Is your dog spring-ready?

Spring is here and although we’re all looking forward to the warmer weather, it is important to remember that seasonal change can contribute to creating a risky environment for your dog.

As temperatures rise, we open our doors and windows and spend more time outside with friends, family and our pets. As a responsible pet owner, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep your dog healthy and happy.

It’s important to wash your dog and its bed regularly, as well as treat your dog for ticks and fleas as these parasites love warmer weather. Now is also a good time to replace those well-chewed toys, grubby collars and leads. If there’s a new puppy in the house, it’s important to ensure your pets’ vaccinations are up to date.

If your dog gets itchy during Spring, Summer or Autumn, it is likely a reaction to seasonal allergens. Unlike humans, dog allergies are more likely to manifest as skin irritation. To help your dog with seasonal allergies, you’ll need to reduce exposure to allergens with frequent baths and foot soaks. In addition, keep the areas where your pet spends most of its time as allergen-free as possible by vacuuming/cleaning floors and washing their bedding frequently.Dry skin is often accompanied by flaky skin (dandruff) and a dull coat as it lacks the proper balance of moisture and natural oils to remain soft, strong, flexible and healthy. In colder weather, the lack of humidity and the frequent temperature changes, will wreak havoc on your dogs’ skin. To overcome this, brush your dog regularly as this will encourage the shedding of any flaky skin and it will also stimulate the production of your dogs’ natural oils, helping distribute it throughout their coat.Soon after Spring comes Summer and to prevent your dog from overheating and dehydrating during the long, hot, sunny days it’s important to give them plenty of fresh, clean water. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot. Never leave your pets alone in a parked vehicle as it can lead to fatal heat stroke. Don’t over-exercise them, consider early morning or evening walks and watch out for hot pavements as heat rises from the ground. Your dog absorbs and releases heat through their feet and walking on hot pavement can be dangerous for your dog.With the weather warming up, your pet will be eager to get outside and start exploring. And while there is nothing wrong with letting your pet roam, your pet is part of your family and deserves to be cared for and protected. So, remember these general pet safety tips and your dog will breeze through spring and summer without a hitch.

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Reducing camera shake

Blurry photos due to camera shake is something we’ve all encountered before and it’s especially common for those of us with unsteady hands. To lend a steady hand, we’re giving you a few techniques to reduce camera shake and ensure that your photos are always crisp and clear.

Camera shake is one of the biggest bugbears for photographers and occurs when the camera moves during the exposure.

When pressing your camera’s shutter release button, while mostly imperceptible, you will move the camera. That seemingly insignificant movement is referred to as camera shake and can result in a blurred photograph.

Camera shake can also happen when using the slow shutter speeds required when taking photos in low light conditions – the slower the shutter speed, the greater the danger of shake.

While the results are similar, do not mistake blurriness of camera shake for the term ‘out of focus’, as the focus of the camera is related to this common error.

There are three main things to look for regarding camera shake:

FULL IMAGE BLUR

If you are suffering from camera shake you will find that all your images are blurred, whether it is the main subject, your background or your foreground. Look closely and you’ll see that there are no sharp points in the image at all.

DOUBLE IMAGE

Another indication that you probably have camera shake is when you see two exposures of the same image. Particularly pay close attention to the edges of objects where you might see them twice.

MOTION BLUR

Camera shake happens when your camera is moving during the time of exposure. As a result, you’ll often see a blur that looks like your subject is moving – even when it might be a still life subject. Look for light streaks or lines when examining your image closely.

In contrast to seeing a completely blurry image, you will know your image is out of focus when the wrong part of it is in focus. Also, with poor focusing you will often find that the blur is smoother or softer whereas with camera shake the blur will have a more jagged or harsh look.HOLD YOUR PHONE STEADY

To minimise shake and eliminate the blur hold your phone steady with two hands, bring your elbow to your side and hold your breath.

PROP YOUR PHONE

Another way to reduce camera shake is to prop your phone on a steady base for extra stability. This could be a table, a wall, the ground or a tripod.

