Tails Blog

How to take great photos of your pets

Steve Coppell - Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taking photos of your pets can be fun and rewarding, but unless you are a professional, luck often plays a part in getting great shots. However, with patience and preparation, you should be able to achieve some really pleasing results.

You probably won't get the shot your after if your pet is stressed. So the best time to photograph your pet is when it is relaxed and happy. More often than not, this is when it is in it's natural environment.  Our dogs love the beach, and this environment often makes for an excellent backdrop.

The Backdrop
When setting up for a shot, minimise the clutter. Sometimes a photo is too busy and the viewers attention is drawn away from the intended  shot. So think about enticing your pet into a nice spot with a simple backdrop. 
As a rule light coloured pets photograph better against a dark background, and conversely dark pets show up better against a light background.

Eye contact
Try getting down to your pets level and centre your shot on your pets eyes. Animals show their expression and personality through their eyes so you will get a more intimate photo. Get close to the subject and fill the viewfinder with your subject- emphasise what is important and exclude the rest. Fortunately most modern cameras have zoom lenses that give you a tight crop without having to get too close.

Good lighting
Exposure wise the easiest photos are taken outside in natural light. Diffused light on cloudy days is actually better than bright sunlight, which can create unwanted contrast and shadows in your pictures. Some of the best lighting for taking photos inside is side light from a natural light source like a large window.
Using a flash as your main source of light creates it's own problems. The flash can startle your subject. It also often creates a very flat over exposed look and red eye.

It's a good idea to have some treats ready to entice your subject if perhaps they are not willing subjects for your photo shoot. When photographing cats, hold a feather wand right on top of the camera to get optimum eye contact. It makes the pupils of their eyes really big and you can get great reflections in their eyes.

Little Critters
It's not only large pets that star in front of the camera. When taking shots of cage bound pets like rabbits, birds and guinea pigs one option is to photograph them being held in someone's hand to keep them still and allow you to get as close as you need to. If you want to take a photo of them in their cage, put your camera right up against the cage to put the bars out of focus, likewise when taking shots of fish, put your camera lens right against the tank or at an angle to eliminate reflection, turn off the flash and use the natural light, or the light the tank  provides.


Creating a really effective aquarium display

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 29, 2011

Planning your aquarium layout

Deciding what fish you want to display in your aquarium is an important first decision. The size of your tank and how the different species interact together will play a part in how well your display works. Many advanced aquarists keep only fish from the same region in an aquarium. 

The selection of fish and plant types has a major effect on the appearance of an aquarium. Rather than going for a two of everything approach, select a small number of fish species in larger shoals. 

Keeping and displaying plants in your aquarium.

Keeping live plants in your aquarium can add another dimension to your display. Growing your own aquarium plants is not always easy. Many people struggle with this. Good lighting is important if your plants are going to do well in your tank environment. This means;

Having plant specific light tubes on for 10 to 12 hours daily. Get a timer! regular photoperiod is important and remembering to turn the lights on and off again at the same time every day is a big ask for most people. 

Light reflectors on the hood of your tank will double the amount of light reaching the water. 

Purchase a good quality fertiliser for your plants, read and follow the instructions provided. 

Display similar plants in smaller groupings. Keep tall fast growing plants at the rear of the aquarium and low plants at the front of the tank. 

Good filtration

Buy good quality filter equipment, don't skimp on the filter. Often the filter will also be providing the water circulation and aeration, and both of these are vital to the success of your aquarium. Ideally your filter will turn over the entire volume of water in your tank at least four times an hour. 

Every fish keepers hate!

Algae, it's a challenge for many keepers who take pride in the appearance of their pristine tanks. Actually algae control in aquaria can be made easier. 

Rapidly growing plants suppress the growth of algae in your tank. You can't reduce the light or the nutrients you have added to make the plants grow, so make sure you have plenty of plants. 

You may decide to add a few algae eating fish to your tank. 

You also have at your disposal biological additives. These consume waste, suppress algae and help prevent fish disease. The trick is to use them regularly, not just every once in a while.

Final advice

Do the basics well: do partial water changes, clean the filter, trim the plants and clean the glass regularly.

Rats as Pets

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rats are clean, intelligent and friendly animals that make great pets for young and old alike. With an average lifespan of two to three years, they are not a long term commitment, but there are some things you need to consider before you get started.

Before adopting a rat, consider whether you'll be able to interact with your pet on a daily basis. Rats require stimulation and shouldn't be left alone in their cage without company for long periods of time. The more interaction they have with you the more tame they will become.

