our Wisdom Panel® 3.0 results are in! and you get a promo code!

We recently submitted a canine DNA test kit to Wisdom Panel®, and I'm here to reveal the semi-surprising results! Why would we want to do a DNA test on our dog? Well there are lots of benefits to doing so, but in our case, we were just really curious about what dog breeds make up N.A.S.H.A. For her whole ten-year life, we've been calling her our "terrier mix," affectionately aka our "terror mix." She looks like a mix of terrier breeds with maybe a dash of Chihuahua. That's what we thought, anyway. 

 Our Wisdom Panel® Canine DNA Test results are in...with surprising results! wellmindedpets.com

Our Wisdom Panel® Canine DNA Test results are in...with surprising results! wellmindedpets.com

our results

It turns out the main breeds that make up N.A.S.H.A. are not terrier breeds at all! Drumroll, please...N.A.S.H.A. is a: CHIHUAHUA, ALASKAN MALAMUTE, AMERICAN COCKER SPANIEL MIX.

What the?!

 Would you have guessed this scruffy little girl to be a Chihuahua, Alaskan Malamute, Cocker Spaniel mix?

Would you have guessed this scruffy little girl to be a Chihuahua, Alaskan Malamute, Cocker Spaniel mix?

Chihuahua...okay, sure. But Cocker Spaniel? And the largest reach...Alaskan Malamute? I'll admit, I cracked up for a long time when I read that. It's SO surprising! And truly funny, if you remember how N.A.S.H.A. got her name. My Siberian Husky-obsessed husband named her as an acronym for "Not A Siberian Husky Again." The Husky is very commonly confused with the Malamute due to their similar appearance. I called my husband immediately: "Honey, it turns out she IS sort-of a Husky!" 

But Wisdom Panel doesn't just drop that bomb in your lap and walk away. They go into detail about the characteristics of each breed your dog likely displays and how closely related your dog is to each breed. 

the details of our canine dna test

Considering we've been calling N.A.S.H.A. a mixed terrier for her whole life, we were pretty surprised with the results of her DNA test. The main breeds the test detected were Chihuahua, Alaskan Malamute, and Cocker Spaniel, but she also has a lot of "mixed breed" ancestors, so really, she's a crazy mixed-up mutt, as we expected.

 The results of our Wisdom Panel 3.0 Canine DNA Test

The results of our Wisdom Panel 3.0 Canine DNA Test

Though the breed composition of the "mixed breed" ancestors is unknown, Wisdom Panel provides a chart that describes what the most likely breed groups are...so cool! It turns out there is some terrier in there, but it's the smallest of the groups. Wow!

 N.A.S.H.A.'s mixed-breed ancestry.

N.A.S.H.A.'s mixed-breed ancestry.

It turns out N.A.S.H.A is likely mostly of the sporting breed variety. I always knew she should have been a circus dog. Perhaps we can teach our old dog some new tricks!

In addition to outlining which breed groups are likely in her mixed-breed ancestry, our report detailed the characteristics of the main breeds in her genetic makeup.

 Chihuahua characteristics.

Chihuahua characteristics.

I suspected N.A.S.H.A. had a bit of Chihuahua in her, and, sure enough, she exhibits quite a few Chihuahua traits. She is super playful, responds well to reward-based training, and is quite a barker (like, if a butterfly threatens to invade our home, all hell breaks loose). Aside from her size (slightly larger than a typical Chihuahua) and curved tail, I don't notice much physical resemblance. 

 Alaskan Malamute characteristics.

Alaskan Malamute characteristics.

N.A.S.H.A. is incredibly smart when it comes to being responsive to commands and routines, which she may get from her Alaskan Malamute ancestry. We should have done some agility training with her! As far as physical resemblance? I don't see it! Just don't tell my husband...let him have his fantasy.

 Cocker spaniel characteristics.

Cocker spaniel characteristics.

