Pets and Phobias

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If you’ve ever seen your pet act strangely or shy away from a non-threatening object you may have just passed it off as a funny five minutes. However, if you see them repeat this behaviour, or they seem fearful in the same situation, they may have a phobia.

I have a dog of my own, named Buffy, who is terrified of daffodils. She can’t stand the smell and will not walk on routes that bypass daffodils, which is a little difficult in springtime! This may seem like a random fear, but it all comes down to an instance where, as a puppy, she stuck her nose in a daffodil that had a bee in it. The bee stung her on the nose, and ever since Buffy has amalgamated that pain with the sight and smell of daffodils. She’s also scared of buzzing noises for the same reason.

It’s not just dogs, either. I used to ride a horse called Badger who was scared of garden hoses. He would not cross the yard if someone had the hose out, so it had to be packed away and covered if we wanted to leave the stables. This was apparently due to him once being bitten by a snake.

This kind of link makes sense if you consider how animals are trained, and also the way their reasoning works. Animals have a good understanding of cause and effect. For instance, if they behave well they will be rewarded. With this in mind you can understand that my dog sees a daffodil and blames it for the bee sting, or that Badger sees a long snake-like thing on the ground and fears that it might bite him.

Sometimes the reasons for a phobia won’t be as clear-cut and understandable to us as their owners, and this can be a concern. Individuals will deal with their fear in different ways but their response will largely fall into one of two categories: aggressive or submissive.

If your pet is facing their fear with aggression they will usually attack whatever it is they’re frightened of, either by vocalising loudly or physically striking or biting it. While you can try and tackle this behaviour yourself you may find that you have better luck with the help of a behaviourist. In the meantime try to keep them away from whatever is stimulating their fear response. It’s very important not to punish them for fear-related aggression as this could cause them to lash out at you.

If your pet is responding submissively that might manifest itself in urination or trembling, and they might even run away. In this instance you can gently introduce them to the object they are afraid of and treat them when they approach it. This will change their negative perception of the object and create new positive connotations. If their fear does not abate then, again, you might benefit from the attention of a behaviourist.

It is rare that a pet’s fear is totally irrational; there is usually a root cause. It might be difficult for you to deal with, especially if what they’re scared of is fairly commonplace, but with love and patience you should be able to make some headway.

The Perfect Pet for Children

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For those of us with both pets and children in the same household, it can be utterly joyful to watch their interactions. Many people wonder what pet is most compatible with a family with children, and there are a number of factors to consider.

Small pets

Many people considers small pets, like rats, guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, to be good “starter pets” for children. They are usually more convenient, as they take up less space and require a little less attention than a larger animal. Guinea pigs and rabbits can live out in the garden, and rodents can live in tanks and cages which don’t take up a huge amount of space in the house.

However, small pets are usually less resilient to rough handling and many species are nocturnal, making them less engaging for young owners. As most of these pets are prey animals they may not be tolerant of being handled at all, depending on their individual temperament.

While you may wish to give a child a small pet to teach them responsibility, the PDSA have claimed that one of the top-three concerns for rabbits are being forgotten about by disinterested owners. Neglect is a serious concern, especially if a child is left with full responsibility for the pet. It’s always best to supervise a child thoroughly when they take ownership of an animal.

As children age their hobbies and passions can change wildly, so it’s impossible to know for sure that a young person’s interest will continue for the pet’s lifetime. This may mean that you, as the parent, will have to take on full responsibility for this pet or else they may suffer from neglect. In many cases the pet will eventually end up in a shelter, or worse.

Cats

Families with a busy lifestyle will often tend towards cats, as they are independent spirits who do not require as much interaction or maintenance as some other species. You can include the child, or children, in basic tasks like feeding, keeping water bowls topped up, and (if appropriate) emptying and cleaning the litterbox. Cats can be a little mercurial in their desire for affection, so you will have to teach your child to respect boundaries and interpret body language so that they know when to play and when the cat needs space.

While cats can be wonderful companions they might not take too kindly to having their tails or ears pulled by curious toddlers, so it’s worth bearing this in mind while making your decision.

Dogs

The practicality of this will, in part, be dictated by what the family schedule is like as a whole. If the adults in the house both work full-time it might not necessarily be feasible to take on a dog, unless there is flexibility in the daily routine to allow for socialisation, feeding time and walks. If, however, you know that your family is able to meet the needs of a dog they are incredible additions to a family. If your child, or children, are quite young you could consider adopting an older dog. Their training would have been taken care of, and you can have a better idea of the temperament of an adult dog than with a puppy.

On the other hand if your children are a little older they can get fully involved in the training and care of a puppy. It’s a great way to instil a sense of responsibility in your children, not to mention involving your pet with your family dynamic. It also gives your children an incentive to exercise as well as having a solid routine.

Have your brought up a family alongside pets? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

The Importance of Pet Insurance

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Britain has a long-standing reputation as a nation of animal lovers. There are around 13 million pet-owning households in the UK, with millions of dogs, cats, horses and more taking up places in our homes and our hearts. Most of us would do anything for our animal friends, but new figures from the ABI have revealed that many pet owners do not realise the vital importance of pet insurance. (more…)

General Election 2015

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Here at Animal Friends we know that your pets mean the world to you. So much so, in fact, that 71% of you said that animal welfare issues will affect the way you vote in the election tomorrow. (more…)

Dog Breed Quiz: Do You Know Your Maltese from Your Bichon Frise?

