Hot off the press!...Monty has been given the coveted Dog of the Month award for November 2020. Monty is a 5 year old Burnese Mountain Dog and he lives very near Coastal Dog Walkers HQ. He's a gentle giant and for his size he's very good on the lead. He's been with us for a couple of months now, he's settled in well and has met a lot of the other dogs we walk. Here is is with some of his friends on recent trips out.
Monty's owners approached us to help him socialise and make new friends in the local area. Monty's owners had only had him in their lives for a short while as he was rehomed with them via the Dogs Trust, he is a confident, happy boy who's eager to please and like a lot of dogs he does love a treat, cheese being a particular favourite. I shall present him with his certificate and cheese based prize when I see him next week. Well done Monty!
I am very pleased to announce that young Vinnie has won the coveted Dog of the Month Comp this month.
Vinnie is almost 11 months old now and he's been with us since he was around 16 weeks old. It was great to get him on the books as a young puppy as we did get a chance pre lockdown to start to introduce him to a few of our older, more sensible dogs. Hopefully this helped Vinnie get used to other dogs and now you can put him with any dog, big or small and he just fits right in.
As you can see he's a Bedlington Terrier. He has a lovely nature and for his age is very sensible as long as you don't take him to the beach! The beach sends him instantly hyperactive and he jjust wants to be off runing around having fun - who can blame him, I feel the same way myself about the beach!
Well done Vinnie....I shall fetch you your prize and certificate next week.
I am very pleased to announce that young Mousey has won the Dog of the Month contest for August 2020.
As you can see she's a brindle whippet and she's been with us for a just a couple of months, although she's a new dog to us her owner has used us before as they owned Dan the greyhound whowe walked for ages.
I know her owner won't beleive me but Mouse is the most sensible puppy we've ever had! - we made sure she was socialised early with other dogs and had lots of interactions with them even before she was able to join them properly on pack walks. Her owner is experienced with dogs too and she has put lots of time in with Mouse in order to train her and keep her mentally stimulated. All in all Mouse has had a great start in life and we hope to have her in our pack for many years to come.
Well done little Mousey :)
I've pretty much avoided wanging on about Coronavirus on my website and Social Media Pages but as I have a spare half hour I thought I would bring it up to brighten everyone's day! So anyway there's this thing called Coronavirus that's been kicking around for a while now, have you heard of it? I'm being irreverent of course because a/ that's just the type of guy I am and b/ if you didn't laugh you'd cry as it has without doubt impacted everyone's life over the past 6 months or so. Personally I'm now way past panicking about it and I will continue to adhere to the rules and just try and get on with things as best I can.
When we first locked down my thoughts were basically to roll with lockdown and deal with the potential financial mess later on. I still stand by that as you can't put a price on everyone's health and that has to be the priority. However I do think I under estimated just how long lockdown would go on for and just how long the ripple effect of lockdown would continue to affect business.
Like a lot of businesses we essentially put the shutters down and mothballed everything for about 8 weeks or so from the end of March until whenever Boris began to ease the restrictions. I think we've been back to work for about 12 weeks now but we are by no means back to being as busy as we were going into 2020. 12 weeks on and I'm essentially back to being a one man band, I have struggled to find any work for my trusted helpers Lynne, Graeme and Keith - they have had bits and pieces of work but business is 60% to 70% down every single week over the past 3 months and the work just isn't there to keep them going at this time. They all know I’m gutted about that and I am still hopeful that I can get back to somewhere near full capacity and find work for all of them soon. However I have revised my hopes and very much lowered my expectations for the business for the rest of this year.
Initially I optimistically thought things would magically return to pre-Covid levels once the restictions eased, now I need to accept that there will be a lot of rebuilding to do. I'm actually one of the lucky ones as lots of businesses will have gone under never to return and I feel that as of now things have probably bottomed out and come September I'll get my teachers dogs back and come November the Furlough scheme will end and hopefully that means the rest of my paused customers will return. What we obviously haven't had in the past few months is much in the way of enquiries, again I am hopeful that will change as we head nearer to the end of Furlough - I have and will try to remain positive and I stand by my initial thought back in March that everyone's health has to take priority and we'd pick up the financial pieces later on.
