Monday, 18 December 2017

Help your dog to enjoy Christmas a little bit more this year

It’s that most wonderful time of the year (or so they tell me!).

Love it or loathe it, Christmas is nearly upon us and that can present some big challenges for our dogs.  There’s a lot more yummy food around (and not so yummy food - Brian is currently obsessed with the Christmas cake and although I keep telling him it is Toxic Fruit Death Cake, he remains eternally optimistic).   

There are many shiny, dangly, toys which rattle intriguingly (and whoever said Christmas tree decorations were not toys has obviously never met my dog).  There are THINGS wrapped in PAPER (I approve wholeheartedly of enthusiastic paper ripping - I just don’t approve of it involving teeth and happening minutes after I just finished the wrapping).

Those home hazards all involve some degree of management, but perhaps the biggest challenge is the change in routines - Christmas means changes in working patterns, parties, visitors to the house and trips out to see other people.  This might mean new places, unfamiliar people, unusual situations and meeting strange dogs.

Brian and I recently spent a week visiting family across the country. This involved all of those things (our family down south have five dogs between them), as well as long car journeys, hotel stays, restaurant dining and even staying with Granma while I was working!  Brian coped like an absolute trooper, but it was pretty obvious as the week went on that he was finding it increasingly difficult and would really just like to go home now!

With that in mind, I wanted to share some of our general hints for making the whole process of Christmas visits more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone involved.

Laura’s top ten tips for Christmas visits

  1. Plan for walks before setting off on Christmas journeys - long trips in the car can be a lot less stressful for your dog if they can settle in and have a post walk snooze for at least some of the drive.
  2. Plan breaks into long journeys - not only will your dog need the toilet, finding nice spots to stop for a walk will refresh your head and give them a chance to stretch their legs and burn off a little energy which makes the journey less taxing for everyone.
  3. Plan meetings with new dogs carefully.  Let them meet outside the house first before you take them inside and have a back-up plan in case they just don’t get on - can they be kept apart in the house while you visit?  Can one or both dogs settle comfortably in their cars (use jumpers and blankets as needed to make sure they stay warm).  Be confident to say if something isn’t working.
  4. Make safe spaces that your dog can withdraw to if it all gets overwhelming - can they use a crate to get away from children or dogs they aren’t used to?  Is there a room they can go settle in and be left alone?
  5. Bring plenty of stuffed Kongs and delicious chews to give your dog something to focus on and to help them calm down if they’re getting worked up.
  6. Don’t be scared to tell family members and friends what you need them to do - you know your dog better than they do.  If it would be easier, why not write it down and send it to people in advance?  This helps them take your instructions seriously and also gives them time to prepare.
  7.   If you can, put up dog proof pens outside doors which lead to escapable gardens - this lets everyone relax a little and not be on tenterhooks that the dog might make a bid for freedom!
  8. For overnight visits, think about whether staying with family or friends is the best option.  If there are too many unknowns (other dogs, children, too many people that your dog may struggle with), is there dog friendly accommodation that you can book nearby?
  9.   For prolonged visits, make sure to plan in time for your dog to chill out and decompress.  This might involve time out in the car, in the crate, or a strategic withdrawal to your bedroom.
  10. If staying in places you don’t know very well, find some local walks before you go.  I always take Ordnance Survey maps with me when I go away, so that we can find all the local footpaths, but you can also often find good local walks online.  Family and friends (especially those with their own dogs) may also have some good ideas about walks that would suit your dog. 

These are guidelines rather than actual rules (every dog is different and your mileage may vary) but they worked pretty well for us.  We adapted an oversize puppy pen to make an enclosure outside Granma’s back door so that she could let him out while I was away (anyone who has watched Brian’s excitement at going OUTSIDE will understand why I didn’t want Granma, who is almost 90, to try and take him out on a lead!).   

We tried introductions to my brother-in-law’s dogs, but two over-enthusiastic Labradors and two Newfoundland crosses turned out to be too much, so we made a strategic withdrawal to the crate in the car, which he was much happier about.

