How to garden when you have a cocker spaniel puppy

Do you love gardening as much as you love cocker spaniels? So do many cockers… One of the most agricultural breeds out there. The only problem is that the dogs see the process in their own rather unique way. They love to prepare the soil, remove excess growth and replant things that look to enticing to them.

Oscar was the one who educated us on the subject of this special love. We puppy-proofed the garden before his arrival but obviously our efforts were based on a regular dog – not a cocker. As soon as Ozzy acclimatised and blossomed, he decided to apply his own gardening rules to the handkerchief space we created.

The pretty carnations and primroses were murdered on a cream sofa, the grass was pulled out seconds after my husband lovingly planted it and a few little trees had to be bandaged in a pathetic attempt to salvage them.

But I think the moment I’ll never forget was “the night of digging”.

One evening we started on a new flower bed, but had to stop as the rain approached. We run into the house only to see Oscar running in the opposite direction, sort of a slow motion moment from a horror movie that you can’t do much about. We froze as our little cocker jumped into the soil and started digging a massive hole in a manner of escapist finding his way to Australia… Moments later our golden spaniel was completely black.

The bath and blow dry took ages. I was relived to finally have my fluffy pup back before me and felt like having a cup of tea and relaxing. Unfortunately, Oscar had a plan of his own. As soon as he was near the garden door, the determined pup pushed it wide open and…jumped into the hole he made that was now filled with rain water and mud.

To keep the story short, he had another wash and blow dry – and we completely remodelled the garden the next morning feeling somewhat grateful that the space was rather small. The lesson was learnt.

As the spring is returning and we all end up spending more and more time outside, I wanted to put together a little guide about gardening with your cocker spaniel.

I have two reasons for it. Your sanity. And your dog’s safety. You need to be able to enjoy the outdoorsy life and the pup needs to be able to join you without potentially hurting himself by either eating a poisonous plant or swallowing a stick.

How do you ensure that your garden stays as beautiful as possible when you have a cocker spaniel?

How to stop dog digging garden / English cocker spaniel puppy training tips / breed and puppy guide dog book /

Start before your puppy is even here by dog-proofing the garden. Lift pots, raise flower beds, remove potentially dangerous plants whenever possible, create temporary barriers to stop the puppy from getting too close and personal with the rest of the flora.

Introduce temporary “fence” to protect the plants and flower beds. We used panels for a modular puppy play pen: assemble them into a shape you need using provided pins and secure the “wall” to a few wooden stakes.

Do not leave your puppy unattended.

Teach your cocker to “leave” and “spit”

Use the garden as a play spot. Make the little spaniel focus on your and the toys until he becomes completely indifferent to the plants.

Fred, chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel puppy, perfect cocker spaniel breed and puppy guide book, Natalia o dog blog

Give your dog plenty of toys and chews to focus on.

Make sure that he gets enough exercise and mental stimulation to keep him happy and prevent zoomies as he is most likely to dig the garden when he’s overaroused, under-exercised or anxious.

Provide shelter during hot weather because some dogs would dig a hole to create a cool down spot.

Keep rodents out because a cocker can sniff them and start digging as a results. Use ultrasound deterrents and patch the holes – avoid poisons as it is both inhumane and can be life-threatening for your dog.

Do not plant or prepare the ground in front of your puppy. He will do his best to investigate everything you’ve done as soon as possible!

how to stop dog cocker spaniel digging garden and destroying plants / perfect cocker spaniel breed and puppy guide, dog book

Personally I have no problems with my pups eating the grass, but I taught mine to go and search for the types they liked the most. For example, Fred and I go to “find a dandelion”. It creates a bit of fun for both of us and he somehow focuses on this game and the plant, and leaves the rest alone.

And whatever happens, please do not ever punish your dog by shouting at him (or worse). Do not use chemical solutions, water sprinkles or any “scarecrow”-like objects to frighten him either.

how to puppy proof garden / Cooper red sable cocker spaniel puppy / perfect cocker spaniel best book breed puppy guide about English cockers / Nata

Remember that in most cases this is just a stage of puppyhood and your little cocker is simply exploring his surroundings to learn the ropes of life. As he gets older, the spaniel will no longer perceive the garden as a place to explore but will appreciate it as a spot to relax and watch the world go by.

