to eat the fatty nuts rather than the good bits of the mixture. It is recommended to add a tablespoon of pellets a day and then every 2-3 days sprinkle some muesli, fresh vegetables or fruit around their cage.

Doing your research into each type of hamster beforehand is essential to being a proud owner.

What Should I Expect?

Owning your new hamster is very exciting, but what exactly should you expect with your first hamster?

The behaviour of a hamster is 85% observed at night as these creatures are nocturnal. This simply means that within the day, a hamster will only wake up every 2-5 hours to get food or nourishment. In the wild, it is safer for hamsters to forage and therefore adapt this lifestyle from birth.

All animals can show aggressive or strange behaviour, but you must remember there is always a reason. If your hamster is biting, this is most probably because they are still not comfortable around their owners and feel like they need to defend themselves.

Within the first few weeks it is normal behaviour to expect some biting and aggression towards you. Just do not show fear and be patient when handling.

Roborovski Dwarf hamsters are the newest type to pet stores and are a lot harder to tame, unlike a Russian or a Syrian (non-Dwarf hamster). This is something to consider before purchasing.

If your problem recurs. Seek help online or contact your local vet as there possibly may be health issues.

What NOT to Do!

You love your Dwarf hamster – do not do these if you want the best life for it:

Blow air or loud sudden noises – These tiny creatures have excellent hearing and are easily scared. Blowing on them will quickly anger your hamster and can ruin your relationship causing biting and fear.

A partner of a different type – NEVER mix different types of hamsters together as this is seriously dangerous for both breeds and will result in death. Most hamster will not live with a partner however there are some exceptions with Russian Dwarf hamsters.

A small cage with little bedding or accessories – This is not only cruel but causes multiple problems in the future as your hamster will quickly become bored and start chewing through its cage and accessories costing its owner a fortune. Lots of bedding promotes burrowing and accessories stop boredom.

Exercise ball for longer than an hour – The exercise ball is a great way for a hamster to get a bit more exercise and explore your room safely. But air circulation is poor, limit exercise ball time to 30 minutes and ensure all doors are closed and there is no access to stairs.

Dwarf hamsters are very precious, ensure you handle them with care or you could be bitten and struggle to handle your hamster.

If you follow this guide you will be the proud owner of a Dwarf hamster and have a long relationship. Dwarf hamsters live for around 1-3 years and will bring smiles and happiness into your life.

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time – with your pet.

For some families, pets are an integral family member and are often included in the gifting of presents at Christmas. But there’s more to looking out for your pet over the festive season than giving them a gift wrapped squeaky toy chicken.

PBscanChristmas can be scary for animals so here’s a few common sense tips to ensure your pets have as much fun as the rest of the family this festive period.

Christmas trees
Real Christmas trees are mildly toxic to some animals and the oils can be an irritant. If you have a pet, artificial trees might be a better choice. Be aware these can still harm your pets if they are ‘chewers’ though. Think about buying a smaller tree and raising it off the floor.

We acknowledge trees and decorations can be spikey for small children but they can be a hazard for pets too. Needles can get stuck in claws and throats and decorations can look very tempting to chew on, which if made of glass or hard plastic, could possibly shatter.

Electrical cords and lights may cause a chewing and tangling hazard for pets too. Be sure to shut your pets away from trees (artificial or real) and decorations while you are out of the house.

Mistletoe and holly are both poisonous and should be kept out of the way of both pets and children.

Holidays
If you’re going away for any length of time over the holiday period, don’t leave pets home alone. Find kennels and catteries in your area, ask neighbours to drop in every once in a while or take your pets with you.

If you take your pets with you then make sure you have enough food and water for the journey and schedule in plenty of breaks.

Foods
Lots of ‘human’ food is very bad for pets so don’t be tempted to share your Christmas dinner with them. No matter how much they use the imploring, sad eyes technique. Treat your pets by giving them pet-specific treats and maybe a new toy. After all, it is the giving season.

Never feed your pet poultry carcasses as the bones may split once swallowed and keep them away from things we would consider treats – especially chocolate and grapes (and also raisins and sultanas) which can be poisonous. Onions and garlic are poisonous too. They will be more than happy with their own treats.

Pets as presents
Pets do not make good Christmas presents so please don’t be tempted. It is a disruptive time of the year with much noise and lots of people and if you have medical issues it can be difficult to find a vet to help. If your child is eager for a pet then get them a book for Christmas on caring for one; and then think about getting the pet once all the decorations are put away for the year.

It can be fun to give your pet its own gifts and a stocking for Christmas, but do make sure you buy them from a pet shop or vet, and that your toy or treat is designed specifically for your pet.

Noises and disruption
Think about the amount of visitors you are expecting – cats and dogs can get very upset with lots of people coming in and out of the house. Provide them a quiet area where they can get peace and quiet and be surrounded by familiar things, and make sure they have access to water.

