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toronto dog walker

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New Safety Protocol

At OMD we're hyper-vigilant when it comes to safety. I lose sleep over the things that could go wrong, and then imagine every possible way to prevent accidents. I've seen it all, kept a great track record, and never become complacent. Accidents can happen to anyone, but at the end of each day, I know I did everything I could.straps Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed by the number of missing dogs in Toronto. Often, the culprit is faulty equipment or a slipped harness.

I've been a huge fan of the carabiner, and still am. But they're bulky, and when you need to carry multiples, in multiple sizes, it's just too much and doesn't work in every situation. So I began the search for "safety straps" that would connect harness to collar. I came up empty many time times in my search, but then it occurred to me that I have this amazing client who cannot only sew, but can also think critically.

lola strapThe result is our very own commissioned saftey straps/connectors. All OMD clients with harnesses will now be sporting one of these in addition to a properly fitted collar/martingale. This way, if a harness ever fails, or the dog manages to wriggle out, he's still attached to the leash via the strap.

Here's to sleeping better!

A very HUGE thank you to Zoe's mum.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Trouble with Kijiji (no graphic images here)

If you're here reading this, it's likely because you really love dogs. As much as you love them though, I know you sometimes get tired of hearing about certain issues faced by dogs. Probably because it's depressing. Believe me, I understand. But if you could make even a tiny dent in the online sales of puppy mill dogs, and if everyone did their small share, we could make a huge difference. Considering everything dogs do for us, it's the least we can do for them. Kijiji, an online classified website, has been facilitating the sale of dogs on their website for years, and since the beginning, we've been asking them to stop. These puppy mill operators and back yard breeders pose on Kijiji as legitimate breeders, or families giving up a beloved pet for one reason or another, even as charitable rescues. The response from a few great rescue organizations has been to "join 'em" and start listing on Kijiji as well. The hope is that someone will save a life rather than create space in a puppy mill for another dog. So please rest assured there are some great rescues listed on Kijiji. BUT they'll all be happy to see an end to dogs and puppies being listed on Kijiji.

The evils that operate puppy mills see one thing when they look at a dog, even one that is ill and suffering, and that's a dollar sign. Your mission is not only to educate, but also to sign the petition to convince Kijiji to stop allowing the sale of dogs, and to tell your story here if you have one. This issue is picking up steam so let's all run with it! Go save a life.

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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.

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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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Non Toxic Lifestyle Choices For A Healthier Dog

I can’t stress enough how important it is for dog owners to keep a “healthy home.” Dogs, some much more than others, are very sensitive to surface and airborne chemicals found in many household and pet products. If you wouldn’t expose a small child to something, you probably shouldn’t expose your dog to it. Eliminating harsh chemicals from your home requires only a little bit of research and effort.

The toxic chemicals that float through the air from plug-in air fresheners, actually stick to the surfaces in your home, including your dog's bed, food, water and fur. They may smell something like lavender, but there is nothing natural about them. They also make it more difficult for your dog to communicate with his environment through scent. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a neutral smelling home, but if you still crave scents in the air, try a natural scent ball that uses essential oils.

If you need an alternative to artificial scent laden fabric sprays, make your own:

  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 10-20 drops of your choice essential oil

Wash pet beds in natural, unscented laundry soap such as Bio-Vert or Seventh Generation or the very economical Pink Solution. Do not hang pet beds outside to dry, rather hang them indoors or put them in the dryer. But forgo dryer sheets, as they contain scents and chemicals that can irritate your dog’s skin. If you take the beds out of the dryer just before they are completely dry, they'll be static free. Side Note: Bio-Vert, Seventh Generation & Pink Solution are also make safer surface, glass and bathroom cleansers.

Disinfecting your floor? Why? The residual chemicals left behind from these harsh cleaners don’t disappear when the floor dries. But they do make their way into your dog's system when he eats something off the floor or licks his paws after walking through the house. Instead, wash your floors with water and vinegar (the vinegar odor disappears when it dries). If you like, you can even add a few drops of essential oil, like citronella or grapefruit. But don't over do it.

Ecoholic Home, by author Adria Vasil, offers you all the alternatives to harmful cleaners, soaps and detergents. Everything from safe commercial options, to home made solutions. But when in doubt, avoid any products with these symbols:

Screen shot 2013-01-20 at 12.59.06 PMCanine Nutriton ServiceScreen shot 2013-01-20 at 12.56.05 PMCanine Nutrition Service

Do not smoke in your house. This should be obvious. Your dog’s lungs are a fraction of the size of yours and they’re not immune to the aftermath of second hand smoke inhalation, including cancer.

If you have a lawn, consider how harsh turf builders and fertilizers are. You don’t want your dog inhaling them, walking on them or doing grass angels on them. For natural gardening advice, the CBC’s Ed Lawrence has all the answers.

A lot of pet food companies use chemicals and dyes to colour their kibble so that it looks “cute” to humans and to ensure the same bright oranges and reds from batch to batch. Skip these products – one such offender is Beneful by Nestle Purina, and the result is very sick dogs.

Flea collars are another product to avoid. Imagine wearing a ring of pesticides around your neck 24/7. To avoid fleas naturally, feed a high quality diet, vacuum frequently, bathe your dog regularly and wash pet beds every week or two. There are many other natural ways to prevent fleas. To that end, avoid monthly pesticidal flea/tick treatments. The are not safe, and drastically increase your dogs toxic load.

Speaking of bathing, use unscented, hypoallergenic shampoo (I like Earth Bath Clear Advantage) and take this shampoo with you if you take your dog to a groomer. Instruct them not to use anything else such as finishing sprays on your dog.