You may also be interested in a post about things that can be potentially dangerous for a dog in spring and summer. And for more tips about puppy-proofing, garden hazards, and raising and training a puppy, get a copy of Perfect cocker spaniel guide.

Photo credit: Fred and Cooper photographed by me, other images via Pixabay

Diet, exercise, lifestyle advice to help obese dog lose weight safely. Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog and book guide for English cocker spaniels

Is your dog overweight? How to help your cocker spaniel lose & maintain weight.

Oscar was a true cocker spaniel. He loved his food. Not as much as he loved us, but I suspect the food came second… Especially when it came to French bread.

How on Earth did Oscar figure out the delights of French culture? I am not sure… He grew up with a little crunchy crust of a classic English toast… And then, somehow, the English lad got the taste for one of the Parisian statements… The boy loved those crisp light baguettes. He always knew that we’d bring one on a saturday morning. And every time Oscar sat in the kitchen waiting patiently for us to cut off the end, took it carefully from our hands and then run, run fast, to the spot in front of the garden door…. To devour his “baguette magique” in the room with a view… This dog had more flair for joie de vivre than both of us combined.

I think it was probably the bread that made him put on a little weight. We didn’t notice at first. Ozzy was born deliciously chunky and his shape and glorious coat never really made him look anything but scrumptious.

But since “hips don’t lie” we had to do something about those extra kilos. He didn’t enjoy carrying them – and we hated seeing him uncomfortable. A few months later Oscar got back to his perfect shape. He never stopped loving or eating baguettes – we simply made sure to be careful with the quantities and frequency of the treat.

The whole “overweight” experience was something I’ve never really dealt with before. None of my dogs ever had issues. And after we helped Oscar to shed the pounds, I promised myself to never ever get into this situation again.

I kept my word. Both Coop and Fred have what would be classified as ideal body score.

Why does it matter to me so much? The most important thing to remember that any excess weight is not just a cosmetic imperfection. Trust me, I am a nutritionist after all.

The fat tissue is not simply sitting there like a cute cushion. It is actively producing hormones altering the ones circulating through the body and talking to different organs. As a result the excess fat can contribute to the development of inflammation and hormone-related cancers. In addition, the excess fat can lead to heart failure, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, skin problems, breathing difficulties, inability to maintain healthy body temperature or deal with heat, and reduce your dog’s susceptibility to illness because the immune system will be suffering from all those hormonal changes. Even a small increase in weight can shorten the dog’s life expectancy, make it more difficult for him to recover post-surgery or even get through one, if I am honest

Allowing your dog to remain overweight or obese means that you are willingly shortening his life day by day – and make the quality of his life unbearable as the time passes.

According to the BVA’s statistics 46% of dogs in the UK were classified as either overweight or obese in 2017. By 2019 the figure went to 51% according to the PFMA report yet 68% of dog owners thoughts that their pet was completely normal with 67% not expressing any concerns even after being told that their dog needed to lose weight

As a cocker spaniel parent you need to be particularly aware of the issue because cockers are one of the breeds that can put weight quickly if their food intake and exercise aren’t carefully monitored. This is especially important during the puppy hood or if your dog has been neutered or getting older.

What factors can lead to excess weight or obesity in a dog?

Overfeeding. Too many treats, free-feeding, constant swapping of different dog foods, unbalanced diet containing too much protein, fat or carbohydrates, mixing up brands and formulas, adding a few titbits to your dogs dinner “to make it nicer”, creating your own meals from scratch without consulting a canine nutritionist, letting your dog lick a bowl or plate after you finished cooking or eating dinner… All these factors are the reasons why the dogs can put on weight.

Any extra bite, any insignificant treat, anything that is given to your dog in addition to his daily food, comes with calories. And in case of dogs, these calories can add on incredibly fast.

A thin 25g slice of ham may seem like nothing to you, yet add 3-5% of your dog’s daily calorie intake in one go. Cheddar is widely recommended as a training treat, yet 25g contain 100kcal, which is about 15% (!) of a daily calorie requirement for an average cocker. A 40g slice of bread also contains 100kcal. An innocent looking digestive will add 70kcal or about 10% of your dogs daily energy needs… The grocery list goes on… To this add a couple of dog biscuits to the treat menu and voila – we have a problem.

The worst problem is that people do not really think about it until the dog already has a problem. And even then many will continue the treats because they associate them with love.

