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Help! I can’t walk my dog. What can I do?

Help! I can’t walk my dog. What can I do?

“Exercise restriction” may be recommended by a veterinarian for a number of reasons. A dog may be resting a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), receiving heart worm treatment, or recovering from an injury or surgery. I have encountered each of these scenarios in the last year, and the dogs ranged from normally active adolescents to slowing down seniors. What do we do with their pent-up energy and ensuing boredom? Fortunately, there are several activities that provide mental stimulation during this forced downtime.

Environmental enrichment: Increase their indoor level of low-impact activities. The right level of mental stimulation, and plenty of opportunities to be more dog will result in a dog that can cope better.

Ditch the bowl: Instead, feed your dog using food puzzles, snuffle mats, treat-filled Kongs, lickimats. You can scatter food and treats in different locations around the house or hide treats in a towel, a muffin tin, or a tube. Watch your dog explore the different options.

Mental stimulation: hunting, chewing, licking, mind and scent work, tricks and games are great low-impact activities for your dog.
Play can often meet our dog’s needs: Hidden Treasure – dogs have a remarkable sense of smell. Place a few small boxes or containers out on the floor and add a treat underneath one of them. Encourage your dog to sniff and find the treat. Praise them and reward them with the discovered treat. A snuffle mat, food puzzles, and lickimats all satisfy a dog’s need to hunt. Try puzzles with different skill levels to challenge your dog more. But don’t make it so hard that your dog gets frustrated.

Hide-and-seek is fun for children to play too. When your dog isn’t watching, pick the perfect spot to hide, call your dog, and celebrate their accomplishment with a yummy treat when they find you. This is a good way to practice recall.
Which hand game – this is the beginning of learning nose work. Place a treat in one hand, hold both hands out towards your dog in a fist and encourage them to pick the hand with the treat. Be sure your dog takes the treat nicely from your hand. If he is mouthy, it’s an opportunity to teach them manners.

Put your toys away is one of my favorites. Dogs like this one too. Start by having your dog pick up a toy near where they’re normally stored. Have your dog “drop it” while standing over the toy box. Once they get the hang of this, they can clean up after themselves. Patience and praise are a good recipe to support their progress.

Car rides/stroller walks may help soothe a dog’s confinement while they are on a limited exercise regime. Take them out for a spin. You can stop by a quiet spot for a picnic. Bring something novel along in a box and open it slowly with excitement (a feather, something with a lavender smell, a new treat) to add to the ambience. Sit for a spell and enjoy some quality time together.

Slow petting, similar to a gentle massage or a light scratching, is a sensory way to calm a dog down. Avoid areas where your dog doesn’t like to be touched. Some dogs don’t like the top of their head, muzzle, or ears touched.

Set your dog up for success. Enrichment activities must be safe and fun. Adjust the level of difficulty of puzzles and games gradually so your dog doesn’t get frustrated. Supervise the aggressive chewers so they don’t ingest any object pieces. Games and play are wonderful ways for your dog to pass the time when his normal activity routine is paused. Engaging with your dog is good for both of you. Enjoy the experience. When your dog is ready to resume normal activities, you will have a list of experiences to return to when it is wet, cold, hot or windy. Have fun.


Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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Halloween Tips for Your Pets!

Halloween Tips for Your Pets!

5 Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe on Halloween:
Halloween can be a fun time for you and your family – but frightening to Fido and Fluffy. The sounds of the doorbell and children’s voices plus the sights of costumes and jack-o-lanterns can cause high anxiety in pets. Here are some tips to help them handle the holiday stress:

  1. Ditch the doorbell. No need for the cats to be diving for safety and dogs to be guarding your front door every time a trick-or-treater stops by.
  2. Provide a safe space away from the commotion for your dogs and cats to relax. Include their favorite toys, blanket, an article of your clothing, and some yummy treats to keep them comfortable and content.
  3. Costumes are scary as are all the people coming and going. Consider creating a safe space away from the front door (driveway, front lawn, car trunk) where you can set up a candy station.
  4. Off-limit items for pets:
    – Candy: especially if it contains chocolate or xylitol (a common sugar substitute).
    – Candles and jack-o-lanterns
    – Glow sticks and glow jewelry
  5. For everyone’s safety, keep pets inside and away from any trick-or-treaters. You don’t want Halloween to turn into a nightmare.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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Looking forward: Our new signature offer

Looking forward: Our new signature offer

Davy, my reactive dog

An ah-ha moment with my reactive dog, Davy, that led to my new signature offerReactive Dog Training. People with reactive dogs have few resources to turn to for help – until now. I saw the need and decided to fill the gap for this small community of pet owners.

Reactive dogs can’t handle being in a class, are turned away from doggie day care, and are difficult to walk around the neighborhood. In fact, pet owners of reactive dogs find themselves doing little of the activities they planned to do with their pup. They avoid walking them, stop inviting visitors over, and grieve for the dog they wanted. I know these feeling as I have gone through this with my own dog – Davy.

I made it my quest to help Davy after he was asked not to return to Canine Good Citizenship Class (Who am I kidding? I knew he wouldn’t handle a bunch of strange dogs in the ring at the same time). My lifetime of working with dogs didn’t prepare me for a reactive one. But my quest to find the solution did. It was a game changer. I knew that there was a small community of dog owners who would benefit from learning the answers I found. It has been several months since I have been trialing this new program, and my clients are happy with the results.


Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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Pet Loss and Emergencies

Pet Loss and Emergencies

I have cared for a lot of pets since I started my business. Some are no longer with us. I know that’s part of the circle of life, but what surprises me is the sadness that never lessens. You would think that after the first one, it would get easier. Yet with each subsequent loss, the familiar sadness returns. Some pets have been in our care for over ten years and have lived a long and full life. A few have gone too soon. All were loved by their family and lived a good life.

There have several times when I’ve rushed a pet to the veterinarian or the emergency clinic. Our staff is trained to look for and report to me immediately if anything is off. One cat was limp after being bitten by a spider, a dog was in pain with an undiagnosed UTI, another had an uncomfortable flare up of pancreatitis. We know our actions have saved lives. These health issues are critical, and we stop whatever we are doing on our busy schedule to see that these pets get the care they need.

My team and I have a special relationship with our clients’ pets. Whether we know them from dog walking, pet sitting, or training – they have captured a piece of our heart.


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How to answer: “Can I Pet Your Dog?”

How to answer: “Can I Pet Your Dog?”

I walk my dogs daily in my neighborhood where we often encounter children playing.  It’s common for them to run toward me expecting a happy, furry greeting as they shout cheerfully, “Can I pet your dog?”  My pets aren’t used to kids and, I don’t know if the children have been taught to approach dogs. 

The answer when walking Davy, my German shepherd, is a clear, “No… We are in training right now.” I would never put him at risk.  Sometimes, I will ask the children if they want to give Davy a treat for doing something I ask him to do.  Then I will hand them a treat and ask Davy to perform one of his tricks. A good spin left, spin right, down, sit, or paw always elicits a smile from the audience and the children can toss a treat on the ground in front of him for his reward. 

With my Walker Hound, my answer to the petting question is, “You can try, but she is very shy.” I’m careful with my dogs around children.  Ginger is skittish of many things.  I ask the children to let her choose to approach.  Then I give them a treat to offer her.  She is getting good at this because she is greedy about yummy food, but not because she likes other people.


In both scenarios, I make it a good experience for everyone.  I know my dogs well and understand their body language.  But I am aware that most dogs don’t like close encounters with people they don’t know well.   I am happier keeping mine in our comfort zone. 

Ginger is a rescued Walker Hound that was found running down HWY 70 in Havelock.  The story I concocted about her previous life is that she was never socialized well and didn’t turn into a good hunting dog.  When she went missing from her pack – no one ventured to find her.  I met her at a local rescue where she was in foster care.  She hid behind her foster Mom’s legs when I went to see the pets available. “I’ll take that one,” I said and took her home.  After ten years, she is still shy. 

Davy, my GSD, got a great start in life.  Good breeder, excellent lines, and a caring home.  He joined my family when he was nine weeks old.  I followed the “puppy right start to do” list so was able to shape his experiences.  His exuberance, high-energy, low impulse control, and loud bark are in his genes.  He is a good dog for me, but not a magnet for petting by strangers.  He gets a lot of attention for his good looks, but I keep him at a safe distance from people on our walks.  

Do your dogs enjoy being petted?  Do they like strangers?  Have they been socialized to children?  What does your dog want to do? Some dogs love attention from people of all ages and sizes and some don’t.  Can you read your dogs body language well enough to know if they are “into” greeting strangers or not?  If that stranger is young, do you know if their parents have taught them how to approach dogs?  These factors contribute to a pleasant or unpleasant experience for a pet.  This is one area when I chose to play it safe.  When children ask me if they can pet my dog, my answer depends on what benefits my pet in that moment and whether they consent to the greeting.


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