Watching dog behaviour, when you don’t have a dog

One of my fave dog walking spots

One of my fave dog walking spots

So our new house is a ten minute walk away from a beautiful country park, with lakes, woodland, open spaces…pure dog walking perfection! (Part of me is seriously considering taking on new clients, I just feel so at home there and I’d love for a couple of dogs to benefit from it too, but we still don’t know how long we’re staying here for). Usually when I’m in that kind of environment, I’m with a dog, so my focus is on him as well as the dogs around me. Now I’m without a dog, I find myself just watching them.

Now I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve taken a break from dogs that my ‘behaviour brain’ is taking over, but I’ve started to learn again. I ‘attended’ my second webinar by Sarah Whitehead recently, and have spotted a good illustrated body language book too. Sometimes I think not having a dog makes certain theories in dog behaviour clearer, as individuals can be so complex, your judgement becomes clouded when you keep referring to a particular dog in your mind. I’ve been thinking about how anthropomorphic we are with dogs too, and trying to understand why a dog would do such a thing rather than putting my own emotions upon them. In fact it has seemed a little easier, maybe because I don’t know them? Previously when I’d take on a new dog walking client for example, I’d be watching them, figuring out how they work. So why not try and read dogs in the park? How does he greet strangers? What do his vocalisations suggest? Is he nervous? What is his tail positioning? What commands do they have in place? Any signs of aggression? What are his play patterns? I’d really recommend it, especially switching off from your own dog, as there’s such a miscellany of behaviours you might see one that your dog doesn’t express very often, or even something that your dog does all the time, you just don’t notice it anymore. I’m sure you’d be surprised and inspired in some way.

Our new Country Park

Our new Country Park

Last week I watched a pair of inseparable Labradors in utter bliss in the water, and a couple of dainty little whippets hopped past too. Some things I’ve watched frustrate me, I’ve witnessed alot of people giving their dogs a ‘yank’ to correct them or allowing them to run to the end of their flexi lead and almost choke themselves *sigh*. But the majority has been nice, and our dog owning day will come…We have however, got a new family member, who I will introduce you all to soon! You can tell by the title of this post that he isn’t a dog, but he is asleep on my desk right now…

Dog walkers checklist

dog close up

My life consists of a lot of walking, and I was thinking at work this week that there’s a lot more to it than just ‘walking’. So here’s my own personal little list of dog walking essentials…

Pockets!
A comfortable waterproof coat with as many pockets as physically possible! I struggle on warmer days, as no coat means no pockets to cram! And I can honestly say I use everything that’s tucked away in my pockets, almost every day, poo bags, treats, keys, phones, gloves, dog whistle, the list goes on!

Treats & recall
I think this is automatic to some people, and not others. Feeding your dog whilst exercising it may seem contradictory, but treats can be a huge help. I’d say the main one is with recall. There’s some debate on whether you should reward your dog after every recall, even after its been learnt. I believe every recall is as important as the last, it is one of, if not the most important thing you will ever teach your dog. His safety, your safety and others around you, depends on it. Losing a dog is every dog owners worst nightmare, so why not reward him every time he returns?

Poo bags
Not the most glamorous point to make I know, but important none the less. Also, if you think you might need say, two, take four, or five! You never know when you might need them! Sometimes they split, sometimes your dog surprises you! Recently I caught a full one on a prickly branch…good job I had a spare!

Be prepared & act before your dog reacts
By this I just mean taking control, and being on the ball whilst out walking with your dog. If you see a cyclist or a cat ahead, that you know your dog will want to chase or freak out at, get ready as soon as you see it, rather than when you’re a metre away from it and about to be pulled over. I’ll give an example. A dog I walk at work is fantastic with the majority of other dogs, but there are certain dogs (usually small dogs) that she just does not want to interact with. If I see one approaching, I use treats to keep her by my side, calmly keep on walking, giving her praise, and we just sail past, with no uncomfortable confrontation. As we all know, certain situations can trigger a negative response in a dog, often caused by a previously bad experience. I won’t talk about this too much, as there’s so much to say on the subject, such as further training/desensitisation. I just mean being alert and taking action, (if possible) before anything has the chance to materialise. This week in fact, at work, I turned a corner (literally not metaphorically!) with the dog I was walking. Around the corner was another dog, which the two of us weren’t expecting, that let out a huge bark, and startled us both! Note to self: you never know what might be around the corner! Also, if you see a dog in the distance, that you’ve met before, knowing it is lead reactive or under training for example, help the owner out too, by not letting your dog get too close.

Food scan!
If you’re walking a food loving hound, this is a must, although not always possible if you’ve got a dog off-lead! I’ve come across some gross & bizarre food items on walks; moldy old bones, fish heads, chips, biscuits, jars of meat! I just wonder how these things get there…

Meet n’ greet
I know sometimes you might just want to walk, just you and the dog, but seeing as I spend my day with just dogs, (which by no means am I complaining!) it’s just nice to have some human interaction sometimes! Plus, everybody strangely knows everyone in the park! You’ll meet the relative of the lady you met at the vets, who is also your friends neighbour, who knows your aunty, through a breeder, who also walks at the same park!

Have fun & take photos!
Your dog may want to sniff every lamppost, stampede through any water, play chase with each dog he meets and roll several times in fox poop… and it’s called being a dog! Let him have his fun, and enjoy it with him. I’m still surprised at the number of people I see that walk 30 metres in front of their dog, leaving them to their own devices. And take photographic evidence too, that you can look back on and smile!

Conkers & Canines

Seeing as it’s conker season, and we’re all enjoying rustling through fallen leaves, I thought i’d share some potentially invaluable information on conkers which I recently learned, and ask if anyone else is wiser on the subject…

1. Of course I am not a veterinary professional but I would say the first and most obvious risk that a conker (including the spiky outer shell) poses to our dogs is choking and internal blockages, no matter how big or small your pooch may be.

2. The second and risk which I was less aware of is poisoning, although I have struggled to find much reliable information online. The description of the severity of the poisoning seems to vary from site to site, but for me, if there’s even a slight risk, that’s reason enough to be on the ball around Horse Chestnut Trees!

The internet is amazing, but I always remind myself that it isn’t always reliable, and so I turn to books or journals where possible. Of course in the case of your pets health, your vet is the first person you should consult with :)

I love ‘Your Dog’ magazine, and found this handy page on their website on poisoning in general :)

Just be safe!

autumn dog

Happy dog!

Meet Oscar :) 

I’m writing this post for two reasons…

1. As I’ve been meaning to introduce the very lovely and hilarious Oscar for a while now

2. He made my day today!

Why you may ask? Well, Oscar uses my dog walking service, and was adopted not so long ago by his owners from a local rescue. He is a perfect example of how fantastic shelter dogs can be, he is friendly but gentle, bouncy and bright and very clever :) His new owners are doing a great job, and are currently working on his recall, and so I too do what I can during our walks. Which is why today he made my day :) Instead of wandering so far ahead, he stayed close, and returned to every call. When two new dogs appeared in the distance, of course he had a look, but stuck close by. He was just a lot calmer, even had a lie down on the grass! These may sound like little things, but it was great progress, and reminds me of why I love my job!

Portable water bottle – product review

Hello. I haven’t posted on DogTails for about a week or so, as i’ve been really busy especially with my graduation ceremony! I am now a bachelor of science! My honours degree is in Animal Behaviour :) The whole graduation; the venue, the ceremony itself, the gown, the people, everything made it the perfect day! So on with the review…

Before I continue, this review is purely my own thoughts on the item, that I hope you will find useful too :)

Portable dog water bottle 

  • Cost: £1.00 upwards
  • Where from? I have seen them both in pet stores & online
  • Summary of the product: The portable water bottle, designed for dogs, is a useful method of carrying and feeding water to your four legged friend when out and about

How does it work? 

The plastic bottle has an attached ‘tray’ which fits snugly around the bottle when closed up and on the move, and is where your dog takes their drink from. It also has a clip on the end, which could be used to attach the bottle to yourself or a rucksack for example.

Squeezing the bottle fills the tray with water for your dog to lap up

Squeezing the bottle fills the tray with water for your dog to lap up

The verdict

The main thing I love about this product is the price! It’s probably one of our most used products but also the cheapest, and in this case low price doesn’t mean low quality. We’ve had the same bottle for about 3 years now, and so far it has no damages, and hasn’t leaked once. I bought it a while back now, but I have since seen it for sale online and in pet stores, although for a few pounds more, with slightly different variations.

I also like the fact that it is an ‘all in one’ product. For example, fold up bowls are handy, but you still have to bring the water separately. Our dogs don’t seem to have a problem drinking from it either.

It is likely that if you’re walking a considerably long distance, hiking for example, or it is a particularly hot day, that you will need more water than this bottle can carry, so it may not be suitable for all occasions. However, it is absolutely adequate for trips to the park in normal weather! Overall, this water bottle is a dog walking essential, so useful for such little price!

Rating

4/5 woofs!

Happy walking!

Happy walking!