Walking Gear for Reactive Dogs

9 Mar

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Ages and ages ago, during the days of our Walk to Rivendell challenge, I wrote a little bit about the gear we use for our regular walks. Over the last 2+ years we’ve tried a perhaps ridiculous number of walking setups with a variety of collars, leashes, harnesses, halters, and more. Between working on Topher’s reactivity in training classes and our usual walks, we get a lot of use out of our gear and I always want to make sure what we use and carry around truly works for us. Because, in certain scenarios, these are the pieces of equipment we rely on the most to keep ourselves and others safe. So, what do we take on our daily walks?

Martingale Collar

We switched to martingale collars after a recommendation from our trainers and have used them almost exclusively since then. We clip directly to Topher’s martingale collars on casual short walks, and we love the sturdy support provided by our go-to collars from Dog + Bone.

Identification Tags

While we’ve never had an instance where Topher has gotten off his leash and gotten lost, but that doesn’t mean it could never happen. So, it’s important for your dog to have proper identification when you go out and about. Need more convincing? Here are a few more reasons you should get your dog’s identification in order sooner rather than later.

Front Lead Harness

Up until recently we were using a head halter on walks, rather than a harness. About a month ago, we decided to switch back to using a harness. Why? It all has to do with reactive classes. While Topher accepted and happily wore a head halter without incident on walks at parks and in the neighborhood, he’d become a terror during reactive classes. When stressed, he’d take it all out on the halter, pawing at his muzzle and even scratching himself several times in an attempt to get it off. We tried more positive reinforcement with the halter, to make it as positive an experience as possible, but this did not seem to make much difference.

Currently, Topher’s lunging has diminished pretty significantly. This means the need for the halter as a method to not be knocked off my feet has diminished with it. Over the last month, we transitioned to a harness and Topher has been doing very well with it. Our training group recommended the Freedom harness, and we absolutely love it so far.

Double-Ended Leash

Because of our walking setup, we use double ended leashes—ones that have clips at both ends. We use this Halti leash because it has a ton of different ways you can use it and I’ll happily buy it again if the one we have ever breaks. Our Freedom harness also came with this great double ended leash with a handle and I’m very interested to see how much more control we’ll have with this harness and leash combination in our future classes.

Waste Bags

Can’t leave home without them! We still tend to use grocery bags (after checking for holes of course) but we have a backup roll of actual waste bags if we ever run out of the ones we get from the store.

Pepper Spray

For over two years now I’ve carried pepper spray when I walk Topher by myself. Thankfully, I’ve never needed it. However, it gives me a small sense of security, should a loose dog encounter ever go truly awry. Since the dog attack, we’ve had plenty of encounters with off-leash dogs running up to us; however, through educating myself, learning how to handle Topher, and a little luck, none have led to a scenario where I feel it’s necessary to spray a dog. I still hope I never have to use it.

Microfiber Towel

We call Topher the King of the Slobs because of his ridiculous ability to go from clean to covered in drool in about ten seconds. Nobody wants to greet an outrageously slobbery dog, so I make sure to keep a washcloth-sized towel in my walking bag for quick, on-the-go clean up. It also helps keep Topher camera-ready…most of the time. Sometimes the thought of treats creates more drool than one small towel can defeat.

Plenty of Treats

The final thing you can’t leave home without! At least, you can’t if you’re me and trying to give your dog lots of positive rewards for interacting nicely with the world. We’re lucky to be so well supplied, between treats we get from BarkBox and the ones we make ourselves.

What do you take on dog walks?

Review: Dog + Bone Black Label Collars & Leashes (and a Giveaway!)

7 Mar

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It’s been exactly one year since we first reviewed and fell head over heels in love with the Martingale Collars & Leashes from Dog + Bone. Even longer since we reviewed car odor eliminator products from SafeSpace. Lucy and I were both so pleased with the quality, style, and durability of our first sets of Dog + Bone products that they became our go-to gear. We were elated when Ivan and Anne (the faces behind the Dog + Bone brand) came to us for another review. This time, for their new Black Label edition of collars and leashes.

With all the same features we’ve come to know and love from Dog + Bone, the new Black Label edition of martingale collars, snap collars, and adjustable leashes have a lot to offer. We’re so excited to review them for you today, and give an update on just how durable the entire Dog + Bone line can be after a year of rigorous wear!

Style Simplified

When Dog + Bone first hit the market, they quickly made headlines with their bright and colourful style. There is no mistaking a Dog + Bone collar, and I can’t tell you how many compliments we receive about how fantastic Archer looks in her purple and hot pink martingale collar. Quite honestly, there are no other collars quite like them.

With their new Black Label comes the same unbeatable quality and durability, but with a more subdued colour palette. Whereas their initial line of colourful collars and leashes are akin to your favourite happy hour cocktail, their new Black Label is like a fine whiskey. It’s stylish but simple.

Built to Last

It’s one thing to put a product through its paces for a few weeks, but it’s a completely different ballgame when you have a full year to test it out. To be blunt, our first set of Dog + Bone collars and leashes were put to the ultimate test with Topher and Archer’s daily walks, obedience training, weekends at the cottage, and romps on outdoor trails. With large dogs, there really is no such thing as staying clean. Thankfully, as great as Dog + Bone collars look, all it takes is a quick wash (read: throw that dirty collar in with your next load of laundry) and voilà! Good as new!

Let’s talk about durability. Not just regular durability, but the kind of wear and tear and whoa that comes with using the Dog + Bone martingale collar and adjustable leash for Topher’s reactive dog class. Think 100 lbs of drooling anxiety lunging forward, and then repeat that scenario weekly for about a year. At the end of the day, Topher is still happily strutting his stuff in his red and blue martingale collar with neither worse for the wear.

