February, 2014

Pet Circkles.

"I am in favor of animal rights as well as
human rights. That is the way of a
whole human being." ~ Abe Lincoln.

Don't Give a Broken Heart for Valentine's Day.

By Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com.

Click here To Read Elsie's Story: Finally Getting a Home. Also see our Valentines Day Special Edition.

Valentine's Day is one of the busiest days of the year for puppy sales after Christmas. Giving the gift of love to a furry friend this Valentine's Day is only truly a gift for both parties if your decision is a sound one based on responsible ownership. Too many people get caught up in the moment and give cute pets as gifts with no regard for the future of that pet, or, they purchase from pet stores and unknowingly support the cruel environment of puppy mill breeding operations. Also, giving pets to children has to be well considered: will the child really keep up with the pet's care for the entire life of that pet or will it just be a fad and neglected in time?


Training an Adopted Animal.

Last month on Pet Circkles, we discussed how to train a stubborn breed. So if you have one of those, you may want to check our archives and read that article as well.

The first piece of information you need to have when you go to the humane societies or rescues to adopt a pet is what is this animal's history and can you handle it. Many people think it's a great idea to adopt, and it is, but then they get the pet home and end up bringing it back to the shelter because they can't handle the "baggage" the pet may come with. Such as, was this animal neglected? Abused? Beaten? Starved? Or abandoned? Knowing what issues you are going to be dealing with ahead of the adoption process makes it much easier for you to plan your approach to training and getting the animal settled into it's new life. The animal's history will determine just how you approach the animal and how you will treat it in order to win it's trust; because if the animal doesn't trust or respect you, you will be in for a lot more than you bargained for in behavior problems. Remember, chances are, if the animal is at the shelter, it wasn't under the best of circumstances and you will have some sort of behavior problems to deal with. Most animals will get over their previous behavior and bad training in time and if approached in the right manner to suit their individual needs. In our opinion, there is no cookie-cuttter approach or magical training program to training animals yourself. They all have their own personalities, issues, and needs and this goes for any animal not just adopted ones. Many people's first mistake is in assuming animals do not have their own individual personalities and they can all be trained and treated the same way. Not true.

When you go to a rescue or shelter to adopt, they will give you as much information on the animal's background as they can, but most of the time, they don't have much information themselves. They only know the circumstances as to which they acquired the animal, but they rarely have any information on how the animal was treated up to that point. So that leaves it up to you to learn the animal's nature and issues; and this can only be done by thorough observations and a little knowledge of animal behavior.

Characteristics to look for in an animal and questions to ask when you go to visit the shelter or rescue:

1.) Does the animal seem timid or aggressive? Do they willingly come up to you and appear friendly? Or do they back away, hide or growl?

2.) Does the animal respond to any voice commands? If not, is it because it appears to have never been trained or it's just so excited with it's new surroundings it doesn't listen to you?

3.) Does the animal have a history of any health problems? If so, is there any special needs the animal may have in the future, and can you accommodate them and afford them?

4.) What work has the shelter been doing to train the animal and how has it responded to it? Most shelters will work with rehabilitation and behavior training any animal that comes through their doors because they want a successful adoption.

5.) A question you need to ask yourself when visiting an animal for adoption is if the animal has special needs or may need some special attention to get acclimated to it's new home and owners, do you have the time to invest in it?

So you get your new furry friend home, get them situated, but after a few weeks, the animal turns out not to be as great as you initially thought. This happens to a lot of people and they end up returning the animal to the shelter, but the biggest obstacle to success with adopted pets is usually that the new owners feel sorry for the animal because it was abused, neglected or abandoned and they tend to pamper the animal too much, or more likely, they don't have the heart to train it because they think the animal should be given special leeway because of it's circumstances. The worst thing a new owner can do with their adopted animal is not train it from the time they bring it home. This is how little demons are created.

Training an animal is not cruel. Not training one is. Animals need guidance, they are like children, they cannot be left to raise themselves in a human environment. They count on you to keep them out of harms way, healthy and safe. That is your job. If an animal is not trained to listen to your commands, they can easily run out in front of a car, bite somebody, run away, eat the wrong thing etc. You are not doing them any favors by not training them and are in fact, doing them a great deal of harm. Dogs live in packs where one dog is the alpha and is the leader who commands how all the rest will be treated. The mother dog (dam) disciplines her pups from the first day, because their survival depends on it. Therefore, animals are very used to living within a hierarchy of leadership and obedience. Just like a child needs structure, so does an animal, and they will respect you more if you give it to them than if you don't. If you just don't have the heart to train little Fluffy to not chew up your couch, then hire someone who will, but ultimately, you are still the one who is going to have to enforce that training. With adopted animals, where most people fail is by not recognizing and addressing the specific behavior problems that animal may have come with. Which goes back to why our section above on characteristics and the animal's history are so important.

