Monday, 7 November 2011

Diary of a Dog Walker has moved!

My Diary of a Dog Walker has moved to my new website. You can now find it on Brentwood Dog Trainer.

I hope you continue reading over there! I have turned comments off on this site due to the amount of spam so if you'd like to contact me or comment, please get in touch my Dog Walking in Brentwood page.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Hot Weather Tips for Pets

Dogs should never be left in a car on a hot day – even in the shade or with windows open. If you are taking the dog on a car journey try to avoid travelling during the hottest part of the day. Ensure the dog is not in direct sunlight, and take plenty of water. On long trips, stop frequently, they should be drinking little and often, not gulping large quantities. If you have to leave the car for a comfort break, you should consider whether to take your dog if you don't have a companion to leave with them. Dogs cool down by panting, which fills the air with moisture. In a hot car they can't evaporate enough water quickly enough to cool down, plus the air can only hold so much moisture. Even with a boot or window open if there's no breeze it could still get too hot for your dog. Never allow your dog to hang their head out of the window when driving.

Dogs shouldn't be walked during the hottest part of the day, morning and evening are preferable. I find shady areas to walk your dogs, avoiding hot pavements which may burn their paws, and I always carry water. Dogs benefit most from little and often, so we do lots of pit stops and we do not walk as far as on cooler days.

This summer I will be taking the dogs to ponds and pools to allow them to swim or paddle on very hot days. If you do not wish your dog to get wet or muddy please let me know. I can't promise to keep dogs out of water without keeping them on a lead, as they will find mud and water holes in places I can't go, but I will do my best. I do rub down with towels and maybe a quick brush so at least they aren't dripping, but am not able to bathe or groom them before returning them home.

During the day at home, most double glazing can be locked in the 'ajar' position to allow for fresh air and to catch any breeze if you are unable to leave windows open, or try moving the dogs to another area if necessary. Conservatories get VERY HOT, even 'open plan' with a conventional room the heat travels and can be stiffling. Blinds are essential, but won't stop all the heat. A fan may be needed. A plastic bottle of tap water can be frozen, wrapped in a tea towel and left for your dog to lie against if they wish to, you can also do this for rabbits.

Open windows on the top floor can be hazardous to cats – they often land on their feet, but this can be followed by their jaws and teeth, which may then need medical attention.

Pets must be able to move out of a hot environment into a cooler one, so leave doors open in the house if necessary – bathrooms and kitchens can be a popular choice for pets, as the floor is often much cooler for them to lie on.

Short-nosed, black and long-haired breeds can suffer more from the heat. If they overheat, soaking them in cool (not cold) water and rubbing it right down to the skin is more beneficial than covering them with a wet towel. Don't forget underneath as well, the groin and ‘armpit’ area, as this is where most cooling will occur.

White dogs, cats and rabbits (or with white patches in sensitive areas), can get sunburn on ears, nose and around the eyes. Pet sunscreen is very rare, and hard to get hold of (products may be different for different species), so speak to your vet to see if they recommend a sunscreen – check with your insurance company that they will be covered if they have a reaction or lick it off. If your pet sunbathes on its back the stomach is at risk of burning, so keep them in the shade. Avoiding the sun is preferable.

Watch out for ticks while walking in long grass or meadows especially if there are horses or livestock nearby. These can be removed with a special 'tick tweezer'. Avoid smothering or burning the tick as this can cause it to release saliva or stomach contents, raising the risk of infection Remove them as soon as possible as disease transmission risk increases the longer they are attached. Grass seeds can be a real hazard as if they find a small wound, graze, or even thin skin they can work their way inside your dog, so check paws, eyes and ears if they seem irritated, a vet visit may be needed to remove them.

Bee stings – remove the sting by scraping it with a hard object, avoid using tweezers as this can lead to more poison entering your pet. Bathe with bicarbonate of soda and water, also an ice pack can relieve pain. Wasp stings – bathe the area with vinegar. There will be some swelling, if this is excessive, or inside or around your dog's mouth a vet check may be needed as pets can be allergic to stings in the same way humans can, and swelling can block the airway.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Multi-dog walks - good or bad?

Avoid walkers who take out multiple dogs at the same time. IMO they care more about the cash than the dog's welfare.

 I saw this comment on a message board, where someone was asking the legalities of a dog walker taking out their dog aggressive dog. For the legal side, Trevor Cooper is your main man, and that is not what I am here to discuss. For dogs who are aggressive to others, that is also not my main concern. I'd like to talk about walking more than one dog at a time.

I often get told 'that's a handful you've got there' when I'm walking a small group of dogs - my idea of a small group may be your idea of a large pack of dogs. I am insured to walk up to six dogs at a time, but rarely walk this many on my own. I prefer a ratio of one handler per four dogs, which some still feel is a large group.

Let me explain. I have seen owners who cannot control their ONE dog. It's off the lead, running around 'being friendly' but really barging up to people and dogs alike, regardless of the welcome it might get. The owner calls it back, and it ignores the calls. Finally the owner comes over to get it, or they walk on, leaving the dog to rejoin them when the dog feels the owner is far enough away to want to close the gap (I call this the critical distance). I have also seen dogs straining and pulling on the lead as they want to come over to my group, while the owner has to drag them along to get them moving. Who really has the 'handful'?

I posted the comment (protecting the writer's identity) onto Twitter, here are some of the response I got, mainly from other dog walkers and dog trainers, so if you're a dog owner I'd love to hear your views too!

I wouldn't want multi-dogs for my dog. 1 person, 10 dogs. How does 1 person handle unexpected safely w/ 40 dog paws in mix? And the ones who unload a truckfull @ the off-leash park? Yeah. I think those are more profit, less welfare. Caninestein
 Quite agree especially when they have a large pack off lead! Once saw 1 person with 11 dogs most off lead. WagtimeUK
Lots of people round here up 7-10 dogs stick em in a van drive to the park and open the doors and let them run. we do 1-2-1 unless the owner wants them walked with another dog never more than 4. hard to control and dogs don't get enough attention. PlatinumPetcare

This really is a ridiculous amount of dogs for one person to be walking, and does seem like profit before welfare. How can you watch the dogs when you're picking up the dog poo? How can you carry that many bags, all the leads and still be in control of the dogs? What happens if one dog puts their foot down a rabbit hole and sprains an ankle?

Totally disagree - I take a group out in which all dogs are vetted and introduced carefully. It allows owners to pick the time best for them (normally lunchtime) which means dogs are not left for too long either side. PoochesGalore
 I still prefer 1 on 1 (w/ bonus of training while walking), but might consider skillful walker with, maybe 4 max. Caninestein
I think it depends on the walker and what dogs they have. When I walk big dogs that pull I only walk 1 or 2, but if I have dogs that are well behaved & don't pull & have good recall then I walk 3 or 4. Depends on what owners want as well. Born2RunPetCare
Our walker takes our 2 out with max 2 others - have no prob. with that - would worry about many more... ttouchtrainer
When they say "multiple" what kind of numbers are they talking about? I only take 4-5.insured for 6 but feel safe with max 5. misstew
 This last one is the point I feel - how many dogs is safe to walk, what is considered 'multiple'? I felt defensive when I saw the comment on the message board, as the dogs I walk are all trained in recall, they all know what No means, and if I say 'Wait' they stop walking. Equally, if I stop walking to collect a dog poo, so do all the dogs! Some dogs are less speedy at obeying than others, but if they are having a mad five minutes, there's always the lead. Making sure there are only 4 dogs or less per person means it's a reasonable number to walk on leads together. But it appears there are still dog walkers out there who feel that 10 is a good number to walk - I once saw two walkers taking 13 dogs out... On a Wednesday I have 8 dogs on my lunchtime walk - my assistant takes 4, and I take 4! Occasionally we will walk them all together, but Will takes 2 or 3 on lead, and be ready to jump in with another, while I'm supervising and playing with the other dogs.

Also it should be remembered that most dog walkers are experienced in walking multiple dogs, so they don't wander along with phone in hand, MP3 player stuck in ears, or chatting with friends as I've seen so many owners with their ONE dog doing - the dog gets no interaction from the owner so has to make its own amusement.

My one exception to my 1-4 rule is when I have one or more of my dogs with me. They not only have an instant, emergency recall, but a 'walking recall' which means when called back they stay with me until released. This means I can safely 'ignore' them, because once called back I know they'll stay and I can concentrate on any slower dogs.

The general consensus seems to be that very small groups, of 4 or less, is a number the walker can safely deal with, and still be in control. So when you see a walker with more dogs than this, think to yourself, what is their motivation? It is true this is not only a vocation for some of us, but it also has to pay the rent. That's not to say money comes first, but we have to make a living, while ensuring the safety and welfare of each of the dogs in our care. Four seems to be a reasonable number to allow both of these things to happen, while keeping fees affordable for all the lovely dog owners out there. The alternative, thousands of dogs left alone for 8 or 9 hours a day, is just too sad.

Crazy isn't it? Good dog walkers are worth their weight in gold!! WagtimeUK
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