You know when you see blogs that start, "Oh my gosh, it's been however so many weeks since my last blog and I'm sorry!"? Well, it's been however so many weeks since our last blog, and i'm not sorry at all!
Well, We've been a bit busy, you see..
That's right - Happy Home Dog Boarding just got a whole lot happier! Earlier this year we welcomed Sam to the club, and he's fantastic.
Of course, the best way to bring a baby into a house full of dogs is something we thought long and hard about, as we wanted to not only make sure Sam was happy and safe, but also that our resident dogs, Sprocket and Indiana, would be comfortable, stress-free and welcoming.
Preparing to bring a baby into a house of dogs
1. Familiarising our dogs with babies
The main way we prepared our dogs for Sam's arrival was to ensure they had met - and had good experiences with - babies beforehand. Luckily, they must have put something in the water because a lot of our friends had recently given birth to beautiful tots, and were happy to come round and spend time with us.
It's important to make sure the baby isn't a scary thing, or something your dogs see as a threat. Some people don't want their dogs anywhere near babies, and we can understand that. But if you are in a calm environment, your dog will more than likely want to sniff the baby - it's how they find out what they are.
Making sure the baby was at all times protected from anything that could be harmful, we allowed our dogs a good sniff - often the head, regularly the bum! - until they were satisfied that it was nothing to be worried about. What we then found was that they our two became bored of the babies, and just ignored them and left them alone.
This was exactly the response we were after. We want our dogs to think of Sam as they might a cupboard or a pretty painting. Something that exists, but has no intrinsic value to them. They are happy to be around Sam - and anyone who knows our two will be well aware how they like a cuddle - and are happy to have Sam near them, accepted as part of the family.
We made sure that they were not neglected, even when Sam took up 99% of our time with feeds, changes, and everything else a wee baby needs. All our other time went to making sure the dogs were cuddled, walked and not made to feel left out. This is why we can manage lovely shots with us all, like this!
2. Using Adaptil plugins
We also used Adaptil home diffusers. This is the stuff you might use if your dog gets anxious and scared on fireworks night, for example.
We plugged one in for a few weeks before sam was due, with the idea that it would help the dogs feel calm and relaxed, and so the upcoming change wouldn’t faze them much. They were bound to be picking up on our new-parent anxiety, so we hoped the plugin would negate this.
Adaptil works by releasing calming pheromones which supported out dogs to be more accepting to change. We think it worked, and are happy with the way the dogs behaved. Of course, it’s impossible for us to know for certain how effective it was - would the dogs have been okay without the plugin? We’ll never know, but this is one instance where we were glad to spend the money and just doubly make sure we were doing everything we could.
3. Time and patience
Some dogs - like some people - don't like change, and it isn't something they all like to be thrust upon them. That's why it's a good idea to start familiarising them with babies and a change of environment as soon as possible in a gradual and positive manner.
Don't wait until the labour contractions start! Weeks and months in advance, if their walking or sleeping routine is going to change, start teasing into the new routine when you have the time to manage their reactions and provide comfort.
This way, by the time the new routine has to kick in with baby's arrival, it will be the familiar old routine, and life will be so much easier for everyone.
Boarding dogs with babies
Bringing a baby into your home with dogs is one thing. Bringing one into a home that will be boarding dogs is another - but it's perfectly manageable if you understand dog behaviour, and take all the appropriate precautions.
The biggest and most important rule is never leave the baby alone with other dogs. This is basic stuff, but the top, most important rule of all. No matter how much we trust boarders - and there are plenty we love and trust a huge amount - Sam never gets left alone with them - dogs aren't babysitters!
We have a high sided cot which allows the dogs to see inside and smell Sam, so their curiosity can be satisfied very quickly about what's making those unusual gurgling sounds. The cot also has a mesh meaning they can't get a claw in and, seeing as we only board small dogs, they are unable to leap in over the top.
We also go through the same motions with boarders as we did with Sprocket and Indie. We let the dogs sniff Sam until they lose interest, they understand he's just a part of the family, and generally, there's no more to be done other than eat some food and sleep.
Of course, some dogs may be nervous around babies - they may have had bad experiences previous to staying with us. We're mindful of this, and take measures to ensure no harm can come to anyone. This is why we insist that all new boarding dogs come for a one-night trial before their big stay, and we don't make any exceptions. We need to make sure we are the right environment for every dog, and that they are happy here.
