Pet Care: Healthy eating for active dogs

This post is in conjunction with James Wellbeloved, but all images and opinions are our own.

Last month we celebrated four years of having our spaniel, Penny in our lives. She has been an excellent companion and comfort, and the best friend we could hope to have. Penny is a fairly low maintenance dog; as long as she gets a couple of good long walks each day, plenty of play and cuddles and a healthy diet, she’s as happy as can be.

Pet Care: Healthy eating for active dogs

She is however a terrible food thief. I’ll never forget the day she figured out how to climb onto the dining table to eat the food left on it. I’ve lost count of the number of packets of butter she has stolen off the counter, and say goodbye to any food you leave unattended and not locked away.

We’ve recently had to stop buying chocolate brioche because she was stealing and eating them. Chocolate is really bad for dogs and they were making her poorly. If it’s not nailed down or put away, she will eat it and that includes all the things she really shouldn’t eat, like chocolate.

Spaniels make excellent working dogs, they’re generally really active dogs; they love water and could keep running for days if you’d let them. They are also well known for being greedy and cockers especially are prone to putting on weight if you’re not careful. Because of this we feed her a varied diet including a good healthy dog food and sensible treats. She is full of energy and a healthy diet, tailored to her needs is essential to her continued good health.

Pet Care: Healthy eating for active dogs

Being an intelligent, lively, but still fairly greedy breed of dog; Penny has always responded really well to training with food. She is very motivated by food, but we try to be careful to not feed her too many treats. She gets a daily dental stick and a small handful of dried food out of her daily allowance as rewards for good behaviour throughout the day. Things like responding well to recall, walking to heel really well, or just looking at me with those big brown eyes of hers.

We do try and feed her a varied diet, I think she can get bored with the same meal twice a day; so we mix it up with different flavours and textures of natural dog food. About once a week she gets a tin of sardines in oil as a treat, which she loves. Lean meat and fish are a great addition to her diet; some veg is good too, though onions are toxic and should be avoided. We started giving her carrots when she was teething as a puppy and she still loves them. She has no qualms about stealing fallen apples from the tree in the autumn and snacking on them; (though we have to wrestle them out of her mouth, as the core and seeds of apples can be toxic to dogs).

She can be prone to an upset stomach, but this is down to her thieving nature rather than anything we actually feed her. Over the years we’ve just had to get better at putting things back in the cupboard or the fridge, rather than leaving them out and in the way of temptation.

One change I have made this year, is during the very hot summer I put out another water bowl for her upstairs. She seems to prefer the upstairs water bowl and I’m certain her water intake has increased as a result. Water is as good for dogs as it is for us, so lots of fresh clean water every day is vital in keeping her in fine fettle.

Pet Care: Healthy eating for active dogs

I’ve often thought that although she isn’t the dog I originally wanted; she is the dog I absolutely needed to help get me out and walking again. She’s helped me regain my confidence and some of my fitness following my operations; and she’s been great company for me while I’ve worked from home and throughout lockdown.

I couldn’t be without her now, and she absolutely deserves the best of whatever we give her. She thrives on good walks, lively company and the healthy dog food we feed her. She is an important part of the family and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our top tips for feeding Active dogs

  • Don’t feed them anything toxic, like chocolate, onions, grapes and raisins.
  • Don’t overdo the treats, have a daily allowance and stick to it.
  • Make sure you’re feeding your dog the right amount; packets will have recommended portion sizes on them, if you’re not sure, check with your vet.
  • Keep it exciting; add in some lean meat, fish or vegetables if you have them.
  • Discourage begging at the table and them wanting to lick plates clean.
  • Some dogs can be sensitive to some ingredients; so watch out for upsets and speak to your vet if your dog is having digestive problems.
  • If you have a spaniel, put food back in the cupboard or fridge once you’ve finished, it’s safer that way.

Review: Actif Pets Flax Oil for Dogs

Our dog, Penny is about as lively as a dog can be. In another life she would have been an incredibly enthusiastic gun dog; but she’s found herself in a fairly normal family home where she gets 2 or 3 good walks a day. She lives for tennis balls and loves bounding through the woodlands around here, chasing through meadows and diving into the river for a swim. She’s full of life and I want to keep her bouncing for as long as we can.

