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Interesting History Facts About Guinea Pigs and What You Should Know Before Adopting

Facebook @briochepig March is here and it’s “Adopt a Guinea Pig” month! These furry, vocal, and docile little guys can make a great pet!  In this blog we’ll review some interesting history of guinea pigs and some basic information on the many advantages of adopting from a guinea pig rescue besides just giving a needy guinea pig a forever loving home.  In future blogs, we will discuss topics like; guinea pigs’ many vocalizations and what they mean, guinea pig behavior (including signs your guinea pig might be sick), some anatomy facts included things like, “How well do they hear, see, smell?” and so on, the different breeds, proper cage size, time out of cage (floor time), why I choose to use carefresh bedding exclusively over the last 7 years, and proper everyday care including diet. Read this review from Pet Keen  GUINEA PIG OR CAVY HISTORY  Early history can trace evidence of guinea pigs all the way back to 9000 BCE! And the first signs of domestication still go as far back as 2000 BCE! (The accepted date period of domestication is not agreed upon by all- but is generally accepted that it was in that general time period) But you still have to go way back to the early 1500’s when it was believed that Spanish conquistadors brought them to Europe from their native South America to primarily be used as pets at that time. They were introduced to North America in the early 1800’s. They were also popular pets among the wealthy and members of Royalty. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I is reported to be one of the earliest fans of guinea pigs way back in the late 1500’s! They aren’t from the country of Guinea and they aren’t pigs, so where does their name come from? First, in a lot of the world guinea pigs are referred to as cavies (cavy) which is taken from their proper Latin name “Cavia porcellus”.  One very common theory on the word “guinea” comes from the fact that they may have been sold for a “guinea”, an English gold coin. But the coin wasn’t created until the 1600’s and documentation of the word “guinea” being used to describe them goes back to the 1500’s. So why “guinea”? Well, that’s a good question. There are many theories, none of which are confirmed. So then, let’s look at the word “pig” used for them. This is also a mystery but the general consensus is it has to do with the grunting noises they make that can resemble some noises an actual pig makes. What a rich and mysterious history these little critters have!   INTERESTING GUINEA PIG HISTORY FACTS  The first accepted evidence of a guinea pig shown in art dates all the way back to 1580 in a portrait of three Elizabethan children with the middle one holding her pet guinea pig!    Many well-known people have had guinea pigs as children or adults. I’ll highlight a couple of them.  In this 1972 photo, the future Princess Diana is seen with her guinea pig, “Peanut”.     Deborah Harry, the lead singer from Blondie, a favorite band of mine growing up, is seen here with her Peruvian guinea pig.     And in New Zealand, a police department named Elliot an official Constable. Elliot was a guinea pig! He was used to bring attention to driving safety including proper speed in school zones. He was outfitted with his own uniform! Elliot had become a bit of a celebrity in New Zealand.      SHOULD YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE? DOES SWEDEN REALLY HAVE A LAW MAKING OWNING JUST ONE GUINEA PIG AGAINST THE LAW?    The answer is yes and yes. Guinea pigs are very social animals and are absolutely most mentally healthy with at least one other guinea pig. In 2008 Sweden enacted law stating animals classified as “social creatures” , of which guinea pigs are classified as “social creatures” in their law, must be given “adequate social contact with animals of the same species”! So yes, it is against the law to have just one guinea pig (among other species classified in the law)! So unless there are some very unusual circumstances, someone considering getting “a” guinea pig should count on at least a pair.     WHY ADOPT? In addition to the obvious reason “they need a home” there are lots of other advantages. Most rescues specific to guinea pigs will only adopt in pairs unless you need a companion for your current solitary guinea pig.  Rescues do a health exam and usually will have incoming pigs spayed or neutered (usually soon after arrival or when one is healthy enough to undergo a surgical procedure, or at a proper age) and that helps control one of the main reasons guinea pigs end up in rescues- unwanted babies.  Rescues will also be happy to discuss any aspect of guinea pig care and behavior. A pet store associate, unless an experienced guinea pig owner, will only know the bare minimum basics learned during training.  Bonding is crucial. Guinea pigs have a hierarchy and when adopting from a rescue, the two (or more) guinea pigs will have already been bonded and ready for their new home. If you are getting just one as a companion for your solitary one (perhaps recently lost a mate), the rescue will usually have you bring in your guinea pig to be introduced to a prospective companion and start the bonding process to see if the two appear that they should be a good match.  A common misconception is that two boys can’t live together. However, as long as there isn’t a female in with them (in which case neutering would be recommended even if female has been spayed), most boys will successfully bond. In fact, over the last 7 years, I’ve only had boys in pairs.  While my future blogs will dive into important topics, including the most basic things to know for now, if you are considering adopting guinea pigs, but if you can’t wait, it’s very important to remember:  Be prepared for a 5-8 year commitment which includes proper medical care expenses. If you are adopting as pets for a child (children), their time with the guinea pigs should be supervised and perhaps most importantly, you need to be ready to give appropriate care if the child gets “tired” of the guinea pig.      