K9Adventures 5 S.T.E.P.S to Successful walks – STEP 2 – Training

Do you worry about finding the right carer for your dog? Do you want him to socialise with dog friends but worry he’ll end up bad mannered? We’ve all seen the dog walkers that just stroll around in parks chatting whilst the dogs run riot, playing aggresively or running off all over the place and annoying other people. A lack of knowledge in the dogwalker can result in a wealth of problems which are hard to undo.

Before I began K9adventures I worked in schools and had a dogwalker myself. My first dogwalker was my inspiration and meant I didn’t have to worry about my dog stuck home alone while I was working, even though I was slightly envious!! Then I moved and my second dogwalker always left me feeling anxious as I got the impression she wasn’t quite in control. I lacked confidence in her ability to do the job properly. Fast foward a few years and I decided I could do a far better job, and wanted to be back working with animals (I worked with horses in my younger days!) so I did.

Paws up!! A good distraction technique

Walking groups is a far cry from taking your own dog out, and my journey began on learning the skills needed to succesfully manage groups of dogs – matching dogs carefully, keeping the dogs focused on myself through games and mental stimulation, and ensuring they behave appropriately with other dogs. Understanding canine behaviour and always thinking one step ahead of them are all part of succesful group walks.

Jade keeping the dogs focusing on her while they have a breather

Training is an intergral part of our group walks, wether it is teaching a dog to wait rather than barging out of the van in excitement, or doing a paws up to distract them from passing joggers, practising recall, or recognising when they are getting too excited and need a few minutes on lead to calm down. Teaching 6 of them not to pull on lead is a fair challenge to say the least!!

Conar practising a ‘watch me’

Our team are all trained in the steps needed to maintain quality walks for the dogs, from the moment we pick up pick up from the house, on the walk, and returning them home. We ensure all our staff maintain the same systems for daycare and boarders too, including health/welfare checks, monitoring behaviour, reinforcing basic training, playing safely, and know how to provide stimulating enrichment activites such as scentwork.

Angela teaching a settle at puppy daycare

If you would like your dog to join our K9adventures family then get in touch for more information.

Safety. Train. Engage. Play. Settle.

During Lockdown we’ve been busy using the time to update our staff training and document all our processes, to maintain consistantly high standards throughout our setting.

We have detailed policies and procedures for successful walks, but I’ve made a simplified version for you to see the K9Adventures 5 S.T.E.P.S to Successful Walks that all staff follow to ensure every dog gets the best possible experience with us.  Our daycare dogs also get to have an hour walk morning an afternoon, which sets us apart from other daycares where dogs remain on the property and do not get walked.  The steps are ongoing throughout the walk and not just in the order they appear, although some are always consistent such as a safe start and a cool down.  The procedures ensures constistency among our team which gives the dogs familiarity and structure which they all thrive on.

 

What are the 5 S.T.E.P.S ?

S Safety

T- Train

E- Enrich

P- Play

S- Settle

 

I’ll be explaning each step in seperate parts so you can see how we structure our walks, and apply it to your own walks too.

 

S is for SAFETY 

We have a routine for when each dog is picked up – first we check collars and harnesses are fitted correctly and have no damaged parts.  Houses are locked up as we found them, and if anything looks amiss such as back door found open, we would contact owners immediately.  We have had incidences where customers have left back doors open or unlocked and luckily, we’ve spotted it, checked for intruders and notified owners!!   The dogs are taken to the van on lead and observed for anything such as limping or being off colour, which would make them unable to walk.  Sometimes we have arrived to poorly dogs and diarrhoea, in these cases we notify the owner, clean up, and the dog has a toilet break instead of coming on the walk.  Our vans are all fully fitted with custom made cages for safety, and air-conditioning to keep them cool.

Check harnesses for good fit.

Dogs that are a high flight risk, such as newly rehomed rescues, or dogs that have been known to escape their harnesses, always have a double-ended lead attached to both collar and harness for extra security.  There are a couple of brands of harnesses we recommend that are very hard for a dog to get out of and fit well, these include ‘Ruff-Wear’ and ‘Perfect-fit’ brands.

When we arrive at our walk destination, we check the area for any hazards or other people that may be passing before we get the dogs out.   and even Always on lead to start with, to walk a safe distance away from vehicles and carparks before being allowed off.  Whilst on lead they are assessed for their general mood and the dynamics of the group taken into account.  For example, Fido and Fred love each other but would go charging off madly playing together and not listening, so they would need a few minutes of engagement activities such as sit, wave, touch, all with positive reinforcement, before being allowed off.  This ensures they are not just focused on each other but are keen to come back for their rewards (yummy treats usually, more on that another time!)

 

Even walking in quiet places we have to keep our eyes out for things that don’t belong there, We have come across many interesting things on my walks such as dirty nappies, adult toys (yes seriously!!), a very sharp two-pronged meat fork by a disposable BBQ, and a knife.  It amazes me how the general public love to moan about dogs in public, but they are no-where near as disgusting as people!!  We avoid busy local parks mainly because of the rubbish left in them is just ridiculous and dangerous.

Throughout the walk we are looking out for other natural hazards such as stagnant water or icy ponds.  Weather conditions are taken into account, if necessary, we will take bottles of water and bowls with us to stop and have water breaks.  If it’s hot we stick to the shade, cool woods are best for this.  Water play is fun for the dogs but only in fresh flowing water such as shallow streams, not stagnant ponds or ditches.  Dogs that do not cope in the heat are either taken on early morning walks before it gets hot or have home visits instead.  Accessories such as cool bandanas are great for summer.  We also organise regular first aid training to deal with any minor injuries that occur on walks.

