Viewing entries tagged
queen street west dog walker


Lost Dog Prevention

I wish I could find all the missing dogs. Since I can't, I'm trying to help raise awareness. Almost every incident is preventable. They spook/bolt for many different reasons, dart through opening doors, jump out of car windows, break out of their collars/off their leashes, lose sight of their owner on a walk & panic (I could go on). And sometimes, under many different circumstances, for all kinds of reasons, they're stolen. Arm yourself and protect your best friend. Check out this Facebook page dedicated to lost pets in the GTA alone. Heart-wrenching.

If you're part of a rescue organization, veterinary clinic, etc., and would like copies of this postcard to distribute, please email the Toronto Dog Walkers Association.

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It was a somber day for dog walkers today. We were all thinking about Langley. As we bumped into our friends and colleagues on the trails and in the parks, we all knew what the other was thinking. Public scrutiny was heavier than usual. Understandable, I suppose. When the story first came out that the dogs had been stolen from the dog walker’s truck, my heart ached for the owners and the dog walker. Then last night, the news broke that all 6 dogs (including the dog walker’s own) had perished due to negligence. Like you, I was reeling. Never in the 11 years I’ve been professionally walking dogs, have I heard a more horrific story involving another professional. How could this happen? How to find a good dog walker? Many media outlets responded by asking pet care professionals how one choses a good dog walker. Many of answers are fairly generic – dog walkers should have a permit, insurance and references. All true. But any dog walker can provide you with an insurance certificate and a permit, because all it takes to obtain these things is money. If you are looking for a good dog walker, don’t stop there.

Listen to your gut. I can’t count the number of calls I’ve taken over the years from new clients who are finally parting ways with their old dog walker over an incident that was, in their words, “the last straw.” There’s a common element to all of these stories – the client always had a “weird feeling” that something was amiss with their walker. All I can say is this: one of the most important aspects of choosing a good dog walker is paying attention to your intuition about the person.

I often ask people why they waited so long to sack a bad dog walker. Their answers almost always have something to do with feeling badly, and not being really sure if their weird feelings were justified. Listen to your gut. You need to have a dog walker who you trust completely.

Healthy Fear. I am paid to keep dogs happy and safe. Every good dog walker puts the safety of their dogs above everything else during a walk - above fun, above how we look to people in the park, and above our pride. Yes, if I have to swim into a freezing lake to rescue a dog that looks like he’s having trouble, I’m doing it. If we’ve been at the park for only 30 minutes, and an aggressive dog arrives, we’re leaving. I love my job and most of the time it’s happy and joyful. But make no mistake, when you see us at the beach or on the trails, tossing balls and running around and having a great time, I’m always on guard. Because at any second, something could change. I’m constantly counting heads (and tails) and keeping a watchful eye the horizon. Anyone who doesn’t have a healthy fear of the things that might go wrong is not cut out for professional dog walking.

You can find out if your dog walker has this instinct by asking the right questions. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you want to discuss it further.

Relationships with you and your dog. Here at OMD, we’re always in contact with our clients. We bond with the humans as well as their dogs. I know everything about my dogs - what they like, what they’re afraid of, how to recall them, what they eat, where they don’t like to be touched, what kinds of people make them uncomfortable, etc... . Your dog walker should have an active, ongoing relationship with you and with your dogs.

To me, those are the most important factors for choosing a dog walker, and/or staying with your current one.

R.I.P. Mia, Buddy, Oscar, Teemo, Salty and Molly



The TDWA's First Community Event!

Last week the TDWA held its first community event - Spring Clean in Trinity Bellwoods Park. To say it was a success would be an understatement. Our members worked hard to create an event that would help shine a positive light on the dog walking industry and help make a difference at the same time. We were touched by the support we received:

Our next event will be a bit of a sneak attack, so watch out for us! In the meantime, thanks to everyone who came out. And for those of you who dug into your pockets for change and bills, we raised $145 for T.E.A.M. Dog Rescue! Your support means the world.



Dog Walker Safety Tips

Recently a few professional dog walkers from Toronto submitted our top safety tips and checks to the Toronto Dog Walkers Association. The result was a blog post that compiled all of our information. I would urge anyone who ever has a dog in their care (owners and professionals) to give it a read. I'm overwhelmed everyday by the number of missing dogs, and most of the time these tragedies can be avoided.

Here's a link to the post. I hope you find it helpful.



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.


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.



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 

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. 



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



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!



The Connection Between Diet and Behaviour

By now most of us know that the food we eat directly affects our mind. Studies have proven that kids who consume a lot of “convenience foods” as opposed to fresh, whole foods, have greater difficulty concentrating, learning and managing conflict. It’s down to the second brain - you know, those neurons in the small intestine that send messages to the main brain. This gut-brain is responsible for a large portion of our emotional state. It’s true. Think about how diet affects people with Autism. The first part of treatment is to remove all food colouring, chemicals, preservatives, etc from the diet. In every case the result is a decrease in symptoms. What does this have to do with dogs? Everything. They have the same neurons in their guts, and I’ve personally witnessed positive behaviour changes that have coincided with a change in diet. Possibly, so have you.

I often use Boxers a prime example since so many on them seem to have “sensitive stomachs.” They also happen to be a relatively high-strung breed who often end up on veterinary “prescription” diets to curb diarrhea. The diarrhea might go away, but the anxious state remains. I believe this is down to their body’s need for, and drastic lack of bioavailable nutrients in the kibble (such as B vitamins) which are crucial in times of stress and anxious episodes.

Consider also, the fact that 50 to 90 percent of people with IBS suffer from a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression, even when the disease is not active. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada is funding an investigation to examine the link between depression and changes in the bacterial composition of the gut. This will determine what, if any, are the physiological responses to a person’s emotional state. I’m not betting on the “if any.”

If you have a dog who suffers from anxiety or exhibits behavioral problems that you can’t seem to correct, it might be worth considering that it might be due to digestive issues - chronic loose stool or mucousy stool can be a sign. A diet change might be the answer. After all, if your dog doesn’t maintain a healthy-gut-brain connection, all the training and behaviour modification in the world will be in vain – kind of like teaching a dog with a broken leg how to fetch. If you would like to provide a fresh home-cooked diet for your dog, I would be happy to help. Your holistic veterinarian can also offer guidance on home cooking, raw feeding, and supplementation. If you don’t have holistic vet, here’s how to find one.