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
 Related blog posts:

10 tips to find a GREAT dog walker

How do you tell the great from the mediocre? How can you make sure the person you find will work day in, day out, no matter what the weather and really care for your dog the way you do?

Finding a dog walker is easy. Check any online free ad site or pet directory and there will be plenty there, or ask your friends and family. A visit to your vet or local pet shop as well should mean you now have a list of dog walkers who cover your area

My top ten of things to look out for should make your life easier and your dog’s life more fulfilling.
  1. Love – do they love dogs? Will they kneel in the mud to check a sore paw? Will they not mind too much if their leg is mistaken for a lamppost? Great dog walkers do the job because they enjoy spending time with dogs and can’t help falling in love with each of them.
  2. ‘Can do’ attitude – dog walkers are there to make your life easier, to help you take care of your best friend, so you need someone who will work hard to make it happen for you. Need to change something? Dog not well and you want an update, a bandage rewrapped or medication given? You want to hear ‘yes’ and know it’s taken care of. If they really can’t help this time, you need to know that too.
  3. Safety & security– your walker should know how many dogs they can safely handle, both walking and in a vehicle. Is your key kept safe and your house locked up securely each time? For multiple pickups the van should be secured each and every time it is left.
  4. Paperwork – there is no national regulation for dog walkers but a great dog walker will be insured, as well as registered as a proper business or self-employment. If they take dogs in overnight and charge a fee they need a boarding licence. If they tell you they don’t, check with the licensing department of your local council, and if their insurance company covers them without a licence.
  5. Knowledge – A great dog walker will have great local knowledge. They’ll know all the great places to walk your dog and what bylaws or dog control orders may be in force (and obey them) , and will hold a Canine First Aid certificate. If your breed of dog is new to them, they’ll want to read up on it to do the best for your dog.
  6. Experience – everybody has to start somewhere, but have they ever owned a dog? A great dog walker will start small and build up as they gain experience. If their own dog never listens to them how will they manage your dog? A great dog walker will live with great dogs.
  7. Understanding – you are only human and might sometimes forget to book or cancel on time. Sometimes you need someone to talk to about your dog, or have what you might fear is a silly question. A great dog walker won’t mind if you text at 10pm because you’re worried about your dog and don’t know who else to turn to.
  8. Focus – are they concentrating on and committed to the dogs in their care, or doing something else such as chatting on the phone? Is this something they do for a living, or are they waiting for something better to come along? A great dog walker will see their work as a vocation.
  9. Value for money – are they offering a deal that seems too good to be true? They may be cutting corners or trying to undercut other walkers. A dog walker who is too cheap may walk lots of dogs at once, cut walks short, or give up unexpectedly when something better comes their way. Equally if they are charging a great deal more than other local dogs walkers, do they really offer a superior service, or are they more interested in the money?
  10. Reliability – Do they turn up when they say they will, and walk for as long as you expect? Do they give plenty of notice of time off? Does their vehicle break down on a regular basis? A great dog walker will maintain their vehicle well, and not use it as an excuse for a day off.
Every dog walker will have their own style, and only you can decide what is most important to you and your dog. These are the things I’ve found most useful to my customers over the years, so go now and find your great dog walker!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Why I Won't use Extending Leads

 One of these leads has either snapped or been chewed through. The other has definitely snapped as there's no lead there any more!

Most of my regular clients know that I don't like extending leads and won't use them. If that's all a dog owner has, I'll bring my own, it's not a problem. I've recently read a couple of blogs where a dog trainer has done some research and compared them to guns (only in America!), and a blogger who works his terriers in the States also agrees they are dangerous.

My assistant once said "I know you don't like them", but that's not the case. I believe them to be dangerous - as do the manufactuers who have a very, very long safety notice on the product. Possibly the smallest injury could be cuts to your fingers, if you grab the lead - you can't reel the dog in without the dog's co-operation as they have to relax the pressure. If they don't, then you have to hold the lead to allow the mechanism to work. If the dog pulls at that time - cuts all over your fingers, which, like, paper cuts, may not be life-threatening or bleed, but are very, very painful! Finger amputation is apparently a real worry.

If you have a small dog. and he pulls it out of your hands - if it retracts while he's running and hits him in the back of the head it can cause a lot of damage, even death. If this is avoided, dogs have been known to be so scared by the noise of it dragging along behind them they've run away in panic, getting lost - if you've been walking your dog on the side of the road - he could run out into traffic (a danger when he's on the lead as well). Dog have also been known to jump obstacles, that chunky handle getting stuck, the dog can't reach the ground on the other side and slowly strangles.

