Best natural vegetable bees coconut soy wax scented candles that are dog-friendly / Perfect cocker spaniel blog / book about English cocker spaniels / puppy guide English cocker spaniel advice, tips, training, grooming, how to handstrip cocker spaniel / (C) Natalia Ashton

Scented candles and dogs | All you need to know

Autumn means a lot of things… Crisp walks, hot chocolate, cosy nights in, huge socks and chunky jumpers, and, oh yes, I haven’t forgotten… scented candles.

The beautiful hand-poured vessels aren’t just about the glow. The choice of designs turns them into l’objet d’art, an object of visual pleasure, and the scent transforms the entire experience into a seasonal memory. Without a doubt, candles are that touch of luxury most of us can afford without getting a second mortgage. I don’t know about you but for me bringing them home on a dark October evening feels like a special ritual. I set the box on a table, release a polished heavy glass from a beautiful packaging and whispering wrapping paper, inhale the aroma and get to dream a little. And then there is always the magical enticing light that has a life of its own, waltzing in the darkness for hours on end.

For years I had a scented candle at home. I bought them if I loved the fragrance, the look – or both. As the time went by, I completed my nutrition studies and watched the science behind paraffin and artificial substances emerge, my choice of candles shifted towards more natural options. Somehow I didn’t fancy clogging our lungs with cancer-causing particles.

And then… then I got my dogs. Which made me re-think the entire concept of a scented candle in my house. To be fair, it was a fluid and conscious transition because I made it a big deal to provide our boys with the most natural, often organic, non-toxic and dog-friendly options when it came to the house they live, products I use for grooming or the toys we have thrown all over the place. Candles were the easier part of the big swap.

This year I decided to look into the choice of candles in detail. Admittedly, I have already been very careful limiting my choice to very few and environmentally-friendly brands. Now I simply wanted to know exactly what a scented candle can do for our dog’s health – and share this information with you.

So let’s discuss…

First of all, the aroma. We think we are good at smelling scents, yet in comparison to dogs, our olfactory is absolutely pathetic. We have about 5 or 6 million receptors. Dogs, on the other hand, possess between 200 and 300 million! They are able to detect a 1/2 tsp of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool or scent-iffically dissect any prepared meal into separate ingredients! And cockers, in particular, are one of the most gifted breeds when it comes to sniffing out anything and everything. Take my Fred, for example. The guy can tell if a person he loves walked through the village earlier, can happily lead us to the house of his favourite vet (he doesn’t actually know she lives there, nor ever saw her coming home or leaving the house  – he simply knows…), spot a pheasant miles away or run to a certain field because there was a bunny out there somewhere…

Now imagine how terrible it must be for our dogs to live in a house that, for them, stinks of perfumes and essential oils! They tolerate it, of course, but I cannot imagine any canine actually enjoying such fragrances…

Next, the oils themselves. Some of them can be, indeed, beneficial for our pups. But all essential oils contain limonen and linalool known to be allergic for some dogs – and toxic – for all of them. Of course, it is the matter of quantity and one would need to inhale or consume quite a bit of both to have a toxic reaction. However, if you notice that your dog’s behaviour, habits or appearance change when you start using scented candles, think twice about continuing…. or look for alternatives.

It is also vital, absolutely vital, to make sure that the candle is made with bees or organic vegetable wax, not paraffin. Technically, the paraffin wax isn’t considered to be toxic for dogs, but if consumed it can cause digestive problems and even lead to coma. But it’s a mineral oil, which to me, is as unnatural for our bodies as one can possibly imagine. Besides, it’s all about the end-product of burning petroleum waste-based wax.

According to the 2009 study, the burning candle pollutes the indoor air with “undesired chemicals, such as alkans, alkenes, toluene” and formaldehyde that have been linked to “cancer, common allergies and even asthma in humans”. These substances are not only poisonous to dogs, but, just like in humans, can lead to disease, inflammaiton, and affect the nervous system. The same study also concluded that “natural waxes did not produce such a harmful effect”.

