‘Recently a family I have been speaking to took the plunge and added guinea pigs Ash and Puffy to their numbers. For those like me that don’t know, the names come from Pokemon characters. The family are busy learning about their first pets and I took the opportunity to find out how they are getting on. I’m told that guinea pigs were first domesticated in 5000bc and that infact they were favourite pets of Queen Elisabeth I . Guinea Pigs can live up to six years in the right environment and as with all pets are a responsibility from day one.
Families often start with small animals to help children find out all about caring responsibilities and when I asked if they thought guinea pigs make good pets Charlie (11) and Bella (5) were first to answer.
Charlie says they are very social animals and that they love to be cuddled. He says “I like them because they are cute and fluffy and when they ‘popcorn’ (jumping around and doing half barrel rolls) it looks so funny.”
Asked what is a surprising thing he has learned about guinea pigs, I was also surprised with the response... “I have learned that they do not close their eyes whilst they sleep and they only sleep for about one and a half hours at a time,” said Charlie. Five year old Bella said she thinks they are cute and cuddly, “they are soft when you hold them but not like a teddy,” she said when asked if they were like that. “No!” she said "they are soft and its like holding a guinea pig!” She also says that they squeak! Asked why she likes guinea pigs Bella said because they are furry. Asked what surprised her about getting the guinea pigs she said she was suprised that they were a little bit scared and she thought that they would just like her. I’m told by their parents that the kids are both being very patient and letting the piggles find their way and that they now do indeed like to cuddle and be with the family. Mum and Dad go on to say that although guinea pigs are really sweet and make lots of funny noises making them very cute, all new owners should research whether they would suit their family as they are more time consuming than say hamsters.
Gaining their confidence will take patience and as Bella noted they won’t immediately like you and want to be handled.
They also like to have space to hide in, like tunnels and comfy closed in beds.
Apparently Guinea pigs do best in same sex pairs (unless you want lots of them!) and they need to be kept in a safe environment with plenty of space to have a run about. “Being very delicate you would want to ensure they can’t fall off anything and break a leg” says Dad.
Mum notes that as new piggle owners you really need to understand their nutritional needs and get the right balance of water, vitamin c (as piggles are unable to produce their own)calcium and phosphorus ratios so the guinea pigs digest properly and dont end up with upset tummies. 80%hay, 10%pellets and 10% vegetables is the food ratio in their household and this seems to be working for healthy guinea pigs. Enjoy your piggles!
With thanks to: Ash and Puffy’s new family
Training Tools and Safety Nets
by Joachim Sommer
Fortunately during the past 30-40 years due to scientific research we found that dog (like people) training is way more efficient when we apply positive reinforcement methods rather than punishment. So with very few stubborn exceptions trainers started to promote training our dogs without punishment tools like prong-, choke-, and electric collars or worse.
As most handlers struggle to motivate their dogs with praise only we need something to motivate the dog in order to get the desired results.
Depending on the dog this will in general either be food or a toy, sometimes both.
If we choose food it is a good idea to get a treat bag that can be attached to the clothing so our clothes don’t get soiled by greasy treats or sausage.
If toys are used we should wear clothes with large enough pockets to transport / hide them.
Depending on where we work we will need a leash in combination with a collar or harness, leashing the dog is mandatory in public areas in Spain except where specifically signposted. Leashes help us restraining the dog for their and 3rd part safety. Other than under exceptional circumstances I recommend the leash for training and walking should be at least 3m (10ft) long and of an antislip design so it can be grabbed at any point and held securely without the danger of rope burn. Longer leashes may be used when practising recall and other activities that require the dog to be more independent. Retractable leashes are not recommended as the constant pull on them actually teaches the dog to “leash pull” and it is almost impossible to pull the dog back to the handler on the thin line should the need arise.
When it comes to the decision regarding collar vs harness there are several things to consider:
Health and ethics of:
a. the dog b. the handler c. others
First and foremost I must stress again that collar, harness and leash should NEVER be used as a training aid but ONLY as a management / safety tool!
Harnesses do NOT encourage the dog to pull on the leash, NEITHER are they detrimental to leash training. The dog has way more pulling power with them, though.
Thus under normal circumstances it is advisable to opt for a harness. If the dog does not pull on the leash and it is unlikely that they “launch“ themselves towards 3rd parties to greet, hunt or attack it actually does not make any difference whether they wear a harness or a collar.
As there may be conflicting interests of a, b or c depending on the individual situation we cannot simply say we should put a harness on the dog, though.
Other factors than the dog‘s health may have to take priority, like for example not hurting others or the handler:
If the dog has a history of biting and possibly even re-directing aggression towards the handler, control of the head takes absolute precedence in situations where a muzzle is not beneficial (like for example in certain training situations).
It may also be necessary to manage the dogs head in certain situations to protect their own health, at the least until they are trained, to avoid them ingesting dangerous objects (like for example the caterpillars this time of year).
If you have any questions you think Joachim could help with, please do let us know.