Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it!
I was absolutely delighted to see that Lily Allen has just got a fantastic new puppy. I was then horrified to see someone pitching her with the idea that she could train the puppy up to be a protection dog!
She’s a lovely dog but strange I don’t even know why she only steals my things, I’ve bought her a squeaky toy, a pull toy, a ball, a toy you can stuff with food she just doesn’t touch them and I make it intresting but nothing :( all she likes is watching Jeremy Kyle and staring at me Lol
Humans looking for a good walk and socialisation can join the Ramblers….. dogs and, of course, their owners – can now get involved in Big Walkies, a group set up by two dog-lovers from St Ives and St Neots.
Becca Bryant (St Ives) and Jackie Fitzpatrick (St Neots) set up the Big Walkies website after discovering there was a lack of information about dog-friendly walks in Huntingdonshire.
Becca said: “I tried to find a different dog walk for each month but after scouring the internet we found there weren’t many listed.
“So I decided to set up a website that would recommend dog walks in Huntingdonshire ….. but interest was shown in our small group meeting for dog walks, so we decided to dedicate the website to dog walking events and the promotion of responsible dog ownership across Cambrigdeshire.”
“We’ve since had interest from as far away as Leeds, Cardiff, Devon and Cornwall, and it is my ambition to see the network spread across the country.”
“Socialisation of dogs is so important in regards to their behaviour towards other dogs, humans and adaptation in different envionments. Big Walkies are proud to have Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs puppies use the group to socialise dogs.”
“I would say to anyone who has a dog to come along and harvest both the mental and physical health benefits of dog walking.”
Who can join? You! Anybody who wants to get fit and healthy and enjoy doing so with theirs/other peoples dogs! How can you join? Register as a member for FREE and choose the events you attend. What happens at Big Walkies? From 40 minutes to 2 hours walk in accessible green space in Cambridgeshire with your/other peoples dogs. Why should I join? To get socialised, fit, healthy, feel a sense of community, have fun with your/other peoples dogs, get outdoors, feel safe, make friends……. and many more reasons! When do you meet? Weekly, fortnightly, monthly – you choose!!
Big Walkies holds numerous events in Cambridgeshire. Visit www.bigwalkies.org.uk for more information or to register as a member for free!
As Big Walkies is a community group and not funded, they welcome a donation at the end of their events (suggested £1). However, this is a donation and you are not expected to pay this.
Take your first steps towards a healthier lifestyle for you and your dog and join now ……. it’s FREE!
This week I am running a dog training workshop on this exact subject, teaching our owners and their pups what to do.
‘Manners!’ I hear you all cry. ‘Dogs need to do as they are told!’. Well, that’s great, but how do we start teaching these?
A good dog citizen comes from a good human teacher.
Dogs aren’t born knowing about manners, any more than young humans are. Gone are the days where we used to frighten children and dogs into being too scared to do anything. Nowadays we understand that the quickest way to a happy, sociable adult person or dog is to train them to do the right things without fear or force.
The idea of a good citizen is to take on board that we live in a society with others. This means that certain behaviours aren’t ideal and some are downright illegal – stealing, violence, being noisy are examples.
Dogs live as a species that we bred deliberately to do things for us and are somewhat dependent on us for most of the time. We have a powerful responsibility to help dogs learn what ‘manners’ look like, rather than expecting them to automatically know.
The worst approach to teaching a dog is to wait for them to go wrong, and then yell at them, smack them or yank them around on their leads. Poor things! There are laws against doing this too, so don’t do it.
Who trains the dog?
You are the teacher, so if they haven’t learned something, that’s not their fault. And even if they have learned something, they aren’t ‘wrong’ or ‘naughty’ if they fail. You need to teach them that no matter what the temptation, they aren’t allowed to just jump up at people. You do that by teaching them how to stay calm, really thoroughly, rather than punishing them.
Teaching dogs is a skill, and it’s ok to admit you don’t know how – yet. That’s what us dog trainers are here for. We are highly trained, experienced professionals who see around 30-40 dogs a week, so we definitely know better than someone in your family or some fella down the road who happens to shout at his dog occasionally or suggests a prong collar.