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Dogs are amazing. They are cute, loyal, intelligent companions that fully deserve the title of ‘man’s best friend’. It’s safe to say that at Animal Friends we are very passionate about dogs and we know you are too. We love and cherish our dogs and they keep us company through thick and thin. Though we have to admit, going for walks when it’s raining isn’t something we look forward to!

There are thousands of dog breeds out there, each with different personalities, looks and temperaments. But do you know your Alsatians from your Pomeranians? Our little quiz will find out…

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CAN Your Dog Give You Salmonella?

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This week, a piece in the Daily Mail warned pet owners to be careful as their beloved companions could be carrying a whole host of diseases. With the headline “Beware of the dog… he may give you salmonella” the article refers to research claiming that pet-borne infections pose a risk to vulnerable people. The piece also reminds us of a case last year where four people contracted forms of TB from their cats. (more…)

National Pet Month 2015

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April marks National Pet Month 2015 in the UK, and this year’s theme is ‘Pets and the elderly: enjoying later years together’. This aims to shine a light on the manifold benefits of pet ownership in our twilight years and the positive impact a furry friend can have on our mental and physical wellbeing.

Those of us who have enjoyed the company of a senior pet know the comfort and joy the mere presence of an animal can bring. Studies have even shown that owners experience less alteration to their resting heart rate and blood pressure at times of stress when their pet is present. Maintaining good blood pressure levels is a crucial factor in preventing cardiovascular problems.

A pet also encourages activity by providing opportunity and motivation to stay mobile. For elderly people living in remote areas, or who are socially isolated, having a dog or cat can give them a companion to share their days with. There are various modes of play that remain engaging throughout a pet’s lifetime and are still accessible to people whose mobility is decreasing.

It’s also worth taking into consideration the psychological benefits of pet ownership for elderly people. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest having a pet that depends on you for survival gives an owner something to live for. Having pet-related tasks to complete on a daily basis can provide structure and routine, as well as preventing boredom.

Many owners grow old with their pets but for some, later-life pet adoption is a suitable option. Senior dogs and cats often miss out on finding new homes because they lack the “cute” factor of puppies and kittens, or because prospective owners are looking for a younger pet who they can treat as a blank slate. The truth is that many senior pets are in shelters through no fault of their own, as their previous owners’ “change of circumstances” have rendered them homeless. Adopting an older pet can give an elderly person the animal companionship they crave without the associated graft of house training a puppy or kitten.

If full-time adoption isn’t a practical solution there are many shelters and rehoming charities that look for fosterers both on a long and short-term basis. This ensures that the pet will eventually make its way to a forever home, but gives temporary caregivers an opportunity to get involved in the care of a dog or cat without having to take lifelong responsibility for them.

There is nothing quite like the quiet companionship of a pet. It warms the heart when a feline curls up on your lap or a dog sits at your feet, and having a furry friend can be the difference between feeling isolated and lonely or feeling fulfilled and content.

Special Announcement!

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Here at Animal Friends we are always keen to get behind the latest advances in pet care. We’re dedicated to keeping your pets safe and protecting them throughout their lives with our multi-award winning policies, but we wanted to do something more. So, without further ado, we’re delighted to announce our most recent collaborative innovation: the Furtection™ Jacket for dogs and cats!

The Furtection™ collection has been expertly designed to protect your furry friends from anything life throws at them. They are fireproof, windproof, SPF optimised and, not only are they waterproof but they have a motorised flotation function which will be automatically deployed should your pet find themselves immersed in a body of water! Each standard issue Furtection™ jacket also features a poo bag dispenser, so you’ll never be caught short.

As well as these standard functions you can choose from a vast range of add-ons and extras, like a built-in allergen protection bubble which will automatically inflate whenever the integral chemoreceptors in the fabric detect allergens in the air! Other optional bolt-ons include intuitive temperature control, detachable parasol/umbrella, Wi-Fi and a cup holder*.

The Furtection™ Dog collection goes from size “Chihuahua Puppy” all the way to “Zeus the Great Dane” (which comes with a complimentary saddle attachment). The Furtection™ cat range comes in size “Cat”.

Every Furtection™ jacket is made of Fairtrade cotton and all its components are ethically crafted from recycled Spitfire parts, so you know you’re protecting your pet and the environment too! The jackets are available in a range of colours including black, pink, orange and lime green. For the more intrepid wearer there is also our world-first “Invisibilipet” jacket with chromatic nanofibres which change colour to match their surroundings.**

There are also plans to introduce Furtection™ boots, hats and tail-guards in Spring 2016 so your pet can be totally Furtected™!

*Cup sold separately.

**The jacket only covers their torso, so you’ll still be able to see their legs, heads and tails.

National Puppy Day: Wendy and Hugo

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To celebrate National Puppy Day, we asked staff member Wendy all about her brand new puppy Hugo, a beautiful Husky and Pointer cross. He was collected from Dogs Trust just over a week ago, and has been settling into his new home with Wendy and her family very well by amusing them with his mischievous antics, and demonstrating how loving he is. (more…)

National Puppy Day

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Today is National Puppy Day so to celebrate, here are some interesting facts you may not know about puppies: (more…)