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Winter comes again!

It feels like is was only yesterday and we were in the middle of winter 2012, yet here we are back again facing winter 2013.

Not much has changed except that we are all one year older and one year more creaky and less able to cope with the cold. Our dogs and cats that is of course !

What are the major issues that older animals have to cope with:

1) Arthritis

As nutrition and veterinary care becomes better our animals are living longer and longer. It is not uncommon to hear of dogs living until nearly 20 and cats for even longer. However their bodies were not designed to live that long. Their major joints such as back, hips and knees are prone to arthritis which is very susceptible to cold weather.  As your dog or cat ages they will not handle winter nearly as well. The first line of defence is to provide better bedding to take away the cold hard feeling of the floor and to elevate them off the floor. Then comes the addition of food additives such as Joint Guard and Sasha’s blend. As they age and these measures no longer give relief then it is time to progress to anti-inflammatory tablets and then finally to injections. Older animals need to go to the vets each winter for a checkup and discussion about their needs.


2) Grooming

Dogs that are clipped off during summer (to cope with the heat supposedly  still need regular grooming over winter. In fact they  need more grooming as longer coat means more matting. Please do not leave long coated dogs to become horrible matted messes that you think can only be removed when the weather gets warmer. Well trained and knowledgeable groomers can take of as much or as little coat as you like as they work with blades of varying lengths. The most common request over winter is FFB (meaning face, feet and bottom). I have a number of customers who I see all year around and in winter the coat is left much longer than in summer but still fully groomed out. Matted coat is not healthy and leads to skin issues and pain for the dog or cat.


3) Feeding quantities may vary over winter with some dogs being more sedentary and needing less calories to meet nutritional needs. Dogs or cats who are in pain and stressed as a result may however need more. If they are on anti-inflammatory medication make sure that they are taking this with food so as to avoid gastrointestinal side effects. You may have to consider smaller meals more often to compensate.

Here are the links to a few articles I have written in previous winters:

A solution to the smelly damp winter dog : click here 

I only want a bit off this time- a groomer’s winter lament: click here

And for all those groomers who find it hard to get up and think about dealing with water all day and are suffering aching backs, knees and shoulders from a lifetime of grooming!

It’s winter and I really have a problem getting out of bed: Click here

There is one good thought to hold onto and that is Winter will be shortly over and we will be back to the craziness of summer and all the winter clip offs of horribly matted dogs who went through winter.


Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician   | |  Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Australian Pet Professionals

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors. About Me 

Are all abused pets in puppy mills?

I have just been looking at many posts on Facebook and Yahoo grooming groups from groomers Australia wide and I am very angry.

There is photo after photo of horrendously matted dogs and cats that groomers have had to do “whatever it takes” to get the matted coats of these animals removed. I can hear you all saying “oh those poor dogs they must have come from puppy mills”


These dogs have not come from puppy mills they are owned by people who let them get into horrendous messes and then front up to a groomer hand over the dogs and say “please fix this” and sadly groomers can fix it and do but at what cost to the animal. Please don’t get me wrong I am not having a go at groomers, this is a very clear swipe at pet owners who think it is OK to buy an animal that needs far more day to day maintenance than they are prepared to give.  To make matters worse every groomer can tell you stories of owners who present time and time again with the animals in EXACTLY this same condition six or twelve months later. I am one of those groomers. After thirteen years professionally grooming I now have zero tolerance for owners who give me all the excuses under the sun as to why their dog is a matted, sometimes poo infested mess. They know I can and do make their dogs better and that if they present the dog back to me in the same state up to a year later I will still be able be able to fix their problem.


It is time for pet owners to take responsibility for the care of the animals they own and to be prepared for the amount of grooming that many breeds require.  It is not OK for dogs to be kept in puppy mills and not be given adequate grooming and it is equally not OK for dogs to be owned by people and also to be allowed to get into horribly matted messes that take hours and considerable “manhandling” by groomers to fix. Yes we can fix it and yes we normally do so at far less charge than we should be charging but that doesn’t make it OK.

Pet owners of Australia you need to be responsible for the day to day care of your animals and to think long and hard before you get your next pet.

To those wonderful owners who present dogs to us that are beautifully groomed and cared for thank you so much you have no idea how grateful your groomer and your pet are. We wish every owner was like you.