So, what really does make a good dog citizen? You do, by taking your dog to ‘school’, whether it’s at home, in a class, or both. This means you learn how to teach your dog, because really, you need training, too.
Be a good dog citizen by investing time into learning how to – with modern methods and rewards, not punishment – get your dog to do that tricky job of being a family pet.
A lot of us have super friendly cats – when they want to be. They enjoy fuss on their own terms. Some are all over us and can’t cope when we decide we want to sleep, racing around the house and peering into our snoozing faces. How can we make sure those cats are kept happy so that behaviour issues don’t develop?
A stressed cat will show it by toileting out of their tray, spraying up furniture, hiding, fighting with other cats, and sleeping a great deal (more than you even thought possible). They hide so many signs that often when I am called in to help, the problem has become so big that it takes a long time to help resolve.
Helping a cat with issues doesn’t always have to cost you time and energy. If cats don’t get along in the house, you can do a lot to help them. Cats like places to get up and away from each other, and often will prefer coming and going through separate exits of the home, or at different times. With a bit of planning, you can help each cat to have their own space, because location is very important to cats. And, surprise surprise, they don’t like to share very often.
To help cats get away from each other, cat multiplay towers are ideal, but a simple shelf can suffice. Some of us purchase beautiful wooden ones that are a piece of furniture in themselves. After all, it will be in our home! Any climbing tower, complete with scratching posts, swings, holes to hide in and platforms to look down from, give a fantastic use of the aerial space cats often occupy when free to roam outdoors compared to our ground-level rooms. Don’t be put off if your cat isn’t interested straightaway. Any new addition to a home is likely to be treated with suspicion, so give it time. If after about six weeks, they still aren’t keen, try it in a new place because it’s most likely the cats don’t like the exposure in that particular location.
Cats can compete for food or water bowls, so purchasing one set of bowls per cat, plus one, is an excellent tactic. When placed in different rooms, these allow cats to occupy their own food station territory to resolve squabbles. Additional, large litter trays encourage a cat to choose these more readily. Some cats prefer lidded trays, so that they can perform in peace away from other cats’ prying eyes. And don’t place litter trays next to feeding stations; many cats are understandably particular about eating dinner next to the toilet!
Yes, cats are known to be inscrutable, but their behaviour tell us more about them than we often think. Did you know that if your cat is wagging her tail at you that is not a good sign? (She’s angry.) Or what it means if her pupils are dilated? (She’s scared.) Or if she’s kneading your leg? (She s showing appreciation.) Getting straight to the point, The Purrfect Guide to Thinking like a Cat doesn’t waste time on lengthy and complicated explanations that you will never finish reading let alone put into practice. Instead, in brief instructions the book explains how to understand your cat s behaviour and how you can adapt your own behaviour to make the most of your relationship.
House of Fraser’s tweet which does NOT give us the right idea of what owning a dog is like nor should be either. Saddening really.
If you are still tempted, before you read on, can I suggest you think again. Getting a puppy during lockdown is likely to lead to big changes when we are finally free from restrictions. You will be back into a routine – working, school, social time… if you don’t think this affects you, think again.
Puppies are expensive
Puppies are very expensive. At the moment they cost three times what they did before the pandemic. There is reduced supply of quality litters, meaning that you’ll most likely fund a puppy farm or opportunistic amateur. It’s the equivalent of buying an old banger car from a layby without any chance to test drive, that costs three times as much but you pay it just because you are in a rush and the kids are moaning.
A new puppy needs planning, care and attention. From finding a puppy training class, to pet insurance, when and how to toilet train… the non-stop whirlwind of a new puppy starts even before you bring your puppy home.
Puppies need huge amounts of care
Finding a good breeder is crucial, as is checking for health problems, and finding a decent insurer. See the puppy with its mother – no excuses. It is otherwise likely to be stolen or shipped from a puppy farm. Register with a Vet and be ready for regular health checks, vaccinations, and preventive treatments – worming, fleas, ticks and other disease all needs to be looked out for.
