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Pets Q&A: Why are hummingbird feeders so moldy?

Joan Morris, The Mercury News on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

DEAR JOAN — Is there a way to prevent the black mold that shows up on hummingbird feeders?

I clean the feeder every time I fill it, but the mold persists.

Rada Ford, Mountain View, California

DEAR RADA: Mold can be an unfortunate byproduct of the sweet nectar we feed hummingbirds. It can be worse in the summer when high temperatures may make the nectar spoil and encourage mold growth.

To reduce the chances of mold, make sure you're not giving the hummers nectar that is too sweet. The recommended formula is 4 parts water to 1 part plain, white sugar.

On hot days, try hanging the feeder in the shade and keep an eye on the solution. If it starts to turn cloudy, replace it immediately. When temperatures are regularly above 90 degrees, you should change the nectar every couple of days.

If you're having a recurring issue with mold, make sure you clean the feeders thoroughly. That means soaking them in a mild solution of bleach or cleaning them with vinegar. Try soaking them in your preferred cleaning solution for an hour, then rinse them well. It's a good idea to let the feeder dry completely before refilling it.

You might also want to invest in a stiff bottle brush to clean all the parts of the feeder, including the feeding tubes and flowers. Stores that specialize in wild birds will have special brushes for just this chore.

Mold can sicken the hummers, so it's imperative that you keep the feeders as clean as you can.

DEAR JOAN: We have a 5-year-old miniature poodle who loves people when we walk, but will bark and get aggressive when we meet other dogs while walking.

 

When she was a younger dog, she would enjoy meeting other dogs, but not now. What can we do to stop this from happening over and over?

Tim, Martinez, California

DEAR TIM: It might be that your dog has become overly protective of you and wants to keep you safe from other dogs, whether you need that protection or not.

You might want to hire a professional to help you with the training, but the basic idea the experts recommend is to distract your dog and put her attention on you, not the other dog.

Teaching your dog to heel and other basic commands will help with this task. You also need to be aware of approaching dogs so that you can take action before your dog even notices the other animal.

The best way to avoid the barking or aggression is to change direction and move away from the approaching dog. This isn't always practical or possible and doesn't really address the behavior, but it can make walking your dog more pleasant.

Whenever you see another dog, get your dog's attention by calling to her, having her heel or sit, and giving her a treat. Continue the distraction and treat-giving until the other dog passes, then put the treat pouch away. She eventually will connect the appearance of a strange dog with getting treats. Once she becomes accustomed to allowing another dog to pass without barking, you can substitute praise and pets for the treats.

It will take practice and patience, but it will eventually pay off.

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