To the groomers out there who day to day fix this problem at far less payment than they should charge – The pets thank you. If you would like to send me pictures of some of your worst cases of dogs that have been owned by people and been neglected please email them to me.  Address   Feel free to post a comment below of some of the excuses you get given. It is time to life the lid on what we see behind closed doors.


Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician   |

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Like us on Facebook

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

The Stressed Cat

I write a lot about dogs but this week I was asked twice by two different people to help them out with almost identical cat issues so I thought it was time for some comments on cats.

Cats and dogs vary from their feeding needs right through to how they deal with stressful situations. Cats are very much quieter in their actions, having evolved from big cats that survive by not letting their enemies know what they are thinking or planning. Dogs, on the other hand, are more vocal creatures and when upset or angry tend to let us know loudly and clearly by barking or whining. Cats however tend to go quiet and hide and when really pushed come out with nails that can cause considerable damage very quickly; sadly owners are often in the wrong place at this time and can get badly hurt as a cat lashes out in fear or anger. When a cat’s living situation changes it often results in the cat/s reacting badly and hiding or exhibiting actions such as spraying or inappropriate elimination.

In the first conversation on Tuesday night the owner had a multi- cat household in which four cats were not getting along. Recently her boyfriend had moved in bringing in his two cats to co-habit with her two cats. Not only did the cats have to establish new relationships but so were the two owners and the human and animal stress levels in the household were high as stress can also be a factor even when good events are occurring. The different personalities of the four cats were clearly evident from her description. One of the cats had taken the easy road, rolling with the changes and making the best of the new situation and was clearly establishing friendships with everyone. Another however was determined to be disruptive until all of the players in this new situation were sorted out to his criteria and was sassing and hissing his needs and sometimes striking out with sharp nails. A third cat, despite being de-sexed was urine spraying. De-sexed cats are able to urine spray, it is uncommon and bears no relationship to age of de-sexing, but is a strong indicator that the cat is suffering from territorial stress. However as with all behavioural issues a full veterinary check up is required to rule out any physical causes.

In the second situation a new cat has been brought into the household of an elderly single cat. The elderly cat was very unhappy with the new situation and had responded by scratching the owner badly, resulting in an infected hand wound and a stay in hospital for the owner. This elderly cat was having nothing to do with the new cat and wanted to hide in a separate room, desperately trying to pretend the new cat was not there.

Cats are not pack animals, you can see cats and kittens curled up asleep but unlike dogs, they are animals that need their own territory with unique elimination, feeding and sleeping facilities. In order to successfully have a multi-cat household you need to allow this need for a private space and accept that all the cats eating, eliminating and sleeping together is not in the best interests of their health. The common rule is to have a kitty litter for each cat and one spare, with them placed at various places around the house. Multiple feeding stations, scratching posts and hammocks likewise need to be placed in various areas around the house. Leave doors to cupboards and wardrobes open, especially those high up and the cat feeling the most stress will feel more secure with a special place to hide.

Cats can take months to adapt to changes in their environment and need to do it in their own time. Years ago when I moved from Sydney to the Mid North Coast my old cat spent the first six months after our move living under the double bed in the bedroom. I placed her food and kitty litter under there and she gradually made her way out into first the bedroom and then the rest of the house over the second six months of our stay there. Cat are pragmatic creatures and normally given the ability to establish separate areas within the household are capable of co-existing together with the minimum of hissing, fighting and spraying but it does need owners who understand the needs of cats and are prepared to be patient with individual needs and give each cat the time it needs to feel comfortable in the changed circumstances.

Until next time………….
Stay safe and remember to Kiss the dog, hug the cat and tell your goldfish you love them.

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behaviour, training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors

Happy Easter or is it for your pets?

     We are three days into the Easter break today in Australia. It is a major holiday season that either rivals or comes in a close second to Christmas depending on your perspective. It is a time for family, friends, eating too much chocolate, drinking too much, travelling and socializing. The roads are clogged, the shops are mobbed and the police are out in full force trying to stop people from drinking and driving. I have been through four random breath test sites in the last two days and expect to be pulled over again this afternoon. But I don’t mind how many police cars are out patrolling as all the days of the Easter break see me driving around the valley looking after pets and houses for clients who are away and I like to know that drunk drivers are not driving on Australia’s most dangerous highway.

