Often our clients and friends ask about our travels and our house and pet sitting experiences and we thought that a blog would be a good way to share our stories both past and present.

We have met and made friends with some lovely humans, canines and felines over the past 5 years and we hope that you enjoy reading about our pet sitting and house sitting experiences as much as we enjoy regaling our "tails"!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Volunteering with Theraputic Riding Centre, BC

Della recently saw an ad in the local paper asking for 'sidewalker' volunteers at the Therapeutic Riding Association.

This is a local group, which initially started as a back yard pleasure riding session for three challenged high school students. Over the years the group of dedicated volunteers built up the association, and became a registered society in 1989.

They are members of CanTRA, Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association, and BCTRA, British Columbia Therapeutic Riding Association.

I have been involved with Driving for the Disabled, affiliated to the RDA, Riding for the disabled, in the UK, and was keen to help out here if possible.

An orientation session was organised for Tuesday 26th January. 18 new volunteers turned up for the session, which was a really good turn out. We were shown the routine, from when a client enters the barn, whilst they are riding and then to facilitate them leaving the arena.

It was very interesting, and everyone was very friendly.

Safety is paramount.

I learnt that the horse's movement provides the same sensory input as the movement of a normal human gait.

The act of riding improves strength in muscles, especially posture, and this improves balance and co-ordination.

Self - esteem is improved as well as confidence.

The rider can also feel a sense of independence with this exercise in the form of fun.

we learnt what our responsibilities would be as a volunteer and what to do when we met the rider.

Safety and barn rules were explained to us.

I left the barn looking forward to the coming week when I would be able to meet the riders.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Helping with weight loss

Putting Your Dog On A Diet for Weight Loss

We sat for a lovely dog in New Zealand who had become overweight due to his age, and too many treats. He was very much loved, but the vet had put him on a strict diet and had banned all treats. This was very hard for his owners and we arrived at just the right time to kick start his regime.

We were sitting for 6 weeks, so we had a good amount of time get him into a new routine.

He was a Cattle dog cross, and in his 10th year. He was very sweet natured.

To get your dog started on a lifestyle change and diet that is needed to help an already overweight dog start to get in shape, consider the following:

Reduce food intake - We started by cutting out all snacks, treats and food items other than the actual dog food. This meant no high carb or sugary treats, no extra little scraps from the table or even any dog cookies. High quality treats can be reintroduced to the diet on a very limited amount once the weight has been lost.

The vet had prescribed a very low calorie dry food. Most dogs will lose weight even on regular kibble provided all the other aspects of the plan are followed. Ask your vet for recommendations for foods that would be beneficial to your particular dog. We switched the food gradually from meat to dry food to avoid digestive problems. Don’t worry if the dog refuses to eat the dry, especially if it is a picky eater, it will eat when it gets hungry. He resisted for a day, but soon got stuck in when he realised nothing else was coming. The vet advised us that if your dog does not eat for two days and you are exercising the dog as outlined contact your vet before proceeding with the food selection.

Increase exercise - and this involved our participation. Max simply did not exercise himself. Putting them outside in the yard for an extra hour doesn’t count since they will likely take a leisurely stroll around the yard, find a comfortable spot and rest. You must make them keep moving. Take them on a leash for a walk around the block at least twice a day. Once they can do one block, increase to two and keep increasing the distance and the pace of the exercise. Start slow and gradually increase to avoid stressing both the dog and yourself! Max could not walk very far, we started on a short walk and increased it every day.

Increase play times. We threw max a ball or a stick, or played a game of tag or chase. Start slow, even just rolling the ball to get the dog involved. Lots of praise and attention during the game will help keep them motivated and engaged. We timed it to when he was feeling a bit more lively, like when he was due for a walk.

Max had a 'friend' just a few houses away, and would take himself off for a wander to go see George, another dog. It is good for dogs to play with other dogs, this is a great form of exercise for them.

We checked the yard and house for hidden food items. Many dogs have learned to get into the garbage, get into cupboards and raid the treat boxes or even get into candy dishes left on the coffee table. Remove all sources of food from where the dog can access.

We took the dog to the vet at the beginning of our stay to weigh him, and introduce ourselves. We then returned every 2 weeks to see if any progress was being made. The weight reduced very slowly, partly because Max couldn't exercise very much, but gradually it started to show, around his neck, and hips.