Again, the Cocker Spaniel is an energetic, happy breed, like the others. They respond well to reward-based training (YES), and bit defensive (butterfly invasion). I'm thinking her physical traits must come from her mixed breed ancestry, because, again, I just don't see it.

health benefits of a canine dna test

I previously outlined the process and benefits of conducting a canine dna test with Wisdom Panel. Aside from being fun and totally non-invasive, the test provides information about possible health risks and issues, which can be helpful in being proactive about your dog's health.

Through an MDR1 Screening, we discovered that N.A.S.H.A. does not have the MDR1 gene mutation that is common with mixed breed dogs. I believe that because of her mixed heritage, she's not obviously at risk for any major health issues.

 Our MDR1 screening results.

Our MDR1 screening results.

should you perform a dna test on your dog?

Aside from being really fun to find out which breeds your dog decends from, especially if you have a mixed-breed dog, performing a DNA test on your dog can reveal characteristics you may want to be warned about or you may want to play into, such as intelligence or training capability. The test can also reveal health risks you can be proactive about.

Should you want to purchase a Wisdom Panel Canine DNA Test for your dog, they are kindly offering our readers $15 OFF with PROMO CODE FF6001807KR

Has your dog taken a canine DNA test? Were you surprised with the results?

the black cat bias

We all know the old wives' tale..."never let a black cat cross your path." But where did that come from? And why shouldn't we?

 Do cats bring bad luck? And are they really the last to be adopted? The Black Cat Bias. wellmindedpets.com

Do cats bring bad luck? And are they really the last to be adopted? The Black Cat Bias. wellmindedpets.com

the origin of the bad luck curse

Black cats started to get the shaft in Europe during the middle ages. Most people were paranoid and hysterical about witches and witchcraft during that time. Poor old ladies (with cats, some of which were black), were accused of being witches, and their cats were guilty of witchcraft by association. People started to believe that the black cats were actually the witches who'd transformed themselves, and this notion fueled the Salem witch trials in America. Some believed that a witch could transform herself into a black cat nine times...which is thought to have been the origin of the "cats have nine lives" saying. Still today, black cats are heavily associated with Halloween and spooky goings-on. For many in Western culture, a black cat crossing paths with a human signifies misfortune and death.

Huffington Post recently broke down the bad news about black cats.

bad luck for black cats

• black cats have a very difficult time being adopted

• some shelters offer reduced adoption prices or free spaying and neutering for black cats to encourage adoption

• 13% of Americans are superstitious about a black cat crossing their path

• some organizations and shelters do not allow adoptions of black cats during the month of October for fear of animal cruelty

• a Nevada shelter put on an "Adopt Your Own Mini Panther" campaign to persuade people to adopt black cats, and all 18 black cats they had were adopted

• black cats have the lowest adoption rate and the highest euthanasia rate

black cat fun facts

• there are 22 breeds of cats that can have solid black coats

• the Bombay is the most common black cat breed, a breed also characterized by intelligence, playfulness, and tendency to interact and seek attention

• the percentage of male and female black cats is slightly skewed toward the male gender

• the high melanin pigment in black cats causes most of them to have yellow eyes

• in many other cultures, a black cat is thought to bring good fortune and prosperity

the good news

As awareness is raised about the black cat adoption situation, more and more people are coming to shelters specifically requesting a black cat. Since these animal lovers know the struggle black cats face, they are helping the cause. Pawsome!

We recently worked with one of our favorite black cat clients, Jacopo. If you take a look at this outtake from our time together, you'll see the smart, playful, gorgeous "mini panther" that he is.

Tell me about your black cat!

A back cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere. -Groucho Marx


is your child begging for a hamster? do hamsters make good pets for kids?

Is your kiddo begging for a pet? Perhaps a dog or cat or even a pony? Or maybe it's a hamster. A hamster is a classic. Whenever you are considering bringing a pet into the family, it's important to do thorough research and understand the type of care the pet requires. A pet is not a thing or a toy. It is a living being that depends on us for survival and requires our unwavering commitment. They can bring so much joy to us and to our children, as long as we know what we're getting into. 

 Do hamsters make good pets for kids?

Do hamsters make good pets for kids?

