It doesn't matter if the dog I'm walking is an old family dog or the excited puppy it all boils down to one thing.
Dogs love to walk.
I take a number of special and elderly dogs for walks throughout the week and to be honest I always allow them to squeeze a few extra minutes beyond their allotted walk time.
For the first few walks I allow them to direct me where they want to go. It can be difficult for dog to suddenly have a new person in their life doing the one pass time they enjoy, so I remain calm, happy but in control.
Normally after three walks together I start to see the soft eyes, the willingness in their body language to be lead by me and a nice even tail placement.
I will share a story which I think is funny and happened not long after I started taking friends dog's for a walk. Angel was a little Jack Russell who had gained a number of kilograms after her cancer scare. The family were giving her every treat under the Sun and the universal attitude from all was "She's old and may not be with us for long so let's just spoil her.'
Angel was like a round yellow, white and brown ball with four stick like legs under her girth. Her eyes were excellent but she had some skin issues and had a very reserved nature. So I took Angel for a walk down to the local park to have some off leash action. We were meant to be gone for an hour. Two hours later an very fizzled me brings Angel home.
Walking to the park was fine, walking around the park was fine the nag was coming home. Every time I reattached the harness the dog stuck her paws in and refused to move. I'm pulling and cursing under my breath at this eight kilo dog stopping a fully grown adult from going home. I'm thinking I'm a monster for pulling this sick old dog around the park. What would people think of me? So what did I do that first time? I picked her up and carried her home. A very bad move.
It was a learning experience. Old dog, sick dog doesn't mean their attitude has changed. A person can't tell a dog "Sorry, you have cancer and are going to die" a dog doesn't understand that. Instead they suddenly find themselves been given free rein at home to do what they want and some dogs are more than welling to go the whole hog to enjoy themselves.
So what did I do with Angel on the next few walks? I tried giving treats to see if she would follow me. Which she did for about three feet and then wanted for the next treat. I tried walking away, she took that to mean let's sniff around the tree's and have fun and the final approach I took was the choke chain.
The obedience school training for years before came in handy. Once I put the chain around Angel's neck I'd said "Come" pulled the chain short and sharp and walked. At first there was resistance and some twisting of her body by Angel but by now I was frankly over Angel's "Me me me" attitude. We would walk with the chain relaxed and everytime I could feel her getting ready to stop I would pull the chain short and sharp and say "Come".
In the end I won and Angel and I had an understanding about when we would be going home. Angel would go on to live for another three years after that first walk and cancer did finally take her but she showed me that in her mind been sick, obese and having rashes meant nothing. She was going to enjoy her life.
At some point during the day or night you should always take the time to have a cuddle, scratch and grooming session with your dog or cat.
There are a variety of reasons for this. On an animal level the grooming of another member of the pack is an important way to bond. For humans beings scratching or grooming a pet will lower your stress levels, for example.
By cuddling, scratching and grooming your pet it gives you a chance to check on the health of your pet. You should:
- Running your hands lightly over their whole body. Watch their body language. Do they stay relaxed when you do this or do they tense up and try to leave when your hand comes to a section of their body.
- Check your pet's eyes. As your pet ages they may start to have eye problems. Make sure there is no unusual discharges. Are the eyes clear in the pupil?
- Are the whites of your pet's eyes white?
- Make sure to check your pet's teeth. Are the teeth a healthy white and are the gums a red or dark pink colour.
- Feel around their heads and down around their necks, do this slowly as you scratch. Are there any odd skin issues or lumps?
- Check your pet's belly and chest by laying them on the ground. Check for rashes, lumps or parasites.
- Feel around the pads of your pet's feet and in between the pads do this when your pets relaxed and don't be harsh when you do, keep it gentle.
- Listen to your pet's breathing when their asleep. Is it deep and clear without any whistling or gurgling noises.
If the answer is no to any of the above you should consider taking your pet to a vet for a check up
If there is one thing I've learnt from pets over the years is they are stoic.
Many pets just won't let on there is something wrong by crying for example. Pets will just keep on keeping on. So it is up to the pet owners to watch like a hawk over your pet's well being. If there are changes in their routine, how they pass their waste, how they walk, where they go, how they go up stairs, how they reacted to a suddenly addition of furniture by walking in to it can all be signs of a change in health.
By grooming or scratching you are actively looking for something odd, like a lump or if their gums aren't white, or if your pet's eyes aren't clear you should take your pet to the vets.
By having the issue addressed there is less worry for you and in the long term could mean a long and happy life for your pet.
Meeting a new dog for the first time is an exciting event for both human and dog. Here a few tips to help you.
- When you met a new dog don't look at it, say it's name or interact. Wait about five minutes before starting the introduction. The reason is simple. If you want the dog to see you as an Alpha, act like one. Alpha dogs don't run over and scratch and make a fuss of the other dogs. The Alpha dogs signal when the pack can come to them. Also waiting gives the dog a chance to sniff you and get used to your scent.
