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.

Furry Friday: The greatness of small dogs

07:15am 27 Mar 2015

NICK BARNETT

There are advantages to having a small dog, rather than a big one. When a small dog pulls on the leash, you don't get dragged anywhere. You can hold a small dog steady while checking the mailbox or putting the key in your front door. A small dog fits in the bath, for a wash that's relatively non-messy. It eats and poos less, in volume terms.

But otherwise, a dog is a dog, whatever size it is. It has the same spirit and instincts whether it's a Chihuahua or a Leonberger. And however big their paws, body or bark, the heart is always the same size - enormous.

Today, let's appreciate the greatness of small dogs. And let's start with a previous star of Furry Friday, Lilly Button.

lilly

This is Chopper, with the big eyes and dazzling smile.

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When your pet has extra toes

05:00am 25 Mar 2015

NICK BARNETT

Count the toes on your cat or dog, and chances are they will total 18. But there's a good chance there'll be more than 18 - possessing extra toes is a genetic abnormality, but it's not that rare, and it's not necessarily any kind of disadvantage. What might surprise you is the history that hangs on those surplus digits.

Bobbin
  Bobbin reaches up from a gathering of Maine Coon kittens.
An animal or human with an extra toe or finger is called a polydactyl - from the Greek for "many" and "digit". Hundreds of millions of years ago, creatures typically had seven or eight digits on each foot, but over time that number settled to a manageable four or five in most species. Your pet probably has five toes on each front foot and four on each rear foot. Still, those extra toes live on in the genes, and sometimes emerge as a throwback or mutation in many species.

The mutation is especially common in cats. Sometimes the extra toe will be like an extra pinky finger, creating a foot that's wide like a snowshoe. But other times it sits like a partner to the cat's "thumb" - giving the cat feet that resemble mittens.

Snowshoe feet, mitten feet. The cats don't mind - they cope fine. But is it any surprise that humans might think these miraculous feet might be lucky, and that they even confer advantages?

That may be why many-toed cats became favoured by sea captains as part of their crew. Ship cats were the nemesis of rats as well as companions for sailors and fishermen. A wide-footed cat might seem well suited to the sea life, with those extra claws for climbing and wide footprint for stability. And somehow, those extra toes seem special - lucky.

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Furry Friday: The furriest of tummies

05:00am 20 Mar 2015

NICK BARNETT

This blog post is an important scientific record of an often unseen natural phenomenon. Under laboratory conditions, with harm done to nobody, we pointed our cameras at this hidden wonder using all possible viewing angles that we could think of at the time.

The phenomenon of which we speak is the tummy of the long-haired species of domestic cat. If you are partial to this miracle of nature, read on. If not, scroll and discover.

Our cover-tummy is that of Gingy, an ex-stray who's now enjoying a safe and low-stress life.

gingy

The youngest belly we studied was four weeks old. It belongs to Asha. Also shown: a glimpse of Asha's-mum-tummy.

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10 things that make my dogs go nuts

07:00am 18 Mar 2015

NICK BARNETT

Most of the time, my dogs are calm. They sleep or sunbathe, sit or walk, sniff or chew. But certain things change them from Jekylls to Hydes. Here are 10 things that cause my dogs to overheat, overdo it, or generally go over the top. (Your own list of 10 may differ, so feel free to share it.)

Con and Phoebe watch bacon
  Connor and Phoebe on bacon watch.
Bacon

In my house, eating bacon is a spectator sport. Both dogs line up near the dining table, patient but fully focused on every move of the fork. At the end of breakfast, they know they'll get to eat the scraps. All they have to do is contain their glee for a few minutes.

Any toy that squeaks

This is particular to Connor. In an instant he'll recognise a toy by its colour and size, but what bonds him to it is its squeaker. He loves that sound; it's the sound of victory. Fruition comes when the plastic squeaker is torn from the toy's corpse and left on the floor as a piece of gooey gore. That process takes between a minute and a day, depending on the quality of manufacture.

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Furry Friday: Good and bad hair days

08:07am 13 Mar 2015

NICK BARNETT

Good hair days, bad hair days. You humans talk about them as though they matter. Your hair, if you have any of significance, covers only the top bit of your head, yet if it happens to look flat or fall awkwardly, you fret. Foolish humans. Foolish, predominantly bald humans.

Try having hair everywhere on your body, then you'll know the misery of a bad hair day and the triumph of a good hair day.

Try being an Afghan hound, like the exquisite Lahja. If she ever has a bad hair day, which is doubtful, it'll be worth complaining about.

kahja

Shetland Sheepdogs too are known for their tresses. This is Bobby, in a strong wind.

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