Finding The Right Dog Walker

Trusting a stranger with the well-being of your dog can be hugely stressful.  Someone is out there in this world walking your dog through the crowded city streets, and you are helpless to what occurs during that time...or are you?  Not to fear - we’ve got a list of questions you should be asking all potential dog walkers in order to find the perfect fit for you and your Fluffball!

First, you should try and have the candidate come interact with both you and the dog prior to hire.  A meet and greet, essentially. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions - a professional will be ready and eager to answer them! Let’s jump right into it:

  • Are you pet first aid certified? What are your emergency protocols?
  • Are you city licensed, insured, bonded?

  • Will you be walking my dog or one of your employees? Will I be informed of changes?

  • How many dogs do you walk together at once?

  • What type of training methods are used? (remember, you want someone who uses positive reinforcement)

  • How long are the walks?

  • What happens in the event of bad weather?

  • Do you offer other services in addition to walks?

  • What is your cancellation policy?

  • How did you get into this career? What experience do you have?

  • Can you provide me with a list of references?

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask to tag along for the first walk to see how the walker interacts and handles your pup - just be sure you are judging fairly.  There is really little to be fearful of once you hire a responsible, professional dog walker.  Your dog is only benefiting from the physical activity and interaction with another human.  Now, relax and get back to work!

Bostonians - you lucked out! Freedom Tail is a professional service ready to answer all of your questions AND provide your first walk free!

Rewarding Your Pet

Training is not an easy undertaking for any pet parent.  And, training never really stops.  You should be constantly and consistently reinforcing learned behavior.  After all, just like the good habits that any of us develop, these can just as easily be broken.  While training, humans should commit to acknowledging good behavior through positive reinforcement.  By focusing on your pet’s good behavior and efforts, you are building a stronger relationship and teaching them that in order to get the attention that they want, they need to behave in a certain manner.  While the following information is referring to dogs, these tricks and techniques can be useful for training all types of animals!  

Let’s start with the timing of rewards.  This is key.  Rewards must occur immediately - this means, as your dog is physically engaged in the behavior.  For example, when teaching your pup to “sit,” the reward should occur while his fluffy bum is on the floor.  Unfortunately, once he stands up and is no longer performing that behavior, providing a reward will only confuse the dog.  

As the trainer, you should aim to provide a reward that appropriately matches the level of effort from the dog.  Treats should be given more rarely and as a high form of praise, while petting and verbal praise should be administered more often.  Trust me, your pet will appreciate and respond to either, but needs to understand that you are not merely a treat dispensing machine.  When teaching your pet a new behavior, treats should generally be used more often, especially when your super smart pup nails it.  However, rewards should continue even as following that command seems to become routine for your dog.  Once a trick is learned, start lessening the amount of treats you give and increase other forms of praise, like petting or playtime outside.  Eventually, the use of treats can be completely transferred over to teaching your pet how to do something else incredible.

There you have it - a crash course on rewarding your super-deserving dog.  Don’t get discouraged when it comes to training.  Yes, it takes time and a ton of effort (for both you and your pet!), but the reward of having your dog loyally obeying your command time and time again is worth it.  There are plenty of great resources out there for you (especially if you live in Boston!), and your pup is smart and eager enough to learn everything there is to know.


Preparing To Bring Your New Dog Home

Congratulations!  You’ve waited long enough.  It’s almost time to bring your newest, furriest family member home.  

There’s a lot of preparation to be done prior to picking up the little one from the shelter.  Safety should always be your top priority, and small dangers are often overlooked. Ensure that all electrical wires are out of reach, and that any hanging drapes or cords are tied up.  Your active pup can easily become tangled, and in some cases, seriously injured.  Move all cleaning products and human food to out-of-reach locations, or put locks on all lower standing cabinets.  Trust me - this puppy is smart.

While you should anticipate some minor household item damage with a new fur baby, you can take steps to minimize this.  Roll up any high-end or oriental rugs and keep them in storage until your pup is fully trained.  If you do have wall-to-wall carpeting, invest in some cheap mats to place in play areas and near doors until potty training is complete.  And, of course, move all valuables and anything fragile out of puppy reach.

Now, for the fun part.  You want to keep your puppy challenged and entertained.  Include a variety of toys that are cognitively stimulating when shopping for the playthings, such as a treat puzzle.  This will be psychologically beneficial for the dog, and, also, hopefully deter them from inflicting damage on your personal items, i.e. your favorite pair of shoes.  

Your life is going to change pretty dramatically after adopting a new dog.  It’s also important that you don’t become too overwhelmed with all of the additional responsibility and lack of free time.  Now is the time to plan out as much as possible and schedule out your necessary parenting duties, such as morning walks, feeding, finding a pet sitter, and setting up and attending vet appointments.  Organization is going to be the key to managing all of the daily and ongoing needs for your newest (and, let’s be honest, cutest) family member.