 

Playing in fresh water not stagnant

 

We use long lines for dogs’ whose recall is not established.  When I first started out I would use long lines everywhere, but after having to go down a step bank to the stream to untangle a long line hooked around a root,  sliding down the bank to end up soaked in the stream with all the dogs laughing (yes, they do!!),  We now stick to using them in open fields where risk of entanglement and us looking stupid is minimal!!

For that reason, we do not use flexileads either.  When you have a group of dogs they are too bulky to hold along with the other leads, the dog on the flexilead ends up tangling or tripping up the other dogs.  The thin cord type ones are the worst for giving you nasty rope burns across the backs of your legs when they hurtle behind you too fast!!  They are notorious for the brakes failing on them too, I’ve heard too many stories of them snapping or the brake not working and dogs running into the road.  I’ve had personal experience of a speedy beagle running down a slope after his friends on a flexilead, at such a rate I either plummeted down the slope with him or stood my ground and risked a broken neck though the whiplash effect when he got to the end of it, suffice to say I went with him and held on tight as the other option didn’t appeal to me!!   That was the last time I used a flexilead!

 

Water Break

 

If you want to know more about our adventure walks and other services contact us via email sarahstevens@k9adventures.co.uk or phone 07811 386402

 

 

 

Keeping your dogs’ occupied and not driving you mad when they’re used to going out for walks twice a day is not easy.  If you’re shielding or self-isolating and can’t get them out at all, even more of a challenge.  Although some dogs’ will appear content to snooze all day,  they can become a bit depressed and fed up just like us.  When they can’t do as much physical exercise as they’re used to, there are plenty of games and activities you can do without having to be a top-notch dog trainer.  Exercising the mind, and especially their super-powered noses, will keep them happy and content.

Here at K9Adventures we do a lot of enrichment activities so I’ve put together my top fun things to do with your dog.  The main one being ditch the food bowl!!  Eating in seconds from a bowl is very boring and far too easy for our canine friends that would be out hunting for food out in the wild.  You can scatter their kibble in the garden, hide it around the house, put it in a kong, hide it in blankets or towels, I’m sure you can think of many other places.  The actvities below can all be done using some or all of their food ration, you don’t have to go using extra treats on top of their daily rations to keep them from piling on the pounds!

1.  The easiest way to start is to simply scatter feed them, on the lawn, in the hallway, up the stairs, lay a trail if you’re feeling more motivated.  Gets their noses working and their bodies moving without it being complicated.

2.  Lay out a blanket or towel, place treats on it and roll up.  You will need to show them initially how to unroll to discover the treats!

3.  Recycling Rummage – one of my favourites.   Save up all those amazon delivery boxes (you know you have loads!!), toilet roll tubes, empty bottles, scrunched up paper, pop them all in the biggest box, throw in a handful of kibble or treats, maybe one or 2 ‘Jackpot’ favorite treats, and let them search out the goodies!!

4.  The Cup Game – using 3 (preferably plastic) cups, place them on the floor in front of them, hide a treat under one cup, mix them up then let them sniff out the right cup.

5.  Make an assault course – have a look around for anything interesting to use as obstacles, could be some bits of wood/branches to make little jumps, big boxes in a small hallway to manoevre round, going under a hanging sheet, up the stairs, over the bed, through a hoop.  Use some treats to lure them round it and have some fun!

6.  Hide and seek – if your dog is reluctanct to leave your side scatter some treats to distract them while you sneak off to hide – keep it easy until they get the hang of it, call their name and have a yummy treat for them for when they find you!!  Increase the difficulty as they get better at it!  This is also great for improving their recall so training without them realising!!

7.  Apple bobbing – cut up some apple chunks and put them in a bowl of water.  You’ll probably ned to show them how to get them out initially.  If they’re not apple lovers then carrots or any tasty treat that floats will do!

 

 

8.  Hanging bottles – collect up old plastic bottles, make holes in the sides, thread on a peice of string, fill with treats and hang them up for your dog to work out how to get the treats out!

9.  Yo-Yo game – really simple but gets them moving.  Have a handful of treats or kibble, throw one on the ground for them, when they’ve finished that one and look back to you, throw another in the opposite direction so they go past you to get it.  You can keep them moving around and increase the difficulty by moving away each time they are looking for the first piece.  Slows down their feeding time no end!

10.  Frozen treats.  You can make up all sorts of yummy things to freeze into ice cubes for them to have on nice days.  One of my favorites is smoothie made with banana, bluberrries, peanut butter and Keifer, super healthy and they love it!

11.  Home-made tuggy.  Find an old t-shirt and cut it into strips.  Take 3 strips and knot together at one end, plait them together and tie at the bottom, easy peasy!

12.  Digging pit.  Dog’s love to dig, you can either section of a little area of garden especially for them to dig in the earth, or make or buy a little sandpit.  Encourage them to use it by hiding toys in it.

13.  Just hang out with them!! Snooze on a mat, watch a movie and have a cuddle with them, give them a brush or a bath, they’ll be greatful whichever! (they might not be quite so grateful about the bath!!)

Keep a look out for signs of tiredness or stress and if they’re not in the mood for it then leave it until another time, they need plenty of calm time and will sometimes just want to be left alone!