Viewing entries tagged
dog walkers king street west

10 Comments

A Difficult Lesson for Pet Sitters and Owners

twomI’ve been a professional pet sitter for ten years. I take my job very seriously, put safety first and always err on the side of caution. The story I’m about to tell is not only seemingly unreal, it’s pretty surprising that it happened to someone so diligent. A few weeks ago, one of my original clients from 2003, dropped his dog off to stay for a week, just as he had done many times before. We sat and talked for about 20 minutes, catching up and discussing their US/Canada road trip upon which they were about to embark. We also talked about Ginger’s decrease in appetite over the previous weeks, and I promised I would get her to eat. She loved eating at my house because I always made a special pot of stew (organic beef, sweet potato and carrots) just for her and served it atop her kibble. That evening, I sent them a photo of her devouring it. The next morning she did the same thing.

Two hours later, however, she threw it up and went back to her bed. That would be the last time Ginger ever stood up on her own. It wasn’t unusual for her to remain lying down for long periods of time because of her arthritis – especially if she could see you without having to change rooms. But a couple of hours later when I returned from walking dogs, I found it a little strange that she didn’t get up to greet me. An hour after that, Ginger wasn’t wagging her tail very much when we said her name. This was particularly unusual for this gleeful, bouncy lab. Once her breathing changed a little, I was concerned and wanted to bring her to the vet, or speak with her owners. Several text messages went unanswered and so off to the vet we went.

She was assessed by one of her own doctors and we were told to take her to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic and advised that we “must reach her owners.” Several more phones calls went straight to voicemail.

At the VEC we were told that Ginger had internal bleeding, likely caused by a type of tumour called Hemangiosarcoma. Four hours later and we still had not been able to reach her people. The vet was not optimistic but since she wasn’t my dog, we agreed that she should receive a blood transfusion in an attempt to keep her stable until we got word from the owners. On our way out of the clinic, I told the vet that if her condition got any worse, he must call me so that I would come and be with her.

That call came at 3 AM. Ginger was crashing and the decision was now out of our hands. We raced back to the clinic, where I signed a “permission to euthanize” agreement for a dog that wasn’t even mine. We sat with her, petted her, and kissed her face as he slipped away.

We continued to sit with her for a while longer. Before we left, I took her collar off. It was the same, and only collar she’d had for at least a decade. I held it in my lap on the way home – thoughts bouncing between grief and disbelief and wondering how I would find the words to tell her owners.

Hours turned into days, and still no phone call came from them. For five days I didn’t go anywhere without my phone, and didn’t really go anywhere at all. I even slept with it turned on. I was worried they would hear all the urgent messages we’d left, and call me back only to reach voicemail. They were scheduled to arrive home Saturday evening, so that morning, I knew that would be the day.

Those five days, and in particular, that Saturday, were gut-wrenching. The waiting was pretty unbearable; I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I just did pretty much nothing. Just sat and waited with a pit in my stomach that could stop a train.

It was not an easy conversation; no one wants to deliver this type of news. But even more difficult, was the uncertainly for Ginger and not being able to reach her owners when the problem began. I kicked myself. I always ask clients if they will be reachable, but in this case, I made assumptions. Ginger’s owners were long-time clients and things had become very casual between us.

The difficult lesson? Always have a plan and a back up plan. Clients and pet sitters should always be able to reach one another, and in the event that isn’t possible, there needs to be an emergency contact. Someone who can make a decision on behalf of the dog and feel 100% confident that it’s the right one. Fellow pet sitters, it's difficult to ask the questions, but find out what your clients wishes are. The lesson to owners is obvious; although she was with her second favourite family, her own family would have like to be with her in the end.

Ginger was like family and we miss her so much.

10 Comments

Comment

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.

 

Comment

2 Comments

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!

2 Comments

2 Comments

The Greatest Training Treat Ever

I never thought I would find myself writing a blog entry about how amazing a certain dog treat is. But then Nothing Added came along and changed everything. Suddenly I’m that person who is way too excited about dog treats. Screen shot 2013-06-02 at 3.06.36 PM

I’m talking specifically about the “tripe” treats. I bought a bag one day and when I opened it, the smell nearly killed me, but my dogs were at attention and ready to do whatever I asked of them. <Light bulb> The tripe comes in very large pieces, so I got out the industrial scissors (regular kitchen scissors don’t have what it takes) and went to work, cutting each piece into tiny pieces and filling my treat pouch.

ANVIL CUT

Those tiny morsels of pure stench kicked our training into high gear, and our walks have turned into serene outings, and my dogs into angels <cough, cough>. Then I started brining the treats to work, continuing to work obsessively on recall with the new dogs, dodgy dogs, and puppies. Never in ten years of dog walking have I ever seen anything like it.

 

Dogs who usually aren’t food motivated, extremely fussy dogs and dogs who just don’t grasp the concept of “come” have all made great strides.

Because these treats are so, um, pungent, they flavour the other treats in your pouch, so even your boring biscuit-style treats are suddenly more valuable.

That said, I reserve the tripe for really important training like recall, “leave it,” and reducing reactivity. If you’re just training tricks or “sit,” use something else your dog likes, as this will make the tripe even more special.

