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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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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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When Not to let your Wiener Dog be a "Dog"

Every dachshund owner knows their dog is prone to spinal problems. We also know that we can help prevent back issues by not allowing them to jump off furniture or engage in heavy play with larger dogs. I don't have a lot to say on this subject other than get pet insurance for your winer dog and please don't let them jump off the furniture. If you must allow furniture access, build or buy doggie steps. Yes, they look awful, but so does this.

Below is my gal, Millie. She likes to sleep to tightly curled up that her tail wraps over her nose and the tip of it touches between her eyes. You can see her back is shaved; this is about 2 weeks post-op and that's as tight as she could curl up. It took her a long long time to regain that flexibility, among other things. 

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Pet Food Recalls and Protecting Your Pet

Every time I hear about a new pet food recall, I cringe. I know that my own dogs will be unaffected since I home cook, and that offers relief. But I immediately check the updated recall list to see if any of my dog walking clients will be affected. Yes, I know what almost every dog on my roster eats...I'm like that! In the most recent case at Diamond Foods, the main concern is for the well-being of the humans in the house, especially the very young or elderly. Not to say dogs can't become ill from salmonella, they can, but they're not as sensitive to it as we are.

So what steps can you take to protect your dogs and your family? Well aside from preparing your own food, education is a huge factor. I strongly encourage all pet owners to read this well-written article which helps identify the major industry players, ingredients, label rules, industry standards, manufacturing processes, etc.

Recently I posted a very short list of commercial products I feel are "safe," which could help you in decision making. But the key really is to arm yourself with the knowledge that will allow you to identify products that are good for your dog.

my dog's food :)

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#WoofMeowTweet

In 2009 I started a Twitter account, and since then have not tweeted even once. That is, until today.

I "get" social media and the role it plays in the world of business, but the thought of learning Twitter and maintaining it gave me a headache. I mean if you're a big business dog walker (several employees and an office manger), you might have the time and energy. But I'm not. So between dog walking, replying to messages and emails from clients, caring for my own dogs, nutrition work, maintaining Facebook, and the rest of life (all things I love, btw), there was no way I could add Twitter.
Then along came Katie. In addition to being one of the most wonderful, conscientious dog walkers I've ever met, she loves social media. She graciously accepted the @oh_my_dog password (promptly changed it) and is making this Tweeting thing finally happen.
Sure it's a long-winded way to say, "we tweet now so please follow us." But it's not like I buried the lead. :)
Follow oh my dog! nutrition too!

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How to Choose a Great Dog Walker - Some Stuff You Might Not Think Of

It's come to this: Many dog owners are being duped.

A responsible dog owner tries to do right by employing a walking service for their pooch. Sadly, what some don't realize is the service they're hiring isn't all sunshine and rainbows. What you hope for is a group of dogs frolicking in the park, playing chase, resting in the shade of a tree, fetching, wrestling, etc... . Sure, it can be that way. It should be that way. And in many cases, it is that way. But more often than not, it isn't. I could regale you for hours about the crappy dogs walkers I see day-after-day, but that's a different story for a different day.

With this post I want to help unsuspecting owners realize that dog walking has it's duds, just like every other profession. So how do you do your due diligence when hiring a dog walker? Here is a start:

1. Ask the other dog owners in your dog park who they use. Ask if they are happy with the service. I'm amazed at how many people are using a service they have "weird feelings" about.
2. Read your potential dog walker's website thoroughly to see if it feels like a good match.
3. Ask for references and CHECK them.
4. Potential dog walkers should want to set up a meeting in your home to meet you and your dog. During this time make sure your dog and the walker seem comfortable together. Listen to your gut.
5. If you’re considering a service that has employees, ask the owner of the company to bring the employee who will be responsible for your dog’s care to the first meeting. Also insist that you always be informed when staff changes occur. Make sure you will be allowed to contact your walker directly, instead of only having a manager's contact info.
6. Be sure your potential walker has a Dog Walker License form the City of Toronto. This means not only that they are bonded and insured, but also that they must adhere to city by-laws. (Dog walkers who do not use city green space however, are not obliged to have a license. These are dog walkers who use city sidewalks rather than parks.) I'm concerned about dog walkers who don't use public spaces (i.e.: rented hidden, private lockups). I personally feel your dog walker should be comfortable with, and encourage public scrutiny. I also know for a fact that dogs become bored when they visit the same place every single day.
7. Be clear about what type of service you are receiving. If your dog is not supposed to go off-leash, don’t leave this information out. If you want leash-free time in the park, make sure your new walker uses safe, legal off-leash parks.
8. Disclose any and all behaviour issues and personality quirks your pooch may have. When you meet with the potential walker, they should have plenty of questions in this area. If they don't, then likely they don't know much about dogs. Moving forward, stay in touch with him/her regarding any new issues, and positive changes also.
9. You want someone who is certified in PET first aid.
10. Can’t stress it enough: listen to your gut.
11. Especially if you have a puppy, ask your walker if he/she is going to work with your dog on some training basics. If they intend to work with your dog, ask them what training methods they believe in. If the answer doesn't involve the word "positive" (see my post), and instead uses words like "alpha, dominance, Cesar, etc... " then don't hand over your key. 

