It’s widely known that joint stiffness is more common in older dogs. But sadly some breeds are more at risk of joint issues due to their genetics and anatomy. All pet parents should be on the lookout for the signs of joint stiffness, but you should keep a particularly close eye on your pup if they’re a certain breed!
Sometimes it’s hard to spot the signs of stiffness. Dogs tend to hide their discomfort and can be very tolerant. This is why the signs of stiffness are so hard to spot until it’s too late. Stiffness can occur in any joint, but is most commonly found in the shoulders, hips, elbows, and knees. Here are some things to look out for in your dog:
Labradors Retrievers often stay very playful throughout their entire life, which is why they make great pets. But their higher activity levels, large size and genetics make this breed more susceptible to joint issues, especially:
There is a greater risk of stiffness in Dachshunds due to their long shape and short legs. This pairing increases the likelihood of knee, hip and back issues – especially if your sausage dog has put on some pounds.
Having said that, even the trimmest of Dachshunds can put a lot of strain on their very short legs.
Spaniels - Cocker, Cavalier King Charles, Springer
There are a few breed-specific issues to look for in your Spaniel:
Their flat-faced structure causes lots of breathing problems and overheating. Plus, they’re prone to joint stiffness due to their short and stocky nature. When exercising your Pug, opt for shorter walks and plenty of playtime and mentally stimulating toys.
Like any purebred dog, Retrievers are sometimes faced with genetically related health problems. For instance, they have short legs compared to their body size. What’s more, it’s crucial to keep your Retriever fit and active, as they tend to become overweight easily.
Your Golden Retriever will thrive with two hours of exercise each day, such as walks, running and lots of playtime and training. And they love a good game of fetch – it’s even in the name!
These gentle giants don’t like much exercise, but their size can cause problems as their heavy weight adds extra strain to their joints, so it’s important to monitor your St. Bernard as they grow older.
If you have some concerns about your dogs joint health, talk to your vet or your vet physio about exercises to help maintain mobility and what activities should be avoided.
You can also try adding joint-soothing supplements to their diet. It’s a common misconception that joint supplements are just for stiff, older dogs.
The truth is, all dogs have different health needs throughout their lives. But here’s some basic tips on how to support your dog’s joints:
In the early days, playtime is non-stop, but it’s important to be proactive to protect your pup from joint stiffness:
Your adorable puppy soon hits the troublesome teenager phase that’s prone to naughtiness. Here’s why a joint supplement is a good idea at this stage:
Sadly, our dogs slow down as they grow up. Keep a close eye on your ageing dog with these top tips:
You are what you eat
We all know that what we eat can affect the way we think and feel. And just like you, dogs are what they eat.
More and more people seem to be adversely affected by intolerances to certain foods – and some, like nut allergies, can even be fatal. However, few owners realize that their dog’s behaviour could be adversely affected by the food they are eating. For example, eating unusual things – a behaviour called “pica” – may well be a result of dietary inadequacy or sensitivity. Dogs may chew up and eat sticks, grass, tissues or other paper products, coal, and soil, as well as fibrous material – such as carpets, if you are very unlucky!
Other dogs may appear to have boundless energy. This is great if you want to walk the dog all day or keep it active for a job of work, but some dogs can behave like over-active kids, constantly demanding attention and creating mayhem in an attempt to release pent-up energy. Such dogs can appear to be like ‘coiled springs’ – highly reactive, easily triggered into over-exuberant behaviour and slow to calm down.
If your dog behaves like a whirling dervish even after a long walk, annoys your visitors by leaping at them with endless enthusiasm or pesters you continually while you try to watch TV, then a good long look at both diet and behavioural training may well be required.
Physical problems can also be related to diet and feeding. It’s interesting that many dogs seem to develop sensitivities to environmental pollutants, grass or flea bites – and they are often particularly itchy around the base of the tail, the feet and belly. Of course, dogs can get itchy if they have skin conditions or parasites, so it’s always important to obtain veterinary advice if your dog is scratching, or has an upset stomach.
Regardless of popular belief, dogs should have a consistent digestions, and should not need to go to the loo six or seven times a day – neither should it look and smell like a herd of elephants have been there afterwards! The rule here is that the better the food is being digested, the less will need to be passed out as waste.
Of course there is a whole list of factors that can lead to behavioural and training problems in dogs. The genetic influences from the dog’s breed and parents, the amount of early social contact that a puppy has with people and other dogs, and the effects of training and the environment all lead to making a dog’s “personality” and overall behaviour. However, for some dogs, the direct effects of a diet that isn’t suiting it can be dramatic and can over-ride all the owner’s valiant attempts to train and control their family pet.
Just as some people have sensitivities to certain foods, so can dogs. Research to conclusively prove this has been problematic simply because dogs are as individual as we are! Just because one person can eat strawberries, chocolate or cheese without getting a headache, does not mean that another can get away with it, and the same goes for our pets. However, recent studies indicate that a dog’s ability to learn can be directly influenced by what it eats – and this must surely make us question other possible impacts.
The effects of diet on canine health and well-being can either be very dramatic, or very subtle! This, combined with the hosts of other factors that influence our dog’s behaviour make it difficult to determine exactly whether some constituents of foods are more likely to have an impact on behaviour than others, or whether it is as individual as it seems to be in humans.
However, there are certain signs and symptoms that may indicate that your dog could benefit from a diet change:
See Alpha Shop for “The Dog’s Dinner” by Val Strong for a great resource.
We know you send your pup to daycare to have a great time - frolicking in the fresh air, playing with friends, releasing their energy, running, sniffing and wagging to their heart's content. But why is rest important?
Rest is a strategic part of our Pawprints service model, and our commitment to ensuring your dog is happy, healthy and behaving while at daycare.
Incorporating play breaks and rest periods into your dog's day when at Pawprints helps ensure your dog's experience is even more enjoyable.
1 - It's healthy for dogs to nap during the day.
As dog care specialists, we understand that most dogs don't need 8 hours of intense physical activity. In fact, too much exercise can cause over exhaustion and even weaken the immune system.
Dogs differ from humans in the amount of sleep their bodies require and their sleeping schedule. It's normal for adult dogs to sleep an average of 8-14 hours a day with puppies who are still growing to sleep anywhere from 18-20 hours per day.
Also unlike humans, dogs don't do all of their sleeping at one time. Dogs are polyphasic sleepers meaning it's more natural for them to doze on and off throughout the day, collecting their 8-14 hours of sleep in frequent naps.
We give rest breaks at Pawprints to allow each dog to get a healthy amount of exercise balanced with the rest their bodies need, obviously tailored for each dog's individual needs based on breed, personality, age and energy levels.
2 - Dogs have their own personal thresholds for social activity - just like people.
In addition to balancing exercise with rest, taking breaks also allows dogs to balance social time with a bit of valuable “me time.”
Daycare is often a highly stimulating environment. Just like you may have a personal preference for how long you’ll stay at a party or out at a restaurant with friends, each dog has their own tolerance level for spending time with their fellow pups.
Some dogs love playing all day with a group of canine pals. Others play with one or two doggie friends before settling down to relax in the sun. And some have a threshold for the length of social time they enjoy, after which they may become flooded — meaning over-stimulated or overwhelmed. Just like mental or emotional flooding in humans, this increases a dog’s stress level and makes it hard to relax.
The pawprints team pays attention to each pups personality, body language and behaviour to ensure they are healthy, happy, and comfortable in the playgroup. If we see signs that a dog is feeling over-stimulated or stressed, we allow them to take a rest break. This often helps the dog to decompress, refresh, and get into a more relaxed state.
3 - Feeling overstimulated can lead to stress and unhealthy behaviours.
There’s another important reason that we pay attention to signs of overstimulation: safety.
Coming to Pawprints is likely the most stimulating activity in your dog’s day. It’s a great environment for dogs to release energy, build confidence, and enhance socialisation — but with so much excitement, it’s easy for dogs to become flooded.
When dogs feel over-stimulated, they enter a state of anxiety, which can lead to destructive or unhealthy behaviours and reduced impulse control. They may ignore another dog’s boundaries or body language during play, hyper-focus on a dog or person, or over-react to their playmates’ behaviours.
In this flooded state, a dog is less able to focus on their dog handler, listen to commands, and redirect themselves toward more positive behaviours. Once a dog is overwhelmed, the best thing for their well being is to take a break from the stimulating environment.
We are constantly guiding dogs to promote positive behaviours and healthy socialisation skills, while redirecting undesired behaviours. Particularly with young puppies who are learning how to engage with other dogs, every social interaction matters.
Our dog handlers work to ensure each dog has a happy experience playing with other dogs, which includes taking a rest before they become over-stimulated, to build a positive association with other dogs and at dog daycare as a whole.
4 - Rest breaks help dogs develop well-balanced skills and behaviour.
Training doesn’t stop when a dog is resting. In fact, taking breaks throughout the day is a valuable part of socialising your dog, helping them to become a more well-rounded companion.
If you’ve ever spent the day with a toddler, you know that transitions can be challenging — the same is true for dogs. Your dog may become agitated when changing pace from a stimulating environment with smells and other dogs, to a cosy dog bed or the backseat of your car (filled with entirely different smells!).