There are many good websites for guinea pig care information, but I recommend using a guinea pig specific rescue’s website. In fact, most rescues are happy to receive messages or phone calls to help with questions related to care. So when you adopt from a rescue, you aren’t just giving homeless cuties a home, but you are getting pets that were prescreened, and treated if necessary, for health problems. You get to know the history of the guinea pig including how well it adapted to the new environment of the rescue and how easily bonding occurred. You’ll know any behavior “quirks” and possible recommendations on any special care prior to choosing. And perhaps most importantly, a place to go for information or questions after the adoption.  Of course other places, like your local Humane Society, are also good places to adopt, but keep in mind that often you won’t know anything about the guinea pig except a reason given to the shelter for surrender.        Guest Post by Craig N. - long time Guinea Pig parent, currently of Bentley and Cosmo (pictured above), and they invite you to follow their antics @ https://www.facebook.com/briochepig  Until next time…. Learn more about Guinea Pigs here   
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8 Reasons Why Dog Training Is So Important

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash From ensuring your dog is controlled around others to helping them feel safe and protected, there are many reasons why proper training is crucial. That’s why, in this article, we’ll dive into eight reasons why dog training is so important, along with some top tips on how to train them properly.   So, stay tuned as we explain why training your dog is so important and ways to boost their happiness and safety…   1. Teaches good behaviour  One of the most important reasons to train your dog is to teach them good behaviour. A well-behaved dog can recognise and respond appropriately to your commands, whether sitting and waiting or returning when you call their name.  From a young age, most dogs will need to be taught recall and to sit, wait and heel. They need to be taught this to prevent poor behaviour such as jumping up, stealing food, and running off.   Positive reinforcement is the most common form of training and means your dog will anticipate a reward (whether affection or a treat) after performing a particular behaviour. This kind of reward-based learning means your dog will want to behave well, which can make them easier to train in the future.   Photo: anna-roberts-7IvcP5BZ5HE-unsplash   2. Crate training = A safe space You should use crate training to provide your pet with a completely safe environment, one where other people, pets, animals, or unsettling situations won't bother them. It will be their personal safe and comfortable space where they can feel completely at ease - much like a bedroom.  Remember to take it in small steps from a young age and let them spend time in the crate with the door open, feed their meals there and slowly show them that it’s a safe space to be.   Only use positive reinforcement with crate training, and reward them with things like dog treats, toys and relaxation. Punishment is not appropriate as it can make your dog anxious and lead them to associate you and the crate with being afraid.   Photo by Ayla Verschueren on Unsplash     3. Builds their confidence  Positive reinforcement and freely given affection are massive confidence builders, and you should start sharing them with your dog from a young age.   Negative language or treatment breeds negative reactions, and research shows it can be hugely detrimental to a dog's mental and physical health and well-being. So, responding to your dog with anger, fear or frustration can be disastrous and might result in your dog acting the same way leading to fighting, injury and a terrifying cycle of fear-driven behaviour. A dog that responds to the world with positivity over anger is far safer, so whether you’re training a puppy or have adopted a shy or fearful dog, aim to build trust, affection and confidence with every step.  It’s important to remember that this can take time and patience as it's about shifting their focus from negative, scary situations to positive things.     4. Keeps your dog safe A trained dog is a safe dog – for the public, you and the dog itself. For example, dogs that ignore recall may run after another animal that could attack them or run out into a road full of traffic.   Recall is one of the most important things you can teach your dog, as it ensures they return even if faced with a threat, prey or food. It’s all about minimizing risk in tricky situations, and if you have a calm and obedient dog, there is a far higher chance of a safe outcome.   Photo by Yogendra Singh on Unsplash     5. Prevents bad habits Often, nervous and unhappy dogs will display bad habits. For example, dogs can chew things because they're bored, teething, want attention, are distressed or have an unbalanced diet.  Signs of anxiety or boredom in dogs include: Showing their gums or snarling Constant barking, whining or panting Displaying dominance  Going to the toilet where they shouldn’t  Seeking attention  Destroying toys or other objects  Changes in posture or with the eyes and ears Shedding Pacing or shaking  These are a dog's physiological reactions to their environment and feelings about a situation, so the best thing you can do is make them comfortable, train them to feel safe with you and encourage positive behaviour such as backing away from unfamiliar things, retreating to safe spaces, and chewing the right things.   The earlier you can correct poor behaviour in dogs, the better, but it can take a lot of time and effort to undo and help them to feel safe again. To start, ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation during the day, from play, food puzzles, regular walks or learning new tricks. And begin their crate training and recall exercises.    6. Supports toilet training Just like babies, puppies have small bladders and cannot hold it in for long. Positive reinforcement training is crucial in providing enough opportunities to go to the bathroom, whilst teaching them to avoid accidents indoors.  You will need patience when teaching your puppy where to go to the toilet, and you might find it helpful to use puppy pads or dog litter to aid them as they learn. If they go in the wrong place, pick them up and take them outside or to their litter box.    Never tell them off or punish them if they have an accident, as this will only confuse them and lead them to associate going potty with fear. Celebrate and give them positive attention when they go in the right place. And set a routine to prevent accidents and reduce anxiety around toilet time, too.    7. Teaches safe socialization Dogs need to be safe to socialize with other animals and people without fear, so they can have a happy experience out in public. It also means you’ll be able to take them out and about with you, safe in the knowledge they will not react with bad behaviour or make a mess.   The more situations you can safely guide your dog through at an early age, the better, as they’ll know what to expect and can feel relaxed knowing there's no threat. This might include greeting visitors at home, meeting other dogs on a walk or travelling in the car.   Try to socialise your pup from an early age and show them that it’s safe to do so, whilst helping them to learn recall. You could attend puppy socialisation classes or meet up with friends who have well-behaved dogs.    Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash     8. Builds a bond Dogs are pack animals, and they need a leader to show them the way, help them feel safe and help maintain their daily routine. Trust is important as it helps to set the foundations of good behaviour and loyalty – and training them is a great way to work on that bond.   Building a healthy bond can also help prevent behaviours associated with separation anxiety, as they will be able to trust you enough to stay independent and protected. When training, your dog will look to you for guidance which, over time, will build both good behaviour and a healthy bond.   Now you know why proper training is essential, from helping your furry best friend to feel safe to preventing the development of bad habits. So, get started the right way and see how your pup grows in confidence, happiness and skills as they grow.    
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5 Essential Tools for Training Your Dog

Photo by Reed Shepherd on Unsplash Investing time and energy in dog training can benefit you and your furry friend in many ways. Aside from building your dog’s confidence and social skills, proper training can help you build a stronger and more positive relationship with your pet and discourage them from developing problematic behaviors. In essence, with appropriate training, you can make caring for a dog a more delightful, rewarding, and satisfying experience. Perhaps you have a new puppy or recently adopted a slightly older dog that you want to train, and you’re wondering if you need certain items for this purpose. If so, read on. This article will give you a rundown of six must-have dog training tools you may need to prepare to enhance the training process and make your job easier and more enjoyable. Rewards Rewards, such as treats, verbal praises, and toys, are crucial in dog training, especially when using a positive reinforcement training method. The idea is to give some form of reward for good behavior so that your dog will be motivated to repeat and develop the desired behavior. When choosing a reward, make sure to find something that your dog truly likes. While treats are the most common option, they may not be so effective if your pet isn’t treat-motivated. In such cases, your best bet is to use toys as a reward. Dogs are naturally playful, so they love interacting with different kinds of toys. To start, you can look at wholesale dog toy collections as they offer a good variety of products. You can also enjoy great deals when buying toys in sets or in bulk. Photo by Anna Dudkova on Unsplash   Clickers A clicker is a small device that makes a clicking sound when pressed. You use it at the precise moment your dog performs a desired action and then give your pup a reward right after. The dog will begin to associate the clicking sound with positive experiences, like getting a treat or a toy, and this will motivate them to repeat the desired behavior. Because there are many types of clickers on the market, you may need to find one that suits your dog’s age and temperament as well as the training environment. For instance, when training a puppy or a dog that easily gets frightened by loud sounds, softer-sounding clickers may be better than loud ones. But if you plan to train in an open field, you’ll want to get a clicker that your dog can hear even from far away. Leashes High-quality leashes are another dog training staple used for setting boundaries, keeping your dog safe, and preventing your pet from getting lost whenever you and your pup are outside. When selecting the right leash, consider going for a long standard type that’s about six feet in length. This will give your furry friend ample room to move around and explore their surroundings without straying too far from you. You’ll also want to look for leashes made of a durable material that will last for a long time. It’s also best to avoid retractable leashes. While they do allow for freedom of movement, using retractable leashes may cause your dog to develop the bad habit of pulling on the leash or wandering in whatever way they please. Collars or Harnesses In addition to a leash, you’ll also need a quality collar or harness. When choosing which product to use for your fur baby, consider your dog’s size and breed as well as the training techniques you intend to use. For example, if you have a dog with a flat face, a history of tracheal collapse, or orthopedic problems, opt for a harness to prevent them from experiencing further health issues. If you’re using the positive reinforcement method, you can go for a martingale or slip collar. It tightens just slightly with a tug of the leash without causing discomfort and is comfortable for most dog breeds to wear. Photo by Courtney Roberson on Unsplash   Target Sticks A target stick is a long stick with a knob or ball at the end. It’s effective in holding your dog’s attention so you can introduce and teach different positions and behaviors to your dog more easily. They’re especially useful if you’re training puppies or small dogs since you won’t have to bend over to touch them. When buying one of these items, choose a lightweight yet rigid target stick. This will help you better control and use it for longer periods without tiring out your hands and arms as quickly. You may also opt for foldable types for easy packing or those with built-in clickers for enhanced functionality.  