If the label on your favourite candle does not specify “lead-free” then chances are, the wick was made with a metal lead core. The burning of the lead will release the toxic lead particles into the air above recommended safety levels, potentially leading to acute poisoning or slowly causing imbalance of essential minerals in the blood – and as a result, a change in behaviour and chronic illnesses.

Now imagine a cocktail of lead and the by-products of paraffin burning, and we get quite a concoction to deal with!

None of this does not mean that you must avoid the candles from now on. You can still enjoy them by following a few basic rules.

Skip anything containing paraffin, artificial fragrances or wicks that aren’t specified as “lead-free” on a label. Ironically, these aren’t only among the inexpensive ones – some high-end brands still happily pour paraffin into their expensive candles, so always check the label.

Choose the options made with vegetable waxes (coconut, apricot, soy or rapeseed) or bees wax, cotton wick and natural oils (be careful with citrus oils, they are more likely to be allergic for dogs). These scented candles will reward you with a real moment of pleasure and peace of mind. Simple!

Below are a few of my favourite. Just in case you need somewhere to start…

Best dog-friendly natural vegetable soy bees wax scented candles for all budgets / perfect cocker spaniel / dog blog and book / English cocker spaniel breed, history, training, puppy advice, tips (C)

Dogs Rhubarb & Ginger scented candle is made from vegetable wax poured into a re-usable glass container adorned with art work by Margaret Mace (1).

Art candle by Bella Freud is inspired by the artist’s studio. It will fill your home with the scents of cedar wood, lilac and musk and add a touch of whimsical creativity to the decor (2).

I love Voluspa so much, I’ll share two of my favourite candles. This one is from Maison Noir range. The description of scent that says “sparkling wine, vanilla and oak” is very plain compared to the sensation you get when the candle is lit. The scent is delicate yet completely envelops your entire home in a manner of an invisible soft blanket (3).

The Panjore Lychee candle will be enhancing your home with the fruity scents of lychee, pear and vanilla for 60 hours. And then you can re-use the tin to keep a few precious trinkets (4).

Bois Copaiba is one of the candles by Esteban Paris. It gets double-points from me because it’s not only natural, looks like a precious jewel and smells like the most luxurious perfume, but it’s refillable, too (5)!

The Nomad Society Smoke & Wood candle is the one I adore so much. It literally smells like the burning campfire and is the most enticing and season-appropriate scent for me. Have been buying them for several seasons now. Absolutely beautiful (6).

The Tuscan Suede by Azzi Glasser is an intimate fragrance story created with the scents of jasmine and violet. Perfect for the most wonderful magical night-in (7).

If you have everything you heart desires (or want to give me a present that will send me dancing all night long), it’s all about Fornasetti’s Regalo Gold, the one and only treasure to have and to hold (8).

If you have a favourite scented candle, please let me know. My search for them will never end.

Photo source: one of my favourites Christmas, both photo and collage are by me

 

Fred, my chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel living country life. Post on what to do if your cocker spaniel is hyperactive. How to deal with zoomies. Is it true that cocker spaniels are hyperactive? Tips on keeping a cocker calm - diet, exercise, training, toys. (C) First published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog / photo and words by Natalia Ashton

Zoomies are so last year – or how to deal with a hyperactive cocker spaniel

May I jump straight to the core of the issue and say that cockers are not hyperactive at all? Yes, they are full of life. Yes, they are bouncy. Yes, their bottom wags so much it must be solar-powered by fairies. Yes, they talk like no other breed. But no, they are not hyperactive as many would suggest.

Because first and foremost cocker spaniels are working dogs. And as such they have a pool of energy reserve to be used as nature intended. If the pool remains unused, overfills or gets emptied until it’s dry, we get what’s commonly known as a hypo-dog or dog with zoomies.

Neither is good, to be honest because, if we use science, the hyperactivity is lead by stress hormones. They control your pup’s response to stimuli and his ability to relax. If he under- or over-dose on emotional or physical work, the body will produce too many hormones (think, cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine) and the poor cocker will either end up sprinting about, bouncing off the walls, barking uncontrollably or even biting other dogs in a manner of a bully. Worse, the hormones control other systems in the body like the heart, digestion, reproductive system or immune response.