Review: Actif Pets Flax Oil for Dogs

Like humans, dogs can feel their age. Their joints get stiff and sore and Penny with all of her racing and bouncing is a prime candidate for arthritis in her old age.

We used to give my old dog cod liver oil for her joints, but the smell was something else. We put up with it for her sake, but it used to make me gag and she would smell for hours.

Thankfully, times have changed and there’s a sweeter smelling oil supplement for dogs. Actif Pets is a family business based in Kent, they provide pet owners with holistic products and resources to help keep their pets in fine fettle. I got a 500ml bottle of Premium Flax Oil for Penny to try out.

The Flax Oil is made from flax seeds grown and cold-pressed in Yorkshire. The flax oil is 100% pure and packed full of omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9, which can be really beneficial for active dogs. The flax oil supports mobility, flexibility and the immune system, and can help to maintain and improve the condition of their skin and coat.

Actif Pets Flax Oil is currently available in two sizes, 500ml (£10.99) and 1 litre (£15.99). The bottle has a clever design, squeeze it and there’s a dosing chamber which fills with the flax oil, this helps you measure how much you need.

Penny is classed as a medium breed, so her dose is 5ml – 7.5mls of oil per day. I drizzled the oil over her complete dried food, and she wolfed it down, licked the bowl clean and asked me for more. So it obviously tastes pretty good too.

We’ve been adding flax oil to Penny’s meals for a week or so now. Her coat is definitely looking in better condition, and she’s loving the meals with the oil in. She’s a pretty picky eater, so knowing she actually enjoys this, means her meals with flax oil are a real treat for her.

Review: Actif Pets Flax Oil for Dogs

Having owned and loved several dogs who have suffered with arthritis; I know starting active dogs on good supplements can help them stay in good condition for longer. As a dog owner, it’s up to me to do the best I can for her. I can’t make her take supplements she’s not happy to gobble down of her own volition, and she really is very keen to gobble this down. Good dog!

Disclosure: We were sent a 500ml bottle of Actif Pets Flax Oil for Dogs for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

My Life Changing Heatwave Life Hack!

Dear Reader, It’s impossibly hot out there and whilst we are trying our very best not to complain about the lovely weather, sometimes, just sometimes it’s just too much to deal with. Short of spending my day lurking in the freezer section of my local supermarket; I have turned to an unconventional way to keep myself cool; a Chilli Paws pet mat.

As someone who has worked from home for many years, I know that even with every window in the house open, the temperature can at times be a bit much. I spotted a Chilli Paws mat in B&M and bought it for my dog, thinking she would appreciate it. Typically the dog was not interested in the Chilli Paws mat. Thinking laterally, I realised the cooling properties of the mat, stuck it under my desk and now I rest my feet on it while I work.

I have turned to an unconventional way to keep myself cool - a Chilli Paws pet mat given to me by my friend Bob.

I was so impressed with my new chilled out feet, I bought a spare. I’ve had the most comfortable feet in South Manchester ever since. It is a godsend. Seriously.

I bet they’re also great for hot dogs and cats too, the trick is getting them to sit on it. My dog will just not listen to reason.

I bought my small Chilli Paws mat from B&M and it cost £4.99. I’ve had a look on their website and it’s not on there, but they have a lot of stock which never makes it to the website, so it might be worth popping in to B&M to see if they have any in your local store. If they do buy one for everyone you know.

I have turned to an unconventional way to keep myself cool - a Chilli Paws pet mat given to me by my friend Bob.

If B&M are out of stock they are available on Amazon for quite a few pounds more than the B&M price. The small one (which I’ve got and which is perfectly adequate for my under desk needs) is about £12.

This isn’t a review. I’m just passing on a genius solution to the hell of hot feet. One small thing, they’re probably not designed to have humans standing on them or walking on them; so do be careful not to do this because you might pop it and then you’ll be miserable with hot feet again.

