FAQs and Other Animals

It’s hard to imagine we’re coming up on one year of business at Your Pet Space.  Wow! But even in the last ten months, we’ve had many many clients ask us variations of questions or present us with situations somewhat dissimilar to those listed on our Frequently Asked Questions Page.  So I thought this might be a good place to answer…

black dog

1.) How is Doggy Daycare better than taking my dog to the dog park or letting him loose for a run in the desert?

Well, dog parks are great places–but there can be issues you won’t find here–not usually with the dogs…but with the owners!  Because very few owners at the dog park know how to read dog body language, or have any idea how thier dog with react to yours.  A dog who has his owner present may feel an urge to protect him, and go into defensive mode.  Worst of all, owners sometimes think that–left to their own devices–dogs will just “work it out” when they have an issue.  Sadly, this often results in a fight with injury to one or both dogs.

Dogs of different breeds can use various forms of body language to signal things like, “I don’t want to meet you,”, “I feel afraid” or “Let’s play!”.  These can often be so different that the other dog doesn’t get the message clearly–somewhat like a speaker I heard at a conference once, telling a story.  He was from Spain, and giving a talk in Brazil, where they speak Portuguese.  The languages are similar, and yet not exactly the same.  He asked in Spanish if he could remove his jacket.  Then he realized the attendees were giving him wild looks because in Portuguese he had asked about removing his clothes.  Similarly, a dog may think the other dog is signalling a readiness to play, when he’s actually being challenged or warned away.

Can you be safe taking your dog to the dog park?  Sure.  If you are well versed in how dogs talk to each other with their body language, and your dog stays fairly close to you.  And as long as you know when to take your dog home (namely, as soon as you spot another dog whose body language signals spell trouble.)

dog in the desert

As to the desert… I have spoken with a few clients and acquaintances locally that let their dog run off leash in the desert on a regular basis.  Honestly, the idea makes me cringe, as there are so many incidents every year of dogs coming to harm off leash and uncontained in a safe space.  Also, even if you think your dog will not leave your side you are really gambling with any instinct that causes them to chase an animal or shy away from an unexpected noise or other event.  Please, for the safety of your pet, reconsider this option.

In comparison, doggy daycare at Your Pet Space is supervised by staff well versed in dog body language, (many have graduated or are attending the Animal Companion Program at NMSU), trained in canine First Aid and CPR, and in addition the other dogs playing with your dogs are evaluated on a point value off leash play assessment, so that we know they are very unlikely to be dangerous to your dog. Unlike the desert, there are no rattlesnakes here, either.  😉  And since we have full air and heat inside our building, your pet will be comfortable no matter the weather.

standard measuring cups

2.) How can I ensure my dog is fed properly when he stays with you?

First, although our FAQ recommends you bring your dog’s own food since it’s easier on their stomach than switching to ours, it’s also important to give us clear instructions on each boarding stay.  Why do we ask you do this at every stay?  Simple: we may have no idea what changed since we last cared for your dog overnight.  Does he have a new allergy or medical condition?  Have you changed his food, and therefore the quantity is different?  Or is the amount we should give different because your dog has moved from puppyhood to adolescent?  Is your dog dieting?  It never hurts to double check and see what we have for your pet on our feeding schedule.  And of course always give us written instructions in standard measurements–the food scoop you use for your dog may be left behind or not of a standard size…so just saying “1 scoop” isn’t precise.  And we so want to get it right!  😉

digging dog

3.) Why does your form ask so many questions about how my dog behaves and commands he knows?

We ask details about your dog(s) so we can ensure their safety and understand in the way you do what they’re trying to tell us.  For instance, if your dog is a digger, climber or chewer we need to know this to make sure they are never in danger.  If your dog barks when he is upset instead of whining, we want to know that, so we can reduce his stress.

Although most dog body language is consistent, these details will help us give your dog the best stay possible.  And please don’t be embarrassed to tell us your dog has trouble with some commands.  We can help!  We routinely teach all dogs that come to us to sit and wait before going through gates, and to wait before eating, and we can help if your dog pulls on the leash or jumps up on people, too.  Just let us know what you need.

sleeping dog

4.) Why do you have doggy naptime?  How do you make my dog nap? What if my dog won’t nap?  What if I must check in or out during doggy naptime?

In a 6,000 square foot playspace, your active dog could hurt himself running around for the entire day.  We have seen large facilities where this happens!  One of the facilities we worked with in Ohio also had a three hour time of the day when they were closed and the dogs were sleeping…and when our own dogs came home from there, they were significantly less stressed than at previous facilities.  Our prime directive is always to make your dog’s time with us as stress free as possible–and the more closely we stay to a routine your dog would have at home (like taking an afternoon nap), the better we are able to accomplish this.

When we begin naptime, we mimic night by lowering all the lights in the facility, and turning on the “stars” in the Milky Way sleeping area! (Ever noticed the tiny Christmas lights that are over this area?)  Since the sleep patterns for dogs are diurnal, most of the dogs will just walk in, pick a comfy bed, and go right to sleep.  In fact, many of our regular dogs will line up about 1145am each day and doze in a line along the Milky Way fence–because they know it’s almost time to go in!  New dogs usually pace around a few minutes, confused, but when they see everyone else is sleeping, they lie down too and are soon asleep.

Once in awhile, we have a younger or more active doggy guest, or one that has arrived close to naptime, so they have a bit too much energy and would rather play than nap.  That’s ok–we just put them in an area away from the Milky Way with a toy or another active dog.  And they can have their fun while the others sleep.

Oh!  And if you ever have a check in or out that MUST happen during doggy naptime, just call us ahead so we can close for naptime a bit later (preferably no later than 1pm), or open earlier (preferably no earlier than 2pm).  This still gives the other dogs a solid naptime, and prevents the upset of everyone being awakened and stressed during the excitement of someone coming in.

