Posted on

How service dogs change lives

How service dogs change lives

Read time: 5 minutes

What defines a working service dog?

Working, service and assistance dogs all fall under the same umbrella of dogs who are specifically trained to provide a service and help humans. The people these amazing dogs help can range from military and police, to those with disabilities and mental health problems.

The jobs that service dogs do are incredible, and I’m always in awe of the training methods used by handlers all over the world. If we didn’t have assistance dogs in today’s society, many of our services would function very differently!

What are the different types of service dogs?

The training that a certified working dog must go through begins during puppyhood. Their training depends on the type of assistance the dog provides when they’re older. Below I have collated a list of the different types of assistance and service dogs. Can you imagine your dog in any of these roles?

Military and police dogs

Dogs play a huge role in several of our public services. Some of the duties these dogs assist with include drug detection at border control, or explosive detection in the military. They also perform general protection work, such as locating and apprehending suspects to help officers make arrests.

Common breeds in this service can include German shepherds, Dobermans and bloodhounds. Smaller dogs, such as beagles, are also known for their assistance in the police and military, as expert sniffer dogs!

Search, rescue and cadaver dogs

Search and rescue dogs are specially trained to use their noses to find people who are lost or in danger. Breeds often include those which are highly trainable and able to navigate rough terrain and weather, such as Border collies and Labrador retrievers. Search and rescue dogs also help to track and locate Alzheimer patients who have wandered away from their homes.

There’s another type of search canine, called cadaver dogs. These brave dogs are trained to locate people who have passed away. You might recall their incredible work in recovering victims of 9/11, or the Thailand tsunami of 2004. The most well-trained cadaver breeds often include German shepherds and Labradors. However, several breeds can be successful cadaver dogs, as long as they’re confident and strong willed.

Medical assistance dogs

Medical assistance dogs can help millions of blind, deaf, diabetic and people with epilepsy all over the world, to live an independent and fulfilling life. Some examples of their skills include detecting seizures before they occur, and blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Medical assistance dogs go through years of specialist training so that they can develop the correct skills to keep their companion safe. In addition, medical assistance dogs are also known for being great companions for people with physical disabilities. Their job involves helping them with day-to-day tasks that might otherwise be difficult for them to manage alone.

Photo courtesy of Medical Detection Dogs UK. Check out their instagram here!
Photo courtesy of Medical Detection Dogs UK. Check out their instagram here!

Wildlife protection dogs

Wildlife protection dogs are a crucial part of conservation, and yet the work they do isn’t widely spoken about. This is something I want to change!

Poaching, or illegal hunting, harms wildlife in many countries around the world. Dedicated rangers work tirelessly to protect endangered species such as rhinos, elephants, big cats and even whales. However, they often wouldn’t be able to carry out the work they do, without assistance from specialist canine units.

Just one example of wildlife protection dogs includes canine teams in African countries, like the Save the Rhino K9 units in Zambia, Kenya and South Africa. These clever dogs are specially trained to track the scents of poachers and illegal wildlife products, which are often found in poachers’ homes and vehicles. If it weren’t for the dogs, many poachers would slip through the net and escape detection, risking further poaching.

Other wildlife protection dogs assist marine conservationists with tracking and protecting orca whale populations. They’re incredibly well-trained to detect and follow the scent of the orca’s droppings in the ocean – even from several hundred miles away!

Working dogs in Australia help wildlife rescue teams to search for injured animals after extreme weather, such as bush fires. They can be trained to track and locate koalas and other species, to be rescued and nurtured back to health.

Cold-pressed dog food

Available in Chicken and Fish

Shop now – 25% OFF

Therapy dogs

Dogs with a calm and gentle nature can be registered and trained as therapy dogs. These amazing dogs help improve lives by providing comfort in lots of different ways.

For instance, adults and children with an autistic spectrum disorder often benefit from interactions with animals. Some even have their own therapy dogs, to help them feel calm and safe.

Therapy dogs also play an important part in the lives of people with mental health issues. As you probably already know, my dog Ella saved me from my battle with clinical depression. It’s largely because of her that I’m here today, and that’s why I decided to register her as a therapy assistance dog with Pets as Therapy.

Therapy dogs like Ella have helped to save countless lives. I’m passionate about spreading awareness of the work these dogs do every day, so that more people like myself can benefit from their love and comfort.

Every service dog has their day

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably already a huge dog lover like me! You might also be a supporter of all the brilliant service and assistance dogs that we have today – I know I am.

It’s important to me to spread as much awareness as possible about the crucial work that service dogs and their handlers do. And I feel it pays to remember that they don’t just provide a service without complaint; but they can save thousands of lives, and generally make the world a better place.

As always, if you have any thoughts or questions regarding this blog, I would be delighted for you to share them. You can reach me via social media or email at

James & Ella x

James’ Top Tip

I recently donated one of Mabel’s puppies, Bertie, to the incredible organisation, Guide Dogs UK. I’ve pledged to raise the money needed to fund his training and career as a certified Guide Dog! If you’d like to donate to Bertie’s cause, or keep up to date with his progress, follow this link to his JustGiving page. All donations are hugely appreciated!