Dog training can be challenging as it requires patience, consistency, and considerable time and effort. But with the right strategies and tools, you can make the process more manageable and meaningful for you and your furry friend. With this in mind, make sure to invest in the dog training must-haves discussed above and to use them well. More importantly, do your best to maintain a friendly and gentle disposition throughout your dog training journey to keep your dog comfortable and excited to learn new tricks.  
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Top Reasons to Adopt a Bunny and What You Need to Know

Now that most covid restrictions are over and many of us are returning back to the office or school, local humane and rescues have seen a big influx of small animals, including rabbits. By adopting a rabbit or two from a rescue, not only are you saving them, but the staff and volunteers there can be a huge help and a continual resource, especially if you are a new rabbit parent.  Rabbits can make great indoor pets and can free roam in your home with the right precautions. They are one of the most popular exotic pets and make adorable companions. But with unique care needs and behaviors, they’re definitely not the same as cats or dogs! They are definitely NOT a low maintenance pet and young children should have adult supervision at all times.  The volunteers and fosters will take the time to acclimate rabbits to living indoors and sometimes even litter box train them. Some rabbits that are surrendered have only spent time outdoors in hutches or other enclosure. Plus, rabbit rescues usually have a partnership with local vets who will spay or neuter them and also give them a complete health check.  Rescue staff and volunteers are very knowledgeable and can help you understand the behavior and needs of your rabbit will be essential to creating a rewarding, long-term relationship. Before leaving you on your own with your new companion, they will make sure you know how to properly care for your bunny. What you need to know before adopting rabbits 1. Rabbits are a great pet for small quarters like an apartment They don't take up a lot of space and don't need to go outside, plus they make very little noise, unlike a barking dog or cat that meows all the time. However, they do shed and they need brushing to prevent matting, and their nails trimmed every four to six weeks. The Holland Lop Rabbit has a 14-year lifespan, weighs only four pounds, with irresistible floppy ears, making this dwarf bunny the ultimate pet for city dwellers. 2. Rabbits live a long time = long-term commitment With proper care and diet and indoor living, rabbits can live 8-12 years or more, longer than most small animal pets. Before you adopt, make sure you are prepared to take care of them for many years as a companion.   3. Rabbits are social creatures Their habitat or living area should be in a quiet place but not too far from rest of the family. Rabbits are easily bored and need plenty of playtime and exercise with enrichment activities. If you can adopt a bonded pair of rabbits that is optimal so they have a companion at all times.  4. Rabbits need a large space and/or free roam with daily exercise  Even though they’re sold as complete rabbit “starter kits,” most pet store cages are not ideal. They are way too small to properly house a rabbit. You can easily make a large habitat from inexpensive materials. Two designs that cost about the same as an “extra large” pet store cage can be made from either a dog exercise pen or wire storage cubes. Either design provides three times the bunny space.If you are going to do free roam, it's very important to "bunny proof" your entire home or wherever they have access to. Bunnies LOVE to chew, and that means any exposed cords, cables and wires. Also remove any hazards like poisonous plants or anything else they shouldn't chew on like important books or papers. Be sure to put out plenty of litter boxes for them in corners if they are free roaming, especially when first starting to litter box train. Put a layer of carefresh bedding or carefresh rabbit litter followed by a fresh layer of hay. Read more on how to litter box train your rabbit.  5. Rabbits Need a High-Fiber Diet to Stay Healthy Rabbits should have unlimited access to a high-quality grass hay like Timothy or Orchard, at all times. Hay is essential for digestion and also help with their teeth. Fresh dark green leafy vegetables are also good, but only feed fruits and carrots in very small amounts.  A great resource is the House Rabbit Society’s article about diet, which discusses the appropriate amounts as well as types of food to give your rabbit from youth to old age. 6. Rabbits need regular Veterinary Care If your rabbit wasn't examined by the rescue or shelter, make sure to take them to a Vet right away. They should also have annual preventative care to ensure a long and healthy life. Read more about rabbit health from our Vet, Dr Ruth MacPete   Adopt Don't Shop! If you’ve done all your research and feel sure that you and your family can properly care for a bunny, please adopt a rabbit from a rescue or shelter instead of purchasing one from a breeder or pet store.     
