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Category: Dog Walking

  1. Killing them with Kindness

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    How to assess your pets weightWeight is a sensitive topic.  It is now often a taboo subject, and let’s face it, not without good reason as weight comments often make us feel more self conscious and more likely to overeat to make ourselves feel better!   

    Since starting vet school, I have really started to look at excess weight differently.  Far from being an issue that should be avoided to spare feelings, or something we should feel ashamed of, I now think that looking after our body and trying to maintain a healthy weight is essential self-care!  Excess weight can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, sleep apnoea and even cancer.  Whilst these are often multifactorial and no one should believe that a good diet alone will prevent them, our health is our greatest asset, and anything we can do to protect it, is definitely worth the effort!  Lockdown really made me look at my weight and decide to tackle it – and I’ve been pleased that many other friends have felt the same about their own weight and we’ve clubbed together to motivate each other and share tips!

    I have been surprised though, that some people quickly start to comment about weight loss being unhealthy. Highlighting the risks of ‘not losing too much’ or going ‘too far’, often commenting that people who are slim look ill!  Our nutritionist lecturer early on highlighted that this is not unique to humans, we often do not perceive overweight animals as overweight, but as healthy!  And we see thinner animals as ill, when actually they are of a healthy weight!  This is being seen a lot in horses (and it’s a risk factor for laminitis, which can be so severe as to lead to euthanasia) but it is also being increasingly seen in our smaller companion animals too, and poor vets have to find a way to politely explain that Pudsey has put on a few pounds and is now Pudgey.

    Body Condition Score Dog and CatI have had conversations with friends after they’ve had these conversations with their vet and I’m often surprised that they are very quick to defend their pet’s weight, minimising the risk and claiming that they don’t want to deprive their pet and make them miserable.  And here is the problem – whilst they are saying this because they love their pets and want  to make them happy, this attitude is literally killing our pets with kindness. Our pets depend on us to make the right choices for them and sometimes that choice includes doing something  that neither pet nor owner likes doing – but that is essential for their long term health, happiness and welfare.

    So if this has struck a cord with you and you think your pet could lose a few pounds - what do you need to do? 

    1. First and foremost, it’s a good idea to check with your vet and ask for advice.  This is especially true if you are managing any other health issues, if your animal is still young and growing, or if they are older. Your vet can also show you how to assess your pet’s weight (a body condition score) and therefore keep track of your progress, ensuring you reach a healthy weight and stay there.
    2. Secondly, there are now lots of low calorie, complete pet foods out there, meaning that your pet does not have to miss out in terms of quantity, this is essential because feeding your dog less than the recommended quantity on the bag of your normal food can lead to your pet missing out on essential nutrients that are added in the correct balance for the portion size recommended.  
    3. Next, consider how you feed your dog.  If you just pop it into a bowl, why not make them work for it?  Pack it into kongs or puzzle feeders!  Or scatter feed kibble in the garden for them to find with their noses! 
    4. Lastly – and assuming your vet is happy with this, get working your pet!  There are dozens of exercise disciplines out there for dogs, agility, flyball, hoopers, tracking, retrieving etc.  Not only will this help your dog lose weight, but it will also alleviate any grumpiness at the dietary change.  I can personally vouch for increased exercise as a strategy for distracting me from feeling ‘deprived’ on a diet!

    So please, don’t let your pet’s weight be the next taboo.  Love is not turning a blind eye as you top up their food, but in proactively monitoring your pet’s weight, regularly body condition scoring it and working to keep them trim, healthy and happy for life!

    If you are a ForPaws client and need some extra help with this, drop me an email!   We can  always look to connect ForPaws clients going  through this, so that  they can swap ideas, share tips and maybe even exercise together (in a COVID safe way of  course!).

  2. Whats New with ForPaws? Update 2021

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    Dog Walking in GuildfordIs it just me or does it seem absolutely crazy that we have been living with the pandemonium of COVID for over a year now!?  As it has been a REALLY long time since I’ve done any business updates for our clients and friends I thought I would let you all know how we’ve been getting on in the recent years.

    Some of you will recall that several years ago we became a company ‘ForPaws UK Ltd’.  I felt that was the best move as we grew and took on a van and employees in an effort to afford to register for VAT as our turnover was reaching that level.   Sadly we struggled with many of the same issues anyone who has the grand idea of running a pet care business with staff has. The costs are just too high!  As we worked hard to upscale, it became clear that registering for VAT was either going to write off any profit we made (and put us at risk of running at a loss if we had any big bills) or raise our prices so high that we would lose customers.  So we began the business of winding up the company several years ago and reverted back to being a sole trader business.  The saddest part of this meant relinquishing our gorgeous ForPaws van and saying goodbye to Hannah Flemming who was only with us a few short months but who we and the dogs loved.  

    It was a hard learning experience for me, but we emerged last year, finally running healthily again and ready to recover… then COVID hit.  I suspect many businesses have the same story and my heart goes out to all the businesses who have worked so hard to keep afloat during this crazy time.  Let’s hope that we can all get back to some semblance of normal soon!

    The ForPaws team have been absolutely amazing during thos time however.  

    Sarah Sorgi who many of you will know as a walker, cat sitter and manager of the team, has been an absolute rock and kept the business running during a very busy time before COVID.  Sarah is currently focusing on walking and sitting as things have been a little too quiet for ForPaws to need a manager at the same level as ‘pre-COVID’, but I am hoping that things are picking up and we will need to ask for her help again soon.  ForPaws will be celebrating its 10th birthday in December and Sarah has been with us since the 2nd year!  We are so lucky to have her on board and I know I would be lost without her!

