Getting to know….

Nick Jones MA – Dog Behaviourist and Dog Witness Expert

Nick Jones is an experienced, qualified and full-time dog behaviourist who specialises in dog behaviour problems and dog expert witness work. He is passionate about creating an understanding and rewarding bond between dog and owner. Here he answers Companion Life’s questions about puppy training…

Could you give a few details about how you got into dog training?

I took on my first dog over 20 years ago and she was a Wire Haired Vizsla. Amber taught me a great deal about dog training and was a wonderful way to get into the world of working tests in the gundog field. At this same time, I was a stay at home dad with our daughter and when she started school at the age of five, I was looking to start my own business and it seemed natural to take the dog training route after Amber and I won our first working test together when she was 9 months old. I am today with 20 years of practice under my belt working full-time as a dog behaviourist, as well as acting as a dog expert witness for cases that fall (most commonly) under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

How important is it for new pet owners to train their puppies from day one?

Day one for most new puppy owners would ideally be at the age of 8 weeks. It is perfectly possible to start to think about very simple routines in the home that gently introduce a little control and making an effort to request (for example) very short sits and waits prior to feeding times, being petted, being released outside for toilet breaks…pretty much anything that you can find to request a little sit and a two second wait is a very good place to start. I do this by placing a soft collar on the dog and to place the dog in the sit position and hold its body there for a few seconds before using the ‘Okay!’ release word.

We have little Ruby that we took on at 8 weeks and although she is as bright as a button, she was carrying out these little sits and then waits within a few days of being with us. There’s no magic, just calm consistency from the outset. Food driven puppies can be easily lured into the sit and then down position for small flakes of chicken and then once they are following the hand and food nicely, we can then introduce the word we want to use alongside the luring. This very simple, basic training sets the owner up for a positive relationship whereby the dog accepts from the outset that it needs to keep its eyes and ears open ready for owner input that is interesting and beneficial to the dog. I suspect that many owners don’t look at these basic elements until three or four months of age, when in fact, the puppy could be largely trained by that age already, if they had done a little and often as I suggest above.

What dog behavior problems are the most common you see that can be avoided through training?

Whilst I look at all dog behaviour problems across a wide range of breeds of all agesand sizes, those that relate to a lack of socialisation are seen on a regular basis. These would be behaviours such as aggression to other dogs or animals, nervousness and anxiety. This brings me back to why it is essential that a puppy is taken on at 8 weeks of age and that a gradual and thorough exposure to the world that the dog is likely to encounter as an adult is provided. Many puppies are just hitting public life at 12 weeks plus, when the ‘golden window’ of social exposure closes at 14-16 weeks.

How should new pet owners approach puppy training?

The key is to start from the very beginning and it’s not just about what commands the puppy understands, but also a schooling in good manners and politeness. Start as you mean to continue and don’t allow the puppy to get away with things that would be unacceptable as an adult dog. Naturally, you will need to take into account a very young dog’s short-term memory and its need to burn off energy, but stay on track with your basic behaviour and training approach and all will be well. Look upon training and manners as a long-term thing, that isn’t only in the first few months, but goes well into years 1, 2 and 3 and then you move into adult maintenance mode.

What research should new owners do before they choose their new dog?

There are many different breeds that would potentially suit a new owner, rescues included, so take your time and think it over long and hard. Avoid looking at litters unless you’re really quite certain you are ready to choose one! I see a large number of owners that have what may be unsuitable breeds in the home, because they openly admit that they fell in love with the breed and just had to have one.

When looking at different dogs, ask your self:

  • Do I have the time and energy for this breed in terms of its exercise needs?
  • Can I afford to feed it a quality diet?
  • Do I have experience with a dog of this outlook and intelligence (some dogs make better starter dogs than others)?
  • Is the size of my home appropriate for this breed?
  • Do I already have other animals that would accept this dog?
  • Does this dog already have behavioural issues that I will be able to address?

This is just the beginning and a book alone could be written just on this question!

What are your top 3 training tips that new puppy owners should take on board?

  1. A little and often goes a long way.
  2. Keep any formal training sessions short, sweet and finish on a good note for yours and the puppy’s sake.
  3. Look to weave little training moments into the day, so that it is less about training sessions and more about keeping the puppy tuned into you at key moments in the day as touched upon in Q.1.


For more information on dog training and behaviour, you can visit or view Nick’s Puppy Training Journey videos here.

Why does my dog lick and chew their feet?

Do you find your dog often likes to lick or chew at its feet and paws? It might seem like an everyday occurrence, but if your dog is causing its paws to bleed or swell, it could be a sign of something more serious.

Argos Pet Insurance discusses some of the reasons why your dog might be licking or chewing their feet, and shares tips for how you can deal with their chewing and licking habit.


If you spot your dog licking or chewing their feet, you should check they haven’t injured themselves. If you dog like to run about outside, it can be very easy for them to get things stuck in their feet or between their toes, such as grass seeds, or to cut themselves on anything sharp, such as thorns.

