Pet Sitting

/Pet Sitting

Is Home Boarding Suitable for my dog?

Will my dog enjoy boarding with other dogs? Who will my dog be staying with when with you? What do I need to tell you about my dog before I can book his holiday? How old does my dog need to be before he can board with you?

These are just some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from new clients wishing to place their dog in home boarding while they go on holiday so read on to learn what makes your dog the ‘perfect fit’ for our boarding homes.

What age does my dog need to be?

This is a really important one so comes first. There is no point building your hopes up of securing a spot in our boarding homes if your pooch is below 6 months. Milton Keynes Council stipulate this within our license terms so it isn’t one we can stretch to suit your holiday, even if it is by a day or two! New puppy owners should bear this in mind before they plan any holidays abroad. If you’ve gotten a pup unexpectedly and your holiday was already purchased then house sitting is the perfect option. You can read more about this service we also offer here.

Can you take entire male dogs?

Sadly, the answer is 99% of the cases is no. This is because entire males spray / mark in our homes. This is behaviour you may surprised with as they don’t do it in your home or friends and family. However, it is a reality and something we have witnessed time and again. It is most likely due to all the numerous canine smells wafting through the boarders home as we have guest dogs come to stay 365 days of the year! Entire males not only mark their “territory” within the home, but they also are more prone to reactivity when placed with other dogs which is not a risk we are not prepared to take.

Saying this, some dogs are absolutely fine and do not cock their leg, nor present with any aggressive tendencies so it is not a blanket ban but something we take on a case by case basis. But please do bear in mind that most dogs fail their 24 hr trial with us if they are entire. Again, our house sitting option is perfect for this and it is indeed what I do with Grizzle every time I go away as he is entire too!

Oh no, my female dog is in season! Can she still board?

Again, sadly the answer is no unless we have no other guest dogs coming to stay over the same period (this includes day care dogs). A female dog in heat will be ‘harassed’ by other male dogs, whether they are entire or not. She also must be kept on lead at all times which can be difficult to manage with 4+ other dogs all playing off lead. And finally, it is a great risk for the home boarder which is most cases they are not prepared to take. New dog owners need to do their research on this before booking and paying for a holiday to ensure the dates of the holiday and season do not clash.

Who will my dog be staying with?

We have some small, friendly dogs in day care Monday – Friday and alongside this we will accept another 1 or 2 guest dogs subject to temperament and size. Our day care dogs are regular and well known to the boarder so any home boarding dogs will have their 24 hr trial with the dogs they will most likely be staying with during their holiday. This allows the boarder to assess the dynamics and ensure everyone gets on; and gives owners a chance to see who their pooch will be with in their absence. If your dog is aggressive or fearful they may prefer to stay in their own home, and in this case our house sitting option may be a better fit for you. If, however, they are simply a bit nervous but do enjoy dog company then worry not. We have had lots of wary little dogs come to stay and by the end of day one they are lounging around the place as if they own it!

Do you walk my dog off lead?

Most of the dogs who come to stay with us have reliable recall and are therefore allowed off lead. We walk in the woods and also have access to three large enclosed fields so off lead play is safe and fun. If your dog is small and you keep him/her on lead then we are happy to do so for your peace of mind.

However, we cannot keep large and strong dogs on lead as they often become frustrated wanting to play with the other dogs and pull our backs and necks in the process. If you have a large dog who has not been taught to walk nicely on the lead and has poor recall then they may be better suited to staying within their own home with friends / family stopping over and one of our walkers coming along mid day to take them for a walk. Or you can use our house sitting service.

My dog sometimes has ‘accidents’ in the house, can he still stay with you?

In the main, the answer will be no. But during our 24 hr trials we do assess how frequent these accidents are and if simply down to nerves we may suggest doing a second trial day to see if them getting to know us reduces the number of accidents (it often does). Saying that, some doggies just haven’t been taught where the right place to toilet is and defecate in their beds, in the kitchen and anywhere / anywhere they fancy. These dogs are sadly not suitable for home boarding.