Not every moment of a dog’s day will be highly stimulating or active. A happy, healthy, and behaving dog is one who can smoothly transition between excitement and downtime.
Just as dogs learn how to engage in happy and healthy play in structured rest time helps them develop the skills to self-soothe, self-regulate, and decompress after physical activity.
Hello everyone, we hope you are all well. Fingers crossed we are on the right side of this virus now and we all have to pull together for the long, hard slog to get businesses booming again.
We all love giving our beautiful pooches a treat, and we know that given half the chance they would finish most dishes that we prepare for ourselves. However, human food can be very dangerous for dogs and it is always good to have a refresher on what NOT to give your dog.
Alcohol - Can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing problems, shaking and damage to the central nervous system.
Avocado - It contains Persin which can make dogs very ill with sickness and diarrhoea.
Certain bones - Cooked bones are softer and can easily break. This can cause constipation if eaten, but also the broken or small parts of bone can damage internal organs as it travels through the body.
Caffeine - dogs are more sensitive to stimulants like caffeine than humans. A dog may try to eat a discarded tea back or coffee beans which can be very harmful.
Chocolate - It contains theobromine and if ingested it can cause sickness, diarrhoea, problems with the heart, digestive system, kidneys and central nervous system. The darker the chocolate, the higher the content of theobromine.
Corn on the cob - Although corn is healthy, the cob can do damage to your dog. Eating small chunks of the cob can get stuck in a dog's digestive system and cause blockages.
Grapes and raisins - These fruits contain a toxin which can make dogs very ill and cause both kidney failure and liver damage. Don't forget, they can be hidden in any other foods such as biscuits, cake and bread.
Macadamia nuts - These can cause problems with the nervous system, muscles and possibly cause shaking, sickness and weakness.
Onions, garlic and chives - These items can cause sickness up to a few days after being eaten, and it doesn't matter if the food is raw or cooked, both are not good for dogs.
Xylitol (artificial sweetener) - This is in many foods these days, so always read the label. Be especially careful with low fat versions and sugar free products as this is often added to these products.
As we move towards Christmas, it's also worth including a reminder about the disgusting and dangerous rawhide pet toys / treats.
The vast majority of these rawhide products and treats come from China.
The chews are made from animal hide and their journey starts with the hides being soaked in a toxic sodium sulphide to remove the hair and fat. More chemicals are used in order to split the hide into layers which is then washed with hydrogen peroxide to give the white "pure" look and remove the rancid smell. Now comes the pretty festive colours and the glue to form cute shapes.
On testing, these chews have shown traces of lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium, titanium oxide, sodium benzoate, formaldehyde and many other toxic chemicals.
They also regularly cause intestinal blockages, poisoning from chemical residue and choking. The chews go slippery when wet and are near impossible to get hold of to save a choking dog.
If all that wasn't bad enough, the grisly twist is that the skins of brutally slaughtered dogs in China are mixed with other bits of skin to produce some of these rawhide chews for pet dogs, which are then regularly exported and sold overseas.
So please, leave these disgusting chews in the shop!
I wanted to get this month's blog out early as with the recent change in the weather autumn is in the air and the nights are getting darker. I've seen Halloween products for sale in the shops and before we know it the fireworks will begin.
We know that many of our clients struggle to help their pups manage the ‘firework season’ which seems to extend in length year on year!
The loud bangs and flashes created by fireworks are often very frightening. Some dogs display obvious signs of distress such as barking, whimpering, shaking, jumping about/chasing tails, but also some dogs show only subtle signs such as excessive yawning and panting. Whichever signal your dogs display it's safe to assume that most dogs struggle with such loud and unpredictable noises.
My old dog Branston was severely stressed by fireworks and seemed to get worse year on year. In trying to help him I discovered a herbal product called Scullcap and Valerian from Dorwest Herbs that helped him enormously.
The active herbs naturally support the relaxant pathways within the nervous system, reducing anxiety without immobilising muscles or causing drowsiness. They don't make your pup dopey or wobbly, in fact I understand that the product is often used for agility dogs and show dogs when they need to be alert and focused, yet calm.
With all things preparation is key so if you know your dog suffers with noise phobias, it's a good idea to start now. The tablet gets into your dog's system and naturally starts to relax them so that they are in a calmer state before the scary noises begin.
For situations where you are caught out, for example thunderstorms, or an unexpected neighbours firework display they also do a liquid valerian compound which is a great short term, quicker acting option.
For more information please take a look at www.dorwest.com
I hope this helps, please leave us any comments below.