Fireworks at New Year can also be very upsetting for cats and dogs so make sure you walk dogs early in the day and shut cats in for the night. You can purchase special suits for your dog to wear which provide a constant pressure. It has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs if they are anxious, fearful or over-excited. The use of Sound CDs is also a successful, proven technique for the treatment and prevention of sound phobias in dogs.

Playing music can help sooth your pets too. Just don’t put ‘Jingle Bells’ on an endless loop!

Pet Bliss: You can trust us…we have a front door.

We are very conscious of the online security concerns of our customers and we’ve found that being a bricks and mortar business of long-standing, as well as being an Internet retailer, is one of the facts that engenders trust (and security) with people when dealing with Pet-Bliss.

security & trustIt’s nothing to do with it being Halloween month, but we’ve heard a few horror stories lately from our customers about their previous experiences dealing with some other online pet stores.

One of our new customers told us she became involved in a lengthy online dispute while trying to obtain a refund from another website. Suffice to say, when our new customer found Pet-Bliss she thought we might be another scam site, but was happy and relieved to see we had an address, a shop, and a telephone.

Apart from having a physical address and phone number, there are several other things to look out for which can provide reassurance when ordering and buying online, but if you do find yourself saying the old phrase “if something seems too good to be true, it generally is” then double-check the credentials of the site closely. At least if you’re in the area you can drop by and visit us in person, and if not just call us on +353 (1) 2810064.

Controlling Fleas and Ticks.

Pet owners find it frustrating when they discover ticks and fleas on their pets, and summertime, when they are more likely to be running out and about, is the season when animals could easily pick them up.

ps_Fleas are unpleasant for both animal and owner. The affected dog or cat may suffer from skin irritation, particularly if the infestation is heavy. Some individuals become allergic to flea saliva and in these cases flea bites result in severe inflammation.

Eradicating fleas can be a time consuming exercise, so the best method to ensure your dog does not become infested with fleas is prevention. A good quality flea collar at the beginning of the season will do just that.

Typically the affected area in dogs is along the back and hair loss, skin thickening and secondary infections may occur. Although dog and cat fleas do not infest man, they may cause bites resulting in irritating skin reactions.

In cats, allergic reactions may take the form of small scabs at the site of the flea bites. These in turn result in areas of hair loss and dermatitis caused by licking, and a vicious circle of infection may set in.

Dog and cat fleas also act as an intermediate host for a species of tapeworm, so that a dog or cat which swallows a flea may also be swallowing an embryo tapeworm which will develop into a fully grown tapeworm in the gut.

If your dog becomes infested with fleas your house will soon follow, so outfitting your dog in a flea collar not only protects them but your family as well. The purpose of adult fleas is to feed on blood and reproduce, either on humans or canines. There are several flea and tick powders owners can use to rid fleas that have infested the home.

Should you find yourself in this situation, drop your dog off at your local groomer for a flea bath. While your dog is out of the home, apply flea powder to carpets and all of the furniture throughout the house. This should kill off any fleas and prevent them from re-infesting your dog when they come back from the groomers.

Ticks are another problem that warm weather brings out. Ticks gorge on blood by attaching themselves to your dog. Although flea and tick medicine helps, if your dog spends a lot of time running through heavy brush, ticks will still attach themselves to it.

Ticks carry with them diseases that if left untreated will be fatal to your dog. Anytime you take your dog on a camping trip or even through a wooded dog park, you should check under your dogs’ fur for ticks that may have found their way to your dog’s skin.

Fleas can be an annoying problem that can be avoided with a flea collar or multiple preventative pills. Ticks on the other hand must be removed with a specific tool designed just for removal. Avoid the costly treatments and shampoos by outfitting your dog in a good quality flea collar at the beginning of the season.

It is essential that you treat your dog regularly for dog fleas. Even though your dog may only go out into the back yard, your dog can still get fleas. Fleas can come from other dogs, other cats, small vermin, hedgehogs and badgers. Fleas spread so quickly and within a few days can be spread all over your house. Pre-treatment of dog fleas is essential.

However if your dog has already got fleas, you will need to treat your dog and all the areas your dog has been to in your house, the garden and their kennel. Washing your dog will not get rid of fleas, but anti flea shampoos and specially designed combs can help to prevent them.

We sell dog flea tablets and collars and also furniture and carpet sprays to kill the fleas and their larvae.

So whether you’re interested in flea and tick prevention, or in need of a cure, Pet Bliss can help contribute to a happy, fun and pest-free summer.

Becoming the leader of the pack – Five basic commands you need to teach your dog.

There are certainly many reasons for owners to want a tranquil, obedient and faithful dog. For one thing, an obedient and trained pet is a healthier pet, much less likely to get into fights with individuals or other animals. Certainly, educating your dog will likewise make them a much better household buddy, especially in houses where there are kids.