Header Picture Credit: Heartland Animal Hospital Ashland, MO veterinary clinic

****************************************************************************************************************************************

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

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 & Bedford.

Cat Peeing Outside Litter Box

Litter box avoidance is one of the most common reason cats are abandoned, surrendered to shelters or euthanized. My Pancake went through a phase of peeing on our bedding when he was a kitten, so I fully appreciate how frustrating and expensive it can be. However, the solutions are actually quite simple and the starting point for any owner is to understand that their cat is not ‘misbehaving’ or being ‘naughty’ – they are in fact either unwell or suffering from stress (external or internal).

Because I went through this with Pancake a few years back I’ve written the below tips for you to try with your own cat. It goes without saying that I am not a feline behaviourist or a vet so if the problem is persistent and ongoing then do seek the advice of a fully qualified professional using the links I note at the end of the blog as your starting point.

Help! My cat isn’t using her litter box

Firstly, it’s important to get your cat checked by your vet to rule out a urine infection, kidney disease or some other illness, as a cat who is in pain will often not use their litter box as they associate it with the pain they feel whilst trying “to go”.

If your cat suddenly stops using the tray then the vet should be your first port of call and once you get the all clear then you need to look at your environment as a possible cause. Remember, there is always a legitimate reason for cats to avoid using their litter boxes. Small changes to us can be absolutely monumental to a cat; so look at the layout of the house, has anything changed? New furniture or a swap of rooms? Has anyone moved in or moved out? Do you have a new (noisy) baby or dog? Have you brought another cat into the house?

If you genuinely have not made any changes within your home setting – and remember, it’s important to ‘dig deep’ and think like a cat before dismissing something – then you need to look at the next closest environment to you which is the garden and surrounding area outside your house. Could there be a cat in the neighborhood who is bullying yours? Do you have visiting cats in your garden or hanging outside the house? If so, could these cats be entering the house via the cat flap when you’re not there? If so, this could be stressing your cat out which might explain the toileting.

If there are cats hanging around one of them very well might be the source of stress so you could try:

  • Blocking any lower panels of glass windows with opaque film or some other covering, this may help your cat feel more secure in her indoor home as she won’t be able to see the bully cat
  • If the bully is sitting high up on fences or a shed he may be intimidating your cat from this high position even if you have blocked the lower panes. If budget allows you could consider cat proofing your garden which stops cats coming in and yours getting out (something I did using Katzecure – best money I ever spent!)
  • Change the layout of the cat flap so that your cat can get out of the house safely without worrying about getting pounced on (if this is indeed an issue)If the stress is potentially coming from inside the house then you will need to review your feeding and litter tray set up. Resources are important to a cat and they include things such as water bowls, feeding areas, sleeping positions, high vantage points, quiet areas to watch the world go by, scratching posts, litter trays, etc.

milton keynes cat care

Other ideas to reduce incorrect toileting in the house

  • If you have two cats then you need a litter tray per cat plus one extra located in different parts of your house. Many cats don’t like weeing in the tray they poop in. Could your other cat be hogging the essential resource that is the toilet which could be causing her stress? This is worth considering even if your cats have lived together for years and seem to get along …
  • Your cat could have a negative association with her litter tray for peeing due to any number of reasons (a painful toilet trip over a year ago, something scary happening whilst going pee in her tray, a loud noise whilst going toilet … the possibilities are endless).
  • You could try changing her litter tray type, litter and position to see if this helps change the association she previously made. Some cats prefer a litter tray which is covered, while others like the open type. Remember, your tray needs to be large enough to accommodate your cat standing up and turning around comfortably, she should be able to squat without her bottom hanging over the side.
  • Litter trays need to be cleaned daily, sometimes twice a day if there are multiple cats within a household (and especially so if they are indoor cats only). I always recommend Oko Gold Litter to my clients, it is a bit more expensive than the standard litter available in the supermarket but is well worth it! This type of litter clumps beautifully which makes scooping pee and poop a breeze. The bag lasts ages as you are not having to empty the contents of the litter tray each time your cat goes toilet, instead you scoop the clumps of pee and poop leaving an otherwise clean tray. You can buy Oko Gold Litter online and most decent pet stores (like Walnut Pet Supplies in Milton Keynes) now sell it too.
  • Clean the mess with Urine-Off and Odour Remover. If it’s very soiled you may be best to remove it entirely (taking away the smell and association with the space).
  • Placing food bowls near the location your cats toileting on can change the perception of the area from ‘dangerous’ to ‘safe’, although this does not always work it is certainly worth a try.

