Category Archives: dog ownership

My diary

I still use a paper diary despite having access to online calendars and tools. There’s a reason for that.

Diary photo

I successfully managed my time through the Auckland Power Crisis of 1998 without a hitch, thanks to my paper diary. My colleagues, who were already relying on electronic schedules, didn’t know where they were supposed to be for weeks.  Meetings had to be rescheduled; service delivery slowed.

My diary also helped me through the days and weeks following the Canterbury Earthquake of February 2011. During these trying times, I could still make and keep appointments, keep notes as reminders, and generally have something to hold onto that was part of ‘normal’ life.

Most pages include reminders of what I need to finish that day.

And reflecting on my diary over the weekend, I see that it includes Izzy’s social calendar.

Going forward over the next couple of months, Izzy has engagements for play dates, appearances at the Riccarton Market for Greyhounds as Pets, and dates for sleepovers when I have to travel for business.  She also has a birthday party date with her best mate (and boyfriend) Bergie.

I often say that the best thing we can give our dogs is quality time.  One way of ensuring you make time for your dog is to commit to them in writing.  I’m pretty confident that I’ve got the right priorities and tools to do just that.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Life skills

Prospective dog owners who do their research will consistently find recommendations for things like dog training (obedience, walking on leash, etc.) and regular veterinary care.

However, in my experience there are 2 essential life skills that some dogs are missing.

They are:

  • handling on a table
  • touching of the paws

As a canine massage therapist, I was trained to work with dogs on a table.  It’s good professional practice.  It helps me have a better view and leverage for working on dogs and it also is good health and safety for me because it preserves my posture and the health of my knees.

When a dog is injured or infirm, or so large that even the efforts of the owner and I are not enough to get them onto the table, then I will work with them on the floor.

However, I meet dogs that won’t tolerate handling on a table and in some (not all) cases this is because they just were never taught to accept it.  Since I don’t want to be bitten, I have to go to Plan B – which is the floor.

Abbie table photo

Abbie is a 12 1/2 year old Labrador Retriever cross. She’s been a client for over a year. Abbie needs to be lifted onto my table but is otherwise an easy client to have. Food treats helped her accept the table over successive sessions.

One reason why I recommend massage for puppies is that it teaches them to accept table work at a young age.  My table is a cushioned and friendly table – not a cold stainless steel one that you will find in veterinary practice.

All of my canine clients get a treat at the end of their session- so my techniques are reward-based.

And I’ve done sufficient professional training in behavior that I can work to reinforce a timid, shy or scared dog so they get become more accustomed to table work.

Dogs can also be paw sensitive, but through positive training techniques, there is no reason to think that 99.9% of them can’t be trained to accept touching of their feet.  When a dog has mobility issues, I want to massage their toes and work acupoints in the feet and legs.  That’s hard to do if they are growling, snarling or too scared to let me touch them.

Dog groomers and vets will agree with me – it’s no fun having to muzzle a dog because they need their nails clipped, for example. We’re just reinforcing bad experiences if we do.

In the 8 years I have been practising, I have never used a muzzle.

If you are a dog parent reading this – ask yourself how your dog reacts to being on a table or having their paws touched.  If they are reluctant or worse, I’d say it’s time to review your training and schedule in a course of massage therapy.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Pawternity leave (puppy parental leave)

Well done to UK-based brewing company BrewDog.  The company was dog-friendly from its 2007 start – with 2 human founders and 1 dog.

Now with employees in the USA and UK, and already with dog-friendly offices, they have instituted one week of puppy parental leave for their employees.  When a new dog comes into your life, you can have a week off to get it settled.

This video tells you a bit more about it:

The Puppy Parental Leave policy is a first for the brewing industry.  Let’s hope more follow – along with companies in other industries.

Dogs are great for our health and well-being.  Happy dog owners also make happy and engaged employees when they feel that their status as dog parents is recognised.

Source:  BrewDog

Time to budget

It’s a holiday weekend in New Zealand  – for Labour Day.  And every year this holiday also marks the start of the pre-Christmas season.  christmas_dog_highdefinition_picture_168935

As many of you understand, Christmas falls in the summer school holiday period in New Zealand. Many companies shut down during this time and require their workers to take some of their annual leave, since trading can be minimal or non-existent.    If workers don’t have enough paid days, then it can mean time off without pay.

And every year, for a range of reasons including more money being spent on holidays, entertaining and gifts, I see owners who can’t fund the full costs of their dog’s care.

This blog post is a reminder about the items you need to set money aside for in your end of year budget. And the time to budget is NOW.

dog-budgeting

  • Food
  • Treats
  • Medications
  • Supplements
  • Costs for vet care, such as visits for required vaccinations if you are boarding your dog
  • Boarding and care costs, if you are heading away

Just as in people, medications and supplements are only effective if their dosage is kept up.  And dogs on things like pain medication will suffer with break-through pain as medications wear off.  In other cases – let’s say heart medication – stopping this medication could be life-threatening.

Because of their stoic nature, dogs often hide their pain and/or owners miss the signals – such as withdrawing from activity – which are indicators of a dog in pain.  For this reason, some owners think they can get away with a ‘short break’ from medication.

With supplements, once the loading doses are given and the effective dose is reached, there is a level of stability with the coverage given by the supplement.  Stop giving it and you are faced with starting a loading dose all over again.  Many owners miss this step and go back to regular dosages, further compromising the value to the dog of giving the supplement in the first place!

When we take on a dog into our family, we’re responsible for lifetime care as with any other family member.  When there is only so much money to go around, sometimes the silent member of the family – the dog – is the one to miss out.

Please remember health care is a basic right for all animals and plan your holiday budget accordingly.  If that means less money for Christmas festivities – so be it.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

When a neighbour complains…

In my practice, I have met a few owners who have received complaints about their dog’s excessive barking.  Unlike the note seen below, most complaints in Christchurch seem to be made by people to Animal Control, which instigates a visit by an officer to your home.

your-dog-has-been-barking

It’s natural that a complaint will put you into a defensive mode, but being in that frame of mind often means you don’t handle the situation as well as you should.

Here’s my advice on how to constructively approach a barking dog complaint.

Be Considerate and Listen

Don’t get angry.

If a neighbour complains to you directly, listen to what they have to say.  Ask questions about the time of day that the dog is barking, length of time the barking lasts for, and understand the location of your section and proximity to the neighbour.

If the Animal Control Officer pays you a visit, pay attention to what they are saying and the steps they want you to take.  Don’t feel intimidated because they are a Council officer – ask questions to understand the scope of the complaint, and how much time you have to respond.

Be Empathetic

Put yourself in the position of your neighbour and show some empathy for their stress.  Particularly if you have a neighbour complain to your directly, try to build a bridge from the complaint to ways to solve the problem so both of you can remain happy.

Investigate

Ask your neighbour to keep a log book of the barking (I know that one of my clients had an Animal Control officer ask for this).  Make random visits to your home at off-hours to see if you can hear your dog barking.  To make this effective, park your car a couple of blocks away and walk to your property – your dog knows the sound of your car!

Check all of your fencing for security.  If your dog is being visually stimulated by activity over the fence, find ways to cover and reduce the gaps in your fence.

Keep Documentation – You Can Still Be Cooperative While Defending Yourself

I’ve seen situations where a neighbour is hard to satisfy and perhaps ultra-sensitive to barking.  When this has been the case, I’ve suggested that the owner take their dog to a day care centre on random dates.  When compared to their neighbour’s barking diary,  they can show that their dog was not on the property that day.  (This can be a very powerful defense in dealing with the Council.)

It may pay to seek the support of either an animal behaviourist or a dog trainer (there is a difference in scope of practice).  If you hire professional expertise, then provide receipts and a report to show along with any other evidence of what you have done to help decrease  your dog’s barking.

If you’ve reinforced your fencing to reduce your dog’s visual stimulation – take photos before/after.

dogs-at-fenc

The Animal Control section has the option of installing bark recorders, which can help you track the problem.  They can confirm (or not) the extent of the barking to validate a complaint.

The good news is that most barking complaints can be resolved, through management of your dog’s environment, focusing on the problem, and being constructive.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Cars and dogs threaten koalas in Australia

koala

Dogs could be banned from some south-east Queensland suburbs in a bid to protect at-risk koalas

Koalas in Queensland are under threat and the primary reasons are cars and dogs associated with urban development.  As the demand for residential development continues, the number of cars and dogs introduced into koala habitat increases.

According to the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, approximately 110 koalas are attacked and killed by dogs each year.

Unlike in New Zealand, where the problem is free-roaming domestic cats attacking birds, most attacks on koalas occur in the dog’s backyard when the koala roams into their territory, particularly after dark when koalas are most active.  That’s a major reason why researchers are suggesting that an outright ban on dog ownership in some areas may be required.

koala-mother-and-baby

Of particular concern is an area known as The Koala Coast which is located 20 km south-east of Brisbane and covers an area of 375 km2 around Redland City, some of Logan City and the south-east section of Brisbane itself.  It is regarded nationally as one of the most significant koala populations because of its size and genetic structure.

There’s a definite risk that koalas may face extinction.  While I love dogs, I also love koalas and Australia would lose out on biodiversity as well as a national icon which generates many tourist dollars.

Under a directive from Environment Minister Steven Miles, a panel of koala experts – University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes, Central Queensland’s Dr Alistair Melzer and Dreamworld’s Al Mucci – have convened to recommend last-ditch efforts to stop koala extinction.

Of their efforts, Dr Melzer has said, “The reality is this is crunch time for the koalas of the Koala Coast at least. The measures that have put in place to date – although extremely well-meant – just haven’t worked. So a radical re-thinking is needed and that is what the minister has initiated.”

The panel has also noted that there will be winners and losers from initiatives to save the koala and that may very well be dogs and dog ownership in these areas.  A sobering thought I’m sure for our Australian neighbours.

Source:  Sydney Morning Herald

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Saving the whole family

As the Northern Hemisphere enters its hurricane season, it’s a useful time to review your plans for disaster preparedness regardless of your location in the world.

In New Zealand, as our seismic activity continues to make the news, it’s important to be ready regardless of season.  Things like refreshing your stored water supply, for example.  And if you don’t have a bottled water supply, get one!  This includes storing enough water for 3 days for you and your animals.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) distributed this video last year.  It outlines the things you need as a pet parent and not just things for dogs.  I have clients on lifestyle blocks with horses, for example.  Although I don’t know much about horse care, I can certainly understand the need to have harnesses and a trailer ready for evacuation.

The video mentions how to make a temporary dog tag out of a luggage tag. This may work for larger dogs, but is impractical for small breed dogs.

What I prefer is to have an old dog registration tag in my emergency kit.    It’s been covered with a blank label and I have a pen in the kit.

If we had to evacuate to a temporary location, I will write our contact details on this temporary tag.

I’m also a supporter of micro chipping, which is compulsory for dogs in New Zealand.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand