Whilst I absolutely love long walks and adventures with the pooches sadly my own dog Poppy can't manage them some of the time. She has arthritis and suffers with her cruciate ligament too, during the cold months it's too much for her to manage long walks or strenuous activity. Despite her physical limitations Poppy still has tons of energy and of course the ability to get very bored if this energy isn't given an outlet!
We do daily road walks unless it's very, very cold. Whilst road walks may sound hum drum they are actually pretty enjoyable for Poppy due to all the different smells she encounters! Just like with my adventure walks with my client's dogs, we change the location of our walks daily to keep them interesting and to explore different environments. Bin day is probably Poppy's favourite day for a potter around the streets of Tooting!
Dogs are able to track scents up to a week old and they garner a lot of information from their sniffing action. To a dog, every smell is interesting! Allowing Poppy time to sniff and choose the route she walks is a great way to ensure her road walks are fullfilling for her.
Those road walks alone are not enough to keep Poppy stimulated of course so I have to find other ways for her to get enjoyment from her life and to stave off the boredom.
I am currently working on creating a sensory garden for her to give her somewhere to explore, enjoy and experiment daily. I was inspired recently after discovering that Poppy's favourite chew Beef Trachea is high in Glucosamine and Chondroitin which is a brilliant supplement for joints. This led me to start reading up on whether dogs instintively know what's good for them.
Whilst scientific research to support this theory has been tricky to locate there is a lot of anecdotal evidence which suggests this may be true. A friend of mine's pup is unable to tolerate pork and whilst he will take all the rest of his medication he was adament that he wouldn't take one particular capsule. After further research - following the dicky tummy said medication gave him - they discovered that the capsule containing the medication was indeed made from gelatin which is derived from pig.
We are all familiar with dogs tending to eat grass when they have a poorly tummy and it's often suggested that their occassionally penchant for mud could be an indication of a mineral deficiency they are seeking to correct.
Zoopharmacognosy is the process by which animals apparently self-medicate, using their sense of smell and influenced by their physiological and psychological needs. There is some debate about how scientifically valid this theory is but I consider that providing Poppy with access to some plants within our sensory garden will do no harm so we will give it a bash!
Wheatgrass is said to be popular with hyper, nervous and anxious dogs. Birch is suggested to help with muscular and inflammatory pain. Meadowsweet is apparently often selected by dogs with digestive problems, arthritis and rheumatic conditions. Peppermint can attract dogs with skin irritations. Valerian and lavendar are popular for their calming properties.
A sensory garden and road walks are just a part of what I can do to make Poppy's life more enjoyable, fulfilling and comfortable. In Part Two of this blog I will talk about adaptations we've made at home, signs she is in a pain flare and other ways I help to keep Poppy's days interesting.