Remember cats don’t vocalize the same way dogs do so it is so very easy to miss the subtle clues re what’s going on and see their behavior as a problem when it’s actually a cry for help.

Finally, if these tips and tricks don’t solve your problem then I suggest finding a qualified behaviorist who is experienced with cats using the APBC and ABTC websites to find one in your local area.

The Joy of Keeping Hens: Goodbye to Bulbi

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

This is a really sad blog post to write because it’s my saying goodbye to Bulbi (aka Bulbster) – my hen with a silly “bouffant” that I have had since 2010. I never thought in a million years that I would be get to see her at this age, or that I would be saying bye in this way … but that’s life and here we are.

We received some dreadful news in October last year and I knew that it meant our hens wouldn’t be a permanent part of our future; however, one kids themselves and tries to carry on as normal, making the future delay its hand so to speak. Her ‘friend’ of six years – Flighty – died a few months back and against better judgement (some would say) we got Bulbi a companion by way of an ex battery hen from Hula. She was called Martha and oddly this newcomer relegated the previously in charge Bulbi to second position after two days. Martha was never 100% in health and sadly she passed away from egg peritonitis two days ago … this left Bulbi “friendless” once again. As any hen keeper will know, chickens do best when in a flock … so I knew I had to deal with the future square on this time.

Lots of people kindly offered to take Bulbi but none of them felt completely right .. so when McRae (a friend of Nick’s and someone I used to work with back in 2007) offered her a home with his flock, and I saw the pictures of his set up, I just knew my little girl would be well looked after into her old age. I can’t thank him enough for alleviating my worries – he even drove all the way to Bicester this Saturday to get her!

Anyways, the point of this blog is to celebrate my hens wonderful life, and highlight just how amazing these birds are!

Hens, and Bulbi in particular, were my first adult pet. I had dogs growing up, but as an adult, and as a couple, hens were our first proper pets. We got them in March 2010 from a farm where they were all roaming free, just as hens should do. I chose Bulbi because of her silly “hair” – it was busy and ridiculous. She looked a fool and it made me laugh. She also laid blue eggs and we thought this was pretty cool …

Right from the start she was odd. For starters, she didn’t lay eggs for about 8 months (we bought them at Point of Lay). It went on so long I actually called up the farm to ask what was going on .. the guy laughed and said “she’s a hen, they lay eggs” (not mine I thought!). She did eventually I should add … about 9 months late but she’s still doing so over 7 years later so that delay might have been a good thing …

hen keeping milton keynes

She “broke” a wing on one occasion … I put this in quotation marks as she really didn’t break a wing, it was a fake illness (yes hens DO fake illness and injury, lol) when she was being hen pecked by the others. The first winter she was with us it was snowing heavily in December and she had flown to a post in the garden and decided at that point it was far too icy and cold to get back to her run so she just sat there … and sat there … for hours, not moving an inch! I had to go fetch her or I’ve no clue what she would have done overnight, just sit there?

We clipped her wings, which should have stopped her being able to fly. But she still flew, into the tree house, over the fence and into the adjoining gardens where she would regularly scavenge for berries and other delights. She can still fly over a 6ft fence we have surrounding Pankee’s enclosure, it has a roller system which stops cats escaping and creatures getting in … but doesn’t stop Bulbi so clearly she’s flying straight over.