TAP THE SHUTTER RELEASE BUTTON GENTLY 

Even if you have a steady grip or are using a tripod, often when you press the shutter release button, the camera moves slightly. So, if you tap the button lightly, you can avoid potential blurriness.

DON’T USE THE DIGITAL ZOOM

Unfortunately, using the digital zoom will result in a pixelated image and will make the camera shake even more pronounced. If you want to get a close-up, either get close or take the photo without the zoom and crop it later.

GET ENOUGH LIGHT

When taking pictures in low light situations, like at night or in a dark place, your photo is prone to blurriness. To avoid this, try to take the photo closer to the strongest light source.ELBOWS IN

As often as possible pull your elbows in to your body and exhale completely before pressing the shutter button. Pulling your elbows tight to your body can really help keep you steady. You can also press your elbows firmly into your chest for even greater stability.

RAISE YOUR LEFT SHOULDER

For stability, raise your left shoulder, brace your left elbow into your rib-cage and pull your right elbow in to your chest. Again, exhale completely before depressing the shutter button to avoid introducing shake.

PRACTICE BETTER SHUTER BUTTON TECHNIQUE

Always try to press the shutter button half-way first, then gently press the button with no more pressure/speed than necessary.

TAKE THREE SHOTS IN SERIES

Often the very act of knowing you’ll have to hold your hands steady can make it more difficult to do so. But when taking three images in a row, you’ll find that there’s a big difference in sharpness between each image, in part because you’re less concerned about the individual shots.Well there you have it! You now know a few techniques to reduce camera shake. Practice them and after a while, they’ll become automatic and you won’t even think as you use them in your daily photography. Don’t forget to enter our #CalendarPets competition by sharing your sharp and clear images with us on our Facebook page here. Happy shooting!

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How to clean your dog’s ears

Ear cleaning is an essential part of your dog’s basic grooming routine. All dogs should have their ears cleaned from time to time, and some dogs will require more frequent and thorough cleaning than others – especially those prone to ear infections. Here’s what you need to know about cleaning your dog’s ears.Whether they’re long and floppy or stick straight up, dog ears are clearly very different from our own. Ranging from 5 to 10cm, dogs have quite deep ear canals that have a right-angled, L-shape bend. This makes it easy for dirt to get into their ears and almost impossible for them to remove it on their own.

A dog’s ear canal is also warm, dark and moist, the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, so debris in the ear often causes ear infections and your dog may injure itself trying to deal with the irritation.The best way to tell if your dog needs a good ear scrubbing is to smell it.

Healthy dog ears don’t have much of an odour beyond their normal dog smell. Dirty dog ears can smell anywhere from vaguely yeasty to decidedly smelly – these bad odours are a sign that your dog’s ears need a cleaning.

When inspecting your dog’s ears, it should be clean and pink, with a light coating of wax. The wax should be a pale, yellowish colour. If your dog’s ears are red or if there is a layer of black or brown waxy discharge, it is time to grab the cleanser.

Be careful though, there is such a thing as too much cleaning. Over-cleaning your dog’s ears strips away the natural wax, which can also lead to problems, so only clean your dog’s ears on an as-needed basis.Remember, that unless your dog has been trained as a puppy, they generally don’t like having their ears cleaned. Practice holding and handling your dog’s ears before you plan to clean them to help your dog get used to the idea of their ears being handled. You can enlist the help of a partner to give treats and additional comfort while you focus on the cleaning. It’s important to condition your dog slowly and associate ear-cleaning with something positive –  if your dog seems stressed or upset, wait a few minutes or even hours before trying again.Just like with human ears, you never want to use cotton swabs because they can hurt your dog’s ears. Instead, have a bag of cotton balls ready, or wrap your finger in gauze and use it. You might want to use gloves for the cleaning, but it’s also okay to just wash your hands if no gloves are available. Perhaps the most important tool, though, is the ear rinse. You want one that’s completely safe for your dog, yet still able to get the job done. Look for a product which contains no antibiotics, steroids, alcohol, or toxic materials of any kind.Firstly, if your dog has very red, itchy, inflamed and painful ears, consult your vet before you start cleaning. It is quite likely your dog has an ear infection, so ear cleaning will not do much good at this point. If your dog has an infection severe enough to damage the ear drum, some ear cleaners can damage the ear further so, please be careful.