You may not even notice anything wrong with your dog’s paws, as it could simply be an irritant, rather than causing them any pain. However, if the problem is left untreated, it could develop into a more serious problem and cause extra discomfort for your dog.

Other potential injuries which can lead to your dog licking or chewing its paws could be a broken claw. Double check your dog’s paws, and if you see any signs of bleeding, go and see your vet.


One of the other most likely reasons why your dog chews its paws could be down to allergies.

A specific ingredient in your dog’s food may be having an effect on your dog’s skin causing it to itch. One way to combat food-related allergies is by switching your dog’s food to hypoallergenic food.

It could also be as simple as dust mites or fleas which are causing your dog to chew its paws. You can protect your dog from fleas by utilising a flea treatment, but to rid your house of dust mites requires a bit more work. To get rid of dust mites, we recommend using a dog bed which has a removable cover that can be washed in hot water regularly.

Even a change in the season can cause potential allergies in your dog as various plants spring up outside, spreading different types of pollen. If you suspect your dog has a skin allergy, you should consult with your vet, who can also advise on a solution.


Another reason for your dog licking or chewing at its feet could be due to Canine Compulsive Disorder, which can be caused by stress.

However, if you think your dog is chewing its feet due to a behavioural problem, as opposed to a medical issue, there are animal behaviourists who can help with this problem. You should first consult your vet in order to rule out any medical causes.

You may not have seen your dog chewing at their feet, but if you find your dog’s paws are sore or have signs of bleeding, they may still be at it. Your dog may suffer with separation anxiety and chew its paws when you’re out as they feel anxious or stressed at being alone.

It can be difficult to get your dog to stop licking or chewing its feet, particularly if you’re not at home all the time to keep watch. One way you can keep a close eye on what your dog gets up to when you’re not around is by investing in a pet camera. Not only will you be able to check on your dog regularly throughout the day, but you can also help to reduce any anxiety by feeding treats and talking to your dog via the camera.

What should I do if my dog’s paws bleed or swell?

If your dog’s paws are swollen or bleeding, it could be a sign of something stuck in your pet’s foot. The first thing to do is to check your dog’s paws for any objects that could be causing the discomfort and remove any objects you find.

Next, soak and clean your dog’s paws – you can use just salt and water. If the swelling still doesn’t go down, you should consult your vet.

There’s no one way for preventing your dog from chewing at its feet, as this is dependent on the original cause of the problem. However, if you’re still stuck on what to do about your dog’s licking and chewing habit, we recommend a trip to your vets for further advice.

For more information on Argos Pet Insurance you can visit










Canine companions: how dogs have helped humans throughout time

Dogs have long been known as ‘man’s best friend’. Movies such as Turner & Hooch and K-9 have been created on the back of the partnerships man and dog have made. But, where exactly did the phrase come from?

According to the History World, animal domestication started during the Ice Age approximately 20,000 years ago. Here, Cliverton, who provides insurance for dog trainers, take a look at the history of dogs and how we’ve trained them to partake certain roles.


In the Ice Age, mammals as big as mammoths were big enough to undermine both humans and wolves. While there isn’t specific evidence that shows this led to the two ‘teaming up’, archeologists who excavated an Iraqi cave found a jawbone that was over 12,000 years old and showed potential signs of domesticated breeding. This is because the structure had a smaller jawbone and teeth.

Some textbooks refer to Roman ladies having lapdogs in a bid to keep their stomachs warm and to try to cure stomach aches. It’s been suggested that dogs were the first animals to have been domesticated due to their human-like tendencies.

So, how have dogs’ skills been used by humans to help in everyday life?

Guide dogs

The first attempt to train a dog to help someone with sight problems can date back to Paris in 1780. By 1788, a blind sieve-maker from Vienna named Josef Riesinger had people doubting that he couldn’t see following how well he trained a Spitz to help him.

Fast forward a little closer to the modern day and guide dogs were used during the First World War in a bid to help soldiers who had returned from battle suffering sight loss, often by poison. This concept was the brainchild of German doctor, Dr Gerhard Stalling, who noticed dogs were looking after a patient when he wasn’t around. While it took several exploratory attempts, by August 1916 he had opened the first guide dog school for the blind in Oldenburg. This quickly grew, and many new branches were opened across the country, training up to 600 dogs each year.

Nowadays, the UK has around 5,000 guide dog owners, with the lifetime cost of a guide dog being approximately £55,000. The partnership allows people with no sight or limited sight to continue to live their life to the fullest integrated in society.

Hearing dogs

In the same way that they are used to help with sight, dogs have the ability to work as a hearing aid. The concept for training a dog to help with hearing issues didn’t actually exist until the early 1970s following a simple request by a hearing-impaired woman. Before Mrs Elva Janke’s request, her dog naturally helped with hearing around the house before it died. This led to her enquiring whether it would be possible to train another canine to alert her in the same way.