When educating your dog there are certain fundamental commands that must be mastered in order for a dog to be deemed really trained. These fundamental commands include:

Heel. It is important that any breed of dog learns to walk beside its owner on a loose lead, neither pulling ahead nor dragging behind.
No. This is one word that all pets must learn. Training your dog to respond to this important word could save you lots of problems.
Sit. Training your dog to sit on command is a vital part of any dog’s training program.
Stay. A well trained dog should remain where his/her owner commands, so it is an extremely important command in dog training.
Down. Resting on command is a crucial component of any type of successful dog training programme.

dog commandsA pet dog training programme does more than merely create an obedient, ready buddy. Training your dog appropriately builds up the bond that exists between dog and handler. Dogs are pack animals, and they want their pack leader to tell them exactly what to do. The trick to successful dog training is to set yourself up as that pack leader.

There is only one leader in every pack of pets, and the owner must develop him or herself as the dominant animal. Failure to do so could result in all manner of problems later on.
A trained dog will react promptly to all the owner’s commands, and will not display any anxiousness, annoyance or confusion. A good dog training programme will focus on enabling the dog to learn what is expected of it, and will use positive reinforcement to reward wanted habits.

Pet Bliss have several dog training aids available on our site, including toilet training bells, ultrasonic trainers, training collars, kits and treat bags, chewing deterrents, harness cords, clicker aids and even a Sounds CDs for behaviour therapy.

Along with making the dog a good member of the community, obedience training is an excellent method to meet a few of the dog’s own demands, including the demand for workout, the comfort that comes with recognizing exactly what is expected of it, a sensation of achievement and a good working connection with its handler. Pet dog training offers the dog an important job to do, and an important objective to reach.

Providing the dog with a ‘job’ is more crucial than you think. Dogs were initially bred to do important work, such as rounding up lambs, guarding property and protecting individuals. Many pets today have no important job to do, and this could give them a feeling of monotony and cause neurotic behaviour. Fundamental obedience training and ongoing training sessions provides the dog with an important job to do. This is especially important for high energy breeds like Alsatians and border collies. Training sessions are an excellent method for these high energy pets to expend their extra energy and simply enjoy themselves.

Including play into your dog training sessions is an excellent method to prevent both you and your dog from ending up feeling being burnt out and playing with your dog helps to strengthen the all-important bond between you – the pack leader – and your dog.

Who’s The Boss?

Not a lot of people realise this but dogs need rules, boundaries and discipline, just like humans! If they are allowed to do what they please at home, this will also be the case for the outside world…

It is up to us to train and socialise our dogs to prevent them from acting upon behaviour which is seen as acceptable in their world, e.g biting. If a dog has no leader to look up to they will take it upon themselves to become the leader. This will eventually cause all kinds of problems! Believe it or not, dogs are much happier and relaxed being followers!

In order to be a good leader to your dog you need to be calm but also assertive. As an animal they are much better at reading body language than we are! If your dog senses you are stressed or afraid it won’t see you as their leader.

Below are some simple rules you should have in your household to make your experience with your friend for life a pleasant one;

  • If you have a few dogs make sure they are all treated equally. The only dominant one should be YOU!
  • Always walk through a door ahead of your dog, you are the boss!
  • If you allow your dog on the sofa do not allow them up without being invited first.
  • Don’t let your dog jump all over you for attention, wait until they are calm and then reward them with attention.
  • Your dog should wait for his/her food. Don’t give them their food if they are begging, you don’t want to reward unwanted behaviour.
  • Walk over your dog if it is lying on the floor, not around it.
  • Stop unwanted behaviour at the first signs, don’t wait for it to escalate into something worse!
  • Use your eyes to show disapproval, DON”T hit or shout at your dog.
  • DO give affection to your dog once they are calm/have done what you requested.
  • When your dog is scared/nervous they need to be able to look up to you and see a calm, confident leader.
  • If you are out walking and you feel your dog start to tense or eye up another dog, use a sound or touch to interrupt the behavior. The Pet Corrector is a great way to do this. It is a can of inert gas which emits a hissing sound that will most definitely distract your pooch!
  • When you meet new people, explain to them that your dog needs to smell them first as it is their way of getting to know you.
  • When you come home and your dog is jumping up and down with excitement to see you, do not reward the excitement. Wait until they are calm and then reward their actions.

Walking and Exercise are EXTREMELY important.

No matter what breed of dog you have, big or small, they need to be walked. This helps to get rid of energy and is great therapy for your dog. If your dog is bored and frustrated they will try to take their energy out on something else such as digging holes in the garden or chewing the skirting boards!

The type of food you feed your Dog is also extremely important.

You need to choose a product that doesn’t have tons of protein or additives in it i.e James Wellbeloved, Science Plan etc.

