Tips & Tricks

//Tips & Tricks

Anger Management: Background and Lessons Learned

I haven’t posted about this yet but I felt now was the time. My own dog, Grizzle, came to us as a puppy – 9 weeks old to be exact. He was from a superb breeder over Norfolk way and was in a litter of 4, with mother present along with a number of other breeding bitches and dogs. He was of good health and a superb temperament, in fact it was his confident assertive nature which drew my partner to him and …. the rest they say is history!

We live in a cottage on the canal right next to the lock so from the minute he got home he was faced with all the noises and disturbances you could wish for with regards socializing a young pup. There were dogs galore and he saw twenty plus daily. As soon as he was old enough he was out and about sniffing, barking at and playing with the dogs passing by. Only once was he “attacked” as a youngster and though the other dog did grab hold of his fur there was no broken skin and it didn’t dampen his spirits, nor stop him from running up to play with every dog in sight. So much did he want to play that we really found it quite a nuisance from time to time, letting him off the lead always meant we’d be chasing him down the path as he tore off after a dog in the distant horizon. Never did he growl, attack or in any way cause a fight with another dog. We thought we’d done him proud and sat back to enjoy the next 14 years together. Indeed, it was at this point that I felt certain in my decision to start Jog My Dog, not only was it a long-standing passion, here I had myself a superbly friendly dog who thrived on being with his kind, what more could you ask for. No more long lonely days for my little man, soon he would be out and about with me playing with a new dog (or six!) each day.

I should interject at this point that in March 2016 Grizzle was approximately 18 months old. He was never a ‘humper’ nor did he run off after females in heat particularly. He was still going out with the previous dog walking company, however, there was a change with the walkers and I could observe on the webcam a change in him. He was nervous prior to the visit with wide eyes and ears back. When my partner returned from work he would find him shaking on the couch. We will never know what happened during this final month and I am conscious not to lay blame on the new walker for his behaviour (then and now), yet I mention it as it forms an integral part to the story which is being told.

At this same point in time Grizzle used to play with another local doggy named Hamish. He was a French Bulldog and would have been coming up to five or six months old. His owner would walk past our property so they could play … and boy did they! In and out of the house, chasing each other, picking up sticks and wizzing around the canal happily. One day, however, after ten minutes of such antics Grizzle went mad at young Hamish. This happened more than once as the owner was keen to “make them get along” – truth be told we were all a bit surprised and did much mulling as to what the cause could have been. The decision we made was to get him neutered by way of chemical castration. This is essentially an implant which mimics neutering as it reduces the levels of testosterone in the dog. It took awhile to take effect but after approximately six weeks Grizzle’s balls shrunk and he cocked his leg less. However, he still disliked Hamish!

It was May now and business has begun with lots of dogs coming over for day care and boarding. Although none of them were aggressive in nature, a fair few were dominant and, in reflection, made Grizzle feel nervous. You always look back with 20/20 vision and see things that were completely oblivious to you at the time. For instance, I had two lovely little male (miniature) Schnauzers over to board for a week, I joked at the time that they were “little furry sergeants” because of the way they stopped any playing going on by charging up to the dogs and barking in their face. One of the other dogs that also stayed in May was huge and every time he wagged his tail it would slap poor Grizzle in the face. While this is all going on Grizzle’s hormones are flying all over the place and with new dogs coming in and out of the house, joining him for walks, etc he must not have known what was going on.

I feel dreadfully selfish and ignorant in how I handled the month of May and June. I was blind sighted by the need to accept all the customer inquiries and assumed that my dog who loved dogs would carry on loving them and be fine with his new life. But he wasn’t fine. He’s not an early riser and loves nothing more than quiet snoozes on the couch. Yes he loved to play but what I hadn’t considered is what he loved to do when not playing. He likes routine, he likes his walks to be about swimming and chasing sticks. That’s it! He’s not a “normal” dog in that he won’t just trot down the road and go for a walk because that’s what dogs do … no, he likes his walks to be about games and entertainment. I didn’t cater to this in that first month or two either. He was brought along on all the walks because I thought he was enjoying himself. How wrong was I.

The result of my mistakes is what we are now dealing with: a dog who adores playing with the dogs he knows (all those around where we live and any he met between 9 weeks and June this year), yet hesitant, wary and scared of a lot of new dogs. I say ‘a lot’ and not ‘any’ because he does still get on with dogs he meets out and about but it’s 20/80 I would say, with more winding him up than making him feel happy and relaxed. He doesn’t even give them, or him, a chance to sniff and meet on neutral terms. He’s straight in with a bark in an attempt to scare them off. It’s like he just doesn’t want them near him. In my head I saw it as his way of saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH MOM!!