I hope these answers have helped clarify some more Frequently Asked Questions.  If you think of something else you want to ask, feel free to comment here, e-mail me or call us at Your Pet Space!

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. She is also a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.


Loving Your Pet’s Smile

dog face

You Can Brush Your Pet’s Teeth!

My dog, Seba, loves giving kisses!  But sometimes they’re smelly, if I’ve forgotten to brush her teeth.  What?  Brush my dog’s teeth?  Yes!  Not only does she tolerate me brushing her teeth, she expects it and there are some things she seems to enjoy—such as the peanut butter flavored toothpaste!

Here’s a vid of me brushing Seba’s teeth.

Ok, so yes–you should brush your pet’s teeth.  But how do you know when?  Ideally, a pet’s teeth should be white (not yellow, brown or gray), their gums should be bubble gum pink—except in the case of pets whose gums are a different color naturally—and they should not have bad breath.

Pets do not usually develop cavities the way children do, but they can contract periodontal (gum) disease due to buildup of tartar.  Once the gums are infected and inflamed, they can lose their teeth.  But a long time before that happens, they may be having pain that they won’t show in the same way you would…

In addition, once infection sets in, their immune system becomes compromised, and this can lead to heart and other types of disease.

I was lucky with Seba, because greyhounds are quite used to being touched all over and handled with humans doing all kinds of strange things to them—including dressing them in racing silks, winning banners…and later, when they are adopted to a home, everything from fancy collars with dangly bling to coats to booties for their feet in the winter!  So it was an easy segue to start putting a toothbrush in her mouth.

canine dental

But HOW Do You Brush Your Pet’s Teeth?

But, if your pet isn’t used to this, the way to start is by using something on your finger that the pet loves—like tuna juice for cats or plain peanut butter for dogs (just be sure to avoid any peanut butter containing xylitol as a sweetener, since this is highly toxic to our canine friends).  You want to approach the pet from the side, not face to face.  A smaller dog or a cat you can place on your lap, with its face away from you.  Our cat lovers may want to try a Cat In The Bag as an easy way to brush your feline’s teeth, and it can be used in many other instances, as well.)

Seba knows when Momma is talking baby talk to her, she is safe and something good is coming in the way of treats and pets.  But any reassuring sound you make or praise you give throughout the process will create a pleasant association for your pet.  Start for short sessions on a regular basis and build up to a full mouth brushing, starting at the back  on the inside and using short, circular strokes with the brush.

cat roar

The Facts About Pet Gum Disease

You may have thought that gum disease only affects humans, but in fact pet gum disease is the leading dental problem vets see, and affects 80% of dogs and 70% of cats.  In general, pets are more susceptible as they grow older, but toy breeds are particularly so, because of tooth crowding.

Gum disease in pets is caused by the same things as in humans: bacteria from leftover food particles causes plaque along the gumline.  If not cleaned away, the plaque hardens into tartar, which clings strongly to the teeth.  This can happen in as little as 3 days.  Gingivitus, bad breath and inflammation of the gum follow which, if still untreated, can cause loosening of the teeth, abcesses and further infection.  All during this process, the pet is in pain–and, unlike you, will not be able to schedule an appointment for themselves!

Signs of periodontal disease in pets are:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive Salivation
  • Loose or Missing Teeth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Obvious pain or difficulty while eating
  • Red, inflamed gums
  • Yellow brown tartar deposits

dog mouth

But What About The Dental Treats I Give My Pet?

Like a lot of other pet products on the market, these are well loved by owners–but keep in mind they do not replace a toothbrush or professional cleaning.  Treats should not be soft (or become soft as in the case of rawhides) as hard food and treats help remove built up plaque from the pet’s teeth.  You want a tough, chewy treat, but not extremely hard like cow hooves or pig ears.  Hard objects can chip and wear down teeth prematurely.  However, in general, providing your pet a chew toy is beneficial, even if you spot some bleeding of the gums, as in particular dog gingiva is more sensitive than that of humans.

Healthy gums should be bubble gum pink with no signs of redness or irritation.

cat teeth

At The Vet

As part of your pet’s routine, your vet should be checking their mouth, gums and teeth.  If they find your dog needs a cleaning, they will use one of two methods (generally, under anaesthesia): manual or mechanical scaling.

Manual scaling is used for mild cases of tartar buildup or as a followup to a mechanical scaling procedure.

Mechanical scaling uses ultrasonic scalers powered by compressed air.

After scaling off the tartar, the pet’s teeth are polished, just like a human’s.  This is a key process to ensure the natural nooks and crannies of the teeth are smooth, and less easily able to allow tartar to adhere.  Irrigation with a water based solution is the final step in the process, rinsing away any further debris.

Sometimes, your pet may need teeth removed–especially if they are extremely loose, broken beneath the gumline or split.  This ensures your pet can have comfortable meals after healing and that any infection cannot spread throughout the body.

So here’s the takeaway: yes, you can brush your pet’s teeth!  And you should.  It can lengthen their life considerably, not to mentione their enjoyment of it.  Plus–no smelly kisses!

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. She is also a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave (below). When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.

YPS Shorts: P-Mail, Shedding and New Cat Help

time to log in again

This time around, we’d like share the work of some new writers (and one talented artist) with all of you…

The cartoon you see above was created by Dan Rosandich, and aptly illustrates what most dog owners are quite familiar with: doggy “Facebooking”, aka “checking pee-mail”.  😀  More of Dan’s work can be found at DansCartoons.Com.

Next, a short piece about shedding…

How Much is Too Much Hair and How to Deal with It?

