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.

trustpilot reviews
5* Trustpilot review

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.

Bark.com reviews
5* Bark.com review

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!

trustpilot reviews
5* Trustpilot review

Nutrition and toys for your dog.

This months guest blog comes from Annabelle at Canine Elite Outlet.

Canine Elite Outlet is an online shop selling healthy dog food, healthy dog treats amd dog toys.

In this blog Annabelle talks about what you should look for in a good food or treat and why having a good treat helps with training. She also discusses the different types of dog toys available and the benefits of each one.

Anyone that has taken a course with me, whether it was a puppy course or 1-2-1 training will know I’m always championing healthy dog food, treats and enrichment!

Keeping your dog safe at Christmas.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Its also a time full of hazards for our four legged friends so it’s incredibly important to be vigilant and keep them safe.

In this months blog I talk about what you can do to make sure everyone has an enjoyable festive period and how you can make it as stress free as possible.

From 1st December until Christmas Day I will be posting hints and tips on my Facebook page in an advent calendar style. Feel free to like my page if you want to read these.

Food and drink…..

There are so many food and drink items that are toxic to dogs and at Christmas they seem to be readily available. From chocolate, to alcohol, to raisins It’s easy to leave something on the coffee table or to forget the kids advent calendar is on the floor. Before you know it you’re wrestling to get something from your dog’s mouth or you’re rushing to the vet.

The following list contains items that you need to keep away from your dog as they could pose a choking hazard or could be toxic.

  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Cooked bones
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Caffeine
  • Xylitol (artifical sweetener)
  • Salt

If you think your dog has ingested any of these items contact your vet for advice.

A small resource I wrote for Dog Training College a couple of years ago.

Presents…..for your dog

Everyone loves to spoil their dog at christmas but it’s important to be aware just a tiny bit of excess weight can have a huge impact on a dog’s health.

If you want to treat your dog buy healthy treats that are low in fat. I always recommend www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk to my clients as this unbiased website grades food on nutritional value from 0%-100%. It includes everyday food aswell as lots of different treats.

One thing to avoid is rawhide. It is very difficult for your dog to digest and it’s made with glue and bleach, In my opinion it’s disappointing that shops still sell it but aslong as there is a market for it they will. If anyone buys this for your pooch politely say thank you and pop it in the bin when they’re not looking!

I wrap Vinnie’s presents and let him open them himself. Obviously supervise your dog if you do this but they may enjoy it just as much as the gift they unwrap.

Wrapping paper with glitter on can be harmful to dogs so please keep that for the humans in your house..

Presents…..for you

We all love putting gifts under the tree but if you know your dog in inquisitive or a chewer make sure things are out of reach. You may have a Secret Santa from a work colleague that contains chocolate, or you may have children that have small pieces of lego. Lots of dogs will be tempted to open these and either eat them or chew them. Rather than calling the vet on Christmas Day, be safe and keep them away from your dog.

Kobe enjoying the gifts.

Fancy dress…..

Lots of shops sell outfits for your pet but it’s important to remember that not all pets like to be dressed up. If your dog is backing away, cowering or trying to get the clothing off I would assume your dog doesn’t like it. It’s very easy to anthropomorphise (to humanise) your dog but please remember Christmas should be enjoyable for everyone, including your pets.

Woody the ‘angry elf’!

Decorations…..

As 2020 has been an awful year for many lots of people have put their decorations up early. There are many items that can be harmful to your dogs so please be mindful as to where you place things.

There will be lots more wires due to lights, the Christmas tree is and obvious hazard, baubles, tinsel and even cards with glitter on can all mean a vet visit.

Vinnie helping me decorate the tree.

Don’t be afraid to fence your tree off or go for the minimalist look. A nicely decorated house is great, but safety should always come first.

Visitors…..

Christmas is going to be slightly different for most this year but most will still have a few visitors.

