How Much Should You Walk Your Dog?

grayscale photo of person wearing coat walks on snow
Photo by Kylie Flores on Pexels.com

Dogs need regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy. That includes a daily walk. Here are a few reasons why walks are so important.

Health benefits – Exercise can help to prevent obesity. Your dog’s cardiovascular system and digestive system will both work better with regular walks. Walking can also improve joint health.

Mental stimulation – Walking to new places and seeing new things can help to keep your dog mentally alert. Walking improves mental health and reduces unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging, anxiety and unnecessary barking.

Socialization – Walks can provide a variety of learning experiences for your dog and help him to feel more comfortable in new environments.

How Much Should I Walk My Dog?

If you’re a dog owner, you may have asked yourself, “How much should I walk my dog?” The answer is – it depends on the dog.

As a general rule, an average dog in good health should be able to tolerate a 20-minute walk each day. If you have a more active breed, your dog may tolerate up to a 60-minute walk. With an older dog or with a breed that is more sedentary, a 15 to 20-minute walk may be best.

We all want the best for our dogs. That means you don’t want your dog to get overweight. The risks associated with excess weight include diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease and a reduced lifespan. Lack of exercise is one of the big reasons so many dogs are overweight. Walking is a good exercise for your dog – and for you.

 

How Do I Know When My Dog Has Had Enough?

So, how much should I walk my dog? Begin with a 30-minute walk. You don’t want to wear your dog out, especially if he has been sedentary for a while, so you may have to work your way up to that half-hour mark. If you have an active breed, your dog will need an outlet for all that energy. And size doesn’t matter – some of the most active breeds are smaller breeds. With one of these dogs, 30 minutes should be considered the absolute minimum amount of time to walk. You’ll want to work yourself up to a 60-minute walk to provide your dog with enough exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs who are very young or old should never be walked for more than an hour. The amount of distance you walk depends upon how fast you walk and the size of your dog. Your dog may display signs like panting, hesitation and a slow gait when he is tired.

While pushing through some fatigue can help you become stronger, at other times you simply need a break to rest and rehydrate before you cause an injury. Start slowly and build up to your desired walk time. Don’t overdo it. Too much exercise will leave your dog sore and less willing to walk the next time.

When deciding how far you should walk your dog, you should think in terms of time, not distance. Dogs are of different sizes. So a one mile walk for a Great Dane is a lot different than a one mile walk for a Chihuahua. Keep in mind how far you are from home because you will need to retrace that distance to get back home. Always be conservative when deciding how far to go in one direction. Remember if you want to add more to the walk you can always retrace your steps when you get back to the beginning of the trail. Also remember that if your walk is mostly downhill at the beginning, it will be mostly uphill at the end when your dog is more tired.

If your dog is having a hard time tolerating a full walk, start by breaking the walk into two smaller walks. Shorter, more frequent walks are a good idea for puppies and older dogs.

Also, let the weather determine how long you will walk. If it’s a particularly hot day, cut back your walking time, especially when you are walking on a hot pavement. If it’s a cool day and your dog seems to be frisky, you may want to add on an additional five to ten minutes.

 

How Frequently Should You Walk Your Dog?

A minimum of two 15 minute walks are recommended for most dogs, however there are many variables to consider when determining how frequently you should walk your dog.

Breed – Some dogs have small bladders and will need to go out more often.

Size – Smaller dogs may not need to walk as long or as far. They just need the chance to go to the bathroom and to get some exercise.

Diet – Grain-free foods reduce the amount of waste your pet produces, so some diets may lead to more or less need for the dog to eliminate.

Water – Some dogs drink lots of water while others drink less frequently. Bigger drinkers will need to go out more often.

Age – If you have a puppy who is just learning bathroom habits, or an older dog, he may need to go out more often.

Many dogs will be happy with two walks a day while other dogs may need to go out more frequently.

Life With Dogs In The Age of The Coronavirus

Nice walk

 

Life as most of us know it is being severely disrupted by the restrictions and common-sense guidelines being put forth in nearly every community in order to slow the spread of covid-19. Are there any “winners” in this strange new world? Many of our dogs, it turns out, are benefitting from having their owners working from home or caring for kids whose schools and daycare centers have closed. I know of many dogs who are getting more walks and much more family time than ever.

 

On the other hand, many people whose livelihoods are dependent on dog-related businesses are definitely worried. I am seeing a lot of angst in the social-media feeds of dog trainers, walkers, groomers, daycare, and boarding facilities. Many dog owners are canceling services and appointments, either because their travel has been suspended or because they are self-quarantining, or just to protect themselves from possibly being exposed to the virus in public places.

 

(I know that there are MANY people whose livelihoods are taking a big hit right now; I’m speaking only about dog-related businesses because that’s in my wheelhouse!)

 

What you can do to help

I know of many small and micro dog-related business owners and employees who are suffering major hardships at this time. I’d like to promote a suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere: If your income or job is stable and your income is NOT taking a hit due to the various virus-containment strategies in place, consider sending a check to the dog walker, groomer, or trainer you would have ordinarily seen during this time. Consider it a holiday bonus!

