Brits encouraged to get rats as pets as they are ‘sociable, intelligent and friendly’

There are around 200,000 pet rats in the UK with the RSPCA receiving more than 670 reports about rats in need last year, in comparison to 221 in 2020.


Forget puppies and kittens, how about having a pet rat in your home?

While they terrify many people and are incorrectly thought of as being dirty, the RSPCA wants to reverse their bad reputation.

They are also looking for new owners for these unwanted rats which they say make “sociable, intelligent and friendly” pets.

Dr Jane Tyson, rat welfare expert, said: “Rats are incredibly intelligent animals who can be trained to count, fetch a ball and high-five a human.

“Some have even been trained to safely locate landmines in war zones so that they can be removed. “

But she added: “Sadly, rats have a bad reputation for being dirty animals but this is not the case. Rats are actually very clean animals and will spend hours grooming themselves. They are also intelligent and highly sociable, forming strong bonds with other rats and with their human companions. They certainly don’t deserve their bad reputation.

“Some people may be put off by the wild rats they see in the street but domesticated rats can make really great pets as they’re clean, friendly and enjoy human company.

“Owners can teach them tricks to keep them stimulated and engaged and can also enjoy relaxing with them on the sofa. I think many people would be surprised by how friendly pets rats can actually be.”

There are around 200,000 pet rats in the UK with the RSPCA receiving more than 670 reports about rats in need last year, in comparison to 221 in 2020.

Dr Vikki Neville from the University of Bristol conducted a survey among more than 650 rat owners to find out how they are cared for at home.

She warned how her research found some cases where rats were not provided with opportunities to explore outside their cage or were not provided with both bedding and nesting materials. Others had never visited a vet.

Dr Neville said: “I hope that we’ll now be able to communicate the importance of these aspects of husbandry with owners so that they can best look after their rats. Rats are such intelligent creatures and are full of personality, just like tiny dogs, and I think they deserve the best life we can give them.”

The RSPCA says rats can suffer from health problems just like any animal, so it’s important to keep an eye on them for potential problems and take them for regular check-ups.

Anyone who can properly care for a rat should consider adopting a rescue in need of a home instead of buying.

These include Rhona, a one-year-old female rat, who was sadly abandoned in a garden with 14 other rats. She has a mild head tilt which has given her the affectionate nickname ‘Wonky’.

Vets at the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester and Salford branch say they believe this is from a previous ear infection which has now healed. She is friendly and playful and needs to be rehomed with her two friends Terri and Cindi in an adult-only house with lots of space for them to explore.

Terri and Cindi are looking for their forever home together. They found themselves at the RSPCA Blackpool branch after their previous owner could no longer care for them. They both enjoy being handled but would benefit from regular human interaction to build up their confidence.

(Article source: The Mirror)

You talkin’ to me? Dogs can identify different languages, study finds

Scientists from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary trained 18 canines to lay motionless in a brain scanner, where they were played parts of the famous novella The Little Prince in Spanish and Hungarian.

dogs language

Dogs can distinguish between languages when listening to people speak, researchers have found.

Scientists from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary trained 18 canines to lay motionless in a brain scanner, where they were played parts of famous novella The Little Prince in Spanish and Hungarian.

The dogs taking part had only ever heard one of the two languages before. Their brains displayed different activity patterns depending on whether a familiar or unfamiliar language was spoken, suggesting they could differentiate between the languages.

Author of the study, Laura Cuaya, had the idea when she moved from Mexico to Hungary with border collie Kun-Kun, who had only been spoken to in Spanish. Kun-Kun became one of the dogs included in the landmark experiment.

Senior author of the study Attila Andics said this “showed for the first time that a non-human brain can distinguish between two languages”.

“It is exciting because it reveals that the capacity to learn about the regularities of a language is not uniquely human,” he added, musing it was possible dogs had become better listeners due to living with humans for so long.

“It is exciting because it reveals that the capacity to learn about the regularities of a language is not uniquely human,” he added, musing it was possible dogs had become better listeners due to living with humans for so long.

The dogs were also played scrambled up versions of the book passages to see if they could detect speech separate from non-speech.

Researchers found distinct activity patterns in the animals’ brains when they compared responses to normal speech and the jumbled up versions, however there was no evidence the dogs preferred one or another. The study reports that this was the case whether a familiar or unfamiliar language was used.

Co-author Raul Hernandez-Perez said: “The mechanism underlying this speech detection ability may be different from speech sensitivity in humans: whereas human brains are specially tuned to speech, dog brains may simply detect the naturalness of the sound.”

The research by the university’s Department of Ethology is published in scientific journal NeuroImage.

