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 email@example.com
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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”
There is so much to grooming that people don’t realise. They are first aid trained? They need to understand a dog’s body language? They can even refer your dog to a vet as they can spot things you don’t.
In the first of my guest blogs you will be hearing from force free groomer Angela Bakun of Short Bakun Tails. She explains what you can do to help your groomer, why it’s important to tell your groomer of any health issues and how your groomer will do the most to make it an enjoyable experience for your dog.
It is important to find a force free groomer as you don’t want your dog to have any kind of aversion. A good groomer will be happy to answer any questions you have, and never feel uncomfortable to ask them!
The benefits of grooming include;
Warning signs of parasites can be seen and dealt with properly and quickly to avoid further infection to other animals and people.
It is a good way to bond with the dog.
If the dog has been injured this can be made more apparent during a groom.
Makes the dog more comfortable.
The dog’s health and coat can be checked on a regular basis.
In my 1-2-1 puppy course I go through how to conduct a head to tail examination on your dog. Doing this on a regular basis will mean your dog is used to being handled and this will not only help with the vets, but also the groomer too.
I’m sure the answer to this is yes but do you know how to get a happy, confident dog?
Socialisation begins before they even leave their mother and breeder. Small things, such as introducing noises all build a dog’s confidence.
To continue building your dog’s confidence it is important you introduce them to lots of different experiences as early on as possible. These experiences must all be positive, if your dog has a negative experience it can cause major behavioural issues.
In my 1-2-1 puppy course I have a section that is purely focused on confidence building and this includes hiding food in piles of boxes. By doing this your dog will get used to the noise and the movement the boxes make as they fall. You can increase the pile, add other materials and vary the surface. Aslong as everything you use is clean and safe it will help.
Others things you can do include playing noises a various volumes, introducing diiferent smells (not strong smells as a dogs primary sense is it’s nose), wear different face coverings e.g hats, scarves, cycle helmets, walk your dog in different placs e.g fields, parks, beaches, industrial estates, past schools etc.
If you click the link below it will take you to a YouTube channel that has lots of different noises you can play. Try and play them as often as possible and gradually increase the volume. With Fireworks night coming up it is incredibly important to start work now. Ideally you should be doing this daily.
Over the years we have become more and more conscientious of what we eat so why not do the same for your dog? Eating healthier will increase life longevity, reduce your vet bills and help raise a happier dog…….it’s a no brainer really!
I often refer my clients to https://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/ to check the nutritional value of their current dog food. Most are surprised by what they find and often change to something healthier.
With raw feeding becoming more and more popular it is no wonder there are shops popping up everywhere. I am pro-raw and I often have clients ask about the benefits, how to transition, cost, complete diet vs DIY etc. It can be so confusing when starting out so I have written a beginners guide to raw feeding to help make things easier. Feel free to download and share, and if you have any further questions just ask
It has been so hot in the UK this week that Vinnie has been really struggling. Imagine how your dog must be feeling. It is so important to try and keep them cool, to not walk them in extreme heat or to leave them alone in a car.
Dogs die in hot cars so please don’t leave your dog in a car even just for a few minutes. Even if the window is down it can have severe consequences.
Heatstroke can be fatal to dogs, especially puppies, older dogs and brachycephalic dogs. Signs of heatstroke include a racing heart, red, blue or purple gums, lethargy, extreme panting or drooling and collapse.
If you think you dog is suffering from heatstroke try cooling the area, put your dog on a cool, damp towel, try and encourage them to drink sips of tepid water, rub their legs and paws to encourage circulation and contact a vet immediately.
Thankfully there are lots of things you can do to keep your dog cool. There are products you can buy such as a cooling mat, cooling banadana, cooling vest and cooling jacket. There are also lots of things you can do at home including having a shaded area in the garden, have a cool area in the house, use a fan or air con unit, wet a towel and encourage your dog to lay on it, make sure fresh water is available at all times, put ice in the water to cool it, set up a paddling pool but make sure the water is cool as it can heat up in the sun, discourage physical activity (including walks) and feed food frozen.
Walking your dog in extreme heat can be very dangerous so consider doing enrichment in the home instead. You can have short training sessions, set up free work, use brain training games or make puzzle toys with things you have at home.
Some examples of homemade enrichent include:
putting food in a toilet roll tube and folding it at both ends
putting food in a kitchen roll tube then put papaer in each end
putting food in an egg box and close it
putting food in newspaper and scrunch it up
putting food in a teatowel and roll it up.
You might find your dog enjoys shredding the paper once it has eaten the food too, if so let them do it.
Always supervise your dog when taking part in enrichment.
Whether you love the sun or you hate it, make sure your 4 legged friend is safe.
With the weather getting warmer it’s the time of year when you might see Adders basking in the sun. The Adder is the UK’s only poisonous snake but generally will only bite if feeling threatened. They are easily identified by the zig zag pattern down it’s back.
I live in an area that has quite alot of gorse land so we see them quite alot and there have been a couple of dogs that I know of that have been bitten, thankfully they have all been ok.
Symptoms of an Adder bite are: puncture wounds (one or two), swelling in the area of the puncture wounds (this swelling can spread if not treated), limping/yelping, increased heart rate, panting, vomiting, drooling, lethargy, pale gums (it’s worth looking at your dog’s gums, only if it’s safe to do so, and take note of the normal colour so you know when they are pale or inflamed). All or some of these symptoms will be shown.
If you think your dog has been bitten by an Adder it’s important that you get your dog to a vet asap. Try and keep the dog as still as possible to prevent the spread of venom. Once at the vet they will decide on the appropriate medication to administer depending on the severity. Not all vets have the antivenom so it’s worth calling the vets in your area to find out which one stocks it.
In some cases bites from Adders can be fatal but with early treatment the majority of dogs make a full recovery.
Force free training, otherwise know as positive reinforcement is a form of training that focuses on rewarding your dog for the behaviour you want and ignoring the behaviour you don’t want. This type of training is backed by the latest scientific studies and research. This can be done using food, toys, praise or anything else your dog loves to mark the desired behaviour.
Will it make my dog more fearful?
People sometimes think it can be used to reinforce fear but that’s not true. You can’t reinforce fear. A good example to use is by imagining you are scared of flying but you love cake. If I fed you cake all the way to Spain (apart from making you feel a bit sick!) would that make you more afraid or would you think “actually I don’t mind flying so much if I get cake all of the time!”. It’s the same theory for your dog. It’s a matter of changing their perspective of the situation.
Will my dog put on weight?
A question I often get asked is “will this type if training make my dog overweight?” Not if you do it correctly. Obesity in dogs is very common and it can have major long term implications. You don’t have to use treats, you can use your dog’s everyday food, you can use praise or you can use toys. If you use food you can gradually stop using food as the behaviour improves.
What about traditional methods?
Traditional training would focus on hierarchy in the household, punishing the dog and possibly using aversive tools. These methods and tools will include shock collars, prong collars, pet corrector spray, slip leads, pinning a dog down, being the boss of your dog, and so many other things that could do long term mental and physical damage. Sadly as this training method has been used for such a long time people still believe it to be correct and is still used by some trainers today.
Luckily scientific studies have proven force free training has longer lasting results, is ethical and will result in a better relationship between you and your dog.
Even the pack theory has been discredited by the very man that wrote the original study, Dr. David L. Mech. You can see a short YouTube clip from him by clicking the link below.