- Now you want to be introduced, I was recommend holding out a relaxed hand and been down on your hunches, let the dog have a good sniff, once it has stopped sniffing give it a light scratch around the chin and on the lower part of the face. Don't smile, baring your teeth got be see as aggressive by the dog.
- Stand and come closer to the dog. Let them sniff your clothes and shoes. Once they have finished give them a light brush down their spine. See how they react. Do they look up with soft eyes or suddenly finch? If they finch the dog is still unsure if you are friend or for. If you can pass your hand all around their shoulders and head which where the Alpha dog normally holds them down to create domination without a sign of fear. Things are going along well. If on the other hand the dog is weaving away from your touch, don't force the issue. Wait and allow the dog to sniff or look you over. A dog with high levels of fear needs the Alpha to be calm but firm. Turn your back to the dog and ignore them. Let them come to you. Patience is important. Once you can safely brush your hand down the spine, around the shoulders without any problems the introduction is complete.
After completing a home pet service I was driving through a back street headed for a main road. Ahead of me I see a small dog running into traffic, it's erratic behavior clearly indicated it was unfamiliar with it's surrounding. Luckily the two cars in front of me stopped as two middle aged men ran after the dog.
Slamming on the brakes I hopped out of my car and screamed "Don't chase the dog. Get down to the ground and call it's name!" Unfortunately the dog was spooked and continued to headed away from the two men.
Thankfully I was able to get ahead of the dog and getting close to the ground I calmly called the dog to me, scooped him up and returned him to his owners.
Turned out the dog was a rescue dog and had escaped from it's backyard. The owners had done a wonderful thing but had missed some very important lessons about rescue dogs or new dogs and that is training. As a dog owner knowing that when you call your dog's name they will come or sit on your call could save your dog from the wheels of a car or worse.
Once you have a dog home, give it time to get used to you and any other animals. Please refer to my earlier blog. Now is the time to start training.
If you have a backyard use that or an enclosed park. You will need to start without a leash. Call your dog to you in a firm but friendly voice 'Come Rex" when the dog approaches and stops at your feet reward the dog with a treat and a "Good Rex". You will need to be patient. Some dogs will pick up on the reward system quickly others maybe totally disinterested.
It comes down to you as the owner to compete this training. I would recommend doing this for at least 20 minutes a day until your dog knows the call and will come to you. If your dog understands the call quickly then cut back on the treats. The reward is a "Good Rex". if you over reward your dog with treats they will very quickly learn when you have treats on you and when you don't. Once a dog knows a call they should be rewarded at this stage every fifth to sixth call.
The next step is to show your dog how to sit. Golden Rule "Don't force the dog's bum to the ground" again this comes down to encouraging your dog to do the call without you forcing the dog to do something it doesn't understand.
The best approach is to call your dog "Come Rex" have a treat ready say "Sit" and slowly move the treat over the middle of their heads. The dog will follow the treat and their bum will go down. Once the dog''s bum is down reward the dog and give them a treat and a verbal "Good Rex"
Again some dogs will pick up what you want, others will twist their heads around or move. That's fine, when you do this exercise have the dog positioned next to a wall. As you say "Sit" and pass the treat over their head the wall will stop them moving backwards. Reward the dog with a treat and verbal "Good Rex" as long as the exercise is completed successfully.
Never reward your pet if the training is not correct by rewarding the wrong thing you are sending mixed messages to your dog and your not been the Alpha leader a dog needs.
Let's think back to the dog that escaped, it's had no training and is clearly upset. When a dog gets out here are some things you need to do.
NEVER chase the dog. The dog will think your playing and will only run faster.
Call your dog's name calmly and in a happy tone. Never scream or throw your arms around. Dogs react the same way as humans if someone is yelling, running after them as they throw their arms around. They run away from the cause of the noise.
When your dog turns to look at you be on your knee's, hands out, call their name again and make a show of having a treat in your hand even if you don't.
If the dog slowly comes back DON"T get off your knees. Stay down, call their name. Don't rush at the dog.
Once you have them, thank the dog for returning. NEVER yell at the dog or be upset with them. The dog has done as asked. Be thankful your dog is with you and alive!
Here are some quick and helpful tips when dealing with a new addition to the home.
- Make sure any other dogs are safely removed from the house. Let your new dog have a sniff around the house in peace. If they make for a bedroom or under something to shelter please let them.
- Place your other dogs on leashes and slowly and calmly let them smell around the new dog. DON'T drag the new dog out or cause a stressful situation. If your dog starts to bark or worse, OUT they go! You may have to introduce your dogs to their new playmates a few times till they calm down.
- Let the new dog come out of it's shell in it's own time. Pulling them out, getting down to pet or comfort them it a waste of time. Your rescue dog has been through a very emotionally upsetting time and they have few ways to communicate what has happened. Let them come to you. Be ready to welcome them into your pack. Allow the rescue dog to feel it has at long last some power over it's environment.
