Canine myofunctional therapy

While dogs may not fully understand everything humans say, they definitely understand body language and touch. Discover how massage used in canine myofunctional therapy can help to soothe a dog’s joints and muscles. 

When it comes to your dog’s muscles and joints, sometimes standard medicine cannot help every ache and pain. Sometimes, your dog will need the soothing touch of alternative medicine or therapy.

Alternative therapies support the overall health and wellbeing of your pup, recognising that a healthy dog is not just about the absence of disease. It’s important for your dog to maintain a healthy lifestyle, inside and out.

Alternative medicine encourages being healthy physiologically, strengthening your dog’s resistance to stress, disease, injury and illnesses. It’s about preempting and preventing rather than reacting.

A popular alternative therapy is canine myofunctional therapy. It’s beneficial for any dog, no matter how old or how strong.

What is canine myofunctional therapy?

Canine myofunctional therapy is a gentle, soothing therapy developed specifically for dogs to help muscle movement and increase circulation. It can be used to treat chronic conditions or help with your dog’s rehabilitation after surgery or an accident. It can also be used as a soothing massage to calm your dog down, or as a relaxing treat.

“Muscles are what allow dogs to move, run, jump, play and give the body power, strength and ability to move,” Heather Brook, a pet massage therapist explains. “They can become damaged due to injury, overexertion, repetitive strain or simply through the process of ageing.”

Canine myofunctional therapy gently treats the muscles to ensure your dog has the ability to live life to the fullest. “It’s a 100 per cent natural, hands on, non-invasive treatment,” Heather says.

While having a massage seems like a mere pampering session, canine myofunctional therapy is so much more than that.

Myofunctional therapy is used to treat the whole body of the dog, rather than specific parts, encouraging physical and physiological health and wellbeing. Kristine Edwards from Sydney Animal Physiotherapy says it’s great for a whole range of problems. “It’s great for stress reduction and pain management. It releases tight areas and tension in the muscle.”

It’s also preventative. If your dog gets used to being touched, it won’t mind being touched often by you. This allows you to really get to know your animal, meaning you’ll be able to feel if something is amiss.

The initial consultation generally involves a discussion about your dog’s overall health, any conditions it may have, gait, body and exercise patterns. This is followed by a massage treatment.

Follow-up consultations involve the therapist applying precise techniques and controlled strokes and usually include a stretching session.

Each dog is unique and will need its own tailored version of canine myofunctional therapy. Techniques used can include effleurage, which is long strokes, kneading, palpations and stretches.

Heather explains canine myofunctional therapy as a purposeful technique: “It’s a structured approach of applying precise techniques to help a dog’s muscles. The strokes are controlled in the amount of pressure, direction and intention that are used.”

Yay or nay?

As with any other medical or alternative therapy solutions, canine myofunctional therapy is great for some conditions, but shouldn’t be used for every situation.

It’s great for recovery after illness or surgery. “Massage can often shorten the healing time for dogs recovering from surgery, illness or injury,” Heather says. “It can reduce the impact of stress a dog feels during the rehabilitation period.”

Canine myofunctional therapy can also be used for competition dogs or working dogs. For competition dogs, massage is great for a stimulating, pre-competition warm up. “Elite athletes never perform without first warming up their bodies and it is no different for our canine athletes,” Heather notes.

As for working dogs, massage greatly reduces the risk of injury as it maintains overall good health and strength.

Kristine says it’s a useful technique to employ when it comes to old-age related conditions and hip dysplasia. “It works well for problems around the joints, especially stiff joints and muscle tears.”

While it may seem like your puppy just isn’t going to sit still for the duration of the massage, think again. “The calming and relaxing effect of massaging a dog may help reduce hyperactivity, nervousness and anxiety,” Heather advises. “It also benefits puppies to develop trust.”

Massage is definitely beneficial for some conditions, however, there are other times when it should be modified, delayed or not used at all. In fact, there’s a long list including pregnancy, heart conditions, neurological conditions and if your dog has a fever. It’s also not recommended if your dog has an open wound or infection. Kristine says you need to be careful when choosing a time, as this can impact the dog’s ability to relax and enjoy the treatment. “Pick the time and place. It’s got to be quiet and relaxed, and not at meal times or play time.” There should be no distractions such as other dogs, television or play toys.

Some dogs will love massage and alternative therapies straight away. Others won’t. In this situation, it’s best to try and get them used to being touched and stretched for a couple of minutes. Use treats so that your dog associates massage and touch with a positive thing.

However, Kristine says you’ve also got to be aware of your dog’s personality and whether something has happened to it that may make it cautious. “A dog with an injury may be on guard or aggressive,” she says. This is because it is associating being touched with being attacked or injured.

In this scenario, as its owner, you can prepare it at home. Make sure you get lots of hands-on time with your dog to ensure it’s aware that touch is okay.

While alternative therapies are great for some conditions, it’s important to remember that they do not replace traditional medicine. In fact, alternative medicine is commonly referred to as complementary therapy.

For example, cancer cannot be fully treated by alternative medicine or therapy, but the symptoms may be alleviated. As Heather explains, “Therapists have a place working closely with veterinarians in the treatment of dogs, but are in no way a substitute for traditional veterinary care.”

Download Canine myofunctional therapy

Toilet training 101

Going back to basics is the best way to master toilet training with your pup.

