Four Legs Good

Voted Best Blog in the 2012 NetGuide awards, Four Legs Good is a place to talk about pets, and the frustrations and fun of owning them. Blogger Nick Barnett is joined by pet experts and pet lovers who write about the animals in their lives and pet issues of all kinds. And though 'Four Legs Good' is true, we’re just as fond of animals with two legs, many legs – or none.

The benefits of reading to dogs

12:10pm 28 Jan 2015

NICK BARNETT

Last week some kids gathered at Pinehaven Library, near Upper Hutt, to do a bit of reading-out-loud. readingTheir listeners were a relaxed lot who took the attention and the stories in their stride. And why not? They were gentle, well trained dogs, after all.

Three sweet-natured Greyhounds, to be specific. They sat or lay, enjoying strokes and pats in their easygoing way, as the children took turns to read to them from storybooks.

Why read to dogs? Well, it's good for the kids in multiple ways, and that's not just wishful thinking - research bears it out. For the children, it's extra practice in reading and oral skills, and an added motivation to keep reading and move on to more difficult books. It boosts the children's fluency and confidence. It eases their nerves. There's no pressure. It's safe, comforting and fun.

It's also a way to pick up kindness and empathy, and build an understanding for animals.

dog eyesLibraries in the United States and other countries have been trying out reading-to-dogs programmes, such as Chicago's Sit Stay Read. Now the movement is catching on in New Zealand where it's already helping lift the confidence of kids in reading.

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Furry Friday: How cats sleep

07:30am 23 Jan 2015

NICK BARNETT

Pioneering trade unionists used to chant: "Eight hours' sleep, eight hours' play, eight hours' work for eight hours' pay." The domestic cat version would go like this: "Zero hours' work, eight hours' play, 16 hours' sleep, feed me now."

Yes, they sleep for 16 hours a day. We know why they sleep - the same reasons we humans do. But how do they sleep? That's the subject of this Furry Friday. We ask the question, and supply 31 answers, all of them true.

How do cats sleep?

Without guilt - Nigel.

Nigel

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A pet adoption success story

12:17pm 20 Jan 2015

NICK BARNETT

Do you want to read a pet success story? Here's one.

A few months ago I wrote a blog post titled "Is the bar too high for dog owners?" It was based on an email from a reader, "Milly", who wanted to adopt a dog but was daunted by some of the questions asked by people who scrutinise would-be adopters. " I don't think I can live up to the expectations or deliver on the requirements that these people have," Milly said.

In the blog, I suggested that Milly try not to feel too offended by the questions, because she was "the candidate, not the customer". At the same time, I said that arrogance or judgmentalism would be a bad look for any welfare group. I suggested that Milly meet the requirements as best she could, and put through an application.

Milly dogThere followed a strong debate in the blog comments. Some people said they'd felt the same way as Milly about the adoption process. Many were encouraging. Others were tougher, such as the commenter who said: "If you can't cope with the questionnaire ... how on earth are you going to cope with a real life dog?"

Well, Milly put aside those reactions and went through with it. She lodged an application with one of the adoption groups, and is now the proud and loving owner/companion of a Greyhound.

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Furry Friday: Push play

08:00am 16 Jan 2015

NICK BARNETT

Push play, say the public-service TV spots. Go outside, make a shadow, move your body. It's January (happy new year, by the way), and luckily for those of us in the southern hemisphere, this is the perfect time for push-play. And don't our pets know it?

Our cover-dog Kaiser pushed "fast-forward" instead of "play". One of the best, most joyous action photos ever seen on a Furry Friday, in my humble opinion.

kaiser

Cats love the outdoors too, in their own way. Taco can't resist those inner rhythms.

taco

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Furry Friday: 27 wonderful kittens

07:40am 19 Dec 2014

NICK BARNETT

For some reason, the final Furry Friday post of any year since about, oh, 2010, has been about kittens. There's no special reason - I think I just wanted a tradition to uphold.

Well, maybe there is another reason. The reason is kittens. All pets are beautiful, but kittens have a particular beauty that's fun, and fragile, and goofy, and brief. A lot of today's photos were taken on the kitten's first day at home, no doubt to create a record of a look or a trait that would be gone a week later.

Also, now is a time of year when there are too many kittens. So if you can, and these photos inspire you, then go adopt one. Take good care of it and give it a long, good life, the way the owners of today's kittens have done or are doing.

Our cover-kitten is named Taco, whose life began by being dumped with his siblings. Things look better now for little Taco.

Taco

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