Make sure your dog has a nice, quiet place to go to if it all gets too much. If your dog doensn’t want to be constantly petted and played with don’t be afraid to tell people to stop. Well meaning guests may try feeding your dog from their plate but if that’s something you don’t encourage make sure you are quite clear with this.

Father Christmas paying a visit to Coco.

It’s worth investing in some enrichment items (even put them on your dog’s Christmas list!) so you can use these when poeple are there. Lickimats, snufflemats and kongs are all great as they will keep your dog amused while helping to release relaxing endorphins in your dogs body.

Be merry…..

The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. 2020 has been a fairly rubbish year so make the most of Christmas.

Norman ready for Christmas Day.

Ever thought of hiring a secure dog field?

I regularly talk to my clients about hiring a secure dog field as there are so many benefits. Most people don’t even know they exist until I mention it to them.

Whether your dog is reactive, needs help with recall or just wants a really good run off lead the benefits of secure fields are endless.

You will find them all over the UK and they are incredibly reasonably priced. Hire generally starting with 30 minute sessions or longer.

Charmain at The House Of Muddy Paws has written this months guest blog about the secure field she hires out, and why you should consider using one with your 4 legged friend.

You can read Charmain’s blog by clicking the button below…..

Can you speak dog?

We spend alot of time training our dogs but do we spend enough time understanding them? They can’t tell us what they want so it’s upto us to read them.

Dogs communicate through lots of different parts of their body including their eyes, ears, mouth, tail and posture. By just looking at one part of their body you can easily misread a dog but if you put it all together like a jigsaw you will know what they are saying.

There are also lots of misconceptions when it comes to a dog’s body language. Did you know a waggy tail isn’t always a happy tail? Or that an over aroused dog isn’t trying to dominate you? Or even that a panting dog can actually be showing signs of stress?

Dogs communcate with us just as much as they communicate with eachother. By domesticating dogs they have had to adapt to our lifestyle but over the years we have began to adapt to them.

It’s incredibly important that we read and dog’s cues and respond to them. If your dog feels threatened they may come and sit by your legs for reassurance. They may back away from something they are afraid of. They could even tuck their tail between their legs to make themselves seem smaller. Picking up on these, sometimes subtle, cues will mean you can help you dog to see you as it’s safe place.

Lots of people think they should stop their dog from growling but did you know that this is a norml form of communication? By stopping your dog from growling it will miss this on the ‘escalation scale’ and potentially go straight to a bite. Before it even gets to this situation their are lots of other signals they would be giving such as lip licking, whale eye, turning away etc. Once you know what these signals are you will be able to react to your dog and protect it.

Do you know how to introduce dogs safely? Or what good manners are between dogs? Can you spot an over aroused dog and would you know how to lower these arousal levels? Even by understanding how a dogs brain works in regards to emotion is important in how we train them now compared to old fashioned training techniques.

All of these things are covered in the Understanding Canine Body Language course I will be running via Zoom on 15th November 10.30-14.30 GMT. The price is £55 for this level 2 accredited course but for 25% discount enter the discount code LOCKDOWN.

By clicking on the link below you will receive a registration form to show your interest.

If you have any questions please email info@theipswichdogtrainer.com

What to look for in a good dog walker.

This months guest blog comes from Zee at Leads The Way Dog Walking Services. Zee talks about why you might need a dog walker, the benefits of a responsible dog walker, why a knowledgeable dog walker doesn’t just walk your dog and what it takes to become a good dog walker.

Finding A Good Dog Walker

How to find a good dog walker by Zee, at Leads The Way Dog Walking Services, Ipswich.

So; you’re thinking about getting a dog walker, but you’re not even sure you need one. If you can tick any of the below statements, then maybe you do.

  • Have you got a busy schedule that requires you to leave your dog for more than 4 hours at a time?
  • Do you work from home all day and struggle to find time for lunch, let alone a midday walk for your pooch?
  • You would like to spend the day out with the family but where you are going is not dog friendly or it’s too hot to take them with you.
  • An unexpected appointment has come up and you won’t be home for a few more hours and there is no one to let the dog out.
  • Your mobility isn’t what it used to be.

