Is your dog the ideal weight?

I often get asked by clients if their dogs look a good weight and alot of the time the answer is yes. Sometimes I have to be honest and say that the dog could do with losing a few lb’s.

It’s really easy for that extra bit of weight to creep up on your dog……a few extra treats here and there, food from the table, post op, owner illness or just purely being spoilt. Although you may think you’re being kind to your dog the longterm health implications are huge including heart disease, joint issues and early mortality.

It is never too late to get your dog in shape (and it is never too early to get on top of it).

In this months guest blog Veterinary Surgeon Caroline Taylor talks about how to keep your dog at a healthy weight, what to look for in a healthy diet, how to help them lose weight and how to keep them interested in food.

Caroline has been a vet for 18 years and has told me that during the pandemic obese or overweight dogs are at their highest, with over 55% falling into these catagories.

At the end of the blog is a link to her Facebook group Slimline Canine-SLIM Solutions for Overweight Dogs. Caroline has a FREE 5 day challange starting on Monday which will be full of tips and activities to help your dog loose weight. The 5 day challange is an introduction to a 12 week programme you can follow up with if you choose to.

Expecting a baby? How to prepare your dog for the new arrival

I’m sure you all know by now that I only have a few weeks left before there is a new addition to the household. With this in mind I thought I would base this months blog on preparing your dog for this big change. Although we already have a toddler running around I’m sure Vinnie has forgotten what it is like to have a newborn here…….I’m pretty sure I have!

I have to admit then when I was pregnant with George I totally underestimated the effect it would have on Vinnie even though I thought I had done lots of desensitisation with him. I have certainly learned some lessons which is why I’m determined to get it right this time, especially now Vinnie is even older and just wants a quiet life.

The biggest thing I thought I had done enough work with was the sound of a baby crying but the sounds I played weren’t that of a newborn baby. Anyone that has had children will know the sound of a newborn is different to the sound of any other cry. So this time I have played the sound of a newborn and gradually turned the volume up as Vinnie ignores it. I have also stroked him and spoken to him while it is playing so he has a good association with the sound. By clicking on the button below you will be directed to the YouTube clip I have been using.

Other things you can do to prepare your dog include practising walking with the pram and/or sling. This will get your dog used to the movement and means you can train them to walk nicely if they don’t already.

Feeding is also something to think about. However you choose to feed will create a new smell for your dog. Although you may not be able to replicate that until baby is born you can get a doll and hold it as if you were feeding. Atleast your dog will get used to the sight of a baby being fed, and if you play the crying baby noise too it will be another thing to help.

Moses baskets, play mats and toys will be a new thing too. Get these out before baby arrives so your dog can investigate. Play boundary games so your dog doesn’t think the play mat is a new bed. Clicking on the following link will take you to a YouTube clip on how to teach your dog the bed cue https://youtu.be/t07AkD3riqQ

Teaching a really good ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’ will come in handy with toys, especially if you have a puppy!

Teaching Vinnie ‘leave it’.

If baby doesn’t come straight home from hospital it is worth letting your dog sniff a babygrow or vest that baby has slept in. This will get your dog used to the new smell and it won’t be so keen to investigate when baby does come home. When your baby does come home let your dog have a sniff of a used nappy, but make sure they don’t try to eat it as it can be a big choking hazard (and will be fairly gross!).

If you do have a baby due soon things are going to be very different due to Covid but if the roadmap keeps easing you will inevitably have visitors. This can be a huge shock to your dog as they will be so used to having the home and garden to themselves. Make sure your dog has its own space to go to, whether that is a bed, crate or different room. It’s really important that if things get too much they can go and relax away from all of the hustle and bustle.

Sleep and separation anxiety can also become an issue. Sleep deprivation is something we underestimate and we also forget it can also have an impact on our dogs. Depending on your situation it is highly likely you will be spending more time at home which means your dog may not be getting the neccassary rest it needs and they will get used to you being there (if they aren’t already due to lockdown!). If you feel up to it still try and go out for a short time so your dog can recharge it’s batteries and to help prevent any attachment that can lead to separation anxiety. It will also help you mentally to get out and get some fresh air!