If you are leaving your dog alone for a period of time it is wise to make sure they have a toy of some sort to chew on and play with. Kong Dog toys are a great way to keep your dog entertained as you can fill them with many yummy things. Nylabone Dog treats are also a great way to keep your dog amused, especially those aggressive chewers!

If you follow these simple yet effective steps, it is sure to lead to a healthier, happier life for you and your dog. Just always remember, you are the leader of the pack!

It’s Summer Outside!

As you all know we have been quite lucky with the weather recently! It has been sunny and warm, just the way we like it, but what about our doggies? Well did you know that dogs have a higher internal temperature than humans? Meaning they can suffer from heat exhaustion fairly quickly if you don’t take the necessary measures to protect them from the hot sun. Here are just a few simple ways in which you can ensure your dog stays healthy and happy during this fab weather!

  • Always make sure your dog is hydrated. No matter where you are going you should carry a dog’s water bottle with you to prevent dehydration.
  • You should try to exercise your dog in the cooler times of the day to prevent them from heat exhaustion and burning those little paws on the hot path!
  • Keep your dogs coat short (but not shaved as this can cause sunburn) and brush your dogs hair especially if they have a heavy coat.
  • Protect those pink noses by using baby sunblock to prevent sunburn!
  • DO NOT leave your dog in the car for any amount of time.
  • Always make sure your dog has somewhere to go for shade no matter where they are i.e a tree, a dog kennel etc.

These few simple steps will help you to enjoy the outdoors safely with your dog this summer. Now don’t forget your own suncream!!

Pets and holidays

Having a pet is a responsibility not unlike having a child and just like when you have kids, there is no reason why you cannot go on your well earned holiday. Careful consideration and planning will see you on your way to a stress and worry free break.

Ideally, the planning for a major holiday takes place months in advance. This is the best time to decide what will happen to your pets while you are away, particularly if you decide to board them at a kennel or cattery in the summer months as there is no guarantee you will find a vacancy there at short notice. You really don’t want to be stressing about your furry friends when pre-holiday excitement is in full swing!

Just what are your options?
The individual needs of your pet must to be taken into account. A large dog generally needs more exercise, a pet that has no other animal company needs more human contact, a young kitten or puppy needs a LOT of attention and care. Taking a weeks’ holiday when your pet is only a few weeks old is not advisable unless you can arrange constant care. You might also miss out on some precious bonding time! If your pet is on medication or a special diet, he will need extra attention. Does your pet have any behavioural issues that affect their daily routine? Perhaps they can not be left alone for long periods or get bored easily.

So, with your pets needs in mind you can now look at your options. Having a neighbour come in to feed and walk your pets is one of the most common solutions however, it would not be suitable for everyone. There is very little human contact and no supervision. You may feel you cannot trust them to look after your pets special needs if he has any. Giving someone a key to your home is not something everyone is comfortable with. In a nutshell this is a good option if your pets are well adjusted and have no really special needs.

If you DO decide to go with this option, there are certain things you can do to make your absence less stressing for your pet. First and foremost you need someone you trust with your home and to look after your pets well. Knowing they are in good hands will be less stress for you and much better for your furries as well. Leave a plentiful variety of toys – the better the variety, the less boredom there will be. Remember that they will need toys they can play with on their own and with other pets (if you have any). There is no point in leaving a handheld tug rope that requires a human on one end! There are lots of toys that inspire the feline and canine imagination, pounce toys usually serve you and your pet very well. A pounce toy is something your pet likes to hide in wait for and ‘hunt,’ the kind of toy this is varies from pet to pet. It could be a jingly ball, a squeaky toy, a raggedy doll or even a sweet wrapper.

As your pets’ human, you will know what toys your pet enjoys.

Most pets chew. You want to prevent Princess from chewing on the upholstery so it is highly advisable that you leave some chew things like rawhide, nylabone, the squeaky toy they like to chew to name but a few examples. From your pets point of view, your home is bound to be smothered in your scent, which is a very good thing however, if you leave your pets in a part of the house where you rarely spend time you might want to think about leaving a little scent. Nothing untoward! A sweater you have worn recently could be left on a chair or near their bed. An owners scent can be very comforting and can ease anxiety.

You may not want you pets to have access to your bedroom or the dining room while you are away. This is fair enough, and a good idea if your pet is a bit messy in these rooms. Yet it has to be said that you should consider the amount of space you will let them have. An animal of any kind does not do well if they are locked in a dark and/or small room; apart from anything else it is unfair to confine them so. It has been shown to have a damaging psychological affect. A very workable solution is to cordon off the upper floor and keep certain doors locked by key (some pooches and even cats can open unlocked doors, the little Houdini’s!). Then remove or hide any breakables in the rooms where they will spend their time.

