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When out walking you've probably noticed large white balls in certain conifer trees.

These are nests of the processionary caterpillar. By the end of winter, these bugs have woven their silk nests, and represent a serious danger for both humans and cats and dogs. On the trees where they have settled, they can also cause significant damage.

Stinging hairs

When the caterpillars leave the nest (usually March-April but sometimes earlier if the weather is warmer) is the most precarious time for our precious pets. They are called processionary caterpillars for the simple reason that as they leave the nest they walk one behind the other interconnected by a silk thread.

These caterpillars are also covered with venomous stinging hairs, which can also float in the air. Contact with the hairs can cause a range of reactions, from mild itching, eczema or eye disorders to significant allergy attacks.

A veterinary emergency

Dogs (especially puppies) and cats are always curious. If they approach the caterpillars to sniff, or worse, to swallow them, the consequences can be disastrous.

The most visible symptom is in the mouth. The tongue begins to swell (this may take several hours), and the blood supply is cut off. When you open the mouth of the animal, the tongue (or part of it) will be grey and / or ulcerated. Eye disorders may also be observed, or the dog or cat may start drooling.

This is a veterinary emergency and time is critical. You can rinse the wound with water (if possible), but first and foremost get to a vet as soon as possible.

If the symptoms are not noticed quickly, the animal may lose all or part of the tongue, which then prevents it from eating or drinking.

chenilles2At home

If you find a nest, you should be extra careful when removing it. Wear a mask, gloves and take all possible protection to avoid any flying hairs. There are chemical or biological insecticides (some are safe for dogs and cats) that can be used in early autumn. In any event, once the nest is dislodged, it must be burnt as quickly as possible.

You can also spray the nest with bleach (one bottle for every 3 litres of water), which does not damage the tree. On shaking the tree, the caterpillars and the nest will fall, and the nest can be burnt. Please bear in mind that the stinging hairs remain active, even after the death of the caterpillar. This is best done in the summer, after the bugs have spawned, but before they build a nest.

The larvae from the caterpillars can survive in the soil for several years, so this process may have to be redone every year.

You have been warned - please take care!

Have you recently acquired a puppy or a dog either from a breeder or an animal shelter?

What is one of the first things you need to teach it?  The answer: ITS NAME

“Of course,” I hear you say. “That’s obvious!”

You would think so wouldn’t you?  However, I’m sure you have often heard an owner either calling a dog or trying to get the dog’s attention in order to give it a command, meanwhile the dog is looking anywhere except at its master.

“Jake” (no response).  “Jake” (still nothing).  “JAKE!!!” (no joy)  The pitch and the volume are going up each time but the dog pays no attention.

The next step is: “Jake! JakeJakeJakeJakey!!”

The first problem here is that the dog has not been taught to respond 100% of the time to its name.  Add to that the fact that the tone of voice changes with each call, that the dog can sense the mounting frustration and sometimes anger in its owner’s voice and there isn’t a hope in hell of getting it to respond.  When the name is then called in rapid succession the sound changes completely so how could the dog possibly even recognise it.

Take human babies as an example, one of the first things they hear repeated over and over is their name, they learn to recognise this sound and to respond to it. As babies grow older they will learn that this sound is their name and as children they will be taught to spell and to write it.

A dog however will never know that the sound it hears is its name any more than it will ever be able to spell or write it.  In fact when dogs change owners, often their name is also changed and they have to start again.  Dogs have no problem with this as to them it’s just a word; the change may even be a positive thing, eradicating any bad association the dog had with its old name.

So, what to do?  Well whether you are starting with a puppy, a dog new to you or you have a dog that pays no attention, you need to start at the very beginning and teach it the word that is its name.  Not only that, you must also teach it that this word is associated with good things. This requires patience, a little bit of ‘dog know-how’ and time.  How long it takes will depend on the age of the dog and how much time you are able to dedicate to the task, but if you are consistent and get it right the rewards will be enormous.

For help on this and other training issues CONTACT US we are here to help.

Helen and I were walking our dogs along the canal last week when we met a lady with an adorable young dog. Unable to resist we stopped to say hello (to the dog of course) and fell into a doggy conversation during which we discovered that the dog was 8 months old and that its mistress would love to join a dog club but was waiting until her dog was old enough. 

This is a popular misconception and one that we as ‘educateurs canine ‘are presented with all the time.

Most clubs these days have an Ecole du Chiot (Puppy School) and the best time to take your pup along is at 8 weeks of age as soon as the first vaccinations have been given.

Why is that? Because between 8 – 12 weeks is the period when your puppy needs to be socialised and to have lot of new experiences.  It is also the period when the fear instinct starts to kick in and failure to properly socialise before 12 weeks of age can lead to problems later on.

A five year old child who has never played with other children and who is suddenly taken to a playground, or sent to school, will have no idea how to interact with other children.  He may be frightened and through fear he may become aggressive in his attitude towards the other children.  So it is with dogs.

At a Puppy School you will be shown how to train your puppy effectively and without stress but equally important your little one will learn how to ‘play nicely’ with other puppies and to inhibit his bite.  He will meet other dogs of varying shapes and sizes and other humans too, (also of varying shapes and sizes!), with glasses and hats, big coats and umbrellas.  He will learn to walk on different surfaces, to go over jumps and small bridges and through tunnels.  All these experiences will help ensure that he will become a well rounded dog, friendly to humans and other dogs, that you can take anywhere.

If you would like to know more about our Puppy Club or if you just need some advice contact uswe would be happy to help.


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