    I was driving back home after my morning round and started to think about what Easter means for our pets. In my home the cats and dogs love it as I don’t need to rush off to the training centre early in the morning and stay there all day. I get to go out for a few hours then come home before going out to do my afternoon run. This means that the cats get far more time to find a comfy spot on my lap or even better snuggled up as I have a midday snooze. The dogs like the fact that I am far more relaxed and less driven to do what just has to get done. 

    But what about those pets who are left at home these holidays? Sadly Australia is not a place where we are encouraged to take our pets away or out with us. It is slowly changing thankfully. A few more holiday places are now accepting pets of responsible owners and a number of outside cafes are allowing you to sit and have a meal with your pet. Responsible owners going away, book either home vacation care services or kennels in advance, ensuring that their pets will be looked after. Sadly some don’t and will just ignore the needs of their pets, leaving out some food or hoping that the kid next door will remember that they were asked to feed their neighbours pet. Even worse some shelters report that owners dump pets that are inconvenient to own at holiday times.

  Many people do not go away but spend time at home socializing or just having family time. Easter egg hunts and family BBQ’s. These events are great fun but increase the risks for our pets, especially dogs.

          Chocolate contains Theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic. The signs of sickness may not be seen for several hours, with death following within twenty-four hours. Cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are the most toxic forms. Semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate are the next most dangerous forms, with milk chocolate being the least dangerous, the smaller the dog, the less it needs to eat. So making sure all the eggs are found immediately in the Easter egg hunt and that the kids keep their chocolate eggs out of reach of canine snouts.  This doesn’t apply to adults of course as we only have one very small Easter egg as a treat. Yeah sure, if you believe that then you don’t really know Louise, the chocoholic who prefers chocolate to normal food. But as a parent I am used to hiding my Easter eggs.

    Then there are the BBQ’s, especially this year as Easter, the school holidays and ANZAC day are all together in one large break. There are many foods that we enjoy that are hazardous to our pets.

      Onions and garlic cause sickness in dogs, cats and also livestock. Onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Onions are more of a danger than garlic. Pets affected by onion toxicity will develop haemolytic anaemia, where the pet’s red blood cells burst. Initially pets affected by onion poisoning show gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhoea then progress to showing no interest in food and then become dull and weak. The poisoning occurs a few days after the pet has eaten the onion. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic. Left over pizza, Chinese dishes and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets, can cause illness. Onion poisoning can occur with a single ingestion of large quantities or with repeated meals containing small amounts of onion.

       Macadamia nuts: The toxic compound is unknown but the affect of macadamia nuts is to cause loco motor difficulties. Dogs develop a tremor of the skeletal muscles, and weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters. Affected dogs are often unable to rise and are distressed, usually panting. Some affected dogs have swollen limbs and show pain when the limbs are manipulated.  Dogs have been affected by eating as few as six macadamia kernels (nuts without the shell) while others had eaten approximately forty kernels. Some dogs had also been given macadamia butter. Luckily, the muscle weakness, while painful, seems to be of short duration and most dogs recover.

       Avocado (all parts): The toxic ingredient in avocado is called persin (toxic amount unknown). Symptoms include difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement and abnormal fluid accumulations in the chest, abdomen and sac around the heart. However, living in an avocardo growing region, I do know of dogs who snack daily on avocardo with no ill effects.

      Pear pips, the kernels of plums, peaches and apricots, apple core pips, cherry pips: contain cyanogenic glycosides resulting in cyanide poisoning. These are a particular hazard to alpacas. The larger pips can also get lodged in the intestine of a dog, causing serious bowel blockage.

     Potatoes: if the skin has turned green. Rhubarb leaves Mouldy/spoiled foods: keep garbage lid firmly on.   Alcohol (Yeast dough) Coffee grounds, beans & tea (caffeine). Hops: used in home brewing. Tomato leaves & stems (green parts). Broccoli: in large amounts, rasins and grapes, cigarettes, tobacco, cigars. Xylitol: sweetener often found in sugar-free gum

     Cooked bones can splinter and cause gut perforation, as well as blockages in the intestine, tooth fractures, and cooked chop bones can get stuck across the roof of the mouth. Corn cobs are a common cause of intestinal blockage requiring surgical removal. Rich Fatty Food: rich fatty foods can cause pancreatitis which can be life threatening.