Litter trays will need cleaning and dogs will need walking for both exercise and urinating. It is essential that the dog is let out to do his business at least twice a day, they do not have magical bladders they can hold for 24 hours. A house trained dog will not like peeing in the house any more than you would like him to but if left with no option it will lead to an embarrassing situation for everyone. And so, you must be absolutely clear on the needs and rules with the person who will call around. Leave a list of instructions. If your friend is happy to spend 20 minutes playing with your pets each evening this would be excellent. It is no substitute to a full on play session but it really helps.

Leave a bag of your pets favourite treats with their temporary carer. Do not leave them in the same room as your pet or you can be sure they will not last. A few treats each evening will help your pets trust their carer and if your pet associates these treats with ‘good things’ it may help ease any fears of loss they are experiencing.

Back to the list of instructions. What should it include? Feeding information including any special dietary needs, medication information, notes about your pets behaviour (for example, Princess loves to have her belly rubbed – or she does not like to be approached by strangers), house rules such as ‘rooms they are not allowed in,’ anything they should be aware of when walking your dog (does he try to chase other dogs?), and the telephone number of your veterinary practice for emergencies.

You should encourage your friend to stick to a routine as much as is possible for them. Walking and feeding at certain times each day. Pets have an uncanny sense for time! And it seems they do appreciate some sort of routine. If it is possible to follow similar feeding times that they are used to, all the better. Finally, don’t forget to thank your friend with a nice Duty Free bottle!

Perhaps you have a relative or good friend who would happily mind your house and pets while you are away. In return for looking after everything, they get to stay in your house for the week/fortnight you aren’t there. This is much better than having a friend or neighbour call round, especially if your relative does not work full time. This means there is more company and supervision for your pets and they get to stay at home.

Kennels and catteries are a widely available option and if you can afford it is often a better option for your pet if they have special needs or are the only pet in your household. Not all kennels and catteries are the same, some will not take in a pet with particular needs. They do not all follow the same high standards. Sourcing a kennel or cattery you are happy with should be treated in the same way as finding a vet, clinic or nursing home. A friends recommendation is by far the best source to find a reputable and reliable kennel. But what if there is no such verbal offering? Researching has never been easier with the Internet at your fingertips. Check out the animal forums available and get some ideas from fellow pet owners. No matter how good you hear a kennel is it makes sense to go and see it before you go away; is it everything you thought? Are you happy with the facilities and their schedules? Will they look after your pets needs? Apart from making sure your pet will be cared for, it eases your own mind.

Lying on a sun lounger in Portugal is not the time you want to suddenly think “I’m worried Princess isn’t being fed enough, she’s a hungry wagon…” There are a few things you may consider doing if you go for kennelling:

1. Check what food the kennel/cattery uses; are you happy with this? It may be a brand your pet has refused to eat in the past.
2. Bring some of your pets own toys.
3. If Princess has a favourite blanket, don’t forget to bring that with you to the kennel and make sure the staff are aware that is belongs to you.
4. Your pet would benefit from having an old shirt which you have worn, with him at the kennel. Animals in kennels can suffer from anxiety and your scent will help calm them, especially if you will be away for more than a few days.
5. Kennelling fees start at 10 euros and cattery charges start at 6 euros per day. Charges vary from kennel to kennel and the size of your dog can affect the price. Some kennels will charge less if you supply your pets food. This is a great deal if you want to make sure your pet receives a specific food.
6. OAP’s and people on Social Welfare can sometimes get these services at a reduced price. However this is entirely at the kennels’ discretion, the only way to find out is to ask.

Please note that kennels and catteries only take in pets who are up to date on their vaccinations, a reputable kennel/cattery will ask to see a vet certificate as proof of this. If you leave your pet at a kennel or cattery that does not insist upon up to date vaccinations, the animals in their care could be at risk of contracting kennel cough, parvo and other canine/feline illnesses.

Very similar to kennelling, is pet sitting. This is a fairly recent innovation and has been picked up by us Irish in recent years. There are two types of pet sitter; in your own home or in their home. Either option is completely workable as you are paying for a service, the pet sitters aim is to look after your pet and their needs. Pet sitters are usually BIG animal lovers and thoroughly enjoy their job. We all know that a person who loves their job generally does it very well. Just as with kennels, you would be advised to do a little research before choosing a sitter, ask them for references and see what their past customers have to say.

Find out what their plans are, will your pet have other canine/feline company? Where will they sleep (if you decided upon a sitter who looks after your pet in their own home). What and how often will he be fed and walked? Pet sitting is not just for cats and dogs, there are sitters out there for small animals of the hamster, rabbit and guinea pig persuasion as well! We will look at small animals later.

Pet sitting costs vary depending on what type of sitting is chosen, the size of your dog and whether or not you supply the food. Costs for dogs start at 12.50 per night.