We're loving this new chapter in our life, and would like to thank all our customers for being so understanding whilst we took some time off to settle in. We're back, and the journey continues!
Talking about dog vaccinations to colleagues and online forums has revealed two important things to us:
1) Nobody agrees on everything
2) It’s a hot topic!
So we’re writing this blog, and any comments here or on our FB page, as a safe space where we can all discuss what we personally do to vaccinate our dogs - if at all - so we can really start to understand what’s important, what’s optional and what experts are saying about them.
Standard Vaccination Procedures
Up until 2017, we always vaccinated our resident dog Sprocket each year. Like many other dogs, as a puppy Sprocket got a full round of the necessary vaccinations. Yearly afterwards this was topped up by the annual booster vaccination.
Every 3 years after that, the full round of puppy vaccinations were given to him again. It’s only recently we began to think about all the chemicals getting pumped into our wee dug, and found out that more puppy vaccinations shouldn't be required as the puppy vaccs should set them up for life.
Your dog is unlikely to require these additional chemicals injected into their systems which ironically may do more harm than good.
Titer Testing for Dogs
This year, however, we took him for titer (pronounced "tighter") testing at our local lovely vets who we just can’t recommend highly enough, ICR Vets in Loanhead.
Titer testing is a way to check that the puppy vaccs worked first time, and if they are still working it means your dog does not require a full vaccination again.
Your vet will take a blood sample from your dog and then send it to the lab to test that the immunity/resistance levels given via the puppy vaccs remain high. When your vet calls you with the results, which will be a number between 1 and 6 with 6 being the highest immunisation level, 0 the lowest. You can at that point discuss if your dog's immune system requires the full vaccinations again.
Sprocket, aged 8, was recently titer tested for the first time. His immunity is still very high, our vet was happy that he did not require the full round of vaccs again. Going forward we agreed to titer test again in three years to check if his immunity levels have remained strong.
The yearly booster vaccination is to protect your dog against Lepto, or Leptospirosis, and this is where you should start paying attention because Lepto is a zoonotic disease, meaning you can get it too. It’s a type of bacteria from animals’ urine, and can survive in streams and rivers meaning if your dog is a swimmer, like ours, it’s possible it could catch the infection.
In short if, like our dogs, yours enjoys playing in the water this is a very important vaccination to get. Although Sprocket did not require his full vaccinations again we did get his Lepto 2 booster, and we will continue with this annually because he’s a water baby.
It is important to be aware of the dangers with the Lepto 4 booster, which has been reported to cause more harm than good. Our dogs have only ever received Lepto 2, and our vets do not use Lepto 4. Always check with your vet which Lepto vaccination they use prior to your dog being vaccinated.
If your vet is unsupportive of titer testing, find a vet who is! We have experienced negativity with a vet practice before and would never wish that on anyone. Always follow your instincts, and remember that this is private healthcare for which you pay a premium and your dog deserves the best. You always have the right to disagree and walk away to get a second opinion.
If your dog is insured, always check your insurance policy before you begin a new vaccination regime. If you are unsure about anything, it is best to call them to confirm.
Overall the majority of cover is not affected unless your dog was to become ill with one of the diseases which the booster protects against.
But remember, if your dog's immunity remains high due to already receiving the vaccs as a puppy, you are not leaving them vulnerable, you are merely not adding further chemicals to your dog's system where they are not required.
Kennel Cough Vaccination
Kennel cough is a common and contagious condition found in dogs. It is as life threatening to dogs as the common cold is to humans, which is to say it is dangerous only in very extreme conditions. Outbreaks tend to happen when many dogs are kept together in enclosed spaces, like kennels. You can see where the name came from.
The kennel cough vaccination (a scoosh up the nose) only protects against two strains and ironically can be accused of helping to spread those two strains due to inappropriate vaccination of dogs.
Many owners don’t realise that kennel cough vaccinated dogs are themselves contagious for several weeks afterwards by sneezing out doses of the virus everywhere they go, including on walks, when socialising with other dogs and when boarding either in kennels or home boarding.
Yup, that's right. Your newly kennel cough-vaccinated dog is actually spreading the disease for two weeks afterwards to all the other dogs he meets.
This is why we now insist that dogs who have been kennel cough vaccinated must not board with us until at least two weeks afterwards, for the safety of all our other boarders and our resident dogs. For this reason, we do not insist on dogs receiving the kennel cough vaccine before they come to board with us.