My Life Changing Heatwave Life Hack

Designing our dream pet with Petplan Insurance

England is a nation of animal lovers, whether you come down on the side of cats or dogs is up to you. If I were to give you a clue as to which side our household cheers for, we got a puppy 18 months ago and our carpets have never quite been the same since. She’s due to be “done” at the vets next week, thank goodness we’ve got Pet Insurance from Petplan, because we could probably have gone somewhere lovely on holiday for what her calamities over the last 18 months might have cost us otherwise.

Review - Meg Heath Dog Leads & Collars

We seem to have a knack of finding the clumsiest pups. One of my excitable dogs used to love to run through brambles with her eyes open. Look away now if you’re squeamish, but she used to regularly have her eyelids sewn shut so they could heal. Thankfully our current pup Penny seems fractionally more sensible, fractionally.

Petplan Insurance offer Lifetime Policies, which can be a financial lifesaver. Having had two dogs who were diagnosed with cancer, but could live a good quality life for another year or two with treatment, I know just how much the vet bills can add up without pet insurance, especially if the cost of renewing their insurance is prohibitive.

This month Petplan Insurance asked us if the boy would like to design his own dream pet. Would he ever! If I could design my dream pet it would not chew everything to bits and it would pick up after itself when it went to the toilet. If I were to push things a little further, the ability to help with the household chores wouldn’t go amiss either.

Designing our dream pet with Petplan Insurance

But the boy has different ideas. He wanted a spotty dog with a very waggy tail and a giraffes body. It also had a cats head, just like his favourite cat Roxy who lives up the road. What he designed as his dream pet was slightly bonkers looking, but I think it might just fit right in here.

I sent a photo of his dream pet off to Petplan Insurance and a week or so later an exciting squishy package arrived in the post. When I opened it and was so excited by what the package contained that I let out a squeal. I knew the boy would love it. You can see his reaction below…

As I write this, he’s snuggled up in bed with “Spotty” and it’s very sweet to see. I love the idea that he got to design his own dream pet and some clever person somewhere managed to perfectly recreate it from his drawing.

Designing our dream pet with Petplan Insurance

Spotty is a very welcome new addition to the pets in this household. Though I fear those spotty legs might need some special cream from the vets!

Designing our dream pet with Petplan Insurance

Disclosure: This post has been possible thanks to Petplan Insurance, but all thoughts are my own.

Taking part in the Dog Show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show

Today we went along to the Woolsery Agricultural Show in North Devon. Despite a drizzly start to the day, the sun shone for the most part. We saw the show advertised and on a whim we decided to go along and enter our nine month old pup in the dog show. It was not purely for pedigree pups, but scruffs, crosses and mongrels were welcome to enter too. We entered with no real expectation of success. Penny is a lively pup with fairly uncertain parentage, so we didn’t rate her chances against seasoned, well-groomed pups whose owners knew what they were doing.

Taking part in the Dogs Show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show

There were 15 classes to enter and rosettes would be awarded to the first six placing dogs in each category, with the first place dog from each being put forward to Best in Show.

1. Best Puppy any breed – 6 to 12 months old
2. Best Large breed
3. Best Small breed
4. Best Cross-bred
5. Best Rescue
6. Best Veteran – 8 years and over
7. Best Condition
8. Best Scruff
9. Best Child handler – 12 years and under
10. The waggiest tail
11. The most appealing eyes
12. Best pair (match or mismatch)
13. Prettiest bitch
14. Most Handsome dog
15. The one the judge would most like to take home with them 

Taking part in the Dogs Show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show

We entered a few categories, we faced disappointment in Best Puppy. Penny was very nervous as it was her first time in the show ring and showed herself up by hiding from the judge. Undeterred we entered her for the Best Cross-Breed and we were delighted when she came 4th.

We had some time before her next category – Best Scruff came up, so we stretched our legs, explored the Woolsery Agricultural Show, found some lunch and gave Penny a nice cool bowl of water. We were sure she would do well in Best Scruff since she is a big gangly scruffy thing, but we were wrong. She failed to place at all in Best Scruff. Maybe she’s too pretty to be scruffy? A change of plan was required, if she’s too pretty to be scruffy, should we enter her in the Prettiest Bitch category?