Nothing Added treats are safe and made exclusively in Canada. In the Trinity Bellwoods, Queen West area I’ve seen these treats for sale at The Dog Bowl on Dundas and Timmie Dog Outfitters on Queen.

2 Comments

4 Comments

Katie A.K.A. The Best

I started OMD in 2003 as a one-woman operation. I had always intended for it to stay that way. When you spend as much time in the park as I do, you witness many other dog walkers; some of them not doing such a great job. It always makes me cringe. How could I ever find someone who would care as much as I do about getting it right, and about my business and reputation? I couldn’t. I deemed it impossible.

Then, a year ago, I got an email from Katie that she was coming home after an extended stay in the UK, and she was thinking about walking dogs. <Chorus of Angels> I knew this would work.

Not only is she a compassionate dog trainer and animal lover, she has a knack for safety.  It’s that little bit of ‘fear’ that makes a good dog walker, a great one. After all, she’s worked in vet clinics and shelters so she’s seen it all and she understands everything that could wrong. She also engages with the dogs on her walks and their faces light up when she calls their name.

katie at cp

All of our clients love Katie, she’s always in communication with them and she never fails to go the extra mile to help when they’re struggling with dog-related issues.

I may have taught her a few things about dog walking, but it’s a two way street and we learn form each other all the time. What more could a business owner want!?

Happy first anniversary, Katie!

4 Comments

12 Comments

A Plea on Behalf of Dogs in Toronto: "Please Leash Me"

This is a subject that hits close to home. I have two dogs who need their personal space. They don’t dislike other dogs, but park and sidewalk greetings need to be managed. They can sometimes be reactive on leash, but we’ve worked on this a lot with positive reinforcement training and the results are amazing. Walks are now much less stressful and far more enjoyable. However, as the dog population in Toronto rises, so does the number of off-leash dogs in areas where they’re not supposed to be, like sidewalks and on-leash parks. These also happen to be the areas where I need to walk my dogs, since they’re not “dog park” candidates. When we encounter off-leash dogs running up to us, it’s impossible for me to work with my dogs to manage the situation. The result is a lost opportunity for positive reinforcement and a setback in our training. Training that requires distance.

Off-leash dog owners usually defend themselves, or try to appease parents and other dog owners by loudly declaring “It’s OK, he’s friendly.” Bluntly: WE DON’T CARE. IT’S NOT OK. What the off-leash owners need to consider is that many of us have dogs that are not comfortable around strange, new dogs. They may be fearful, anxious or elderly and it’s up to us to protect them and find ways to reduce stress.

We have every right to walk our dogs on-leash in parks and on sidewalks without having to be on guard for approaching off-leash dogs. But when other owners take this right away from us, they are negatively affecting the lives of our dogs. Dogs who are sweet, loveable and deserving of a stress-free walk. Worse, they make all dog owners look bad.

I know professional dog trainers, whose dogs have perfect recall, who would not take the chances I see many Torontonians taking every day. Like the guy in the windstorm last week walking his Weimaraner off-leash down Queen Street - does he know for certain that if a sandwich board blows over and hits his dog, that he won’t bolt towards home?  Or the woman who walks her pit bull off-leash at the top of Trinity Bellwoods Park - are you kidding me? She has an obligation to protect her dog from the ridiculous BSL laws in Ontario. I could go on and on.

After too many negative experiences with his own two rescue beagles, the owner of When Hounds Fly has started a campaign: Please Leash Me. Oh my dog! is a proud supporter and I hope you will be too. Go here to download and print the poster. Display it somewhere, share it on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Read this page to gain a fuller understanding of why this is so important. Click here to view a list of campaign supporters and to add your own pet related business/organization.

Bottom line, letting your dog off-leash where you shouldn’t isn’t OK. It’s selfish.

Please Leash Me

12 Comments

1 Comment

oh my dog's! Favourite Dog Beds

If owning ten dog beds makes a person an expert on dog beds, then I'm an expert. At the very least, I can say for certain that I'm obsessed with dog beds. I know what my dogs will like and I know what my regular guests like. Here's my top four: Off the top, I can tell you that if you care about design, Bowsers makes some of the most stylish beds. It gets better though; they're washable, extremely durable and made in Canada. And most dogs find them comfortable. While not the most affordable option, in the long run I think they're the best investment.

Concerned about the environment? West Paw beds are eco friendly; made in the USA from recycled plastic pop bottles. With the exception of the "nap" series, the covers are removable and washable. Over time they do start to look a bit tired, but in general, they're quite durable. What I really love about West Paw, is that once the bed looses it's shape (and some of the comfort), you can order new inserts. It's much more economical and enviro-friendly than buying an entire new bed. My dogs love the "tuckered out" and "eco drop" beds.

I think the most comfortable dog bed I've owned so far is the Ortho Bolster by K&H. It's not pretty but my dogs and our guests love it, and around here, that comes first. It's made with orthopaedic foam, the cover is removable and washable and I just can't get over how durable it is.

