How to Choose a Dog Walker: Finding the Right Service for the Family and the Dog

How to Choose a Dog Walker: Finding the Right Service for the Family and the Dog

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For dog owners in urban areas, it can be difficult to exercise a dog during the day. Larger breeds especially require more activity. A few lucky folks may be able to return home during the day to let the dog out for a walk. Others cannot. Dog who do not receive enough exercise can become destructive, chewing household items and making messes in the house.

To prevent the creeping guilt of a sad dog at home all day – here are some ways to select a reputable dog walking service.

What Kind of Dog Walking is Needed

The first step is to determine what kind of walks the dog needs (i.e., group or solo) and how often. Some families only need a dog walker once or twice per week. Work schedules can vary widely — and some are irregular from week to week. Dog walking services may require a minimum number of walks per week. Read carefully and consider the financial implications.

Finding a Dog Walking Service

To find a dog walking company, begin by asking friends or acquaintances who have animals. What services do they use or recommend? The family veterinarian is also a great resource. Make a list of the names suggested, and research each company to narrow it down.

Look for companies that have insurance, licensed and/or bonded employees, and that seem organized. Absent-minded animal handlers are not a good idea! Consider experience and training of employees, as well. The best walkers will be those who have some knowledge and understanding of dog behavior both alone and in groups.

What to Ask Potential Dog Walkers

Once the list of possible dog walking services has been narrowed down, it’s time to schedule interviews. An in-person interview with the dog walker, family, and the dog, is the best way to make sure the service is a good fit.

Watch how the dog walker interacts with the dog. Does he or she seem comfortable with the pet? Does the pet seem comfortable with the dog walker?

A sit-down interview should include questions about a typical day of service: when the dog walker will arrive, how they will gain access to the home, how many animals will be included in a group walk, and how long the walks last. This is also the time to provide information about the dog’s behavioral issues, feeding requirements, normal schedule, and special medications, if any. Ask about payment methods, scheduling, and minimum walk requirements.

Selecting a Dog Walker or Dog Walking Service

If possible, commit to a small number of walks for the first month. That way the dog can get used to having a dog walker, and owners can see if the service fits with the family schedule. Watch for changes in the dog’s behavior – both positive and negative. Review the costs and benefits. If things go well, congratulations – the family now has a new friend for Fido!

Bonding with Dog Leads to Successful Training

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Why was the book and movie Marley and Me such a hit? It told a compelling story of a deeply felt human-dog bond. This story of a family and Marley, their beloved Golden Retriever, joined a long history of stories centering on that canine-human bond. All have been based on the special experience of connecting with dogs and training them based on that bond.

Dogs Instincts for Human Bond

Over centuries of evolution of their brains, dogs acquired an ability to pick up cues from humans that other animals do not have. Dogs are animals, and their intelligence level varies among breeds, but all seem to have an instinctive ability to read humans, to interpret from gestures what owners want them to do.

Bond with Dog for Companionship

A rewarding companionship between dog and owner must be based on their strong bond. The bond can be formed at any stage of a dog’s life. It can happen with a puppy or an older dog, even if the dog has had several owners.

Dogs will bond with all family members, but only on a one-to-one basis, and usually will be strongest with one individual. The only way that bond can be formed is through genuine, consistent affection for the dog.

How to Form a Bond With a Dog

Include the dog in day to day life. A true bond won’t likely be created when a dog is shut away for most of the day and has very little human interaction, even at the end of the day.

Spending time together in different ways is important. Walking in the park, taking in local events, playing fetch, and sitting quietly together are good options.

Learn to read the dog’s body language and respond accordingly. For example, if the dog is upset or afraid of another dog, observe the dog’s movements and avoid the situation by leading the dog away.

Strong Bond the Basis for Successful Dog Training

When a strong human bond is established, obedience training has a far greater chance of success. Remember, each dog has its own personality, so its ability and its willingness to be trained will differ. Dogs show an exceptional ability to recognize words and tone of voice. Even so, patience is required, because training doesn’t happen overnight. Keep these dog training guidelines in mind:

  • Be consistent.
  • Give clear, concise commands.
  • Give one command at a time and be sure always to reward compliance.
  • Use your dog’s name when giving a command.
  • Always initiate activity. You’re the leader.
  • Finish any training activity with a bit of fun to leave your dog wanting more.

Building a solid bond with a dog and enjoy a wonderful companionship and other benefits that will endure for years, especially if training is built on that bond.