Ear cleaning can be a messy job, so find somewhere in the house that is easy to clean and avoid wearing your best Prada for an ear clean.Cleaning your dog’s ear is pretty straight forward and with a little patience and training, it can be an enjoyable experience for your dog. Learning how to clean your dog’s ears properly at home will help your dog stay healthy and happy, saving you a lot of stressful (and expensive) trips to the vet. So, we hope that you find these tips helpful when cleaning and caring for your pet’s ears.

 

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The Rule of Thirds

Earlier this year, we began diving into composition as part of our Calendar Pets series, starting with a few pointers. Today, we’re taking a look at the rule of thirds — a helpful rule to abide by when setting up your shots. The rule of thirds is a basic rule of composition which in a nutshell, divides your frame into thirds, positioning your subject where the lines intersect. These ‘sweet spots’ allow the eye to take in the entire scene.

All good photographs should have at least one main subject (point of interest), which should be placed off-centre. Most beginners are tempted to place their subject in the middle. Applying the rule of thirds is a good way to overcome this.

Studies have proven that when viewing images, our eyes naturally go to one of the intersection points rather than the centre of the photograph. Applying the rule of thirds works with our natural inclinations rather than working against them.

The rule of thirds satisfies our sense of visual proportion, so that photos structured in this way appear balanced. Many seasoned photographers have a natural sense of visual balance. They take their photos according to the rule of thirds without being aware of it. They may simply shoot the picture that ‘looks right’ or ‘feels right’, unconsciously applying the rule as they go. In time and with experience, new photographers will develop their own ‘feel’ for composition.

If you subdivide your photo into thirds both vertically and horizontally, you will have three columns and three rows – or nine equal sections. The sections where lines cross are points of interest. These points are where you want to place your subject – parts of the image where you want attention to be drawn or show points of activity.

According to the rule of thirds, the lines that divide the picture are the most effective places to position objects in your photo. For example, the horizon should be positioned on or near the line a third from the top, or a third from the bottom of the picture. Vertical objects like trees should be placed on or near the lines, a third from the left or right of the picture.

Rarely will you use all four points – many times one or two – but this is what creates balance in your composition.

Remembering the rule of thirds may be hard to apply when you’re in the middle of capturing that perfect moment, but no worries. With a little assistance you can add a grid to your DSLR in your camera settings or by using an app on your phone.

When using your iPhone’s native camera, you can enable grid lines by going to Settings, then Photos and Camera – enabling the grid toggle under the Camera section. There are several other camera replacement apps that also let you use grid lines on the screen as a guide. We recommend: VSCO, Camera+ or ProCamera.

For Android, we recommend the following apps to help you master the rule of thirds in composition: Camera For Rule Of Thirds or Sensor Camera.

You may be using the rule of thirds in your own photography already, without even noticing. If not, try imagining the tic tac toe grid superimposed the next time you’re shooting as this will help you achieve better composed photographs. We’d love to see the photos you take for our #calendarpets competition, so share them with us on our Facebook page here.

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Tag the Wags winners announced!

Throughout June and July, we asked our fellow pet lovers to help us find our Bags O’ Wags buddies in a series of tricky puzzles.

But now that our Tag the Wags campaign is over, we’re ready to announce our competition winners: Aubrey Des Fountain, Barbara Anne Gerber, Desre Foaden, Elizabeth Ferreira, Karen Sanderds, Katherine Oberholzer, Letisia Blank, Margaret Sharpe, Monia Gartner, Nicky Van Baalen, Petro Toerien, Tamsyn Galloway, Theresia du Plessis, Wendy Lombard and Xaviera Taylor Prinsloo!

Congratulations to them all! Their keen-eyed hound-seeking abilities have won them a Bags O’ Wags hamper each, and they’re filled with some pretty pawsome goodies!