Puppies are hard work, so time is a huge cost too. Can you guarantee you will be around for at least the next three years making sure your dog is not left alone for more than a few hours a day? I don’t mean several times a day. No more than 3-4 hours per day absolute maximum and not every day either.
Surely you’d like to be the owner that says ‘We knew what to expect’ than the ones that say ‘We can’t look after him/her properly’ as you hand them over on Gumtree.
Pups need training, groomers, dog walkers and day care
Think about who will look after the puppy, and make sure you have contacted a groomer, a registered, qualified puppy trainer (positive reward-based methods), dog walker and dog day care too. If you can’t afford them – don’t get a puppy.
Aim to get a puppy at around 8-9 weeks of age (no earlier, no later – it can cause big issues). A rescue dog is often a better choice. Centres are filled with dogs who, through no fault of their own, need somewhere to live. I am sure their original owners all decided a puppy was right for them at some point. Life has a way of catching up with us and rescue centre dogs need decent homes. Do contact our local ones – you could get a wonderful dog that’s absolutely right for you.
Need the very best advice on how to care for your dog? Why not get Karen’s book ‘Being a dog’ which helps you see the world from your dog’s point of view!
Whether we are looking for a dog trainers, pet sitters, dog walker, boarding or kennels, we naturally want the very highest level of care. How can we find the right people? How can we ask the right questions?
Find a decent dog trainer
All dogs will need training, and puppy socialisation (where lockdown allows of course). Dog training helps with walking your dog so that they do not pull on their lead. It makes sure they get along with other dogs and people. Also, it teaches you how to help them to learn the rules of the human household.
Even before you get your dog, research locally for an ABTC-registered trainer. Act now – get their space booked. Would you want to employ someone who might take shortcuts over caring for your dog?
Anyone charging money as a trainer should have proper (not just any) letters after the name. You could get an ABTC-registered person with practical – not distance learning – qualifications in all the aspects of animal behaviour that they promise to work. In today’s times there is no reason why a trainer or behaviourist would not want to get the appropriate ABTC registration if they profess to truly care for animals.
Pet sitting and care
Pet sitting, day care and dog boarding kennels are next. What will happen to your dog when you are busy, or away? It is nice to ask family, but a professional is always best. They work with animals all day, are fully insured, and there are more than one available. A team of pet sitters will not suddenly let you down. They have qualifications in pet care and pet first aid should any emergency arise.
Day care for dogs is a relatively recent pet care service. Always check that they are council licensed and insured. Day care can also give your dog the chance to play with other dogs, so they will always come back tired and happy.
A pet sitter on the other hand often comes to visit or even live in your home! This can be the nicest thing for your dog with minimal distruption, especially if you have lots of animals.
Dog walkers are so helpful!
Dog walking services vary widely. Some dog walkers will collect up a few dogs and take them for a sociable walk together. This is usually in an enclosed space where they can be safe to roam and play. Others will do individual walks, perhaps for dogs that do not get along with others. They may help with other exercise needs that require specific attention. Dog walking provides companionship as well as exercise. At the end of your long day, you can rest in the happy knowledge that your dog has had a busy, fun day too.
Meeting strangers on walks? How to keep your dog calm.
Out on walks at the moment we are meeting so many new people (from a distance of course), and so many of them comment on our little dogs as we go. Dogs are a great conversation enabler, and of course lockdown means we need our daily exercise, close to home. So, the world is out, walking.
Our dogs get used to friends and family, but can sometimes feel unnerved when meeting new people. Here are my tips to help your puppy or adult dog feel more comfortable in the presence of new folks.
Please don’t touch my dog
First of all, your dog should not be touched or greeted by anyone not in your household presently, since it usually means you will be too close to those people. Keeping your dog on lead is very important since if anything goes wrong, again, you will need to get too close to someone not from your household.
It’s essential that you take good hygiene measures, so if you have to touch another dog, wash your hands and use sanitizer afterwards too.
And it’s not just strangers on walks! A first time visit to the Vet, pet sitter or groomer, and visitors to your home (when finally allowed again) all need to be welcomed by a happy, calm dog.
