How to Find a Good Dog Walker

Although you may get lucky and find the best dog walker in the world posted on a telephone pole, the process of choosing a good, safe and reliable pet care provider can be made easier by starting with these three options.

Where to look for a Good Dog Walker

There are ads all over social media, Kijiji, newspapers and even flyers in your mailbox.  But how do you know where to look for a good dog walker. How do you trust a total stranger with your furry family member?   Although you may get lucky and find the best dog walker in the world posted on a telephone pole, the process of choosing a good, safe and reliable pet care provider can be made easier by starting with these three options.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

Word of Mouth

Start with friends and family. If you have people who are close to you who are dog owners, perhaps they have been in your situation in the past.  They may know someone who is perfect for you.  Having someone who has had first hand experience with a dog walker is comforting.  If your dog parenting practices are similar to the friend’s, you will have a lot more confidence in someone they are recommending than someone you find in a random ad. 

Knowing how to find a good dog walker will help to ensure safe and happy visits for your pup.

Unfortunately, the walker may not have the availability that you require or may not be in your area.  In this instance it would be a good idea for you to has him/her for a recommendation of someone that they know who also does pet care.  Most dog walkers know someone else and most would not recommend anyone who was not reputable. Any walker who has a good reputation would likely only recommend someone who would enhance that reputation, so would not just pass on any name unless they were familiar with the referee’s practices.   It would still be wise to ask if they have ever worked together or how they know each other.  This will give you an idea of how much the two know about each other’s methods. It would be advisable to look at the walker’s website and check the references posted there as well.

Veterinarian’s Office

Many vets will have a bulletin board in the waiting room of their office.  Have a look and see if there are any advertisements.  Many dog walkers will leave advertisements or business cards posted on the bulletin board.  Often, the staff in the vet’s office are familiar with the dog walker.  If you do find a posting, ask the vet staff if they know or would recommend the dog walker.  Although they are not affiliated with or responsible for the actions of the dog walker, they may be able to provide some insight.

Pet Care Agencies

There are many pet care agencies that will provide you with a listing of dog walkers in your area.  When selecting a pet care registry, investigate the company’s reputation.  Do some leg work to be sure they have a solid history and that they offer the services you need. An example of an established network would be Rover.com.  Rover offers pet care options in the United States, Canada and Europe. They require a criminal background check from all of their pet care providers, and provide insured pet care for all bookings through the agency.  I have worked with Rover for almost 2 years and I have met many clients who swear by Rover’s services because of their history, reputation and practices.

If you decide to go through an agency, look for a company in your area that offers biographies and client ratings for their providers.  Many of my pet parents say that the reason they chose me was not only because of my five-star reviews, but because of the number of repeat bookings I have had.  They told me that they felt that having the same clients request my services repeatedly was an indication that I was good with their pets as well as reliable. The more statistics and details you know about a potential walker, the better chance you will find the best care for your pet.

Added Suggestions

After looking, researching and narrowing down the best candidates, you are ready to call and book an interview.  Although you think you have chosen the most perfect candidate, it is wise to call and book an interview with the top 3 or 4 candidates.  A potential walker may look great on paper but you may not be happy with the person that arrives at your door.  This may be due to many reasons including changes in availability since booking your interview, personality conflicts or maybe even a poor reaction by your pup.

Checklist for Finding a Good Dog Walker 

  • Investigate word of mouth referrals, bulletin board posts in trustworthy places (vet’s office) or reputable agencies.
  • Narrow down your search to 3 to 4 potential walkers.
  • Take your time and interview all of the finalists. 
  • Have questions ready. To know what to ask click here: What to Ask When Looking For a Dog Walker
  • Make notes.
  • Ask for references and actually call the references to get a feel for their perspective about pet care.
  • Review your notes after meeting with all of the walkers. 
  • Compare all references, written and verbal.
  • Make your decision.

Summary

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

If you follow all of these steps your chances of finding someone you are happy with (and more importantly who your doggo is happy with) is pretty strong.  Having said that, be sure to monitor any changes in your pups behavior to be sure all is well.  I also recommend checking in with neighbors to see if they have seen the interaction between your dog and the new walker.  As a pet care provider I also love seeing some form of security system or a FURBO Camera to keep an eye on what goes on inside your home when the walker/sitter is caring for your fur baby.  You can never be too safe!

Dirty Food Bowls Can Make Your Dog Sick

Dirty dog bowls, damaged dog bowls and dog bowls made of certain materials can cause a variety of illnesses for your dog.

Do you have a regular dog bowl cleaning routine?  Many people don’t.  It is not uncommon for pet parents to just refill the bowls daily and occasionally, when it becomes visible, rinse them out to get the residue off.  Let’s face it, dogs eat just about anything (and I mean anything) so a dog bowl can’t  harm them, right?  Wrong!  Dirty food bowls can make your dog very sick.  Actually, dirty dog bowls, damaged dog bowls and dog bowls made of certain materials can cause a variety of illnesses for your doggo. Here is what I have learned about the best dog bowls, the best cleaning methods for you dog bowls and how to wash your dog bowls safely.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

Selecting the Right Dog Bowl

It’s very important that you choose a safe bowl for your dog.  The best option would be stainless steel that is dishwasher safe. It is also best to have at least two sets of bowls so that when one is being cleaned, the other is available to use. 

