Congratulations! You’re on your way to having a happy, well-behaved dog. By committing time and energy to your dog’s training you have taken the first step in realising that well-behaved dogs are made, not born. Weeks of learning will become years of good manners.
Dogs do not know right from wrong, nor can they read your mind. You have to teach your dog what is proper behaviour and what is not. The biggest hurdle is explaining to our dogs what we want. Most of us aren’t born knowing how to train dogs, but if you understand at least the following 3 things, you are well on your way:
- The natural history of dogs
- How to communicate with dogs (it’s hard enough with our own species!)
- The basics of the learning process
In short, we will be going through a basic training programme based on how dogs think, how they communicate, and how they learn.
Remember, training should be carried out by the whole family (especially kids under supervision) and it should be consistent, so that the dog has predictability in its life. Imagine trying to learn a new language when everyone in the house spoke a different one! Above all, have FUN with your dog, that’s why you got your dog, right?!
Remember, dogs cannot read your mind. Many problems arise because the dog simply just does not understand what you want it to do. It is your job to help your dog figure it out. Let’s look at some of the things that will influence your dog’s behaviour.
This is the dog’s primary means of exploring the world. As far as dogs are concerned, the smellier, the better! So what does this mean for training? Well, it means that if you use soft, smelly food to train your dog, he will be motivated by it and perform the behaviour you want it to do. Some examples of excellent titbits include: hotdogs, cheese, liver, sausages, ham, and chicken. Food (smell) allows you to lure your dog into almost any position, without pushing, poking, or prodding at it. Where the nose goes, the dog follows! So for example, you can teach your dog to sit, by holding a titbit no more than ½ an inch above their nose and then moving the food back (not up) toward their tail. The dog will follow the food by raising its head and the rump will go down. Easy! Your dog just sat down without you having to force him to do anything.
If you learn anything from this series, then just learn that dogs use visual signals to communicate with each other. Your dog is watching while you are talking. They of course also communicate via sound, but visual signals overwhelm sounds if presented at the same time, So if you ask your dog to sit whilst you are sitting down watching TV and the dog doesn’t respond, then it is because you have always taught the dog to sit whilst standing up facing it. The dog has only learnt to sit when you are standing up facing it. This is the most common cause of miscommunication with dogs. The problem is that we aren’t usually aware of how our body moves. Our dogs become confused and eventually learn to ignore us.
Some visual signals do not need to be taught. Dogs tend to naturally respond to your bending or sitting down as if it were a ‘play bow’ of a litter mate and come running to play. Standing tall and moving abruptly forward has the opposite effect and the dog will stop in their tracks.
Other visual signals need to be taught, but dogs learn them very fast, especially if they are linked with the lure/reward method, as mentioned in the example above.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it! Your voice can have a profound effect on your dog’s behaviour. High, squeaky noises are perceived to be excited, friendly and appeasing. Low, growly noises are threatening and inhibiting. So, if you want your dog to come to you and you say ‘Rover, come’ in a low, loud growl, then it is the perfect way to insure that Rover stays well away from you! You have just told your dog that if he gets near you, you will bite him. Do you blame Rover for staying away?
How long or short the word can also be critical; keep most of your verbal cues relatively short, one word is best. Do not have long sentences and conversations with your dog, as you probably lost Rover about the second word in.
Verbal correction should be short, abrupt notes, spoken in a low, authoritative voice. You are trying to just startle the dog, not beat the dog with your voice! On the other hand, stimulating, happy signals should be short, rising pitch and rapidly repeated – for example, calling your dog ‘pup,pup,pup’ whilst clapping your hands or using short, rising whistles will motivate it to come running to you.
You can use long, extended words when you want to slow down or soothe the dog. For example ‘staaaaay’ or ‘goooood dog’, if you want to keep the dog quiet.
Now that you have a basic idea of how dogs communicate, we will start the training programme in the next in the subsequent article, which will be devoted in training your dog to come on command.
Recognise and Help Overweight and Obese Dogs
We’ve all been there. Our dog looks at us with those big, cow eyes, and guilt trips us into giving them just a little tidbit because we love them so much and don’t want them to look so sad. But it doesn’t take long, for those treats to add up, and before we know it, we’re getting a talk from out vet about our beloved buddy being obese and needing to go on a diet. But how do we know that our dog is fat and not just ‘big boned’ or covered in ‘puppy fat’?
What to Look for in an Overweight Dog?
There are three key ways to tell if your dog is overweight.
- Does your dog have an obvious ‘waistline’? If your dog doesn’t then he or she should have one. You can tell if your dog has a waistline by viewing him or her from different angles. From above, the waistline is what marks out the front half from the back half of your dog, it should come together with a little, rather like an hourglass. From the side, you should be able to see your dog’s abdomen rise up towards the underside of his or her hind legs.
- Can you feel or see your dog’s ribs? If you can’t feel or see your dog’s ribs, then your dog is certainly overweight, they should be visible and easy to feel.
- When your dog sits down, does their back look to be straight, or do they have any so-called ‘love handles’?
How to Help an Overweight Dog
Unless your dog has an underlying health problem, then helping your dog to lose weight should be fairly straightforward, at least in theory. More exercise, and less calories. You are the one in control of both of these things, so your dog is relying on you to keep them fit and healthy! Consult your vet for advice and support as needed.
Diet: what are you feeding your dog each day? Dried food, raw diet, canned food, human food, snacks, and treats?
Snacks are the easiest way to fatten up your dog, so try to reduce the number of treats you give them each day or switch to lower calorie, healthier options. Why are they getting treats, and can these be replaced with love and affection or a squeaky toy or play as a reward, instead of food? Can you break the treats up to make them smaller, or give individual treats instead of multiple treats at once?
Meals: rather than guessing how much food to feed your dog, try switching to a lighter or diet version of the same food, and use a measuring cup to weigh out your dog’s food. Use scales to weigh out the food, and to keep your dog entertained for longer, try hiding the food inside a Kong or similar toy, so that your dog has to work for their biscuits.
Scraps from the Table: If your dog is a canine hoover that follows your kids around or likes to help out in the kitchen or under the table at teatime, try to avoid giving them the scraps, or allowing them to hoover up the food. Cut down on giving them dishes to lick clean and restrict access to any crumbs they might find.