This comes after a Canadian study found dogs could understand an average of 89 words, the same number as an 18-month-old baby.

(Article source: Sky News)

‘I am utterly in thrall to the beauty of cats’: David Baddiel on his favourite pets

Cats for David Baddiel, with all their furry, funny ways, are an expression of love and a deep link to his now gone parents. Oh, and they’ve got far more personality than those barking, snappy pets.

David Baddiel

My dad died earlier this year. On the upside, we got a new cat. This may sound like a flip gag, and indeed it is, but it also isn’t.

Let me explain. In the 1970s, fathers were not expected to show love to their children.

Or much to their wives. I grew up with my dad and three brothers in a house where familial affection, as we understand it now, was low in the everyday mix.

However: we had a cat. She was called Phomphar. This name was my father’s idea, an onomatopoeic rendition of the noise she made when she was happy, which most people would call purring, but he called phompharing.

This indicates something, which is that if my father did have a softer side, it was shown mainly to the cats. By softer side, what I mean is he would pick them up and aggressively sniff their heads and say “You’re a great beast – what are you?

A great beast, yes you are!” But trust me, for Colin Baddiel, that was effectively a love sonnet.

Cats, therefore, for me are a deep point of connection, with my childhood and with my now gone parents. There was very little beauty in my childhood – this is not a misery memoir-style statement, it’s just a true one about Dollis Hill, northwest London, in the 1970s – but Phomphar was beautiful.

Of course she was. She was a cat. Now, luckily, I have a lot more beauty in my life, and a lot more softness and a lot less gruff, blunt maleness, but I am still utterly in thrall to the beauty of cats.

I am a fundamental atheist, but when I look at one of my cats – I presently have four – curving like a Matisse in a shaft of sunlight, I believe in God. Some people on social media see me as the antichrist, but really, I am the anti-Zouma.

I have never, since I was a child, not had at least one cat. Even when I was at university and living in halls of residence, I smuggled in a stray and fed it regularly.

I also had one when I shared a flat with Frank Skinner. Frank is not a cat man, but he is very committed to comedy, and the name of the tabby who lived with us, arrived at after a short brainstorming session (mainly driven by his extraordinary punning ability) was Chairman Meow.

There are not many hills I am prepared to die on, but that this is the best name ever for a cat is one. One proof is that it – the name, not the cat – was stolen soon after by Will & Grace.

Another is that the first time I took her – Chairman was a her, unlike Zedong, although even if alive today and on Twitter, I doubt he’d have been that big on announcing pronouns – to the vet, and the receptionist asked for the cat’s name, it got in the crowded waiting room a massive laugh.

Obviously, I was very pleased about this, except I noticed the receptionist just wrote down, on her computer, “Meow” – just, as if it were her surname.

Which meant that when I went through to the actual vet and saw him glance at the information on his computer about this new cat, I could tell, from a raised eyebrow, that he was thinking “Meow” – what a sh*t name for a cat.

Supposed to be a writer and comedian and he goes that unoriginal on a cat name? But it felt too late to explain.

It isn’t, however, just about beauty, because cats are not just beautiful (although they really are: what other small animal is a perfect micro-copy of their big version?

When I see Ron, my all ginger polydactyl – he has seven toes – boy, I just think: this is a lion cub. I basically live with a lion cub).

Some of you may be aware that although my day job is still, nominally, comedian, late in my career I’ve been pulled into a type of activism, where I spend much of my time trying to redress various negative stereotypes and myths and bad imaginings that surround a long-maligned group. It may be time however for me to move on from Jews, to cats.

I have got to the age now where the only jobs I want to do are ones I know I’m going to actively enjoy, so I recently suggested to a TV production company, who were keen to hear my ideas, a show called David Baddiel: Cat Man.

The idea being that I – the person in the title – would go round the country visiting people with extraordinary and characterful cats, and they would show me the cats being extraordinary and characterful.

That’s it. I can’t think of a show I’d love to do more.

But what the TV company got back when they pitched this idea to broadcasters was: cats? Extraordinary and characterful?

They just sit around preening themselves. They’re all the same. Now, dogs…

There’s a number of things wrong with this attitude. First, it’s wrong. I mean, it’s just a priori wrong.

Cats have won. In the eternal battle between them and the barking, snappy ones as to who humans prefer being around, there is no doubt that first place has gone to the felines.

People who don’t accept this will point to the fact that in the UK, there are still slightly more dog-owners than cat ones, but these are analogue people who presumably have never heard of the internet.

In 2015 – these are the figures I can find, now it will be 10 times that – there were more than 2m cat videos on YouTube, with an average of 12,000 views each, a higher average than any other category.

