Strawberries in dog's diet / Can my dog eat strawberries / Goitrogenic foods as strawberries / Health benefits of strawberries for dogs / Canine diet and nutrition / Healthy dog foods / English cocker spaniel pet blog, diet nutrition advice, grooming, training, breed information, health / (C) Natalia Ashton

Can my dog eat… strawberries?

Today I am baking scones to mark the start of the strawberry season. Tea, scones, clotted cream, fresh strawberries, sunshine and blue sky… A perfect moment for the two of us… and a little queue that will definitely be keeping an eye on me while I am cooking and prepping.

The boys do love strawberries. They know them by name and whether or not I have a box in the fridge.

CAN OUR DOGS EAT STRAWBERRIES?

The answer is YES (with a tiny “but”).

Most dogs can have strawberries and enjoy them in season to fully get the benefits of these wonderful fruits.

Strawberries are one of the best sources of vitamin C, manganese, folate, iodine, biotin, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Something we may not even think of, but the seeds also provide a small amount of alpha-linolenic acids and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Beside their vitamin and mineral content, the berries are also packed with polyphenol antioxidants (flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignin, tannins, stilbenes) known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They are praised for supporting heart health, protecting the cells from oxidative damage and reducing the risk of cancers.

The quercetin is strawberries may also work as a natural antihistamine in dogs who suffer from allergies, particularly the seasonal ones.

Additionally, eating berries has been shown to improve memory and motor-responses associated with ageing.

And if this isn’t enough, the studies picked on the ability of strawberries to control blood sugar and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes even when the berries were combined with sugar in the same meal!

How much can you give your dog? Each of my boys has a berry per day, roughly the size of a quail egg or a whole walnut. Too much can cause an upset tummy, vomiting or diarrhoea.

I also need to mention the “but” when it comes to strawberries in canine diet. These lovely berries are a source of goitrogens, the compounds that can interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid gland and thus affect its function. If your dog has an underactive thyroid (also known as hypothyroidism), he should not be having strawberries.

Image credit: Pezibear from Pixabay

Why train your dog / cocker spaniel training explained / Perfect cocker spaniel book & pet blog / dog diet, nutrition, grooming, training, health tips / (C) Natalia Ashton

What is the point of training a cocker spaniel?

Once upon a time I knew a cocker spaniel. He was a wonderful guy, a perfect specimen in every way – kind, friendly, and absolutely stunning. He was also incredibly well-trained and obedient. In any dog parent’s eyes he was a dream!

And then one day we saw a different side of this perfection. We were having one of our walks, somewhat crazy, somewhat calm, and most definitely a happy “messy-hair-don-t-care” walk for the three of us to enjoy. Suddenly, that spaniel appeared out of nowhere. He was running down the street, unleashed and free. I felt worried. We were on a side of busy road. We stopped. I looked around for his owner.

Eventually he appeared, slightly red faced. He called the dog – and the dog obliged to perfection. He went over, sat nicely and waited. A scene that would have been absolutely beautiful to watch if it wasn’t for one simple fact… The boy’s body language…

As he sat there, his body got tensed, the forever wagging tail – tucked under the bottom, and the ears pinned tights against his head.

Yes, the spaniel did what was asked of him… but he did so not because it was unthinkable for him not to please his owner out of love – it was unthinkable for him not to please his owner out of fear. He was perfectly obedient, but from that moment on I wouldn’t dare let my mind think of the methods used to train that dog. Even though he was perfect in comparison to my lot, I’d be heartbroken if my boys reacted to me and our training like that.

And we do take our training seriously (well, as serious as one can do when surrounded by cocker spaniels!) Anyone who knows me, read my blog or book, is aware of the fact that we love a bit of training here. I train my dogs from puppyhood and throughout their whole life without hardly missing a day. But we train for as long as everyone is enjoying it because for me, the point of successful training is far beyond a basic response to the cue word achieved at all costs or being able to perform every single imaginable task out there.

So why do we train our dogs then?

It helps the dog to live with his human family in harmony. We are all unique and have our own ways and habits, which the dog needs to be aware of. Teaching him what’s ok and not is like teaching a little child that sticking his fingers in an electric socket or playing with matches isn’t a good idea, but putting his toys away or kissing his mum really-really is.

As far as your household is concerned, you are the one who sets the rules as long as they are safe and sensible for everyone. If you are comfortable with your dog sleeping on a sofa – so be it. If you’d rather he slept in his own bed – teach him. If you want to avoid accidents and destructions during puppyhood – prevent them by proofing the house. Not keen on your dog stealing food from the table – don’t leave it there! If you absolutely have to have your dog jumping up when you come home, it’s your decision. But if you’d rather your dog politely sat by the door – it’s another lesson to learn.

It keeps the dog safe and welcomed within the community. Teaching your spaniel recall will ensure that he won’t run away chasing birds, live stock, a little kid or a fearful dog. Asking him to walk next to you down the street means that people around you will feel comfortable. A dog who knows how to stop or come back is less likely to run under the car if he gets distracted. And any spaniel who can resist picking up garbage on the street or spit anything he did pick, won’t have a bad tummy accident or worse…

It’s a way to instil your cocker spaniel with confidence. The more your dog learns, knows, observes and experiences, the more confident he will be. Positive training doesn’t make the dog smarter (all dogs are smart, it’s a matter of perception, not comparison) – it works with his cognition, enhances his intelligence and improves problem-solving skills.

It helps your dog be more dog. Cockers are workers. These dogs need to get busy before they can eventually relax on a sofa feeling utterly satisfied. Even if they are show dogs and look like total divas. They still appreciate something more labour-intensive than a blow-dry.