So we need to keep the hormones – and our pups – happy and content at all times (even though it may seriously pump our own cortisol  – but that’s a different story).

And here’s how…

Working dogs like to remain active physically. It does not however mean that you should take your cocker into the field and keep throwing the ball for him to fetch until your arm feels sore and he is out of breath and looks exhausted. It also does not necessarily mean that you must hike for miles every day.

As a flushing breed, cocker would be happy to run and chase that ball, but as any normal dog, he has a certain limit for the chase part: he chases -> the chase is over -> he settles down with his catch of the day. He does not chase and chase and chase… It simply builds up cortisol due to both frustration, inability to rest and relax and the need to constantly run. As a result the spaniel will react by becoming restless, zooming about, barking or biting.

If you like to play a game of fetch – throw the ball a few times for him to play, then play tag and pull (and he must win at the end, especially if he is still young!), allow him plenty of time to switch activity to sniffing the area (you can even throw and hide treats in the grass and trees for him to find as a part of the game!), walking calmly or settling down next to you watch the sunrise.

If you play in the garden, a chew toy to relax with will be fabulous.

The long walks are wonderful, but if once you start and do it every day, be prepared to continue them regularly (read – daily or so) because essentially you have just trained a little athlete. He will become frustrated if the walks are suddenly cut down to a stroll around the block (just like you would if you worked out daily and then had to skip or avoid gym against your will). Once you made a commitment, do your best to stick with the plan.

It’s essential to remember that the length of walks must be determined based on your puppy’s age and health. 5 minutes per month of age per walk, 2-3 times a day – not an hour-long walk at the age of 3 months. The latter will be really hard for his bones and joints.

Once your puppy is old enough, allow at least an hour a day for your walks. To let your dog to be a dog, start your day with a stroll and play (in nature it’s the time when they look for food), return home for breakfast and nap (again, it’s the “hunt -> catch -> eat -> relax” scenario). End your day with another walk, some training and, ideally, sniffing game and chew toy.

Next come the mental stimulation because physical activity alone is never enough. It may stimulate the body, but it leave the brain hungry for information, which you, as a parent, will need to provide. In fact, mental stimulation is probably more important to a dog than physical activity.

They live to learn, sniff, taste and absorb the world around them. 15 minutes of brain training can be just as tiring for a dog as an hour-long walk! Which is rather good to remember if you really cannot go out sometimes because one of you is poorly or the weather lets you down big time.

Allow your clever spaniel smell and examine things while walking. Use puzzle games at home. Scatter food in a garden or house for him to find. Use snuffle mats. Train daily (10-15 minute at a time for pleasure, not hours that may build frustration and stress).

Have a schedule for walks, meals, games, training and travel. Dogs do have tiny clock inside their brain and it never fails. If you skip or postpone any of their favourite activities, they’ll stress out.

Give your beautiful pooch plenty of time to relax and sleep. Do not disturb him. This is when the brain relaxes and recovers. If you skip this step, your dog is likely to react by zooming about by 9 o’clock at night.

Chewing and licking are two other activities that relax any pup. Use chew toys, healthy chews, lickimats and stuffed toys.

Use massage and ttouch technique. You can learn it and DIY. One of the simplest things is to massage your dog’s ears in long gentle strokes, from the central point (ear canal) outwards.

Play music. It may seem like a silly idea, but dogs react differently to different tunes. Mine fall asleep with Gabrielle, Sade and a few classics. You can even find the “dog friendly” music on YouTube and play it to them.

Watch his diet. High protein and carb-free diets can cause hyperactivity in dogs because they create an imbalance of nutrients and hormones that control brain response and ability to relax.

If it’s 8-9pm and your cocker, especially a puppy, starts biting, bringing you toys, pacing around, compulsively licking his paws or running like his eyes are going to pop through the back of his head, do not join in. This hyperactivity is a sign of tiredness. Leave him alone to settle down with a chew or cuddly toy (whatever he prefers) and he will soon fall asleep. Just like all babies do.

You can find more tips on raising a puppy and living with your gorgeous cocker spaniel in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel. It’s a long, but rather helpful, read. Even if I say so myself.

Photo source: Fred, my chocolate and tan boy, photographed by me

Cooper, photographed by me / simple trick to how to stop puppy from picking street rubbish on walks / first puppy advice for cocker spaniel puppy parents / published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Simple trick to stop your puppy from picking street rubbish on walks

Teaching a pup to “Leave” takes time… So what can you do now to stop him from picking up everything in sight during your walks?

I’ve come up with this trick after noticing that most cockers love to carry something. So when my pups were young, too excited about life (and everything on the street they could sniff and possibly eat…) and still learning proper “Leave” I used a distraction.

I’d pick up an old sock, shoe storage bag (you know, the one that comes inside the box), glove or small fabric flat toy – anything light and easy to hold would do!

We’d play right before the walk using the said thing, then I’d put it in my pocket to give to the pup during our walk.

They always looked so happy, adorable and proud carrying their trophy! And it kept them busy from focusing on rubbish! After a few walks the rubbish would become a familiar part of the street, so the pups would no longer pay attention to it. By then we’d also had enough practice with “Leave”, so the pups were prepared for the big life (and the sock or toy would be left at home)

Of course, it doesn’t suit every single puppy. But it’s such a simple thing to try, it’s worth a mention.

If you have any tricks or tips of your own, do share them below.

bionda chasten campaign by Dima Hohlov c/o Bionda Castana & Natalia Barbieri / why puppies chew shoes and how to stop them from chewing furniture, shoes and other things when teething / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Q&A | How to stop a puppy from chewing shoes?

“Louboutins or Manolos, they all taste the same…” is a kind of note that should be given to all new puppy parents, especially their shoe-loving mums. Brands aside, the note will serve as a friendly reminder that puppies, whether you like it or not, like to bite things.

Unlike us, humans, dogs don’t see things first… They SMELL them. Then they TASTE them. This simple exercise is their favourite way to learn about life and things its made of. The sights comes useful, of course, but mostly as a navigation device to get the pup from the scent to the source. Presto.

And once they arrive, puppies sink their teeth into whatever they want to learn about. Naturally the damage can be big and turn your possessions into shreds in no time.

To avoid this from happening, here are some simple rules that every puppy parent needs to follow, not even for the sake of saving a pair of shoes, but mostly, for the safety of your pup who can, unfortunately, swallow things he should not.

Puppy-proof the house before you get the pup;
Prevent or stop any bad habit from happening from the start otherwise you will end up with a dog who will be destroying things for the rest of his life because it’s fun;
Put away shoes and things that may look tempting;
Give him plenty of toys (see my earlier post about best chews for puppies);
Stimulate him mentally through puzzle toys and training – and physically, though age-appropriate exercises (walks, training etc.)
During teething, use bitter apple spray on furniture – the taste will discourage him from chewing;
Do not leave the pup alone for hours – first of all, it’s not a good idea full-stop, secondly, he is likely to get bored and end up chewing something; thirdly, cockers can develop separation anxiety and, as a result, destructive behaviour, if you aren’t careful;
If your puppy shows signs of pica (the need to eat odd things like, say, plaster or soil) consult a vet and examine his current diet.

See? Easy enough. Almost tempting to say “Christian Louboutin would approve”, but I guess that would be advertising.

Photo source: Bionda Castana Spring/Summer 2016 campaign (photography: Dima Hohlov) c/o Natalia Barbieri

Fred, my chocolate and tan english cocker spaniel puppy playing with his ball / first puppy training tips and advice / things to teach puppy / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

5 things to teach your puppy

Puppy’s mind is like blank canvas. You can paint anything you like on its surface. The better skills you have, the better your masterpiece will turn out. If you leave the canvas untouched & neglected, they’ll lose their pristine qualities & require a lot more effort to achieve the art work you’ve dreamed of…

Now, away from the imaginary gallery and back to the reality of puppy life, so we can use every minute of it to our advantage.