She fell in love with something white and dreamy called yogurt, and her most favourite thing in the world is a bowl full of the stuff topped with blueberries and worms. She used to regularly terrorize our vege patch and absolutely demolish all berry bushes, peck away at all the special strawberry plants and steal the peas! We taught the hens to jump for berries and I’ve got a wonderful video of them all jumping up to get them from my hand … all except Bulbi who was always a little thick we felt, she spent a lot of time staring into bushes and eating. This is a hen after my own heart and she just loves food! I mean loves loves loves it. She moans for the good stuff from the moment she wake up .. we try to give the hens their pellets in the day and treats at night, but she makes such a racket for something else if she can see you in the kitchen window. The hens have had the finest foods here and Bulbi appreciated this the most I feel. She’s demanded such foods as cous cous, quinoa, seeds, roasted onion and squash, salmon, blueberries and watermelon…

chicken care mk

Hens enjoy foraging but they also enjoy tasty morsels and a big variety of species appropriate food (there is an argument that not all the above is “appropriate” but it certainly worked out ok for Bulbi). My girls had such unique characters and made us realise early on how disgusting and selfish the egg / meat industry is, especially around chickens for food and eggs. I became vegetarian back in 2010 after we got the girls and I’ve not looked back. People don’t realise how amazing these birds are until they have one – I didn’t. When you buy the cheapest meat in the supermarket, please realise and understand what a cruel industry it is you are supporting by your choice of product. I fully appreciate meat is something many people are unable / unwilling to give up, but do at least spend more money so you are buying a quality product, where the animals have had the opportunity to live a decent life before being slaughtered.

The hens I’ve had over the last 7 years (Flighty, Dunkey, Bulbi, Truffel, Eric and Quailey) taught me so much .. you learn to appreciate the simple things in life when keeping hens; and you also learn to notice small things that mean they are unwell, or fearful, you see what makes them happy and to be honest this is simple: lots of space to wander and forage, they need an area to bath in the dry mud and shelter under bushes or trees. They need to scratch in real earth and munch grass and other vegetation. They need space to get away from each other if they want to and stretch out in the sun. When you watch hens you realise just how awful humans are in continuing to fund the ‘caged egg and cheap meat ‘ demand because we can’t spend a few extra pennies on animal welfare.

hens in milton keynes

I’ve written this blog post in the garden on the last night Bulbi is here (31st March 2017); she’s currently scratting around for the bits of rice, broccoli and worms I scattered on the grass for her earlier and also exploring Pankee’s patch of the garden. In the morning we’ll set off early and she’ll be in her new home by lunch time. I’ll miss her dearly but know she’s going to the best possible place.

I hope this post, if nothing else, helps you see chickens as more than just a cheap food to be consumed but as the loving unique animals they are. Don’t buy the cheapest chicken on the shelf but choose the one that costs more yet ensures that the chicken has had a decent life. They deserve respect, good homes, love and the space to live their lives outside where they belong. Not in a run, not in an Omelett Eglu but in an open farm (or your whole garden) running and flying free like all birds should be.

With all my love Bulbster 🙂 xx

 

7 Benefits of Home Boarding Your Dog

Booking a holiday always comes with a difficult decision to make as a pet owner – do you take your pets with you or leave them behind. If the latter is what you choose, you have a number of options from kennels, to house sitters to home boarding.

At Jog My Dog we recommend house sitting and home boarding over kennels every time. Through experience we have found that dogs are far less stressed when their usual routines are maintained; and if you select the right home boarding host your dog may have such a great time he doesn’t want to come home!

Our home boarding hosts are approved by Milton Keynes Council. This means that their homes and gardens have been inspected carefully and any safety concerns put to right before guest dogs are welcomed. Hosts are also DBS checked for your peace of mind, along with having training in Canine 1st Aid.