More on this subject from a local dog trainer. 

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Please Play With Your Food - a guest post by Katie

The following post is written by Katie, Christine's recently added right hand dog person at oh my dog! 
When I first brought Sandy home from the SPCA, one of her great “pre-programmed tricks” was bringing me her food bowl when she deemed it feeding time.
"Will do tricks for food"
Nowadays, however, she never gets to practice her trick (unless it’s on the cat bowls that she steals) because we have gone bowl-less. Sandy receives all of her food through food dispensing toys or training, and having had dogs who could tear supposedly indestructible toys in to small, edible pieces, we have been around the block and back with many products. Here’s a run down of what to look for in a food dispensing toy and some of our favourites:

Before You Buy

Make sure you know the answers to the following:
- How hard/enthusiastic of a chewer is my dog
- What level of engagement do I want from a food toy
- How much kibble do I want this toy to be able to hold
**It should be noted you must take extreme caution leaving your dog alone with any toy, and NEVER an untested one. You should monitor their interaction with it until you are certain they will not chew off any pieces.
Sandy's stoic approval of a Planet Dog toy. See the "treat spot" on top.
For Easy Chewers:
If you just want to keep your dog busy through the day, you may be fine with any number of products, from the line of stuffable Kongs to any Planet Dog toy that has a “treat spot”. Basically most toys that can have kibble/canned food/peanut butter/food-item-of-choice in them and licked out by a dog. This is great for lots of dogs, and can keep them busy for hours. Both products mentioned have a lifetime guarantee, and Planet Dog also donates money to Therapy & Assistance Dog Programs, which makes them one of my favourites to purchase products from (read more about the programs they support here).
From here on in, however, we are going to cover food dispensing toys instead of food stuffing toys.
The Tricky Treat Ball is a good food dispensing toy as your dog has to engage with the toy by pushing it around to get the food to come out. This product is straight forward, good for dogs who have no background in getting food out of toys, and can keep a dog busy, but is made of a softer plastic and not recommended for dogs who chew on their toys.
For Medium Chewers:
Smarter Toys makes a product called IQ Treat Ball. It allows you to pick the size of the opening the kibble passes through, so you can start off with a bigger opening and then increase the difficulty once they get the swing of things, or depending on how big/small the kibble is. It’s middle-of-the-road thinking for dogs, a good intro food dispensing ball, and the plastic casing can be chewed in to by heavy chewers (we have the teeth marks to prove it), so only recommended for dogs who don’t get carried away with their toys, but it can still withstand a beating.
Canine Genius makes a great toy, Leo, which can be bought in multiples and connected together or used on its own. It’s a pretty difficult toy depending on the size of the kibble and how you use it – lots of options here. I really enjoyed this toy…until my dog got frustrated and chewed the top off to get to the treat inside. That one was my fault, as I stuffed it with peanut butter and soft food instead of kibble that would be easier to dislodge. A lesson I learned so you don’t have to – food dispensing toys are to dispense, not to stuff.
For Hard Chewers:
There are only three toys that have survived the jaws of my ferocious chewer: The Everlasting Fun Ball, the Buster Cube, and a newer addition, the Kong Wobbler.
My favourite recommendation is the Everlasing Fun Ball. I own two that I purchased in 2008 and are still seeing active duty. It is a malleable ball, apparently made from “elastomer-type material”, and can be very challenging, depending on the size of kibble.
The Buster Cube is the recommendation for dogs with brains that will chew things in to pieces. Again, not recommended to leave alone with your dog if that is their habit, you don’t want ingestion of any of the pieces.
The Kong Wobbler is great because it comes in varied sizes and the odd shape makes it awkward for a dog to put in their mouth. I've seen comments that dogs are able to open it up, but we haven’t had that happen yet. There are a few different products similar to the Wobbler on the market, just make sure your dog can't fit the top in their mouth and the material is a sturdy, hard plastic.
(Extra Tip: If you are looking for some brain teasers Nina Ottosson makes some suburb interactive toys, but most are not the kind you should be leaving your dog alone with.)
My best recommendation for Hard Chewers is to make sure the toy is in proportion to the dogs’ head (therefore they cannot easily fit it in their mouth) and made of hard plastic - if you can knock on it and not squeeze it, that’s what you’re looking for.
An additional note: Remember that the rate of reinforcement for your dog to interact with these toys needs to be such that they don’t get frustrated and walk away. If kibble is too big to be released, your dog will get little to no pay off, alternatively if the kibble is too small it will all tumble out with next to no work - both cases completely defeating the purpose of the toy. You want your dog to work AND be rewarded!

**update** Whole Dog Journal just published this great article about some of the best interactive dog toys!

Hope this helps!

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