I've put a lot of energy into Coastal Dog Walkers since I started the business in 2015 and have made lots of friends, both canine and human! I am very proud of how we do things - we didn't just follow the How To Start a Dog Walking Business formula and have took a different path from most other dog walking companies; All of our dogs are walked on the lead at all times, our pack sizes remain small, we don't pile all of the dogs into a van and release them onto the nearest stretch of beach. All of our dogs benefit hugely from this and all of our customers will tell you that they love what we do and they have happier, healthier, more confident dogs that have great social skills and are generally better on the lead than they used to be.
Stay safe y'all.
coastal Dog Walkers
When we went into Lockdown at the end of March I suspended our Dog of the Month competition as we wouldn't actually be doing a lot of walking for quite some time. Now we've all come through Lockdown and we've been back to work for a number of weeks I thought it was a good time to bring back the Dog of the Month competition.
So without further ado the winner for July 2020 is the lovely Skye.
We have been walking Skye since November of last year and as you can see she's a gorgeous greyhound aged about 7/8 years.
Skye has genuinely been fantastic since day one. Her owners were very lucky that she settled in as quickly as she did as not only was Skye new to us but she was a new dog for them too, in fact they'd only had her for a few days before we began to help out with her walks whilst they were at the day job.
Skye is arguably the most laid back dog I have ever met, she's happy in the company of any other dog, she's great with everyone she meets and nothing seems to bother her. I've probably her her out with every dog we currently walk and she's brilliant with all of them. She's always very excited to see us when we collect her and is a pleasure to walk as her lead work is first class.
Her owners have work commitments elsewhere so Skye is taking a break from us for a while but I hope to see her again when she returns as she's welcome back anytime.
When I started Coastal Dog Walkers back in 2015 I looked around to see how other Dog Walkers did it, not to copy anyone but to get an idea for best practices and in some cases to see what not to do. If I was to follow the How To Become a Dog Walker school of thought it very much looked to me at the time like I would have to buy a van and operate my business over quite a large area. This all meant I would be on the road a lot and it would mean customers dog's (I didn't even have any of these at the time) would be in the van for what i considered an unacceptable amount of time. Hmmm I thought, there has to be another way....
My solution was to build my business slowly by imposing a strict geographical 'zone' to work within. I'd say no to any potential new customers outside that zone. This was dificult beacuse I kept getting enquiries from just a mile or 2 outside my work area and although it was counter intuative to turn work away that's exactly what I did. Slowly I did get some customers within my operational area and I have more or less stuck to that ethos since then only expanding my area when I was able to take on some helpers after a couple of years.
I still see to this day new dog walkers who take on work anywhere they can get it and will travel miles out of their way chasing that next customer. They and their dogs must be forever on the road driving to be able to collect dogs for a group walk and that's fine for them but that's not the way I wanted to do things.
At this point in time, July 2020 we cover a small part of North Shields, all of Tynemouth, all of Cullercoats and a small part of Whitley Bay. It's not set in stone and we may expand again in the future but only if I have the staff to cover any new areas.
So the reason our dog walking area is small is this: We don't want your dogs to be stuck in a van when they could be getting walked! And 6 years in and I still haven't even got a van but that's a blog for another day!
Coastal Dog Walkers
Winner for Feb 2020 (Last one before lockdown)
Mr Oscar is our latest winner of our Dog of the Month competition!
He's a very lovable Staffy from Tynemouth and we've had the pleasure of walking him for almost 6 months now. He was rehomed by his owner a few months before we took him on as a walking client and we started helping out when work commitments got in the way of Oscars walks!
He's a lovely, lovely boy and we all love him dearly, the other dogs he's regularly walked with love him too. He's literally no bother whatsoever, and he doesn't even mind when the younger dogs decide they want to play and mess about. Oscar remains calm and relaxed in all situations. To be fair he does get a little excited if he sees a cat but it's fairly low level stuff, cats aside he's a very chilled out dog.
Give him a follow over on Instagram. He's @mr_oscar_the_carrot_eater
If like us you happen to own a dog that is reactive then you probably keep your dog on the lead when you’re outdoors. Our own dog, Buzz isn’t ever allowed off the lead on walks as he’s a reactive dog. Or he was…read on to find out just how much he’s improved.
We brought Buzz home in July of 2016 and although he was initially OK, he very quickly turned to the dark side and started reacting at any and every dog he spotted. He was ‘that’ dog that rages from the back of the sofa looking out of the living room window should another dog dare to come into view. On walks he would react to another dog on the street even it was 50 yards from us. And god help you if he seen a cat.