We only welcome one guest dog at a time which means that your pooch will receive our undivided attention during their holiday. And if that’s not enough reason to book your dogs holiday with Jog My Dog then have a read through our top 7 benefits of Home Boarding below …

Dog Home Boarding Benefits

  1. Your dog will always have human company
  2. They settle quicker in a home environment
  3. Your dog gets to have a 24hr trial while you are nearby
  4. Your pooch is less likely to feel stressed or suffer separation anxiety
  5. There’s less risk of catching diseases like kennel cough, which can easily be contracted when dogs are exposed to the many other dogs in kennels
  6. Your dog has the opportunity to socialise with another furry friend and explore new exciting walks
  7. There’s less disruption to your dogs routine. We are happy to follow your regular walking, feeding and exercise regimes which helps to reduce their anxiety when away from home

Home Boarding with Jog My Dog is an affordable alternative to kennels so drop us an email to book your dogs stay today!

www.jogmydog.co.uk | https://www.facebook.com/jogthatdog/ | 07843 711075

home boarding milton keynes

House Sitting – Grizzle’s tips and tricks

I know something’s up a week before they go. This big black object gets brought into the house (I have since learned this is a suitcase). Clothes, shoes and other nick naks I try to put in my mouth are being moved around constantly and there’s talk of passports, whatever that is.

My owners are going away on a holiday. Without me. Did you hear that?

This is my first time  I won’t be with either mum or dad since I came to live here at 8 weeks old. But please, my name is Grizzle and I’m not afraid of anything. Because I live in what humans call a multi pet household, mum booked the fabulous Ellie from Haines Hounds to house sit instead of splitting up our care. Let’s just say kennels were never on the agenda, however it is common for dogs like me to go to other people’s houses for home boarding. But Pancake the cat could never leave the house, he’d die of fright, and the hens also need their usual garden for free ranging, so it actually works out much cheaper for someone to come stay in your own home and also means your house looks lived in too (sorry thieves!!!).

dog boarding milton keynes

Since I’m such a clever dog I’m going to share with you below some of my top tips that you can pass on to your owners next time they decide to be cruel and leave you alone as they jet off on fancy holidays like mine have just done (shhhh don’t tell them we really don’t care they’re gone) 🙂

  • Meet the pet sitter in your home and go through all of the particulars about the house, the pets, feeding routines, likes/dislikes and general home info (don’t forget alarm codes, checking the spare key works correctly and explaining how the telly and internet work)
  • Type up all the same info and print out for the pet sitter. This gives you time to remember all the things you may have forgot to cover in the meeting and also means the pet sitter doesn’t have to take loads of notes at the meeting and can instead spend their time listening. Mum actually divided this up into different sections so the info was easy to find: Food, Walks, Sleeping, Insurance, Home, Other
  • Sign a contract and an Off Lead Disclaimer Form (if you are happy for your dog to be walked off lead in your absence) or include a letter if you want them kept on lead
  • Provide an emergency contact telephone number – one that the pet sitter can reach you on when you are gone
  • Make sure your pets’ registration, ID tags etc are up to date and secure
  • Buy plenty of food for the entire trip, plus some extra. If any pets are on special diets make sure to discuss this with the pet sitter in advance, and also leave further instructions in your printed notes. If food is awkward to prepare then leave bags of pre-prepped food so that feeding is a straight forward job
  • Set aside all your favourite treats on one shelf in the fridge or cupboard. Don’t leave it to your pet sitter to search for things hidden deep within the kitchen
  • Leave out your dogs collar, leads, poo bags, harnesses and any other dog walking items
  • If you have a cat or other small furries then don’t forget to cover their particulars and leave out all their care items (for instance, my brother Pancake has little cotton swabs for his eyes, special raw meat baggies and a brush as he’s a short hair Persian cat)
  • Ensure there’s plenty of household essentials in the cupboards along with pet safe cleaning product should anyone have a little “accident”
  • Collect up possibly injurious articles and substances, and either dispose of them or put them out of your pets’ reach. Also prevent your pets from getting into and out of areas which could lead to harm
  • Before you go away make sure to clean the house top to bottom ready for your pet sitter. There is nothing more gross than leaving a house dirty for a guest and I can’t underestimate how long a proper clean may take you. Set aside a good half day for this task and do it properly (this includes dusting all surfaces, light fixtures, bed edges, etc)
  • Make up the bed for your pet sitter and close the door to their bedroom so it stays nice and fresh, free from pet hairs and other nasties
  • Shut any doors that the pets should not have access to while you’re on holiday and give the house a final vacuum before departing