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

How Can Dirty Food Bowls Make Your Dog Sick?

Saliva remains in the bowl after a dog eats.  This, along with the leftover bits of food can act like a Petri dish where germs can grow freely. Photo: Golden Retriever Puppy with her paw in a water bowl
Dirty food bowls can make your dog sick when food a remain in the bowl. Saliva remains in the bowl after a dog eats. This, along with the leftover bits of food can act like a petri dish where germs can grow freely.

Your dog actually uses his or her tongue to scoop up the food or water from the bowl.  Saliva remains in the bowl along with the leftover bits of food. This can act like a little petri dish where germs can grow freely.  Gross right? Is it safe to use detergents? How do I clean my pet’s bowls safely?

Many dog parents are afraid to use soaps or detergents in their dog bowls. They are afraid that they will leave a residue that could be consumed by their pet.  Fortunately, this is no more likely to happen to your pet than it would for yourself or your family members after doing the dinner dishes.

Some feel that rinsing the dishes under hot water is the best method.  Unfortunately, a simple rinse under hot water leaves dirt and food particles on your dog’s dishes where bacteria can grow.  This bacterium will be ingested by your dog and can cause some significant health issues.  Because of this, it is crucial that all dog dishes be washed regularly and sanitized a minimum of once weekly.  This is especially imperative if your dog is on a raw food diet. Any raw meat should be removed from the bowl and disinfected after each use. Meat that reaches room temperature is a breeding ground for a number of serious bacteria, including Streptococcus, Listeria and even Salmonella.

How to Safely Wash Your Dog’s Bowls

A study was done in 2011 by NSF International listing the “germiest places in a home”.  Number one on the list was the kitchen sponge.  Number 4 was pet bowls.  This means that the tool most people use to clean the 4th dirtiest item in the home is the 1st most dirty item.  Seems kind of counter intuitive now, doesn’t it? So, what do we do about it? 

Option 1:  Daily

Use your dishwasher when possible.  Any food dish that your dog eats from, should be dishwasher safe.  The dishwasher will sanitize the bowls and provide a safe place to feed your doggo.  I personally prefer to rinse the bowls even after they go through the rinse cycle on the dishwasher in case any dish washing liquid residue is left behind. 

Option 2: Daily

If you don’t have a dishwasher, or prefer not to use it for your pet bowls, you can use a basin of clean, hot, soapy water.  Wash the bowls with a clean, non abrasive, spongeIf you are not sure how clean the sponge is, wet it and place it in the microwave for 2 minutes.  This will help to disinfect the sponge, which will in turn keep the sponge from contaminating your dog bowls. 

Wash the bowls thoroughly, making sure to pay close attention to any crevices. Rinse the bowls in hot water to remove the suds, just as you would your household dishes.  Air dry.

Option 1:  Weekly

Even though you are washing your bowls daily, it is recommended that they are given a good disinfecting once a week.  Some suggest that you briefly (one minute maximum) soak the bowls in a bleach and water mixture (always check labels for the safest water to bleach ratio) and rinse in cold water.  Do not do this with plastic bowls as bleach can get into the plastic and will not rinse thoroughly.  I personally do not use bleach on my pet’s bowls. I am not comfortable using chemicals of that strength near my dog’s food. Although I know it’s been rinsed well, I prefer a more natural alternative.

Option 2:  Weekly

If you prefer not to use bleach, the alternative recommendation would be to use a vinegar and water mixture, followed by a thorough rinse in warm water. The recommended ratio is 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar.

How can Water Affect My Dog Bowls?

Depending on where you live, your plumbing and water filtration system, the effect you water has on the dog bowls is something to be considered.  Calcium build up creates a crusty rim on the bowl that doesn’t come off very easily.  Using an abrasive sponge is not a good idea as it can scratch the bowl and leave it vulnerable to bacteria, so it is best to use the previously mentioned vinegar/water mixture.  Soaking in this solution will help break down the residue, leaving the bowl smooth and shiny.

Wrapping it all up!

  • Dirty food bowls make your dog sick because of food residue and saliva.
  • Using a stainless steel, dishwasher safe food bowl is the best option.
  • Sterilizing in the dishwasher is the best cleaning method.
  • If washing by hand, make sure the sponge/cloth is new or sterilized before use.
  • Rinse with a vinegar/water solution and rinse with warm water weekly to thoroughly disinfect the bowls.
  • Have multiple bowls so that you can swap them out when the others are being cleaned.
  • Use the vinegar/water solution to remove calcium build up and hard water stains from your dog’s bowl.

Why Do Some Dog Breeds Have Their Tails Cut Off?

One method of tail docking is performed when a puppy is between 2 and 5 days old. The breeder uses surgical scissors to cut off the puppy’s tail without anesthetic.

