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dog walker king street west

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New Safety Protocol

At OMD we're hyper-vigilant when it comes to safety. I lose sleep over the things that could go wrong, and then imagine every possible way to prevent accidents. I've seen it all, kept a great track record, and never become complacent. Accidents can happen to anyone, but at the end of each day, I know I did everything I could.straps Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed by the number of missing dogs in Toronto. Often, the culprit is faulty equipment or a slipped harness.

I've been a huge fan of the carabiner, and still am. But they're bulky, and when you need to carry multiples, in multiple sizes, it's just too much and doesn't work in every situation. So I began the search for "safety straps" that would connect harness to collar. I came up empty many time times in my search, but then it occurred to me that I have this amazing client who cannot only sew, but can also think critically.

lola strapThe result is our very own commissioned saftey straps/connectors. All OMD clients with harnesses will now be sporting one of these in addition to a properly fitted collar/martingale. This way, if a harness ever fails, or the dog manages to wriggle out, he's still attached to the leash via the strap.

Here's to sleeping better!

A very HUGE thank you to Zoe's mum.

 

 

 

 

 

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Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called

One of the best things you can teach your dog is to come when called. Teaching perfect recall isn’t that difficult, but when we do it incorrectly, it seems like the most impossible thing on earth.  The golden rule, in my opinion: your dog needs to associate coming to you with only the best possible things. You’re the happy and safe place when he’s uncertain of something or when he just needs to check in with you. The Don’ts:

  • One of the biggest mistakes I see in the park, especially with new puppy owners, is the repetition of the dog’s name and the command. By the 20th “Rover, come!” the dog believes this means nothing.
  • Trying to instil recall in a dog from 100 feet away is too far.
  • Not rewarding the voluntary “check in” is also a big no no.
  • Not rewarding the dog when/if he does respond to the come command is an opportunity lost.
  • Calling a dog away from play will just go further to soil the command, because chances are, he’s too caught up in the excitement to come running back.
  • Don’t become frustrated, and don’t rough-handle or yell at your dog when he returns after being elusive.

Now for the Dos of teaching recall:

  • Start from a very tiny distance, in an area with no distractions. Inside the house, to the yard, and eventually graduate to the park.
  • Reward the desired behaviour every single time with food and praise.
  • Dogs will often check in with you during play or romping. That behaviour deserves a big “yes” or “click” and a treat.
  • Dogs will sometimes elude owners because they’ve learned that every time they go to them the leash clips and it’s time to go home. Practice on every walk, right from the onset. Your dog will like the odds.
  • Use high value treats for teaching recall. Treats that you don’t provide at any other time.

I am over simplifying, and there are many more helpful articles out there, such as this one by Pat Miller. Learn the exact science behind it, and when it’s ok to start slowly phasing out treat-based rewards. At OMD we work on recall from day one, with every single dog. It keeps them safe and us sane.

Toronto Dog Walker RoncesvallesThis is Charlie, a rescue from The Toronto Humane Society. When I started walking her, I immediately realized she is mostly Golden Retriever and I couldn’t’ understand why it was like calling a brick wall. And I was terrified she was going to run away. So, I met her with her mum in High Park one Sunday. It was obvious she wasn’t the runaway type so I broke out my best treats, and we went to work. Because she’s so clearly a retriever and she aims to please, this sweet-natured gal was recalling perfectly within a week. No, it’s not always that easy, but working on this with your dog (or the dogs you walk) could save their lives one day.

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Canine Body Language - it's a real thing

When you spend a lot of time with many different dogs, reading body language becomes instinctive. Before a dog trainer friend officially educated me on the topic seven years ago, I thought I was some sort of psychic: “I just knew that fight was going to happen.” But of course dogs communicate with each other and us though body language. How else are they going to do it? Remember that video of Cesar Millan taunting Holly, the food aggressive Labrador? After she bites him he says, “I didn’t see that coming.” That line reverberated around the dog world. How could a man who is surrounded by dogs all of the time, not have seen that coming? The rest of us certainly did.