Personally I would never spend more than thirty dollars on a cushioned bed that doesn't have a removable cover. Even if the entire bed is washable, it can throw your washing machine off kilter. I also like to protect my inserts against urine, drool and general dog odour. When I get a new bed, I unzip it and sandwich pee pads edge-to-edge between the insert and cover. If you wish, you can use tiny safety pins to keep them in place. Pee pads are highly absorbent and you can get them at all pet stores and most dollar stores. When I wash the covers, I replace the pads. You may not feel the need to do this, but since the dog traffic at my house is relatively high and can include the odd elderly, slightly incontinent pooch, it makes good sense.

Recently I purchased a Cooling Bed because when Joey gets warm, he sprawls out on the hardwood and I worry about his mature joints. This bed is pretty cool (haha), as it works strictly by magic, not electricity. You simply add the recommended amount of water, cap it and lay it on the floor. For days he didn't use it, so I made it more inviting by placing a thin sheet over it. And voila! I would recommend this bed for any dog who runs hot, or lives in a non air conditioned home.

1 Comment

Comment

Over Vaccination and Titer Tests

As an adult, I had a vaccination for Yellow Fever. Hours afterward I began to feel like I had the flu, which is a common side effect. My travel mate felt no side effects to her vaccination. So yes, we're all different. And there is no doubt that certain breeds of dogs are more sensitive to the rabies vaccine. In the past 3 years, just in my own neighbourhood, I've met two Weimaraners who lost their sight shortly after a rabies combination vaccination. It is very important to find out what the recommended protocol is for your specific type of dog, because most veterinarians still work under a one-size-fits-all assumption.  


Thankfully some vets are actually working to educate patients and change the way the rabies vaccine is administered. For example Dr. Jean Dodds has created a study called the Rabies Challenge, to prove that one rabies vaccination can last at least SEVEN years (a far cry from the 1-3 years claimed by vaccine manufacturers). Most observers suspect the vaccine lasts for life. There is a way to find out if your dog is still immune; it's called a titer test (a blood test which measures antibodies). About 2 years ago I titer-tested my own dog who was 6 years "overdue" for Parvo and Distemper and he came well within the protected range.  This week I received the results of his rabies titer. He's 10.5 years old and was vaccinated once at 6 months old. Currently he scores SIX times the required amount for immunity.  Unfortunately, the USDA won't accept titer tests, so at the end of the study all the dogs have to be injected with the actual rabies virus. But everyone at "the challenge" is working towards changing that too.  As per Dr. Dodds' website, documented reactions to the rabies vaccine include:
  • Behaviour changes such as aggression and separation anxiety
  • Obsessive behaviour, self-mutilation, tail chewing
  • Pica - eating wood, stones, earth, stool
  • Destructive behaviour, shredding bedding
  • Seizures, epilepsy
  • Fibrosarcomas at injection site
  • Autoimmune diseases such as those affecting bone marrow and blood cells, joints, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel and the central nervous system
  • Muscular weakness and or atrophy
  • Chronic digestive problems
My wish is that veterinarians would take more time to educate themselves on the risks, updated protocols, and breed-specific studies before insisting upon boosters. As with most of the decisions you make that affect your dog, doing your own research and forming your own opinions will be your best bet for doing right by them. This article will provide you with some good tips for doing just that. 
At the very least, never vaccinate elderly or sick dogs, or dogs who have had a negative vaccine reaction in the past.  It will dramatically increase the risk of serious side effects. 


*small disclaimer: I am in NO away advocating against core vaccines such as Parvo,  given at puppy-hood*

Comment

Comment

Is Day Care Right For Your Dog? Tips for Choosing a Good Facility

A great doggy day care could be a wonderful thing for the right dog. This Whole Dog Journal article will walk you though how to know if it's right for your dog, and how to chose a good facility. If you're considering DDC, this is a MUST read. There isn't much I can add except to tell you my own thoughts on the subject. I've been dog walking a long time and part of what I love is how happy each dog is to see me when I arrive. Truthfully, they're just as happy when I return them home. Dog love their houses. I don't think I have a single dog on my roster who would prefer to spend the day at DDC than go for a short car ride, run, play, swim, and then spend the rest of the day lounging on their own sofa, waiting to greet their peeps.

Some of my clients have made the switch from DDC to dog walking because at the end of the day their dog was actually too tired; they wouldn't wake up to eat, play with their owner, or go for a walk. Some of you might think that's great, but personally, I like to hang out with my dogs and do fun things together. Dogs require a lot of sleep, and if they can catch their Zs between walks and at night while you're sleeping, you will likely have a chilled out dog rather than a zombie.

I'm not bashing DDC, if I had a balanced, easy-going, confident German Short Haired Pointer, I would probably find the best possible facility I could and save my sanity. And I'm sure my GSP would STILL be up for a walk at the end of the day with me. Because they're nuts :) But again, just like with dog walking, you'll need to asses whether your dog is a good candidate for DDC and be very selective when choosing a facility. I can't stress enough how important the information in this article is.

If you live in the city of Toronto and you need to send your pooch for day care, feel free to contact me for referrals. It's not a service I provide, but I keep my ear to the ground. And if you're in the market for a dog walker instead, here's how to find a good one.

Comment