Most stylish belt waist bag for dog treats / H&M waist bag / Affordable dog accessories under £10 / Luxury dog products reviews / Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog (C) Expert tips and lifestyle stories about English cocker spaniels, grooming, health, puppy tips, diet and training (C) Natalia Ashton

We Love | Perfect dog treat bag

The most perfect dog treat bag that never was?! Oh yes, exactly that! I don’t think the H&M folks who came up with this design thought of the dog parents and walkers because this little beauty is too special and lovely. And it’s ideal if you don’t want give up on style when walking your dog yet need the utilitarian comfort.

This belt bag is a proof that best things come in small packages. It’s a perfect size. It sits on your hips or waist leaving your hands (and pockets!) completely free. It has two compartments, so you don’t have to mix your keys, poop bags (oh, the glamour level is just getting better now, isn’t it?!) and the said treats. The top part (that I’ll be using for treats) opens from the top, which allows me to pull the biscuits out quickly, without much fuss or noise – the latter is very important because dogs can swiftly react to the sound of a plastic wrapper or bag inside, so the treat suddenly becomes a lure, not a reward.

I also really like the colour… It’s neutral. It will look good with summer clothes, jeans or even worn over a trench coat. And you can always add a key ring, charms or even a small scarf to customise it.

Lets not forget it’s only £9.99, which, considering a price of an average treat bag, leaves you plenty of cash to buy plenty of actual treats, too. Still available online.

 

 

Cooper, red sable english cocker spaniel puppy 6 months old, Perfect cocker spaniel book guide, grooming, training / Adolescent phase in puppies / Puppies go through teenage phase / Behaviour research / Dog blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Teenage troubles? New insights into your pup’s adolescent phase.

“The little rebel has blossomed! Every day is Independence Day!…” I wrote in my book while talking about raising a 6-month old cocker spaniel who was just about to hit the adolescent phase.

Do dogs really go through a teenage stage? They do, indeed. Right after they just got over the teething, the pups give their parents hardly any break before returning in a manner of a hormone-powered comet… or a little beastie, as I refer to mine.

The little fireball once, and now vaguely, remembered as the fluffy angel suddenly develops selective hearing and tantrums, and worst of all, seems to forget every command he learnt in the past few months.

“He is not listening to me!”

“She just run away and refused to come back and I ended up running around calling her like an idiot!”

“They seem to be doing their own thing on walks now… like I don’t exist…”

“All our training seemed to have gone down the drain!”

“How long this teenage stage last in dogs?”

Sounds familiar? I can almost see you node because it’s that “wonderful time of puppy parenthood” we all get to experience. Just like human teenagers, the young pups arrive at the adolescent phase of their life and simply can’t help but act up in a very unruly manner… Of course, it can be frustrating for both parties. The pup parents may feel that they failed as caring guardians and the pups experience such a surge of physiological and emotional changes they can barely deal with them all…

Fortunately, the rebelling phase passes relatively quickly making every parent experience the euphoria that Nietzsche perfectly summed up as “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” once it’s over…

But despite it’s predictability and everything we already know about dogs, it is always interesting to hear new insights into canine behaviour because, in my opinion, it can help some people remain more tolerable and understanding when dealing with a growing pup and strengthen the canine-human bond when most needed.

The new study recently published by the Royal Society in the May 2020 issue of Biology Letters looked into the relationship between adolescent dogs and their human parents and came up with some very curious results.

According to the research, the dogs with stronger attachment to their owners experienced an earlier onset of the adolescent stage when compared to ones showing more independent and detached behaviour.

When it came to training, the pre-adolescent pups were happy to listen and perform commands given by their owners and trainers, however, their reaction and attention changed dramatically once they moved into the adolescent phase.

Unlike their younger self, the teenagers showed much higher odds of disobedience when given voice cues by their human parents. This was particularly obvious in dogs who experienced anxiety when separated from their owners. Yet, interestingly, the same dogs behaved a little better when working with a stranger or a trainer (which made me think of all the parents home-schooling their teenagers during the lockdown and praising teachers who seemed to be a lot more in control…). The latter didn’t depend on the skills level of the person in charge but rather the attachment between the dog and his owner.