Knowing how to read your dog is fairly simple and by doing so, you can save them a lot stress, prevent fights and bites, and create a feeling of safety for them. And better communication with your dog only leads to a better relationship.

Great reading material and visual aids:

Canine Body Language in the Dog Park

Stress Signals

Calming Signals

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Latest oh my dog! Posters

Our two latest posters. When the weather dries up a bit you can expect to see them around the Queen Street West/Trinity Bellwoods area, Brockton Village and Roncesvalles Village. OMD-SophieOMD-Utah

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Prevent Door Darting

One of the questions on my new-client questionnaire is "Does your dog attempt to dart though an open door?" I’m always careful when entering a client's home, but if the answer to that question is "yes," then careful doesn't cut it. I need to be vigilant. It’s stressful; especially since the same dogs usually try to do the same thing when the door to the Element opens. This is the first thing I teach every single new dog - they must wait until I tell them it's ok to jump out. Otherwise they would be jumping out at every new pick up and drop off spot. But what happens when it's not me or the client coming through the front door, but rather a cleaning service or a contractor? Their job isn't to mind the dog. I arrived at client's home one day, a couple of years ago and the contractor told me the dog ran out as soon as he arrived, and that he had to chase him 3 blocks to the park. This story ended "well," but they don't all, sadly.

So, read this article by Pat Miller in the Whole Dog Journal, follow the protocol and keep your dog safe.

 

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Nicole Wilde Seminar, Part 2: Dog Play - by Katie Hood

Part 2 of Nicole's day was entitled “Dissecting the Dynamics of Dog-Dog Play”. My time dog walking with Christine at oh my dog!, nerding out with other canine professionals, as well as my years of working with dogs, prepared me for this part of the seminar. I was happy to find I already possessed much of the knowledge covered and also had a few beliefs confirmed. Nicole showed lots of video of different kinds of play in a dog park ranging from happy play with lots of loose body language, to completely petrified dogs whose owners insisted they should “enjoy” the dog park experience when it was clear the only thing the dog would enjoy was leaving. Starting right at the beginning we were reminded why it's important for dogs to play – to establish social bonds, practice social skills, teach bite inhibition, and how far they can push other dogs. Nicole recommended introducing a puppy to a well tempered older dog, preferably female from her experience.

Referencing a study by Dr. Ward, play preferences in dogs was discussed. Dr. Ward videotaped puppies playing and found that the partners they preferred to play with in youth carried on as they aged. They also found that there is a same sex play preference early on, females tend to initiate with other females more often, and male puppies are more likely to handicap themselves in play to encourage the other pup to play with them.

The well known play bow was discussed and outside of being an invitation to play, it was also likened to be a doggie version of a 'lol!' Some dogs will perform a behaviour that could be taken as a threat but will follow it up with a play bow to say 'just kidding'.

Returning to the work of Dr. Ward, healthy play was discussed. It's common to believe that play should be 50/50, for example one dog shouldn't be on the bottom all the time. But in Dr. Ward's study they found in paired play the 50/50 rule did not apply. Nicole talked about different play styles, that a more hesitant/shy dog may not have the desire to be on top during play or that some dogs don't like to chase other dogs but love to be chased. Instead ensure play is healthy by noting friendly body language, that there is some give and take in the play, frequent pauses (don't let the dogs play non-stop and then whip themselves in to a frenzy), and respect for communication. If one dog tries to take a pause in play and the other continues to try to instigate, it may be time for both to have a break or end the play session. What should you watch for in play with your dog to prevent issues? Increased speed, fewer pauses, vertical play increasing instead of horizontal play, rough play increasing, low pitch vocalizations.

A round up of good facts/reminders:

- Socially awkward dogs are opportunistic (have you ever watched a dog trying to mount a dog who's mounting another dog? Awkward.)

- Keep play safe by having done solid attention work with your dog (eye contact!) and good recall.