Lorraine and the team
Separation Anxiety and alone time
Hello everyone. I hope you are all well and keeping safe. This month’s blog is all about separation anxiety and how to combat it.
Separation anxiety is a common stress and anxiety issue and can cause even the most laid back dog to become fretful and at times destructive. A dog with separation anxiety will become distressed the moment their owner leaves them alone. Most often it’s the lack of a human presence that's the trigger, even the company of other dogs does not always relieve separation anxiety.
Indicators of this anxiety can include destructive behaviour, unwanted toileting or howling/barking. Other signals can be very subtle such as whining, pacing, trembling and excessive salivation (drooling). Some dogs don't outwardly show any signs of distress at all, although blood tests do reveal elevated cortisol (stress) hormones.
Research has shown that 8 out of 10 dogs find it hard to cope when left alone and 50% don't show any obvious signs of stress. So it’s best to assume that most dogs are not happy when left alone.
But the good news is that separation anxiety is preventable. We can teach a pup about alone time and encourage them to understand that being alone is nothing to be worried about, and we do this by gesture leaving.
Teaching this to your pup is probably the most important aspect of training that you can do.
Separation anxiety is so very distressing for everyone and certainly at Pawprints we have seen over the years lots of dogs with separation anxiety and after having everyone at home for six months, with endless attention and interaction many more dogs are showing signs of separation anxiety since lockdown.
So how do we do this? Let me break it down into 5 easy steps.
When your dog is in a relaxed state of mind and is in a comfortable place, encourage your dog to stay where it is and simply step away. This could be just a few steps away, or walking out of a room, depending on how comfortable your dog is. Return to your dog immediately, reward and praise.
Repeat. Ask your dog to stay, while you move away. Return and reward.
ALWAYS return to your dog before he displays any reactions.
Continue this routine, moving progressively further away and for longer periods of time. The distance and length of time that you increase on each occasion will depend on your dog. Again, always return before your dog displays any reactions. If you miss judge the time or distance and your dog reacts simply go back to the previous stage.
Progress the routine, by varying the location, duration and situation. You may find that by simply changing the location you may need to shorten the duration by a few steps.
Repeat as often as possible. You will find that the more you do, the less anxious your dog will be and by this stage you should be able to leave them for longer periods.
If at any stage your dog shows signs of distress just go back a stage and repeat.
And the really good news is that with many people still staying home either for work, or self isolating then being at home means you can work on this. You could fit several short training sessions in throughout the day. Each time you get up from your desk for a comfort break, or to get a cup of coffee you could gesture leave your pup. Build it into your daily routine, include the children. Frequency is key. The more you can do of this, the more your dog will understand that being alone is nothing to fear and you'd be surprised at just how quickly you will progress.
At Pawprints we routinely gesture leave to help build on the work you do at home. All the dogs have a lunch time rest and a rest at the end of the day, but some dogs need rest periods in addition to this, but if they are too anxious then they will struggle to relax and rest. So we regularly build into their days short periods of gesture leaving training to help them.
Unfortunately however our progress depends on both how frequently we see the dog and what their routine is like at home, but our approach is to support owners and help dogs to be happy and playful yet also calm and relaxed.
I hope that you find this helpful. We’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave your comments below.
Not all day care is the same!
There is currently no licensing or regulation in the pet care industry for England. As things stand, anyone can set themselves up as a trainer, groomer or a walker with no qualifications or even experience.
Dog day care is however a licensable activity under the DEFRA Animal Welfare Regulations 2018. Ensuring your pet care provider has this license should provide some assurance when choosing your petcare service provider.
Pawprints worked closely with the local council when initially planning and designing the site and gained full planning approval before any of the building works was carried out. We were also granted a 5 star award under the Animal License which is the highest award issued.
As an individual considering what service provider to use, key considerations should be; how much physical exercise will my dog get and will that be appropriate for my dog's age, size and needs. At Pawprints we are able to tailor the day to each specific dog's physical needs. Puppies are able to have frequent snoozes and rest periods, whilst also helping them learn to be calm and relaxed whilst in a stimulating environment. Adolescent dogs are able to burn off their energy yet have regular rest periods whilst their young bodies grow and bones strengthen. Mature dogs are able to enjoy being outside all day, gaming, playing and learning new tricks and skills, and older dogs are able to have low level, gentle exercise throughout the day, ensuring they do not do too much nor too little. This helps older dogs maintain mobility, but also allows them to take their time doing whatever they wish to do.
You should also check how dogs are socialised. Personality clashes do happen, and you need to check how this is managed. No dog wants to spend all day with a dog they dislike. Equally, consideration needs to be given to dogs with different energy levels. Your quiet, shy dog doesn't want to spend 8 hours surrounded with high energy, fizzy dogs jumping around them. But equally fizzy dogs need to have careful arousal management plans in place to help bring their arousal levels down. As much as it may seem that the dog is having a great time, it does not do their mental health much good to be high as a kite all day, and no owner wants to pick up an exhausted dog that spends the next 2 days trying to recover from its daycare day.
It’s equally important to ask what other activities are included in the day. Cognitive exercises help keep an older dog’s brain sharp, as well as exercising mature, adolescent and puppies in a demanding yet non physical way.
It’s also important to know what rest is provided. If your dog is not comfortable resting with other dogs you need to understand how this is catered for. No dog should be kept crated with another dog, and you should also check how long your dog may be kept in a van whilst other dogs are collected and dropped off. Your dog could end up spending more time taxiing to and from its walk than actually walking. For this reason, Pawprints does not offer a taxi service. We prefer dogs to travel independently, and for short distances. This also allows us to see our lovely clients at both drop off and pick up times ensuring we can regularly check in and discuss any issues or concerns.
Lastly it's always recommended to get as much general information as possible so that you can get a good measure and understanding of how dogs are managed. Some areas to check are:
The dog care industry has rapidly expanded and as I said at the top, not all daycares and pet service providers are the same and cannot readily be compared to one another. What works for one dog may not be appropriate for another, what suits your needs may not be the best fit for your dog. It’s therefore important to gather as much information about the service provider as possible, ensure you understand what is important for your dog, be clear about your own requirements and go from there.
At Pawprints we do our best to ensure we are the best fit for each dog. We don't accept any dog that we don't feel we can meet their needs, as our goal is to ensure every dog has an amazing experience with us at every visit.
My Pawprints story
I have always been an outdoorsy type, loving nature, wilderness and animals. I was very lucky to own a horse as a child and teenager and again as a young 20/30 something.
I was always fascinated with the relationship that could be developed with an animal even with the speech and species barriers. This encouraged me to study natural horsemanship and understand how animals communicate with one another, their psychology; what is important to them, what helps motivate them and why.
This helped me realise that our increasingly demanding lifestyles frequently puts pressure on many pet owners who, whilst unquestionably love and care for their pet, fail to meet some of man's best friends' instinctive needs and wants.
A seed was sown and it didn't take long for a business idea to develop that could provide a solution. I wanted to create a day care environment which would not only be a secure, loving environment for dogs to receive all the exercise and attention they need, but to help owners enrich their dogs lives by providing activities for a dogs mental, emotional, social and behavioural needs.
Pawprints was officially born in 2015, but it was a very tough ride to get there. I found the perfect location, yet it had nothing there except for pigs, mud, mud and more mud. No facilities at all and the council needed to grant me permission to turn the site from agriculture to a business class. That was the first, monumental hurdle as permission was declined. Eventually after a lot of committee meetings, presentations and talks on the benefits of the business I successfully got the decision overturned and the go ahead was given.
Then started the build. This was tough. I had to get water, electrics and drainage installed. My bank balance was dwindling, as was my strength. There seemed to be an obstacle at every turn, but eventually the site was set up and business could commence.
Initially it was a team of just me. I look back and have no idea how I did it. I had dog clients to look after 12 hours a day, human clients to engage with, endless site management tasks and business admin to do in the evenings and weekends. I was on the go so much I developed Plantar Fasciitis in both feet and every step was like walking on broken glass. I remember being so exhausted one evening my partner suggested we go out for supper, I sat down in a pub and nearly fell asleep while eating! This was a far tougher ride than I had envisaged.
Luckily the business grew and with more clients I was able to slowly grow the team, but I then sadly had to face a series of personal tragedies. My beautiful horse died, my partner and I split up, my devoted dog died and then my mum died. It was the hardest time of my life. Pawprints was all I had. I was broken in so many different ways I didn't know how I could carry on, but my friends, Pawprints and all the clients held me up and gave me strength and purpose.
The business continued to grow and with that we expanded the size of the centre, and developed new exercise areas. The team was settled and enjoyed each day managing the daily/weekly/monthly challenges that all businesses have to face with a smile on our face and determination in our hearts, until 2020 and the year of CoronaVirus. This hit us hard and we had to close for several months. We have reopened but with vastly reduced numbers. My hope is that the new normal establishes itself soon and that people's lives and work patterns are reestablished so that we can once again help to care for and enrich clients' dogs lives.
Pawprints is my life, my pride, my passion and my privilege.
Thank you for listening to me.