So from the point of view of what animals people like to watch and look at on their screens, these TV commissioners genuflecting reflexively towards dogs are just incorrect.

Secondly, it’s wrong. Because cats don’t pander to humans, that doesn’t mean that they are inexpressive.

I’ve really had a lot of them, and each one has been very different and absurdly idiosyncratic. Pip, Ron’s mother, is often lazy and irritable, but will come over all kittenish and adorable if my wife sings her, at a particular pitch, Only You by Yazoo.

Chairman Meow would stick her tongue out at you if you ran your fingers over a comb.

Tiger, Ron’s brother, will grab your attention by tapping you gently on the arm with his paw, which is not unusual in and of itself, but he often becomes uncertain about the tap on the way to the tapping moment and so just stays with his paw poised in the air staring at you in hope and confusion, which is so cute it makes me want to die.

These are just the tips of the various icebergs of personality that a few of the cats I’ve owned display.

Yes, there are some issues with cat ownership. Recently, I went to watch Chelsea play a midweek game and, because I’d be getting back quite late, decided to cook dinner (monkfish in teriyaki sauce) before leaving, thinking, “I’ll just pop that in the microwave when I return.”

I left it in the pan, covered with a bowl and a cake mesh. When I got home, they’d eaten it. Pip, Ron and Tiger had combined so well – presumably they thought, “That’s nice, not only has he left us a meal, he’s set it up as the prize at the end of an entertaining obstacle course”- leaving the bowl and the cake mesh so neatly next to the pan, that I assumed the heist must have been perpetrated by a human.

So I accused my teenage son, who professed he hadn’t done it and that the cats were clearly trying to frame him. And he was right.

But the thing is, I’m always going to forgive them. We take our cats on holiday, and Ron once went missing in the attic of a house we were renting on the day we were meant to leave.

I spent three hours searching among the lung-eroding insulation and dust up there for him. By the time I caught him, we were late, probably going to have to pay a fine, and I was sweating with anxiety. But the minute I saw his face, I still thought: “Ahhh, Ron.”

Cats are not selfish. They are selves, complete, rounded, rich and strange characters, but the idea that they have no empathy – a mistake humans make about animals in general, all part of human exceptionalism, which is what allows us to keep them as pets, but more importantly, eat them – is deeply mistaken. Monkey, a male cat who I gave to my wife when we first got together – I acknowledge this is a bit presumptuous, I mean, a cat’s not just for a one-night stand, he’s for life, or at least, a long chapter within serial monogamy – was one of the nicest beings I’ve ever known.

Once, he appeared upstairs in Morwenna’s study, meowing and meowing. Eventually she got up and he led her downstairs – to where one of our other cats had got his paw stuck under the door. Put that in your well-where-a-child-has-fallen-down and smoke it, Lassie.

Pip is not so nice. She is a grand matriarch and extremely territorial. But she is my daughter Dolly’s cat, chosen by her from a litter we found on Gumtree when she – Dolly – was seven.

Elsewhere, Dolly and I have talked about the fact that she has suffered from an eating disorder. When things have been really bad with my daughter, when she has been at her lowest ebb, without fail, Pip has somehow known, and appeared, and tried – and sometimes, succeeded – to comfort her. It’s unbelievably moving to watch.

On which note. My father’s affection for cats stayed with him even as almost everything else he knew about himself went.

He had two living with him in his last years. After his death, we took in one of them, Zelda, originally Pip’s daughter. We brought her back to her place of birth, and reintroduced her to her family, which really didn’t turn out like Surprise! Surprise!

Unless I missed that episode of Surprise! Surprise! where a mother growled and hissed at her long-lost daughter and then chased her under a cupboard.

But Zelda turns out to have her own personality. She is neat and complex, and eager for human company, so likes to visit us in our bedroom at night.

It turns out there’s nothing more reassuring, when you wake in the night, perhaps tormented by the recent shocking absence of your parent from this world, than feeling the soft weight of his cat on you, and hear her gentle phompharing.

The paperback of David Baddiel’s new children’s book, (The Boy Who Got) Accidentally Famous, is now ready for pre-order. His book, Jews Don’t Count, can be bought for £6.79 at

(Article source: The Guardian)

Nurse who adopted pet pig ‘Wilbur’ in lockdown enjoys walks on promenade with him

A&E nurse Jane Sudds from Blackpool always wanted a pet pig and during the 2020 winter lockdown, she realised she was at the right stage in life to welcome one into her home.

pet pig

The Mirror reports that a nurse who adopted a pet pig “Wilbur” during lockdown now enjoys going for walks on the beach with him and says his favourite thing to do is “follow her around”.