They drive me mad. Yes, you are right. Those little fur balls, especially around spring and fall are what I am talking about. The first advice I can give you: accept it. Your beloved dog will shed one way or the other. The next stop is dealing with it. But how?

I have two dogs, Brando and Astoria and a cat Archibald. Yes, they live together in the same house. Don’t make me start talking about that! Anyway, I will just say that having them in the house during shedding seasons is not what I consider a clean house. However, as we love our pets so much, we strive towards finding a solution. During years of having pets, I learned a few tricks of my own.

As I have said, dogs usually shed in fall and spring. If your dog is kept indoor, you can expect year-round shedding. If you notice that your pooch sheds more excessively than usual, the reasons behind it may lie in nutrition, parasites, allergies or other medical problems.

shedding golden

Brush, brush and more brush

I advise to brush your dog every couple of days, no matter what the length of the coat is. You know that there are specific brushes for specific breeds? And you know that some breeds require more than one brush? I have been really struggling with so many types, until I came across a product. I will just say: God bless the furminator – a lifesaver that I bought at Stefmar.

Get Rid of Parasites

Parasites are one of the reasons why your dog sheds too much. Keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy by bathing it once a month. It will work for most dogs. However, some breeds with an oily coat require bathing more often. An oatmeal shampoo is a good choice as it nourishes the skin and coat. Taking your dog to a vet once a year for the inspection of the stool is also something you should do.

There are many types of parasites, the most common being fleas. To keep your pet fleas-free, you can opt for a once-a-month topical insecticide, a spray, a collar or a flea comb. I think that a flea-comb is a little bit overlooked, but I find it extremely useful.

Pay Attention To Your Dog’s Food

Malnutrition is one of the factor contributing to excessive shedding. The food you give to your pet should meet the standards of your national food control officials. However, paying attention to ingredients is important, as well. Nutritious food should contain meat, a source of carbohydrates and a source of unsaturated fat. You can also add olive oil or flaxseed oil to your dog’s food. I add 5ml per 10 pounds of body weight. You can also treat your dog with human food, but it is important to know which food your pet should eat and which it shouldn’t.

golden puppy

Allergies And Medical Problems

If excessive shedding lasts longer than a week, visit a vet. You can spot more serious medical problems if your dog has bald patches, you notice skin irritation, scratching, constant foot licking or face rubbing. I found out last year that Astoria was allergic to a household cleaner I used to use. At first I did not know why she started shedding so much. Since I could understand why this was happening, I visited a vet and she told me that allergies are one of the causes of shedding.

full face golden

I hope my experience will prove to be useful to you. However, before you try to solve the problem of (excessive) shedding, my advice is to always seek the help of vet. Depending on a breed, he/she will know whether shedding is normal or not and which steps should be taken.

Roxana Oliver

Roxana Oliver is an adventurer and frequent traveler as well as blogger at highstylife.com. Besides traveling she loves to take hikes with her two dogs and play around the house with her mischievous cat Archibald. Roxana is a green building designer by vocation, and has a passion for exotic cooking. 

Here’s a short piece for those thinking of adopting a kitten…


Basic Equipment For Your Feline Friend, The Cat

There are many things you can have ready before your kitten arrives and in no time it will grow into an adult cat. If you are good at a few things, you both can be very good friends. You will need a cat litter box, certainly a good quality of cat litter, carrying basket, toys, scratching post–which is one of the most important–and a grooming kit. Tags and microchips for identifying and tracing them are also very useful.  A special bed would be nice, but you shouldn’t be worried because a lot of times, they like to be by your bed or at one corner.

Litter Box

One of the most essential things to have is a litter box.  There are various types of litter boxes on the market. There are small, medium and extra large sizes with open or closed box types. You have top opening or side opening ones, as well.  In this era of technology you also have robotic litter boxes that are self cleaning by scooping out the solid wastes after the cat is done with its job.

The brand of litter is also important and you need to stick to something that it likes. Also take care to teach your cat to use the box. Always keep it clean and tidy.

Scratching Post

The next important thing is perhaps the scratching post to keep your curtains, bed sheets, sofa and furniture from getting scratched by your pet’s nails. While playing, it can keep scratching quite often and vigorously.

A post should be sturdy and tall: its height should be at least 25 to 30 inches. Cats grow taller and they will like to scratch on something they can climb on while standing on their hind legs.



Grooming is also an important aspect. As with other pets, cats prefer to keep themselves neat and tidy. But you will need to properly groom your cat regularly. Use proper combs and brushes to brush its fur. Take care with the face, eyelids and whiskers. There is nothing like playing with a furry cat, and when you take proper care of your pet, you both only get closer.

You will also need  to use properly cleaned utensils to serve your cat with her daily diet. Cats can have allergies to plastic, but you can use glass and ceramic much more confidently.

Written by Earlene Krause

How To Introduce Your Pet Rat To A New Brother

pet rat 3

Take Him Back–How To Tell Your Pet Rat A New Brother Is On The Way

Several months ago a friend of ours on Facebook made an announcement.  The female rat she had recently rescued had just delivered a surprise litter of babies, which she wasn’t prepared for and couldn’t keep.  I got in touch right away and said that we already had two boys who were old enough to be ready for introductions to new “siblings.” Plans were made on her end, but plans were also made on ours.

How To Introduce Your Pet

Before I continue with this article, I am going to pause and point out that any time you are introducing pets to one another, (same species or otherwise) you MUST know your animals inside and out.  If you have a pet who is very territorial or grumpy, even with you, tossing them another “friend” to play with isn’t necessarily a good idea.  Read your pet’s body language, understand their feelings.  Consult an expert if you are uncertain what path you should take.  Do NOT rush in to animal introductions.  Be prepared for this process to take a lot of time, if necessary.  Keep yourself and your pets safe and happy, and do not be afraid to admit that your pet might want to be an ONLY pet.  Sometimes that happens and it is perfectly okay, just remember that YOU will need to give your pet that extra companionship they would normally get from one of their own kind.

