Dog Walkers Blog
Welcome to Our Dog blog, this is where our team post a day in the life of their work with us. whether we are dog walking, Pet visiting or dog sitting for the day, this is where you can read all about what we have been up to. You will be able to follow our staff on their dog walks and put yourself in their shoes. We hope you enjoy reading their stories and veiwing their photos of the pets in our care.
Blog about IMDT Conference
Written by Heather Thomas
Adolescence with Claudia Estanislau www.itsallaboutdogs.org
Having worked with and owned over 1000 adolescent dogs in the last 10 years I thought I would have had enough experience to know how to train during adolescence. I was wrong there is always room to learn more.... Maybe actually too much training could hinder our adolescent dogs? Or our own fears could imprint on our dogs? Perhaps just doing nothing and being there for the ride is the best option? Patience is the key to enduring the adolescence period and remaining calm at all times.
My first Dane Alfie who was an awesome puppy (apart from the chewing of door frames) suddenly had selective hearing during adolescence some people will remember me chasing after him at the local park because of this. This was what I endured for around 6months and the only thing that got me through it was the social and sharing the stress with others in the same boat at the park. This is where I met alot of lovely dog people who have stayed with me forever. Alfie had his adolescent period between the ages of 1 to 2 years. I remember wondering what the hell had happened to my awesome dog and best friend.
It is well known that adolescence generally starts around 5-6 months of age. In males the testosterone levels increase around 4 months of age and generally reach their maximum at around 10 months of age. These levels then drop to adult male levels by 18 months of age.
Adolescence is kind of like our human teenage years, we think we know everything and will display an array of behaviours up and down during this period.
Adolescence is a very difficult time for both dog and owner, owners get worried about changes in behaviour which totally impacts the dog's behaviour and you can start this awful cycle between dog and human, where quite often the human is reinforcing the unwanted behaviour without even knowing it.
I had this very problem with moses, he hit adolescence with a bang and decided he loved to run off to meet every person at every park, we had a bad association one day at one of our regular walking destinations when Moses was shouted at by a jogger and I was screamed at when moses was just going over to investigate. This paired with the new dog law made me nervous of walking him off lead near people. (He was never aggressive, never barked and never jumped up at anyone. I did what anyone would do and that was keeping him on a restricted short lead in fear of him being restricted by the dog warden for running over to and greeting someone at the park. Moses fed off my fear and it reinforced his behaviour. I am fortunate to be able to walk and socialise Moses with my staff and other dogs every day but this still had little impact when I was worried about what may happen.
Behaviours that you may see in dogs during adolescence and during human teenager years are pretty similar these include:
*Higher excitement levels (drinking at the park with their mates)
*Fight picking (arguing with everyone including themselves)
*Increased sensitivity to touch (don't even try to touch a teenager)
*Jumping more often (jumping from one idea to the next)
*Mouthing becomes harder (oh yes back chat and sarcasm start to appear)
*Humping behaviours are more frequent (sexual activity will increase)
*Marking behaviours can appear (glasses and cutlery appearing under the bed)
*Exploration behaviours will tend to greaten- dogs will wander off more and explore the world and won't recall (staying out all night and ignoring you when you speak to them)
*Regression in training (No suddenly means 'do as you please')
Claudia was fantastic to listen to and I learned that actually when you have an adolescent dog, keep the routine as normal as possible let them go through this period of change and embrace it and most importantly be there for the ride and keep going, it's only a small phase of your dog's life!
Adolescence doesn't need to last a life time if you embrace it and understand it from your dog's point of view. Keep teaching the basic commands and don't panic if they don't listen to you or display any odd behaviour. Provide them with lots of brain stimulation, exercise, teach them impulse control and let them be teenagers! Remembering your actions could make them reactive! Claudia actually mentioned that she does an adolescent class which has lead me to think that if any of our customers are reading this and nodding please get in touch maybe would could arrange a Heathers Pet Services adolescent party :) So we can help when you need us the most!
Blog about Dogs Series 3 - Todd - The Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Written by Heather Thomas
also known as Toddwodd, Todders, T-man, T-rex, Toddy
Ever known a dog to be scared of the moon? I wanted to tell you all about my first ever dog i had
book into my walks. Todd a lovely 9 year old staffie who still enjoys walks with us each week.
Todd came to me at about 1 year old after being at the Bristol cats and dogs home for a little while. His owners were looking for a dog and fell in love with him.
Todd was one of Alfies best pals; they spent many walks together and Todd generally looking after Alfie. They became very good friends and shared years of Great Dane meets and fun walks together.
Todd taught me all about retractable leads and how dangerous they are, one drizzly day I was walking him with Alfie at his local park in Arnos vale Bristol. Todd lives for rollies and zoomies; which is probably why he and Alfie got on so well! So Todd decided to do a zoomie then a rollie whilst on the retractable lead and took my right off my feet and into the mud. I have fallen over a few times in this job but this had to go down as the worst, I had mud right up my back onto my neck under my clothes and still had a full day of walking to do with no spare clothes. This also taught me to be prepared!!! There is now a team phrase that has stuck since this day "you are not a real dog walker unless you have fallen over in the mud" This day with Todd's help I became just that!
One walk with Todd the heavens opened and off he ran up a huge steep hill which I couldn't run up as fast, as much as I tried to keep up I literally had no chance especially with 2 other dogs in tow. I panicked, this was my very first experience of a dog ever running away in my care, and this probably should have frightened me enough for me to stop walking dogs. Anyway I am out of breath on the phone to his owners still trying to get up this hill toward his house. When I arrive at the top no sign of Todd. I run to his house and there he was sat on the doorstep looking at me as if to say 'what took you so long'.
Todd was the only house guest that ever slept in with the children, he loved their bedroom and felt happy and safe in there so whilst the children were babies in a cot Todd slept in with them, is it true what they say about staffies being nannies to children? Who knows... But Todd adored the babies and loved the nursery. Well unless there were any fireworks. Todd came into board one day just before bonfire night and the fireworks were awful that year. I actually ended up with 9 dogs on my bed at 11pm and they stayed there until the morning, I must have had about an inch of room as Alfie was one of the 9. Todd was really spooked easily by noises fireworks were not the only thing, the naughty bread maker at his home was so scary it had to go upstairs in a separate room and the moon would make him uneasy!
Todd used to be our honorary Dane at the southwest Dane meets I used to organise coming to quite a few he grew very fond of Danes since meeting Alfie. The Ashton court meet was the funniest 12 Great Danes and Todd somewhere amongst them, I think I still have a photo of this which I will share.
Just before the company had any staff I was pregnant with my first child Jacob and I will never forget this- each time I got pregnant and was around 20 weeks I would have someone with me to walk the dogs just in case and this one particular day Sue (my mum) and I walked at Paulton with gadget Gusto, Sammy, Alfie and Todd. Todd got a bee in his bonnet and legged it down the steep hill in timsbury, I could run very fast so both sue and I chased down the hill well I was more like waddling down the hill and then got to the bottom by the gate where Todd just stood looked at me and zoomed back to the top.... This was not a fun game and I remember it taking some time to get back up the hill toward the van.
Despite Todd's noise issues he still enjoyed his walks and outings to the beach with us and although hes 9 he still loves a good zoomie! Todd taught me many things and for this I am very grateful; thank you Todder's and owners for choosing me!
IMDT Conference : Sam Turner
Written by Heather Thomas
3 awesome days spent talking about everything dog with some
A few things I learned from the IMDT conference:
1) People in rescue do not get enough praise for what they do - these are amazing people that generally live, eat and breathe their work because the passion for caring is extreme!
2) I really could do with a Tania Chappelle in my life- Tania is IMDT problem solver/PA/Organiser. Tania spent most of the weekend making sure the event ran smoothly often solving problems for people during the 3 days.
3) Alison Martin from IMDT sleeps in a tent even when she's in a hotel room - I didn't actually find out why though!? If anyone does know why please get in touch via facebook
4) I now have Steve Mann's mobile number thanks to Nando Brown for putting it on his slide! I will now auction this number at the next Rescue dog show on the KONG- BOLA.
And last but not least........
5) Life is too fast paced, slow down, breath more and connect with the people you love humans or animals.
Besides all the above I learned once again that being in the IMDT is like being part of a lovely family of like minded dog people! The passion installed to each and every member comes directly from the top, thank you Steve for having the courage to start this awesome family and to be able to share your time and passion with us.
Sam Turner spoke about canine body awareness, anybody that comes to our puppy classes will know that we do not only train dogs to do basic obedience but we train dogs about proprioception or body awareness. It is vital for a happy healthy pooch that they learn about their body's and use their muscles in the correct ways.
Sam spoke about her classes which are called dog gym, just like us humans dogs need to learn to strengthen their core muscles whilst they are growing. Puppy gym and proprioception courses have exercises that teach body awareness and also contribute to mental development. But it can also help with muscle strength, stamina, balance, coordination, confidence and concentration.
Body awareness exercises are great to practice with puppies as bones actually need pressure to grow and develop well (Low intensity whilst they are still growing). Making this a great way to stimulate your puppy, keep them healthy and teach them whilst they cannot have so much exercise due to their growth plates. So for example a puppy walking on different surfaces and textures will teach them the life skills, help to develop different muscles for all the different floors it may come across in its life.
In our puppy classes we use different textures; wobble boards, poles, bubble wrap, Laminate, carpet and raised platforms for the puppies to investigate and manoeuvre their bodies across.
To improve coordination you can use platforms for your dogs to walk along bearing in mind their size, age and energy to ensure you are using appropriate equipment for each individual.
To Improve your dog's balance you can do use a wobble-board, platforms or cushions. This helps with their core strengthening using deeper but smaller muscle groups. The balance should never be forced, keep the sessions short and go at your dogs pace, size, age and breed. Remembering that puppy's growth plates don't close until later in their development..
Body awareness isn't just for puppies adult dogs would enjoy and benefit from all of the body awareness training too.
Sam Turner was a fantastic speaker at the conference and it was a pleasure to meet her during the 3 days. I'm pretty sure that we will be seeing her again as we investigate more into "Puppy Gym". For more information visit her website http://clickerfun.nl/sam-turner/
Blog about Dogs Series 2- Gadget and Gusto
Written by Heather Thomas
Gadgetini Panini and Gusito macchito
The phone rang, induction date was set... Lovely; 2 new boys for my daily dog walks. I arrived at the
house and was greeted with a red Kong on my lap. 2 beautiful litter brother Springer's gadget and
gusto we stood in front of me.
I had been working self employed for about 6 months at this stage. The boy's owner quickly explained that they could be tricky and must be walked separately. She followed on by saying they pull and are not that social with other dogs. Wow i thought excited but worried all at the same time. The next day i turned up for their first walk with my boy Alfie just 8 months at the time gusto barked and growled and then turned into a heap on the pavement and gadget just growled. The owner and i looked on with worry, Alfie was worried too... there i was on a main road with 3 dogs that didn't get on... what on earth was i thinking?! Anyway loaded the woofs into the car separately and off we went to Wills Bridge. Armed with a ball on the rope and treats i wondered up the hill to a clearing where i thought it best to let the boys off lead. Backwards and forwards the boys came running giving me the ball back each time, the hour flew by.... this was my first walk with gadget and gusto and little did i know they would still be walking with me and our dog walking team some 9 years later.
Gadget and gusto were 2 when i took them on; they were litter brothers that grew up together. Gusto was at Langford for some time as he had a grass seed in his lung whilst they were younger and then they boys fought once he returned. Many behaviourists came and went during the early walking days but the fights just continued. Gadget and Gusto although had the odd fight they really enjoyed a good play too. I wanted to write a little bit about some of our comical walks in the early days.....
Before sue (my mum) started working for us she accompanied me for one of my days out with the dogs, this was the first time she met the boys, we were dragged all the way to wills bridge mill and just when we thought our hands and arms would drop off we could let them off lead and actually enjoy a walk! Both boys covered in fox and soaking wet it was time to go for a drag back up the hill to their house.
One day we went to our usual walking spot gadget came back clutching something in his mouth, i will never forget this day as he got closer i could see he had an animal leg in his mouth, gusto wanted the high value item and both gusto and I spent about 15 minutes chasing gadget trying to get the leg from his mouth, gadget eventually switched it for a ball then gusto picked it up and off he went, the knee joint now flapping around whilst he was carrying it YUK! I let them play with it for sometime before managing to exchange it for treats and a ball sometime later. I then picked it up with a dog poo bag and ended up carting it around in the van with me for a few hours before home! The boys loved to swim and each day they would have a paddle at the local spa but picture this day pouring with rain soaked through before even getting to the walk then gadget decides to take a dip in the stream. Little did he know it was flowing so fast and the banks were so wet and muddy he would be unable to get out? Crossing 2 lots of barbed wire now with holes in my jeans i jumped into the stream which was up to my waist and rescued gadget.
Gusto loved to eat and roll in poo in the early days and he had crossed a stream through 2 fields to go roll in a field with fresh cow pat. Panicked call to owner she came running down to the field to help retrieve him, we couldn't see him at first and were asking lots of passersby if they had seen him, we kept getting the same answer each time, "Springer you say- hes sat over watching the tree surgeons in the other field." Off we went and to our amusement there he was just sat there in the field literally watching the trees being cut down. So funny now when you look back on it but not so funny at the time.
Gadget and Gusto quickly got socialised and i enjoyed watching them grow from boys to men, many vet trips through the years from war wounds to bee stings (of which gusto seemed to get many). Gadget and gusto were often used during the early staff training days and behaved beautifully every time! They were the best dogs for training as you really needed to keep your wits about you. Gadget and Gusto came to stay with me for the first time some years after i started to walk them and have always been welcomed back ever since. They are great house guests. Gadget is the only dog that has always emptied the toy box as a welcoming gift, then he likes for you to hold each toy up until he chooses the one he wants. Gadget is also our local water inspector often tipping up all the bowls and tossing them into the kitchen to be refilled. Fresh water for the boys, unless there was a trough. Now this was one of their specialities every walk it was like a hunt to find the trough after engorging on lots of poo and grabbing some eau du fox poo perfume! The states the boys went home in sometimes were hilarious luckily their owner was very understanding about it all! We did have to use the hose shampoo and often ketchup every single day!
Gadget was always quite special and he was one of the only dogs that absolutely adored Marley I've not ever seen gadget react toward a dog as he did with Marley literally throwing himself at him every time he saw him. They quickly became good pals and enjoyed many walks together. When Marley left us gadget missed him on our walks.
Gadget and Gusto now have a house mate called Harvey and have shared their lives with Sammy one of my foster labs. The boys still enjoy walks with us well more like potters these days as they are now 13 years old. I could literally write a book on these two but will leave it there for now, i am sure they will pop up again over the course of these blogs! Thanks for letting me share your life journey boys you have taught me loads!!!
Dogs Walkers Blog Part 2