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.

Why your cat likes boxes

12:47pm 11 Feb 2015


I know one thing about your cat: it likes to get in cardboard boxes.

It's not that I've met your cat - though you may be one of the hundreds of readers over the years who've sent me photos of their cats in cardboard refuges of various sizes.

  Peanut escapes modern stress.
No, I know that your cat likes boxes because science tells me so. It informs me in that way science has of surprising me with new insights at the same time as telling me obvious stuff I already knew.

Some of the scientific discoveries about cats-plus-boxes were collated by the Wired website a few days ago. This report, and reports of the report, and reports of the reports of the report, did the rounds on the internet. So I thought I'd fulfil a blogger's obligation to paraphrase what others have already written, while adding pictures.

But I'll also do you the courtesy of sending you back to some of the original science.

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Furry Friday: What kittens do

12:17pm 06 Feb 2015


We know that kittens have cute faces. We gazed at 27 of them on this blog only a few weeks ago. But it's not just faces - kittens are cute in everything they do, whatever they do.

They're cute when they play, and when they rest. They're cute when they go places they shouldn't go. They're even cute when they're just looking at something.

Here's a collection of kittens doing things, cutely.

Cover-kitten Herbie guards a shoe.


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Do dog thieves really use secret marks?

03:15pm 03 Feb 2015


The story goes like this: gangs of dog thieves patrol suburbs, checking out which houses have dogs. They leave secret markings near or on the properties indicating where dogs are, plus perhaps how many and how valuable. Then the thieves come by and, guided by the secret markings, steal the targeted dog, probably for dog-fighting.

Is the story true? Do dog thieves really use secret marks? Well, I'll get to that.

ArrowThe first thing to say is that this is no isolated tale. News media have reported similar accounts in Australia and Britain (as recently as the past few days), and in several places in New Zealand. They talk about chalk marks on fences or tyres, painted signs on footpaths, or coloured stickers. They use phrases like "is believed" or "is feared". Nobody ever seems to actually be arrested.

Most often, though, this "secret markings" story comes up on social media, such as Facebook.

I'm a member of several community pages on Facebook. At their worst, the comment threads allow people to pursue vendettas. At their best, they're a way for caring people to help each other out in many ways, from finding a cheap lawn-mowing contractor through to catching a lift to work. In between, they can be a bit gossipy, and not exactly forensic in their precision with facts.

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Furry Friday: The way dogs sleep

08:00am 30 Jan 2015


Last week I asked "how do cats sleep?" The question turned out to have many answers. Then readers challenged me to do a matching Furry Friday entry about the slumbering habits of dogs, and of course I can't resist.

So this time the question is, "How do dogs sleep?" I offer 28 possible answers for you to laugh at, sniff at, or nod in agreement with.

(You'll notice that some of today's dogs have their eyes open. They still count, because they're trying to sleep, and their owners won't stop fiddling with that camera thing.)

Sweetly - Hogan.


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The benefits of reading to dogs

12:10pm 28 Jan 2015


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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