They are used to alert individuals who are hard of hearing with their alarm clocks, oven buzzer, telephones, smoke alarms and even a baby’s cry. Generally, they are mixed breed dogs that have come from an animal shelter.

Police and military dogs

The first recorded use of canines working alongside the police force was in the 14th Century in St Malo, France. At this stage, they were solely used to guard dock installations. By 1888, the London Metropolitan Police Force used bloodhounds to track suspects in the Jack the Ripper case. While the killer evaded the law, the use of dogs continued.

In the modern day, dogs have many uses in police forces and military personnel across the world. These include, but are not limited to, narcotics detectors, explosive detectors, specialised searches, mine detection, combat trackers, and multi-purpose roles.


While there are many possible dates of when dogs were first used to herd sheep, a doctor named Johannes Caius first mentioned the ‘shepherd’s dogge’ in the 1500s and could well be the earliest reference to dogs working in this way. Fast forward to the late 18th Century, and shepherd and poet, James Hogg, stated: “Without [the sheep dog], the mountainous land of England and Scotland would not be worth sixpence. It would require more hand to manage a flock of sheep and drive them to market than the profits of the whole were capable of maintaining.”

Sheepdogs are responsible for keeping flocks of sheep in line when moving them. They are thought to be the safest and most efficient means available, because sheep aren’t scared of a sheepdog that is well trained.

Animal-assisted therapy

There are roots in ancient Greece when it comes to animal-assisted therapy when the Greeks used animals – normally horses – to boost the spirits of those who were severely ill. However, dogs also have a place in the history books regarding animal-assisted therapy.

In the 1880s, Florence Nightingale noted that small pets were a good way to reduce levels of anxiety and stress, and this is still something which is used to date. In the 1960s, the first formal research on this theory was undertaken. Dr Boris Levinson discovered a dog provided a positive effect on young patients who were mentally impaired.

There are many purposes for animal-assisted therapy, including improving self-esteem, enhancing social skills, and helping with post-traumatic stress disorder. This is because the presence of an animal has been found to have a soothing effect and helps build rapport between a therapist and their client.

Simply pets

Finally, while it’s clear that dogs have many positive uses in a work sense, they also help by simply being a pet. Their companionship offers a great way to reduce our anxiety or stress levels and can provide the motivation needed to take part in exercise. This is because dogs require a lot of exercise, so you must take part in the activity too. Then, in doing so, you open yourself up for the social aspect also. Walking your dog can lead to conversations and bonds forming with other dog walkers and helps those who are perhaps socially withdrawn. Research has found that people who have more friends and social relationships are generally mentally healthier.

Also, by stroking them, it provides a sense of calmness, while caring for a pet can add a purpose and reward to your day too, which can help combat depression.

With so many great benefits, it’s clear that a dog really can be the best friend for a human.





Holidays for you and your pet in winter

Winter is a great time to escape with your four-legged friend not only can you get some fantastic deals but there is nothing better than snuggling up together in front of a toasty log burner in a cosy cottage after a long walk. Enjoy frosty strolls through magical woodland or wrap up warm and head for the beach which is likely to have few visitors making it the ideal place for a game of fetch.

A short winter break is the ideal way to spend quality time with your furry friend and recharge your batteries, Dog Friendly Getaways reveal some of the best winter destinations in the UK that both you and your pooch will love!

  1. Cairngorms National Park

Visiting the Cairngorms with your dog during the winter months gives you the opportunity to experience this magical winter wonderland at its most peaceful and there is still plenty to do. Explore pretty villages, and marvel at the scenic landscapes – a photographer’s dream. There is a wealth of wildlife to spot in the winter including deer, red squirrels, badgers and even Scottish wildcat and Golden Eagle if you’re lucky.  Take a trip on the Strathspey Railway with your best friend at your heels or visit the ruins of Drumin Castle at Glenlivet just remember to wrap up warm.

  1. Dorset

If you don’t like the cold and snow, a good place to enjoy a winter break is in one of Dog Friendly Getaways delightful seaside properties on the Dorset coastline. It boasts some of the most mile weather in the UK and there are more countryside walks than you can shake a stick at you will never be stuck for something to do no matter what the weather. Walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs along the Jurassic coast or get up close and personal with them at the Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester (winter opening times – Daily 10.00am – 4.00pm) Visit one of the UK’s most iconic landmarks; Durdle Door or head to the National Trust’s Corfe Castle which boasts breath-taking views and is open all year round.

  1. The Lake District

Well worth braving the chill; the Lake District is a great choice for a winter break with your pet. The scenery is just as dramatic during the cooler months and you have the bonus of avoiding the crowds which flock there every summer. There is plenty to do with your canine companion not least the hundreds of miles of scenic walks and lake cruises which allow pets and are open all year round. Add to that dozens of welcoming country inns where you can warm up in front of a roaring open fire while your tired pooch enjoys forty winks at your heels.