Hamsters are sometimes referred to as "starter pets," implying that they are somehow less important and less of a commitment than cats and dogs and other animals. In fact, when I originally wrote this article as a contributor at Brie Brie Blooms, I referred to hamsters as "starter pets." A colleague of mine, Emmy the Pet Sitter, kindly suggested that we remove the term "starter pet" from our language, and I could see her point. All pets require care and are important. Whether you adore a tarantula, hamster, or pony, they are all "pets." Emmy knows a whole lot about hamsters and, sadly, recently lost her beloved hamster, Winnie. RIP, Winnie, and a special thank you to Emmy for her guidance on this article. 

When considering bringing a hamster into the family, I feel that there are three main areas that need to be considered: cost, care, and reward.

cost

Relatively speaking, hamsters are inexpensive pets to keep. Most of the cost will be upfront in purchasing the hamster's environment and its food. Ongoing costs include bedding and food. Veterinary care is not a big factor unless something goes terribly wrong health-wise. 

Most hamsters are purchased when they are young in pet stores, but hamster rescues do exist (they may charge a fee). I'm always a believer in rescuing rather than buying, if possible. 

The amount you spend can vary, depending on the cage you choose and how many toys you purchase. Cages can be simple one-level structures, or you may opt for a deluxe, multi-level mansion. Always make sure that your hamster has plenty of room to roam and exercise. 

SUPPLY LIST

 Even though they are small, hamsters require lots of "gear."

Even though they are small, hamsters require lots of "gear."

ventilated hamster cage (not an aquarium)

bedding

nesting structure

wheel

ball

toys

water bottle

food

treats

Most pet stores will carry a hamster starter kit which will include most of the above.

care

Hamsters are fairly low maintenance compared to other pets, but it is vital that their needs be met. Care includes the following:

FOOD & WATER: Water should be changed daily, and food levels monitored and replenished as needed.

EXERCISE: Hamsters are active little guys, and require a great deal of exercise. This can be in the form of a hamster wheel inside the cage, and it's also fun to purchase a hamster ball so your pet can explore outside the cage, yet still be safe. 

 It is important to take great care of your hamster.

It is important to take great care of your hamster.

CLEAN ENVIRONMENT: Hamsters lick and chew on just about everything, so it's important to their health to maintain a clean cage. Weekly thorough cage cleanings (with complete bedding change) are recommended. Be sure to use pet safe (we prefer chemical-free) cleaning products. We love PL360 and Melaleuca.

INTERACTION: Though it's best not to house multiple hamsters together, they are quite social with humans and require daily play time and attention in order to be happy and healthy.

 

reward

When choosing a pet, it's important to consider what the pet can add to your life, something that is especially important when considering a pet for a child. What can hamsters add to your child's life?

• they are playful and fun

• once tame, they enjoy being held and played with

• they are great companions and can help with self-esteem 

what are the pros and cons?

As with any pet, having a pet hamster has pros and cons. Some points even overlap both categories.

 As with any pet, there are pros and cons to having a hamster.

As with any pet, there are pros and cons to having a hamster.

PROS

• they can be tamed, and become quite loving and social

• they love to play, and they are fun to watch

• they are fairly low maintenance, yet rewarding

• they are relatively inexpensive

• they teach children responsibility

• they don't take up a lot of space

• they are nocturnal: if not bothered by the noise, kids report that they help them feel more secure and less lonely at night

• they have a short life expectancy (2-3 years), so they are not as much of a commitment as some other pets

CONS

• they can take several weeks to tame, and can be skittish until they are comfortable with you

• weekly cage cleanings

• they can bite, especially before tamed or if you interrupt their nap

• they might (it will happen eventually) poo and pee on you when you hold them

• they are difficult to find if they escape, and they must be kept away from dogs and cats and other pets who may injure them

• they are nocturnal: if your child is bothered by wheel-running and gnawing in the middle of the night, it might be a problem

• they have a short life expectancy (2-3 years)

hamsters and kids: the bottom line

 Do you think a hamster would make a good pet for your child?

Do you think a hamster would make a good pet for your child?

In my opinion, hamsters make excellent pets for school-aged children (six and up). At that age, they can just about care for a hamster by themselves, though, ultimately, parents need to make sure proper care is maintained. A child younger than six may not be able to handle a hamster properly, as they require a gentle touch and a supportive hold. Hamsters make great pets for school-aged children because though they are low maintenance, they are super fun to play with and watch and are quite interactive with people and their environment.

Hamsters are a load of fun. If your child is ready for the commitment and the care as well as the love, go for it! 

Does your child have a hamster as a pet? Please tell us about it!

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A special thanks to my friend, Tory, of Victoria O'Leary Photography, for allowing me to use her personal photos of her super cute daughter, Leighton, and Leighton's adorable hamster, Cookie. If you live in the Los Angeles area and are looking for an amazing (arguably the best on the planet) newborn/family photographer, please check out her work.

This article, written by me, originally appeared on Brie Brie Blooms and has been reposted here, with minor changes, with permission.

summer reptile adventures teach kids about #ReptileCare

Since summer is my busiest time as a pet sitter, our family typically stays close to home. With temps reaching 110°-plus, we are either in a pool or seeking out indoor activities to have some fun in-between pet sitting visits. We are fortunate that the Phoenix Public Library offers fabulous free programs and guest speakers, especially during the summer. One of our favorites each year is Rich Isle's Reptile Adventures.

 Summer reptile adventures teach kids about #ReptileCare.

Summer reptile adventures teach kids about #ReptileCare.

Rich, "the Reptile Man," has been obsessed with reptiles since he was a young boy, and he's become an expert, sharing his knowledge and his exotic reptiles with the public, touring all over the Phoenix Valley. He has had a personal collection of live reptiles for over 40 years. He tells his audience of youngsters that if they are interested in something, they should study and read all about it so that they can become experts, too (after homework, of course). He shares his passion with others.

Rich brings the live reptiles through the audience so kids can see them up close. He teaches about their characteristics, environment in the wild, their diet, defense mechanisms, and life cycles. Aside from getting to see some really awesome reptiles, the kids walk away with a broader knowledge and greater respect for these often-mysterious creatures. He lets the kids know which ones make great starter pets and which ones are better left to the experienced reptile wranglers. 

Check out some of the cool creatures we got to see!

 Sunset, a bearded dragon from Australia.

Sunset, a bearded dragon from Australia.

 Slim, a blue-tongued skink.

Slim, a blue-tongued skink.

 Amarilla, an albino green iguana. She's only four, but when she grows up she'll be six feet long!

Amarilla, an albino green iguana. She's only four, but when she grows up she'll be six feet long!

 Pumpkin, a Tangerine Milk Snake. She'll grow to be seven feet long.

Pumpkin, a Tangerine Milk Snake. She'll grow to be seven feet long.

 A piebald (she has random patches of white) Ball Python.

A piebald (she has random patches of white) Ball Python.

 T-Bo, a 26-year-old Rhinoceros Iguana.

T-Bo, a 26-year-old Rhinoceros Iguana.

 Theresa, a 9-year-old Python. She's only half grown, and that's only about half of her!

Theresa, a 9-year-old Python. She's only half grown, and that's only about half of her!

 The kids got to pet Theresa. 

The kids got to pet Theresa. 

I feel so lucky that my children and I get to experience these amazing creatures up close. What a rare opportunity and amazing hands-on learning experience. Rich is a big personality and keeps the kids really engaged, as if the reptiles aren't enough to do so.

Though we have a Sulcata Tortoise, my kids often talk about adopting another reptile, which I'm not opposed to, but we don't take adding a family member to our household lightly, so it may be a while. We'll have to do some more thorough research so we don't end up with a sixty-foot snake by accident. When we do decide to adopt one, I'll be sure to consult Rich before we do.

Do you have a reptile? Tell us about it!