- Monitor your dog in the park. Don't bring a newspaper or your phone and sit 20 feet away with your back to them.

- The most dangerous factor in dog-dog play is humans! Don't put your dog in a vulnerable position

If you missed Katie's write up of Part One regarding Separation Anxiety, here it is!

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Nicole Wilde Seminar: Separation Anxiety

As previously mentioned, continuing to learn about dogs (health and behaviour) is really important to us. Both Katie and I are indeed dog nerds, but the information we accumulate is valuable, and we love to share it with you. Here's part one of Katie's entry regarding the recent Nicole Wilde seminar on separation anxiety hosted by Speaking of Dogs Rescue. Nicole Wilde was recently in Toronto for a two day seminar and I 
attended Day 2 with two topics: Separation Anxiety and Dog-Dog Play.
 Having had multiple dogs with separation anxiety myself, I was 
interested to hear if there were any new items to walk away with from a personal standpoint, as well as a professional one.

First off, it was a reminder of how isolating and difficult life with 
an SA dog can be. Standard protocol for working through SA is that the 
dog is never left alone longer than it can handle. That can mean a 
minimum of a month of arranging daycares, doggie babysitters, no 
nights out, etc... while working through a dog's state of stress/panic
 that they experience every time they are alone or leading up to the event 
of being left, and the destruction that can be an expression of those 
emotions. It's no wonder, when asked by Nicole, a majority of the 
trainers present agreed they'd prefer working with an aggressive dog 
over a separation anxiety dog; it's an emotionally charged situation 
with slow progress and some owners may not have the tools at their 
disposal to accomplish each step.

That said it is imperative to work with a professional in these 
situations and you must have a proper diagnosis – is your dog stressed
 whenever it's the only one in the house or when it's away from a 
certain person? Will your dog settle with other family members or 
friends?

The best way to get these answers is to know exactly what your dog is 
doing when left alone by recording them with a webcam or digital 
camera. Nicole busted some long held myths such as “true separation 
anxiety dogs don't eat when left alone” by showing video of a client's 
dog bouncing between a food toy and howling at the door.

Nicole's favourite tool for ongoing monitoring is Skype: set up a 
dummy account that you connect to your smart phone and using that fake
 account to call in to your computer at home and watch your dog. (You can
set your skype to auto-accept calls, or, if you're popular on Skype,
make another account that's just for this purpose).

The most common separation anxiety symptoms are destruction (there
 were many photos of shredded doors), vocalization, and house soiling. 
Nicole really drove home the importance of nutrition alongside
 management, confidence building, and calm/mentally stimulating 
exercise (ie: a hike with lots of sniffing, not a 10k run).

If you're an owner working through this, remember to make a list of 
your resources – people you can leave your dog with, places you can 
take your dog along with you, friends with dogs that you can have over 
for play dates, etc.

There was more information than I can sum up in a short blog post, but 
the last point I want to mention was the question of when a dog should
be medicated. If the dog is in danger of harming itself, is 
experiencing severe emotional distress or is in danger of losing its
 home over the issue, it may be time to discuss medication with an
experienced trainer and Veterinarian working together.

For your own metal well being, it may help to join an online discussion forum dedicated to SA. Sometimes it helps to have a support network of people who know exactly what you're going though.

In part two Katie will discuss Dog-Dog Play. 

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Continuing Education To Serve You Better

Dog walking offers its challenges, but I think it’s important to stay fresh and keep learning.  I believe this is true for all professions. As part of my commitment to being a great Canine Nutrition Consultant, I work with a mentor who is a veterinary nutritionist, attend seminars on the subject whenever possible and I read books related to the topic. Recently I enrolled in the Advanced Canine Nutrition Certification course at CASI.

What’s Katie up to? She’s currently enrolled in the intense dog trainer program though the Karen Pryor Academy and apprenticing at When Hounds Fly.

So we’re both working hard and trying to be the best possible dog nerds we can be. Please forgive us if we’re a little slower than usual at responding to your calls and emails. It’s only temporary.