It’s really important to remember never to leave your dog and baby alone, even if you’re just nipping to the toilet. You could have the worlds best behaved dog but babies can be unpredictable. They have a startle reflex which could frighten your dog meaning they react in a way they never normally would. Either take your baby or your dog with you but don’t take the risk of leaving them together.

Knowing how to read your dog’s body language is really important. Subtle signs such as lip licking, turning away and yawning can all be signs your dog is stressed. As always these things have to be seen in context e.g your dog may be yawning because it is tired and not because it is stressed. Being aware of these things means you will be able manage the situation before you end up with an anxious or reactive dog.

The picture below shows the body language signals your dog may go through and some of them are really subtle. However, picking up on them will prevent the dog reaching the top of the list. For more information on how to read your dog get intouch about the accredited Canine Body Language course I teach.

Having a child and a dog in the home can be such an amazing thing. The bond between Vinnie and George melts my heart so I’m hoping the same happens with our new arrival. The most important thing is to enjoy the pregnancy, don’t stress too much and be sensible with your dog when baby arrives.

Scientific studies have even shown children have less chance of developing asthma and they have a better immune system if they live in a home with a cat or dog.

My last few weeks before baby arrives will be spent having quality time with Vinnie……..and trying to get some sleep!

How to help your dog be comfortable at the vets.

Katey Aldred RVN

This months guest blog is from Katey Aldred RVN and owner of Pooch Paws: Puppy And Dog Training Norfolk And Suffolk

Your dog will visit the vet at various points in it’s lifetime and it hugely helps if your dog is comfortable there. Not only does it help your dog have a good association but it also helps the vet do there job safely. In the current situation where most vets won’t allow owners into consultation rooms due to Covid restrictions I think this is even more important than ever.

In week 3 of my puppy course we go through lots of confidence building exercises that help your dog in lots of different situations, including the vets. Something as simple as teaching your dog to ‘stand’ on command means it will be in the correct position for the vet to check it’s pulse. It’s always better for the dog to voluntarily go into position than being forced.

In this months guest blog Katey talks about how you can help your dog, how you can help your vet, how to decide which veterinary practise to use and she goes through some common myths you may have heard.

Easter Hazards.

Most people celebrate Easter in one way or another but are you aware of howmany things can be toxic to your dog? It is really easy to become lax when you’re enjoying yourself but it’s important to always be careful.

Chocolate is one of the biggest risks at Easter, especially if you are planning an Easter egg hunt. Even just a small amount of chocolate can be harmful to your dog. If you are planning an Easter egg hunt keep your dog away and make sure all eggs are found before letting your dog into that area again. We all know children like to share their food with the family pet so please supervise as much as possible.

As well as Easter eggs, hot cross buns are popular at this time of year. Raisins and sultanas can prove fatal so it’s incredibly important that your dog doesn’t eat any of these. Make sure if your dog likes to counter surf that they aren’t left on the worktop or table within their reach.

The adults in the home may prefer alcohol to chocolate so make sure glasses and bottles are kept in a safe place. Some alcohol tastes very sweet and this can be appealing to dogs.

For people that don’t like chocolate or alcohol (whoever that may be!) flowers are always a nice gift and there are lots of common types that can be poisonous to your dog. They may be given as a bunch, as a plant or growing in your garden but if you know your dog is inquisitive make sure you keep them away.

Lillies, daffodil (bulbs), baby’s breath, clematis, foxglove and wisteria (pods and seeds) are just some of the plants that can harm your dog.

The Dogs Trust has an extensive list that can be found on the following link https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/factsheets-downloads/factsheetpoisonoussubstances09.pdf

Teaching a good “leave it” and “drop it” will help with all of these things but ideally you want everything out of reach anyway. The following clip shows Vinnie doing “leave it” which I teach to all puppy owners on my puppy course. Ignore the Coronation Street theme in the background!

If you think your dog has digested any of these items it is incredibly important to seek the advice of a vet. Knowing what they have digested, and how much, will help the vet determine the plan of action.

Some insurance companies have a free 24 hour vet helpline so it is always worth checking to see if you have this. There is also a 24 hour animal poison line you can call, details can be found on the following link https://www.animalpoisonline.co.uk/ You do have to pay a small fee but it may be cheaper than calling your vet out of hours. Anyone that gives advice on what to do legally has to be a qualified veterinary nurse or veterinary surgeon so you can be sure that you are getting the correct information.