I was playing with one of my favorite neighborhood dogs the other day.  He is a beautiful Boxer with the sweetest disposition and is the patriarch of the neighborhood dogs.  He has not been neutered, but he has no tail.  I asked his owner why he would have one of the procedures done and not the other, and why he chose tail docking.  His response was that the breeder had done it before he adopted his dog.  He wasn’t even offered the option.  I have heard this before, from a client who owns a Cockapoo.  She said she wasn’t even aware that there was a choice until after she had picked up her puppy.  This made me wonder why some dog breeds have their tails cut off?  What is the reasoning behind the procedure and how it benefits the dog?

I decided to do some research and came up with some surprising information.  I had always assumed that was supposed to have some kind of medical benefit, but why?  Here is what I discovered:

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

What is Tail Docking and how is it done?

Tail Docking, also known as Tail Bobbing or Tail Cutting, is the process of removing most of a dog’s tail at the base.  There are 3 methods of removal. 

The first is performed by the breeder.  A strong rubber tie is wrapped around the tail.  This cuts off the circulation from the body to the tail.  The part of the tail beyond the tie is expected to fall off after a few days.  This has to be performed when the puppy is between 2 and 5 days old.

Some dog breeds have their tails cut off (Tail Docking) because they are working dogs, but most have it done for aesthetic reasons. Many owners don't even know  how the tail is removed or that Tail Docking is an option. Photo of a Cockapoo with a docked tail.
Some dog breeds have their tails cut off (Tail Docking) because they are working dogs, but most have it done for aesthetic reasons. Many owners don’t even know how the tail is removed or that Tail Docking is an option.

The second method, also performed by a breeder when the puppy is between 2 and 5 days old, is performed by cutting off the puppy’s tail using surgical scissors. Neither of these two processes involve the use of anesthetic and the puppies are awake.  Because of the circulation to the tail at this age, stitches are not usually necessary. 

The third method involves a veterinarian.  This is done when the dog is over 8 weeks old. The vet will place the puppy under anesthetic and use a scalpel to remove the tail.  The skin at the base of the tail is pulled over the open wound and held together with stitches.

According to the RSPCA and many other studies, any of these processes cause considerable pain at the time of removal and can result in long term pain as well as associated medical, emotional and social issues.

In 1996 The University of Queensland did a study of 50 puppies.  This was included in their findings:

“The behaviour of 50 puppies of traditionally docked breeds was recorded during and after the procedure of tail docking at the University of Queensland Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital. The behaviours were recorded at the time of the procedure and then in 5 second intervals for the first minute followed by 10 second intervals until the pup settled to sleep. All puppies vocalised intensely (‘shrieking’) at the time of amputation of the tail, averaging 24 shrieks (range of 5 to 33).”

Read more here:  https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:712177

History of Tail Docking

Tail docking began many centuries ago.  Dogs were not pets in the sense that they are today.  Although still considered companions, most were working dogs. They were used for herding on farms or as hunting dogs.  On farms, dogs would round up cattle or sheep. Because of their close proximity to the larger animals as well as their exposure to machinery, it was felt that their tails were subject to injury. It was thought that removing the tail was a preventative measure to ensure the dog’s safety.

A hunting dog had the potential to engage in fights with other animals.  It was felt that the tail provided a disadvantage as the opponent had something to grab on to, leaving the dog vulnerable. In both cases there was also the concern that if these dogs got too dirty, there could be issues with infection. In later years, when employed as police or guard dogs, this same principle of the dog being vulnerable applied, and the tails were removed for these working dogs.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

Current Reasons for Tail Docking:

For working dogs in the military, on the police force or on farms, the reason for tail docking continues to be for the safety of the dog.  Many dogs who do not work also have their tails docked.  This is often for aesthetic reasons.  The owners feel the dog looks better without a tail or that this provides a look that is familiar to the breed.  Tail docking, for some breeds, has been a requirement for some show dogs to be allowed to compete. 

There is also the belief that it is required.  Many people who are purchasing dogs from breeders are not even aware that tail docking is an option.  The breeders perform the docking and sell the pups already altered.  The owners, in a number of cases, are not even aware of the reasoning behind the removal of the tail, the process by which it is removed nor the potential hazards associated with it.

Which Breeds Most Commonly Dock Tails?

Only certain breeds customarily have their tails removed.  These include:  Dobermans, Rottweilers, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Schnauzers and Poodles.  The American Kennel Club has identified over 60 breeds that are known to have docked tails.

NOTEWORTHY:

In most areas of Canada and the US, tail docking is not illegal.  In many countries the procedure is illegal, banned or, at the very least, must be performed by a veterinarian and a medical or other suitable reason is required before the surgery is performed.

What to Do When Dogs Fear Face Masks

When dogs fear face masks it can be traumatizing just to go for their daily walks.

As the world changes and people begin to come out of isolation, we will be changing many of our daily habits and routines.  One of the most common new things is that many will be wearing face masks to protect themselves and others.  While we are learning to adapt and communicate with our faces covered, our dogs may be very confused by the inability to see facial expressions.  Dogs may be stressed when they see people sporting their new fashion masks.  So, what do we do?  When dogs fear face masks it can be very traumatic when passing someone on the street or when her owner walks in the door looking like Darth Vader.  I found a few hints and tips to help your doggo adapt and to feel comfortable with this new reality.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

Tip #1:  Make masks a common household item.