On the other hand, some pet owners go to the other extreme, and nitpick their animal's behavior so much so that the animal is constantly be reprimanded for inappropriate behavior. This backfires, as eventually the animal gets so frustrated or immune to their owners constant commands that it doesn't listen to any of them. You still have to let the animal be an animal, while giving them just enough training to improve their safety and the safety of others but not so much as to undermine it all by having the animal tune you out because now you're just being annoying.

The Reward System:
The training method of giving a treat for a reward when a pet does as we ask works very effectively to train them because it's positive reinforcement. Just like you are more willing to do something for someone if you get a positive response to it rather than a negative one, so it is with animals. Animals are much more likely to not do what you want if they know they are going to experience a negative outcome from it. For example: a dog that runs away. If the dog makes a habit of it, and you scold them for it or punish them for it, they will likely still run away again because it's in their nature, the problem is, they will not want to come home to be scolded or punished. However, if you train that dog to come to you every time you call by giving them a reward or treat for it, then if that dog does run away, they are more likely to come back on their own because they won't be facing punishment when they do. This is an example of using positive reinforcement to train in place of negative reinforcement or negative discipline.

If you have a dog that's a wonderer, chances are you will never be able to break him of the habit, because in fact, it is in a male dog's nature to roam in order to find a female dog. Dogs that have been neutered tend to roam a lot less. The best thing you can do with a roamer is to keep them in a large, fenced yard they cannot get out of, take them for a lot of walks on a leash, and don't give them the opportunity to wander on their own. If you open up the front door to let them do their business unsupervised and not on a leash, they will surely take advantage of their freedom to take off and wander. Take them out on a leash to do their business or keep them in a fenced yard. Another way to help prevent this scenario is to educate yourself on the breed of the dog before adopting them so you will know in advance if it is in his breed's nature to roam, hunt or look for something to herd. However, this is still no guarantee. When a dog smells something or sees an unsupervised opportunity to take off, he does not stop himself first and say, "Oh, I can't run out of the yard or I will get into trouble." No. When a dog sees freedom, the last think he is thinking of is his owner. Maybe a half hour, or hours later, the thought may enter his mind that he's not where he should be, but by then it's already been done. So he's thinking about coming home. To what? An angry face that will punish him? Or one that will give him a treat if he learns to come when called? This all refers to knowing a little animal behavior and what you can reasonably expect to control in an animal and what you cannot because it's in their nature.

One warning about the reward system: Many people abuse it. Make sure a treat is just that, a treat for good behavior. If you give an animal treats all the time, they lose their value. If you want to give them a treat because it's good for them, at least make them do something for it; like tell them to sit or some other simple command. Otherwise, they become beggars for treats and the reward has no meaning other than they were just rewarded for conning you out of food. That will not establish respect with them, but teach them that they can walk all over you because you're a pushover. Treats should not be given too often. They are a treat, not a replacement for their regularly scheduled food.

Abused Animals:
An animal that's been ill treated has to learn to trust you before any forward progress can be made in their training and issues. This may only take a couple months or a couple years depending on how you address the problem. The biggest issue here is to let the animal work on it at his own pace. You cannot push an animal to trust you, and it takes a world of patience to get them to once that trust has been broken by another human being. But animals are very forgiving, and in time, they will learn that there is a difference between a "good human" and a "bad" one. Once they distinguish you as a good human, they will be more willing to listen to you and share their lives with you. Patience is the key, and letting them come to you when they are ready and on their own terms. After some amount of trust has been established, then you can proceed with some training. If you push the training before trust has been established, the animal may just see it as more cruelty because it doesn't know or understand you, and sees all behavior, even training, as possibly being hurtful or for which they will suffer negative consequences. First and foremost, an abused animal has to trust you not to hurt them before they can understand your discipline as not being harmful.


Please share
Elsie's Story for Valentine's Day, to inform people of a form of animal abuse many never think of.



© 2013 Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com. All rights reserved to images and articles.









Pets who look like their owners:

Find more pet articles in our Archives, and pet home remedies are in The Hangout.