If your dog does need to go to the vet try and remain calm, they an tell when we panic. The sooner you get them any medical attention they need the more likely that they will make a full recovery.

Aslong as you stay vigilant and use common sense there is no reason why you and your dog can’t enjoy Easter together.

What if the worst happens?

Although it’s something that none of us want to think about, sadly losing our dog is something that we will come across at some point in our life.

I find it difficult to acknowledge but everyday I look at Vinnie he seems to have an extra grey hair and it’s gut wrenching watching him grow old. He’s a senior dog now so I know he only has a few years left in him. My mum had to make the tough decision to let her dog pass over rainbow bridge only a few weeks, and even though we all know she did the right thing for Nikki, it didn’t make it any easier.

Nikki a few years ago.

With that in mind this months guest blog is by Kirstey Lee who specialises in pet bereavement and owns Pets Matter Too. She has just had a book published called Pet Bereavement Matters: Understanding Pet Loss and is available to download on kindle. It will also be released on paperback soon.

Kirstey’s book

Kirstey kindly took the time to have a counselling session with my mum and her otherhalf when they lost Nikki and they both said howmuch it helped.

Hopefully it will be a long time before any of you are in this position but just remember that when you are, there is help.

They aren’t just a pet, they are a member of your family.

Does you dog have reliable recall?

No matter what age your dog is it is never too late to work on their recall. Whether you have a puppy that is only beginning to experience the outside world, an adolescent dog that has selective hearing or a senior dog that takes it’s time coming back……you can always make improvements with a little bit of work.

Molly practising off lead recall.

There are numerous reasons to work on your dog’s recall including, but not limited to;

  • You have an inquisitive puppy that needs to learn impulse control and obedience so you’re confident to let it off the lead
  • Your dog is going through the adolescent phase and only listens when it wants to
  • Your dog may be nervous and you don’t want it to be startled by anything and run away
  • You are in an unfamiliar area and you don’t want your dog to get lost
  • You are concerned about dog theft (which is incredibly common at the moment unfortunately)
  • You don’t want you dog running up to other dogs (this one is very important as not all dogs are dog friendly and it’s not fair on either of them if you can’t call your dog away)

I honestly think there is no such thing as a dog who’s recall is 100% because there will always be that one thing that is more important than it’s owner. However, the closer you can get it to 100% the better.

Some of the options you have are to hire a secure dog field and practise in there or to use a long training line.

Charlie on her long training line.

Training lines come in various lengths, from 5 metres all the way upto 50 metres. They give your dog freedom without the worry of them running away. A great tip for the training line is to tie a knot every metre so you can put it on the ground and have your hands free. If your dog starts to run away you can just put your foot on the training line and it will stop when a knot reaches the edge of your shoe. If you do purchase a training line it is important that you make sure it is designed to hold the weight of your dog when it is fully grown. If you have a Great Dane and the one you buy is designed for a Chihuahua it will likely snap if your dog pulls.

As with any type of training it is always best to get it reliable in the home and garden before moving onto high distraction environments. If you can’t recall your dog in the garden do you really expect it to come back to you in a park with other dogs running loose?

One thing I like to train my 1-2-1 puppy students is “look at me”. This helps to build a great bond between the dog and owner but also helps with focus. If you can get your dog’s focus from anything in the outside world you are much more likely to be able to call it back. Even if your dog is off lead and you don’t want to recall it, it is still important to get your dog to look back and check in on you every now and then. During the adolescent phase they can get over confident and wander further than normal. By encourging your dog to check in you are making sure you remain in sight.

Vinnie practising “look at me”

Choose one word you will use for recall such as “here” or “come” and make sure everyone is using that word. Your dog will learn much quicker if you are all on the same page. You don’t even need to make recall practise into a proper training session, you can incorporate into daily life. If your dog is in the garden use your chosen word to call it in, if your dog is in a different room to you use your chosen word to get it in the same room etc.

