What is my dog likely to eat at Desperate Dogs?

Your dog is a carnivore and needs to eat flesh to satisfy his digestive system, his teeth, and his brain….his ‘primal’ need to eat flesh. Todays commercial dog foods very rarely have a high percentage of meat, they use cheap, filler proteins like corn and nasty by-products or even, in the recent pet food catastrophe, melamine, in the case of the Chinese Gluten additives. Yes, melamine is the stuff kitchen counter tops are made of. Go figure……

We feed a top quality home made wet food that is based on the dogs dietary needs of fresh meat and vegetables. The protein we use is always top of the range human grade [of course] turkey, beef, lamb, fish or organic chicken. We stick to around 25% protein, although for puppies and older dogs, we increase the protein ratio and calcium intake with free range eggs and dairy foods like cottage cheese.

The vegetables we use in the food are cooked root vegetables like potatoes, parsnip, carrots etc, and very lightly cooked green veggies like spinach, green beans, peas, turnip greens, etc. We also add fruit like cranberries, apples or wild blueberries as these are full of antioxidants and a powerful resource in the canine body’s fight against infection.

Won’t my dog get sick changing up his food? Shouldn’t it be mixed by ever increasing ratios over a week or two to stop him getting diarrhea?

I hate to say this, but most vets get very little nutritional schooling at veterinary school. Of the three vets I use, only one has studied nutrition in any great depth.

Firstly, no one brand of dog food is going to give your dog all he needs. It may have a whole spectrum of goodies in it, and a list of vitamins a mile long but it won’t/can’t give your dog everything he needs just like you cant eat beef stew with vegetables every day for the rest of your life and not be nutritionally deficient.

Your body, and your dogs body, needs different protein sources, different levels of fat, different levels of carbohydrates to cope with many different changing environmental and physical factors. What the dog needs in the winter might be totally different to what the dog needs in the summer, if the dog is running all day and working, hes for sure going to need a lot more protein on those days than on days that he is resting. Would you eat that beef stew if you were recuperating form a surgery or a cold? Or would your body be crying out for an omelette? Would it be saying ‘chicken soup please’?
Think how on a hot day, would not you be crying out for a salad? Thats your body telling you what it needs to cope with its environment and climate.

If you eat a chicken salad on tuesday and a plate of Thanksgiving dinner on wednesday, are you going to get sick? No. And neither will your dog. The advice vets give us about sticking with the same dog food and never changing it up for fear of a bad stomach is born out of a scare tactic employed by pet food companies that wish to instill brand loyalty. When those pet food companies sponsor veterinary colleges, they have a unique opportunity to spin the same craziness to veterinary students, and it is mostly believed sadly. Here at Desperate Dogs, we have been looking after dogs for years and pretty much the only time we see upset stomachs is when the dog in particular cant eat a certain food item [one of our regular visitors cant entertain beef liver, which was only discovered because he had it here!] or the dog has been vaccinated in the previous ten days.

We give a varied diet to give jaded dogs back their palate, to bring happiness to bored dogs who have been eating the same thing for years, and most importantly, to give the widest possible amount of nutrients, thereby increasing the dogs health.

When we walk down the stairs with a steaming pot of turkey and vegetables, noses are up, tails are wagging and everyones excited.Fresh food smells better, it tastes better and it IS better for you and your dog.

Not a single living creature was designed by God to eat the same dehydrated, dehydrolised, processed, extruded junk every day….but we humans do it to our dogs all the time

We never mix the food in increasing ratios, as it would be too complex a mix of proteins, and would create way too much confusion in the digestive system. Would you put 25% turkey and duck food in a bowl with anchovy and herring based food as the remaining 75% and not expect problems? Thats an awful lot of confusion going on in the poor dogs stomach. Regular change works with more limited ingredients though. Our clients are living proof of it.

I don’t agree with a thing you just said and want my dog to have the experience of Desperate Dogs, but bring my own Iams/ Pedigree/Science Diet dog food. Is that okay?

No, I’m afraid not. Desperate Dogs Ranch is a mainly holistic facility that will not entertain poor quality dog foods on the premises. Plus, how fair is it on your dog when everyone else is eating chuck steak, roasted veggies and greens that smell divine and your dog is stuck with a bowl of cardboard full of artificial colours and preservatives? We feel thats like Santa Claus leaving a child out, so we won’t do it.

My dog has medical issues that mean he can only eat a certain brand of dog food. Is that okay?

Yes, we can accommodate those types of situations, but we will need an explanation from your vet as to any medical issues that would affect your dogs stay. We would also ask you to consider speaking to our holistic pet practitioner to see if certain fresh foods can be introduced in to the diet to help with healing.

Do you charge for administering medications? My dog has to have diabetes shots twice a day.

No, we don’t charge for that, all we ask is that the meds are clearly labelled and that your vet knows that we are taking care of your dog in case we have questions.

Why don’t you offer multiple dog discounts? My last boarding place did and I have two dogs.

We offer a quality service based on small numbers and provide attention to detail and individual care to each and every dog in our care. It doesn’t make any difference to us if we have two dogs from the same family or from different families, we still only have couch space for about 8 large dogs!

Some facilities that can take large numbers of dogs offer discounts because they maybe can put two or three dogs in a pen at one time saving space and allowing up room for other guests. We pride ourselves that all our guests are cage free [apart from potty training puppies and dogs that prefer crates in thunder storms etc] and enjoying a true hotel experience here. More guests mean less care per dog, so we do what we do in a smaller way and give each dog more attention because of it.

My dog is old but needs more care than being left in a concrete run all day, can he come to Desperate Dogs Ranch and have fun?

Oh yes! First of all, old doesn’t mean finished…it just means slower! We temperament test all of the dogs that come here and try to book older dogs in at a time when we have a less energetic/frenetic pack staying. Having said that, we have separate suites decorated like your living room at home where the older dog can rest comfortably if he or she requires a little more peace and quiet and we are more than happy to walk older dogs or recovering dogs separately. One of our favourites, Bear Nelson, was a beautiful old boxer of 15 who came to us like a sedate old gentleman but actually found his mojo at the ranch! He was chasing around one of our younger female guests like a love sick teenager much to our amusement and had the time of his life. He left here with a spring in his step for sure…We miss you Bear, rest comfortably old friend.

My dog has some issues socialising with other dogs, does he have to be kept separate?

It depends… As a behaviourist, I notice that most dogs have issues socialising when their owners are present and are perfectly fine when their owners are not there. Whilst that sounds unkind, please think to your own actions when you take your dog out and how much you influence your dogs behaviour. Perhaps you tighten the leash in your hand when you see two large pitbulls or great danes approaching? Or perhaps you pick your little pomeranian up when another dog comes along in case the other dog bites him? All understandable in the school of human thought, but to a dog, those actions rob him of conversing with his own species on his own terms, at his own pace. The dog doesn’t realise that he’s tiny, but by picking him up, you make him 6 feet tall and give him an attitude ‘cos he’s got momma at his back- not a great idea really is it?

And would you interfere in all of your daughters interactions with her school friends, talking for her, standing in front of her so she cant speak, not letting her look at them? Not a great idea for her social development is it?  And not for your dog either…
Dogs that are fearful/ apprehensive require two things… time and distance. If we give them that, and ensure that all other dogs do too, they can pretty much figure things out on their own and grow in their confidence learning experientially and vicariously. That’s what we let them do here at the ranch. There’s always a human in charge. No one is allowed to bully or be bullied, but everyone interacts together in time.

That being said, we do take in dogs from time to time that have more serious issues than mild socialisation issues. If we feel that other dogs would be at risk, we keep those dogs separate; they use a separate entrance and are not allowed to interact with guest dogs while we work with them. With these dogs, we operate a board and train programme starting at $75 per day, and we work with them to socialise them using our own concierge dogs as our training partners to help show them what acceptable behaviour is. The two dogs that work with me to rehabilitate dogs, Levi and Freddie, are incredibly experienced in these matters and bring a wealth of confidence and unflappability to aggression issue problems. We are happy to discuss your dogs unique situation and advise on a course of action accordingly. We have many success stories we can share with you.

With all these dogs running around off leash aren’t there lots of fights?

We understand here that dogs aren’t robots, and that fights might happen but we take huge steps to minimise the chances of fights by understanding the psyche of the dog and what causes most fights.

Firstly, territoriality… None of the dogs that visit here owns it: this is neutral territory for all of the dogs and they all understand that. Secondly, no toys or possessions belong to the dogs… I don’t want you to bring their favourite toys or dog beds or blankies, as they will get possessive [as they should!] if another dog tried to get it off them. We don’t do toys here as nature has provided us with a million sticks, sand to roll in, puddles to jump in and meadows for running. We sometimes put out a football if the dogs are the pack that can play with it nicely, or a tug rope, but only for certain groups. Every situation is judged individually.

They are all quick to learn that this is my territory and I say what happens here. It is not that I am a megalomaniac, its just that a human has to be in charge for any domesticated pack to work and flow correctly. If things get out of hand, I’m the one to say a sharp No, or a loud ‘AANK AANK’ to break the moment. At times we will drop a metal bowl to use a sound diversion if one of the dogs is ‘fixing’ on another. We do not allow bullying tactics, such as one dog biting another on the back of the neck in play as that is a very predatory behaviour, or one dog forcing another onto its side. If dogs attempt such things, we either use ‘no or ‘break’, if we are ignored, we throw a metal bowl to the ground. In very rare circumstances we may utilise a water spray to halt a threatening behaviour.

We never wrestle dogs to the ground and put them on their side, we never use the punch that has become so popular since Cesar Millan started airing on TV, we prefer to lead in a more aloof hands off fashion.

If you open the door to aggression with any dog using force methods, they will walk through it. In the same way that bullying a child teaches them to bully others. Its no different really…..

My dog came home from your place and didn’t talk to me for two days… do you sell Prozac to help him cope with coming home?

Ha! This is a real question I get asked all of the time with clients tongues firmly in their cheeks! Re-entry is a problem for some dogs, particularly those with no freedom at home or no big fenced yard,dogs that are left alone for long periods of time, or maybe those that arent allowed to sit next to their owners on the furniture.

At the Desperate Dogs Ranch, we try to be the equivalent of Sandals for dogs! Your dogs’ entire stay is going to be all about his comfort, his need for adventure, friends and conversing with his own species, which is, in itself, very comforting.. a tough act to follow when they get home. Whilst it may be tough seeing your dog pout because he had to come home, just think how comforting it’ll be every time you go away, having no feelings of guilt that your beloved pet is sat in a concrete box, no one to talk to, nothing to do. We have a 100% return rate here at Desperate Dogs because clients have such a great time and their owners can see it!

I’ve read your website, like the look of what you offer, and would like to come for a visit… What do I need to know?

Firstly all visits are by appointment as we have off leash dogs here, and we need to make sure that your dog is going to be here for a meet and greet at a time when we are not doing rehab work. Plus this is our home and sometimes we have an hour off here and there if the dogs are taking a nap.

We can’t ever have children under 16 on site, however badly they want to see the place, because of safety issues.
When you come for a meet and greet, we would like you to bring with you your completed application form and shots records. Our Dept of Agriculture kennel licence mandates us to have full details of the dog and its owner/ emergency contact details/ health records etc before we can have custody of that dog so please be sure to bring this with you.

Please, we do not allow shock collars, pinch collars or choke chains on the premises at all. If your dog is wearing one, you will be asked to remove it at the gate as this goes completely against our ethos of dog handling. We do not allow any torturous equipment at all, so flat collars and martingale collars only please.

Lastly…. when you arrive, call us on the phone to let us know you are here and wait in the car for us to come and get you. We look forward to meeting you.

Why don’t you accept dogs over six months old if they’re not neutered or spayed?

The reason is two fold…dogs who are unaltered may impregnate a female while here, and most of my clients do not want a litter of puppies, thank you very much.

Secondly, if you put one intact male into a group of altered males, he unwittingly becomes the alpha dog of sorts, as he is the only one who can reproduce. The other dogs would be fully aware of this, but if that dog isn’t a born alpha figure and is a submissive dog, the other dogs would see him as an interloper, someone who has all the rights but not the skills and confidence of an alpha. Thus he would be a target for being toppled from his lofty position. Other dogs would be constantly driven to show he’s not worthy of such a high position and he’d not have a very nice stay here.

Lastly, we work in rescue and believe that unless someone is an exceptional breeder with incredibly high standards of care and knowledge in their field,with dogs that are being bred for certain qualities with perfect pairing and safe breeding practices, then all dogs should be fixed to prevent the over population of unwanted dogs that proliferate our society. Your shelter is full of amazing pets wanting a good home, with thousands being put to sleep every year because there are more dogs than homes. Why would anyone wish to breed when they can save a life?

Why do you charge $30 for an evaluation?

We take the interview and evaluation seriously and want to give your dog the best possible first exposure to the ranch. We will spend at least an hour with you, we will get to know your dog, his needs, the type of other dogs he is drawn to. We will walk in the meadow together, rest a little together, and then walk some more…bonding through motion, just as dogs do. Your dog will be put so much more at ease by going through this process and it will make his actual stay here far more enjoyable. We like to discuss any behavioural problems that your dog has at this evaluation, and see how they might impact other dogs or humans during the dogs’ stay, we also try to give advice on certain issues where appropriate. As this is an off leash facility, we have to introduce our own ’employee’ dogs very carefully to prospective guests before we allow mixing with the pack of guest dogs. This process takes time and skill on our part, plus there is always risk involved when working with unknown dogs off leash.

What vaccinations are required for my dog to stay at the DD ranch?

For younger dogs we require that they be up to date on all yearly vaccinations except Bordatella, which we only require in certain rare cases. Kennel cough is a disease that breeds in an enclosed environment with limited air flow. There are multiple strains of Bordatella, of which your dog will only contract one, thus we feel that the vaccination can in some cases be a waste of time. We believe that plenty of fresh air, good food, good ventilation and good rest is the best defense against the disease.

Dogs can get serious complications after being vaccinated, especially if the poor dogs’ body is battling multiple disease vaccinations at the same time, which can be a major assault on the dogs immune system.

For that reason, we prefer that all dogs do not visit the ranch for one week after vaccinations. That way, the dog will not be feeling under the weather when he or she visits the ranch and will cope with the change of environment far more easily.

Pick up and Drop off times

All dogs need to be dropped off at 9 am, on every day but Sunday when drop off/ pick up is at 9:30 am.
We cannot take your dog in any earlier than that as we feed at 8 am and do not allow any ins or outs for one hour later so as not to excite the dogs while they digest their meal.
Pick up, if not at nine am, is by arrangement. We offer pick up at 5 pm before dinner, 7 pm after the 6 pm dinner, but ask that you give us a heads up by phone or text if you are picking up other than 9 am so that we can plan meals and staff to fit in.
Our charges work on a 24 hour basis from 9 am to 9 am (unless we have you booked in for daycare) and so picking up the night before does not lessen your bill in any way as your space is reserved for you until 9 am and cannot be filled by another dog.
We ask you to be sensitive to the fact that this is our home and to refrain from knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell and to call the number on the gate if we haven’t come out by the prearranged drop off or pick up time.