What should I feed my dog?

There are so many choices of dog food on the UK market which can make it difficult to decide which one to choose.

I usually answer this question with “this is what you should NOT feed”.

The following are a few simple dog food tips:

  • Ingredients on the back are more useful than the marketing claims on the front. When the front packaging mentions a specific ingredient then the ingredient list must specify the percentage e.g. foods that say Chicken on the front often contain just 4% Chicken!
  • Less is more. A short ingredient list is generally better than a long one with lots of cheap fillers.
  • If you don’t know what an ingredient is or you would not eat it yourself then don’t give it to your dog. Do you know what animal derivatives are?
  • Be specific. Do you know if “meat” in the ingredients is chicken, beef, or horse? Is the “cereal” wheat or rice? Choose a food that lists the actual ingredients rather than hides them under a generic term.
  • Don’t blindly follow your vet’s recommendation. Vets have minimal nutritional training and often sell brands that provide them with large profits but which don’t do well in independent reviews.
  • Buy from a pet shop rather than a supermarket. Supermarkets tend to stock the low-quality foods.
  • Garbage in, garbage out. If what comes out the other end is loose and smelly then your dog’s body is not processing it very well. If it is small and compact then he is using most of it as nutrients.
  • Do your research. www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk is an excellent resource that reviews specific products and explains what the ingredients mean. Check out the market leaders to see how they compare.

What dog food do I recommend?

There are so many to choose from! However, a food that has high quality ingredients and is readily available in pets shops and for delivery is Canagan.

What about raw food diets or BARF?

Some people will tell you that feeding raw is the single most important thing you can do for your dog’s health. Others will say that the risk of salmonella is too high. Do lots of research if you plan to change to a raw food diet since you don’t want your dog to have any nutritional deficiencies.

Take home message

There is a massive difference in the quality of commercial dog foods.  Do your research and choose the best you can for your budget.

Is your dog not interested in food?

Check out this blog post.


Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

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Top tips for surviving Christmas with your dog

If you asked people what happens at Christmas many would tell you that they eat too much and they get stressed out by visiting family.

That’s a good starting point for what to consider for your dog.

Food

We tend to overeat at Christmas and also eat lots of rich food.  Giving your dog a few extra treats will not do him any harm but obviously don’t go crazy. He may be a canine dustbin and therefore be okay with most foods or may be a little more sensitive. Remember what goes in must come out so don’t forget to give him lots of toilet breaks.

Some food is positively dangerous for your dog.  Most people now know chocolate is poisonous but dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is particularly toxic.  You may think about sharing a little Christmas pudding or mince pies but did you know that grapes in the form of currents, raisins and sultanas are also poisonous to dogs?

You may enjoy working your way through your turkey but don’t be tempted to give your dog the bones since cooked bones can easily splinter inside of his digestive system.

Be careful of what the kids may be feeding your dog and of what may be just within his reach.

Visitors

Your dog may be the life and soul of the party or a little more sensitive. Either way there is a good chance he will want the option to get away from the action and retire to his bed or crate. Let your visitors know that they should leave him alone when he goes to his bed. This is especially important for children who may not read the signs that he has had enough and so need adult supervision to keep everyone safe and happy.

Gifts for your dog

There is no reason for your dog to miss out on all the fun.  You may choose to give him a new bone, chew, or toy but don’t expect it to still be under the tree if you leave it there or for the tree to still be standing!  

Perhaps you could buy small gift for a local rescue dog so he can also enjoy a Christmas treat. Check out these Wish Lists:

Behaviour problems

Your dog may have specific problems around people, food, or toys in which case it may be best to just let him chill out and have a quite Christmas at home. Your new year’s resolution could be to consult qualified and experienced behaviourist to help you both work through these problems.

Buying a puppy

Are you thinking of buying a puppy as a Christmas present? Giving a home to a puppy should be a planned and well-informed decision with thought given to the next 15+ years of the puppy’s life. This might be the right decision for you in which case wait until the commotion of Christmas is over and give him the best start in life.

Merry Christmas from Mike Garner of Rainbow Dogs, Brighton!

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My dog pulls! What should I do?

Train your dog to walk to heel and not pull on lead.

Where to start

If you go to your local pet shop or search online you will find a hundred different types of special collars, harnesses and head collars which can make choosing the right one really difficult.

The first question I ask someone is:

Why is your dog wearing that equipment?

Common answers are:

  • Because he pulls
  • Because I thought they were supposed to wear it
  • Because my trainer sold me it

I will let you into a trade secret… the best piece of equipment to walk a dog can often just be a regular collar and lead! Okay I appreciate that does not help me sell you equipment but there is a qualification to my statement, which is your dog needs to be trained to walk nicely on lead first.

The time spent training your new puppy to walk nicely on lead is a good investment unless you want 15 years of being pulled down the street. Dogs that are already established pullers may need greater time and dedication on your part to learn to not pull. You may be helped in this process by using specific training equipment.

Let’s look at the equipment options for walking you dog:

  • Simple flat collar and lead – made of fabric or leather. This is the perfect solution for a trained dog who does not pull.
  • Choke chains. These do what they say, they choke your dog! This will be uncomfortable for your dog however he will eventually learn to ignore the pain. Unfortunately long term this can cause damage to his throat, neck, and spine.
  • Check chains. A marketing company realised that choke chains sound horrible so re-branded them as check chains.
  • Half-choke / half-check chains. These only half choke your dog. They are limited to stop choking him to the point of turning blue!
  • Prong collars and spike collars. These are more common in the USA that the UK but still used by some. They look like chock chains but have prongs or spikes that cut into the dog’s neck. These are nothing short of barbaric!
  • Harnesses with a back clip. These on the surface seem like the perfect humane solution to a pulling dog. The dog will no longer choke but will often pull more due to the reflex (opposition reflex) to pull against things.
  • Harnesses with a front clip / chest clip (e.g. Perfect Fit Harness harnesses). These are humane and remove the incentive to pull against something.
  • Head collars. These are also humane yet discourage your dog from pulling since they turn his head towards you. These may be the only option if your dog is very strong and other options do not give you enough control. These can be fiddly to put on and some designs can ride up the dog’s face into his eyes. I have found the Gencon to be not only easy to put on but also much less likely to ride up into the dog’s eyes. They can also clip back onto his regular collar for added security. Head collars can take time to get used to for some dogs.

Summary

There is no one piece of equipment that is suitable for every dog. The best solution for a dog that does not pull is just use a regular collar and lead and to train your dog to walk nicely. I recommend Perfect Fit Harness for dogs that pull since they offer control for you and comfort for your dog.

Perfect Fit Harness

Rainbow Dogs are based in Brighton, Sussex. Contact us for specific advice on training your dog to walk nicely on lead.

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Fireworks top tips

Dogs can find it hard to deal with the stress and anxiety of fireworks. Follow our simple top tips to help your dog cope.

How to help you dog cope with fireworks on the day

  • Take your dog out for a walk in the light before the fireworks start.
  • Don’t try to get him used to fireworks or over his fear of fireworks by walking him during the fireworks since this is likely to heighten his fear.
  • Don’t leave him alone whilst you go out to watch a firework display, he will find it harder to cope without you there.
  • Rescue centres fill up with lost dogs after firework night so be prepared for the worst, make sure his microchip details are up to date and he is wearing his ID tag.
  • Provide your dog with a safe den area in the living room.  This could be his create, covered by a blanket with the door open or a space under a table; covered to give him a feeling of security.
  • Get a DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) plug-in to help your dog cope. They give out a scent that can be comforting to your dog but undetectable to people.
  • Dogs can have a heightened awareness of sight, sounds and smell during fireworks so try to mask these.  Keep all windows closed, curtains drawn and the TV or radio volume up.
  • Give your dog something to do to distract himself: a favourite toy, Nylabone, stag antler, Kong, or Kong Wobbler.
  • Don’t try to reassure your dog since if you are feeling anxious he will pick up on your anxiety.  Don’t ignore him either; let him stay close if he chooses to.  Model the behaviour you want by staying calm and ignoring the fireworks.

Prepare your dog for fireworks night

You should also actively work to desensitise your dog to fireworks if he has any problems. Please contact us for an appointment to start work on this in time for the New Years fireworks.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

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What to do if your dog is lost?

In the UK dogs have unrestricted access to a large number of public spaces with lots of opportunities to get lost.  Prevention should be your fist course of action but hindsight is a wonderful thing so you also need an action plan if the worst happens.

Prevention

Dog disk

Get an old fashioned engraved disk for your dog’s collar.  Have your mobile number on it since if you are out looking for your dog that’s the number you want people to call.  An identification disk is a legal requirement in the UK.

Microchip

Get your dog microchipped.  Dogs that find their way into rescue centres, local authorities dog wardens, vets surgeries etc will be scanned straight away.  Just make sure that the microchip company has your up-to-date mobile number.  It will be a legal requirement in the UK to have your dog microchipped from 6/4/2016.

Mug shot

Have an up-to-date photo of your dog in case the worst happens.

 

 

Training

A dog that does not come back when called is most likely to get lost!  Recall training is one of the most common behaviour problems Rainbow Dogs deal with so please contact us if you need help with recall training in Brighton, Worthing or further afield in Sussex.

Fencing

You should not trust your fencing to be secure enough to leave a dog outside unsupervised.  Dogs can jump, climb or dig under fencing to get free.

Fireworks

Rescue centres fill up with lost dogs after Guy Fawkes Night due to fireworks so be extra vigilant.

 

Looking for Your Dog

First stay put

Dogs will use their sense of smell to try to find you so stay close to where you lost your dog initially and call him, whistle or squeak his toy.

Enlist help

Search further afield enlisting the help of friends and family to check the local area.

Act fast!

Local authorities have a legal responsibility to keep your dog for only 7 days, after which time he can be put to sleep!

Make that call

Contact your local authority dog warden to report the time and place he was lost along with as detailed a description as possible.

Your dog may travel a great distance; they have been known to hop on trains before, so also contact dog wardens in neighbouring areas.

Contact local rescue centres e.g. Dogs Trust in Shoreham, RSPCA in Brighton.

Contact other rescue centres further afield e.g. Blue Cross, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Contact local vet surgeries.

The web

Search online for lost dog websites. Register on as many websites as possible. Uploading a picture will increase your chances of finding your dog.

Get social

Post on social media with a picture of your dog. Facebook and Twitter have different groups for lost dogs.

Walk the walk

Print posters with a picture of your dog and your contact details.  Start in the location where you lost him and then fan out from there.

Visit rescue centres

Visit your local rescue centre if they take in strays to check if they have your dog. Give then one of your posters.

Don’t give up!

Lost dogs are sometimes found months after becoming lost!

UPDATE 26/11/2018

Brighton Dog Watch is a great resource for lost dogs in and around the Brighton area.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

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Welcome to Rainbow Dogs

Rainbow Dogs … where every dog is an individual.

Mike Garner of Rainbow Dogs will be blogging with free dog training tips and general advice about dog training & welfare.

Please email me with your dog training questions and I will do my best to answer them on this blog.

Looking for specific help with training your dog in Brighton & Hove or further afield in Sussex?  Contact me now!