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.
Who doesn't like liver cake?
Well, most people I suppose. But if you were a dog, you'd go wild for it! It was Sprocket's birthday recently and to celebrate, we made him a liver cake birthday cake. Let me tell you, it was very well received as you can see in our video!
We've been baking this tasty treat for a while now at HHDB HQ, and thought we would share the cheap and simple recipe with you. Check out our recipe video below, and the liver cake recipe method written out underneath.
Liver Cake Recipe - Video
Baking a Liver Cake - Recipe
Heat your oven to 180C = 350F = Gas Mark 4
3 medium free range eggs
450g plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
(Or, if you prefer, substitute the plain flour and baking powder for 450g of self-raising flour)
450g lamb's liver
Pop the liver into a food processor and blitz until smooth.
Then add the three eggs and water, and blitz again.
Then, in stages, add the flour and baking powder, and make sure it's all well mixed together.
Pour the mixture into a loaf tin lined with baking parchment, and pop it in the oven for 35 - 40 minutes. You can check it is cooked when you insert a skewer or knife, and it comes out clean. If any mixture sticks to it, put it in for another couple of minutes, then check again.
The smell filling your kitchen may well be driving pup mad, but let the cake cool for a bit. It's totally safe for humans to eat, but having tried it, it's not recommended.
We hope you have been able to follow this easy liver cake recipe for your dog. Remember to take some photos of your dog enjoying this tasty treat and share them with us on our Facebook page, Simply cut the liver cake into cubes about the size of some dice and give your dog a tasty treat! Enjoy!
Like many of you, we love to take our two dogs away with us when we go on holiday - we even took Sprocket on our honeymoon in a VW Camper to the Isle of Skye!
Whilst we're here to care for your dog if they can't join you, it is lovely to pack up your things and take the whole family away for a break, letting your dog explore new smells and find new awkward places to poop.
Dog Holiday Pre-Departure Checklist
Before you leave, it's a good idea to make a list of all the things to take for your dog to ensure a safe and fun trip.Here's the checklist we use:
Leads, Collars and Harnesses
If you are away to the country, you might need to keep your dog on a lead due to livestock.
In this case, it's better to have a harness for long spells on the lead as that eliminates the danger of throttling your pal when he lunges to chase a rabbit.
We use these Ezydog harnesses, as they can also be clipped onto your seatbelt for added dog safety on the road.
We've also started using Halti leads for our boarders, as they are strong and you can alter their size to suit the dog using clips.
Bed or Blankets
Taking a bed or blanket is not only to keep your furry pal warm, but the smell of home will also be comforting. This is why we ask you to bring your dogs' bed when they stay with us, as it reduces stress and reminds them of home.
Many dogs like a quiet corner of a room that they can call their own, without being disturbed or harassed and have a sleep. Of course, that's not always the case...
If your dog is a big breed, you might not want or need these. For little breeds, like our Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, we need to either keep them dry, or get them dry quickly as they are so little and totsy they can get ill with the coldness.
We think of dog jackets as having two types - ones where you go out in the rain, and ones where you come back home wet, whether by accident or design.
In the "going out in the wet on purpose" category are these waterproof jackets from 3 Peaks which we find are easy to get on and off, and keeps our two dry on top.
One tip we have with these is to keep the velcro sections by the dogs head always connected, and push/pull the coat over the head of the dog instead. Otherwise, the loud noise of ripping velcro right by their ear could cause them to fear/hate the coat, making your life much more difficult.
The second type are those to dry off after becoming wet, or to warm up after swimming or just generally cold conditions.
We use these little jackets called Equafleece, the blue version modelled on Sprocket here.
Designed initially for horses, they do two things. One, they draw moisture away from your dog's skin, drying them off quicker. And two, they are nice and cosy, helping your dog heat up if they have been in for a swim.
We have found that after a swim, our pups can be quite shivery and tired, but putting these on them gives them a second wind and off they go running amok again.
Our other type of jacket is a onesie, and Indie's comes from Willowheart Onesies, a growing local Edinburgh business that creates bespoke, hand-made jackets for your pup. They are frankly adorable, and create quite the talking point when out and about! They are really well made and durable, washable and very funky.
This is more important in the summer months, but worth having year round.
Some people are squeamish about removing ticks, and if you are prepared to pay a vet to do it, that's fine. But for those of us who enjoy getting far away from civilisation it becomes more important, because the longer a tick is on your dog (or you!) the more damage it can do, including passing on Lyme Disease.