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top 10 apps for kids who love animals

Got a kiddo who is crazy about animals? There's an app for that. These days, you can find an app to satisfy almost any interest, but with so many options out there, how do we determine which ones are best for our kids? Look no further. We've summarized a selection of apps that are great for kids from toddlers to tweens. These apps will educate and entertain at minimal cost, and some are even free. Check out our top ten:

 top 10 apps for kids who love animals

top 10 apps for kids who love animals

top 10 apps for kids who love animals

ANAMALIA: ages 5+, $2.99 ($3.99 for the iPad version)

This app pairs gorgeous illustrations with learning about animals, the alphabet, and vocabulary. 

Education: The Animalia app is based on an alphabet picture book of the same name. The graphics in the app mimic the gorgeous illustrations of the book, and three separate games help kids learn the alphabet and new vocabulary words. Excellent for emerging readers.

Fun Factor: In addition to being an e-book, this app has three guessing games that are fun and challenging, so they will keep your new reader interested and coming back for more.

Safety: Security is good, and this app is relatively safe. There is an option to share your score on Facebook. There are links to the author’s web site.

Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

ANIMAL PLANET: TRIVIA CHALLENGE: ages 8+, $1.99

This wildlife trivia app incorporates video and puzzle questions.

Education: Elementary-aged kids and even pre-teens will enjoy learning and being quizzed about wildlife animals. There are multiple levels of difficulty, and the game is played in rounds. Kids will need strong reading skills, as each question has a fifteen-second time limit. 

Fun Factor: Scores are saved and tracked in the game center, and the challenge of answering trivia puzzles in different forms with a time-limit is exciting.

Safety: Link to more games from the developer and to the Discovery Chanel web site. Users can upload avatar photos, where their location, post on message boards, connect with Facebook and Twitter, and access live chat with strangers. These features can be turned off.

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPodTouch, iPad 

BUBBLE GUPPIES: ANIMAL SCHOOL DAY: preschool, $2.99-$4.99

The characters from the popular Nick Jr. TV show, Bubble Guppies, take preschoolers on an interactive adventure as they learn about ten wild animals.

Education: Young children learn about the characteristics, habitat, and diet of ten wild animals. They tap, drag, swipe, and sort, so the app helps with developmental skills such as categorization and fine motor development. 

Fun Factor: Any fan of Bubble Guppies will love the interactive games, sprinkled with jokes and silly encouragement.

Safety: No safety concerns or in-app purchases.

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPodTouch, iPad, KindleFire

PEEKABOO BARN FARM DAY: preschool, $2.99

Talk about adorable! This app will be a hit with the preschool crowd.

Education: This cute app is easy for young children to play. They are introduced to responsibility in taking care of the animals, which include a dog, cat, cow, sheep, duck, chicken, pig, and llama. Toddlers will also be exposed to the concepts of dawn, day, and night as they wake the animals, care for them, and put them to sleep. Though not all of the animal interactions are true-to life, it's a great first exposure to farm life for young animal lovers. Preschoolers can test their reasoning skills and creativity.

Fun Factor: The animals are adorable, and young children love the interactions and the fun of taking care of each animal from dawn to dusk. Wake the animals with a rooster crow, and put them to sleep at dusk. Kids can explore the app by tapping and discovering new interactions.

Safety: No personal information is collected. There is a link to "other apps," but written directions must be followed in order to access them, so it is unlikely preschoolers would be able to access the link.

Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

POCKET ZOO WITH LIVE ANIMAL CAMS: ages 4+, $1.99

Learn about animal and watch them live on zoo webcams.

Education: Pocket Zoo lets us watch animals from zoos around the world via live webcams. It includes photos, animal facts, and animal sounds. You can look up animals from a list or from the "map" page, which looks like a zoo map. The combination of information provided with being able to check out the animals live is educational and fun for all ages.

Fun Factor: What could be more fun than checking out real animals on webcams? Older children can send email messages and tweets about what they are watching.

Safety: Though the email and tweet options are fun, they can be disabled for younger children, and require a username and password. There is a link to the Pocket Zoo store in the "more" section.

