Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pet Alpacas for Fun and Profit

Looking for an Unusual Pet - Think Alpacas

History of Alapacas

Alpacas originated over three million years ago. They  belong to the camel family (camelids) and were native to central North America. During the Ice Age, they migrated south, never to be seen in North America again, at least not in the wild.

As time went on, the original camelid transformed into the vicuna and guanaco, roaming the wilds of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. People living in these areas domesticated the vicuna, breeding them  for their soft, insulated coats. The vicuna eventually became today's alpacas.

Alpaca Personality and Size

Alpacas make wonderful pets because of their gentle, easygoing nature. They are very cooperative and submissive, making them ideal as a family pet. Alpacas love to be around the family members and become attached to them. They never spit at people unless they are teased but will spit at other alpacas.

Alpacas communicate by moving their ears and tails into different positions. Alpaca owners soon learn what the different positions mean. Alpacas also hum and make a shrill scream if they are frightened.

Adult alpacas are usually three feet tall to the shoulder or four and a half feet to the top of the head. They weigh about 16 pounds when they are born and grow to approximately 150 to 175 pounds as adults.

Training Alpacas

Alpacas are smart animals making them easy to train. Repeating a behavior four of five times is all the alpaca needs to learn the desired skill. Training an alpaca is very similar to training a dog. They learn how to walk with a lead and halter, get into a vehicle. Alpacas are able to ride in a station wagon or minivan.

Feeding Alpacas

Feeding alpacas is much cheaper than feeding most pets. They have three stomach compartments, just like sheep and cattle, chewing their cud. Alpacas require only two or three bales of hay every month. A veterinarian may recommend vitamin and mineral supplements for pet alpacas.

Best Climates for Alpacas

Pet alpacas thrive in almost any climate. When the weather is very hot, alpacas should be sheared and placed in a shady area with water sprinklers. Alpacas also do very well in cold weather but must be kept in a barn that is closed to winter weather conditions. For all other weather conditions, pet alpacas only need a three-sided shelter.

Alpaca Fleece

Pet alpacas are not only fun but are profitable, as well. It's soft, dense fleece is used for making yarn, fabric, and even stuffed animals. Raising alpacas for fleece or breeding is an expensive venture but can be profitable over time. A small herd is needed for both breeding and shearing, so most alpaca owners stick to owning one or two as pets.

Alpaca Cost

The cost of alpacas depends upon their qualities and if they are being raised for fleece, breeding, or stud. A gelded alpaca male can cost as little as $500.00, while a female used for breeding can cost as much as $20,000.00.

Pet alpacas usually range from $500.00 to $1500.00. Research many different alpaca farms before purchasing your pet to find the best price for your budget.

Phil Switzer, Switzer Land Farm, "Alpacas: Just the Facts"
Rock Ridge Alpacas

Photo Credit: By Kyle Flood from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (Alpaca) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Your First Dog Agility Trial: What to Expect

So, you and your dog have been training for months or even years for your first agility trial. You feel you are ready for the competition ring and just thinking about it gives you butterflies in your stomach. Your first agility
trial can be nerve-wracking but understanding what happens at the trial helps alleviate some of your fears. Try not to be concerned with earning Q's your first time out and stay lighthearted to prevent your dog from getting anxious.

Waiting Area

Waiting between agility events is harder than competing because you and your dog have time to stress over the situation. Having a comfortable waiting area will keep your dog comfortable and help you remain calm. Bring a crate for your dog to rest in between events and a chair for you. A crate cover works wonders if your dog becomes nervous from all the sights and sounds of other dogs and cheering crowds. The cover gives your dog his own safe area, making him feel grounded and secure. Your dog can stay in the crate while you observe other competitors or volunteer to help with the events.

Judge's Explanation

Before you begin your first agility event, all the competitors gather at the ring to hear the judge's explanation of the rules about scoring, handler behavior and dog behavior. You can ask any questions you might have about the run at this time.

Walk the Course

Take advantage of the time allotted for walking the course. The more familiar you are with the course layout, the less anxious you will be during your run. As you walk the course, figure out which obstacles require a front-cross or a rear-cross, so you do not find yourself on the wrong side of your dog during the run. Look for patterns in the course layout to help your remember the order of the run. Although the agility obstacles are numbered, it is difficult to watch for the numbers and watch your dog at the same time, so following patterns can help.

Agility Run

Agility rules require your dog to run the course without a collar or a leash. A leash runner takes your dog's leash and collar at the start line and hands it back to you when as you cross the finish line.
The event timer begins as soon as your dog crosses the first obstacle, so take your time settling your dog before starting the run. Once your dog crosses the first obstacle, there is no turning back and restarting.
Stay positive during your run, smile at your dog and use an upbeat voice. Keep your dog happy, no matter if he knocks off a jump bar or misses an obstacle. The main thing is to keep your dog's first agility trial fun. A dog that has a negative experience the first time around is less likely to perform any better the next time.