   So as you can see there are many hazards that our canine companions living with us can encounter. Is it any wonder their favourite occupation is sleeping? Prevention of course is better than cure, especially when you consider what the vet will charge for emergency surgery on a public holiday.

  Have a safe and happy Easter everyone. Take the break to give yourself time to ” hug the dog, kiss the cat and tell your goldfish you love them”  A great energetic walk along the beach, throw of the ball or stick will do wonders for all the calories consumed in chocolate, not to mention how much your dog will love you for it.

My new year wish for all pets worldwide

At 10 am on New Year’s Day 2011 I was lying in bed, unable to get up due to severe pain, when I saw a Facebook post appear from Pat Miller. Pat is a Certified Professional positive dog trainer, Certified Behaviour Consultant, author and owner of peaceable paws dog training 15,383 kms away in Fairplay, Maryland. She travels widely throughout the world educating pet owners and dog trainers. Her dream for 2011 was that

“I think we should make 2011 National Train Your Dog *Year*!!!

My instinctive reaction was sure “that’s never going to happen”. Like many positive reward based animal trainers I often feel that we are fighting a losing battle, unable to shift public awareness from the fact that the only way to interact with our companion animals is in a never ending cycle of yelling at them when they do something wrong and wondering why they constantly hide from us and never seem to behave as we want them to. I like many other animal lovers despair as the millions of dogs and cats euthanized each year in shelters all around the world.

It is so easy to sit back and believe that you can never change these facts. But……… maybe we can. With Facebook reported at having 600 million users worldwide and the growth of other social network sites such as twitter it should be possible for one of the upcoming years to be named National Positively train your dog year. With your help maybe not 2011 but why not 2012 or 2013?

The world media would sit up and listen if a group called

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training went viral and gained 1 million members in only 6 months. (Click on the name to take you to the site)

Is that possible? Sure it is, if every person who trainers or believes in positive reward based pet training goes to the group and hits LIKE and then tells all their friends to do the same we can have an immediate and remarkable impact on dog training worldwide right now. The saying from small things big things grow has never been truer than in this day and age with the impact social media can have and the speed at which the internet can promote good causes. Do you want to bring positive benefits to the lives of pets and their owners? If so then it is as easy as going to the group right now and hitting LIKE then sharing this group with your friends and asking them to do the same. The pets of the world will love you forever and their owners hopefully will find training a dog using a positive reward based method is just so much fun – like many that I have taught have.

Happy New Year to all pets and pet owners.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all pet owners and their pets

Our training and education centre will be closed from 23rd December until 4th January while we take a break and spend time kissing our dogs, hugging the cats and hanging out in the paddocks with the cows (as I don’t have fish).

A very merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my clients – two and four legged – and a very big thank you for allowing me the privilege of spending time with you to help provide solutions to your grooming, training and behaviour issues. It has been a pleasure to work with you and such a delight to day after day see the positive changes that the application of our methods has brought about in your pets.
Some of the more challenging case studies we have addressed are outlined.

I look forward to a very interesting 2013 when we have many new and exciting ideas and events to share with you – stay tuned.

Vacation – How to choose a Professional Pet Care Service

It’s holiday time and for so many of us this means leaving the pets at home while we take off and explore interesting places. It is very easy at this time of the year with all that is going on to forget the essentials that need to be considered when it comes to the provision of good vacation care for your pet. Each situation and each pet has different needs. How many pets do you have, are they indoor or outdoor pets, what is their normal routine, how old they are, how often are they left alone. All these factors need to be considered when it comes to deciding what the most appropriate care for them is going to be while you are away.

Home Care:

Traditionally the kid next door could be relied on to feed the animals while you are on holiday but sadly that no longer seems the best option. Often pet owners comment that they did not get the service they expected or they really wanted more done for their pets but did not want to ask. The choice of a professional pet carer means that you should get the type of service you require at the frequency you require it, generally for a reasonable cost.