The Call of the Wild, a Classic Dog Story

No story of a dog’s bond with his master tops Jack London’s book, The Call of the Wild. Buck, a St. Bernard/Collie, is doted on by his master in a bond of companionship and affection. Stolen from this home, then sold as a sled dog in the frozen Yukon Territory, Buck uses all his survival instincts to endure the remote, frozen outreaches of civilization and the rivalry of the pack. The story’s dramatic conclusion shows that Buck’s bond of deep devotion to his master never dies.

Strange Puppy Behaviors: Like Babies, Puppies Need Special Food and Care

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Nearly everyone has smelled puppy breath and seen puppies scratching fleas or licking an ant bite, but what should be done about really strange behaviors? Before calling in the Dog Whisperer for intervention, try these simple suggestions for the oddest doggie pranks.

Physical Distress in Puppies

  • Eating non-food items. In humans, this condition (known as pica) represents a serious psychological condition in which people consume paint, detergent, clay and other toxic non-foods. In puppies, however, eating rocks, feces, or other noxious substances is usually a sign of not getting enough nourishment.
  • Suggestions: Check the package of the puppy chow to be sure that the dog gets enough to eat. As its weight increases rapidly over the first few months, food amounts continue to increase also. Stay on top of these changes or the puppy might start eating non-food items to sound the gravy-train alert to its owner. (Puppies sometimes won’t eat out of a bowl that another dog has used. Replace the bowl if another dog’s scent is keeping the puppy from eating its food.)
  • Straining during bowel movements. If a puppy has difficulty with bowel movements and especially if it screams in pain while defecating, then there’s a definite problem. It’s important to notice whether or not the puppy is successful in its attempts to relieve itself. Straining with pain and without success may indicate an immature pancreas or other part of the digestive tract (this is mostly seen with puppies born prematurely or under duress, such as in cases of abuse and animal cruelty).
  • Suggestions: Describe the symptoms to a veterinarian, including whether or not the puppy was premature, how often it attempts to defecate, and its success rate. A laxative for mild cases and a prescription pancreatic enzyme for serious cases may solve the problem.

Emotional Distress in Puppies

  • Crying. The trauma of adjusting to a new home upsets some puppies very much, especially at night when crying may begin and continue for what seems like the entire night. They may be cold, uncomfortable, scared, and alone for the first time in their short lives.
  • Suggestions: Make their bedding area soft and comfortable in a warm spot in the house. Sometimes a night light takes away the fear of the dark, a radio on at a low level makes them feel like they’re not alone, and a clothing item from their new owner placed in their bed may also provide comfort. An additional trick to try: Buy a soft, stuffed animal about the same size as the puppy and place the new “friend” in the bed to relieve the loneliness.
  • Neurotic behaviors: Puppies may have anxiety attacks (during thunderstorms, fireworks displays, car rides, etc.) and eating disorders (arranging food before eating, spreading kibbles around the house, finicky eater) just like people. In fact, most veterinarians conclude that neurotic dog behavior comes from the family.
  • Suggestions: If these behaviors seem dangerous or especially bothersome, such as extreme anti-social behavior, consult a veterinarian or dog therapist. Otherwise, just accept the eccentricities of your puppy as making it uniquely special.

In addition to love, puppies need special care like human infants do. Rather than ignoring potential problems, seek answers immediately either online or through a local veterinarian.

What Should I Give my Puppy to Chew?: Not Everything on the Market is Suitable for Teething Dogs

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Puppies need items to chew on in order to keep them busy. If they don’t have items to chew on, they may destroy things around the house, like your favorite pair of shoes. Not everything for sale in the dog aisle is suitable for puppies though, as some chewing items can even be harmful to dogs under one year of age.

Items that are unsuitable for puppies to chew include:


Though readily available anywhere pet supplies are sold, rawhide items should not be given to a dog until she is at least one year old. The developing digestive systems of young puppies can not always digest rawhide. If a puppy eats a piece of rawhide, it can damage her throat, stomach, or intestines, causing an expensive trip to the vet.


Also, puppies tend to swallow rawhide whole, or in large chunks, not only causing the aforementioned problems, but choking as well. Rawhide is better for dogs with more experience, dogs who realize it is better to eat little chunks, rather than whole pieces.

Pigs Ears

Most dogs find pig’s ears delicious, but they are not for puppies. Again, like rawhide, puppies like to try and swallow pig’s ears whole, and their digestive systems are not equipped to deal with such a burden. A dog should only swallow a piece of pig ear after they have worked at it to get it soft a chewy. Most puppies just don’t have the patience to wear a pig’s ear down.