Make sure you always have something of high value to reward your dog for coming back to you……even if it takes a few minutes longer than you would like still reward your dog. You want your dog to see you as the best thing in the world and by rewarding it with something that is better than anything else, it is more likely to return.

Vinnie practising off lead recall

If you require help with recall, or any other aspect of dog training please email info@ipswichdogtrainer.com or fill in the contact form on my website. Recall is covered with 1-2-1 training.

Ever heard of zoopharmacognosy?

This months guest blog is from Mandy Wilson of Peaceful Paws Therapy And Training. Mandy talks about zoopharmacognosy and how it can benefit your dog.

A selection of Mandy’s botanicals.

But first I’ll explain my own personal experience of it……

I only stumbled across this a couple of years ago when I attended a 2 day seminar ran by Isla Fishurn for Dog Training College. At first I thought it was abit wacky and out there but when I saw the way the demo dogs responded I wanted to look into it alot more.

It transpires that zoopharmacognosy is when the animal self selects botanicals to aid recovery. A great example is when a dog has digestive issues and eats grass to make it feel better.

Fast forward a couple of years and I decided Vinnie could benefit from a few sessions so I contacted another DTC Approved Instructor called Mandy.

A fellow trainer’s dog, Mitzy, during a session

Mandy runs Peaceful Paws Therapy And Training and has extensive knowledge and training in this field.

Mandy sent me specific botanicals selected using the information I had given her and the sessions were both held via zoom. This meant that Vinnie could be 100% himself. The entire experience was fascinating and helped me understand exactly what was going on with Vinnie. Over time this has had a huge benefit to him and it also has helped me give him a much more tailored training programme.

To read more about zoopharmacognosy and how it can help with a whole range of behavioural and health issues click the link below.

How to socialise your dog in lockdown.

Unfortunately it seems like many of us will be in lockdown for a while yet so it’s important to keep up with your dog’s training in the best way you can.

The fall out from lockdown 1 was huge and there are now lots of under socialised dogs as well as dogs with major separation anxiety (This will be the subject of my blog in March). It is a common myth that the only way to socialise your dog is to get it around other dogs as much as possible. Obviously this is part of socialisation BUT a very small part.

I saw this on social media and had to include it in my blog

Due to Covid restrictions we can’t meet in groups, travel without reason or visit other people’s homes (excluding exceptions) but there are still ways you can help you dog.

I talk about socialisation alot in my 1-2-1 puppy course and some people don’t realise that even if your dog hasn’t had it’s second vaccination you can still take it out aslong as you carry it. You can purchase a pet carrier or simpy carry your dog so it is still experiencing the big wide world. A good breeder will have started to socialise your dog before it even leaves it’s mum. They will introduce it to different noises, smells, and even different weather conditions! I always think it’s such a shame when the puppy is then kept inside until it has it’s second vaccine. They are at such a vulnerable age that it’s important to keep all this up in a safe a way as possible.

Once your puppy is fully vaccinated it’s all systems go, even in lockdown. Something as simple as varying your walks will be subjecting your puppy to new experiences. One day you could go to the woods, then a beach, then a field, a residential street, past some shops…….people look at me as if I’m crazy when I suggest an industrial estate! Just think of all the new smells, workmen and different vehicles your dog will see. Obviously don’t do this in rush hour the first few times as it will be too much for your dog but you can gradually build that up.

Something else people don’t class as socialisation are vet and groomer visits. Currently as I write this groomers can only operate if it’s a welfare issue and vets have restricted appointments but you can still walk past with your dog so it gets used to the building. In my 1-2-1 puppy course I talk you through how to conduct a head to tail examination on your dog. Not only does this help you check your dog but it also means your dog will be more comfortable being handled by the vet or groomer. Some breeds need to visit the groomer regularly and if they have an aversion it can be extremely traumatising for them.

Me doing a head to tail examination on Vinnie.

Noises are something else you can help your dog with even if they can’t go far. Lots of dogs are afraid of fireworks, babies crying, motorbikes etc and it’s either because they have had a bed experience or they weren’t subjected to them in a positive way when they were young. The following link https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-oTwuFvwH33-BIEjpZdXrslu3J6KxjFH will take you to a YouTube channel with lots of different noises you can play at home. Start with the volume down low and if your dog isn’t reacting to it you can slowly increase it.

