It’s difficult for us when we see people mistreating their dogs, whether it’s yelling, hitting, or bad/punishment-based training. Advocating for these dogs is crucial, but knowing how to speak up for them can be tricky.Victoria Stilwell shares this post with the goal of teaching us how to step up and “Be A Witness.” From experience, I can tell you that in the moment, it seems like you’re talking to a wall (sometimes an angry wall), but it’s a slow burn. Say your peace, respectfully and calmly, and move on taking comfort from the fact that you did something, and that you may have made a difference.
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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. 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.
The 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.
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.
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
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:
- The city of Toronto for providing free supplies
- The Dog Bowl for providing free giveaways
- Helmutt's Pet Supply for supplying a raffle prize
- Northern Biscuit for donating an enormous amount of treats and chews
- The Tampered Press for supplying free coffee to everyone who stopped by our table
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.
We talked about it for years, and last year we finally did it, we formed an association. As the industry grew, the need for a professional, governing presence become more prevalent. Even though there are more of us, it's actually become more difficult to navigate the scene and choose a qualified and knowledgable dog walker. I encourage you to visit the site and learn about what it means to be a TDWA Member.
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.
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.
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.
This 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.