We got the picture and brought in the big guns by way of a 1 on 1 behaviour  training session with Ellie Haines from Haines Hounds (if you’re struggling with training your dog do give her a ring, she’s fab). Having my reflections confirmed by an outsider just brought the whole thing home even more. This was a creation of my own doing, yes I think something happened with the new dog walker back in March … yes doing the chemical castration couldn’t have helped but importantly I hadn’t considered the emotional and physical needs of my own dog and that’s pretty bad. I am a huge animal lover and thrive on seeing them happy and healthy, animal welfare is such a huge part of why I started the business, yet here I was neglecting the needs of my own dog.

Ellie suggested we reduce Grizzle’s time with all dogs, unless they were bombproof and not reactive in any way. Did you know that reactive doesn’t just mean aggressive? Your dog is reactive if they lunge and bark at a cyclist or jogger, if they bark excessively at the postman or just random people walking by, if they charge up to any dog in the park circling it and barking (tail wagging or not). Most of the dogs I walk, board or have in day care are reactive in some way. This posed a little challenge and I did find myself taking Grizzle out on walks he shouldn’t have joined us for and the other dogs barking and lunging – friendly or otherwise – seemed to compound the problem for our little man, in his head it was reaffirming that these “others” (in this case dogs) were some kind of threat, he felt it and the dogs he was being walked with must have too which is why they were barking like mad. Let’s all bark … and lunge … and cause mayhem!

I think it took the problem getting worse for me to see it for what it was and take it really seriously. I also turned 32 on the 1st August and did a fair bit of soul searching as to what these last couple of months had been about and decided that it was time to stop worrying about what’s around the corner but instead to focus on providing a top notch service in the remits of what I could physically do with having a dog who is reactive of new dogs both in his territory and out on walks. I started to look for help with day care and boarding as the safety and happiness of our client’s dogs is of paramount importance. I moved some dogs from day care over to walks and am no longer taking home boarding clients into our own cottage until further notice. Grizzle doesn’t join all the walks, in fact he goes on very few now. Instead I, or my partner, wake up early to take him on an individual walk first thing in the morning, doing all those things he loves so much. The same in the evening. During the day he takes long lazy naps alone in bed or on the couch. And do you know what? Instead of missing the doggy activity he seems grateful for the peace and quiet. He takes himself up to bed when we come back from one of our little group walks, even if he enjoyed being out with a particular pack, he does seem to just want to get away and be alone.

This new arrangement has taken a huge weight off my shoulders. It’s not what I had originally planned, or indeed wanted for my dog, but it’s the situation we’re in and I’m going to make the best of it. Business is booming and I get to not only spend hours in the day playing with my clients dogs, cats and other small furries, I’m also able to give individualized attention to my own pets; instead of his issues getting me down I now see them as an opportunity to truly observe canine behaviour and practice what I learned in my Foundations course earlier in the year. I’m also more in tune with the emotions of dogs and believe more than ever that pet care is more than providing food, water and a daily walk. Owners, and critically us pet care professionals, have a duty to be paying due attention to what’s going on WITHIN the animal. Emotions, feelings and states of mind impact the physical health of the animal so if they are awry and skewy we can expect things like frustration, fear-based anxiety and aggression to present themselves, along with a host of other physical symptoms of stress. I’m dissapointed in myself that I didn’t get to this place without all of the above, however I am simultaneously grateful that I did grasp it in time. I am confident Grizzle will improve and come to love all new dogs again one day, yet importantly I’m not worried even if he doesn’t. We have come up with a system that works for the business, for us and for him and we will continue to love him as we always have done.

I have titled this blog post as Anger Management as this is the new way I describe the rather odd behaviour we practice when we see another dog (we’re doing Mark & Move from Grisha Steward – essentially Grizzle see’s a dog, we click and move away from the target (i.e. the dog) and treat him with a really high value snack. This helps him associate the trigger with moving away and something good – the treat!). People always look at us and shout out “oh don’t worry, my dog is friendly” … instead of feeling stressed by it (as their dog continues to approach us) I now laugh and say “well mine might not be, he has Anger Management Issues which we’re working through”. Everyone chuckles and it lightens the mood. It’s easy to get frustrated with the behaviour of your own dog, people or dogs in general … forever throwing pebbles in our way tripping us up. I don’t want to feel bad on behalf of my dog and I don’t particularly want to make others feel bad because of theirs. So I turn it into a joke and we all have a bit of a laugh at our dogs expense. Isn’t that a far better way of behaving? I like to thick so.

To end this rather long blog post I should say that on Thursday last week I decided to take Grizzle up on a 7 day challenge. His ‘dad’ (my partner) is away on holiday and I felt it was as good a time as any to see if we could make it through 7 days without him lashing out or growling at another dog. If you’re interested in following Grizzle’s journey (out of curiosity or perhaps you have a reactive dog yourself) make sure to look out for all blog posts titled ‘Anger Management’ …

I look forward to sharing more of our journey with you!

 

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Jog My Dog is a small, friendly and professional company offering home boarding, puppy visits, doggy day care, cat visits and dog walking services in Milton Keynes and the surrounding villages of Bow Brickhill, Brickhill Sands, Little Brickhill, Great Brickhill, Aspley Guise, Woburn, Woburn Sands, Brogborough, Linslade, Stoke Hammond and Soulbury.

Registered, Insured, Knowledgeable and Experienced, we take the job of pet care seriously. So whether you’re looking for a cat sitter for your weekend away or regular runs for your dog while you’re at work, we can help! Get in touch to book your pet sitter and dog walker in Milton Keynes today.

The difference between pet care professionals

The pet care industry is booming! The UK is a country mad about pets. In 2015 the UK pet population is estimated at 7.4 million cats and 8.5 million dogs with 1 in 2 households owning a pet (fish not included). This equates to approximately 20 million pets owned in the UK. So it’s no wonder pet business after pet business seem to be springing up.

It’s important to understand, however, the difference between “a love of pets” and a knowledge of feline and canine behaviour, an appreciation for animal welfare, customer service and business acumen. This is the cornerstone that makes a true professional pet care business stand out from all the other run of the mill operations out there, be they one man bands or those with 15+ sitters.

Anyone can pick up a lead and head out for a walk. 9 times out of 10 nothing out of the ordinary happens. A walk is a walk is a walk. Dogs usually get on. They usually come back when called. They usually behave normally and don’t present with symptoms of illness or stress. However, what happens if they do? Does your pet lover know what to do in all of these scenarios? Have they thought of what to do if your dog runs away when out on a walk? Can they spot the signs of stress? Are they equipped to break up a fight?

Many people start up pet care businesses with genuine intentions: they love pets and believe that walking a few dogs or feeding some cats would not only give them a supplemental income but allow them to play with all those lovely animals they adore. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this concept, indeed it works for many a household across the UK, it fails to consider the disastrous consequences that can occur when something goes wrong.

What should you look for in a pet care professional?

  • The “Reason” – I put this as point number one because to me it is the most important. Ask your pet care professional WHY they are doing what they are doing. Are they looking to fill a few hours in the day? Are they walking dogs till something better comes along? This will help you decide on whether the company is the one for you. Often businesses, or individuals, who don’t have a “meaty” answer will be the same ones who let you down a few days before your holiday, having cancelled because something else has come along. If they don’t take their own businesses seriously then there’s a good chance they won’t take the care of your pet seriously
  • Business Values – What values do your pet sitters stand by? What’s the ethos of the business? What are they passionate about? It could be anything from rescues to training to behaviour to nutrition. But I think it should be something. Pets are family to so many of us and I don’t know about you but if I’m going to have someone looking after my pets then I want to know what makes them PASSIONATE about it – what makes them tick, why are they doing what they are doing. If they cannot display a drive and enthusiasm for pet care then think again. This job is more about passion than money: it’s a dirty job, a tiring job, a thankless job (yup, those dogs and cats can’t talk yet!) so your pet care professional needs to be doing it for something else – you, the client, should find out what that is
  • Systems – What systems are in place to deal with situations that occur. This could be a dog getting lost, fights breaking out, illnesses, cancellations and scheduling. A professional pet care company will have considered all these scenarios and have plans in place to deal with them. Systems are what ensure your pet is visited on time every time, they are what gives you peace of mind, they are how we communicate effectively with you … so don’t be afraid to ask what your pet care business has in the way of systems and if you are not comfortable with the answers then move on

Jog My Dog have a directory on file of all the professional pet carers in Milton Keynes. Drop us an email to learn more.

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Jog My Dog is a small, friendly and professional company offering home boarding, puppy visits, doggy day care, cat visits and dog walking services in Milton Keynes and the surrounding villages of Bow Brickhill, Brickhill Sands, Little Brickhill, Great Brickhill, Aspley Guise, Woburn, Woburn Sands, Brogborough, Linslade, Stoke Hammond and Soulbury.

Registered, Insured, Knowledgeable and Experienced, we take the job of pet care seriously. So whether you’re looking for a cat sitter for your weekend away or regular runs for your dog while you’re at work, we can help! Get in touch to book your pet sitter and dog walker in Milton Keynes today.