Finish Line

Once you cross the finish line, put your dog's collar and leash back on. Immediately go to your dog's treats and give him a jackpot. Agility trials strengthen the bond between you and your dog. It doesn't matter if your dog qualified, as long as you worked as a team and had fun.


North American Dog Agility Council
Steve Schwarz, "Learning Front Cross," Agility Nerd

Friday, June 20, 2014

Top 5 Pet Pinterest Boards to Follow

Here are five of the top pet Pinterest boards to follow for animal lovers. Four of them involve how to take care of your pets and the fifth one has some great photos of kittens and cats. Check them out for some great information on pet adoption, care and health tips. 

This pet adoption board will pull at your heart strings, that’s for sure. When I check this board, I want to adopt all of the animals but, alas, I can’t do that. If you’re thinking about adopting a cat or a dog, check out the Pet Adopt and Rescue board on Pinterest and you could save an animal’s life. 

Also, if you’re trying to find a home for a pet you can’t keep, you can post a photo and information about him on this board and maybe a kind-hearted soul will adopt him.

This is a pet care Pinterest board sponsored by the ASPCA. It is loaded with pet care tips to help keep your pet safe, healthy and happy. You can find homemade dog treat recipes, healthcare information, how pets communicate and so much more. Check out the ASPCA Pet Care Tips board and find out everything you need to know about owning a pet.

This pet Pinterest board is sponsored by Petplan Pet Insurance and features some great information about pet health and care. An example of the pins on Pet Health Tips include games you can play with your dog, common puppy illnesses, soothing stressed dogs and traveling with pets.

Pet MD  

PetMD, an expert resource for the health and care of pets, sponsors this Pinterest pet care board. You can find information on adopting pets, behavior and training, veterinarian advice, pictures of cute animals and so much more. The PetMD pins include advice on fish care, cats, dogs, horses, turtles and exotic pets.

This cat Pinterest board is strictly for high-quality photos of all types of domestic cats. So, if you just want to browse through some funny and adorable cat images, check out the pins at Puuurfect Cats. The board only accepts friendly comments and has some of the best cat photos for all you cat lovers out there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homemade Insect Repellents for Pets and People

Sunny skies and warm weather compel us to get outside with our dogs and romp in the grass or go for nature hikes in the woods. Unfortunately, all the biting insects, and blood sucking ticks, fleas and mosquitoes have the same idea. You don’t have to change your plans about enjoying the good weather if you prepare before you head out the door with your pet.

It’s not healthy to use bug repellents that contain DEET on your dog, but there are some non-toxic alternatives made with natural ingredients that can keep those nasty bugs off your dog. The following tips for using natural bug repellents can help repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

HomemadeNatural Bug Repellent

Lemon and Herb Spray - You can use this natural bug repellent for both yourself and your pet. Take a lemon and cut it into one-quarter inch slices.  Place the lemon slices into a saucepan with 4 cups of water. Add 3 or 4 mint leaves or one-quarter teaspoon of mint extract, along with one tablespoon fresh thyme or one teaspoon of dried thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the lemon mixture to sit in the water until cooled or overnight. Pour the water through a strainer and into a spray bottle. Now, you’re ready to go. Spray the lemon-water mixture on your dog’s coat but avoid getting it in his eyes. The citric acid from the lemon will sting.

Vinegar Spray – This insect repellent doesn’t smell the greatest but it is effective in keeping the bugs away from you and your dog. Mix together one cup of apple cider vinegar, ½ cup water, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp baking soda. Stir it gently until blended and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the vinegar mixture on your dog’s fur, avoiding contact with his eyes.

Natural Flea and Tick Control

Washing your dog with this natural flea and tick shampoo will kill any fleas and ticks on your dog. To control fleas and ticks, was your dog with this mixture weekly. It does not work like chemical flea and tick preventatives that you only need to apply monthly. It may take more effort on your part than just applying a tube of flea medication but at least, you are not apply harsh chemicals to your dog’s skin.

Here are the supplies you need to make homemade flea and tick shampoo:

One-quarter cup dish soap (I use Dawn but I don’t think it makes any difference which brand you use). One-quarter cup apple cider vinegar, ½ cup water. Mix all the ingredients together and pour into a squirt bottle. Shampoo your dog with the mixture, making sure to saturate the fur and skin, especially under the chin, legs and around the ears where fleas like to congregate. Let the mixture stay on your dog for about five minutes, the longer the better. Thoroughly rinse all the shampoo out of your dog’s fur. Brush out the fur to remove any dead fleas or ticks. Using this formula regularly can help prevent fleas on your dog and in your home.

If you come across any tough ticks that are still embedded in your dog’s skin, follow these instructions for removing ticks.