Whatever works for you all, I wish everyone some happy and non-eventful holiday visits.

Laura & Brian

P.S. Well Connected Canine is taking some well-earned time off over Christmas to spend time with our dogs and our own families.  We’ll be closing on Thursday 21st December and re-opening on Thursday 4th January.  If you do need to speak with us before Christmas, make sure you get in touch soon - it’s creeping up fast!

Monday, 11 December 2017

When life gives you lemons, don’t just make lemonade – stop buying more lemons!

I was in an accident last week. Another driver took a chance on a side junction, cut across the traffic and went straight into the side of my van. We were really lucky because neither of us was going that fast, but it was terrifying for me and the collie girls.

The aftermath with police, ambulances, recovery vehicles, having to find a friend who could come and rescue the girls – noisy, unfamiliar, lots of stressed people.

The van is away for repairs (I hope!) and we’ve finally sorted out a temporary replacement.

Bronte has taken it all in her stride. Being deaf and part blind means life can be pretty unpredictable and she generally shrugs and moves on.

Freya is really struggling, but then this is the fourth time she’s been in some kind of vehicle collision. Every time we’ve managed to work through it, but it gets harder each time.

Passing traffic noises are scary again, she’s on high alert in every situation and when Freya saw the replacement van outside my house she panicked and tried to flee. That was just seeing the van, we weren’t going near it or unlocking it.

Having a positive attitude to life and turning challenges into opportunities is one way of coping with the ups and downs the universe throws at us. So yes, when life gives you lemons – making lemonade can be an excellent choice.

But the truth is being optimistic isn’t enough.

Using positive affirmations might help your attitude, but what needs to change is your behaviour.

So when an avalanche of lemons lands on your head, the smart thing to do is cancel your monthly order of lemons…

I’ve organised my work schedule and personal plans so that barring emergency vet trips, Freya doesn’t have to go anywhere near a vehicle for at least the next month.

While I know I could ask her to go in a car, and she would try her best for me, it’s not worth pushing our luck and adding to the stress she is already under.

We’re going to be using supportive medication, plus all of the training techniques that have worked so well for us in the past to build Freya’s confidence around vehicles.

Freya has a pretty good set of resources to draw on (she adores crate training, knows that loud noises equal treats, enjoys scentwork, learns fast) but most importantly she knows that I won’t force her to do scary stuff.

If you need help with an avalanche of lemons, let us know!

Have a safe week

Morag and the collie girls

PS Looking forward to seeing some of you at our Xmas social on Thursday where the only lemons will be round the edge of my tequila glass

PPS Well Connected Canine is taking some well-earned time off over Christmas to spend time with
our dogs and our own families. We’ll be closing on Thursday 21 st December and re-opening on
Thursday 4th January. If you do need to speak with us before Christmas, make sure you get in touch
soon - it’s creeping up fast!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Do more stuff with your dog

Thanks to the hardy souls who braved the cold and came along to our first Parkour walkies on Saturday at Brimham Rocks. Sian led us on a magical mystery tour to find objects to climb on, under, go through and more. 

We did manage to get everyone on the same rock (briefly), and several people managed to film some elements for their International Parkour title submissions. 

Parkour is a dog sport/activity that builds confidence, improves body awareness and can be done by all ages and sizes. Most importantly it gets you into the outdoors having more fun with your dog – the best way to build a better relationship!

Want to find out more about Parkour? Just email us (info @ and ask to go on the waiting list for our Parkour workshops and classes, we’ve lots of fun events planned for 2018.

Hope your dogs are enjoying the frosty weather

Morag and the collie girls

PS We’ve all enjoyed doing more activities with our dogs this year so here’s a sneaky early announcement that from January 2018 you can join the Sunday Sports & Social Club every month. A chance to catch up with like minded people and dogs plus practice your skills for rally, agility, parkour, scentwork and more. We’ll provide the space and the hot drinks, you bring cake, dogs and enthusiasm!