  1. Cornwall

Winter is a special time to visit Cornwall where you will experience peace and tranquillity not normally found in the warmer months. The crashing waves and mid-winter sun make coastal walks a delight and there are plenty of cafés and pubs in the pretty fishing villages and bustling market towns which offer a warm welcome to dogs whatever the time of year. Why not take a trip back in time on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway where dogs are allowed on the vintage steam train for just £1, visit the Tamar Valley Donkey Park where well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome or if its raining explore the Newlyn Art Gallery in Penzance together.

  1. The Peak District

Arguably at its scenic best during the winter months the Peak District is a photographer’s dream as well as a doggie paradise. Picture snow-capped hills, frost covered rocks, the magical atmosphere as the sun shrouds everything in golden hues. Of course, your pooch will want to do more than just admire the stunning scenery and the good news is; you will be spoilt for choice here. Visit the Heights of Abraham, dogs are allowed in the cable cars (not in the café or caves) and there are some terrific walks nearby or head to the Crich Tramway Museum where you can both enjoy a tram ride.

  1. Wales

The ideal destination for some winter fun with your pet. Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons are even more magnificent with a dusting of snow and the seemingly endless walks will definitely get Fido’s bar of approval. Blow away the cobwebs with an exhilarating walk around the Gower Peninsula and watch the waves crash against the shore at Rhossili beach which is dog friendly all year round. Explore fairy-tale castles, take a ride on a steam train or visit the National Slate Museum and after all that exercise you will be pleased to learn there are plenty of canine welcoming country inns where your best friend can curl up in front of an open fire while you enjoy a well-deserved drink.

  1. Yorkshire

Winter festivals, cosy pubs with roaring open fires and hearty food plus spectacular scenery make Yorkshire a popular choice for pet-friendly winter breaks. This huge county offers the best of both worlds; miles of pristine beaches at resorts such as Scarborough, Whitby and Filey ideal for a game of fetch and a paddle if it’s not too cold. Plus, wild unspoilt moorland to explore and a host of dog friendly attractions. Step in the footsteps of the Bronte sisters, visit Whitby Abbey the inspiration for Dracula or stroll along through the elegant spa town of Harrogate. Whatever your pleasure you are guaranteed to find it here.


Don’t hibernate during the winter wrap up warm and head to one of these fantastic holiday destinations with your pet. Blow away those cobwebs with a brisk morning walk and recharge your batteries whilst spending quality time with your best friend. You will avoid the summer crowds and get a great deal too so it’s a win win! Remember though bad weather can make hiking difficult and potentially dangerous Look after your pup’s paws, dry thoroughly after walks and check for snow or ice between the toes, make sure you pack the right clothing and equipment and check the weather forecast.

Top tips for pet owners during winter

Managing your pet’s health through winter can ensure that they get to enjoy the season along with you.

Harsh winters can bring a number of challenges and stress for pet owners. With cold weather comes darker nights, which can prove to be hazardous for your cat or dog. Curious pets will want to investigate new sights during winter that they may not have seen before, it’s crucial to understand how to maintain their health during this period. Snow and ice could be intriguing to your dog and as the weather gets colder your pet might need additional support for their joints.

Here are some of the positive things you can do to help keep your pets safe during winter:

Keep them warm

To be sure to protect your pet from the cold, keep them indoors as much as possible. Dog jackets and jumpers could be used for walking your dog to help keep them warm. Short haired and senior pets could use them whilst indoors.

Bring pets indoors

If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. Bring outdoor pets indoors during winter months. If left outside your dog could freeze or become disoriented. Also, don’t leave your pet alone in cars during winter, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold the cold in and can cause animals to freeze to death.

A cosy bed

Make sure your pet has a nice warm place to sleep. Senior pets can be more sensitive to the cold, raise your dog or cat’s bed from cold surfaces to prevent stiffness in joints. Add more bedding to protect from the cold and add extra padding for joints.

Beware of salt and chemicals

These are used to melt ice on paths and driveways and could be poisonous to you cat or dog. Your pet could pick them up on their paws when outside, which could irritate them. Clean their paws with warm water and cotton wool to prevent them from licking it off.


This is used in cars to prevent car radiators from freezing up. Your pet will be attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze; however, it can be poisonous to cats and dogs. Be sure to clean up any spills immediately. Consider using one that is ethylene glycol free, which is the ingredient that makes it both sweet and toxic.

Maintain exercise routines

Even though it feels colder outside, it’s still important to walk your dog and keep them active to prevent them from becoming overweight and maintain joint mobility. Take them for shorter walks more often to limit the amount of time in the cold. Your cat might also want to go outside less due to the cold weather, be sure to play with them inside to ensure they get the same amount of exercise to prevent unwanted weight gain in winter.

Bathe your pets less

Washing your dog too much during colder months can irritate their skin. Try to do it as little as often to prevent the removal of essential oils, which can increase the chance of them developing dry skin.

Dry skin

In cold weather, air in homes can become dry which can have an impact on your cat or dog’s skin. If their skin becomes dry it could irritate them. Prevent this by brushing your cat and dog regularly to increase circulation and improve their skin and coat.