Bringing your puppy home is a special time, however, it isn’t all fun and games. As soon as your puppy is in its new environment, it’s time to start housetraining, a major component of which is toilet training.

Andrew Peterson, a Delta Accredited Professional Trainer from Better Dog Schools, says it’s never too early to start. “It’s important to set reasonable expectations,” he says. “For the first few months of life, puppies may have very little control over their bladder and bowels, and this skill takes time to develop. Puppies may also not even realise that they need to go, so don’t expect them to know how to hold it in.”

Toilet training a puppy takes time and patience, for you and your dog. There is no magic number for when your dog will learn to go on its own. Every pup will learn at its own pace and it needs time to develop its own routine.

It’s imperative that you start toilet training from a very young age. Habits are hard to break, and if you create good and positive behaviours from when your puppy is born, these will last a lifetime.

Tips and tricks

The first step is taking your puppy for a routine vet visit to eliminate any possibility of health problems such as congenital, hormonal or neurological factors, which may contribute to toilet training problems. If you get the all clear from the vet, toilet training is as simple as following the steps. “Focus on teaching your pup when and where to go,” Andrew says, “rather than just expecting it to somehow know the rules or trying to punish it for going in the ‘wrong place’ and expecting that to work.”

Take your dog out frequently, and reward it every time it successfully goes to the toilet where it’s supposed to. Animal behaviourist, Dr Joanne Righetti, says: “Take your puppy out after every meal, every snack, every treat, every play session, every rest, every sleep, or every thirty minutes.” This gives the pup the opportunity to go if it needs to and avoids accidents in places you don’t want your dog to toilet. If your puppy successfully toilets, you can probably leave a bit of a longer gap between taking it out. If it doesn’t go, it’s best to take it out 30 minutes after the original try.”

Andrew advises leading your pup outside, rather than carrying it, “Your pup will learn the habit more quickly if you lead it where you want it to go, rather than chauffeuring it
to the spot.” He also says the walk will help to stimulate the bladder helping your puppy to be more aware that it needs to go when you get outside.

Dr Righetti also encourages getting to know your dog’s habits. “Watch the dog’s behaviour,” she says. “Naturally, they start to circle and sniff. Yes, that may be because they’re about to lie down to sleep but if it has just got up and it starts circling and sniffing, chances are it’s about to go to the toilet so take it outdoors.”

Another tip to reinforce toileting outside is to take your pup to the same place every time. This will create a sense of familiarity. Dr Righetti recommends leaving a bit of faeces in that area to stimulate your puppy to go back there. Dogs rely on scent and if you take it to the same spot each time, its own scent will be there to remind it to go. Andrew recommends making this area as close to the dog’s living area as possible. “Try not to make the trip from living room to toilet area a marathon, otherwise you’ll find your pup may not be able to hold it in all the way.”

However, while you can definitely encourage your dog to go in a specific spot, Dr Righetti says to be happy that your dog has gone outside rather than having an accident. “I say to so many people, be thankful that your dog is going outdoors. Never mind that it’s going on the patio or right outside your deck, it’s going outdoors, it’s great.”

Always remember to praise your puppy when it goes. Nothing works better than an encouraging word and a delicious treat for the dog to associate doing its business outdoors with the correct behaviour. “If it starts to go, you can begin praising it,” Andrew says. “Once it’s finished make sure it feels like the most special pup on the planet, and offer a treat or two and perhaps a short play session.”

Crate training

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that a dog will very rarely go to the toilet where it lives. It’s therefore imperative to create clear boundaries for your puppy to understand. Crate training can be a fantastic way to speed up the process because it teaches your pup the lesson of patience.

However, it’s very important to remember that puppies, much like babies, need time to learn bladder control. It won’t happen overnight. “People tend to expect their dogs to be trained immediately and sometimes don’t realise that they’re little, they’re just babies, and they have to learn to control,” Dr Righetti says. “They have to be taught where the toilet is.”

If you’re unable to watch your puppy every minute of the day, it’s recommended you create a small space for it to call its own. This may mean closing off certain doors in your home and creating a section of the home for the dog to use. It can also mean using a crate. However, you must make sure the crate is the right size for the dog.

It must be big enough for your puppy to turn around comfortably and lie down, but not so big that it can create its own toilet in the corner. This can help to housetrain your puppy as it won’t go in its living space, it will rather give you signs that it needs to go, and wait for you to let it out. Signs that your pup needs to go include whining, circling, sniffing or barking.

If you need to leave it for longer, Andrew advises creating a slightly bigger area where you don’t mind an accident if it occurs. “Confine them to a different, larger area that’s easier to clean up, perhaps with a pee-pad in the corner. This will let it sleep in one area of the space and toilet in the other without feeling stressed that it’s soiling its den.”

Puppy problems

Your puppy may run into some problems along the way. What’s important is the way you deal with them. Andrew says that problems are usually caused by high expectations of owners. “We often forget that toilet training is a skill puppies need to acquire, and like everything it’s learned gradually,” he says.

A puppy may urinate due to excitement because it is unable to completely control its bladder. This can happen when you walk through the door after you’ve left it for a little bit or if new people enter its space. Andrew recommends training your puppy to be calm by being calm yourself. “The best thing to do is keep greetings calm rather than revving up the pup.

