Curb Your Enthusiasm

It’s our job to prevent overexertion          

enthusiasm.jpeg

Traci Delos loved watching her little dog play in the sprinklers. He’d bite at the water and chase it around the lawn, bright-eyed and wiggling, happy as could be. It’s the kind of all-out playing pet parents love to see, and a perfect way for pups to burn energy while staying cool on a warm day. 

The day he came in from playing and collapsed, Delos became a sudden expert in something she hadn’t known existed: water toxicity.

“He drank too much water, and that upsets the electrolyte balance enough that it can actually kill them,” she says. The dog was nearly unresponsive when she rushed him to the veterinary clinic. Thankfully, he survived. Since that day, Delos has been passionate about warning people that dogs who swim or play in water — or even who gulp buckets during rough play — are at risk for this uncommon but potentially fatal condition. “Especially for Retrievers and other breeds that tend to overdo it, this is something to watch for. It can cause swelling of the brain and they can die.”

Delos was surprised that she’d never heard of the condition. She’s worked with animals all her life, first as a groomer and sitter, then in veterinary client care and practice management. Today she is hospital administrator at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center in Tigard, OR. 

“It’s something I wasn’t aware of,” she says, even after years of experience in emergency clinics and specialty practices. But she’s not alone among well-informed pet guardians who hadn’t heard of some of the deadliest illnesses until their own pet experienced an emergency.

We’re all wary of common maladies like sore muscles and arthritic joints in our weekend warriors. The deadlier dangers though, while rare, are so horrifying that they warrant conversation.

The good news is, simple precautions can lower the risk of sudden deadly conditions. And pets who experience the more common ones, such as exertion injuries, are fortunate to live in the Northwest. 

swimming.jpeg

“There aren’t a lot of things I see in human medicine that aren’t available in animal medicine,” says Delos, pointing to treatments such as veterinary acupuncture, massage, cold laser, stem cell and injection therapies, underwater treadmills, and therapy pools. 

Stem-cell therapy involves drawing the animal’s own fat cells, harvesting the stem cells, and injecting them back into the patient. “Tissues can regenerate,” Delos says. “Laser therapy and acupuncture are incredible. When I think back to when I was growing up, and what we were able to do for them and what we can do now, it’s just amazing.”

That, along with new anti-inflammatory medications with fewer risks and side effects than those available even just a few years ago, make it a pretty good time to be an aging dog or cat with creaky joints, bulging discs, or torn ligaments. 

As with humans, pets typically experience some age-related joint or soft-tissue pain. Some are more vulnerable due to their breed, genetics, or lifestyle. The part we can impact —lifestyle — can be challenging for those who have playful acrobatic cats or intensely ball-crazy dogs with a go-go-go approach to life.

Humans are likely to slow down when in pain, but our furry athletes are often loathe to leave the field. As Delos points out, it’s up to us to watch for signs of trouble and make them rest before overdoing it. Signs can include excessive panting, trembling, being unusually vocal or restless, or frequently re-positioning while lounging or sleeping. Symptoms might not always be obvious, which is another reason to see the doc anytime a pet’s behavior changes. 

Delos recalls a woman who felt she had to give up her Retriever who had started showing signs of aggression. “I had to email her and say, ‘Hey, that’s how animals often react to pain, so it’s important to have the vet check that out.’”

ramp.jpeg

Guarding against overexertion can be a daily job for people with highly-driven breeds or working dogs, but simple steps can help prevent wear-and-tear injuries and even more dangerous conditions. Depending on your pet’s age, breed, snout length, and general fitness level, his exercise limits might be a short leash walk or an hour-long game of fetch. Whatever his limit, it’s worth heeding. Especially in extreme heat or cold, and in older animals, the risk is far greater than a potential knee injury. 

“A seven- or eight-year old dog can be like an 80-year-old person,” says Delos. Risks can include sudden death from “breathing problems, heart problems, heart attacks — pretty much anything that can happen to an older person from overexertion.” 

Thanks to advancing medical care, pets and humans alike are living active lifestyles well beyond middle age, healing from injuries, managing arthritis, and staying in the game. In the end, that means we get to enjoy our furry adventure buddies for more years. 

“We’re their guardians,” says Delos, “and it’s important for us to make sure their quality of life is the best it can be.”


MBlake_web.jpg

Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Fitness for pooches and peeps has never been so fun!

The word “fitness” might evoke images of running shoes or sweating at the gym, but how about activities that include your favorite canine? Does your furry friend get off the couch to stretch more than her jaws at mealtime? If not, it’s time to get her moving!

Fitness with your best friend is fun for both of you — and the whole family. Plus, it supports longevity, injury prevention, and mental health. Yep, mental health. It’s a fact that many problem behaviors are a direct result of boredom and unspent energy.

So what options are there for you and your frisky companion? In Portland, the sky is literally the limit! Here’s a guide to fitness in and around the city.

 

Walks

Surely you’ve heard Kaiser Permanente’s radio ads saying, “Everybody Walk!” Walking is one of the easiest, most affordable, readily available options for keeping pups fit. And wherever you live there’s a neighborhood or park suitable for walking. In inclement weather you can even walk at your local big-box home improvement stores, most of which welcome socialized, well-behaved canines.

Got dogs of different speeds? No worries. Consider a stroller. My Leo absolutely loves to come along – throwing unique, fluffy tantrums when left behind – but he is so slow. Picture this: the girls stretched out six feet ahead, Leo strolling along six feet behind . . .  not ideal. So we got a stroller. Now Leo rolls along and hops out for off-leash romp opportunities.

Swimming

Among the friendliest places for dogs nationwide, the Northwest boasts many canine-centric fitness facilities. Swimming is great for pets of any age, even those with physical limitations. Being suspended in water removes pressure on joints, just like for humans. Of course during warm seasons there are plenty of outdoor options. To name a few, some of our favorites are 1,000 Acres and Clackamette Parks, and the Willamette near Oaks Park.

Hiking

We are surrounded by some of the most beautiful country in the nation, making hiking a wonderful experience for two- and four-footed creatures! There are countless directions you can go, all fitness levels, amazing things to see — and for your pup to smell. A great guide on exploring the region is Doin’ The Northwest with Your Pooch by Eileen Barish.

Dog Sports

So many to try! Have you considered agility? Actively engaging in an obstacle course is great for the 2- and 4-legged alike. Among the best things about it is the partnership between you and your dog. Plus, you burn physical and mental energy, which of course is good for you both.

Joring. Never heard of it? Well, get ready to Google 'cause there’s a whole wide world of options. Basically joring is a pulling sport. You can train your dog to pull with a harness and work up to connecting him or her to a bicycle, a scooter, or skis. It’s a year-round sport, and another supporting the relationship between you and your pup.

Other activities equally awesome for providing challenge and pleasure and supporting the relationship include weight pull, carting, disc-dog, dock diving, obedience, barn hunt, nose work, rally, and freestyle. Different activities are suited to various fitness levels, so it’s easy to find something you both can enjoy.

Biking

Biking is another fun year-round activity. When Vegas and I started, my hope was to keep her toned and build a bit of muscle. Given her Great Dane size and strength, I wasn’t comfortable just holding the leash while we biked, so I purchased an accessory that attached to my bike and clipped to her harness. It worked great and we’ve enjoyed many miles together over the years.

One thing I enjoy most about staying fit with my pups is the bond that continues to deepen between us. Even at nearly 10, Vegas does not like to go more than a day between walks. She grew up accustomed to activity, and still expects it. Getting and staying fit can take on many appearances. Just keeping your dog involved in daily activities becomes a fitness routine.

Leo (redhead) and Sophie ride while Vegas strolls on foot.

Leo (redhead) and Sophie ride while Vegas strolls on foot.

Keep it simple.

Fitness needn’t cost a lot; plenty of options are free or perfectly affordable. By following the KISS — ‘Keep It Simple, Sweetie’ — rule, simple activities like walking to the mailbox together, throwing the ball in the yard after dinner, taking a stroll to watch the stars, going to the market or a neighborhood event, camping, or splashing in the river are great ways to keep your pup engaged. Even playing tug or teaching tricks contribute to fitness. I like “unwind” and “wind up” — my little pups spin first one way then the other. I also work to use command words for everyday activities like stretching or walking backward.

A lot of fitness is about your creativity, so use your imagination! How can you keep your dog involved in life? Mine rarely stay home — only when I’m running errands, etc. They love to visit family, go to dog shows, ride along, hang out at barbeques, and play any training game Mom comes up with.

So lace up your tennies and grab the leash: it’s time to get fit, have fun, and keep Fido moving!


Kennedy Morgan works in the construction industry by day and enjoys coming home to her Great Dane, Vegas, and Pomeranian, Leo. Her household is also indentured to a 14-year-old tortoiseshell diva cat, Capri. They enjoy walks, hikes, beach trips, agility, and learning new things, and are often seen out and about on the west side or at local dog sporting events.

Recess: Brain Games for the Furry Set

That adorable puppy photo on Facebook instantly melts hearts: awkward fuzziness capped by satellite-dish ears she’s still growing into. Best of all, her twinkling eyes radiate the mischief, curiosity and vibrancy unique to a lanky, goofy puppy. The caption beneath the photo confirms the mischief part. “Hello. My name is NO!” 

Puppyhood is a special phase, but even in later years dogs occupy our homes and lives like 70-pound toddlers with sharp teeth. Cats climb curtains and scale furniture like spider monkeys with Velcro paws. It’s only natural for a weary parent to resort to “No!” and “Stop that!” But how about providing parent-approved mischief to keep your rascals occupied.  

Every kid needs to work out the wiggles, and activities need to be mentally engaging to really capture their attention. It’s their braininess that gets them into trouble! Keeping clever craniums occupied can be full-time job, but there are plenty of options for giving your little Einstein a mental workout. Enrichment activities can be as simple as taking the $120 work shoes from your dog and offering an appealing chew toy (along with glowing praise for relinquishing the prized footwear), to endless possibilities ranging from high-end electronic gadgets to empty toilet paper tubes. 

In the critter game and puzzle world, technophiles have amazing options, including an interactive device that lets you see, talk to, and treat your furkids while you’re away. In the mid-budget range are gads of gadgets at your local pet supply, including puzzles with compartments for hiding treats. There are several varieties with different levels of difficulty, and most promise to appeal to both dogs and cats. If you go this route, browse the options with your Einstein’s temperament in mind. There are the rough-and-tumble toys that dispense goodies when smacked or rolled or dropped, and less-physical brain teasers with compartments that slide or swivel. Is your kid more likely to join the chess club or the rugby team? Keep in mind that your rugby player will smack and roll the more sedentary brain teasers too, but they’re durable enough to take the punishment.  

Countless parents have seen new cat toy lie untouched while kitty spends hours tossing and pouncing on the package . . . or perhaps a stray household cotton ball. Rest assured your critters couldn’t care less how much their games cost. The do-it-yourself realm is limited only by your imagination, and it’s all free. 

Empty TP and paper towel tubes are great hiding places for little treats, as are small boxes and kitchen containers.

 

For rainy-day activities or to distract a kid while you leave the house, hide their breakfast or dinner kibble all around — either scattered openly on the floor or tucked cleverly behind doors, under tables, and in corners. Make it easy at first and gradually increase the hide-and-seek challenge for a longer-lasting game.

Hide yourself! This works best with dogs. Put Fido in a sit-stay, then get behind a tree, couch, or door, and call to him. Some dogs get deliriously happy with this one.

 

Turn scary fireworks or thunder into a popcorn party. Use an air popper, which both masks scary sounds and dispenses treats. You can place the popper at the edge of a counter so popped kernels scatter on the floor, or pop them into a bowl and scatter them yourself. This game is always a hit with food hounds.

 

Old socks make easy catnip pouches, and can be tossed in the trash after happy felines have slobbered on and mopped the floors with them.

 

 If you have dogs who destroy soft toys to capture the squeakers, repurpose the squeaker and old stuffing by tying them into an old sock or stitching them into a fabric pouch. Just watch these intense toy-shredders (see Hall Pass for hilariously instructive squeaker tales) and keep a close eye — swallowed squeakers can mean an expensive vet bill. 

With a little imagination and anywhere from a few bucks to several hundred, you can expand your kiddo’s mental horizons and keep them out of trouble at the same time. As tuition goes, it’s a bargain. As peace of mind goes, it’s priceless.


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband warns you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Give That Dog a Job!

Activity is needed, not optional

You’ve heard the saying: A tired dog is a good dog. While that’s usually true of canines, it’s also true that a tired dog makes for a happy owner as well.

Anyone who’s ever had a dog can tell you that bored dogs tend to make trouble — all that unused physical and mental energy needs an outlet, and a daily walk sometimes isn’t enough. Dog trainers JC Calvert and Kyoko Furukawa of Zoom RoomTop Dog Award winner for Agility/Sports — say that finding activities that use your dog’s brain and body can actually be much more beneficial and rewarding for you both.

“Taking a pup for a walk is invaluable,” says Calvert. “But that only provides ‘pee and poop’ time as well as reading the Dogegonian Daily News, like ‘Who peed here, A squirrel was there,’ etcetera. But a walk has the absence of mental stimulation.”

Calvert believes more is needed — exercises and games that strengthen confidence and offer opportunities for a dog to learn and be praised. “Dogs and humans are immensely more the same species in mind, if not body, than most people realize,” he says.

Agility, one of the fastest-growing dog sports in the country, is a great option. Dogs sprint through an obstacle course, launch themselves over jumps, dive through tunnels, weave through poles, and more. The sport offers exercise for both dog and human, as well as requiring teamwork, quick reflexes, and best of all (for the dog) lots of opportunities to learn and be rewarded.

What constitutes a reward? Calvert and Furukawa say it can be many things, and since Zoom Room’s methods are based on positive reinforcement, they’re expert at helping dog owners determine what is most rewarding for their dogs. It can be anything from treats to belly and jaw rubs to a favorite toy — whatever works is the name of the game, and the goal is for everyone to have fun.

Along with agility, tricks training, obedience and a private gym are the most popular activities at Zoom Room, and those who go see a change for the better in their companions. “Their focus, their bond, and the rapport between a pup and its owner grows even stronger,” Calvert says.

That, of course, is the best reward of all.

ZOOM ROOM 1210 NW 10th Ave, Portland OR • 971-277-3739 • ZoomRoom.me/pdx


Kennedy Morgan works in the construction industry by day and enjoys coming home to her Great Dane Vegas, and Pomeranian, Leo. Her household is also indentured to a 14-year-old tortoiseshell diva cat named Capri. Kennedy and her canines enjoy walks, beach trips, agility, and learning new things.Catch them out and about on Portland’s west side, and at dog sporting events.

Let the Indoor Games begin!

With the fading light of summer upon us, it's time to start thinking of activities to keep your dog busy all fall and winter.  Something I learned long ago is that my dogs are happiest with a balance of mental and physical activity.  Here are a few of our favorite things. 

Vegas (back) and Leo the Lionhearted

Vegas (back) and Leo the Lionhearted

Hide and Go Seek

This children’s pastime is a great way to play with your dogs – plus it’s simple and requires almost no training!  It’s great if your best friend has a good understanding of “stay,” but if not and there’s a friend or family member to help, the assistant can hold the pup’s collar until you say “go!”  Now's the fun part.  Go hide!  Some of my favorite spots include the shower, behind the drapes, in an open closet, and behind the couch.  Be creative!  Once you're safely hidden, call out to your dog either by name or a quick “OK!”  Then you wait, as quietly as possible.  Their search will likely amuse you; try to hold your laughter so as not to give yourself away.  Once my dogs passed me in the closet three times before my amusement gave me away.  Leo and Vegas enjoy searching for their mom immensely! 

Find a Treat

Another activity that's fun year-round is the "Find it" game.  Even if your dogs don't know what those words mean, they'll quickly figure it out.  I always begin with soft, fragrant treats I can break into small pieces.  Again, you're going to take advantage of your dog's ‘stay’ to play this game.  If they don't have a great stay and you don’t have a buddy to hold them, you can use a crate or x-pen to keep them in place.

A couple of guidelines:  1) Consider your dog's height.  What can s/he reasonably reach?  2) Breakables.  I often use bookshelves to tuck treats into little nooks, but at 120 pounds, I have to be very mindful of Vegas’ enthusiasm for the game.  3) Small dogs don't want to get an upset tummy.  If you play this game a couple of times in a row, you could be delivering quite a few treats.  Be mindful of the size of the treats in relation to the size of the dog.

Now, with your dog(s) safely out of the way, hide the treats.  If this is your first time playing this game, I recommend keeping hiding spots very simple.  Once the loot is hidden, release the hounds!  Their sense of smell is highly attuned, and they will likely begin sniffing the air.  For the dog that acts bored or confused, casually approach one of the hidden treats.  See if he catches on.  If you have to, point it out and use the command “Find it."  By now they'll be off and running.

Leo and Vegas adore this game.  I especially love listening to their noses at work.  Some dogs will be very systematic in their approach, searching left and right, evenly over the hiding area.  Others will dart here and there, highly enthusiastic in their cookie quest.  Watch and learn; it’s wonderful to see them think and follow their instincts.  And one last thought:  if you have more than one dog, and there is ANY concern over food aggression, play this game one at a time.  Make this game fun, positive, and safe, and it will be a staple in your relationship for years to come. 

Ball Play

There's a wonderful pair of DVDs on the market by Debbie Gross (WizardofPaws.net).  They’re called Get on the Ball, and they show how to exercise your dog using inflatable fitness equipment.  From simple items like fitness balls from an athletic store to more complex and dog-specific items sold at places like FitPaws USA (FitPawsUSA.com), you can work on a vast array of activities with your dogs that will tire them physically and mentally while providing a multitude of other benefits.

If you have an old air mattress, you can inflate it and teach your dog to walk on it.  This develops the core and strengthens muscles.  It requires concentration.  Varying the volume of air and firmness of the mattress changes the balance required to remain stable.  For shyer dogs, you may need to build up to many activities, but even starting with simple steps, the activities will build your dog’s confidence. 

Shaping

Last but not least, a new favorite activity for Leo and Vegas is shaping.  This is a concept based on allowing your dog to think for herself.  In a nutshell, you don't give her any outward queues as to what you expect; you just wait for her to offer something and reward any movements toward the desired action.

A simple way to begin is trying to get your dog to get into a shallow cardboard box.  Choose a box of an appropriate size in a room with minimal distractions.  Armed with a pocketful of treats (and a clicker, if you use one), set the box in the middle of the room and sit down.  Wait for your dog to interact with the box.  If he looks at it, reward.  A sniff is worthy of a reward.  Nose nudges, head bumps, paw smacks, all of these interactions call for rewards.  She is thinking about the box and wondering what it means and asking you to direct her.  Meanwhile she is thinking!  Thinking is tiring, and a tired dog makes for a happy home.  Eventually she may put a paw into the box.  This is right on track to climbing in!

Leo and I play this game and he’s gotten to the point where he will get on the box, in the box, and even lay down in a box that barely accommodates his body.  He has great fun, and we enjoy the learning process together.  One final tip:  keep sessions short — five minutes or so at a stretch.  You can do multiple sessions, but give your pup a break in between.  This will keep her wanting more.

Wishing everyone an enjoyable transition into a beautiful autumn and winter.  Happy playing and learning with your dogs!


Kennedy Morgan works in the construction industry by day and enjoys coming home to her Great Dane, Vegas, and Pomeranian, Leo.  Her household is also indentured to a 14-year-old tortoiseshell diva cat, Capri.  They enjoy walks, hikes, beach trips, agility, and learning new things, and are often seen out and about on the west side or at local dog sporting events. 

Get fit with your best friend

Spot presents quick n easy tips in new blog from Sit Stay Fit 

Spot presents a great new blog by Jamie Lawrence and Jenna Kirby, owner/operators of Sit Stay Fit in Portland, bringing great fitness tips for dogs in a new blog: Get Fit with Sit Stay Fit

Jamie says, “We believe that exercise keeps those at both ends of the leash happy and healthy, and so strive to offer that in all of our services — be they fitness classes for dogs and people, training-focused dog walks, or canine runs, we use positive methods that are effective and fun.” 

“We offer a time-saving program that helps achieve dog owners’ personal fitness goals while simultaneously tiring out their dogs,” says Lawrence, “teaching them a few manners & tricks along the way.”   

Blog posts feature great 20-minute workouts for you and your pup, with easy exercise techniques that are easily done together.  Health studies increasingly cite the link between exercise for great mental health, and we at Spot have always championed the idea of getting off the couch, getting out, and getting fit.  And when you can do all this with your bestie?  All the better.  Of course the health benefits of exercise for people extend to our bffs as well, and life is just better when everyone in the family feels good, is energized, and is enjoying good times together. 

Sit Stay Fit workouts include tips for fitness and good behavior; they’re designed to be quick, easy and fun, while filled with benefits for both pets and their people.  Check out the blog and get out and have fun!  And please share your photos – we’d love to hear about your workouts, how it’s going, and see you in action!  Send notes and photos to Vonnie@SpotMagazine.net.  We’d love to share your stories with Spot readers and friends!  

Get fit with your best friend

Spot presents quick n easy tips in new blog from Sit Stay Fit 

Spot presents a great new blog by Jamie Lawrence and Jenna Kirby, owner/operators of Sit Stay Fit in Portland, bringing great fitness tips for dogs in a new blog: Get Fit with Sit Stay Fit

Jamie says, “We believe that exercise keeps those at both ends of the leash happy and healthy, and so strive to offer that in all of our services — be they fitness classes for dogs and people, training-focused dog walks, or canine runs, we use positive methods that are effective and fun.” 

“We offer a time-saving program that helps achieve dog owners’ personal fitness goals while simultaneously tiring out their dogs,” says Lawrence, “teaching them a few manners & tricks along the way.”   

Blog posts feature great 20-minute workouts for you and your pup, with easy exercise techniques that are easily done together.  Health studies increasingly cite the link between exercise for great mental health, and we at Spot have always championed the idea of getting off the couch, getting out, and getting fit.  And when you can do all this with your bestie?  All the better.  Of course the health benefits of exercise for people extend to our bffs as well, and life is just better when everyone in the family feels good, is energized, and is enjoying good times together. 

Sit Stay Fit workouts include tips for fitness and good behavior; they’re designed to be quick, easy and fun, while filled with benefits for both pets and their people.  Check out the blog and get out and have fun!  And please share your photos – we’d love to hear about your workouts, how it’s going, and see you in action!  Send notes and photos to Vonnie@SpotMagazine.net.  We’d love to share your stories with Spot readers and friends! 


Increasingly, work-out buddies are 4-legged

Photo-FetchK9FitClub.jpg

While they’re probably not cut out for that Zumba routine, one Chicago-area organization is encouraging people to take their dogs along for a workout.  The K9 Fit Club offers classes in two locations for people and their pups.  Founder Tricia Montgomery started the business in 2012 after losing 130 pounds while exercising with her dog Montgomery.  Classes include a 6-week running club, boot camp and, of course, Pupilates.  A growing online community offers tips, support, and an endless Twitter feed at K9FitClub.com.  Is doggie-sized Spandex next?

Dog Walking 101

Photo-DogWalkingEmi.JPG

Patricia McKinney knows a thing or two about walking a dog.  As owner and operator of Portland Mutt Strut since 2009, McKinney oversees a team of dog walkers who take dogs from Troutdale to Lake Oswego and all points in between for healthful strolls and other care.  The Portland-based company is a favorite with Spot readers, who voted it Top Dog in the Pet Sitter category in 2011 and 2012.

McKinney recently shared tips and tricks that can make the daily walk a pleasant experience for both the walking dog and the dog walker.

#1 – The Right Tools

“The right tools will make the walk easier for both you and your dog,” says McKinney.  There are lots of different kinds of leashes, collars and harnesses, so it doesn’t hurt to experiment.   Walkers at Portland Mutt Strut rely heavily on the front-clipping Easy Walk Harness, which clips at the chest vs. behind the head.  The design prevents pulling, which can be a safety issue for both parties.  They’ve also had success with The Canny Collar, designed to nudge a dog’s nose down if it starts pulling.  “We’re always on top of what’s out there as far as technology,” says McKinney, “because pulling is probably the main complaint I have from people.”

And about those retractable leashes?  McKinney says they can have their place, with certain dogs.  “If you have a youngster, that’s going to be a nightmare,” she says.  A dog prone to bolting at cats, other dogs or cars can turn a leisurely walk into a nightmare if they get stretched out on a 30-foot lead.  McKinney recommends a regular nylon leash for dogs in training, while retractable leashes can be fine for dogs who are older, smaller, or well-behaved and easily controlled.  Which leads to #2.

#2 – A Good Command

An attentive dog makes for a safe and comfortable walk.  Teaching commands such as sitting and looking at you at intersections increases both safety and the bond you share.  McKinney suggests training dogs to sit, wait and look at you in a calm space at home first so the commands translate easily in the bustle of the great outdoors. 

#3 - Pay Attention

“I can’t tell you how  many times I see people texting or talking on the phone while walking their dog, and the dog is off doing who knows what and they have no idea,” says McKinney.  Dogs can be sneaky and quick.  “It’s not simply a leisurely walk,” says McKinney.  “You have to pay attention to what the dog may be doing, what things they may pick up off the ground,” citing examples such as trash, bones and even the cringe-inducing “kitty roca.”  She also points out that this is a shared time.  “Give yourself and your dog this half-hour of the day and you’ll find it’s a really pleasurable experience . . . very much a bonding experience.”

Roland takes a breather during his walk.  Photo courtesy of Portland Mutt Strut

Roland takes a breather during his walk.  Photo courtesy of Portland Mutt Strut

#4 – Praise Her Well

“Praise is always fun for them and fun for you,” McKinney says.  “Like the expression, praise them when you catch them doing something right.  Always try to catch them doing something right,” all through the walk.  “Finish on a positive note regardless of how the walk went,” says McKinney.  “Have them always know that ‘This walk is going to be fun and I need to listen to Mom or Dad, and whatever happens out there, I’m still going to be loved.”

#5 – A Good Match

Perhaps you are considering getting a dog for the first time, or adding a new member to your pack.  Of the many factors to consider, energy level and walking comfort top the list.  “It’s about finding the right match for you,” McKinney says.  “Make sure you get a dog that matches your lifestyle.  If you get a dog that’s totally rambunctious, one that needs to run two hours a day and you’re a couch potato, you’re going to have trouble on your walk.”

Visit PortlandMuttStrut.com or call 503-335-9889.

Need a dog walker?

With the wealth of dog walkers available these days, how to choose?  As with most professional services, a little homework can help find the best fit for you and your dog.  Following are tips to help:

  • ·         Ask for recommendations from dog-loving acquaintances
  • ·         Request and use professional references.  Dog walkers routinely have access to your unoccupied home . . . and of course your most precious treasure is in his or her hands!
  • ·         Request professional experience.  “I love dogs” doesn’t cut it.  Obtain their professional history, credentials and references.
  • ·         Consider the experience you want for your best friend:  a quick pit stop?  Half-hour jaunt?  An hour at the dog park?  Service options, rates, and levels of expertise vary widely.
  • ·         If you desire solo outings (not group walks) for your pooch, make sure that’s what he/she will be getting.
  • ·         Know your dog walker’s position on discipline.  If your dog is prone to lunging, bolting, or any behavior that might challenge a “non-parental” companion, ask how the walker responds.  If she doesn’t have an answer or her methods aren’t what you desire, keep looking.
  • ·         Ask about emergency protocols.  For the pro’s it’s standard to have a plan.
  • ·         Will you receive notes and reports back?  Frequently provided, notes from the dog walker can signal if your dog “seemed off,” note improvements in behavior, and also help affirm the value of adding a dog walker to the family routine.
  • ·         Ask if the dog walker is well-versed in dog park etiquette.
  • ·         Ask if your dog will ever be transported by car.  If so, will there be other dogs in the car?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and pay attention to the questions asked of you.  A prospective dog walker who seeks details about your pet’s behavior, regular schedule, and health issues is interested in more than just their fee.  Most importantly, trust your instincts.  If someone doesn’t feel right, or if your dog doesn’t seem keen, keep looking.  This person will be an important new friend in your pet’s life — choose well!