It’s been one hell of a year! Who could have imagined this time last year when we were sending out our Christmas greetings, what was in store for us all?
So many people have worked so hard during this awful pandemic to keep us all going and none more so than our outstanding National Health Service. We hope that everyone involved will have some time to chill-out over the festive period and maybe reconnect with loved ones, even if it is at a distance.
And for us, it’s quite poignant as it was just days after Christmas that we lost our beloved Daisy. She has left a massive hole in our lives.
Remembering our beautiful Daisy dog 2009-2019
Let the old year-end and the New Year begin
But we can only look forward, so out with the old, in with the new – make way for 2021! Wishing you and your fur family a peaceful, safe and healthy Christmas, and much happiness, and prosperity in the New Year!
The theory is that your dog is motivated by an instinctual drive and the squeaky noise is not unlike the sound of prey that’s frightened or injured. When the squeak stops, your dog has successfully killed its prey.
Or maybe there’s another explanation; dogs get an immediate reward from the sound that’s emitted from the toy. The feedback tells them that their bite is effective, thus spurring them on to continue, unlike with a silent toy which doesn’t provide the same gratification.
We all know what it’s like when a dog is obsessed with a squeaky toy and it can drive us nuts, until, in the end, we take it away, much to the disappointment of the dog.
Not all Dogs love a Squeak
With our dogs, we have to be very careful. Tilly absolutely loves a squeaky toy. Archie and Jack aren’t bothered one way or the other, but Toby dislikes them intensely. More than that, they actually upset him.
He is not particularly sound sensitive. He loves the sound of a clicker! Thunder or fireworks don’t bother him in the slightest, but anything that squeaks or beeps will have him running for cover.
We once took him to agility classes and at first, he did well until another dog in his class came along with a squeaky toy. That was the end of it for Toby. He couldn’t concentrate and he spent the whole time cowering behind our legs.
When Tilly was confined to her crate after her surgeries, we gave her a fluffy lamb to keep her company, but first, it had to be operated on to remove the squeaker. We couldn’t risk traumatising Toby.
When new toys arrive in the warehouse, we are very wary about testing the squeak and usually wait until Toby is out of earshot otherwise he’ll be upset and fearful for hours.
It’s not that he doesn’t like toys, he loves the treat dispensers, especially Starmark and of course, KONG. Then there’s his all-time favourite, the Puller, but anything that makes a noise is a no-no for him.
It’s a good idea to take the time to find out what toys your dog likes and dislikes and what stimulates or comforts them. A squeaky toy can be a great motivator and grab your dog’s attention, thereby making an excellent training tool but beware it doesn’t have the opposite effect.
Regular Checking of Toys is a Must
Supervision with a squeaky toy is advised especially with dogs that get overstimulated easily. Squeaky play should be confined to short sessions and ask your dog to do something like sit or down before rewarding them with the toy.
Squeaky toys can be fun but inspect them regularly to make sure they are not damaged and that your dog doesn’t have access to the squeaking mechanism, which could become a choking hazard.
If you discover their favourite squeaky toy is damaged, then repair it or replace it with a new one.
The Ultimate Squeak
If you have a squeaky-obsessed dog, The Petsafe Ricochet is an excellent choice. These paired toys will have your dog going back and forth chasing the squeak. Tilly was enthralled with them but sadly cannot play with them in our home!
Petsafe Ricochet: The ultimate squeak
The Thrill of the Chase or Food Fun
For those, like us that have a dog who is upset by a squeak, here are Toby’s Top Tips for squeaky-free fun:
Our Toby celebrated his fourth birthday this month, just as we were celebrating two months of no vet bills. That quickly changed as our accident-prone shepherd suddenly started licking the pads of his front paws non-stop.
We examined him thoroughly but could see nothing obvious, and still the licking continued and became more frenzied. The licking was soon followed by limping.
So it was off to the vet with him and not a moment too soon as he was sporting a gash over his left eye that he had sustained from smacking into a door frame when he wasn’t looking where he was going! The vet examined his eye, and although swollen, it looked like it would heal okay, so no treatment was necessary. As for his paws, he had some red patches between his pads which could mean a contact allergy. Our choices were either a shampoo for his paws or Apoquel. We decided on the Apoquel, which relieves allergic itching, as we were familiar with it and had experienced good results with Fin.
By the end of the two weeks, Toby was much improved and we were relieved, if a little poorer!
Should you insure?
We took the decision many years ago when we had five shepherds, all insured and costing us a fortune every month, to cancel our pet insurance. Instead we vowed to put away an amount each month for any unexpected occurrences. At that time our dogs were relatively young, very healthy and rarely needed the vet, so the monthly expenditure seemed a total waste of money.
As they got older, this started to change, but then the premiums would, of course, have risen to reflect their ages.
And as for putting money aside, or self-insurance, as it’s called, we quickly forgot about that!
Towards the end of their lives, our five shepherds, none of whom were now insured, racked up hundreds of pounds in vet bills. However, we’d saved ourselves hundreds of pounds in premiums, so we may just have broken even, or even come out slightly ahead.
But pet insurance is not just about illness. Some policies cover a whole host of other things such as theft, treatment for behavioural problems, liability cover and kennel or cattery fees should you yourself become ill and unable to look after them.
Is pet insurance worth it?
With hindsight, we would have insured both Toby and Tilly; Tilly’s elbow arthroscopy cost an arm and a leg. We would also have been able to claim for any hydrotherapy she has going forward. Toby has ripped open his shoulder and his tail due to his clumsiness and heaven knows what he’ll do next. Insuring those two would have been a good investment.
Jack has also had a major op. He swallowed something which caused an obstruction in his gut and had to be removed. So far, Archie has needed very little veterinary treatment. He’s getting on a bit now, so no doubt problems will start to crop up.
Pet insurance is a safety net, most obviously used for veterinary bills, but as mentioned above, there are other benefits. It can seem like an unnecessary expense – until you need it! What does it cost, what should it include, and what are the alternatives? We came across a good article discussing the pros and cons of taking out an insurance policy on your pet, so if you are unsure whether to insure, why not read Pet insurance – Do you need it?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Can 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
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).
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.
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 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:
From a happy new Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair user:
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.”
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”.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
Amy on her skateboard
Amy who was frankly a bit of a thug diverted her attention to skateboarding.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Tracking Lines: Tracking Line with Ball (cord), Tracking Line (cord), Tracking Lead (webbing)
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.
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.