- During feeding time always fed them in the same place and don't let the other dogs eat their food. The last thing you want are fights over bowls of food.
- Please be patient. The rescue dog may take a few days to come around. Don't fuss over them, and make sure your dogs aren't making their stay stressful. If play gets angry or they start to have a go at one another separate them in different rooms or one goes outdoors. Don't let them see one another. Wait twenty minutes and slowly introduce them again. I would recommend they are both placed on leashes. If they start to pull or bark, back away and get them out of sight of one another. Wait a few minutes then introduce again. Again you maybe forced to do this again and again until both are calm.
- Always remember rescue dogs need time as do their new owners and any new playmates. You have done a wonderful thing for this dog PLEASE be patient!
All owners believe they are the leader and the dog their follower. In most cases that is simply not the case.
Signs you are not the pack leader:
- You arrive home and your dogs hops, jumps and bring you toys upon your arrival.
- Your dog just comes over and flop on you without been invited.
- At the park your dog frequently ingores your calls to return.
- When walking your dog rarely looks at you.
All these little behavioural signs means your dog is the Alpha leader and you are the follower. That's not good news. It's means your dog is not looking to you for guidance or undestanding of a situation or how to react.
To get the ball rolling here's a tip.
When you return home ignore your dog for the first five mintues of your arrivel. No words, no speaking, no looking at them and no eye contact. Come into the house and busy yourself with sorting the mail, getting a drink or changing clothes.
Some dogs will react straight away and try some domination tactic's like barking or humping your leg. Just turn your back and go about your life. Repeat this every time you reunit with your dogs even if you just step out of the house for a few minutes.
Remeber when you go your dog has no idea when you will return. They take on the leader of the pack role. You must show your dog you are the leader!
Once you've done this for a while you will notice the jumping at you will stop, the barking at you on your arrival will stop and you will become the one asking the dog to join you on a sofa or at your feet.
Leaders ask their fellowers to join, never the other way around.
If your dog has thick or long hair and your dog lives in an area where they have no access to air conditioning or a cool room it is the right thing to cut your dogs hair.
Many breeds of dogs find it very hard to handle the heat in Australia and cutting thier fur will allow yoour dog to cool. Please remember dogs can't sweat so keeping their hair short is the only answer.
Don't allow your dog to fall victim to heat stroke or worse.
Do the right thing by your dog!
The question boils down to where will your pet be during the day?
If your dog is inside make sure they have access to multiply bowls of water. In the kitchen, the pets living area and in the bathroom as the tiles will keep the water cool.
Make sure you have some windows open to catch any cool breeze but keep the shuts down to deflect the heat. Don't leave any fresh food out like meat as this will go off very quickly in the heat and could make your pet ill if they attempt to eat the food.
If all your pets are out doors, make sure there is water in a covered area again multipy bowls and your pet can't tip the bowls over, make sure your pet has a large area they can retreat to that is covered and will offer protection from the Sun and elements. Ideally a tree or shaded area.
If your home with your pet, cool them with a towel over their body. Don't play with them during the heat of the day. And don't feed them during the heat of the day. Don't worry if your dog is panting that is their natural cooling system. Remeber dogs can't sweat and if your dogs lays on the bathroom tiles you have a smart dog! The tiles are cooling their body.
If you can hop in the pool take your dog in for a dip, the same goes for the beach or inlet. Always be aware of council rules and don't let your dog swim out into the open sea. Make sure you pack a towel for your dog!
When walking your pet remember if it's 35 where your standing it's 38 or 40 where your dog is standing. Ground temperatures are always between 2 to 5 degree's hotter and remember your dog isn't wearing shoes. Dogs paws can blister on concrete and roads. If your dog cries out or tries carrying a leg or jumping. Their feet are burning. Pick them up and cool their feet with water. You may have to take them to the vets to be checked out
When it comes to feeding time it may be a good idea not to feed your pet till the Sun is down. Like us, heat can upset your pets's tummy's and make them feel unwell. Let your pet cool down in their time. They will let you know when their hungry.
As to me I walked in the early morning and that was hot. Wait to see if I can get any walks in this evenings.
The heat I can handle, kinda. Lots of sweating, smelling bad and looking worse. But come on Mother Nature. I know Spring time is that one time of year when you go totally nuts.
First the heat then the thunderstorms followed by heat. I shouldn't complain but my kids are either really hot or freaking over the strong smell of ozone. Bring on Summer I say.
I still have some slots available for group walks if any one is interested?
Walking during spring can be a challenge. Take a jacket? Carry an umbrella or pack some sunscreen. Sometimes you ahve to do all three.
The Kids as I like to call my groups of dogs have a great time sniffing out new scents near tree's or running into some puddles. To help my Kids stay cool I like to walk early in the moring then later in the afternoon to let some of the heat of the day escape.
It feels like we are all in for a long hot summer!