Please be honest with yourself. If you feed your dog with table scraps or tend to be generous with treats, you need to change your mind set right now.

Lack of exercise. A cocker needs an hour of exercise every day – and any dog should be walked for minimum 30 minutes a day to remain healthy. Yet the study published in 2019 showed that less than 50% of dog owners walked their dogs daily and even when they did, many dogs only got 20 minutes of walking per day!

A dog, especially a life-loving cocker, will walk with you whatever (or almost whatever) the weather! Please don’t deny them this joy – and learn to enjoy the activity together, rain or shine. It will be beneficial for both you and your wonderful companion, I promise.

Genetics. Cockers are one of the breeds prone to weight gain. This can differ from line to line and even location, but should always be taken into consideration.

Neutering. There isn’t enough evidence to say that all neutered dogs will automatically gain weight, however, the hormonal changes, especially the absence of oestrogen, that follow the op, will alter your dog’s metabolism and appetite, and increase the risk of weight gain as a result.

Health status. Thyroid disorders and diabetes are two of the hormone-related disorders that can cause excess body weight. Some prescription medication such as steroids can also lead to weight gain. Your vet should be able to talk you through the side-effects and how to avoid them.

Age. As the dog gets older his digestive system becomes less active and able to process the nutrients effectively and his endocrine system will be producing lower levels of hormones. Often the dogs will be getting less exercise, too.

How do you know if your spaniel needs to slim down? 

Ask the vet. They are brilliant.

Identify if your dog is overweight or obese. The overweight dog has more body fat that is required for optimum health. The obesity means that the weight is seriously affecting the dog’s health and wellbeing.

Weight your dog. Not so much to use the number as the life sentence but more – to have a starting point. Just like with people, weight is a very individual thing for every individual dog. Yes, there is a specific “ideal weight” for a cocker spaniel , which is 12 – 14.5kg (26.5-32lbs) for a female cocker and 12.2 – 15.4kg (27.5-34lb) for a male, according to the veterinary manual and the breed standard. But some cockers can be a little bit smaller or bigger or into their exercise, which can shift the number slightly. The weight will also depends on your dogs age, genes and health status.

In his glory days Oscar handsomely weighed 14.5kg whereas Coop is about 13kg and Fred, my tiny pup, is barely 11 (but Fred really was the tiniest puppy of all times!)

Which takes me to the next point.

Use the body scoring chart. If you compare the shape of your dog to the chart it will show you straight away if your cocker is ideal, under or overweight. In fact, even British Veterinary Association advocates the use of body scoring over the scales. It is visual and can be done any time and anywhere.

Dog body score chart to see if the dog is normal weight, overweight or obese | how to help dog lose weight | (c) Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog about English cocker spaniels

You need to be able to feel the ribs and see the waist outline both from the top and the side. The dog must not look like a barrel.

If your dog’s weight is 30% or more above the “ideal weight” and/or has a body score of 8 or 9, he is likely to be considered obese and require immediate attention and weight loss strategy. 

Even if your dog does not fall into obese category, but his body score clearly puts him into the overweight category, act now.

What can you do to help your dog lose weight?

Be honest with yourself. Admit that your dog has a problem and it is your responsibility to improve the situation.

Keep a food diary for 3-7 days to help you record everything you dog eats on a daily basis. This can be an eye-opener.

Weigh your dog and establish his body score. Keep the record of it. Weight your dog every 2-3 weeks to see any changes. Aim for 0.5-2% loss of initial body weight per week.

You can even take a photo of your spaniel once a week and store it in your phone’s favourites. Having visuals is one of the most powerful tools.

Be mindful when feeding your dog. Stop giving your dogs any left overs, bits of your food or dog treats. If you absolutely have to give your dog a treat, choose a thin slice of carrot and limit them to 2-4 a day max. You can create a treat container measuring precise quantities of carrot pieces a day. This step alone, especially when combined with moderate physical activities, can be enough to see weight loss.

Weigh your dog’s current food. Every food manufacture has a guide on a packet that shows you how much your dog should eat when he needs to lose weight, remain at his current weight or gain a little. If you unsure, ask your vet and contact the nutrition team of the pet food brand. They will be more than happy to help you.

Reducing the amount of your dog’s favourite kibble or wet food by 25% can be less stressful for both of you than replacing his entire menu with some low-fat formula that may dogs find utterly unappetising. Always discuss the reduction amount with your vet. You may need to do it gradually or not at all – if the treats are to blame for your dog’s weight.