If you have a few masks (or even just one), you can leave them around the house in plain sight.  Placing them in areas that are familiar to your dog including her sleeping area, hanging from a chair in the kitchen or dining room, on the hook where you hang your keys or even wrapped around her treat bag.  By placing the masks where your dog can see them, they become routine, day to day items.  This will offer some familiarity and reduce the element of surprise.

Tip #2:  Let him sniff the mask.

If you hold the mask and let him sniff it, he can see that it is just another object and not something to be guarded against or feared.  Becoming acquainted with the unknown can ease stress.

Tip #3:  Put your mask on in front of your dog.

If you put your mask on in one room and then walk into the room where your dog is, he may be shocked or outright scared.  Remove the element of surprise by putting the mask on while your dog watches.  She will see the transition from the real you to the masked you and the transition will be smoother.  By seeing that it’s you “getting dressed” the level of fear will be reduced.

Tip #4:  Wear your mask around the house.

Now that your dog has watched you put the mask on, try wearing it around the house.  Wear it while you play a game of fetch. Enjoy a brief training session or a belly rub with your mask on. By doing this she will make the correlation that masks are for good times.  Just wearing it around the house while going about your day, will make the mask common place.

Tip #5:  Use treats to associate a potentially scary thing with a positive thing.

If you give your dog a treat when you hold the mask, when you put it on or when you are wearing it, he will associate the mask with good things.  When you are walking your dog and he sees other humans with their masks on, have some treats ready before you cross paths. As you and your pup approach people you can give your dog a small treat before the shock or fear of seeing the masked people occurs.

When dogs fear face masks you can help by having a small treat ready on your walks. You can give him one before approaching masked people.

Note:  Dogs will not be able to read facial expressions through the mask.  They will only see eyes.  Using soft praise, gentle tones and attempt to make your eyes speak rather than your smile. It will help you to communicate with your pup in a new way.

Not all dogs will be afraid.  Some won’t even be fazed by the change.  Those that are nervous, new to your household and adapting, coming from bad situations or who are just generally skittish will need some extra time to get used to the changes going on around them. When dogs fear face masks it can be traumatizing just to go for their daily walks. By using the ideas listed above, you can help to make this transition a pleasant one.

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

The Best Dog Toys for Strong Chewers

My dog loves to chew. He loves to find the weakest part of a toy, rip the seam and take all of the stuffing out. I am excited when a toy lasts more than three days. Finding long lasting dog toys for strong chewers is not an easy task.

Dogs love to chew. Some have a very strong chew reflex and will go through a plush toy in no time. Finding long lasting dog toys for strong chewers is not an easy task

My dog loves to chew. He loves to find the weakest part of a toy, rip the seam and take all of the stuffing out.  I am excited when a toy lasts more than three days.  Besides being expensive, this habit can be concerning as he tends to swallow the stuffing.  I am always afraid he will choke or develop some kind of intestinal blockage.  In the two years since I adopted Zorro I have found some of the best dog toys for strong chewers.  Some have even lasted the entire two years!

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

I have put together a list of some of the most durable toys that I have found for dogs that love to chew and destroy!

NOTE: Regardless of the durability of any toy, it it always advised to watch your dog when he is playing with any toy.

Kong Classic Dog Toy

As many of you know, the Kong Classic will withstand the strongest of teeth.  It can be used for interactive play such as a rousing game of fetch, a self-entertaining chew toy when left alone, or you can add treat to the center to make a brain exercising puzzle that will keep your pup busy for quite a while.

They come in various sizes so mouths of every age, shape and size can enjoy.  They even have a specific size and texture suitable for senior dogs or teething puppies. Be sure to choose the most size appropriate Kong for your dog.

Extreme Ball

Kong offers a ball that is great for playing or chewing.  Because it is actually round, as opposed to the classic toy, it rolls well and allows your dog to play a more traditional game of fetch. It provides a great opportunity for keeping that busy jaw entertained.  My dog will go through a tennis ball in a matter of minutes, but the Extreme Ball will keep him working for hours and still stand strong!

Puppy Binkie

Got a teething puppy?  Kong has an answer for that as well.  The Puppy Binkie is a helpful training tool as well as a fun way to keep your puppy busy.  A teething puppy can (and will) find anything in your house to chew on.  I am sure many of you have experienced the chewed shoe when you were getting dressed or a few tooth prints on the edge of your coffee table or base boards.  Having this teething toy as a resource will help your puppy an save your home at the same time.  It also has a space for hiding treats so that your puppy can spend time solving puzzles and  stimulating her brain.

Kong Wubba

I actually discovered this toy through one of my clients.  They have two Shetland Sheep dogs.  One is a senior and the other is 3 years old.  Both dogs love to play, and fetch is the game of choice.  I would visit three times daily and play fetch for 30 minutes with these two and their Wubba.  They would race each other, chew it until it squeaked, wrestle to get the toy away from each other and bring it back.  11 months later, when I returned to work for this family for another week, this same Wubba was there, front and center in their toy room.  It was well worn, but still completely intact.  I was impressed.