Check your car

When it is cold, outdoor cats can be attracted to the warmth of a car engine. Before starting your car bang on the bonnet or beep your horn before driving.

Ponds and lakes

During winter walks keep your dog away from any ponds or lakes. They could be frozen over and thin ice may break under your dog’s weight. If they fall or jump in this could cause hypothermia. Even if the ice is thick, your dog could slip on the ice.

Paw care

After each winter walk, dry your dog and check their coat and paws for stones or hardened mud. Use warm water and cotton wool to gently clean between their paw pads and toes to prevent salt and ice from causing irritation. If your cat spends time outdoors, be sure to also dry them off and check their paws when they come inside.


Your cat or dog might use up more calories to stay warm, so you could increase their food intake to ensure they are getting the right amount. However, if they don’t get as much exercise from not going outside, be sure not to overfeed them. If you are unsure, consult your vet who will be able to offer advice.

Keep your pet hydrated

Your cat or dog can become dehydrated in winter, just as much as in summer. Make sure that they have constant access to clean, fresh water. If they have a bowl outdoors, be sure to keep checking it so that it does not freeze over.

Senior pets

In cold weather your senior cat or dog might need some extra care. Cold weather can aggravate joints, so provide extra padding and comfort to relieve joints in colder conditions.


How to care for ageing bunnies

By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert.Nut.

Our pet rabbits are living longer as we learn more about how to care for them and keep them healthy. However, these requirements change as they age and we need to be able to adjust their care appropriately.

When is a rabbit senior? This varies between breeds. Larger breeds such as French Lops and Continental Giants have a shorter lifespan, being classed as senior as early as 3-4 years old, while a Netherland Dwarf may not be classed as senior until 8! The best advice is to class every rabbit as an individual. Regular checks should be made on rabbits at any age but these health checks become even more important as they get older.

Important things to check include:

  • Weight checks – ideally weigh and body condition score weekly and record this, allowing any changes to be spotted
  • Checking their bottom to ensure no soiling, soreness or flystrike
  • Checking the feet to ensure no soreness or open wounds, and trim claws as they can overgrow when mobility is reduced
  • Check incisors and feel around the jawline for any lumps and bumps to indicate dental problems
  • Check down the sides of the head particularly in lop rabbits to feel for any lumps potentially indicating ear problems
  • Regular grooming to avoid them ingesting too much loose fur or having excess stuck in the coat, especially around moulting.

Activity levels of older rabbits vary due to a general calming down of behaviour as they mature and can also be affected by other health conditions. Arthritis and/or spondylosis can affect older animals and is a multifactorial condition, which essentially leads to stiffness and inflammation of joints. This makes movement uncomfortable and usually leads to a restriction in activity levels. Typical signs can include a gradual slow down, reduced hopping (more ‘walking’), an unwillingness to ‘binky’, dragging legs and not using areas of their enclosure they might have before e.g. shelves, ramps etc. If you spot any of these signs it is important you take your rabbit for a vet check, firstly to get a correct diagnosis of the condition, but also to ensure that the correct treatment is started as early as possible to reduce pain and discomfort. The veterinary surgeon may recommend x-rays and lifelong medication might be needed.

As well as medical treatment, areas of the enclosure such as ramps and steps might need to be adjusted. Reduced activity may also mean prolonged periods sitting in one place, which can lead to pressure sores (pododermatitis) on hocks. Other factors which can lead to pododermatitis include rabbits being overweight and it is linked to specific breeds – Rex rabbits have a thinner layer of fur on their heels making them more susceptible. Providing soft bedding such as high-density polyester bed (e.g. Vetbed) can help to reduce the pressure and avoid issues.

The diet of a senior rabbit should still be 80% good quality hay, but the pellet food can be switched to a good quality senior variety – usually marketed from 4 years plus. It is generally recommended that an average adult rabbit has a tablespoon of pellets per kg body weight per day, this can vary with other health issues – speak to your veterinary team for advice. Being overweight as a senior rabbit can lead to issues with pressure sores as previously mentioned but also with grooming, leading to a higher risk of flystrike. Dental issues can be a problem for rabbits at any age and have often presented themselves before this point, but traumatic malocclusion can occur at any age. Any reduction in appetite or faeces output, change in food choice, dribbling, weight loss, overgrowth of incisors or lumps along the jawline should be investigated by a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.

The same care should be provided for senior rabbits in extreme weather conditions, providing extra sources of warmth and insulation in cold temperatures and cooling packs with plenty of shade on hot days. Vaccination and flystrike prevention are still important in older rabbits. These visits can also be a perfect opportunity to get your rabbits fully and regularly health checked by your veterinary surgeon. Sadly, as our rabbits become elderly, we have to consider end of life care. While the decision to put a pet to sleep is difficult, if quality of life is affected to the point where the rabbit cannot behave in a normal manner without pain and discomfort, euthanasia might need to be considered. If you want to discuss this further, please contact your veterinary team who can help with this difficult time. We are lucky that we get to keep our rabbit friends for longer but need to ensure we provide the best care at all life stages.

Emma qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2008 and works for Nutravet (UK) Ltd. She has a BSc in Zoology with Animal Ecology and an MSc in Ecology, helping to fuel her interest in more exotic species. She has a particular love of small furries and has a grade A distinction in Canine and Feline Clinical Nutrition (CertNut).


A guide to exercising your pet in winter

In winter, like us, pets tend to spend more time inside, due to colder weather and as such may move less and get less exercise.

Ensuring your pet gets the right amount of exercise whatever the weather is important for their health and quality of life. During winter months if pets are inactive but consume the same amount of food, this could lead to unwanted weight gain. This in itself can lead to health problems, such as arthritis. In colder weather joint problems could become more prominent, especially in older dogs and cats. It’s important to keep your pets moving during winter to ensure they maintain optimum mobility, as well as a healthy lifestyle. Like us, when the weather gets colder your cat or dog may be less enthusiastic to go outside, but there are ways to help your pet to stay mobile this winter.


Embrace the cold

Most dogs are happy to go out come rain or shine. If you do take them outside on a walk, be sure to keep them warm. Some breeds can cope with colder weather more than others, such as Newfoundlands and Leonbergers. For smaller dogs and short haired breeds, you could use a coat to keep them warm.

Interactive toys

Interactive feeding toys are a great way to help your dog burn extra calories. These can also keep them occupied and prevent boredom if they have to be left home alone.

Make your dog use their nose

Hide your dog’s favourite treats around the house in accessible places and make them work for their food. This helps to keep them physically and mentally active.

Use your stairs

If your pet would prefer to stay in the warmth, use your stairs for an indoor workout. Put your dog on their lead and walk up and down the stairs. Be careful if your dog is older and has joint problems, they may not be able to climb stairs as well as younger pets.

Teach them some new tricks

Despite what many people think, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Getting your dog to perform new tricks and actions can keep them active and their mind stimulated. Use their favourite treats to encourage them but be sure to limit treats and include them in their daily calories if they are not moving as much.

Consider their age

Older dogs may suffer in the cold more than younger dogs. Bear this in mind when on walks or during exercise, don’t push your dog too much if they are struggling. Be sure to consider their age and ability when planning activities.


For more mobile dogs, you can use objects such as hula-hoops to get them moving. Hold it just off the ground and encourage your dog to jump through. Once they have mastered it you could increase the height off the ground. Be sure to give them lots of praise and encouragement.


Puzzle feeders

Use puzzle feeders to make mealtime a game. Make your cat work for their food, which helps to keep them active, as well as keeping their brain active.

Hide & seek

Place smaller portions of food around the house for your cat to seek out. As well as being better for their metabolism, studies have shown that animals enjoy their food more when they have to work for it.

Use toys to encourage activity

Use cat toys to get your cat off the couch and moving around. Laser pens, feathers, balls or anything dangling from a string are great to help encourage your feline friend to get moving.

Teach your cat some new tricks

Like dogs, cats can also learn new tricks. Use treats to encourage your cat to practice new tricks and actions. Practice for around 15 minutes per day and you should reward them within 1-2 seconds, so they associate the treat with the command.

Create a cat jungle

Cats love climbing up to higher spaces to observe their surrounding environment. Cat trees can be a great way to encourage your cat to climb and explore. They’re also usually made out of materials which encourage your cat to scratch.

Agility course

If your cat is particularly energetic and mobile, you could try agility exercises. These could include obstacles such as bars to jump over, or tunnels to go through. These will help to push your cat both physically and mentally.

Consider their age

Older cats may not be able to move as well as younger cats and may prefer to sleep more. Older cats may be less mobile and may not be able to jump as high as younger cats.

Always consult your vet before starting your pet on a new exercise routine. They will be able to offer advice on what activities fit best with your pet and their health and age needs.


Caring for senior dogs

On average, dogs live for around 12 years, but many live much longer as individual breeds age at different rates. Middle age for most dogs is generally considered at around seven years of age, but each breed can differ with larger dogs such as Great Danes and Mastiffs known to age faster.

Just like us, when dogs age they can suffer from senior moments and age-related problems, such as arthritis and reduced cognitive function. Senior pets should be monitored regularly to help maintain their health and wellbeing as they age.

Arthritis is a common complaint from pet owners as their dog ages. Joint function can deteriorate with age which can have a huge impact on your dog’s quality of life. Changes in a dog’s behaviour may also be attributed to reduced cognitive function. As they get older, dogs can have senile moments and owners might notice they fail to react to every day commands, as they previously did.

As dogs age, their behaviour may change and as a pet owner, it’s important to pick up on these changes quickly to identify the best treatment.