Posted on Leave a comment

Bertie’s journey to becoming a Guide Dog

Bertie’s journey to becoming a Guide Dog

Read time: 5 minutes

How one dog can change a life

I know firsthand how a dog can change your life. During my battle with clinical depression, my own dogs were instrumental in saving me. I have always been keen to learn about how dogs can help their companions in many other ways, too.

Fascinated by the roles dogs can play in our physical and mental wellbeing, I began to research various service dogs. I was surprised to learn that across the UK, fewer than 1% of visually impaired people have a guide dog to support them. As both a pet parent and an ethical breeder, I knew I wanted to help this cause.

Guide Dogs UK are an amazing non-profit organisation who train dogs to provide support for people with sight loss. The charity works towards a world where people with sight loss are never left out of life. A world where being blind or partially-sighted is not what defines them. I am a huge advocate of the work that they do to provide vital support for people, all over the UK, living with visual impairments.

When my golden retriever, Mabel, gave birth to eight beautiful puppies, I wanted to donate one to be a future assistance dog. This is where Guide Dogs came in, and Bertie’s journey began.

Click here to visit Bertie’s Just Giving page.

Getting the ball rolling

Guide Dogs have their own specialist breeding programme. This allows them to bring more life-changing Guide Dogs into the world whilst prioritising ethical and responsible breeding. Occasionally, they look to take in puppies from other ethical breeders. This means they can keep their dogs’ gene pool diverse. It also ensures they’re able to raise and train enough puppies to meet the demand for guide dogs.

When I approached Guide Dogs with my suggestion to donate one of Mabel’s puppies, they were thrilled with the idea! Of course, lots of checks had to be done first to ensure the puppies were eligible.

The process included a visit from Guide Dogs, which allowed them to see Mabel and her puppies in their home environment. It’s important for future guide dogs to be well socialised and desensitised to everyday sounds and objects. Mabel’s puppies had been introduced to lots of different stimuli from a very early age, which is something I’ve always found important when it comes to my litters.

It was also important for Guide Dogs to learn more about the puppies’ genes and family history. Hereditary illnesses could affect their health, and therefore ability to do their job as a guide dog in the future. As a responsible breeder, I always carry out breed-specific health checks as recommended by the Kennel Club. Therefore, Mabel had already passed all of the genetic health tests before she became pregnant. This meant that her puppies would be less susceptible to hereditary illnesses.

Once all of the necessary checks and paperwork had been concluded, it was time to choose the right puppy. This was a tough decision, as they all had such loving temperaments. I followed guidance from Guide Dogs, regarding which of the puppies would be the most suitable; we needed a dog that was a gentle balance of calm and confidence. There was one puppy that continuously showed all the right traits, and the decision was easily made. Guide Dogs agreed; he had the potential to make a fantastic future Guide Dog.

Click here to visit Bertie’s Just Giving page.

So, why ‘Bertie’, and what’s next for him?

After the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, I wanted to honour her legacy. Her Majesty dedicated her life to service, and in many ways, Mabel’s chosen puppy would too. I decided to call him Bertie, as a heartfelt tribute to our late Queen’s beloved father, Albert, known fondly by his family as Bertie.

When Bertie turned eight weeks old, we went to the National Guide Dog centre to introduce him to his new Guide Dog puppy raiser, Elizabeth. It was difficult to say goodbye, but I know he’s ready to start his new journey in very capable hands. I’m so excited to follow his training and progress!

Bertie will begin his specialist training programme with lots of supervised socialisation. He will gradually be exposed to everyday stimuli found in the home, including washing machines, vacuum cleaners and doorbells. As he gets older, he will learn basic commands and progress to each level of guide dog training. If he’s successful in his training, Bertie will be paired with his potential new companion.

Guide Dogs UK will work closely with Bertie and his new companion to work on his training and their relationship. This can include guide practice for certain routes and areas, and training at home so that Bertie can help his companion with day-to-day tasks. It takes around twelve months for a new partnership to be completely established. Guide Dogs will continue to support the duo for life.

Click here to visit Bertie’s Just Giving page.

How you can help Bertie

The cost to support a guide dog like Bertie, from birth to retirement, is approximately £60,000! Guide Dogs UK rely heavily on donations from the public in order to operate. Every single donation makes a huge difference to the independence and life of a blind person.

When I donated Bertie to Guide Dogs, I also pledged to raise the full £60,000 needed to support his journey, training and retirement. If you’re reading this blog and you’re inspired by Bertie’s story, please consider donating to this fantastic cause. No matter how big or small, every donation will have an incredible impact on Bertie’s training. With your help, one day he could qualify as a certified Guide Dog!

Here are some examples of what your donation could help fund:

  • £8 could support Bertie and his future partnership for one day.
  • £16 could buy him a puppy coat to help keep him warm during winter training.
  • £26 could buy Bertie his white harness, for when he qualifies as a certified Guide Dog.
  • £125 could buy a starter kit for Bertie’s future owner, containing everything they need to start a new, independent life with him by their side.
  • £717 could pay for a sighted guide partnership for seven months. This will help Bertie’s companion to build more confidence, ready for their future routes as a pair. It also includes training with family and friends, so they can take their loved one and Bertie out safely.

Bertie’s journey will be rewarding, and donations from amazing people like you will help support a fantastic charity!

Heroes don’t wear capes, they wear collars.