Kong Goodie Bone

This is a great alternative to giving your dog a bone.  As bones can cause damage to your dog’s teeth or intestinal blockage and tears, choosing a strong chewing alternative is the best option.  The Kong bone is shaped like a regular bone, allowing the dog to manipulate it in the same way she would a natural bone.  The ability to add treats to the centers offers a the flavored bonus of a natural bone as well.

West Paw Zogoflex Hurley Durable Dog Bone

This bone shaped toy is firm and extremely durable.  It provides the opportunity for the same chewing action as a bone, so your dog will apply her natural chewing instincts.  My dog has been chewing on this bone for over a year and there are only a few minor tooth marks in it.  Although I have never used it in this manner, the company claims it floats. Should you be planning a day at the beach it is best to play with a toy that does not hold water.  In a salt water environment this is a great way for your dog to play while avoiding ingesting salt water, which can cause serious illness.

Dog Rope Toy

A strong, thick rope toy with large, firm knots will provide your dog with plenty of chew time.  I always choose the ropes without fringe so that he cannot pull the threads out. You can play fetch, hide and seek, or tug of war with your pup.  This rope is extremely durable.  We have two; one long one and one about 8 inches long. We have had both for almost 2 years.  Zorro loves to play with it.  He flings in in the air and chases it all by himself.  Other times, he just holds it with his front paws and gnaws on it until he uses up all of his chewing energy. 

K9 Tough Guard Elephant

There are a number of K9 Tough Guard Plush Toys available, and I can only conclude that they are all as durable as the elephant. My dog has had his little purple friend for about 14 months now and, although it is quite tattered, this is the first squeaky toy (called a “Squiggen” in our house) that has ever lasted more than a week. He plays with it daily. It is the toy he brings to the door when we return from work.  He squeaks in routinely and often sits quietly chewing on it. It is the most durable plush toy he has ever had.

Finding long lasting dog toys for strong chewers is not an easy task.  The Kong name is well established as one of the best for chew toys, but there are still some surprising little gems to be found out there.  If you have any recommendations for durable dog toys, please add them in the comment section. My doggo would love to try something new!

10 Weekend Things to do with your Dog

Dogs just love being near you, but offering them one on one time will always encourage positive behavior while strengthening the bond between you.

When you have some free time in the evening or on the weekend, you might want to spend part of it doing fun things with your dog. There are many ways to spend time with your furry friend that will benefit you both mentally and physically. Dogs just love being near you, but offering them one on one time will always encourage positive behavior while strengthening the bond between you.

Here are some ways to fill a day with your doggo that he will appreciate.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

Go for long walks: 
Spending time outdoors is good for you and your dog. It provides the mental and physical exercise we all need!

Spending time outdoors is healthy for you and your dog.  Finding quiet trails, parks or a nice long beach to roam will provide the physical and mental exercise that your dog needs.  You can make it an outing for the whole family to enjoy.  Be sure to bring along water, treats and any safety gear necessary for the season and location.  A GPS tracker is always recommended.

Go for a drive:

If your dog likes the car, he will enjoy a short road trip or day trip. Pack a lunch for each of you, tuck him into his car seat and/or seat belt, and head off to somewhere away from your normal routine.  A walk somewhere out of the norm would only add to the fun.  He will enjoy exploring new territory.                                                                                      

Training the basics:

If you have a puppy you can spend time learning the basic skills – Sit, Stay, heel and come.  If you have an older dog you can practice them. A refresher course is often helpful. Even if it isn’t truly necessary, he will just love spending time with you and getting treats or praise for being a good boy!

Teach fun tricks:

If your doggo is ready to move on from the basics, teaching him cool tricks will be fun for both of you.  Teaching your dog to play fetch is always a fun game that your will enjoy forever.  Other options are hide and seek, roll over or even to clean up his own toys.  That last one will benefit you for years to come!

Spa Day:

A bubble bath can be as enjoyable for many doggos as it would be for you. Fill the tub with some dog safe shampoo and let the bubbles fly. Be sure to rinse well and dry him off to avoid skin irritation. Be sure to clean any excess water from his ears to avoid ear irritation or infection.

For those that don’t enjoy a bath, you can spend time brushing him and removing all excess fur. This can help to clean your dog, as well as remove knots that may be causing discomfort or excess fur that could be making it too warm for the season. Using a good brush or comb will aid in the removal of the undercoat and reduce the amount of shedding in your house as well.

Doggy massage:

Turn on some spa music and ask your pup to lie down.  Start at his head and work your way down to his tail, gently massaging his neck, back, underarms, belly and legs.  If your dog has a sensitive area that he doesn’t like to have touched, skip it and move on.  The one on one interaction provides some special bonding time for you both.

Mani/pedi:

Many dogs do not like this one, but it still has to be done.  You can make it more pleasant for both of you by being patient.  When your dog is calm, take a moment to clip his nails so that he is comfortable walking.  If his nails are too long, it becomes painful for your doggo as his toes do not sit in the correct position on the floor when he stands.  You can use clippers if you are comfortable with them or you can try a nail dremel.  I have never used one of these, but I have heard that they can be less stressful for both you and your pup.  There is no fear of over clipping, causing your dog’s nails to bleed.  The more pleasant you can make this process, the more comfortable your doggo will be having his manicure in the future.

