Snow Boots for River!

River - Muttluk Debut inside 2014River - Muttluk Debut Portrait in Snow

River has some new shoes! That’s right. River wears boots when he goes outside for walks now. Despite his show of freezing in place and not being able to put his paw down properly after I put a boot on and the occasional side-eye, since the winter salt went down on the roads and sidewalks River has only gone out with his Muttluks. And besides, once he’s outside he just wants to keep going and forgets his embarrassment.

Last winter, I thought River would do okay without boots because we had been diligent about paw wiping after walks in our old neighborhood, but this was a new neighborhood and they put out more salt on the sidewalks than we were prepared for. Before too long, River’s pads were cracked and painful. His walks became potty breaks directly outside of our building’s main door, maybe he would get halfway down the sidewalk, but it was difficult. I would wipe his paws free of salt and ice with simple ingredient, fragrance-free gentle baby wipes then apply a balm to his pads multiple times a day but nothing helped as much as spring arriving that year. Read more about road salt and pet safety here.

Not willing to make the same mistake again, I measured River’s paws and got him the best pair(s) of winter dog boots I knew! Muttluks are made in Canada and they have been making them since 1994. I found out about them when I read a book called “Following Atticus,” which tells the story of a man and his dog who hike in New Hampshire. It tells so much more than that, those two really have a special bond, and I highly recommend it. As you would imagine, it snows a lot up there in New England. Atticus’ paws were getting sensitive from all the salt on the sidewalks in town and he would spend a lot of time hiking in the snow, so Tom, the owner and author, got him Muttluks to protect his feet so that they could enjoy the outdoors more safely.

And that’s all I wanted for River as well. He really loves his walks and will often find a good spot to stop and sniff the air for several minutes, but if I let him he might stop for 20 minutes just to nature watch. Instead of being reduced to only having potty breaks and indoor playtime, River gets his usual 30-40 minute walks AND indoor playtime! I really love the design of his fleece-lined boots. Not only do they keep a barrier between him and the salt, but they keep his paws warm even after 40 minutes outside and the Velcro strap is reflective and easily adjustable for a perfect fit.

Unless you have a fenced yard where you can let your dog out and they do not have to encounter the main roads and sidewalks, chances are you and I are wiping paws after each walk to help prevent irritation and damage to their pads. And if you do have a yard, you’re likely to wipe anyway because you don’t want snow or mud in your house either – who would!

We have gotten better at putting his boots on more quickly, but River still gives me a little embarrassed look as we get ready. But I’d much rather have him feeling a little embarrassed or have a neighbor chuckle when spotting his boots than to have River hobbled by the pain of walking outside in winter.

I’m so happy River got his Muttluks in time for the snowfall last week!

Take care,

Carolina

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Friends as Dog Walkers vs. Professional Pet Care Providers

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It is fantastic to have friends and neighbors you can count on to check on your pets but constantly relying on them can not only strain your pleasant relationship, but the more you ask them to do during the visit, ask that they do this or that with your dog, the more they are going to feel like you are demanding too much and they are not getting paid nearly enough to do this “favor” for you.

My suggestion is to maintain your pleasant friendships by getting a professional dog walker or pet sitter. Our jobs are to cater to you and your pet’s needs. If you ask us to wipe your dog’s paws or rear after coming back inside, we’ll do it each and every time. If you ask us to put a lock on the crate because Buster earns his name by busting out of the crate unless the lock is on, then we’ll do it. If you ask us to absolutely and positively avoid any other dog outside on the street by making u-turns and/or crossing the street and blocking your dog’s view of the other dog with a parked car, then we’ll do it. This is all part of our jobs. It is also part of our jobs to pay close attention to your dog’s behavior because if we notice something odd, we’ll let you know. Even if it’s as unpleasant as your dog had diarrhea today or there were parts of his new toy in his #2, we’ll let you know about it and we’ll let you know when it is back to normal. Most of us also have experience with administering medication, should you need it.

I know that some of you may be thinking, okay but not all dog walkers are the same. Yes, that is true and sadly, not every professional service provider is as professional as the next. You as consumers and pet lovers can however make informed decisions and help curb the poor behavior of others by asking for references and reviews before you make a decision for your dog. You can also always have a “nanny cam” in the house or hidden by the door so you can make sure your dog walker is at least arriving at the appropriate time and spending the required time with your dog.

Each time I hear from someone who was dissatisfied with another dog walker or God forbid, had a horror story to share, I wish there was a better way of telling the good service providers from the others. I wish I could have helped them before they were screwed over by that negligent person or service.

So, please, do your research, shop around and find that perfect dog walker or pet sitter for you. Even if you won’t need service for at least a month or two! Isn’t it better to have a back-up plan set up before you need it than to be struggling to put a plan together at the last minute? Also, if your friends or neighbors still want to stay involved somewhat, ask them to keep a watch on your house or to check in periodically, especially if it’s a long trip, to make sure the pets are okay and have been cared for.

 

Take care.

Carolina Rodriguez

 

This blog and this information is free to all pet lovers, not just River Walks Pet Care clients. If you like the content of this blog and would like to help support it, please consider donating.
Thank you!

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3 Rainy Day Fixes for You & Your Dog

Luna Pillow Lap - Website only

Even though you have to take the dog out, you probably don’t want to be out in the rain too long. While you might be tired at the end of the day because of the effect of precipitation on commuter traffic, but for your dog the day is just get interesting. Here are some easy ways to shake things up and get their energy out without taking them on a long walk or a run.

1. Play the Find It Game – Use small pieces of treats, smelly treats work best, and drop them around the room and tell them to “find it.” I find that pointing as you say “find it” or “go get it” helps. You can also tap your foot once or twice near the location of a hidden treat on the floor to give your dog a clue.

2. Play Hide and Seek – If there’s two humans at home – even better! Have your dog sit and stay, then hide out of view. Hiding places can be behind the couch, around the corner, or behind the kitchen island. Then call them to you. Praise them and give them a little treat when they find you. This game goes more quickly when there is more than one person playing because when your dog finds you, the other person can hide and it makes it more challenging for your dog.

3. Play with those Toys – Buying a bunch of toys for your dog is great! But it’s much more fun for your dog when you engage them directly. Play fetch in the basement or in a long hall. Someplace carpeted might be best so they don’t go slipping around and potentially hurt themselves. You bought that tough rope toy for your big dog, now is a great time to play with it. Maybe tug-a-war with mom or dad is their favorite thing.

Hope this helps make your rainy days a little better. Have fun!

Take care.
Carolina Rodriguez

 

This blog and this information is free to all pet lovers, not just River Walks Pet Care clients. If you like the content of this blog and would like to help support it, please consider donating.
Thank you!

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Hand Shy – The Definition Series

Hand Shy

A term typically seen with dogs, most often rescue or formerly abused dogs, but also seen in a lot of small or toy breed dogs. It refers to the reaction when a human hand gets close to a dog’s head or face, and the dog either winces, cowers, shuts their eyes, or otherwise moves away from the hand. Other cues that typically accompany this behavior is crouching, the dog tries to make himself smaller, and often tucks his tail between his legs.

Some small dogs are hand shy even though they have never been abused. I’ve known some dogs who came home straight from the breeder, but they show signs of being hand shy when approached. Mostly it is because they are quite small compared to us. If you were the size of someone’s foot and they approached you with their giant hands, you might be a little apprehensive as well. That’s why it is especially important to slowly and calmly approach these dogs from the side, showing less threat, and with a hand palm-side up to portray openness, and talking to them with a soft, friendly voice.

When I adopted River, the volunteers at the rescue told me he had been tied up outside for most of his life and that he had been neglected and abused. When he was new to my family, he would wince as if to prepare for a blow and lower his head when my hand approached him. If I or someone else held an umbrella and tried to approach him, River would crouch down and tuck his tail, which was enough to convince me he had been regularly hit by an umbrella or something like it. After a lot of love and some time, he learned his new name and he learned to sit and hold his head up, happily and proudly, because he knew he was loved and safe.

If your pet is showing signs of being hand shy, go slowly and offer a hand palm-side up for them to sniff and let you know if they’d like to be pet. Then tell your friends and house guests this, as well.

The Stinking Truth – Why Picking Up After Your Dog Matters

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(Hopefully you don’t require a shovel to pick up your dog’s business.)

Dogs go to the bathroom outside in the great outdoors, or the great suburbs with their many sidewalks and side streets. This is not the only reason dogs need to go outside, but it is a very important one. Having a dog is a big responsibility and they rely on us to know the rules of how to behave in their community, after all, you are the one who attends the town halls and reads the community newsletter. They don’t know that community members won’t appreciate their #2 calling card in the middle of sidewalk or right by the entrance to the kids’ playground. It’s up to you, the dog owner, to know better.

With so many planned communities and gated communities, I think we’ve all seen the type of sigs that prohibit dogs from being walked in that specific area or that remind us that picking up after your dog is the law. Yes, it’s true – when you don’t pick up after your dog has gone #2, you are breaking the law. It’s there for a good reason and honestly I wish we didn’t even have to have this discussion because I see it as common sense or common courtesy, however not everyone agrees, to the frustration of many neighbors.

Also with so many planned communities around, my own neighborhood being one of them, there are more dog waste stations popping specifically to make it more convenient for someone walking their dog to pick up after them and dispose of it. A dog station has a doggie bag dispenser and a trash can with a lid attached to it. Having just a doggie bag dispenser is helpful, but where is the dog owner meant to dispose of the waste if there is not a trash can close by?

With planned communities like apartment complexes or townhome communities, there is often shared community grounds – the landscaped areas by the front of the building, along the sidewalks and streets, or the children’s playground. While a townhouse may have a small front yard of its own, most likely that space is still supervised closely by the Home Owners Association, and I’d be willing to bet they don’t like to see #2 on their grounds.

Now, I do not have children nor do I babysit for children, however I can imagine the worry, frustration and level of disgust a parent would feel if their child was playing where there was dog poo. Also, no one wants to step in it on their way to work or at any time of the day!

Beyond being an eyesore and a wrench in your day when you step in it, dog feces is smelly, attracts flies, can transmit disease, and it’s also a temptation for some puppies and for some adult dogs. No one knows for sure why a dog will eat their own or another dog’s feces, but in my experience it tends to be a dog that is need of more mental and physical stimulation.

Not picking up after one’s dog can be such a common habit in some places that people may think it is cultural; like when I traveled to Buenos Aires years ago and quickly noticed walking down the street could be like a terrible game of dodging the dog droppings. I wanted to be the tourist and look up and around to see all the sights, but the terrible sights and smells below my feet were a higher priority. There was talk of the mayor introducing tougher rules to make citizens do the responsible thing, however if this article in the Atlantic is any clue, it is still a problem.

But there are easy ways of improving this and making dog owners more conscientious ourselves by always picking up after our dogs right after they go.  There are also some ways we can enact change at higher levels, as well, such as encouraging legislation, pushing for higher fines, and talking to our community representatives.

The truth is, all dogs will defecate outside, and it’s up to us, not law enforcement (they typically busy with bigger fish), to do be courteous and responsible pet owners. I think we all need to remind ourselves about what is shared community space and what is private property and to do the right thing.

Links for more information:

Centers for Disease Control – Diseases from Dogs

PoopRescues.com – 5 Important Reasons to Clean Up Pet Waste

Health24.com – Diseases from Dogs

Take care & always carry extra bags!

Carolina Rodriguez

River Walks Pet Care is a bonded and insured midday dog walking and pet sitting service, a member of Pet Sitters International (PSI), and Carolina Rodriguez, the dog walker, pet sitter, and owner, is working on becoming a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS).

This blog and this information is free to all pet lovers, not just River Walks Pet Care clients. If you like the content of this blog and would like to help support it and the one-woman-show that is River Walks Pet Care, please consider donating. Thank you!

 
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Wrapping a Leash Securely – A Big Reason Why I Love Flat Standard Leashes

Brown Leash Wrapped around Hand

One of the reasons I love flat standard leashes over retractable leashes – I can wrap the leash around my hand and essentially lock it in place. It can be very valuable when you are avoiding a potential danger and need the dog stop walking and stay close to you, but it is also a good way to hold the leash securely and not have your hand tire or cramp up as it can when you’re using a retractable leash.

Flat standard leashes are the basic leashes found at any pet supply store and any pet boutique. Thank goodness for that! And thank goodness for all the variety of colors and patterns and materials so you can find the perfect one.

You’ll see some thin leashes, about .5” wide or less, and others that are 1” wide or more. As a general rule, the widest ones are the best. Not only are they sturdier and can withstand a playful puppy mouthing and chewing on it more, but those also disperse the pressure on your hand more when a dog is tugging on their walk or you need to pull them back, say if a car suddenly speeds your way. Your hand will hurt more if you’re using a thin leash to walk your dog, even if you wrap it around your hand a few times, because the thinner fabric will cut into your hand and not disperse the pressure as well as another leash. The wider the leash, the wider the area the pressure can disperse. Thinner leashes are best for toy breeds of dogs and I do not recommend them for dogs over 10 lbs, because even a small and motivated puppy can tug on a thin leash and hurt your hand and in a subconscious effort to alleviate the pain, you might let go of the leash – exactly what you do not want to do.

How to Wrap a Leash Securely Around Your Hand:

  • They all have that loop at one end and that clip for attaching to the dog’s collar or harness at the opposite end. Slip your hand into that loop so it is around your wrist.
  • Then hold the fabric of the leash close to the loop in your hand.
  • Then tug some of that fabric from the leash between your wrist and your fingers down creating some slack or another loop.
  • Using those few inches of slack, wrap your hand over the leash to the left, up and over (if the leash is in your left hand, opposite direction if it’s in your right hand). This is how you get that pattern you see in the picture of my hand. Now your dog’s leash is securely in your hand and your dog is securely in your control.
  • You can continue to wrap the leash around your hand to shorten the leash if you are crossing the street or approaching someone else walking a dog or pushing a stroller.

Purple Shiny Leash Wrapped around Hand 1 (2)Purple Shiny Leash Wrapped around Hand 2 (2)Purple Shiny Leash Wrapped around Hand 3

In case you needed another reason to always have a doggie bag dispenser on your leash – this locking or wrapping of the leash technique is made more secure when you have a bag dispenser attached to the leash. The dispenser helps give the leash something to anchor it and makes your efforts to keep a hold of your dog much more secure.

One of the biggest things I dislike about retractable leashes is that I have to rely on my thumb and the strength in my fingers to hold the leash. Plus when a dog is pulling or tugging on the leash to get to something you don’t want him to get to, you can’t lock the leash. Nor can you take your other hand to grab ahold of the middle of the leash to restrain the dog because you could lose a finger (read the package and the warnings on the retractable leashes, it could happen).

I think that the flat standard leash is the most common type of leash because it’s old school and it works perfectly.  Also, if you’re still not sure which leash is best or which would be more secure, test them at the store before you buy them. I always loop the leash around my wrist and try wrapping the leash once around my hand, and then I tug – hard. If the leash slips or cuts into my hand, I’ll try another. I prefer softer fabrics, like the brown one I use for River, over those with patterned ribbon attached to one side of the leash or shiny fabrics. I find that the shiny fabrics are soft and pretty to look at, but can be slippery when you’re using them.

So go out there, hold that leash securely, and have a great walk!

Take care.

Carolina Rodriguez

River Walks Pet Care is a bonded and insured midday dog walking and pet sitting service, a member of Pet Sitters International (PSI), and Carolina Rodriguez, the dog walker, pet sitter, and owner, is working on becoming a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS).

This blog and this information is free to all pet lovers, not just River Walks Pet Care clients. If you like the content of this blog and would like to help support it and the one-woman-show that is River Walks Pet Care, please consider donating. Thank you!
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8 Benefits of Midday Dog Walking

 Leonardo - Best Part of My Day

  1. Your dog gets a much needed bathroom break during your long working day which not only reduces the change of your dog having an accident but also lessens the chance they’ll develop an illness like a urinary tract infection.
  2. Your dog receives mental and sensory stimulation during the visit by going outside of the house and experiencing the fresh air.
  3. Your dog receives companionship while you’re away from someone who is there to spend 100% of their attention on him/her.
  4. You have someone available to clean up any accidents your pet may have or any messes they may make whether they are sick or they got into the trash.
  5. A professional is available to you to administer your dog’s daily medication (some services charge extra for administering most medications, River Walks Pet Care does not).
  6. Someone is available to bring in a package on your doorstep so it won’t be sitting outside unattended all day.
  7. You get the comfort of receiving a text/email update letting you know how your dog is doing (standard with River Walks Pet Care, most services provide some sort of written note).
  8. You get to have your regular midday dog walks at a discounted rate when you book regular Monday – Friday walks (almost all dog walking services provide some discount either with a special weekly rate or a discounted monthly package, like River Walks Pet Care).

If you are still unsure if midday dog walking is worth it, try it for a few weeks or one month just to see how things go and see what a difference it makes not only in your dog’s life but also in yours. You’ll be less worried about rushing home after work to let the dog out and you may find that your dog is less anxious or perhaps less destructive around the house.

I recommend you go with a service that has good references, is bonded and insured, and is a member of one professional pet sitting or dog walking association.

Hope this information helps you.

Take care.

Carolina Rodriguez

 

River Walks Pet Care is a bonded and insured midday dog walking and pet sitting service, a member of Pet Sitters International (PSI), and Carolina Rodriguez, the dog walker, pet sitter, and owner, is working on becoming a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS). 

This blog and this information is free to all pet lovers, not just River Walks Pet Care clients. If you like the content of this blog and would like to help support it and the one-woman-show that is River Walks Pet Care, please consider donating. Thank you!

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How to Wake Up a Senior and/or Deaf Dog

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Do go slowly.

Don’t’ rush it.

And do be gentle. Senior and deaf dogs may not hear your car in the driveway or the key in the lock. They don’t have those early warning signals to let them know someone is there.

You may find them on the couch or on the floor sound asleep, unaware that you’ve arrived.

I suggest you take the leash and gently touch their leg with it or put the leash by their nose. Especially if it a fabric or nylon leash, it will smell like them. They will wake up happily to the smell that signals “walk.”

If it is mean time or if they have a smelly treat around, use it to your advantage. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to something delicious? I know some people who program their coffee makers to brew coffee around the same time they’re supposed to wake up.  You can bring the freshly opened can or the savory treat slowly to them. You shouldn’t have to bring it right to their nose for it to be effective, however each dog is different.

Once when I was meeting a new dog for the first time, the previous walker told me she would wake up the deaf dog by tossing a pillow on him. Sure it was effective in waking him up however not fun for Fido! If someone did that to me, I’d wake up confused and angry. Better to take another approach.

Furthermore, when the dog I’m with starts to wake up and open his eyes, I give him a minute to yawn and stretch and wake up on his own terms. I don’t want to fight them. I’m there to care for him and making sure he’s content and is part of that.

I’ve noticed that it depends on the day, (depends on the bladder), how quickly the dog will jump up and be ready to go out. Sometimes they stretch and roll over in their beds, not wanting to leave, so very like us, and sometimes they take a sniff of their leash and hop out of bed and shake off the sleepies because they just can’t wait to go out.

This is good advice for any deep sleeping dogs, but especially seniors and especially deaf dogs. Compassion, gentleness go a long way.

 

Take care.

Carolina Rodriguez

Hide & Seek with Your Dog

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If you don’t already play this game with your dog, I hope I can convince you to start!

This game can last a turn or two or it can last much longer. You can play it with just yourself and your dog, or an accomplice or two.

This is a fun way to reinforce recall –when a dog recognizes and responds to his name. This is also another nice way to get them to stretch their legs indoors when the weather is terrible, especially if there is more than one person playing.

Treats are option however they definitely help!

It also helps to play this game when your dog is either a little hungry for dinner or has been trying to get your attention (maybe they gave you that look, maybe they were leaning on you, maybe they were whining for attention or pawing you). It’s great fun and a great way to bond. Seeing their happy faces light up because they found you – priceless.

How I Play:

I start with a few bite-sized treats in my hand. Of course the dog I’m with knows I’ve got goddies and is attentive to my every move. I ask the dog to sit then wait (or stay) it helps if they really know wait/stay but it’s also a good time to practice. Then I duck behind the sofa or the kitchen island. Once ducked, I call their name and wait to be found. I usually don’t have to wait too long and then reward my finder with a treat and a happy voice telling them they’re good. Round 1 success!

I start Round 2 by telling them to sit and wait. It’s okay if it takes a few tries, they’re just so excited to play they can’t sit still. I go find another place to hide – maybe behind the room divider or under a desk or behind the doorframe – so long as you’re out of sight, you’re hiding and they are exercising patience and restraint every time they do not immediately follow you. I encourage treats and a light happy tone of voice because you want them to feel good about playing and finding you, even if it’s hard for them to wait until you call them.

If you’re playing with another person, you both should have treats and hide at the same time. That way, even if the dog sees where one of you is hiding, they have to figure out where the other person is. Each of you can take turns calling the dog’s name. This will definitely tire them out.

Take care and have fun!

Carolina Rodriguez