We did wonder what the hell we’d brought home from the RSPCA. We were told that Buzz was a Lurcher cross. Quite quickly we were pretty sure he was crossed with the Tasmanian Devil.
I would like to say though that he was a brilliant dog at home. He settled in immediately and there wasn’t a hint of badness in him, indoors there were no negatives, he was a lovely dog. Take him outside though and he’d turn into what the experts call ‘a pain the in arse’.
He was just a complete nightmare; I can’t emphasise strongly enough how stressful it was taking him for a walk. Whenever we’d go out with him there would be multiple highly charged incidents. He’d see a dog and he’d lose the plot.
He’d be tense throughout the whole walk; his lead work was horrific as he’d be pulling this way and that looking for other dogs and then once he had a dog in his sights he’d go nuclear. There was lots of lunging and barking and his behaviour was just horrendous.
We had to do something, we couldn’t give him back to the RSPCA, could we? No, we couldn’t, they knew him so they probably won’t let him back in anyway. Maybe we could try Dogs Trust, they might take him?... nah, only joking. In all seriousness we probably did have second thoughts, but he was our dog and we couldn’t just give up on him. We had to begin to break down what was happening and look to see how we could correct his behaviour.
As you know I’m a dog walker, not a behaviourist. Personally, I’m sceptical of behaviourists as I know a lot of people who’ve spent a lot of money on them to no avail. I now know one or two dog behaviourists that I would recommend but back in 2016 we decided to do what we normally do if we have a problem and need some help. We Googled it.
In the short term we muzzled him. This gave us some breathing room to be able to try and correct his behaviour whilst minimising the risk of him attacking a dog.
We then started taking him out when there were less dogs about, early mornings and later in the day. Other dogs were unavoidable (there are 9 million other dogs in the country!) but at quieter times of the day he wasn’t bumping into other dogs around every corner.
As mentioned earlier his lead work was very poor so we decided to try and tackle this issue at the same time. There are lots of great videos on YouTube that can help but in a nutshell we just took him back to basics and rewarded him with training treats when he’d walk well and we would stop dead when he pulled. Once we stopped we would only walk on once the tension on the lead had gone slack. Eventually he did start to get better, but this took quite a long time, we put months and months into this often taking half an hour just to get around the block.
To be fair we were a bit lax at times with this Stop and Go training method as we were often in a hurry to get from A to B so we’d sometimes just put up with the pulling just to get to where we were going as we were so often in a rush. I feel if had we had the time to properly use this technique every single time we went out he would have cracked it in less than a month.
Our mission was now to try and correct his reactive nature. He was definitely improving on the lead and on our walks his focus was on us because we were giving him lots of praise and lots of treats. It was clear that these 2 things (praise and treats) were going to be key weapons in our battle to recalibrate his behaviour.
What we did was actually very simple, but just like teaching him to walk nicely on the lead it took a long time to work effectively in every instance. What we did was to give him a nice treat every time we seen a dog relatively close by. By ‘relatively close by’ I mean close enough where he would be about to react – for Buzz that would be dogs on the other side of the road, dogs behind fences or gates and dogs heading toward him at a distance of about 50 yards or so.
The exact timing of giving him a treat was important. It was no use seeing a dog heading our way and giving him a treat and then expecting him not to react once the dog was passing by. The key to it was showing him the treat and tempting him with it, making a real fuss whilst the other dog was drawing closer and closer and then after the dogs had passed each other he got his reward. A lot of the time we’d get him to sit and almost hold the treat to his nose whilst the other dog got safely by and then he’d get the reward. If he reacted, he wouldn’t get the treat. We would try not to get stressed or animated about this. We rewarded the good behaviour and bit our lips when it didn’t go to plan. In time I believe we got better at timing the treats and this helped because giving the treat too soon or too late often led to an unwanted reaction from Buzz.
The only verbal command we’d ever really used was ‘leave it’. Perhaps this worked well on 2 levels. On one hand he was leaving the juicy titbit as he already knew that command and wouldn’t take the treat until you stopped saying ‘leave it’ and told him to ‘take it’. A by-product of him concentrating on leaving it was that this took his mind away from ‘I must react to the other dog’ which brough his tension levels down to a level low enough to allow the other dog to get past.