Room to Grow

These collars stood up great to the wear and tear Archer and Topher put them through, but more than that, they’ve proven to be perfect for a growing puppy. At six months old it was difficult to find an appropriate collar for Sirius to grow into; likewise for Topher’s “cousin” Duncan. Thankfully, both the snap collar and martingale collar offer ample room to adjust and grow.

Likewise, the adjustable leash is all about offering flexibility. With Sirius’ puppy class, he had to have a 6 foot leash for good leash training, whereas we prefer using a shorter leash for Archer on walks (she’s so tall, we don’t need all the extra slack!). No matter your preference or style, the adjustable leash fits the bill.

Something for Everyone

The addition of the new Black Label line to Dog + Bone’s already stellar line of martingale collars, snap collars, and adjustable leashes makes this an easy win for us. In over a year—despite our best efforts to put these products through hell and back—we just haven’t found anything to complain about. Whether you’re drawn to the bright bold colours of the original line, or the suave and understated elegance of the Black Label, Dog + Bone has a little something for every pup!

Enter To Win a Dog + Bone Martingale Collar and Leash!

It’s time to share the love! Want to win an awesome martingale collar and leash from Dog + Bone? Entering is simple! Comment below or on our Instagram (that’s right, two chances to win!) and tell us which colour combination is your favourite from Dog + Bone’s new Black Label line!

6 Social Media Strategies for Dog Rescues & Shelters

2 Mar

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Even though we’d been talking about (and looking into) adopting a dog, the week we adopted Topher was a whirlwind event. It started with a photo in my Facebook feed, shared by a local rescue group; less than 48 hours later, Topher was settling into his new home. Whether this is a normal scenario or not, one thing is clear: social media changed the game for rescue groups and shelters, for better or for worse.

Currently, social media is heavily integrated into our daily lives; it’s only natural for companies and charities alike to leverage it for greater success. In many cases, non-profits like animal rescues and shelters don’t have as many resources at their disposal, nor do they possess the time or tools to craft the viral, spot on messaging you see from big corporations. We all love to commiserate over the emotional power of those Sarah McLachlan commercials, but can social media strategies for dog rescues attract even a fraction of that response? We think so. Here are just a few ways rescue groups and shelters can make the most of their social media accounts.

Cover The Basics

Though it seems obvious, many small organizations seem to operate online without any clear contact information or “calls to action.” If your goal is for interested parties to get in touch with you, this is a huge mistake! Make sure information is correct and clearly listed on all social media channels you operate. The website link you use on all accounts should also be the link you want to direct the majority of your audience too. That means if you’d rather send potential adoptive families straight to Facebook, always link to it directly in every profile!

In the same vein, always make sure you’re sharing photos of adoptable animals with all important information a potential adopter will need—location, ID numbers, availability date, contact info—so it will follow that pet’s photo if it’s shared by other people.

Focus on Photos

One picture is worth a thousand words—or at least a few hundred retweets—when it’s a good one. We’ve shared tips for taking great photos of your pets that you can use regardless of your equipment setup. It doesn’t take a big, expensive setup to take a lovely photo of a dog! If we could give one tip to every shelter and rescue group, it’s this: get out of the cage, or even get out of the building if you can. Natural light and a little time out in a grassy area with a camera (or just a phone) will help show off an adoptable dog’s “good side” and keep their mugshots from looking the same as all the rest a potential family might be hunting though.

Simple, Positive, Honest

Once you have a photo, it’s time to share a dog’s story and rustle up potential adopters. These are the three pillars of messaging we feel every shelter and rescue group should focus on.

Simple: Pick out two or three of the best qualities this dog may have, and write one or two short sentences about them. While it might be tempting to write out an entire life story to set a dog apart from the masses, sticking to a few positive qualities will give potential adopters something to latch onto and remember, without diving into four paragraphs on why this particular dog is so great. Social media moves faster everyday—keep things as short and sweet as possible.

Positive: Some dogs come from truly terrible situations and are literally fighting for their lives when they arrive with rescues or shelters. In those cases, it’s common to showcase their story, because those kinds of situations and how a dog survives them will dictate their story as they move through the rescue system.

However, a majority of dogs come into rescues with no backstory, or a pretty common one: they simply aren’t wanted. In these cases, it’s better to focus on the positive. Don’t demonize previous owners or dwell on past transgressions. Focus on the reasons why this dog is ready for a new home with the right family, and those families will—with any luck—be drawn to those positive messages.

Honest: Rescue dogs can sometimes be tricky to place, and it’s important for shelters to be honest about a dog’s potential issues. Animal reactivity, experience with children, and any special needs should always be clearly listed when you’re giving a description of an adoptable dog. All of these things help potential adoptive families to see, at a glance, if this dog is one they can work with or not.

Go Local

If your rescue is not focused on getting out of state adoption placements or transporting animals, it’s important to stay local in your social media efforts. List your location when sharing animals, target your post with that location on Facebook and Instagram. Make use of local hashtags when it’s relevant, or create your own so local audiences can track your new rescues and success stories.

Give Updates

Even if a dog’s status hasn’t changed, it can be helpful to share new photos of them—perhaps with something you learned about them recently—to keep any dogs from falling through the cracks. Smaller rescues can even go as far as keeping a Facebook album for each of their dogs, updating with new photos or new encounters when applicable.

Share Successes

If one of your dogs has been recently adopted, share it! Happy endings and positive messages are shared more often and more widely, so any good news for you is also good news your followers can help celebrate right along with you.