Jul 082013

Link to a quick video from our morning adventure:  Out for a Walk

I like to take Fancy and Ike, my “big” little dogs around the two mile neighborhood loop at least once a day and morning is preferable for their walk.  They think they are out for a hunt and it’s all business to them from start to finish.  After the exercise, their day is much more relaxed as is mine.

I am fortunate to live in an area where we can walk with the dogs safely.  We have leash laws and our Animal Control facility is diligent about picking up loose or lost dogs and helping them to find their way back home, occasionally with a little reprimand for the owners.  Plus, our traffic is minimal and we can make the loop with very few stops if we time it right.

Today my thoughts were totally random, as they typically are, but as we were walking I had my headphones on and had chosen a station on my Iphone from the TuneIn Radio app.  I don’t know why this appeals to me, but I think it is fun to listen to stations from around the country and this morning the call was 96.3 The Wolf. When I kept hearing “Anchorage”, I thought..hmmm…that’s not far from me, maybe 15 miles.  But, when they gave the high temp today as 63, I realized, the music in my ear was being broadcast from Alaska which was a surprise.  Isn’t technology amazing?  I know that is a trite saying, but it really is amazing what information and media we have so easily at our discretion.  The younger generation expects it all to work, the older generation is still amazed that it does.

The pooches and I had a pleasant walk with the sun starting to shine after several days of gray skies summer and rain.  The dogs probably could hear the beat of the country music from my ear buds and we were in step in more ways than just our feet.  They didn’t care that a human + computer thousands of miles away programmed the music itinerary for this morning, but it gave me random food for thought.  Walking for exercise and relaxation is good, life is good and dogs in step make it better.

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 Posted by at 10:05 pm
Jun 272013

easy walkOver the years, I have walked many miles with my own dogs on leash and also with others of all sizes and breeds during the years that I owned a pet sitting business.  I found there are no absolutes to easy leash walking but experience has taught me what works best for me and mine.  I want to start with the ones that I found do NOT work well.

Extend leashes have their purpose but that is not for walking a dog for exercise.  I do use them for little puppies in my yard that are learning potty habits with no other dogs around but that is about it.  Extend leashes are dangerous for lots of reasons.  The leverage a dog has when they “hit” the end of the long line amplifies the pressure on their neck for injury to them and the pressure on the person’s shoulder as well as a risk for fall.  Even more dangerous is when the dog catches a finger in the rope and then decides to pull or when they run around another dog or person or your own legs with the rope extended.  A cut is the least that can happen, and a rope around another dogs leg or even neck could be a disaster.  There is also the psychological aspect of the extended leash to the dog who now thinks they are the leader.  How many times have you been for a walk and seen a dog at the end of their extend leash pulling their owner down the street?  Sadly, I’ve even been that person in my early years of owning dogs.

Harnesses that have a clip on the back of the neck or shoulders also have negatives.  While they protect the dog’s neck from the injury of pulling and are good for puppies, they increase the “need” to pull by creating that negative force which I call the “sled dog” mentality.

Collars are meant to use for identification and are important, but unless fitted properly can slip right over the dog’s head when walking.  I’ve seen many dogs do a little twist about and slide right out of their collar and dash away which was a nightmare in my first year as a pet sitter.

Slip  chains…just too dangerous for the dog.  When the chain tightens, the dog can sustain damage to their neck and esophagus.  These were the standard for a long time and trainers told us to snap the chain to get the dogs attention.  Now we know that may have left permanent damage.  Plus, if a dog pulls, they are literally choking themselves.

Pinch collars have their place and I have in the past used them for dogs that just are too strong for me and refuse not to pull.  Do I like them?  No.  Do I use them any more?  No.  There are other solutions in most cases.  While not nearly as dangerous as a slip chain that tightens as the dog pulls, the negative with a pinch collar is when the dog you are walking sees another dog or person and leans toward the dog he is meeting..he gets a pinch.  In the dog’s mind, the pinch was caused by the otherwise friendly dog and can and often does lead to on leash aggression because of the association.  My German Shepherd who has been gone a few years was a very friendly dog but I walked her using a pinch collar.  Over time, she became very dog aggressive on our walks and I now believe the pinch was part of the cause.

So…what should we use when walking our dog to keep them safe and to help them learn not to pull?  What has worked the very best for me are the Easy Walk Harness and the Gentle Leader Head Halter.  Note here–I find them periodically for a very low price, as low as a third of the regular price, on Amazon under the Used tab but coming directly from Amazon with free shipping.  I’m guessing these are items that have been returned so they cannot advertise them as new.

My trainer leans toward the Gentle Leader and encourages everyone to use them, especially those with medium to larger dogs.  They do work miracles but it takes time because the dogs hate them at first and they have to be fitted properly.  They work much like a halter on a horse and once the dog is acclimated to the little strap over the nose, it’s all good.  I use one on Fancy, my larger mini Aussie because she has notoriously been a puller when excited.  First trip out she was aggravated by the nose strap, but we just kept on walking.  I didn’t acknowledge her pawing at it and by the time we had walked a mile and she had learned to stay with my pace so there was no pressure, she walked perfectly.

My two smaller dogs, Rosie and Swagger, do best on the Easy Walk Harness because their little noses are small.  The harness has the leash clip on their front chest and if they pull, the setup of the harness actually turns their body toward me instead of creating leverage against me.  It works.

Ike, my old male, and Izzy walk just fine with a flat martingale collar.  A martingale collar is a flat collar with an extra loop that stays loose around the dogs neck that only tightens if they pull which those two don’t.  I only use the collar for a dog that never pulls.

It is so much more enjoyable to walk with a dog that isn’t pulling and I think the trick is to evaluate what you are using to lead them and how their doggy minds might be reacting as you walk.  And, of course, be sure you have a 4-6 ft leather leash, with a couple of knots, for the comfort of your hands.  The leather gets soft with time like a comfy shoe 🙂  Have fun, walk more!



May 082013
Dogs in Training

Dinner at Selenas

There are so many ways to train our dogs, some formal and some quite informal.  In fact, every moment we spend with them, we are training in some way because we are constantly sending them signals and they are responding.

I train formally at Almost Home Boarding and Training on Dorsey Lane in Louisville.  Since I have five dogs, it’s difficult for me to decide who gets to go to classes, but Izzy, my little blue merle girl is often chosen.  Just because.  Just because she so loves to work.  Just because she needs to work.  Just because she has a fear factor that I am working hard to resolve with her.

Once a week, a group of five owners and five dogs of all sizes and personalities meet for “class” led by Almost Home owner and APDT certified trainer, Katie Peckenpaugh.  It is an ongoing class unlike most that are limited to a number of sessions.  I have been a member of the group for a few months, but others have been meeting  for much longer.  We have worked on a variety of activities to stimulate the dogs to think and be a partner with us.  On some nights, we practice basic obedience like long sits or stays and recall exercises using both verbal and non verbal signals.  Other times, we are greeted with a Rally or Agility course to run through.  The variety is fun for the dogs and for us.

Since the weather is now nicer, the last two meetings have been outdoor adventures with our dogs.  Last week, we all met at a local walking trail and worked on heel exercises, keeping our dogs focused on us while meeting other dogs, people and even children romping and playing.  The treat, however, came last night when one of our members arranged for us to meet at a local restaurant, Selenas, for dinner with our dogs on the patio.  What a pleasure on a nice Spring evening to eat a delicious meal and enjoy visiting with new friends while being accompanied by our fur babies!

Dog training at its best is evaluating our dog and our interactions with our dog and giving them the opportunity to succeed.  Why do I so enjoy this?  Just because.  Just because I love to work with my dog.  Just because I need to work with my dog to build a better relationship.  Just because I also sometimes have factors that I need to resolve which affect how my dog responds and the quality of their life.

Note on picture:  Izzy is in trainer’s lap rather than under the table and one owner is our photographer so not pictured.  The group consists of Izzy, a mini Aussie; Naylan, a Corgi;  Sam, a Collie; Sonny, an Aussie; and Claire, a Doberman.



 Posted by at 9:28 pm
Aug 192012

Blue skies, puffy white clouds, temperatures only approaching 80 degrees on a Sunday afternoon–perfect day to take a dog for a walk, which is exactly what I did.  I had to draw straws, and since Ike, my older male, seems to be the last one chosen, he got the walk today!  Nice music with a good beat in my earphones, breeze in my hair, dog nose to the wind, bliss!

All said to review a product that is one of my favorites, The Buddy System Hands Free Leash, available on Amazon or perhaps a store near you.  It’s a nice adjustable and comfortable fit around my waist and the dog’s part of the leash attaches very easily to my part with a strong clip.  Of course, it depends on your dog, but Ike has a very nice heel so I keep the length of the leash where he’s right beside my left knee and AWAYYYYYYY we go!  With the Hands Free leash, I have a hand to adjust my music on my phone and another to hold my Tervis Water Bottle, a gift from my husband for my birthday 🙂

 Posted by at 10:44 pm
Jun 082012

Since the puppies are with their new owners, except Swagger, it’s time for us to get my other dogs back into their exercise routine.  Exercise is so important for a happy and healthy dog and for a healthy and happy human.

It’s easy to do passive exercise with Izzy and Fancy, because they are disc dogs and will play until they can run no more.  However, there’s more to exercise than running after a disc in the back yard.

We have a 4 mile walking/running/biking trail just down the street from us and as of this week, I promised myself and especially Ike, Fancy and Rosie that we would be there once a day.  Besides burning calories for myself, the benefits to walking on a trail are numerous.

First, dogs need to walk on a loose leash beside you and that takes practice.  In my younger life, I thought an extend leash was the way to go and wondered why my dogs pulled until they choked themselves on a walk.  Now I know they had not learned that we were partners in the walk rather than them being the head honcho and me the underling. Some dogs learn this much more easily than others, but I’ve found that a pocket full of super yummy treats to pop in their mouth when they’re doing it right soon teaches them the reward of staying with me.  Loose leash is not “heeling” as we do in obedience competition, but does mean they walk at our side in a relaxed fashion.

Second, our dogs have to learn to make way for the other walkers with wheels: bicycles, little children on their trikes, and skaters.  Herding dogs like to herd, of course, so they have to practice ignoring those folks that buzz by us at top speed.  You remembered…a pocket full of treats, and add a clicker on your wrist if you think to bring it along.  Bike passing, say pup’s name, they look at you instead of the bike, click and pop a treat.  It won’t take long, until they are begging for bikes to come by.

And, of course, walkers with other dogs.  That one is not so easy because some of those “other” dogs aren’t as well behaved as ours.  If I’m out with more than one dog, I don’t typically do any greeting on the trail, it just turns into a mishmash of dog tails and is too risky.  It doesn’t always work, but I keep my dogs by my side as much as I can, do lots of singsong talking, pop treats and keep walking.  If you hear me singing Happy Birthday to my dogs, it doesn’t mean they have a cake with candles waiting at home.  It is a happy song after all, and gets their attention and gives me a more relaxed feeling so I don’t panic when I see a 120 pound Mastiff walking my way on the trail straining against the owner’s leash, and of course, the owner has on earphones and is not noticing their dog’s body language.  Happy birthday to you….pop a treat…happy birthday to you…pop a treat.  You get the idea.

Izzy got her dose of Frisbee tonight with Swagger running along behind her (so darn cute) and the other dogs got their walk on the trail.  They are relaxed and I’m relaxed.  What a good way to spend a cool Spring evening!

 Posted by at 3:30 am

What to do with your puppy while you work

 Dog Walking, Pet Sitting, Uncategorized  Comments Off on What to do with your puppy while you work
Nov 262011

As I was planning my exit from the high school classroom in retirement, I was also planning my next chapter in my life. Obviously, I have always had dogs and when we left the farm and moved to a neighborhood, I no longer had my parents nearby to watch my dogs when they couldn’t go along. I tried the boarding scenario, and I just wasn’t happy with the environment in that setting, even in the best situation.  That led me to a notice on the bulletin board at my vet’s office for a lady that did in home pet sitting. I made an appointment for her to come to meet us and because I’m big on first impressions, I decided she wasn’t what I was looking for.

That was my “Eureka” moment and I determined that I had the qualifications to start my own pet sitting business when I retired. My  teaching background gave me experience for the business side and my experience with animals made the job a perfect match.  I started researching online and found a plethora of information with my best resource being a website and group forum at petsits.com.  I got my LLC established, opened my bank account, created my simple webpage, developed all my paperwork and all I needed were pet clients to be a legitimate business.

Obviously, I started slowly and admittedly it took a couple of years to get a client base.  Because of my dogs, I had good relationships with the five vets in my area and before long, word of mouth, my web presence, and some print advertising started to pay off.  This is my fifth year in business and with two part time employees to help out when I want days off and during the busiest times, I am very comfortable with my client base and have almost as much as I can handle.  Admittedly, I always welcome new clients because occasionally one of my regulars moves away or loses their pet and it’s nice to have another one to fill the spot.

This is leading up to my caption, “what to do with your puppy while you work”!  I only do in home pet sitting which means when my clients travel, I make scheduled visits during the day to their house to care for the animals.  The other service I provide is mid-day visits for folks who work long hours.  Depending on the situation, I take the dogs for a walk and give them playtime in a fenced yard.  This is perfect for my clients (and for those of you) with puppies because I can exercise them, let them potty, plus do a little basic obedience training so the pup is ready to nap until their owner gets home.

Check out my webpage at www.puppyluvpetsitters.com and to find a reputable pet sitter in your area search on www.petsits.com or www.petsit.com.  That might be the answer to moving your puppy through it’s potty training and adolescent years into being a dependable adult dog.

 Posted by at 1:34 am