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How can you tell if your cat loves you - 8 Ways your cat says, 'I Love You'

You love your cat to the fullest but do you ever wonder if she really loves you back? Unlike dogs who mostly wear their love on their face at all times and show it by giving you sloppy kisses, wagging their tails and snuggling, cats can be a little standoffish. They are more subtle in showing their love and of course, only when THEY want to. It's really all about building trust and understanding their love language as well as their boundaries.  A study by neuroscientist Dr. Paul J. Zak, Ph.D., for a BBC2 documentary, “Cats v Dogs,” showed that cats’ oxytocin levels (the hug, cuddle, bonding, trust hormone released in a mother bonding with an infant) increased by 12 percent after 10 minutes of playtime with their pet parents. Watching their body language is very important when it comes to understanding how much your cat loves you or another person.    8 Signs Your Cat Loves You 1. Kneading with their front paws This is something they usually start doing when they are a kitten and nursing to stimulate milk flow. Kneading is also a way for cats to activate the sweat glands in their paws and mark you as their own.  2. Purring One of the most obvious signs your cat loves you is purring. It's also a sign of happiness and contentment. Some cats definitely have louder "motors" than others, but we all associate that familiar sound with love. “Cats show their love by rubbing against you, purring when petted and of course curling up next to you,” says Dr. Ruth MacPete, DVM, The Pet Vet. 3. Head butts or "bunting" Cat bunting is usually perceived as a sign of affection. However, you may notice they also head butt inanimate objects around you too, including an okocat litter box! This is mainly to rub their scent onto you and to create a colony scent that only cats would be able to detect. But cats don’t just do this to just anyone and they certainly have to think highly of you to bunt to show their love.  4. A slow blink, blink Unlike some animals where it means aggression, cats will use direct eye contact with their human to show affection and trust. Half-closed eyes and or a slow blink is known as a "cat kiss" and shows they are very relaxed and feeling adoration towards you. Try doing it back!  5. Bringing you "presents" All of us cat parents have probably experienced this a time or two, especially if your cat goes outdoors. A lovely "gift" left on the doorstep, a mouse or bird that hopefully does not end up in the house too. I once had to capture a bat that our tuxedo cat had "gifted" us. Try to remember, this is a sign of love and your cat just wants to reward you.  6. Following you...everywhere & snuggling Can you not even go to the bathroom without your cat wanting in? Paws under the door? Or when you come home, she walks between your legs, rubbing, meowing and purring because she is so happy to see you. These are all signs of love and that they miss you when you are gone, or even when they can't see you.    7. Belly up Dogs do this all the time but for cats it's an ultimate sign of love and trust. Just make sure they are relaxed before you start petting that belly, because some cats will roll on their back to get their claws ready for attack!  8. Love licks or bites Who doesn't love a kitty kiss? Licking is similar to the grooming they would perform on their feline friends and allows for marking of each other. Grooming builds a bond between cat and human. Sometimes they will even try to lick or chew your hair. When a cat gifts you with a gentle nibble–or love bite–it's still considered a playful sign of love. But when the nibbling crosses into painful territory or gets too aggressive, it's no longer a love bite! It's super important to pay close attention to your cat's mood and back off if you see signs that they want to be left alone.  “The purr is very important. It’s the purr that does it every time. It’s the purr that makes up for the Things Under the Bed, the occasional pungency, the 4 a.m. yowl. Other creatures went in for big teeth, long legs or over-active brains, while cats just settled for a noise that tells the world they’re feeling happy.” ― Terry Pratchett          
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