Keep on the plan for two weeks, decreasing each meal by one quarter and doubling a reasonable level of exercise. You should notice a slight weight loss in this period. You can either weigh the dog by using a standard bath scale or, for large breeds, simply use a measuring tape around the widest part of the their body. If you have followed the plan and are decreasing food, increasing exercise and cutting out all treats and do not notice even a slight decrease in weight after two weeks see your veterinarian immediately to rule out any medical problems.

We had great support from the neighbours who saw us out every day, everyone asked us his weight and encouraged us along the way. He lost 40kg in the 6 weeks we looked after him, so we were very pleased.

When Max's family returned they were very pleased with the progress and have continued with the food and exercise regime. He is much more mobile now.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Puppy Training - Playing Doctor

Once the puppies were comfortably exploring their new environment we were asked to pick them up and hold them.

We were told that if a puppy is physically comfortable, he will be mentally comfortable. So we had to make sure we were holding them correctly. If they started to struggle, we had to hold them until they relaxed and then put them down.

We were told if we put them down when they are struggling, this will lead to the wrong message being taught them.

We did not call the puppies to us to be picked up, but just picked them up without them coming to us.

We then settled them down on our laps, comforting them and allowing them to relax. We then lifted the flap of their ear and if they let us do this we said "yes" and gave them a little treat. The "yes" has to come at the right time, and only when they are relaxed and you are lifting the ear. Otherwise the message is misunderstood.

We progressed on from the ears to the eyes, spreading each side of the eye with two fingers. Then we concentrated on a spot of their backs, separating the fur, as if looking for ticks. We separated each claw, front and back paws. Lifted their tails and checked their bums.

Every time the action was allowed in a calm accepting way, we said "yes" and gave them a small treat.

Different dogs will have different tolerance levels. Tracy's puppy fell asleep in her arms whilst she was performing the different tasks, where as mine was squirming, wanting to get down and play. Perhaps my puppy wasn't so comfortable on my lap. I am going to us a towel on my lap next time, to pad out my lap a bit more.

Puppy Training - The Sit

We have started a course of lessons at the SPCA to learn how to train and socialise puppies.

A bitch has been brought in very under-nourished, with 9 puppies. They are now 5-6weeks old. They all had a large worm burden, and have big fat tummies.

The worming programme has been completed now and so they will not be so pot-bellied for much longer.

We were shown today how to show a puppy how to sit.
  1. Grab a handful of soft, chewy treats, or whatever your new pup likes best.
  2. Get your puppy's attention.
  3. When he comes closer, hold one of the treats to his nose, use as a nose magnet.
  4. Push your hand forward towards his back. He'll have to sit down to reach it.
  5. Don't hold the treat too high.
  6. As soon as his bottom hits the floor, say "yes."
  7. Repeat often, always say the word "yes" as he starts to sit down.
  8. Remember to say "Yes" everytime he sits.
  9. When they have grasped this, start moving around and calling the puppy to you, repeat the process until he sits, then move again and call the dog.
  10. It did not take long before when they heard the word "Yes" they were looking for food.


  • Keep training lessons short, and repeat often. Five minute sessions, four or five times daily will keep the knowledge fresh in his mind, but will also keep him from being bored.

  • We were amazed how quickly the puppies responded. The word "sit" has not been introduced yet, this will come later.

    Over the next few sessions we will work through a list of tasks to get the puppies used to human company and make them as adoptable as possible.me
    Many short, fun sessions are best, and ending on dog wants to please you.

    Thursday, 7 January 2010

    Training puppies - Handling

    Today we learnt how to get the puppies used to being handled. If they feel comfortable being held and handled at an early age, this will help them in later life.

    We were first shown how to hold a puppy. If you want to carry your puppy you will need to hold the dog to your chest by placing your hand in between the puppy's front legs and the crook of your arm supporting his back end. The length of your arm is supporting him under his tummy. For bigger puppies two hands will be needed.

    Don't attempt to grab him by the coat on his neck the way his mother used to do. Remember that female dogs are intentionally supposed to hold their puppies this way and they know how to and puppies do not resist their mothers when they do; another factor is that they only hold them a few inches away from the ground. Don't attempt to pick up a dog of any age from under their front legs, like a baby, This will cause injury.

    We wrapped the puppies in a towel for their first pick up, just to give them some more security.

    We took 4 puppies into a quiet space where they could explore without any danger. We sat on the floor still holding them and giving them encouraging noises. We then opened the towels and let the dogs decide whether they wanted to get down or stay in our laps. Some were quicker to explore that others.

    To put your puppy back down on the floor, gently place him back on the ground; don't just let him jump out of your arms as the puppy could end up getting hurt.