Acknowledge it when you first walk into the room, but don’t make a fuss, and instead head straight to the toileting area and wait for it to go – then you can greet it properly and play with it.”

Generally problems occur if there’s been a gap in applying toilet training 101. Andrew advises to have patience and go back to basics. Alternatively, if your puppy is still having problems and you believe you’re doing everything right, you can call in the experts.

Dealing with accidents

All dogs will have accidents, no matter how young or old. How you deal with these accidents, especially when it’s a young pup, will definitely impact on the way the dog reacts and learns from the experience. Do not punish the puppy. Effective toilet training is all about positive reinforcement rather than making the dog feel guilty or naughty because it made a mistake.

Accidents can also be a sign of anxiety. Punishing the dog will only reinforce any anxiety or nervousness the dog may be feeling and this can force education backwards. The first thing to do when you find an accident is to thoroughly clean the area to remove any smell. Dogs are creatures of habit and they thrive on their sense of smell. If dogs are given the opportunity to go indoors, they will continue to gravitate to that spot and it will become habitual. They will also follow the scent of their previous toilet stops. It’s therefore crucial to completely clean up after any indoor accident.

Dr Righetti advises dealing with accidents calmly and efficiently. “What is leading the dogs to go back to the same spot, is habit and comfort,” she says. “But there’s also a smell attraction. We need to remove the smell and we do that by using an enzymatic cleaner.” This can be bought or created at home using an enzymatic washing powder.

Another suggestion from Dr Righetti is playing or laying down treats in the area that the dog keeps going back to. “Dogs don’t like to go to the toilet in living areas. So if you start living in that area where they’re toileting, that will stop them,” she explains.

It’s also important to realise that there are other options to taking your dog outside. If you’re immobile, in a 20-storey building or on a boat, it may be impossible for your dog to toilet outside. “A lot of countries accept that their dogs will need to go indoors,” Dr Righetti says, “you can provide a toilet.”

This can be done by laying down paper, creating a litter tray, putting down pee-pads or investing in a pet-loo.

Training in this situation is still as important. Instead of training your puppy to go outside to toilet, you need to train it to go to the specific spot in the house where you’ve created the toilet. Use all the methods you would if you were taking it outside, but instead of taking it to the garden, take your puppy to its toilet.

Keep up the praise

Remember that just because a dog is trained doesn’t mean it won’t have the occasional accident. These can be brought on by stress or other emotions and it’s up to you to remind your dog that it’s okay.

To reinforce your dog’s training throughout its life, continually praise it
for doing the right thing. “As owners we sometimes take toilet training for granted, which means we stop rewarding our dogs for toileting success once they’ve grown up, and assume that the habit will just stay with them for life,” Andrew says. “Toilet training can lapse because it didn’t get reinforced enough. So it’s a good idea to still reward toileting success occasionally, for the whole of your dog’s life – even if it’s just with praise or play – to help maintain the habit.”

Download Toilet training 101

The golden years

Your dog may be slowing down, but there’s no reason why its senior years should be any less fun, rewarding or happy.

Much like a human, a dog’s needs change as it gets older. It will still need exercise, just at a slower pace. It will still need to eat well, its diet may just need some adjustment to keep its joints, muscles and mind going strong.

As it gets older, your dog’s needs will depend on its breed, size and temperament. Breeds age at different rates and what may be necessary for a Labrador, may not work for a Jack Russell Terrier. Large breeds age more rapidly than smaller ones and are generally considered senior before they reach the age of 10. Smaller breeds only hit their geriatric years in their teens.

You are probably the person most familiar with your dog – its health, wellbeing, coat, temperament and all that’s in between. This means that you’re the best person to keep an eye out for early warning signs that something may be changing. Watch for a change in appetite, discomfort on rising or after exercise, weight loss or gain and confusion or disorientation.

The most important aspects to consider as your dog ages are diet, exercise and general body maintenance. Energy levels may decrease and your dog’s senses may decline, however, it’s still important to keep your beloved dog happy and healthy with exercise, a nutritious diet and some good old tender loving care.

Remember to schedule routine check-ups with your veterinarian. With regular vet visits, you may be able to detect cancers, diseases and organ deterioration early and, in turn, you may give your dog a few more years. Regular visits should include blood screens and urine tests to check for all possible conditions that dogs may develop as they age.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to treating senior dogs is finding the balance between too much and too little.

Rae Hennessy is an animal acupuncturist who frequently treats older dogs for joint problems. “Dogs are living longer and longer, which is probably to do with better healthcare and better awareness of owners in regard to their diet,” she says. “It’s really important that owners pay attention to how to treat old dogs, because we’re caring for older dogs longer than we used to.”


Senior dogs tend to sleep a lot more than younger pups. However, they still needs to stay on the move. Your dog may not be able to handle the energetic playtime of an off- leash park or the vigorous runs that it used to, but a gentle walk around the block once a day will benefit it twofold. Not only will a regular stroll keep its muscles toned, it will also stimulate its mind with new smells and sights to keep it entertained.

When dogs come to see Rae, besides devising a treatment plan, she also recommends that owners maintain their dog’s treatment by themselves. This means regular, moderate exercise to keep the weight off. However, it’s very much about finding the balance between what is good for the dog and what is overdoing it.