There are a range to choose from, but our current favourite is this kind of tick remover, which acts like a claw from a soft toy arcade machine and is very easy to use, and makes tick removal a very simple process. We've also been known to use these tick twisters, and although effective, we found that they can can be a bit finicky with smaller ticks. We've also tried these ones, but they aren't worth the money.
Don't even think about using a sharp pair of tweezers/some vaseline/a hot knife either as they can make matters worse:
For more information on ticks, how to deal with them and how to dispose of them, here's the Lyme Disease Action link (which contains photos of ticks, in case you are one of the squeamish ones).
I mean, obviously bring food, unless your dog has to hunt for himself. At least remember to take his food and water bowl, don't make him a complete barbarian.
For out and about, we carry a bottle along with one of these sorts of plastic bowls, but we've also seen folk use bowls made out of a lighter material It's a handy little bowl, and really useful for when you'll be away from any source of freshwater on your walks to keep pup hydrated.
We've reviewed the poop pots before, and are generally favourable to them. Here's a photo of Cheryl modelling her finery.
We've since added a caveat to the review as we find ours sometimes pops open when it's full, but that shouldn't necessarily put you off.
They are still great for when you are far from a bin and Fido lets loose the dog poops of war, and when not totally full they keep the smell in and mean you are not leaving poop all over the country paths.
Something else we would recommend is never breathing in the air when you open the pot up. The concentrated stench is enough to knock out a hippo.
Here's one I bet you didn't think of.
Whilst vinegar is an important part of any chip diet, it's also a magic ingredient for removing the smell of fox poo on your dog. Many people recommend tomato ketchup for this, but it is the vinegar in the ketchup that does the trick. Also, if you have a white dog, we really don't recommend you covering them in red sauce...
I've tried to find the science behind why this works, but have drawn a blank. I guess the only way to prove it to you is to give it a try next time your dog rolls in a present from Mr. Fox. I sometimes know how Boggis, Bunce and Bean must have felt...
So what have we missed? Anything slightly unusual that you take on your hols?
And remember, for when you can't take your dog, we're here to help and make sure they get a holiday of their own!
There are very few places that can tick as many boxes as Edinburgh.
Beautiful - tick.
Historic - tick.
Gorgeous accent - tick (obviously!)
Historically, dogs have been welcomed in Edinburgh - as evidenced by the world-famous Greyfriars Bobby. In fact, some say that one of the best things Edinburgh has going for it is it’s dog friendly culture. So let's refine this idea as we explain why you should bring your dog to Edinburgh!
Dog Friendly, Not Just Dog Tolerant
Many pubs and bars in the UK claim to be dog friendly these days, because it’s good for business. In reality though, some are merely dog tolerant. They might let you sit at a small bar with your pup so you can order peanuts, or allow you to sit in their windy beer garden with all the smokers, but if you want anything more substantial to eat, or a more comfortable seat to eat it in, you’ll have to hope there’s a burger van nearby or you’ll both be going home hungry.
Edinburgh offers a truly dog friendly atmosphere, with your dog accepted into many places you would never have expected.
I can take my two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Sprocket and Indiana, to more cafes and eateries than I can count.
This ranges from beachside pubs like The Espy in Portobello (Edinburgh’s seaside town) to city centre gastropubs like the Scran and Scallie, run by the Michelin starred Tom Kitchin.
Such is the number for dog friendly places in Edinburgh that a site has been specifically set up to keep track and advise you on where you can happily take your pup.
Dugs 'n Pubs started in 2009 and has exploded in popularity since then. It is an invaluable resource for anyone in the city who simply wants to go out for a nice day with your best friend and not have to worry about where they can go for a drink.
Dog Friendly Events
The city also hosts a variety of dog friendly events throughout the year, including the Foodies Festival, which tours the UK celebrating great food and drink, and the more local Meadows Festival.
The Meadows Festival, as you can see from the images below, is an annual weekend event of music, food and stalls selling everything from artwork to jewellry. Held in a central park only moments from the Royal Mile, it's also a wonderfully dog friendly event, with dog shows and events run by the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home - you might even walk away with a rosette!
For more photos from this and previous years' Meadows Festival, check out the Edinburgh Dog Photography Facebook page.
Edinburgh's Stunning Outdoor Spaces
Over and above all of this, Edinburgh has so much outdoors space to play with your pup on a visit. 49.2% of Edinburgh is green space, and has recently been named the UK’s greenest city.
Of course, the biggest green space - and one that is hard to miss - is Arthur’s Seat, a hill which towers over the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace near the city centre.
This remnant of an extinct volcano welcomes tourists and residents alike to walk and run up its sides, providing a massive playground for dogs of all sizes and capabilities.
The opportunities to explore Edinburgh from above don’t end there. You can enjoy a walk up Blackford Hill, where you can take in the view of the castle, Arthur’s Seat and further into East Lothian and an unusual looking hill around the coast, North Berwick Law.
Then there’s Calton Hill, five minutes walk from the city centre.
On it, you can see a great deal of eclectic architecture, including the National Monument. This was built in the 1820s to remember the fallen of the Napoleonic Wars, in the style of Greece’s Parthenon. Unfortunately, it ran out of funding midway through and sits unfinished to this day, giving Edinburgh the beautifully sarcastic name, ‘Athens of the North’.
The Dog Friendly City Folk
But here’s the biggest tick of all. Here’s why you need to bring your dog to Edinburgh.
Strolling around with your wee pal through the winding, gorgeous, cobbled streets can often take longer than planned because of the community spirit amongst fellow dog owners.
Don’t be surprised if you are stopped so your dogs can fuss each other - or so you can fuss a new puppy pal! You never quite know who you are going to end up chatting with, and during the Edinburgh Festival, you never know - could get a pleasant surprise!
To finish, here's a list of some more of our favourite dog friendly places to go with your dog in Edinburgh:
Holyrood 9a - a wonderful pub not far from the Scottish Parliament that adores dogs.
The Espy - we can't get enough of this place!
Cloisters - a lovely traditional real-ale pub with a fireplace to stay snug in winter.
City Cafe - travel back in time with this funky diner by day, drinks by night!
The Southern - this used to be our regular haunt, and was also visited by Nirvana once!
What other places would you suggest visitors with their dogs go to in Edinburgh?
Coooo-ee tiger, it is hot! When a heatwave hits - like it is doing as I write this blog - it's taps aff, head to the beach and soak up those rays. We always take our dogs when we can, but there are times when we have to make do with what we have at home.
So if you are at home on a scorching day, here are 5 easy, cheap and effective ways you can ensure doggo stays nice and cool.
1. Pea Water
Please don't skip ahead here, as I"m afraid there may be the danger of misunderstanding what I mean by pea water.
Frozen peas can be a good way to cool your dog's drinking water down, whilst also supplying them with a nice healthy treat! (Dogs with kidney problems shouldn't be fed peas - check with your vet first if in doubt).
Just pour a few frozen peas into the bowl and voila, instant chilled pea water. The peas do tend to sink, but are still perfectly edible (by your dog - don't be disgusting. Put them in their dinnerbowl).
There's also no problem with putting ice in your dog's water. There was, some time ago, a big hooha about this, with many claiming it can make your dog ill. It has been proven time and time and time andtime again that there's no danger in giving your dogs icy water, but as ever they should be monitored to make sure they aren't over-drinking or drinking too quickly.
2. Wet Towels
3. Paddling Pool
We bought a cheap as chips paddling pool like this one recently, although you might have one in the attic or shed, used once then forgotten about!
We got so we could fill it with balls and throw in dog food to give them an activity whilst eating - it slows them down, and adds a bit of fun!
However with the sun out, it converts to its original usage as a pool quite easily. We filled it up to its recommended level and encouraged the dogs in by throwing kibble on the water. This went down very well! What dog doesn't love a splish splash with added food?
The good thing about getting a cheap one is that if pooch has a particularly shard claw and bursts it, you're not too badly out of pocket.
4. Hose Pipe Fun
5. Frozen Banana Yoghurt Natural Treats
This is one our pups love.
Slice up a banana in the posh chef-y way, that is, at a slight angle to get oval-shaped slices, and not just straight down into circles.
Pop them onto a tray lined with baking parchment and stick in the freezer for a couple of hours. They'll come out solid and you can feed them to your dog like this. However, for a delicious twist, pop some natural yoghurt on top to make the pups feel like they are at a Tapas bar.
