When it comes to successfully caring for animals, in addition to love and commitment, education is a large component. Unfortunately, many of us welcome a new animal into our lives without any knowledge of the proper care required. This can lead to disasters not only in overall health, but in optimal day to day living as well. Most can probably call to mind an unruly puppy that a new owner has no idea how to train, a cat that is destroying the furniture, or even an exotic pet that just is not thriving. The common denominator is lack of research, resources, and overall education.
The internet, of course, is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to such issues, the answers to which are really just a Google search away, but there are still many invaluable fantastic print materials available. From magazines to books, the literary world has a wealth of information to offer.
A surprising best for small pets and backyard farming is magazines. Critters USA offers an entire series of very informative and fun-to-read magazines for exotic mammals, rabbits, and guinea pigs which are usually stocked in the literature area of pet stores. You can also call (888) pet-book or go to www.animalnetwork.com. These magazines are published yearly, but the date isn’t completely relevant as each issue contains timeless information. Dog and cat magazines can be breed specific or general. Cat Fancy tackles a wide variety of topics from breed choices to “Custody Battles: Who Gets the Cat?” Equus: The Horse Owner’s Resource features an article on “Horse Agility: Beyond Fun and Games.” Livestock magazines worth reading include Chickens Magazine (www.ChickensMagazine.com), Hobby Farms Magazine (www.HobbyFarms.com), and Backyard Poultry Magazine (www.backyardpoultrymag.com). Each contains tried and true rearing methods and tips alongside innovative new ideas.
Another surprising treasure trove of information is the Barron’s pet series, which is aimed at kids purchasing pet store pets. These small books have lots of pictures and tips for caring for a variety of critters from rats to hamsters to hermit crabs. They make a perfect companion for your new companion. They can also introduce kids to the value of reference books.
Feed stores, book stores and libraries offer an extension from basic care to identification, training, and special interest.
When it comes to identification, A Field Guide to Birds and a pair of binoculars is a great way to pass an afternoon in your very own backyard; A Field Guide to Cows is a fantastic little book to take on road trips through cattle country; and Pocketful of Poultry is a must-have for anyone who frequents chicken coops. Pocketful even has full-color ID pictures for ducks, geese, and turkeys. Another fun ID book is The Illustrated Guide to Pigs. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to see all the different species of pigs, the watercolor illustrations and “old time” sayings are highly entertaining.
Solid basic training for many animals can be found in the Dummies book series, which are well organized and well written.
Beyond basic training and in the more unusual category, The Complete Guide to Rat Training: Tricks and Games for Rat Fun and Fitness kept my daughter and I busy for years as we built props and designed our own tricks based on the author’s ideas. Another usual training text, What Your Horse Wants you to Know is an interesting and logical perspective from the horse’s point of view, of which many are not aware.
Volumes of dog training books are available from traditional training to a variety of new techniques that attempt to understand the reasons behind the behavior and work with it. A few worth reading include The Culture Class: A revolutionary new way of understanding the relationship between humans and domestic dogs, Don’t Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training, The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training, The Rosetta Bone: The Key to Communication Between Humans and Canines, and Temple Grandin’s Animals Make Us Human.
Dog Stories by Richard Olsenius, Rabbits, Gentle Hearts, Valiant Spirits: Inspirational Stories of Rescue, Triumph, and Joy, and The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Live of Christopher Hogwood will pull on your heartstrings with true life stories of people and the powerful influence animals have on their lives.
And finally, specialty hobby magazines and newletters are available with many animal-related memberships. Domestic Rabbits is a bi-monthly magazine published by the American Rabbit Breeders Association that comes with membership. It offers husbandry tips for rabbit breeders interested in showing or producing rabbits for meat. The Himmie News is a bi-monthly newsletter sent with membership to the American Himalayan Rabbit Association that focuses mainly on the showing of the Himalayan Rabbit breed. It features show results from across the United States.
This listing just scratches the surface of what is available if you look. Reading really does open doors to the knowledge those who have come before us are generously offering to share. Why not have a look?