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My pet moss ball....

30/06/2021 - Training

Those of you with children of a certain age may have seen there was a trend about having a ‘no maintenance’ pet moss ball doing the rounds on social media, which of course meant one was required in our house. Having an autistic daughter a lot of the time saying ‘no’ just isn’t worth the hassle, (pick your battles wisely!) so I agreed I would look into moss balls and whether we could have one.

When most of us think of a pet we’re drawn to hamsters, guinea pigs and, of course, dogs - which are a big commitment, but I felt that I needed to know what I was letting myself into with a moss ball. Hey, it’s just a ball of moss, but it’s a living thing and our job to help keep it healthy and alive, right?

Incredibly, these tiny moss balls can live for 200 years and they grow….. so what may be tiny now, will be pretty big eventually. As I was told, they don’t actually need much care, no food, occasional rolling so they don’t grow flat and a regular water change - and that’s about it. So, you guessed it, I agreed, and we are now the proud owner of not one, but FIVE moss balls!

But the story doesn’t end there…..
Off we trundled to the pet shop to see if they had any moss balls in stock – of course they did. Whilst there we saw all the different fish happily swimming around (can you tell what’s coming next?). Now, we had fish a few times many years ago but eventually the fish died, mainly because fish keeping is really quite hard and there’s a lot to it (as those of you with pet fish will know), but seeing my daughter enjoying watching the fish I suggested that, instead of just keeping the moss balls in a jar, we could set up an aquarium and have some fish too and she could keep them in her room.

So, instead of just one moss ball - we now have FIVE mossballs, THREE Platys and TWO Minnows. As a bonus, the moss balls will now have a purpose and help to keep the nitrate levels in the water stable!

With Google being such a wealth of information these days, I’ve been reading lots of articles about successful fish keeping and googling any questions I’ve had, especially water went cloudy in the first few days. In general, things have been going well, except that all the jobs (feeding and water changes) are now mine, as it caused too many sensory issues for my daughter to undertake as planned.

As we know, most kids will promise to care for a new pet. It’s how they persuade us, and of course we know it will provide responsibility and be a nurturing opportunity for them, BUT realistically most kids will get bored or distracted and not look after the pet as much as planned. Whether it be fish, a hamster or indeed a dog – ALL the family (or at least one parent) has to be prepared to take on the main responsibilities to care for the pet. Kids may help but they will need supervision and support to ensure the pet is living its best life.
We’ve now had our fish about 6 weeks and recently one of the fish has started to act ‘odd’. She (Hallie, who happens to be the smallest!) was not swimming as much, reduced movement, sitting by the filter or at the bottom of the tank – back to Google and I’ve read a number of different reasons for this behaviour. One article contradicted another, one said something the others hadn’t, some were forum responses from supposed pro-fish keepers - all in all there were around 8 different thoughts as to why Hallie was looking like she might not live to swim another day.

As you might expect I was a bit overwhelmed and unsure as to which of the many articles would be the right one to listen to, so checked the source of the information to see if it were from a credible source, looked if there was a common theme and ignored the forum responses because I didn’t know who these folk were adding their two-penneth worth.

This is not dissimilar to when owners have an issue or training question with their dogs - Google may have a million answers but how do we know which one is the one to listen to, and whether the suggestion help or hinder? So many of our clients will say they checked Google and were more confused than when they started or wonder if that really is the right thing to do.
One of the common themes that came up in the Google search was to do with the water quality, so I’ve been adding a chemical to remove tap water chemicals at each water change. I thought that was enough, but now I’ve begun testing the water with a simple dip stick – the results were that my KH levels were too high – back to Google – ‘how do I reduce KH level in my fish tank?’.

Again after more searching and researching and checking the sources etc, the common theme was ‘easy to increase, hard to decrease’ but I saw a common suggestion and now we are using 50% tap and 50% distilled water for our water changes and the KH levels have begun to drop.
Three water changes later and I am pleased to report that Hallie is now more active, she’s swimming better and eating again – woohoo!
Our new pets - which after the initial set up costs were expected to be low maintenance and low budget - are now requiring water testing kits and literally bucket loads of bought in distilled water BUT we have a healthy environment for the fish to thrive and one happy daughter who finds the fish relaxing and therapeutic – win win!

All that Hallie needed was the right environment to thrive in and thankfully Google provided those answers for me (if it didn’t work I was off to find a fish expert!). Now you may be wondering why on earth this is relevant to dog owners, dogs aren’t fish and they need very different things in life.
All the fish need to thrive is the right environment (water) to keep them happy and healthy, and often all our dog needs is also the right environment. The main difference is that our dog’s environment is much more vast than a tank with many different factors and influences that are simply out of our control.
Think of all the different people, dogs, encounters, situations and places that are in our dog’s environment, each one is different from the last and yet we expect them always be perfectly well behaved. If your dog is struggling – consider the environment they are in, and is there a way we can change it in some way to help them get it right and thrive.

It may something simple like not leaving your shoes within their reach to stop them being chewed up or reducing stressors such as dogs being too close or people leaving them alone.

When we create the right environment for our dog they will thrive – just like our fish!

If you need support in creating the best environment for your dog check out the steps to a perfect family dog or get in touch