Common signs to look out for, which could identify if your senior dog needs extra support could include:

  • Changes in their eating habits
  • Stiffness when getting up or when lying down
  • Slowing down on walks
  • Change in temperament/personality
  • A change in their toilet habits/ soiling in the house • More aggressive or grumpy • Walking into doors or furniture
  • Failure to recognise family members
  • Whining/barking excessively for no reason

Common health problems for senior dogs

Joints & mobility

As your dog ages, you may notice a reduction in mobility. Simple tasks such as going up the stairs or getting into the car might be a struggle. To help keep your pet mobile, you could use a ramp to help get them into the car and prevent dogs from jumping up. Further support, such as a natural dog joint supplement could help aid and soothe stiff joints.

Sight reduction

As with humans, deteriorating eyesight is part of the normal aging process and can occur over time in some dogs. Experts advise it is best to catch it when the eyes are just beginning to fail so that you can teach your dog to rely on their other senses.

Brain and mental function

Like us, as pet’s age they can lose cognitive function, which can result in cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). If your dog starts having accidents around the house or getting disorientated, it could be a sign that they have cognitive dysfunction. Keeping an eye on their behaviour is integral to spotting these signs early.

Canine obesity

As dogs age they may struggle more with their mobility, which may mean less walks and general movement. This could lead to weight gain. It’s important to ensure your dog gets the right amount of nutrients from their diet to prevent extra weight gain, as well as exercise.


This is most common in dogs aged 8 or 9 years old and can be hereditary and is more common in female dogs. There are some breeds that can be especially prone to diabetes, which include, Pugs, Toy Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers.

Keeping your senior dog healthy

Regular vet visits

Regular check up with the vet are important for older dogs. It will ensure your vet can keep an eye out for any new health problems and keep up-to-date with key vaccinations.


Although their exercise routine should be adjusted slightly as dogs get older. Little and often is recommended, but it is still important to walk senior dogs to keep them mobile and prevent any weight gain that could put pressure on their joints.


As your dog ages their diet may change to ensure they are getting the right nutrients. As older pets tend to move less, obesity is more prevalent Pet food produced speciifcally for senior pets tends to have fewer calories, reduced fat and more fibre.


Regular grooming is important for your senior pet to help keep their skin and coat in good condition. As your pet ages joint stiffness may prevent them from being able to groom themselves.


Make sure your dog has comfy warm bedding away from any drafts. They should have close access to the garden as their toilet habits may change with age and they might have to go more often. For smaller dogs make sure they have extra bedding during winter months to keep them warm and extra bedding can be used as padding for their joints.

Clip their nails

As your elderly dog can become less active, their nails can get long and could cause in growing nails. If you don’t feel con dent trimming your dog’s nails, consult your vet for help and advice.

Omega-3 supplementation

Strong research demonstrates that Omega-3 from fish oil supports cognitive function. Oral Omega 3 especially from DHA plays an indispensable role in naturally supporting neuronal membranes in the aged brains.

Retrain your dog

This can be done using the same techniques as with a puppy. For problematic behaviour issues, consult your vet first.

Mental stimulation/toys

Treat release toys can be beneficial for mental stimulation and to keep your dog active. Hiding your pet’s treats in toys and throughout the house will help to keep their mind stimulated and active. Think of innovative ways to enrich your pet’s indoor environment.

Maintain oral health

Regardless of age, it’s important to keep up with brushing your pet’s teeth to remove any plaque or bacteria build up. As your dog ages, their routine and diet may change so it’s key to keep this particular routine up.



Top tips for pet owners during autumn

With the change in seasons and start of colder weather, it’s important as a pet owner to be aware of some of the hazards that autumn can bring.

During this time, many pets may prefer to spend more time indoors. Maintaining your pet’s health during this time can ensure that they lead a happy life. As a pet owner you don’t like to see your cat or dog stressed or unwell, keeping a check on their health and being aware of any dangers during the autumn season can be important.

To maintain your pet’s health and ensure they enjoy the season wwith you, we have put together some tips for pet owners during autumn, which include:

Keep up with exercise

Although the weather may be colder, it’s important to keep walking your dog. This will help to prevent any weight gain, as well as stop your dog from getting bored. As the weather changes, you could reduce the length of their walks. Your cat may also go out less so be sure to play with them to keep them active in the house.


If your pet is spending less time outside or on walks, be sure to adjust their diet to match this. Speak to your vet if you are unsure about how much your pet should be eating at this time.

Halloween treats

Keep any Halloween chocolate and sweets away from your dog or cat, as they are poisonous and could result in a trip to the vet. Some sweets contain an artificial sweetener called Xylitol, which is poisonous to your pet.


Although they are not poisonous, if consumed in large quantities, they could lead to your pet having a sensitive tummy. Also, if using candles in your pumpkins, make sure these are out of reach from your pet and can’t be knocked over.

Reduce stress

During Halloween your pet may become stressed with people knocking on the door for trick or treat or if you have guests round. Make sure they have a safe place or den where they can hide or put them in another room during prime trick or treat hours.

Halloween costumes

Don’t dress your pet up in a Halloween costume unless you know it’s not dangerous and won’t cause them stress. Make sure the costume doesn’t restrict their movement or breathing and always supervise your pets whilst they are in the costume.


Autumn can be the start of fireworks season, which can cause stress for some pets. Make your pet a den to retreat to during the fireworks and closing curtains and playing music can help to block out the noise.

Fleas and ticks

Parasites such as fleas and ticks are still prominent over the autumn. Speak to your vet about an appropriate solution for your pet. Be sure to check your dog and cat for ticks regularly. Be sure to check your dog after walks.

Safety on walks

As the darker nights approach, if you are walking your dog early in the morning or late at night make sure you wear reflective clothing. You could also use a reflective collar and coat for your dog, in case they get lost.

Fallen fruit

Watch out for fruit unpicked fruit that may have fallen from trees when walking your dog. Dogs like to pick up anything with their mouth and over time the fruit will ferment and become toxic to your pet. If eaten it could cause your dog to have an upset stomach or diarrhoea.


As the weather gets colder, be sure to keep antifreeze locked away, as it can be attractive to your cat. It is poisonous to pets if swallowed.

Provide shelter

If your pet spends a lot of time outside, be sure to provide a shelter for them for when the weather gets colder or if it rains. As the weather gets colder bring smaller pets indoors to protect them.

Acorns and conkers

These can be poisonous to your dog. Be sure to keep an eye out on walks to make sure that your dog doesn’t pick anything they shouldn’t up. If ingested conkers can also cause intestinal blockages. Speak to your vet if you think your dog may have eaten something like this.

Make sure their microchip details are up to date

Be sure to keep your dog or cat’s microchip details up to date to ensure they are reunited with you quickly should they stray.


Getting to know…

The Labrador Rescue Trust – Paul Watson, Regional Coordinator & Trustee

The Labrador Rescue Trust was founded in 1988, originally named Labrador Rescue South West, due mainly to being based in the South West of England. The Trust changed its current name when granted National Status in 1993. This year, 2018, is our 30th Anniversary, and during these 30 years we have successfully rehomed in excess of 11,000 Labradors. Here Companion Life finds out more about The Labrador Rescue Trust.

How important is the work that you do at the Trust?

Every dog that comes into our care is special. A great deal of care is taken to ensure that the dog’s needs are met and that a suitable new forever home is found where the dog will be happy for the remainder of its life. We consider our work vitally important, in as much as it is essential that the unwanted (for whatever reason) Labradors are given the best possible chance and go forward to enjoy a happy, healthy and pleasant life. The Trust retains ownership of every Labrador that comes into its care and they are rehomed on an adoption basis. This ensures that the dog’s future is safe, and its welfare is our paramount concern.

We have a huge ongoing financial commitment to the Supported Adopted Dogs (SAD) – these are the ones that come into our care with an existing medical condition and therefore the new home would not be able to take out insurance cover for the said condition. Donations from the public are vital to help cover the costs of veterinary treatment and kennelling – our two biggest expenses – as well as the day to day running of The Trust. Our dedicated helpers and supporters do a huge amount to help with raising funds with events such as Fetes, Dog Shows, Coffee Mornings, Street Collections etc., all of which are necessary to help with the funds needed.

Why do you think that Labradors are so popular?

Labradors are a very popular breed, as they are seen as gentle, affectionate, intelligent and loyal, and this is why so many people choose them as the ideal family pet and companion. They are also a renowned working breed and excel at what they are trained to do.

What advice would you offer owners who might be considering getting a Labrador?

My advice to anyone considering getting a Labrador as a pet is to “do your homework thoroughly”. First and foremost is do you have the time to give the dog what it needs. Regular daily exercise, feeding with a good quality food and maintaining a healthy diet, not forgetting spending time with your dog and sharing your life with it. There is also the ongoing expense of regular parasite and flea control, annual inoculations and veterinary care, if and when required. If seeking to purchase a Labrador puppy, please consider adopting a Rescue Labrador. “Don’t buy – Adopt”. You will be pleasantly surprised by the result!

What reasons do people give when asking for your help to rehome their Lab?

People asking us to rehome their Labrador do so for a variety of reasons and often reluctantly, because they haven’t considered what options may be available to them. Advice is always given in the first instance, in order to help them make an informed decision before giving up their dog. Most dogs come into our care because of drastic changes in family circumstances, where they can no longer give the dog what is required or are simply unable to afford the ongoing expense of keeping and maintaining the dog’s welfare etc. Others are as a result of family break ups and simply cannot cope and if having to move into rented accommodation are not allowed by their landlords to keep pets. We also have welfare cases to deal with, which can be very traumatic, these are however in the minority, but we will always be there to assist.

There are other Labrador Rescue Organisations out there and should The Labrador Rescue Trust be unable to assist, for whatever reason, e.g.; we do not operate in a particular geographical area etc, we will always put a person in touch with a reputable and trusted Rescue.

Anyone wishing to contact The Trust should do so by visiting our website,