Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Importance of Researching

Puppies are adorable. It's so easy to fall for the cute wrapping without looking inside to see what we are getting. Golden Retrievers are known to be great family pets. They are. For very active families. The reason you see so many Goldens in the shelter system is because people get them without researching first to see if they fit their lifestyle.

Goldens need hours of rigorous exercise DAILY. This doesn't happen in your backyard while you are at work, as a member of my family is now finding out. She and her husband were looking for a second dog, despite working full time jobs and having an infant. It was the common "we want to get a companion for our other dog." Their other dog is a mastiff who doesn't move. Doesn't play. Just spends most of his time sleeping - in the yard, on the couch, on the living room floor. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Not the perfect companion for a young, active dog dying to play and get that energy out. Despite warnings from the entire family, they sought out a dog.

Good breeders won't sell to a family who isn't prepared for their breed. So this family member had to go to a backyard breeder. Plenty of cute little puppies to choose from, all of questionable lineage. They get cute little puppy home - and don't have time to train her. Or walk her several times a day. She spends 5 days a week in the backyard.

She's eating the siding off the house. Is this because she's a bad dog? No. It's because she is a bored, frustrated dog. This isn't the fault of the puppy. Our dogs are only as good as we make them. You get what you give. If your dog isn't behaving, chews everything and pees in the house, that's on YOU. You haven't done your job and your dog is proof of that.

I have an 80 pound dog who lives inside the house with us. She doesn't chew anything, inside or outside, and she hasn't had an accident since she was 9 weeks old. She didn't come this way. She didn't teach herself. She's a reflection of her owners. We put a lot of time and effort into her. We get compliments on the street from total strangers as she moves to the grass, sits at our feet and gazes up at us until they pass. She didn't just start doing this one day on her own. We've got three years on this dog. And we're still working. She's a work in progress.

But it's easier to blame the dog if they misbehave. We live in a society where no one wants to take responsibility for their actions, for the actions of their children or their dogs. My relatives are no different. They got a dog that didn't fit their lifestyle. If they had wanted a second dog that was right for them, they could have gotten another mastiff from a rescue - one that was a few years old, already housebroken and didn't need all the attention a puppy needs. Had they done their breed research (or listened to those of us who had), they would have seen this puppy was not a good match.

Unfortunately, it will now be the puppy who suffers. This puppy is about to lose his home through no fault of his own. They admit that they aren't willing to step up and do their part. They don't want to commit to this animal - to the amount of daily exercise and training - that this puppy will need to become a well adjusted adult dog. Buying from a bad breeder means that they have two choices because returning the dog is not an option - rehome the dog on their own (and risk making a horrible choice in owners, which will further damage the dog down the line) or drop it off a shelter (which could end in the puppy dying). Not fair either way for this poor puppy, is it? But this is what will happen now all because my family members didn't do their research.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lost Dog

Lily is a family pet. This means she lives inside the house with us like she is supposed to. She gets two walks a day, hikes on the weekends, but she still loves her yard time. She loves nothing more than to stretch out in a patch of sunlight during the day or curl up on her blanket at night and wait for her daddy to get home from work.

Last week, Lily found a way out of the yard. When she is outside, I check on her frequently. I noticed within a few minutes of her getting out that she was gone. However, that didn't make it easy to find her. She followed her nose quite a distance from the house. It gave me a good scare.

Even when you are a responsible owner, accidents happen. The gardeners hadn't latched the gate. Lily was sniffing around the yard, pushed it open and followed the scent. In the dark shadows, I didn't see her. I went the opposite way looking for her. I was lucky enough to find her a few blocks away having the time of her life in someone's front yard sprinklers.

Had I not found her, it would have been a long night. It made me think of all the things we have to do as pet owners to insure that our pets find their way back home. Even if you have a resident dog (lives in the yard 24/7) that frequently gets out of the yard, just because he has managed to find his way home before does not mean that will always happen. If he gets hit by a car, he can't walk home. If someone sees him wandering, they may decide that they have a new dog.

Lily always has her collar on in the yard. It has her ID tag and her registration on it. She's also microchipped. Both will help her make it back home should something happen to her if she gets out. But you can't just sit back and wait. You have to be active.

Start your search as soon as you realize your pet is gone. If I had been unable to locate Lily, I would have come home to make flyers for the neighborhood while waiting for my husband and friends to arrive and help with the search.

You can create flyers for FREE here. When you click the link, it will say "Adopt Me." Click and scroll down to LOST. Don't forget to attach a current picture. My suggestion would be to attach them to BRIGHT colored posterboard. The brighter the better! Put them up all over your neighborhood and major streets. Cover at least a five mile radius. You never know how far your pet will travel.

If we had no luck locating her that evening, I would have checked our local shelter first thing in the morning. Then I would have checked other shelters (again, you never how far your pet will travel).

There are other services to help as well. If you click on our article here, there are links and phone numbers of Pet Lost and Found services. They will call houses in your area with a description of your pet, asking people to call them if they have seen him/her.

Your pet is relying on you to be sure that they get home safely. Start with microchipping your pet and being sure they always have their collar on with tags. Should something happen and they get out of your house or yard when you aren't looking, follow the tips in our article above. Never give up. Your pet needs you to make it home.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Choosing the Right Bird for Your Lifestyle

If you are considering adding a bird to your family, it's important to pick the right bird for your lifestyle. You need to do your research carefully to be sure that you can meet the needs of the bird you bring home. A lot of the popular birds that are available aren't appropriate pets for most families. The physical, behavioral and social needs of these birds can't be met in the average household. Those birds shouldn't be bought or sold as pets, but left in their natural habitat. Good choices for most families are canaries, finches, cockatiels, parakeets or lovebirds. These are all considered domestic after their long history of breeding in captivity. Conures, parrots, cockatoos and toucans do not make good family pets for most households. These birds are still considered wild animals even if they have been bred in captivity. Their normal behavior makes them difficult and demanding to live with, something that most families are not equipped to deal with. They live 50 years or more so making a lifetime commitment to these birds means you must be willing to deal with and work on such issues as noise, biting and destructive behavior. Most people can't provide for the many complex needs of these species which leads to suffering for the bird's entire life. You also don't want to support the cruelty of the wild animal trade. Despite laws prohibiting the import of many species, millions of these birds are still caught every year and sold in pet stores or online worldwide. This commercial trade threatens the survival of many different species while promoting inhumane treatment of millions of wild animals each year. For every colorful bird you see in the local pet store, many have died during the process of getting them there.

When you decide you are ready to welcome a bird into your family, you need to decide what bird best fits your lifestyle and the time commitment you can give. Keep in mind that bigger birds generally involve bigger commitments. While they can make wonderful companions, they make more noise, more mess and can be much more demanding than their smaller counterparts. It is generally wise for first time bird owners to start with a small to medium size bird. The size of the bird determines how you will care for your pet. You have to consider training, housing and interaction with your new family member. You have to be honest with yourself about how much bird you can and want to handle. Your interaction with your bird will be important in establishing a bond. Therefore, it is important to decide up front if you would rather have a bird that is seen but not touched or one that will be eager to come out of their cage to socialize with the rest of the family and other pets. Time commitments should also be factored in to your choice. Some species require daily exercise and time out of their cages. If you can't spare a few hours every day to socialize your bird and supervise his time out of the cage, you need to look into an independent species like the Finch or Canary. Remember that each species exhibits different behavior patterns. They are all individuals and have their own personalities and dispositions. You have to choose which personality is most compatible with your own. Birds also have different dietary needs. Some species, like Lories, require specific diets. They must be fed pollen, nectar and fruit. Their diet causes them to produce liquid droppings, which make it necessary to clean their cages more frequently than other birds. There are many good reasons to get a pet bird, but issues like this make it vital that potential owners do as much research as they can about the species they are interested in before adopting their new pet. Cost is another factor in choosing which species is right for you. Larger birds can also be more expensive. Not only is the initial cost high, they require costly cages, toys and other accessories that can boost your bill much higher.. Even though smaller birds are often less expensive initially, they can present their owners with higher costs long term. Some species live a long time, leaving you responsible for their housing, feeding and vet care for a number of years.