 

The only dog-related businesses that I’m aware of that are doing well at the moment? I know that companies who sell food and other supplies online are getting buried in orders; many are announcing that there will be delays from their usual prompt delivery times. Also: Trainers who teach using video or live-streaming. Many trainers are switching to that format to keep their income (and their clients’ education) on track. If you are stuck at home and bored, and your dog could use some training, consider asking your trainer if she’s set up for a video consultation. Or book a training appointment with a professional on the other side of the country! This is a perfect time to get access to people who ordinarily would be too busy to book online appointments with out-of-the-area clients.

 

 

At last word, health officials still approve of people getting outdoor exercise, as long as they maintain a distance of six feet away from other humans who are not members of their household. You know what else is six feet long? The best leash for walking your dog! If you are stressed by the news, we’d like to recommend a long walk with your dog outdoors (as long as you are feeling well).

 

Hang in there, wash your hands, order your dog’s food earlier than usual, and take care!

Teach Your Dog to Help With Chores Around the House

pre rinse cycle

Jessie can, among other things, wake up family members; dust with a feather duster; close a left-open toilet lid; mop up spills with a towel; get the mail; use a Dustbuster; mop the floor; polish shoes and boots; take out the trash; pick up dropped items; turn on lights; carry a shopping basket; and push a grocery cart. Some of these behaviors are just for fun; you couldn’t genuinely expect a dog to understand the point of putting polish on your shoes, much less doing a good job of it! But some of them are legitimately helpful!

 

  1. Fetch the Newspaper

Of course there’s the old standby of bringing in the newspaper. Trainer Clarissa Bergeman, CPDT, owner of In Canine Company, in Round Hill, Virginia, enjoyed sharing a walk down the driveway with Anny, her Pembroke Welsh Corgi, to get the newspaper or the mail. Anny was always happy to carry the paper or a magazine on the walk back. Anny is gone now, but Bergeman’s new Corgi, Simon, is learning the task in her stead.

 

  1. Sort Laundry

I thought this one might be particularly up my 8-year-old Scorgidoodle’s (Bonnie) alley, since she loves to hold soft things in her mouth. In fact, I often have to search Bonnie’s crate for socks; if she finds any lying on the floor, she stashes them in her bed.

Since dogs are partially color-blind, it’s probably too much to expect she could sort clothes by color herself, so I started by placing an article of laundry in each of several spots that I named accordingly: Whites, Jeans, Brights (pronounced “Buh-rights,” to help distinguish it from “Whites”), and Towels. The piles were generously far apart at first (six to eight feet between) so I could point to the proper pile without confusing her. I started by handing her a piece of clothing from the basket, gave the cue, pointed to the appropriate pile, and moved with her to the spot. Then I gave her the “Trade” cue, and when she dropped the item on the pile to “trade” for a treat, I clicked my clicker (one could also use a verbal reward marker, such as the word “Yes!”, to indicate that she performed the desired behavior) and gave her a treat.

 

I quickly faded my movement toward the appropriate pile, finding that the pointing gesture alone sufficed to send her to the proper spot. The “Trade” cue prompted her to drop the item, and a click-treat brought her back to me for the next piece of laundry. We just started this recently, so it’s still a work in progress. Our next step will be to fade the pointing gesture and see if she can identify the proper pile with just a verbal cue.

 

  1. Close Doors

Susan Giordano, CPDT, owner of K9U in Atlanta, Georgia, taught her dog Potter to close the refrigerator, pantry door, and any cabinets that are open. Potter will also fetch a towel so Susan can wipe off the counters. Susan says when they are finished with the chores, they dance!

It’s relatively simple to teach your dog to close doors. Begin by teaching her to target with her nose or paw (hint: using your dog’s nose to close doors rather than a paw reduces the likelihood of scratches to the finish). Offer the palm of your hand to your dog at her nose level. When she sniffs it, click (or say “Yes!”) and treat. Repeat until she eagerly bumps her nose into your hand, and then add the cue “Touch!” as you offer your palm. (If she thinks your offered palm is the cue for “Shake” try the back of your hand, or offer her the knuckles of your closed fist.)

When you are confident she understands the “Touch” cue, hold a plastic lid (such as the top to a tub of cottage cheese or yogurt) in your hand and ask her to touch that. First hold it so it covers your palm, then eventually hold it by the edge.

When she will touch the lid reliably, attach it to a door or drawer with double-stick tape or rubber cement and cue her to touch it there. You may need to start with your hand near the lid and gradually fade the presence of your hand. When she reliably targets her nose to the lid, shape for more powerful touches until she touches hard enough to close the door or drawer. (For tips on using a target stick to teach this behavior, see “Utilize Target Training,” January 2007.)

 

  1. Pick Up Trash

Lots of dogs have been taught to pick up their own toys and put them away in a basket designated for that purpose. Dana Ebbecke, one of the trainers at My Pet’s Teacher in Horsham, Pennsylvania, suggests a variation on that behavior: teaching your dog to pick up trash and put it in a garbage can. This is a perfect behavior to “backchain” – where you teach the last piece of the behavior first, and build the chain backward from there.