If you use a flexi lead because your dog doesn't have a recall, please contact a good trainer in your area who can work with you to improve that for you.

They also encourage your dog to pull on the lead, something you may be dealing with for the 10-15 years of your dog's life.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Searching, searching, searching

On my week off I've been in Hertfordshire with my dog Fred learning yet more games to play - tracking and trailing as I did in India, so now I'm looking for a couple of dogs to come with me to a Network Scout event to get those Scouts up and moving and laying tracks, hiding in the woods and murdering people and hiding body parts in fields.

That last bit we may have to simulate with rancid pork! Whoever said dog training had to be boring?

Let me know if you want more information or have a few hours spare on a Tuesday night. I promise it is getting warmer out there in the evenings.

I've also signed up for geocaching. This is like a treasure hunt, where all over the world people have hidden caches - anything from a large box filled with treasure, to teeny tiny containers holding just a strip of paper to note down your name to say 'I found this!'. I'm hoping it will introduce me to new places to walk the dogs, but fear I already know all the best places for fun and games. The best bit is that the dogs help me find the caches - as they're all encouraged to tell me if they find something lying on the ground (you never know they might find a £20 note!) they know to help me search for anything with human scent on it.

Current Vacancies

Dog walking & puppy sitting

Due to high demand I have no vaccancies at the moment for new dogs to come onto my dog walking or puppy sitting service as I am completely full and I can't squash any more dogs in.

I hope to reopen my books in September 2011.

I'm always happy to take enquiries from people wanting to work with dogs!

Cat Sitting

Lots and lots of space for lovely cats - summer bookings being taken now!

Home Boarding

Summer holidays are fully booked - I may be able to squeeze in a short stay, but nothing more than a few days.

Dog & puppy training

Weekends or from 3-7pm. I'm trying to put together a little team for tracking and trailing fun training - all dogs stay on leads so no problem if you're not sure of your recall - although I can teach that too!

Terriers a speciality!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Guest Post on Intellidogs


Some of my readers may have found your way here through my guest post "10 tips to find a GREAT dog walker" on the Intellidogs website, and not know who I am, so I'd like to introduce myself.

I'm Linda Ward, a dog walker from Brentwood in Essex, and I've been doing this job (more like a vocation) since 2006. First unpaid as a foster mum for rescue, and walking kennelled greyhounds, then from 2008 as a professional dog walker. I usually blog about the dogs and cats I look after, but also include tips on dog & puppy care, training and advice.

Here are some of my favourite Diary of a Dog Walker posts:

I hope there's something there you find interesting!

If you didn't find your way from Intellidogs, go visit!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Tellings off

When I was a young teenager I once got into a fight with my younger brother and our cousin, who were both a little younger than me. They'd been teasing me for a long time, and I'd snapped and hit my cousin. My dad was FURIOUS and told me that they could push me under a bus and I still could not hit them. So of course, being kids, they just teased and taunted me all the more, especially when around traffic, as now they had permission from my dad (status by association) to do what they liked to me as I was not allowed to retaliate.

Did this decrease the chance that they would get hurt by me? No. It increased it. As I was only a child myself and hadn't learned self-control. So I just hit them all the more to try to make them stop - no-one was protecting me (in fact the protection was going to the boys who were ganging up and bullying me) I had to do it myself. Eventually, the boys were crying, then I got walloped by my dad and I was crying too. We all got hurt.

Why do I tell you something that makes me sound unpleasant and maybe a bit of a thug? Chances are we've all got into fights with our families when we were kids and you'll understand. But why is it related to dogs? I'll tell you.

When I look after puppies, they get a lot of leeway from my dogs, and the dogs I walk, as they're all good-natured nice family pets. But they all have different temperaments and different levels of tolerance of being messed about by puppies.

One day I was walking with an older puppy, just on the cusp of adolescence when the tolerance of adult dogs can sometimes drop. He was bouncing around, happy to be alive and in the great outdoors, wanting to play, like every other puppy. He'd bounce off the other dogs every now and then, trying to get a game going. None were really interested as they just wanted to do their own thing, and dogs walking with me never know how long they are going to be out so they like to pace themselves just in case.