Rats make wonderful pets for children; but are better suited to those over 10 years of age. Younger children need to be well supervised while handling and caring for rats because young children aren't always aware of how precious rats are and how quickly things can go wrong if they are squeezed or set free.

So are you thinking of getting more than one rat? 
Rats are social animals that require the company of other rats, so it is a good idea to get more than one rat. Try to get two of the same sex. Two rats are no more difficult to care for than one, and having a pair doesn't mean they will bond with you any less.

Males or Females

Males are generally bigger and more relaxed. They can make great lap rats and like to snuggle. Males can mark their territory and possibly have a muskier smell, although its not a bad smell. Neutered males tend to mark and smell less. 

Females are smaller, sleeker, and generally more active. They are great fun to watch and play with, but less likely to sit still. They do slow down as they age and usually love receiving cuddles. Unfortunately they are also more prone to tumours.

Settling in

When you get your new rat home, place them in their home for a few hours. Most rats will be a little nervous to begin with, so let them get use to their new surroundings in their own time and handle them gently.

Rabbit breeds and their characteristics

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 08, 2011


Lops are a popular breed in New Zealand. They come in various forms, including Miniature, Dwarf, and Cashmere. Born with upright ears that flop as they get older, lops range in size from a mini lop which weighs about 1.6k, to the Cashmere lop, weighing approximately 2.4kg. Most Lop rabbits have good temperaments, although occasionally one might be a bit feisty. They are slightly more prone to Malloclusion - overlapping teeth than other breeds, so check the teeth carefully when selecting a baby.

Flemish Giants

Flemish Giants are just as the name suggests - giant! The largest of the pet rabbit breeds, Flemish Giant rabbits weigh about 6-7kg, but this shouldn't scare off prospective buyers. They are often more docile, and as  rabbits don't like to be picked up much anyway they are good for small children because they are less likely to hurt them. Also they are more cat proof. Flemish Giants are relatively intelligent and, like many rabbits, can be trained to use a litter tray.

Netherland Dwarfs

The Netherland Dwarf is the smallest breed available, weighing between 0.5kg and 1.5kg. They have round, baby like eyes and faces, even in adulthood, and perky upright ears. Netherland Dwarfs, despite their small size, have a reputation for being a bit feisty, but with careful handling and treatment from a young age, they can make good pets for older children.

Angora and Long Haired 

Angoras and other long haired rabbits have good temperaments, individual personalities and look amazing, but do require a lot of care. Only get one of these rabbits if you are prepared for daily maintenance. Because of their long fur, long haired rabbits are prone to wool block, where matted fur blocks up the intestines, causing the rabbit to starve.

Rarer Breeds

There are many other breeds available as well. Breeds such as Chinchilla, Harlequin, Californian, or Rex breeds. Harlequins are calm, curious rabbits that enjoy attention, while the California and Chinchilla also make good pets. Rex rabbits are available in mini and standard, both of which have velveteen fur that makes them cuddly.





Care of Rabbits


These pets need a good sized hutch or cage where they can exercise, relax in the shade and be protected from drafts and flooding.


Provide untanilised wood shavings, hay or shredded newspaper.


Give your rabbits a range of toys, such as cardboard boxes and balls, as well as branches and wooden treats to gnaw, which help to keep the teeth filed to a suitable length.


Rabbits need unlimited access to good quality hay, a large selection of greens and vegetables. Also a small amount of rabbit mix pellets.


Groom your rabbit once a week. Make sure you keep it's claws clipped.


When handling, hold them firmly while keeping in mind that they have powerful legs. Never pick up rabbits by their ears. It is strongly recommended that you neuter male rabbits to prevent aggressive behaviour.


6-8 years. As with any pet, you need to be able to care for your rabbit for the duration of it's life. 

Hot Spots and Skin Allergies

Steve Coppell - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What are the causes of skin conditions and hot spots in dogs and cats?

An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Essentially our pets immune system over reacts. Cats and dogs are susceptible to an allergic response in the same way that we are. Our pets often experience allergies in the form of skin conditions as a consequence. 

Flea Bites

Saliva in the bite from a flea causes an over reaction that creates irritation. 

Dietary Allergy

As the title suggests, things our pets eat can cause an allergic response. Our pets can even suffer an allergic response to common food compounds such as protein or carbohydrates. But often its a preservative or dyes in the food. 

Atopic Dermatitis

This condition is often hereditary. Certain breeds are more susceptible. Dogs with this affliction often have itchy eyes, muzzle, ears and/or feet. Common inhaled allergens include pollen, grass, plants, dust mites and mould. Inhalant allergies cause scratching, chewing and licking. This leads to secondary infections and further discomfort.