How to introduce your dog properly
Safe dog introductions to new people are achieved with thorough, gradual training using rewards such as food or toys. Good puppy training habits, starting early with dog-dog socialization and getting used to the presence of visitors are all essentials. From an early age, your puppy needs to spend most days meeting new people and dogs.
First impressions count! Meeting new people can be overwhelming. You can help your dog to feel more comfortable by introducing a calm, trained behaviour such as teaching the dog to come to you for positive reinforcement such as a food treat. Always reward your dog in the presence of visitors, asking the dog for a simple ‘sit’ so that you can prevent the dog from jumping up, too (keeping your dog on a leash will help control over-exuberant greetings at this stage).
What dog body language is best?
A wagging tail is not necessarily a sign that a dog is feeling relaxed or happy. It could be that the dog is worried and agitated, their tail thrashing around uncertainly.
Pay close attention to your dog’s body language. Are their ears pulled tightly back? Are their eyes are showing some of the whites around the edges? Is their head is lowered or they are turning their head away (or moving away)? If so, let the dog retreat and calm down. Your dog needs you to look out for them – so do this every time they see another person.
Want to learn more about your dog, their behaviour and how they see the world? Why not get ‘Being a Dog’, my book all about the latest in scientific research on dog behaviour – uniquely written from the dog’s perspective! Click on the above image to find out more!
Are you back working from home, or want to make sure your dog is fulfilled every day when they are not on walks? You may need to listen to a work meeting without distraction, but don’t want your best friend to be bored!
Dogs are intelligent, busy creatures and need mental stimulation, especially when young. Keeping your dog entertained is more fun for you and for them. Much better than just buying toys and hoping for the best. We all know the toy box is left gathering dust whilst your dog raids worktops and the leftover Christmas chocolate (very bad idea!).
What does my dog enjoy?
Firstly, decide what your dog actively enjoys. Do they sniff and hunt a great deal, or are they into dog treats, or just like listening to you for great social interaction? If you can provide things that cater to these needs, your dog will be more settled naturally.
Boredom really means that there is nothing rewarding around. You don’t need to constantly work to keep your dog entertained, but they need to have an outlet to burn off excess energy. Providing chew toys, a dog puzzle with treats inside, interactive dog toys are great. Some of them can even be ‘smart’ toys that turn on and off to vary the frequency of play. All will help. A simple game is to take a muffin tin, place a small piece of dog treat in each section. Then place tennis balls over the top. Your dog can use their nose or bring their paws in play to knock the balls aside to earn their reward.
Does my dog need to be busy all the time?
Introduce rest and relaxation as part of your fun indoor activities. All dogs, especially puppies, sleep a great deal, so make sure that you aren’t experiencing puppy boredom by giving them activities and then routine ‘sleep times’.
What activities might my dog enjoy?
Activity ideas include simple games such as hide and seek, or finding tennis balls, or basic obedience training. If you really can’t spare the time, employ a dog walker so that your dog can be out having a great time whilst you sit at your desk.
Fetch and tug of war can sometimes lead to problems with obsession and injury. From crazy leaping around for a tennis ball, or pulling hard on items as a ‘win’ game. Basic obedience comes from your dog learning that it is fun to interact with you. It enriches their quality of life immensely. So start teaching sit, down, come, heel… yes, easy and useful too.
How about some basic nose work, where you scatter tiny pieces of their food around the garden for them to seek out? Repeat this with your dog a few times rather than giving them their dinner in a boring bowl.
Even though you may be at home, you will need regular breaks. As long as your dog is fit and well, you should provide at least two walks outdoors a day. Healthy dogs also keep their owners active. A good sniffy walk helps everyone’s quality of life.
How do I keep my dog happy when alone?
Be cautious not to develop a dependency between yourself and your dog. It might be that when you finally leave the house the dog has nothing to keep them entertained. Create a big list of all the activities your dog can enjoy without you needing to interact with them. Food puzzle toys, interactive dog toys, the frequency of play with you and without you. These are all important guides for what your dog will need when you are not there
What can I buy that will help my dog stay busy?
Here’s some examples of interactive dog toys. Click the images for more info.