Rae believes that giving in to your senior dog’s urge to laze around all day and snooze isn’t ideal or healthy for your precious pooch. “I’m not a fan of excessively resting old dogs. I find that stiff, old joints tend to seize up more if you don’t use them,” she says. If your dog is struggling to get up or resisting your calls for a walk, swimming is a perfect alternative. “It’s a great way to get good exercise without putting too much pressure on their joints,” Rae advises.

However, it’s important to keep in mind your dog’s limits. Exercise routines need to be tailored to its individual requirements, without stretching your dog too far. You must walk at your dog’s pace rather than yours.

Walking and swimming aren’t the only available options however. While your senior dog may not be up for intense play like it was when it was younger, playing fetch will still stimulate its mind and muscles. You can also jog slowly with your dog or take part in canine sports, as long as these activities don’t stress your senior dog too much, and you get an all clear from your vet.


While holistically there may not be much difference between the diet of a senior dog and the diet of a younger dog, there are definite differences between the ways the body reacts.

Just like in the human world, joint pain is a common thread for older dogs and this can largely be influenced by the dog’s weight. Weight can be more of an issue for bigger breeds than smaller ones, but this is simply because a bigger breed carries more weight on its muscles and joints.

As your dog grows older, it’s generally not necessary to change its diet. However, you may need to alter its portion size. “The difference between old dogs and old people is that they don’t have control over what is in their bowl,” Rae says. A dog is not going to turn away a meal. It may take longer to eat a meal as it gets older but the food will definitely get eaten. This means it’s up to you to be firm with your senior dog and limit the size of its meal.

Rae says it’s a matter of whether the dog simply needs to lose weight or if there’s a problem with the food it’s being given. “I think, provided the dog is fit and well, and doing well on the diet that its owner has chosen for it, I’m generally happy for it to continue along those lines,” she says. However, as your dog gets older, it may develop digestive problems. This is when you should change the type of food it’s getting. “I’m more a fan of portion control and exercise than changing to anything that the dog
isn’t used to, unless I see a problem with the diet that is causing the dog issues.

Michael Frizell is the CEO of Paws for Life, an online retailer of high quality pet food, medication and accessories. He agrees that it is more a matter of limiting a dog’s food intake when it comes to weight management, especially if it’s impacting the dog’s joints. “We sometimes see the issue of overfeeding. High quality food has a lot more nutrition and a lot more protein, but owners sometimes feed their dog the same quantity of food that they used to,” Michael says. “We advise people to pull the quantities back a little bit, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and generally the dog’s weight will come off.”

In terms of helping your old dog’s joints, Michael suggests glucosamine as a supplement. “Glucosamine is very good for the joints,” he advises. “You can get chewable tablets for dogs, which they quite like, and they can be added to the dog’s food. There are also glucosamine supplements that you can sprinkle over your dog’s food and they tend to be quite happy eating that.”

Michael also says that you can even be preventative with helping your dog adjust to ageing. Feed it high quality food, modifying the quantity according to recommendations, and start taking glucosamine before it gets too old. This means the onset of the arthritis may not be so sudden or so frightening for your dog.

If you see your dog struggling to eat its food, it may have developed a digestive condition. Similar to humans, dogs can develop digestive problems as they get older. You do see sensitivities in senior dogs, however, this is generally on a case-by-case basis rather than a blanket condition.

A dog’s happiness is largely about what goes on inside. As your dog gets older, its diet becomes even more crucial to it leading a long and healthy life.

Download The golden years

Room to run

These days, a big backyard isn’t a given for all dog owners. Inner-city dwellers are taking their puppy pals to designated spaces in parks, beaches and camping grounds. 

Summer is often a time to spend with family – days spent lazing by the pool, frolicking in the water or on the sand, or playing sport in the park. But it’s often our pup that gets left by the wayside.

As housing trends change and people move away from the big backyard, it becomes even more important to take your dog outside to open spaces. Not only will your dog benefit from the exercise and socialisation, you will too.

The environment in which we live, work and play forms a crucial aspect in shaping our lives and behaviour. Physical activity, and that of our dogs, can often be influenced by the quality and quantity of open spaces in which to play.

Why the need for public open space?

Exercising your dog provides a whole range of benefits. While any exercise is definitely good exercise for your pup, variety is best. This means on-leash walks or runs, running and playing with other dogs off-leash, and playing with you.

Clover Moore, Lord Mayor, City of Sydney, actively promotes and encourages dog owners to get outside and get active with their dogs. “Dogs connect people with their local communities

by getting them out and about in their neighbourhoods. That’s why we provide open spaces where people can exercise their pets off-leash,” she says. “We know that this improves the behaviour and temperament of the animals and promotes social engagement and more healthy lifestyles for owners.”

Thirty years ago, taking your dog out to the park for a run around was a lot easier to do. The growing population of New South Wales, teamed with people moving into smaller homes, means it’s even more important to plan for dogs and their owners in public spaces.

Virginia Jackson is a town planner who has been involved in animal management policy for many years, developing guidelines for the integration of dogs and their owners in public open space. She says that there are several reasons why planning for dogs in open space is so valuable.

For the dog, there are an abundance of benefits that off- leash areas provide, including the all-important socialisation process. “A dog can be exercised when it’s on the leash, but they get really good exercise when they’re off the leash,” Virginia explains. “For some dogs, they really need that because they need the exercise to be even better behaved at home.”