Hot Spots

A hot spot is an acutely inflamed area of skin irritation, caused or made worst by your dogs licking or biting.

What can I do to help if my pet suffers from skin conditions mentioned above?

Tails now stock BioPet Grasses. This product is made in New Zealand. It is a homoeopathic compound specially designed for pets troubled by grasses.  

Aniwell Active Manuka Honey is an excellent product for damaged or irritated skin. It can be used on Horses, Dogs, Cats, Cattle Pigs Sheep and Goats. It is effective, all natural and made in New Zealand. 


Cats and Cars

Steve Coppell - Saturday, September 10, 2011

More often than not, cats don't travel well in cars. Cats enjoy the comfort of familia surroundings and stay close to their own territory. Another thing that cats don't like is to be confined as they are inside a car. Travelling in cars can be noisy and full of strange smells. Not to mention this experience for them is often associated with bad memories. For example the trip to the vet. 


Clipper Cayman Pet Carrier

It's a good idea to use a  pet carrier. It improves safety for you and for your pet as well, because you can imagine just how distracting it is to have a freaked out cat roaming about free inside your car. 

Free Delivery : Tails delivers at no extra cost to you. Just click on the Clipper Cayman to learn more.

Teach your Parrot to Step up

Steve Coppell - Sunday, July 31, 2011

Parrots have been kept for pets for centuries, since before the Roman times. For many people these creatures are revered for there colourful appearance, character and charm. New Zealand is home to six native species of parrot, though they aren't to be kept as pets because they are under threat and so are protected. 

The shape of a parrots beak offers clues about it's proffered diet. Whether it has a small compact bill designed to remove grass seeds from stalks and husks like the Cockatiel and Budgerigar, or the relatively larger beak of the Amazons and Greys for tackling a variety of fruits and seeds, or the thin bill of the Kea which is used to probe for insects.

As keeping birds for pets has become increasingly  popular, so our knowledge has improved with regard to the different species dietary needs and requirements. Some breeds of Parrot can live for 80 years and beyond. A good diet is an important aspect when you consider what provides the best outcome for a happy healthy Parrot.

That being said, Tails has a huge range of food and supplements specially designed for all your pet birds dietary needs. These are just a few. 


Toys for Parrots
Parrots are playful, and should never be denied access to toys. In the wild even our own Kea have been known to chew on cars parked up in national parks causing extensive damage and mayhem. Chewing things provides entertainment and mental stimulation. You don't have to spend a lot of money buying the most expensive toys available on the market, but you do need to be mindful that what you give them to chew is not poisonous.

Cost effective options
There are cost effective options like Pine Cones. These can be studded with treats for encouragement. Twigs and Branches for chewing. Toilet rolls and paper towel tubes, these are all light, hygienic and easily replaced when soiled.

Purchase a toy or two for your parrots environment
If you decide you want to purchase a toy or two for your parrots environment, buy ones that will last because otherwise your parrot will make short work of it, and your hard earned cash will quickly be converted to mess at the bottom of your parrots cage.


Training your Parrot
People quickly associate parrots with the idea that they can be trained to speak, and in many cases this is true, but some won't utter a word. Parrots have been known to have cognitive word association, rather than automatons repeatedly uttering the same words. Calling their owners by name, saying thank you when given food, saying hello when you arrive and good bye when you leave. All this is only achieved by our interaction with them as cognitive beings.

Step up

The first place a lot of  people start when they begin to train their parrot is to step up. Step up is taught most easily outside the cage to begin with. Ideally, place your bird on a T bar stand, facing you at chest height. Then offer your hand to the bird at it's chest while giving the command to step up. Some will automatically step up. If it doesn't step up,  push against the bird enough to unbalance the bird with your flat downward facing palm. When he climbs aboard praise and stroke him. If parrot tries to bite take things slow and offer a perch initially till your parrot becomes more use to you. Sometimes a treat in your other hand is an effective encouragement. Repeat this exercise regularly, it should soon becomes natural. By teaching step up you are asserting your dominance.

Fly to you

This behaviour (asking to step up) can extend to training your parrot to fly to you. Simply step back from the perch while extending your hand and give the command, praising him copiously when he does what is required. The distance between you and the bird can be extended until he is flying some distance to you. An extra reward or treat will not go amiss at this stage.

Check out our other Bird related blog Posts

Your Parrot and Happy Healthy Feet   
Keeping a Budgie for a Pet  
Keeping chickens for pets in NZ 
Treat foods for birds 
Feeding Parrots

Heavy Drinking

Steve Coppell - Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Drink lots of water! 