I have since read online that using higher value treats (cheese, ham, chopped up hot dogs) can work better than the stuff we used which was just shop bought basic training treats. Perhaps we would have had a quicker resolution had we used these higher value treats, but we were thrilled to be making any progress at all. It was clear to us that what we were doing was working.
We took treats on every single walk we went on and we continued to improve both his lead work and his reactive nature. It took many months but gradually he became less and less reactive and we now find that he’s still on the lookout for other dogs when we’re walking him but now when he sees a dog he looks at us for his treat. We are still in the habit of rewarding him whenever he sees or passes another dog but he’s at the stage now where he can walk past another dog without incident.
Buzz is now almost 8 years old and he’s just a great dog. He’s still not the best on the lead, sometimes he’s very good and sometimes he decides to be a pain but overall he’s significantly better than he was. In terms of his reactive nature I would say he’s entirely rehabilitated, he doesn’t even react when another dog reacts at him. Even his hatred of cats has gone. Now when he spots a cat he just looks to us for a treat!
Last July I received an enquiry to walk a lurcher called Dan and made the necessary arrangements to visit Dan's owner to be able to assess Dan's suitability for pack walks and take them through all the relevant paperwork etc. All in all, this looked like a run of the mill enquiry and obviously I hoped it would go well and we would be able to walk the dog. It did go well and we took Dan on and I'm pleased to say we have been walking him since then.
It transpired that the reason we were now walking Dan was because one of his owners had unfortunately had a heart attack and the rest of the family had rallied around to help out with Dan but work commitments innevitably came into play. It was felt that if Dan could be walked by a professional Tynemouth dog walker then that would at least take that responsibility off their collective plate.
The amazing part of this story is that it was Dan who raised the alarm and got help for his owner. The heart attack happened whilst Dan's owner was sat in his van feeling decidedly unwell. Ultimately this ‘unwell’ feeling was him having a heart attack and very quickly he lost consciousness. No one knows how long after this happened that Dan starting barking, but it was Dan's barking that caught the attention of a passer-by who had the wherewithal to ring for an ambulance which ultimately saved Dan’s owners life.
I am pleased to say that Dan’s owner is now very much on the mend and is very grateful that his dog raised the alarm.
Dan is a lovely dog, as you can see he does look very much like a Greyhound but he is in fact a Lurcher, he was a rescue dog that the family have owned for a number of years now – how ironic that they rescued him and then he rescued one of them.
Initially they were a little worried he might not settle on a pack walk but that was only because he was an older boy and hadn’t ever been walked with groups of dogs. From day one though he’s been no bother and has always been very gentle around the rest of the pack.
He’s met and been walked with lots of dogs over the past 7 or 8 months and he’s most often out with his friend Leo or a couple of Staffies we walk called Oscar and Pearl but whoever he’s with he’s always very well behaved.
He’s brilliant on the lead too – we find a lot of Lurchers and especially Greyhounds are fantastic on the lead and Dan is no exception, sometimes you’d hardly know he was there as his loose lead work is very good.
He’s now 10 years old but looks a lot younger I think. He was a much-loved member of the family anyway but following his heroic actions last year he’s now surely now achieved almost mythical status!
Sadly, Dan’s due to leave us soon as he’s moving to a new house - he’s a one off and will definitely be missed when he moves on.
Good boy Danno
At this time of year we’re always busy with new enquires, Christmas it seems is a peak period for rehoming a dog or bringing a new puppy into your life.
A lot of us take time off at over the festive period, families come to visit and generally there are more friends and family around to pitch in and help look after the new hound. Then January kicks in, your folks go home, your friends go back to work, you have to face the reality of having a job and suddenly your neighbour isn’t so keen to help walk the dog! It dawns on you that you need help but just how do you choose a dog walker?
As a professional North Shields dog walker with 6 years experience I have compiled a rough guide to choosing the right dog walker for you. It’s not really in any order, feel free to skip past bits that aren’t relevant to you.
Coastal Dog Walkers is a North Shields based professional dog walking business. We have had the pleasure of walking dogs in Tynemouth, North Shields, Cullercoats and Whitley Bay since 2015. For more information please call or text on 07725041572
Thanks for reading!
Coastal Dog Walkers, January 2020
Coastal Dog Walkers
Welcome to the occasional ramblings of a North Shields dog walker.