Feed at set times.

Be active. Take your cocker for a walk at least once a day. Bear in mind that many obese dogs will find it challenging to go from very little activity to a mile-long walk. Build up carefully and keep setting new challenges as your dog gets fitter. Always carry some water with you to help your dog stay hydrated. Remember the weight can make it difficult for them to regulate the body temperature effectively.

Work with the vet that give your support – not judgement. It is crucial to find a vet who is there to give you advice and encouragement – not to blame you for being a “bad dog owner”. The latter can be really disheartening for even the most determined parent. Life has its own rules and it is not always something we can fully control, so it is best to focus on the present and the future and see this weight loss journey with your cocker as a positive fun adventure – not a punishment. It will take time, but you will see the difference!

If you would like to learn more about nutrition for your English cocker spaniel, how to choose his foods and keep him healthy and fit, read the relevant chapters in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel, the complete breed and puppy guide. 

Photo source: “Tell me this isn’t celery” (C) by Cartoon Comics for Shutterstock / Perfect cocker spaniel, the Dogs Body Condition Score Chart via WSAVA 

5 tips, rules, resolution and ideas for better relationship with your english cocker spaniel / learn to understand & train your dog / walking tips with cocker spaniel / Perfect cocker spaniel book and pet blog / Natalia Ashton, Cooper, sable cocker spaniel & Fred, chocolate and tan cocker spaniel / (C)

5 new year resolutions for the best life with your cocker spaniel

Getting back to the work mode after a lovely Christmas break always feels like a light concussion – the brain isn’t quite there, a little foggy, getting through the whirlwind of information suddenly thrown like a lonely night wanderer pushing his way through a snow storm… I am in a serious need of coffee, lots and lots of coffee… and vitamin C… Because there is no Christmas without a lingering cold in our household.

But enough about me… For the record, the first paragraph took me two days to write…

I hope you had the best holiday time with your spaniels!

Did you make any resolutions for 2020? Mine are more like a list… I use the word “resolution” as a general description because psychologically it doesn’t quite work for me compared to the lists. And Christmas break was the perfect time to slow down, think, dream and write it all down to solidify the impact on my coffee-saturated mind.

Today is all about ideas just in case you are still in the process of deciding what to do with your English cocker in 2020. The main purpose of them is to help everyone to achieve the most fulfilling companionship between the parent and the pooch, help you understand your dog – and help the dog live the best life because he feels connected to his mum and dad.

I get criticised for often focusing on the human – and not the dog, when it comes to building a relationship between the two, but I truly, sincerely believe that everything, absolutely everything in the life of our dogs starts with our commitment to them and our responsibility of understanding the true meaning of being a pup parent. Yes, commitment… much heavier than just love. Love is for the heart, senses and oxytocin. Commitment is for happiness, safety and many more other things including discipline… Not for the dog alone – but for his parents, too.

2020 looks like a such a balanced number and a perfect starting point for creating more balance for us and our wonderful spaniels, making a plan, getting committed to the plan, completing it from start to finish challenging yourself in a positive way. It would be a shame not to give it a try, wouldn’t it?

Make each walk meaningful. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 20 minute stroll or a 2 hour adventure. The point is to be focused on your dog and remember that the walks are his life. Let him explore, see each trip through his eyes, let him stop and sniff, have a play and run together, have a conversation, laugh and share a cuddle! Most importantly, put your phone away! You’d be surprised how many little things you can notice around you and how much you can discover about your cocker if you concentrate all your attention on him – and not the screen.

Discover new places. And the funny thing is that a dog can see an ordinary street as something very exciting even if he walks there every day! All you have to do is to change your route sightly – turning left instead of right, re-visiting a spot a couple of times during the same walk, sitting down somewhere just to have a quiet moment together, stopping to watch birds and people… If you can travel further – even better!

Never compare your dog to the others. It’s such a simple habit to fall into. Just because some other pooch can do something your dog can’t – it doesn’t make that dog better than yours! Focus on the positives, never call your spaniel names, even as a joke, – and most definitely never criticise them in front of other people or let others share negative comments towards your dog! People only process what they see and hear. Tell them that your dog is ab absolute dream – and they will walk away with a smiling heart.

