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dog walkers queen street west

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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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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!

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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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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.

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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*

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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.

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