Now that you’re prepared, all you have to left to do is give your pup tons of love!  Good luck!

***Hey, Bostonians! Not only does Freedom Tail Pet Services offer daily dog walkings (which include feedings) and pet sitting, but they also provide twice daily puppy visits for only $20/day!  Make sure your pup is in the best hands (second to yours, of course!).

#dontbullymybreed: Pit Bull Advocacy

October is Pit Bull Awareness Month!  I have wanted to write this blog entry all month, but was worried that I wouldn’t do these amazing dogs justice.  Here’s my attempt. 

I was recently researching doggy daycares outside of Boston for a client who was moving.  I read a 1-star Yelp review about an otherwise highly ranked center.  The day care center policy stated that “Dogs must be friendly with other dogs.”  The user brought his friendly and loving (with dogs and people!) dog to the day care center but was ONLY TURNED AWAY BECAUSE HIS DOG WAS A PIT BULL.

These types of policies help perpetuate the absurd myths that have become associated with pit bulls.  “Pits are aggressive killing machines.”  “They are a danger to the public.”   “Pit bulls should be banned.”  “They all eventually turn on their owners.”  These lies result in even more pits ending up in shelters.  These ignorant statements infuriate me and couldn’t be further from the truth.

FACT:  The term “pit bull” actually encompasses several different breeds, including the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Bully and Straffordshire Bull Terrier.

FACT:  The American Pit Bull Terrier is less aggressive than the Golden Retriever.  On an aggression temperament test, run by the ATTS, 86.8% of the pit bulls passed, while 85.2% of golden retrievers passed and only 82% of dogs passed on average.

FACT:  “There is no evidence from the controlled study of dog bites that one kind of dog is more likely to bite a human being than another kind of dog… no group of dogs should be considered disproportionately dangerous.” (National Canine Research Council)

FACT:  Breed-specific legislation, such as breed bans, has not reduced dog bites in the areas that they have been enacted.  But they have forced some families to give up their pets, leading to even more pits in shelters where, because of the stereotypes, they are less likely to get adopted than other dogs.

FACT:  Most of the aggressive pit bulls that make it into the news have been trained or conditioned to be that way.  Most breeds would exhibit similar traits if treated this way.

FACT:  Pit bulls are the best.  Okay, so maybe that’s an opinion, but it’s hard to argue once you know the truth about these amazing dogs!

I LOVE PIT BULLS.  That’s probably obvious by now.  I have the pleasure of working with three pits and pit mixes.  They are three of my favorite dogs that I have ever met.  Each one is gentle, kind, playful and intelligent.  I love walking them and encountering people with inaccurate views of these dogs because I get to show them first hand how wonderful pit bulls are.  Let’s make it our responsibility to educate ourselves, and the people around us, about these amazing dogs.

There’s so much information out there.  Here are a few of my favorite resources: 

Youth Ambassadors Working Dog Program

I said that the first blog entry would be on pit bull advocacy, but I decided to postpone that entry for a few weeks.  This week, I scheduled an appointment to work with a pit bull puppy that is going to be trained as a working dog!  I’ve decided to wait until I meet him so I can include more first-hand information and adorable pictures.  However, this has inspired me to write an entry about working dogs and an awesome program that I was a part of as a middle school science teacher. 

I am privileged to have spent the last three years teaching in an urban charter school, where I worked with brilliant and inspiring 5th-8th graders.   On Fridays, I worked with Linda Blick and the other coordinators of the Youth Ambassadors Working Dog Program (YAP) through the Tails of Hope Foundation.   This program educates students about the many invaluable jobs that working dogs perform.   They exposed my kids to such a wide variety dogs with important jobs, including medical alert, arson, drug detection, therapy, search and rescue, police, and carting dogs. 

This program accomplished two amazing goals:  1) it taught my students how important and impressive working dogs are and 2) it taught my kids how to trust dogs.  There was a disheartening amount of animal abuse in the community that I worked in.  Dogs in particular were often mistreated and conditioned to be aggressive towards humans.  Many of my students grew up with a deep mistrust of dogs, since they had either been attacked by an abused dog or knew someone who had been attacked.  Through YAP, my kids had the opportunity to rebuild their relationships with dogs based on understanding and trust.   It was amazing and inspiring to observe the transformations that occurred over the school year.  Students who were too nervous to get within 6 feet of a small Chihuahua in September were lying on the floor and cuddling with big German Shepherd in May.  It was seriously awesome to be a part of such incredible transformations.

You can check out YAP’s website here (though it doesn’t appear to be super up-to-date, but you can learn more about the program’s mission and accomplishments) and read this article published in the Hartford Courant in 2012. 

Working dogs rock!