Firstly, I wanted to say a huge thank you for taking the time to read this blog and donating to this incredible cause. It’s lovely to know that there are many others who share the same passion for supporting the work of charities like Guide Dogs.

If you would like to donate to Bertie’s journey, then follow this link to his Just Giving page – every donation is hugely appreciated! From there, you’ll also be able to track Bertie’s progress with live updates, to see how your money will help to change the life of a person living with sight loss.

If you’re able to donate to this amazing cause, or even spread the word, then I’d like to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart! Your support and generosity will always be remembered. And as always, if you’d like to discuss anything mentioned in this blog, please feel free to reach out to me at

James & Ella – and of course Bertie! x

A note from the author, James Middleton

Golden retrievers make great Guide Dogs! They’re intelligent, reliable and semi-food-oriented, which makes them very biddable and trainable. They’re also the perfect size to prevent their companion from getting into danger, but not too big to be a hazard themselves!

Posted on

Adopting a rescue dog

Adopting a rescue dog

Read time: 5 minutes

Giving dogs a second chance

Have you ever thought about welcoming a rescue dog into your home? Rescuing a dog could be the most challenging, yet rewarding experience you ever do. It’s a selfless act that can not only literally change a dogs’ life – but yours, too!

Unfortunately, it’s estimated that 130,000 dogs enter UK shelters every year. As an advocate for the happiness and wellbeing of dogs, I feel strongly about supporting the vital work that rescue centres do. Right now, it’s more important than ever.

How the COVID-19 pandemic affected animal rescue shelters

When the first lockdown of COVID-19 struck, rescue centres saw a surge in demand for dogs. It’s no wonder! More time with the family and working from home seems like the perfect time to bring a new pet into your family home. Extremely long waitlists for rescue dogs meant many families opted to purchase puppies instead. This caused what is now referred to as the lockdown puppy boom.

Now in post-COVID times, a huge number of puppies and dogs bought during lockdown have ended up in shelters. This aligned with workplaces reopening, so it can be assumed that some families sadly didn’t have the time to care for their new dogs. After the last lockdown was lifted, Dogs Trust saw a 39% increase in the number of enquiries about surrendering dogs. They also saw a 100% increase in the number of visits to their ‘Giving up your dog’ website page. This was the sad reality for thousands of lockdown pets post-COVID.

Nonetheless, important rescue shelters such as Dog’s Trust have always remained dedicated to the health and wellbeing of homeless pets, even throughout the pandemic. Their top priority is always to allow dogs the best possible chance of finding a forever home with a loving family.

Are you someone hoping to provide the best life for a dog in need? If so, it’s important to make sure that you find the right dog for you and your home.

Choosing the right rescue dog for you

One thing I’ve learned from speaking to people with rescue dogs, is that their dogs chose them, and not the other way around. Unlike selecting a puppy that ticks all of your boxes, finding the right rescue dog can be a more complicated process. That said, once the right dog chooses you, it’s worth the wait. Here are some factors you should consider in your search for your new companion.

Rescue dogs often come from troubled backgrounds

This means they could be nervous and unsettled in new environments, depending on their past experiences. For instance, a street dog who has never seen the inside of a loving home might take some time to become comfortable in their new surroundings. Whereas a rescue dog who was given up by their previous family, or has hopped from shelter to shelter, might adapt more quickly to their new home and family.

Some rescue shelters can have very strict rehoming regulations

Some shelters include rules such as no children, a mandatory garden space, or no shared living arrangements such as house shares. It’s really important to be clear about exactly what type of home and lifestyle you can offer a rescue dog. This will help the shelter to match you with your perfect four-legged friend.

Adopting a dog from overseas

Strict adoption regulations in the UK often mean that some families might find it difficult to rehome a rescue dog. Because of this, you could look to adopt from overseas instead. There are plenty of international rescue charities that are able to arrange UK homes for homeless dogs. However, it’s very important to ensure that you do lots of research to ensure that the charity is legitimate. Make sure you ask about how the dog came to the shelter, check the charity’s reviews and reputation, and inquire about their rehoming regulations.

Cold-pressed dog food

Available in Chicken and Fish

Shop now – 25% OFF

How to prepare for bringing your rescue dog home

So, you’ve found a match and you’re ready to bring your new rescue dog home! I’ve seen firsthand, at many shelters, the joy of a family finding their perfect match. The next steps are incredibly exciting but also could be overwhelming.

It’s important to remember that your new rescue dog might not settle in straight away, and that’s okay! It could take a while for a rescue dog to adjust to their new environment and family, so it’s vital to give them enough time and space to settle in.

Firstly, make sure you’re prepared with everything you need such as:

  • Collar, harness, lead
  • Food and water bowls
  • A comfy bed, either in a crate or safe space just for them
  • Some toys (bear in mind some rescues might not know how to play at first, but you can teach them and build their confidence!)
  • Food and training treats (for rescue dogs from overseas, it’s recommended to have boiled chicken and rice on hand to help ease their stomachs after a long journey)
  • Contact details for your local vet

Secondly, before bringing your new rescue dog home for the first time, it’s important to ensure that you assess the safety of your home. This might include checking there are no areas of the garden where your dog could escape, or making sure all hazards are safely out of reach. Most UK shelters conduct their own home checks.