So eventually one of them had enough, and told the puppy off. He ran off to another dog, who also told him off, which started a bit of noise and nonsense with a couple of the dogs running after the pup and barking at him - really telling him off, but not hurting him. He ran to me for protection, as that's what I always teach the dogs. If you're worried or don't like what's going on - come to me. Only when the pup got to me this time...

I told him off too.

Why would I do such a wicked thing? Because I don't want to give the puppy status by association. He has to learn that he can't just insist on a game. He can't go up to other dogs and bounce all over them. He can ask for a game, and lots of dogs will say yeah, great! But when they say no, he has to accept that or face sometimes unpleasant consequences. Of course, being a pup who did what he was supposed to by coming to me I didn't tell him off badly. I simply ignored him. Wouldn't look at him, wouldn't touch him, wouldn't talk to him. I don't want him to think coming to me is a bad thing. I just wanted him to know that I wasn't happy with him either.

This protects ALL dogs, as this puppy is learning that when he's told no he should gracefully accept it. The other dogs know they do not have to bite or fight because they are allowed to tell another dog to leave them alone. Why didn't I stop the puppy bouncing on them in the first place? Because it wasn't excessive, he just hadn't accepted the no the first time. When pups are really excessive and not taking no for an answer time after time after time no matter what, I will take steps to prevent them being a bother, usually keeping them on a lead until they've calmed down. But in cases like this it is beneficial to allow the puppy to learn something without being traumatised by bouncing up to a dog who's had one too many dogs bounce on him and get bitten.

Two minutes after that I did a successful recall with the puppy which meant I could shower him with love and affection. By leaving it two minutes, pup didn't associate the fuss and love with the scolding from the other dogs, nor my cold reaction. He just knew he'd done A Good Thing and Aunty Was Pleased.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

I'd like to tell you a story of a pond

The Dog Pond. Some of you may remember seeing such lovely photos as:

Summer time, the water level is low, there's a little bit of beach for the dogs to investigate, those that haven't learned the joys of swimming yet like to have a paddle.

Today the dog pond is two or even three feet higher than in the summer, all that melting snow and ice, the recent rain, it looks like this:

Very full, no beaches! Cato's on a mission to play with Bobbi.

Ooops, overshot the bank and fell in! He's dragging himself out, as usual Fred has to check things out to see if anything needs a little help.

It's not deterred him though, he still wants to play!

but wait! What's that going on behind Bobbi??

Scamp's falling in!! He must have thought it was shallow enough to paddle in. He's never swam before, only paddled, and he's wearing a fleece coat and harness! Oh no! What's going to happen? His head has gone right under (ears float, that's quite interesting...) It's such a deep pond for such a short dog. Are those little legs capable of getting him back to shore? Will his wet coat and harness drag him under and weigh him down? I don't fancy getting in there on a cold morning, that's for sure, but if a rescue is needed, it'll have to be done.

Oh no, panic over. He can swim.

I did have to drag him onto shore, but at least he got back by himself.

And thanks to his fleece coat, he wasn't that badly soaked so didn't get cold on the way back to the van.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

New Dog Training Techniques - back from India

I'm hoping to write a few blogs about India itself, about the people, what I thought about how they live, their dogs, both street and owned.

Here's some of the dog training.

Training Sheba the Saluki to do the Guide Dog task. 

At the test on the last day (blindfolded) I did walk into one barrel, but with more time to train I'm sure Sheba would have carefully led me round every obstacle! She also alerted and led me to the doorbell at the end of the task - a Hearing Dog task.

Training Sheba to detect tobacco

Some of the dogs were learning to detect explosives, tobacco isn't quite as glamorous but apparently it's hard to get the scent of drugs through customs. No idea why... For this section we were being trained by Jane Sharp, who trains the detection dogs at Heathrow Airport.

The lecture hall. I'm hidding behind other students, but see if you can spot me!

All the lectures were outside. This was where we had our lectures about dog behaviour and learned the techniques we then used on the dogs. 

Tracking session

We learned 'search and rescue' style tracking, teaching the dogs to use not just the track itself, but sight, sound and the air currents. Helped along by us! So we learned a little bit about following tracks as well, and if  wespotted the item, person or sausages that counted, it wasn't the dog working on their own. I'm told this is properly called 'trailing' and is great fun to do, as you really are working in harmony with your dog.