 

Holistic Solutions for your Itchy Dog

There are numerous reasons why your doggy may be scratching and before looking to treat the issue it’s important to understand what you’re dealing with. The below 4 point list is not exhaustive but may help you assess what’s going on:

  • If dog is licking, biting or chewing at his paws excessively then suspect a yeast issue. Yeast most often affects paws, ears, groin, belly and armpits and occurs more in humid environments
  • If your dog is suffering with pimple-like spots, open sores or appears to be shaking his head a lot then you may have a skin infection on your hands
  • Dandruff could be to blame if your dog presents with large flakes on his fur, or if his fur is thinning over time
  • If itching is linked to warmer weather or is all year long then allergies could be what your dog is suffering with

Before rushing off to the vets I would recommend trying some holistic treatments at home. Combating health issues with natural foods, supplements and home-based care is, in my opinion, always preferable than pumping your pet up with pills and antibiotics from the vets.

Under or Over Bathing Your Dog

How often and with what you bath your dog is an important contributing factor to the overall health of their coat and skin. If you wash your dog too often you may be contributing to the problem as many shampoos (doggy or human) are chuck full of synthetic ingredients which strip your dog’s skin of natural oils which results in dry skin and … you guessed it: lots and lots of itching!

For dogs prone to dry skin I would suggest that bathing once a month is enough (unless they have rolled in stinky stinky stuff!) To this end I would add that if you have a dog who loves to roll in yukies, and you are combating a dry skin issue, then you could always pop a light weight jacket on him when going out for those walks which end up in a shower. No dodgy smells to deal with and no extra showers either – just more laundry loads,  no big deal 🙂

The best type of shampoo to use on dogs with dry skin is a natural one containing Colloidal Oatmeal. Bio Groom do a natural shampoo which is available on Amazon for just £6.49. If you can follow this up with moisturizing rinse then even better! Think of it as a conditioner treatment for your hair, it’s basically doing the same for your dog’s skin. Finally, give your dog a good brush daily to stimulate his body’s natural oils and help keep his skin in tip top condition (again, just like you would do for your own hair, or by body brushing before a shower).

Diet Deficiencies

For optimal coat and skin health, your dog needs essential fatty acids in their diet. Omega-3 (typically found in fish oil) is a terrific source of fatty acids and a lack of them is an extremely common cause for flaky dry skin. Good news though, because the cure is so simple! Simply try adding fish oil to your dogs diet (1 teaspoon per day). PetAmazed Best Salmon Fish Oil is easily available on Amazon and though not particularly cheap it’s worth it in my opinion. A word of warning: make sure to use the oil up within its shelf life, out of date oil should not be fed to your pets.

Why should you add oil to your dogs diet?

Many processed dog foods are heated to such high temperatures that any fatty acids they may contain will no longer be active (i.e. of any use!) once they make their way to your dogs bowl. Supplements work best when given over a long duration; and because it can take a few months to properly get into your pets system, and actually begin to work on supporting the skin and healing it, don’t give up if you don’t see results in a couple weeks.

Egg-tastic!

The mighty egg: in its tiny shell the egg is a great source of:

Vitamin A

Vitamin B12

Riboflavin

Folate

Iron

Fatty Acids

Selenium

Eggs help prevent itchy, dry and flaky skin and provide a thriving home for hair follicles, along with giving your dog’s coat a nice shine! The additional fat, protein and vitamins may be just what your dog needs in addition to your new bathing and oil supplement regime, so crack a raw egg into your dog’s food bowl a couple times a week (shell and all) and let him lap the goodness up. Warning: too much raw egg could cause an upset stomach so keep it limited to two or three times a week.

Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs

I can’t stop promoting the benefits of turmeric for dogs and therefore need to list it here as another option to try when looking to address the cause of the itchy flaky skin. If you are interested in giving your dog turmeric then check out my blog post on Golden Paste available here.

  1. Anti-inflammatory
  2. Antibacterial
  3. Protects the liver from toxins
  4. Assists in detox
  5. Promotes heart and liver health
  6. Reduces blood clots that can lead to strokes and heart attacks by thinning the blood
  7. Promotes digestive health
  8. It can help prevent and even treat cancer
  9. Offers allergy relief
  10. Helps prevent cataracts
  11. Has been used in the treatment of epilepsy
  12. Natural pain relief
  13. Natural treatment for diarrhea

Home-Made Itchy Dog Spray

You could also try making your own home-made ‘anti-itch’ spray. With just three ingredients, this DIY solution could not be easier! If you cannot get your hands on a dog rinse then you can spray this on them instead.

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My 6 Point Check List to Treat Your Dog’s Dry Skin

  1. Brush your dog daily
  2. Add essential fatty acid supplements to your dog’s diet (fish oil, coconut oil on its own or via Golden Paste)
  3. Bath only once a month where possible and use an oatmeal shampoo
  4. Finish your dog’s bath with a moisturizing rinse
  5. Make your own home-made itch spray
  6. Antihistamines (if severe)

If your dog’s coat is no better within a month to six weeks then the cause is probably not nutritional and you may want to investigate with your vet for another potential underlying problem.