In summary, I think the most important thing to consider when booking a holiday where pets are not allowed is that you find someone you really trust to look after them. Once you find a super reliable, knowledgeable and friendly pet sitter then you need to make their life easy by leaving comprehensive details about your pets and the house they are staying in so that they can just crack on with looking after your furries.

I hope you found this blog helpful, if you did then go on and share it with your friends and family, not everyone is as clever as me….

And P.S. I did miss mum and dad …. I just put on a brave face!

Love Grizzle

pet sitting mk

The Joy of Keeping Hens: the signs of sickness

I’m feeling poorly … 

Keeping hens can either be a straight forward easy thing or fraught with illness and death. Is it luck of the draw, the environment they live in or where they were bought? I think a bit of each to be honest. Our original flock of hens were purchased in 2010 and we had one for only three years, she died from what most hens do: an internal infection which weakens the body to the point where they die from lack of nutrition (a sick hen will not eat or drink) and exhaustion.

The second one made it a good six years but sadly passed away in August this year after a very hot spell. She had been on and off for many years and we often thought we would lose her but managed to bring her back from the brink time and again with additional supplements to her diet and extra care.

We still have one from the original batch of hens and she is going strong. She’s an ‘unusual’ hen, a speckled long plumed sort who doesn’t lay many eggs. This is good in the hen world as it means their bodies are not constantly being overworked to produce the eggs that we take so much for granted. When her buddy died in August I got her a new companion from Hula Animal Rescue. Martha is only three years old and should have been free from issues for awhile yet.

However, for the last couple weeks she started laying dodgy eggs. Super soft shells which crack as you try to pick them up, or shells which are not formed at all and simply slip out of the hen in a messy yolk’y blob. If you see this in your hen it is a clear sign of something internally not right and it shouldn’t be ignored. When an egg doesn’t pass properly out of the hen what is left inside her body will get infected and, if continued to be left untreated, weaken the hen to the point of death.

Signs of a sick hen

  • Staying in the nest box or continually entering it and leaving without producing an egg
  • Hunched posture (seen in pictures below)
  • Lack of interest in food, including favourite treats
  • Reduced water intake
  • Standing in one corner of the coop or garden with little movement
  • Pale colored comb
  • Liquid poo
  • Yellow colored poop which looks a bit like wet scrabbled egg

Luckily we seem to have caught it in time with Martha!

Hens need careful monitoring and observation to ensure they stay in tip top shape. Yes they are an easy pet to own as they don’t require much in the way of faffing or attention; yet a few daily checks will see to it that your hens live long and healthy lives. I had observed that Martha wasn’t coming down out of her nest box in the morning, nor showing much interest in her food. Having seen this in countless hens before I didn’t waste any time in ringing the vets.

If you are based in Milton Keynes or the surrounding villages and keep hens then the vet I would recommend every time is Beech House Vets in Towcester (just off the A5 near the garden centre). Charles Castle is the principle of the practice and has been maintaining and breeding his own large flock of hens for more than twenty years. This vet, and the practice in general, have such a caring manner about them and nothing feels too small. Charles will ‘fix’ your hen if he is able to and provides a wealth of information along with explanations about what he is doing and why. I have trusted Beech House Vets for years with my hens, both in terms of trying to make them better to putting them to sleep when it did not work. I’ve never felt silly for crying (well balling my eyes out) over the passing of one of my chickens and it’s down to Charles I have to say. Lovely lovely man.

