Author: Leonie St Clair

Pets Corner: Why use a houseline?

  Those of you with autumn pups will now be heading towards dog adolescence and all the challenges that brings. Young dogs often go off the rails at this time and the ‘perfect puppy’ can suddenly morph into ‘Dennis the Menace’. Puppy play biting can try our patience but teenage zoomies- which might involve nipping human body parts as your hound does the wall of death round your living room- can tip us all over the edge. Adolescence is also the time unwanted behaviours like jumping up at guests re-emerge. The teenage brain gets overloaded by the process of growing up and the dogs can seem to regress. As we know, teenagers also tend to push the boundaries and try new things. Young dogs may suddenly refuse to move from a comfy spot on the sofa when asked or go deaf to your recall cue when out in the garden.  Most of these issues are temporary and owners should stick with all and any training through this stage. However, a houseline can become an invaluable …

Pets Corner: Avoid pet disasters at Christmas

  Avoid pet disasters at Christmas When the Christmas season is upon us the demands on our time and energy are invariably overwhelming. Alas, we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads or multiple hands. Unfortunately for us, that cute puppy or kitten purchased in the summer is now in the full throes of adolescence. Like all teenagers they just want to have fun and explore new stuff. Christmas is an Aladdin’s cave of pet-fun opportunity and it is easy for things to go wrong, ruining family time and resulting in costly vet bills. Here is a quickie checklist, to remind ourselves how to keep our furry friends safe over the holiday. Christmas trees and ornaments  All that glitters, dingles and dangles is an open invitation for cats and young dogs to have their own kind of festive fun with your tree and its adornments. Cats can access trees from all sorts of cunning vantage points- and the desire to leap, capture and kill  enticing glass ornaments, lights, flexes, and even candles, can …

Pets Corner: Preparing your pet for fireworks season

Every year pet owners of dogs, cats and other small animals will be forced to seek help because their animal has been traumatised by exposure to firework noise. Use of the word trauma may seem excessive but in my work I see animals that suffer debilitating noise phobia, sometimes after only one exposure to very loud fireworks or thunder noise. The saddest part is that fear of loud noises can generalise very quickly to anything that vaguely reminds the animal of the first scary event. These pets go on to require medication and extensive behaviour treatment. The animals suffer greatly and some harm themselves or run away in efforts to escape the noise. The key issue is predictability. Forethought and widespread communication by licensed organisers of fireworks events enables pet owners to prepare well in advance- the Blue Cross advises owners of young animals and older animals with a known noise phobia to seek veterinary advice 6-12 weeks before firework season begins. The greatest problem is the impromptu back garden fireworks show and, of course, …

Pets Corner: How dogs learn

Getting to grips with the way dogs learn can be a source of immense frustration for many new dog owners. We humans have a great tendency to anthropomorphise and expect dogs to learn and memorise in a similar way to ourselves. Many owners do not understand how a dog can appear to understand a training cue in one session but seem to have entirely forgotten it by the next. It is thought that dogs learn primarily by association and have an association memory of around 2 seconds. Quite simply, any given stimulus is either rewarding, punishing (a perceived danger or threat) or neutral. Dogs will seek to repeat experiences that are rewarding and avoid those which are punishing. Clearly these values are subjective. Most dogs find rolling in fox poo intensely rewarding, whereas most humans would find it punishing. Given the choice, I suspect most dogs will forgo the average dog treat if the option to roll in fox poo is available to them. The key to great training is to build a strong, rewarding …

Pets Corner: Teaching your cat how to use a cat flap

Most cats will benefit from being able to use a cat flap but it is not unusual for early stages of training to founder. As with so many areas of animal training, the solution lies in trying to see everything from the animal’s perspective. Remember, where cats are concerned we are talking about a relatively solitary animal that values its territory and space. Choosing a cat flap An obvious point but do look at how large your cat is or ask about the size of your kitten’s parents. Some cats will need a dog flap. There are a number of reputable brands out there, so do shop around. The proper height of the cat flap should align with the distance of your cat’s belly to the floor. Installation Try to put your cat flap in a relatively protected area or place plant pots and similar either side of the cat flap outside the house. When looking through the cat flap cats are unable to scan for predators or ambush by rival cats and this can …