Even when using these homemade flea and tick repellents, make sure you have a veterinarian perform a blood test on your dog every year to check for Lyme Disease caused by deer ticks and heartworm from mosquito bites.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cocoa Mulch Is Extremely Toxic to Dogs

Roasted Cocoa Beans
When you’re planning your flowerbeds and landscaping this season, carefully consider the type of mulch you spread in the garden. If you have a dog, avoid using cocoa mulch, which is becoming a popular choice for

Smells Good and Tastes Great to Dogs

Cocoa mulch is extremely toxic for dogs because the sweet smell attracts them and it actually tastes great to dogs. If an unsupervised dog gets into cocoa mulch and eats a large quantity, it could result in severe illness or death. The chemical theobromine in the cocoa mulch is the same chemical as the one in chocolate bars and makes it dangerous when dogs ingest it. Most home and garden stores sell cocoa mulch, which is made from roasted cocoa bean shells.

Cocoa Mulch Symptoms

How severe your dog's symptoms are when eating cocoa mulch depends on how much he weighs and the amount he ingests. According to Kansas State University veterinarian, Dr. Susan Mulch, if your dog weighs 20 pounds, eating only an ounce of cocoa mulch can cause adverse symptoms and 1.5 ounces can have severe symptoms such as:
  • vomiting
  • racing heart
  • diarrhea
  • muscle spasms
  • seizures
  • death

If your dog eats cocoa mulch, call your veterinarian immediately. If it’s been less than two hours since ingesting the cocoa mulch, the vet can induce vomiting. Anti-seizure drugs are also used for dogs having seizures from eating cocoa mulch. The digestive problems caused by eating the mulch can result in dehydration and your dog will be placed in intensive care for treatment.

Although cocoa mulch smells wonderful and looks great, it is better to stick with traditional mulches for your garden, like shredded hardwoods and compost. 

Image Credit: Creative Commons By Chocolaterie-nestlé-broc-fèves-cacao-torrefiées

Monday, March 31, 2014

It’s Tick Time: Do You Have Your Frontline?

Well, it’s official. I saw my first tick of the season this morning, even with the rain/snow mix pelting down on me. If you stopped applying Frontline Plus to your dog or cat over the winter months, as I did, it’s now time to start up again.

Even though it’s not mosquito season yet, those nasty ticks are up and about, ready to grab onto your dog’s coat (yours too, unfortunately!). Frontline will kill ticks within 24 hours and kills fleas and flea larvae, as well. The ticks may be the first to make an appearance but fleas are not far behind.

If you do find a tick imbedded in your dog or cat's skin, here are instructions on how to remove a tick safely.

Stock up on your Frontline today and start applying it to your dog or cat every month to keep him flea and tick free. I usually buy a multiple pack because it’s more economical. Some vet offices will sell individual applications for you to use each month. If you can’t get to the vet that often or you think you might forget, it might be a better idea to buy at least a 3-pack of Frontline Plus.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My Dog Is Afraid to Ride in the Car

It seems that most dogs love to ride in the car. I see them with their heads out the window, nose sniffing the air, ears flapping in the breeze, and the happiest look ever on the dog’s face.

 (Just a note: it’s dangerous to let your dog hang his head out the window if driving on the highway or in a lot of traffic. I do not recommend letting your dog hang his head out the window for any reason. I am only trying to make the point that most dogs like to ride in the car.)

Not all dogs get that blissful look on their face when they ride in the car. Many dogs whine, pace, drool and try to jump in the front seat when driving in the car. These fearful dogs associate the car with something scary.

If you only bring your dog in the car when you’re going to the vet, the groomer of a kennel, most likely he will be afraid of the car.

Getting Your Dog to Love Car Rides

If your dog is already afraid of riding in the car, this will be a slow process but with patience and treats, you’ll have your dog jumping in the car without a problem.

  •            Using one of your dog’s favorite treats, lure him into the car. Just sit in the car with him, praising him and giving him treats.
  •       Call your dog out of the car and walk around it a few times, and then lure him back into the car with more treats. Do this several times, and then call it a day.
  •           Continue with this process until your dog gets excited to jump into the car 100 percent of the time.
  •            Have your dog get into the car and settle down. You get in the driver’s seat. Start up the car and see how your dog reacts. If he is scared, turn off the car and just sit there until he calms down, giving him more treats.
  •          Start up the car again and talk soothingly to your dog. Give him treats and praise him. If he is still afraid, you might want to try a Thundershirt or use an old t-shirt to snuggly wrap around him. This helps him feel grounded and in control.
  •             Once your dog is settled in the running car, back out of the driveway and take a short ride around the block.
  •       Treat and praise your dog when you pull back into the driveway. Continue this entire process until your dog  is not afraid of driving in the car.
  •        Take your dog for a drive to someplace he really likes, such as to a park for a nice long walk or the beach, if he likes that.

Soon, your dog will associate the car with something wonderful, expecting the ride to end with a fun time or his favorite treats.

Image Credit: By User:Almonroth (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons