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not so Wordless Wednesday: Hal is preparing for a mini-vacation

This is another couch picture of Hal. I think he looks so distinguished when he crosses his paws like that. The almost sunrise in the background looks cool but is just the kitchen light.
This is another couch picture of Hal. I think he looks so distinguished when he crosses his paws like that. The almost sunrise in the background looks cool and made me think of exotic vacation destinations but is just the kitchen light.

I am getting ready for some time off and Hal is helping motivate me with his go-getter attitude.  I actually made it through a good chunk of my to-do list though for me that just means that I still have a dozen things I should do but will settle for accomplishing the most timely tasks. Preparing for vacation is kind of exhausting but I am definitely looking forward to some non-pet related human social time, sleeping in (or trying to at least), and lazy days. I often end up doing something pet or animal related on my vacations anyway. I cannot go cold turkey. I am also cheating this weekend so I can participate in the Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference. It is free but each daily video is only available for 24 hours so I need to make the time. It was super helpful last year so I know it will be worth it. 

Back to my dear fur(or not) friends Tuesday! Have a good weekend everyone.

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Summer heat and dog walks

One of the things I really enjoy about my job is being outside walking dogs for a good part of my work day. One of the things I dislike about my job is often also being outside walking dogs or a good part of my work day.

The good: I get lots of fresh air, enjoy nature including occasionally seeing a pileated woodpecker (which is the epitome of bird watching for a bird nut like me). I am also slightly more fit with all the walking (junk food and fast food cause the ‘slightly’ part). 

The bad: I get completely drenched and chilled to the bone when it rains all day during our mild west coast winter putting ‘water proof’ labelling to the test (and it fails usually!). In the summer I am constantly pink from the sun despite the amount of suncreen I use. I also sweat profusely and smell which the dogs find interesting but is awkward when interacting with humans. For the most part, dog walking is rain or shine whether I feel up to it or not and I am not about to let the dogs down even if I would rather be inside.

It has been so hot here lately that I actually began fantasizing about rain. Once it starts raining again I will change my mind, but until then it seems like it will be such a relief. Some dogs are what I call ‘fairweather dogs’ and do not like the rain at all. Chevy, one of my first dog walking clients, gets very moody when it rains a lot and it can be quite a chore trying to get him to stay outside long enough to do his business. I can often convince him to at least pee, but if the rain is really going strong it can be really challenging to get even that accomplished. Other dogs are total troopers in the rain and only the worst storms will stop them from enjoying their walk. 

The heat of the summer is another matter. Dogs will often want to keep going even if it is very hot out. Panting is how the dog regulates their body temperature and is a natural response when walking. They cannot sweat like people do (though they do have sweat glands in their paw pads) and need to pant when they exercise. However, when it gets really hot out panting may not be enough and this is when heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur. This is a concern for me when dog walking. I only walk dogs individually (or in family groups) around their neighbourhood so I do not have to worry about driving dogs and hot cars. I do still have to be careful though. I try to keep the walks a bit shorter if they are during the hottest part of the day. For longer exercise walks I try to schedule them in the morning or after dinner, and in the most extreme heat have even cancelled if possible. My one pair, Kuba a Doberman and Marley a Boston Terrier, are a good example. Marley has a flat face and these ‘snub nosed’ dog breeds have an even tougher time than other dogs. We take a lot of what I call ‘shade breaks’ on the walk at this time of year where she tries to catch her breath. Even in the morning a  45 minute walk is pushing her limit. Kuba on the other hand would walk until he keeled over so luckily we have Marley to keep him in check. Once it gets around 30 ° (80 – 100 ° F) the owner often cancels because it is just too hot out for them. 

One of Marley's favourite activities is to roll around in any puddle. This is helpful for the hotter weather but the puddles are also drying up at the moment so she will have to wait for some more rain.
One of Marley’s favourite activities is to roll around in any puddle, mud, or in grass. This is helpful for the hotter weather but the puddles are also drying up at the moment so she will have to wait for some more rain. Luckily her pet parents do not mind the mess she sometimes brings home!

Another interesting thing I wanted to share is about fluffy pets. Animals will shed seasonally but thicker or longer fur can also work as a protection against the heat, as well as the cold. So if you do have your pet shaved they may have a harder time keeping cool in the summer heat.

As the summer heatwave continues keep an eye on your pets, learn the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and leave them at home if you are doing errands or if you will be out in the sun all day. Your pet sitter can come and let them out while you are out if needed!

Further reading: 

I am not crazy, I have read about the fluffy fur thing! https://www.aspca.org/blog/heat-wave-should-you-shave-your-pet

Heat stroke info – http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/can-my-dog-get-heat-stroke/

Campaign and check list about how to respond if there is a dog in a hot car –http://www.dogsafe.ca/heatstrokeresponder.html

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Bite prevention

It is National Bite Prevention Week so I thought I should write about my experiences and how I think people should approach dogs.

I have been bitten a few times, though never severely. Usually it has been more a case of being in the way of something the dog is trying to bite, either a treat or another dog. One of the things I learned from Custom Canine’s Working with Dogs course, www.customcanine.com, is to wave a stick or leash, whatever is available, back and forth in front of you, from side to side. You could even use your hand if there is nothing else, but this does put your hand at-risk! It distracts the dog approaching and forces some distance between you, which will usually result in them backing off. This has been a life saver for me dealing with off-leash dogs charging at me and the dog I am walking. This could work with unwanted people too, because they might think you are too weird to approach – just an idea, though I may test it some day! 

Another important aspect to bite prevention is to pay attention to your surroundings and the dog you are with. I can definitely ‘zone out’ when I am walking, especially if I am busy and have a lot on my mind. But, I do try to keep an eye and ear out for people or other dogs. I also need to figure out if the dog I am walking needs more space so I can adjust our course to avoid the stranger or just pull the leash in to avoid lunging. This may involve crossing the street, turning down a side road, or even hiding behind a parked car (one of my favourites). I am very thankful for dog owners who are aware of their surroundings and call in their dog when they see me walking. It is really frustrating when you see someone standing around talking or texting on their phone while their dog is obviously considering or even starting to charge at you.

I also greatly appreciate when people ask before they approach us, especially children. Except for a couple of dogs that I am 110% sure of, I say ‘no’ just to be safe, and also because the dogs get annoyed if we have to stop for humans, or anything in some cases (at least that is how I interpret their look). There has been a few times when someone has reached out to pet a dog and I had to pull them away to avoid a bite and/or say ‘Please don’t do that…’ so it is definitely better if people ask first and respect a ‘no’.

One dog, Daisy, absolutely loves all people especially little kids, but does not really like other dogs. Some dogs are the opposite. Some dogs are scared of anything new and will try to run away and others will lunge and bark. By the way, this is hard if you are walking 2 or 3 dogs and they all have different reactions! A wagging tail does not necessarily mean ‘friendly’, it depends on the dog and how they are wagging it. It is also important not to stare a dog down, this puts the situation at a higher risk. Dogs will turn away, lick their lips, and avoid direct eye contact with other dogs to avoid confrontation so it is important to be aware of these ‘calming signals’ and not treat meeting dogs like meeting new people who expect a firm hand shake and direct eye contact. Often a reactive dog is just very fearful of unknown people, animals, and especially weirdly shaped piles of garbage. It is my job to make our walk as fun as possible, but safety is even more important. It can take time to learn the dog’s signals, sometimes it’s obvious and there are definite commonalities, but some dogs are very subtle or can change their mind quickly!

Keep you and your dogs safe!

Further reading:

https://www.akc.org/dog-owners/canine-partners/spotlight/safety-around-dogs-national-bite-prevention-week/

http://www.petsit.com/dog-bite-prevention-pet-sitters

http://dogsinneedofspace.com/

http://www.theyellowdogproject.com

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