Update: A holistic pet group recently recommended Dermacton as a great product for itchy dogs …

DERMACTON: STOPS ITCHING FAST  …. CALMS SORE SKIN  …. NATURAL & STEROID FREE!

I haven’t tried it on Grizzle myself but because of the rave reviews I thought it worth a mention here. Available from Aromesse Natural Healthcare (online) you are able to stock up anywhere in the world – UK shipping is free if you spend over £30. The range includes a cream a spray and a shampoo.

If you try it please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Minimize Stress When Home Boarding Your Dog

With the holiday season fast approaching many owners are on the hunt for a caring alternative to kennels, a home-from-home environment. Meet: Home Boarding.

With this arrangement your dog stays with an individual or family throughout the duration of your time away. It is assumed that by opting for home boarding your dog will not suffer the same anxiety often seen in dogs put into kennels, along with receiving more individualized attention. While the latter point is no doubt the case, dogs that are put into any new and unfamiliar environment can, and do, suffer stress. This is because, regardless of the home you have chosen, everything is so very different to what they are used to that it is natural for them to undergo some stress during your time away. I have actually just witnessed this myself with our current home boarding guest – Henry.

Henry comes from a home where he’s his mum’s main man. They have dogs come to stay all the time for day care and holidays, so it’s safe to say he’s used to lots of companionship and noise. This was obvious during the afternoon and when it was time to all settle down for the night. Henry was panting excessively, circling the kitchen and had a very fast heartbeat. Henry was tired out – we had gone for a long walk and had over three hours of garden play; so this wasn’t an excessive energy situation we were dealing with here, rather stress.

Signs of Stress in Your Dog

It’s important to be aware of what the stress signals are in your dog, and I would also recommend questioning your chosen home boarding service provider. If you are leaving your precious pooch in their care you want to be confident that they too are on the look out for stress in your dog and know how to reduce it.

Lip and Nose Licking – this is different to the type of licking you see your doggy display when he’s just eaten something tasty. Lip licking often takes place in conjunction with some of other stress reducing behaviours such as yawning or head flicking

Yawning – if your dog is really stressed he may yawn excessively, this will be a more pronounced drawn out yawn than the one you may see when your dog is tired

Ears Pinned Back – regardless of ear type, if your dogs ears are pinned back he may be feeling stressed. This is often accompanied by a ‘wide eyed’ look and perhaps a tail which is tucked low

Panting – of course all dogs pant but if it is not a particularly hot day and the panting is excessive then this could be a sign that your dog is experiencing stress

Other Signs of Stress in Dogs

  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Excessive vocalisations / whining
  • A hunched body posture
  • Tension around mouth or eyes
  • Excessive sniffing
  • Looking away / head flicking / eye avoidance
  • Slow or tense movement
  • Dilated pupils

Why Stress Should Be Reduced

If your dog is experiencing excessive stress it will make him more susceptible to:

  • Illness due to a compromised immune system. Ever have a dog come back from kennels poorly? Perhaps it was due to stress
  • Depression. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to snap out of so it’s worth preventing
  • Upset Stomach. A dog who is stressed may not eat and suffer dietary disturbances as a result

How Home Boarders & Owners Can Reduce Stress Felt by Dogs

  1. Where possible you should get your dog used to his holiday environment in advance of going away. At a minimum I would recommend visiting the home with your dog for a few hours so he can get to know the environment with you around to build his confidence. Got more time? Then my suggestion would be to book your pooch in for day care and possibly an overnighter too! This is a great way to get him used to the arrangement and give you peace of mind
  2. On the day, allow plenty of time for the drop off. Don’t be rushed and stressed as your dog will pick up on it and in turn feel stressed himself. You want to leave him relaxed and happy – and why not start your holiday as you mean to go!
  3. Take your dog’s usual supply of food with you. The feeding routine should already have been discussed with your home boarding host, and where possible ensure that the supply you provide covers the entire trip so as to prevent upset stomachs from dietary changes
  4. Bring your dog bed and some fabric, or a blanket, that smells of you. Dogs find their little home comforts reassuring and this is an easy way to help them settle in their temporary home
  5. Ensure you have completed all the necessary paper work. At Jog My Dog we like to obtain detailed notes on chosen vet, medication and ailments, your dogs likes/dislikes, phobia’s, allergies and we always take emergency contact details
  6. Be happy when you leave. When it’s finally time to say bye to your dog and head off on holiday do so in a confident, matter-of-fact manner. Remember, your dog will pick up on your emotions so if you’re feeling anxious they will too. So keep it casual as you leave with no over the top fussing. Leave that to your home boarder 🙂

What happened with Henry?