Once the peak of adolescent stage was over (the dogs used in the study were 5, 8 and 12 months old), the level of trainability in pups improved naturally, without aids or force.

Even though the subject can and should be studied further, I see this study as a valuable reminder for all pup parents and trainers about paying particular attention and care to raising an adolescent puppy, especially a cocker spaniel puppy who is not only extra sensitive but prone to separation-related issues.

The teenage rebellion always passes, so it is up to us to guide the little cocker spaniel through this phase with positive training and a wagon-full of patience – and never base our parenting and training decisions on moments of frustration and despair.

 

Image credit: Cooper photographed by me

How to stop puppy mouthing and biting / tips and training for English cocker spaniel puppy / dog blog / puppy training / Perfect cocker spaniel (C) Natalia Ashton

Q&A | Ouch, it hurts! Or how to stop puppy biting

Do you remember the day you brought your puppy home? It’s always so sweet, isn’t it? The cuddly, silky, chunky, adorable puppy napping in his basket and carefully yet curiously sniffing his new home… But give him a few days and the little beastie is here to transform the “aww” moments into the “ouch!” ones more often then we’d ever imagined or wished for….

Puppy biting is one of the realities every dog parent has to deal with. It is a part of puppyhood. We cannot avoid it. Instead we have to face it, make it bearable and use as a starting learning point for our own benefit long-term. We also need to prevent the worst outcome that most people describe as aggression. On very positive side, it’s worth mentioning that cocker spaniels are one of the gun dog breeds that were used to flush and bring prey without killing it. As a result, these dogs are more likely to have a “soft bite” because of their genetic background, so your chances of achieving success are much higher than, say, for a parent of a terrier.

First of all, it’s important to establish the difference between puppy mouthing and puppy biting.

All puppies mouth as a part of their play with mum, siblings and anyone else who comes their way. Mouthing helps them to find their position within the family and explore the environment as a part of their learning process.

The best thing you can do is anticipate and avoid any situation when the hard mouthing or biting can happen. You need to understand your pup’s body language and pay a lot of attention to his behaviour 24/7, but once you get an idea – you will always know the how, when, what and why.

If the puppy is mouthing during a play, looking relaxed and happy, you can stroke him and immediately redirect his attention to a toy without making much fuss or encouraging a play to get puppy overexcited.

A chew or stuffed toy is a good choice because puppy can bite and lick it, which can help him relax and relieve possible teething discomfort. If your puppy is relatively calm, you can throw a ball for him to fetch – it will take his attention away from your hand, make him feel really good about learning a new command (so praise him when he brings the toy back) and relieve any possible teething discomfort by sinking his needle-sharp teeth into the trophy. Some puppies do well with soft toys or even old towers and t-shirt tied into oversized knots (big enough to be interesting and “bite’able”, but not too big or small because it needs to suit your puppy’s mouth)

If you sense a slightest tension in your pup’s body language, the puppy gets overexcited or the mouthing becomes painful, you have three options:

… hold the puppy firmly but gently, then carefully remove your hand out of his mouth with a “disappointing cue” such as “ops” or “uh-oh”. Personally, I don’t like the use of “no” because it’s a bit meaningless, and many of us end up using it way too often and pointlessly (from the dog’s point of view);

… you need to stop interacting with the pup, stand/sit still and avoid temptation to react, talk to or cuddle him;

… or you can do what his mum and other pups would – make a high pitch sound meaning that it hurts – and slowly and calmly walk away. It is important not to run away from the puppy or keep on screaming and run away in a manner of windmill with all your body parts moving and flopping around (which is what little kids often do)  because it will simply look like an irresistible game of chase, catch and bite!

You can also use the mouthing moment to let your dog know that it’s ok if your fingers are in or around his mouth. It will teach him that you can use fingers to examine his muzzle, inside and outside of his mouth, or clean teeth. It can be done as a part of a play when the puppy is in your lap, calm and content, and tries to have your finger in his mouth as a part of chill out time. It is up to you to decide when this “game” starts and ends.

Teaching your puppy the rules of mouthing and how to be gentle needs to begin from the day he first shows this behaviour. The longer you leave it, the worst it will become and the more difficult it will be to re-shape and stop. If you don’t act, the mouthing can signal the pup that it is totally ok to bite and eventually lead to serious consequences.

But puppies do bite, I hear you say. And yes, they do. The mouthing can become harder or turn into biting for several reasons.

Some puppies can use nipping and biting to seek attention or out of frustration because they aren’t getting what they want here and now. You need to stop this straight away and only react to the puppy if/when he stops, sits quietly and remains in a sitting position for a few seconds (you can build up from 5 to 30 seconds slowly). If he impolitely insists on rough play and biting because you are not paying attention or delivering treats and toys in a timely manner suggested by his royal highness – walk away calmly without saying a word.

Most puppies turn into little sharks during teething times because they really want to get those milk teeth out and because their gums really hurt. Giving him chew toys (I always choose rubber over nylon), soft unstuffed or extra strong toys, rope toys (make sure they are made of natural un-dyed cotton, ideally organic and always supervise!), suede toys, knotted towels and t-shirts in plentiful amounts can help a lot. Many puppies love destroying cardboard boxes, too. Stock up on toys like a kleptomaniac – and rotate them every few days to keep the pup interested. Don’t forget, once the puppy teeth are out, the grown-up set and gums still take time to settle, so don’t expect your junior to act as a responsible adult – he isn’t quite there yet. So toys and more toys, plus careful training are your allies.

A lot of puppies can also become nippy and aggressive when they are either overexcited or tired (puppies cry – puppies bite). I’ve written about it before, so Zoomies are so last year is the post for you.

Biting can also be your pup’s answer to fear or any moment or situation that makes him feel uncomfortable. Use socialisation, training and create calm environment to show him that life is generally pretty good, especially when you are a little cocker.

It is also important to remember to be gentle with the pup because he is very fragile and can be easily injured, not to shout him, or lock him in a spare room or crate as a way to punish him, work as a family involving everyone who ever plays with the little one, and most definitely teach your children the do’s and don’t’s of handling a young dog.

This stage will be over before you even realise. It just takes a little dedication and lots of patience to get through.

If you are looking for more information about English cockers and finding and raising a puppy, you may like my book Perfect cocker spaniel, which has a month by month puppy plan nestled nicely among the tips about breed, health, grooming, first aid, diet and training.

 

Image credit: cocker spaniel puppy by Switlana Symonenko (C) 123rf.com

Style outfit ideas for dog walking in fashion / Spring edition / Camel outfit ideas / Cashmere jumper, leather trousers, puff jacket, suede leather bag / Perfect cocker spaniel / pet blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Fashion guide to walking your dog in style | Spring edition

Despite my best intentions to regularly post an outfit inspiration for walking your cocker spaniel in style, it took me two months to get back to the idea. The mood wasn’t quite right to think of shopping and dressing up.

However, May is here, the situation is slowly improving and I also have a few valid reasons to return to one of my favourite hobbies of playing with clothes:

a) I have a marvellous mood board that was inspired by cocker spaniels and my book

b) beautiful things can make us temporarily happy

c) a woman got to look good and feel comfortable when walking a dog

Dog walking outfit inspiration made of wardrobe essentials, timeless classic pieces / trench, brogues, belt bag, white shirt / Spring trends 2020 outfit inspiration ideas / Perfect cocker spaniel English cocker spaniel pet blog (C) Natalia Ashton

I created this mood board a few months ago when pitching an idea to an editor of a fashion magazine, trying to connect an English cocker and one of the Spring 2020 trends. I thought that the “Royal connection” reference was very fitting considering that charming English cockers are often considered the aristocrats (hence the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) of the canine world and have also been chosen by several royals including Prince William and Kate, Princess Margaretha of Sweden and fashion designer Carolina Herrera who married Reinaldo Herrera Guevara, the 5th Marquis of Torre.