Kennel cough can only be fatal to the very young, very old or ill. Fit and healthy dogs do not require vaccinating as they have incredibly strong immune systems. If you decide your healthy dog should have it, you may in fact be adding to the endemic because the more healthy dogs who receive it, the further the virus will be spread via these dogs.
As mentioned, the Kennel Cough vaccine only claims to protect against two strains and this illness, like all viruses, continue to mutate and multiply into many different strains - we feel that the vaccine (when given to fit and healthy dogs) is really doing more harm than good.
Appropriate vaccinating is the future!
If you are concerned about dog vaccinations, take it up with your vet. They should have the time to listen and respond to your concerns, and we’d love it if you could pass on your advice to us so we can share with everyone.
Whatever you decide to do, it's important you are doing it fully armed with information, and not just following a crowd. We'd love to hear your thoughts, either below or on our Facebook page, on dog vaccinations.
Let’s talk about something we all know about, we all hate, but we all have to put up with.
The dog tax.
What is the dog tax?
Put simply, this is what we call it when you, as a dog owner, are charged extra for simply having a dog. You will probably have experienced this before if you stay in a dog “friendly” hotel, except it’s not that friendly as they will likely want to charge you an extra £10 per dog per night - sometimes more - just for the pleasure of taking your business to them.
It’s hard to justify this charge. We walk, feed and pick-up after our dogs, we even bring their bedding! Dogs aren’t going to be swigging mugs of weak tea with manky tubs of UHT milk, are they? Or spending hours basking in the glorious power shower with questionable full-body shower gel, surely? I mean, this extra charge can’t be because they’ll be calling up room service at 4am for some liver cake and a dog chew, right?
No, the most common reason, we are told, is that it is for all the extra cleaning that dogs bring with them. On the surface, this might sound fair - dogs do tend to be pretty hairy after all. But think this through - how much more work is it to vacuum a floor with dog hair than one without?
How much more work to polish a desk in a room that had a dog, compared to one that didn’t? Even if the dogs are allowed on the bed, I would still expect the covers to be washed to the same standard than if it were just humans using it before the next visitors arrive.
It takes no more work, and that’s our issue here. We don’t object to a doggy deposit, where you pay a reasonable returnable fee for any chew damage or copious mud shakes all over the walls. That’s only fair that if your dog causes damage, you pay for it. If your dog causes no damage, what is there to pay for? Are hotels really giving your room an extra £10 per dog-worth of cleaning each day?
We don’t get on many holidays any more, and that’s by choice. When we do go away however, we are selective about where we stay. We won’t pay extra to have our two stay with us - that, to our mind, is a dog tolerant hotel, not a dog friendly one.
If we were to stay somewhere for a week with our two, that’s an extra £140 we’d have to stump up. Now really, does it cost any hotel or B&B an extra £140 a week to clean up after two little well behaved dogs?
We object to this dog tax, and we think you should too by refusing to pay any extra for your dogs. Offer to make a refundable deposit instead - that’s much more fair.
By taking your business elsewhere to somewhere that truly welcomes dogs deserves your custom, we believe your stay will be made all the better for it. Just because we own and love dogs doesn’t mean we should be taxed for it.
And if you think that's bad...
These days, we tend to nip away for a couple of nights in our wonderful little caravan. Beautiful surroundings, peaceful countryside, starry nights in beautiful Scotland. Surely there can be no additional dog taxes here, right?
Well, obviously, wrong. Some sites, beleive it or not, do charge extra to take dogs with you in your own caravan. I mean...what? In what world does having a dog in your own caravan cost the campsite any more? As responsible dog owners - as we all should be and, if you are reading this, probably are - we pick up after our dogs and nobody would ever know they were there.
Why do some campsites charge extra? Well, you'll have to ask them and whilst we don't want to publicly shame anyone for this, the next time you come across this charge at a campsite why not ask them what it's for? It might make them think twice.
Technology Dog Taxes
It’s not just in holiday accommodation that we see such dog taxes arise.
Take, for example, the security cameras we use here at Happy Home Dog Boarding. They are from Motorola, and don’t get us wrong, they are very good and let us keep an eye on the dogs at night or when we pop out, but have a look at these, both taken from the UK Motorola website.
Spot the difference:
These two cameras are, other than their colour, completely identical in size, shape and function. Completely. Identical. So why would the one on the left cost more than the one on the right?
The dog tax, that’s why.
The Motorola Scout 85 is promoted as a pet cam, to keep an eye on your furry pals when you’re not around. As it says, it is to "...keep an eye on your pet". At time of writing, it costs £95 at Pets At Home and £95 at fetch.co.uk and £89.99 on Amazon (when not on sale, as it fortunately is now).
Compare this to the functionally identical Motorola Focus 85, available for £59.99 on Amazon, £79.99 at Argos and £79.99 from Maplin and marketed as a general household security camera, to "...keep an eye on your home".
Again, let me repeat - the only differences between them is the colour, and the fact the more expensive Scout is targeted towards pet owners. Seems a bit dodgy, right?
No more stealthy taxes for dog owners!
The worry is that the dog tax is a stealthy tax, where we don’t even realise we’re paying more than we should or, in the case of hotels, may not be able to refuse if it’s the only place available.
We’re fed up of being taken advantage of. We’ll happy pay more for a premium service, but businesses please - don’t try to fleece us for a few extra pounds. We’re onto you, and if there’s one thing you don’t do, it’s don’t upset dog owners!
We’d really love to hear any instances where you felt you have been taken advantage of, just because you own a dog. Let us know below, or over on our Facebook page.
And remember, if all else fails and you can't take your dog away with you...well...not to blow our own trumpet, but we do know two pretty awesome home dog boarders you could use. Yes, we're talking about ourselves.
We care about the wellbeing of every dog that comes through the Happy Home Dog Boarding door. Each one has their own unique personality and traits, just like we do.
The interesting thing we've noticed from doing boarding is how much a dog's personality and behaviour is linked to their diet. The dogs that are fed on a high-sugar diet, or who get a lot of human food, tend to be somewhat more energetic and bonkers than those on a more balanced diet.
But whilst we can choose whether to have broccoli and carrots for dinner, or gobble down a dirty McDonalds burger instead, your dog gets what they are given, so if you feed them a high energy food for breakfast and dinner, don't be surprised if he runs around your home breaking stuff - you put that energy in them.
It's therefore up to us as responsible owners, to ensure that our dogs get a nutritious, healthy and balanced diet, which goes hand in hand with regular exercise to ensure you have a healthy and balanced happy dog.
Okay, so far, so common sense. Why blog about it?
We’re not saying you should avidly mark up every last calorie pooch eats and add it to a spreadsheet, because that’s clearly not practical.
What we're saying is that it's worth paying close attention to the ingredients of your chosen dog food because the things they tell you on the TV and on the packaging aren't always on the up-and-up.
There are many flashy adverts on TV for dog food. Some have talking dogs, or dogs that dance or drive delivery vans. There was even one which used high pitched noises to make it more appealing to your dog at home, although apparently it didn't work anyway. The adverts always make it look like the perfect, healthy meal for your pup. The voiceovers often say it's tasty, balanced, nutritious.
Is dog food as healthy as TV adverts portray?
Although they might have fancy TV adverts, dog food on the whole may not quite be as good for dogs as you think - regardless if the have "premium" "pedigree" or "royal" in their name. Feeding your dog the right food, and avoiding the bad stuff, can add years to their life by keeping them healthier.
With so many types of food on the market, it's going to be impossible to study and compare the ingredients of all of them. I mean, take a look at some dog food the next time you're near a packet. What's Propylene Glycol? Or Mannanoligosaccharides? Other than winning you a game of scrabble, these words are meaningless to non-experts, so here at HHDB we like to turn to All About Dog Food for nutritional advice.
This website details all the ingredients of dog food, and gives them scores out of 5. Remember that advert I mentioned about using high pitched noises? It was for Bakers Meaty Meals, described as "Full of soft meaty chunks with all the goodness your dog needs". A quick trip to All About Dog Food reveals a rather impressive score.
0.1 / 5.
That's right, it's not a typo. 0.1.
Perhaps it gained this score because it isn't poison, but it doesn't seem to have much else going for it. And Bakers isn't alone - Pedigree Chum is also sitting at the bottom too. These aren't good foods for your dog. And is it a coincidence that Bakers is ultimately owned by Nestle, while Pedigree Chum and Royal Canin by Mars? These two Confectionery sweetie giants have never been seen as the purveyors of a healthy diet, have they?