There are lots of good reasons to have someone you can trust and who you can help provide care for Fido when you can’t.

(Please do also consider whether a walk is the best option? Will your dog need more specialist care? Do they suffer from separation anxiety and therefore maybe a day care option might be more suitable for them?)

Great! You’ve decided you want to look for a dog walker, but where do you start?

Nothing beats word of mouth. Talk to your fellow dog owning friends, family and other dog owners at the local park. Who would they recommend?

If they are singing someone’s praises, can you see their website, Facebook or Instagram page? Can you check out pictures and videos of the dogs on their walks? And if so, do they look happy? Are there any reviews or testimonials you can read? Are they on Trustpilot or Yell.com?

This is definitely when the cheapest option is not always the best. Treat this like childcare; look for the businesses or persons local reputation. What do others say about their services? Afterall they are caring for a family member. A bad dog walker can set you back a lot more than just money, a good one is priceless.

Once you have found someone, make initial contact and go through the following points with them.

Essential Requirements

At a minimum, your dog walker should have Insurance and Pet First Aid.

Make sure they are covered by insurance. Most dog walking insurance isn’t that expensive, and this is a safety guard for you and for them. Be aware most insurance companies will not cover anyone under the age of 16 to walk a dog. Although there is no age limit to legally care for someone else’s pooch, as a responsible owner, you will want someone who can take responsibility. Will the insurance cover any loss or theft of keys in their possession?

In the hope that they never need to use it, doing a Pet First Aid course is a good requirement. Let’s face it, accidents happen, and dogs like to keep us on our toes. They can guide you on the next steps if there is an injury but do seek a Vet opinion if you are unsure. A dog walker is not a trained vet and, legally, should not act as such. Don’t forget to check what the procedure is for vet bills in the dog walkers T&C’s.

It is recommended a professional walker will have a CRB check available for new clients to see and updated every couple of years. Don’t just take someone’s word for it, ask to see a copy.

They should have a new starter form in place to collect all information pertaining to your dog. Such as client addresses and phone numbers, emergency contacts, behaviour quirks and vaccination dates to name but a few, and contain their terms and conditions as well. Its important to check you are happy with these before signing. These are an important safeguard for the person walking your dog and should give a clear agenda from them, about their responsibilities to you.

If someone has got all of these in place, it shows they are willing to actively make an effort to be taken seriously.

Finding Out More

Ask lots of questions! The more you can find out about the services they offer the better. Are they easy to talk to? What is their communication like? Can they communicate clearly with you and are they knowledgeable about the profession. It maybe a job at the end of the day, but it should be taken seriously. They may do it because they love dogs and they probably won’t get rich doing it, but they should still treat you and your pooch in a professional manner. Do they respond to your enquiries in good time? Does their manner show a commitment to you as a client?

Reliability

What is the policy if they get sick, are running late or breakdown? If it is a company that hires multiple people to walk the dogs, who will be walking your dog? Request to meet with the person who will be walking your dog, not just the company’s representative. This person will likely have a key to your property. What is their Data Protection Policy and how will they secure your key between walks? How will they let you know that they have collected your dog? Will you get a text message, email or photo? It’s a good idea to request a photo of your pup on their walk, this allows you to see them out and about. Will they post photos online or to their social media platforms? They will need your written permission to do so. What precautions will they take to not give out personal information in the photos? I would suggest no photos containing your dog’s identity tag information or of your home, without it being checked first.

Experience & Affiliations

What experience do they have? If they are just starting out, what certificates do they have, are currently doing or working towards? Have they got a background in animal care? Maybe they have previously worked in a rescue centre or at a Vets before?

Are they affiliated to any regulatory bodies? Are they up to date on current legislation? If they have a day care service, they must be registered with the local council who will grade them by stars.

Currently there is no regulated national body for dog walkers, but there are several professional bodies they can sign up to.