The places to be

Around New South Wales, there are plenty of dog-friendly public open spaces for you to enjoy the outdoors with your dog. Many inner-city parks have designated off-leash areas. “More than 40 parks already include off-leash areas, and whenever a park is upgraded we look into the possibility of including space to have dogs off-leash,” Clover says. There are several beaches along the coastline that allow dogs to roam the sand and take a dip outside of peak hours.

More and more people are renting or buying apartments in the city or inner city suburbs, which means they need plenty of open space to take their furry friends. Even though it’s an off- leash area, it’s important to remember that your pup still has to be under the effective control of a competent person. This means your dog must be able to respond to your commands.

The park

Hawthorne Cana Reserve in Sydney’s Leichhardt is renowned for not only its dog-friendly off-leash areas, but also for its dog-friendly cafe. Sitting on the border between Leichhardt and Haberfield, the reserve has plenty of space for your pup to run, play and meet other dogs. It’s also a wide-open space for you to enjoy together, playing Frisbee, fetch or just going for a run. There is an on-leash area of course, if you prefer to run with your dog on the leash.

Hawthorne Canal Reserve is a great place for your dog to socialise and play with others, and to learn obedience. With all the distractions around it, your dog must learn to respond to your commands and to play appropriately with other dogs. It’s all part of the socialisation process.

There’s also a place for you to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or some food while your dog has a play. Café Bones even offers a puppacino for your pooch, which the owner describes as a lactose-free drink with a secret sprinkle.

The beach

If the beach is more your thing, why not take your pup along so it can have a swim too, and get some sun of course. Just north of the Harbour Bridge, Sirius Cove in Mosman allows dogs to roam the sand and take a dip at all times during the week. However, on the weekend, dogs are only allowed before 9:00am and after 4:00pm. Soft sand running is great exercise for you, and your pup will love the feeling of sand under its paws.

The water is calm as the beach is on the harbour, so if you have a small dog, it won’t be swamped by waves. There are also barbecue facilities for your use and a playground for the kids. Just remember to give your dog a good wash before you pop it in the car, as there’s bound to be sand all over it.

The camp ground

If you fancy a stay-over with your pooch over summer, camping is always a great option. Maca’s Camping Ground in Mullumbimby, northern New South Wales, is the perfect place to spend a night, or several. Sites are available for long or short stays and powered sites are an option if you need electricity.

A family-friendly camping park, dogs are allowed off-leash at all times, however, they must be controllable and relatively quiet.

Maca’s is family run and set in a quiet, rustic area. Bush tracks surround the site so you can keep up your fitness routine with your dog. However, remember to put your dog on its leash as there is a lot of wildlife about.

Download Room to run

Best friend welcome

Your summer holiday is just weeks away – why not share in the fun with your pooch pal at these pet-friendly venues? 

Pender Lea Chalets, Snowy Mountains

No matter the season, the Snowy Mountains is a beautiful place to explore. Whether you’re after snow or sun, Thredbo, Perisher and Jindabyne don’t disappoint with family and dog- friendly activities all year round.

Situated on the Alpine Way, Pender Lea Chalets caters to all of your needs. Rooms range from boutique alpine chalets and historic farmhouses to cottages and cabins, with space for two or 19. And the best thing about it is your best friend doesn’t have to miss out.

Pender Lea Chalets is ideally located in the heart of the Snowy Mountains. The ski tube is just five minutes drive away, providing direct, all-weather access to Perisher Blue, the largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere. Alternatively, Thredbo Village is just down the road and Jindabyne is 10 minutes away to service your retail needs.

When the snow begins to thaw, the mountains become a picturesque and serene destination, perfect for bushwalking, horse riding and fishing – all which can be done on the 2800 acre Pender Lea plot. Sonja Schatzle from Pender Lea Chalets says it’s the perfect destination for people who want to bring their dog to the Snowy Mountains, as they are close enough to all the action without actually being in the Kosciuszko National Park, where dogs are prohibited. “We’re pretty much the closest to the National Park that you can get and bring your dog,” she says.

Sonja adds that while dogs are definitely welcome on the property, it’s BYO bedding to ensure your dog stays nice and healthy. Dogs are allowed in all of the different types of accommodation, however they cannot be left unattended. As a solution, Pender Lea asks that upon booking, you hire the private state-of-the-art kennels that the resort offers. “It’s got a fenced-in yard out the front and then a large enclosure inside,” Sonja explains. “In winter, there’s even heating available.”

Pender Lea supplies dog bowls for your water and a pooper- scooper to keep the kennel clean.

The properties at Pender Lea Chalets are all self-contained with fully equipped kitchens and log fireplaces, and some even come with their very own hydrotherapy spa and sauna. Each property is uniquely designed, depending on how many people it can accommodate and where on the estate it is situated. If you’d like a break from cooking, the Gourmet Pantry Meals allow for private, in-room dining and Pender Lea also has a private chef available for an indulgent culinary experience.

Alternatively, if you’d like to go out, the Crackenback area has a number of local eateries.


There’s plenty to do in the mountains, no matter what the weather or the kind of experience you’re after.