Back to Martha. Having noticed she didn’t eat much on Saturday or Sunday, when Monday morning came around I decided to ring the vets who were able to squeeze us in first thing. My worry was egg peritonitis which is a common condition seen in backyard hens of all ages, from the point of lay onwards. It is an infection established within the coelomic cavity of hens, caused by the presence of an ectopic yolk within the coelom (main body cavity).

Charles gloved up and popped his fingers inside Martha feeling around for any remnants of shell within her body. He felt confident that there was none but confirmed that those ‘dodgy’ eggs we noticed previously would have caused the infection we were seeing and if left untreated would have ended in her demise. Her comb was still a deep red which was a good sign and she hadn’t suffered too much weight loss as yet.

We were given a course of antibiotics and advised to try to get her to eat as much as possible over the next few days, along with bathing her backside in warm water (this stimulates any egg potentially trapped within the hen and helps it pass easily).

Important Tips for Maintaining Healthy Hens

  • Reduce snacks and ‘extra’s in the summer months when hens tend to eat less as it is
  • Feed high quality layer pellets and other rich sources of protein such as mealworms
  • Monitor their behaviour so you can catch any signs of illness early on
  • Clean out their coop and run regularly. A dirty environment invites disease
  • Provide fresh water. Every month you may want to splash some apple cider vinegar or hen supplement in with the water to help boost their internal system
  • Worm regularly. You can get wormer already mixed in with their layer pellets so it’s one less thing to remember. Worms weaken hens and they are a fragile creature as it is

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.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************************

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 Joy of Keeping Hens: setting up home

So you’ve chosen your hens and now need to think about where you will keep them (if you haven’t read my previous blog on choosing your chooks you can catch up here).

Now I’ll be honest, I’ve had two lots of hens. Back in the day I believed that the hen coops sold in garden centres, pet shops and the like were robust enough to keep out predators (i.e. foxes!) and actually they did, for a couple weeks.

wooden hen house

We originally purchased this wooden variety, it looked “cutsie” and fit the space. Perfect. We ear marked a section of the garden for the hens and that was that. It didn’t end well. The fox had a very easy time sliding the wooden tray out which sits on the bottom of the coop and merrily munched his way through all three of our little hens. It was the most horrific thing to wake up to the next day, feathers everywhere and bits of our precious pets found in neighbouring gardens.

Our mistake is really the purpose of this blog. Hens may come cheap but their lives should not. If you decide you want to keep hens then you need to give due consideration to their wants and needs.

What a Hen Needs to Thrive

  • Feed: hens should be given good quality layer pellets as their main source of food. Don’t skimp and get the cheapest one out there, if it smells off to you or is dusty and fine then chances are it is a substandard product. Not only will your hens not enjoy eating it (yes they do know what good food is!) their eggs won’t be good quality. What goes in to your hen comes out in her egg. Remember that.
  • Supplements: if you keep hens you should endevour to mimic their natural environment as much as possible. Allow them access to, or provide within their coop, additional ‘extra’s such as insects, grass, seeds, berries, and herbs. Corn and wheat products should be kept to a minimum
  • Scatter food: hens naturally forage, that’s what they do for the majority of their day; however, it’s important to keep the ground free from faeces otherwise you will very quickly have worm infested chooks
  • Ample space and clean ground: if you don’t give your hens sufficient space to explore, grass to munch and dusty patches for mud bathing you will have unhappy and unhealthy hens. Hens who are left to wallow in a small muddy area are not happy, never mind thriving. They will no doubt begin to fight, feather peck and get sick

These pictures show some of my happy hens, they have wanted for nothing and thrive to this day. I cannot express how much joy hens can give you, how individual their characters are and how much they love their little comforts: mud bathing, scratching for worms, eating all the best vege you’ve attempted to grow along with the finally ripe berries. Mine like a lush breakfast of natural yogurt, a mid-day snack of worms and an evening meal of canned corn and perhaps a bit of leftover rice (both these in moderation!).

hens

Choosing Your Chicken Coop

If you are serious about keeping hens then you need to be serious about their welfare, and that means investing in a proper coop for them and hen proofing the area you plan to allow them to free roam.

