The year of the dog

In 2020 the ownership of dogs has increased due to lockdown loneliness, so now is a good time to remind ourselves just how to take care of our dearest pooch.

There are over 30 breeds of dogs that have originated in England and have been bred for a variety of purposes that give these furry four-legged friends specific natures and temperaments. For example, hunting, companionship, guarding, and sheepdogs all need a specific temperament to fulfil their purposes.

This can lead to a wide array of behaviours among dogs. While English Springer Spaniels were bred to work closely with humans as hunting partners and have a desire to be with their owners, Chow Chows are much more independent and aloof like cats, typically preferring not to be hugged and squeezed.

Considering this, although owners have a significant impact on a dog’s behaviour and personality, there are some traits and temperaments that come part and parcel with the breed of our pets.

We spoke to Lou Thomson, a professional dog walker from Lou’s Dog Services, who provides some valuable insight into walking different dogs and breeds together.

Do you have any advice for walking male and female dogs together?

“We do walk male and female dogs together, but we do not walk bitches in heat and un-neutered males together. If there are any signs of mounting or pestering from a male dog, they will be put on the lead as it can stress the bitches out and cause an uncomfortable group dynamic.”

Do you have any advice for walking aggressive/reactive dogs and managing their behaviour?

“We offer solo walks for aggressive or reactive dogs for the safety of other dogs and their handlers. We tend to take them to isolated walking areas where we are not likely to bump into large groups of people or dogs, meaning the dog can enjoy a relaxed walk without interruption.

“We use treats and positive reinforcement for good behaviour and aid in making the dog feel comfortable. We do a consultation with the dogs and owner before we begin walks them and then trial walks to determine which service is best for the dog. The key is making the dog feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.”

Do you have any advice on how owners can help manage separation anxiety in dogs?

“Start by leaving your dogs for short periods of time (15–20 minutes) and give them lots of positive reinforcement. Make sure your dog has had enough exercise and been to the toilet before you leave for work, so they feel more relaxed while you’re gone.

“You can try leaving the TV or radio on, so they have some comforting background noise which can definitely help. You can also leave them with a safe chew, a Kong, a treat puzzle, or snuffle mat in order to keep them entertained and distracted while you are away.

“However, if these ideas are not working and the dog is still upset, calming plug-ins or natural oils can be used. Also hiring a dog walker or having someone who can come to visit or walk them during the day really helps to break up their day and deal with separation anxiety!”

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