Once you’re happy that you’ve got everything you need and you’ve dog-proofed your home, then you’re ready to bring them to their new forever home.

The 3-3-3 rule

The day has finally come to introduce your new rescue dog to their forever home! Remember, you can’t expect them to adapt straight away. In my discussions with several shelters and rescue owners, I’ve learnt a really useful way of understanding the stages that a rescue dog will go through. It’s usually referred to as the 3-3-3 rule. By using this rule, you should know what to expect from your new rescue dog during the first three days, weeks and months of being in their new home.

First three days:

During the first three days, your new rescue dog might appear unsettled and nervous in their surroundings. They could be reluctant to eat and you might even notice them testing the boundaries with their behaviour. This is all normal for a new rescue dog, especially if they’ve come from a background of neglect. Giving them lots of space will allow them to come to you in their own time.

Additionally, rescue dogs are more likely to bolt or escape during the first week than any other period. Because of this, it’s recommended to keep them inside for at least a few days whilst they get to know you and their new surroundings. However, if you do decide to walk them during the first week, you could use a two-point contact lead which attaches to both the collar and harness. This can be used as an extra safety measure if your dog manages to slip their collar or harness.

First three weeks:

By week three of introducing your rescue dog into your home, you might notice they’ve started to settle into a comfortable routine! They could also start displaying some personality traits and similarly, some behavioural issues could arise as they become more confident.

During this period, it’s important to use lots of positive reinforcement. This will help your dog to understand what behaviours are and aren’t desirable. Never use negative reinforcement or punishments with rescue dogs, especially if they’ve come from a troubled background. Instead, any unwanted behaviour should be ignored, and good behaviour rewarded.

First three months:

By now, you and your rescue dog should have established a strong bond. They may have fully settled into their new home and routine, and behavioural patterns might be more consistent. You’ll also probably notice that their personality traits are more apparent, and you’re able to read your dog’s body language more easily.

Because your rescue dog now trusts you, training sessions should be really positive and beneficial to your relationship. Now is the time for you to look back and realise how rewarding the experience has been, and that all of the hard work was worth it!

Rescue: it’s not just a verb, it’s a promise.

Whether you already have a rescue dog or are thinking of adopting one soon, I hope the information here has been useful to you. Rescue shelters all over the world are doing such vital work to ensure that homeless pets are given the best second chance of living a happy and fulfilling life.

As an advocate for the happiness and wellbeing of dogs, I feel incredibly passionate about spreading awareness about the work that rescue charities do. I was lucky enough to visit the new Cardiff Dogs Trust centre recently, and the space is incredible – click here for a sneak preview!

A huge thank you for taking the time to read this blog. As always, if you’d ever like to reach out to me about anything discussed in my blogs, you can reach me at

James & Ella x

James’ Top Tip

Did you know, senior dogs only have a 25% adoption rate, compared to 60% for younger dogs and puppies? Older dogs can be a perfect addition to families and couples who want to adopt, due to their loving and calm attitude! So if you’re thinking of rescuing a dog, don’t rule out seniors – they deserve a loving home just as much as any other dog.

Posted on

My guide to getting a new dog

My guide to getting a new dog

Read time: 4.5 minutes

The feeling that comes with the decision to get a new dog is probably one of the most exciting feelings you will ever have! However, it’s important to ask yourself that one important question first: are you prepared?

I was 11 when we got our first family dog, Tilly, and I remember all of the feelings of excitement and nervousness like it was yesterday! When I brought Ella home for the first time in 2008, all of those feelings came flooding back in an instant. Ella was my first dog as an adult, and I quickly discovered how much research and preparation goes into getting a dog.

This blog is my guide to getting a new dog, including tips and information I’ve learned over the years. Getting a dog is a very exciting time, so I hope this blog helps make your journey to finding your new companion as smooth as possible.

Research is key!

My best advice? Do your research before deciding to get a dog. There are several factors that contribute to finding the right dog for your living environment and lifestyle. You should consider that all breeds have different temperaments, coat types, energy levels and all have the need for constant love and affection! Doing comprehensive research beforehand will help you to determine which dog is best for you.

Coat-type matters!

You might not think it at first, but coat-type is an important factor to consider when deciding whether to get a new dog. If you or a member of your family have environmental allergies, then a non-moulting breed is a good choice. This is because non-moulting dogs have a hypoallergenic coat. However, non-moulting and curly breeds are also prone to matting, which is another factor to consider when choosing the best dog for you.

Active lifestyle or couch potato?

Which dog you decide to go for should match your activity level. You should both be getting equal amounts of enjoyment from your quality time together, whether it be hiking in the lake district or a short walk to the letterbox! If you have a very active lifestyle, a dog with higher energy levels might suit you. Similarly, if you’re less-active, a smaller dog with lower activity levels might be a better option.

Don’t forget temperament!

It’s important to note that different breeds will have different temperaments. For example, working dogs like border collies and spaniels are extremely intelligent and energetic, so they require a lot more mental stimulation, training and physical exercise. Whereas a docile Bulldog would probably prefer to curl up for a snooze, rather than go for a five-mile run!

Do you have the time?

Dogs are a full time commitment, so it’s important to ensure you have the time to care for your new companion. Young puppies depend on you entirely in their early life. They require lots of attention, both during the day and through the night. If you lead a busy lifestyle or are at work during the week with nobody home, then getting a puppy during a busy stage in your life might not be the right time.