Laser Pointer: 

Until I got my current pup, I thought that a laser pointer was a cat toy.  Zorro has proven that dogs have just as much fun chasing that little red dot!  He can do this for quite a long time and he gets very tired by the time we stop.  This is a form of mental stimulation as well because he has to follow the dot. 

Flashlight: 

My German Shepherd, Princess (AKA “Doggo”), loved to chase the beam from a flashlight.  Similar to the laser, she would hunt it down and run after it.  It would keep her busy inside or out (at night) and would give her a good mental and physical workout. I always gave her a special treat at the end of the last chase to ensure that all of her work was worth it!

Snuggle Time:

At the end of a long day, or on a quiet, lazy afternoon, your friend will benefit from a nice cuddle session.  Watch TV, have a nap or read a book with your pup snuggled up close to you.  We are so busy running around most of the time, that we rarely have the time to just sit and be together.  It’s a perfect bonding experience that your dog will love.

Whatever way you choose to spend time with your pup, it will allow you both to destress and just enjoy each other’s company.  Whether you take a few minutes or half a day, your doggo will be grateful that you did.

The Dangers of Dogs Playing with Balloons

If a dog swallows a balloon, or even a piece of a balloon it can result in intestinal blockage which requires emergency surgery.

Many years ago, I took a St. John’s Ambulance Infant CPR course.  The instructor spoke to us about the dangers of children choking on small pieces of food and small toys, but one of the things that stood out for me was the information about the dangers of balloons.  These concerns do not just apply to humans. The dangers of dogs playing with balloons are just as serious. 

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Balloons are bright and shiny.  They bounce and wiggle.  These are very enticing attributes to any doggo.  The urge to chase and bite are overwhelming.  But balloons burst and break into small pieces.  The repercussions of the popped balloon can be very dangerous to your dog’s health. The damage can be permanent or even fatal. Here are some dangers to consider when deciding whether or not to decorate with balloons when you have a dog:

Eye Damage or Blindness

When your dog bites a balloon or holds it in his mouth, it puts pressure on the rubber, causing it to expand to full capacity.  Eventually it bursts and the pieces fly around your dog’s face.  It snaps with enough force to cause a whipping reaction.  If a piece lands in your dog’s eye(s) or whips the eyeball as it flies by, the eye can be damaged.  If it strikes a specific part of the eye it can cause permanent blindness.

Intestinal Blockage
If a dog swallows a balloon, or even a piece of a balloon it can result in intestinal blockage which requires emergency surgery.

Another one of the dangers of dogs playing with balloons or finding a piece of broken balloon, is that they are likely to swallow it. The piece can make its way down to various levels of the intestinal tract.  Although sometimes it makes its way through (and out), it can also expand and block food from passing.  This intestinal obstruction will have to be surgically removed.  Symptoms of blockage include vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can take days or weeks to appear as the blockage can take this long to occur. 

I have witnessed this delayed blockage with one of my dog walking clients.  Although it was not a balloon that he swallowed, the progression of the blockage was similar. At some point he had swallowed a piece of corn cob and it was about 6 weeks before the symptoms developed. Emergency surgery was required.  The vet determined the time frame from ingestion to surgery based on the condition of the cob piece once it was removed.  Until the vomiting and diarrhea started, he was acting like his normal, fun loving puppy self.

Extreme Choking Hazzard

A small piece of a balloon can cause one of the most dangerous of choking hazards.  The balloon, or piece of balloon, can get caught in the throat, blocking the windpipe (trachea).  The dog cannot breathe in.  Should you see this happening and attempt the Heimlich Maneuver, it may not work.  

The Heimlich Maneuver uses the force of air pressure from the abdomen and lungs to push an item that is lodged in the throat out through the mouth.  When the object is a balloon, the forced air from the abdomen blows upward and instead of forcing the balloon out of the way, the rubber/latex expands, just as if you were blowing the balloon up.  There is no way for the air pressure to dislodge the balloon. In fact, this procedure can make it worse by moving the offending piece to a more dangerous position.

The length of time it takes to remove an obstructed object determines how much permanent damage is done.  The longer the body goes without oxygen, the worse the level of damage will be. 

When you have pets, it is wise to decorate without balloons.  Yes, they are bright and cheery and fun to play with, but is it worth your dog’s safety?

Alternative Decorating Ideas

There are a number of alternative ideas for decorating that are equally as bright and cheery that are safe for dogs and children.

  • Bubbles: Dogs love to chase the moving bubbles and they are fun to have floating around during a party. Bonus: They are very affordable.
  • Streamers:  Brightly colored paper streamers are very festive.  They can be placed higher up so that pets cannot get to them.  Bonus:  They are reusable.
  • Pinwheels: These brightly colored wheels move and spin for outdoor parties.  They provide the bright and shiny attributes of balloons and can be placed in a variety of out of reach places or bunched like a floral arrangement.  Bonus: You can make your own and they are reusable.
  • Paper Flowers or Pom Poms: Both are round and full. They come in any color and can be hung from the streamers, just like balloons.  Bonus:  Making your own can be a lot of fun and they are reusable.
  • Honeycomb Balls:  These carved paper balls look just like balloons and can be hung from streamers, in bunches or placed on sticks or straws to appear the same as balloons on a string.  Bonus:  Reusable and flatten for easy storage.
Summary

As you can see, there are many ways to decorate and a number of bonus reasons to choose any or all of the listed alternatives to balloons when decorating around pets or children.  The biggest bonus is that everyone will be much safer without the risk of suffocating on a balloon. Having said that, any item that a dog can rip up or shred has the potential to get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract.  It is important to keep all decorations out of reach.