 

Offer your dog a piece of trash (that she won’t want to eat) directly over the center of a garbage can and say “Take it!” When she takes it, praise her, then cue her to “Drop.” If she already knows a “Drop” cue, she will drop the trash and it will fall in the can. Click (or use another reward marker) and treat. If she doesn’t know the “Drop” cue yet, say “Drop” and offer her a treat. When she opens her mouth for the treat the trash will fall in the can. Click and treat.

When the “Drop” is working over the center of the garbage can, move the trash slightly to one side, but still over the can, and cue the “Drop.” If it falls into the can, click and treat. If it misses, say “Oops!” and try it again. Gradually move the “training trash” farther from the center of the can, until it’s no longer even over the can. You are helping the dog understand that she needs to move it back over the middle of the can to make sure it falls inside, not outside the can.

When she can bring the trash that you hand her to the can from some distance, start offering it to her closer to the ground, so she understands she has to lift it up and move it to the can. Finally, place the trash on the ground, and add your “Pick up the trash!” cue before you say “Take it!” In fairly short order you should be able to fade the “Take it!” cue and your “Pick up the trash!” should prompt her to pick up that item and drop it in the can.

Now you’ll need to generalize the cue to a variety of different trash items. Make sure you don’t leave valuable objects on the floor when you ask her to pick up the trash! You can’t expect her to make good judgment calls about what is trash and what is treasure; your smart phone could end up in the garbage.

Ebbecke suggests adding to the “Wow! factor” of this behavior by using a garbage can with a push-pedal lid, and teaching your dog to step on the lid to open the can before she drops the trash in. (Just don’t teach this one to a dog who is likely to help herself to items in the can rather than putting more trash there.)

 

  1. Pick Up/Find/Bring

The “seek back” used to be a behavior performed in advanced obedience competition. You walked around the ring and, when cued by the judge, dropped an item, such as a glove. Your dog was supposed to continuing heeling with you until you stopped and gave him the cue to, go back, get it, and bring it back to you. Very useful!

 

It’s relatively simple to get your dog to pick up something you just dropped. Your “Pick it up!” cue (from “pick up the trash”) can generalize to anything you indicate you want your dog to pick up – and it sure beats stooping over to get it yourself.

Just think how even more useful it would be if your dog could search for and find, by name, items you’ve misplaced such as your car keys, the TV remote, your cell phone, or your glasses. I realized many years ago how capable dogs are at finding lost stuff when our wonderful Terrier-mix, Josie, found our missing tortoise without even being trained to do so.

I didn’t realize I had taught Josie to associate the word “Turtle” with Fred and Wilma, the two yellow-footed tortoises we had adopted from the shelter where I worked at the time. But apparently I had. One day I couldn’t find Fred. I frantically searched the yard, repeating aloud to myself, “Where’s the turtle?” I eventually realized that Josie was coming to me, and then running to the spot where Fred had fallen behind a retaining wall. Because of that amazing little dog, Fred was found, safe and sound.

Chaser, the brilliant Border Collie and subject of multiple cognition studies, now knows the names of more than 1,000 objects, and can retrieve them by name.  Surely your dog can learn the names of a handful of objects, then learn to find them for you when they go missing.

You’ve probably already taught her some, simply by using object names in your conversations with her. “Fetch the ball!” “Go to your bed.” “Get in the car.” So it’s not a stretch to think you can teach her more.

Use your targeting cue, followed by the name of the object. Hold the TV remote in your hand and say “Touch, Remote.” Click (or say “Yes!”) and treat when she does it. Hold your car keys and say “Touch, Keys.” Click and treat. Then place them on a table or floor (one at a time) and do the same. When you’ve done it several times with each item individually, place both on the floor six to eight feet apart, stand six to eight feet away, and ask her to touch one. If she gets the right one, click, treat and party! If she goes to the wrong one, cheerfully say “Oops!” and try again.

If she gets more misses than hits, go back to working with just one object at a time for a while, then try again. Eventually teach her the names of other objects you’d like her to be able to find for you.

When she’s identifying the correct object at least 80 percent of the time, start adding the “Find it!” element. If you’ve already done nose games with your dog, this will be easy as pie. Just as you have been doing already, place one of the objects on the floor in plain view and say “Find Remote!” When she goes over and sniffs it, click and treat. She found it! Repeat several times.

 

Now start hiding it. First have her sit and wait, and let her watch you hide it in a very easy place. Return to her side and cue, “Find Remote!” When she goes to where it is, click and treat. If you want to teach her a “tell” – a behavior she performs to tell you she found it – start asking her for that behavior when she locates the object. You could have her sit or lie down at the spot where the item was, or she could come back to you and touch you with her paw to let you know she found it, then lead you to it.

Gradually hide objects in harder and harder places, and eventually hide them when she isn’t watching and then ask her to find them. The final step is to have her find things when you’ve really lost them.

You can even take this one step further by teaching her the names of family members and having her find them. Just as you did with objects, have your human hide first in easy places, then harder and harder. If, heaven forbid, a family member is ever truly lost, your dog can join in the search!

 

  1. Reveille

Now that you’ve taught your dog the names of family members, you might as well make every day use of it. Send her to wake up family members who are sleeping in too long. Teach her to pull the covers off the sleepyheads! Have her deliver messages to the kids – carried in her mouth or attached to her collar. Ask her to bring everyone to the table at dinnertime. The sky’s the limit!

 

Unexpected Help

A dog trainer friend, posted this on her Facebook wall, just as I was writing this article. It’s a great testimonial for the value of teaching your dog a few general purpose helping behaviors. Miller-Riley wrote:

“This morning I attempted to change a small latch on a screen door. I was standing on a 4-foot high front porch, which is bordered by 6-foot high bushes. In my clumsy attempt to screw in the small metal bracket, it flipped out of my hands and landed under the bushes next to the house – a place I would have great difficulty reaching.

“So I called for Rivets, my service-dog-in-training. I showed her a short pathway to the spot where the item fell and told her to ‘Bring,’ her cue to seek and bring something back to my hand. The object would have my fresh scent on it and would most likely stand out to her like a bright color to us. She went right into the bushes, nosed around and pawed at the object. I said, ‘Yes, bring!’ She picked it up, crawled out and delivered it to my hand. She is such a cool dog, her mind and willingness astonishes me. I completed my door repair after a treat fest with my little paw-hero.”

The Dog Nanny

How Long is Too Long to Leave A Dog Home Alone?

moms home 2.8 seconds to hug

How much isolation a dog can and should endure are two different things. How much time does your dog spend home alone? Is your dog experiencing isolation distress?

We know it’s okay to be apart from our dogs and to leave them home alone, but for how long, exactly? Is there a limit to the amount of time our dogs should spend alone? How should you deal with separation anxiety in dogs?

A lot of dogs might spend most of their waking hours home alone and seem to do just fine, but is it okay? Are they really fine? I sometimes wonder if, instead, this is something we say to ourselves to assuage our guilt, or to avoid taking a harder look at a cultural norm that could use an update.

Let’s look at how social isolation may affect dogs, and what we can do to minimize negative effects and maximize their well-being.

 

Being Alone All Day is Stressful for Many Dogs

Let’s start with the most basic of truths: Most dogs will spend time home alone on a daily basis. How long depends on the owners’ lifestyle and schedule. Someone who works an eight-hour day and has a commute, followed by errands and evening activities, could conceivably leave their dog home alone for 10 to 12 hours in a single day and on a regular basis.

Dogs have historically been left alone for long stretches without a second thought. As recently as a couple of decades ago, if a family needed to be away from home for a day or two, how the dog felt about being left behind – whether indoors or outdoors – was not an important consideration. As long as he had enough food and water, most owners felt secure in the knowledge that he was all set.

Few people today would admit to leaving their dogs home alone for 24 or 48 hours or more, but leaving the dog home for 10 to 12 hours is not at all uncommon – and questioning this practice can sometimes lead to social ridicule. If an owner decides that after being gone all day, she’d rather not confine her dog or leave him alone for an additional few hours in the evening, she might be met with less-than-understanding responses. “You’re not coming out because you want to be home with your dog? That’s crazy! You’re letting your dog control your life!”

 

Here’s the thing, and I won’t pull any punches: 10 to 12 hours is too long for a dog to be alone in a single stretch.

I know, I know. It’s a very broad statement and there is always the argument that, “We’ve always done it this way and our dogs have always been fine!” What this means, though, is that the dogs who appear to be fine have simply learned to cope with something that is entirely out of their control. Being left alone for long stretches of time is not a likely choice that they would make if it was up to them. They’ve adopted to our routines, but it’s far from ideal for them.

We count on our dogs to be there for us when we’re ready to interact with them, but in between those moments, we expect them to do nothing and wait. It’s a tall order, but lucky for us, most dogs adapt incredibly well to anything we ask them to.

People whose dogs have difficulty adapting are the ones who come to us trainers, asking for help with behavior problems such as barking and destructive chewing, or emotional issues such as fear, anxiety, aggression, or over-excitement, to name a few. In fact, many of us trainers and behavior consultants are kept very busy as a result of the lifestyle to which many dogs are subjected!

 

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Some home-alone dogs may experience separation anxiety. For more information about this extreme form of isolation distress in dogs, see Training Editor Pat Miller’s article on separation anxiety.

 

So How Long Can You Leave A Dog Alone?

Trainers are often asked, “What’s the maximum amount of time a dog can be left alone in a single stretch?” There’s no simple answer to this. We know that in most cases, a dog will manage if he has no choice, but we shouldn’t push the envelope just because we can.

Let’s consider the dog’s basic needs. While not all dogs are alike, most adult dogs should be able to go outside to relieve themselves about three to five times a day (more often if they are sick or elderly) and shouldn’t be forced to “hold it” for more than four to six hours at a time, on average. We know most adult dogs can hold their bladders for more than six hours, but they really shouldn’t have to.

Granted, this is relative. Some dogs, if given the opportunity, will go outside to eliminate every couple of hours, while others – even with the freedom to do so – might still only eliminate three times a day.

 

You know your dog best and are in a unique position to figure out what his individual needs are. When you’re home during the weekend, does you dog stick to his usual weekday elimination schedule, or does he tend to go out more often?

Puppies need to eliminate way more often than adults, and although we can set up their “home alone” environment to include a space where they can eliminate indoors, there is still the question of how long they should be left alone without human company.

Yes, Dogs Get Lonely

Dogs are social animals and should have the opportunity to interact with people at least several times a day, and with other dogs on occasion, if this is something they enjoy.

It’s even more important to not leave puppies home alone all day. Puppies younger than 14 weeks of age are in a sensitive socialization period and benefit from lots of social interaction. They should be in the company of their family for significantly more time than an adult dog.

Again, for emphasis: Leaving a puppy home alone all day is a waste of valuable – crucial – socialization time that can confer lifelong benefits.

 

Crating A Dog While At Work

I have a number of clients who, prior to consulting with me, had resorted to using crates in an effort to prevent their dogs from doing further damage to their homes through destructive chewing or soiling, or to curb barking at the windows. The irony is that the behavior issues were actually created by too-long stretches of isolation. Crating the dogs only made bad situations worse by increasing the dogs’ level of stress and further limiting their ability to interact with their surroundings.

A crate is no place for a dog to spend an entire day. If necessary, confinement in a small space should be temporary and for short periods of time, say, a couple of hours, tops.

There’s often a comparison drawn between crates and “dens” – that somehow a small enclosed space should instinctively make a dog feel relaxed and safe because it resembles a den. However, dogs are not “den animals” at all. And even if they were, they would be able to leave their dens whenever they please, which isn’t the case with crates.

And if your dog actually seeks out his crate to nap? Does that mean he loves it so much that he’d be okay in it for an entire day? Well, I have a favorite chair in the living room where I sometimes like to curl up and take a nap. My choosing to spend time relaxed in a space without budging for sometimes an entire hour is a far cry from being physically confined to that chair, unable to leave it to stretch, eat, drink, relieve myself, or just plain do something else. It’s time we rethink the use of crates and our dependence on them.

If the principal reason for using a crate to confine a dog during our absence is to avoid destructive or nuisance behavior, a better approach would be to address those behaviors through training, or through management that involves meeting the dog’s physical, emotional, and intellectual needs.

 

How to Minimize Your Dog’s Time Alone

Following are a few ways you can avoid leaving your dog alone for too long. It can be hard to make this work, but if you dig deep and get creative, you’ll find there are actually more solutions available than you might have thought:

 

Doggie Daycare

Even if your dog is enrolled for just one day a week, that leaves you with only four more to go to cover an average work week! Of course, not every dog is a good fit for daycare, but for dogs who enjoy other dogs’ company, even just one day a week is a good step toward meeting his social and physical needs.

Keep in mind that not all doggie daycare operations are alike. Look for clean, well-designed locations with qualified staff who will manage interactions between the dogs and provide necessary rest periods. Also note that doggie daycare is not the right environment for young puppies.

 

Come Home for Lunch

If not every day, then as often as you can during the work week. If there are several family members in the household, consider taking turns coming home in the middle of the day to let the dog out to relieve himself and enjoy a short visit.

 

Hire A Dog-Walking Service

Dog walkers have been around for ages, but in the last decade this industry has seen a surge in numbers, possibly because more people who work outside the home are recognizing the importance of addressing their dog’s needs.

The types of services offered by professional dog-walkers can range from a quick home visit to a neighborhood walk, or even day training (when a trainer trains the dog in your home while you’re at work). Again, a caveat is needed here; there are some horrible dog-walking services out there.

 

Work From Home On Occasion

Telecommuting is more popular than ever as technology makes it easy for folks to perform their professional tasks from a home office.

 

Bring Your Dog to Work with You

Obviously, not everyone is in a position to do this. I frequently work with clients to treat their dog’s separation anxiety, and this suggestion is almost always met with an immediate negative response, “No way, I can’t do that.” However, it turns out that sometimes, it is possible.

Unless you’ve actually looked into it by communicating directly with the person who’s in the position to say yes or no, hold off before crossing the idea off your list of possible solutions. It may seem unlikely, but you may be very pleasantly surprised!

 

Arrange for Someone to Visit Your House and Let Your Dog Out

Ask a neighbor, or your co-worker’s teenage niece who loves dogs, or that kid down the street who does odd jobs. Not everyone is comfortable with the possible liabilities a scenario like this can present, but you may already have someone you trust to handle this type of task.

Naturally, your dog needs to be comfortable with someone walking into his home while you’re out, and in the best of cases, he’ll be thrilled to receive a midday visit!

 

Solutions Have Higher Cost, But Worthwhile Benefits

While some of these solutions involve an additional expense, consider it a normal part of owning a dog. When calculating a budget for expenses related to caring for a dog, owners may figure in the expenses for food, toys, maybe some grooming, and the occasional vet visit. All too often, though, money for training and other services like daycare, boarding, or dog walking tend to fall erroneously into the “luxury” category. In reality, these are essential services that contribute to meeting a dog’s needs more completely.

Maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question all along. Rather than trying to figure out how to best stretch the amount of time we can leave our dogs alone, we should be trying to help our dogs get more out of every day. This idea might take some getting used to, especially since it suggests that our dogs aren’t happy. Sometimes, though, it’s good to question the status quo and ask ourselves if we can do better.