The types of services you can expect to receive include:

• Feeding, watering and exercising of your pet/s once or twice a day

• Daily brushing of dogs and cats

• Daily check of the general health of your animals, including searching for and removal of ticks

• Cleaning of kitty litter and yards

• Mail collection

• Watering of pot plants and gardens

• Maintenance of property security including lights turned on and off

• Rubbish bins placed out and collected

• Text messages at frequent intervals

• Full insurance cover

• References

• 24 hour phone contact details

• First consultation before you leave on holidays is free

The types of situations that are best suited to home care include:

• Older animals

• Animals that do not do well in boarding kennels

• Cats that need to be let out during the day and locked in at night

• Elderly cats

• Households with multiple animals, especially those on rural residential properties

Boarding Kennels

Boarding Kennels can in a variety of makes and models ranging from smaller older boutique style businesses through to state of the art air-conditioned, piped music, mega establishments that house many hundreds of dogs. In fact an increasing trend in the United States is for high rise multi-level boarding kennels in large air-craft hanger sized buildings. The size of the building and the number of dogs or cats housed is not the most important issue when it comes to selecting a good boarding kennels. Bigger is not always better.

When choosing a kennel for your dog or cat it is important to consider the following issues:

• How clean the establishment is – it is never ok to be told “we have not cleaned yet today”

• How well trained in animal care and first aid all the staff are

• What supervision of junior staff is in place

• Are staff present in close proximity to the kennel/cattery complex 24 hours a day

• Is a vet on call?

• What knowledge of canine behaviour have senior staff obtained that will enable them to assess if a dog is stressed or not.

• Will your dog ever be in contact with another dog in either their kennel or outside exercise areas?

• What worming, vaccination and parasite control measures are required for each pet?

• What is the surrounding environment like with regard to noise and pollution?

• What measures are in place for you to contact them and vice versa?

• Can your dog have its favourite toy, blanket or bed?

• What feeding regimen is in place – this is particularly important for dogs with sensitive stomaches or allergy issues.

It is advisable that you chose the kennel you wish to use prior to your holidays. Book your dog or cat in for an overnight stay at a time when the business is not that busy. Assess what state you dog or cat comes home in, did they willingly go away from you when you left them there, did they come back looking happy, healthy and settled or did they come home smelly, full of fleas and clearly distressed and upset. Did you feel comfortable with how the staff handled your pet on delivery and pick up. It is never good if the staff dragged off your dog while making sure you were escorted fast off the premise. If staff come out and do not greet your dog or cat kindly in an appropriate manner then find another kennel to use.

Word of mouth is often the best way to find a good kennel, ask friends, family, your groomer, vets and the local pet shop what they recommend. You will soon find out which local kennel gets the best recommendations.

What is my training philosophy and experience?

Where have I come from as a trainer, what methods do I use to train animals and where am I going in my career as an animal communicator and trainer? These are all important questions that all animal trainers should be able to answer for you as a client.

I first started training animals as a very small child, fascinated by them; I loved to see if I could teach the family budgie to talk and to carry on long involved conversations with the cats and my imaginary animal friend a beautiful black panther. At the age of 8 or so the family got its first dog Lisa, a lovely placid black Labrador. Thankfully she was so placid, as I groomed her for hours and spent day after day making up simple agility courses and taking her for endless walks with never ending sit, wait and say commands. Poor dog I know so many more fun things now. At this age I was obvious to the wonderful world of dog sports that existed, at the time in Australia that was obedience and conformation shows as agility had not really taken off yet. Now there are so many types of dog sports you can participate in including flyball, frisbee, dock diving, lure coursing, sledding and so many more on their way out from the United States such as nose games.

In 1984 i got the first of my dogs, a pedigree Chow Chow called Chi. She is the dog that first introduced me to positive reward based training and learning how to think outside the square when working with a difficult dog. Chi was a wonderful dog in the 16 years she spent with me but she invented the word stubborn and if she didn’t want to do it no amount of jerking on a check chain, dragging her around or forcing her into a sit worked. She just planted her feet and that was that. Searching around I managed to find a private trainer in Sydney that was years ahead of others in the area of training dogs and she taught me so much. Unfortunately my aim to get Chi titled in obedience never eventuated as she had chronic knee ligament issues and spent so much of her life having surgery.  She remained, until senility set in, a wonderful dog to live with, walked like a dream on a lead and was incredibly good at all the basic commands. I remember at one of the very big dog obedience clubs in Sydney (that shall remain nameless) the chief instructor, a dog trainer from the old jerk and check brigade challenged me as to why I had not been able to train this dog. Wordlessly I handled him the lead and stood back to watch darling Chi plant all her feet, look away from him and refuse to do anything he wanted. I was stifling laughter as he handed back her lead and advised me to get another dog as she was un-trainable.