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

THE STRANGE AND WONDERFUL WORLD OF ANTS: ages 6+, $1.99

Who isn't fascinated by ants? This interactive ebook will satisfy any young scientist's curiosity. 

ants-pic.jpg

Education: I love the fact that this educational ebook offers three reading levels: beginner (with narration), intermediate, and advanced. The app offers detailed information about different types of ants. The illustrations are beautiful and engaging. The book even delves into what human society can learn from ants and the similarities and differences. Builds science, vocabulary, and reading skills.

Fun Factor: An ant treks across the screen and offers bonus information when tapped.

Safety: Outside resource links. 

Platforms: iPad

TOCA PET DOCTOR: preschool, $2.99

Toca Pet Doctor is a great first app for preschool aged kids who want to care for a virtual pet.

Education: This app introduces pet care and empathy for our youngest animal lovers. Children nurse fifteen sick or injured animals back to health. They use their reasoning skills to determine which simple cure will help the animals.

Fun Factor: The animals are super cute, and the app is "free-play," so there are no rules. It's easy to play and requires little if no guidance.

Safety: An icon on the main screen leads to another Toca app, but this can be disabled. No personal data is collected in the app.

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPodTouch, iPad, KindleFire

TOUCH PETS DOGS (2)/TOUCH PETS CATS (2): ages 8+, free

Two apps, one for dogs, and one for cats, these are part silly and part real with a great message for elementary-aged kids.

Education: Kids will virtually care for their pets and watch them thrive as they make real-world decisions. The apps encourage pet adoption over purchasing, which is a great message. Kids learn about basic pet care, responsibility, ethics and respect.

Fun Factor: You can take your pets on missions, and be silly as dogs and cats work towards career goals. The satisfaction of doing a great job caring for pets and watching them thrive is fun, in itself.

Safety: This app is designed for elementary-aged kids. There are in-app purchases and post the status of their pet to social media. 

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

WORLD BOOK'S WORLD OF ANIMALS: ages 7+, $4.99

The World Book's World of Animals app allows an in-depth, comparative look at over 200 animals with beautiful pictures.

Education: With over 200 living and extinct animals to explore, this app teaches about detailed characteristics. Each animal has its own page that includes photos and information about the species, scientific name, physical characteristics, diet, habitat, predators, and conservation status. Animals can be browsed and even compared and ranked based on various characteristics. Multiple-choice quizzes test kids on what they have learned.

Fun Factor: The beautiful pictures and ability to compare animals will keep kids coming back for more. It's like an interactive encyclopedia! The interface is easy and encourages exploration.

Safety: No discovered security concerns.

Platforms: iPad

ZOOLA Animals: preschool, free lite version/full version $3.99

Little ones will love the animal sounds and pictures. Common Sense Media describes it as "the 21st-century version of the See 'n' Say pull-the-string toy."

Education: Preschoolers will see real animal pictures, hear the animal sound, and identify the animal. Simple interface and multiple pictures of the same type of animal will reinforce identification. Children can start to distinguish between adult and baby animals as well as male and female.

Fun Factor: Toddlers and preschoolers love to see the animal pictures and hear the animal sounds. There are animal identification games, and you can even submit your own photos with your own pets.

Safety: No in-app purchases. You can submit your own photos, but this is likely too complicated without parental help. 

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Kindle Fire

guidelines are great, but always consider your child's individual needs 

When it comes to getting the scoop on apps I’m considering for my children, I like to make sure that the programs my children are interacting with are appropriate and of high quality. I always turn to Common Sense Media when doing my research. Common Sense Media is a fantastic web site that rates apps, video games, and movies from the perspectives of the manufacturer/proucer, parents, and kids. The site provides the most well-rounded look at things that I’ve come across.

Every kiddo is different, so the age ranges noted here are guidelines. Some younger kids are ready to explore more advanced apps, and some older children might not yet be ready for the more challenging apps. Always research for yourself and select the best apps for your children based on their interests and ability levels.

Has your child tried any of these apps? Do you or your child have any favorite animal apps to share? We'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

This article, written by me, originally appeared on Brie Brie Blooms and is reposted here with minor changes with permission.

All images courtesy of commonsensemedia.org