Posts Tagged ‘play’

How to keep your rabbits sane

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing a bunny ‘binky’, you will know that it’s hard to beat. The leap and twisting of their body is a sign of pure enjoyment and it’s a true delight to witness. We want bunny ‘binkying’ to be a regular feature in your rabbit’s life, so we’ve got some advice to help them enjoy life to the full.

Imagine being locked in your home and garden, with just the odd trip out to a friend’s house a couple of times a week. Then imagine having no television or radio or anything to keep you occupied. Similarities can be drawn in keeping rabbits cooped up with nothing to play with and no real change to their surroundings, and rabbits can become bored and depressed. So unless they have acres to roam in safety (and let’s face it most of us can’t afford them that luxury), then guess who they will rely on as their source of entertainment? That’s right, you! Quite the responsibility, but don’t panic, we have some handy tips to get you started.

Firstly, make your job easier; give your rabbit as much space as possible for their home. As a minimum, a pair of medium sized rabbits should have an enclosure of 3 x 1 x 1 metres in size. They require at least an uninterrupted three metre length to run and play naturally, as well as a sleeping area. The height of a rabbit enclosure is often overlooked, because their shape is seemingly low to the ground. Rabbits will stand on their hind legs and they must have provision to do so for the health of their skeleton and muscles. With the basics in place, why not also consider whether they can be let out in the garden for a really good explore every now and then. Obviously not recommended unless your garden is enclosed and supervising them is the only way to be sure they’re safe from predators such as cats and dogs and foxes.

Now the real fun starts!  There are all sorts of novel ways you can provide enrichment to your rabbits’ lives, let’s first consider toys. Never underestimate your rabbit’s desire to play. They are full to the brim with character; you just need to press the right buttons to expose it, something which you will find very rewarding. Rabbit toys are available to buy in abundance these days, from balls that they love to push and throw, to activity toys where they must find the hidden treat. But you needn’t spend lots of money, sometimes the simple things in life are the best – consider making your own. A toilet roll stuffed with hay and other treats can provide hours of entertainment.

How about stringing a ‘washing-line’ across their cage and pegging various delights all the way along? Don’t forget furniture too. In the wild a rabbit is used to jumping over logs and roots, and burrowing and tunnelling. So provide platforms and tunnels for them to re-enact this natural behaviour. You will encourage them to run and jump and duck and scurry, and it will do them the world of good. Take food foraging one stage further and recreate ‘the wild’ by spreading their food around the enclosure. Hide pieces of carrots as a treat (not daily), in different areas and make them work for it a little.

Entertaining your rabbits can massively increase the bond between you. Take the time to handle them, stroke and massage them and also take the opportunity to check them over for health concerns. If your rabbit isn’t used to being handled then start slow and with short sessions. Human interaction will really break up your rabbits’ day and give you the opportunity to enjoy them as a pet. Consider teaching them some tricks – rabbits can learn a surprising number of party-tricks, from jumping through hoops to running through tunnels. If you’ve ever seen rabbits ‘show-jumping’ you’ll know it’s a sight to behold. If not, then you must Google it! Always ensure training methods are positive and reward based to further increase the bond.

So a rabbit’s horizon needn’t be small, there is so much you can do to broaden it. With a little creativity and investment of time we think you’ll enjoy play-time just as much as they will.

Which toys are best for dogs?

The range of dog toys available to us has positively exploded in recent years as we increasingly seem to enjoy treating our beloveds to new and interesting playthings. From budget tennis balls to high-end, luxury toys that wouldn’t be out of place in a child’s bedroom, the choice can be overwhelming. So which toy is best for your dog? We have compiled a few tips to help you make the right choice.

It’s horses for courses

It is worth considering your dog’s breed when choosing a suitable toy, as well as their personality in general.

For some, the clue is in the name. For example, ‘Labrador retrievers’ and ‘golden retrievers’ are likely to want to chase and retrieve an item. So a ball (with a flinger to save your shoulder) is likely to go down a storm with these guys. Even better, these gun-dog breeds with ‘soft mouths’ will take pride in returning a soft toy to you, you can even buy them in the shape of common game birds.

Perhaps your dog is a sucker for a game of tug. In which case, a strong rope-based toy is likely to be the most satisfying. A word of caution, take care of your dog’s teeth and mouth, don’t play too roughly with them. Likewise, watch your hands! Keep your fingers at a safe distance from overzealous nashers, by using a rope toy that is long enough for the both of you.

What about those who are incessant about sticks? These individuals are a real worry since we know what potential perils can result from running with sticks. Fear not, there’s an alternative for stick-lovers too. Kong make a toy that is sticklike in shape but made of rubber and features safe, soft, rounded ends.

Then there are the young and inquisitive puppies who will find toys of different textures fascinating. A crunch sound here and soft mouthful there, some toys incorporate a range of sensations within the very same toy. Teething puppies can find relief from sore gums by mouthing on the right kind of material. It is important, however, that a toy such as this is designed for purpose. There is a danger of damaging delicate baby teeth with overly hard materials, or of ingestion of small chewed parts.

Brain training

There is a vast array of toys on the market designed to mentally stimulate your dog, providing hours of fun. Many involve the promise of a treat once they work out how to access it for example the Kong Wobbler whereby the dog must knock the treats out. Others reward your dog by flinging a ball for them to fetch if they press the right button. Many owners find these useful for overactive individuals for whom hours of exercise doesn’t even cut it (Collies spring to mind). These toys should never be a replacement for exercise, but something to complement your dog’s routine and exercise regime.

Plaything pitfalls

As vets, it’s not uncommon to see dogs who have, quite literally, bitten off more than they can chew. Some dogs see a toy as a challenge, something to be destroyed as quickly as possible and seem to have teeth like razors. The trouble comes when pieces are accidentally (or otherwise) ingested. The classic culprit in these scenarios is the plastic squeaker from a soft toy. Squeakers and other large inedible toy parts are likely to require surgical removal, or at the very least cause stomach upset. There will be owners out there who are accustomed to seeing the stuffing stripped from soft toys and strewn around the sitting room. If you are one of these, it is important to account for all toy-parts and phone for advice if you can’t piece the puzzle back together again.

So are there toys out there that can stand the test of time? Well that depends on the pooch. There are tough ranges of toys that claim to, however the most tenacious of dogs can often defeat these too. It is sensible to be savvy in these cases and choose toys that serve a different purpose.

One example is the Kong Extreme, which is not only designed from super-strong materials but also refocuses the mindset from one of destruction, to one treat-seeking as it allows you to stuff the cone-shaped toy with their favourite flavours. You are likely to find that your dog is occupied for much longer too!

Another consideration is the importance of buying size-appropriate toys for your dog. This can be tricky if your pack includes the likes of a Labrador as well as a Chihuahua for example. Mini tennis balls are available on the market for those with mini-mouths. It just so happens however, that these slip easily down the windpipe or can be easily swallowed by larger breeds of dog, we need not explain the problems associated with that, we’re sure. Large, hard, chew toys for large breeds are also likely to damage the mouths of a small breed dog, often size-guidance is provided by the manufacturer.

With the exciting and plentiful array of toys now available to us, there is something available to suit all doggy tastes out there. Of course what is super-important to any playful pooch too, is the time spent with their beloved human. So enjoy!