The solution was to stay up with Henry on his first night away from home. By just sitting near him in the front room till gone 2am he was finally able to relax and get some much needed sleep. Today he’s already much more settled and took himself off to the couch for zzzz’s by 8pm.

henry in day care

 

The Joy of Keeping Hens: choosing your chooks

~ Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly ~

It’s May and it’s definitely starting to feel like summer is on the way. I don’t know about you but when the weather is like this I get a real urge to get all Barbara Good on the world: planting vege, picking wild fruit and …. well keeping hens!

Actually, I do keep hens. And I also have lots of fruit bushes and used to keep an allotment … but that’s another blog post entirely. If you fancy keeping some hens of your own you may want to start by reading the first blog in the series and then come back to this one.

Choosing Your Hens

So you want to keep some hens. The next step would be to decide how far you’re willing to travel for your chooks. If you are not fussed you may opt for somewhere local (please, anywhere other than a garden centre or pet shop!). However, if it’s the fancy feathers you’re after then you will have to do a bit more research and travel further.

A healthy hen should have been reared on a farm with access to outside pasture from an early age. I once made the mistake of buying a couple of hens from a garden centre and although they were quirky and unusual (what drew us to them) they were from a weak line and all died within the first 12 months of having them.

If you are you local to Milton Keynes then these are a few options to choose from:

Newfoundland Smallholding in Great Brickhill just south of Milton Keynes

Crofters Farm is a small family run farm in the Chiltern Hills near High Wycome, Bucks

Oxford Poultry in Oxfordshire

Acorn Nursery in Oxfordshire

My personal recommendation is Acorn Nusery – we got our girls from this place over 6 years ago. I haven’t been back since but if they still produce hens as fine as the girls we bought in 2010 then they will make you happy hen owners indeed. The hens were all free ranging in huge fields and ours are terrifically healthy, naturally curious and have unique characters of their own. I wouldn’t be without them and shall dearly miss their presence when old age eventually takes them.

Point of Lay Hens

Your little egg laying machines are not actually called hens until they reach the age of 1 years old. Until that time they are pullets and somewhere between 22/24 weeks they will be referred to as ‘point of lay’. This rather vague description attempts to define the process of development where the pullets become mature and ready to start producing eggs. Time of year, breed and how the pullets have been reared all factors in to determine when you will get your first egg. My little Bulbster didn’t lay any eggs for the first 8 months we had her. She was point of lay when purchased in March and we went through the entire summer without a single egg. At one point we were so confused I phoned up the farm and asked what might be happening. They replied curtly: “hens lay eggs, that’s what they do”. Hmm, you don’t say!

She did eventually lay eggs and they were a delightful duck egg blue. And you know what? She still keeps laying them to this day. Yes she has little ‘egg laying holidays’ and has gone broody more times than I care to remember, but this clearly works for her body as the eggs she produces at 6 years old are perfectly formed, rock solid, deep yellow things.

hen, egg, yolk

What Will a Point of Lay Hen Cost?

The price of a point of lay hen can vary anywhere from £12 to £20. I have found that hens which are a bit ‘unusual’ in appearance or colour of egg command a higher price tag. But don’t let the cheaper and slightly average looking hen put you off, we had many years with a Rhode Island Red and she was so friendly and intelligent.

What To Bring When Collecting Your Hens

When you go to pick up your hen(s) make sure to bring a few key items with you:

  • Cat / Small Dog Carrier – these are good because they will have plenty of air holes and will no doubt be a decent size so as not to make your hens feel claustrophobic
  • Cardboard Box – this is a cheap alternative if you do not have the above; however, just make sure the box is of sturdy construction and that, if it is a hot day, you have created some holes so the hens don’t struggle to breath. You cannot leave the box open as they will of course fly out – and that is not what you need when driving down the motorway
  • Bird Carrier – if you are making a one off purchase then splashing out on a proper bird carrier might not be the right move, but it’s always an option if you’re in a pinch

hens as pets, carriers

That’s you settled with the hens you want to buy and know how to transport them home. Look out for the next blog post on creating a safe home for them.

Cat Proofing Your Garden

This will be a controversial blog post because owners who allow their cats to roam are still in the majority and I believe many think it ludicrous to keep a cat ‘confined’. However, I would tend to disagree. While I appreciate that (most) cats are happiest when they are outside, our modern world is simply not as safe as it used to be and because of this many cats are having their lives cut short through road traffic accidents or poisoning. Saying that, I find it equally important to be understanding of people’s individual decisions, we’re all doing the best we can for our pets and that’s what matters most 🙂

My Pancake cat used to roam in the hills behind our house. We are lucky to live in a relatively quiet area and it seemed safe – he was always ‘hanging out’ in the same spot. But in true cat form, the massive hill wasn’t enough for him and he started to wander towards the main road or sit on the canal toe path. After being chased by a few dogs and going missing for 24 hours I decided to look into cat proofing my garden. This was a light bulb moment and literally the BEST thing I have ever done. Hands down.

cat in garden milton keynes

Cat owners will know the feeling: every time your cat is out wandering you are slightly on edge wondering what time they will be coming home. And if they are late? You immediately fear the worst. To be honest, I couldn’t handle any more of these stressful feelings so I bit the bullet and invested in cat proofing!

