Birds need stimulation – why not try training?

cortezMost of my posts are about cats and dogs of course, as that is our primary focus at Green Dog. But I know some of you have birds out there, and today I ran across a few videos about bird training that seemed to really have value – I thought I’d pass along a few to you. (and anyone that enjoys training any species at all can learn from these videos, as the concepts of positive reinforcement training are remarkably similar between species. I’ve trained a lot of animals, from orangutans to rhinos using these exact same techniques, and they work like a dream on dogs and even cats).

Though I wouldn’t personally choose to own a parrot, my work with parrots in the wildlife show/education dept at Zoo Atlanta taught me so much about the value and the mechanics of positive reinforcement training, and it made me respect the intelligence of parrots and especially their great need for mental stimulation.  Parrots don’t do very well with down time – they’ve evolved to live in very complex environments, and their diet is incredibly varied, seasonally fluctuating, spread out over great distances. Not only that, but items in their diet are often difficult to process once they find them (hard shells, fruits with varying rinds and spiny protections, seeds embedded in plants, etc). Sitting around and eating chopped foods out of a bowl is certainly not how parrots are wired, and many difficult behavioral problems are born out of this sort of boredom. At the zoo we used enrichment techniques to introduce variety in their lives when they had down time in their cages, but most importantly we utilized positive reinforcement training programs. This was not only to develop behaviors that would ultimately help us bring educational messages to the public about parrot conservation in the wild, but more importantly to challenge and stimulate the minds of the parrots in our care.

First a fun one: Here’s a video of someone who has taught their parrot a fantastic array of tricks using clicker training. I find the music a bit unfortunate and distracting, but the training is great. Even dog and cat trainers can use most of these tricks as inspirations for the types of behaviors you can train at home – pick up items and put them in specific places, position your body in unique ways, target objects, open and close doors,  even match colors (check out the one towards the end where the parrot has to put a ring on the post of the same color. I once met a trainer who had taught her dog to sort light and dark laundry into two different baskets):

Then the mechanics of it all. I stumbled upon this woman that seems to really have made some good basic videos that would help to get a person started.
First the dos:

and the don’ts:

Going to the You Tube link on the video will show you lots of great videos to get you started like this one on beginning target training. This is a great place to start, especially with a fearful animal or one that is hard to handle.

Training any animal is a perfect way to stimulate their minds and to develop a closer, more positive relationship with that animal. Animals with behavioral problems can truly be helped with positive reinforcement training, both indirectly by providing more stimulation, and directly by allowing you to address issues like handle-ability, food or object guarding, learning to choose calm behaviors over impulsive ones, etc.   If you want tips about clicker training, the internet is loaded with them, and we also have some great books at Green Dog that will help you get started.

Why low fat diets often don’t work to create weight loss in pets

I really do like many of Dr Karen Becker’s video tips on pet nutrition. Check out this great video on why lowfat dry pet foods often do not work to help pets lose weight.

We at Green Dog strongly believe that both dogs and cats do better physically with scheduled feedings as opposed to leaving food in the bowl all day. I know that many of you groan when we say this, as cats especially can be difficult to convince that this is an OK way to be fed. However, if you stick to a schedule (perhaps twice a day at the same time every day), pets will learn that it doesn’t work to complain at 2 pm if they always are fed at 8 am and 6pm (for example). Stick it out, and it will result in healthier, leaner pets. When there are multiple pets in the household, scheduled feedings with discreet portions that disappear after a short time helps to ensure that the fatter animals aren’t able to graze on the food the others leave behind. All of them will quickly learn that there is a window of opportunity available to them for each feeding, and if they don’t eat then, their opportunity vanishes until the next scheduled feeding. It’s perfectly OK and even desirable for carnivores to fast a bit in between meals.  In the wild, carnivores work to find and/or catch their food, their body spends time digesting it, and then a period of time might pass before they are able to secure their next meal. They’re not built as grazers, and constant small amounts of food constantly diverts energy to the digestive process.

Of course, if there is a geriatric animal in the home, or a pet who is underweight or suffering from a health issue, it may be advisable to separate them for additional feedings during the day. Just remember – like humans, weight loss can’t occur without portion control or additional exercise. Higher protein diets can help your pet feel more satiated (full and satisfied) in between meals. Combine this with a bit of extra exercise and you’ll see your pets get slimmer and have more energy!

It’s time for the 4th again!

fireworksHi – As fourth of July is coming up, I want to remind everyone of a few safety tips:
– under no circumstances should animals be left outdoors during that night – too many pets panic and do crazy things to get out. Many many animals wind up in shelters after the 4th for this reason, or worse, are injured or killed because they’re not thinking straight. I’ve also heard nightmare stories of cats and dogs teased or tortured with fireworks by cruel people
– make sure not to bring a dog to a fireworks display – it can be too overwhelming and the sounds can be damaging to their ears. You wouldn’t want to panic the dog and then be stuck in a big crowd that’s hard to get out of. Better to leave the dog at home. However:
– make sure to exercise your pets well in the evening before the noise starts, so some nervous energy can be burned off.
– Make sure they’re in a secure area, and draw the blinds
– You can turn the radio or TV on in a normal volume, but make sure that the station won’t be broadcasting a fireworks display that night! Maybe an ipod on shuffle is a better idea
– Products like Comfort Zone pheromones and mild herbal relaxants like Happy Traveler by Ark Naturals can help some animals to get through the night. We also have a good chewable calming chew for cats from Pet Naturals
– Make sure your animals have up to date info on their ID tags, in case they do get out.
– Animals with mild anxiety can often be jollied out of it – make sure not to reinforce their fears with your behavior – see if you can make it game-time, or give the lucky pet a treat each time there’s a loud one. Sometimes if dogs think you’re having fun, they can be convinced not to worry as much. Things for dogs to chew on can also help to alleviate anxiety for them.
Good Luck!

Have any tips that have worked for you? Share them here!

Home Alone – Funny Video

So the story that’s being passed around with this is that the homeowners couldn’t figure out why the pool furniture, etc were all soaked with water when they came home, and thought neighbor kids were sneaking in while they were gone and using the pool. They set up a camera. Whether or not this is true or they just filmed the dogs having fun with the pool, it’s still a riot. Happy Summer!

Green Dog is on the Move!

counter5

Note: this post was created several years ago – we finished renovations and moved into the new space in July 2010!

That’s our sales counter, on its way to the new location! We were told by the guy who built it that it shouldn’t be moved, as it would likely crack (it’s more than 1000lb and the top is concrete that was poured in place.) Luckily, we found a mover that specializes in moving heavy fragile things (printing presses, etc). So, they used jacks and wheely carts and rolled that thing out to the curb where they picked it up with a forklift, put it on a flatbed, and drove it down to the new place. Again with the forklift, then the wheely carts and jacks, and it was in place! Pretty fun morning actually and trippy to see our counter outdoors. The day didn’t end there though – the big built-in that was at the end of the store was deconstructed and taken down the street as well to be rebuilt. Luckily our contractor (Alpine Designs) is the same guy who built it in the first place 6 years ago and it went really smoothly – we were even able to reuse a good bit of the drywall, which means less painting for me. Check out lots of photos of the renovation and deconstruction, as well as more photos of the counter move on our Facebook page at this link.
Our move is still scheduled to take place on the 4th and 5th of July 2010, and we very much hope to be open the morning of the 6th, if the computer is up and functional. Come check out the store this week to see how different it looks, and score some deals on clearance items!

2 Pet Food Recalls this month

Natural Balance is recalling its Sweet Potato and Chicken flavor dry dog food for possible contamination of Salmonella. See This link for details.

Iams “ProActive Health” cans have incorrect levels of Thiamine in them – this can cause severe symptoms such as vomiting and seizures in a very short period of time. There are reports out there that these cans are still being found on store shelves – you can help protect cats lives if you help to check your local stores’ shelves for this product – see this link for details

Thanks as always to www.Truthaboutpetfood.com for staying on top of these things.

Popcorn Kittens

seriously – if you’re having a bad day, watch this video and the one I posted before it. You’ll have to crack some sort of smile.