In 1986 I got my first Belgian Shepherd and ventured into the conformational show world was interested to see the great results being gained by a few handlers who used a treat to get the dog to stand where they wanted and behave in the way to best show themselves off in a technique known as baiting. That appealed to me as a far calmer, nicer way of interacting with my dog and hundreds of kilos of dried liver later I showed Belgian Shepherds as much as time permitted until 2009. Never achieving tremendously great heights in show world I did enjoy being with other like minded dog people and being out in the fresh air at weekends with my dogs and learning more and more about other breeds and what made them behave the way they do.

Meanwhile my husband and I split up as a result of a serious car accident I was involved in and as a result I had to leave life as a sales representative working horrendous hours per week in Sydney, move to the Nambucca Valley and re-invent myself personally and professional. What more obvious to do that a little bit of hobby work as a dog groomer while single parenting my daughter. Never content not to improve myself I studied and learn all I could about grooming and of course every time I had a dog on a lead I trained it. Training is in fact not about a set hour training session each week but about doing the same thing the same way over and over and over again.

Shifty a big 8 year old cream Labrador that I have been grooming fortnightly now for 10 years demonstrates this beautifully. Each time I arrive I set up the trailer, water in the bath, door open, lead out, go down to the gate, ask him to sit, open the gate, put the lead on him and lead him up to the trailer. With the words “in you go” he obediently jumps into the bath and turns around to wait for me to take his lead and collar off. When I have finished washing one side I say turn and he turns in the bath to present the other side. As soon as the wash is over he stands waiting for me to pick up his treat, return him to his backyard where he sits automatically to get the treat. Did I teach him any of this? No not deliberately, I just did the same thing the same way with the same cue words every time and he learned the routine about 5 years ago. This is positive reward based training at work.

So many people have asked me for advice on their pets over the ten years and having really enjoyed producing the All Things Animals Program for 2NVR 105.9FM and with my daughter now about to spread her wings and leave home it was time to re-invent myself again and study as a professional dog trainer.

Over the last 42 years of living with dogs and cats I have tried every training technique available, with the exception of prong and shock collars, as I was never convinced that they were humane. But yes I have used jerk and release on check chains, pushing a dog’s rear end down for a sit, standing on the lead to try and get a drop and citronella spray collars to try and stop barking. I never got terribly good results as I have always owned smart dogs that can’t be made to do what they don’t want to do. Time wise I was too busy raising a child, working and then coping with disability to do more than the occasional conformation show (where I always used treats). During this time two dogs I still own were instrumental in moving me towards clicker training as a training method. Mistral (Tervueren) and Cherry (Miniature Poodle) are both reactive dogs, pig headed they bark and carry on at a leaf dropping off a tree. Both of them showed me all the tricks dogs can use to make a citronella collar useless. Both of them used to be a nightmare to live with. Many other people would have placed these two in a shelter for “rehousing – read euthanasia”. Luckily I live on property and these two dogs were just the challenge I needed to develop me as a true dog trainer and to be able to really understand dogs and how they think

I happened across a very interesting book called “Click for Joy” written by a wonderful dog trainer and author, Melissa Alexander. On my own I attempted to work on some of these techniques with Mistral, even brought a clicker but was not successful as it was very hard to untrain my cross over habits. Having decided to train professional as a trainer however I was committed to becoming one that only used positive reward based techniques and that lead me to the Delta Society Australia and their Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services. In this course I have been lucky to have been introduced to some trainers that are true animal communicators. People who have endless patience and skill working with animals, two of which are Kerry Haynes-Lovell and Carmel (aka fudge the dog trainer) and watching these two ladies work with animals is awe inspiring. During this time I also worked on techniques I learned not only with my two problem children, Mistral and Cherry but also with my other dogs and many customers’ dogs I have been employed to train. I also implemented the techniques in my grooming practice and the results have been sensational. Dog after dog is transformed, yes even Cherry and Mistral. I have worked with 4 week old poodle puppies and the results far surpass anything I have ever achieved in 42 years of all the training I have done with many animals. They say there is nothing like a reformed smoker or alcoholic and that’s me a reformed trainer achieving results I never knew were imaginable with problem dogs.