The great thing about all of these activities is that they are all done on the lead. So any dog can do it,, it doesn't matter if they pull on the lead, or are not reliable off the lead. Plus it can be done in areas dogs may not be allowed off the lead. I'd like to use my new skills to make training fun again. So no  endlessly marching up and  down a training hall in a line with a group of other dogs.

Dogs can be useful again - the Hearing Dog task for instance - ever mislaid your mobile phone? You ring it, but still can't quite place it, which coat or bag has it been left in? Or maybe you dropped it, you know roughly where, but can't see it. Your dog can take you straight there.

If you're walking along having a chat with friends, have you ever 'nearly' walked into a lampost or a tree? Your dog can make sure those near misses never happen, and once they've learned to lead you around obstacles, the bond between you strengthens and you can use this to help stop pulling on the lead.

And after the more standard exercises are done, what's more fun than teaming up with some other dog lovers, splitting into two teams, and using your dogs to help find a person who is 'lost' or better yet, a trail with all the makings of a picnic on it! If your dog doesn't find something you may find you have everything to make a cuppa but the teabag, but that's where the fun is. Maybe the other team found the tea, but not the milk.

Once our dogs have learned to locate lost items, we will never lose our keys again! Anything that's dropped can be found again, and dogs regain their lost purpose. Many of our breeds today were bred to work - while some dogs have a working life and there are plenty of dog sports to try out there, they all need investment in money and time, especially if you want to compete seriously. 

Our dogs were finding 'lost' people very, very quickly, after very few sessions they were leading us around on a night track (completely dark, no street lights in the mountains of Pune - I've never, ever seen so many stars), successfully finding the spoons our trainers had left for us. I think we missed one, but on 'test day' we found enough letters to make the word TEAMWORK.
Some of these skills are very new to me, so I'm practising them with  my dogs, but if you fancy a short session, we can meet in the park and learn together -the more dogs I do this with the more I will learn. Fees, coffee if it's a chilly day, diet coke if it's a warm day! If I can teach a 7 month old Saluki, your dog can learn this too. I also worked with ten year old Sarah, so there really is no limit on the dogs who can learn these skills.

I have two more course this year, one in March repeating some of the trailing work with one of my dogs, then one in May repeating some of the detection work, with another of my dogs. I've been told I don't need to do these after being in India, but I'd like the refresher on the techniques and of course I get to work with my dogs under expert supervision.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Off to India - back 31st January 2011

I'm off to India today, so you won't hear from me for another four weeks. Have a really good January, and I look forward to getting back in touch with everyone in February.

In the meantime, let me leave you with some pics of my wonderful helpers while I was packing.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!

The start of a new year!

I'd like to thank all my clients and their dogs, my friends who've kept me sane, my assistants Will and Caitlin, and my family who help me out when I really need it for all the help and support I've had in 2010.

Review of the Year

It was a wonderful year after a bit of a ropey start with first my van being written off in February
then the washing machine broke down after the thaw when mud was everywhere!

But I've met so many lovely people, wonderful dogs, and really, really love my job!

We've had 12 months of Dog of the Month

December is still under wraps as my last few walks were cancelled so although the rosette has been presented, the photo op hasn't happened yet. You'll have to wait. ;)

When I started Dog of the Month I only had around 10 regulars, but by the end of the year I have around 18 dogs I see at least once a week. So for the dogs who didn't win their rosette this year, there's always 2011!

I also gave out my very own Walkies Award, for those long-suffering dogs who have managed to survive a year of Walkies with me. There are plans for more awards for the coming year, including for cats this time, as I'm very proud of the dogs I walk and the cats I care for and think the world should know about them!

For me, I've attended courses on Grooming Difficult Dogs as that gave me a good grounding in handling dogs that don't want to be handled, as well as learning to read their body language, Dog Law so I know where we stand and although I can't advise I can at least point people in the right direction if needed, Ultimate Recall so I don't lose any dogs and can help those having trouble, Breeds Needs to give me more of an insight into the different breeds and their needs, and passed a training course with Mic Martin from Dog Borstal. One of only two out of the original 20 who attended the first assessment day.

I am still learning, and this year have planned my trip to India, a Crime Scene Investigates fun mini-break with one of my dogs, as well as a tracking, search and rescue break with possibly the same dog, but maybe a different one, to give me more ideas of fun and activities I can do with your dogs while they stay with me for their holidays.

I look forward to another busy year, filled with dogs and cats who all win my heart, and wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous new year.