Thursday, 29 July 2010

A Really Useful Dog

I am a strong believer in dogs being useful to their owners. There are lots of working dogs, police and military dogs, customs dogs, assistance dogs, but what about us pet owners? Why should our dogs be allowed to sit back and relax while we do all the work?

So I was really happy to read about Lucky the Litter Picking dog. When on walks with his owner, he collects litter that his owner points out, and takes it to the nearest bin, alerting his owner to dangerous items such as broken glass.

What a great dog! What a fabulous job! What a wonderful owner! Not only having something to occupy himself which keeps him out of trouble but making a difference in his community.

Fred does drag rubbish out of water, which I then bag up and put in a bin (he's only little he can't reach to put it in) but I've not trained him (or either of the other two dogs) to collect other rubbish and carry it to a bin. Barney the Lab has also helped out with the odd plastic bottle from time to time!

That's what dog ownership should be about. Really useful dogs being useful in the community.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Is Your Dog Overweight?

Sadly, many owners will not recognise an overweight dog. With so many dogs being rather plump, anyone admiring an overweight dog they may see out and about will assume that's what they are supposed to look like, or even compare their dog to others of the same breed who may also be overweight - and simply not realise that dogs should have waists. With a short coated breed, and even some longer coated breeds, you should be able to see toned muscles on that waist, and thigh muscles usually show up nicely too.

I am not immune from this - I worked so hard with Fred to teach him right from wrong that he was having a lot of training treats. While his hip dysplasia was being diagnosed we had to restrict his exercise at certain times and the weight piled on. It took me a long time to recognise how much he'd gained.

Checking your dog's weight

To check if your dog is the right weight you can weigh them at the vets, and check the chart in the surgery if they are a purebreed, or check with the vet, but this is only a guide. A proper check should be done weekly, as this will give you a chance to decrease or increase your dog's food to keep that perfect figure.

The first test is to look at your dog from above. Your dog should have a distinct waist behind the ribs, not be straight up and down, or worse, bulging out.

This photo brought it home to me, how sausage shaped Fred was!

This is him now, not a perfect photo, but you can see both back legs and a much more slimline shape.

Run your fingers lightly over your dog's ribs. If you can't feel them, that's because there is a layer of fat covering them. If you have to press to find them, there's that layer of fat again. If you have to dig in to find them, things are more serious.

With some breeds such as sighthounds (Greyhounds, some lurchers, Salukis, Whippets etc) you should be able to see some of the ribs as well. Any dog, after a good run and breathing heavily, should show some ribs as their lungs inflate.

Also check your dog from the side. After the ribs, the abdomen should slope upwards, towards the pelvis. Scamp here was slightly cuddlier than I like my dogs because he didn't belong to me at the time, so he has now lost a little bit of weight, but you can see the slope upwards.

Where to go for help

If you have any worries about your dog after these quick checks, first, speak to your vet as they are best placed to advise on weight issues. If they confirm your dog needs to lose weight, they may recommend you use food that they supply, plus raising the amount of exercise your dog has (ask them for their recommendations). The food is your choice, but you may prefer to contact a canine nutritionist (yes they do exist) as they will have more experience and training than a vet.

'Light' or 'Senior' foods that you get in the supermarket are designed for weight maintenance, not weight loss so won't help very much. To get a proper low calorie food you will need a specialist pet shop (Fred lost his weight eating Nature Diet's Fish variety and Burn's High Oats). The amount to feed on most (but not all) dog food is a very loose guide. I recommend feeding 10-20% less than they recommend - for your dog's ideal weight - not the weight they are. If you check your dog's body condition every week you will be able to adjust as necessary.

If you find it hard to manage the extra exercise your dog needs, consider geting a dog walker to help you, or ask me about my 'Fat Camp' for dogs. Under veterinary supervision, I can provide a good level of exercise and other activities for your dog, while ensuring they are not overfed. This will kick start your dog's diet and hopefully make it easier for you if you've had to reduce the amount of food you feed, as I can be the bad guy.

If you think your dog is getting taller, congratulations! That belly is shrinking letting you see more air underneath him!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Baxter - Home Dog Boarding Brentwood

Baxter is a lovely Beagle who stayed a couple of nights this weekend - we hope to see more of him in the future!

Here he is, enjoying the activities in the garden, with the help and hinderance of the other dogs!

Fred wants that treat so much he's got his nose right on my hand. Baxter is licking his lips and keen to learn, if the other dogs would move over.

Nearly up, Fred's still got his eye on the prize.

And down the other side - with Fred still wondering where his bit is.

Fred has now decided to shout about how he's so hard done by, not getting a reward, even though he's very clearly very good at going up and down the ramps, making poor Baxter flinch as it's right next to his ear.

Fred still hasn't given in, but Baxter's used to all the shouting by now and is posing nicely.

Alone at last!

Only to have a little nudge up the rear when trying the big ramps, so we kind of gave up. Hopefully we'll have a chance to have another go one day!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

August Bank Holiday Weekend Home Dog Boarding Space

Due to a cancellation I have the elusive August Bank Holiday weekend open up from Friday 27th August to Sunday 5th September 2010.