Once you’ve determined whether getting a dog is right for you, you should next consider if you are deciding to buy or adopt. There are many benefits to either option, but each decision should be thought about carefully.

Cold-pressed dog food

Available in Chicken and Fish

Shop now – 25% OFF

Choosing the right breeder

Looking for a puppy is a very exciting time for the whole family, but it’s important to do plenty of research in order to find an ethical breeder. This is especially important as there are sadly no current national standards for dog breeding regulations. One of the best ways to search for an ethical breeder is to visit the Kennel Club website. They have a handy tool that allows you to search for an assured breeder that’s registered on their database.

Signs of an ethical breeder

  • Accurate health test results for the puppies and parents
  • Written guarantee against genetic health issues
  • Ensure the puppies are vaccinated and microchipped
  • Keeps the puppies with the mother until they are at least eight weeks old

An ethical breeder should always ensure the puppies are healthy and happy before going to their new home. They should also commit to a contract that states the breeder will take the puppy back if the owner’s circumstances change. It’s also important to remember that the owner is responsible for neutering, which is another factor to consider when buying a new puppy. An ethical breeder will also be able to offer you expert advice and information about caring for your new puppy should you need it.

Adopt a rescue

Adopting a rescue dog is a fulfilling alternative to purchasing from a breeder. There are thousands of homeless dogs in shelters across the UK, looking for a new, loving home. However, finding the right one for you might take a little longer than if you were to buy a puppy. This is because the shelter is responsible for ensuring their dogs go to the right homes. This can include home checks and several visits with potential dogs before you’re able to adopt one.

The great thing about dog shelters is that they’re able to help match the perfect dog to you based on your lifestyle, home and requirements. However, rescue dogs often need more time and patience before they are fully comfortable in your home. This is because many rescues have usually experienced neglect, and it can take them time to realise that they’re safe in their new home.

Rescuing a dog is an extremely rewarding experience, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to develop a lifelong relationship and strong bond with your new companion. I personally have great relationships with dog shelters in the UK such as Dog’s Trust and Battersea Dogs and Cats home, and I would encourage anyone looking for a new dog to visit shelters in your local area as a first step.

‘Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole’

If you started reading this blog with thoughts of whether getting a new dog or puppy is right for you, then I hope you have reached the end with a better idea of what research to do beforehand. This will help you to find the perfect companion for you.

Remember, pets are forever. It’s important to make sure that you are fully committed before deciding whether to welcome a new dog into your life. If you can offer a lifelong home with plenty of love and exercise, then getting a new dog could be perfect for you!

My pack of six are always by my side whenever I need them most, they owe me nothing and I owe them everything. If you do decide to welcome a new companion into your home, enjoy them forever – after all, they are man’s best friend!

James & Ella x

James’ Top Tip

Many animal organisations work tirelessly to give homeless pets a second chance at a better life. Donating to these charities will help them on their journey to find that forever home, even if you’re unable to adopt yourself. Donate now! Dogs Trust | Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

Posted on

How to exercise your dog during winter

How to exercise your dog during winter

Read time: 4 minutes

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold”

With fewer daylight hours, icy paths, and freezing temperatures, walking our dogs during winter can be less appealing – and even difficult sometimes! However, it is still important to ensure that our dogs are getting exercise during the winter months.

Here is my guide on the precautions we should take whilst out on winter walks. I’ve also included some alternative ways to exercise our dogs, in order to keep ourselves and our pups safe and happy.

Outdoor activity: staying safe and warm

Dogs still need plenty of physical exercise during winter. However, we need to take some extra precautions to help stay warm, safe and seen during dark, winter walks.

Into the darkness

Using an LED collar and lead can be a great way to stand out in dark areas when walking during winter. Hi-visibility clothing or accessories for yourself can help to increase visibility, especially if you are walking next to roads. You could also use a reflective, waterproof dog coat if your dog is happy to wear one.

Most importantly if you can, try to plan walks during daylight hours, and avoid busy traffic areas if at all possible.

Watch for hazards

Make sure to avoid gritted paths and roads, as the salt could irritate or burn the pads on dogs’ paws. Also, try to keep away from roadside puddles if possible. Some puddles could be contaminated with antifreeze. Antifreeze is toxic to dogs and can make them extremely unwell if it is ingested. It is therefore important to make sure your dog doesn’t drink from any puddles during walks, especially in the winter.

Additionally, try to plan safe dog walking routes during the day. Avoid walking too close to water such as rivers, especially if the banks are steep as water this time of year can be dangerously cold. For this reason, it is incredibly important to stay off frozen lakes, no matter how thick the ice seems.

To boot or not to boot?

If it is extremely snowy and cold, you might be tempted to invest in some dog boots to try and keep your dog’s paws warm and protected. Personally, I try to avoid using boots unless one of my dogs has an injury to the paw, which needs to be kept clean and dry.

In several instances, dog boots can cause more harm than good. They are often difficult to fit and can be uncomfortable for your dog. Also, dogs rely on their pads to help regulate their body temperature. Boots can disrupt this process and make it difficult for them to judge the temperature around them. Instead, I like to apply petroleum jelly to my dogs’ paws and lower legs before winter walks, especially if it’s snowy. This can help to prevent snowballing on the fur and protects from ice and grit.