If you even suspect mould in your home, call in a professional like I did last year, when I saw a few tiny black spots near the laundry tub in my basement. Sure enough, it was mould. Not enough to send us packing while it was being removed, but enough that it needed to be removed before it could spread any further. Within a week, my beagle's tear stains disappeared. They began four months prior and I assumed it was a food allergy, but an elimination diet offered no evidence of this. The humans in the house did not experience and mould related health problems, but as previously stated, dogs can be much more sensitive.

Your dog will appreciate these changes and you'll both be healthier for them. Happy detox!

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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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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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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.

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"Wholesome and Complete for Canines"

Ten years ago, I got a puppy. I brought him home, and about a week or so later, thought, as I scopped kibble into a bowl, "this can't be right." It made no sense to me that something so "convenient" could be healthy and balanced. Within another week, I was cooking for my dog. I was probably doing it wrong, but I believed then and I still believe that a dog needs fresh food. That was just the start. I began to study and read every good resource on the subject of home-cooking. Believe me, the information (although we don't have nearly enough) is overwhelming, because so much of it is conflicting and based on small studies and anecdotes. For now though, I'm ok with this, because common sense dictates that real food is better than processed. The more I learned on the subject, the more I realized what a huge responsibility it would be (not to mention how difficult) to instruct other dog owners how to home-cook. So naturally, I delved even deeper.

The scientific part of my education came from my studies through CASI, where I've earned a certificate and in both Canine Nutrition and Advanced Canine Nutrition. The holistic component came from reading materials by Dr. Strombeck, Dr. Pitcairn, Dr. Dodds, etc. I also attend seminars on nutrition whenever I can. Seminars are great because I learn the latest, both opinions and facts. I have a working relationship with a highly respected veterinarian who assists on some of my cases. She is at the forefront of nutrition research and it's an honour to have her reviewing and approving many of my diets.

It has taken me years to get here, but I'm finally ready to officially assume that resposiblity. Using the requirements of the National Research Council, I'm now formutlating balanced, home cooked meals for individual dogs. This means your dog's new diet will be tailor made to meet the nutrient requirements for a dog his age and size. But beyond that I'll use ingredients your dog enjoys and is known to tolerate. We'll work together to ensure the plan is working, making necessary adjustments along the way.

Commercial dog food, with a few notable exceptions, is making our pets sick. The number of dogs I meet with skin diseases, supressed immunity, kidney and liver problems, diabetes, heart issues, etc, is staggering. Yes, more dogs, poor breeding practices and over-vaccination all carry some of the blame, but we are what we eat. Like humans, what your dog eats plays an integral role in their health and behaviour. Think of food as the foundation. We need to start there to build healthy canines. I don't believe we can truly achieve the greatest potential for health by feeding kibble. How would that be possible? It's no secret how kibble is made, and that most manufaturers add flavour enhancers and scents to entice your dog. I encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about labels and laws and ingredients so that you can make a conscious choice on behalf of your pet. You cannot trust large corporations to do this for you. They've proven that.

Many people wait until their dog is sick to make the transition, which tells me they do believe in the power of food. But it's often marketing and pressure from some vets that won't allow the lightbulb to go off before that. Picture the commercials, or bags of food with images of fresh cuts of meat, whole grains and vegetables. Why not just feed those things to your dog instead of what's left over after processing, extruding and rendering? Ok, I'm over-siplifying a little; of course you do want to ensure balance, but we're lead to believe that's only achievable though processed, commercial products. I promise you, that's not the case.

My goal is to make cooking for your dog fun, easy, economical and fast. I've always said it, and I'll continue to say it, even if you cannot commit completely to feeding fresh food, every bit helps. It may feel overwhelming in the beginning, but once it becomes a part of your life, you won't look back, and the rewards are incredible. Let's Do This!

Click here to read my testimonials so far and follow along on Twitter @wholesomecanine

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Commercial Dog Food: "Recommended" Products

As you may know, I'm certified in canine nutrition and completely obsessed with the subject. Because this is common knowledge among those who know me, friends and clients often ask me which commercial pet foods I would recommend. The truth is, if I had it my way, every single dog in the world would be consuming a fresh food diet; either cooked or raw. Alas, I know this simply isn't possible for everybody. Not yet, anyway. So now I'm writing this all down once and for all. If you're feeding commercial food, please consider canned food, or at least some portion of canned. Your dog's intestines and kidneys need the moisture, and generally, they contain higher quality, more bioavailable proteins than dry food. Canned food is a bit more expensive than kibble, so if you have a large dog, you'll likely prefer a combination. But do whatever you can to provide moist food.

My recommended canned foods are:

Go! by Petcurean  Organix by Castor and Pollux  Shredded and Gold Recipies by Fromm

Mulligan Stew

Ziwipeak

My recommended dry foods are:

Holisic Blend by Holistic Blend Carna4 by Carna4 Go! by Petcurean Orijen and Acanca by Champion Pet Foods

And that's really it folks. Please keep in mind I'm not saying each of these foods is suitable for every single dog. They're each different, just like each dog is unique. You'll need to figure out which one or combination works for you. (Don't be shy to ask for 'sample' or 'trial' packs at your friendly, local pet store.) Remember, unless you know your dog to have an "iron gut," transition very slowly when switching food.

I chose the above products based on quality and where they're made, also because they're readily available in Toronto. Specifically, you can find these in our neighbourhood at Helmutt's Pet SupplyTimmie Dog Outfitters and The Dog Bowl.

I should also mention these shops also offer freeze-dried diets made by Orijen and The Honest Kitchen and ready-made raw diets such as Tollden Farms.

I hope you find this information helpful.

My real, true recommendation is real, fresh food. If you're ready to switch to a home-prepared diet, I would love to help!

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