Training Treats. Which ones deserve a Click?

Training Treats for Dogs and Cats

Left to right, Rattle and Reward Treats for Dogs, Trixie Trainer Snack Poultry Balls, Trixie Trainer Snack Lamb Balls, Pet Munchies Stix, Pet Munchies Training Treats, JR Pure Training Treats, Pet Munchies Natural Cat Treats, Homemade liver and garlic treats, Rattle and Reward Natural Treats for Cats, Davies Puffed Jerky

What not to use

There are a wide variety of ‘training’ treats available on the market and whilst many of them are no doubt tasty and tempting for your dog, not all really deserve that name. We take a look at some of the best-known dog treats and give our honest opinion of them from a training perspective.

Unsuitable training treats

A few years ago, when we ran our own training classes, one of the biggest problems we encountered was owners bringing inappropriate treats to the class. When training a dog, whether it be clicker training or not, a treat must be large enough to be seen, but small enough to be consumed quickly so that you can reward and carry on. Munching on a biscuit for a few minutes is not the best way to achieve results, and large quantities of unsuitable treats can result in weight gain.

But not only must a treat be small, it must also be palatable, tempting and motivate your dog.

From our own experience, we found the very best treats which worked on 99% of our client’s dogs were our homemade liver and garlic treats. We would buy a whole cows liver, cut it into tiny pieces, around the size of a fingernail, sprinkle it with garlic and then nuke it in a microwave until it was dried but not crunchy; you could still squash it between finger and thumb. Where that failed, tuna cake would be the answer.

For those not wishing to go to such lengths, we have tested many of the commercially available treats and with the willing help of our own dogs have come up with the best ones for the job.

Our testing results

Rattle and Reward Natural Training Treats

Rattle and Reward. Actual size of treats compared with a 5p coin

Rattle and Reward Treats for Dogs are now available in both poultry and fish flavours, but whichever flavour you choose, your dog is sure to love them. They are natural, grain-free and come in a variety of sizes. The small bone or fish shapes are actually not a bad size for training. However, the one drawback with them is they are crunchy, so they take a few moments longer to eat.

Handling:  Slightly greasy, hard treats
Ease of Use:  Easy to get a grip on and dispense
Palatability:  Our dogs love both flavours
Motivation:  The dogs are very happy to work for them
Training Treat (TT) Rating 6/10

Pet Munchies 100% Natural Dog Training Treats

Pet Munchies Training Treats. Actual size of treat compared with a 5p coin.

Pet Munchies Training Treats are available in five different flavours, Liver and Chicken, Chicken, Duck, Venison and Sushi. These 100% natural dog treats are low fat. They proved popular with our dogs who were eager to eat them. The pieces are just a tiny bit too big to be ideal, and the Sushi treats are slightly larger than the others, but they are soft and easily consumed.

Handling:  Soft and pliable, flat treats, apart from the Sushi which cube-shaped
Ease of Use:  Not that easy to get a grip on a single treat
Palatability:  The Sushi ones were very popular
Motivation:  The dogs were keen to work for them
TT Rating 7/10

Pet Munchies 100% Natural Chicken Stix

Pet Munchies Chicken Stix

The second offering from Pet Munchies isn’t strictly a training treat, but we have to confess that we used them throughoutToby’s training classes. Pet Munchies Gourmet Stix Dog Treats are 100% natural and tasty too, judging by how keen Toby was. They don’t fit the profile of the perfect training treat, but they are soft and chewy, and we cut them up into very small pieces before every training session. So they do require some work, but if you get the size right, they make an excellent reward worth working for.

Handling:  Soft, pliable treats that tended to dry out if left for a few days after cutting
Ease of Use:  They had to be cut to the right size (this takes some experimentation) before each training session
Palatability:  The Chicken Stix are loved by all our dogs
Motivation:  Toby went through all his training classes using these treats
TT Rating 4/10

JR Pure Training Treats

JR Pure Training Treats. Actual size compared with a 5p coin.

These treats are too big straight from the packet

JR Pure Meat Training Treats for Dogs are 100% meat, a single source protein and grain-free. Great if your dog has allergies as you know exactly what they’re getting. They come in a huge variety of flavours so there should be something for everybody. These treats are a nice consistency, but they are too big for training treats. Cutting them in half, produces a treat around the right size.

Handling:  Firm, dry but pliable and easy to grip
Ease of Use:  Each one would need to be cut in half to be a good size for a training treat
Palatability:  They don’t have a strong odour and we found the dogs inspected them thoroughly the first time they were offered
Motivation:  Once they had the first taste, they were keen for more
TT Rating 6/10

Trixie Trainer Snack Balls in Poultry or Lamb

Trixie Trainer Snack Poultry Balls. Actual size compared with a 5p coin.

The Trixie Trainer Snack Balls in poultry and lamb flavours are gluten-free, with 80% meat content and no added sugar. They are soft rather than crunchy and are the perfect size for a training treat, so can be consumed in a flash. Probably the best size of training treat we have ever come across. Available in 500g tubs.

Handling:  Very small soft treats
Ease of Use:  Because of the round shape, easy to get a grip on and dispense
Palatability:  We’re not sure if the dogs actually got a taste before swallowing
Motivation:  The size of the treat left them eager for more
TT Rating 8.5/10

Home baked liver and garlic treats

Homemade liver treats

There are dozens of different recipes for liver treats and liver cake, and if you have the time and want to create your own dog treats, this is the way forward. Liver cake can be crumbly and difficult to cut into small enough pieces but chopped liver can either be baked in a low oven until it dries out, or in a microwave if you don’t have much time, or better still, use a dehydrator. All the goodness of the liver is retained, and your dogs will love them. A sprinkling of garlic before cooking will make them pungent and irresistible.

Handling: Can be messy and smelly
Ease of Use:  There is effort involved in making them and they need to be refrigerated
Palatability:  99% of dogs love them
Motivation:  Dogs will work hard to earn these treats
TT Rating 9.5/10

Davies Puffed Jerky

Puffed Jerky

One other thing to consider, especially with clicker training is the ‘jackpot’ treat. The one where the dog does so well that a tiny treat is just not enough. This can be larger and can take longer to consume, just to ensure that they know they’ve done really well. We use Davies Puffed Jerky Dog Treat, which is basically dried lungs. This is quite simply the best ever jackpot treat we have come across and our dogs will jump through hoops for it, literally! It is best saved for special moments or to reinforce an outstanding behaviour.

Handling:  Slightly greasy
Ease of Use:  Easy to snap into bite-sized chunks
Palatability:  The dogs adore it
Motivation:  Will encourage and reward the dog in equal measures
TT Rating 10/10

All of these dog treats have been tested on our dogs with differing results. Some were more popular than others, but one thing we did notice was that if one liked them, the others generally did too. It is essential when training to find something that your own dog likes and will motivate them. This may take some experimentation with different treats until you find the one(s)! And if your dog is prone to food allergies do ensure that you check the ingredients carefully. Just because something is called a ‘lamb’ treat doesn’t mean that it is exclusively lamb!

And remember if you are training, do adjust their main meal(s) accordingly to take into account the number of treats you are feeding.

Training your Kitten or Cat

Teach your cat tricks with tasty treats

Train your kitten or cat before mealtimes, as a food reward won’t be so enticing on a full stomach

And don’t just treat your dogs; cats can be trained and treated too. Although training is more traditionally associated with dogs, you can also teach your cat a few tricks and reward them with cat treats! Your feline can learn to recognise their name and come to you when you call them. To help your pet pick up these skills, it’s important to train your kitten from an early age and as soon as possible, but just like dogs, you can teach an old cat new tricks, especially with the right motivation!

Pet Munchies Gourmet Cat Treats

Pet Munchies 100% Natural Cat Treats

These Pet Munchies 100% Natural Cat Treats were a great hit with a cat-owning pal, particularly the Gourment Fish Fillet which proved to be the paws-down winner! The small, bitesize pieces are highly tasty and ideal as a training snack or just for pleasure.

Natural Treats for Cats

Rattle and Reward Natural Treats for Cats

How many times have you been calling your cat at the back door? With Rattle & Reward Natural Treats for Cats, there’s a healthy way of calling them home. Perfect for training them to behave that little bit better or just a delicious healthy treat for any time of the day (or night)! Available in 30g, 270g tins or refill pouches.

Disc Dog by Heather Smith

Getting started in Disc Dog has never been easier than it is now even though this canine sport is relatively new to the UK. I had seen it on videos online and I had also seen it demonstrated when I had been judging Heelwork to Music abroad but it was so very exciting to hear it had arrived here in the UK!

I started two years ago and have since become a UK Disc Dog Association trainer, judge and assessor. I had gathered enough interest here in Scotland to have a weekend seminar and was surprised at how much more there was to this activity than simply Freestyle which was I have to confess my initial interest!

Maddie – Lily the Pink Picture courtesy of Janet Dawn

It’s perhaps no surprise that my interest was in Freestyle as it rather looks like my main activity, also known as Freestyle in Heelwork to Music, the difference lying predominantly in the presence of discs! I have been doing heelwork to music for around 14 years now and was aware that many other top competitors abroad were successfully combining these two activities and I suspected that it added a great deal of motivation to the tricks and sequences of tricks that both activities include.

In the UK Freestyle is known as Freedisc and you’d expect to be putting together a routine which included tricks from your dog with a variety of throws from yourself all set to music of your choice! It is the most challenging of the Disc Dog Activities that you can take part in here in the UK and it is perhaps the most spectacular to watch as the handlers include such tricks as rebounds off their bodies, jumping onto their backs and with the dogs doing flips and jumps there is certainly plenty of excitement. And with the inclusion of different types of throws of the disc the handlers and their dogs have to be very skilled.

 

Freedisc Training

There are other Disc Activities which make for a more accessible starting point. There are a variety of activities such as Toss and Fetch, Throw and Catch as well as UK Disc Dog Association Throw Disc. There are slight differences in the rules of these activities but they all about speed and distance – so how far can you throw your disc and how fast can your dog go catch it and fetch it. These are always against the clock and are fast, furious and exciting. They make for a great entry point to disc where you can hone your throwing skills and your dog can learn to catch. You can play as an individual or as part of a team and they are highly motivating and confidence building for your dogs.

For those of you who enjoy agility, you may very well enjoy Jump Disc. In this UK DDA activity, your dog must complete a sequence of three obstacles which may include jumps and tunnels or three of either, prior to the disc being thrown. It adds an extra skill to the foundation level Throw Disc and prepares your dogs well for the greater and more challenging jumps involved in the freedisc.

Disc Dog is a very active and physical sport and with this in mind one of the most important issues I can address is keeping your dog fit and safe in taking part in Disc Dog, or indeed in any other canine sport.

With physical fitness in mind, I always recommend that new starts and those with young dogs participate in a Body Awareness or Canine Proprioception Course with myself. The purpose of these courses is to develop fitness through a variety of exercises which promote awareness of body parts and in doing these ensure your dog will be less likely to sustain injury.

Developing body awareness

So many of the body awareness exercises involve trick training which as a Dog Dancer are things I am teaching anyway. Such basics as can your dog lift his paws not just the front feet but the back paws too can form the basis for exercises such as bring front and back paws together or all four paws coming together as the dog becomes fitter and develops a strong core.

There is also a great deal of merit in alongside the paw lifting and placing tricks, teaching your dogs to place their feet with precision and care and to this end teaching cavaletti is a lot of fun for both dog and handlers. You can quickly learn a great deal about your dog’s movement which is also useful as both a warm-up exercise but in recognizing whether your dog may have an issue which may require examination by a vet or physio.

Of course, most of my students love all the ‘sexy’ equipment which a body awareness class includes. So, there are paw pods (and sometimes little bean tins and bean bags!) which the dogs use to learn about paw placement, there are peanuts, donuts and exercises balls which are used to develop balance, core and fitness. We even add some tricks to these such as bowing whilst balancing or perhaps even begging and these then are progressed on to my Gymnastricks class!

Gymnastricks is a unique programme that combines sensible exercises to help keep your dog healthy with great tricks for you both to enjoy

Gymnastricks is a whole lot of fun as in this class we are looking at the tricks that Disc Dogs do onto their humans’ bodies and they are a natural progression from Body Awareness Class. Some dogs are cautious about climbing all over their humans’ others simply see no reason not to! You can expect to be teaching your dog to be jumping into arms or onto your body, begging on your back, balancing on your upturned feet and so much more!

Keeping your dog fit and safe means not progressing too fast, taking time to consolidate all your ‘tricks’ so that your dog has a good basis on which to develop and progress. To that end it is advisable you’re your dog should not be jumping until he is 12 months. We are all very aware that dogs, especially large dogs are still growing and developing and there are so many foundation skills to put into place.

Another thing to consider is how you train. So many injuries are borne out of repetition. For example, I have had two agility dogs who both sustained RSI injuries relating to landing and turning, this is a repetitive activity in agility dogs and since the 1990s I have not had these injuries as I have adapted my training to avoid repetition. So, keep your sessions varied, short and repetition free with all dogs irrespective of age.

A good warm-up routine is very important

A final word – make sure you warm up your dog before any activity and that includes throwing a disc. It’s never acceptable to take a dog straight from a car and throw discs. Consider an active warm-up where the dog is active in this (as opposed to stretched by his or her human!) and tailor this to the activity the dog is doing so turns left and right, small jumps etc. A warm-up can take approx. 20 mins, and a cool down period is equally important with the dog’s activity level, heart rate and breathing slowing down and finishing with a massage. A good class will advise on this or take advice from a qualified physiotherapist.

So, if I have captured your interest, I am hoping you might be asking how do you get involved in Disc Dog. There are a whole host of clubs springing up now throughout the UK.   In Scotland, I am the only person running training at the moment and I have regular classes in Ayrshire with foundation classes in the Glasgow area and of course, I am bookable for day or weekend workshops.

The winning disc team at the Dog Lover Show. Jackie McLaughlin and Brachen, Michelle Porter and Luna, Marie Docherty and Walter and myself and Google

Trainyourdogs with Heather Smith

Gymnastricks: Targeted Muscle Training For Dogs

Hyperflite Discs

Trixie Dog Activity Balance Cushion

The Puller Dog Fitness Tool

The Puller Dog Fitness Tool

 

Puller Canine Fitness Tool

The Puller. Best toy ever for dogs who love to chase and tug!

We have to rank the Puller Dog Toy as our favourite dog toy of all time. It epitomises our philosophy of Training, Exercise, Play. Every one of our dogs loves it.

It looks simple and it really is, but the fun they get from it is truly amazing.

But the Puller is not just a toy in the conventional sense, it is an innovative fitness tool for dogs developed by a professional cynologist (one who studies dogs). But our dogs are not interested in the science, all they understand is that it’s fun to chase, and also great fun to tug.

The Puller makes a great tuggy toy

Go on then, pull!

So what is the Puller Dog Fitness Tool? It’s a set of two purple rings and they come in five sizes to suit just about every dog. Although the Maxi’s come as singles. The idea behind them being that they enable you and your dog to engage in active daily training with a positive motivation and also the ability to better understand and develop your dog in a psychological way. Really? Not sure about the last bit but they certainly give your dog a thorough workout.

The Puller comes in packs of two

Daisy always likes to carry a spare…

The unique concept of Puller Training is based on working with two circles and comprises of three simple exercises – running, jumping and pulling, which can be combined, modified and customised to achieve the best results for your dog.

The Puller, great for all types of dogs

Even in her wheelchair, Daisy still enjoys her Puller

It is also, apparently, a new Dog Sport, although it doesn’t yet appear to have reached the UK, with the Puller World Championships being held in Hungary this year. It comes in two disciplines – Puller Running and Puller Jumping. Races take place on a rated racing surface, each discipline lasts 90 seconds and has relatively simple rules. Contestants earn points for correct execution of the exercises. Both disciplines are evaluated separately.

Sport Dog Puller is primarily fun for dogs and owners. It is about physical condition, coordination and mental readiness of the dog, team coordination between dog and handler, but mainly it’s about the joy of working together!

The Puller also floats and is great in water

The Puller is equally at home in the water as it is on dry land.

Of course, it floats and is an ideal retrieval toy in the water, especially to motivate our girl, Daisy to do a few extra laps.

Thanks to the convenient range of sizes we were able to get our dogs started as pups with the Mini Puller. And Toby was smitten from his first encounter. He is Puller mad!

Well, we’re not sure about all the science behind it, or the Dog Sport angle but one thing we do know for sure, is that dogs love ’em. We can testify to that. If a simple throw and tug toy is what you’re looking for you can’t go wrong with the Puller.

And lastly, our girl Tilly has her own unique take on the Puller! How does your dog hold theirs?

The Puller a unique toy for your unique dog

Tilly has a very unconventional way of carrying her Puller!

Blood Donation, it’s not just for humans

Could your pet save a life?

Back in 2015, Jack was rushed to the vet for an x-ray which led to an operation to remove part of a hard rubber ball that was firmly lodged in his gut. Thanks to our quick reactions he made a full recovery, but we were very wary of his tendency to pick up and eat rubbish he found in the field and kept him muzzled for several months whenever he was outside.

We felt it wasn’t fair to do that forever, so we stopped muzzling him hoping he had grown out of his obsession and indeed, it did appear that he had.

Muzzled!

However, earlier this month he began displaying the same symptoms, vomiting, refusing to eat and not being able to settle. Not really much to be concerned about in the dog world as a lot of dogs have off days, eat a bit of grass and are sick afterwards. But with Jack’s history, alarm bells started to ring.

We stayed calm, left it a day, but there was no improvement, so off to the vet he went. Whereas usually the vet might have checked them over, advised starving for a day (no need for that, he wasn’t eating anyway) and taken their temperature, Jack went straight in for an x-ray, followed by an ultrasound.

Both were inconclusive. Nothing could be seen apart from the fact that he had an enlarged gall bladder, but it didn’t mean that there was nothing there.

The vet seemed keen to open him up and take a look but we decided to hold off. He stayed overnight on a drip and we collected him the next day, Saturday. There didn’t seem to be any improvement from the time he went in and despite the tasty chicken and rice we had prepared for him, he still wasn’t eating. We had the option of taking him in for an op on the Sunday, but due to the fact that nothing was actually visible in his gut, we came to the conclusion that we would wait a bit longer, after all, it’s a big operation and not one that should be carried out lightly.

Finally, Sunday evening, he ate a couple of tiny cubes of chicken. We were ecstatic. Monday morning he was back at the vet having actually pooped as well, hooray! He had more antibiotics and very gradually started to improve.

He’s now back to normal, thank goodness albeit with a shaved and itchy tummy. No Cone of Shame for him this time! We are glad that we held out and decided against the exploratory op, although it was a tough decision.

The Cone of Shame!

However, the whole episode got us thinking about operations on dogs and particularly canine blood donation. We had considered it once before when Amy, our now sadly departed GSD, was ill and Sophie (her litter sister) was lined up as a potential donor.

There is a national canine donor service run by Pet Blood Bank UK, which launched in 2007, and is the only charity that provides a canine blood bank service for all veterinary practitioners across the UK. It is similar to the human blood service. Dog owners register their canine companions to give blood at one of the many sessions across the country and every unit of blood can help save four other lives, saving thousands of lives every year.

And cats can save a life too at Cat Blood Donors.com. Register your feline companion and help save a cat’s life.

Register your pets as blood donors

This year National Blood Week is 10-16 June, with World Blood day falling on 14th June. If you are considering signing up as a blood donor, why not also consider signing up your pet as well?

And should your pet be unlucky enough to be one of the animals in need of a blood donation and recuperation, have a look at our KONG Product Review which offers a number of ideas and enrichment products to keep your animal occupied in the recovery phase.

Unleash the Power of KONG

Unleash the power of KONG toys!

Do you know what a KONG can do?

The unassuming toy with a secret

When we first came across KONG Dog Toys, which must be twenty years ago now, they didn’t look like the most exciting dog toy we had ever seen. In fact, probably like a lot of people, we saw them as a tough chew toy with an erratic bounce. Our dogs just weren’t that interested.

How wrong can you be?

The secret to the Classic, Puppy, Senior, Extreme, and indeed the Kitty KONG, is that it’s a hollow rubber receptacle for all sorts of doggy, or feline delights. It has holes at both ends, one large and one small. The key KONG ingredient is the stuffing. That’s what makes it so special and so very useful.

What does the inside of Classic KONG look like?

The inside of a KONG

Let your dog, or cat, in on the secret

Firstly, you need to get your dog or cat interested in it. Once they understand what it’s all about they will not only want it but love it. To begin with, you just need to fill it with a couple of their favourite treats. Something they really enjoy, that they can smell, and that will easily slip out of the large opening. Try this for a few days. Don’t hand them their favourite treat, put it in a KONG and let them get it out themselves.

As soon as they understand that this ‘toy’ is the bearer of delicious snacks, they will start to get excited as soon as they see it.

You can work on this, gradually stuffing the KONG with other delights and making it a tad more difficult for the dog to get out. Make them work for it. Plug the small hole at the bottom with peanut butter (check it’s Xylitol free) or cream cheese and then fill with a variety of treats. Leave a longish chew sticking out to get them started.

A fully loaded KONG

Eventually, you could dispense with your food bowl and feed them their meals in the KONG. You can also freeze the filled KONG which is great for hot sunny days; a KONG Popsicle, or to make them longer lasting.

It can take your dog a couple of hours to fully empty the KONG and lick the peanut butter or maybe liver pâté from the bottom so they are perfect to extend play-time and can help distract them if they suffer from separation anxiety.

Problem behaviours can be helped with a KONG

Feed their minds

An excellent enrichment toy. They are perfect boredom busters if they are confined to a crate, hopefully, cut down on chewing and stimulate them mentally at the same time.  We had one dog, Sophie, who was KONG mad. She had developed a foolproof method of getting every last grain from her KONG toy. She would take it to the top of the stairs and drop it. As it bounced down the steps the treats would come tumbling out and she would snaffle them up!

It’s important to get the correct size for your dog so do check out the detailed KONG size chart before purchasing. And take another look at this seemingly simple KONG toy, now that you know how to unlock its secrets.

Check the KONG size chart before you buy

It’s important to get the right size for your dog. If in doubt, size up.

Get stuffing

You may also like our short video on how to stuff a KONG, and you can find plenty of inventive KONG stuffing recipes at BARKTHINK, or maybe your cat may be partial to a Kitty KONG stuffed with bacon and eggs?

Sit back and be amazed at how your much your dog loves its KONG. And the good news for us humans is that when they’ve emptied it, we can stick it in the dishwasher.

But of course, your cat can benefit from a KONG in the same way your dog does. Cats go absolutely crazy over the Kitty KONG once they learn to use it; it’s an excellent way to keep your cat occupied and challenged.

The original and the best KONG

The KONG range

Since their original and we think best ever invention, the KONG Company have branched out and now do a wide range of enrichment toys for dogs and cats. See our full range of exciting and innovative KONG products here.

KONG now do a wide range of enrichment toys for both dogs and cats

We have a wide range of KONG products, both new and old favourites

From left to right KONG Tiltz, KONG Replay, KONG Babbler, KONG Snacks, KONG Safestix, KONG Easy Treat, KONG Ballistic Hide ‘n Treat, KONG Quest Foragers Dumbbell, KONG Rewards Shell, KONG Senior, KONG Quest Foragers Flower, KONG Squeezz Ball, KONG Stuff-a-Ball.

The White Warrior

Daisy, a differently abled dog!

Daisy has degenerative myelopathy, a non-painful, progressive disease of the spinal cord that usually results in hind limb paralysis. At present, she can still move her hind legs, but they don’t support her weight and she can’t walk unaided. Indoors she drags herself around using her front legs.

Living with a disabled dog is a real challenge and we have altered our lifestyle to cope with her needs. So how does our day look? Well, it begins with Daisy plunging from the sofa when we get up, and to ensure she doesn’t hurt herself, we have a folded yoga mat in her landing spot! We use either a rear harness or (for sheer speed) we wrap a belly band under her gut and guide her outside for her morning ablutions, being careful not to stamp on trailing feet.

Then it’s time to get ready for her first walk of the day, and for this, she is ‘booted and suited’. Her feet are constantly dragging on the ground so we ensure that they are well protected with dog boots. She is then hoisted into her wheelchair which is made by Best Friend Mobility. We are delighted with it. It’s sturdy and has a flexible saddle which is comfortable for her and allows her freedom of movement.

She’s always eager to get going, yipping with excitement and the pressure is off of us for a while as she runs free in the field, chasing her favourite toy, the Puller, or sniffing out rabbits with the four other dogs. Occasionally she topples over and then it’s all hands on deck to get her upright and back in her chair, but whatever happens, she has a whale of a time!

Back from her walk, she’s assisted into the office and onto her bed. Her boots are removed, feet dried and cream applied to any sore areas (these are rare thanks to our prep, but they do happen). Then her feet are wrapped in lint and Fun Flex Bandages to prevent any damage when she’s dragging herself along the floor.

She is served breakfast on a stand to make it easier for her to eat sitting up, and for ‘elevenses’ she has her first dose of vitamins wrapped in a slice of ham and followed by a tasty biscuit. She is taking and a mixture of B Vitamins (mainly B12) and Biotin as it has been suggested that dogs with DM may be deficient in B12.

Then it’s snooze time for her but work time for us as we get an hour or so off.

At lunchtime, she is assisted outside to toilet then back to her bed for another biscuit and her afternoon snooze.

Late afternoon and we start gearing up for her second walk of the day. Dog boots on, harness on and hoisted into her wheelchair. On her return, her routine is similar to the morning.

Another snooze until dinnertime.

After dinner, outside for more ablutions, then she’s assisted onto the sofa next to the woodburner, where she awaits her evening treat. Then more snoozing until her final outing to the toilet just before bed, and her final biscuit of the day.

She generally sleeps through the night, but has been known to have the odd accident so we have a special cover for the sofa. We have also covered the floors in hardwearing, industrial rubber matting which not only makes clearing up after her a lot easier, it also gives her a grip on the floor so she can pull herself along.

The next day we begin the whole process again.

It is physically and mentally exhausting looking after her, she weighs around 25kg so it takes strength to lift her and she’s not the most cooperative dog to deal with. Not to mention the constant worry about her deteriorating health. We are very fortunate to be working from home which allows us to care for her 24/7, so she’s rarely left alone.

DM is a horrible condition, and to see our once healthy, very active dog dragging herself around is heartbreaking. However, she still loves going out, she adores chasing her Puller and she also swims regularly which gives her freedom from her paralysis as all four limbs seem to work perfectly in the water.

Swimming at Fusion Veterinary Physiotherapy

We know what’s in store for us. She will continue to deteriorate and despite all our efforts, there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. We just care for her as best we can, keep her comfortable and happy take hundreds of pictures so we will always have the memories. We are amazed at the way she has adapted to her situation and feel so proud of her when she trundles along in her wheelchair.

We were really lucky to get her wheelchair through the Finding a Cure for DM Foundation. They run a Wheels to Help Me scheme. By making a donation to the charity you can borrow a set of wheels that have been kindly donated by parents of DM dogs. Her particular wheelchair has two tags on the back with the names of its previous occupiers. Such a lovely way to remember them and we are so grateful for their generosity. The wheels will, of course, be returned to them at some future date, but we don’t want to think about that just yet.

Hungry like the wolf

Biologically appropriate raw food

It must be about 20 years ago now that we first started feeding our dogs a raw diet. The reason it came about was that we were having such a problem getting them to eat consistently. They were forever turning their furry noses up at bowlfuls of dried food, also known as kibble. To try and entice them into eating we were smothering the pieces in ‘dog gravy’ or topping their dinner off with tuna, anything to try and get them to eat. Of course, these meals are designed to be wholly balanced so us adding bits and pieces on top wasn’t really helping. Whatever we did,  they would only eat it for a couple of meals and then once again they would leave it. We were getting quite desperate and trying a different kibble every other week, and ending up with bags and bags of half-eaten dog food.

We really weren’t sure about it, but we decided to make the leap and try raw, or the BARF diet as it was back then.

It seemed so complicated. Instead of a balanced meal at each sitting, we had to achieve balance over time. There were different meats to included, offal, fruit, veg and bone. When we started, we had a spreadsheet which detailed their twice-daily meals for weeks at a time.

Dried food, BARF or tinned

However, it was all worth it, and it was a complete revelation when from day one there were no turned up noses or food left sitting in bowls all day. It was eaten with great gusto. We nearly fainted when we first saw our dogs eating a raw chicken wing!

In all that time, with all of our dogs, we’ve never had a dog that wouldn’t eat raw. Yes, there were days they wouldn’t eat if they were unwell, or bits and pieces they would leave. We don’t think we ever had a dog that liked raw liver, cooked yes, raw no! From pups, they’ve all been switched straight to raw without any problems whatsoever.

Until now, that is.

Our Tilly has been raw fed since the day we brought her home at eight weeks. She took to it like a duck to water in the same way as the rest of them always had. However, when she had her first season, we noticed that her eagerness to eat her dinner disappeared. Sometimes her food would be down for a couple of hours before she would touch it.

Tilly and Toby with their first ever chicken wings

When her season was over, she appeared to return to normal, but maybe not quite as enthusiastically as before.

At the beginning of this month, she stopped eating again. We were pulling our hair out trying to entice her to eat. The only thing that had an effect on her was having Toby walk past her meal; she suddenly developed an interest in it.

Just when we were beginning to think she may actually be ill, even though she would happily eat a treat or a piece of cheese, we realised she had come back into season a month sooner than expected.

We moved her out of the house away from our entire male dogs, to the caravan, but she absolutely refused to eat. She was still wolfing down treats but not her meals. The weight was dropping off her. As a last resort, we tried some tinned meat that we had bought for Fin when he was unwell many moons ago. Duck and plum flavour. We started with just a couple of spoonfuls.

She scoffed it up, so we gave her more. Again, she ate it, so she got the rest of the tin.

At last, we had managed to find something she would eat. We ordered a whole stash of tinned meat for her, and she continued to wolf it down, nothing wrong with her appetite at all, she just didn’t like raw.

For the time being, we will keep her on tinned food. Some of it smells so nice; we are quite tempted ourselves!

We are hoping that when this season is over, she will come to her senses and return to raw, as there is a downside to NOT eating raw food…

So, what do you feed your dogs, and why? Dried food is definitely the easiest option for a multitude of reasons and if you have a dog that eats it without fuss then why change?  There are lots of myths and half-truths about the dog food industry, as there is with our own food, and if you are contemplating a change in diet, why not have a look at this website All About Dog Food which may help you to make up your mind, if your dog hasn’t already made it up for you!

And if you’re a cat feeder, check out the Reviews for the Best Wet and Dry Cat Food available.

The Great British Dog Walk

The daily dog walk is sadly in decline

As dog owners, one of our main responsibilities is the daily dog walk. Let’s face it, when the weather is rough, or we fancy another hour in bed, or there’s something good on the telly, we often search for an excuse NOT to walk the dog. In fact, those are some of the top reasons we use as well as a whole host of others. Now Forthglade have launched a campaign to reinstate The Great British Dog Walk and help you re-discover the joy of walking. Not only is it good for our pets, it’s good for us too, and a good walk can affect our health, wellbeing and happiness.

What with the obesity crisis, which affects not only humans, but our pets as well a daily walk could be just what we all need to get us back on track.

But before we all rush out and get started, another factor we may want to consider, especially in the colder weather is the ‘warm-up’, which can be important if your daily walk involves chasing a ball, flying disc, or in our case, the Puller Exercise Toy for Dogs. It had never occurred to us before. Our dogs can be seen hurtling out of the front door, across the yard and into the field in hot pursuit of their favourite purple toy! However, recently we came across an article on Warm-up Exercises for your Dog. Humans are aware that they need to warm up their muscles before exercise but for some reason, we hadn’t thought about it for our dogs.

It doesn’t have to be a long, complicated process, just a few minutes of some basic moves will make all the difference and could prevent injury. It also offers a fabulous opportunity to bond with a bit of training. Do some circles to the left and right, have your dog weave through your legs, teach them a play bow.

Similarly, towards the end of your exercise, make sure that you calm things down and give your dog time to cool off before he returns to the car or indoors.

So now is the perfect time to think a little differently about that daily chore, turn it into a fun experience that is a pleasure for both you and your dog. There are some great motivators on the Forthglade site and also experts on hand to help you along the way.

Take up the six-week dog walk challenge and fall in love with that daily walk all over again, but more importantly, make a dog happy today and every day!

 

It’s in their DNA

We get into genetics…

For many many years, we have been dedicated German Shepherd owners. Only once did we stray, and that was with our Border Collie, Jack. We really needed a sheepdog and the shepherds just didn’t have the knack.

Each and every dog we’ve had has been unique, and we’ve loved them all. It has always been our dream to one day breed a litter, but up until now, we never felt we had dogs of the right temperament.

Along came Toby and changed all that. He is smart, maybe too smart, good-natured, and equally importantly he has good hips and elbows.

We finally thought we had found the perfect dog to breed from. We looked around for a bitch that would be suitable and were lucky enough to find Tilly locally. She is a year now and will soon be hip scored. If she passes, the endorsement will be lifted on her pedigree.

But before embarking on any breeding programme, and because we have had two shepherds who have suffered from DM (a non-painful, progressive disease of the spinal cord that usually results in hind limb paralysis), Daisy is going it through it currently and it’s heart-breaking, we decided to look into genetic testing.

We found a lab that provides this – Animal Genetics – and ordered our testing kits. We were testing for DM, specifically the SOD1 gene. There has been a huge interest of late in genetic testing, and it seems people are not always delighted with the results.

Just like on detective programmes, when the kits arrived, we swabbed the insides of the cheeks of Toby and Tilly, then they were posted off to the lab for testing, along with details of their Kennel Club registration numbers.

Within a week we received the results in an email and as others have discovered before us, we were devastated by the results.

Tilly was clear, no problem with breeding her, she was very unlikely to ever suffer from DM. However, Toby, our precious Toby, was a carrier!

What did this mean?

If he is bred with a clear bitch, he has a 50/50 chance of producing puppies that are carriers. NOT at-risk puppies, just carriers like him.

We were very upset and started talking about neutering. We have been through this horrible disease twice now and wouldn’t wish it on anybody else.

However, we have done further research and listened to advice from other breeders.

If we breed him with Tilly, he could produce carriers, but these carriers would not be at risk of DM. We could have them genetically tested and identified, place endorsements on the pedigrees of the carriers so that they could only be bred with a clear dog. Any future owners would be fully informed, it would all be up there on the Kennel Club website, and it must surely be a good thing that they would know they are getting a dog that is practically guaranteed not ever to have DM?

There are other important issues to be considered in breeding and temperament is one of them. Toby and Tilly both have excellent temperaments, and we would very much like to perpetuate that, weeding out the highly strung, flighty, dare we say, aggressive dogs.

At the moment the jury is out, we haven’t made up our minds one way or the other, and until Tilly is hip scored, we can’t take any decisions. But just recently the Kennel Club published a press release on the powerful long-term impact of DNA tests on dog diseases and appears to indicate that selective breeding using DNA testing is the way forward for responsible breeders.

And as DNA testing can bring good news as well as the not so good, we know Toby will never need a wheelchair, we decided to order a test kit for Archie. At least if we find out now that he is “at-risk” we can take some measures to slow down the onset of this terrible disease.

How we wish now that we had known in advance for our Daisy.