Indoor activity: canine enrichment

Did you know that you can exercise your dog without walking them? Training, games and activities can help to stimulate your dog’s brain and keep them occupied. Especially on those cold, wet winter days when a long walk isn’t that appealing.

Sensory activities

One enrichment game that I love offering my dogs involves just two things: treats or dry food, and an old towel. Lay the towel flat and sprinkle a few treats (or a handful of your dog’s daily food allowance) in the middle. This game is perfect if your dog is fed Ella & Co cold-pressed or freeze-dried raw food.

Roll the blanket up from one of the long sides to form a long, sausage shape. Then tie it in a knot, being careful not to spill any treats. How tight to tie it depends on how good your dog is at solving puzzles. Give the tied blanket to your dog and watch them figure out how to untie the knot, and unroll the towel and get to the treats inside. This game is great for stimulating your dog’s brain, and they will be exhausted afterwards!


You could also set aside some time to work on some training techniques at home. Perhaps a new trick or even some known ones in a particular order, to really get them thinking. I love to practice ‘wait’ with my pack.

You could ask for the command ‘wait’, then go and hide some treats around the house or garden, and let them sniff them out. If you hide them well enough, this game can keep dogs occupied for quite some time.


Of course, dogs still need plenty of physical exercise. Did you know that you could combine mental enrichment with physical exercise from the comfort of your home?

A great game that you could play with your dog involves setting up a small obstacle course in your house or garden. You could utilise objects such as small cones or cushions for your dog to weave around and navigate, using treats as a trail. You could even set up a mini jump using a broom/pole and two sturdy objects to balance it on. Watch your dog leap for a tasty treat, but remember not to set it too high in case they knock it.

Health & wellbeing: seasonal changes to note in your dog

You might notice that your dog’s personality or energy levels change throughout the seasons. There are a few reasons why their behaviour will change, and some are dependent on the breed and whether they are well adapted to changing seasons.

Feeling the cold

Some dogs will feel the cold more than others. It all depends on fur thickness and breed. Dogs that are larger and have a thick, insulating coat are able to withstand cold temperatures and wet weather for a lot longer compared to smaller dogs or those with a thin coat.

For instance, huskies and similar breeds possess a thick waterproof topcoat, and a warm, insulating undercoat. This allows them to stay warm and dry whilst out in winter weather. On the other hand, breeds such as whippets are thin-skinned and unable to regulate their body temperature as effectively as a husky. So when they are exposed to cold, wet weather conditions, they’ll feel it a lot more.

If you own a short-coated breed, you might want to help them out during the winter months by adding an extra layer. A waterproof, fleece-lined dog coat would do the trick. This would allow them to enjoy their winter walks and stay warm and dry at the same time. I’d recommend researching the best brand for your dog, however, I recommend Equafleece as a great, small UK brand that makes good quality coats and fleeces for dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Larger appetite

You might notice that your dog’s appetite increases during the winter months. This is your dog’s method of building an extra healthy layer of fat to help keep themselves warm.

Dogs are more likely to build the healthy fat they need for winter if they have access to a nutritious diet, rich in protein and fibre. Healthy food also provides dogs with lots of digestible energy to support their metabolism during the cold, winter months.

Less energy

You might notice that your dog appears to be more lethargic in winter. For some dogs, this is a natural response to seasonal changes. It usually indicates that their bodies are working hard and using more energy in order to keep warm.

However, if your dog’s lethargy is sudden and unusual, it is recommended to get them checked by a vet just in case.

Enjoy winter; it’ll be over before you know it!

I hope this blog has been helpful in providing some tips and tricks to enable you and your dog to enjoy winter exercise and also have fun indoors!

I love seeing photos and videos of you and your dogs enjoying winter walks, so don’t forget to share them on social media and tag me in your posts

Have fun and stay safe,

James & Ella x

James’ Top Tip

Always remember to wipe your dogs’ legs and paws after cold winter walks. Never use hot water to melt snow immediately after a walk, as the sudden change in temperature can be painful, especially on sensitive areas such as paw pads.

Posted on

Cycling with your dogs: do’s and don’ts

Cycling with your dog: the dos and don’ts

Read time: 5.5 minutes

Tips to ensure you cycle safely alongside your dog

My passion for cycling with my dogs first started when I lived in London with my pack of six. Trying to get all the dogs in the car and off to a park in rush hour traffic was never easy. Even walking down the busy streets with my dogs in tow was a challenge. I soon noticed parents cycling to school with their children, and thought what a great idea that would be with the dogs. 

I started researching different methods and soon came across the Babboe cargo bikes for dogs, which looked perfect for what I needed. But there are plenty of other options too, for dogs of all ages, sizes and energy levels. 

Have you ever thought about cycling with your dog? Not sure where to start? If so, these are the steps you’ll need to take in order to prepare for a bike ride with your dog.

When to introduce your dog to bike rides

Rigorous exercise like running alongside a bike can damage your dog’s growth plates, leading to future mobility problems. This especially applies to puppies, overweight dogs and older dogs who may have stiff joints. Depending on your chosen method of cycling with your dogs, you should discuss bike rides with your vet. 