After years of research, the Blackpool local adopted Wilbur, who now lives with her in Blackpool and enjoys walks on the famous beach, Lancs Live reported.

Jane, 32, said Wilbur has settled in quickly and loves his outdoor space as well as snuggling in the living room with her, Pomeranian dog Moo, aged 10, and cat Kitty, aged six.

Jane said: “He is a little monkey.

“He’s really loving and always wants attention, he’s also a proper foodie, strawberries and melon are his favourites.

“His favourite thing to do is to follow me around!

“I think he thinks he’s smaller than he is, but he’s actually quite a heavy lump, but it’s so lovely.”

Jane approached micro pig breeder Kew Little Pigs, who told her she would have to do a pig keeping course, which would teach her all about how to look after Wilbur properly.

When Wilbur arrived he had to stay at home for 20 days and Jane had to apply for a walking licence, outlining specific routes that she would use when she takes Wilbur for his walks.

She said: “There is quite a lot to it, and you have to be sure you have some outside space because many pigs like to be outside for the majority of the time.

“Wilbur just wants to be wherever I am, but he also has his ball pit, mud pit and sandpit in his outside pen.

“When I go to work he enjoys it out there, and Kitty goes outside too so I think she pays him a few visits in the day.

“He really likes to go to the beach, though he didn’t like going in the sea at first.

“He just trots up and down and everyone wants to come and pet him and cuddle him.

“A half-hour walk will always take double the time because of all the people who want to stop and say hello.”

When preparing to adopt Wilbur, Jane took her new responsibilities very seriously, and at the same time her friend Hannah, who lives nearby, adopted Wilbur’s brother Boris.

This means that when either of them wants to go on holiday the other can care for the pigs, after informing the appropriate authorities that their pets will be moved, as they are classed as livestock.

(Story source: The Mirror)

Cornish pet shop turned into bar selling dog-friendly beer and coffee

Dogs like to hang by the bar too, you know.

Dog bar

Metro reports that a pet shop in Cornwall is now a doggie social spot with its own bar for dogs – where they sell up to 40 bottles of ‘beer’ a day.

The Doghouse Deli & Bar in Polperro, Cornwall, has two bars stocked with the likes of Bottom Sniffer ‘beer’, a ball pool, McDoggo’s drive-thru, Starbarks coffee and an art gallery catering for doggievision. The fake booze on offer includes Bad Spaniels, Pawroni and Wagners.

Pups can now enjoy human vices, thanks to this dog destination. Pets also love the daily scent that’s fanned around the shop – it could be anything from bacon to a Cornish pasty.

The popular bar is the brainchild of Gareth Evans, who has enjoyed so much success he’s planning to open another shop in Devon.

Mr Evans said: ‘I started as a dog photographer, but realised I couldn’t just have a shop just doing that, so we decided to do other things in here and it’s grown from there.

‘We’ve been going for four years and word is really growing. We wanted it to be really different and interactive. ‘It’s essentially a bar for dogs – during the summer we sell around 40 bottles of ‘beer’ a day. Dogs love it in here and because it’s a pretty small shop it can get absolutely manic!’

Another key feature is a 6,000-strong ball pool which is the site of a competition to see how fast a dog can retrieve three tennis balls from the pit.

Top of the leader-board for the past two years has been an enthusiastic Border Collie called Pippin who does it in ten seconds. There’s also a drive-thru where pampered pooches can pose with their heads through a car window while a fan blows their fur, and a coffee bar area filled with coffee-orientated toys and treats.

(Story source: Metro)

Blood donor spaniel Arnie retires after saving at least 80 sick dogs

A spaniel who has donated 21 pints of blood over the years is retiring – after helping save
the lives of at least 80 other dogs.

blood donor spaniel

Metro reports that English springer Arnie, nine, started donating to Pet Blood Bank in 2015 but has had to stop after reaching the age limit.

Canine lifesavers must be between one and eight, more than 25kg, fit and healthy, and not have been abroad recently. Arnie started donating when owner Rachel McFarlane, 36, read an appeal for more blood donors to help save dogs.

Each pint has the potential to save four dogs’ lives, meaning Arnie has helped some 84. He can give blood every eight weeks at a local vet’s.

Dog groomer Rachel, from Falkirk, Scotland, said Arnie didn’t start donating until he was nearly three but she would have signed him up sooner if she had known about the service.

Rachel said: ‘It’s amazing the number of people who have never even heard of dogs donating blood.

Dogs have two blood types, positive and negative, with positive being the most common, which is what Arnie is. ‘Each pint can go towards helping four other dogs.