While the competition is over, the puzzles are still fun to solve so if you’d like to test your pooch finding skills, then head on over to our Bags O’ Wags puzzle page to see if you can find our adventurous little hounds in the five fun Bags O` Wags themed scenes: http://bit.ly/2tmf0eU. Happy searching!

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Tag the Wags Printable Posters

Throughout June and July, we asked our fellow pet lovers to help us find our Bags O’ Wags buddies in a series of tricky puzzles on our website. But now our Tag the Wags campaign is over and to say thank you to those who took part – and to share some of the joy with those that may have missed it – we’re giving you these posters to print out and enjoy. To download, simply right click on the below images, select ‘Save Image As’ and save them to your preferred folder. From there, you can view them or print them out.

Where’s Houndini?

Where’s Wors?

Where’s Fudge?

Where’s Peanut?

Where’s Gizmo?

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Depth of Field

You may have heard the term depth of field but if you are new to photography you may not know how it can improve your photos. Simply put, depth of field is the distance between the closest and furthest points in an image that are in acceptable focus or appears acceptably sharp . Read on to find out how to get the most out of depth of field in your pet photography.Depth of field impacts both the aesthetic and technical qualities of a picture. Mastering depth of field will give you creative control over what’s in focus in your images, enabling better storytelling.

One example is when you’re photographing a landscape, where generally the most desirable outcome is to capture detail from the foreground to the horizon.

Other times, a shallow depth of field will be preferable. It enables you to blur background and foreground details, causing distractions to melt away while directing viewers to the focal point in a picture.

Images that have very small area of focus have a shallow depth of field. Shallow depth of field is used primarily to isolate the subject from its environment and is used a lot in portrait, macro and sports photography. A shallow depth of field means that a small portion of the picture is in focus. This is usually accomplished by using wide apertures.

Others may have a very large area of focus that have a deep depth of field. A deep, depth of field keeps most of the scene in focus and is most often utilised in landscape photography. A deep depth of field means that a large portion of the picture is in focus.When using a Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, the three main factors that will affect how you control depth of field are:

  1. Aperture (f-stop):

One of the main advantages of a DSLR camera is the ability to adjust aperture, the amount of light that the lens lets through. The size of your aperture (the diameter of the hole through which light enters the camera) controls the amount of light entering your lens.

Large aperture = Small f-number (f/2.8) = Shallow  depth of field

Small aperture = Larger f-number (f/11) = Deeper depth of field

 

  1. Subject distance:

Another way to control depth of field is to change your distance from the subject in focus. The greater this distance is the more depth of field you will have.

  1. Lens focal length:

The last factor in your control for depth of field is the focal length of the lens you decide to use. Telephoto lenses have a shallow depth of field as compared to their wide angle counterparts.Even with a regular digital camera, there are ways to control your depth of field. In the Scene Modes menu, look for a symbol of a human head, this setting will give you a narrow depth of field. In the same menu there is also a mountain symbol, which is a setting for landscapes, which will give you a deeper depth of field.

If you are a beginner with a DSLR there are some simple ways you can control depth of field and still use an automatic shooting mode. By choosing Aperture Priority (AP) mode you can set your aperture to get the depth of field that you want and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed.Achieving the depth of field on a DSLR camera is easy if you know your way around the settings but this is not the case on a mobile phone. So, here are a few tips to achieve depth of field while using your smart phone:

  1. Using manual focus

The distance between the object and the camera affects the depth of field. To use the manual focus option, you need to get as close to the object as your device will allow and then tap on the object to focus on it. On some devices, a long hold on the object will lock the focus. At the right distance you should achieve what looks like a shallow depth of field with a blurred background.

  1. Download a third party app

As you now know, achieving depth of field traditionally requires a DSLR camera with a special lens and achieving this technique using your camera on your smartphone can be tricky. But you can get close with the help of a third party app – A popular one for Android and iOS is Big Lens.