If you think this chain of references is long, wait until my next post in early summer…

And for now, the outfit. A collection of beautiful classics that will carry us through the cool mornings into mellow afternoons. It’s elegant, timeless and extremely comfortable. Hope you and your little aristocrat will love it.

Dog walking outfit inspiration made of wardrobe essentials, timeless classic pieces / trench, brogues, belt bag, white shirt / Spring trends 2020 outfit inspiration ideas / Perfect cocker spaniel English cocker spaniel pet blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Shop: Shirt | Trousers | Cardigan | Brogues | Earring | Bag | Sunglasses | Trench

 

Image credit: Karen Arnold from Pixabay, Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge with her cocker spaniel Lupo (C) Zak Hussein/WENN.com, Carolina Herrera with her cocker spaniel Red (C) Carolina Herrera, Princess Margareta of Sweden with her cocker spaniel Sandons Jasmine at a dog show, Stockholm, 11 October 1960, by United Press International (C) alamy.com

Separation anxiety in English cocker spaniels / How to prevent separation anxiety when staying at home at coronavirus Covid19 Lockdown rules / Cooper, sable English cocker spaniel by Natalia Ashton (C) Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog and cocker spaniel book guide grooming, training, health, puppy

Separation anxiety as a side-effect of COVID19

For me, there is nothing better than self-isolating in a company of dogs. Spaniels, to be precise, for I adore them so. They are the light, the warmth, the soul and comfort. They know when I am down or happy, and do their ultimate best to be in the right place at the right time (besides, there’s always a chance of a biscuit!).

I know that many people feel exactly the same about their pups. I’ve heard so many say that they are having the time of their lives because it’s like a dream to be with their dogs 24/7.

And this is where I casually pop into your life to get you out of this reverie and unceremoniously bring you back to earth with a flashing lights that spell two words.

Separation Anxiety.

It has been one of my main concerns since the lockdown started. I knew that suddenly a lot of cockers will find themselves in a situation where they camp with their much loved family for many days and nights, finally living in what any cocker would refer to as “the perfect world”.

So if one day (and this day will eventually come) this world comes to an end, many dogs  will find themselves alone, without the company and attention they’ve been indulging in for weeks, if not months. For a dog who is naturally prone to separation anxiety, this will come as an unbearable life-changing blow… and potentially the starting point of a psychological condition that can be very difficult to resolve.

What is SA? The long explanation would be “a psychological syndrome” consisting of many symptoms with several potential psychological and physiological underlying causes, which are not always easy or straight forward to diagnose or treat. In short, it’s a panic attack. You know the one when your brain shuts down, you are struggling for breath, feel limp and the ground starts to spin? That’s the one. If you’ve ever experienced it you know what I am talking about (and for the sceptics – yes, I get them myself, the worst happening a few years ago at, wait for it, the tower inside the Sacre Coeur – so no dome panorama for me, thank you very much). The worst thing about SA in dogs is that it takes hours and days for the poor pooch to return to normal, with every new episode adding up to the mighty cocktail of emotions and hormones – not simply happening as a single occurrence.

You might have seen the symptoms already without even knowing what SA really is. They can develop gradually and take many forms, but most common include excessive barking, whining, howling, destructive behaviour (think ripped carpets, chewed shoes, furniture and skirting boards etc.), changes in toilet habits (the dog starts to eliminate indoors), self-mutilation by excessive licking, chewing or biting (typically paws or rear end) and signs of stress (salivation, pacing, heavy breathing, “blowing bubbles (when the cheeks move in and out), enlarged pupils, red eyes as if the dog hasn’t slept, changes in body posture and position of the ears, elevated pulse and heart beat). The dog exhibits these signs as soon as he senses that you are about to leave – and continues getting worse whilst alone.