It's not just food to watch out for
There is a massive worldwide market for dog treats. In 2014, 78.1% of US dog-owning households bought treats for their pups. It's still a growing market, which means the public are, on the whole, uneducated about the nitty gritty of the ingredients, and take at face value the TV adverts as the manufacturers clamber for our cash.
I'm now going to say a dirty word.
We don't have any time for Dentastix here at HHDB. Let me tell you a story for why.
A few years ago, we bought these for Sprocket, as we thought they would help keep his teeth clean, and would be a good chance for him to relax and have a healthy chew. We were wrong on all counts.
Sprocket, being a greedy dog, wolfed most of it down without chewing. He was really ill - out of sorts, and you can always tell when your own dog isn't quite right.
So we rushed him to the vet just to check just how serious this was. We've since changed vets because these ones were incompetent and told us he must have swallowed a tennis ball (have you seen the size of Sprocket?!) but that's a story for another time. Suffice to say we never gave Sprocket another Dentastix, and not just because of his wolfing it down.
But perhaps this is a problem with the dog - dogs who don't wolf their food down should be okay to eat them, right?
Nope. We've done some research and found this fantastic graphic, which the creators at Pooch & Mutt have kindly allowed us to reproduce here:
Just take a moment to read it. Click on the image to make it bigger. Would you feed your dog this now, knowing what's in it? They contain known skin irritants; chemicals that can cause irreversible blood cell damage and even possible cancer causing chemicals.
Sticking the prefix 'Denta-' onto your product and showing a smiling dog seems to be all they need to do to convince us that this is a healthy treat. The worst part is that it's perceived as an every day snack, which over time likely does more harm than good to your dog's teeth, irony!
We need to start fighting back and understanding what's in this food, because these aren't treats we're giving out to our best friends, but potential killers.
Oh and don't worry - Sprocket fully recovered!
What are our other feeding options?
Firstly it is crucial to remember that treats should always be counted towards your dog's daily food allowance.
One of the simplest and cheapest options is home made treats. We've touched on this before, including a delicious liver cake recipe (always in moderation) or even simple frozen banana treats for the summer and to help with puppy teething,
Stuffed frozen Kongs are fantastic for keeping dogs busy, particularly if they are chewers. This awesome blog from Just Dogs shop in Stockbridge, 'Why Kong is King' covers stuffing potential.
In fact you don't need to do anything to have a nice treat - buy a raw carrot or cucumber and give it to your dog. They might not take it immediately, but with a bit of enthusiasm and slicing it thin to begin with and they should start to love it!
Alternatively there are loads of healthy, natural treats you can buy reasonably inexpensively. As many regulars here at Happy Home Dog Boarding will know, we're a fan of the pizzle.
What is a pizzle? Well - men, look away now.
It's the dried out remains of a bull's penis. Yum! The dogs go mad for it. We're also a fan of lamb's scalps and fish skins, which entertain our boarders for a long time. We buy ours online and you can too from the ever reliable Howl Emporium.
Do your vets recommend your dog food?
Let’s be clear about this from the outset. We are not telling you to ignore your vet. We are not telling you that your vet doesn’t know what is best for your dog. And we are most definitely not advising you to not go to the vet if you think there is something wrong with your dog.
For the record, we are exceptionally happy with our vets – ICR Vets in Loanhead. There are very few people we trust the health of our dogs to, but they are top of the list.
What we are doing is looking at some freely-available evidence that suggests some dog food companies hold an influence over the choices vets make when it comes to food.
As one article put it, vets still have to make money, and if recommending one type of food over another gets them their summer holiday to Barbados, then guess what they will do?
There's nothing illegal about it, and all dog food has over 50 pieces of legislation governing their manufacture so it's safe. But try not to be blindly obedient in these situations. Ask questions, read ingredients, make up your own mind.
Here are some articles on the subject you may enjoy:
We would love to hear anyone who has experienced such advice from their vets, and also anyone who disagrees with the above articles.
Finally, to finish off, let's touch upon raw feeding. We have always fed our dogs kibble, so raw feeding was new to us before we started boarding. What we've seen through experience are well balanced dogs who enjoy their food.
Here's some more information on raw feeding:
Raw feeding is a massive - and controversial topic - so we'll keep it for a future blog post. And it'll be a good 'un!
And that's our thoughts on the matter! Do you think it matters what we feed our dogs? Do you think we're giving the big named brands a hard time? Let us know below or over on our Facebook page.