Now, back to the story at hand.  I am certain that right now there are some people who have never owned small pets before, or who have gotten their pets at a pet store, and are going to be jumping in their seats, shouting, “Don’t put them together! The pet store said not to!”  Here’s the issue with that, the store is only half right and they are saying what they are saying mostly for their own protection.  A lot of small animals are colony type animals, meaning that like fish, they prefer to be in a large group of their own kind.  All animals, however, are territorial and in the wild these colonies would all be members of a family, watching each other grow up and get old, they would not be surprised to have a new litter of babies suddenly show up among them. For those animals, that is the natural order of things.  Your two, innocent little darlings at home are living in ignorant bliss inside of their nice, spacious cage and aren’t at all thinking that suddenly they are about to be jumped on by a pair of rambunctious youngsters.

pet rat 2

Your Pet Rat and Territory

Well then, why worry about the age difference?  Why not just throw all the rats of the same age into one group together?  Here comes that territorial nature again.  Someone will want to be the dominant personality.  Just like in your old high school, there’s a class clown, but there’s also the class president and the homecoming  king and queen.  One of the best things that you can do for your rats is to stagger their ages, so that they will avoid the more angered disputes and settle more easily into a life together.  You won’t have four rats of the same age all establishing territory and duking it out to see who is going to be top dog. The older rats are older, the younger rats will get that and there will be a certain amount of respect there, in most normal circumstances.  Also, you want to think about what will happen when your elderly rat passes.  He or she will have been survived by a brother or sister, who will be all alone.  This is NOT the time to rush out and thrust babies at them.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Would you rather be comforted during a time of loss by your closest friend or a random, energetic stranger off the street?

Diemos in box.

Diemos in box.

Our two rats, North and Whisper have been with us a while.  They aren’t elderly, but they aren’t spring chickens, and for all of the reasons above, it was time for us to consider young siblings for them to spend time with.  Then along come Phobos and Deimos, fate plopping them practically into our laps.  The introduction process that we use is fairly simple, though it sounds very complex, and I will break it down into easy to follow steps.

Again, I will remind readers that every animal is different and what works for us might not work for you.  Constant supervision is key.  We suffered two accidental and terrible losses in our household in two separate instances; once when a male I was rat-sitting for attacked and killed my little baby while I was diligently watching them and was certain I had kept enough barriers between them, another time one of our extremely elderly females attacked and killed a newborn who had worked his way out of the transport container we use when we are cleaning cages.  (The elderly rat was not the mother and we are certain she was also not in her right mind, as this kind of behavior wasn’t at all normal for her.)

rats sharing food
Step 1:  All the Medical Stuff
New animals to a household bring with them new germs.  It’s the same idea behind everyone saying that teachers have a boosted immune system because they are subjected to more junk throughout the year or that kids going to a new school are going to get sick within the first weeks because they are bound to catch every bug around.  New rats into a building should be kept under a strict quarantine, even if you know exactly where they came from.  This prevents those germs from spreading and making everyone sick all at once, but it also helps them realize something is going on.  We typically go through a four week quarantine period, but in the case of Phobos and Deimos, we ended the strictest part of the quarantine a little earlier, as we had been watching them grow as babies and were well aware of their health.

During this step you want to have a separate cage in a separate room, where there will be no chance of someone sneezing and the germs spraying across a distance to the other cage.  If you handle one pair, go and change your clothes, wash your hands, then hold the other pair.  It sounds extreme, but they are small steps to take for preventing the spread of any kind of illness.  Keep in mind, some illnesses common to rats will NOT show symptoms for three or four weeks.   You will also want to be certain that your new rats have a totally different play area, not only because of germs, but because of territory, which we will discuss further along.

Phobos the rat


Step 2: Listening, Smelling, Understanding
Once we go through the quarantine process, I always test how the older rats will handle having the new ones in their lives by letting them smell me after I have handled the younger ones.  The older rats are used to me smelling like strange people, since I am a teacher and come into close contact with over 50 preschoolers every day.  They are also used to smelling other animal smells on me, such as my sister’s dog or my friend’s cat.  These new rats are just strange new smells to them.  Oh, they’re rat smells, to be sure, but they’re only smells.  If one of my older rats begins to fluff his or her fur or display other signs of being angered or aggressive when encountering these new smells, I know that this process is going to take a lot longer than normal, or be impossible all together.  In this stage separation is still very important, as is the play spaces having no overlap.  Territory is still very important.  This phase doesn’t have a time frame, it differs for each rat, with Whisper and North, it lasted only a day or two, as we  were certain that these two had already figured out we had other rats in the house.  (A story for another time.)  Neither one much seemed to care that we smelled of strange rats, so we skipped along quickly to the next phase.

Diemos the rat.


Step 3: I See You, Stranger
This step also doesn’t last very long in our household and I have never met anyone who uses steps 2 and 3 in their introduction training, but I prefer to walk each pair past the others a few times before formal introductions are made.  This little walk consists of picking up one pair, walking into the other room, which will smell of the other rats and is clearly their territory, letting them encounter the cage at a distance and listening to me talk to the new rats.  We then walk on past the cage, return to whatever we were doing and the pair I am holding gets high praises and attention.   This is the “yes you have a baby brother, but I still love you” treatment.  Any older sibling knows it.  And while I have no physical proof that it does any good what so ever, it certainly doesn’t hurt anyone.  It also provides another chance for you to see how your rats will react to each other.  If there are any signs of aggression, you will be aware without having put anyone in danger.

Phobos with seed cake.

Phobos with seed cake.