Vinyl Chew Toys

These cheap squeak toys usually last about 5 minutes, but take a couple of days for the puppy to pass the pieces of the toy out the other end. This is never pleasant for the puppy, or the owner. Invest in latex or rubber chew toys, as they are more resilient to chewing, and last longer.

Items suitable for puppies to chew include:

Latex and Rubber Toys

As previously mentioned, these toys have more give to them, so that a puppy has a hard time braking off and swallowing chunks of the toy. Kong toys are the staple in the market, as treats can be put in them to further entertain the puppy, but any high quality rubber toy will do.


Bones made out of nylon flake off in rice grain size pieces and easily pass through the digestive track of a puppy. These bones are often infused with flavor, helping to entice puppies to chew them. Nylabone also makes a dental bone that is covered with bumps, which are great for teething puppies.

Rope and Material Toys

Puppies are much like teething children, and enjoy putting items with different textures in their mouths. Many toys incorporate rope, rubber, and sturdy material to satisfy the urge of a puppy to chew many different textures. Some of these toys can even be put into the freeze to help sooth the painful gums of a teething puppy.

Natural Bones

Though messy, natural bones provide hours of entertainment for puppies. A puppy just loves to gnaw off every little piece of meat they can find on a natural marrow bone or beef knuckle. Make sure the bones have either been smoked and boiled in salt water, or are completely uncooked. If the bones have been cooked, they will splinter and possibly injure the dog.

Whenever a puppy is given something to chew, they should always be supervised to ensure that they don’t choke. If you have any questions about the suitability of a chew toy for your puppy, a staff member at your favorite pet store should be able to help.

Homemade Ear Wash Solutions for Cleaning a Dog’s Ears

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Cleaning ears is not the most glamorous part of natural dog grooming. Still, dirty ears can be cleaned so easily and effectively. Plus, the inside of a dog’s ear is an ideal environment for yeast overgrowth or problem infections. A little preventive attention can go a long way towards keeping a dog healthy and problem free.

Cleaning Dirty Ears

If a dog’s ears are generally healthy, but have dirty looking oil, wax, or debris, then cleaning the ear at home is possible. If something looks out of the ordinary or one of the signs below are present, it’s best to let a professional take care of the problem. Do not use an ear wash solution if the ear appears inflamed.

Signs of Ear Problems:

  • Inflammation, swelling, or red tint around the ear canal
  • Oily discharge
  • Strong odor or “cheesy” smell
  • Sensitivity or painful touch
  • Violent head shaking or dragging ears along the ground

A cleansing wash or solution helps to loosen up hardened deposits and flush out excess wax or debris. Some ear cleaning solutions alternatives are:


  • Natural oils—almond oil, calendula oil, aloe vera juice
  • Commercial ear wash such as, Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash
  • Homemade ear wash (recipes below).

Choose only one of the ear wash solutions to use at a time. If the solution is warmed to body temperature, a dog is more likely to accept the fluid or drops. Be prepared for a mess if the dog shakes its head during the cleaning process.

Three Recipes for Homemade ear wash solution

Recipe 1: Mix half and half white vinegar and isopropryl alcohol (50/50) in a bottle. Shake well before applying.

Recipe 2: Mix 2 ounces of isopropryl alcohol (50/50), 1 Tablespoon of boric acid, and 1 teaspoon of glycerin in a bottle. Shake well before applying.

Recipe 3: Mix 4 ounces of isopropryl alcohol (50/50), 1 teaspoon of boric acid, 2 ounces of white vinegar, and 1/2 ounce of betadine solution in a bottle. Shake well before applying.

Steps to Cleaning out the Ear

  1. Lift the ear by pulling up and out to straighten the ear canal.
  2. Drip a warm dog ear wash solution into the ear.
  3. Massage the base of the ear and the tube-like ear canal from the outside, near the base of the ear.
  4. Tip the head to let the solution run out or allow the dog to shake the liquid free.
  5. Wipe the inside of the ear with a soft cloth, tissue, or cotton swab. Do not insert a Q-tip.

It’s easy to look into a dog’s ears and check regularly for problems. Touching the ears, lifting, and looking inside gets the dog used to handling before attempting the ear washes. Frequent ear cleaning is not necessary—no more than once a month. A quick swab of the ear with a cotton ball is often all that is needed. A dog may not like the cleaning, but most dogs like the attention. Cleaning the ears at home is an easy part of dog grooming the natural way.

