Your pets

Prevention (Australia) - - In This Issue - BY DR JULIE ASH­TON

While you might think you know all there is to know about car­ing for your pet, here are five things you may not have thought about.


When you wel­come a pet into your home, it’s im­por­tant to think about how the en­vi­ron­ment might im­pact them. While you may love the smell of lemon-scented can­dles, your furry friend may not be such a fan! A dog’s sense of smell is around 40 times greater than ours, so try and keep strong smells in their en­vi­ron­ment to a min­i­mum. Pets will also ben­e­fit from a quiet area where they can re­lax and just chill out, away from stim­u­lat­ing noises, smells and touch­ing – this is es­pe­cially im­por­tant in open-plan apart­ments and houses.


Most dog own­ers are re­ally good with mak­ing time to walk their dogs, but have you con­sid­ered the ex­er­cise needs of other types of pets? Ex­er­cise is im­por­tant for cats, too, al­though you may strug­gle to get them to walk on lead! Wand toys are a great idea for our fe­line com­pan­ions, as they help them to use their pre­da­tion skills to stalk and hunt the feath­ered stick. Rab­bits, guinea pigs and other furry friends all need time for ex­er­cise, too.


Phys­i­cal ex­er­cise on its own isn’t enough – you want to make sure your pets are us­ing their brains! Spend time train­ing your pets us­ing pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment, and of­fer their food in puz­zle feed­ers or feed­ing toys so that they need to think about how to get to their food. Many an­i­mals will also ben­e­fit from more in­ten­sive train­ing, such as agility train­ing, or even learn­ing some clever party tricks.


An­thro­po­mor­phis­ing – or ap­ply­ing hu­man traits to an­i­mals – is some­thing that many pet own­ers do, and can in some ways help us to con­nect with them. How­ever, while it may be tempt­ing to think of your pets as small, furry hu­mans, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber they aren’t ac­tu­ally peo­ple! Some pets can find hu­man be­hav­iour like bear hugs or kiss­ing on the face stress­ful, and giv­ing your pets hu­man treats (in­clud­ing scraps from the din­ner ta­ble!) can lead to obe­sity and as­so­ci­ated health con­cerns. At­tach­ing hu­man rea­sons to dog be­hav­iour – such as say­ing a dog has chewed up the fur­ni­ture be­cause he was mad for be­ing left alone – can also hin­der the ef­fec­tive­ness of any train­ing. You need to try and un­der­stand your pet’s be­hav­iour from their point of view, not yours.


Pets play an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant role in our lives, and will bring a pro­found sense of con­nec­tion and com­pan­ion­ship to you and your fam­ily. How­ever, own­ing a pet is a big re­spon­si­bil­ity. So for your sake, and theirs, make sure you’ve con­sid­ered all of the above is­sues very care­fully be­fore bring­ing a four-legged friend home.

Dr Julie Ash­ton is a prac­tis­ing vet­eri­nary sur­geon and an­i­mal be­haviourist, who works with the Delta So­ci­ety Aus­tralia, a na­tional not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion which be­lieves that pets re­mark­ably im­prove our qual­ity of life and leave a last­ing paw print...

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