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dog walkers toronto


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.



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*



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.