Small animals are often best looked after in their own home. Rabbits and guinea pigs have their own hutches and runs, thus having a neighbour or friend call to feed and water them each day is really the easiest option. A common mistake is assuming that that is all they need. Small animals do need company and attention. They are much easier to care for than a large dog or a cat but that is not to say they have no needs. If you are going to be away for more than a few days, your small pets will need some human company. Hamsters, gerbils and other kinds of rodents have usually got easy-to-transport cages, so finding a friend who knows how to look after them is your best bet.

Perhaps you don’t know anybody who knows how to, or who has time to look after your ‘smallies’ – and no one has a particular desire to learn how to either. Well the happy news is that there are some pet sitters who look after small animals. And from just two euros per day for hamsters or six euros for a pair of guinea pigs, you can be sure your little ones will be well looked after at what I have to say is a bargain price.

Would you like to take Princess on holiday with you? If you are holidaying in Ireland, there are many hotels, holiday homes and B&B’s that allow pets. Holiday accommodation that allow pets are places which allow your pet in your room. Be wary of places that advertise as being ‘pet friendly,’ some masquerade as being ‘pet friendly’ when in fact, they ask you to leave your pet in the car overnight or tied up outside; neither of which are suitable. A simple phone call before booking will clear this up.

Taking your pet with you is a great family holiday (pets are family members for many!), walks, hikes, treks, picnics, beaches. If travelling long distance with your pet in the car, they should be properly restrained. A cat should be in a cat carrier to prevent him from bolting when the car door opens. Equally, a dog should be in a crate or kept in the back of the car using a dog bar barrier. You can even buy dog seatbelt clips and actual seatbelts. Restraining your pet is not just for theirs, but also for your own safety. An animal wandering around the car can be distracting, they can get in the way and cause accidents.

On long journeys dogs need water regularly, particularly if it is a warm day. If your pet gets stressed when travelling there are remedies available. Many pet owners swear by Bach’s Rescue Remedy, which can be purchased in most chemists. If your pet is particularly anxious by nature, it would be best to consult your vet before you make your trip.

Taking your pet abroad is very much an option however, you need a lot of forward planning and research. There are rules in place that restrict international travel for pets. You can travel to certain countries without putting your pet into quarantine if you have a Pet Passport. You also need to be aware that some airlines will not take animals and those that do usually charge a large fee – an animal can rarely travel as ‘excess baggage.’ The animal must also travel in the hold of the plane in a crate, this is not something that every animal can handle, particularly old age animals, you should consult your vet before flying with any animal.

Not all ferries have kennel areas and some will only allow you to travel with your pet if you leave him in the car. If you have ever been in the car park area on a ferry you will know it is very stuffy and full of petrol fumes. As an animal should never be left in a car without a window open you can see how this could potentially be very unhealthy. So your international pet travel checklist:

1. Check the pet travel rules for your destination.
2. See your vet about Pet Passports (if necessary) and update your pets vaccinations and discuss your travel method and it’s potential affects on your pet.
3. Contact the travel company: airline, ferry or train and ask about travelling with your pet. What facilities do they have? Are there extra charges etc?
4. Book your trip once you are sure you can travel with your pet in a way you are happy with.

5. Prepare a travel pack of water bottle and bowl, anxiety remedy if necessary, food (in a cool bag perhaps), toys to keep him amused, his Pet Passport and all relevant vaccination documentation, contact details for a vet in the location you are travelling to if you are going on a lengthy trip.

Finally, be warned that a pet of any kind should never, under any circumstances, be left alone at home for days on end even if you leave lots of food out. Every year pets are rescued from such situations, they get dehydrated, emancipated, sleep in their own excretion and in severe cases they can become malnourished and die.

Now, pet taken care of, go have a happy worry free holiday!

Dog Fleas

The mighty flea.

Fleas are quite like fugitives, sneaking around and hitching a ride whenever they can. They are the bane of many a pet owners life, and of course the pet themselves. While they are often merely a nuisance and nothing more, they can become a very serious problem. Prevention is better than the cure, so they say and when it comes to fleas this really is the truth.

Contrary to popular belief, fleas cannot fly. They have very strong back legs so they can hop from animal to animal with ease. Your pet can pick up fleas in many ways, the athletic legged jumpers can just hop right in to your home, hitch a ride on your pet or even on you. Fleas can live on as many as 50 different species worldwide, so your precious could even pick them up from the local wildlife.

The flea has a four-stage life cycle and in fact the adult fleas, which drive our pets to distraction, are only 5% of the problem. The real battle is with the immature fleas; eggs, larva and pupa. Eggs are laid in their hundreds, a female flea can lay 15-40 per day and for every flea you see on your pet you can be sure there are 100 more. During a flea invasion eggs are everywhere; they easily fall off your pet and get into the carpets, floorboards and furniture. Anywhere where your pet spends a lot of time is bound to have a large stash of eggs hidden away. An even bigger problem is that eggs and pupa (the cocoon stage) can lay ‘dormant’ for several months.