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Canine Obesity Epidemic. How to tell when your dog is overweight, and what to do about it

Today I want to discuss a few things in relation to your dog’s weight. What’s healthy? What causes weight gain? How can you safely shed excess pounds? I’ve come to the conclusion that many people are unclear about what a healthy body weight looks like on a dog. “Dogs who eat raw/home-cooked always look too skinny …” is something I’ve heard three times just in the past week. I've also witnessed people point to a particular dog and say "That dog is too skinny." Only to look over at the dog and see that it's in perfect condition. Here’s what I think: for many people’s pups, a little excess has become the norm. But whether it’s an inch to pinch, or several inches, it’s harming your dog’s health and quality of life.

Below you will find a Body Scoring Chart. Every veterinary office has one - not for their reference, for yours. I asked a former veterinary clinic employee why it is that so many owners have no idea their dog is overweight. Her answer: “Many people take the insinuation that a pet is overweight as a personal accusation. The truth is most owners don't know what an appropriately sized pet looks like, or when their pet's weight gain has gone too far, as they see them every day and may not notice there’s an issue. A vet has to sensitively bring the matter up, and many times clients will become agitated, as they often perceive that they are being blamed for the problem. It's sometimes easier for vets to not bring up the issue at all.” So like many aspects of your pet’s healthcare, you need to take matters into your own hands. Knowledge is power. Take a good look, and be honest with yourself.

Keep in mind that just like humans, each dog is different. Some of us have trouble gaining weight, and some of us have to work to keep it off. Be sure to rule out problems like thyroid disease before putting your dog on a diet. Other contributing factors could include age (older dogs require more protein but fewer calories), being over fed/over weight during puppyhood, poor feeding guidelines on commercial products (there’s is actually no one size fits all measurement), and excess treat consumption - especially things like dental chews, many of which actually contain sugar (really, who comes up with this stuff?). Why is weight so important? If your dog is overweight and remains so, his life span shrinks. Truly it's that simple. Excess weight in dogs increases the likelihood of injuries, it stresses their joints, increases pain associated with arthritis, and increases the likelihood of osteoarthritis (and at an earlier age). It can also lead to cardiovascular, pancreatic and liver disease and diabetes mellitus.

Why are dogs who eat real food generally better proportioned than the ones who eat kibble? Well, I think the answer is obvious, but I’ll explain. Firstly, kibble is extremely calorie-dense. Factor in that processed foods (which kibble is) have an adverse reaction on the body’s natural digestive process, and actually slow down metabolism. Metabolism is the process that creates energy from food, and keeping it stable maintains energy level and body weight. If your dog is overweight and you’re having trouble taking it off, “diet” kibble is not the answer. Essentially you’re trying to fix a problem with kibble that was caused by a different kibble.

In my opinion, weigh loss kibbles are nothing more than starvation diets. I know that might sound extreme. But take Purina OM for example: its primary ingredient is corn in two forms (a common allergen, not easy to digest). Next up, two forms of soy, another common allergen. Fifth ingredient, “beef and bone meal” (only those at Purina know where that bone meal comes from). OM also contains defluorinated phosphate, a commercial feed ingredient also used in agriculture for pigs and chickens.

Why do these kibbles contain so much corn? Because it’s a cheap source of protein. Not a nutritious, bioavailable source of protein, but a cheap one. And in all likelihood it’s the same GMO corn that’s widely used in many processed foods - a product that causes a host of health problems. The ingredients list goes on to mention animal by-products, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, all of which, after heating and extrusion, your dog’s body would struggle to utilize. In fact, “processing exposes more antigenic sites on the foods’ molecules, which alter the body’s immune surveillance and recognition responses. In other words, our pets’ bodies view much of the “wholesome nutrition” we are feeding them like foreign invaders.” –Jean Dodds, DVM

How does this cheap, processed food create a feeling of fullness when it’s lacking in quality nutrients and protein? I soaked a piece in water and watched it grow. All kibble expands when moistened, but this one grew the most of all the products I tested.

