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Posts tagged ‘dog walking’

Meet The Rebel Dog Walker of Williamsburg

 

The other day a reporter from The Forward contacted me to share a story she produced about Gedalya Gottenger, a Hasidic Jew, who decided to become a dog walker.

Hasidic Jews are notoriously afraid of (or at the very least avoid) dogs*.  So a Hasidic dog walker is not your run-of-the-mill professional pooper scooper.

This guy is breaking cultural norms every time he leashes up. I was intrigued.

What I dug about his story is that although his choice to work with dogs is an act of rebellion in his community, the bottom line is that he walks dogs for the same reason I do:

“Dogs are awesome and, uh, I get paid to hang out with them even, so what’s not to like?”

Ain’t that the truth.

I thought you guys might find his story interesting! Take a look at this short video about Gedalya (featuring an adorable brindle dog). You can also read more about him here.

A Hasid’s Best Friend from Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

 

Sending my colleague Gedalya a poop bag high five, from one Jewish professional dog walker to another!

 
*So are lots of people…of all religions. Which is why you should always have your dog under your full control. Putting a leash on  your dog also gives others, who may be panicking at the sight of your dog, a clear visual signal that your dog is connected to you and not about to run up and knock them over. Remember, fear isn’t logical – have compassion, use a leash, and spare someone a cold sweat. 

 

 

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Beyond Daily Dog Walks: Uba’s Story

We do it every day (or at least we’re told we should be doing it every day), but do you ever stop to think about why we walk our dogs and if it’s really benefiting them?

As a professional dog walker, I can come up with tons of good reasons to take dogs for daily walks: for exercise, to go to the bathroom, to train them and teach them leash manners, to help them socialize with other dogs and people, to expose them to new things and environments, and to spend time enjoying their company.

But the truth is, for some dogs, going on walks isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And if that’s the case, there are lots of ways to meet the varying needs of dogs beyond the typical daily walk.

Last year at the BAD RAP Rescue Jam, I had the chance to meet Letti de Little, owner of former Vick dog, Uba. Word on the street was that her little survivor was a card carrying member of Team DINOS and wasn’t a big fan of going for walks in public.

I talked with Letti about how she fully supports Uba’s needs, without relying on a daily dog walking routine. These two are a great example of how thinking outside of the box (or walk in this case) might benefit some dogs. I think y’all will dig our conversation!

 

Jessica: Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself and Uba?

Letti: Uba is one of the dogs rescued from football player Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation in 2007. He was quite young when seized, probably under six months old, and he was held in custody in a small kennel with no enrichment from April until October 2007. He did not have bedding, toys, walks or any of the other stimulation that is so important in a young dog’s development.

It was assumed while he was in custody that he and all the other dogs rescued in the Vick case would be euthanized once the case was over, as was the general rule for dogs rescued from fighting operations at the time.

Luckily, the Federal investigators, the prosecutors, and the judge in the case were willing to explore the option of saving the dogs and Uba and his extended family were given a chance at real life.

uba letti

When he arrived in California he showed everyone that he was a huge character. He had a very vertical approach to the world and would jump around rather than walk or run. After a wind storm he decided to collect the fallen sticks from the yard and fill his crate up with branches and twigs. Later he learned to unlatch crates and he would let himself out and then break in to other dog’s crates so he could borrow their toys.

Balancing out all this silly, ridiculous behavior were his worries about the big world. At home he was a party boy, but out in the world he was very anxious and would ‘pancake’ – shut down, freeze and be unable to recover.

I had been a BAD RAP volunteer for about a year and a half when the Vick dogs were evaluated for placement and I offered to foster one of the dogs. As soon as I met Uba I knew I’d keep him and I’m so glad I did.

I’ve learned so much from my funny, energetic, intelligent, sweet and worried little dude. I’ve fostered at least ten dogs and he is the highest energy dog I have ever lived with. It’s not always easy to meet his needs while keeping up with my sometimes demanding career, but we’ve muddled through it and I think we have done OK.


What were those early dog walks like for him? And why did you choose to stop taking him for traditional daily walks?

Uba made it clear from the start that he needed a lot of exercise. As a city dwelling dog owner my answer to that was lots of long walks.

Uba really didn’t have much of an idea about leash walking, let alone cars, buses, pedestrians and all the other sites and sounds of city living. He accepted some things, like garbage trucks, without question. Other city events, like groups of pedestrians, made him collapse in fear.

We would go on long walks and he would enjoy the parts of the walks in quiet and natural areas, but would shut down and ‘pancake’ in busy areas. Living in San Francisco, most parks are full of off leash dogs, and, although he’s not particularly dog reactive, it was difficult to find places to walk him where he was comfortable and we wouldn’t be accosted by MDIFs.

[Note from Jessica: MDIF stands for people who shout “My Dog is Friendly!” and let their dogs approach yours without permission. How rude! You can read more about them here.]

I used to have a roommate who is a psychologist working with combat veterans and she noted that his physical reaction on walks was very similar to her patients suffering from PTSD. Uba scans for trouble, shakes, and can’t focus on anything other than his fear. Once Uba is triggered into his scary place there is no talking him out of it. He won’t take treats or toys; even super high value treats like steak don’t distract him from his fear.

uba

I moved to Oakland after about three years with Uba, and my neighborhood is still pretty urban, although I have a much bigger back yard than in San Francisco. He had a hard time adjusting to the neighborhood and did not enjoy his walks at all.

After much debate and discussion with BAD RAP’s Tim Racer, I decided that we should re-set and not go for neighborhood walks for a month. We still went on weekend walks in places he enjoyed, where there is nature and limited MDIFs, but I didn’t make him go into the neighborhood at all.

In that month I found that he became more relaxed and our relationship improved when I wasn’t making him face his worst fears every day.


Instead of dog walks, how do you provide Uba with exercise, enrichment, socialization, and time outside?

Since Uba was so energetic as a youngster I started using a dog treadmill for exercise soon after he came to me. The first time I put him on the Grand Carpet Mill he was hooked. I didn’t have to teach him what to do, he just hopped on, let me hook up his harness and he ran as fast as he could with a huge smile on his face.

I also use a flirt pole and a spring pole. The flirt pole is nice as it can also give an opportunity for working on impulse control (not Uba’s strong suit) and other basic training. I have a spring pole set up near my treadmill and some days Uba runs to that instead of the treadmill when its time to work out. The tugging lets him use different muscles and makes him just as tired. He gets really excited when I say “treadmill” or “spring pole”, just like some dogs get excited when you pick up their leash.

Uba has always loved training and learning, so I have tried a few different activities with him. Vick dog Audie’s owner, Linda Chwistek, introduced me to K9 Nose Work as it was just developing as a sport and Uba loves it.