I really wish I had learned these techniques so many years earlier as working with dogs that are clicker trained in a positive reward based training technique is so much fun and ……………… easy to do. The results are so much better than any other training method I have ever used and happen so fast.

Where am I going from here as a trainer? I read extensively on the net and view videos of leading trainers in the US and UK and the science of dog training and animal communication is changing rapidly as more and more knowledge of how to get the best possible lifestyle for our companion animals is explored. There are Animal Behaviour facilities attached to top Universities in America that are undertaking more and more research into how animals learn and how we can better communicate with them. Hopefully my long term goal is to travel to American and work with some of these inspirational people but until then thanks heavens for YouTube and the Internet. In the meantime I have a great time bring these changes to the lives of my clients and their dogs.

Fleas and ticks or teas and flicks

Spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner. What flea and tick control have you chosen to use on your dog this spring?

Dealing with masses and masses of fleas, not to mention heavily matted and messy winter coats is what spring is all about in the grooming business.

Q: How do you pick your local dog groomer?
A: Look for the overworked lady rushing through the supermarket aisles at 6pm picking fleas out of her hairline.
No joke this is one of the downsides of being a dog groomer – the fleas migrate to us.

So what is the best flea treatment? In order to answer this question you need to look at the dogs life style, coat type and frequency of bathing/swimming.

Dogs that live indoors and sleep on human beds and lounges need more aggressive flea control than those who are purely outdoor dogs. If you wash your dog weekly or they swim often then different flea control options are useful. Dogs with long coats vs dogs with short coats, dogs with thick coats vs dogs with thin coats. All of these factors influence the effectiveness of flea control product.

What is available?
Flea powder – totally useless unless you want to place it on bedding or around kennels and even then it is pretty useless.

Flea rinses and washes – most have a duration of action of about a week and will only kill adult fleas so need to be applied weekly to keep adult flea populations under control. A good choice if your dog is bathed often. If flea control of the environment is not undertaken these will be useless.

Fleas collars – work in a similar way as flea rinses. Dogs who are being bathed often or swim regularly will not gain effective control with these as the chemical is constantly washed off the coat. Environmental control of fleas is required.

Spot on Products: eg frontline, advantix, advantage. Require oil in the coat to be effective but do kills fleas and eggs so more effective than previously mentioned products. If environment control is not effected will be less useful. These are water fast so are good in dogs that swim regularly if applied 48 hours before or after a bath or swim. Can be used in conjuction with some washes – check manufacturers recommendations. In hot humid conditions often need to be applied every fortnight not every 4 weeks. Some dogs no longer respond to frontline due to increased resistance seen in some flea populations so advantix or advantage is a better choice.

Spray on Products: eg frontline spray. Good on baby puppies up to 8 weeks of age and very small short coated dogs. Check the instructions carefully to ensure that enough is applied. it is set number of pumps per kg of weight. Not useful in long coated breeds as it fails to adequately penetrate the longer coat and most people fail to apply sufficient spray. Certain of the flea rinses eg fido’s fre-itch rinse concentrate can be diluted 1 : 40 and sprayed on the coat between washes or spot on application to assist in killing adult fleas.

Knock down products : eg capstar – given 30 mins before bathing the dog these kill all adult fleas effectively but do not have a long duration of action and will not prevent hatching of eggs. Good to use to help flea washes be more effective or kill fleas on the dog before a spot on is applied.

What are the keys to better flea control on your dog?
1) Treat the dog and the environment – don’t forget the ground under their kennel, inside their kennel and all bedding (including your bed or lounge). Fleas will jump off your pet onto your bed or lounge.

2) Apply the product when directed. Make a note on the calendar of when a spot on was applied and re- apply it at 2 or 4 weeks. Making these stretch to longer intervals is believed to have reduced their effectiveness as fleas build up resistance to control products.

3) If your dog is frequently washed or swims the spot on products may not be the best choice.

4) Make sure all dead coat is removed from your dog – you should be able to see the skin at all times. Dead coat will provide an idea environment for fleas to breed in. Clipping off the coat in breeds such as Border Collies, Cattle Dogs and Golden Retrievers will not help in flea control. The opposite will happen as clipping promotes the growth of the wooly undercoat that should only be present in winter and will give the fleas a moist, warm environment to breed in.

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