‘I don’t think a lot of people know about it – until you are in the situation it’s maybe not something you think about. ‘It is very unusual for a springer spaniel to be able to donate because they are generally under 25kg.

‘It is normally bigger dogs like poodles, labradors and German shepherds you see donating, but Arnie is big for his breed so has been able to do it.

‘When he goes in they take a little sample of his blood to make sure everything is OK. ‘Then they get him up on the table to put the needle in his neck to draw the pint. ‘Some dogs are so relaxed they are almost sleeping while the blood is being taken.’

Rachel explained: ‘The nurses distract Arnie with lots of gravy bones and treats. ‘He is always fine when he is getting it done and loves having everyone fuss over him.

‘The dogs get a goodie bag after every donation which has treats and toys in it, and they get a bigger gift bag every fifth time – Arnie got a lead in his. ‘He also got a goodie box when he retired with treats and toys. ‘Arnie isn’t the cleverest of spaniels, but he has certainly done a wonderful job over the years – he’s a good boy.’

(Story source: Metro)

‘Happy dog time’: Boom in UK dog-sitting as owners return to office

Dog borrowers are stepping in to help with the challenge of fitting new pets to a post-lockdown lifestyle.


After a difficult year including a bad breakup and her parents moving abroad, Aimée Lou McAvoy was desperate for a change of scene. She started occasional dog-sitting, escaping London for days at a time to stay in country homes and care for adorable pets while their owners were away.

With more people returning to the office after the end of the government’s advice to work from home because of the Covid pandemic, the business of looking after dogs has been booming.

New customer inquiries at Barking Mad, which offers local dog home-boarding services, are up by 1144.36%, in the year to date for 2022 against the same period last year, and up by 482.75% compared with pre-pandemic demand in 2019.

While McAvoy’s short breaks are hard work and unpaid, it means she can work from the countryside homes she stays in, and the dogs give her a welcome sense of routine as well as a mood boost.

“They all love me and even after a week it’s really hard to leave them,” she said. “It’s a relief if you’re anxious to have animals around. They follow me around the house and come sit by me when I’m working, they wake me up in the morning – it’s really cheerful.”

About 3.2m households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the Covid pandemic. While this has brought a myriad of benefits to new dog owners, from helping them cope emotionally with the social isolation and stress of lockdowns to keeping them fit and active, the ending of restrictions has raised fresh challenges, among them how pets fit into their owners’ post-lockdown lifestyle.

In a Kennel Club survey, one in five new owners cited worries about behaviour, time and costs related to caring for their dog after lockdown.

About 20% of new owners who bought a puppy during the pandemic said they had not fully considered the long-term commitment or responsibility of having a dog, and 18% were not sure how they would look after their animal when they returned to the workplace.

Even for many existing dog owners, their pets had grown so used to them being at home that the changes have led to similar difficulties, including separation anxiety.

Rikke Rosenlund, the CEO and founder of BorrowMyDoggy, noticed more borrowers signing up to the platform during lockdowns, while more owners had signed up for help after. While some owners had less need for somebody to walk their dog during the pandemic as they were at home more, others such as key workers some needed the help, she said.

She said people were continuing to borrow dogs to help them cope with loneliness.

The end of restrictions also brought together the problem of people going out more while realising their dogs – many of them new – had not properly socialised.

BorrowMyDoggy has also experienced dog owners borrowing dogs, rather than buying another, to help socialise their pet.

The pandemic reinforced a sense of community between borrowers and owners, she said. “When we were all told to stay at home, a lot of our members started to deliver food for each other, or dogs would temporarily move over to the borrower’s house if needed,” Rosenlund said.

“A member of my team had Covid early on and the person she borrows dogs from delivered food to her. Then later on in the pandemic, the owner had long Covid and the dog actually moved over to her house for three months.”

Jeanette Blackaller, 71, and her husband, Michael, 78, of Plymouth, would have faced total isolation during lockdowns were it not for the walkers and sitters who borrowed their five dogs through BorrowMyDoggy. “We were vulnerable and neither of us have family in the area – we could’ve been really isolated.

But they were on the doorstep saying what shopping do you need, let us take the dogs and give you a break. It meant that our lives could carry on as normally as possible, and the dogs stayed fit and well.”

One of their dogs, Maya, a chihuahua, was eventually rehomed with one of her sitters. “It’s opened up the world for our dogs and saved us so much stress trying to exercise them. We couldn’t have managed Covid without our walkers,” she said.

Rosenlund said people who use the platform build strong relationships over their love of dogs, with no money exchanged between parties: “They’re just doing each other favours by either getting some happy dog time, or getting help with socialising and walking their dog.”

Meanwhile, McAvoy says most of the owners she helps out need their dogs looked after while they visit holiday homes or go on business trips abroad, so she will continue dog-sitting whenever she needs to get away from it all, taking the opportunity to stay in lovely places she wouldn’t normally visit and enjoy the unconditional love of dogs.

“It’s like going on holiday, it’s short-term relief, but it’s good for when you really need to get away from everything and just roam the fields with a dog,” she said.

(Article source: The Guardian)

When pets come between partners: 10 top tips to avoid the ‘it’s me or the dog’ ultimatum

Relationship expert Judy Cogan reveals the 10 most common arguments couples have over pets and how to avoid them.

pets and partners

Pets can bring endless amounts of joy to a home. But it’s not all blissful country walks and companionship.

Pets can often spark arguments about anything from general discipline to where they sleep at night and how much they cost to keep. “A pet can change your life and impact your relationship massively,” relationship expert Ness Cooper tells i.

“This often takes people by surprise and can challenge the shared beliefs you have established as a couple, causing friction. But often it is about embracing your new pet as part of your relationship.” Here, Cooper shares tips on how to avoid the “it’s me or the dog” ultimatums.

We clash over disciplining our pet

This is where the roles of good cop/bad cop often come into play. Couples will argue if they’re not on the same page with pet rules and routines. Discipline is important for pets, especially dogs, and you’ll all benefit from sticking to a consistent plan in the long run. It’s up to you to teach your pet where they can and can’t roam and what they can play with and chew. Make a room or area of your home a pet-free zone. Allowing your pet to be comfortable in certain spots will give you more space to relax as a couple.

I’m left to do all the dirty work

Having a pet can be fun and rewarding. But picking up dog mess in the park or changing the litter tray is less so. If one person is always cleaning up, patience will wane and tempers fray.

Navigate this by agreeing to a pet schedule dividing the time spent on your furry friend equally. But don’t just focus on the messy jobs. Make sure you both get to enjoy the pet with play routines, snuggles and activities to do together. Taking on its care as a partnership will give you a joint goal and strengthen your connection.

I’m always doing the early walks in the rain

No-one likes getting out of bed early on a cold and rainy winter morning. But this task needs to be split equally to maintain balance. Simply take it in turns. When it’s your turn, treat it like “me time” in the morning.

Choose a nice walking route, stop for a morning coffee or meet up with another dog walker to mix it up. If you really can’t agree, find a local dog walker or use a free app such as Borrow My Doggy to help avoid arguments.”

The pet was bought with an ex

Pets often pick their human and form an unbreakable bond. It’s natural to feel jealous if you’re the outsider, but if bonding with the pet doesn’t work, try to gain an understanding of your feelings and talk to your partner. If you are concerned the pet represents a past relationship dynamic, that might relate to deeper issues in your relationship. It’s important to respect your partner’s relationship status with their pet. Pets shouldn’t be seen as competition even when they pre-date your relationship.

Having a pet stops us being spontaneous

If you feel your pet has zapped the spontaneity from your relationship, have a rethink. Spontaneity is a mindset and the focus shouldn’t be on when romance and intimacy happens, but whether it’s fulfilling when it does. Planning can still be rewarding and allows for excitement and suspense to build.

Arranging regular doggy day-care days or stints in the kennels will give you time to be more spontaneous. And if you’re taking the pet on holiday with you, bring items to distract it when needed.

The responsibility is crushing

Caring for a pet can be overwhelming and young animals can be especially challenging. Feeling frustrated is natural. Your life has changed and, much like having a child, you need to accept this and give yourself time to adapt. But once you form new routines things will get easier. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family to help out if you need a breather and plan pet-free time as a couple to ensure your bond stays strong.

The cost of the pet is escalating

If one of you is overspending on doggy grooming, cute accessories and toys on top of essential costs such as food, bedding and vet bills, this can cause friction. You’d be surprised how many people don’t look at their finances before getting a pet. Try and work out a pet budget with your partner and look at areas you can claw back. Also remember the dog is not just for Instagram likes. It is a living creature with its own emotions. You don’t need to spend a fortune to make it happy and the rewards it gives you are priceless.

I hate the dog sleeping in our bed

A pet sharing your bed you can at best interfere with your night-time routine and at worse ruin your sleep patterns and sex life.

The pet might feel loved and safe, but it takes up space, pongs and leaves hair all over the duvet. Getting this comes down to compromise and setting boundaries. Who comes first, your relationship or your dog?