If you’re really worried about your dog not being with other dogs why not consider a dog walker that does group walks? Your dog walker will be limited as to how far they can take your dog while it is still growing but even if it’s just once a week for a short walk it will help.

Xanita at Leads The Way Dog Walking Services.

It’s not just other dogs that your puppy needs to get used to, it is also children, elderly, people with walking sticks/zimmer frames, people in wheelchairs, people with prams, other animals such as cats, horses, sheep etc. Depending on where you live you can slowly introduce these things to your puppy in a positive way.

Me walking near a river with Vinnie and my son in his pushchair.

Some things you can do really easily such as walking your dog on different surfaces including pavements, grass, sand, pebbles, carpet etc. You can take them out in various weather conditions (be careful in extreme weather such as hot temperatures), walk them round a pet shop or even sit on a bench and watch the world go by.

If your dog shows any signs of being uncomfortable such as pulling away, cowering, barking etc remove your dog from the situation.

You are your dog’s safe place…..listen to it’s cues!

It’s also worth remembering that your dog doesn’t have to meet every person and dog it comes across. In fact getting your dog used to just walking past them will help with loose lead walking and impulse control.

In a way lockdown can help your puppy as nowhere should be busy. This means you can gradually build up the exposure your dog has to all of these situations and by the time we are back to ‘normal’ you will have a happy, healthy puppy that is ready to take on the world.

Travis with his friends when restrictions were eased.

For more information on my 1-2-1 puppy course email info@theipswichdogtrainer.com or call me on 01473 932221.

What to look for in a dog rescue, and what a dog rescue should be looking for in you.

This months guest blog comes from Leanne Louisia Mcwade, owner of Dog Training College and co-owner of East Anglia Dog Rescue.

Leanne has worked in rescue 8 for years. She started by helping with transport runs, fundraising etc then in 2017 East Anglia Dog Resue was born. She has a rescue dog herself, Mitzy the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Mitzy and numerous other rescue dogs inspired her to go into dog training. Leanne is a self confessed ‘failed foster’ parent. She was only meant to have Mitzy briefly while a new home was found but Leanne fell in love with her, hence becoming a ‘failed foster’!

Mitzy then became a fulltime member of the family.

Mitzy with her brothers

In her blog she talks about what you should be looking for in a good rescue, what a good rescue will be looking for in you and she dispels some of the myths that people think will stop them getting a rescue dog.

The benefits of online dog training.

Lockdown has changed the way alot of us work and many of us have had to think outside of the box. I will be the first to admit that online training classes made me nervous but after the first few clients it opened up my eyes to a whole new way of dog training.

With various levels of lockdown this year and some clients having to self isolate sometimes it has been the only option. Thankfully all clients have been open to video calls and have embraced them with 100% enthusiasm.

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I have trained dogs that aren’t in my area aswell as advising clients via Zoom that live hundreds of miles away. None of this would be possible without modern technology.

Here is just a short list with a handful of reasons you should consider online dog training:

  • Being able to carry on training during lockdown or if you’re self isolating/shielding.
  • Staying in the comfort of your own home when the weather isn’t great and your dog doesn’t like the rain.
  • You don’t have to worry about transport, traffic etc.
  • It’s much more flexible and easier to work around your schedule.
  • You get full attention from your dog e.g no distractions of off lead dogs, noises, other people etc.
  • Your dog is more relaxed in it’s home environment.
  • The video call can be recorded and sent to you so you don’t have to take notes.
  • Everyone taking part can screenshare to show websites, demo’s etc.
  • You can watch recordings of your dog together and talk through observations.
  • No worrying about the general public wondering what you are doing as you run after your dog like a whaling banshee!
  • The whole household can get invloved, which isn’t possible if lockdown rules state only 1:1 outside.
  • Only people your dog knows and loves are in the room so it acts more true to itself.

And the best thing is…….you get the same great training, the same amazing advice and the same high quality service but in the comfort of your own home.

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There are so many benefits to remote training, I don’t know why it wasn’t done sooner!

So why not open your mind to the world of online dog training? It’s a guaranteed way to keep your dog’s training on point and you don’t even have to change out of your pyjamas if you don’t want to!

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