Train with purpose. Some dogs are born to be on TV, others – search for drugs or help people in need. Your spaniel is here to live his life with you. Everything he knows and learns needs to fit into your lifestyle – not mimic some random dog who may know a super-special trick or behaves like a well-programmed robot. Spaniels are such personalities and you need to find the golden mean between keeping that wonderful charm and helping your dog to learn how to behave for the sake of safety and peace. And remember to have fun and be enthusiastic about any kind of training lessons.

Read some good books about dogs. I am a believer that the best information comes from books – and not social media. So do make a list of good titles and set yourself a goal of reading a book a month. You will be amazed how much better you will be able to understand your dog, his needs (think diet, behaviour, grooming, health) and how much it will improve your life. Perfect cocker spaniel is the best place to start. Beside all the information it contains a list of brilliant dog books to help you build a great little library.

Wishing you and your cocker spaniel the happiest, most adventurous and unforgettable year!
Christmas food as a risk of acute pancreatitis in dogs and cocker spaniels / symptoms of pancreatitis / dog blog / pet blog / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / Natalia Ashton (C) English cocker spaniel puppy tips, advice, training, handstripping, grooming, diet, nutrition

Pancreatitis | The “Christmas illness” you need to know about

Do you know that the dogs are more likely to suffer from acute pancreatitis during the festive season than any other time? Especially if they are cocker spaniels, one of the breeds genetically predisposed to the disease. The risk is even higher in dogs diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Cushing’s or diabetes, taking certain prescription drugs and those suffering from obesity and excess weight.

Christmas is impossible without special dinners and treats, most of which are very rich and not particularly dog-friendly and can lead to pancreatitis.

The pancreas is a small organ that sits in the abdominal cavity. The main function of the pancreas is to produce insulin and control blood sugar. Dog pancreas also produce special digestive enzymes.

Acute pancreatitis or sudden inflammation of the pancreas can happen if a dog eats large quantities of fatty and greasy foods in a short period of time. These titbits can be a part of the Christmas dinner or even table scraps that dogs can find in a bin. The excessive intake of nutrients overstimulates the pancreas and leads to excessive enzyme production. The reaction causes severe inflammation, bleeding of the tissue and organic damage. Other parts of the body including kidneys, lungs and heart can suffer next.

The symptoms appear suddenly. The acute form of the pancreatitis can be fatal.

Even though I may sound like the one who kills the festive spirit of Christmas, I need you to remember the simple rule:

Regardless of the festivities your spaniel’s daily diet must remain unchanged, any form of treats – limited to a bare minimum, and any parts of the holiday meal – avoided completely.

The symptoms of pancreatitis can appear very suddenly and include…

… loss of appetite;

… diarrhoea;

… vomiting;

… hunched posture or “praying” position;

… dehydration;

… swollen and painful tummy;

… lethargy;


If your dog develops any of these, take him to the vets immediately.


Photo credit: image by 奕茗 王 from Pixabay

How to protect and puppy proof christmas tree from dog / Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog / English cocker spaniel book, puppy advice, tips, cocker grooming, hand strip, diet, training tips, cocker spaniel puppies / (C) Natalia Ashton

Q & A | How to protect the Christmas tree from my cocker spaniel puppy?

This was one of the most popular questions I had to answer since the beginning of December, so I thought we need to have a proper conversation about puppy-proofing the Christmas tree.

Christmas trees and cocker spaniels can live in utter harmony most of the time. Admittedly, we never had to worry even though my boys have always been inquisitive about things. Thankfully, Christmas trees were never on their list of objects to explore. I guess they thought that it was just another piece of furniture that we chose to add to the house decor.

On the other hand, and after I was asked the question, there were things that I’ve always done on subconscious level or perhaps because I tried to perceive the tree from the dog’s point of view – and it helped me to avoid any disasters.

And this is why I made the list to document my actions in one place…

Put the tree in a room that your dog won’t be able to access if you have to leave him on his own. Putting a puppy playpen around the tree may stop some cockers, but many dogs will just force their way through any barriers because the prize is way too good to ignore!

Fake it! Choose an artificial tree over the real thing. Just think how tempting a fir tree would be for your pup who lives to sniff and chew! Boys may even mark it… because it’s exactly the same as the  “message boards” they use outside!

Additionally, fir needles contain oils that can irritate the mouth and digestive tract and cause drooling, vomiting and upset stomach. Your cocker cannot digest any needles he swallows, which can lead to additional digestive issues and even stomach punctures. If your dog walks over them, the needles (especially old and dry ones) can cause anything from a mild irritation from the prick to an injury.

Another thing to bear in mind when it comes to the real trees is the water – it can become stale, contain chemicals and oils from the tree and “special solutions” such as pesticides, preservatives and aspirin, which are toxic to dogs.

On the other hand, an artificial tree is not that fragrant even from the canine prespective and is relatively safe unless your pooch chooses to pull the entire arrangement down for the fun of it.

Talking of the latter… Give your dog some time to get used to the tree. Put it up, make sure it’s sturdy and then leave the tree without any decorations for a couple of days. Do not attract your dog’s attention to the tree when installing it. Do not ask him to come and look at branches or sniff it. As soon as you begin to fuss over “the new thing”, it will become something enchanting for your cocker.

Inspect your artificial tree for loose needles and brittle brunches. Some materials can become fragile with age and if they fall off and get swallowed by your dog, the pieces of plastic or metal can be harmful.

Decorations need to be chosen wisely, especially if your cocker is still young. When my boys were puppies I made sure to avoid putting any bubbles onto the bottom brunches and always picked plastic, metal, paper, fabric and unbreakable “glass” decorations if they were within my boys’ reach. They never tried to steal them – it’s was my cautious paranoia that made me do it.

Some dogs do find baubles interesting: the toys move at the slightest draft, they are reflective and sparkling, the pup can often pick the changes in light when staring at them, and they look like his favourite balls… begging to be stolen and thrown around!

The only way you can decide how to avoid any potential disasters is to put a few baubles on the tree and observe your cocker carefully from nearby. If he shows too much attention, reconsider the decor. If his curiosity is mainly to do with the novelty of the object, use the “leave” word and make him forget about the tree decor completely by playing together or doing some training in the “tree vicinity”.

Also most definitely avoid tinsels unless your spaniel is completely oblivious and indifferent to the festivities. Tinsel can cause digestive blockages and injuries when swallowed, so it’s best not to use it.

Make sure that the tree lights are off if you cannot supervise your dog and the tree and there’s a slight chance that he may bite into the cable.

Last but not least are the edible decorations. Chocolate “baubles” and “stars” are toxic to dogs. Spicy cookies can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and some may contain toxic raisins. Dried fruits may also upset digestion. And just imagine what any normal dog would do if you embellished the tree with any dog biscuits and treats… He is not going to just camp under the branches, that’s for sure.


For more useful tips on having the most wonderful peaceful Christmas with your cocker spaniel read my Dog friendly Christmas check list post.


Photo credit: image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Dog paws in snow photo / Salt, grit, antifreeze poisoning and dangers in dogs in winter / signs of poisoning in dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / cocker spaniel tips, advice, grooming, diet (C)

Two winter dangers that can be fatal for your dog

“The frost and sunlight! The winter day’s delightl!” Pushing once wrote (and I briefly translated, so no judgment for my rhyming skills, please!) in his “Eugene Onegin” poetry novel.

He was spot on. Winter is a beautiful season to embrace and enjoy. The dogs adore it, too. Mine cannot wait to get outside and do their version of snow angels, which basically involves rubbing their silly happy faces against the frosty grass – bottoms up, wiggling and wagging.

They think everything about winter is fun. But unfortunately there are two serious dangers neither pups nor many pup parents are aware of, so we need to talk about those today.

SALT & GRIT (also called de-icers) appear on our roads and paths at the first hint of arctic breeze. They can be easily spotted as most have a pink or terracotta-like tint. Both can be extremely dangerous for dogs and even cause a fatal outcome. Even though salt seems pretty harmless (we do eat it, don’t we?!) the combination of sodium, chloride and ferrocyanide can cause severe irritation, burning and cracked paws if the dog walks through the grit.

Licking the paws or de-iced surfaces can be life-threatening because the excess of sodium chloride is toxic to dogs leading to a condition called hypernatremia.

The symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, lack of coordination, excessive thirst, frequent urination, tremors, seizures and coma. The paws can look red, swollen, irritated, cracked and excessively dry.

Protect your spaniel by diligently washing and drying his paws after every walk (even if the path and roads you walk on seems grit-free); applying protective paw wax before each walk and, if the gritting is excessive in your area – considering dog booties; stopping your dog from licking his paws and any surfaces that may contain traces of grit.

But what if the path is still slippery? There are a few ways to stay safe:

… invest into non-slip boots;

… use a shovel to clear the path from the snow and thick ice;

… splash the path you use most frequently with a bucket or two of hot water – it’s enough to melt the ice and frost;

… use plain rough sand instead of grit and salts – it will give you the needed grip yet will be absolutely safe for your dog.

ANTIFREEZE is the other danger of winter. The solution contains ethylene glycol that tastes sweet to dogs and a small dose can lead to kidney failure and death. Even if you are incredibly careful when using it for your own car, the antifreeze residue can be often found on roads, parking spaces and snow and get onto your dog’s paws.

Dogs are one of the most susceptible species.

The symptoms of poisoning can appear within 30 minutes following ingestion and include nausea, vomiting, drunken behaviour, lack of coordination and knuckling, excessive thirst and urination, loss of consciousness, coma and death.

Protect your dog by storing antifreeze away from your pooch’s access; using it correctly and cleaning any residue on your car, hands and surfaces; washing your dog’s paws after each walk and, should you suspect anything odd, taking your spaniel to the vets immediately.

Have a safe and enjoyable winter! 

Photo credit: image by petronela from Pixabay

How to train your dog positively, study research, tips / perfect cocker spaniel / english cocker spaniel training, grooming, advice, puppy / world kindness day blog post / (C) Natalia Ashton / dog paw in human hand photo

Be kind

A few days ago I shared a link to a study on my Facebook page. It discussed the connection between our choice of training and its short- and long-term effects on dog’s mental health. The results clearly showed that aversive-based methods (positive punishment and negative reinforcement – in other words, commonly used practices such as yelling, using training gadgets or any other form of punishment that make the dog do something to avoid pain or discomfort) not only lead to immediate stress and anxiety symptoms (lip licking, panting, yawning), but caused higher levels of cortisol and made the pups more “pessimistic” leaving them in “perpetual stress” in the long run.

If you allow me to take a step back from the study, I would like to quickly show you why the damage hidden under a simple word “stress” is far more dangerous than many would imagine. As the cortisol levels rise, the body has to dip into its own resources reserved for other systems (think nutrients, hormones, neurones etc.) – and swiftly relocate them to manage the stress levels and ensure that the adrenal glands that secret the hormone remain as functional as possible. This causes a chain reaction when the deprived systems and hormones including brain, heart, pancreas, nervous, reproductive, digestive and immune systems begin to suffer. In addition, the adrenals that don’t get a much needed break become exhausted and eventually turn a perfectly “normal” dog into a fearful pet that suffers from anxiety, reactivity and aggression simply because his body cannot cope with the external stressors effectively any longer.

On the other hand, the study demonstrated that the group of dogs trained through positive reward-based training remained happy, bouncy and, even though this wasn’t measured, full of endorphins. Even better, the dogs felt emotionally connected to their human companions.

The analysis was the first of its kind (though I do like the one from 2014, too) and I was very grateful to see these outcomes as a proof that kindness can go a long, long way when it comes to dogs.

Even though this seems very obvious, this simple rule of treating your dog with love and kindness no matter what is easy to forget at times. Life can get in the way. Things can become stressful causing us to react out of frustration. Not because we don’t love dogs, but simply because we are imperfect impulse-driven species.

And even though we cannot completely change the imperfections in us – we can alter our attitude towards our beautiful practically perfect dogs. So next time you feel like “losing it” and yelling at your pooch, stop for a second and look at him… Look into his eyes… see how they are still full of affection… Think of how much your dog wants to please you… And remind yourself that he is, after all, an animal and your communication is more like a chat between you and a 5-year old foreign baby who has absolutely no idea what you are talking about (which can be rather scary for a kid!)

Then breathe, hug your dog and see him gazing back at you. This feeling alone can cure any pain and stress you’re dealing with. And if you do feel like screaming – there is always a little cloak room to lock yourself in for a moment. It’s a perfect place for flushing our all the verbal negativity once and for all.

And don’t forget to give your pup a treat when you come out… Because kindness comes in all sorts of forms – chicken and biscuits included.


Photo source: image by Mylene2401 from Pixabay