“Free roam you say? I was planning on keeping 4 of them in a little igloo run, what’s wrong with that?” SO MUCH! Keeping hens in a tiny enclosure is not what animal welfare dreams are made of (and frankly I believe it to be downright cruel). Hens are foragers and thrive on being able to explore their environment, picking up tasty morsels as they go along. If you are unable to give them a safe place to sleep at night, and plenty of garden or land to explore, then you shouldn’t be keeping hens. Period.

So back to where we went wrong.

The fox got our first batch of hens and we were distraught with our poor choice of hen coop – we learned the hard way but it was the hens who had to pay the price. We thought about using our shed, but even that is not really secure as a fox can dig underneath the, often loose, wooden floor panels and get to them. Eventually we found Woodenart, a company who specialise in hen coops, hen runs, cat enclosures, dog houses and more. Their creations are bespoke and can be designed to suit your specification.

The Woodenart hen coops don’t come cheap. Truth be told we had to save up for a bit before we bought the coop and our next lot of hens. However, the investment was totally worth it. We went for the James Cooper Extra, retailing at £560, back in 2010 and it is still faultless to this day (after numerous position changes and house moves). Our hens have been 100% safe all these years and when we’ve had to leave them locked in for a day due to garden works we could rest easy knowing they had enough room to walk around comfortably.

The mesh is fox proof and that, along with the base of the coop and run, is the most important element. You can of course make your own coop similar to this design but if you do ensure that you buy chicken mesh and that the gaps are small as shown in the picture below. These coops are designed this way for a reason and they keep foxes out up and down the country because of it.

hen coop james

The James Cooper Chicken House with large walk in Chicken Run by Woodenart is suitable for keepers who are unable to let their Chickens free range due to predators or garden restrictions, an easy clean fox proof Chicken Coop

  • Fabulous woodenart quality and innovation
  • A very easy to clean Chicken House with the floor and nest boxes set at the perfect working height
  • The House is a very spacious 3 feet wide x 3 feet 6 inches deep, is well ventilated and suitable for 6 – 8 Chickens. The House stands 5 feet 6 inches tall at the highest point , has 2 removable perches for cleaning and there is a large door at the front for easy access and cleaning. The additional Chicken Run underneath the House is meshed as standard
  • The sliding pop hole door is a very neat system that slides on internal runners and is operated outside of the Chicken House by a pull cord
  • The roofed Chicken Run is 5 feet 8 inches long and is 6 feet deep. The Run roofing stops the run becoming a mud bath in the Winter and is of Onduline and matches the Hen House roofing.
  • The Run extends underneath and at the back of the Hen house to give an effective Run length of 8 feet 8 inches , the Run stands 5 feet 6 inches at the front giving easy access into the run. 2 mid height perches are fitted to the Run
  • The Chicken House, Chicken Run and Nest Boxes all have Onduline roofing which is the preferred roofing for Poultry as it does not harbour parasitic red mite unlike felt plus it wears much better than felt roofing, it also allows vital air circulation through the Housing
  • The Nest Boxes are each  a huge 15 inches wide x 14 inches deep with access outside of the House for egg collection via a drop down door and are set at a height that makes for easy egg collecting and inspection
  • The Chicken House and Chicken Run assembled together gives a footprint of 8 feet 8 inches long x 6 feet deep, the Nest Box overhangs by another 14 inches. The whole assembly is mounted onto tanalised bearers
  • All framework is smooth square planed Redwood and is screwed together for strength and durability
  • The House Run and Nest Boxes are treated with minimum of 2 applications of a high quality preservative in a beautiful rich Golden Brown colour as standard
  • The mesh used on the Chicken Run is 19 gauge galvanised weld mesh for strength, durability and fox protection

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.