  1. Make use of your backgrounds

The type of background you use, combined with how far the subject is from it, will play a role in how well the shallow depth of field comes out. Try to strike a balance between too much and too little detail. A plain white background won’t have enough to depth, but a background that’s overcrowded can pull the viewer’s eye away from the subject. Go for a little bit of detail and colour in the background so that the depth is obvious without being distracting.We hope that you are now able to take control of your depth of field and easily overcome the difficulties you’ll come across when shooting for your desired depth of field. Once you have tried and tested our tips or you think you’ve already mastered the art of depth of field in your photography, then enter our #calendarpets competition by sharing your best results with us here.

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How to trim your dog’s nails

Some lucky dogs seldom need to have their nails trimmed but it’s important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed and it’s not as difficult as you think. Although many people find the task of trimming their dog’s nails intimidating, it’s something that can be easily learnt and performed at home. With our insightful information and step-by-step guide below, your dog’s nails will be clipped in no time!Letting your dog’s nails become too long can be painful for your dog. When a dog’s nails make contact with hard ground, like a sidewalk or your kitchen floor, the hard surface pushes the nail back up into the nail bed. This either puts pressure on their toe joints or forces the toe to twist to the side. Not only could long nails cause pain and lead to permanent issues with the dog’s foot, they can also make every day walking and running difficult for the dog.A dog’s toenail is composed of the quick, the blood supply, a nerve that nourishes the nail and the horn-like nail itself. Just like human nails, dogs do not have any feeling in the nail itself, but the quick contains a nerve. When trimming the nail, it is important to stay far enough from the quick to avoid causing pain or drawing blood.

 *Tip: Unless your dog runs around on hard surfaces that help keep its nails short, you should cut its nails every two weeks — if you hear them clicking on a hard surface, it’s time for a trim.

  1. Get your dog used to it:

First on the list is getting your dog used to you handling his feet and introduce the clippers frequently (without clipping). The sooner you start, the better. Many dogs have very sensitive feet and toes, so this is an important step.

  1. Choose the right time:

Try to start the trimming sessions when your dog is relaxed and in a comfortable place. A good time might be after a meal or after he’s tired from exercising or playing.

  1. Make it fun:

Try make nail trimming part of your fun playtime together. Stroke your dog’s feet and hold each paw in your hand for a few moments, gently but firmly. Give a few cuddles and belly rubs and your dog should realise that you aren’t going to hurt him.

  1. Treats:

Have a few Bags O’ Wags treats ready to offer and give extra attention to reward your dog for cooperating both during and after the trimming. This can help to make this and future sessions a success.

  1. Supplies:

Dog nail trimmers come in two main styles; scissor style and guillotine style. For most people, the scissor style trimmers are easier to use. It’s also a good idea to have some styptic powder on hand in case you trim too deeply.We hope you’ve found these tips and tricks on how to trim your dog’s nails informative. We also hope that you have a better understanding that trimming your dog’s nails is necessary to ensure its health and well-being.  It can be a positive experience for both of you.

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Animal Rights Awareness

It’s Animal Rights Awareness week and we’re using this opportunity to spread the word. In honour of this important week, we’ve put together a history of animal rights as well as some information about how you can get involved.

The Beginning

Animal Rights Awareness Week, observed this year from 12 to 16 June, was created in 1999 by the animal rights group, In Defense of Animals (IDA) to create awareness and educate people around the world about the basic needs of animals. IDA is an international animal protection organisation with over 250,000 supporters and a 30-year history of protecting animals, people and the environment through education, campaigns and hands on rescue facilities in India, Africa and rural Mississippi.

Animal Rights Milestones

  • The first animal rights bill in history, named Martin’s Act, was introduced into Irish law in 1822.
  • PETA is formed in 1980 and they organise the first World Day for Laboratory Animals protest in the U.S. and the first demonstration against chicken slaughter at Arrow Live Poultry
  • In 1980, Belgian-American animal rights advocate, Henry Spira, paid for a full-page advertisement in The New York Times that featured a rabbit with sticking plaster over the eyes which the caption: “How many rabbits does Revlon blind for beauty’s sake?”.
  • Avon stops testing their products on animals in 1989 and in 1990 Revlon follows suit.
  • In 1993, General Motors stops using live animals in crash tests.
  • National Institute of Health stops funding of new experiments on chimpanzees in 2011 and the documentary ‘Blackfish’ reaches a mass audience, causing widespread public criticism of SeaWorld in 2013.

Local Players

In South Africa, the National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) was founded in 1955 as the Federation of SPCAs to bring uniformity to welfare legislation and standards. Apart from dealing with legislation and specialist matters, the NSPCA also operates in areas where there is no existing SPCA, where support is required or in response to disasters such as; floods, fires, etc.

Our second largest independent animal welfare organisation, the Anti-Cruelty League (as it was formerly known) was formed in 1956 by Olga R. Allen, Martin Hind and Wendy Harvey. Soon after the Anti-Cruelty League was renamed to the Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL) and last year they celebrated 60 years in animal care and protection.

Lending A Hand

There are many ways to do your part in support of animal rights, but here are a few we would recommend:

  1. Foster a pet in need.
  2. Hold a fundraiser for your favourite animal shelter/charity and donate the proceeds.
  3. Investigate and search for an animal shelter/charity (NPO) near you and volunteer your time.
  4. Pledge to eat less meat.
  5. Search for your local animal charity’s wish list and donate where possible.

Animal Rights Awareness Week is an excellent time to acknowledge the hard work that is done for animals by our local organisations. It’s also the right moment to learn about what is being done in your town and what volunteer opportunities might be out there. So, we hope that we have inspired you to make a different for those who can’t do it for themselves.

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Macro Photography

Simply put, Macro Photography means taking pictures at extremely close ranges, often of details, textures or small subjects. The beauty of Macro Photography is that it reveals a complexity in the tiniest details that would ordinarily be overlooked. When it comes to macro photography on a smart phone though, there are several challenges that need to be overcome for decent results. Not to worry though, we’re to help!By and large, smartphone cameras can only focus on something three or four inches away and things begin to blur the closer you get. Then there’s the problem with movement. When you’re getting this close, any movement will blur the shot. To overcome this, you’ll need to use either use a lens, an app, a tripod or a combination of all three.One of the easiest ways to take good macro photos is to get a clip-on lens. With the lens installed, you’ll be able to get far more detailed shots than before. There are many different kinds available at different prices. Below are a few examples but you should shop around for one that suits your needs and budget.

http://goo.gl/K0mc0k | http://goo.gl/cs7Jz6 | http://goo.gl/rERgXkLenses will improve your success with macro photography, but a good app will yield the best results, because the better ones will provide you with the ability to “go manual” and bypass many of the automated features of your phone’s proprietary apps. Depending on your phone, your default camera app may suffice but you might want a more advanced replacement. There are a lot of professional Apps out there to choose from and we focused on several of them for both Android and IOS in our post on action photography.You may also find it helpful to get a tripod to ensure a stable shooting platform, as they greatly reduce your margin for error. These are as varied in selection and pricing as are the lenses and apps.

http://goo.gl/dnmX3x | http://goo.gl/GL5lE5 | http://goo.gl/RY0Sf8Remote shutters are a great way to bypass the impact of shaking hands and accidental bumps ruining your tight macro shots. There are many Bluetooth or plug-in varieties but if you have an iPhone, you can just as easily use the volume control on your EarPods. Give it a try and you’ll immediately notice an improvement in your ability to capture clearer macro shots.One way of getting around the sensitivity of macro photography without the need for tripods and remotes is to take slow motion video (if your phone has that feature available to you), and choose a clear still from the video afterwards. Now, you’d think that you’d need professional software to accomplish this but there is actually a wealth of software available that can do the job, including VLC Media Player.Natural light is perfectly acceptable for macro photography but the closer you get to your subject, the more light your camera is going to need, so think in terms of more light when you’re shooting in macro mode.We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to macro photography. Please note that this is a bit more advanced than usual and will take a lot of time experimenting and exploring to get the best results – but that’s half the fun right? Don’t forget to share your best results with us by entering our #calendarpets competition and your photography could feature in next year’s calendar.

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