In their natural environment, dogs live in groups with complex social rules and development is based on attachment. The first weeks are crucial as this is when the pup learns about her environment and how to control herself. She will have a very long period of dependence on her mother, or human “mum” and can learn a lot very quickly. She will learn social rituals/habits, which help to maintain harmony in her “group”, and to make individual bonds with one or other members of the group, using sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. She will also learn complex signals combining posture, vocalisation and marking.
As she is now in a new environment and probably less than 6 months old, she is going to need someone to replace her mother and so she will choose a person who can provide warmth and comfort for her. She will try to be as close as possible to this person all the time.
It is vital for her to form this new attachment for her to be able to set off to discover her new world. At the age of about 6 months, the time of puberty, you will need to start to detach a little to help her replace her primary attachment to her special person by a new and firmer attachment to the group/family as a whole. Get other members of the family to start to feed and walk her.
Training can start as soon as you have brought your puppy home. Once vaccinated, puppy training and socialisation classes are great fun for both your family and your puppy and are a great way to introduce her to friends of her own age. Basic training is usually included and you will have the opportunity to meet like-minded people to chat with and discuss questions.
Cats & Kittens
In the first few weeks of life, the mother cat teaches her kittens “self-control”, and for this reason it is very important that the kittens are not removed too early from mum, or you may well end up having to try to teach your kitten to play nicely – about 8 weeks onwards is advised. Cats are natural predators and they need to play-hunt. Puppies focus on social games, whereas a kitten will spend hours chasing paper or cloth prey. If you join in these games, you will be able to gauge your kitten’s self-control mechanisms and you can help teach him to control his biting and scratching by interacting with you. If your kitten was with his mum for long enough, she will have taught him some manners. It’s also a good idea to let your kitten play hunting games with inanimate objects eg. balls of tin-foil which catch and reflect the light. A lack of stimuli and of imaginary prey can cause a kitten to show aggression towards the only mobile things in his environment, such as his owners’ feet and hands!
Rabbits can make very good pets, but they have some important husbandry needs that must be addressed in order to provide adequately for their health and welfare. As well as social interaction with other rabbits, they also enjoy human companionship. They need to be given attention every day and require regular gentle handling to establish and maintain that human:rabbit social bond, although this must be on their terms. The daily contact also allows an opportunity to check them for any health problems.
Chinchillas are squirrel like rodents, available in 2 varieties. They are clean animals with no body odour, their thick coat means that they do not get parasites like fleas and ticks.
Gerbils are intelligent, sociable animals that are best kept in pairs. They should be handled daily and they will be affectionate to you, make sure you wash your hand before handling them to avoid passing germs to them, also keep an eye on any other pets you have.
The Guinea pig is a sociable and companionable animal and relish attention. It is a very vocal animal with several different sounds.
Hamsters are busy animals that love exercise and play. A large metal cage should be used with an exercise wheel, tubes for tunnelling and clean shavings for bedding. The bedding should be changed every day to stop any smells forming. They also love to chew so wooden blocks are also a good idea to keep in the cage.
Parakeet / Budgerigar
These are friendly birds which are relatively easy to tame and look after. Budgies grow up to 10 inches long and come in a variety of colours. They can live for up to 10 years and are an excellent choice for a ‘first bird’ pet.
The male canary is a very popular choice of pet as it has a beautiful song. Canaries are small birds (up to 7 inches long) and can live for up to 9 years. They are normally predominantly yellow.
The cockatiel is a very friendly, intelligent and popular bird. They need a lot of companionship and can suffer from boredom if they are not paid enough attention. Cockatiels can grow up to 14 inches long and can live for up to 25 years.
Macaws are incredibly beautiful and intelligent birds who easily learn to mimic speech. They require a lifelong and intense commitment from the owner and can be temperamental and aggressive – potential owners should think long and hard before committing to purchase these birds. Macaws can grow to 40 inches long and can live for up to 50 years.
Whichever bird you go for, source your bird from a reputable supplier/breeder.
A lot of preparation needs to be done if you are buying an exotic animal. Begin by finding out as much as you can about the animal – read books, talk to other owners. Whilst time consuming, this preparatory work will help both you and the animal in the long run.
One of the first decisions you need to make is which type of exotic pet do I choose. Consider your experience, the help available and the environment you are able to create for your pet before choosing. Obviously, you also need to consider the animal itself. Some are relatively easy to care for where others should be avoided at all costs. And consider your budget; the initial set-up costs can be high, so do your research thoroughly.