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Archie wearing Julius K9 Saddlebags

Dog Backpacks – The Positive Benefits

 

Dog wearing Julius K9 Saddlebags

Archie wearing Julius-K9 Saddlebags

The positive benefits of a backpack

Dog backpacks can have many positive benefits for your canine and can turn a basic walk into a rewarding experience.

It gives your dog a job

Many types of dogs like to be engaged in activities, and a dog backpack can help to give your pup a purpose. When they’re wearing their backpack, they know they’re helping in a tangible way, which will make them happier and ultimately, healthier. If you have a small or ageing dog,  an empty backpack is just as effective. They will still feel they have a job!

It calms them down

A bit like a pressure wrap for anxious dogs, a backpack can help to calm your dog and make them feel more secure.

Helps them focus

Is your dog distracted on walks? Maybe it’s other dogs, cars or bikes. A backpack can set them into work mode and help them focus and disregard the distractions.

They carry their stuff

Poop bags, for instance! You never have enough hands or pockets so why not fill the backpack with a collapsible bowl, water bottle, tasty treats and even a basic first aid kit?

It’s a workout and can build muscle

An extended hike with a well-balanced backpack can result in a good workout and help build muscle, and even on those dismal days when ‘walkies’ time is shorter, they will still get a decent amount of exercise.

Walking together strengthens your bond

Put the backpack on whether it’s a long hike in the woods or a quick trot around the park, walking together strengthens your bond and both of you will sleep better for it.

Dog wearing Julius-K9 Saddlebags

Improves physical and mental health

Walking is good for the body and the mind for both you and your pup. Not only does it increase stamina, but during regular exercise, dopamine levels in the body increase, which is associated with improved mood and a happier outlook on life.

Top Tips to teach your dog to wear a backpack

Step 1: Choose the right backpack for the job. Is it for long hikes or a quick jog around the park?

Step 2: Measure your dog to ensure you get a good fit.

Step 3: Get them used to the backpack. Let them see it and sniff it before attempting to put it on.

Step 4: When they wear it for the first time, let them get used to the empty weight of it on their back and adjust to walking through gaps with it on.

Step 5: Start slowly and add items to the backpack so that they get used to carrying a bit of weight. Do short walks at first.

Step 6: Gradually add items so they can get used to balancing and manoeuvring with the filled backpack in place.

Step 7: When they’re comfortable with it, go off and have adventures!

Adventure Hund also have some excellent advice on How to Train Your Dog to Wear a Backpack.

Dog wearing Julius-K9 Saddlebags

Archie, ready for an adventure!

See our range of Dog Backpacks and start your adventures here!

Wheels for Hope Margo

Rescue dog in Romania with her Walkin' Wheels

Hope Margo in her new Walkin’ Wheels

Wheels to Romania

We recently received a wheelchair order from a customer in the USA, which we shipped to a dog rescue in Romania. A week or so later, we were delighted to receive this picture from Negris place – dog rescue (WARNING: this Facebook page does show some distressing images) where we got to see Hope Margo’s first outing in her shiny new wheels. This beautiful soul was hit by a car and left by the road until she was discovered in a bad way two days later.

Rescue dog in Romania recovering from surgery

Hope Margo recovering from surgery

She had surgery and has made an amazing recovery, and thanks to the tireless efforts of the rescue and the generosity of the wheelchair donor, she is now ready to embark on a new life in a loving family home.

Could you rescue a pet?

We have been lucky enough to have shared our lives with two amazing rescue GSDs from Vigil GSD Rescue, Blitz and Fin. They were both fantastic dogs. It took a while for them to settle in and they never truly got along together. However, we were able to find a simple way to manage that situation and both dogs led wonderfully happy, fulfilled lives with us. Watching them blossom after their unsettled start was a lovely experience.

If you are seriously considering taking on a rescue animal and giving them a fresh start in a new home, you may face a few challenges to start with, but you too can discover just how immensely rewarding it can be.

Adopt don’t Shop

Taking on a dog or any pet is a huge commitment. If you have decided that it’s for you, then it’s worthwhile thinking Adopt Don’t Shop!

Pet rescue organisations in the UK:

Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchairs

Gardening with Pets in Mind

Time to mow the lawn

Time to mow!

The Garden Revolution

During the lockdown, there seems to have been a huge trend to transform the humble garden into something more glamorous. Areas that were perhaps neglected and were the domain of dogs, cats and rabbits are suddenly becoming our sanctuaries of peace and quiet, giving somewhere to sit in the hot weather, dine alfresco, or splash about in a pool or hot tub. Many have even created their own garden pubs!

Our lockdown project also focused on our garden. We have finally transformed an area that was once inhabited by chickens that ate every green shoot that reared its head, ducks who paddled around to create a huge mud bath, to something far more lush and sophisticated.

Ducks and chickens

Before

Garden transformation

After

We should stress that this whole transformation has not been achieved during the lockdown. We have made several smaller changes over two or three years. However, it is fair to say that the garden has received a lot more of our attention over the last few months, as we have concentrated on creating a space that we could enjoy and feel proud of, and also to offer a haven to wildlife rather than poultry.

Wildflower garden with poppies

Buzzing with life

Grass, is it a Green Issue?

Grass has been a big talking point and as we all know, our dogs are not always kind to our lawns.

Their urine tends to burn yellow patches, and faeces needs to be disposed of. There are always holes to be dug, too, if your pooch gets the urge!

We have seen some amazing transformations on social media and one of the biggest trends seems to be artificial grass.

Artificial grassCan artificial grass, AstroTurf, be a  good alternative to the real thing? It’s come a long way over the last few years but is it really a viable alternative?

Pros and Cons

Surely the best things about it are:

  • It should look perfect all year round
  • It will never need watering or mowing
  • Weeding is unnecessary.

But it is not without maintenance, and:

  • It’s expensive to install
  • It gets very hot in the sun
  • It’s not considered to be environmentally friendly
  • It’s not wildlife-friendly
  • It needs to be cleaned
Artificial grass with stripes

It can even come with stripes!

Did you know you can buy a special hoover for artificial grass?

Despite the fact that even in the northeast of Scotland, our newly-sprouted lawn needs mowing once a week, we have not been tempted to take the artificial grass route. Perhaps you have? We would be interested to hear your experiences as a pet owner, and whether you have found it to be a truly a good alternative.

Making your Garden Pet Friendly

Of course, grass is only one part of a garden, and for pets there could be all sorts of other hazards lurking out there. Gardener’s World offers some top tips for keeping your garden pet- friendly by pointing out robust plants that can survive the onslaught of cats and dogs, and also poisonous plants that you may not have given a thought to (such as tomato plants).

Foxgloves can be poisonous for pets

Foxglove

We have an abundance of foxgloves in particular, which can be toxic.

Apart from the obvious things like ensuring you have a secure fence and/or gate, there are other hazards to consider: garden chemicals, and wee beasties like slugs. And don’t forget to secure your compost bins which may contain food scraps that might prove very attractive to dogs.

But hazards aside, remember to create some interesting and stimulating areas for your pet. A designated play area, and even a toileting area. With a little training, they will quickly learn to use it, and everyone can reap the benefits of a well-tended garden!

For us, and I’m sure for many others in this period of lockdown, the garden has been an absolute lifesaver and has brought much pleasure to peoples’ lives. After all the hard work that we’ve put into them, let’s all enjoy our gardens and our pets safely, whatever we chose to grow in them.

Talkin’ Wheels

Daisy in her wheels

Daisy in her Walkin’ Wheels

Wheelchairs for pets are growing in popularity

During lockdown, we’ve been taken aback by the volume of calls we’ve received from owners considering a wheelchair for their dog.

Is it because people are spending more time with their pets and have been forced to confront the reality that they are ageing or becoming less mobile? We know we buried our heads in the sand for some time and were reluctant to admit that Daisy had a problem.

Whether like Daisy, your dog has DM (degenerative myelopathy), another problem, or just old age creeping up, there is no doubt that a dog wheelchair can bring immense benefits.

Let’s face it, when you see your pet in the early stages, still walking but starting to struggle, you may consider euthanasia. No one wants to see a beloved pet suffer, and for some, that may be the correct course of action. Also, financially, it can be a difficult choice as a dog wheelchair is a considerable investment.

Should you consider wheels?

Daisy digging in her wheelchair

Daisy still able to dig up molehills!

If you are facing this situation and you are undecided, let’s consider some of the pros and cons of taking that step.

Wheels can be a viable option. They give your dog (or cat) back the freedom that they once had to run free, chase their ball, or just potter around sniffing if that’s their thing.

With the correct introduction and encouragement, a dog wheelchair can enhance your pet’s life by giving them back the independence of movement. They can still pee and poop whilst in their chair too.

A dog wheelchair can also give pets a huge mental boost, particularly if they have become frustrated or depressed when they cannot move around as freely as they once could. It is incredible how quickly they adapt to the wheels.

On the negative side, it is true that some pets simply don’t take to dog wheelchairs. We believe that with a little work, and right incentive, most hurdles can be overcome, but of course, each dog is different.

For larger pets, wheelchairs can be less practical for indoor use – the larger the wheelchair, the wider the wheelbase becomes, so doorways and furniture (and your feet!) are difficult to navigate around.

You should also consider how you will lift your pet in and out of their wheelchair. Technique is everything, but even so, your dog may be heavy and need to be manoeuvred into place. Additional accessories may be needed to help you (such as harness that can be fitted onto your dog first, before clipping straight into the wheelchair frame).

Think about the terrain on which the dog wheelchair will be used. Long grass or large obstacles will make it more difficult for your pet to move around, and you may need to choose a less hazardous route when out and about.

Do your research

Before you make your decision, think about what you want your dog’s wheelchair to do for them. Do some research, and talk to other owners who have taken the plunge. They will be the first to tell you the highs and the lows of wheelchair life, and talking about their experiences can really help you.

When one of our GSDs, Blitz, was diagnosed with DM, dog wheelchairs were not a very accessible option. He was happy when he was around us, but he would have loved to be mobile again.

By the time Daisy was diagnosed 8 years later, dog wheelchairs were becoming more prevalent. We were sceptical of them, and unsure whether Daisy would be willing, but we are so glad we gave one a try. Daisy was gifted nearly two years of happy ramblings with her wheelchairs, chasing her beloved Puller. Even when she could no longer run after it, walking around the field with it clamped firmly between her jaws was enough to put a smile on her face!

Daisy’s wheelchair journey:

Sabrina

From a happy new Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair user:

Sabrina in her wheelchair

Sabrina in her new Walkin Wheels wheelchair

“It has been great to see our dog have some quality of life back. We can’t get her out every day, but when we, can she loves it.”

Sabrina in her wheelchair

Rolling happily along!

“I was worried she wouldn’t take to it as she has always been scared of most things (she doesn’t even like squeaky toys) but as soon as we put it on her she was off”.

Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchairs

Thank You

Our thanks to everyone

Life under Lockdown

Has our life here changed under lockdown? To be honest, on a day-to-day basis, not that much.

We work from home, we have plenty of space to walk the dogs, and our families live a fair distance away, so we don’t get to see them that often under normal circumstances. Nonetheless, we have still ‘felt’ a restriction – the sense of not being able to go out, even for something trivial, just because we want to.

For others though, we understand that the adjustment has been huge and much more difficult to make, but we have heard so many stories about how creative people have been throughout this unprecedented period and how they have filled their time with new challenges and hobbies. We found it quite inspiring, in many ways.

Escape to the Garden

Lately, we have spent lots of time outdoors in the garden. We have recovered our polytunnel which was lost in a severe storm several years ago.

In early April, the polytunnel looked like this, with the hoops and refurbished rails.

Reconstructing the polytunnel: 05/04/20

And this is how it looks today. It’s amazing how quickly everything has grown and we are looking forward to a bumper harvest. We are already enjoying fresh herbs, spinach and rocket.

The polytunnel today: 24/05/20

We have also taken a keen interest in all the wildlife in our garden and have installed several bird boxes which were occupied in no time, especially this cute little caravan.

Our thanks to key workers

Although we have been lucky enough not to call upon their services, we are truly grateful to NHS and care workers for what they are doing. Just knowing they are there has been hugely reassuring to us.

We would also like to thank all of the other unsung heroes that have kept us going over the past three months. The delivery drivers who continue to deliver stock to us. Royal Mail who have maintained regular postal collections without missing a beat so that we could get orders out the door to our customers. Plus a special mention to the shop workers who have kept us fed and the bin men who ensured we weren’t overrun with rubbish. The many others who work in difficult circumstances, too.

Going forward

How have your lives changed during this awful pandemic? Have you learned lessons that you will take forward, or will you just be glad when it’s all over?

Here are some excellent tips on how to ease your pets out of lockdown: AFTER THE LOCKDOWN: HELPING YOUR PET TO COPE WHEN NORMAL LIFE RESUMES

And how to ensure your dog is not spooked by humans wearing masks have a look at this short tutorial: Teach Your DOG to Accept Masks

Please stay safe, take care and look after each other.

Sophie

Embrace the Curfew

Five German Shepherds

Left to right: Fin, Amy, Sophie, Blitz and Molly

Out of Control

Back in 2002, we were the confused owners of five German Shepherds. Their behaviour was appalling and we were losing control. Every morning we would take them to the nearby army ranges for their morning walk. We found ourselves going earlier and earlier in the hope that we wouldn’t meet other dog walkers because if we did, it would turn into utter chaos.

We realised we needed to do something about the situation and we consulted dog behaviour expert, Angela Stockdale of The Dog Partnership. Her advice was ‘they need a curfew‘. We were even more confused if we didn’t take them out, how would they get the exercise they needed? They would become even worse, surely.

We decided to put our scepticism aside and follow her advice. For three months we didn’t take them out for walks. Their stress levels that had been escalating day on day during the walk, began to come down.

Life without walkies

But you can’t just stop walking your dog and leave it at that. The morning walk had to be replaced with some other activity. For us it was clicker training and to say it was a life-saver is not an exaggeration.  We scheduled short five-minute sessions several times a day, individually for each dog. It enabled us to get to know each one of them far better, learn their strengths and weaknesses, what motivated them and what bored them.

In no time at all, they weren’t rushing to the front door at 5 am, barking and waking the whole neighbourhood. They were more relaxed. When it came to training sessions, we did various different things with each of them. We had a lot of glass doors and when one was doing their training session, the others would watch.

Dogs Dancing

Molly (left) does the tango with Fin

Molly, who was a timid girl, learned to dance and her confidence grew. Fin, who was our newest rescue, learned some manners and how to behave around ladies!

Dog Skateboarding

Amy on her skateboard

Amy who was frankly a bit of a thug diverted her attention to skateboarding.

KONG Time

Amy (left) and Sophie at the top of the stairs

Sophie was a master of the KONG. She would empty it of every last crumb by taking it to the top of the stairs and dropping it down.

Jolly Ball

Blitz with his beloved Jolly Ball

Blitz, our first rescue boy who was a real gentleman, loved the Jolly Ball and would spend ages playing with it on his own. Both him and Fin mastered the peek-a-boo trick (see our What Makes You Click Training Cards for this trick) and many others.

Did it work?

So, what was the result of our three-month curfew? We had calmer, better-behaved dogs that we knew as individuals. They could entertain us and show off their tricks which they really enjoyed. Who doesn’t enjoy praise for a job done well? It was time well spent and we were able to gradually reintroduce them to the outside world.

What you can do right now

Why not give clicker training a try? We have Clicker Training Cards, that come complete with clicker and treats, or download our What Makes You Click? cards absolutely free and get started right away.

Clicker Cue Cards

What Makes You Click Training Cards

You will need lots of tasty Training Treats which we have in abundance, or why not make your own. Most people have a tin of tuna, flour and eggs in the house. This recipe will get you up and running in no time: Tillies Tuna Cake Recipe.

Tuna Dog Treats

Tillies Tuna Cake Recipe

Snuffle Mats are becoming an increasingly popular game for dogs and cats. If you fancy a challenge how about making your own Snuffle Mat to keep them entertained when you’re flagging. An old doormat and some t-shirts should suffice to complete this excellent tutorial from the Dogs Trust.

Make your own Snuffle Mat

Make your own Snuffle Mat

Learn to love the curfew

Your dogs may not be badly-behaved and in need of a curfew, but it has been forced on us all and we have an opportunity to really make the best of it by embracing it and spending quality time with our furry friends. You never know, both dog and owner could learn something new.

Training with a Long Line

Tilly on a long lineThe beginning of the line

Many years ago, we attended a number of workshops for reactive and aggressive dogs. Throughout the workshops, long lines were being used as training aids and at that time, they were hard to come by. We realised there was an unmet need, so began making those long lines and hence the name of our company, Training Lines.

We used climbing rope to make the original ones, and we are still using our prototypes today!

The use of a long line has been brought home to us again just recently because Tilly has been on restricted exercise following her elbow arthroscopy. We have also used the same long line in the not too distant past when Tracking with Toby.

Scent Work with Toby

In short, they are useful tools, training tools, and not to be confused with long leads or extending leads.

We prefer to use them with a harness rather than a collar and advise you should always, no matter what the weather, wear gloves. Rope burns are painful.

Why use a long line?

Well, although they could be used as a long lead, they take some management to prevent both yourself and your dog from becoming hopelessly entangled.

Managing a long line

It’s easy to get tangled up, especially when other dogs are around

They are useful for young dogs to give them a sense of freedom while still retaining that all-important control, or for teaching a recall. They are also essential in BAT (behaviour adjustment training) in reactive dogs and provide a physical connection to your dog as a back-up for your mental connection.

And of course, there are various ones for use in Scent Work or Tracking.

Our preference is no handle. A dog can get up a good turn of speed on a long line, and the last thing you want is a dislocated wrist. It can help to tie knots near the end so that you know when you are running out of rope.

Before buying a long line, you should decide first of all what you want to use it for and then how long you want it. As mentioned above, the lines can be very unwieldy if too long.

Although we no longer make them ourselves, they are now far easier to obtain and here is our pick of the ones available.

CLIX Puppy House Line

Puppy House Line

Puppy House Line

The Clix Puppy House Line is a lightweight lead that can be used in the house to interrupt a dog’s undesirable behaviours without the need for confrontation or misunderstanding. 

Preventing undesirable behaviour is always more effective than stopping it once it has started because your dog will not get a chance to find out how much fun it is to be ‘naughty’.  You do have to think ahead and predict what your dog might do next.

The house line helps you to get to your dog before he makes a mistake. If your dog is about to do something undesirable, pick up or step on the house line to restrain him.  Distract him from what he was about to do by calling him, encourage him to show the behaviour that you want instead and then praise and reward him for getting it right.

Can be used to stop jumping up, stealing, chewing, digging, chasing, play biting, pestering other dogs in the household, climbing onto furniture or running out through an open door.

It should never be left on an unattended dog.

Company of Animals Lightweight Recall Line

A lightweight recall line

Lightweight Recall Line

The Clix Lightweight Recall Training Line is ideal for puppies and young dogs as it is made from an ultra-light yet durable fabric. The recall line allows the dog to be seemingly free and yet remain under control, combining security with freedom. An essential tool for recall training and ideal for controlled socialisation of puppies and aggressive dogs.

The perfect training tool for outings in a public place and the soft padded webbing makes the recall line comfortable to hold.

Clix Recall Line

Recall Training line

Recall Training Line

As with the lightweight version, the Clix Recall Training Line allows the dog a feeling of freedom while ensuring that you have control. For teaching a reliable recall, the long line is an excellent proofing tool for testing your dog’s proficiency and doing it safely.

Two lengths are available (5m, 16 ft 8 inches, & 10m, 33 ft 4 inches).

Trixie Tracking Lines

Tracking Lines: Tracking Line with Ball (cord), Tracking Line (cord), Tracking Lead (webbing)

Tracking Lines

The Trixie Tracking Lines come in several different varieties and can be a powerful communication tool between the dog and handler. With proper use, the communication flows back and forth all the time during the track. A handler’s primary job is to keep the line from distracting the dog, keep it out of the dog’s way and do not let it get tangled. The correct tension on the line will keep it straight in the air from the dog’s harness to your hand.

Tracking leads can be used for scent work or as a long line for recall training. They come in various lengths and styles.

PVC Coated Tracking Lines

Tracking leash with a PVC coating or integrated shock absorber

The Trixie Easy Life Tracking Leashes are available with a PVC coating which is resilient and durable, and easy to wipe clean. Available in various lengths, they offer freedom of movement while training or walking, and are also ideal for tracking or searching.

You can even get one with an integrated shock absorber that helps to cushion any sudden pulling making it kinder on you and your dog.

Excellent for tracking, scent work and distance or recall training.

Lining yourself up for success

We hope that gives you an insight into why, if used correctly, a long line is such a valuable training aid and although we haven’t gone into detail on how best to use them, a lot of the products come with basic instructions which are well worth reading before getting started. Alternatively, it’s worth doing some research online before deciding which one is best for you and your dog.

Tilly in her cone of shame

Beat the Boredom

Tilly after her elbow arthroscopy

Her legs must be chilly?

Cage Rest and Cone?

What do you do when you’ve got a sick or injured pet? What if they’re on cage rest? What if they are doomed to wear the cone of shame? We have been faced with this problem for weeks now.

But it’s not only that, what if they’re home alone or the weather is bad? How do you entertain a bored pet?

Exercise their brain!

For a dog on cage rest as our Tilly was after her elbow arthroscopy, wearing a cone to protect her stitches, life was very miserable and we feared for her mental wellbeing. Not only that but two weeks into her confinement, her spay scar became infected, so she was double coned and confined for a further two weeks.

Tricks and Tips

How did we cope? Well, we had two large dog crates which were situated in the main parts of the house so that wherever we were, she could be nearby. She had a soft toy with her at all times, but that had to be operated on to remove the squeakers. Toby hates squeakers and she was driving him crazy!

A stuffed KONG

A well-stuffed KONG always proves popular!

Due to the amount of space available, we decided to use smaller treat toys to entertain her. She couldn’t have coped with the puzzle toys in such a restricted environment. Our go-to toy for most occasions is the KONG. Stuffed to the gills with tasty treats, what dog could resist? And you can always freeze it for longer-lasting play. You simply can’t go wrong with a KONG!

Our second choice was the Starmark Treat Ringer Orb which proved such a big hit with Toby as a pup.

Treat Ringer Orb

The challenging Treat Ringer Orb

At first, Tilly found this difficult and it lay untouched in her crate, but by removing a treat and letting her get a taste of it, she was motivated to try for herself and eventually got the hang of it. Now it’s one of her favourite evening challenges.

Thirdly was an old favourite, the Lotus Ball. This is a very simple toy and probably better suited to retrieving, but for Tilly, it contained another little treat for her to extract and keep her mind active. To make it more appealing, we boosted it up with a jackpot treat, Davies Puffed Jerky. Our dogs go wild for it.

Lotus Ball and Puffed Jerky

Lotus Ball and Puffed Jerky

Puzzle Toys

If your dog is not restricted space-wise, there are numerous puzzle toys to keep them entertained. If you haven’t tried one before it’s best to start with something straightforward as you will find they are easily discouraged if they can’t get the hang of it. A great starter toy is the Nina Ottosson Dog Smart.

Nina Ottosson Dog Smart

Nina Ottosson Dog Smart

Another simple toy is the Lick n Snack Platter which gives them an instant win, plus licking can have a calming effect on your dog. Great as a feeding bowl, too.

Moving on you then can progress to the K9 Pursuits Interactive IQ Game Watson, and bring out the super-sleuth in your dog. There is the Nina Ottosson Dog Brick Interactive Toy, which has 3 different treat-feeding features and is a long time favourite. Or why not try the Dogit Mind Games Interactive Dog Toy that challenges both their physical and mental abilities. The K9 Pursuits Multi Maze is a 2-in-1 anti-gobble slow feeder and interactive game! The best of both worlds with its three interchangeable centrepieces all offering a different challenge!

Interactive Games

There are games to suit all levels: from top left, K9 Pursuits Interactive IQ Game Watson, Trixie Lick n Snack Platter, middle, K9 Pursuits Multi Maze Slow Feeder, bottom left, Dogit Mind Games Interactive Dog Toy and the Nina Ottosson Dog Brick Interactive Toy

Or your dog may prefer soft toys, so why not make these interactive too? If they’re not treat motivated but love a squeak, what about the Puzzle Plush Hide A Squirrel. Three furry gremlins to remove from their tree trunk nest.

Alternatively, there is the Sniffing Blanket Strategy Game, which has multiple hiding places for treats and small toys. Excellent for the keen forager.

Interactive Soft Toys

Some dogs prefer soft toys like the Puzzle Plush Hide a Squirrel or the Sniffing Blanket Strategy Game

You may find something above that you think is suitable for your dog but if not we have plenty more to choose from in our Interactive Play section or even our Treat-Dispensing Toys. And don’t forget the all-important Dog Treats to accompany your strategy games.

Keeping Cats Occupied

Cat in crateIf your cat is confined to a crate for any reason here are some tips and tricks:

  • Keep the crate super clean, changing water and blankets regularly.
  • Ensure the crate is in an area in the house where the family spends most of their time to prevent loneliness and boredom.
  • Keep some toys in the crate, perhaps infused with catnip, or dangling through the bars for entertainment. Swap the toys from time to time to give your cat something new to play with.
  • Have a regular routine so your cat knows what to expect and when. At night half cover the outside of the crate with a blanket.
  • Talk to your cat or play music or the TV so there is some background noise.
  • A cat pheromone spray may also help to calm and de-stress anxious cats.
Cat Enrichment Toys

From left to right Snack Mouse Treat Dispensing Toy for Cats, FroliCat CHEESE Automatic Cat Teaser, Cat Activity Fun Board Interactive Toy

There are a wide variety of enrichment toys available to keep your feline active and prevent boredom. There are self-play toys such as the FroliCat CHEESE Automatic Cat Teaser. Useful when they are home alone.

Next, there are the food puzzle toys that encourage foraging and make them work for their treats with the Cat Activity Fun Board Interactive Toy being one good example, and the Snack Mouse Treat Dispensing Toy for Cats, another. Your cat will learn to manipulate the toy to release the food.

Then there are interactive toys that are designed to strengthen the bond between you and your cat. The Cat Activity Fun Circle Interactive Toy is a game you can enjoy together, which is also suitable for older or sick pets and provides different activities on two different sides.

Take a look at our full range of Cat Strategy Games to find something to keep your kitty fully engaged.

So, do you know if your cat is bored? Take a look at this excellent article, Is Your Cat Bored? 10 Ways to Prevent Boredom, which explains how you can tell and provides some interesting ideas for enriching your cat’s environment.

Horses Need Enrichment Too!

Likit Equine Boredom Breaker

The Likit Boredom Breaker for Horses with Likit Refills in 4 delicious flavours

In a 24-hour period, a lot of equines will only have a few hours of mental and physical human engagement so boredom vices can set in. Enrichment toys can provide welcome relief for them and hung in the stable, the Likit Boredom Buster will do just that. Developed to provide environmental enrichment, this challenging stable toy is designed to get horses to work for their reward and there are four scrumptious Likit Treat flavours to choose from (available separately).

Enrichment provides a way to stimulate a horse’s natural instincts and is crucial to their overall wellbeing. By engaging these instincts, they can become healthier, happier equines.

Stock up and be prepared

In summary, ensure that your pets have a well-stocked chest with a wide variety of toys and games for both physical and mental stimulation. You can’t make every minute of your pet’s life exciting, but you can go a long way to keep their boredom at bay!

Daisy’s Story

Pup at 14 weeks

Daisy pup at 14 weeks

The White Wolf

Daisy’s story begins with a devastating loss for us. In the summer of 2009, we lost two of our five German Shepherds, Molly and Amy. One after the other within a week. Completely unrelated illnesses. They weren’t old, so it was totally out of the blue.

The grief was raw and for me, I couldn’t seem to get past it. I kept thinking puppy! I bought the local paper and trawled through the pet section. For once there was a distinct lack of German Shepherd pups for sale, but there was one ad that I decided to respond to.

I spoke to a woman who told me she had a 14-week-old white German Shepherd pup for sale. It wasn’t KC registered but was a full shepherd. If I was interested, I should act quickly as there were other people interested in her.

I had never wanted a white shepherd. We live in a very muddy place and I couldn’t think of anything worse than a white dog. However, she was all that was available at that moment in time and I felt like a pup was the only thing that would drag me out of my grief.

Neil didn’t take much persuading and we arranged to see the pup the next day.

On arrival, we discovered that the pup was living in a rented shed in someone’s back garden, with both its parents. The woman who was selling her, didn’t even keep her dogs in her own home.

Alarm bells should have gone off, but no. We saw her running around with both mother and father, who were friendly enough, so we took her. Instantly, I called her Daisy.

When we got her home, we carefully introduced her to the others, Sophie, Blitz and Fin. Sophie as always took charge.

That evening, despite the fact that she had never had much human contact, she spent the whole time asleep on my lap. She was a small white bundle of fluff and a real poppet. Although she was pure white, she had one single black spot on her front leg!

Daisy settled in well with the others, but it wasn’t long before she began growling at me. I was drying her tummy after she had been outside, and she started. I couldn’t quite believe it. I told her off, carried on with what I was doing, and she shut up.

From that day on, she was always a growler. She would growl at everybody apart from Sophie. Sophie wouldn’t have stood for it.

Our first encounter with DM

Not long after her arrival, we discovered that Blitz one of our rescue boys, had DM (degenerative myelopathy), a progressive disease of the spinal cord in dogs, most common in the German Shepherd Dog, although other breeds such as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Boxer, Rhodesian Ridgeback and Chesapeake Bay Retriever can also be affected. The condition has also been referred to as CDRM (chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy). It was our first experience of this horrible disease. The vet told us there was nothing to be done. As time went on, Blitz couldn’t move about much, so Daisy would cuddle up to him on his bed.

Daisy and Blitz cuddled up

Daisy pup with Blitz

We didn’t really know much about DM but learnt as we went along from various groups on the internet and although Neil made a wheelchair for him from copper pipe, we never tried him in it as he also had a mass in his gut and we were wary of putting any pressure on it.

Dog wheelchair frame

Our first attempt at making a dog wheelchair

Neil would carry him outside in a belly band that I made for him out of old sweatshirts. He was happy enough sitting in the garden. Then, of course, inevitably, the day came when we had to say goodbye. We were prepared, but it still hurt.

After we lost Blitz, Neil had to have physio for tennis elbow due to strain on his joints from hefting a large dog around day in and day out.

With just Sophie (Amy’s litter sister), Fin and Daisy, who was growing rapidly, we soon added to our numbers with Archie, then Jack came along. A collie. We had sheep, they needed herding and the German Shepherds just couldn’t quite grasp that concept.

We lost Sophie in the wintertime. She collapsed suddenly and died before we could get her to the vet. We were once again devastated.

The big Ginger Fin, our second rescue boy, was getting on and had his own ailments. Namely, anal furunculosis, a chronic, progressive inflammatory disease of dogs that results in ulceration and inflammation in the area surrounding the anus. He needed constant nursing, but inevitably we lost him too.

Daisy takes charge

Daisy was now in charge. She ruled the roost with Archie and Jack and continued her growly ways, but we were used to her and took no notice, although she could be alarming to visitors. She may have growled and snarled, but it was all show.

Daisy and a goat kid

She loved her life here on the croft, surrounded by livestock. There were two walks a day in the fields, the occasional rabbit to pursue and her favourite thing of all, chasing frisbees. She adored them from a tiny pup. When the Pullers came along, she was in her element.

In 2017, I started to notice that her back legs weren’t working quite as well as they should. There was nothing obvious, just a feeling I had, having been through a similar thing with our Blitz.

We buried our heads in the sand for a while because we didn’t want to believe that there was anything wrong, but during the winter months, I could tell from her pawprints in the snow that all was not well. It was apparent she was dragging her back legs very slightly.

Paw prints in the snow

December 2017

It was time to face up to it and get a diagnosis. A few years had passed since we had lost Blitz so there could have been some new treatment available.

DM strikes again

DM was confirmed, and we were disappointed to hear that there was still nothing that could be done to combat this horrible disease. We had recently discovered that we had a dog hydro pool nearby, Fusion Vet Therapy, so we decided to try physio and swimming.

Dog physio

May 2018:  Physio

We didn’t know how she’d react to the pool; she had never swum before, but during her first session, she took to it like a duck to water. She absolutely loved it.

Dog swimming

November 2018

As well as her swimming and physio, we scoured the internet and Facebook groups for something, anything that would help us prepare for what was to come.

As her disease progressed, and her back legs got weaker, we put her in Dog Boots to stop her from damaging her back feet. We tried just about every boot on the market with varying degrees of success. Some wouldn’t stay on her feet and we would spend hours looking for lost boots in the field. We quickly learned to tape them to her legs with micropore. Some wore out too quickly so we would reinforce them with duct tape. The boots that worked well for us, we decided to stock ourselves. Daisy tested them all!

After doing a lot of research, we learned that DM could be related to deficiencies in diet, after finding the following article: Does DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) and other Neurological issues like Seizures and Doggie Dementia, actually start in the gut? In desperation, we embarked on an extensive vitamin regime which was primarily based around vitamin B and magnesium.

Eureka!

We had one moment of triumph. Five days after we started her on the vitamin supplements, she suddenly stood up on her back legs for the first time in weeks and we were over the moon. We really thought we had found the cure!

Dog with DM stands up

December 2018: Daisy stands up

But it was short-lived, and we soon realised that vitamins weren’t the answer.

We continued with the weekly swimming sessions. She would get so excited when she realised it was time to go to the pool. She also had hydrotherapy sessions which she wasn’t quite so keen on but put up with them with good grace. Funnily enough, she never once growled at the girls at the pool.

She was at the stage where she couldn’t stand up on her own and we were using the belly band that I made for Blitz to get her out and about. She could drag herself along the floor so to help her get about indoors, we removed all the rugs that she was getting snagged on. This left wooden floors which were difficult for her to grip, so we bought metres of black rubber flooring and covered the ground floor of the house.

There was also some incontinence, so we got a cover for the sofa and invested in boxes of puppy training pads.

A wheely good idea

I really wanted to try a wheelchair, but Neil wasn’t so keen. I spotted a second-hand one on Gumtree which was not too far away from us, so we went ahead and bought it.

At first, it wasn’t a great success. It was a bit on the big side for her and she didn’t like the rigid saddle. She would just stand in it and not move. On the other hand, if we put her in the belly band, she would run around quite happily with Neil trying his hardest to keep up with her.

Sweatshirt belly band

October 2018: Out and about in her sweatshirt belly band

We decided to make some modifications to her wheelchair so that the belly band could be used to support her instead of the fixed wheelchair saddle.

When it was done, it looked a bit Heath Robinson, but she loved it. She had her freedom back. She could walk outside unaided, go to the toilet, run with the other dogs and even chase her beloved Puller.

Modified dog wheelchair

October 2018: We combine the wheelchair with the belly band

She may not have had her legs back, but she had her life back.

Her back legs were still very mobile, although they couldn’t support her weight, so we still needed functional boots.

There wasn’t the space to use the cart indoors, so she would crawl.

Her feet were of major concern to us, and every day we would check them over, put Sudacrem on any sore bits and bandage them up to protect them when she crawled. She also developed sores on other parts of her body from the friction of using the chair daily, and they also had to be attended to.

We rarely went out or left her alone for more than an hour as she got distressed. One day my mother was staying with us and offered to sit with her whilst we had a few hours away from home. Daisy was under the table in the kitchen. After a while, my mother detected an odour and when she looked, Daisy had pooed. As she was in such an awkward position, my mother couldn’t get to her to clean it up, so she used my extra-long wooden jam spoon to drag the poo nearer and pick it up! Needless to say, I shan’t be making jam with that spoon ever again!

But it didn’t matter what we did, there was no halting the progression of the disease and day by day, week by week, month by month, it gradually crept up her spine, leaving her more and more debilitated and reliant on us for her every move. She was too heavy for me to lift and take outside in the homemade belly band, but then we discovered the Solvit Mobility Harness, and with the aid of this, I could manage when Neil wasn’t around.

Her cobbled together wheelchair was wearing out, so we managed to get her another from a DM charity, Cure4DM. Once again, she had a new lease of life, only this time her back legs were no longer mobile, they were just dragging, so we hooked them up in stirrups. Still, she was running with the others and chasing her Puller.

Dog wheelchair with stirrups

April 2019: Her back legs are now in stirrups

It wasn’t long before we realised that her front end was struggling. She found it challenging to sit up. She was no longer dragging herself around the house and wasn’t finding it that easy to walk in her chair. There were also problems with diarrhoea and urinary incontinence.

The vet recommended Incurin for the incontinence and it worked. No more peeing herself overnight. The diarrhoea was a problem on and off. We knew we were having a good day if she ate her breakfast, didn’t pee herself and her poos were firm!

We lived day to day, hoping for the best. Worrying when she was under the weather. Neil slept next to her every night for months, holding her paw or rubbing her belly. He started off in a chair in the lounge and then graduated to a camp bed!

We decided to get her a new quad chair so that she would have support at the front end. We ordered her a snazzy, camo Walkin’ Wheels.

Daisy in her Walkin' Wheels

September 2019:  In her Walkin’ Wheels

Her new chair arrived, and it was perfect. However, we never did fit the front wheels. Our fields are rough grassland so we weren’t sure that she would be able to manoeuvre around it with the front wheels on. We were at the point where we were going to fit them on her wheelchair to try them. If they didn’t work for her, we would have looked for a flatbed trolley to take her out and about.

We lost the fight

Sadly, there was no halting the ever-creeping paralysis and the weekend just after Christmas she lost coordination on her right-hand side. Her belly was distended. She wasn’t peeing when we took her outside and she was generally sluggish and quite distressed.

As painful as it was, we knew the time had come to let her go while she still had some dignity, so we called the vet out. He examined her and agreed with us. It was her time.

On her bed in the lounge next to the wood burner, with a Christmas tree in the background, we said our goodbyes, told her how much we loved her and held her paws while she slipped peacefully away.

We buried her in the garden next to Blitz, Sophie, Fin, Amy and Molly. Some she had known and some she had never met, but we like to think of her running free with them all.

The pain of the loss seems unbearable, but we know from bitter experience that it will start to fade in time.

Knowing what to do with ourselves is another matter. Our days revolved around her care and now they seem to drag on endlessly.

We have the others to focus on. Archie, Jack, Toby and Tilly and already the pack dynamic has changed. We were always so focused on Daisy, her needs and her wellness, now we can see them coming out of their shells and blossoming with our attention. It must be hardest for Archie as he spent all his days in my office with Daisy and myself.

From the summer 0f 2017 until December 2019 was the time it took for that horrible disease to take our beautiful White Warrior. She fought it so hard and so did we.

We went to extraordinary lengths to care for her. Our whole lives were geared up to her needs and people must have thought we were crazy, but I know that there are hundreds, probably thousands of DM dog parents out there doing exactly the same. From diagnosis to progression of illness, to aids for caring for your DM dog, there are so many people seeking solutions. And we are passionate about sharing our experiences and knowledge with them.

Breeders take note

We have had Archie, Toby and Tilly DNA tested and we know that none of them will ever suffer from it which is a massive relief for us. However, we know Toby is a carrier. If mated with a bitch who is clear, none of the pups would be affected by DM, but there is a 50/50 chance that they too would be carriers. When I gave his breeder the results, she told me that none of her dogs had ever suffered from DM, but although she claimed her dogs were DNA profiled, they couldn’t have had that particular test. Without that knowledge, she could possibly mate two fit, healthy dogs that just happened to be carriers, thereby creating a new generation of dogs vulnerable to DM.

We will never buy another pup unless it has been tested.

We know nothing will stop the puppy farms and back street breeders, but to all those registered breeders out there, or even owners who think it would be nice to have a litter from their dogs, we urge you to DNA test your dogs before breeding from them. It’s a simple test. We used Animal Genetics, who offer a whole range of canine testing options. It doesn’t cost a fortune and it could stop other people and their precious dogs going through what we’ve been through, twice now.

Neil will once again be getting physio for his elbows, but he would gladly put up with the discomfort of carrying Daisy again in a heartbeat, if he could.

Daisy on the beach

April 2019: Daisy 2009 -2019 The White Warrior rides again

We wish you a Wheely Good Christmas

A huge thank you to all our valued customers

As the year draws to a close, we wanted to let you know how much we appreciate your valued custom and hope that in the coming year we will continue to be of service to you and your very special pets.

As dog owner ourselves, we are always striving to find new and innovative products and appreciate the importance of mental exercise with mind-engaging activities such as enrichment puzzles, treat toys, and also learning new skills and tricks.

From all of us to all of you, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

And now some pawsitive thoughts from our highly skilled Testing Team

Daisy

Daisy: These wheels are made for rolling!

Archie

Archie: It’s hard being so handsome, but someone has to do it!

Jack

Jack: I might be outnumbered but I can outrun them. Border Collie’s Rule, OK!

Toby

Toby: I’ve been Naughty and Nice!

Tilly

Tilly: Whereas I’ve just been Naughty!