When you feel ready to include your dog in your cycling routes, you can carefully introduce cycling as part of their routine. Cycling with your dog is a fantastic way to strengthen your bond. You should, however, appreciate that even though cycling can build up a lot of excitement for your dog, it can also be a scary experience for them if not done safely.

How to start

Getting used to something new can be a little scary for dogs. For me, it was a process of familiarising my dogs, in order to associate a positive experience with the bike. 

Initially, you can start by introducing your dog to the bike whilst it’s stationary. For small dogs especially, the bike may seem a little intimidating, so let them have a good chance to explore it. All dogs will naturally be inquisitive of any new object. Pay attention to your dog’s reaction to your bike and give lots of positive encouragement, especially if your dog shows any signs of apprehension.

Pedalling the bike around my garden allowing my dogs to watch and listen to the sounds a bike makes was crucial to building their confidence. I would then advise you to gradually start walking with your dog alongside your bike. Make sure you take this step with your dog safely; avoiding any heavy traffic or overwhelming distractions.

Running alongside

Having your dog simply run alongside you as you cycle is a great way to get them enjoying this new form of exercise. This is especially suitable for larger, more agile breeds, and is a lot more fun in short distances. I often let my golden retriever, Mabel, out of the cargo bike carrier before we race each other up the path to my house.

It’s lovely watching your dog soak up the sights, smells and sounds around them! It can also get quite competitive as they keep pace with your pedalling. I would advise to only let your dog run alongside you off their lead if they are 100% reliable with their recall and only in quiet, secluded locations. Otherwise, you might choose to use a dog bike tow leash

A bike leash reacts to your dog’s movements, like an extra arm mounted on your bike. It is a point of contact between your dog and the bike, to gently communicate direction and speed changes. If your dog pulls on the bike attachment, the tow leash keeps them on course. 

Make sure your dog is comfortable and familiar with the routes you intend to take, staying clear of busy roads.I recommend wide open spaces – you wouldn’t want your dog’s leash to wrap around a lamppost – or worse, another cyclist!

Cargo bikes for dogs

A dog cargo bike is custom-built to carry multiple dogs. It’s available in push-bike or e-bike form and is great for long distances. 

The Babboe bike is perfect for my pack of six, and it comes with a ramp and a door. The ramp allows older dogs, like my thirteen year old spaniel, Ella, to join in the fun.

The box has safety points to attach your dogs to, as well as an anti-slip mat, so wet or muddy paws won’t skid. The bike has a rain cover for wet weather, which has led to many amusing instances at traffic lights. I can peep inside to see my dogs cosy and dry, sometimes even having a nap, whilst I am soaked to the bone.

Even though I now live in the countryside, I still get plenty of use out of my cargo bike and the dogs truly love it. The song that goes through my head whilst I’m pedalling away is “A Whole New World”, from Aladdin. It feels like the dogs are on their own magic carpet ride. The dog bike has never failed to put a smile on someone’s face, which is such a great feeling.

Doggy cycling backpacks and carriers

The cargo bike may not be the best solution for you, especially if you don’t have spacious bike storage. However, there are plenty of other safe and fun ways to cycle with your dog. 

For smaller or less active dogs, many dog owners prefer securing their dog in a cycling backpack, basket or carrier. These are attached to yourself or the bike, and can be more reassuring for beginners, as you have a closer eye on your dog. There are dog-specific models for each of these options, designed specifically for the safety and care of dogs.

When using a front-facing dog bike basket or bike trailer, always make sure your dog is secured safely and comfortably. It’s best to use a harness rather than a collar, as this provides extra stability around their shoulders and chest, to prevent neck injuries. Most good quality carriers will include a carabiner clip to attach to your dog’s harness.

When using a doggy cycling backpack, it is advised to familiarise your dog with the backpack in the same way you did when they first “met” your bike. This is to ensure they are confident and comfortable in the backpack. Carrying your dog in the backpack whilst at home, or even just out for a small walk will help them get accustomed to it. 

The best dog backpack I can recommend is the K9 Sports Sack, which a number of my friends use. These are reliable, sturdy and come in different sizes.

Don’t forget!

  • Bring supplies such as treats, water and a first aid kit.
  • Consider accessories such as a bike light and hi-vis dog harness for cycling at night. 
  • It’s important to check the weight limit for bags or baskets, especially if you have a growing puppy.
  • It’s best to avoid a bike ride in extreme weather. The ground may be too hot for your dog’s paw pads, and a carrier can become stressful for some dogs in intense rain or heat!

Enjoy the ride

Cycling with my dogs is one of my favourite hobbies – and they enjoy it just as much as I do! Not only is it an environmentally friendly mode of transport, but it’s also an excellent way to bond through exercise.

Seeing the wind in their fur and their noses sniffing the air is such a joy and it’s the best way to travel in my opinion. If you follow these guidelines and tips, you’re definitely in for the best bike ride you can have with your dog.

Hi, I’m James, founder of Ella & Co.

I’m on a mission to make my dogs lives as happy and as healthy as they make mine. At Ella & Co this means feeding them the best possible diet.

Join me and my pack today!

Posted on

How to prepare for a holiday with your dog

How to prepare for a holiday with your dog

Read time: 4.5 minutes

A guide for ensuring a safe and fun holiday with your dog

I love travelling with my dogs and making new memories with them in exciting places. More dog owners are thinking about dog friendly holiday destinations as a wonderful way to bond with their pets. You no longer need to leave your dog behind! Travelling with them is a great way to enjoy a change of scenery with your four-legged friend.