Prevention
The best way to tackle fleas is to try to prevent them. It is impossible to shield against all possible flea encounters but measures can be taken to reduce the risks dramatically. Frequent hovering is the obvious first step, especially when you have carpeted floors. It is very important to pay particular attention to high traffic areas and spots where your pet spends a lot of time dozing. The pet bedding also needs washing every couple of months at least, this is well advised not only as a flea tackling method but it also reduces any pet odour and lessens the amount of fur flying around.

A regular (monthly) anti-flea treatment is often suggested although is not a necessity. It is really a personal choice. You may chose to give your pet a monthly anti-flea shampoo or use a spray on your carpets: a thorough application of NorShield, which is designed for furnishings, can assist flea prevention in the home for up to 6 months. There are even natural anti-flea solutions. The simplest are garlic and bread soda. A little bit of either in your pet’s diet will make them less tasty for the fleas. While garlic is good for a dog in particular, it should be given in small amounts, as large amounts can be toxic.

Eek, is that a flea?
Your pet is likely to have fleas at some stage; the infestation may be so light that you aren’t even aware of it. Although itching is considered to be the main symptom of fleas, a pet does not always scratch! A sure-fire test to see if your pet is currently with flea is have him stand on a sheet of white paper, run your fingers through his fur in a ruffle motion and see if any ‘dots’ fall onto the paper – fleas are the size of a pin head and are dark brown or copper in colour. You may also see fleas on your pet if you check under his legs, as you part the hair you may see little dots scurrying away – fleas hate the light.

Get it away!
So, Fluffy definitely has a flea or a thousand, what to do? Fleas are a battle and a half but it is a battle you can win. The key is to break their life cycle. It makes sense to cleanse the environment before you tackle the fugitives on your pet or they will only pick them up again very quickly. The house and the outdoor areas both need to be tackled. A good Hoovering will remove approximately 50% of the eggs from the house, making sure you pay attention to hidey areas and as fleas like shade and moisture they tend to cluster under long curtains, furniture and pet bedding. Pet bedding will need a thorough hot wash, as will the crate or pet carrier.

You can then follow up with a good anti-flea spray that contains an insect growth regulator. What anti-flea products you use will depend on the extent of the flea problem, the breed, age and health of your pet, other pets in your household (birds can be quite delicate!) as well as health considerations of the humans living there (asthmatics and small children). Even if you have no children or sensitive pets to consider, research has shown that many anti-flea products can be toxic not only to the pet but to humans as well. Many of these products contain organophosphates (OP’s), which are insecticides. There are not yet strict rules as to what these products cannot contain so it is up to the consumer to read the labels and make their choice. That is not to say all anti-flea products are toxic, demand for safer products is leading manufacturers to rethink their recipes. As with any chemical, you need to take care when using an anti-flea product, we often forget to remove the flowers, bird cages and fish bowls from the room when we use a spray.

To treat the outdoor areas (the garden) you can buy sprays and ‘crystals,’ care should be taken when using these so that they cannot contaminate a lake, pond or river. Special attention needs to be paid to the doorstep, patio and driveway and any spot where your pet dozes outside. The car is often overlooked, if you often have your pet in the car there may well be flea eggs in there, either way it is better to be safe than sorry! A good Hoover, spray and fumigation should do the trick just nicely. Plus it’s a great excuse to give the car a spit-shine!

Now we are ready to tackle the little wretches themselves. There are many de-flea options: collars, tablets, sprays, shampoos and powders. Critics say that the collars are pretty useless as a flea killer and it has been shown that they are toxic to humans and even pets. Many opt for anti flea medication, sprays and shampoos. Advantage and Frontline products are often highly recommended by pet owners and vets alike. It is important to note that battling fleas takes time, the fleas on your pet must come into contact with the anti flea product and absorb it. You may well see fleas on your pet several hours after you used the product. A thorough cleansing of the environment may also take several sweeps with the Hoover.

Why treat for fleas?
Apart from the allergy many pets have to fleas, if they are left untreated it can lead to very serious problems. Fleas multiply quickly, a mild infestation soon becomes a full on invasion which is anything but fun for the pet. Excessive flea biting can lead to over scratching as your pet tries to ease the pain/itch. This can then lead to sores, loss of hair and a severe skin infection. The flea is an important part of the tapeworm lifecycle, if your pet swallows a flea which contains an immature tapeworm your pet will have a new problem.

Anaemia is the lack of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body and there is a very real risk of it developing if a flea problem goes untreated for a long time. It can cause breathlessness, weakness, high blood pressure and even heart failure. Anaemia is very dangerous in young kittens and puppies, it can kill within hours of first developing. As you can not use regular anti flea treatments on such young animals they must be brought to the vet as soon as you notice they may have fleas.

Basic Dog Training

Basic dog training – the doggie treat manoeuvre.