Even a luxury boarding kennel with heating, sofa, television or mood music, is still a kennel, with the valuable dog-person bond being missing for most of the day. For some dogs, this is very different from their normal household routine and they can find it very stressful. This is where I come in.

I would highly recommend Linda as an excellent professional who has a genuine love of dogs. We will definitely use Linda again and feel very lucky to have found someone to care for our dog when we are unable to.
Susie S., Old English Sheepdog

I have opened my home in Brentwood, and my heart, to your dog. Dogs live in the house, as part of the family (please see About Me and About my Dogs for details of who lives here) and are considered a treasured friend and family member.

Two outdoor canine activity centres – tunnels, ramps, look out points
Shallow paddling Pool – bobbing for fishy ice cubes, underwater retrieving etc
Sandpit – digger's paradise, search and retrieve, lost and found
Chill Out zones – shady patches, sunny spots, long grass areas for lounging or investigating

Board games (yes, really!)
Scrunched up newspaper challenge
Cardboard box puzzles
Trick training (small extra charge for requests)
Brushed and combed as needed, at least once per stay
Eyes and sanitary areas cleaned as necessary

All this, for the bargain price of £25 per day.

Very reliable & trustworthy, Nelson loves Linda and I wouldn't send him anywhere else! Hazel S., Smooth Haired Fox Terrier

Fully insured by a pet care specialist
Licensed by Brentwood Borough Council and Defra
Vet and police checked
Trained in dog handling, behaviour and canine first aid


If your dog needs help with any aspect of its training, I may be able to help while your dog is boarding, for an additional cost. I specialise in puppy training, terrier training and recall training. Please contact me to discuss your requirements.


If you would like your dog professionally groomed ready for your return, please let me know in advance and I can arrange an appointment to fit in with your return. I use a very good professional groomer at Ardleigh Green, Maxine's Grooming. Fees are Maxine's usual fees for your breed of dog, plus £20.

I would recommend Linda to anybody who is looking for a holiday for their hounds. Peanut and Ali have just spent a week in the very capable hands of Linda and I think they enjoyed the lovely peace and quiet of her house (compared to mine).
Mary K., Greyhounds

Monday, 19 July 2010

'Home Alone' Dog Dies

This news article about a dog who died after being dropped off by a 'professional' dog carer clearly shows why I don't look after 'Home Alone' dogs. If owners are out during the day that's one thing, but if an owner goes away overnight I will not look after the dog. And yes, I've lost business because of it.

Dogs aren't cats - they can't look after themselves in the same way, and humans have changed the shape of dogs to such an extent they really need a lot of care and attention. Owners should not expect them to be safe if they are left for such a long period of time.

Professionals also shouldn't leave dogs in distress alone! Whether or not an 'enclosed van' (what does that mean??) is an appropriate method of transport for any sort of pet in hot weather, it seems there was enough concern from people seeing the dog that a professional should have taken steps to ensure the safety of that dog. However, I have only read the news reports. Only a court can decide if the company involved was negligent.

I will comment in general though.

Dog safety, health and welfare is MORE IMPORTANT than an owner's wishes. This may be because the owner is not aware of how hot or cold the area they leave their dog really is. It may be that they feel the dog is okay to run around in hot weather when the dog's breed or colour determines that it is not, or that the dog can do more exercise, or needs less exercise than it really does. Or they might not understand the implications of their requests, such as leaving a dog alone overnight - or asking a cat sitter to only visit every 2 days, or even worse, every 3! As pet professionals, our job is to put the safety of the dogs (and cats, plus anything else!) FIRST. We should advise owners of any issues if their wishes clash with this aim, and if there is no resolution or change, we have to walk away.

We should absolutely NOT grab the money and run.

I will be keeping my eye on this case to see what happens.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Kong Ice Surprise – Cool Activities for Hot Dogs

When the temperature gets much above 25 degrees for a prolonged period, it can be too hot to give dogs adequate exercise. They have too much energy which isn't burnt off and they're a pain in the neck.

So we need ways to keep them occupied in a safe way. This is where the wonderful invention the Kong comes into its own. A Kong is a hollow, hard rubber toy (based on a motorbike gasket!). It can be thrown, chewed, bounced fetched, and perhaps most importantly, stuffed.

You will need:

* A freezer and some space in it

* Some (or just one) Kongs

* Some lovely stuff dogs like such as tuna, peas, hot dog or cocktail sausages etc

* Couple of hard dog biscuits
* Bowls, jugs, dog dishes or similar that can be put in the freezer

* Some (or just one) dogs

Drain and rinse the tuna and hot dog sausages. Mash up the tuna and cut the sausages into short bits. Put the Kong into a jug, narrow end down and put a biscuit in the bottom to plug the small hole. Spoon in tuna – the first time loosely. Once your dog has got to grips with the idea of emptying a Kong you can really pack it in tightly. Also a biscuit can be wedged into the top hole once the dog is used to it, but for now, just stuff it.

You can stop here – put the Kong into the freezer for a while, and then let your dog have it once it's nicely chilled. For more experienced dogs, or if you want your dog occupied for longer, carry on reading.

