Five dog-specific apps to Help you Live Better

Today, there are mobile apps for almost every conceivable topic or need and because so many people now own smartphones and tablets, mobile app usage has seen huge growth worldwide.  It is estimated that by 2020, mobile apps will generate a staggering $189 billion worldwide.1 

There are some really interesting apps that have been developed specifically for dog owners.  We’ve taken a look at five free apps (all available for Android and iOS), which could potentially assist dog owners with many aspects of dog care.

Dog Vacay

Despite the boom in dog-friendly hotel options across the nation, there are times when you need to travel but just can’t take your favorite companion with you.  Although there are excellent kennels available in the US, some people prefer their dogs to have a more personalized pet-sitting service and this led to the development of the DogVacay app.

Dog Vacay allows you to connect with dog sitters in your area who offer services ranging from dog walking, to taking your dog to vet appointments, or caring for your dog in your home or theirs when you are out of town.

With a 24/7 customer support service and daily photo or video updates, you can travel or use the daycare option knowing that your dog is in good hands.

dog-vacay
Pet First Aid

Just like people, pets get sick and have accidents too.  Although many of us are familiar with the correct first aid procedures when dealing with people, we’re not necessarily as confident when required to be first responders in pet emergencies. The Pet First Aid app developed by the American Red Cross remedies that situation, allowing you to check symptoms and watch videos on how best to respond to common emergency situations.

You can learn about early warning signs, learn first aid steps, and take quizzes on pet health and safety. For more serious conditions, the app will also tell you the location of the nearest emergency animal hospital or veterinarian’s office.

A great app to use in emergencies and a great resource to help you provide emergency care for your pet until you can get to a veterinarian.

pet-first-aid

BarkCam

If you’re a dog owner, you will know that no matter how adorable your dog’s appearance, trying to capture “that look” in a photo can be extremely difficult.  This is where BarkCam comes in.  Using a variety of different sounds to get your dog’s attention, the sounds are linked to the camera’s shutter button, so you trigger sound and take the photo at the same time.

When you’ve got your favorite picture, you can edit to your heart’s content using filters, stickers or even text.  You can share pictures on the platform itself or share it on either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

bark-cam

Whistle

This app requires a phone for you and a Whistle GPS collar for your dog, which then allows you to track not only your dog’s location but also his heart rate.  Designed to help avoid dog’s getting lost, it also allows you to create custom activity goals for your dog, based on breed, size, and age and can be modified depending on which family member is walking the dog at that particular time.

It is important to keep in mind that because this app has nationwide GPS coverage in the US, there is potential to run down your phone battery much faster on longer walks.

Although this app is free, the required collar costs around $50*.

 

whistle-device
Whistle GPS dog collar

 

 

MapMyDogWalk

There are plenty of apps on the market for runners and walkers and this app is quite similar, but designed specifically for those who walk dogs. The app gives you information on the best dog walking routes in your area and if you use one of these or add one of your own, the app allows you to track progress made and allows you to save this data to compare against future walks. Information on dog parks, waste-bag dispensers, dog-friendly areas and water fountains are all given in this dog-friendly app.
Once again, it is important to note that continually using GPS, does dramatically drain battery power.

map-my-dog-walk

 

We have only taken a look at 5 free apps, but there are far more on the market for dog owners to use. Why not look for one that would make your lifestyle easier?  As businesses are increasingly being encouraged to develop apps, it is possible that in the not too distant future we will see an even greater number of dog-friendly apps, which will likely become more interactive and more personalized to meet user need.

Do you currently use any apps on your cell phone or tablet that make your dog care duties more manageable or is there an app that you would love to see available for dog owners? Let us know which apps make your life with your dog better.

*Price correct at time of article posting.

References

  1. https://www.statista.com/topics/1002/mobile-app-usage/

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Taking the plunge with dogs and kids: Part 2

Part 2: Dogs

dog-diving-into-ocean

People often automatically assume that just because many dogs love water and love swimming that all dogs love it and can swim instinctively.  This is not necessarily the case and when it comes to dogs and swimming, there are actually three distinct groups.

Group 1: Those that inherently know how to swim

Examples in this category are Labrador retrievers, who typically love water and once they are in it’s often pretty difficult to get them back out.

swimming-dog-2

Group 2: Those that can be taught

If your dog is a breed that could swim and could enjoy swimming you can encourage him by beginning in shallow, calm water.  If he responds well to that and likes to chase tennis balls or floating toys, you could try tempting him with the toys.

Group 3: Those that need to stay away from pools or other bodies of water at all costs

Dogs that fall into this category are typically those with large heavy chests relative to their hindquarters, short legs, and short muzzles. Examples of this are English bulldogs, pugs, French bulldogs, corgis and basset hounds.  Some of these breeds have very low body fat too, making them far more susceptible to hypothermia in colder waters. If you own a dog with these physical characteristics it would definitely be advisable to keep him or her away from bodies of water or be equipped with a life vest if you cannot avoid this.

swimming-dog

Teaching your dog to swim

Start off slowly by introducing your dog to shallow water.  It is often advisable to put a life vest on the dog and/or a leash.  If your dog responds well to this, gradually move to deeper water so that he needs to do some paddling. Support your dog underneath the belly area to encourage him to use all 4 legs to swim.  Just as with teaching children to swim, it is advisable to keep swim sessions with your dog fairly short, but done regularly.

dog-in-the-water-on-a-leash

It is important to keep in mind that many dogs just simply don’t enjoy swimming. Even breeds that were bred for swimming (such as Labrador retrievers) don’t always enjoy it.  Some may be able to swim but are actually scared of the water.  Fear can increase fatigue, so always monitor whether your dog is showing signs of being fearful.

Never let your dog swim in areas where the water is too cold or where there are currents.  Don’t let your dog get overly tired while swimming. This is particularly important if you have a puppy or a senior dog. Do bear in mind that dogs can get disoriented when swimming, so keep a close eye on your dog’s location in the water.

There are lots of different options available for life vests.  These should be used when your dog goes on a boat, or if he is included in activities such as river floats or paddle boarding.

dog-wearing-life-jacket-2

After all the fun of the water, do remember to give your dog a shower or bath to rinse any residual chlorine or salts from his coat. Cleanse ears with an appropriate product and ensure that they are gently but thoroughly dried to prevent ear infections. Provide fresh water for drinking after swimming.

Is your dog a natural swimmer or afraid of the water?  What tips worked best for you?

 

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Taking the plunge with dogs and kids: Part 1

Many families like to vacation near beaches, rivers or lakes and all of these have one thing in common – water!  When there are large bodies of water present, we should always think of the safety of our children and our dogs.  This two-part series looks at how to keep dogs and kids safe so that everyone can have a fun and safe time on vacation or on weekend trips.

family-in-pool-on-vacation

Part 1: Kids

Ideally, swimming is an activity that should be introduced when children are still infants.  Many pools and community programs offer instructor-led “Mommy and Me” swim sessions that allow the babies to get used to being in the water and are great for Moms and babies to bond further.

mom-with-baby-swimming-2

It is preferable to then progress to swimming lessons with a trained swimming instructor who can show your child the correct techniques from the beginning – it is a lot more difficult to unlearn bad habits and techniques.  This type of swimming instruction is usually available on a group or an individual basis.  Group sessions tend to be less expensive, but as there are more children involved there tends to be less actual swimming time.  If your budget won’t stretch to professional lessons, you may want to consider teaching them to swim yourself. This does not always work, as learning to swim can be a frustrating process and sometimes kids will take instruction better from a swimming instructor than from a parent. It is also problematic if you have multiple children. If you are keen to give it a go and will be working with just one child, here are some ideas to make parent-child swimming instruction successful.

Make it a regular date

In order for parent-child swimming instruction to work, kids need to swim regularly and preferably once a week.  Make a point of assigning this time in your calendar once a week and sticking to it, except when your child is sick.

child-learning-to-swim

Keep it short and keep it varied

Swimming is a very tiring activity and as much as we want our kids to sleep well at night, having prolonged swimming sessions when they are learning to swim can be counterproductive.  It’s far better to keep it short (15 – 20 minutes for very young and new swimmers) and to keep lesson activities varied.

Make it fun

Making the swimming lessons fun with games and other activities is crucial to keeping children engaged and in building their confidence in the water.  For very young kids, use games involving nursery rhymes and plastic toys.  As they get older, continue to use those techniques, but also introduce games such as “red light, green light,” (where children kick like crazy on green, slow down on amber, and stop on red) to help improve specific swimming techniques. As they get slightly older, drop the nursery rhymes and include the use of more games, varying the games from session to session.

Kids of all ages will learn better if there is variety in the lesson.  If they get to use kickboards, pool noodles, and other flotation devices once in a while this will be beneficial.  Using these items helps to improve stroke technique, keeps them interested, and will leave them wanting to come back for more.  Not all community pools will allow their use, so check on that before taking yours along.

boy-swimming-with-kick-board

 

Make swimming enjoyable

Building up confidence in the water is vital so that kids are not afraid of the water and want to swim. As your little swimmer progresses in ability and confidence, you may want to think about enrolling in swimming clubs where a range of swimming and social opportunities will be offered.

Set rules

Make sure that your children know how to stay safe near a swimming pool.  They must always ask for permission to go in a pool and must have adult supervision during this time.  Rules such as not running by a pool are really important to follow. Use life vests or floaties for young kids when they are not actually practicing their swimming strokes, but do not rely on the floaties for safety. For young kids and those who are not strong swimmers, life vests should be worn for activities such as river floating or when in lake water.  If swimming in the ocean, be conscious of the tide and possible currents.  Where possible try to swim in a lifeguard supervised zone.

river-float-with-kid

 

Even when your child has become a good swimmer, it is possible to get into difficulties in the water.  Always ensure that children are supervised to minimize risk and ensure that you are all able to enjoy a fun and safe vacation.

Learning to swim is not a luxury, it is a necessity! Being able to swim is such an important skill to have.  Swimming provides fantastic exercise for able-bodied children and those with physical challenges and is an activity that can be continued throughout their lives.

Some of my happiest and most memorable times have taken place around water with my children. What experiences have you had? We’d love to hear about them.

 

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Why Getting Active With Your Dog Will Change Your Life

If you and your pet have been active all year, there should be no reason to become sloth-like during the winter.  Admittedly, it can be tempting to hunker down inside when temperatures plummet, but getting active and staying active with your dog will actually change your life. No exaggeration.

With a bit of creativity and planning, it’s possible to enjoy every season with your pet and get more benefits than you might realize at the same time. Here are a few activity suggestions that could help keep you both healthier during the colder months.

Skijoring

Skijoring is a unique combination of cross-country skiing combined with dog power.  This sport began hundreds of years ago in Norway and was called skikjøring (or ski driving). Horses and reindeer were used in Norway, but when the concept spread to Alaska, dogs were used instead.  The dog wears a skijoring harness and is attached to the skier with a belt and a towline.  This sport only works well with larger dogs, but you don’t need to own a Husky. Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, or Border Collies, for example, can all enjoy the sport. If your dog weighs at least 35 lbs, is healthy, and has a lot of energy and stamina, it could be a good option. Both owner and dog get a fantastic workout (with owners able to burn between 700 and 900 calories per hour) and take advantage of the snowy conditions at the same time.  If this sounds like the sport for you, it is advisable to get a health check for you and your dog. If you’re both good to go, start out slowly, building up the length of sessions as you get more familiar with the activity. Look online for Skijor clubs in your local area, which could offer some group sessions and may give you tips specific to your location. SkijorUSA might be a good place to start. Some states that typically get winter snow have designated trail areas, so check out what might be available in your state.

skijoring

Snowshoeing

This is becoming increasingly popular in the snowier regions of the country as you can burn between 420 – 1,000 calories in an hour depending on speed. Some dog owners like to carry poles, so prefer to snowshoe with their dog on a waist leash.  This activity offers cardio training, strength building, agility, and balance – a serious workout for owner and dog.

Become a mushing team

When we think of mushing, we often think of a sled pulled by multiple dogs, but actually, the term refers to any form of transport that is powered by dogs. Traditional mushing with a sled in the snow is extremely popular in Alaska but is also growing in popularity in the lower 48. Dog mushing has become a popular activity for those wanting to explore the backcountry. There is quite a bit of equipment and training required for this version. If you find the thought of traditional mushing a bit daunting, there are other options, although most of these are better suited to conditions without ice or snow.  There is a wide range of products on the market, so why not check out the different options and see if there is something that appeals to you.

Hiking

Hiking is a very popular activity and shouldn’t be reserved for the warmer months. When there is snow on the ground, it certainly adds to the intensity of a hike.  This activity can be achieved without needing to purchase or rent additional equipment, but do take plenty of water, snacks and a first aid kit with you. Ensure that both you and your dog are adequately protected against the elements with appropriate clothing and footwear. With any outdoor activity during the winter, make sure your pet’s paws are washed clean of salt after being outside.  If you are likely to be going out into harsh weather conditions regularly, you may want to consider investing in hiking boots for your dog, to protect paws from injury.  Not all dogs will wear them so paw wax may be a good alternative to protect the paws from ice and snow.

man-walking-his-dog-on-a-path-in-the-snow

Practice nose work

Not everyone wants to or is able to participate in intense forms of exercise with their pet, but in addition to regular walking, there are other more moderate activities that you can introduce during the winter months.  Practicing nose work is a fun search activity for your dog,  based on the scent training that police and rescue dogs undergo.  This activity provides great physical exercise but is fantastic for mental stimulation too.  Dogs learn to search for a specific odor and find the source of that odor. The nice thing is that it can be done almost anywhere. The wind, rain, and snow can affect scent flow, so practicing in the winter can be a different experience from other seasons.  If you would like to develop your skills,  K9 Nose Work can help you find an instructor in your area.

Make an indoor agility course

If the weather is just too severe to venture outside, you can set up an agility course in your own living room. It is possible to purchase objects like tunnels, hoops, and hurdles for your pet, but if your budget doesn’t stretch to those, simply look around your home and everyday objects can achieve a similar result. Set up obstacles with items like brooms or rolled up blankets and encourage your pet to jump over these obstacles. You may have to jump too initially but aim to progress to verbal cues. Put items like newspaper or aluminum foil on the ground, so your dog gets used to different textures and sounds under his paws. Add a collapsed tunnel adventure by using a chair draped in a blanket – sit one side and encourage your pet to go through.

living-room-agility-course

Go to an indoor dog park

Designed for year-round use, but particularly helpful in extremes of weather, indoor dog parks are a great option.  Many indoor dog parks have opened throughout the United States, so check online to find one in your area.  At some, you can sign up for an agility class, a swimming lesson, or even have a go at doga (yep,  yoga with your dog!).

indoor-dog-park-dallas

How can these activities change your life?

The benefits of getting active with your dog are many, but the following are just a selection of ways in which your life will be changed for the better by exercising with your pet during the winter months:

  • Any activity or exercise during the winter (whether inside or out) is great for improving cardiovascular health and overall muscle tone for you and your dog.
  • Exercise has been proven to be helpful in improving mental health, as endorphins released during exercise reduce depression and anxiety.
  • Being exposed to as much natural sunlight as possible helps in overcoming SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that can affect many people during the winter months.
  • Although you are never truly lonely with a dog in your life, engaging in activities that promote greater social interaction (such as going to an indoor dog park or signing up for a class) can be so helpful for anyone struggling with isolation and loneliness at this time of year – again improving mental health.
  • Embarking on any activity allows you to develop stronger, closer bonds with your pet, which is good for the soul in general.  

With countless benefits, whatever you do this winter, pick an activity that you and your pet can enjoy and will do regularly.  Get active and maximize your time with your best friend!

What do you and your pet love to do at this time of year? We’d love to hear about it!

A Happier, Healthier New Year

After the excesses of the Holidays and discovering that clothes fit a little tighter than they used to, many of us start thinking about a healthier diet and working out. If this is true for you, why not think about whether your pet could benefit too?

Sadly, obesity in animals is an ever-increasing problem.  According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 54% of dogs in the US are classed as overweight or obese (10-15% over the ideal body weight). Interestingly, it is the most common preventable disease in dogs and avoiding it could help prevent other conditions such as arthritis, liver disease, diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure.

Particular breeds (Labrador Retrievers, Pugs, Dachshunds, English Bulldogs, Cairn Terriers, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Chihuahuas, Scottish Terriers, Pit Bulls, Boxers, St. Bernards, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Basset Hounds) are more prone to obesity than others.  If your dog is one of these breeds it’s definitely something to keep in mind, even if they are not currently overweight.

Although obesity can occur at any time, the risk increases with age, with middle age dogs being particularly susceptible.  Gender can be a contributing factor, with females faring worse than males. Also, it is important to be aware that obesity can be a side effect of certain diseases such as hypothyroidism, insulinoma and Cushing’s disease. So if your pet gains weight suddenly or is overweight despite a small appetite and plenty of exercise, talk to your veterinarian.

It is estimated that simply controlling weight can extend a dog’s life by two years. So what can we do to keep our best friend alongside for longer?

Determine whether your pet is overweight

There are 3 tips that you can use prior to getting out the scales:

  • You should be able to feel the outline of your pet’s ribs without excess fat coverage.
  • You should be able to see and feel your pet’s waist.
  • Your pet’s belly should be tucked up when viewed from the side.

dog-weight-chart

When you do get the scales out, make sure you know what the ideal weight should be.  The American Kennel Club gives advice on the appropriate weight range for each breed, but if in doubt check with your vet.

How can you help your dog lose weight?

If your dog burns more calories than it consumes, it will lose weight. It may be a simple equation, but it can take a lot of discipline to achieve.

It is always recommended that before embarking on a diet or exercise program to have your pet checked by a vet.  If given the green light, some of these suggestions may be helpful to slim down your pooch.

Establish a regular exercise program

Just as with humans, a regular exercise program is absolutely crucial for a dog’s physical and mental wellbeing.  If your pet is excessively overweight, introduce exercise slowly, increasing gradually as fitness levels and stamina improve. Aiming for at least 15 minutes of walking, twice a day is good.  Although there’s nothing better than time spent sniffing a hydrant, a brisk walk, rather than a stroll, is desirable.  If you can gradually increase the frequency and duration of the walks, add in some ball-play, or even progress to some jogging, all the better.

'Sorry, chubs, but those little circles you do before lying down don't cut it as exercise.'

Don’t feed your pet table scraps

Human food doesn’t always work well for dogs and some is simply toxic. If possible, stick to dog food. Whether you opt for wet or dry dog food, a diet rich in dietary fiber and protein but low in fat is recommended. Protein will boost metabolism and give a feeling of fullness, while dietary fiber stimulates intestinal metabolism.

Weigh out your pet food

Whether you are human or canine, portion size affects weight gain.  If you weigh out each meal you will keep portions to a sensible size.  Try to avoid using self-feeders, but if you must use these, try an automated version to dispense a set amount at specific times of day.  If your dog is still hungry after mealtime, offer fresh water.  If you have several dogs, but not all are overweight, try to feed the dogs separately and do not leave food out, so you can figure out who has eaten what.

dog-with-food-piled-high 

Limit treats

Treats are typically high calorie and where possible should be limited. For example a pig’s ear fed to a 40 lb dog is the equivalent of a human drinking a 6-pack of soda. Try to reward your dog using other methods such as making a fuss of your pooch, offering a favorite toy, or playing ball. Make sure the whole household is involved in this, as it just doesn’t work if Pop keeps slipping your pooch sneaky snacks.

 

Aim for a weight loss of approximately 3-5% of body weight loss per month (or about 1lb).  Too much weight loss can be dangerous, so ensure that weight checks are done regularly and work closely with your vet to ensure that everything is safely on track.

before-and-after-diet-photos-for-cavalier

Putting on the pounds is always easier than taking them off, but sticking to some of these guidelines can be life changing.The problems associated with obesity can be reversible, so why not work with your dog so you can both achieve a happier, healthier 2017 and beyond? We’d love to hear of weight-loss tips that have worked for your pup; photos always appreciated!

 

Home for the Holidays

Thanksgiving is almost here and the Holiday season is just around the corner.  We are therefore approaching one of the biggest travel periods of the year, with 54% of Americans travelling 50 miles or more at Thanksgiving and 23% travelling the same distance over the Holidays. According to AAA (American Automobile Association), 48.7 million Americans will be travelling to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving.  Of those, 89% will be driving and the average length of a Thanksgiving long-distance round trip is 549 miles. The high volume of traffic is replicated globally, as in the UK for example, 6.7 million journeys of 20 miles or more are made on Christmas Day. So how do you transport kids, pets, and luggage safely and comfortably and happily at a time of year when weather conditions can exacerbate the challenge of driving?

Here are some simple suggestions that can help to make the journey as great as the rest of the trip:

Get a Comfy Seat

Kids grow rapidly and what may once have been a very safe and comfortable car seat, may now have been outgrown by your child.  The diagram below shows car seat safety based on recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. When you have established whether the car seat still meets your child’s needs, ensure that it is correctly fitted in your vehicle per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Car seat recommendations

 

Add a Pet Barrier

Many people use pet barriers routinely to transport a dog locally, but pet barriers become invaluable on long road trips when all your most precious cargo are on board. The barrier itself can ensure that your dog is safely enclosed and cannot distract the driver or disturb passengers.  It also prevents any luggage or loose gifts from shifting from the trunk to the passenger area of the vehicle should the driver need to brake suddenly.  If you add a pet barrier divider to the mix, you also have the perfect separation of luggage and pets.  So, no more chewed gifts before reaching your destination!

Pet barrier and divider

Take Time to Pack and Pack Extras

Aim to load the car with luggage and gifts before putting the pets and children in the vehicle.  Make sure you have a plastic trash bag in the passenger area. Items such as wet wipes, tissues and water bottles are also useful to have to hand.  Some blankets for changing weather conditions can be a useful addition.

Take a Break

When travelling with children and pets, it is always advisable to allow extra time for the journey.  Try to take breaks every few hours, or as required.  These breaks allow kids and pets to have some exercise and visit the restroom, but also allow the driver to take a rest from the intense concentration required during certain weather and traffic conditions.

Grab a Snack

Having a few healthy snacks and beverages available can make a trip pass more pleasurably and keep hunger pangs at bay. Be sure to avoid sugary food and drinks that might increase hyperactivity. It can also be helpful to have a few additional food supplies in the vehicle in case of extreme weather conditions or emergencies.

Snack ideas for kids

On-Board Entertainment

Some vehicles now have in-car entertainment built in, which is ideal for kids to watch their favorite movies. If your vehicle does not come equipped with this, a portable DVD player may be a good alternative. If you prefer to avoid electronic device overload and want a more all-inclusive entertainment approach, an audio book or music that everyone can listen to can be a fun option.  Stickers, felt pieces and pipe cleaners can be great for younger kids to fiddle with and they often love games of I-Spy whether on pre-printed sheets for them to check off or with the whole of the car joining in.  Older children may prefer car quizzes and, if they are truly craving electronics, downloading the Mad Libs iOS app ahead of time may be a good option.

 

With a little careful planning, what the kids (and even adults) may perceive to be a long and boring journey, suddenly becomes a lot more appealing. If you have any fail-safe tips that your family uses on long road trips with kids and pets, why not share them with other readers?  Whatever your plans during the Holidays, I wish you safe, pleasant travels and a happy and healthy 2017.

Happy Holidays

 

 

 

 

Pupcation

This post will conclude the series on special activities for dogs and we’re going out with a bang. This latest activity is definitely not something you can do every day or even every month: a pupcation, or a holiday with your pooch. I don’t suggest you go on holiday just for your dog. But if you’re planning one already, why not take the four-legged family member(s) along?

New sights, new smells, amazing views
New sights, new smells, amazing views

Taking your dog along on a trip can be fun, however it can be a bit of a hassle and you have make thorough preparations. It all starts with choosing the right type of holiday: any kind of trip which just results in your pooch being left in the hotel room is a no-go. Instead, choose for an active vacation like camping or a nature holiday. Your pup will thank you.

Bringing your dog along on a pupcation has several advantages, for humans and pups. For one, you won’t have to look for someone to look after Fido while you’re away and you know he’s in the best hands: your own. This eliminates any chance of your dog pining and missing you. For your pup, as for you, a holiday means a change of scenery and exploring new things and places. And if you choose for an active holiday, it will mean lots of exercise too. This will lead to a tired, but very content pooch.

pupcation luggage
A Suitcase for every family member

However, as I mentioned there is also a downside to a pupcation. Accommodation being the major one: you will have to look for places that allow your dog. The same goes for any activities you might have planned, be sure to look online whether they are dog-friendly. Of course, it’s OK to plan an activity which doesn’t allow for dogs, as long as you don’t leave your pup on their own devices for an entire day or don’t plan too many of these. Otherwise, it would defeat the point of bringing your dog along and they’d be better off being looked after by a family member or in a kennel.

Taking your pooch along also means packing their suitcase. They will need their food, toys, bedding and such too. A more extensive list can be found here. Also, don’t forget to bring a doggy first aid kit and the number of your vet and a local vet. If you travel by car, please make sure to secure your dog properly. However, as long as you prepare well, the pupcation will be a fun trip for all family members.

Have you and your dog ever gone on a pupcation? If so, where did you go? Feel free to give some recommendations in the comments!

Tricks and Treats

They can't read, so they need other ways to keep busy
They can’t read, so they need other ways to keep busy

To keep our dogs busy and healthy, we don’t only have to make sure they get enough physical activities like a stimulating walk or swim. Like the body, the mind has needs too and needs to be used. Preventing boredom is of the essence. Most of you will probably have some (funny) anecdote showing that boredom leads to trouble, in dogs and humans alike.

One way to keep a dog’s mind occupied is to teach him of her tricks. Most people know about the basic tricks and commands such as sit, heel, down. These are things every dog should know to operate and be safe in our society. However, dogs are capable of learning much more than that. They might even pick up a few tricks on their own, whether you want them to or not.

To teach your dogs new tricks, you don’t need much: a list of tricks, patience, perseverance and lots of treats. However, if you don’t really know where to start and the internet is no help, you don’t have to do this on your own. There are dog schools and trainers who will gladly help you and that offer more advanced classes that go beyond basic obedience. Though, make sure you transport your pooch safely in the car, with a crate or pet barrier, when you go to these classes.

dog treats
Lots and lots of treats

You can find a lot of dog tricks online. Here’s a list of some tricks I liked:

Fun ones:

  • walking backwards
  • barking on command
  • slalom
  • jumping
  • crawling
  • a classic: play dead

Useful ones:

  • difference between left and right
  • opening and closing doors
  • picking up toys
  • switching the light on and off
  • Leave it, for refusing strange food and other non-edible things
  • baring their teeth, useful for brushing those pearly whites
  • find my keys

Does your dog know any fun or unusual tricks? Is there a something you would like him to know? Let me know in the comments!

Group walks: the more the merrier

Group walk in the park
Everything is better with friends by your side

Two weeks ago I wrote about taking your pooch to the dog park. This has a lot of benefits, the main ones being that your dog gets exercised and is able to socialize with other dogs. Another great activity that grants both of these is group walks. After all, the more the merrier.

Walking your dog in a group can be achieved in different ways. For example, on a regular walk, you’ll often run into the same people with their dogs. Why not invite them to a group walk? Or maybe you could ask some of your neighbors along. This is a great way to get to know them better.

However, there is another way for your dog to have a walk with a group of dogs. If you have to leave your dog alone at home when you go to work, chances are you have a dog walker. Instead of looking for a walker who will just take Fido out for a short walk, you can opt for someone who will take your pooch along with some other clients. This way the merry band can hang out and have fun together for a while.

All tuckered out
All tuckered out after his walk

No matter which way you do it, group walks are a good idea. As with any walk, it means your pet get a chance to release energy. Group walks have the added bonus that they are also a great opportunity for our four-legged companions to socialize. Especially for younger dogs who still have to learn doggy manners and protocols, these walks are a great help. But for any dog, they are a way to meet new friends and maybe see some new places.

If you are considering group walks, keep in mind that for some dogs an entire pack of strangers can be intimidating. Be careful when introducing the members to each other and keep an eye on them. If your dog isn’t comfortable in big groups, a group walk can also consist of just one or two others. After all the whole point is the have fun and be merry, not to scare your pooch.

Activities: Dog Sports

This week’s activity is aimed at people and dogs with a lot of energy who like being active. So all the two- and four-legged couch potatoes can stop reading right here. If, however, your pooch is a bundle of energy and you are looking for a way to let him blow off some steam, why not try out a dog sport.

dog sports agility

There are a lot of dog sports out there. You’ll probably have heard of agility and flyball before, but what about dock jumping, hound trailing or scootering?  There are too many sports to list here, but you can see the list over here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dog_sports

There are a lot of advantages to doing sport with your pooch:

  • Exercise is healthy for both of you
  • It will stimulate your dog’s mind as well
  • A good way for your pooch to release some of that energy
  • It will strengthen the bond with your dog
  • A way of meeting new human and doggy friends
  • It’s just fun
Strengthening the bond
Strengthening the bond

If now I have you thinking that you’d like to try this, good! However, before jumping into this recklessly, do your research. Not every sport is suited for your dog’s breed and, especially, his or her personality. If you have found a sport suited for you, look up what it entails and how much time and effort you have to invest in it. If you are not willing to commit, you can save a lot of time by not starting it in the first place. If all this information hasn’t dissuaded you yet, you can start looking at clubs and schools in your area where you can learn the ropes and to guide you in the whole process.

Also, and this goes without saying, but make sure your dog is healthy and fit enough to participate in any of these activities. And when driving to the club or venue, make sure your dog is properly secured in the car with a crate or pet barrier.

But now, go out and have fun!

Is there a dog sport you’d be interested in? Are you and your four-legged friend active in a dog sports? Let me know in the comments and tell me what you like about it.