In the first of a new column on pets, we welcome Twickenham vet Dr Enric Pallarois, to address some common concerns…
Q: I hear from a lot of people who are nervous about letting their new dog off the leash for the first time, or the safest way to let their new cat roam without fear of it getting lost. It’s understandable to be a little anxious, but here are a few tips that can help:
Dogs: use a long training leash or an extensible leash, to allow them to get further while you still have control and sight of them. The recall is another very important factor: always use the same word and positive reinforcement, like giving them a treat when they return to you after calling them.
After a few weeks you should be able to start allowing them to be off the lead: start with a few minutes and gradually extend the duration and eventually they should be absolutely fine off the leash.
It’s very important to socialise your puppies as early as possible after being vaccinated. This will help with being friendlier with other dogs and reduces the chances of them being attacked by other dogs. Before the pandemic we used to hold puppy parties at our clinic to help new doggies socialise with other young dogs. We used to invite puppies of different sizes and breeds – both owners and pets loved it!
Cats: start gradually. If you have a garden, start here while keeping an eye on them, and then bring them back in after a short period. Follow a routine with their feeding times, as cats have a great time perception and it’s very likely they would return home for feeding time. Be aware of any open shed doors or access to roads in case your cat gets scared and bolts while getting acclimatised. After garden-training, you can allow them to go out freely, first supervising them, and then it will be fine to leave them on their own.
Cats are much more independent than dogs and generally love spending time outside, only a few of them would enjoy being walked with a leash and harness, so don’t force them!
Top tip: neuter your male or female pet. Un-neutered dogs can be more difficult to control and un-neutered cats can walk really long distances and even spend days outside. Microchipping is required by law for dogs, but also very recommended for cats.
Dr Enric Pallarols is Branch Partner at Medivet in Twickenham