It's a fact, drinking plenty of fresh clean water is good for your health. 

We drink water because:
It transports oxygen to our bodies cells.
Water regulates our body temperature.
Water provides means for nutrients to travel to all our organs.
Water is used by the body to remove toxins and waste.
Water is a lubricant for our bodies and so provides protection for our joints and organs.
Water leads to increased energy levels, the most common cause of day time fatigue is actually dehydration.  

So we know how important fresh clean water is to us.
Water is equally important to your pet, regardless of what pets you have. Unless of course you have fish.
To combat an infection and ward off future ones, be certain that your pet has fresh clean water to drink.

How can I check if I'm concerned about my dogs hydration?

To check for dehydration in dogs, grab a piece of skin at the back of your dogs neck. Stretch it out, then let it go. A properly hydrated dogs skin will snap quickly back into place, while the dehydrated dogs skin will return slowly and form a "tent" in the process.

Dry Food verses Canned Food

If you feed your pet canned food, try cutting back on the canned stuff while increasing his portion of dried food. Canned food contains enough water to reduce your pets normal thirst, causing him to drink less than he actually needs for a healthy urinary tract. By contrast, dry food will make him thirsty, and encourage him to drink water.

Tails special offer
If you don't already buy food from us here at tails, we are willing to offer you and all your friends a complementary voucher. 
E mail tails at info@tails.co.nz if you want us to send you one. 
The voucher is valid for a month and is valid for Royal Canin Dog and Cat food only. 

Are you are looking for a hassle free, spill proof, hygienic, way to provide fresh clean water for your dog outside 24/7?
Check this picture out! 

Tails have Lixit Automatic Dog Waterers at very affordable prices with free delivery. This is an option for your dog outside.
It is quick to set up and easy to train your dog to use these. We recommend these waterers and of course they are fully guaranteed. 

So if your glass is half fill, don't be wet behind the ears, you'll be like a fish out of water.
Stay hydrated. feed your pets dry food,  and provide plenty of fresh clean water for your pets.

Tips for teaching your pup to come when called.

Steve Coppell - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So why does it all go wrong when pup seemed to be listening really well initially?

Two things often occur when people first get their new pup and they decide to teach it to come on command.

Firstly, what most new owners find is that pup initially comes when it's called really well, ( say about the first 4 months ). This is because they are still really young and so very attached and dependant on you. But as they get older the command seems to wear off and they stop coming.

Secondly, a lot of new pup owners fail to use a leash when trying to teach the animal to come. When pup is not on a leash they have a choice whether they come or not. Giving pup a choice is a training no no.

So how should we train pup to come when called?

Put on his collar and attach a long retractable lead. Have some treats ready. Call pup enthusiastically, you can clap your hands, stoop down, or take a couple of steps backward.

Give him a treat when he comes to you and lots of encouragement. When he has finished the treat, let him off to explore again. ( doing this teaches him that being called to come doesn't necessarily mean that play time is over )

Repeat this exercise over and over increasing the number and closeness of distractions that are luring him, until he comes automatically every time. Then, and only then do you take him off the leash and start the process over again until he comes each time you call. 

My cat has stopped using the litter box!

Steve Coppell - Monday, June 20, 2011

What happened?

You start to notice your feline has a problem hitting the litter box, and now she is going on the kitchen floor, in the bathtub, or anywhere else inside the house but where she suppose to go.

First things first.

Firstly, are you clearing the litter box daily and replacing the litter often enough?  Do you have enough litter boxes for the number of pets in the house?  Or is there a litter box for every level of the house?  Can you be sure there isn't a health problem associated with these events?

Don't Despair
You can try these ways to get her back using the litter box again.

If it smells like a toilet it must be the toilet.

When you notice your pet has missed the litter box you need to remove all traces of this event. So of course the faeces and urine needs to be cleaned up, but also any smells left behind that your pet will pick up in the future. Failing to remove these odour's will only encourage her to go to the toilet in this place again next time. 
Once the area has been cleaned you can spray a urine smell neutraliser to kill the scent.

This is where we eat, not where we go to the toilet.
You can discourage your cat from using the wrong spot over and over again by placing her food in the spot every day for at least 21 days. She will get the idea that this is a feeding area and stop using it for a toilet.

When all else fails.

If your cats litter box is made of plastic and you have had it a long time, it will eventually absorb the offending odours so it doesn't make a difference how often you replace the litter. A new plastic litter box is not expensive to replace. It might be worth buying a new one.