Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments!
Q: As it gets colder and wet, I am not so keen on taking my dog to the beach to play and the muddy park is out of the question. I know he needs to get his play time in. What should I do?
A: Sign up for indoor classes. This is a good time to brush up on obedience or take on a new skill. The rainy season is the best time to sign up for advanced classes like Agility, Rally or Nose Work.
Play mental games with your dog! Here are some things you can do at home to keep your dog mentally engaged:
1. Food puzzles
2. Find games in the home
3. New tricks and commands
You can also seek the services of a professional dog walker. Some things to consider when hiring a dog walker are:
Consider your dog’s strengths and weaknesses. Is your dog social?
Should he be walked alone ,or does he enjoy group play?
How is your dog's behavior with unfamiliar people? This will determine if your dog should get off-leash play or private leash walks.
Is your dog a high-energy tennis ball lover? Find someone willing to toss the ball for a while.
The dog walker you choose should be safety conscious, trustworthy and should share your training philosophy. I highly recommend taking the time and effort researching, interviewing and checking references before hiring one to ensure a stress-free experience for both you and your dog. It is easy to get overwhelmed while trying to decide who is the best match for you and your dog.
If you see a walker who seems particularly qualified (i.e., good leash handling skills, focused and in control of the pack, using positive reinforcement techniques and tools) approach them and ask for a business card. Ask friends and co-workers about the experiences they have had with their walkers. Always conduct your own interviews, and check references no matter how highly recommended the person is. Request regular updates on how your dog is doing.
A referral list can be found at www.dogtec.org, which is the first organization in North America to offer professional dog walker training and certification.