In the winter, there are ski slopes galore for your skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing needs. While many resorts have banned people from tobogganing due to a number of accidents, Perisher Blue has a purpose-built snow tubing park, Tube Town. The tracks are floodlit which means you can enjoy the thrill of the tracks day and night. Snow tubing is perfect for the whole family, whether you’re experienced skiers or first-time visitors.

In the summer, there’s plenty to do, without actually leaving Pender Lea Chalets. Harness your dog and take it out for a bushwalk to experience the crisp mountain air, whether you want a relaxing stroll through the wilderness or a hike up the steepest mountain. Why not take a picnic and escape the heat among the alpine wildflowers? Sonja also recommends taking your dog to Jindabyne for a leisurely stroll around the lake.

A particular highlight is the Kosciuszko Sunrise Tour. In the early hours of the morning while the stars are still out, you can walk to the top of Mt Crackenback to experience the first rays of sun sparkle across the peaks around you. You are then rewarded with a beautiful champagne breakfast.

Of course, there’s a lot for you to do if you choose to leave your dog in the luxury of its heated kennel.

Pender Lea has its own private, secluded fishing spot on the Thredbo River and you can also experience the mountains on horseback.

For the more adventurous, you can explore Jindabyne or Thredbo by mountain bike and there’s also bobsledding in Thredbo village as a fun family-friendly activity. Or, if you’d prefer to experience some water sports, there’s waterskiing, canoeing and whitewater rafting.

Tuscany Wine Estate Resort, Hunter Valley

Tuscany Wine Estate Resort is set on 10.5 hectares of prime Hunter Valley land, the heart of Australia’s premium wine country. And, it welcomes your precious pooch.

The four-star property offers four specialty dog rooms, situated at the end of each wing. Kirsty Woods, General Manager, says this is to help other guests feel comfortable: “Ideally, it’s to make sure that people with an allergy to animals aren’t affected by them, and also from a noise perspective.” Dogs, however, should still be on their best behaviour.

Kirsty says that preferably, only one dog is allowed in your room and there is a maximum size, up to 20kg. There is also an extra cost of $25 per night if you choose to bring your dog along.

Your dog is not allowed to stay in your room unattended. There are plenty of services around that can dog-sit if you choose to explore the area without your pooch. Kirsty recommends the Critter Sitters, who will come to the resort, walk your dog, and look after it in your absence.

The resort’s two restaurants, The Mill and Brokenback – BBQ and Tapas Bar, welcome your dog, however, only in certain areas outside the restaurant.

What’s in the area?

There’s plenty to do in the Hunter Valley, with or without your pooch. If you fancy a winery tour without the hassle of driving, there are many companies that will take you on a private or group tour to boutique and larger vineyards. These are usually on buses so you’d have to leave your dog behind.

Your dog can even sign up to the Pepper Tree Pet Club for some fantastic goodies that include a dog lead, a treat and a bottle of wine for you.

Alternatively, if someone is prepared to skip the wine, you can drive around the vineyards yourself. Many wineries in the area won’t be opposed to your dog visiting, as long as it stays outside. Kevin Sobel’s has a winery dog named Archie who will greet you at the Cellar Door, and he would probably love some company.

Pepper Tree Wines also welcomes your best friend to have a play with their winery dogs. Your dog can even sign up to the Pepper Tree Pet Club for some fantastic goodies that include a dog lead, a treat and a bottle of wine for you. Your dog will be given some water and treats on any visit to the winery. Pepper Tree Wines also has an annual Pooch Picnic featuring training demonstrations and trick shows as well as dog competitions.

To unwind from a hectic week, treat yourself to a massage at Tuscany Estate or if you’d rather the full package, head to one of the day spas in the area. Your dog can also be treated to a luxurious day with Ooh La La Pet Spa, which will bring its van to you for some pooch pampering including clipping and bathing.

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Fleas and ticks

With flea and tick season just around the corner, it’s crucial to understand how these critters operate and how to keep them at bay. 

It’s exceptionally easy for your dog to your dog comes into physical contact with get fleas, and it can be exceptionally another animal or environment that has difficult to get rid of them, especially fleas, it can get fleas too.

Fleas love the Australian climate and thrive during the summer months. Even the healthiest dog living in a flea-free environment can become infested if it comes into contact with a flea-infested environment. Fleas can also be brought into your home on your clothing, or on your dog after it has played outside.

While not contagious, fleas are transmittable. A flea’s strong hind legs enable it to jump from host to host, so if your dog comes into physical contact with another animal or environment that has fleas, it can get fleas too.

A common place to contact fleas is the great outdoors. Fleas lay their eggs in tall grass and when these eggs merge into adulthood, they can easily jump to their new home – your dog. Flea eggs can also get into your dog’s fur if it rolls around on the ground. While a flea that merely jumps onto your dog is easy to kill with preventative care, the problem really starts when the flea hatching process occurs on your dog’s body.

Once an adult flea has found its new home, it continues to feed on the blood of your dog and lay eggs. These eggs then hatch and larvae emerge, feeding on your dog as well. These larvae cocoon themselves, eventually hatching into adult fleas. The cycle repeats itself but this time with many more adult fleas.

Some eggs will fall off the dog and into the environment. This means that not only will your dog become infected, but its bed, kennel and any resting area will become contaminated as well. Only five per cent of fleas end up living on your dog making it just as important to de-flea your home.

When you have two or more dogs, the cycle can be very burdensome as, when one dog has fleas, your other dogs are bound to get them too. “It’s really important to treat all of the animals in the household,” Dr Heather Shortridge, veterinarian at the Armidale Veterinary Hospital says and, in a country area, this means your farm dogs too. “Sometimes people won’t treat their farm dogs, but they’ll treat their house dogs, so they’re always going to have fleas in the environment.”

Ticks can be found anywhere, but are most common along the Australian coastline, particularly in spring and early summer. Each year, thousands of dogs are infected with diseases transmitted by ticks.

Ticks in Australia include the brown dog tick and the bush tick, however, the most common, and dangerous, is the paralysis tick. Known as the Icodes holocyclus, the paralysis tick lies waiting in vegetation and when an animal passes, it attaches, sucks the blood and injects a neurotoxin called Holocyclotoxin, which is what causes the paralysis in the dog. A good way to distinguish which tick is on your dog is by looking at its leg. “If the legs in the middle are different colours to the front and back legs, then that’s a paralysis tick,” Heather explains. “But I think with ticks, if in doubt, have it checked out.”

Paralysis ticks can cause a loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, weak limbs and a change to the bark. Eventually, if not treated, paralysis ticks can lead to a coma, respiratory problems and even death.


You will usually know whether your dog has fleas by its excessive scratching. If your dog is allergic to fleas or ticks, it may start to bite its skin and it may lose fur.

If not treated properly, fleabites can turn into something more harmful to your dog. “A lot of animals will be hypersensitive to fleas so just one flea bite is enough

to set them off. They’ll get really itchy around the base of the tail. The problem then is that they start traumatising themselves because they’ll scratch and scratch and scratch and they’ll create a lot of the damage. They’ll get really horrible hotspots where they’ll get moist, red infected areas and they’ll be really uncomfortable,” Heather says.

There are different ways to treat fleas and ticks depending on the problem that presents itself. “Sometimes we’ll have to use different types of anti-inflammatories, sometimes we’ll use antibiotics and sometimes we use topical creams,” Heather says.

With ticks, Dr Tammy Acciari, veterinarian from the Central Coast Veterinary Centre at North Wyong says that the priority should always be removing the tick from the dog’s body rather than killing it. To do this, you can use a pair of tweezers or a specific tick twister.

She then recommends seeing a veterinarian immediately. “Once you have removed the tick, visit the vet to see if there are any signs of paralysis. Do not delay this check, because that is the best time to institute treatment if it is required. It is a good idea to take the removed tick with you in a plastic sleeve to the vet, so they can check if it was a paralysis tick or a bush tick.”

The Central Coast Veterinary Centre at North Wyong sees cases of tick paralysis all year and has two ventilators on hand. In the case of a paralysis tick, breathing can be paralysed. The ventilator breathes for the dog to allow the animal to recover.

The best form of treatment, however, is prevention.

Avoid fleas and ticks

The use of flea and tick prevention products is generally a good starting point. However, it is imperative you use the products according to what it says on the packaging and, if unsure, always check with your veterinarian. It is also important to continue to use flea and tick control products all year round, not just in the warmer months. “Once you are in the routine of regular flea and tick control, it will just become another routine part of looking after your dog. The most common mistake is, once it is controlled, to slacken off instead of keeping the program going to prevent another infestation,” Tammy says.

Prevention methods for fleas include treatments such as spot-on products, flea shampoos and spray on treatments. For ticks, you can fit your dog with a tick collar and there are products on the market that can be used topically. However, tick collars must be changed regularly and require care when fitted. “They are not suitable for puppies and must be placed on correctly so they do not slip off and get eaten,” Tammy says. Oral products tend to have an advantage because you don’t miss any area of your dog when administering it.

For multiple dogs, you must treat all of them, even if only one dog displays symptoms. “You must treat all in-contact pets with an appropriate product otherwise your flea control strategy is doomed to fail,” Tammy says. Heather recommends purchasing products in bulk to save some money and ensuring that all dogs are checked and treated at the same time saves time.

Tammy also recommends getting a tick reminder for the fridge that beeps when prevention control is due again. Another useful tip when it comes to saving cost with multiple pets is taking out pet insurance. This covers or lowers the cost of some treatments, which is especially important when it comes to a pricey concern like tick paralysis.

With ticks, it is also important for you to check your dog daily. Until they feed, ticks are quite difficult to see. However, if you can find a tick before it has been there too long, chances are the effect won’t be that bad. A veterinarian should still check your dog, as there may be some residual poison left by the tick.

Spot-on treatments, tablets and sprays will help to alleviate the chances of your dog getting fleas or ticks. However, it is not completely preventable. “It’s one of those things that is not 100 per cent avoidable because there are fleas everywhere but, by having really good flea control, owners can do a huge amount to reduce what their pets have to go through,” Heather says.

Treating the environment is just as important in ensuring your pet doesn’t fall victim to fleas or ticks. “Remember, the fleas you see on the pet may only be up to five per cent of the burden. The rest of the flea cycle is in your carpets and the environment,” Tammy says. This means making sure the grass is mowed, removing excess leaves and blocking off access to under the house. It also means regular vacuuming indoors and frequent washing of blankets and toys.

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Kindergarten pup

While a dog’s personality can vary depending on the breed, early socialisation plays an important role in its development. Puppy preschool is the ideal place to start. 

Socialisation is the process where a dog learns to relate to people of all ages, other dogs and other animals. It is during this development where a puppy begins to understand its individual and wider environment.

The nature verses nurture debate relates to animals just as much as humans and it’s important to remember that the process by which a puppy develops and learns will greatly shape the way it acts its whole life. Dogs that fail to receive sufficient exposure to other dogs, people of varying ages, other animals and new environments during the optimal socialisation period may develop irreversible fears. These fears can subsequently lead to timidity or aggression when the dog is faced with unfamiliar circumstances.

Socialisation most easily occurs before the puppy is three months old and starts in the home, as you develop your relationship as owner and pet. However, from three months onwards your puppy should be ready to leave the house and meet other dogs, and puppy preschool is the perfect place to begin.

Life lessons

Lucille Ellem has been a professional trainer for 45 years and is an Obedience judge. She runs a Kindergarten Puppy Education course and says that socialisation teaches a pup the skills its needs to cope as it grows.

“If a puppy is sheltered and protected and not shown what’s in the future, it doesn’t learn the skills it needs to cope with loud noises and things in the everyday world like wheelie bins, traffic, people and dogs,” says Lucille. “They’ll never be sure of themselves and will not gain what they need to become a well adjusted dog.”

Lucille, who specialises in teaching people to have a relationship with their dog, strongly believes that a puppy’s socialisation process is as much about the owner as it is about the dog. “If an owner doesn’t have a relationship with their dog, the dog won’t understand where it stands and where it is placed in the family unit; it gets confused.”

A puppy generally learns what is right and wrong from its litter, but when a puppy is adopted, it becomes the owner’s responsibility to teach these lessons. Taught incorrectly, the puppy will not be socialised properly. “Socialisation does not mean that puppies need to be forced into social situations. As long as it is surrounded by everything it will learn by hearing, smelling and seeing,” says Lucille.

Biting etiquette

One of the most important lessons that a puppy will learn at puppy school is bite inhibition, which refers to a dog’s ability to control the force of its biting. Bite etiquette is usually learnt from its mother and siblings, however, when a puppy is brought home its new family becomes its litter and its natural learning process ends abruptly.

For most young puppies, biting is a natural and essential part of growing up. However, puppies need to be trained to regulate and minimise biting. Puppy school and the socialisation process is where a puppy learns to control its bite. During play, a puppy’s playmate will react according to the force of a bite. If a puppy bites too hard,

its playmate will generally yelp loudly and back away, signalling that playtime is over. This can only be done through trial and error. A puppy will learn the strength of its bite and how hard is too hard. This will then be reflected in its playtime with other dogs and in its attitude towards humans.

Terrible teens

It is important to remember that socialisation does not end with graduation from puppy school, but continues well into adult development with a dog’s personality changing as it grows.

Much like a teenager, a dog can experience sudden personality changes during adolescence, which can happen at any time between six months and two years, depending on the breed and size.

A dog’s adolescence is that awkward stage between puppyhood and adulthood, and hormones significantly impact a dog’s personality. If you adopted your dog as a puppy and organised suitable training, you have an advantage.

“Dogs aren’t robots, they have a right to challenge you. They have a right to suss you out and if you get caught in the trap, then the dog will walk all over you,” Lucille says. “However, if the foundation is there in the beginning, the owner can go back to the dog’s initial training to remind it who is the leader.”

An easy way to deal with adolescence is to go back to basics. Emphasise everything a puppy learnt during puppyhood. An adolescent dog often reverts back to puppy behaviour, so it’s usually a matter of going back and revisiting the things you did at home with your puppy during training.

Keep it active, take it to parks to socialise with other dogs, pay attention and spend time with the puppy. This not only assures the puppy that it has your attention, but it also asserts your dominance, reinforcing your superiority.

Behavioural problems

When it comes to managing a puppy’s socialisation process, it’s important to recognise whether the puppy is exhibiting problem behaviour or behavioural problems and deal with the issue accordingly. Dr Kersti Seksel from Sydney Animal Behaviour Services deals with behaviour problems in animals.

“There is a big difference between a behavioural problem – which is what I call mental health issues – and problem behaviours, which is where training really comes in,” says Kersti.

Socialisation is a process that may help with the management of a genetic predisposition disorder. While a mental health issue in a dog cannot be cured, it can be managed, and with the right approach a puppy can lead a healthy, normal life.

Anxiety is a disorder that can significantly affect the way your puppy grows up and, without the right training and care, can lead to many behavioural problems including aggression. Kersti helps dogs to deal with anxiety through the 3M Program – behavioural modification, environmental management and medication. “What we do know is that any harsh methods, even yelling at the dog, can increase the chances of aggression by 25 per cent,” Kersti explains. “If your dog is anxious, the kinder and nicer you are, the better that dog is going to behave.”

While socialisation can’t cure a mental health issue in your puppy, avoiding the process can do much more harm than good.

Dogs are inherently social so it’s important to continue socialising your dog outside of any formal training. Take it to public parks or dog-friendly beaches, let your dog play with other dogs and become familiar with different environments. Give your dog the chance to understand that meeting new people and new dogs is a positive, playful experience.

If a dog learns that strangers and other dogs should be met with trust as a puppy, then it will carry this lesson into the future, meeting new encounters with the same positive, playful attitude.

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