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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dog Tricks

Teaching your dog to perform tricks can be great fun, but it does require plenty of time and patience. It is, however, important to remember not to spend more than around five minutes a day practicing a particular trick with your dog; otherwise it may become bored of the whole process and refuse to co-operate any further. You should also aim to end each training session on a good note, so that your dog always associates the experience with pleasure and not unhappiness. Providing you use a variety of tasty and healthy treats, along with plenty of praise, your dog should be able to learn new tricks very easily. Here are a few for you to try out on your dog:

This is something that many dogs begin to do automatically, and doesn’t generally take any real training. Some dogs, however, may not do it so readily and may need a little assistance. Try making a small slit in a ball and then place some tasty treats inside. Let your dog sniff the ball before you throw it and then run with your dog to get the ball for the first three or four times. Each time your dog picks up the ball, encourage him/her to come to you and then release the treats. It won’t take long for your dog to chase willingly after any object you throw for it, even when there are no treats inside.

Get your dog to sit facing you. Hold your dog’s favourite treat up so that it can be seen and then say: “Say please.” Your dog’s automatic reaction will probably be to lift both its front feet off the ground to get to the treat. As soon as he/she makes any attempt to perform this action, you should praise him/her and reward immediately with a treat. This trick is all about good balance and may take your dog a little time to master. Do take great care, however, not to let your dog fall over onto its back when performing this trick.

Shake hands
Get your dog to sit facing you. Then gently lift up one of your dog’s paws and hold it for a few seconds and say: “Shake hands.” Let go of the paw and repeat the action. Each time you put the paw down, you should praise your dog and reward with a treat.

Roll over
Get your dog to lie down on its belly and then kneel down by its side. Whilst holding a treat in front of his/her nose, move the treat around so that your dog lies on its side and then rolls over. Once your dog makes any attempt to move over, praise him/her and reward with a treat. As hard surfaces may be uncomfortable for your dog, it is best to perform this trick on a carpet or outside on the grass.

Get your dog to lie down facing you. Hold a treat right in front of his/her nose and say: “Crawl.” Gradually pull the treat away from your dog whilst keeping the treat close to the ground. Keep repeating the command until your dog begins to move across the floor. As soon as your dog makes any effort to crawl, you should praise him/her immediately and reward with a treat. You may find that your dog will try to stand up at some point during this exercise. If this happens say: “No” and gently coax him/her to lie down again.

Turn around
Make sure that your dog is standing facing you. Then place a treat in your hand and show it to your dog. Lead your dog’s nose round clockwise with the treat until he/she has gone round in a complete circle. As you are performing this say: “Turn around” and then praise your dog and reward with a treat.

Play dead
Get your dog to lie down on its tummy and then roll him/her gently over onto their side and say: “Sleep.” Encourage your dog to stay there for a short time and then say: “Wake up.” Once your dog stands up, you should praise him/her and reward with a treat.

After teaching each trick for a period of time, you should find that your dog begins to respond quickly to your commands without you having to guide him/her into the correct position. You can teach both young and old dogs to perform tricks, but obviously your dog will learn quicker if trained from an early age. It is also important to remember to stick to the same commands whilst training, to avoid confusion, and only introduce one new trick at a time.

Copyright © 2008, Ian White Petsitter Needed

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Pet Health: Symptoms and Treatment of Ringworm

Even the best kept pets pick up nasty ailments every now and then. Ringworm is not a serious threat to health but it is unpleasant, unsightly, highly contagious and can be passed to humans.

What is ringworm?
Ringworm is not a worm, but a fungus, of a kind known as a dermatophyte. There are many species, but in the vast majority of cases the culprit is Microsporum canis, that can affect dogs, cats and humans. The dermatophytes reproduce by means of spores that can remain viable for well over a year. Contact with infected animals, contaminated soil or with some species of dermatophyte, wild rodents, are the most common causes.

The symptoms:
The typical presentation of ringworm is a bald patch with a circular area of skin inflammation that may be scaly or crusty. The fungus attacks the hair in such a way that the patch may look as if it has been closely shaved. It tends to heal from the inside, resulting in the characteristic ‘ring’: a more inflamed exterior surrounding a central area where healing is taking place. There are however many manifestations and some animals can display very few symptoms. It may also resemble other skin diseases, including allergies, and is best diagnosed by a vet. Though ringworm can eventually clear up on its own, because of its contagiousness and the threat to other animals and people, it should be taken seriously. It may sometimes be an indication of a suppressed immune system.

The diagnosis:
Because it may manifest in different guises and resembles other conditions, ringworm can only be diagnosed by testing, Shining a special light on the infected areas may show fluorescence, but not all species produce the characteristic green glow and this method is not always conclusive. Microscopic examination can reveal spores and other material, but there is room for error in this method too. Culturing material from samples of hair is the most reliable method but takes time.

Treating ringworm consists of decontaminating the environment, oral medications and topical applications. Bedding, toys, brushes and bowls need to be disinfected or burned. Fleas or mites must be vigorously dealt with. Vacuuming will help pick up spores. The approved tablets (griseofulvin) can have side effects such as nausea and diarrhoea and cannot be used in sick or pregnant animals (though expensive alternatives are available). Simply applying cream is not usually effective and animals will need to be shampooed weekly with special antifungal shampoo to ensure that spores are eliminated from the whole coat. This can be especially difficult with cats, who are notoriously averse to bathing.

Because of contagion, it’s best to consult your vet without delay if you think your animal is infected. Many animals have a degree of resistance, but children in particular may not and this is not something anyone should risk catching. On the plus side, it is not a painful condition unless it becomes secondarily infected, but it isn’t pretty and may take some effort to eliminate.

Copyright © 2007, Ian White

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