Cockers are naturally very intelligent & easy to train at any age. However, puppy’s brain is information-hungry & still developing, so it’s the best time to mould it.

I teach my pups from day one. Those aren’t really lessons. It’s more like a game. Of course, nothing is forced & the “games” are kept short. And here are the first 5 things the pups learn…

His/her name… because it’s the easiest way to grab your pup’s attention;

“Come”… because right now pup will follow you at all times allowing you to set the foundation for future success;

House training… takes time, so the sooner you begin, the quicker you’ll achieve results;

Wearing collar & walking with a lead attached… because wearing ANYTHING is not natural for any animal. It’s important for the little pup to understand that his collar is not scary & the lead is not a toy. You can also teach him to follow you (while the lead is attached) and build foundation towards successful no-pulling on the lead routine;

“Leave” or “Spit”… to stop him from hoovering up everything in sight (& spitting things out when asked) to avoid obvious problems.

The rest of the lifestyle tasks can be taught alongside or later on

I didn’t include the how-to’s because I’ve described details in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel. And lets be honest, any article longer than 1000 characters can send even the most dedicated puppy parents to sleep…

What things did you teach your pup when he joined you? Which ones are most important for you?

Photo source: Fred, photographed by me

 

H2O4K9 portable water bottle to keep your dog hydrated on the go / must-have dog accessory for all cocker spaniel owners / review first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

We Love | H2O4K9

Do you remember the time when getting ready for a walk required a rucksack full of bulky dog ammunition? Among all the poop bags, treats, tissues, combs, leads etc.etc.etc. there was always a plastic water bottle and some kind of drinking bowl.

The longer was the walk the heavier the load… Beside the weight it was always a bit messy because the bowl would eventually be used and become wet and dirty…

Honestly, I know I’ve perfected the British art of complaining by now, but I found the whole affair frustrating.

Then the H2O4K9 was released. And since that day there was not a walk when we wouldn’t carry the bottle with us.

Why I love it so much? Because it allows me to carry a plentiful water supply. It’s made from stainless steel, so much more hygienic & health-friendly than plastic. It’s reusable – unlike plastic. And the lid is shaped to be a drinking vessel completely taking away the need to carry any extra paraphernalia.

I noticed that there’s also a new option available now. It’s designed to keep the water cool for longer. It lasts for years.

The bottle comes in several sizes, I use the large one because my boys prefer the shape of the lid and I can carry enough water for both of them.

The only negative is that the coloured bottles can be scratched when you put the lid back on taking off the pretty painted finish. If you think it’s going to bother you, get the plain stainless steel version. It looks perfect after years and years of use.

This post hasn’t been sponsored or compensated. The bottle is one of my personal must-haves when it comes to dog products. All opinions are my own.

A matter of choice

The reality check kind of post. It hurts to write it but I’m going to share my thoughts anyway.

Over the last few years (and especially after joining Instagram) I’ve seen so many posts about dogs that have been stolen, abused or poisoned by creatures who call themselves “human beings”.  And I know how much it hurts to be separated with your dog in such a cruel way.

No dog parent deserves it. But even more, no dog deserves it.

You know what makes me hurt the most? In 99% cases it happened to dogs who were left unsupervised… Alone in their garden, alone – tied up by a corner shop, alone – in a car. .
The dogs did not have a choice. It was their owners who chose to leave them “for a sec” or “for a few hours”… These people are still here, heartbroken, but alive and here.

Nobody knows (or would even dare to imagine!) what could possibly happen to those dogs.

So please, hate me or not, but don’t leave your dogs alone in public places, your back garden or the car. Especially dogs as small and friendly as cockers. Stay with them – and if you can’t, leave them at home, safe and secure.

Because dogs can’t make a choice. But you can.

Photo source: image by Pexels from Pixabay