Exercise: are you walking your dog twice a day, or giving your dog the exercise he or she really needs? Perhaps life has been more stressful than usual, or you’ve got a new baby at home, are getting home from work later, or are struggling to walk as far as you used to due to your own ill health? If you are struggling to give your dog the walks they require, then try to find a trusted friend, neighbor, family member, or pet sitter who can walk your dog for you on a regular basis. You might find that you have a friend who would desperately love a dog of their own, but whose landlord won’t allow them to have a pet, you could both benefit from them walking your dog, even if it is just a long walk on a weekend.
Swimming: if your dog is very overweight or has arthritis or other difficulties with movement, then you could try swimming as exercise. Ask your vet about places to swim with your dog or specialist hydrotherapy facilities. Could you put up a paddling pool in your garden and supervise your dog for regular swimming sessions? Or have them swim in the sea each day, even just for a few minutes of throwing a stick for them to fetch from the water, to strengthen their legs.
Toys: are there are games, toys, or enrichment activities that you can do, to get your dog more active through the day? Can you stuff a Kong with treats, or use a ball thrower to fling a ball and have them run for it? Can you play tug at home with them once or twice a day, instead of watching tv together? Or try our fantastic Tether Tug Dog toy with indoor and outdoor options?
Join a Group: sometimes it might just be harder to walk your dog, especially in the winter when it is dark and the streets don’t feel so safe, or the weather is miserable. Are there are groups or classes near you, like flyball, agility, or dog shows? Or perhaps you could find a group on Facebook of other owners who share your love for the breed and like to meet up for play dates? Not only is this great stimulation and social time for your dog, but it’s time for you to get out and have some fun too.
Helping your dog to lose weight doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. Lots of small actions can really add up. Adding a few more minutes to a walk each day, or taking stairs instead of the lift, or cutting down the number of biscuits in their bowl at meal times.
You might start to find that your health and weight improves too and that you both start to have a new lease of life!
Written by Sarah Weldon
Sarah is a British explorer and ice swimmer, who loves nothing more than hikes in the mountain with her Italian Greyhound and cosy nights by the fire with her three devious cats.
Keeping Your Dog Cool on a Hot Day
I’ve been incredibly lucky to travel and live in many different countries with my dog, and as such have had to adapt to life in the heat of Miami and the Caribbean, and the extremes of cold in Siberia and the Baltic’s, and everything in between, especially whilst living in Britain. My dog is an Italian Greyhound, a breed renowned for their love of sunbathing and cosying up under the duvet, even on a hot day. Here are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve picked up for looking after your dog when the weather gets hot, hot, hot!
I learnt this trick whilst we lived in Grenada, West Indies. I’d not had my puppy for very long. It was tricky to get hold of dog toys and things for a pup to chew on, and with no air conditioning in our little place by the beach, the days were hot and sticky. So I decided to make some ice bars in the freezer, and dropped these into my dog’s water bowl, along with the occasional ice cube. They melted quickly, but she loved to chase the ice across the tiled floor, crunched them up, and licked up the water as it melted. Cheap, easy, and a few minutes of entertainment before the ice melted. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you could make your ice bars with dog friendly flavours or simply freeze some home-made treats for your dog.
You might not think it, but the pavements and tarmac in the UK can be just as hot as they get in places like Miami. On hot days, try to walk your dog as early and as late in the day as you can, so that you avoid midday and afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. Walking on a hot floor can burn your dog’s pads and their feet can become incredibly painful and open to infection. Where possible walk in the shade, and if the floor is hot even in the early morning or late at night, then invest in some dog boots to protect their feet and pads from burning.
In the heat of the summer, shade is your friend. When out walking, or even in the garden, or on the beach, make sure that your dog has access to shady areas. This could be a bush or tree, or a towel hung over a bench, or you could invest in a shade tent that can be folded away as required. If your dog is at home and the room is hot from the sunshine, try closing the curtains to keep the room cooler and create shady places that they have access to. If your dog is crated whilst you are at work, make sure that the crate isn’t in direct sunlight, and the room is well ventilated and cool, but not too cold.
Be sure to give your dog access to water at all times, especially if your dog is fussy about their drinking water source, as my dog is. I always carry a bottle of water with me wherever we go, and have spare dog poo bags in my pocket, that can double up as water receptacles, especially if I need to travel light and don’t have a collapsible dog bowl with me. Offer your dog water, even if they don’t want it.
Fans and open windows are great for circulating air around your dog and keeping them cool (as long as your dog isn’t going to come to harm from an open window or room fan). These can help dogs to regulate their temperature especially if they are a breed with a flatter face that struggles to keep cool through panting, such as a pug.
Unlike most breeds of dog, my Italian Greyhound is not a great fan of water, but if your dog is a water lover, you could set up a paddling pool in your yard, have fun with the mist option on your garden hose pipe, or go for a dip together in the sea or a lake. I do a lot of outdoor swimming in some amazingly beautiful places, and on the really hot days, I sometimes carry my dog into the water with me to cool off, just for a minute or so. Be cautious around water though, not all dogs enjoy water, some might be afraid or not used to swimming, and if your dog is already suffering from the heat, you could do more harm than good as the cold water draws the heat into their internal organs and away from the skin. You might want to think about investing in a dog lifejacket or teaching your dog how to get out of water, in the event that they do fall in, and never leave your dog unsupervised around water, even paddling pools.
Dog fur as much as it might look like it gets too hot in summer, can actually keep your dog cool by keeping the hot air away from the skin. Do not be tempted to shave off your dog’s fur as this could impede its ability to regulate its body temperature.
If your dog is afraid of the water, dislikes water, or you simply don’t have access to a pool of water or a hose, then you could try soaking a blanket in water and draping it over your dog, you could even put a towel in the freezer to cool it. Applying the blanket to your dog, especially around the groin or neck area can be a great way to cool your dog down if you do not already have a dog cooling mat.
If the weather is simply too hot, then you might want to just stay indoors or leave your dog at home until the day has cooled a bit. Does your dog really need to go on that outing with you? Do you really need to go and run that errand right now, or can it wait until later in the day? Can you catch a train or bus earlier in the day when it is less busy and less warm?
And finally, an easy way to keep your dog hydrated on a hot day, is to replace some of their dried food with a canned food that has a higher moisture content. You could also offer treats that are moisture rich, like apples or peas, but seek advice from your vet if your dog is on a special diet or has a particularly sensitive tummy.
Written by Sarah Weldon
Sarah is a British explorer and ice swimmer, who loves nothing more than hikes in the mountain with her Italian Greyhound and cosy nights by the fire with her three devious cats.
If you are a dog owner like myself, then you’ll likely want to take your pet everywhere with you, wherever possible. This might be a short trip into town, a longer trip out in the car to visit family over the Christmas holidays, a journey to the vet via the London Underground, or a train to Cornwall, or Eurostar to France for a seaside holiday.
But travel with a dog that gets anxious about travel can feel like the end of the world, especially if you end up torn between enduring a miserable or messy journey or leaving your best friend behind in kennels or with a pet sitter, thus your holiday doesn’t feel like much of a holiday anymore.
There are many reasons why your dog might get anxious about travel. They might have had a bad experience as a pup, especially if they are a rescue dog, or they may simply get travel sick, or just be inexperienced with travel. Common signs of anxiety include barking, whining, excessive slobbering, panting, vomiting, or toilet accidents. But don’t fear, there are many things to be done to alleviate anxiety, and the earlier you can start these with your dog (even if they don’t get travel anxiety), the better.
The key to success is to make positive associations with travel, so that every journey becomes an exciting adventure. To get your
dog used to the car, give them a treat and praise whenever they are near your car. If you dog is especially anxious, this could begin with sitting outside the vehicle close by, and slowly working closer towards the car. Next have your dog sit in the boot of the car or on a seat inside the car with you with the engine off, and offer treats and praise. Make it a relaxing space for the two of you to hang out together. If your dog will need to wear a harness in the car, then slowly introduce them to wearing the harness or getting used to its smell, for example, wearing it in the house, or having it someone where the dog sees it as part of normal, day to day life. Over time, you can start to introduce your dog to car noises by switching on the engine, putting on music if this is something you might do on a long journey, and then driving around the block, or taking short visits. Increase the distance with every journey, stopping for toilet breaks, treats, and visits to places where your dog can exercise and stretch his or her legs with you.
For train or plane travel, you will need to have your dog become familiar with unfamiliar noises, large crowds, and the movement of luggage. So try and be upbeat with your dog, offer rewards, and lots of fuss, and have your dog get used to components of the travel scenario long before you leave, for example, getting your dog used to being social with people, children, strangers, and other dogs, and used to being on the lead or in busy places like towns.
If you now that your dog has previous bad experiences or associations with travel, such as being hit by a car or only going in the car for a vet visit, then you will need to turn the association to one of the car or vehicle being a safe space. Some dogs benefit from the physical feeling of security that can be provided in the form of an anxiety vest, like a ‘Thunder shirt’ or the wearing of a safety harness, or being sat on a specially made dog booster seat, so that they can easily see what is going on around them and feel like they are part of the family.
Safe spaces and positive associations can also be created by playing soothing, classical music in the house and in the car, opening the window of the car or sitting near an open window on a bus or train so that your dog has fresh, cool air.
If your dog still gets travel sick or especially nervous about travel, then speak to your vet about herbal and other remedies that can be taken to prevent nausea and motion sickness, and make sure not to feed your dog right before a journey, and to give them ample time to go to the toilet, without a sense of stress that often comes with trying to organise a family and not being late to arrive at your destination.
Even if your dog doesn’t get anxious or travel sick, it’s a good idea to put together a travel kit for the car or to take with you, that includes dog poo bags, puppy pads, and wet wipes. We all get sick from time to time, and cleaning up any mess will be a lot easier and nicer for the family if you are prepared. If your dog does make a mess, don’t tell them off. They will likely feel terrible about doing something they are normally not allowed to do, and this could make them more anxious still. Reassure them, and let them know that sometimes accidents just happen, we’ve all been there at some point in our life, especially when feeling sick.
And finally, make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise before your journey, if nothing else they will be exhausted and more likely to fall asleep for the journey, and be sure to check your own anxiety at the door. Your dog will look to you as the leader, if he or she senses that you are anxious, then this will make their anxiety worse.
Written by Sarah Weldon
Sarah is a British explorer and ice swimmer, who loves nothing more than hikes in the mountain with her Italian Greyhound and cosy nights by the fire with her three devious cats.
How to Choose the Right Dog Travel Crate for Your Dog
So you’ve chosen a destination for your holiday in France with your pooch, or you’ve landed the perfect job…but it’s abroad. What do you do about your travelling with your dog? Thanks to the introduction of the Pet Passport, travel with your dog is a lot easier than it once was, but you need to make sure that you choose the right dog car crate, not just for the sake of your pet’s comfort, but because the last thing you want when you check in at the airport of ferry terminal, is to be turned away for not meeting stringent pet transit requirements. With so many dog car crates and airline crates available, how do you know where to start, and what’s the difference in price? Does paying more, guarantee that your crate is better?
First Things First!
The first thing that you will need to know is whether your dog will fly with you in the cabin, or on its own in the cargo
hold below the plane. Not all airlines will allow pets in the cabin, and those that do, will have regulations on the height and weight of not just the crate, but your dog. As an owner of a small breed dog, this is something I’ve faced on numerous flights in the USA, Caribbean, across Russia and the Baltic’s, Turkey, France, and United Kingdom.
On the whole travel is much simpler outside of the UK where pet travel is more common place, but dogs can fly within the UK and in and out of the UK too (depending on the airline). For travel outside of the UK, my dog was allowed to travel in a small airline approved canvas cargo bag under the seat in front of me, but for flying to the UK from abroad she would have had to fly in the cargo in a solid crate. (I’ve actually managed to avoid this previously, because flying her into the UK was a lot more expensive and complicated than simply flying in to France and then taking the ferry or train across the Channel back to the UK. It certainly saved the stress for her and meant that she didn’t end up in another building a long way from the airport terminal, with boarding fees, etc).
So the first thing you need to do, is to find out which airlines allow pets on board, whether they fly dogs in the cabin or hold, and whether your dog’s size will affect this. If you have a large dog, then there won’t be an option, your dog will have to fly in the cargo hold. Even with a small breed dog, be careful to check regulations. On one occasion I ended up at a very hot airport, with my dog being measured because it looked like we were 0.5cm too tall to be allowed, but with a bit of puppy dog eyes from my dog, it was soon sorted.
Measuring Your Dog
As a rule of thumb, to get the length for the crate it is worth measuring your dog from the tip of its tail to the end of its nose and adding another 4 inches to this, to be on the safe side. You then need to work out the height, so you should measure from the ground to the top of your dog’s head, and again add an extra four inches for safety. Airport staff will generally want to see that your dog is able to lie down and to turn around within the cargo crate.
Next, you will need to weigh your dog, allowing for any changes in weight before you travel, even things like Christmas and your dog receiving a few more treats than usual can tip you over and cost you more, or stop you from flying. It is the weight more than the size of the crate that the airline will be concerned about and not all airlines are able to move and handle extremes of weight. You will need details of cargo dimensions and weight before you can even book your dog’s flight. Contact the pet reservation section of your airline as early as you can, because there is usually a restriction on the number of pets allowed per flight. If you have several dogs, you might need to book several flights and dogs are not always allowed to fly on their own.
For most airlines that allow pet transport, a dog that is no more than 18 inches from the tip of its tail to the front of its shoulders, and no more than 12-14 inches tall will be allowed to travel in the cabin with you, anything larger will need to fly in the cargo section. Never try to squeeze your dog into a carrier that is too small! The airline will have you bring out your dog for security purposes at screening and if they see that your dog is too large, then neither of you will be allowed to fly. Don’t add any more stress to your journey than you need to.
Choosing a Pet Travel Crate
The most important thing to look for when choosing a pet travel crate is that it is IPATA or IATA compliant (International Air Transport Association). If you are buying your crate from a pet store or online, then this will usually be written on the label or in the product description. I’m personally a big fan of the Vari Kennel range of crates because they have stood be in good stead over the last twelve years of travel, and though they are middle range in price, they wear well, are universally available (including spare parts or replacements if you ever need them) and airlines seem to like them. Between my dog and three cats I have a little collection, all of which were purchased in different countries (having a trusted brand in mind, was incredibly helpful when I didn’t speak or read the local language too). My dog travels in the cabin with me in a canvas bag, and my cats have travelled in a large, solid crate (which can be used for my dog if needed), and a small, solid crate that’s good for travel on very small planes between islands where a large crate would not fit.
Both canvas and solid pet travel crates will need to have adequate ventilation and have good fastenings so that your pet does not escape (spring lock fasteners are preferable because the last thing you want is for your dog to work out how to open them). For a solid crate, nuts and bolts are preferable to plastic fasteners, but these will already have been approved with an IPATA or IATA certified crate. One of the reasons I like the solid crates I use is that they often come with wheels and a handle for pulling them along, but these can be removed when you check in as some airlines don’t allow them. The airline will usually have a lot of stickers to attach to the crate so make sure that the ventilation isn’t covered too much.
For a solid crate, the airline staff should be able to provide your dog with food and water from the outside of the crate, especially on long flights.
Pet Comfort Inside a Travel Crate
You will want to cover the bottom of the crate with puppy pads or other absorbent material so that any liquid does not spill from the crate, particularly if your pet gets stressed. Take them to the toilet as late as possible before your flight, and as soon as you can when you land. If you are changing flights, you might be allowed to collect your pet in between and give them a leg stretch. For longer flights, the pet cargo will do this for you in between flights.
You can include a familiar blanket in the crate, but don’t go overboard otherwise you’ll have to empty everything out when you go through security. A blanket will smell like you and be familiar for your dog, as well as providing a little comfort to sit on, and a place to hide if it all gets a bit much. You will need to strike a balance between providing comfort and keeping the crate a good temperature. You don’t want your dog to overheat, but you want them to have warmth if the cargo area gets cool.
Before You Travel
If your dog is a seasoned traveler like mine, then the stress of travel will be minimal and will be something that they enjoy. Make sure that you have the pet cargo crate set up at home, so that your dog is free to sit inside and get familiar with the space, you might even want to give treats so that your dog has a positive association with the crate. Don’t just bring it out on the days when you visit the vet or go travelling.
If you are lucky enough to have a small dog that can travel with you in the cabin, then you will likely find that some airports allow dogs to walk on a lead once you are inside the airport terminal, but not all airports allow this so check first. I love to travel with my dog and we have one favourite airport where we sit and watch the planes, she watches the people and befriends passing children, and I get to eat cake and drink nice coffee. Since we fly to this airport often, and have a long wait for our connecting flight, it has become pretty routine for us, much like catching a bus or getting in the car to go for a walk. Stress free travel is very possible, and pet crates needn’t make you feel bad.
And finally, if you do fly with your dog and you find yourself worrying about them not being put on the plane, or where they are with the pet cargo team, a little trick I have is to attach a tag to my cargo crate and to connect this to an app on my phone. I use a Chipolo device, but there are many different versions on the market these days.
Written by Sarah Weldon
Train Travelling With Your Dog
With the summer season upon us and the UK train providers offering discounts on journeys to some of Britain’s best beaches and national parks, you might be hankering after an outdoor adventure. But is it possible to travel on trains with your dog? And how can you make the journey the most stress free it can be for you, for your dog, and for other passengers? In this post, we’ll be sharing some of our tips and tricks for making the most of your journey together.
Are Dogs Allowed on Trains?
The good news is that dogs are allowed on trains, at least all the major providers, albeit with a few restrictions, so it’s always worth checking the website of the company you wish to travel with, before booking your journey. And be sure to check for train connections too, dogs are allowed on the London Underground, but not all buses, coach companies, and trams allow dogs in transit, so be careful of any cross city transfers where restrictions may apply.
What is Your Dog’s Temperament?
Regardless of whether your dog is allowed on the train, the most important thing to consider before you even contemplate a journey, is the temperament of your dog. If you are lucky enough to have an easy-going dog, or a dog that has travelled all its life, then you already have this covered. But what if your dog has never travelled on public transport before, doesn’t like people, or is afraid of loud noises? Train stations can be crowded places, with people who might not like dogs, or worse still, might pounce on your dog and shower him or her with affection without checking with you first. Do as much as you can to socialise your dog beforehand, not just with people, but with other animals, and with children. Get your dog used to crowds and noises and consult your vet or local trainer if you think your dog needs a bit of support before-hand. If you have any concerns at all, you might need to consider purchasing a muzzle for your dog and getting him or her used to wearing it before you embark upon your journey, or investing in things like thunder jackets. If your dog is deaf or blind, or not social, it might be worth investing in a lead and harness which clearly informs others that your dog has specific needs and should be approached with care.
Manage Your Own Stress Levels
Your dog will be sensitive to your emotions, and will pick up on any anxieties you have about travel. Minimise these as much as you can, so that your dog just sees the journey as an exciting adventure. Leave yourself plenty of time for dog toilet stops before you get to the station. Make sure your dog has access to water and think about the best time for giving food and drink before your travel. Try and stick to your normal routine as much as possible, but avoid giving breakfast immediately before travel if you know that your dog likes to poo immediately after their meal, especially if the journey is long. You want your dog to be as comfortable as possible, not worried about needing to go outside for a toilet break.
Most train platforms have designated areas for dogs, usually a water bowl and some stations even have small grassy areas and dog poo bins. These water bowls are great for hydration, but the water may or may not be changed regularly, so it isn’t a bad idea to bring a collapsible dog bowl and to give water to your dog yourself. Make use of the ends of the train platform for stretching legs and for toilet stops, especially on long journeys and when changing trains. Be sure to keep your dog on a lead at all times, and always tidy up after your dog. The last thing any dog owner wants is for passengers to complain, or worse still, for dogs to not be allowed on trains in the future.
At the Train Station
To avoid unnecessary stress, make sure that you arrive in plenty of time, you want your dog to feel calm and curious about the new environment. A well-behaved dog will make it a lot easier when buying or collecting your train tickets from a window and cashier or from a machine. Time to put that perfect sit and stay command into place, and keep hold of your dog lead at all times.
Having ample time will make the first experience of going through station turn styles a lot easier, you’ll need to find a system that works for the both of you (who goes through first?), especially if you have luggage and a handful of tickets to manage as well. Try and keep your hands as free as possible, use a back pack if you can, and take time to put your wallet away so that your main focus is on your dog. You may encounter turn styles at station toilets too, especially ones where you have to pay to use them. Always try and bring your dog into the cubicle with you, never leave them alone, in case someone walks off with them. Getting your dog used to loud noises will help when using things like hand dryers and cubicle doors that bang shut. The more relaxed you and your dog are, the less anxious your dog will be about this new environment.
To get to the platform to catch your train, you will likely need to go up and down stairs, escalators, or use lifts that are crowded with people. Try and plan your journey so that you avoid peak times where people are going about things fast and not paying attention to dogs on the ground. Never take your dog on the escalator (unless you can carry them). Teach your dog good manners so that they learn to go up and down stairs whilst still waiting for you, and don’t let your lead get in the way or cause a hazard to others, particularly if it is an extendable one.
On the Platform
Trains sometimes appear as if from nowhere, rushing by loudly at a hundred miles an hour. Always keep your dog well back from the platform edge and try and find a quiet corner where you won’t get caught up in the flow of passengers in all directions. Let other passengers on and off the train first if necessary so your dog doesn’t get stood on in the stampede.
When boarding a train, take great care when getting on and off, especially where there is a gap or the steps are awkward. Lift your dog onto the train if your dog is small and light enough, or train them to take steps slowly, with care and caution. This is where your ‘stay’ or ‘wait’ command comes in handy. Your dog’s attention should be fully on you, not distracted by the environment.
Finding a Seat
On some trains, you can book your seat in advance, and specify whether you want a forward or rear facing seat, table, and power socket. Try and select a seat where you will have space for your dog to sit on your knee, to lie on the floor out of the way of passengers in the gangway. Try to avoid travelling with your dog in a crate on a luggage rack as these often get full and can get warm. Even if you book your seat, just remember that sometimes the booking system fails and you might not get the seat that you reserved, it can be a free for all, so respond to any changes in a calm way, try not to get anxious and stand in the vestibule until a seat becomes available or the gangway becomes less crowded if you have to.
The journey and needs of your dog will vary incredibly, so think about these ahead of time. If your dog is the kind of dog that’s happy to just sit on your knee and look out of the window, then plan for this and for what you will need to do to feel comfortable yourself. Sitting with your dog on your knee for a 10-minute journey is a whole different ball game than a journey of several hours, especially if you have a table or not much leg room to stretch out. Does your dog need stimulation or quietening down? Do you need to bring treats along as bribes or rewards for times when your dog is getting restless? Does your dog have a favourite blanket that you can put on the floor for him or her to sleep on? If your dog is wearing a muzzle or a coat or sweater, is he or she too hot or too cold? Is your dog in direct sunlight and getting too hot, or is the carriage crowded? Sometimes it is easier to take your dog for a stroll up the gangway or into the vestibule for a change of scenery or to cool down. Rather than getting frustrated at your dog’s restless behaviour, try and focus on alleviating the reasons why your dog is getting restless. What is your dog trying to tell you?
If your journey is unbroken and you don’t have options for toilet breaks on the platform, then training your dog to pee on a puppy pad can really help with long distance travel. But you need to train your dog to pee on a pad beforehand. Many of the new trains have large toilets – ideal for going in to the cubicle with your dog, putting a puppy pad on the floor, or for cleaning up any little accidents, without other passengers being aware, provided that you clean up after yourself properly of course. You want your dog to feel as comfortable as they can, so that the journey is just something that becomes part of their normal life, no big deal. It’s a good idea to have poo bags on you at all times, and to carry puppy pads, hand wipes, and a bottle of water for rinsing hands or topping up a water bowl. If you think your dog is thirsty and you get really suck, fill a dog poo bag with a bit of water, and allow your dog to drink from the bag, but keep an eye on them.
Managing Other Passengers
You will come across all sorts of people when travelling, so you need to mindful of their needs and behaviours as much as your own and that of your dog. Be prepared for how you might deal with different situations and come up with plans. Some people are allergic to dogs, some people are terrified of dogs, others will lavish your dog with affection. If your dog has a sensitive stomach or an allergy to certain foods, then don’t be afraid to politely ask other passengers not to give scraps to your dog. And be mindful of any old food scraps that might be on the floor or under seats. If you need to move seats to accommodate these different scenarios, then move. If that small child seems to be getting on your nerves and your dog’s nerves, then take a walk or move to another carriage. Likewise, if you find that you are sat on the hot and sunny side of the train, or even the cold side, then move. Don’t forget that other passengers might be travelling with their pets too, dogs, and sometimes cats. If you know that your dog struggles with these scenarios, remove yourself and your dog from that environment before things escalate.
Enjoy Your Journey
Train travel with your dog can be one of the most fun and exciting ways of exploring the British countryside, and with proper planning and thought can be a very simple process. There is nothing better than seeing your dog crashed out on the way home from a day of hikes and adventures to places new.
Written by Sarah Weldon
Make your garden dog friendly
When you are gardening or sunbathing in the garden dogs enjoy nothing better than trampling through the garden’s undergrowth sniffing and nibbling at anything they find. You can’t always see what mischief your pooch is up to, and so it is important to know how to make your garden dog-friendly. This article will advise you on how to ensure your garden is a safe area for your dogs to roam.
Tips on how to maintain a dog-friendly lawn
Having a dog-friendly lawn gives dogs and children the ideal space to run around and play in, and are safer than stone and gravel surfaces. Caesar Millan, a leading expert on dogs, advises that gravel can cut their feet while artificial grass and stone surfaces can over-heat and burn the dog’s footpad. A lot of dog owners find that grass is the ideal dog-friendly surface as it is soft, warm, and doesn’t become uncomfortable on bare-feet in the sun.
Upkeep of that lawn however, can prove hazardous to a dog’s health. John, director of Mowers Online, an expert in lawn-mower safety, advises that advances in noise reduction technology for electric models of lawn mowers are proving to be increasingly dangerous dogs. Petrol lawn mowers are louder and scare dogs away, whereas with electric mowers (due to lower levels of noise) dogs are less cautious and even approach them. This can cause significant injury to your four-legged friend. Moreover, some electric models have power cables that can cause a dog to trip or to get tangled in them as they play. John recommends that dogs are kept inside or away from the grass when the mower is in use.
If your dog is using the lawn to do its business then it is important to make sure the grass is trim and tidy. A mown lawn makes it easier to locate where the dog has gone to toilet and easier to clean. The RSPCA stresses how important a faeces free environment is for the dog’s health. Dog poo is highly toxic to your lawn causing decolourisation and can contaminate water sources. The poo can also house parasites such as hookworm and diseases that can infect your dog if not disposed of promptly. So, having a well-maintained lawn is essential to your dog’s health.
How you can create a toxic free garden for dogs.
A dog’s urine can burn and discolour grass. Some gardeners use chemicals to treat lawns that can are toxic to dogs. To create a dog-friendly lawn you should remove all chemical fertilizers from your garden. Another popular pro tip is to give your dog a dash of tomato juice that will help to reduce the acidity of your dog’s urine and prevent damage to your lawn. Diana Alfuth, a leading horticulturalist, states that this myth is false and it is the nitrogen that damages the grass. Pesticides, slug pellets and other kinds of chemicals used to protect plants can also put your dogs at risk. It is best to have chemical free garden. The RSPCA has complied a list on how to avoid dog poisoning in the home and the garden, as well as the most common poisons for dogs.
- Sweat Peas
- Yew trees
The Dogs Trust has compiled an extensive list of plants that are toxic to dogs . Kiki Kane of Rover.com has created a list of popular and colourful plants that are dog-friendly. To ensure your garden is safe for dogs you should plant and create your borders with these plants in mind.
How to make your garden a safe-haven for dogs
Dogs need a safe, and shady space to hide in the garden for those days where the garden can get to hot. When the heat is pouring down dog’s love to trample through the over-grown borders of a garden and find a shady patch of cool soil to lie on and this is one of the reasons you should ensure your borders contain shade creating non-toxic plants for canines. So, when you are designing your borders make sure you design a few places where your best friend can bunker down and enjoy the shade.
These shaded areas should be supplied with fresh water on hot days to make sure that your dogs are well hydrated, and not over heated. You should make sure that nothing in your garden collects stagnate or algae covered water as this can also be toxic and harmful when ingested.
These are easy tips to follow and keep in mind when designing a safe garden for dogs. The most important things to remember are that stone or gravel surfaces can harm their pads, to remove toxins from the gardens, and to build them shaded dens to relax when it’s sunny. Do you have a great tip to share? We’d love to hear from you.
Written by Ella Hendrix
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Today’s Tech = Better Flea Treatment + Medication For Pets
With all of today’s newest technology available at our fingertips, it’s not just about the size of our sophisticated handheld devices and smartphones anymore. It also comes to mind at the hands of our physicians, hospitals and caregivers when it comes to the many amazing new medical and medicinal advances available everywhere and they’re growing rapidly.
In the majority of these cases, we’re getting more effective medicines, diagnosed with better equipment and the eventual care provided to help us in our quest to live much longer and healthier lives. Speaking of medical advances and many newer pharmaceuticals out there, these are not just for humans, but they also benefit our pets.
Think of it this way, back in the day when mobile phones were the size of a small suitcase, there were few options available when it came to the eradication of parasites like fleas, which are really frustrating for our pets. Most of these antiquated products only came in the form of flea collars and different topical solutions. Not to say these particular products aren’t very effective in killing these pests. But with today’s modern technological advancements, these products have improved drastically over the last few decades.
For example, those old-school flea collars weren’t always available in either scentless or hypoallergenic forms. In many cases this ultimately made these products become an unsuitable option for canines with skin issues, allergies or sensitive sensory glands.
They also did little for preventing contact or interaction with certain wild critters that we’re unable to keep away that may overwhelm them with these nasty little blood suckers. Once again, given more medical advancements, we’ve being presented with much better products in today’s marketplace to assist both consumers and their pets.
One If By Mouth
Another excellent advancement with flea treatments nowadays comes in the form of those taken orally, or one by mouth, usually lasting for a month. Although it requires a red-letter date being placed on one’s calendar, or given today’s technology, a reminder put onto our smartphone. But these products are not only a tasty treat, they’re also extremely effective for long-term and short-term relief from annoying fleas.
That’s right you heard (actually read) that statement correctly. Short-term relief can exist even with products that are taken internally. There are oral flea medications eliminating these pests remarkably fast. For instance, there’s at least one oral medication (VetIq Healthy Treats Flea Guard) with the ability to start killing fleas shortly after ingestion.
Topical Treatments Are Now Tougher & Safer
While we’re taking advantage of these newer, more advanced options when it comes to quelling fleas, topical treatments like shampoos and sprays have also come a very long way. As time and trends have moved on, so have these products which have become devoid of many dangerous chemicals used in the past, include more natural products and are better for the environmentally compared to the past.
Keeping up with all of today’s technology can be challenging at best, but we should also include our four-legged best friends in this important process when it comes to these relevant trends. But they’re not just trends, they are important advances that lead to better, happier and healthier lives for both our pets and our family.
Written by Amber Kingsley
Travel junkie, Amber Kingsley, is a freelance writer living in Santa Monica, CA. Her art history background helps her hone in on topics that are of interest to readers. She is a dog enthusiast and loves spending time with her pomeranian, Agatha.
House Training a Dog/Puppy
All dogs are pre-programmed to soil outside their nest, so in this respect puppies already have an instinct to move away from the nest at around 3 weeks of age to go to the toilet. With time, puppies will learn by themselves to be toilet trained. All we are doing is speeding up the process and adding a few helpful things along the way.
Housetraining is one of the first things you will teach your puppy and it is the start of your relationship with them. It is important that the puppy’s first experience of his new family is a positive one.
I was told to punish my puppy when he soils inside
The old method of punishing the puppy in any way (including rubbing his nose in the mess!) is plainly cruel and will only delay the housetraining process, not to mention the mental damage you will be doing to your puppy. One of the effects of punishment is the loss of control of the sphincter and the bowels and thus the problem becomes aggravated.
But he always looks guilty when I get home
Some people incorrectly believe that their puppy knows it has done wrong, since the puppy seems too look guilty when they come in and see the mess. This is not true, as all the puppy is doing is responding to your body language and displaying submissive/appeasing language in the hope that he will not be punished. The puppy does not know why he is being punished when his owners come home. Human concepts of guilt, regret, spite, etc, or even knowing that the carpet is a covering for the house floor does not exist in dogs. The puppy just did the very natural act of eliminating when he had to.
What are the ground rules for housetraining?
The key to success in housetraining is to be alert and well prepared. Here are a few tips:
- Keep your puppy confined to a small play area at first if you cannot keep an eye on him or when you are away from home. This could be the kitchen, utility room, bathroom or a section of the room with a cordoned area using a puppy pen. This area should have a floor that can be easily cleaned.
- Ensure they have a comfortable bed, a bowl of fresh water, plenty of hollow chew toys. Puppies can get particles of toys stuck in their throats and can die, so the best chew toys are kongs and sterilised hollow bones stuffed with dog food. You will be teaching him to target his chewing at chew toys and nothing else. It is also a great idea to feed your puppy’s dinner in Kongs.
- Create a toilet area at the furthest point from his bed. Place polythene underneath to ensure that waste matter does not leak through. Alternatively, a cleaner and more efficient method is to use puppy training pads such as those by Simple Solution.
- Make sure that he cannot get to other items in the room.
How often should they be let out to do their business?
Your young puppy should be allowed out once every hour to eliminate. Use a designated toilet area in your garden and let your puppy walk and sniff around the area. Keep it clean to ensure that he will not go somewhere else in the garden that is cleaner. By selecting a specific area, you are helping your puppy understand what you want from him when he is taken to that spot and it will be easier to keep clean. Products such as Swiftie House Training Aid and Simple Solution Potty Training Aid for Puppies are useful to help train your puppy to eliminate in a specific area. The pheromone treated Pee Post from Simply Solution can also help in attracting your puppy to a specific spot.
It is also a good idea to have a keyword for your puppy to let him know that you would like him to go to the toilet. It could be anything you want, for example ‘busy’. This will come in handy as he gets older and you need him to relieve himself at an appropriate time and place. Make sure you stay with your puppy when you take him outside (on the lead, if needed), as this will prevent him from getting distracted or upset with the separation and thus forgetting about relieving himself. You only need to take him out for a few minutes. If he doesn’t relieve himself in that time, then you can put him back in his play area or supervise him until next time. Don’t forget he will be going back with a full bladder, so keep a good eye and try again in half an hour’s time.
You should always try to take your puppy out at the following times:
- Immediately after the puppy wakes up
- First thing in the morning
- Last thing at night
- A few minutes after eating
- After playing
- After any excitement (e.g. after visitors greet your puppy).
Reward your puppy with calm, happy praise and with your chosen keyword as he is relieving himself (e.g. ‘good boy, busy’) and give him a couple of extra special treats after he has done his business (e.g. a small piece of dried liver or cheese). Do something very special after he has successfully used his designated toilet; like a game, lots of cuddles and maybe if he has had his vaccinations, take him out for a walk (the ultimate in dog rewards!). The benefit of taking him for a walk after his toileting means that your puppy will learn to be a fast eliminator and you will save yourself from having to clean after your puppy outside your home. By making toileting a happy experience, your puppy will soon get the message, have positive associations and learn quicker.
What signs should I look for?
If you see your puppy sniffing around the ground, crouching down about to go to the toilet or actually going to the toilet inside the house, quickly get his attention by clapping, calling him excitedly and running to the door so that he will follow you out. If he is actually going to the toilet you may need to shout something extravagant to get his attention and stop him in his tracks (e.g. something silly like ‘sausages!!!’ will help as it is not personal or aggressive). Make sure the shout does not scare him as this will make him nervous and more prone to toileting in the wrong place. The purpose of the shout is to alert him. By doing so, he will shut his bowels and hold it whilst you walk him outside. It is best that he makes his own way out the door rather than carrying him out, as this will help him learn that he actually needs to make his own way to the door when he needs to go to the toilet.
What if my puppy makes mistakes?
You will need to clean the area thoroughly to get rid of smells. Note that household cleaners do not get rid of all the proteins that we cannot smell. Do not use any cleaner with ammonia orbleach, as it will smell similar to the ammonia in urine and the puppy will identify it as a toilet area. Specialist cleaners such as Formula H Disinfectant is a safe ammonia-free solution specifically designed to help with housetraining.
Odour removers (such as SimpleSolution – Odour Remover) are also good at removing all proteins traces that household cleaners do not remove.
How long should it take to housetrain my puppy?
Like all young animals, puppies do not have full control of their bodies. Depending on the individual puppy, the breed and how much effort you put in the training, it may take up to 8 months to have a completely housetrained dog. Accidents will probably happen at night since the puppy may not be able to hold it in for many hours at a time initially. However do not despair; as long as the puppy is consistently going outside during the day he will soon learn that toileting means going outside when he has better control of his body.
You can also have your puppy in his crate in your room initially so that you can listen for the signs. If your puppy cries during the night pay attention to him and take him outside immediately. Do not fuss him or play with him, just go outside with him for a few minutes until he eliminates, praise him and then calmly and quietly take him back to sleep in his crate. This way the puppy doesn’t think that three o’clock in the morning is a good time to play.
Remember prevention is the key to successful housetraining. Take things slowly, have consistency and keep a routine. Be fair and kind to the young life endowed into your care. You will soon be enjoying happy, mess-free days with your best friend.
But my grown up dog is not yet house trained
If you have an adult dog that is still soiling in the house, then you will need to ensure that your veterinarian has not identified a medical condition. If the dog has not got a medical condition, then you will need to start housetraining from the beginning using an indoor crate. See our article Dog Crates and Crate Training for good advice about using crates. It is worth putting the effort in and ensuring you are constantly supervising your dog. If you do, then it should only take you a couple of weeks to re-train him. Follow the guidelines as with puppy housetraining. However adult dogs have more control of their bodies so they do not need to be taken out as often as puppies. Once the dog has gone outside, he can have the supervised run of the house; until you feel it’s time to take him out again.
The importance of playing with your dog
How you play with your dog (and how you don’t) makes a big difference on how your pet behaves, both in and out of play sessions. Playing can enhance your relationship, increase your dog’s willingness to do what you ask, teach emotional control, and in general make life a lot more fun. However, inappropriate play can also teach bad habits and create dogs who are emotionally out of control.
Many games with your dog should involve toys. Some of your dog’s toys should be of hollow, indestructible rubber into which you can stuff food, called Kongs. These are great at keeping your dog occupied when you don’t have enough time to play with him and it will encourage your dog to play by himself. There are many interactive toys out there that can entertain your dog for a long time. Have plenty of toys around, but only leave 3 or 4 out at a time and rotate it with some ‘new’ toys every week (even though you bought them months ago).
Although all dogs should have toys they can play with by themselves, the best kind of play is interactive play with you. It’s not only fun for both of you, but it’s full of opportunities for your dog to learn and become more responsive and better able to control himself when being emotionally aroused. It’s also a great way to enhance the bond between you and your dog.
Teaching your dog to fetch
This is an excellent way to exercise your dog. You can stand in your back garden enjoying your morning cuppa, while your dog runs its tail off – well, as long as your dog brings back the ball so you can throw it again (otherwise, that is chasing not fetching!).
To get started, practise in an area with few distractions. Start by waving the ball in front of your dog. It’s usually the movement that interests the dog, not the object. When he’s focused on the ball, throw it 4 to 5 feet away. When he grabs it, that’s great, but resist the urge to say “good boy!”. You can now clap your hands and start running away from your dog. This will encourage your dog to move towards you with the ball in his mouth. Don’t worry if he doesn’t bring it back all the way. As soon as he drops it, pick it up and throw it again immediately. Don’t ask him to sit after he brings it back, that won’t make him bring the ball back and might even feel like a punishment to him. You want to reinforce your dog for bringing it back by immediately having it again.
Repeat this a few times, but be careful about asking for too much too soon. Don’t worry if your dog loses interest after 3 or 4 throws, this is common at this stage of training. Gradually, over a period of months, throw the ball more often, ending either before your dog gets bored with the game or before he gets too tired. If your dog at the end fails to chase after the ball, no problem, game over. Don’t coax and plead, just walk away. Otherwise, you are being taught to fetch the ball yourself and be forewarned: dogs are really, really good at teaching humans to retrieve!
Teaching tricks to your dog
Teaching tricks is another wonderful way to play with your dog. Trick training has the advantage of being enjoyable for both of you, while still teaching your dog that it’s fun to pay attention. Teaching a trick is also a great mental exercise, and dogs need mental exercise as much as they need physical exercise. It makes sense if you think about it: Our dogs’ ancestors were problem-solving, strategic hunters who had to plan and coordinate their activities based on a complexity of factors. Many of our dogs are woefully under-employed, and teaching tricks is a wonderful way to engage their brains.
The tricks you can teach your dog are limited only by your dog’s physical condition and your imagination. You can teach your dog to sit pretty, to look sad, to take a bow, spin, roll over, shake, pray or even roll himself up in a blanket when you say “night night”. It’s a good idea to use a clicker when teaching such tricks, as it gives the dog feedback with such precision. There are many books out there in the market that take you step-by-step through clicker training on some of the more popular tricks.
There’s no reason not to think of ‘sit’ and ‘lie down’ as tricks too, and that might be a good thing. People seem to be more relaxed and cheerful when they are teaching their dogs ‘tricks’ rather than ‘obedience’. They also have more realistic expectations about tricks, rather than expecting their dogs to obey out of respect and submission. Remember you get back what you put in. If you want your dog to be enthusiastic, then be sure to be enthusiastic yourself.
Good dogs are made, not born, and they rely on you to be their coaches, supporters and benevolent leaders. So, here’s to a long, wonderful life for both you and your dog! Keep practising and playing together to forge the relationship you want.