It didn’t take long to decide what sort I wanted for our garden. There’s not actually a huge variety in the UK: you’ve got the DIY ‘ers who have a go at creating something of their own, then there is the frequently seen (though in my opinion not terribly good looking) cat security system that ProtectaPet provide,  others build an enclosure along the side of their house – with their cats accessing from an open window or cat flap. We went for Katzecure. Having a cutsie cottage and a stunning garden I needed cat proofing that was ‘in keeping’; I also wanted wood as opposed to metal or mesh and these guys came as close as anything else I could find in the UK.

cat proofed garden

Katzecure are not cheap but in my opinion they are worth every penny. And if you move you can simply take the fixings and wood with you. If you want to get really creative with your space then you can plant a load of pet safe bushes, flowers and small trees to create interest for your cat. My guy is spoiled: he has a pond, a summer house and lots of planting to keep him entertained for hours. He loves it in there and I love that he is safe and happy.

summer house milton keynes

Home Made Dog Treats: Carrot, Oat and Peanut Butter Bites

I love these dog biscuits! They are so easy to make because they only need a few ingredients and just require 20 min in the oven – easy peasy!

The only thing I would say is make sure to buy good quality coconut oil and natural peanut butter. You don’t want any of the stuff which is full of Xylitol, a sweetener used in many foods including peanut butter. I buy Whole Earth Peanut Butter and The Groovy Food Coconut Oil; I think spending a bit more for proper quality food for my dog is worth it. Everyone wants their pets to live long healthy lives and I think the connection between food and longevity is huge. Anyways, enough chat, let’s talk recipe!

Home Made Dog Treat – 5 Ingredients and Only 20 Minutes Baking Time

dog food recipe

You will get approximately 18-20 biscuits from the quantities in this ingredient list, add or remove to suit:

– 3 carrots, pealed and grated

–  1 tbsp peanut butter (check there is no Xylitol in it)

– 1 tbsp coconut oil

– 150 grams oats

– 2 eggs (I like to use my own hens eggs = ++ natural)

 

  1. Heat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. I actually had to use two medium sized ones and I still ran out of space …
  2. Put the oats and carrots in the food processor and blend until you get a fine mixture
  3. Add the eggs, coconut oil and peanut butter and blitz again until smooth. To be honest I don’t mind a few larger carrot pieces, and it’s fair to say the dogs don’t either!
  4. Put the mixture in a bowl and leave in the fridge to chill for half an hour
  5. Scoop little portions onto your baking tray and flatten down slightly with the back of your spoon
  6. Bake for 20 minutes
  7. Leave to cool and then store in an air tight container

home made dog treats

I would say these biscuits will last a week but who am I kidding! Your dogs will go crazy for them.

Enjoy! 🙂 It’s really great to know where your treats are coming from.

home made dog treats

How to Plant a Pet Safe Garden

Spring is here and with the longer, warmer days we are no doubt all headed to our local garden centre or flower market to pick up a few bits and pieces to make our outside space stand out. However, if you’re fortunate to share your life with a dog or cat then you need to be a bit careful before making your purchase – some of the plants and flowers you may consider buying could be toxic and deadly if ingested.

Before splashing the cash take a moment to google its Latin name alongside the word ‘dog’ or ‘cat’. A really useful website I come back to time and again is ASPCA – on this site you can get a really quick synopsis on whether the plant you are considering is pet friendly. I would recommend popping along to your local garden shop and making a ‘wish list’ of plants you would like to buy and then coming home and doing a bit of research; it takes longer but it will 100% save you money and possibly save your pets life too. Win win!

For a full list of highly toxic plants you can visit Dogs In The Garden.

Pet Friendly Garden Plants and Flowers

beebalmLast year I cat proofed a section of my garden and wanted to fill it with lots of wonderful plants for my little guy to enjoy. A section of my shopping list included:

Annuals

  • Calendula
  • Snapdragons
  • Petunia
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Zinnia
  • Nasturtium

Perennials

  • Phlox
  • Roses
  • Catmint (your fussy feline will love this!)
  • Beebalm
  • Goat’s Beard
  • Astilbe

Don’t forget those indoor plants. Lily’s we all know about but there are lots of other flowers and small plants which, if nibbled by an inquisitive cat or bored dog, could cause severe liver damage and death. Let friends and family know your concerns to prevent any awkward moments – or just pop them in the bin on the ride home as I have done in the past 🙂

Happy Gardening!

pet friendly plants

Disclaimer: The author of this blog recommends doing your own research before purchasing any of the above plants for your garden so you can be confident that they are suitable for your individual pets. 