The Dog Nanny

Dog Got Skunked? DON’T Use Water (At Least, Not at First). Try This Formula Instead

ddb paddle pool

One of my friends posted on Facebook the other day, “What works best for skunk spray? My dog Pepper got skunked right before we were leaving for work!” (She gets to bring her dog to work — usually!)
I immediately responded: “Don’t wash her!” And my friend responded just as quickly, “Too late! Why?” If your dog gets hit with skunk spray, DO NOT wash him with water (or tomato juice or anything else). Get thee to a bottle of hydrogen peroxide! And a box of baking soda!

Chemist Paul Krebaum gets the credit for applying his chemistry knowledge to the age-old need for a substance that can neutralize the smell of skunk spray. He researched the putrid oil (which skunks can shoot out of special glands under their tails as a potent defense mechanism) and determined that the chemical responsible for the distinctive odor was in a class called thiols. The human nose is extremely sensitive to these organosulfur compounds and can detect them at 10 parts per billion. But if you subject the substance to just the right compound, you can inactivate the chemicals responsible for the odor, as fast as a chemical reaction can occur.

A Formula That Really Works

Krebaum came up with a formula — a quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide and a 1⁄4 cup of baking soda — that would alter the thiols in skunk spray and render them odorless. He recommends using fresh peroxide (not an old bottle that’s been open for years). Stir together in a bucket or large bowl — NOT a bottle, as the mixture will bubble and produce gas bubbles (which could cause a plastic bottle to explode). A teaspoon or two of dishwashing liquid (such as Dawn) is added to make it easier to distribute the mix evenly through the dog’s hair.

He recommends you wet the dog thoroughly with the mixture, down to the skin. Be careful not to get any in your dog’s eyes (or cuts) however; it stings! I’ve used a sponge before to thoroughly wet my dog’s face without getting it in his eyes. (You can also put a sterile lubricant eye ointment — such as Artificial Tears — in your dog’s eyes first, which will help protect them from being stung by any of the mixture.)

After the dog is thoroughly wet, you shouldn’t be able to smell the skunk spray any more. If you can still smell it, you haven’t gotten every bit of the skunk oil wet with the mixture. Once the odor is neutralized, rinse the mixture off. I usually follow this rinse with a regular shampoo bath; even though you can’t smell the skunk spray any more, it’s still oily and a shampoo will help get it off the dog’s fur.

If you FIRST washed the dog with water (or tomato juice, or some other home remedy), sorry, this approach won’t be as effective as it could be. Water also affects the thiols, making the stinky substance resistant to being chemically neutralized.

You Can Speak Dog Too. Here’s How

stop that get back here smile dog

Communicating with your dog is a two-way street. While you’re teaching her to understand and accept primate language, you can also learn and use canine body language. This will greatly enhance your relationship and your training program, since your dog can respond very quickly when she realizes you are speaking Dog. It’s also a useful skill to have when you’re meeting or interacting with a strange dog.

The following tips on human’s body language are applicable when interacting with any dog, but are especially important when dealing with a fearful dog, or any dog who appears worried or unsure about an interaction. Adopt mannerisms and teach others who interact with your dog to do so as well.

1. Let the dog come to you. If a dog is frightened, she must be allowed to decide whether or not to approach. It’s never a good idea to restrain a dog and force her to accept contact from others. Remember the “fight or flight” response; if the opportunity for flight is taken away, a dog’s choices are limited.

2. Turn to the Side. Facing a dog directly is more confrontational than keeping your body turned partially or completely to the side; even turning your head to the side will make a frightened or worried dog feel less anxious.

3. No staring, please! A direct stare is a threat in the animal kingdom. It is perfectly fine to look at a dog; just soften your expression and don’t hard stare directly into her eyes. Do not allow children to put their faces near your dog’s face or to stare into her eyes. Adults who insist on direct eye contact with strange dogs also tend to get bitten.

4. Don’t hover. Leaning over a dog can cause the dog to become afraid and possibly defensive. When we bend over dogs to pet them or to cuddle them, we are unwittingly offering a posture of threat and intimidation.

5. Pet appropriately. Approaching dogs by patting them on the head is ill-advised. Envision the interaction from the dog’s point of view; a palm approaching from above can be alarming. It’s not that dogs should never be petted on top of the head, but that head-patting (or petting over the dog’s shoulders, back, or rump) should not be used as an initial approach. It is wiser to make a fist, hold it under the dog’s nose is to allow her to sniff, then pet the dog on the chest, moving gradually to the sides of the face and other body parts, assuming the dog is comfortable. Likewise, a hand moving in quickly to grab for a dog’s collar is more potentially fear-inducing than a hand moving slowly to a dog’s chest, scratching it, then moving up to take hold of the collar.

6. Stoop, don’t swoop. Small dogs in particular are often swooped down upon when people want to pick them up. Fast, direct, overhead movements are much more frightening than slow, indirect ones. To lift a small dog, crouch down, pet the dog for a moment, then gently slip your hands under her belly and chest, and lift.

7. Watch your smile. While humans interpret a smile as friendly, a dog might not be as fond of seeing your pearly whites. A show of teeth is, after all, a threat in the animal kingdom. Smile at dogs with a closed mouth.

The Dog Nanny website

Hidden Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Dog KissWe’ve all heard that pets are man’s best friend, but did you know that they can also provide health benefits beyond just being your side kick?

The Benefits of Companionship
Pet ownership can be both emotionally and physically rewarding. Emotionally, pets can provide a constant source of unwavering love and nonjudgmental companionship. This devotion has been proven to provide physical benefits to human health. A recent study published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal, outlined the bevy of health benefits related to owning a pet.

Pet ownership has been shown to help with systemic hypertension. An Australian study noted that pet owners had significantly lower systolic blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) than non-pet owners. A similar study from 2012 showed that married couples with pets had lower diastolic and systolic blood pressure than those without a furry friend in their lives.*

Lower Cholesterol
Being a pet parent can also help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It’s been proven that men who own pets are more likely to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-pet owners in the same age group. On the other hand, a second study showed that those without dogs were more likely to have elevated serum cholesterol levels and diabetes mellitus than dog owners who regularly participated in physical activity with their pets.

Owning a dog has been shown to increase physical activity levels in owners as well. An Australian study showed that dog owners were 57% more likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity compared to nonowners. A Canadian study showed that dog owners walked an average of 300 minutes per week, as opposed to the 168 minutes walked by nonowners. No significant association of increased physical activity was noted with cat ownership, which isn’t particularly surprising.

Weight Loss and a Healthy Heart
Your faithful companion can also help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. Pet owners who walk their dogs had a lower BMI when compared with dog owners who didn’t walk their pet and non-pet owners. Young children had a lower risk of being overweight or obese if their family had a dog.

People with pets had significantly lower baseline heart rate and blood pressure with small increases associated with stress compared to non-pet owners. Similar cardiovascular reactivity was seen with dog, cat, goat, fish, chimpanzee, and snake ownership.

In the Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial (CAST), dog ownership was associated with lower mortality in patients with cardiovascular disease when compared with non-owners. Cat ownership did not show a deceased mortality. Also, the potential for one-year survival post myocardial infarction (heart attack) was higher in pet owners than non-pet owners.

While a pet should never be adopted purely for the health benefits they may provide, these benefits can be seen as an added bonus to being a pet parent.

The Dog Nanny Website

Workout with your Dog

Put the Work Into the Workout

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise there is, but for workout walks to be a fitness building experience, you will need to do more than just a regular walk at your regular pace. As with any workout, aiming for a variety of aerobic activity, some strength building, and some flexibility exercises will give you a well-rounded fitness routine.

Keep in mind that most health experts recommend that we exercise at a moderate intensity. What does that mean? For the human half of the team, a good rule of thumb is that if you can talk while you walk, you are moving at about the right pace. However, each of us is an individual, so you may want to talk with your health care provider or fitness trainer to develop your personal goals.

There are several strategies for turning a basic dog walk into a fitness-building workout. A great idea is to vary your approach and try for one or more of the below suggestions on different days of the week.

(1) Step up the pace. Perhaps this is obvious – but it is also one of the best strategies for building fitness. When you head out for a walk, warm up for the first 5 to 10 minutes, and then challenge yourself to move at a quicker pace than you normally would.

(2) Go long. Increasing distance is another great strategy. Make some days your long walk days, and increase your normal distance or time.

(3) Try intervals. Interval training is when you take small chunks of time – say 30 seconds to several minutes – and work out at a higher intensity, followed by a rest cycle. So, for example, on a walk, you could walk fast or even jog for one block getting your heart rate up, and the next two blocks walk at a normal speed to let your heart rate recover (go back to normal).

(4) Climb to new heights. Walking hills (assuming your knees and back can handle it!) are a great way to add difficulty to your workout and also some strength training for your legs.

While out on your walk, at a park or other quiet location, give your dog a sniff break or ask for a stay while you do some calisthenics, stretching or strength building exercises. Try squats, lunges, calf-raises. Add in some vertical pushups off of a building or pole and some leg-lifts and tricep dips on a park bench for a full body workout.

These are tips that will get both you and your dog moving in a fitness direction, but it may not sound like much fun for your canine pal. In order to make it a positive experience for you both, add in some fun time.

Dog Depression: How to Spot it and Treat It

Depression is relatively common in humans, and recent studies have shown that cases of dog depression may be just as frequent. According to Healthline, it is estimated that 17.3 million adults in the United States suffer from depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documents that approximately 9 percent of Americans report that they are depressed at least occasionally, and 3.4 percent suffer from “major depression.” Additionally, approximately 7.1 percent of American adults have at least one major depressive episode in a given year.

Unfortunately, dog depression is harder to spot, despite being just as common.

Signs of Depression in Dogs
Just like with humans, every dog responds differently to stress. For example, a person who loses their job may become depressed, while another person may see opportunity and feel relieved or rejuvenated. One dog being rehomed may be withdrawn, scared, or have a decreased appetite. Another dog, however, may be elated.

What Causes Dog Depression
Just as it is difficult to predict or generalize how people will respond to stress, it is hard to determine or predict what will make a dog depressed.

The most common signs associated with dog depression are:

Illness. Dogs that are sick and don’t feel well may become depressed.
Loss of mobility. Just as illnesses cause depression, so can a loss of mobility. It’s traumatizing for a previously active dog to lose the ability to run, play, walk and exercise and their symptoms may be caused by a back injury, trauma (like a fracture), or from degenerative disease (arthritis) in older dogs.
Loss of routine. Some dogs can become very depressed after a change in their routine. This can occur when the kids go back to school, if an owner takes on a new job, or anything else that leads to a disruption in the dog’s day-to-day rituals.
Loss of an owner or caregiver. A very common cause of depression in dogs is the loss of someone close to them. The loss can be from death, or from someone moving out and leaving the home. The death of an owner, a child leaving for college, or someone leaving due to a divorce can create a void in a dog’s life.
Moving. Moving can be a stressful time for humans and their pets, as they suddenly lose their territory and safety net. Usually, the move is a huge disruption in their routine and environment. Movers, moving boxes, packing, and unpacking can all impact the amount of time spent with their pet parents. This can cause depression in some dogs.
New pet or person. Just as pet loss or human loss can cause depression, some dogs will become depressed when a new pet or person enters their life. This can impact their routine and day-to-day lifestyle, as the new pet may take attention away from them.
What You Can Do to Help Dog Depression
Treatments for dog depression can be categorized into pharmacological (drug) treatments and nonpharmacological treatments.

The best course of action to treat dog depression is the following:

Figure out the cause. Consider why your dog may be depressed. As you consider the possible cause, also consider what your dog’s life is like on a day-to-day basis. Is there stimulation? Playtime? Exercise? Or is it boring and solitary?
Optimize your dog’s quality of life. Make sure your dog has a great routine consisting of plenty of exercise, daily walks, frequent opportunities to go to the bathroom, and predictable meal schedules.
See your vet. Make sure your dog is healthy and that you are not mistaking symptoms of depression for symptoms of illness, as they can seem similar and hard to differentiate. Your vet may want to do a physical examination and run some routine blood work.
Administer Prescriptions. As a last resort, you could work with your veterinarian to try pharmacological treatment for your dog’s depression. Most dogs respond to playtime, exercise, and quality time otherwise.
Give it time. It can take time for the treatments to work. Relax and enjoy being with your dog. On occasion, additional attention will be enough to return them to their normal doggie selves.

How to Treat a Paw Injury

Dog Paw Cuts and Scrapes: How to Treat a Paw Injury
Five things to keep in mind when dealing with your dog’s cut paw pad.

By Kate Eldredge, LVT –

Your dog’s paw pads act much like the soles of sneakers, protecting your dog’s foot and cushioning each step. Paw pads are tough, but they can still be cut by sharp objects or worn off if your dog runs hard on rough terrain. What should you do when your dog cuts or tears a pad?

1. Clean the wound.
Gently flush the wound with water or an antiseptic, such as diluted chlorhexidine solution. If there is obvious debris, such as rocks or glass, remove it carefully. Don’t force anything that is lodged deep into the foot.

2. Control bleeding.
Apply pressure to the wound to stop any bleeding. Use a clean towel and an ice pack if available to encourage blood-vessel constriction. If only the outer layer of the pad has been worn off, there may not be much bleeding, but deeper wounds and punctures can bleed heavily. The time it takes for bleeding to stop will vary with the severity of the wound.

3. Evaluate the damage.
Minor paw injuries can be managed at home, but more severe ones require veterinary attention. Uncontrolled bleeding is an emergency – if your dog’s foot continues to bleed after several minutes of pressure, call your veterinarian and head for the clinic. Deep or jagged cuts may require sutures for optimal healing. Your dog may need to be sedated for sufficient cleaning of the wound if there is persistent debris, such as little bits of gravel, and something that is firmly lodged in the foot will need to be surgically removed. Your dog may also need antibiotics to protect against infection. If you are at all unsure, err on the side of a vet visit – your veterinarian can give you peace of mind and can give your dog the care he needs.

4. Bandage.
Place nonstick gauze or a Telfa pad directly over the cut. If available, a dab of triple antibiotic ointment is a good idea to prevent infection. This can be secured with paper tape. Then wrap your dog’s foot using roll gauze, Vetrap, or an elastic bandage. The bandage should be snug enough to stay on, but also needs to be loose enough to allow for proper circulation to your dog’s foot. You should be able to slide two fingers under the bandage. To prevent the bandage from slipping off, wrap all the way up to and including the next joint on your dog’s leg: carpus or wrist in front, hock in back. You can also place more tape around the top of the bandage.

Keep the bandage dry. Moisture provides an entrance for bacteria to get through the bandage and into the wound. You can use a commercial bootie to protect the bandage when your dog goes outside or just tape a plastic bag over it. Most paw bandages need to be changed daily, especially if there is still bleeding or a discharge present.

For minor scrapes that look like a rug burn, a liquid bandage can be used to cover the exposed nerve endings without needing a full traditional bandage. Keep the foot elevated while the liquid bandage dries, and don’t let your dog lick it.

5. Allow time for healing.
Your dog’s cut paw pad will heal faster if it’s protected until fully healed. Keep him quiet, and prevent him from running or chewing at the bandage (this may require the use of an Elizabethan collar). Even after your dog’s pad has healed enough that it isn’t painful to touch, it will still be tender and vulnerable to reinjury. Avoid activities that could damage the healing pad, or use a bootie to protect the foot. Healing time will vary depending on the size of the cut.

Kate Eldredge is a licensed veterinary technician from Plattsburgh, New York.