It builds a human-spaniel bond. Training together creates many moments of fun (and sometimes frustration – but then they become fun, too), and helps you tune into each other’s behaviour, habits and signs that will strengthen your relationship. Throw in an endless supply of treats to please the brain all the way from the gut – and you will conquer the heart of your spaniel forever.

It makes you a better human. Training can change your priorities, unearth some feelings and traits you thought you didn’t have – and get rid of the emotional junk that’s not worth drugging around. It teaches patience. It encourages you to learn, too. It gets you to the point when you see your dog through a completely different set of spectacles – and fall in love with your pooch all over again, day after day, more and more. ¬†You know, it turns you into a person your dog always thought you were.

 

Image credit: Me and Coop photographed by my husband once upon a time

 

Fred, chocolate & tan english cocker spaniel / Perfect cocker spaniel blog & book / dog reactivity, dog behaviour / (C) Natalia Ashton

There is a power in the name

This morning Fred lost it a bit. He did “the growlie” during our walk and it wasn’t pretty. I brought them home, locked myself in a spare room, and had a little cry. It took me a couple of minutes. Then I came out and hugged them, one by one, feeling Fred’s little body really pushing into my chest because his love is so deep and strong, he can hardly contain it within…

And that’s the truth of life. It’s full of ups and downs. It is far from perfect. Even through my dogs really are perfect. Imperfectly perfect for perfection as such does not exist, but I could not think of my boys otherwise.

I am not unrealistic. I am most definitely not oblivious. I simply love my little cockers – and dogs. Mine, yours, everyone’s. For no other reason than dogs really being worth of all the love we can give them.

The whole story of Fred, his birth, his first few weeks, a terrible event that happened when he was 8 months old – all these factors instilled his little brain with reactivity. I was aware of it, I saw the signs. I knew it was either me, someone able to live with it, manage it, dissolve it in time… or somebody who would mistake his emotional bursts for his personality based on a single behaviour… And dealt with it in a way many people do, unfortunately… That wasn’t the life I wanted Fred to live. So I committed to make him happy no matter what.

I worked very hard to help him. And he really is happy. Most of the time. He really is a genius and we achieved so much together. But on a rare occasion the ignition occurs in his brain and Fred becomes my “Damien”. You know, the “Omen” boy.

Every time, for a moment there, I feel defeated… frustrated… upset… I feel that I failed him because I am his world. So I have a moment to myself, then come out and hug my sweet little bum-wagging warrior while he is covering me with kisses.

I may even call him “my darling beastie”… And then we carry on living.

Because this blip, a hiccup, is not something that defines my boy. It can define the situation. It can define a sudden trigger. It can even define my own behaviour. But as far as Fred goes, his response is simply a basic response, an act brought up by chemical reactions and triggers in his little body.

I wanted to share this today because just an hour after we got home, I saw somebody who lives with a reactive dog, also a cocker. And since this occasion was one of many, I needed to address it here and now.

The dog in question became reactive whenever he was approached by strange dogs. One of the most typical situations, really. When you know what reactivity is. Unfortunately this dog’s owner did nothing. She didn’t consult a trainer, read books, study to understand the specifics of this behaviour. Instead she decided that the dog was simply angry, stubborn, lost cause and an absolute pain to walk with…

I tried to explain to her that the boy is reactive and his barking and pulling on the lead stem from fear and anxiety because he is simply trying to deal with something that scares the hell out of him. I tried to direct her to the books and suggested consulting a trainer. “He is just a little sh&t” she replied instead… And it was the name tag that really affected me. “Please stop…” I told her. “Your dog is begging for help, not judgement…” She responded with a sentence that should be censored if printed… The woman already made her choice.

She put a label on her dog’s behaviour and thus she defined him. She made up her mind. And she tuned her brain into thinking that that poor dog was a “bad dog”, an “aggressive dog”, the kind that could do with a “snip”… or a “kick up his bottom”… The dog as sensitive as a typical cocker who was simply trying to communicate his emotions, was now perceived as something he was not.

Sadly, this is more common that you’d dare to imagine. Go to any dog forum or social media and you will see that very “little sh$” label sprinkled around like confetti.

Many find it funny. Others – use it to start a conversation that essentially comes to the point that their dogs are unruly monsters. Worst, and what these people may not realise, it fuels their mind and the perception of people who meet their dogs into thinking that these spaniels really are terrible…

Our brain is a funny thing. If you continously tell it that something is really good and lovely, it will eventually melt in adoration towards that object of positivity. On the other hand, if you constantly drip-feed your mind with negativity towards something or someone, the thoughts will eventually mirror the perception.

If your dog is reactive or exhibits a behaviour that seem puzzling, do not label him “bad” Think about it. Dig into the causes. Ask somebody who understands and can help you.

And in the meantime remind yourself that a certain behaviour never defines your dog as a being. It’s just an emotion, a form of anxiety, a response to the unknown, or inability to address the situation in a way that doesn’t set the soul on fire. It is a sign that something needs attention.

You would not refer to a person with anxiety in any rude way. In fact, most people would feel sorry, try to help and provide comfort. Reactive dogs are no different. They need help, solace and lots and lots of love.

“There is the power in the name…” So sacred and significant that some cultures still choose them as a sign of destiny or never say the names out loud… Think about it next time you are about to refer to your dog as “sh&t” or hear somebody who does. It says very little about the dog – but it does say a lot about his owner. And that’s the thought I am going to leave you with today.

 

Image credit: Fred photographed by me