Remember the basics for keeping your dog cool. Overheating and sunstroke are very real dangers and can quickly kill a dog:
Don't leave your dog in the car in this heat, even for a minute, and even if your windows are down. If there's no breeze, the car will soon turn into an oven.
Keep a cool breeze running through your home if possible. Open windows at opposite sides of your building to ensure airflow.
Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, and always have water available for you and your dogs on your walks.
Don't cover your dog crates with anything heavy - in fact, as you can see from the pic, crates make great doorstops to let the air through when not in use! This is especially handy if you don't have a stairgate in the house, and want to leave your doors open for a breeze.
And if all else fails, a dog laying by the back door is surely a happy dog!
You all have probably seen that meme on Facebook of an old looking dog in a flat cap, reminiscing aboutwhen he was a pup he had one toy, and it was a stick.
Throwing a stick for your dog is one of those iconic images that movies and TV shows are filled with. But it's not as harmless a pastime as you may think, and as many dog owners have found out to their horror it can be one of the most dangerous things to do with your dog pal.
Time and time again we are warned of the risks of throwing sticks. Apart from chewing and swallowing sharp splinters, the risks include a stick landing and poking up from the ground like a spear. A running dog can easily impale their body or throat on it, especially if the ground is wet and slippy, leading to horrific and life threatening injuries.
The danger is so real that the Kennel Club have banned images of dogs holding sticks in their mouths in their annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition, and say on their website: "We believe in happy and healthy dogs. Dogs playing or chewing on sticks may cause serious injury so we only want to see dogs playing with dog toys that are considered safe by vets and Kennel Club Accreditation Scheme dog trainers and instructors."
"I've thrown sticks for 35 yrs without a problem."
Look, here's Ben Fogle disagreeing with us and most of the vet world:
Even if, like Ben Fogle, you have thrown sticks for your dogs all your life, you should still stop now. Just because nothing bad has happened, doesn't mean nothing will - is that a risk you are really willing to take with your dog?
Oh Ben Fogle. What a diddy.
The dangers of your dog impaling themselves on a stick is real and documented and if your stomach can take it, a quick Google will show some of the terrible damage a simple piece of oak can cause.
It's a manageable, recognised risk, so let's look at alternatives.
Rubber Balls and Launchers
Our go-to outdoors toy has always been the rubber ball. We use the smaller foamy balls rather than tennis balls because Sprocket and Indie have teeny totsy mouths and can't manage a big tennis ball. We tended to use ball launchers like this Chuckit one, but it got to the stage where Barky McBarkerston wouldn't let us walk in peace so it has been quietly retired to the cupboard, coming out only on special occasions.
The K-9 Kannon
We invested in a Hyperpet K-9 Kannon Mini bought from the excellent Harry's Treats in Portobello. It's a small gun that shoots out a ball using the science of a humungous elastic band, as demonstrated by the handsome young man of a model in the image.
It can fair blast the ball some distance, and would save a heck of a lot of shoulder-aching from using a launcher. You can also shout "Get to the choppa" in a terrible Austrian accent and people will accept you for it. The only problem for us is that Sprocket is afraid of the Kannon, so it has had limited usage recently.
Sprocket is afraid of many things which pop, so this came as little surprise to us. However, the Kannon is very useful for when we have high-energy boarders staying with us (we just have to distract Sprocket with something else!)
We just bought one of these the other day to give it a try as a safer alternative to sticks. It's called a Kong Wubba and is described by its own blurb as a "...fun, interactive toss and tug toy" which is one of the rudest descriptions of a dog toy I've come across, but I guess not everyone has the mind of a teenager.
The idea is that it is tough and durable, with a tennis ball and a smaller, squeaky ball covered in a hard nylon cloth that should hold up to a good game of fetch or tug-o-war.
So far so good - in that it's seen some action between two energetic dogs and has come home in one piece. i'll update the blog when we have used it a bit more, and see how durable it really is.
There are loads of alternatives to sticks, of course, and we haven't tried most of them. Have you?
From rubber fetch sticks to throw, to knotted ropes for tug-o-war, all the way to the top of the range i-Fetch ball launcher for the more laid-back dog owner amongst us, there is surely an affordable option that would allow everyone to move away from the pointy sticks and danger of a nasty and avoidable stabbing of your dog.
Let us have your recommendation for alternatives to sticks below. And if we've learned one thing from this blog, it's clearly don't listen to Ben Fogle.