Step 4: We’re Not In Kansas Anymore
You have just spent a month in isolation and a week or two of checking each other out at a glance… now it’s time to explore Strange New Worlds.  Yes, you read that exactly right.  You have to find yet ANOTHER territory for your rats.  This MUST be a place where neither the old or new rats have ever spent much time before.  It isn’t a play space, it’s a NEUTRAL territory that is FREE AND CLEAR of all toys.  Sometimes it is helpful to have a dish of soft oats, baby food or yogurt out as a distraction, but make sure that it is something your rat can not run away with. They have to eat it out of the dish.  Be careful to use the food only if you know that your rats aren’t going to fight over it.  If anyone starts to look angry or fight over food, remove it IMMEDIATELY.

In our house the bathtub is the place where we get down and dirty with introductions.  We put soft towels down to cover the slick bottom and make it comfortable, then put one rat at a time into the new area.  You must do this slowly and in my opinion, it always helps to start with the calmest of your rats, the one you trust the most to set a good example for the others.  His vibes will help set the pace for the others to follow.  For us, this was North, so he got to wander the tub first, followed by his brother, Whisper, and then Phobos was introduced, followed by Deimos.  We already knew there would be no fighting over the food dish, so we used the yogurt to see how they would handle sharing and handle being in close proximity to each other in a free setting.  In this case, everyone was so curious about the bathtub no one really bothered anyone else.

This phase went on for three days with these four rats, we have had it last longer for some and shorter with others. (Yet another story for another time.) When the neutral territory test is completed, we introduce the older rats first into the new rats play space, for a day or two, then put everyone together in what is the daily rat play area. They are still living in separate cages for a week or so in this process, which gives the older rats a break from the high energy youngsters, but also gives the younger ones a break from being worried all the time about larger rats being upset at them.  We start introducing the new rats into the routines: outside-of-cage time in the morning, while I am getting ready for work, outside-of-cage time in the afternoon  and evening, when I am home from work.  Within a week or so of this process, we will be ready to put Phobos and Deimos permanently into the big cage with North and Whisper.  I always plan for that day to be a day when I am home for the entire time and can be sitting in their room with them for every minute they are in the cage together – just in case.  Typically, though, that’s a precaution you don’t need to take, because you have taken all the rest and you will know your rats well by this point, just as they will know each other.

pet rat 1

Younger Rats Show the Older, Older Rats Show The Younger

The whole process of introducing new pets to old pets sounds far more complicated than it is, but each and every step is worth the effort, when you see your happy rats all snuggled up together inside their nesting box or watch one of the young ones teach the older one how to get into the hammock and convince him that he really DOES like it.   Of course, you might end up like we did and have one of the older rats show the younger two how to steal the food dish from where it belongs and drag it into all kinds of nifty hiding places inside the cage., but in the end it’s all worth it.  After all, as my father always said; “How can you not love those little faces?”

Mirrani 300   Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

Ask The Trainer: Do Dogs Need A Pack Leader?

dog and trainerOnce Again, Here’s Our Ask The Trainer Feature!

I often get asked the question: do dogs need a pack leader? My answer is yes, dogs need a good pack leader. Dogs by nature need some one to lead them. Even the small breeds need a leader. Problem dog behavior such as social issues, fear biters, separation anxiety and other dog behavior issues develop because the dog does not have a good leader.

dog tricksHow To Be The Alpha Dog/Be A Good Pack Leader

So, what is a good pack leader? A good pack leader has calm, assertive energy.  A good pack leader does not yell or scream.  A good pack leader is consistent in what they are asking of their pack. They do not ask the pack, “Would you like to do this?”  Instead, they lead the way . A good pack leader has great focus on what they are asking of the pack…and is also very clear in communication.

How To Solve Dog Behavior Issues

Some of the ways you can become your dogs pack leader are: Always have your dog walk beside you and be your partner. Reward calm behavior. Never reward a dog when they are feeling nervous or scared.  This only makes the dog think they are doing the right behavior. Pack leaders always go out the gate or door first.  As the pack leader, you should be able to take food and toys away from your dog. Always feed your dog when they are calm.

dog and soldierYour canine friend will be a happy well balanced dog, if you will be a good, calm, assertive pack leader.  And here’s a great video to demonstrate how to be the alpha dog with subtlety!

Tina CaldwellTina Caldwell, our Training Editor and author of “ask the trainer”, has been training dogs and their families for about twenty years. She likes to work with all kinds of dogs and people, and has shown and competed in many different events over the years.   Some of her specialties are conformation, obedience and agility trials.  Her favorite breed of dog is the Cane Corso. You can contact Tina through Petsmart Eastgate in Cincinnati, or at training@yourpetspace.info

Flea And Tick Season Is No Joke

Scratchy DogOkay, so it’s April Fool’s Day–but that’s no reason you have to feel like an idiot about flea and tick season.  Yep, there’s a lot to know about the situation and a lot of products to choose from.  When exactly is flea and tick season?  And how does one decide between Advantage or Frontline? Or between Frontline or Advantix?

Why Are Fleas and Ticks Important To Prevent?

These insects live on the blood of our pets.  And did you know fleas can jump thousands of times (an average is the length of three football fields) and up to two feet in each jump in search of a host?  :: shudder ::  Fleas live sixteen days to twenty-one months, depending on the environment, feeding on your dog or cat about once every two days.

FleaFleas can cause anemia in adult dogs.  And in puppies a flea infestation can be life threatening.  Pets who are allergic to the saliva of fleas can have problems after a single bite of one insect.

TickTicks are often picked up in urban parks and deep woods, and can transmit serious diseases in pets.  Diseases like ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and others.

When Is Flea and Tick Season Where I Live?

Well, it all depends on temperature and humidity.  For instance, if you live in California or Nevada, flea and tick season begins in February and runs through October.  If you’re in Florida, Pennsylvania or Ohio, the season starts closer to March.