Reader, we did just that. After some deliberation, we were astonished when the judge handed us the 1st rosette. Penny is the prettiest bitch in Devon (or at least the prettiest bitch entered in that category at the Woolsery Agricultural Show). We were absolutely delighted!

Taking part in the Dogs Show at the Woolsery Agricultural Show

Because we’d come first in Prettiest Bitch, we were put forward for Best in Show. We were certain she wouldn’t win that one and we were right. There was stiff competition, with some dogs there being proper pedigree show dogs, as well as a small collection of scruffs and mutts. We were happy just to be there. 

We were thrilled, we hadn’t expected to come away with any rosettes, but to come home with a 1st and a 4th was amazing. We’d only gone because we thought it would be a fun thing to do and it really was. Have we got the dog show bug? Probably, but we have got some work to do before next year!

Review: Meg Heath Dog Leads & Collars

In December last year we welcomed a new addition, Penny the sprocker puppy. Despite the date of her arrival, she was not a Christmas present, she was a much longed for member of our family. When she arrived she was so tiny, a little dot of a thing who moved at lightening speed. She quickly made herself at home and now, aged nearly 8 months we can’t imagine life without her. 

She’s cheeky, greedy and rambunctious, but a great friend to us all. When we first got her she was so tiny we couldn’t find a dog collar to fit her, so for her first few months with us she wore a cat collar with a bell on it. The bell was actually quite helpful as she had a habit of getting under your feet when you don’t expect it. I miss that bell. 

Naturally she grew out of her tiny cat collar and needed something a bit more suited to her handsome doggy features. 

Review - Meg Heath Dog Leads & Collars

Meg Heath Dog Leads, are a small, independent business based in Lincolnshire. They specialise in making bespoke handmade dog leads, collars and harnesses as well as long lines, training leads, webbing leads, collars, head collars and their unique car safety lead. All of their products are made from soft, strong and durable cushion web.

Meg Heath Dog leads is owned and run by Sarah Greave, a dog owner and canine rescuer with over 11 years experience in crafting quality, durable, handmade collars and leads. 

Review - Meg Heath Dog Leads & Collars

The Meg Heath website is really simple to use. I knew what I wanted, a simple collar and a sturdy lead to walk Penny. I knew from our previous collar we needed an extra loop to hang her tag on the collar. This is called a double tag collar, it saves you trying to figure out where to hook the tag. Although she is micro-chipped I still think it’s worth having a dog tag on her, just in case. 

When you order your collar and lead from Meg Heath, you can choose from a number of options. There is a whole rainbow of colours to choose from as well as size and finish options. We went for red as she’s always worn a red collar, but I’m slightly regretful I didn’t go for something a bit different. Next time I will be braver.

Review - Meg Heath Dog Leads & Collars

It cost £12.99 for the collar I wanted. I thought this was excellent value as I’ve seen collars which are much more expensive in pet shops which don’t match the quality and the finish of our new Meg Heath one.

I liked that Penny’s collar had a nice sturdy clip. There’s nothing worse that trying to undo an old fashioned buckle on a wet collar worn by a wriggling dog. The collar was soft and easy to adjust and she looked very smart indeed.

I opted for a matching lead. Although there are a number of different styles of lead available on the Meg Heath website, we just wanted a plain lead to walk her with. If you’ve got a dog who pulls or needs a training lead, or perhaps a special safety lead for in the car, Meg Heath have all of these options and more.

The dog lead we chose cost £11.90 and was made to the same high standards as the collar. This was a simple lead with an O ring on the handle. The O ring makes it easier to put over your shoulder while your dog is off the lead. 

Review - Meg Heath Dog Leads & Collars

The lead was very comfortable to hold, sometimes I find dog leads to be quite abrasive in my hand, but this was fine and it was very comfortable to walk her with. 

Meg Heath Dog Leads & Collars – The Verdict

We were very impressed with the quality of the Meg Heath Dog leads and collars. They are very well made, the fixtures are smooth and snag free and they seem comfortable for Penny to wear and are comfortable for us to walk her with too. 

The collar and lead look very smart and are easy to keep clean. We are all happy with her new collar and lead and we’d recommend them if you’re looking for a well made, comfortable collar and lead for your dog. 

For more information about Meg Heath dog leads and collars, visit their website.

Note: We were sent the  dog lead and collar from Meg Heath for review. All images and opinions are our own. Our images may not be used without our permission.

Our dogs – a short history of the dogs we’ve known & loved

Since I was 12 we’ve had a dog. I can’t imagine a house without a mutt traipsing around after me, getting in my way, or leaning on my leg when I’m sad like they know and understand. I love dogs, dogs are where it’s at. All dogs are characters and characterful, but all our dogs have really helped shape our lives.

Our dogs - a short history of the dogs we've known and loved

My first dog was Tess. A boxer/staffy cross. She was full of beans and twice as bouncy. Not great around little kids as they only encouraged her rambunctiousness, but with me and my younger brother she was an absolute star. She was so protective of us and looked a lot tougher than she actually was, a great deterrent for ne’er do wells when we were walking her alone.

I was 23 when she died, she had cancer and had to be put down, but she was a real beautiful, belter of a dog and she’s still missed.

About six months later Sam came into our lives. Sam again was a boxer/staffy cross but with a bit more staff and a bit less box than Tess. I’d left home by that point and she was my parents dog, but we took a real shine to her. She was a bit too energetic for a couple on the slide towards retirement, so she came to live with us.

Our dogs - a short history of the dogs we've known and loved

During the days she would accompany my husband to work, the evenings she’d spend snuggled on the sofa with me. She genuinely was one of my best friends, she always knew when I needed her. She was forever curled at my feet and always woke me by sticking her cold nose against the back of my knee under the covers and giving my leg a gentle lick.

In 2010 I fell pregnant. Sam was to all intents and purposes my baby and had been since she moved in. We knew having a rival in the house would be difficult, but we underestimated just how put out she would be. When we brought Benjamin home in November 2010 she moved out that same evening. For her it was hate at first sight.

We tried for months to assimilate her back into the house but she wouldn’t have any of it. Reluctantly she moved back in with my Dad and lived with him until her death. My Dad enjoyed having her around now that she was an older dog set in her ways. It seemed and was the most logical thing to do. We could still see her and spend time with her, but we weren’t putting Benjamin in any danger.

Thankfully as soon as Benjamin found his feet, began toddling and looked like an actual human being rather than a strange, alien crying thing, her mind was changed. She fell as in love with him as we did and the feeling was mutual. The boy and dog were best friends. We’d even get a growling at if we tickled him, she was so protective of him.

Benjamin was obsessed with her now and they’ve been best friends for until she died in 2014. Right until the end she was in love with Benjamin. He loved to look after her, fill her water bowl, feed her and brush her. When she died it was Benjamin’s first bereavement. Sam had gone to live in a farm in heaven. He was sad, but that’s part of life and an important part of what pets can teach children. 

In December 2016 Penny burst into our lives. A hairy whirlwind of chaos. She was not the staffy/boxer cross we’d always gone for, but she is a cocker spaniel, springer spaniel cross. Something new and very different. It had been 15 years since I’d last had a puppy and I’d forgotten how much hard work they are. They’re worth it. She is worth it. But they take a lot of looking after, much more so than a sedate old dog who knows their place. 

Pets: Review & Giveaway - Meg Heath Dog Leads & Collars

Penny is 8 months old now, she’s starting to calm down a little bit (a very little bit). She is Benjamin’s best friend. She’s learning when I need a cuddle and I’m learning when she needs one too. She goes to work with my husband a few days a week. She likes to sit looking out of his window and when the mood takes her she gets paper out of the bin and shreds it for him. She’s helpful like that. 

I’m so glad we’ve got another dog in the house, she’s great company for us all, and a decent excuse to get some exercise. 

Tess, Sam and Penny are three waggy ladies who have had a joyous, wonderful, enriching impact on our lives and I know Penny and Ben will grow up together being the best of friends. 

In praise of Penny, it’s National Puppy Day

If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook you may have seen my occasional updates about the puppy who burst into our lives in December. A Christmas present she was not, but a much longed for, four-legged member of the family.

Meet Penny Sprocker. Or at least that’s how she looked when she trotted into our lives. She was tiny! Today is National Puppy Day and it’s made me look back and appreciate our lovely pup.

In praise of Penny, it's National Puppy Day

Since December she’s been a whirlwind of adorable chaos and we wouldn’t have her any other way. She’s a Sprocker – a Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel cross. This means she’s bouncy, energetic, greedy and intelligent, apparently.

She’s five months old now, give or take. In those months she’s learned some of the basics – sit, stay, lie down. She’s also learned how to climb onto the dining table to snaffle any unguarded human food. She’s also learned (hopefully) that drinking funny coloured water out of the pond will make her poorly.

This was her on her first big walk in January. 

In praise of Penny, it's National Puppy Day

Penny likes long walks, she gets three a day. I did mention she was energetic didn’t I? She also likes things she can chew (like my carpets) and lots of cuddles. 

I work mostly from home, so she gets to hang out with me most days, which is nice for us both. Sometimes she goes to work with my husband. He works alone so she is company for him and his customers seem to like her too.

This was her yesterday, we popped in to his work for lunch and to say hello.

In praise of Penny, it's National Puppy Day

She has made going out and trips away more difficult and sometimes impossible. Holidays have to be dog friendly and everything we do we now have to take her into consideration. We’d forgotten in the 18 months we’d been without a dog just how tying they can be. So don’t get a dog if you’re not able to consider their needs, just like you would consider the needs of a child.

Having said that, we wouldn’t change a thing. The benefits to having a big floppy mutt around the house far, far outweigh the other considerations we have to make. We love her and we’re pretty sure she loves us too.

Penny Sprocks rocks our world!

Our dog is for life, not just for Christmas

On 15th December a little 8 week old Sprocker puppy joined our family. Everyone who has met her has fallen for her fluffy puppiness, deep dark eyes and adorable snuggles. Make no mistake, she is a menace, an adorable menace. But she is not and never was intended to be a Christmas present for anyone. She is a much wanted and longed for, four legged member of our family and our dog is for life.

Back in October, fresh from our holiday to Majorca, my husband suggested we get a puppy. This was not an out of the blue suggestion, it was the result of two years of heavy hinting, blatant begging and sad “we want a doggy” eyes from both the small boy and myself.

In the summer of 2014 my best doggy mate Sam(antha) kept collapsing and was eventually put down. She’d been a fantastic companion for me and saying goodbye was an incredibly hard decision, but the right one. She was a boxer staffy cross, loyal to the last but probably not the kind of dog who’d do well on Canine University Challenge. We’d been dog-less ever since and the house needed a hound to make it feel like a home.

At the age of six, we felt the small boy was now old enough to shoulder some of the burden of pet ownership. I work from home and could do with an excuse to switch the laptop off and get some fresh air, so a dog seemed like a bit of a no-brainer to us all. 

Once hubs had acquiesced and given us the nod, the search began in earnest. I wanted a smaller dog than I’d had before, my family had always had boxers or boxer crosses  and I wanted a dog which wasn’t quite as strong. I wanted a dog that was bright and would enjoy being trained and I wanted a dog who would be a great family pet. 

Our dog is for life, not just for Christmas

We looked at a few different breeds. Hubs said no to a few which he thought were too small or hard to find, but eventually we settled on a Sprocker – a cocker spaniel, springer spaniel cross. If a Sprocker puppy had been available in October we would have snapped her up, but the only one we could find was an hour away in Stoke and wouldn’t be available until the week before Christmas. This was not the worst news as it gave us 6 weeks to prepare the house for a puppy and buy the things we’d need. But it did mean she’d arrive the week before Christmas.

She is emphatically not a Christmas present or a Christmas pup. If anything I would suggest that Christmas with all its household upheaval, strange indoor trees, rich food and too much coming and going is the worst time to bring a puppy into your home. They’re lovely and I wouldn’t swap her, but I’m very much looking forward to her being toilet trained and not wanting to eat the Christmas tree lights every five minutes.

Meet Penny, our adorable menace. Our dog is for life, not at all for Christmas.

Our dog is for life, not just for Christmas