One of the positive aspects of the Covid 19 situation is that we get to spend a lot more time home with our dog. However, unless handled carefully, spending all this time together could potentially lead to issues with separation anxiety down the line. As we return to work/school/external life, our dog will be expected to stay home alone for periods of the day. I'm keenly aware of separation anxiety, probably because it's one of the issues I routinely look for with new (especially young) boarding dogs. Dogs with separation anxiety get stressed, upset, loud and/or destructive if left alone. It can can lead to behavior change, illness, psychological issues and neurotic behavior (like obsessive paw licking, tail biting). There are simple steps you can and should take to make sure your dog becomes - or remains - well adjusted and happy when alone.
Most importantly, don't let everyone smother the dog with attention all the time
Doing this will cause an unnecessarily dramatic change when you are apart. If you think about it, most dogs regularly spend time alone and and it's really important that they don't lose the ability to do that. Give your dog time alone, even (or maybe especially) when the whole family is at home. Let him relax on the other side of a baby gate, in another room or outside in the garden while you're in the house. This will diminish the contrast between human presence and absence. Be sure he doesn't see it as a punishment, leave a kong or treats for him but do let him chill alone from time to time.
Physical & mental exercise:
Providing plenty of physical and mental stimulation is a vital part of treating many behaviour problems, especially those involving anxiety. Exercising your dog’s mind and body can greatly enrich his life, decrease stress and provide appropriate outlets for normal dog behaviors. Additionally, a physically and mentally tired dog doesn’t have as much energy to expend when he’s left alone.
Here are some well accepted suggestions:
Kongs and brain games:
Those of you that follow the adventures of Happy Dogs Aigle know we love kongs and snuffle mats to keep dogs occupied during hot/rainy weather, recovery from injury or home alone time. A Kong stuffed with something really tasty like chicken, doggy peanut (peamutt) butter, tinned tuna, tinned dog food and/or some healthy treats like Archies Bonbons or RiRaw is a godsend. I highly recommend freezing the Kong so that getting all the food out takes even more of your dog’s time and energy. Change what's inside frequently and be sure to remove the Kong as soon as you get home so that your dog only has access to them - and the high-value foods inside - when he’s alone. You could feed your dog breakfast or even all of his daily meals this way. Keep in mind, though, that this approach will work best for mild cases of separation anxiety because highly anxious dogs usually won’t eat when home by themselves.
Another option is a snuffle mat (purchase here) which forces the dog to use his nose to seek out the food, thereby tiring and relaxing him. Alternatively a simple, zero cost idea that works well is to put your dogs favourite toys into a box and throw a handful of treats in. They will have great fun using their brain and nose to find the food and that is actually as good, if not more so, than a stroll for a dog from time to time.
Finally, I often scatter a handful of treats or dry kibble in the garden (don't do this if your dog is a digger but sniffers will have a lot of fun!).
Ensure your dog CAN sleep alone: it's ok to share the sofa and/or bed with your dog if that's your preference, but making sure that he/she can actually sleep alone happily is also important. Some day your dog is going to need to stay without you, perhaps at a boarding facility or a friend's house or the vet. Crate training, whilst controversial in Switzerland, is (in my opinion) a great way to provide a safe, enjoyable space for your dog to relax. I find that crate trained dogs usually settle really well at night in my boarding facility. There is lots of advice available online on how to crate train. It's really important to do it correctly, otherwise you can make things a whole lot worse and have a very distressed and/or destructive and/or noisy dog. But whether in a crate or not, you should ensure your dog is capable of sleeping alone, because some day he may need to.
If all else fails and your dog cannot stay alone happily, it would be worth considering the professional guidance of a behavioural expert, the sooner the better. Good luck!
I get asked for my opinion on dog food A LOT. Luckily, it's a subject that really interests me. I am not a nutrition specialist or a vet and my opinions are just that, my opinions. I do however spend a lot of time with dogs as well as reading, learning and researching about their nutritional needs, so this article is a summary of my beliefs and practices. Please note - this is an enormous topic summarised into one short blogpost. I will list numerous reference websites for further reading or contact me for more information and/or questions. I hope you find it to be "food for thought".
IMO - in a nutshell - the less processed the food, the better. For dogs and for us.
I want my dogs to be lean, healthy, shiny and fresh smelling with great teeth and the right amount of energy for their age, so I feed them fresh food. Perro & Zuma get raw muscle meat (80%), raw meaty bones (10-20%), organ meat (5-10%), some fruit and lightly poached vegetables (5-10%). Read more about raw feeding for puppies and dogs here and here. This option sounds daunting but it's really not. Ready mixed frozen complete meal options of chicken, turkey, rabbit, beef, lamb, kangaroo, ostrich & duck can be bought from quality pet stores such as Petfriends and Meiko. There are also companies such as Babarf who deliver customised and frozen complete meals in a bag to your door once or twice per month, it couldn't be easier. I buy as much human grade meat as possible from supermarkets when it's on sale as well as tinned tuna, sardines and mackerel (in water, not oil or brine) and I buy frozen chicken hearts, stomachs, backs, feet & necks and sardines & mussels from my local Portuguese supermarket. A couple of times per week I add hemp seed or coconut oil, seaweed powder, cottage cheese, raw eggs, bone broth and probiotics. That's it in a nutshell.
For Gracie who is a grand old dame (and for Siddy who died this year aged 20), my preference is cooked food, the same ratio as above but everything very lightly poached. I personally believe it's easier for really old dogs to digest cooked food. I realise many raw feeding advocates would disagree and that's fine but my golden oldies thrive on this so I intend to continue. I also mix in some high quality tinned senior food from Lily's Kitchen and Terra Canis (I order online here) and for upset tummies I highly recommend having a few tins of Recovery Recipe in the cupboard.
I do not feed dry kibble to my dogs and definitely not to senior dogs. Dry kibble is the most convenient dog food but is also (IMO) the poorest of all the options. Here's some additional reading on kibble. Some dry foods are better quality than others (this is a good comparison site). For kibble fed dogs, I really recommend adding as much fresh food as possible (and reducing the dry food accordingly). Here's a throw back to my blog post on how to make frozen power cubes for dogs. Important not to mix kibble with raw food as that plays havoc with digestion but you can significantly increase your kibble fed dogs' health, longevity and happiness by adding eggs, sardines, poached veg, leftover meat or porridge, blueberries etc as often as possible. Read this for some great tips. Next month I will touch on some of what not to feed dogs (dentasticks and rawhide bones will definitely make that list).
Cancer rates are through the roof in dogs. Highly processed dry food is seen as a major contributor by many proponents of fresh food. Purdue University did a study on the effect on rates of bladder cancer in Scotties with the addition of fruit & veg and concluded "that consumption of certain vegetables may prevent or slow the development of TCC (transitional cell carcinoma) in Scottish Terriers." Dogs don't need a lot of fruit & veg (5-10% max), but a little really does go a long way to a healthier life.
Dr. Conor Brady, PhD, Author, Blogger, Lecturer and all round expert in canine nutrition shared a recipe for home made power cubes at our Natural Dog Seminar in Montreux in 2019. Publishing an updated version here with his permission:
A large sweet potato boiled (with skin on) or some porridge oats can be added for hungry dogs. Lightly boiled courgette is also a good, healthy filler for hungry dogs. I play around with the ingredients depending on what I have to hand but roughly follow the principles and it will be great. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, blend using a hand blender, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Voila - just pop one on your dog's food daily for a tasty, easy vitamin and mineral boost.
A. Global Worming.... (so sorry)
Now, on to more serious stuff! First things first, and possibly most importantly, before blindly routinely treating dogs every month or quarter for worms that they may or (probably) may not have, please consider spending the money that you would pay for worming tablets on a faecal worm test instead. Then treat the dog for worms if they are present.
The faecal worm test* checks for the presence of roundworms, tapeworms and coccidia and involves collection of a little fresh poo collected over 5 days (keep refrigerated), posted off to a lab and the results come back very quickly. I have just gone through the process and it could not be simpler. Your vet should happily provide the collection tube and give you the results. It costs about CHF60. Assuming the worst, you need to treat for worms. You should take advice from your vet on what is best for your dog.
Signs that dogs may have worms include: diarrhoea and/or vomiting, fever, scooting/licking rear end (scooting can also indicate other issues), reluctance to eat, lethargy, dull coat, mucus coated stools, worms or “rice bodies” in poo. If you notice any of the above, speak to your vet, it would be a good idea to get a worm test done. Otherwise you could consider routinely testing annually.
If you decide to do preventative worm treatment throughout the year, perhaps because your dog is a scavenger (especially if he eats snails, slugs, fox poo or other animal poo), you live in a high risk area for worms and/or you'd rather not do routine faecal tests, here are some natural anti-helminthics (worm preventers) to consider:
*For heart/lung worm testing, a blood test is required. Incidence is low in Switzerland, I suggest discussing with your vet if you have specific concerns.
Dogs generally visit the vet for two reasons - vaccinations and illness. Neither experience is much fun, for dog or owner. Our new wellness days are designed to focus on dog's health and happiness holistically, to learn more about natural dog care and simple ways to keep our dogs in optimal condition throughout their lives, to meet happy dogs and their owners from the area and to have fun.
Our first Wellness Day will take place on Tuesday February 18th with the wonderful holistic vet Dr. Victoria Unt (Vet Equilibre). A UK native and now Swiss based, Victoria is a vet with an appreciation, training and expertise in both eastern and western veterinary medicine. Many of you know her from the Natural Dog Seminar where she teaches on TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine). Victoria will do a one to one health consultation with your dog* (by prior appointment with Aileen please). A range of services will be available on the day, depending on your dogs' needs - for example acupuncture, urinary analysis, blood & worm count tests, geriatric assessment, vaccicheck/antibody check - determined on a case by case basis and charged individually by Vet Equilibre. There is a cover charge of CHF60/dog for admin/travel/event costs.
*To protect all the dogs, both visiting and those staying in Happy Dogs Aigle, we can only offer this service to dogs that are not currently "actively ill" (chronic, non infectious and/or age related issues are ok).
Our second Wellness Day takes place on Monday March 2nd with veterinary herbalist Jo Arbon (Holistic Hound). A UK native living in Ireland, many of you also know Jo from speaking at the Natural Dog Seminar. She is a font of knowledge on herbs and essential oils for dogs and will offer:
(1) A class on herb selection for illness, focusing on how to breakdown an illness to match and blend herb choices, and subsequently feel more empowered to use herbs.
(2) Deep dive into 2 current “hot” herbs: Turmeric and Hemp/CBD for dogs. We will make golden paste, throat magic and a hot spot treatment (using turmeric) and discuss hemp to CBD and it’s many uses, then make a hemp macerate. This afternoon workshop costs CHF100/delegate with lots of goodies to take away afterward.
Needless to say, since fun and play is such an important contributor to canine health, it is included in our wellness days, along with coffee and cake for the humans. Should these wellness days prove popular, we plan to repeat them a couple of times per year with a variety of experts and subjects. Please contact Aileen with questions or to make an appointment!
As our Siddy gets older (he will be 20 in March), he is fussier about food and it's tricky to predict what he'll eat from one day to the next. Adding a little bone broth to his food seems to make everything irresistible as well as being so good for his health. With Perro's multiple knee surgeries and Gracie's recent serious health scare, we are going through bone broth at a faster rate than usual in our house! Luckily it is very easy & cheap to make using a slow cooker (ideally) and plenty of patience.
The health benefits of bone broth include:
Here is a good recipe to follow - be sure to consider the recommended additions such as kale and nettles. If you're short on time or patience, or simply want to try some before making it yourself, Jo from Archie's Bonbons makes & sells it fresh frozen in individual bone shaped portions (which makes life very easy!) so just message me for her phone number or you can pick it up from Happy Dogs Aigle. Happy broth-ing!
Tick season is already upon us, we live in tick paradise and I detest ticks, so I thought I would share some of the natural preventative measures I take with my own dogs. I do not give tick/flea/worm chemicals to my gang, just my personal preference, but if you do decide to, please read up on the very serious side effects of the newer generation treatments - just google 'FDA warnings and tick treatments' to be aware of the pros and cons of the latest treatments.
So here's what I do, in order of my preference:
1. Ticked Off - hand made by Veterinary Herbalist and friend Jo Arbon from Holistic Hound, Co. Kerry, Ireland, it contains garlic, echinacea and apple cider vinegar. Given daily (according to dog weight) on top of food, in my experience it takes 2-3 weeks to build up in the dog's system (maybe less in smaller dogs). I have seen a marked reduction in ticks since I started giving this to Gracie & Perro over the past 2-3 years. I give it all year round bar December/January.
2. Garlic: in size appropriate dose, is not harmful for dogs, in fact there are lots of benefits - including the fact that ticks (and worms) hate it. Takes about a week to build up in the blood. Not advised for dogs on blood thinners or certain other long term meds.
3. Homemade topical spray of Apple Cider Vinegar, water and almond oil with a few drops of quality essential oils (geranium, tea tree, lavender and cedar wood). Shake the bottle and spray onto legs before walking. Vinegar can irritate sensitive skin so important to dilute well. and/ or rinse legs off after walks. Speaking from experience(!) it is extremely expensive to make this up for one or two dogs (because of the cost of quality oils) so I always make up extra bottles and they are available to buy here, just send me a message and I'll hold one for you. I keep a bottle in the side pocket of the car and spray legs (including my own) before walks. Luckily it smells great thanks to the rose geranium oil!
4. Rose geranium & lavender oil drops on a bandana (not a collar) when walking in tick prevalent areas but really important to remove the bandana indoors (as the odour could be overwhelming to dogs).
I know some people swear by Baltic amber collars, I haven’t tried them myself, mainly because Perro plays so much with the guest dogs that It would be in the drawer more than on his neck and the electrostatic/odor benefit would be lost. If anyone has other tips to share it would be fantastic!
Eggs are great for dogs. Full of protein, and a relatively cost-efficient source of it too, they also contain all the amino acids required by dogs for good health and are high in iron, selenium and Vitamins A, B2 and B12.
There are some misconceptions about feeding dogs eggs but actually the risk is really low. Firstly, the risk of salmonella (approx <1 in 20,000) which can be significantly reduced by feeding fresh organic eggs from happy, free range hens, and storing in a cool, dry, place.
The second risk is the biotin or vitamin B7 inhibitor called avitin contained in egg whites but in fact you’d need to feed dogs many eggs per day to cause a biotin deficiency and you can also counteract any possible effect by feeding the egg shells too, which are rich in biotin as well as calcium. Incidentally if your dog won't eat the shell you can bake them and grind into a powder to sprinkle on food or buy powdered eggshells (which I buy for Gracie at Meiko).
It is not recommended to rely on eggs as the sole source of protein in your dog's diet but as a general rule a couple of raw eggs per week along with a balanced diet (see here for more details) will provide them with excellent nutrition.
It's also ok to feed cooked eggs if you prefer (boiled preferably and definitely not fried for health reasons). Eggs can help upset tummies but for maximum nutritional benefit, raw eggs are preferable as cooking destroys vitamins, minerals and amino acids. But even cooked eggs will provide a good nutritional boost for your dog.
Like anything, if you notice your pet having any digestive issues when you introduce eggs to their diet, stop the eggs and if necessary consult your vet. For more reading on adding eggs to your dog's diet click here and get cracking (sorry...)
I'm not a gadget girl but I do love GPS trackers for dogs. We use them all the time, both for boarding dogs and for our own nose-to-the-ground hunting dog, Perro. Anyone who has ever walked a dog understands the fear when they disappear. We know they need to explore and sniff and have fun and be free, but it is terrifying when they are out of sight, even for a few minutes. And of course they should be trained so that they return immediately on command, but even the most perfect dog becomes selectively deaf from time to time.
We have trialled a number of tracker types over the past few years and the one we are most pleased with is the Tractive brand. The Tractive trackers are waterproof (not always the case with other brands as we learned to our cost...), neat and unobtrusive, come with 2 casing widths to fit on either thin or thicker collars, not too expensive (about €80/year) and, importantly for us, the customer service is excellent. When one of our trackers got damaged recently. it was replaced quickly and free of charge (we took their insurance for lifetime replacement and we're glad we did). If you'd like to order a tracker, the company have a refer a friend scheme offering the purchaser a 15% discount and the referrer a month free on their own subscription plan - here's the code and happy wandering!
I definitely talk about sardines more than your average person. I could even be described as slightly obsessed. It may sound fishy (sorry...) but it’s a fact - sardines are a superfood for your dog. Especially if they usually eat kibble or tinned dog food.
An easy, low cost weekly addition which provides protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, benefits the heart, brain and kidneys, can help with allergies, weight loss and seizures and is believed to enhance mood. And every dog I have ever met loves them.
So it stands to reason they will love you even more than they already do (if that’s possible) if you substitute some of their regular food with a weight appropriate serving of tinned sardines in water with no added salt. For more details and recommended serving information click here.
Credit: Planet Paws