By the time you return, he is a hyperventilating wreck because ultimately, he is attached to you so much that if you, as his point of love, care and safety, are not there, he is broken physically and emotionally. In most families this form of dog to person attachment is stronger than the other way around, that is why it can be hard for people to comprehend the seriousness of the problem unless they look at it from the dog’s perspective.

Naturally, I have my concerns and fears that dogs who have never experienced SA may develop SA in one form or another, when their families can resume their normal activities and return to work.

If you are one of them and dreading the moment of leaving your spaniel alone, here are a few things you can do now to prevent potential problems.

What is separation anxiety in dogs? How to prevent separation anxiety in english cocker spaniels? Mummy will be back soon cartoon by Off The Leash (C)

Stick to the routine 

Dogs love routines and schedules, especially the ones who are particularly sensitive and prone to SA and hyper-attachment. They know the time you get up, can read the signs for departure (putting on make up, or wearing high heels, or picking up a certain bag or set of keys) and remember your habits and even certain body language.

Try to mimic this to a degree. Put on mascara, wear different shoes, jacket, or pick up keys a few times a day as if there’s absolutely nothing special about it. Then walk around the house, sit down with a cup of tea or watch a movie. Repeat until your dog absolutely does not care about his mum waltzing around the house in her PJ’s yet the prettiest and most inappropriate footwear.

Spend some time apart

You can put on proper clothes, get outside and sit in a car with a book or a movie as if you went to work. You can stop the dog from following you to the toilet, sitting nearby when you are having a bath or taking out the bins.

If you work from home, shut the door to the room for an hour or two (the timing will depend on your dog’s behaviour because you must make sure that he is absolutely content and relaxed at all times!).

If you have a garden, dedicate some outside time to your plants – and leave the pooch at home.

Time these activities to imitate your regular “work away” schedule whenever possible.

Build up on separation time.

If your spaniel absolutely cannot be alone, build up the distance gradually. You can still do all of the above, but stop your dog from following you with a help of a free-standing barrier. This way the dog can see you, yet cannot follow you, but he knows you are there and it’s ok. Calmly praise him with words and a treat when you return even if it was a minute or two.

It is very important to vary the length of your departure when you first begin to part with your pup. This will help to avoid predictability of the routine and expectations. As you leave your dog, return within a few minutes, then (and only if he is definitely fine with not being with you) – 10 or 20 minutes, next time – come straight back within seconds, followed by a longer departure… If you notice any signs of stress in your dog, switch to a pleasant and fun activity that involves both you and the dog to help him relax.

Next – and only when he is calm, you can leave him with a stuffed Kong toy or a few bits of kibble scattered around the floor to be occupied and pleased with himself. However, when you do this, make sure that your spaniel knows that you leave and come back – don’t just sneak out!

You can even roll out the good old friend Furbo at this point. It’ll let you observe your cocker – and shoot out treats whenever necessary.

Stay calm!

Never ever make a big deal of any of the above activities. You don’t have to fuss when you leave the house. Act as if it’s nothing special, as if you simply walk from one room to another.

Do the same when you return – as tempting as it is to fall down to your knees and get covered in kisses – don’t. Quietly say a few words to your pooch, stroke him gently if he calmly sits down waiting for attention – and carry on.

The only exception to this rule is when your dog has already been accustomed to jumping up, doing “the wiggle bum” dance, cuddling with you, and kissing you as soon as you return. If you suddenly stop and change to someone indifferent, it will not only confuse the dog, but can make him anxious and stressed.

If you see any signs of stress in your dog just before you leave – do not get frustrated, raise your voice or punish him. Just think how you’d feel if you had a panic attack and people shouted at you instead of helping you to calm down.

Remember that dogs can smell our emotions and raise their stress hormone levels in response. If you are truly calm – they are likely to remain content, too.

If necessary break any of the above steps into smaller portions and steps measuring the “dose” carefully and always making sure that your dog is relaxed.

 

Don’t postpone this until the last moment. The sooner you start, the better chances you have to have everything back to normal, the old normal, just the way your dog remembers… 

 

Image credits: Coop photographed by me, Off the Leash via Facebook official page

A few little moments in a blend of days

I know I skipped a few weeks of isolation updates. Just didn’t feel like talking. The days, although mainly good days (because who am I to complain!), blended into a phase, a stretch of blurry captures that become barely recognisable and hardly meaningful after a while. It’s like a photography hiccup – even though the beautiful object is out there before you, it takes a skill to focus on it properly.

We are still here. Isolating. And I am thinking of starting walks as the situation seems to be improving somewhat. By that I mean that we have fewer people dying and fewer – getting sick, and we are at slightly lower risk of catching the virus.

Of course, it’s not brilliant. And it will take a long time to feel different. But I am so tired of being afraid all the time. So we are going to try and get out.

This morning I needed to pop out to post a few cards. It was early in the morning. Just me and the birds. I walked through the village that felt unfamiliar, same but different, very odd.

The birds are reigning. They have never been particularly timid over here, but now they give you a piercing, quizzically judgmental look as if you came to their party uninvited. And forgot to bring the gifts.

But that was the good thing – to see them living the life as they’ve always done. Because the sun still comes out every morning, the sky is blue (most of the time), the rain is wet and the air is filled with the intoxicating fragrances of hackberry and lilac.

I came home, hugged my boys and finally, first time in many weeks, took out my camera. We shot a few photos, had a play before the rain hit the ground, and lived without agenda getting one more day closer to the moment when we can simply be again…

Dog nutrition tips / can my cocker spaniel eat dandelions / is dandelion toxic to dogs / diet advice for puppies / Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog / (C) Natalia Ashton

Can my dog eat… dandelions?

One of the most frequent questions recently was about dandelions. Does your cocker spaniel eat dandelions? Because a lot of dogs and puppies seem to enjoy them very much. Fred is one of such pups. Sometimes I wonder if the boy was a sheep in one of his previous lives. He is the only one among all of my dogs who grazes. My first two were into eating peas straight off the plant. Oscar didn’t care about grass at all – instead he loved to relax in a shade of his favourite hydrangea. Coop adores the lavender.

And Fred… Fred loves his dandelions. He can find them anywhere, hunting and sniffing out the youngest leaves, barely visible in the grass, just sprouting out… They probably hope for a long life in the sun. Fred his his own plans that don’t fit that brief.

Every morning we step outside and Fred goes off looking for his favourite snack. I often help because I have fingers and can pick smaller leaves. “Lets find dandelions” I suggest, and he (almost) patiently trots beside me searching….

CAN A DOG EAT DANDELIONS?

The answer is YES. Absolutely!

And spring is the best season for harvesting them. The leaves contain plenty of vitamin A (beta-carotene) required for healthy cells, skin, bones, and vision, plus immune-boosting vitamin C and vitamin K essential for proper blood clotting. Zeaxanthin in dandelion leaves is also a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells and DNA from damage.

The plant is also rich in calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and manganese.

Therapeutically, dandelion is known as a wonderful liver tonic that can also support kidney function and may help to purify the blood.

The dogs seem to know when they need to eat the plant, which parts of it are the best for  them, and can determine the essential quantities, too. So don’t panic if your spaniel starts munching on the leaves at every given opportunity. Just make sure the plants are organic (well, if they grown in your own garden free from chemicals and in clean soil, they are likely to be), not covered in pesticides and herbicides, and don’t grow near a road due to pollution.

The fondness for dandelion will not necessarily mean that your cocker has an underlying condition, but if your dog is on blood thinners, diuretics or have a diagnosed illness, consult your vet first.

If your dog is a picture of health in every way, yet shows zero interest in dandelion, you can either let him be, or, if you want to boost his vitamin intake, pick a few fresh young leaves, wash them and add about 1tsp of chopped dandelion into your spaniel’s food once every 2-3 days.

 

Image credit: Pezibear from Pixabay