  • Pet Professionals Guild
  • UK Behaviour and Training Charter (if they offer training aswell)
  • Association of INTO Dogs
  • NARPS UK

These are just a few. Ask about their ethics when it comes to dog behaviour management? How will they handle the dogs in their care? Avoid anyone using aversive methods to walk your dog, these people are not update on current methods of dog handling.

Transportation

How will your dog be transported? Are they using a vehicle to transport your dog? Or will they walk them from your house? Does the vehicle have any signage? What steps do they have in place to prevent theft of your dog and the security of your home? What equipment do they do use in the vehicle to safely transport the dogs. Can you see it? Is it clean? Do they have a cleaning regime? How often do they disinfectant the vehicle? What is the access like? If you have a small dog with short legs, will they be picked up or use a ramp to access the vehicle? If they are a large dog, is the space big enough for them? How many other dogs will be in the same area? Ideally all dogs from different households should be in separate areas and secured appropriately. Do they get travel sick? It is important to discuss any issues your dog has with travelling, and how they can make your dog as comfortable as possible. Does the vehicle have air conditioning for when it gets hot in the summer.

Safety During COVID

What safety precautions have they put in place since COVID? Are they compliant to current local guidelines when it comes to masks, sanitiser and gloves? Are they wiping down your dog with a pet safe sanitiser after each walk? This isn’t 100% effective, but it is an added step to ensure clients are protected.

If you are home when they come to collect your dog, what procedures are in place to help keep you safe?

Walk Management

Where will they walk your dog? How many dogs will they walk together? What other dogs will your pooch being playing with? It is good to find out what the local guidelines are when it comes to how many dogs one person can walk, and do they adhere to this? Most insurance companies will not cover one person for more than 6 dogs and some County Councils have put further restrictions on how many can be walked at one time in one place. How do they pick which dogs to walk together? What treats will they use? Does your dog have any allergies? Are they reactive or have quirky habits? How will they handle reactivity triggers? If your dog obsesses over bicycles will they walk them somewhere where bicycles aren’t allowed, or keep your dog on lead in these situations?

Golden rule – a dog walker MUST have your written permission to walk your dog off lead.

Your dog walker should make sure all equipment provide by the owner fits well and secure before each walk.

The minimum equipment you should provide is;

  • A collar with an identity tag (by law every dog should have one with YOUR name and address)
  • A good quality, comfortable harness, suited to their body shape
  • A coat, if they need one

Some dog walkers will provide an extra tag with their details on just encase your pooch goes a stray whilst out with them.

Dropping off

When it comes to the end of the walk, is there an area your dog needs to be secured in when being left alone? Making sure they have access to water and perhaps a treat, such as a Kong or an appropriate chew to help with settling.

If your dog gets wet or dirty, what is the procedure for making sure the dog comes home clean and safe? They should be checking for ticks and any debris before leaving your dog, and it is advisable to check again when you get home as well.  

How Long Should Your Dog Be Walked?

Discuss with them about the length of time that is appropriate for your dog. Are they elderly and just need a 20min round the block? Or a puppy who is building up their walk time? Does your dog have an injury that needs slow rehabilitation? Or do you have an endurance champ who will run for hours? Lots of dog walkers offer different types of walks, some offer activity walks where they take dogs to the beach, or a forest or for a hike, it all depends on where you live. Be realistic to your dog’s needs. If you have a chilled out dog who would rather potter and sniff than run for miles, then finding a keen balance for them will be far more beneficial than insisting they do something which is ultimately not in their nature.

Bookings, Adjustments and Holidays

Will Fido need a regular weekly booking? Or perhaps you are a shift worker with a varied schedule? Can they provide flexible options? What will happen in quieter periods, such as school and public holidays? What is their holiday procedure; do they have alternatives in place to help minimise any disruption?  

What to expect when it’s too hot to walk?