One last note:

Even if you do not have a pet or children, your balloons can float off and land somewhere that does.  They can land in oceans and forests.  The fish, sea creatures and animals who live in these areas can be harmed without the option of veterinary surgery to help them. 

Please choose wisely.

Canine Coronavirus

Canine Coronavirus is an intestinal disease and cannot be transmitted to humans. COVID-19 is a respiratory condition. To date there have been no documented cases of dog-to- human transmission.

We are all aware of the term Coronavirus, and there are many stories floating around about whether or not dogs can transmit coronavirus (Covid-19) to humans.  These stories are confusing and creating unnecessary fear.  The term Coronavirus is a large group of diseases that encompasses hundreds of different viruses of varying intensities, including the most recent strain COVID-19. Other familiar strains include SARS, MERS and even Canine Coronavirus.

I am not a veterinarian nor medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post called Let Your Dog Sniff – Pros vs. Cons.  When I was researching the post, I found a description of what illnesses can be found in dog feces and why you should be careful of what your dog is sniffing.  One of the things I learned was that coronavirus can be found in dog poop.  At the time, the term meant little to me, but in light of the recent pandemic, I was curious.

“COVID-19 cannot be transmitted between dogs and humans.”

Update April 5th, 2020:

There has been an incident of COVID -19 found in a Tiger at the Bronx Zoo, reportedly transmitted from a zoo worker to the animal. This indicates some possibility of transmission between humans and animals. If you are showing signs of COVID-19, or have been diagnosed positive for the virus, it is best to avoid contact with your pet. It’s best not to sleep with, cough or sneeze around, or touch your pet with your bare hands. If you are healthy and out walking your dog while practicing safe distancing, it would be best not to allow others to pet your dog. The likelihood that the virus will survive on a dog’s fur for any length of time is very slim, but better to be on the safe side.

I have read many articles, posts and even memes recently, stating that the World Health Organization has determined that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted by dogs.  This news was comforting on many levels.  Firstly, mass panic in some countries was causing people to abandon their pets (or worse) for fear of having them transmit the deadly virus.  This news update put minds at ease and saved the lives of many animals. Being a dog walker exposes me to many dogs in parks and on walks. Also, I am working with many animals whose family members may or may not be at risk. Admittedly, this news from the WHO brought me a small bit of comfort.

Still puzzled by the information I had previously found regarding coronavirus in dog poop, I decided that I needed to clarify all the confusing information.  I discovered that there is a Canine Coronavirus which is specific to dogs and cannot be transmitted to humans.

What is Canine Coronavirus?
A dog sniffing or ingesting infected poop can contract Canine Coronavirus.
A dog sniffing or ingesting infected poop can contract Canine Coronavirus.

Canine Coronavirus is an intestinal disease that is transmitted from one dog to another through contact with fecal matter (poop).  A dog sniffing and/or ingesting infected poop can contract and spread the virus to other dogs.  It is not an airborne disease, but tends to spread in places where large groups of dogs gather.  It can be transmitted through direct contact with contaminated dogs as well as through sharing contaminated food dishes. In dog parks where many dogs poop, there are traces of fecal matter everywhere.  When your dog steps in it and then licks his paws, he is ingesting these traces.   

Symptoms of Canine Coronavirus:

Adult dogs may demonstrate a few minor symptoms or none at all when infected with the virus.  These only last a few days and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Reduced food consumption
  • Rarely they will develop a fever

In puppies the disease can be significantly more serious. Because secondary infections can develop in respiratory system, the puppy can become septic if left untreated.  It is important that you take your puppy to the vet at the first sign of any unusual symptoms.  Antibiotics can be prescribed to clear up the respiratory and other secondary infections.

Incubation Period and Prevention of Canine Coronavirus?

A dog can carry the virus for up to 6 months from the time of contact.  Your dog can unknowingly transmit the virus during this period. As he may not show any signs of illness, it is imperative that you clean up after your pup. Always be aware of what he is exposed to while sniffing around on walks. You should refrain from allowing your dog to eat from group food bowls.  Many people who are trying to be generous will offer food bowls in dog parks. Group doggy daycare environments may leave a large bowl of kibble out for all dogs in their care.  These practices can cause the spread of Canine Coronavirus. 

Summary

Canine Coronavirus is an intestinal disease and cannot be transmitted to humans.  COVID-19 is a respiratory condition. To date there have been no documented cases of dog-to-human transmission.