How to Clean the Ears of a Dog: Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears Promotes Healthy, Disease-Free Ears

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Cleaning a dog’s ears need not be a frightening prospect. Learning how to clean your dog’s ears can be a rewarding task and is easily learned.

Basic Structure of the Dog’s Ear

The ears of a dog are shaped a bit differently than the human ear. In dogs, the ear consists of several different parts:

  • the ear pinna, or the flap of the ear
  • the ear canal
  • the tympanum, or ear drum
  • the inner ear

In the dog, the ear canal runs down the side of the head (the vertical ear canal) and then turns at a right angle and runs toward the center of the head (the horizontal ear canal). The vertical ear canal starts at the level of the opening of the ear canal just below the pinna. The vertical ear canal continues on to become the horizontal ear canal, which ends at the level of the tympanum.

Why Should a Dog’s Ears Need to be Cleaned?

In the event that your dog develops an infection in the ears, cleaning the ears will become a necessary part of treating the ear infection. However, even in dogs with healthy ears, the ears should be cleaned periodically.

As in people, many dogs have ears which secrete a waxy debris. This debris can accumulate within the ear canal and can start to cause irritation for the dog if not removed. Proper ear cleaning should be part of your dog’s regular grooming procedure.


Some dogs also have a large amount of hair which accumulates in the ear canal. If the hair is causing no problem and you are able to clean the ears properly with the hair still in the canals, it can be left. However, if the ears are irritated or inflamed, or if you are unable to properly clean your dog’s ears with the hair inside of the ear canal, the hair will need to be plucked from the ear canal.

How to Clean a Dog’s Ears

Cleaning the ears of a dog will require a cleaning solution which is instilled into the ear canal and then swabbed out again. Ear cleaning solutions can be purchased at any pet store or you can visit your veterinarian for a recommendation.

Start by filling the ear canal to the top with the ear cleaning solution. Then massage the ear cleaning solution into the ear canal by gently massaging the outside of the vertical ear canal.

After you are finished massaging the ear canal, you may release your dog for a moment or two if you prefer. Your dog will likely shake his head to remove a portion of the ear cleaning solution and debris. If you prefer not to allow your dog to shake his head at this stage, it is not necessary to do so.

Once you have filled the vertical ear canal with the ear cleaning solution and massaged the ear canal, you will have mechanically broken up a large part of the wax and debris which resides inside of your dog’s ear canal. At this point, you can use a cotton ball together with your pointer finger to enter the ear canal and swab out as much of the wax and debris as you can.

Do Not Use Cotton Swabs or Q-Tips to Clean a Dog’s Ears!

As long as you are using only cotton balls and your fingers, you can swab as far down inside of the ear canal as you are able and will not be able to do any damage. However, if you substitute a cotton swab or Q-tip for the cotton ball, it is possible to injure or even rupture your dog’s ear drum with the tip of the swab.

Repeat the procedure described above in your dog’s ear until you have removed all excess wax and debris from the ear canal and then move on to the second ear.

Give Your Dog a Summer Cut: Clip, Dip Dogs to Keep them Cool in the Summer Heat

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The furrier the dog the more they pant and drag in the summer heat. Yet many owners are reluctant to shave their handsome Great Pyrenees and other big, long-haired dogs. A shaved dog’s looks change drastically for the worse, and they often even seem embarrassed after a full body clip.

Even a Moderate Clip Helps Dogs Stay Cool

However, a middle way is possible. Clipping back the hair on a dog’s belly and feet can make a dramatic difference in their ability to tolerate summer heat. This allows their skin to come in direct contact with the cool of tile floors, damp earth, or water.

Also every effort should be made to remove the thick undercoat of double-coated dogs such as huskies and malamutes. This undercoat is difficult and tedious to remove but tools such as dematting combs can speed up the process.

Finally, purchasing an inexpensive children’s wading pool for your dog can do wonders to keep a dog cool in the heat of summer. After a vigorous walk around the neighborhood, most thick-coated dogs will appreciate a cool dip in the pool and some even tolerate being wetted down with the hose.

Keeping Dogs Cool in the Car

No one should ever, under any circumstances, lock a dog (or a child) in a closed car. The temperatures can be fatal in just a few minutes.

However, many professional dog handlers have learned tricks to keep their dogs cool in an open car under working conditions, such as search and rescue or sheepherding.

The first step is crate-training. Some owners resist crating their dogs but, while difficult for the first few days, having a safe den to retreat into is as natural to a dog as learning not to soil its own den. Plus, crate training takes much less time than house-breaking.