    Michelle Bialogrodzka is still cat sitter extraordinaire in Godalming and Haslemere – Michelle’s clients adore her and I know their cats do too as she often sends me pictures of them playing and cuddling!  Our cat sitting service has just gone from strength to strength – and whilst we know our website is pretty, I know that it is good word of mouth from clients about our lovely team that is the main driver for this.  

    Dog Walking in GodalmingJo Ellett is mostly now doing group dog walks and the odd cat sit for us.  Jo does our group walks and has a great time with the dogs rushing round the Surrey Hills countryside, exploring and playing.  Jo is excelling at getting the right match of dogs together on our walks, so that dogs can exercise around other dogs of a similar personality type  - this makes walks fun and pleasant for all of them!  Jo has been taking lots of video footage of this that I am hoping to compile into a longer video for the website and Facebook page.

    Finally we were also most recently joined in the last two years by Emma Knight and Rosemarie Earlam – who we are so grateful for, as our cat sitting service has been so in demand (COVID times excepting!) that we had needed a larger team!  Emma and Rosemarie have fitted into our little team beautifully and we have been thrilled to receive lovely client feedback following their visits. 

    So that is a little update on Team ForPaws!  I hope that all our clients and friends and pets are keeping well.  We have been over the moon to start receiving bookings again from many of our cat owners and can’t wait to see those gorgeous Felines over summer!  

    Corrine Lisle Dog WalkerHere’s to summer 2021 and hoping to see you all soon!


    PS Here is me with my lovely new kitten Penny!  She was a 'COVID Pet' a new addition to my house with her brother Elvis, who is a short haired tabby!  So funny that they look  so different!  It was their birthday this weekend just gone - happy birthday kitties!

  3. The Importance of Praise

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    When you have a dog, constant feedback for the dog is very important.

    Dogs are deceptively simple creatures who live on a basis of ‘safe, not safe’ and ‘gets me what I want, doesn’t get me what I want’.  They quickly learn which actions are ‘profitable’ to them and which ones get them nowhere.    

    Many people scratch their heads in puzzlement when they are told by a dog trainer to ‘ignore’ unwanted behaviour, like jumping up or barking.  Sure we need to tell a dog it is wrong?  Let’s look at an example…

    Why do dogs jump up?  Usually it starts because they want to get closer to people’s faces, perhaps to make eye contact, maybe to give a friendly lick and get a good sniff and quite simply, unless they are taught not to do this, most dogs will continue to jump up, because they find it is a highly rewarding behaviour.  Why?  Attention!  When puppies jump up, most people cannot help but make a fuss of them, the puppy learns that it gets lots of fussing and attention from this behaviour.  So they keep doing this.  As they get older, they keep jumping up and even though the reaction is less favourable, the end result is often still attention. 

    I imagine many dog owners are familiar with a variation of this scene; it’s been a long day and you come home with armfuls of shopping.  Fido has been eagerly awaiting your return and as you get through the door, he rushes to greet you.  You struggle through, ignoring Fido as you take your shopping to the kitchen.  You put your shopping down, pop the kettle on, get the oven on and start unpacking your shopping.  Fido is wagging his tail at you and then… Fido jumps up.  You shout ‘No’, but then realise that you’ve been ignoring him since you got home, so you give him a pat, pop your shoes on and take him for a quick walk.

    I’m sure that everyone reading this will see that Fido’s owner just rewarded the jumping up with the pat and the walk.  Even though the jumping up was marked with a no, it started a chain of events that lead to attention and a walk.  Fido might try this sooner next time he is being ignored.  However, what you might not also have realised is that the owner was actually punishing Fido’s good behaviour earlier by not rewarding it.  Fido got no reward from his amiable waggy tailed greeting when the owner arrived home and so he tried something else.  The only behaviour that got him any attention was jumping up, which was met with the first word uttered to Fido since the owner got back, ‘No’.  From a human perspective you may feel that ‘No’ wasn’t good attention, but it was still attention and which then lead to something good for Fido. 

    Of course, it wasn’t practical for the owner to dump all the shopping bags and make a fuss of Fido the moment they got through the door, however at this point, verbal praise to Fido would have reinforced the behaviour until the owner could make a fuss of Fido.  This example illustrates how ignoring a behaviour will lead to a dog trying something else and that any attention can be reinforcing for a dog, regardless of whether we feel that attention is positive or not. 

    Praise alone means little to a dog (how long would you keep working if you were only praised but never paid!) but if praise is frequently accompanied with, or swiftly followed by, something that is valuable to a dog (food, toys, games etc) then a dog will associate praise with good things.  This makes it a useful tool in training.  For example, in training a stay, you have to wait a certain length of time before you can reward your dog for the stay, however in the interim, praising your dog helps him to understand you are not ignoring him (and that he should try something else) and that a reward should soon be on its way.  Perhaps you are looking to improve how quickly your dog responds to your verbal ‘sit’ cue and only rewarding the sits she does within say, 2 seconds of you issuing the cue.  All the other sits are good, they just take a little bit too long to earn a reward.  Praising your dog for these sits, will help her understand they are still good, but she needs to do something more.  If executed correctly she would soon understand that she only gets a reward if she sits promptly and will start responding faster. 

    I personally try to remember to praise my puppy for any behaviours I like.  Why spend time having to train your dog not to do things if you can make sure the behaviours it is already doing are rewarding so it doesn’t have to try something else?  I praise her for sitting quietly whilst we are eating, not jumping up at guests, not mouthing me in play and so on.  I often follow this praise with cuddles, play, treats and chews.  Not only does this keep rewarding her good behaviours, but when she does something less good, my ignoring of her is much more obvious and clear for her to understand.

    Praise is a very useful tool in training, it is a free way of providing constant positive feedback to your furry best friend.  If you are sat with your dog now, tell him what a good boy he is and give him a pat from me!