Thursday, 13 March 2014

Doggie advice from Michelle Bridges & Cesar Millan

People contacting Perfect Pet Sitter do so because they are looking for the best care available for their dogs. Based in Sydney and the Northern Beaches and as an expert in dog minding and pet sitting, the only type of pet owners I meet are devoted to their fur pals. My clients are united by being caring people who accept that with dog ownership comes responsibilities. The most basic of which are appropriate food and adequate exercise.

In a recent edition of The Sun-Herald Sunday magazine Michelle Bridges says gyms should have dog treadmills. Whilst she no doubt made this as a tongue in cheek suggestion – what  great idea!

Michelle went on to write about obesity in people and dogs. Did you know that 40% of dogs in this country are obese? Shocking.

She also highlighted the importance of food and exercise – two vital components in keeping to the right weight whether human or canine. The difference is, we humans can choose whether to be as one with our armchair  - or to go out and exercise. Sadly our dogs cannot make such choices. And the worst thing of all for dogs is lack of exercise. Not just for what it does to their bodies – but because dogs deprived of enough exercise (and the chance to sniff and read doggie headlines) can at minimum develop behavioural problems – at worst they can go insane.

Cesar Millan has his detractors, but he spoke wise words when he said that for a dog to be balanced it needs EXERCISE, DISCIPLINE, AFFECTION – I concur.

In the UK it has become worryingly common to read of attacks by dogs on children and adults – more than a few proving fatal. Investigations often go on to reveal powerful trophy dogs kept in unimaginable conditions, locked away with zero exercise. The longer they are imprisoned the more uncontrollable they become. No surprise then when they escape they go mad and can kill. Tragic on every level.

Sydney pets owners are some of the most devoted I have ever met. Their pets are their passion and they will do whatever it takes to keep them happy and protected. In turn those pets repay that love a hundred times over with their affection, constancy and devotion.

So keep in mind that exercising your dog is more than simply a walk. You are giving your dog a wonderful gift and your canine pal will thank you by being happy and well adjusted. And if you do an hour daily and step up the pace - neither of you will need a gym to lose those few Ks!!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Ball Throwers & dogs with no ‘off switch'

As the Northern Beaches standout choice for dog minding and pet sitting – and of course being the Perfect Pet Sitter:-) I meet many, many different dogs -  all breeds, shapes and sizes. Yet as every dog owner knows, each has their own unique personality.

At one end of the spectrum there are those that love everyone they meet - to others that bond with just one person.

In the same way as personalities vary – so do energy levels. From calm and almost stately, to highly outgoing and very excitable.

It is within the latter you find dogs with no ‘Off Switch’. Puppies often fall into this type at first and can grow out of it, but some never do, even when fully mature.

Injuries and cuts are far more common with high energy dogs. Whilst rushing around they don’t see obstacles or sharp shells. They leap and twist in the air and often they are so engrossed in what they are doing that cuts or strains are not seen until you get home.

But more serious still are the types that get very obsessive about certain behaviours, for example running after balls launched by ball throwers. 

SAFE TO THROW  Amber (far right) Izzy (far left, was with her owner) Jack (front) & Maggie. Their owner throws ball 
Lots of dogs love chasing balls. Example, Jack, a cattle dog I’ve cared for many times. Jack is 8 years old  and he loves running after a ball and brings it back every time and drops it so you will throw it again. However, Jack is smart, and as he gets tired he takes longer and longer before he drops the ball. In effect he has learned how to self regulate to stop him overheating.

Left - Right Jack, Maggie, Izzy & Amber
Dogs love Curl Curl Lagoon (NSW)
More mature dogs like Jack have learned to control their behaviour, but some never develop an ‘Off Switch’ – effectively they become ‘Conditioned’.  They can go on to OCD around balls (Google: ‘operant conditioning’).

In hot weather in particular, I really worry when I see a dog constantly running after a ball being launched again and again. Any dog ( but especially those with thick coats and/or where there is no water to swim and cool off) are in serious danger of exhaustion or heat stroke because they literally will keep chasing that ball until they drop.

When I take the dogs in my care on our Adventure Walks I prefer they interact with other canines rather than simply run after a ball. So I take them to venues with smells, variations of landscape and other dogs to play with. 

Occasionally I will take the thrower with us, but rather in the way you wouldn’t give children chocolate all the time, I keep these times limited. And, I always keep in mind that I am the one who has to control the ‘Off Switch’ and limit the where, when and how often I throw that ball.

Which dogs should be insured? Ideally insure your dog – full stop. However, in the words of my vet in the UK when I didn’t have insurance cover for my big German Shorthaired Pointer:  “Always insure large, active and energetic breeds with short coats. Their energy means they plough into all sorts of places and their thin coats mean they get cuts far more easily than dogs with more dense coats”
(The only problem with that advice – I wish he’d told me earlier!!!)

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