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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

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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 

Interesting what you find on the pet food shelves at Woolworths!

With a few big dogs to feed you can imagine that I am always on the lookout for good quality dog food at an excellent price. Normally I switch between Supercoat, Bonnie Working Dog and CopRice and buy at least one 20 kg bag each week. Last week, having missed the closing time of the local produce store I rushed into Woolworths to pick up an 8 or 12 kg bag of their Woolworth’s Select Chicken and Rice to tide me over. Despite being a no name product I find it to be reasonable in terms of protein content and the amount of preservatives and additives and it is a good backup when I don’t have time to get the alternatives. I would not use it long term as it does not have the complete nutrition my dogs with special needs require but it is a good standby.

I often spend some time in the pet food isle. The locals and store personnel have become used to seeing me standing there, reading glasses on, muttering at the fine print on the back of the pet food labels Two of my dogs have Crone0hree dogs I feed have food intolerances and many feeding consultations I undertake involve dogs with food intolerance or allergy issues. I am a bit of a connoisseur of pet foods. I do stop at taste testing but frequently smell food to try and rate the palatability of each product. I feel at times a bit like the MasterChef contestants who are asked to name all the ingredients in a big bowl of food.

On this occasion I was surprised to see a new product prominently featured on the shelves. Woolworths had recently released a super premium dry food product under the Woolworths select label. To my knowledge this is the first super premium dry dog food to be sold in an Australian supermarket. Normally you can only purchase super premium foods at pet stores or veterinary clinics.

The big question however is what defines a super premium, premium, holistic or ultra premium food. These labels are not defined in any legislation specific to pet food labels and are mostly invented for the purposes of marketing and may or may not be based in fact. However having purchased large quantities of dry dog food over the last 26 years of owning large numbers of dogs you do get what you pay for.

If you stand in a very large capital city pet food warehouse like Petbarn or Petstock you will see many bags of pet food all varying in size, product ingredients, meat base (chicken, kangaroo, beef, salmon), price and with a bewildering range of product claims. As a general rule the more premium the product the greater the price. As you move from the cheap dry foods to the super premiums there is less preservative, less additive, less fillers, more real meat used and a higher protein percentage. In addition you start to see in the mid to super premiums the addition of omega 3 and 6, prebiotics, and other ingredients such as cranberries, blueberries, yucca, carrots and kelp. Some of the more common super premium brands include Hills Science, Eukanuba, Royal Canine & Eagle Pack but there are many more out there.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) establishes standards that should be considered the minimum for dog food manufacture which are only guide lines as they have no regulatory authority. Food manufactured to this standard contains a statement as such, usually on the back of the packet. The protocol requires that 6 out of 8 animals that complete a 26 week feeding trial do so without showing clinical or pathological signs of nutritional deficiency or excess.

The other important way to determine the quality of a dog food is to understand what is called the 95% rule which applies to products consisting primarily of meat, poultry or fish. At least 95% of the product must be the named ingredient (such as beef, chicken or cereal), not counting the water added for processing and “condiments.” Counting the added water, the named ingredient still must comprise 70% of the product. In addition the ingredients list (in the fine print on the back) must show the ingredients listed in order of predominance by weight. Therefore reading this list will tell you the major ingredients of the product. If cereal or rice is listed first before beef or chicken then it is not a meat based dry dog food.

So back to the comparison between Woolworth’s select Chicken and Rice and their new Woolworth’s select super premium Chicken Rice and Vegetables.

Woolworths’s Select Chicken & Rice

    • Ingredients:
      Wholegrain cereals, poultry & poultry by –product, Vegetable matter, rice, Tallow, Natural Flavor, Salt, Vegetable Oil, Bentonite, Vitamins (A, D, B1, B12, B2, B6, E, B5, Folate, B3), Minerals (Calcium Iodate, Zinc Oxide, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride & Selenium), Calcium Propionate, Antioxidam.
    • Typical Analysis:Crude Protein: 18% min
      Crude Fat: 10% min
      Salt : 1% max
      Crude Fiber: 4% max
    • Feeding:
      Up to 5 kg: ½ – 1 cup
      5-10 kg: 1-2 cups
      10-25 kg: 2-4 cups
      25 – 50 kg: 4-6 cups


  • Cost: (when not on special) Online website prices 8 kgs: 0.20c/100g ($2/kg) 3 kg: 0.25c/100g ($2.50/kg



Woolworth’s Select Super Premium Chicken, Rice & Vegetables  (Puppy)

  • Ingredients:
    Chicken by-product meal, maize gluten, sorghum, poultry tallow, corn, barley, rice, chicken digest, vegetable fiber, dried egg, flax seed, Dicalcium Phosphate, Vegetable oil, Fish oil, Salt Iodised, Potassium chloride, Vitamins (A, B1, B2, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E), Choline Chloride. Natural antioxidant, Preservative, Zinc Sulphate, Ferrous Sulphate, Copper Sulphate, Potassium Iodide, Selenium
  • Typical Analysis:

         Crude Protein: 32% min
Crude Fat: 17% min
Moisture: 10% max
Crude Fiber: 5% max
Salt: 1.8% max
Ash: 10% max
Calcium: 1% min
Phosphorus: 0.8% min
Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids: 3% min
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): 0.1% min
Average Metabolisable energy kcals/100g = 380

  • Feeding: 5 kg: 1 cup (110g) 10 kg: 1.5 cups 20 kg: 2.5 cups
  • Cost: (when not on special) Online website prices: 3kg bag: 0.47c/100g or $4.70 / kg

The super premium range contains a much larger number of flavors, good for those fussier eaters or those who have food intolerance issues; it also comes in a wider range of sizes and formulations for various age groups from puppy to senior. The major ingredient is meat whereas in the select range the major ingredient is cereal. The % of protein is much higher in the super premium at 32% versus 18% in the select and it also has Omega 3 & 6 which are well demonstrated as being beneficial in coat and allergy issues. In addition the level of fat in the super premium product is 17% versus 10% which is beneficial to dogs that need a higher fat level than humans normally consider, especially in baby puppies. This increased level of protein and the main ingredient being meat will result in a reduced elimination output in the dog, which is an added bonus for those who find cleaning up the back yard an issue. Comparing the two three kg bags the cost comparison is $2.50 versus $4.70 per kg which is not a unrealistic price difference given the advantages of the super premium product. The larger bag you buy the better the price per kg is so buying a larger bag and keeping it in a sealed container would improve this price differential even more. Hopefully in time this product will be one that consumers will support and Woolworth’s will release it in an 8 kg or even a 12 kg bag. It certainly is comparable to some of the more expensive options at the pet shop or veterinary clinic, so long as you are dealing with a dog that can tolerate lamb, beef or chicken. It will be on my shopping list as an excellent addition to what pet owners previously had available. It will be interesting to get into a Coles supermarket and see if they have released a comparable product. I will also do some investigation to see if I can determine which of the super premium products it is derived from.

More Reading: – Read this if you really want to get confused about what products are good or bad. – the mathematics and science behind dog food manufacture. Degree in Rocket Science required.

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.

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.

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