The Water Bowl is paws down the best monthly newsletter for pet professionals. We provide editorial on current events in the dog walking and pet sitting world, review gear and gather interesting information from around the web.
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- August is National Wellness Month.
- FDA issues Xylitol Warning.
- AI startup invents facial recognition for dogs.
- Vibrating vests help work dogs do dangerous jobs.
- Freakonomics investigates the animal economy.
Be Well. Take Care of Yourself
As care professionals, we have a tendency to put the wellness of others ahead of ourselves. We work long hours, often for weeks at a time without breaks, and we put tons of wear on our joints and muscles every day. This can only go on for so long before you get burned out or injured. Here are some tips for how to take better care of yourself.
Reduce Your Stress
As pet sitters and business owners, we carry a lot of weight on our shoulders. We work long hours on our feet, commute back and forth across town, usually for weeks at a time without a day off, and also manage to balance 1000 other non-petcare related responsibilities all at once. And that’s just at work! Burnout in the pet sitting industry is real, and letting your stress levels get out of control can cause serious health issues such as hypertension and heart disease.
The good news is there are ways you can reduce stress and avoid burnout. Here are 3 easy ways you can eliminate stress in 20-minutes a day, or less:
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a method of quickly inducing relaxation by tensing and relaxing your muscles in a sequential fashion. Close your eyes. Start at your feet and tense and relax each up your legs to your stomach, chest, and arms, ending with your face. Tense your muscles for 10 seconds each and then relax for 20 seconds before moving to the next one. There are a number of audiobooks that can help you train in PMR.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing is known to reduce fatigue and anxiety and improve performance of stressful tasks. Basically, if you feel stressed out, just take a deep breath. Instead of breathing with your chest, make sure to concentrate on breathing from your belly.
- Relaxation Response (RR) is a way of concentrating by repeating a word, phrase, prayer or sound. It takes a bit of practice and training, but once you have it down, it takes about 20 minutes a day to relax.
Wear Soft, Flexible Sneakers.
Osteoarthritis is a common form of wear and tear induced arthritis that causes knee pain common to dog walkers. Numerous studies show that wearing a soft, flat, flexible sneaker decreases the load placed on your knees while walking. Reducing knee load can reduce wear and tear and prevent further damage from occurring. Surprisingly, walking barefoot or in flip flops provided the best results for reducing knee loads. Other types of serious injuries, however, such as wounds or falls can occur when walking around barefoot or in sandals respectively. If you need more ankle support, try high top sneakers. If you take dogs out on nature hikes, consider a flexible trail running shoe.
It’s important to maintain both your mental and physical health if you plan to be a long-term dog walker or pet sitter. The demanding nature of our jobs can lead to serious health issues if left unchecked. National Wellness Month is a great time to start taking care of yourself.
Paws Off. The Dangers of Xylitol
Did you know Xylitol, a common sugar substitute found in many food and dental products, is dangerous to dogs? Recently one of my dog walkers called me to tell me she found a half-eaten pack of gum on the floor. Thankfully I knew she needed to go to the vet ASAP! What I didn’t know, was that Xylitol isn’t just found in chewing gum. In July, the FDA issued a warning that listed myriad products that contain Xylitol including:
- Chewable vitamins
- Peanut butter
- Dietary Supplements
- Sugar-free desserts
Check out the full warning which includes an explanation of why Xylitol is dangerous to dogs and not humans, information for identifying Xylitol poisoning, and ways pet parents can prevent it. The FDA also provides a flyer that you can download and share to help educate pet parents about the dangers of Xylitol.
Blurbs. Curated Content from the Interwebs
- Nose recognition. An AI startup backed by Alibaba has invented a way to identify dogs using their nose print with 95% accuracy. The method uses a smartphone camera to take photos at various angles. These photos are then analyzed for identification markers.
- Remote control dogs? An Israeli company has invented a haptic vest that allows dog handlers to communicate commands remotely. Tai, a labrador retriever, was able to differentiate between vibrating patterns, durations, and locations which correlated to commands such as “spin”, “down”, and “backpedal.”
- The Freakonomics Podcast. The Invisible Paw: “Humans, it has long been thought, are the only animal to engage in economic activity. But what if we’ve had it exactly backward?” In this episode of Freakonomics, host Stephen Dubner investigates whether other, non-human, animals engage in economic activity.
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