There is a lot to consider when going away with your dog. You need to ensure you have everything you need for your dog; wherever you are, whatever the weather! Here are my top tips on how to leave the pet sitters behind and prepare for a holiday with your dog.

Where to stay

There’s an array of places you can stay with your dog, such as campsites, campervans, hotels or self-catering holiday cottages. Consider your dog’s preferences when looking at accommodation. How would they deal with new noises and the change of location? Would they prefer a quiet cottage, or a campsite full of new smells and friends?

Whenever you’re booking dog friendly accommodation, it’s important to understand if they simply allow dogs, or if they enthusiastically welcome them. If you’re worried about how your dog will be received, I would advise you to check any reviews from other dog parents.

Planning ahead

Being prepared and researching before you go will give you more time to enjoy your holiday!

It’s important to check for local veterinary clinics within the areas you’re travelling to. Don’t forget to save vet contact details in your phone, in case of emergencies.

I always check to see how far we are from the closest dog friendly beach or park. This is especially important if your accommodation doesn’t have an enclosed garden space. Most beaches have particular times or seasons when they allow dogs to enjoy the beach with you. It’s good to check this, to avoid disappointment.

Train your dog on calming techniques before you head off. Being able to sit, stay and settle are good to brush up on.

It’s worth checking guidelines when travelling overseas, such as additional vaccinations and pet passports.

What should I take on holiday with my dog?

Ensure you prepare the correct quantities of food and dog treats needed for your dog during their stay. Imagine turning up for your staycation and not bringing enough food with you! Bring enough supplies so you don’t have to change diets halfway through your holiday.

Different types of dog food such as dry, home-cooked, frozen and freeze-dried raw food will have varied storage requirements, so consider the facilities at your accommodation. Feeding freeze-dried raw food has made it incredibly easy to bring with us on holiday, since it doesn’t require refrigeration or prepping. The same applies for Ella’s cold-pressed food, too!

Beyond food, there are a number of dog holiday essentials that you should consider.

  • I always take a first aid kit for my dogs when going on holiday. My first aid kit includes a tick extraction tool, gauze, tweezers and alcohol wipes, among other useful tools.
  • I would advise bringing a crate with you, especially if your dog is used to sleeping in their crate at home.
  • Having spare towels or blankets are great things to pack too, especially if your dog loves to swim!
  • Bringing enrichment toys, treats or chews can help to keep your dog occupied and ease stress in a new environment.
  • Other essentials like plenty of poo bags, a water bottle and food bowls.

Remember to check the weather in advance. Your dog may need a coat for the rain, warm layers for cold weather, or cooling packs for any high temperatures.

On the road

Travelling either by car, train or otherwise, could be a new experience for your dog altogether. It is imperative that your dog is safely secured if travelling by car. This should be via a car seat, safety harness or a crate secured in your boot (provided it has air ventilation).

Some dogs suffer from motion sickness or general anxiety when travelling. If your dog experiences travel sickness, visit the vet beforehand for advice. Your vet might suggest anti-nausea medications or herbal remedies.

Signs of anxiety exhibited by your dog during travel may include: excessive panting, yawning, or drooling; drooling is also a sign of nausea. There are a few steps I take to help reduce my dogs’ anxieties during travelling.

  • Let your dog eat and digest their breakfast a couple of hours before travelling. This can help reduce pet travel sickness. I would also suggest limiting their food consumption while on the road.
  • If it’s a lengthy journey, make a few stops where possible to allow your dog to have a toilet break, stretch and a drink. Check the journey in advance so you can figure out the best services to stop. Some have dog specific areas or larger grass areas, perfect for a quick run around.
  • Crack a window open to allow fresh air in. It’s also handy to elevate your dog, enabling them to see out of the window. This may help if they’re feeling nauseous

Something I also do with my dogs is play soothing music. Believe it or not, music can have a comforting effect on dogs as well as humans

Comforting your dog

A change of scenery can be overwhelming for your dog, and it’s normal for your dog to feel unsettled. This is more common during the evening, since they are used to going to bed in familiar surroundings.

I help my dogs by bringing along their favourite toys, bed, and blanket. The homely scents reassure them and make them feel comfortable. In case of separation anxiety, position your dog’s crate or bed close to your bedroom so they can hear you.

I find that my dogs are better able to sleep in a new environment when they’ve had a long, mentally stimulating day. A tired dog is quicker to settle! Try to help rid your dog of any excess energy through physical and mental stimulation. Puzzle toys, snuffle mats and other interactive toys can help with this.

Typically, dogs adapt well when they’re with their familiar humans and they’ll love the chance to explore new places with you.

Enjoying your pet friendly holiday

The key is to make your holiday enjoyable for both you and your dog. Always consider potential situations where your dog may require urgent medical attention, even if you think this is unlikely to happen. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to have a safe and wonderful trip with your dog by your side!

Hi, I’m James, founder of Ella & Co.

I’m on a mission to make my dogs lives as happy and as healthy as they make mine. At Ella & Co this means feeding them the best possible diet.

Join me and my pack today!

    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty