If you can imagine I’m out all day walking dogs in all weather so often when I get home if I don’t hurry up and get myself right back out to walk and exercise my own dogs there are some days it just doesn’t happen, especially in the winter. Once I’m indoors, the layers are off and I start the ‘thaw out’ it is SO hard to go back out into the elements! Don’t worry, my dogs are certainly not neglected in any sense! I will do indoor activities and training with them, however, this past winter I decided to try to embrace the fun of winter with my dogs.
I heard of this seven stage virtual race called Iron Paws and having recently tried some ‘mushing’ sports with my dogs I thought I’d try it. This stage race is virtual so you do it on your own or with a friend, if you have someone local, and log your miles online. There are also extra ways to earn some bonus points. You are put on a team based on your location. I was lucky enough to be relatively close to some other team members so we could meet up and get our “social” points. There are different classes you can enter: sled dog (self explanatory), skijor (dog pulls you on skis), bikejor(dog pulls you on a bike), competitive or recreational canicross (dog pulls you on foot walking, running or snowshoeing). I have always run canicross style with my dogs so decided to try the bikejor class to get me out more on my fat bike. Yes, that’s right my dog(s) were pulling me on my bike through the snow. And yes, you’re right, if you saw that crazy person in town being pulled on her bike by a dog or two….that was ME!!!
The point of my post is that I had an incredibly fun winter being involved in this event. It really encouraged me to get out in the winter when I would most likely just melt into the couch and binge something on Netflix. It helped keep my dogs’ fitness level up and possibly even improved it over the winter! I met new friends, tried new things and the seven weeks FLEW by! They even have a class for the ODRs (Old Dogs Rule) for older, injured or physically limited dogs. I had two entries in that class also and just had to log a minimum of one mile per week. There is a bye week so if you’re on vacation or sick or injured you get a week off. It’s very simple to enter online and even the canicross recreational class can be done by anyone with any size/breed of dog! You don’t need to have skiis or bikes or a dog sled or huskies. There was a lady in Quebec who did this with her 3 Chihuahuas! I WILL be doing this again next year and I hope you and your dogs will join me!
No, I don’t and here are a few reasons why. Well firstly, I don’t have a facility to take the dogs to be able to offer doggy daycare. It would be fabulous to have a place where I could have people drop off their dogs to be in my care for the day. What would I do differently if I had a doggy daycare facility? Well instead of having dogs stand around in a yard or hall I would take them on scheduled hikes so my facility would also need property with trails. I know, I know, I buy lottery tickets every week.
My concern with doggy daycares and people who send their dogs to them is the mentality that dogs need to be exercised/entertained/stimulated for 8-10 hours. I think that is too much. I have high energy breeds myself and firmly believe that dogs need to learn to settle, chill out, and turn “off”. Yes, of course, your dog comes home tired after playing for 8 hours! But does he understand on a day he’s not going to daycare and you have a terrible headache that he just needs to chill out and settle down because you can’t entertain him today?? I think a 30-60 minute break to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, do their business and chase a ball or frisbee, wrestle with a friend or simply run back and forth on a trail is sufficient enough for them to go back home and chill out until you get home. I don’t even walk my dogs everyday…some days I’m just too busy or if the weather is crappy we do some brain games/training and then they are told “all done” which gives them permission to find a bed and lie down, chew a bone or toy. Even my own dogs in my home are not on top of each other – they all have their favourite spots to lie down, sleep or rest and they are not even near one another. I used to have a home security camera so I could watch my dogs while they were at home to see what they were doing, watch them play and interact and know what they do when I’m not there. Well, that novelty wore off really quick. The alerts I got were for a dog getting up to get some water then lying down again, a dog shifting in their sleeping position, a dog’s head pops up out of sleep if they heard something out on the road, and so on. So basically pretty dull and boring – they didn’t wrestle, they didn’t chew the couch (thankfully), they didn’t raid the fridge, they are not sitting staring at the door waiting for me to get home or pacing waiting for something to do. They know when it’s time to work or play and when it’s time to chill and honestly, I think they enjoy their chill time!
If you throw a ball for a ball-loving dog for an hour they will chase it and bring it back, over and over. Even if they are tired or sore or bored. That is what I think happens at doggy daycares – there are so many dogs at different energy levels that one will always invoke play but dogs don’t think like us – I’m tired and maybe a bit sore and little bit cranky after Max chased me and I crashed into the fence because I didn’t really want to wrestle but I couldn’t get away from him, now I’m sore and I want to lie down but now Charlie wants to play with me. The dogs don’t have an option to get away, go to a quiet spot to sleep or rest. Not all personalities mesh. Dogs are not so different from people in that sense although we don’t sniff each others’ butts ha ha!
I honestly prefer dogs to be moving, walking, running, sniffing and exploring as a way of stimulating their senses and exercising their bodies. If I won the lottery would I buy a doggy daycare facility?? It’s not likely and if I did I would use it for training and still operate the way I do – walking and hiking dogs to stimulate their brains and exercise their bodies. Yes, even in the unfavourable weather.
Over the years that I’ve owned and taken of care of other people’s pets I’ve learned a lot of things about safety measures we can take to keep them safe. Some things are quite obvious but to a first time pet owner removing your dog’s collar when in a crate may not seem so obvious, for example.
Pet stores offer a wide variety of products that serve many purposes safety-wise such as reflective leashes and collars, warm coats and boots to keep them safe from the weather and elements including road salt, light up collars and collar tags, muzzles – yes these can be used for their safety and ours, and so on.
Unfortunately I know of someone who was struck by a vehicle while walking on a rural road on a dark night. While I do most of my dog-walking during the daytime hours I found the need to make myself feel safer and more visible while walking some dogs on a rural road. On a foggy day or other weather that has poor visibility I noticed cars passing by didn’t seem to see me as well until the last minute. The dogs have bright-coloured harnesses and leashes so I invested in a reflective and light-up vest that I can wear over any coat or other outerwear. I walk against the traffic so I can make eye contact with the drivers and am able to see if they are paying attention and notice me. If I think a driver has not seen me I can move the dogs and myself further away from the road, which unfortunately means into the ditch, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. I will always smile or wave thanks to any car that notices and gives me a bit of a berth if they can. It is just common courtesy I think but am surprised how many cars do not move over even an inch. The same courtesy should be given to anyone walking/running/pulled over or even putting out their garbage!!
reflective & lights up in the dark!
high visibility & reflective in the day light
bright & reflective harnesses & leashes
Putting a collar and identification tag on your pet can help them safely find their way home if ever lost. Microchipping is also a good option, however, if your pet is found wandering the chances of a person having a microchip scanner in their back pocket are pretty slim so I.D. tags work instantly if you have the correct & updated contact information on them. There are also GPS tracking collar tags available now. I don’t know much about these so you should do your research, however, it is a great use of modern technology that can help keep your pets safe!
Our pets are our family so we want to keep them safe and away from any harm. Consider which concerns are most likely to affect your pets’ safety and invest in the tools to keep them safe. For example if you have a dog who tends to run off and wander spending some money on a GPS collar tag might be a great idea to help get them back. If you walk your dog at night any light up or reflective items will make you both more visible. I hate to hear stories of accidents or tragedies concerning pets especially when it could have been preventable. Let’s keep ourselves and our pets safe!
Why would a person hire a dog walker or pet sitter when they have family, friends or neighbours they could ask to help them out? Well if you travel a lot or work everyday and need help with Fido or Fluffy, it can be a lot to ask of someone as a favour.
As a pet sitter my goal is to keep your pets as comfortable as possible in your own home by maintaining as regular of a routine as possible. I will come into your home on regularly scheduled visits to feed, water and walk/exercise your pets while you are away. Other tasks are also offered as part of the service such as medicating the pets, alternating lights in the home, bringing in mail and newspapers and watering plants. Some other benefits for your pet are they are familiar with their surroundings and not stressing in a kennel listening to other dogs whine and bark. Cats generally do not travel well so this is the ideal way to have your cat cared for. Also you do not need to administer any additional vaccines in order to leave your pet at home and you don’t need to worry about pick up and drop off times scheduled at a kennel. My visits will be scheduled based on your travel times so Fido and Fluffy are home and happy to greet you when you arrive.
Some tips for leaving your pets at home:
inform your veterinarian you are away and let them know who is taking care of your pets in your absence; provide your veterinarian’s contact info to your care provider
inform your family/neighbours you are away and that you have someone coming in to look after them; provide your pet sitter with emergency contact numbers in case there is an emergency with your house (broken window, fallen tree)
have a plan for things such as power failures, snow clearing, broken furnace or air conditioning, etc
if you are uncertain about leaving your pets with a pet sitter do a ‘trial run’ and go out for one night to see how they do
Daily dog walking services are ideal for anyone who has a long day at school or work or needs to run errands after school or work and want their dog to get out for some fresh air, to stretch their legs and, of course, to relieve themselves during the day. I offer a variety of services ranging from potty breaks for puppies and senior dogs, thirty minute walks or sixty minute hikes – all of which can be tailored to your dogs’ needs. Your dog can be walked individually or with other dogs as long as your dog enjoys the company of other dogs and behaves appropriately.
When searching for a dog walker or pet sitter some things to consider in your decision would be their experience and love of animals – ask them about themselves and how they came to be a dog walker/pet sitter. Ask for references – you would do the same for anyone else you hire. Ask about their training and practices – are they trained in pet first aid? how many dogs do they take out together? what do they do if your pet gets injured? is their business insured? When you hire someone to care for your four-legged family members you should feel good about leaving your pets in their care and confident that your pets will be loved and cared for appropriately.