 

 

The Joy of Keeping Hens: Why Hens as Pets Makes Sense

This blog post is the first of a little series on keeping hens as family pets. I have had hens for over 8 years and in the process have become a bit of a hen expert. I hope that you not only enjoy reading the posts but that they make you think twice before buying another pack of caged eggs.

Are you thinking about keeping hens in your back yard?

Perhaps you’ve seen some on a smallholding and fancy having a few of your own little egg laying machines in your garden. If this sounds like you then you’re not alone. Keeping hens is becoming more and more popular with the ever growing trend to understand where our food comes from and carve out our own little slice of “the good life”.

keeping hens

Aside from free eggs, there are lots of other great reasons to keep hens:

  • Chickens used for egg production are among the most abused of all farm animals. Keep your own and make a stand against this cruel industry
  • Enjoy protein rich eggs. You will see a huge difference in the quality of your freshly laid eggs. The yolk will be a rich orange and the shells nice and hard. Most importantly, you will know exactly what has gone into them and the quality of life your hens have had. I truly believe that the stress levels commercial hens experience contributes to the poor egg condition you so often see in shop-bought packs
  • Teach your kids about the cycle of life. The most common time to buy a hen is when they are at ‘point of lay’ (so a couple months old); but it is also possible to buy eggs which are fertile and hatch them yourself. You do need to have a set up ready for this and be prepared for some losses, but if you are successful it can be a wonderful way to teach your children about the cycle of life: birth right through to death
  • Learn about the uniqueness and individuality of hens. Once you have had some you’ll be hooked and will start to see their individual characters, likes and dislikes. I have kept hens for over 8 years and have seen my hens under stress and behave in a ‘depressed’ manner. Yes these are human terms and we need to be careful when applying them to animal behaviour; but the point I’m trying to make is that when you keep hens they become more than just food to you. They are lovely birds with hugely inquisitive minds and love nothing more than keeping active in the search for tasty morsels and the best sun spots for a mud bath.

hens as pets

 

6 Tips for Teaching Your Pup to Pee & Poop Outside

If you’re a soon-to-be-owner wanting to get off on the right paw with potty training your pup, or simply frustrated with your cute bundle of fur, then this blog post is for you.

Puppies are weeing pooping machines! They seem to go all the time in all the wrong places and if you have wooden floors or carpets you may quite quickly feel exasperated with the constant cleaning and that your puppy is “just not getting it”. Although each dog is different there are basic biological factors to consider and the reason your puppy is having accidents in the house is quite simply related to bodily urges he cannot yet control. So make things easy for you and your new puppy by setting a basic routine and sticking to it. Yes I know that when the old alarm clock goes at silly o’clock in the morning the whole thing may seem like a lot of hard work but I can assure you it’s worth it in the end.

I used the below 6 steps when toilet training my dog Grizzle and he didn’t have any accidents within a month of having him. If he’s desperate now (day or middle of the night) he will whine and circle the same spot till we take him outside. Moral of the story? Listen and watch your dogs signals – they are often trying to tell you something.

How to teach your puppy to toilet outside in 6 easy steps

  1. As soon as your puppy comes home take him outside to use the toilet. Select one area in the garden for potty training and praise your pooch lots when he goes in the right spot. You can also give treats if your pup is highly food motivated
  2. To start with take your puppy outside every 30min, extending to 45min and then 1hr as he gets older. Make this a routine even if sometimes nothing happens; keep praising your pup for going in the right place
  3. Take your puppy outside immediately after waking, following a play session and after eating a meal. This point is really important – it’s the biological factors I talk about above
  4. Watch your pup carefully and look for the subtle signs that he may need to go (this could be whining, circling the same spot or sniffing excessively)
  5. If an accident occurs don’t scold your puppy or make any fuss whatsoever; simply clean up the mess and move on
  6. Prevent your pup using the same ‘oopsie’ spot again and again by cleaning thoroughly using an enzymatic cleaner (available from pet supply stores – be sure to follow the instructions). Avoid using cleaning chemicals, especially those with strong odors such as vinegar or ammonia

puppy potty training

My final tip is to try and create an environment where your puppy has a chance to succeed in the potty training exercise; that may mean sectioning off one room in the house or using a large crate or play pen when you cannot supervise his every move.

And don’t forget the two most important ingredients when dealing with new puppies – bundles of patience and love!