Put the stuffed Kong in the bowl.
It can lie down or stand up, it doesn't matter if it sticks up above the rim, but will keep the dog busier if it doesn't. Pour in some water, about third of the way up the Kong. Scatter in some bits of sausages, not too many pieces, some peas maybe, and put it in the freezer.

Once it's frozen, top up with another 'layer' of water and put some more treats in, maybe the cocktail sausages, perhaps a brussel sprout or two and carry on freezing. Once frozen again, top up the bowl as much as you can, a few more treats and freeze.

Once it is completely frozen, you can give it to your dog. The Kong should be nearly completely encased in a block of ice.

Your dog either has to wait for it to defrost to get the treats and the Kong, or he has to eat through the ice. Both will take time, your dog will be kept busy, without being overheated on a walk.

If you use metal bowls, the ice should be pushed out and given to the dog, so will probably need to be fed in the garden (in a shady area) as the metal will get cold and the dog's tongue and lips could get stuck to it and injured. Some dogs will kick and push the bowl about trying to tuck in, so might also need to be put outside.

Your dog's dinner can be fed this way, if you use treats, remember to feed less for a few meals so your dog doesn't put on weight.

PS apologies for the last photo, every so often Blogger turns one upside down and I can't fix it!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Grooming Difficult Dogs

I'm not a groomer, but the safe handling techniques, stress reduction techniques, body language tips, and calming and stress signals can help every person who works with or lives with dogs.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Current Vacancies

Sue has joined the team and all the dogs are falling in love with her, as she is falling in love with them. I'm a bit jealous.

Sue has space for ONE adult dog at lunchtime and ONE adult dog at breakfast.
[Lunchtime space only available Mondays and Thursdays]


Sue covers Brentwood, Shenfield, Warley, Ingrave & Hutton at luncthime, and is looking for that special dog to join a small group of dogs walking in Brentwood's beautiful open spaces, grassland, parks, woodland, ponds and wetlands. These areas are used to the full to give your dog physical exercise and allow them to express their natural breed behaviours in a safe environment, so they return home relaxed and happy.


Early morning walks are ideal for busy parents - your dog will be out of the house at the time you may be trying to get children ready for school and this is one less thing for you to worry about.

Dogs are collected from 8.15am, and returned home around 90 minutes later, tired and ready to sleep while you get on with your busy day. Currently this service runs in Shenfield (collection around 8am), but we are able to open it to other areas including Hutton, Brentwood, Pilgrims Hatch and Kelvedon Hatch at the slightly later time. I (Linda) cover Shenfield & Hutton, and Sue covers Pilgrims Hatch, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood & Warley. Other areas may be available, please ask.

If you are interested in part-time, occasional or ad hoc walks at any time of day, these are available but spaces are filling up fast.

More information is on my Dog Walking website.

CAT SITTING (& other pets)

One or two visits per day, to feed, clear litter trays, let your cats in or out, cuddes, love, anything you require.

Spaces are available through July. August is filling up fast, so please do book early to be sure we can cover your holidays.


My puppy services are very popular, so if you are waiting for a puppy to be old enough to bring home, or looking for a puppy, please do get in touch as early as you can.

All puppy care is covered by Linda.

Puppies are accepted between 8 weeks and 6 months old. They get one or two half hour visits per day when they get my undivided attention. Once they are fully vaccinated I take them out for short walks, feed where necessary, clear up any mess, and play educational games designed to give your puppy the skills needed for life with people. Puppy walks are for roughly five minutes per month of life, so start at five minutes per visit, working up to the full half hour just before puppy moves to my lunchtime group walks.

If you are at home but are interested in the educational games I can still visit, or teach you the games to play.

Spaces are linited so are taken very quickly - typically within two weeks of becoming available. I only have one space on average every three to four months, so if you are waiting for your puppy to be old enough to bring home and want me to visit, a non-refundable first week's deposit will hold the space for up to one month.

Puppy Training and Skills for Life spaces also available.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Dog of the Month - June

Bobbi earned our Dog of the Month for June - her award was for Most Improved Temperament as she's really come into her own the last few weeks. Like most terriers, removing the lead probably has a lot to do with it! But she also tolerates being towelled off in the van and being touched generally much better.

She's a wonderful girl!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Current Vacancies

From early July a new walker, Sue, will be joining the team to help me cover the amount of work I have been offered.


This means that we now have TWO permanent adult dog walking spaces for lunchtime, with more options for people needing short term or 30 minute walks.

We specialise in carefully chosen, exclusive group walks around Brentwood's country parks and open spaces. Walks are limited to a small number of dogs to ensure we can give personal attention to each dog. In return the dogs give us a lot of attention – they learn very quickly it's more rewarding to share their fun with their human companions, rather than following behind doing their own thing.


We also have space for TWO puppies, full or part time, from 6-26 weeks old. All puppy care is covered by me. This includes puppy visits, puppy training, puppy boarding and puppy socialisation.


For cat sitting, please enquire. We can manage a maximum of 5 visits a day between us, so space may or may not be available depending on whether you need one or two visits per day. Currently we still have space every day for at least two more visits. I will try to update this page as and when bookings come in.