Socialisation is the term used to describe the careful introduction of your puppy to other animals, people, environments and objects. Puppy socialisation as a way of learning; they learn how to cope with new places, situations and people, they learn how to communicate with other animals and how to fit in with family life. A puppy that is properly socialised will grow up to be confident and happy, whereas one that has been poorly socialised may end up anxious and fearful, which in turn can lead to aggression. Several studies have linked a lack of early socialisation in puppies with behavioural problems in older dogs.
Up until 16 weeks old, puppies are going through a critical stage of their development when they are open to learning about new situations and environments. After this age anything new that they haven’t come across before will be met with apprehension. However, there is also a phase known as the ‘fear imprint period’ which is seen between 8-11 weeks old. It is still within the socialisation window but occurs when their natural fear responses start to kick in. During this period any traumatic, frightening or painful experiences will have a more lasting effect and can set your puppy back for life. It is very important that you continue to expose your puppy to new things during this stage but it is essential to make each experience as positive as possible – please see our information on ‘positive reinforcement’ in Training 101. A second fear imprint period occurs during adolescence, typically between 6-14 months old.
It is believed that this stage in development can be traced back to the habits of wild dogs and wolves. After the first few weeks with their family and a safe environment, wolf cubs develop a healthy apprehension of new situations or creatures as a way of protecting themselves from danger. Although older dogs can still be socialised it is much harder and they do not appear to cope as well.
Your puppy should be introduced to as many friendly people as possible in their first few weeks of life. In fact, it’s a good idea to ask the breeder how many people your puppy has been socialised with before coming home with you. They should also have handled the puppy frequently as this gets them used to being touched and has been shown to help reduce the likelihood of biting later on. You should try to let your puppy meet as many different people as possible including: men, women and children of all ages, people of different races, people wearing hats, scarves or sunglasses, family members and strangers.
According to the PDSA, more than five million cats in the UK are overweight. Vets are now reporting that 40% of all the cats that they treat are obese or overweight. With 48% of owners feeding them treats more than twice a day one way of tackling this feline obesity epidemic is with puzzle feeding.
Puzzle feeding is simply a way of feeding your cat in a more rewarding and stimulating manner than the ordinary bowl method. Your cat has to figure out what movement of a toy is required to get the food out, creating a game!
Many owners wish to keep their cats indoors due to safety or health reasons, however, it is important to remember supply them with enough environmental enrichment to keep them mentally stimulated and physically fit. Using a puzzle feeder can provide this enhancement into their daily life.
Cats are natural born hunters and they normally get their meals by stalking, pouncing and capturing prey. In the domesticated lifestyle, we are simply serving beautifully prepared birds and mice in a ceramic bowl, usually two times a day, which causes them to become lazy and bored. For this species, a successful meal requires mental and physical stimulation.
Puzzle feeders come in many shapes, sizes and complexity. If you’re just starting out using them then consider a simpler puzzle and then move onto more complex designs.
You can choose from stationary puzzles where the cat has to use his/her paws to knock, push or pull the food to where they can eat it, or a moving puzzle they have to chase or bash around to get the tasty reward out.
You can make your own inexpensive, homemade puzzle feeders easily using toilet rolls and bottles making them as simple or complex as suited to your cat.
November is a time of year to raise awareness for men’s health, and we must not forget our furry friends! Our dogs can also suffer from specific health issues associated with being male, one of these being prostate disorders.
The prostate is a small gland found at the neck of the bladder in male dogs. It is an essential part of the male reproductive system and is responsible for producing some of the fluids found in semen needed to protect sperm. Unfortunately, male dogs can suffer from a range of prostate disorders, some of which are incredibly common – especially in entire (non-castrated) dogs.
Below are some of the basics to identifying and understanding prostatic disease in dogs.
There are a range of disorders which can affect the prostate – some are ‘acute’ and so will have a rapid onset of clinical signs, while others are more chronic and one may only see a slow progression of signs appearing over months to years. All of these conditions however produce a similar range of clinical signs, which you can look out for at home:
As the name suggests this is a non-cancerous (benign) enlargement of the prostate. It is very commonly seen in entire male dogs as it is associated with the hormones released from the testicles. It can be treated very effectively with castration, and signs should begin to improve within a few weeks. If the dog is required for breeding or is too unwell to undergo surgery there are medical alternatives which can be used, but the treatment of choice by most veterinarians will be castration. Another similar benign enlargement of the prostate also under hormonal influence is called squamous cell metaplasia – it is most commonly caused by an oestrogen producing tumour in the testicles and is also treated by castration.