Once comfortable in a crate, dogs can be crated in the back of a car or SUV with all the windows and the back hatch open while a family bird-watches or picnics nearby. The crate can also be removed from the car and placed in a cool shady spot.

Never leave a dog crated in a car with the windows and doors closed. Leaving a dog crated in a car is only advisable when the handler or other responsible adults are close enough to observe the dog and react if it seems to be stressed.

Keeping a Crated Dog Cool in the Heat

Always leave a crated dog with plenty of fresh water, whether in the home or on a trip. Many companies offer a variety of water dishes to clip to the sides of crates. Check the water level regularly and bring an ample supply of water along on any trip.

Mats that contain a gel that can be frozen are also available. Placed on the floor of the crate, they keep a dog cool for long periods of time.

Battery-operated fans are also available that can be attached to the sides of a crate.

Walking a Dog in the Summer Heat

Even short walks in extremely hot temperatures can be stressful to a thick-coated dog. Carry water with you on long walks and let the dog cool off in streams along the way.

Watch the dog carefully for signs of distress, such as:

  • Heavy panting,
  • Bright red, lolling tongue,
  • Irregular gait,
  • Inattention.

These could be early symptoms of heat stroke, which can be fatal.

Dog Proof the House for Happy Holidays

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The holidays can be a stressful time for the family pet during the whirlwind of activities between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Your dog’s routine is disrupted by your shopping, decorating, baking, and more-than-usual entertaining, leaving you less time for romping, walking and giving belly rubs. Dogs are sensitive to the changes around them and there is much you can do to keep them happy, calm and safe.

Keep Schedules Consistent

A dog may not wear a watch, but he knows exactly when every family member is supposed to come home. All that changes during the crazy weeks of the holiday season, and it can have a negative impact on your dog’s behavior and temperament, so be mindful of your activity and his needs and make sure you:

  • maintain his normal eating schedule
  • don’t change his eating place
  • walk him at his regular times
  • don’t forgo his exercise times
  • find time for play and affection

Keeping things as normal as you can around the house will help keep him calm and happy and prevent upsets that may come as a result of the holiday activities.

Protect Your Dog from Plants, Decorations, Food and Well-meaning Guests

Your house sparkles with decorations, family and friends are adding gaiety and noise, and special holiday foods grace the table. It’s lovely, fun and chaotic at times; it also may be a tough time to be a dog. Here’s a checklist of what you need to keep an eye on to keep your dog healthy:


If your holiday decorations include poinsettias, berries, Christmas cactus, mistletoe, or amaryllis be wary. As beautiful as these plants are, if ingested by a curious or playful pup, they can cause stomach upsets, vomiting, diarrhea, and a variety of other irritations. Keep these plants well above the reach of your dog and you won’t be making an unexpected trip to the vet.

The Christmas tree

Such a temptation for young dogs, especially if you decorate it with food like cookies, popcorn or cranberry garland. Really, who can resist food hanging from a tree? Tinsel, angel hair and spray-on snow are also no-nos because they can cause serious intestinal damage. If you decorate a live tree, don’t add aspirin or chemical preservatives to the tree-stand container and make sure to hide the stand with a tree skirt.


Ask your guests and tell the kids not to feed the dog, no matter how adorable or hungry she looks. Dogs are quite clever and first-rate manipulators when it comes to asking and getting a treat. They’ll beg or perform tricks without being asked, and eat anything offered by a friendly hand. The following foods will wreck havoc with your dog’s intestinal tract and may cause serious problems:

  • chocolate
  • bones that splinter (chicken, pork or ribs)
  • the skin or fat from meat or poultry
  • grapes
  • raisins
  • macadamia nuts
  • alcohol

Some other ideas to keep your dog safe on Christmas morning:

  • Don’t leave food gifts under the tree either before or after they’ve been opened.
  • Don’t give you dog ribbons, string, wrapping paper or tape to play with.
  • Watch out for the small pieces that come with some toys.
  • Keep batteries out of your dog’s reach.
  • Keep candles up high. Wagging tails have been know to tip burning candles over.

Protecting your four legged family member at this time of year is a bit of extra work, but well worth the reward of keeping your dog healthy and happy. Even with the best made plans, accidents happen, so make sure the vet’s phone number is easy to reach. Your dog is a creature of habit and totally dependent upon you, so make sure your pooch enjoys a stress free, healthy and happy holiday season.