A good dog walker will take your dogs needs into consideration, especially when it’s too hot to walk. They should have alternative plans in place, such as doing visits instead of walks; where Fido gets an opportunity to have a toilet a break, maybe a snack and a short play indoors (if your dog won’t get hyped up by the play) or a sniffy game of ‘Find it’, before being settled again. It’s not advisable for your dog to be out during the hottest parts of the day, which usually co-inside with dog walking times. Between the hours 11am and 3pm it is advisable to keep them inside and cool. You will know your dog, and if they suffer greatly in the heat, you’ll know how quickly this can affect them. Dogs which are more prone to heat stroke are brachiocephalic (short nose) breeds, sick dogs, puppies and elderly dogs, thick or double coated dogs, dark coloured dogs, short haired breeds and let’s not forget those that just run around like loons and don’t know when to stop. Also your dog may become more irritable by the added stress of the heat and react quicker to things that wouldn’t normally phase them.

If the dog walker has to take them out, for instance you live in a flat, they should make sure there is plenty of water and shade available. NO street walks, the pavements will be too hot to walk on, and that the vehicle they are being transported in is cool, with good air flow and perhaps even providing doggy lollies, cooling matts, fans and ice cubes for dogs in transit. Once out, they should limit the walk to a short one, 20 mins maximum, long enough for your pooch to do their business and stretch their legs. They should not allow any running around or rough play, as this will increase the heart rate and increase the risk of heat stroke. Dogs can not cool themselves down like us and with the temperature already being high, they will struggle to maintain a healthy core temperature to function.

Some dog walkers even offer to walk them later in the day or earlier in the morning, if this suits your and their schedules. It’s important to remember that not everyone can offer these types of adjustments, especially if they have families and pets of their own.  

Similarly, when it’s too cold, some smaller or short haired breeds will also suffer without adequate protection.

Before Services Commence

Don’t be afraid to ask for a trial walk to see if your dog will be happy to walk with this person. Most dog walkers will offer a trial walk or maybe even a trial period. This gives you both time to make sure this is a good fit, without any obligation to continue if it doesn’t work out. Make sure they have all the appropriate information, emergency contacts, a key or code to the key safe box, any directions for home safety and special requests, allergies or dietary requirements, before the first walk.

Ideally a trial works best as a 1 on 1 with the walker. Even if your dog is going for group walks, this is time for your dog to bond with the walker before adding the pressure of other dogs in the mix.

Discuss all rates and payments up front before services start, and how best to settle. Will you be invoiced and how often? Can you do BACS or do they prefer cash? Will you be paying up front or in arrears? What is the policy if you must cancel a walk? Are there any refund and cancellation policies? Do they require any notice to cease all walks?

All the above information can be done over the phone or via email, saving you time when you get to meet them in person. A good dog walker will take the time to go through these with you. This way, you can be more focused on how they interact with your dog at the meet and greet.

The Meet & Greet

This is time for them to get to know your pooch and for you to assess how they handle your dog. Do they take the time to get to know your dog? Are they personable? Chatty? Would you trust them to have a key to your home? If you feel more comfortable meeting away from your home, ask to meet in a mutual space such as the local park.

If you’re happy after the initial greetings, it’s advisable to discuss where things are at home (or if you’re able to safely, show them around your home,) where the harnesses are kept, where your dog sleeps, where the water bowl is, where the dog snacks are kept, any extra towels if your dog needs them.  

It’s important to remember, not every dog is compatible with every walker, and that’s okay, find one which ticks all the boxes, and your pup is happy with.

Phew! That’s a great deal of work you’ve done in making sure you find the right person who works for you, Well done!

Don’t forget your end of the bargain; be honest about any injuries, illnesses (dog and human) or behavioural changes, so they can properly prepare or adjust the schedule. Giving good notice to any changes you need to bookings and be respectful of out of hours. Dog walkers have families and pets too.

Ready to start with your dog walker…. Great stuff! Here’s a checklist.

* All paperwork filled out, make sure you get copies of all contracts and T&C’s. *  Vaccination records checked by walker and updates made available.

