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Archive for the tag “dog walk”

It’s Getting Hot in Here!

Texans love to say that we have three seasons: winter, early summer, summer, and late summer. This year, we didn’t have much of a winter, and our spring (early summer) temperatures were the highest in recent history. What does that mean for our upcoming summer? Since we can’t trust The Weather Channel to accurately tell us what will happen an hour from now, the best we can do is assume it’ll be hot, hot, hot! 

As pet parents, we need to pay close attention to what the Texas sun does to our pets. Some pets can handle the heat better than others, but none are particularly happy about our constantly rising temperatures. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction:

1. Walk when it’s cool. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, but “cool” is relative. I don’t walk my own dogs between 10am-6pm in the summer months. Early morning and late evening walks are best. Two of my dogs are bracyphallic breeds (Boston terriers, pugs, boxers, bulldogs), which means they have short noses. It makes it harder for them to breed, especially in the heat. I pay special attention to them and am sure to walk when it isn’t hot.

2. Place your hand on the pavement for 30 seconds. If you can’t hold your hand there for half a minute, then your pup certainly can’t be expected to walk for 30 minutes. Remember, the heat can burn their paw pads. It often takes till after 8pm for the street to fully cool in July and August.

3. NEVER, EVER LEAVE YOUR DOG OR CAT IN THE CAR! When the outside temperature is 85F (a dream for us May-September), the inside of your car, even with the windows open, will reach 120F within minutes. Dogs die yearly because a pet parent thought they were just stopping into the store for a few minutes. Running into CVS? That’s never a quick trip with those lines and slow cashiers. Take your dog home and come back. Yes, it takes extra time, but it also saves his life.

4. Have fresh water for your dog with you all the time. I have bowls outside, inside, and water bottles on our walks. I clean indoor bowls 3-5 times a week and outdoor bowls daily. 

5. Buy them a pool. Seriously! My pups aren’t swimmers, but they love a fun way to cool off after a walk. They have a blue plastic baby pool ($10 at Academy), and all 4 of them find different uses for it. Buckley plays and splashes around in it. Oliver climbs in to rescue tennis balls from what he believes will be their certain demise. Lily and Daisy treat as a giant water bowl. No matter what the use, all four get to cool of their bellies. 

6. Dogs don’t sweat. They pant. Try cooling them off by spraying their bellies, which helps much faster than spraying their backs. I also have “cooling bandanas.” You soak the bandana for 15-20 minutes, and it expands. They then wear them on our walks to keep cool. You can also pack a washcloth with you on a walk and soak it after or during your walk. Wipe their bellies with the cool washcloth, and you’ll have a happy pup.

7. ICE! After playing in the yard or exercising, give them ice as a treat. It helps them from drinking too much too quickly, cools them off, and it’s a zero calorie treat.

8. Puppy ice cream. The store bought kind is full of all sorts of preservatives and things that don’t need to be in your dog’s body. Try the homemade version: 2 cups plain yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup peanut butter. Pour the batter into paper cups (bathroom kind), and then place the cups in the freezer. You’ll have puppy ice cream in no time!

These are just a few of the many ways to keep your dogs happy, safe, and healthy this summer. Stay tuned to the blog and Ollie and Friends’ facebook page for more tips.



Go, Go, Gadget Arm!

The most common behavioral problem my pet sitting clients list on their forms is leash pulling. It’s also biggest window into how often, and long, a dog is walked.

Many trainers and pet sitters hear “I would walk him more often, but he pulls me down the street.” Instead of working on the pulling issue, pet parents often resort to purchasing products that advertise fixing the problem, or worse, they completely stop walking their dog. They may leash their dog to go potty or from the car to the dog park, but their dogs no longer get the benefits from a walk or run with their parent.

There is a way to improve how much and how hard your dog pulls. The first thing you should do is gather any pinch collars or choke collars and toss them in the trash. The point of those is for your dog to feel a pinch in his throat every time he pulls. Most dogs develop a tolerance to the pain and keep pulling, and the long term effects on the inside of their throat will make your stomach turn. If you do feel you need a tool to aid you, get a Gentle Leader. The key is to remember it’s a tool. Use it for a week or so while you follow the tips I’ll provide later in this post. As your dog improves and you gain confidence, wean off the Gentle Leader. Eventually you won’t need it unless you try walking your dog in a new park with lots of pups around and want the extra help. Again, remember it’s a tool and not magic.

Before you leave on a walk, take a deep breath, and do your dog (and yourself) a favor: keep your phone in your pocket. The more your focus is on your dog, the walk, and the environment around you, the better off you are. If you are distracted or tense, that will be communicated to your dog through the leash*. Now, let’s walk!

The following are different exercises I do when a dog, whether my own or a client’s, pulls:

1. My dogs rarely pull anymore, but if they miss a day of walking, which only happens because of rain, then the next walk starts off a little nuts. To regroup, I call them to me by saying “Puppies, watch!” They all ignore what has their attention and sit at my feet, watching their mom. 8 eyes are on me, and they each get a tiny training treat. I do this as many times as we need for them to get back in their normal walk routine. It typically only takes one or two regroup sessions for them to calm down and walk on a loose leash.

2. Stop walking: If you plant your feet in the ground, your dog may continue to pull and even make choking noises. He’s fine, but the second he loosens up, take a few steps and praise him. Repeat when he pulls again, even if you only took two steps. You could do this once or for 10 minutes straight, it depends on how stubborn your pup is. He will soon learn that not pulling means walking forward comfortably.

3. 90 Degree Turn: If your dog pulls in a certain direction, such as when you leave the house and he immediately heads to the right, then make a 90 degree turn. He will have to follow you. If he pulls again, turn. It doesn’t matter if you end up walking in a square for a bit.The point is, you, the pack leader, chose the direction and your pup followed you.

4. Double the Training: Take advantage of the no-pulling training session to review other basic obedience commands. For example: Stop walking the second your dog pulls, and happily say “Charlie, come!” When he trots back to you, praise him. You can work on come, sit, and sit stay.

The above four tips are not the only solutions to end leash pulling, but they are certainly my favorites. Many trainers want your dog to walk next to you, on the left, on a loose leash. Others say your dog should be at your side or behind you. I don’t agree. Sure, if you are doing obedience trials, then you need to follow those rules. But what I want for you is to enjoy walking your dog. He wants you to take him on walks, and you will do it more often and for longer periods of time if you enjoy it.

My hope is that you can walk your dog on a loose leash, even if he’s a few feet ahead of you. I just want you and your dog to get all the benefits from a good walk. For your pup, it is a mental and physical experience. For you, it’s exercise, time outdoors, and getting to know your pup. If your dog sees a squirrel or another dog and lunges, just call him back to you. Be consistent with your training, especially if multiple people in your house walk the dog.

Happy walking!

*Be sure to work with your dog on a 4-6 foot leash, not a retractable leash. You need as much control of your pup as possible.

Houston Arboretum: Heaven for a Dog’s Senses

The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is a gift to our city’s children and dogs. It’s certainly a gift to the wildlife that call it home. The entrance is off of Woodway in Memorial Park, and it’s been a favorite spot of mine for years.

Sign at the entrance on Woodway

Visitor's Center: a must see for kids

My dogs and I hit these trails on each of their birthdays and as often as we can throughout the year. They are allowed a much looser leash here than if we were walking in a neighborhood so that they can experience all the trails have to offer their senses.

What to bring: water, leashes, doggy bags, durable shoes. What to leave at home: Your worries and your to-do list.

A Few Simple Rules: Let your dog's (and your) curiosity run wild, but please don't jog or bike here. Both will scare wildlife.

To help protect plants and wildlife, please stay on the well-maintained paths.

Let's go, Mom!

The Arboretum is extremely well-cared for by volunteers and through donations. The paths are clearly marked, and you can pick one route or switch trails as often as you please.

Signs like this one mark all the different trails

In the spring, you will find a huge field filled with wildflowers. Enjoy the beauty, but please respect them and just admire them from a distance.

One of my favorite things about walking these trails is never knowing what we’ll find. Sometimes we end up walking along the wildflower field, and other times we are slowly walking down a winding path along trickling water. Today, we found a pond filled with turtles.

The boys checking out the action in the pond.

The girls are in sensory overload and not sure what to smell or watch next.

Buckley really wanted to know what was moving in the water. He was fascinated!

The logs in the pond were covered with snoozing turtles.

Any dog trainer will emphasize that an exercised dog is a well-behaved dog. As a pet sitter, I can tell how often a dog is walked before I even get the leash on him, and my guess is only confirmed as we head around the block. When a client tells me that their dog chews shoes, door jams, and their favorite books, it’s clear to me that he is bored and needs more exercise. What I learned through dog psychology books and caring for many dogs, including my own, is that mental exercise can be just as important as physical exercise to a dog.

The Houston Arboretum is exercise for every single one of a dog’s senses. The long strolls 0n winding paths fulfill their need for physical exercise. The sights and sounds of the forest grab their attention. The smells drive their noses wild. There are plants and animals a city dog has never smelled in the Arboretum, thrilling a dog’s sense of smell. As a cautious dog mom, I try to make sure they don’t taste anything but the tiny treats that are in my pocket.

Lily enjoyed smelling this plant, and I stayed close by to make sure she didn't take a bite.

No matter what the season, the Houston Arboretum is always beautiful.

I truly believe that the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is a gift to the city of Houston, particularly children and dogs. Oliver, Buckley, Daisy, and Lily would certainly agree. It is fascinating to watch them discover, smell, watch birds in the trees, and then fall asleep in the car ride home. For me, a sense of calm comes over me while hiking in the Arboretum. It’s probably a mixture of the trees, leaves, and watching my own pack in a more natural state that calms me. Whatever it is, it’s a welcome feeling, and I am always thankful for our trips to the Arboretum.

Oliver and Buckley must see something pretty exciting out there.

Daisy and Lily conducting a tree stump investigation.

To the volunteers and staff at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, my pack and I give you many thanks!

Taking it all in...


The Right Gear for a Great Walk

If you play soccer, you need cleats and shin guards. If you ride horses, you need a helmet, boots, breeches, and chaps. What about a dog walk? What do you need, and what does your dog need?

Whether you’re walking or running with your dog, it’s exercise for both of you. It helps if you dress like you’re working out, then you will treat it just like a trip to the gym but with the benefit of being outside. I always put on running shoes. It’s better for my knees, feet, and makes me really work at the walk. The rest, is up to you. Start with the shoes though.

Your sweet pup needs to be outfitted to keep him safe and ready to work out, too. In another post, we’ll talk about training your dog to walk well. First you need the right gear. Your dog should always have on a collar with tags. If you want to use a harness as well, then go for it. Oliver and Buckley are harnessed, but Daisy and Lily are not.

Besides a collar with tags, the most important tool you need is leash. I recommend a 4′ nylon or leather leash. Most leashes you’ll find at PetsMart and other major stores are 6′. Those are fine if your dog stays close and rarely pulls. Retractable leashes are not a good idea, as they give your dog the idea that he is in charge of the walk. They can be very dangerous and counteract any work you do to show yourself as the leader.

Your dog needs a walk, just like you need exercise. For a dog, however, the walk is a physical and mental exercise. Sometimes we think letting our dog out in yard is enough. We see him chasing a squirrel and think that’s all he needs. Most of the time, a dog in the yard lays around or digs, and both of those are signs of boredom.

Do your dog, and yourself, a favor. Put on your running shoes, grab your leash, and head out to explore Houston by paw!

My pack taking over Heights Blvd

My pups are attached by couplers, allowing me to use just two leashes instead of four.

West 11th St Park: A Hidden Adventure

My pack and I have been Heights residents for a couple of years, and less than a month ago we stumbled upon a new spot less than 5 minutes from my house.

Near White Oak Bayou and TC Jester is W11th St.Park. Shelterwood and Shirkmere seem to be the best spots to park so as not to bother the quiet neighborhood’s residents. The park also meets on W11th, but your car will be towed if you park there.

Grab your pup, leashed, and head towards the woods. There are numerous entries into the woods, and the trails are clearly marked. The nature trails wind and bend, but it is a small trail. My pups and I take every turn, trying to stay in the wooded area as long as possible, and we’re able to stretch the walk to about 30 minutes.

We highly recommend W11th St Park. Walking on nature trails is both physical and mental exercise for city dogs. Their noses are planted on the ground, and they all listen to every noise in the trees. A dog needs time to be a dog, and nature trails help them do just that.

Enjoy this hidden adventure in the city!

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