You look at Fido and see two things.
– The little creature you love and opened your home and heart to.
– Then there’s the dopey demon running rings around you. He has already swallowed the wife’s Manolo’s and you swear he has his eye on your palm pilot! No doubt about it, something has to be done!

The thing is, people are not born well behaved and polite, it’s behaviour that we were TAUGHT. In the absence of such training, people learn their social skills on their own – sometimes with less than desirable and even disastrous results.

It is exactly like this with dogs, but made worse by the fact they naturally have a completely different social structure. If we sniffed someone’s backside to find out about them, we would get smacked or maybe arrested for harassment. Equally, a dog can’t just ask his neighbour Butch if he likes chasing cars or collecting bones. Dogs and humans learn to live side by side with a little training. We learn to understand each other as best we can. We teach them what is acceptable and reap the rewards that come with a well behaved and happy pooch.

Sit boy sit!
It all starts with the bare basics. You have to walk before you can run! In the beginning, the word ‘sit’ is the magical word that solves many a canine problem. Many dog trainers agree that treat training is one of the best methods of training there is.

So how do you get that furry butt to hit the floor on command? Well, here is the story of Mack. “Mack was very excitable for such a small dog, he used to nose dive on visitors and do the ‘doggie trampoline’ every time you did anything. It became a real problem when he darted after other dogs, jumped all over complete strangers and ruined peoples flower beds. If he had been a Labrador people, would have been terrified. So I took him aside and waggled a treat at him. I held it above his head until his bottom hit the floor and I immediately said “Sit…GOOD BOY!” and gave him the treat. When he started to associate the command with the action, I slowly replaced treats with praise, giving him the odd treat to reinforce the good behaviour. He sits when told now (he never knows when a treat will be forthcoming either!) and guests are not terrified of sitting on the couch for fear of being dog-mugged.”

Lie down boy!
Right, we have ‘sit’ in the bag, what about ‘lie down?’ “Homer is your average big dog, a boisterous nutter with unknown parentage. The main problem with him was his size. We travel a lot and he bounced around the car excitedly, anything he saw out the window could potentially send him into frenzy. He just loved the car – dividers, straps and restraints never really worked for him, he needed to calm down. He would sit on command but he was still very excitable from a sitting position. Then we realised ‘bingo!’ the only time he is really calm is when he is lying down! We used the treat training method, getting him to sit then pulling the treat from him across the floor, forcing him to lie down, giving him the command and praise. Over time he got used to doing this in the car without treats. I can drive without fear of him causing a crash now. It’s like freedom for us and he seems happy as I am calmer too.”

Stay!
Once he is down, it’s getting him to stay that is the prize. “Zac was a terrible abuser of his training! He figured out that I gave him a treat as soon as he followed my command, so he felt he need not bother ‘staying.’ He would take his treat and his praise and then wander off to do whatever it is he did. So I had to trick the trickster. I started giving him treats to ‘stay’ and I would give the command. If he complied, I would give him a treat and praise straight away. If he started to get up I would repeat this, we would keep this up for a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the times. Then I started to give praise without the treats. He seems to live in hope of these odd ‘reinforcement’ treats.”

Many a dog can be coaxed with a treat; the key is to get them to link the command with the action. The treat is just a prize. Gradually you replace the treat with praise, giving the odd treat to reinforce this good behaviour.

Top tips:
– Training means consistency; don’t give in to puppy dog eyes or a persistent dog. They learn that patience and persistence pays off.
– Remember, nearly all ‘behaviour problems’ are perfectly normal canine behaviour. You need to redirect their natural behaviour to a suitable outlet.
– A dog ages approx. seven years for every one human year so their behaviour is ever changing, this is why dog training is life long.
– Start training in an area with few visual and sound distractions, gradually introducing distractions to help pooch adjust.
– Dogs bore easily so keeping training to 15-20 minutes a day and/or incorporating it into your daily routine will help you both stay sane! ‘Sit’ while you cook, ‘heel’ while you talk on the phone.
– We often let good behaviour go unrewarded and go bananas when pooch misbehaves. Dogs love attention even if it is negative. Praising good behaviour, even if he sits quietly chewing on his own toy, will help pooch understand that good behaviour is more rewarding.
– Following on from the last point, most dogs are so used to ‘No’, ‘Stop that’ and ‘Bad dog’ that it becomes background noise; reprimands ceasing to have meaning. Try to find a balance between reprimands and praise.
– Expecting your dog to be restrained and well behaved when away from the home will not work if he is allowed to run free of rules when he is at home.
– Although old dogs can indeed learn new tricks, the earlier a dog learns the better. An older dog has to unlearn habits; a pup has more or less got a nice clean slate.
– Trainers generally agree, there is no point in reprimanding a dog unless you catch him in the act. Otherwise he will not be able to associate the punishment with his bad behaviour.