Nose work has built Uba’s confidence like nothing else. Before nose work, new environments and new people were very difficult and Uba would shake and pancake to avoid the new experience. Now, Uba can walk in to a new place and he wants to see if he can find a target odor, even if that’s not at all why we’re there. We take nose work classes at least once a week and he loves seeing all his friends as much as he loves searching.

uba and jamie

For socialization I have almost constantly fostered well-matched playmates for Uba and many of them have also been rescued from dog fighting busts. We stay in touch with former foster dogs and other friends he’s made along the way and meet in his comfortable spaces for walks and have play dates at home. Uba sometimes accompanies me to the BAD RAP Pit Ed training classes I teach to “supervise” and see his human friends (including his number one hero, Tim).


There’s a lot of pressure on dog owners to walk their dogs every day. Do you have any advice for dog owners who may be feeling like these walks aren’t benefiting their dogs?

We all need down time. I don’t feel like going out and facing the world every single day, and neither do some dogs.

I think we should be focusing on “all dogs need regular exercise” instead of “dogs should be walked daily”.

Yes! That’s really well said Letti! 

Exercise is not opening the back door and letting your dog wander the yard, though. If you’re not walking your dog you need to consider how to keep yourself and your dog engaged in a healthy and happy relationship. If she loves fetch, that’s wonderful, but make sure you play other games too. Take that hour you would be walking and spend it with your dog – not on the phone or computer – but actively engaging with your dog. Learn a new trick or find a new game to play.

Remember that mental stimulation can be just as tiring as physical exercise, so find ways to combine both and see how pleased your dog is. Training classes of any kind are great ways to get your dog exercise, mental stimulation and socialization opportunities while working on useful and fun skills.


On the flip side, there are lots of dogs that could really benefit from more walks! But because they’re reactive or are lacking in basic manners, their owners avoid walking them.

You work with families like this in your training classes. Is there a difference between what they’re experiencing and what you experienced with Uba? Any advice for these folks to help them feel more comfortable walking their dogs?

I should be clear that Uba is not particularly dog reactive. He is a DINOS because I want to protect him from bad experiences that could make his phobias even worse or push him to be reactive. He collapses in fear rather than screaming at the end of his leash.

If your dog lacks manners, get to a training class! If you are too far from training classes or can’t afford them, You Tube has some great resources and examples of how to work on leash skills. Or hire a trainer for one on one help. I truly believe that any dog can be well mannered in public if their owner puts in the time and effort and effectively manages the situations the dog is in.

If the dog simply needs to get out for exercise right now, do some research and find places that are safe to walk. Be willing to take a short drive to your walking places if needed. Think outside the box about where to walk and try different routes. Just walking on a different side of the street can dramatically change the walk for your dog. Your neighborhood may be packed with challenges for your dog, but what about other areas nearby? What about the outside perimeter of a public park, golf course or a cemetery? Is there a downtown business district that’s super quiet on the weekend?

I advise people to stop worrying about what other people think. You are your dog’s only advocate. Speak up and protect your dog from MDIFs and mean people. If you encounter people who criticize you for something you’re doing or not doing, shrug it off. Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t conform to some general theory of what dogs should be and help your dog be the best dog she can be. So what if that means walks at midnight or running on a treadmill?

I also highly recommend nose work classes as therapy for the dogs and as a place to find solidarity with other owners of DINOS.


How’s Uba doing today?

Uba is still not a big fan of neighborhood walks. He will go with me once in a while and enjoy himself, but I don’t force the issue. More often we’ll hop in the car and drive to a cemetery that allows leashed dogs or one of the parks where leashes are required.

This means that in the winter when it’s dark after work he really only gets walked on weekends. During the week we go to nose work class, run on the treadmill and play at home.

He is getting a little calmer now that he’s eight, but he’s still more energetic than most dogs half his age, and I think he gets a good amount of exercise, is appropriately mentally challenged and gets out to see his friends regularly.

uba walk

We still have little moments of victory over his worry – just this morning we went on a very pleasant neighborhood walk. He sniffed things, peed on a million things and worked through his “oh shit!!” moments. I think he enjoyed it.

Earlier on, I came to realize that in my desire to have a walking companion I was ignoring Uba’s needs. I have learned to respect what my dog is telling me and now I really accept Uba for who he is and not who I’d like him to be. We are both happier and more relaxed and our relationship is much more fun for both of us.


Great advice Letti and thank you for sharing Uba with us!

 

 

Look Ma, No Hands! [contest]

Last week, I told you about a sweet deal Fit For A Pit is offering you guys: $10 off any purchase of $20+ through 7/31/14. See that blog for details + promo code to get your deal. 

Pretty swell me thinks!

But when it comes to you guys, I go for all the freebies I can get. So this week lovely Heather, owner of  Fit For a Pit, is giving one of you a FREE Squishy Face Studio Hands Free Dog Leash Belt.

squishy face belt

oooh, pretty.

Want to win one? Contest details are at the end of the blog. First, let me tell you about the belt, so you can decide if you want one.

Jessica, owner of Squishy Face Studios (another awesome small business) sent me a belt to test out last year before they were made available to the public. I got the belt for free in exchange for giving them my feedback on their new product. Guess what? In my opinion, they didn’t need to make changes because they got it 100% right.

This is not me or my dog, but they're both cute, right?

This is not me or my dog, but they’re both cute, right?

 

3 Reasons The Squishy Face Hands-Free Belt Rocks:

  • It’s super strong. Jessica shared that the belt had been tested with three dogs at once and they’d done a 165lb strength test.
  • It’s really comfortable. The belt is 2″ wide, so it doesn’t cut into your chub (not that any of you have any chub, but if you did, it wouldn’t bother you). And, it’s pretty darn cute.
  • It’s simple to use. You put on the belt. You open the colored nylon strap via the quick release buckle. You loop the handle of your dog’s regular leash handle in there and snap the buckle shut. It works with any leash.

Here’s how it works:   Simply put the belt is: Easy, Comfortable, and Safe.

8 Reasons to Give a Hands-Free Belt a Try:

  • You aren’t holding the leash, so you won’t be sending your tension down the line to your dog.
  • Your hands are free to give your dogs treats, wipe ice melt off their paws, scoop poop, or pull chicken bones out of their mouths (city dog walkers I know you feel me on that last one).
  • They make it easy to obey leash laws while doing whatever you want to do with your dog – hiking, running, snow shoeing, biking, pushing a stroller, or yoga. No excuses, yo.
  • Instead of dislocating your arm, your dog is attached at a spot lower on your body, closer to your center of gravity, where you are stronger and more stable.
  • If you’re teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash, this will help because you won’t be pulling and jerking the leash.
  • You can use this with a new dog in the house when then aren’t crated. Back when I fostered dogs, I would attach the newbie to my waist for the first few days to help them avoid making naughty choices around the house (like tasting my cats).
  • If you take your dog to a picnic, eat too much macaroni salad and fall asleep under a tree, your dog will remain attached to your waist until you wake up and get your act together. Not that any of you would ever do that.
  • Here’s the #1 best thing: You don’t have to worry about dropping the leash. This is a big one for any of us that are anxious about walking our reactive dogs. With a hands-free belt, you don’t have to worry that the leash will be ripped out of your hand because you were relaxed (for once!) while walking your dog, when — BOOM! another dog sneaks up and your dog goes bonkers and you drop the leash. Yeah, you won’t have to worry about that.