Talk about it and try a transition period to train the pooch to sleep elsewhere. Distract it away from the bed with toys and treats until it learns the bed is off limits.

The pet gets the most attention

A recent study found four in 10 adults admit to giving their pooch more affection than their other half. If the dog gets showered in treats and affection and sits in prime spot on the sofa at night, communicate your concerns to your partner in a positive way. Letting your partner know you enjoy snuggling up on the sofa and being close to them will renew your connection. If all else fails, accept the pet is here to stay and buy a bigger sofa.

The pets make the house dirty

If one of you is house proud or needs order to feel calm, messy pets running riot can be a sensitive issue. You both need to compromise by learning your hygiene thresholds in the home and respecting them. Sharing cleaning equally each week or hiring a cleaner can reduce conflict. Learning healthy ways to deal with conflicts is key, because pets pick up on tension and often react accordingly.

(Article source: Inews)

‘We bonded big time’: The man who trains guide dogs with love, dedication – and a broken heart

After losing his own dog, Gary Lyon decided to avoid heartbreak by taking puppies. The Guardian Angel sends toys to his current charge.

guide dogs

Fostering guide dogs was part of Gary Lyon’s plan to never get his heart broken again. It backfired spectacularly.

It all started when Lyon, a 75-year-old retired plant pathologist, had to put down his pet dog, Zac.

“He was a lovely boy,” says Lyon. “But he had all sorts of health problems towards the end, and was off his feet and not happy.”

Zac, a Lhasa Apso, always had a very responsive tail. When it was up, he was happy; when it was down, he was sad. “We noticed his tail was down all the time,” says Lyon, “and realised the end was nigh.

After it was done, my wife Carol and I said we never wanted to go through that again.” It is the first of many times in our phone call that Lyon almost cries.

Lyon lives near Guide Dog UK’s dog training centre in Forfar, north of Dundee, where puppies finish their training before being rehomed. “I’d seen people locally with guide dog puppies,” says Lyon, “and thought, ‘That’s a good way to go. That way, I don’t ever have to put another dog down.’”

He signed up to be a trainer in 2014. For the first year of their lives, puppies live at Lyon’s home. He teaches them basic commands and more complex skills, such as how to lead people upstairs and how to stop at a curb and wait for the lights to change.

“Guide dogs are some of the best-bred dogs,” says Lyon. “If there are any medical or behavioural issues, their parents are taken out of the breeding programme.

They’re intelligent, inquisitive, confident.” Most are labradors, golden retrievers or German shepherds – or a mix of these breeds.

One of the first dogs Lyon trained was Elvis, a labrador. Lyon taught Elvis how to identify a door. “What you do,” he says, “is say, ‘find door’, go to a door, rattle the handle, then give him a treat.”

To test him, he took Elvis to a shopping centre in Dundee. “I said, ‘find door,’ and he took me to the nearest exit. We hadn’t even come in that way. I had no idea how he did it. I think he smelled the fresh air.”

When he started working with Elvis, Lyon thought it would be easy to give him back. (Lyon usually gets the puppies when they are seven weeks old, and hands them back to continue their training when they are 14 months.)

“When we first got Elvis,” Lyon says, “people said, ‘Won’t it be hard to give him up?’ We said, ‘Oh no, it’s not like putting a dog down.’ I had no idea. I just disintegrated when the dog went.” He chokes up again.

The next dog Lyon trained was Murphy, a lab-retriever cross. “He was so cute it was unbelievable,” he says. Murphy went to Sarah Parkinson, who is 55 and lives in Newtongrange, just outside Edinburgh.

“I became very depressed when my eyesight deteriorated about five years ago,” says Parkinson. “I had to give up work and felt completely confined to the house.

But when I got Murphy life just started getting better. He enabled me to live a full life again. He’s changed my life completely.”

Lyon, she says, is a truly remarkable person. “He’s so dedicated,” she says. “He produces such rounded dogs. They’re so loving and caring and well-trained.”

Parkinson, Lyon and Carol are now friends: she comes to visit, and brings Murphy with her.

Watching Murphy interact with his new owner is a bittersweet joy. Murphy looks up at Sarah with such love, Lyon tells me. He is emotional again.

After Murphy, there was Rocky, a German shepherd. “God,” says Lyon, voice cracking. “He was lovely. I bonded with him big time. Floods of tears when he went.”

The most recent dog was Forest. “He was the best,” says Lyon. “He was stunning. My wife bonded with him and said, ‘I can’t do it again.’”

It’s a bitter irony, I point out, that a plan to avoid the heartbreak of putting down another dog has locked Lyon into a perpetual cycle of loss – only with many animals, not just one.

“I am torturing myself,” he agrees. “But it’s worth it.” He says it is a privilege to train the dogs. “I’m doing something useful. You can’t always do something useful in life.”

When asked about his treat from Guardian angel, Lyon is resolute: the only thing he wants are some fresh toys for his current charge, Danny, a 13-month-old labrador-retriever cross.

“He loves soft toys,” Lyon explains, “but they don’t last long.”

Online pet boutique Love My Human provides Danny with a box, which the puppy immediately gets to work on.

“He’s shredded one of them already,” says Lyon. “It was a pig. There’s only a tail left now.” They’ve been playing tug-of-war with the remaining toys: it takes all of Lyon’s effort not to fall over.

“They’re such strong dogs,” Lyon says.

Watching Danny gambol and play with his new toys is a bittersweet experience for Lyon.

“I’m not yet dreading him leaving,” he says. “That comes later, when they’re getting ready to go. I just want him to succeed.”

(Article source: The Guardian)

Doggy down in the dumps? Dogs get depression too – and they’ll need more than walkies to make them feel better

Mental health problems affect three-quarters of dogs, according to a survey – and owners need to learn to spot the signs.

dog depression

On Tuesday, my puppy, Penny, didn’t eat her lunch. She’s been healthy and apparently happy for the seven months since she joined our family, and has never missed a meal, treat or stray crumb. But I was prepared for this, and diagnosed her with pre-menstrual stress. Later, when she was sick, I realised she’d probably chewed too many sticks.

It never crossed my mind that she may be depressed. Her life is flush with walks, warm beds to snuggle in and lots of attention. But this week the charity Guide Dogs announced that 74 per cent of Britain’s 8.8 million dogs could be showing signs of depression and anxiety and 18 per cent may have symptoms every week.

It sounds like a canine mental-health crisis. The figure “one in four” is often used for poor mental health in human adults: could it be that as our mental health has plummeted in the past two years, the wellbeing of our dogs has followed suit?

Experts have predicted a surge in these problems as owners return to work and pandemic puppies have to adapt to drastically reduced hours with their humans.

Penny tends to look for trouble when she’s not getting enough attention. She has a morning walk followed by a long nap. When she wakes she eats, finds a toy and brings it to me.

She only needs 10 minutes of intense playtime, but if I turn away to meet a deadline, 15 minutes later I’ll find her emptying the recycling box or shredding a loo roll.

She might get the hump during my daughter’s bath and bedtime and get a slipper between her teeth and come and show me that she’s chewing it because she wants to play. This feels like standard puppy behaviour, not a cause for concern.

“It’s outdated to think that dogs just need a walk or two a day to be content,” explains Dr Helen Whiteside, the chief scientific officer at Guide Dogs.

“Without different forms of mental stimulation, dogs can begin to show signs of behavioural issues, such as anxiety and frustration.”

Penny’s puppy trainer told me that five minutes of a mental workout, such as doing some scent-work with treats, can demand far more from a dog than physical exercise. We have rubber toys you can hide treats inside, there are also real puzzles around for dogs and if you’re balancing home-working and pet care, these toys are like live-in day-care.

But how can I tell if my dog is actually depressed? Guide Dogs says the most common symptoms are loss of appetite (36 per cent), destructiveness (32 per cent) and low activity levels (31 per cent).

Preventing depression

Food-based problem-solving puzzles: Hide treats under cups and move the treat around, releasing it when the dog chooses the right cup.

Foraging for toys and treats: Satisfy your dog’s natural urge to hunt, problem-solve and play. Use household items to hide the treats instead of buying toys.

‘Sniffari’ walks: Try walks that go at the dog’s pace, allowing them to stop and sniff wherever they like.

Interactive toys: Give less active dogs a reason to move – encourage owner and dog to play together.

Sensory activities: Teach dogs to find smelly items or treats, or turn on a bubble machine in the garden.

Physical activities: An agility course might suit some breeds. Create your own using tree stumps, low walls or other obstacles.

Hyperactivity, incessant barking and a loss of interest in things they used to enjoy are other signs. This sounds to me more like boredom or frustration – but these are contributing factors to overall wellbeing.

According to the Kennel Club, different routines or environments – divorce, house moves, children growing up and leaving home or the change in working patterns so many are experiencing at the moment -can cause depression in dogs.

Many owners are proactive – according to Guide Dogs, 58 per cent will take them on a long walk or pet them when they notice signs of unhappiness, while 51 per cent offer treats – but these feel like baseline requirements to me.

It is not yet clear what will become of many pandemic pups, but I really hope that the vast majority are continuing to get regular walks, treats, love and much more.

(Article source: Inews)