First Steps on the Beach

This year my partner and I decided to take Daisy on holiday with us as we wanted to include her in our getaway. She had never been to the beach before so it was exciting to think of how she would react. We had a great journey down to Cornwall, with no traffic incidents. Just one stop off, and we arrived at the caravan. Daisy was already excited, wanting to sniff everywhere. I kept her on the lead until she had settled a bit so we could unpack properly and be sure that she wasn’t causing mayhem.

On the first day, we had a lazy morning before heading to the beach. We let Daisy offlead and she sprang into action. She didn’t quite know what to do with herself. It really made me smile and chuckle and if you know me, you’ll know that isn’t something I do often.

We took a ‘safe stick’ toy to keep Daisy focussed on us as she tends to wander off if left to her own devices. She absolutely loved it, and she even swam in the sea to get to it. Daisy has never been in the water more than paddling in a puddle, so I was beaming with pride. To stop her getting bored, we put the toy away now and then so it kept her interested. I was really impressed with her recall as there were so many distractions – dogs chasing balls, children with ice creams and seagulls to name a few.

Now the tell tale signs of Daisy getting overtired are: her hearing turns off and she gets into mischief. This was demonstrated very well when she decided to scale a rock face to explore and then couldn’t get back down. She ran off along a concrete bit out to sea, if she had put one foot wrong she would have been straight in the sea, which would have scared her quite a bit due to its deepness. So I climbed up to her and brought her back to safety at which point I clipped her lead back on! We decided to leave so we could be sure she wouldn’t get into trouble again.

Once home, she slept the rest of the evening. I think I can say for certain that Daisy enjoyed her first steps on the beach, and I can’t wait for more adventures.

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On Community, Pride and Safety

My morning walk with Daisy has prompted me to write out of anger, sadness and a question as to how change can be achieved. Let me paint you a picture for context. The area in which I live is primarily populated with social housing and ex-council housing. The area in itself is lovely, with plenty of green grass, and a choice of 4 woods within a 5 minute walk! The people are generally decent and friendly, and usually quite helpful. At the moment, there are a lot of building works as the housing associations work to improve flats and houses. This is great as it has greatly improved the appearance and feel of the area. But (there had to be a but!), along with this change, has come rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish.

It wasn’t until I got Daisy and took her for walks, that I really appreciated rubbish-free ground. I started noticing more and more the extent of the problem and it evoked lots of emotions. Not only does it look awful, but I was more aware that the rubbish created a safety risk to dogs, especially the ones that like to scavenge and wander!

Back to today. Daisy is very quick at spotting food on the ground, and before I knew it, she had a cooked rib bone in her mouth. Now, if it was anything other than a bone or chocolate, I wouldn’t be too worried, but I knew I couldn’t just let her gobble it up. Luckily she gave it up without too much fuss, just a couple of growls. Looking over my shoulder I saw a pile of food in the middle of the grass, like someone had just dumped the leftovers instead of using a bin. At this point, I should point out that there was a line of wheely bins right next to the pile. I rolled my eyes and carried on.

Just outside the woods, there are two rows of houses facing each other. I looked in disbelief at the amount of rubbish outside their houses, on the grass, leading into the woods. I felt angry. My thoughts were along the lines of ‘why, just why?’, ‘why can’t people be bothered to use their bins!?’, ‘my dog is at risk because of people’s apathy and laziness’. As I went into the woods and walked round, my feelings then changed to sadness. What was it that makes people treat their homes and area like that? Why is there no pride? I was trying to put myself in their shoes and think about how they might see things. I’m afraid I didn’t come up with much.

I’m sure there are many factors that contribute to littering and lack of pride in homes and community. I don’t pretend to know or understand what goes on in people’s homes or minds. I could stay angry at the individual people for littering the ground and areas in which I walk my dog. While anger is important in fuelling motivation, I feel there is something else going on at a wider level. Where did community go? What would it take to give people a sense of pride and concern about their community and homes? I could go and pick up all the litter, the santa signs, the food, the polystyrene, the deflated footballs. But that wouldn’t help anyone. People need to be empowered and motivated. Community needs to become important again.

I will leave you with your thoughts and feelings, and I will continue to ponder the issue. Whether I come up with anything remains to be seen. Meanwhile, you can make small differences in your area, make sure you throw your rubbish in the bin, don’t be too proud to pick up litter you see on your walks, and if you’re that way inclined, challenge people when you see them littering. If you want to go even further, why not start a community project, or gather a few friends and residents to get litter picking in your area, maybe ask people why they think littering happens and what they think would help.

Judging others is part of the human condition, we can’t help it. Use it to help, not condemn and who knows, change may happen.

On Wheat and Flour

Exciting things have been happening recently. Along with family, we are starting a business selling dog treats that are biologically appropriate for dogs. It is very important to me that the correct ingredients are used and that they won’t harm the dogs in any way. I make my own treats and have been using coconut flour as it is grain free and goes a long way. After reading Jean Dodd’s book, Canine Nutrigenomics, it highlighted even more the dangers of using gluten based flours for dogs. So, I started researching about other flours to see what was out there. I came across this link: http://www.wheat-free.org/wheat-free-gluten-free-alternative-flours.html. Now I always like to look at lots of different sources of information so I get a balanced view. I don’t take anything at face value. It amazed me just what they can make flour out of!

After much searching for products and looking at prices, I went for the Aramanth Flour. I like the fact that it is high in protein, however I will use other flours for dogs that need a low protein diet for health reasons. One thing I have learnt from trying different flours, is that you need to do lots of practicing! Not all flours react the same when added to other ingredients. Coconut flour, for example, is used sparingly as it soaks up a lot of the moisture.

So what exactly is the problem with wheat based flours? The following is an extract from Canine Nutrigenomics:

Gluten is what holds bread together and makes it rise. Gluten is linked to a whole host of serious health conditions in people and dogs…But your dog doesn’t have to have wheat sensitive enteropathy to suffer from the harmful effects of gluten. A less obvious, low-grade autoimmune reaction to gluten can trigger a wildfire of chronic inflammation that affects every organ system in the body, including the brain, heart, joints and digestive tract (Hyman 2013). It can even create an immune response that causes subclinical brain inflammation, resulting in age-related dementia (Perricone, 2010).

While this is only a snippet, this is one of the reasons why I choose not to feed my dog gluten based flours or gluten based food at all.

Do your own research and come up with your own conclusions.

For more information, go to www.thepossiblecanine.com or http://drjeandoddspethealthresource.tumblr.com/

I will be doing a series on different ingredients in the near future, so check back soon!

To view our products and our articles, go to www.holistichounds.org.uk

On Worms and Worming

These days cancer is a huge word, and for most people, it is a reality they think about over their lifetimes. So, what does that have to do with worms and worming? It is well aklowledged that in the case of breast cancer that there is a gene that makes the chances of getting cancer very high, and some people choose to have their breast/s removed to give them the best chance to live a healthy life. However the average person doesn’t take anti-cancer drugs or have regular chemotherapy just in case they develop cancer. If you apply this principal to worming, it brings in to question the practice of worming dogs every 3 months (on average).

It can be difficult to diagnose worms in dogs because they live inside the body. There are symptoms to look out for:

  • Weight loss despite eating usually or more than normal
  • Itching around the anus or tail area
  • Scooting along on the bum
  • Poor looking coat and eyes
  • A pot belly appearance
  • Diarrhoea
  • Coughing (lungworms)
  • Vomitting
  • Visible thread-like things in faeces

Vets recommend that we worm dogs about every 3 months to prevent infestation. However, if you look on the packets, the indications are for active infestations. I have talked to vets and nutritionists who believe that it isn’t appropriate or healthy to worm dogs “just in case”. It would be like taking a paracetamol in the morning just in case you get a headache that day. This does not mean, however, that you shouldn’t worm your dog. In my research I came across wormcount.com. They send you a kit, and you send a sample of your dogs faeces to them. They then give you a report about the amount and type of worms, if any, that the dog has. If this shows an infestation, then it would be advisable to treat with a high quality medicine, or alternative natural method. If the report shows the dog has no worms, then it is not necessary to give your dog a tablet full of chemicals for no reason.

Some may argue that prevention is better than cure, and that it is better than the dogs getting worms. To this, I say that while prevention is important, it is also important to be mindful of what you are giving your dog and the reasons that you give it. I am hesitant to give my dog medications that may or may not cause unwanted side effects. Administering regular wormers is much more likely to create medication-resistant worms, and you are giving highly potent chemicals without knowing whether the dog needs them or not.

If you are looking for an alternative to the traditional method of worming, it is advisable to get in touch with a holistic vet. A healthy, balanced diet, such as a raw food diet, gives the dog a stronger immune system to avoid parasitic infestations. If you already feed a home-prepared diet, then you can think about adding raw pumpkin seeds (crushed) and garlic (in small amounts) to the diet as these deter worms from breeding. DE (Diatomaceous Earth) can also be used, as long as it is food grade. The supplier should be able to tell you the dosage information. Bear in mind that inhalation of DE can be dangerous. Chamomile and pineapple can also be effective in preventing and eliminating roundworms and whipworms.

I am not telling you that you shouldn’t deworm your dogs, it is simply something to think about, and get researching about. The more informed you are, the more you can make appropriate and healthy decisions on behalf of your dog.

If you want more information on holistic treatments or worming, these links may be helpful:

Are we lungworm aware or lungworm advertising aware? by Nick Thompson, holistic vet

Herbal options for your dog’s worms

Books on herbal medicine

Food grade DE, facts and information

Top Tips When Choosing a Day Care

These days doggie day care is becoming more and more popular as people want to provide the best for their dog when they are out at work. I know that for myself it is difficult to find someone that you trust to look after your dog. There are things that you need to look out for when choosing which day care to look after your dog.

Here are a few of  my tips:

  • Check out the website and facebook page and get a feel for what goes on. If there are things that make you feel uncomfortable, then move on to the next one. Look at people’s comments or reviews.
  • It is important to look at the about us section as that can give you an idea of what they do, but also about what approach they take to dogs and their behaviour.
  • Look out for words like force free, positive reinforcement, boundaries. Take note if anything seems ambiguous. It may be that they simply didn’t write everything, or it may be that they don’t want you to know what really goes on. You can always ask.
  • It is a good idea to know whether you want your dog to go somewhere small such as an individual/small business, or somewhere more commercial where they employ staff.
  • Make sure to go and visit the place before you book them in.
  • Take notice of the general condition of the house/building and the surrounding areas.
  • Take note of how many dogs there are, where they are and how they appear.
  • With groups of dogs that don’t know each other, it is very important that they aren’t left unsupervised either outside or inside to play or wander around. Disagreements can quickly escalate.
  • If dogs are to be left unsupervised, make sure they they are separated by stair gates/doors in small groups and that food or toys are not left around.
  • Make a note of how many dogs there are in the amount of space. For example, if there are 15 dogs in one room, then that would ring alarm bells.
  • Ask about whether shock/spray/choke collars are used as some do use them.
  • If they crate the dogs, ask how long they are crated and why.

The MOST IMPORTANT things to ask about or look for:

  • CONTRACT – Make sure they offer you a contract and read ALL the terms before signing.
  • INSURANCE – Ask to look at their insurance, they shouldn’t have a problem with that.
  • VACCINATIONS – Whether you vaccinate you dogs or not, a day care license requires the company to ask for proof of vaccination. If they don’t ask, they either forgot, or they may be hiding something.
  • BEHAVIOUR – Your dog’s behaviour can’t lie. If there are any changes to behaviour that you are concerned about, first get a vet check. But also ask yourself whether the day care may not be suitable.

Usually your gut instinct will inform your decision. But sometimes, people can be lovely and the place look really good, but then once you get started, you start to see  things aren’t as they seem.

You can never be too careful!

Being Social

One of the most important in a dog’s life is the opportunity to socialise with other dogs. The consequences of not introducing your dog to other dogs can be great including aggression borne out of fear. The dog training company Daisy and I attend has recently started running social walks once a month. In my opinion, this is a great idea for getting the dogs used to being around other dogs, and it also allows dogs that aren’t allowed off lead to have social time with dogs.

When we expose our dogs to different experiences, they become more confident and their self esteem grows. This can help in preventing fear-aggression responses and help make them more resilient to change and stress. Your dog will often respond in a way that is a product of your interaction together and your responses to the environment. So next time you are out and about, think about how you are responding to the world around you.

It makes me so happy to see Daisy having fun and chasing other dogs to play. On the days that I worry about being a bad owner, I try to remember the good things I do, the videos help as a visual aid.

Socialisation doesn’t just happen in puppyhood and it is never too late to begin, especially if you have rescued your dog. The more you dog is around other dogs and people, the more they will learn/

I would really recommend socialising your dogs regularly and as early as possible if you have a puppy. The more your dog can be around other the dogs, the more that they learn acceptable behaviour, and the more they can have fun while playing!

Daisy’s First Day at Daycare

Today was Daisy’s first day at her new daycare. Unfortunately the one she went to before ended as the woman is branching out into training and 1-2-1 help for behavioural problems. This is great as I think she will be fab, but it meant I had to find a new place for Daisy to go to. With all the warnings about being careful when choosing the right daycare, it took me time for feel confident in my choice. Along with that, I wanted to make sure that where she was going was a place that was friendly and force free.

So today was her first proper day. She got dropped off in the morning and I went to pick her up in the evening. I went in and the dogs awaiting their lifts were in crates. They let Daisy out, and she wagged her bum and her tail, she was so excited to see me. She bombed around the building while I asked how she had been and settled payment. She had played with the small dogs, big dogs and the puppies. She had been a lovely dog and had even settled in the office while people worked away. This I was proud of as Daisy is not one to just lie about, especially when there are other dogs to play with.

I got her home and it was like she’d been away for ages. She helped herself to the throw on the sofa and my clothes. I got her dinner ready and put her in the hall. I put her food in a Kong and leave her on her own for about twenty minutes while she eats and settles down. This was after great advice regarding Daisy’s separation anxiety. Food is a great way to tackle separation anxiety, and even better for a food motivated dog. The idea is that Daisy associates being on her own with getting yummy food, and therefore comes to feel that is a good thing to be on her own for a bit. It has been a long process, but she is a lot better than she used to be!

On Puggles

I have been researching breeds for a project I am doing at the moment. Along with this, I have also seen programs on the TV about puppies. I can plainly see that it is very important to research breeds and the needs of a puppy, and that if this isn’t done, it can lead to negative consequences for both the family and the dog.

Saying this, you would expect that I did a lot of research before picking Daisy. You would be wrong.

Daisy is a Puggle, which is a cross between a Beagle and a Pug. if I had looked more into the personalities of these breeds, then i would have been better prepared for what I would be letting myself in for. When I was choosing a dog, I wanted a smallish dog, who wasn’t sedentary, but wasn’t too energetic. I wanted a companion who I could share life with, but not a dog who was so much effort that I would be stressed. I looked for a long time for the right dog. I visited a few and after a while, I went to see Daisy.

I had decided I didn’t want a young puppy as I wasn’t experienced enough, and I didn’t want an old dog as I wanted a long life with it. Daisy was 7 months old. When I visited, she was bouncy and wanted to play. She showed that she could do basic obedience tasks and was crate-trained. She was obedient and a right character. I loved her already. I wanted the best for her. So I took her home.

Since then, my life has changed in so many ways. I have realised that puggle’s need a lot of stimulation and exercise. Daisy could go for hours on a walk if she could. She isn’t content on resting on the sofa. She always needs to be doing something. This has been both good and bad. I struggle with my mental health and I worry that I don’t give her enough stimulation. I don’t have enough energy to keep up with her and I find this difficult. I often feel frustrated and wish she would lie down. But then I look at what she has brought me. I get out and about, I enjoy the walks we have. I enjoy playing with her and her funny quirks. I love her character and her affection. She is well behaved (most of the time) and easily trainable. Thanks to her, I have learned so much about the world of dogs and had more opportunities that I ever would have thought.

While I wouldn’t change her for the world, I can’t stress enough the importance of reading up on breeds and how to look after and train a puppy or dog. This will ensure you get the right dog for your lifestyle and that behavioural problems are less likely.

For more information on breeds and puppy tips see www.moderndoggroup.com