NATURAL PET REMEDIES: Natural Alternatives to Clay Cat Litter.

Clay litters are very dusty and have been proven to cause asthma and upper respiratory problems in cats and ferrets. There are now some natural litters on the market that are not so harmful and we have them listed below along with some very inexpensive, completely natural alternatives.

Sand: Yes, as simple as this sounds, just ordinary sand can be used for litter. It doesn't have all those perfumes (which by the way, are harmful to you and your pet when you breathe them in every day), but sand is just as absorbent and if scooped out regularly, will not smell because sand an dirt have natural enzymes in them. You can purchase what's called "playground sand" which is less dusty than other sand, from Home Depot or other building supply stores for only about $6.00 dollars for a 50 lb bag.

For ferrets, several layers of old newspaper works well since they don't urinate as much as a cat and they love to play in sand. They won't usually play with the newspaper once they have done their business on it, and to stop them from playing with it and pushing it out of the litter box the first time they see it and investigate it, save a little feces from their last litter box and put it on the newspaper so they get the idea it's for going on not playing with.

Natural Commercial Litters Rated:

World's Best Cat Litter:
$8-$9 for 8 pounds. Main ingredient is corn. Clumps well and controls odors well.

Swheat Scoop:
$12 for 15 pounds. Main ingredient is wheat: The lowest price per pound of the five brands we compared, but because it doesn't clump well, you end up going through it a bit more quickly. Overall, the price probably averages out to be the same as the others.

Arm & Hammer Essentials:
$8.50-$9.00 for 10.5 pounds. Main ingredients are baking soda and corn. Works well to control odor and if your cat or ferret lick their paws, there's no danger of them ingesting harmful pine or cedar shavings. Clumps well.

Feline Pine and Tidy Cat's Pure Nature:
Both are about $1.50 per pound. The reason these two litters are not rated very high from us is due to the fact that they are made with pine or cedar shavings. Anything from the pine or cedar family is very harmful for pets to breathe in the dust from, even in miniscule amounts, because these trees contain oils and when breathed in, the oils tend to irritate and cling to the lungs. Not to mention, they will be ingesting it when they lick themselves.
Because the Tidy Cat is so light, it gets tracked through the house a lot by the animal's feet. Feline Pine does not clump well.

For more pet remedies, Circkles.com members can follow The Hangout in the main menu tabs.


DOG BREEDS: Characteristics and Concerns.

(We will get to cat breeds later.)

Basset Hound: Also known as wiener dogs.

Bassets are good with children as they have a very mild temperament and are very playful and friendly. They are natural-born sniffers. The only breed that has a keener sense of smell is the bloodhound. The name Basset comes from the French word Bas for "very low."

Bassets do not respond well to punishment and have been known to shut down when it is used too often, and for this reason, some people have labeled them as stubborn. They are very driven by food and when treats or food is used as reward training they do very well with it.

Many people have the misconception that bassets are lazy and non-energenic and thus don't need much exercise. This fallacy is why so many bassets are overweight. They still need to be exercised like any dog and love a walk on a leash to sniff everything which they find very exciting and entertaining. Although they are not runners, their curious nose will lead them to wonder very easily, so unless fenced in, they should be kept on a leash when out and about. Bassets are very vocal dogs and will howl and bark a lot.

Health Concerns: While their long ears are adorable, they can be a bit of a problem. Because they droop so much, air circulation cannot get inside and they are prone to ear infections and ear mites. Also, those long ears can often get in the way and get caught in things. Puppies have been know to step on their ears and sometimes a dog will bite his own ear if it lands in his food bowl. This can cause cuts and injuries to deal with so it's best to always keep this handicap in mind. Their ears need to be cleaned on a regular basis and kept dry at all times.

Because of their droopy eyes, they are also prone to eye problems. The area around the eye can become clogged with dirt and cause mucus buildup. Wiping their eyes with a damp cloth regularly helps.
They may also develop yeast infections in the folds of their skin.

Because of their long body and how close they are to the ground, they should not be allowed to jump down from anything. Many bassets have sustained back and hip injuries from doing so.

Lifespan: 11-13 years is typical.

Size: For their shortness, bassets can weigh as much as 50 lbs, but their typical adult height is 15-17 inches for males.

Looking for a Basset Hound? Use our Pet finder tool below and search for an adoptable dog that needs a home in your area now.

To view breeds we've already written about, view our Dog Breeds on The Hangout. (Must be a Circkles member to view The Hangout.)


Isaac's Story

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