Back in September, Helen completed CPD in Feline Behaviour and Psychology achieving a higher distinction.
As you know, Tails 'N' Whiskers are committed to providing the best care for all pets. One way we ensure this, is with continued professional development.
Back in September, Helen completed CPD in Feline Behaviour and Psychology achieving a higher distinction.
Fox poo, muddy puddles, and stagnant water are the bane of a dog walker's life. You collect a lovely white dog that has just been groomed and smells deliciously of baby powder and take him for a walk. And what does he do? He rolls in poo and other stinky stuff. It's a running joke with my clients that a new hair colour is provided free with every walk! Thankfully, our clients know a 'mucky dog is a happy dog' and don't complain too much. However, when I saw the Mud Daddy advertised, I knew our clients might be a bit happier if they didn't return home to a mucky, stinky dog!
I purchased a Mud Daddy and kept everything crossed that this would be perfect for cleaning up dogs after an off-lead walk.
Monday and a black Labrador provided the perfect chance to try out my new gadget.
Dodger found some mud to roll in. Thankfully not stinky, just muddy. On return to the van, I excitedly got the Mud Daddy out, already prefilled with water, and began the cleaning job.
How does the Mud Daddy work? It works using pressure. Basically you fill the container with water, pump it a couple of times and the water comes out of the attached brush. Simple.
I encountered my first problem; the Mud Daddy works with pressure it is essential to keep the container higher than the brush. Standing it on the floor was not an option. I had two choices: find something to stand it on or hold it. I choose to hold it with Dodger. He was very happy to stand and let me wash him so I didn't need a spare hand to hold him.
The Mud Daddy worked brilliantly. All the mud disappeared very quickly and I was happy to return a clean dog. I instantly loved my new toy!
I forgot to take a photo of Dodger, but on Thursday I had a chance to use it on a similar dog, Lacey, who had been rolling in something rather stinky and it worked a treat!
My next chance to use the Mud Daddy didn't come until Friday. A smooth haired, Jack Russell had found something very stinky to roll in. Tilly was covered!
Back at the van, I retrieved the Mud Daddy and set to work. This time it wasn't as easy. Tilly was a bit wary of the brush so I had to hold her meaning I couldn't hold the container. After a bit of trial and error, I settled with placing the container on the floor of my van and washing Tilly on the pavement.
Again, I was very impressed. The water flow was strong enough to wash all the stinky muck off but not too strong to scare Tilly who was gradually getting used to the brush. Another clean dog returned.
That same afternoon provided the biggest challenge for the Mud Daddy. Pip, the labradoodle. She was black! Stinky, muddy black water covered her leg, tummy and face. There was no way I could return her looking like that. I needed to attempt a clean up.
Pip was slightly wary of the brush, so again I had to place the container on the van floor. I held onto Pip's collar but to begin with she was frightened. She kept pulling away which ended with the Mud Daddy clattering to the ground. Thankfully, it wasn't damaged. Gradually Pip got used to the brush and was quite enjoying the experience by the end.
However, Pip has thick curly hair. I scrubbed and scrubbed with the brush and although some mud came off, she still looked decidedly blacker than when I had collected her. I was running short on time so I had to give up and return Pip with a new hair colour. I think if I'd had shampoo to rub in, it might have got Pip clean but just the brush and water was not getting into her fur enough to make her clean. My Mud Daddy had failed!!!
In conclusion, for £34.99, the Mud Daddy is a fair price. The container is not massive holding 2 litres of water but this keeps it relatively light to carry. The water comes out at a decent flow rate but slow enough that after 3 washes, I still had a lot of water left.
As for cleaning dogs, if you have a short/smooth haired dog, then is a fabulous for quick clean ups before getting into your car or home and possibly even baths. If you have a longer, thicker haired dog, don't except your dog to be sparkling clean - they will still need a bath when they get home.
At least now I can return slightly cleaner, less stinky dogs after their walks but I'm still sticking by my motto of "a mucky dog is a happy dog".
Do you have an older dog?
This book is fabulous. I wish I had read it when my westies were in their older years.
It provides such an insight into the difficulties older dogs face and how to slow down the symptoms of dementia.
It is definitely a must read for any dog owner.
We would like to congratulate one of our amazing clients, Leonie and Clane K for working their socks off and managing to bag gold with her GB team in Slovakia AND winning 10th place in the individuals.
A HUGE well done girls
Welcome to Tilly.
Tilly is a red merle Border Collie and is dog number 5 for Helen. She is 8 months old and came from a loving family who unfortunately couldn't provide her with the attention she needs.
She is very manic, full of energy and definitely in those awkward teenage months.
Helen is hoping to bring Tilly on some group walks so she can develop her socialisation skills and hopefully tire her out!
As you might know, Helen is currently studying for an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour Management. She is delighted to have passed module 2 with another A.
Well done Helen. Keep up the high standard in module 3.
With more and more people turning to dog walking/boarding and pet sitting as a career, it means that pet owners have more and more choice as to who to employ to care for their pets. But how do you choose? What should you be looking for in your pet care provider?
a genuine love of animals
Undoubtedly the most important quality for anyone in the business. You would think (or at least hope) that is is a given for anyone working within the profession. Unfortunately not. Horror stories are everywhere. Just some I've personally heard about involve people drugging dogs, using harsh punishments, muzzling without owner's permission, to not turning up to provide the care. Then there are the ones that make national news. Maybe you've read about the groomer, the pet sitter, the dog walker, and the home boarder. Scary stuff!
It's difficult to ensure your prospective pet care provider will love and care for your pets as you would. Make sure you get recommendations, read reviews (and not just Facebook ones; Google them and see what you find), and most importantly, go with your's (and your pet's) gut instinct.
Most pet care providers will insist on a free meet and greet to get to know you and your pets - a perfect opportunity to assess how you and your pets feel about the person you are entrusting with their care.
Safety and first aid
Any pet care provider should have the safety of your pets) at the very heart of all they do.
There are basic health and safety issues - providing food, fresh water, clean bedding and living area, keeping away from dangers, etc. But there are other considerations I would want to ensure were in place by the person caring for my pets.
Are they first aid trained? Would your pet care provider know what to do if there was an accident involving your pet? Do they know how to give medication in the correct manner? Where do they walk your dog? Is it safe?
Does the pet carer offer dog group walks or collection /drop off services? If your dog/pet is to be transported somewhere, is the transport safe? Everyone knows dogs die in hot cars. How is your dog going to be kept cool? If the walker is picking up a number of dogs, your dog will be left in the vehicle for a short time while they do drop offs and collections. How will the walker ensure your dog doesn't get too hot? This frightening story comes from Canada but it could so easily happen if your dog was not transported safely.
It is very difficult to ensure dogs' safety in a moving vehicle and concern should be given to both the human and canine passengers.
There are a number of different ways to restrain a dog in a car/van. The RSPCA recommends the following (taken from their website).
Licenced and Insured
Although not required by law (why?), it is a must in my opinion to have insurance.
Why is it so important? Think about what would happen if your pet was involved in an accident? Who would be liable if your dog caused an accident? Who would pay the vet bills? Would your own insurance cover someone else caring for your pets? And what about your property? Most clients give their pet sitter a key. What would happen if that key was lost? Who would pay for your locks to be changed?
Again, being registered is not law but it is recommended. Petsitters Allliance, NARPS UK and other associations ensure that the pet carer is operating within their guidelines. They stipulate how many dogs you can walk, contracts you need signing, etc. Do you know that if contracts are not signed, in most instances it will invalidate the pet sitters insurance? Make sure you and your pets are protected by signing!
And finally, Local Council licensing. Did you know that if you board dogs, whether in a kennels or in your own home, the pet carer MUST be licensed with the local council. My local council, North Lincolnshire Council has many conditions in place in order to protect your dog (you can read them here) If you allow someone who isn't licensed to look after your dog in their home, how do you know your dog will be cared for in the best possible way? I would love to home board dogs but I can't; I have an eight year old. North Lincolnshire Council will not give a license to anyone with a person younger than ten living in their home. Yet I see many home boarders in my local area with young children - are they not licensed?
The price the pet care provider charges should be your final consideration, not your first.
Most people looking for pet care adore their pets so why do many just go with the cheapest? Like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
What is included in the price? Insurance premiums, first aid training, safe transportation, licensing fee , DBS check, fuel, experience, and of course the pet carers wage (we need to eat and pay the bills!)
If someone if offering a service much cheaper, you need to ask yourself why? It could be that they just don't need the wages or it could be that they aren't paying for something that will ensure your pet is cared for correctly. Remember the cheapest is very rarely the best.
Please ensure that your pet care provider has all of the above. It might cost you a few pounds more but surely your pets are worth it.
Is there anything I've missed? What else should a pet owner look for in their pet care provider?
I'm not one to celebrate New Years. I don't make resolution and I can't see how waking up on Jan 1st makes me, or the world, any different to how I left it on December 31st. But it is an excuse to look back and reflect on how things have changed over the last 365 days.
2015 had been a tough year. With a poorly husband, other family issues, and work stresses, it lead to me being ill with depression and anxiety.
I'm a great believer in everything happens for a reason and all the stress of 2015 happened for a reason - to make me take stock of my life and change it for the better.
As you may know, I was a primary school teacher. I only went into teaching because I didn't really know what else to do. Although I loved teaching, it was never a passion and gradually the endless paperwork, lesson observations, book scrutinies and the people above wanting me to be a clone of that teacher who was seen as 'outstanding' wore me down. Ive always prided myself in doing things 'my way'. I listen to advice, I'll act on advice but I'll never compromise my principles just because the senior leadership team (and Ofsted) think I should be doing things differently. I lost sight of who I was; I started worrying about every little thing I said in my classroom (when you keep getting 'told off' because you've developed a habit of saying 'ssh', it's inevitable I guess). I wasn't treated like a professional adult and a colleague. I was treated like a child who was misbehaving. So I quit!
It was a difficult decision to leave a well paid job with fantastic holidays but there comes a time when you realise happiness and self worth is much more important.
But what could an ex-teacher do? I had always wanted to work with animals so it gave me the prefect opportunity to start my own small business - Tails 'N' Whiskers.
Anyone who has owned their own business will know it's not easy. Firstly, there's the lack of financial income. I need customers but I can only get customers by marketing which takes time (and money!).
Secondly, there's the lack of employees! I am everything: boss, marketing director, accountant, customer services, and that's before I even do my actual job of dog walking and pet sitting.
I'm not complaining though. I am loving every minute of it. I truly understand how someone can love their job and be happy to get up, get out there and do it.
I also have plans and ambitions for the future. Within the next few years, I'm hoping to be a qualified, registered canine behaviourist - another service I can add to Tails 'N' Whiskers.
For the first time in a long time, I'm proud of myself and most importantly, I'm happy.
So goodbye 2015 and thank you for being a tough one. Now bring on 2016!
t's getting to that time of the year and, although a pet is definitely not just for Christmas, Christmas is the time many parents do consider buying their child their very first pet.
So what is a good first pet? As a parent of two, I've done the 'first pet' and second pet and third pet and...well you get the idea! We've had LOTS of pets!
This was my daughters first pet. She had two fancy goldfish: a black one named Nat and an orange one she called Pete (any other fans of Boogie Beebies out there?). My daughter was showing a big passion for animals, so we decided she needed a pet and fish seemed an obvious (and relatively easy) option for a two year old.
To begin with Nat and Pete lived in her bedroom (in a tank!). She fed them and wanted to feed them again and again and again.....And there is problem number one: Fish don't need feeding that much. A bonus for most pet owners but not for a two year old that wants to show her fish how much she loves them.
In fact, fish don't do much. They swim, they eat a little and they.....swim! They do need cleaning out but that's more a job for mummy or daddy than a two year old.
So after the initial infatuation with Nat and Pete they were rejected to the kitchen and only bothered with when they demonstrated their acrobatic skills of swimming upside down.
So we got gerbils. Furry, cute little balls of fluff. We could have chosen hamsters or mice (my first pet) but we settled on gerbils. Lucy and Grace. We had great fun choosing their cage; one with lots of tubes which you could alter and add to at will. I remember being in the Pet Shop looking at the gerbil habitats - honestly those gerbils could have ended up with a better house than mine! We could have also spent a fortune.
My daughter loved them. We bought them some exercise balls that they could go inside and run around the house in.
We spent hours sat in the playroom watching them run through the tunnels. But the best times were cage cleaning days. While daddy cleaned them out (where would we be without daddy?), we set up obstacle courses in their playpen. Cardboard tubes and plastic seesaws made much fun for gerbils, mummy and daughter alike.
After a few months, less and less time was being spent with Lucy and Grace so we moved them to a more central location, the hallway. Gradually, the obstacle courses and the balls were used less and less, and just like the goldfish, they sat there in the cage; two forgotten gerbils.
The fact that they're nocturnal didn't help. Most of the time my daughter went to 'play' with them she couldn't even see them as they were sleeping the day away buried inside their bedding.
Then one day the inevitable happen. We awoke to find Lucy still, as stiff as a dodo, as cold as a...yes, she was dead!
I dreaded telling my daughter expecting tears and tantrums. So we told her a gently as possible. Surprisingly she was fine and spent the rest of the day debating whether it was Lucy or in fact Grace that had died!
Not long after, Grace (or possibly Lucy) died and my daughter barely batted an eyelid. She'd already moved on from gerbils she now had her sights set on...
Fish didn't do anything but swim, gerbils played mostly at night so what we needed as my daughter's next pet was a animal that she could interact with and was awake during the day. Guinea pigs seemed to fit that bill.
By this time we had a three year old son as well so it was to be a Guinea pig each. Daughter named her's Amethyst and my son named his Rodger.
Problems emerged quite quickly. Guinea pigs are quite delicate so to leave them in the hands of a three year old boy and his equally clumsy older sister was a no-no. Visions of them being dropped from great heights and bones squashed as they cuddled them too tightly plagued my dreams. They could play with them but only with close adult supervision.
They were long haired Guinea pigs so needed regular grooming. Unfortunately, that had to be mummy's job (think of the damage a young child could do while brushing!). They also needed cleaning regularly (daddy to the rescue again) and feeding. Feeding was about the only thing the children could do.
Again, with the lack of interaction, the children visited them less and less. More pets on the pet 'scrap heap'. The Guinea pigs went to live at grandma's who had more time for them.
So that left a problem. Daughter desperately wanted a pet of her own but what could we get? It had to be something she could interact with, something that was awake during the day and something that she wouldn't get bored of.
It was the Christmas before my daughter's 10th birthday and we had no idea what to get her. We knew she wanted a cat but being a family of nature lovers, we didn't think a cat would suit our wildlife garden.
Now don't get me wrong, I love cats (I had my own cat growing up and I'd loved that puddy cat with all my heart) but thoughts of it terrorising the local wildlife didn't sit well with me.
But try as we might, we couldn't think of anything to get her for Christmas and with Christmas just around the corner, in desperation we got a cat.
We managed to keep him a secret until Christmas Day. We wrapped up cat food, cat toys and a cat bed for my daughter to open. When she saw the black kitten it was love at first sight. She named him Monty and we spent a happy Christmas playing with him.
A year later we got a second cat. 6 months after that we got our third cat.
Yes, cats were the best pets to have. My daughter could stroke them, pick them up (she soon learnt that they would scratch if not happy), feed them, play with them and they could go outside and entertain themselves as well. The perfect first pet!
Do you agree? What was yours or your children's first pet?
Please do remember:
ALL pets are for life not just for Christmas.
No child should be given the full responsibility for caring for a pet - responsibility should always remain with the adult.
One of the most common problems I hear about as a dog walker for Tails 'N' Whiskers is on-lead aggression. Dogs, which are usually good natured, become aggressive when on their lead especially when they see another person or dog. Although this blog focuses on other dogs, the ideas can be adapted to suit whatever causes the aggression.
This blog looks at why dogs can become aggressive on their lead and what can be done about it.
Before we can begin to deal with the problem of on-lead aggression, we need to consider why the dog is acting in that way. There are two main reasons and both need treating in different ways.
For many dogs, the problem is they are simply frustrated. All they want to do is be sociable: say hello, have a sniff and maybe a play. The lead stops them from doing that.
How to modify frustrated aggression
The key here is to teach the dog that the aggression does not lead to rewards. The dog wants to see the other dog and be close enough to to have a sniff. In this situation, the best action is to walk away from the source of their excitement. When they have calmed down, walk back. If they start the barking again, walk away again.
It's not an easy quick fix and it will take a lot of effort on your part.
2. Nervous aggression
Like humans, dogs have two choices when faced with something that makes them nervous - fight or flight. The dogs instinct is to either run away or stay and fight when faced with a threat. Because the dog is restrained on a lead, the flight option is automatically taken away leaving the only remaining option, to fight.
Basically we need to teach the dog that seeing another dog or person is not an unpleasant experience and, is in fact, a positive experience.
So how can we do this? There are a number of options. The most important thing is to choose one and stick to it. Your dog is not going to change overnight. It will take perseverance and lots of it!
Dogs love food. Food should be your first port of call for any type of training. Make sure the treats you use are delicious (try liver or cheese) or, for the treat drop, you could even feed them their tea!
The treat drop requires you to be alert. You have to spot the other dog before your dog. As soon as you see the oncoming dog, place treats on the ground. Keep adding to the treats until the other dog has walked past.
This helps in a number of ways:
Your dog's head will be down, eating treats so less likely to notice/respond to the approaching dog.
Your dog begins to associated an approaching dog with food - it becomes a positive thing.
You will need a lot of treats which is why using the dogs teatime kibble is a great idea.
I can never underestimate the importance of basic training. A simple sit and a watch command are brilliant commands to keep your dog's attention on you. They need to be taught well so your dog is very secure with them.
When you see the approaching dog, command your dog into a sit position then focus their attention on you with a watch (i.e. their eyes should be fixed on you). Keep them in that command until the threat has passed.
If your dog loves playing with toys, e.g. a tug rope or a ball, it is a good idea to have one that they can only play with when they are with you. When you see the approaching dog, whip out the toy and have a play. This refocuses their attention and again, makes that positive association.
Change your dog's physical response.
Like humans, a dog that is nervous will often betray their emotion through their body posture.
Your task is to change their body posture in order to alter their emotional state. With your dog in a sit position, stroke their ears, muzzle, head and hackles back to a relaxed postion. It in important to note that your are not petting your dog but altering their body posture. A tricky thing to differentiate!
One of the major causes of aggression in dogs is from cues they pick up from their owners. Many owners are the actual reason the dog is nervous in the first place. You may not even know you're doing it, but dogs are very alert to minuet changes in your body posture, your breathing, the tone of your voice, etc.
Imagine this. You see a dog approaching. You know your dog is going to start barking and lunging. You automatically feel tense. You tighten your grip on the lead. You breathing speeds up. Your whole body becomes tense. Your voice betrays your emotion. Your dog picks up on a this. You are basically telling your dog that you're nervous therefore he should be too.
You need to become a positive role model.
When you see a dog approaching, calmly and cheerfully ask your dog to sit. Keep the lead loose. If you need to, keep one hand around the lead ready to grab the lead if necessary. If you find it hard to control your emotions, try singing or telling your dog a funny story. Staying as relaxed as you can is key.
Do NOT Punish
Make sure you are not punishing your dog for their nervous aggression. Your dog is scared so to punish them you are creating a negative association. In the dogs mind, being scared equals more fear and/or pain. So no jerking the lead and no physical force.
Ask a friend with a calm, non-reactive dog to help. Ask them to walk their dog towards you, stopping at a distance before your dog reacts. Very gradually, and over a number of days/weeks, reduce the distance.
Have you tried any of these methods or have you used other methods successfully? Please comment and share your thoughts.
Tails 'N' Whiskers is a pet care service for Brigg, North Lincolnshire and the surrounding area.