* Ask about Data Protection and key management if that is applicable.

* If necessary, a key is cut and collected before the first walk.

* You’ve seen the vehicle and equipment which will be used. Your dog walker should provide their own leads.

* You have let your vet know you have hired a dog walker in case they should bring your dog to the surgery.

* You asked all the questions you wanted to and are happy with the answers.

A good dog walker will be open and honest about their practises and put you at ease. Trust your instinct, a good dog walker will not be offended if you choose not to take on their services.

A good sign of how things are going is by how your dogs react to the walker when they arrive. If your dog is happy to see them when they arrive to collect them, I’d say you’ve got a good one.

Zee, Leads The Way Dog Walking Services.

Sources

Covid

http://www.cfsg.org.uk/coronavirus/SiteAssets/SitePages/Home/CFSG%20Animal%20Business%20Guidance%2007.04.20.pdf

http://www.cfsg.org.uk/General%20Guidance%20Documents/Dog%20Walking%20Guide%202019.pdf

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/tips-for-dog-walkers-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/blog/vet-qa-coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-self-isolating-pet-owners

http://www.cfsg.org.uk/coronavirus/SiteAssets/SitePages/Home/Dog%20Walking%20and%20COVID%2019.pdf

http://www.cfsg.org.uk/coronavirus/SiteAssets/SitePages/Home/Comfort%20in%20Crisis-%20Pet%20Welfare.pdf

Dog Law

https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/laws-all-dog-owners-need-know

https://www.gov.uk/control-dog-public

https://www.inbrief.co.uk/animal-law/dog-walking-and-the-law/

https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/factsheets-downloads/factsheet-doglaw%20in%20england%20%20wales%2023%2010%2014.pdf

https://ukdogcharter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MASTER-Document-Dog-Behaviour-and-Training-Charter-1.pdfhttps://www.gov.je/Industry/FarmingFishing/AnimalWelfare/Pages/ProfessionalDogWalkers.aspx

Is your dog winter ready?

We have all noticed a drop in temperature over the past few days, the rain has started falling more regularly and heavily and it is definitely darker earlier.

We can dig out our coats and wellies but have you thought about your dog and how you can keep them safe and warm over the next few months?

It will, of course, depend on the age and breed of dog as to what you do. A St. Bernard is much more accustomed to the cold than a Chihuahua but thats not to say a St. Bernard will never need a coat.

Some dogs need an extra layer even when they are indoors, it’s worth remembering this as the temperature drops. Doggy jumpers come in lots of different designs and sizes, just make sure you don’t wrap your dog up so warm that they overheat.

There are lots of different coats available and you need to take a few things into account e.g is it waterproof? Can it be easily washed? Is it easy to put on and take off? If you use a harness does it have a slot for the D-ring? Or will it go under the harness? If your dog is noise sensitive will it be comfortable with the sound of velcro?

Vinnie ready for autumn

As well as keeping your dog warm you need to think about keeping your dog safe. You can get coats with reflective stripes, flashing fobs to clip on the harness, luminous collars and bright leads. As the nights draw in and the mornings are darker make sure your dog can be seen.

It is also worth getting a torch for yourself (there’s nothing worse than looking for dog poo in the dark!) and making sure your dog has good recall.

It is also important that your dog has a good ‘leave it’ as conkers and acorns are extremely toxic. Practise this and ‘drop it’ as much as you can as these, as well as recall, are lifesaving commands.

Handle you dog’s paws as much as you can so they get used to them being touched. When it gets really cold people use salt, grit and de-icer and all of these things are toxic to dogs. If you get your dog used to being handled now, when it gets colder they will be happy with you washing their paws after every walk. In my 1-2-1 puppy course I go through how to do a head to tail examination, this doesn’t just help with washing your dog but will help during vet visits and grooming.

If the weather is too extreme don’t feel guilty if you can’t walk your dog. Enrichment in the home can be just as stimulating and doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Ranulph Fiennes once said “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”