As always, you should be aware of any change in your doggo’s behavior, sleep patterns, eating habits or changes in fecal matter; including frequency, consistency, color and odor.  Behavior, appetite and poop are the strongest indicators of your dog’s health. Any changes in these areas should be monitored, evaluated and assessed by a veterinarian as soon as symptoms develop.

Wash your paws and play Safe!

Sources

Exercising Your Dog’s Brain

Your dog needs physical exercise, it is vital that you keep his brain stimulated as well.

Just as your dog needs physical exercise, exercising your dog’s brain is important as well.  Dogs who are bored may become destructive.  They may even turn into couch potatoes.  Neither of these scenarios are good for your pup’s health.  Just like humans, they need to be active, both mentally and physically to remain healthy.  A good rule is to spend a total of about 2 hours daily interacting with your dog. It is also a good idea to change the activities so that it doesn’t become routine and boring. Something as simple as taking your dog on a different route for his daily walks.  A change in direction can offer stimulation in the form of new smells to process which will offer them new mental challenges. See: Let Your Dog Sniff

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Here are some other ideas to keep him thinking!

Training time:

You can spend some together time training.  While you are teaching your pup important skills, he is processing and storing information. 

Learn a new trick:

Teaching him a new trick can be fun for both of you.  Your dog will be challenged to do something new, and you benefit from the results of having your slippers brought to you when you come home!

Playing Ball:

You can bounce or roll a ball around indoors, or you can throw it outdoors.  Your doggo will enjoy the playtime and will get to chase and find the ball when it lands. This encourages sniffing and natural hunting skills.

Play Catch:

Playing catch will provide physical exercise while offering the opportunity to incorporate extreme concentration and timing to be able to judge the timing of the ball’s movement. 

Hide and Seek:

You can hide your dog’s toy or some treats and have him find them.  This also utilizes hunting skills and let’s your dog sniff it out!

Hiking:
Hiking with your dog provides physical and mental exercise.

If you are able to take your dog to a hiking trail, he will love investigating all of the new sites and smells.  The physical challenges are great for his body. Navigating the obstacles on a trail will also provide exercise for your dog’s brain. 

Play Fetch:

Fetch involves sniffing, finding, retrieving and returning.  This simple game offers deductive skills, recall skills and information processing as well as some physical exercise. Dog’s love it!

Kong Treat Toy:

Filling a Kong with a healthy treat or even kibble keeps your pup busy for quite a while.  He has to figure out how to get the treats from inside the Kong.  This forces him to focus and find ways to manipulate the toy so that he can be rewarded with a treat. This is something you can leave for your pup if you are away from home for a few hours.

One of the unique ways I spend time playing with my dog is playing with a laser pointer.  He just loves to chase that little red dot all over the living room.  He can do this for quite a while and is exhausted when we stop. The process he is using to foresee where the laser will go next is exercising his brain while the running and chasing offers physical benefits.

Do you and your dog have any unusual interaction games? Please let me know so that I can try them with my doggo!

Let Your Dog Sniff – Pros vs. Cons

The time that a dog spends sniffing and processing the information that he gathers provides a form of mental exercise.

A doggo’s sniffer is his strongest sense.  Scent is how he recognizes people and other animals. It is how he keeps himself mentally stimulated and it is how he finds his way home if he’s lost.  Sniffing can even tell him if his human is sick. A dog’s sense of smell is more that 40 times more powerful than a human’s, and this allows him to learn and retain details about everything around him. Letting your dog sniff has many benefits.

When a dog sniffs he is gathering and processing information, providing mental stimulation.

When you are walking your dog, it is tempting to rush him along when he tries to stop and sniff every single tree, bush, fence or lamppost. It may not always be possible to stop at every “good sniff”, but if you are able to, your dog will benefit greatly from your patience.

When a dog sniffs the right spot, he can learn about the animals or people that have preceded him.  The time that he spends processing the information that his nose has gathered provides a form of mental exercise.  It acts like a puzzle that the dog must put together and retain. Because dogs don’t have a lot of things to exercise their brains in the house, this is a vital part of his daily activity while they are out. This mental stimulation is one of the most significant benefits of letting your dog sniff.

If they are confronted with another dog, they can learn everything about that dog through a few moments of sniffing.  They can determine the gender of the other dog, where that dog has been, the humans or dogs that this new friend has met.  He can even determine the other dog’s emotional state.

What are the cons?

Having said all of this, there are a few things to be concerned about when your dog is out sniffing the neighborhood.  If your doggo finds poop that has been left behind by another dog, there can be some dangers lurking in that little pile.  Poop from a sick dog can contain worms and bacteria, including E. coli and Canine Coronavirus.

I remember my German Shepherd becoming ill. She was vomiting and had severe diarrhea.  When I took her to the vet, she was diagnosed with a bacterial infection (gastroenteritis) that was treatable with antibiotics.  When I asked where she would have contracted this, and the vet said it probably came from something she sniffed along a walk.  After that I was very cautious.  I am still very aware of what my own dog and all of my clients are getting their noses into. 

What have I learned?

Nothing is 100% safe, but the benefits that your pup will gain from those short sniff sessions far outweigh the possible negatives.  The likelihood of your dog getting sick is very slim, especially if you are vigilant about watching them.