Which Is Better: Natural or Traditional Flea and Tick Products?

Honestly, Dave and I are fanatical about doing everything natural we can for our pets, just as we choose organic solutions for ourselves.  BUT, our experience has been negative with the use of organic flea and tick repellants.  When we picked out our Brittany puppy, Castle, the breeder explained she had been using brewer’s yeast to prevent fleas.  When we spoke to our vet, she was adamant that this does not work.  But, we took that with a grain of salt since, after all, our vet’s office sells flea and tick preventatives.  Dave chose a natural product for her, which contained rosemary, lemon, lavender and peppermint.  That sweet little dog smelled like we were cooking all the time!

And yet–not very long into our first season with her, Castle presented with fleas–and it turned out she had an allergy to them!  By the time we discovered her treatment wasn’t working, it was an expensive trip to the vet to get her comfortable, plus we had to treat all our cats and dogs, just to make sure none of her visitors were jumping off for a ride on anyone else!  Not good.

Having said that, if you’re reading this and you’ve had an awesome experience with a natural flea and tick preventive, we’d LOVE to have you write a review on it.  😉

Vectra For DogsTraditional Flea and Tick Season Products In General

First of all, there are all kinds of ingredients in different products on the market–most are topical, but some are oral.  Any topical product you choose needs to be waterproof.  You want to make certain you do not use products designed for dogs on cats, and vice versa.

It’s super important that you get specifics from your vet on which product is safe to use on your puppy, or your lactating or pregnant pet.  And be cautious if your pet has a history of seizures.  Some products require your pet to test negative for heartworm before use.  And some should only be given with food.

Advantage logoHow Do I Decide Between Advantage or Frontline? between frontline or advantix?

Advantage’s benefits are: this topical product is available for dogs or cats and can be used on puppies and kittens.  It is waterproof, is given monthly and kills 98% of pre-existing fleas in twelve hours; then new fleas in two hours.  Contains a flea sterilizer.

frontline (400 x 265)Frontline’s benefits are: this topical product is available for dogs or cats and can be used on puppies and kittens.  It is waterproof, is given monthly.  BUT only its PLUS line contains flea sterilization, and it takes longer to work (twenty four hours to translocate, then four to eighteen hours to kill fleas).

Flea And Tick Season, K9_AdvantixAdvantix’s benefits are: this superior topical product is available for dogs or cats and can be used on puppies and kittens.  It is waterproof, is given monthly and contains a flea sterilizer. 98% of fleas are dead in twelve hours.  It also kills ticks; repels flies and mosquitos.

Flea And Tick Season, Vectra For CatsWe like: Vectra 3D because: this topical product is available for dogs (even as small as 2.5 lbs) or cats and can be used on puppies and kittens.  It is waterproof, is given monthly and kills 96% of fleas in six hours. In addition, it kills ticks and repels flies and mosquitos!

But it is not recommended for pregnant or lactating pets.

Using a different product altogether and want to see how it compares?  Go here.

      So yeah–dealing with fleas and ticks is no joke.  Your pet should not be hosting a flea circus!  Be smart, talk to your vet.  And if you’d like to see how prices compare online, check out Your Pet Rx Space.

  Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Anderson, Ohio.  When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column called The Midwestern Buddhist as well as urban fantasy and humor.  You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as follow her on Facebook or Twitter.



Pet Sitting Tips: How To Find A Pet Sitter


Pet Sitting Tips

Finding a pet sitter can be a daunting task if you’ve ever had to find a suitable day care or babysitter for your children or even locating a long-term care facility for your senior parents, you’ll understand.  Each person’s and each pet’s needs will vary. Here are a few guidelines to consider when looking for “while you’re away” pet sitting for your fur family:

Pet Sitting Instructions For You

  • How long will you be absent from your pets? How do your pets do when separated for long periods of time? If you have dogs or even cats that require a fair amount of attention, consider finding a pet sitter that stays on the premises overnight. Find a sitter that will help you with the most suitable service that best fits your needs.

Pet Sitting Instructions For THEM

  • Each pet sitter communicates with their clients differently while you are away. Some are tech-savvy and some are not.  Find one that will work out a good communication system with you in case of emergencies or even simple inquiries that may have been missed in the initial introductory meeting.
  • Consider having the pet sitter meet your pets before planning your vacation, to see how well your pets get along with him or her, or even suggest a trial period to see how the pets adjust to a different person in the house.

Pet Sitting Instructions IN GENERAL

  • Some pet sitters carry insurance–not all; however, finding one that is insured and bonded can be a good bonus to consider for peace of mind. Many are pet first aid certified as well.
  • Locate a pet sitter through referrals from your vet clinic, online groups such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Some places such as the Chamber of Commerce may have listings of pet sitters in your town as well. Get advice from your friends, family or even co-workers, as well. Craigslist and Kijiji will mostly have postings from young people looking for extra money or place to stay while attending college/university. Find a sitter that cares more about your pets. Trust your gut instincts to put your trust in a new person in your pet’s lives!

maine coon catMore pet sitting tips:  There are all types of “while you’re away” pet sitting. Some only do dog-walking Mondays through Fridays, some only do cat-sitting and not overnight stays, some only do small animal care, and some consider doing farm jobs as well. Some will stay at your house and some will board your animals in their own homes. There are many options available to you out there!

Pampered Critters Logoby Jen McEachen

Pet Sitter/Owner of Pampered Critters


Jen grew up with an assortment of animals including cats, dogs and rabbits. She began “hobby” sitting for a few people in 2004. Having graduated from the College of New Caledonia in 2008 with certification in Applied Business Technology, she was awakened in early June 2010 by a dream – the dream that ultimately set her on the path to establishing Pampered Critters. She’s always had a strong compassion towards animals and clients, and really, pet and house-sitting seemed a far more suitable career path for her than sitting in an office and being an administrative assistant.

Her interests mainly surround animals, disability advocacy, and some recreational activities including bowling and socializing with friends. She volunteers her time as the volunteer resources coordinator at the Canadian Red Cross’ HELP (Health Equipment Loan Program) depot and also volunteers for the Canadian Cancer Society as well. Contact her at:  www.pamperedcritters.ca

Pet Health Insurance–Needed Or Not?

pet health insurance surgeryWe’ve had one cat and two dogs die of cancer without the benefit of pet health insurance.  So Dave and I know how it feels to be a pet parent with a sick baby.  Some of our staff have had the experience also of their pets suffering life threatening injuries and having to foot expensive veterinary bills.  So we did a bit of research on the subject of pet health insurance.  Here’s what you need to know:

Pet Health Insurance Then And Now

At one time, pet health insurance was something owners just never needed–not only was the public’s attitude toward their pets more like property, but veterinary science had not caught up to the technology offered to human patients.  However, now vets can offer radiation therapy, kidney transplants, MRIs, open heart surgery and cancer treatment, just to name a few.  So the price tag for emergency care has gone up–and pet health insurance is firmly on the table of choices.

Is Affordable Pet Health Insurance Possible?

In a world where more than 12 billion dollars is spent annually on veterinary care, even places like the American Kennel Club and Petco have partnered with insurers to offer  pet health insurance.  And employers such as Office Depot and Google offer the coverage as part of their employee benefit packages.  Vets say that more often than not, if pet parents had invested in pet health insurance before a major illness or injury, they would not have had to resort to euthanasia of a pet that could have been saved.  However, Consumer Reports did a study a few years back, the result of which was a recommendation that pet owners avoid pet health insurance premiums, and instead start a pet health savings account in case of an injury or illness.

What To Look For In Pet Health Insurance

pet health insurance piggy bank

But let’s say you do want to go ahead with obtaining pet health insurance–what should you look for?

  1. Is the insurer registered with your state?
  2. What is the deductible?  How much are co-pays, caps or limits?
  3. What are the exclusions?  (Such as hip dysplasia in certain breeds.)
  4. Is there a pre-existing conditions clause?
  5. Is there a difference in cost according to the age of your pet?
  6. How does the cost of one company’s policy compare to another?  (This can vary widely!)

If you’re getting the feeling it’s much like shopping for human insurance–you’re right!  And just like your own policy, the purchase of pet health insurance is more an exercise in risk management than anything else.  Statistics show that most people are not going to get back what they pay out in premiums for pet health insurance.

On the other hand, the people that have are pretty happy they made the investment.


 Joy JonesJoy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area.  She is also a  syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave (below). When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.

Betta Fish: Not Always Fighters, Sometime Lovers

Betta fish-- Photographer William Picard

Betta fish– Photographer William Picard

First off, what is a betta fish?  Everyone has seen them in the fish section of the pet store; brightly colored fish with long fins, sitting in tiny little pots.  Most people look and think, “Poor little fish, they’re so cramped and lonely.”  The truth is that betta fish come from Thailand, where their natural habitat consists of locations like shallow ponds, swamps, and rice paddies, and the males are highly aggressive, so the pet store is right about on target when it comes to their display.  But there is more to the story when it comes to keeping them as pets.

The first thing everyone does when they buy a betta fish is pick out the tank and these beautiful fish seem to provide a chance to combine flowers and fish all in one.  Many use a vase and flower setup for their betta fish, thinking it is more natural because of the original habitat, but what you have to remember when selecting any aquarium is that you are providing a CONTAINED environment for your fish, not one where nature has taken action, providing an entire ecosystem.  Most importantly, the betta fish actually requires access to the outside air.  Yes, I said it: air.  They have a special organ that allows them to take in air from the surface and if you block off that access to air, your fish can actually suffer from lack of oxygen.  The quick point: Avoid the vase.  Pick something small to help with mimicking habitat and remember that your fish will prefer water at room temperature (75 or 80 degrees) that isn’t filtered and doesn‘t really have any flow.

Still, once you have your simple tank, you’re going to want to entertain your fish.  Most pet owners agree that intellectual stimulation is very important for any animal and your fish is no exception.  Plus no one wants to see a fish in a box.  It’s just unnatural.  A fish in a box with STUFF, now that’s more like it.  The most important point I can make regarding toys is this: The common misconception is that betta fish WANT to play with a mirror all the time.  These guys are called fighting fish for a reason, they fight, but think of it another way.  Would YOU want to spend every waking minute of your life, trapped in a tiny room, facing the moving image of someone who drove your blood pressure through the roof?  Didn’t think so.  While it is natural for your betta to encounter his reflection every now and then, please remember to remove your mirror after a few minutes.  If you want some more permanent toys, consider the more natural solutions.  There are floating logs and leaf hammocks made for betta fish to interact with, which simulate the natural environment and are far more comfortable for them to use on a permanent basis.

Betta fishNow we come to the part where we talk about food, where most new fish owners see the words “meat” or “live” and begin to get squeamish.  Keep in mind your new betta is a natural at catching mosquitoes and other insects.  He isn’t a vegetarian and you should make certain that the food you are giving him has the right stuff.  They make flakes and pellets for betta fish, but to have a truly healthy fella swimming beside you, it’s best to supplement with brine shrimp, glassworms or other such foods that can be found frozen or freeze dried.

It all sounds complicated, and now you won’t believe me when I say it, but these are actually some of the easiest fish to care for.  If you are unsure of your chosen setup, just ask the people at your pet shop.  Trained professionals can easily point you to the right items to include for a happier, healthier fish friend.  We used to have two betta fish in our home, Eric and Cody.  They’re more social than you would expect.  Our two lived side by side on our computer desk, each in their own setup (Never put two males together in the same tank!) which we could move closer together or farther apart, making their natural interactions replace the need for a mirror.  Eric and Cody knew when we came home and would swim to “meet us at the door.”  They loved humans occupying their space and one even had a “romantic interest” in my computer’s mouse, often flirting with it and making bubble nests in preparation for becoming a fishy father.  (Yes, it’s the men who care for the children when it comes to betta fish.)

To put it all simply, make sure that just like getting a dog or a cat, your betta isn’t a rush purchase.  Take the time to select just the right habitat for your needs and grab a toy or two for the needs of your fish.  Most importantly, if you have a question, ask a professional.  They’re out there to help you and they’re the best resource there is.

Mirrani 300Mirrani Houpe has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade.  Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them.  She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@earthlink.net.

For Aquarium Supplies, Your Pet Space recommends Better Life Pets!

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Grooming: It Always Grows Back

grooming a long hair catWhen my daughter was fifteen, she came home with her head shaved.  When we asked her why she did it, she said, “I was just tired of the whole hair thing.”

Ever feel this way as a pet owner?  I know that when I was selecting the breeds of our current pets, I passed on the beautiful collie and the sweet looking ragdoll, because I knew I’d never find the time for all…that…brushing.

But for those that can’t resist the pull of a long haired pet, there’s always the groomer, right?  Sure!  Except, turns out choosing a groomer is just as hard as finding yourself that perfect hairdresser.  We’ve read dozens of bad grooming stories all over the internet.  We also talked to some groomers.  Then we compiled this list of things to know and look for if you’re thinking about trusting your fur baby to a grooming professional.

1.)    Call for an appointment.  Don’t just show up in a hurry.  (In a really good salon, people schedule appointments.  Period.)

2.)    Be polite.  I know, most of you would never think of being rude.  But this happens to groomers so often, it made the list.

3.)    Let them know on the phone about any health issues your pet has: recent surgeries, allergies, etc.  I work in a medical office and I can tell you that you’d be surprised at how important these things can be, even if you don’t think they can possibly affect anything.

4.)    Don’t lie.  Tell them if the pet has fleas.  They can deal with it, but do them the courtesy of NOT infesting their facility or other pets.

5.)    Tell them if your dog has special quirks: doesn’t like its nails or ears trimmed, is afraid of the dryer, etc.

6.)    Advise them of recent home environment changes or stresses—sick family members, additions to the family, etc.  Pets are very sensitive to changes in their families, and alerting groomers ahead of time can save them getting a nasty bite if the pet is just stressed.

7.)    Be clear and honest about what you want.  The number one complaint in bad grooming stories is the pet owner did not get what they asked for.  This can happen for many reasons: instructions passing through many people before getting to the actual groomer, pet owners asking for harmful things (such as a groomer friend asked to shave a dog down in the blasting heat of summer, risking him being sunburned), or groomers who have had SO many cases of people NOT really wanting what they ask for that they’re actually afraid to follow instructions!

8.)    Always leave a phone number where you can be reached right away.  Groomers rarely need to use this, but if they do, you want to be available.

9.)    Listen to the groomer’s advice after the visit, and ask questions about home grooming.

Also be aware that…

Most states require rabies vaccines by law, prior to grooming—and some salons require proof of even more vaccines.  On every call, you should check to make sure they have your dog’s most recent records on file.  Salons will turn you away when you arrive if the pet’s documents are not in order.

Certain issues increase price, such as:

1.)    Matting (severe matting can only be removed by a vet)

2.)    Fleas

3.)    Bad behavior

grooming a long hair dogWhat you can do at home, prior to your pet’s grooming visit:

Prevent matting—you cannot brush your long haired pet too often.  Good places:

  • Behind the ears
  • The rear end
  • Under the collar
  • The butt
  • The legs
  • Anywhere the hair is rubbed together or gets petted often

To prevent behavior problems:

  • Touch their feet and nails
  • Touch their undercarriage and legs
  • Expose them to a dryer/vaccuum
  • Touch them with the handle of an electric toothbrush or razor (vibration)
  • Bring them for grooming more often, even if just for a quick nail trim.

If you sometimes groom your pet at home, try clipping a nail and then feeding your pet a treat. Clip another nail or two and feed another treat. In this way, pets learn that grooming is just part of your love for them.

A word about biting:  Tell the groomer if your pet bites.

And don’t think your pet won’t.  I can tell you from experience that some of ours have.  Behaviorists know that being physically restrained (even in human children) activates the emotional fear and rage system in most animals.  It just does.  If your groomer is bitten, they are required by law to report your pet.  If you let them know in advance this could happen or you’re not sure, they can help prevent it.

Why you are not allowed “back there”:

Many salons now offer a window where you can watch the grooming happen.  However, groomers do not encourage owners being in the room with them because pets (much like human children, I’m told by child care experts) behave differently when owners are present.  Our Brittany, Castle, for instance, cries aloud in the presence of my husband when the vet walks into the room to give her a shot, but before the woman has even touched her.

And, one way that salons keep the cost of grooming reasonable is by not paying for insurance so you can go “back there”.  Pets are often worked by several groomers at once in a rotation, depending on the stage of their visit.  Add an owner to this orderly mix and you can imagine the problems that could ensue.

grooming a long hair cat profileSo—what ever happened about my daughter’s hair?  It grew back, of course.  Despite all of this, you could still have a bad grooming visit.  But guess what?  Hair grows back.  It always grows back.

   Joy Jones is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Anderson, Ohio.  When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column called The Midwestern Buddhist as well as urban fantasy and humor.  You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info as well as follow her on Facebook or Twitter.