This kibble may help your dog lose weight, but I promise you his body doesn’t recognize it as food. And in the long run, it might be doing just as much damage to his organs and lifespan that being overweight does.

So how can you safely help your dog lose weight? Easy: feed real food. For starters, you control the ingredients in the diet. The best part of a customized, home made diet is that all the nutrients your dog needs are present, but you can easily avoid excess calories and fat. Feeding three smaller meals throughout the day and providing mental stimulation and regular exercise (as long as the dog is otherwise healthy) will complete the protocol. All the while your dog will feel satisfied because he’s consuming high quality, digestible nutrient sources. In cases of obesity, we taper the calories down slowly by calculating the ideal/healthy amount of weight to be lost each week. Also note that high-quality, bioavailable protein promotes muscle development; muscles help burn fat.

If your dog is underweight, it works the same way. You can control every aspect of his diet and increase the caloric content without feeding dangerous amounts of fat or excess minerals. On the other hand, if you were to simply feed more kibble to put weight on your dog, he’d just be consuming more processed food. Also, too much kibble can create a feeling of discomfort once it starts mixing with gastric juices and expands. Real food, prepared and portion controlled by you is the better way to a healthier, happier dog.

My story? It creeps up every fall, and somehow I still let it happen. My own gal, Millie, is fat. Most dogs eat less in the summer, my other dog certainly does. Millie, not so much. She finishes every meal, plus she munches on the pears that fall from the tree in our back yard. Oh, and sometimes we let her finish what Joey leaves behind, justifying it with “it’s just a teaspoon of food.” Couple the extra snacking with a slower pace due to the heat, and there you have it - an extra kilo. My beagleXdachshund, who had spinal surgery at the age of 2 (before she was my dog), is overweight.

So what to do? Millie’s ideal weight is 7.5 kg but currently she’s currently weighing in at a hefty 8.6 kg. I designed a diet that contains the proper amount of calories and fat for a 7.5 kg dog, and made sure it’s complete and balanced with all the right nutrients. All at once I made enough food for two weeks and weighed the entire batch. To be sure I’m not tempted to give in to that sad little, hungry, beagley face, I gathered 14 containers and put one day’s worth of food in each one. I’ll split it up each day as breakfast, a small snack and dinner. And I’m certain that in about 8 weeks, I’ll have my slim and trim girl back. Updates to come.

If you’re battling canine weight-gain (or loss), there are safe ways to help naturally, though the use of a wholesome, balanced, real food diet, which will also help your dog to feel less hungry. Do it for health and longevity.

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A Squeaky toy that only your dog can hear?! Say it is so! A guest Post by Katie

I remember bringing home a toy for Sandy and after no longer than 10 seconds, immediately taking it away and putting it in a drawer.

It was TOO LOUD.Sandy loves things that squeak. She loves making them squeak. She loves bringing me things to squeak in my face for minute upon agonizing minute. I will admit that I have stabbed a toy here & there to "kill" the squeaker.My mother gave us the gift of a "Hear Doggy" toy this past weekend, it's a toy with a squeaker that only dogs can hear.

According to their website: "Dogs can hear sounds at a higher frequency (0 to 45 KHz) than humans (0 to 20 KHz). Tuned to an ultrasonic range in the 24-28 KHz frequency, each Hear Doggy! squeaker is out of human hearing range, but still fun for your four-legged friend."

And even better they have two styles: toys with stuffing or without, for those that try to de-stuff their toys on a regular basis. We are a ripping kind of family, so we went with the de-stuffed model and both of my dogs adore it. It's the first toy out of their box nowadays.

This is a great toy not only for easily frustrated humans such as myself, but for all kinds of people who can't have the constant squeak that dogs find so much fun: people who are noise sensitive, people who take their dogs to work, people who make work calls from home or have brought home brand new human babies!This is a toy that has gotten a generous rating from us!

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