BTW, If you want to, you can still hold the leash in your hands while it’s attached to the belt. Whatever floats your dog walking boat.

leash-belt-standardi-dog

Dog (and lovely small waist) not included.

 

The contest has ended. Booo.

Congratulations to Sarabeth Tolbert  who won the prize!

Here’s the CONTEST!   

Leave me a comment answering the question below and one lucky person will be chosen to win a Squishy Face Hands Free Belt from Fit For A Pit!

A movie about your dog is about to hit the big screen. What’s the title?

Share your answer in the comment section between now and Thursday, July 10th at Midnight EST. One entry per person please (you can name as many movie titles in your comment as you’d like though!). One comment will be chosen at random and the winner will be announced here and on the DINOS Facebook page on Friday, July 11th.

You know, you’re already all winners because with that special offer from Fit For a Pit, you can take $10 off any purchase of $20+ this month (including this belt)! See this blog for your promo code + offer details.

(p.s. My dog Birdie’s movie would be called “The Moderately Paced and The Curious” – kind of like The Fast and The Furious, only with an old Beagle – and Boogie’s would be “Romancing the Ball.”)

I’m Busy, You Win! [A Special Offer From Fit For A Pit]

Hiya! It’s been a while, huh?

Here’s the scoop: I’m juggling 2 bazillion projects this year (some of which you’ll be hearing about soon) and I’m so overwhelmed this summer that it’s a tiny miracle that I’m able to wrangle enough brain cells to write this at all.

Quick story: I donated blood the other week and during the rigorous interview to make sure I was safe to give up a pint of blood, I got so confused that the tech and I started joking that I was going to be turned away from donating because I was just too dumb. Really, my brain is that compromised from multitasking related-stress. Don’t worry. In the end they took me and my befuddled blood. And I enjoyed getting to lie down for a few minutes. Plus, free cookies! I highly recommend donating blood if you need a break from work.

Here’s the thing, stuff is only getting busier for the next two months, so despite the fact that I’m dying to write stuff here, I just CAN’T. Grad school, presentations for work, dog #2 in physical rehab (yep, it’s Boogie this time – more on that later), and a sorta secret project will do that to a gal.

These days I’m working at finding the positive – noticing the pear, if you will-  so I want to tell you what I CAN do:

Give you stuff!

 

That’s right. To celebrate my inability to write a substantial blog post, I’ve got a deal just for you! I’ve been feeling bad about not hanging out here with you guys, so I asked my friend Heather who own Fit For A Pit if she could hook y’all up with a deal. Heather, Champion of Generosity that she is, said “Hells Yeah I can do that!” and thus the DINOS discount was born.

 

fit for pit

This dog is super psyched that you’re getting a sweet deal.

 

Shop for anything your heart desires over at Fit For A Pit and:

Take $10 off any purchase of $20+ now through July 31st!*

All you have to do is use the coupon code: DINOS  

*Limit one per customer (because we don’t want to put Heather out of business)

 

Despite the name of her store, Fit For a Pit carries stuff that ALL dogs love. But if you do happen to have a blocky-headed, chesty, bull of a dog, they carry products that fit. My dog Birdie – not a pit bull – can’t fit into anything because she’s really busty (she got that from me), but that’s no problemo here!

Let’s do some window shopping together, before you head over to grab your discounted loot, ok? Here are just a few of my favorite products that Fit For a Pit carries:

 

The Flirt Pole (read my blog on them here):

 

flirt_pole_4__82304.1394318267.1280.1280

Dog Tees – that really fit:

fit for a pit tees

Goughnuts and other durable toys (read my blog on them here):

GoughNuts_01

 

Books from Patricia McConnell and Ken Foster (I like him):

good dog

And everyone’s favorite dog walking accessory Spray Shield! (I mention that one all the time):

spray-shield

 

There’s tons more cool, high quality stuff, like Doggles, backpacks, Chilly Dog sweaters, sunscreen, and even the Freedom No-Pull Harness. You can take $10 off on all of this stuff! Frankly the chance to get a flirt pole on the cheap or restock your Spray Shield at a discount is enough to head on over there and get clickin’, ammirite?

Heather carries just about everything I’ve been sharing with you all these years, so I’m genuinely happy to be connecting all of you to her store. You may be wondering, savvy consumers that you all are, is this an affiliate partnership? Why yes it is smarty! If you’re counting, I now have two affiliate partnerships: this one and Your End of the Lead.

When Heather started accepting affiliates, I asked to join her program. I want to shop from a small family business like Heather’s (instead of big anonymous drone-loving Amazon) when I can and I’m happier when I can link to small businesses here too. Heather has been involved in dog rescue for years and goes out of her way to support animal welfare groups, so I’m super proud to be working with her and supporting her business.

If you use the links in this blog to visit the store, I make a buck or two. But guess what, if you’re not into that, you can visit the store without using my links and you still get the $10 off with the DINOS code. Wheee!

Wait, a sec….now what was I talking about?  I believe that we will win! Where are my pants?

Oh yeah, you guys get $10 off this month. Say what?! That’s really generous of you Heather. Thanks pal!

 

But hold on, that’s not all. Next week come on back to look for a secret giveaway here on the blog. One of you is going to win one of my favorite new products…

Okay okay, you beat the secret giveaway right out of me: it’s a hands-free belt from Squishy Face. Next week I’ll share my experience testing the belt out on my dog walks and you can enter to win one!

See, life is good for you guys when I feel guilty about not writing anything new. My loss (of sanity) is your gain. Hip hip hooray!

 

Things You Might Have Missed

Psssst. Come here. I want to tell you something. Just between you and me:

You’re missing out.

 

I know because I see you while I’m out walking dogs every day. You’re walking your dog too, but you’re not really there.

Your dog knows it. I see them looking at me and I smile at them, hoping you’ll notice me noticing them and then realize that at the end of your arm is a leash attached to everything you’re busy chasing somewhere else. You really matter to your dog, you know. If you pay attention, you might feel how important and appreciated you are. It feels real good.

I see you with your head down, eyes fixed on your phone’s screen, one arm fully extended behind you. You’re not aware that you’re dragging your dog along who is trying to sniff something very important. When you get home, maybe you realize that you forgot to pay attention to your dog the whole time you were out. It’s almost as if that walk never happened.

How did I get here? 

You’re missing out. I know because I used to miss out too. I was so caught up in my thoughts or in a phone conversation that I ended every walk feeling uneasy. Unsatisfied. Disconnected. Like I hadn’t been there at all. I wasn’t. I was everywhere but where I was: walking the dog outside.

Over more than a decade of walking dogs every day, I’ve learned how good it feels to be totally present, as best I can, during my walks. I’m happier, less stressed, and not to toot myown horn but: TOOT! The dogs think I’m the best when I’m paying attention.

No matter how crummy stuff might be in other areas of my life, when I’m fully in the moment I notice amazing things about the world around me, the people in it, and the dogs next to me. I wind up feeling grateful for all these nuggets of greatness sprinkled around me. Plus, I know that no matter what happens on the walk, I was totally there for my dogs.

I don’t want to get all yoga pants on you, but what I’m talking about is mindfulness. It’s not always easy to pay attention on purpose, but it feels hella good when you drop into it. Not sure how? Your dogs are great mindfulness teachers.

As Eckhart Tolle says, in one of my favorite books Guardians of Being, illustrated by Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell, “Millions of people who otherwise would be completely lost in their minds and in endless past and future concerns are taken back by their dog or cat into the present moment, again and again, and reminded of the joy of Being.”

I want you to try it. Put down the phone. Stop having an imaginary argument with the clerk at the DMV in your head. Tune in to what’s happening right now. Stop trying to distract yourself or multitask. Pay attention. Be fully present to yourself, your dog, and the world around you.

You’re missing all kinds of beautiful, important, stinky, funny stuff that will leave you feeling mighty fine.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s what you’re missing:

1. Your dog walking at your side, looking up at you with joy, hoping you’ll look down at them.

2. The feeling of the year’s first warm breeze across your skin.

3. This little bird at the bottom of a fence post:

bird

Spotted in Portland, Maine

 

4. The sound of bumblebees buzzing in the flowers.

5. That your dog just pooped in someone’s beautiful flower bed and you didn’t clean up.

6. The patients in the hospital building who are looking out of their fourth story windows at you.

7. The blossoms on the trees above you: 

blossoms

Spotted in Portland, Maine

 

8. The mailman who just smiled at you.

9. The smell of freshly baked cookies and crusty bread floating down the block from the bakery on the corner.

10. The “lost cat” fliers that someone posted in the hopes that strangers like you would keep an eye out.

11. The art. The art. The art. All of it:

philly murals

Spotted in Philadelphia, PA

 

12.The birds singing back and forth to each other.

13. The sweet old ladies sitting in lawn chairs quietly saying to each other that your dog is beautiful.

14. Your dog’s wagging tail because she heard her fan club’s compliments.

15. The weight of the snow on the branches:

Snow on trees

Spotted in Maine

 

 

16. The butterflies circling in and out of the bushes.

17. Me. Look up. You almost walked right into me dude.

18. Your dog’s nose twitching in the wind, eyes half-closed, as he decodes a smell that has washed over him.

19. The feel of moss on a city wall. Touch it:

moss

Spotted in Philadelphia, PA

 

 

20. The car you stepped out in front of that almost clipped you.

21. The elaborate changing holiday displays in row-home picture windows.

22. The squirrel your dog just spotted and is going to launch itself at in a second.

23. The chance to say “Yes! Good boy!” when he decided to ignore the squirrel, like you taught him.

24. The flowers, the grass, the whole shebang:

birdie sniffs

Spotted in Maine

 

 

This is just some of it. There’s so much more, but you gotta put down the phone, let go of the endless conversations you’re having in your head, and pay attention to everything around you. It’s worth it. Promise.

Life is one dog walk at a time. Don’t miss it.

 

 

Interview with Janet Finlay of Your End of the Lead [contest]

janetandlewys-300x237

This is Janet! I’d go for a walk with her.

So, the other day I told you guys that Your End of the Lead is now being offered as an on-demand online class and that I’ve partnered up with the creator Janet Finlay, to offer you a great deal on the class through April 30th, 2014.

You can read all about that here, if you missed it.

I had some questions about the class and I figured you’d want to know the answers too, so I put together this interview with Janet for all y’all.

Wait a sec! Before you start reading, there’s a contest too. You can win a free spot in the class! Details are at the end of the interview.  But check out the Q+A first (you might learn something):

 

 

Jessica: You’re a certified dog trainer, but Your End of the Lead isn’t a training course. Why did you choose to focus on addressing the human end of the leash?

 

Janet: In my work as a trainer, I was regularly meeting people who were stressed out by their dog’s behaviour. They could no longer even enjoy going for a walk with their dog and often things were also difficult at home so they had no break from it. Even the most committed owners, who were working really hard to help their dogs, were telling me they felt guilty because of what their dog couldn’t do and many felt that it was their fault. And of course well-meaning people – even trainers – often reinforce that feeling by saying things like “he’d be better if you could just relax…”  – but of course you can’t just “switch off” all that stress. So it becomes a vicious circle that leaves people feeling useless and isolated.

While there is a lot of help out there for how to train your dog, I couldn’t find much specifically helping people with this problem. As a qualified coach for people, I know that reframing the way we think about a problem can fundamentally change how we respond to it. And as a TTouch practitioner, I have a whole toolbox of techniques for reducing tension and stress. So I put together a face-to-face “Your End of the Lead” workshop, which was very popular – and later this online course.

 

 

J: The new version of the course is “on demand.” Can you describe what that means and how that’s different than the full support version?

 

Janet: I’ve run Your End of the Lead Online twice now as a fixed session course, where all the students start at the same time and work through the lessons at the same time, as if they were in a class. This works really well but limits numbers and isn’t very flexible. Each time I have run it I have had people ask if it was it possible to do the course at a different time or to fit their particular schedule – and up to now this hasn’t been possible – partly because I feel strongly that online courses are next to useless if they just provide content without any support structures to help students actually complete the course. But I’ve now come up with a support package that will allow people to choose to do the course when they want but without being left to do it alone.

So with the On Demand version you get the whole course immediately and you can follow it at your own pace and in your own time. You’ll get prompts by email reminding about the course, there’s a Q&A page, and I’m running monthly webinars to answer questions live. And as a bonus I am also including 6 months’ membership of my private online community, so that people can discuss what they are doing on the course with other students, past and current. And I’m there daily too. So I am confident that the On Demand package has the flexibility people wanted, but without losing the support that is so important.

 

J: You’re a TTouch practitioner. Can you tell us a bit about TTouch and why it’s included in YEL?

 

Janet: TTouch is a very respectful and gentle training approach that recognizes the connection between physical state, emotional state, and behaviour. It uses a combination of observation, light body work, body wraps and leading exercises to increase an animal’s awareness of themselves, to reduce physical tension and to shift them out of habitual responses. It is well known as a way of calming dogs (and people – it works on any animal that has a nervous system), but it can also help change behaviour by improving the animal’s physical and emotional balance.

It’s included in Your End of the Lead because it offers a really valuable set of tools for owners of reactive dogs. It can really help with stress reduction for both dogs and people – it can reduce the overall level of stress, as well as providing tools to help owners calm themselves and their dogs before, during and after challenging incidents. It is also a great foundation for other forms of training as it reduces physical tension, pain and postural imbalance, all of which can make behavioural issues worse. And the leading and handling techniques we use in TTouch really enable people to keep a loose lead and avoid introducing the tension in the lead that can often trigger reactive behaviour.

 

parallel walking-footloosiety

Photo credit: David J Laporte on Flickr – CC-BY 2.0 license

 

J: What does it mean for a dog to be out of balance in their body – particularly for dogs that are fearful or aggressive? How does TTouch help?

 

Janet: A dog may be out of physical balance in many ways. They may have tightness in the muscles, which limits free movement and results in stiff posture. They may be weighted unevenly, so they are putting more stress on one or more limbs. They may have poor awareness of some parts of their body, so they may appear uncoordinated. They may have tension in the body that makes them uncomfortable about being handled or touched in that area. They may be out of balance for lots of reasons – such as old injuries, their physical conformation or life experiences – or we can inadvertently throw them out of balance by the way we lead them (pulling into a collar for instance or holding their head up and back).

These physical issues affect how a dog feels and how they behave. For example, if a dog is tight in the neck and head, so that their posture is stiff and their head carriage inflexible, they can be reactive when approached and their posture is also more challenging for other dogs. If we can reduce that tension then we not only make them more comfortable and less defensive, but we also change their posture to make them less threatening to other dogs. Fearful dogs often have tension in the hindquarters and tail – again we can release that tension and enable more relaxed posture.

TTouch helps because it gives us a set of tools to work on these physical and postural issues and ways of leading and handling dogs to encourage them to stay in balance.

 

J: I love the sections of the class that cover human psychology – from why people invade our dog’s space to how our own thinking can get in the way of positive changes.

One lesson covers the power of language and labels. With DINOS, I’ve tried to give people a more neutral or positive label for their dogs, but as you say in one of the YEL lessons, all labels (positive and negative) can affect our behavior and thinking about our dogs. I agree! Can you share a little more about that idea?

 

Janet: When we label our dogs it can make it more difficult for us to see them clearly. We tend to interpret their behaviour according to our labels. So if we call our dog “stubborn”, for instance, and they stop in a particular situation, we are likely to think it is because they are being stubborn and so may miss the fact that they are actually frightened.

The same happens with positive labels. How many people tell us their dogs are “friendly” when in that moment they are being rude and inappropriate? Positive labels can also be deceptive.

So I would rather ditch labels altogether and focus on learning to be more observant of actual behaviour. That way we don’t fall into a fixed mindset about our dogs. We can see them as they are in any given moment and can more easily notice when they change.  And we can respond to how they are actually behaving rather than to what it is we think they are.

 

J: If there’s one thing you want DINOS families to know about the YEL class, what would it be?

 

Janet: Just one thing?

That it is possible to enjoy being out and about with your dog – even if he or she can be reactive.

The secret to being able to relax is to know you are able to manage any situation you find yourself in calmly and confidently. This is what Your End of the Lead aims to do for you. It will complement whatever training you are doing  to work with your dog, by making you a more aware, calmer and more effective handler, enabling you and your dog to really make progress.

 

Thank you Janet! 

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Want to sign up for Janet’s class?

You can register for Your End of the Lead using the DINOS affiliate link. Through April 30th, the class is only $99! That’s a savings of 40% off the normal price of $165.

There’s more – you’ll also score a free 6 month membership to Janet’s ACE Owner’s Club which offers a ton of extra support, monthly training challenges, and a community forum. All for $99

Update May 1st: The “early bird” special is now over, but you can still register to take Your End of the Lead anytime! For $165 you’ll get all 15 lessons, monthly webinars, and 6 months FREE access to the ACE Owners Club. A great deal!

And here’s the CONTEST!   

The contest has ended – thanks to everyone who entered. Congratulations to Val Appiani and her dog Lilly – they won the free YEL class!

Leave me a comment answering the question below and one lucky person will be chosen to win registration to Your End of the Lead for free! And, because so many of you have registered already, we want to open it up to you too. If you’ve already paid for the class and you win the contest, Janet will refund your $99 so you can take the class for free.  So everyone gets to play. Neat, right?

Leave a comment between now and Wednesday, April 23rd at Midnight EST. One comment will be chosen at random and the winner will be announced here and on the DINOS Facebook page on Thursday, April 24th.  Please make sure your comment or gravatar includes your email contact info, so we can notify you directly as well!

Tell us your answer in the comments for your shot at the prize:

If your dog won a gold medal, what talent or skill would it be for?

 

(My dog Birdie would win a gold medal for staging an effective  nonviolent  pool resistance movement or maybe couch cushion management. Boogie would win for completing a successful Wubba water extraction mission.)

 

 

 

Your End Of The Lead Class: A Very Special Offer for DINOS!

Put down your kale chips. Remove your cat from your keyboard. I’ve got some news:

Your End of the Lead is being offered, for the first time ever, as an on-demand online class. And to celebrate, I’ve partnered up with the founder, Janet Finlay, to offer you some really sweet deals.

This unique online course will change how you think about yourself and your reactive dog. 

 

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First things first.

What is Your End of the Lead?

This is not a training class. Your End of the Lead was designed to complement the training you’ve done or are already doing with your dog. Created and taught by professional dog trainer, coach, and Tellington Touch practitioner Janet Finlay of Canine Confidence in Wales, this is for YOU. The lessons are there to help you become a more aware, calmer, confident, and effective handler.

I’m really excited to share this class with you guys.

 

For a long time, I’ve wanted to offer Team DINOS (that’s you!) something more than what’s on my website and social media, like: an online forum, classes, support groups, a junior prom, and at least one national holiday.

But I know my limitations. I’ve never felt comfortable creating and offering those particular kind of resources. Still, I knew there was a gap and I really wanted to fill it because many of you need more support. I wanted so badly to offer it to you!

So imagine how stinking happy I was when Janet started offering her online class Your End of the Lead last year and I began hearing from her students that they loved it. Janet let me audit the course a few months ago and in all 15 lessons, you could hear me shouting at my computer “Amen!!” and “I meant to write about that for DINOS!” and “Oohh, that’s a great idea!”

I immediately started putting some of her suggestions to use, particularly her calming practices. And not just when I’m dog walking. It’s good stuff for all the time.

 

your end of the lead

This looks nothing like me and my dogs, but HIGH FIVE y’all!

 

Your End of the Lead covers, in depth, a lot of what I just touch on over at DINOS, along with other stuff we never really get into – thanks to Janet’s TTouch and dog training expertise. So if you find DINOS helpful, I think you’ll really dig YEL.

YEL covers everything from understanding your dog’s triggers and thresholds to dealing with other dog owners out in public to learning TTouch wraps and breathing exercises to help you relax. Each lesson is overflowing with information, thought provoking prompts, and exercises for you to try.

Janet is really talented. She put all of this together in such a professional, yet compassionate way.

That’s why I’m promoting the class as an affiliate partner. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to all of you, so I don’t take promotions or sharing other people’s work lightly. I hope you know how much I want things to be better for you and your dogs. I think this class can help many of you.

If you’re stressed out by your dog’s reactive behavior, this course is designed for you.

 

Ready to sign up right now? Don’t let me stop you! Hop on over to the DINOS affiliate page to learn more about the class and register now.

 

Living with a reactive or fearful dog can be really hard and isolating. Maybe you’ve gone to dog training classes already, but found there really isn’t anything out there that directly supports you. Now there is! Your End of the Lead is really special in that it addresses your needs. And you can take the class on your schedule, at home, no matter where you live.

 

Using techniques from Tellington TTouch, coaching, and positive-based dog training techniques the class will:

Increase your awareness of yourself and your dog

Teach you how to be calm under pressure

Show you how to handle your dog with kindness and confidence

Not sure if you should take the class? Go on over to this page and watch Janet’s special video just for Team DINOS to hear more from her about why this class rocks and how the lessons are formatted.  You can also access a free sample lesson on TTouch.

Who is this class for?

This class is for you if any of the following apply:

You live with a dog that is reactive, fearful, anxious, or aggressive.

You want to learn relaxation techniques that you can apply to yourself and/or your dogs.

You’re interested in learning and incorporating TTouch techniques.

You work with reactive dogs, especially those of us that walk them.

You’re interested in becoming a better observer – of our dogs, our environment, and ourselves.

You work with owners of reactive, fearful, aggressive, or anxious dogs and you want to learn new skills to help dog owners stay calm while working with their dogs.

 

I think most folks would benefit from the class. Even if you’re already an experienced dog trainer or have owned reactive dogs for years, I bet there’s more than a few week’s worth of lessons that will be fresh material for you. Like Lesson Five on Limiting Beliefs or Lesson Ten on Practicing Calm. This is not your average class about living with dogs.

But it’s not for everyone. You’ll only get out of it as much as you put into it. There are no magic potions or quick fixes offered in this class. You have to dedicate time to each lesson. You still have to do dog training and management. You have to be interested in exploring your relationship with your dog.

 

Ahh, I feel better already!

Ahh, I feel better already!

 

Thinking about signing up?

 

Just for you! A special DINOS offer:

The class is normally $165. But for the next two weeks, through April 30th, the class is only $99.

That’s 40% off the normal price.

You’ll get 15 lessons that include multimedia teachings, weekly prompts, monthly live webinars with Janet, and so much more.

You’ll even get 6 months of FREE access to her ACE Owners Club. This club has additional resources and mini training challenges, as well as a private community forum where all of her students – past and present – support each other.

Starting May 1st, the class goes back to $165, so why not sign up now and save 40%?

Here’s the thing: even if you don’t have time to take the class right now, you’ll have access to the course materials for a full year. So you can buy it now to save some dough, then start the class when you have the time to devote to it.

Update May 1st: The “early bird” special is now over, but you can still register to take Your End of the Lead anytime! For $165 you’ll get all 15 lessons, monthly webinars, and 6 months FREE access to the ACE Owners Club. A great deal!

Bonus time!

The first 10 people to sign up using the DINOS  link will win a FREE 40 minute, private Skype coaching session with Janet so you can discuss your questions related to the class and your dog’s reactive behavior. For real! Watch the video here and at the end, she’ll tell you more about the one-on-one session 10 lucky people will win.   All 10 spots have been filled!  Thanks to everyone who has registered so far. For those of you that won the free session, enjoy your time with Janet! If you’ve missed out on this bonus don’t worry – there is still lots of opportunity to get feedback and support through the ACE forum and the monthly webinars – all included in the course fee.

 

You can only get these offers – the $99 price and a chance to win a free session with Janet – through the DINOS affiliate link, so be sure to access the YEL registration page through the links provided here, ok?

 

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Do you have questions about the class? Take a look at Janet’s class page and watch her video for more info. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have here in the comments section too. And stay tuned – I’ve got an interview with Janet coming in a few days that you won’t want to miss!

 

 

Use It Or Lose It

Spring. It’s right around the corner. At least, that’s what the calendar tells me. We just got a bunch of snow yesterday. But before that, I saw a patch of grass. And we had a bunch of 40 degree + days here in Maine.

You know what happens when it gets even a little bit nicer out, right? All the dogs come out.  All. Of. Them.

I don’t know where these dogs come from. All winter long, I’m out walking the same dogs, along the same quiet streets. It’s just us, the mailmen, and a few manic speed walkers on their lunch breaks.  We see other dogs too, but it’s the same crew every day. Then spring hits and a tsunami of new dogs hits every neighborhood.

Where are all of these dogs for months and months? Do their people train them to poop in a bucket in the basement until its warm enough for them to go outside again?  Do they all have one of these?

I don’t how it works, but it’s the same every year.  The temperature goes up just a little bit and suddenly my afternoon walks go from being calm and routine to a game of Donkey Kong.

All of the dogs I walk are reactive to some degree. Many of them have some solid training under their belts and are able to stay relatively calm when we pass by dogs on the street (as long as we have some space). Our walks are pretty laid back all winter and we get to be on autopilot.

But when spring comes and the number of dogs they need to deal with is suddenly 1 billion times higher than what they’ve been dealing with all winter, they struggle a bit. They need a little time to acclimate to the deluge.

And I can see the same thing happening for all the basement bucket poopers too. They’re out and about for the first time in months and, while they might normally be very cool on leash, they’re a hot mess at the beginning of spring.

In my experience, the ability to stay calm on leash around other dogs is like a muscle:  If they don’t use it, they lose it. This goes double for reactive dogs.


useit


A lot of people I know are surprised by this. They think that if they take their reactive dogs to a class or two and their dogs improve, then they’re set for life. But in reality, it takes regular practice. You have to keep working at it.

We wouldn’t go to the gym every day for a month, never go back again, but still expect our bodies to stay in shape forever. I have tried this so, so many times and, I swear, it never works. We have to exercise consistently in order to maintain and build our muscles.

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

Gretchen Rubin


That’s why so many reactive dog owners keep going to classes, join group walks, and do other structured activities around other dogs. It allows them to practice in a safe, structured environment around other dogs. It keeps other dogs from becoming a total novelty (aka a really big deal!) to their dogs. And that helps their dogs stay “fit” so that when they’re out taking a walk in a more hectic environment, their dogs are better equipped to handle the challenges that pop up.

If your reactive dog made huge strides for a while, but then you kept them inside most of the winter (that polar vortex was NO JOKE), then you might experience this sort of “muscle atrophy” when you start going for walks again this spring.

Your dogs haven’t flexed their “I totally know what to do when I see another dog and it is NOT to fling my turds at them” muscle for a while. Every dog they see is a novelty and they’re having trouble remembering the game plan. Don’t panic. Your dogs are  just out of shape.

No judgement. It happens to all of us.

Same goes for the dogs that have been walking all winter. If they’re anything like the dogs I walk, then they’ve been using those muscles, but at the same low level for months. When springtime hits, it’s like jumping up a few levels on the old stair climber. The dogs need some time to gently reacclimate their muscles to this increased challenge.

So if you and your dogs are a little rusty – for whatever reason – don’t freak out. Spring might be a good time to take a training class to ease back into hanging out with other people and dogs again. Or take a few walks with your friends and their dogs. Or if your dog would be up for it, try a structured group walk. Add some sort of regular practice into your routine.

And don’t forget to bring more treats on your walks for a while. There are at least a gazillion and half more dogs out there, plus joggers, that you’ll want to reward your dog for staying cool around. Be sure your pockets are well stocked. No one said we can’t have a snack while we’re working out. So go ahead: Use it, reward it, keep it.  

In the comments tell me: Has this happened with your dogs in the spring or after a dog walking sabbatical? How have you helped them?

The Dog Walker’s Guide To Choosing A Dog Walker

The Whole Dog Journal just published a handy article on stuff you should know about hiring a dog walker. Since anyone can call themselves a dog walker (just like anyone can call themselves a dog trainer), you gotta know how to pick a qualified person if you’re going to hire one. WDJ recommends asking smart questions, such as:

  • If your company has multiple employees, who will actually be the person walking my dog?
  • How many dogs do you walk at once? How do you choose which dogs walk with each other?
  • What kind of training do you have to walk multiple dogs at a time?
  • What happens when you can’t make it? What kind of experience do you have with dogs?
  • Where will you go on your walks? Will you be taking my dog to the dog park?

These are all good. Please ask these questions. Since I’m a pro street walker myself, I wanted to share some other tips to help you in your search.

How to find a dog walker: 

You can always start with a search on the interwebz. Companies with multiple employees should have a website. That being said, some of the best, most reliable and skilled dog walkers I know aren’t necessarily advertising their services. So always ask around.

Ask your vet tech, your groomer, your trainer, your local pet store owner, or your rescue and shelter workers for recommendations. Who do they hire for their own dogs? Who are their clients (with dogs that are similar to yours) using?

New Yorker Cartoon By Edward Frascino

New Yorker Cartoon By Edward Frascino

There are some very skilled dog walkers that are flying under the radar, working part-time as vet techs, groomers, and in animal shelters (or in my case, as part time writers), who might be an excellent fit for your dogs.

Go with someone that does this for a living (part or full time), rather than someone who is a student or retiree or a kid that loves dogs.  It’s a huge commitment to show up at someone’s home every single day for months and years. You want a pro – someone who is internally motivated to hold themselves accountable to the job they’ve committed to doing, no matter how cold it is outside.

People often ask me if they should hire a solo dog walking artiste, such as myself, or a larger dog walking service. I wish I could say that one is a more reliable bet than the other. In my experience, there is an equal risk with both that your dog might spend 30 minutes every afternoon wearing a sombrero and busking for change in the park.

So, start with yourself: what kind of relationship do you want and what kind of service does your schedule require? To generalize in a big, big way:

Solo dog walkers are like shopping at a small, locally owned store: highly personal relationships, flexible service, but with individual quirks and varying availability.

Dog walking companies are more like shopping at a large store: increased convenience, more accountability, but with more rules and less personalized service.

Overall, they’re both fine. You just have to pick which works best for you.  And remember: there is little to no oversight in dog walking. The bosses rarely see their employees in action. So ultimately, the person who is walking your dog – whether or not they are self-employed or working for a service – is alone with your dogs almost all of the time.

I’m not trying to scare you. I just want you to understand that this is a weird job. Other than the folks at the dog park or that old Italian lady that’s always peeking out her window trying to catch us letting dogs pee on her curb so she can chase us away with a broom, no one is watching us walk your dogs. So you have to do your homework during the hiring process.

Let’s say you’ve found a few people/companies that look pretty good. Here are some tips for meeting with a potential dog walker:

1. There should be a free consultation at your home, with no obligation to hire the dog walker. This is the meet and greet. With larger companies, sometimes only the boss comes to meet you. Ask that whomever will actually be walking your dog – the primary walker – comes with them too.

2. Watch them interact with your dogs during this initial meeting. Unless your dog is fearful, they should pretty much love the dog walker right away. Dog walkers stink of other dogs and have meat dust leaking out of every pore.  Dogs should react accordingly. And the dog walker? You should see pure joy on their faces. Meeting new dogs is FUN for us.

2a. If your dog is fearful with new people, watch how the dog walker handles this. Are they forcing themselves on your dog, insisting that they interact? Or are they hanging back, sitting on the floor, and calmly talking to you while your dog launches a covert exploration of their coat?

If your dog is uber-shy or has other serious quirks, it’s ok to ask for a second meeting. You’ll probably have to pay for it this time, but it will be helpful to have the dog walker meet your dog with you there again. Then, if you see that a little progress has been made and/or you trust that the dog walker is a good one, go for it. Sometimes shy dogs are less shy when you’re not home. Which leads to…

2b. Remember that dogs are different when you’re not around. I have a friend with three big, loud-ass dogs that go bananas when someone comes to the door. She assumed that when I came to walk them that they would make an insane racket – enough to scare off a dozen intruders. Turns out, all three of her dogs were mute when I walked in the door. So much for her security system.

This kind of thing happens a lot. Your dogs may be bolder or shyer in your presence. Friendly dogs might charge the door, growling and barking, when they are alone in the house and a stranger walks in. Shy dogs might be emboldened to go for a walk with the meat-dusted stranger, now that mom isn’t looking. At some point, if you like the dog walker, you just have to let them show up alone and see what happens.

3. Ask them to go on a walk with you and your dogs. If your dog is cool with it, ask to do this step during the initial meeting. Unless your dog is a robot (or super easy going) then you’ll want to see the dog walker handling them. Have the dog walker put on their harness/collar/leash and go for a short walk together.

If your dog is reactive, you don’t want to skip this part. Anyone can talk a good game, but that doesn’t mean they can stay cool when your reactive dog starts a break dancing competition with the neighbor’s dog. Go for a group walk and see them interact with your dog.

New Yorker Cartoon by Lee Lorenz

New Yorker Cartoon by Lee Lorenz

4. If your dog has medical or behavioral issues, talk about them honestly. You want to know if the dog walker has the skills to work with your dog and they need to be able to make an informed decision. A good dog walker knows their limits. It’s ok for them to tell you they aren’t skilled enough to work with your aggressive dog. In fact, it’s the responsible thing to do. So don’t hide anything from them.

And don’t try to sugarcoat your dog’s issues so they’ll want to work for you. It’s not fair and it’s not safe. If you hire them, they will have to walk into your home – alone – and it can be dangerous if you fail to mention that your 110 pound dog will be loose in the house and has been known to pin strangers to the wall (I still love you Mo!).  This is the time to be honest. Come up with a management plan for future visits, so that the dog walker can enter your home safely with minimal stress for them and your dogs.  For instance, if your dog is fearful, you can plan to leave their harness on, so that the dog walker doesn’t have to touch them too much on the first visit. Or if your dog is a nutter with strangers, you can plan to crate or gate them away from the door. This is a good time to start talking about this stuff.

Also, the more you share, the more you can get a feel for their experience and skill level. Let’s say you tell them your dog is reactive. A dog walker that’s any good will have many follow up questions for you, so that the can better understand what your dog’s triggers are, what walking routes are safest, and what your training plans are, etc. If they say, “Oh, I know how to walk reactive dogs,” but they don’t care to hear about your individual reactive dog’s needs or have any questions, move on.

5. Find out how you’ll know that they were there. I leave a note after every walk. My clients have affectionately dubbed these “The Poop Diaries” and I’m proud to say that after more than ten years of leaving these notes each day for multiple clients, I’ve written the dog walker’s equivalent of War and Peace. But, I’m willing to concede that writing a note takes a minute or two away from your dogs and the average dog walker isn’t as excited as I am about finding a thousand different ways to say, “Your dog made a sizable deposit at the turd bank today.”

Many dog walkers will do cool stuff like get little post-it-sized checklists that are pre-printed, so they can leave you a quick report:

Poop – check

Pee – check

Butt Scritches – check

If they don’t leave notes, ask them how you’ll know they’ve been there each day. This company does all kinds of stuff to prove they’re doing their jobs. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but it’s totally fine to ask for some sort of proof your dog walker showed up.

6. They should have their professional goods on hand to show you. Dog walkers should have liability insurance, references, a detailed service contract, and clear, written policies and rates. No matter who they work for or if they’re self-employed, all dog walkers should have this stuff. Before you hire them, you’ll want to know: what’s their cancellation policy? What are your daily and weekly rates and what forms of payment do you accept? What window of time will you be coming each day? Who pays the vet bills if my dog gets hurt at the dog park? Who will pay my dry cleaning bills if I catch you wearing my evening gowns? This stuff should be in writing.

Then at some point, you’ll have to just cross your heart, lock up grandma’s diamonds, and give them the keys to your house. It’s scary to trust a stranger with your dog and your home. I’m always amazed at how many people have given me the keys to their houses within 30 minutes of meeting me over the years. Quite frankly, it’s an honor to be trusted that way. Good dog walkers understand this and do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and confident in them.

In the end, go with your gut  and choose the person your dogs and you really dig.

In the comments, tell me about your dog walkers. Are they good, bad, weirdos, life-savers? I wanna know. 

p.s. You think you wanna be a dog walker, huh punk? It’s hard and there is epic poop involved. Read all about here. 

7 Wishes For Families With Dogs In Need Of Space

Ah, 2014. Here she comes! A new year always gets me thinking about what I want for myself in the coming months, but this year I thought: What do I want for all of YOU? For the most part, I’m wishing that you guys are happy, healthy, and discover a river of gold nugget speckled peanut butter running under your property.

But, if I ever do manage to trap a real life Genie, here’s a few other things I’d wish for DINOS families (and all the other dogs too):

1. A veterinarian that uses low-stress handling techniques and treats you and your dog with compassion. I wish this for all of us. Having a skilled, empathetic vet and vet tech that you trust to handle your dog is a huge. HUGE. Here are some leads on vets that might fit that bill.

Also, while we’re wishing, let’s ask for a vet practice with an amazing front desk staff that will make you feel like a movie star (instead of gargoyle with a troll dog) when you use the back door to get into the clinic.

2. That no one gives your dog Henrietta the Chicken. I wish that no one has to hear the sound this toy makes. It’s hysterical, but listening to Henrietta squawk for more than 45 seconds is considered a legal form of torture in at least a dozen countries. A couple of years ago, I worked in a pet store that sold these by the tub full and listened to children squeezing them. All. Day. Long. I sincerely apologize to everyone I ever gave this to as a gift (which is most of my dog walking clients).

henrietta

One squeeze of Henrietta can bring even the toughest man to his knees.


3. A vacation from your dogs. If you have a dog with behavior or medical issues then you’re probably working harder than you even realize to take care of them each day. I wish that all of you are able to take a day or seven off from caring for your dogs. Getting a little time away from your dogs (and allowing yourselves to enjoy it) can be restorative and help you hang in with them for the long haul.

Which leads to…

4. Someone you trust to pitch in. I wish that all of you are able to find a pet sitter, a boarding facility, or a friend that you can trust to help you care for your dog. Whether it’s a friend that can watch your dogs while you go away for a week or a dog walker that can provide some mid-day relief, my wish is that all of you eventually find someone you can lean on, so that you aren’t the only one who can care for your dogs.

5. At least one route to walk your dogs that is predictably safe. I wish that all of you find at least one dog walking route that you can enjoy without fear of being chased by loose dogs.  If you do find one, don’t worry about variety. Find and walk the safe route. You can spice up your dog’s life in other ways, like going Cosmic Bowling or taking a Zumba class together (or playing training games, going for group walks, and doing Noseworks).

Which leads to…

6. A magic belt to defend against rogue people and dogs. I wish all of you a set of gadgets, like the ones Data from Goonies had, that will keep loose dogs at a distance, block invasive people from petting your dogs, help you escape from a tight spot, and let you outwit Mama and her thieving sons so you get to One-Eyed Willy’s treasure first. Maybe this one is a stretch. But it’s my wish for you. You can’t stop me.

data

Respect my boundaries or you’ll get booty trapped.

7. Enough good times to counterbalance the challenges. Before January is over I want you to do this: List ten things you really love about your dog.

They can be big things:

He’s an award winning polka dance champion.

He’s totally house trained.

He never chases the cats.

He used to “debate” every dog he saw, but now he only starts rowdy philosophical discussions on Wednesdays.


Or small things:

He smells like cotton candy even when I forget to give him a bath for a year.

He sleeps in on the weekends.

He takes treats gently.

He does not have a Henrietta.

Or whatever it is that you love about your dog.

Now put this list in your drawer. The next time you have a terrible dog walk and you’re secretly thinking that it might be time to  “donate” your dog to charity: Read your list.


Ok, that’s my seven wishes, but I do have others, like: the ability to freeze time, a coat pocket that generates a never ending supply of stinky treats, and a magical dog park that only you know about. But until I find that Genie, I’ll just wish all of you happiness, health, and peanut butter gold riches in 2014!