By Kaitlyn Williams
As you drive up to 631 Azalea Road in Mobile, Alabama your eyes are immediately drawn to the pink and black sign, “Walks and Wags” is proudly displayed in bold-faced letters. Cindie Carter herself walks out with a warm smile, her eyes crinkling amiably. As she leads you out back you see several dogs bounding gleefully through a play tunnel, others splash in pools of water, and still more chase after tennis balls flying across the yard. It’s not a sight one sees very often, so many dogs playing together at the doggie equivalent of Disney Land, but for Cindy this is her everyday life. What once began as a hobby in college has morphed throughout the years into a successful enterprise. Walks and Wags provides services geared towards dog lovers. Among these are doggie play care, boarding, walking, sitting services, pet taxis, and even doggie parties for their clients!
The most unique service offered is doggie play care, aimed at pet owners who work long hours or travel frequently. Doggie play care is available four days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Much like two-legged day care, doggie play care follows a specific schedule of outside play, treats and a mid-day nap. Participating dogs must have all vaccinations and tests. A staff of seven cares for about 100 dogs each week. According to Cindie, it is important for people to understand that most bad canine behavior issues stem from lack of exercise and social interaction. “We get the dogs socialized in a group setting, teach them good manners and take care of any issues with stimulation, interaction and exercise.”
Though business is booming these days there was a time when Walks and Wags was just a fragmented dream. Six years ago Cindie was living in New Orleans, working on expanding her home-grown business when Hurricane Katrina hit. It left her city, home, and business in ruins. Cindie and her husband Larry had no choice but to pack all the belongings they could fit into two cars and evacuate to Mobile. At the time they didn’t know that they would never again return.
Shortly after settling in Mobile Cindie began thinking about her dog business once more. Hoping to expand on her ideas she attended a workshop offered by the Women’s Business Center of Southern Alabama called “Disaster Loan Seminar.” Cindie knew immediately that she needed to take advantage of the services and resources that the WBC had to offer. She scheduled an appointment with one of the center’s counselors and left feeling invigorated. Cindie shares that “the counselor treated me and my business dream with respect and enthusiasm. I was not treated like a refugee like other business
establishments were at the time.”
Through her contact with the Women’s Business Center Cindie was able to find out about the SBA disaster program. The program provided Cindie with a business disaster loan in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The loan was critical in assisting Cindie in purchasing equipment for her business as well as allowing her to market and spread the word about “Walks and Wags.” Cindie credits the Women’s Business Center for their assistance in turning her business dream into a reality. “I can’t put a measurement on what a difference they made. They helped me to the next step, applying for the loan. They set me up with a personal business counselor who helped me focus on networking and getting the word out about my business. I was encouraged to join the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, where I immediately received my first clients!”
Among her successes Cindie has struggled with various obstacles, chief among them in getting the zoning changed on her property from residential to commercial to legally operate. The process took over a year. Although frustrated with the slow progression Cindie marched through making the appropriate landscape and parking lot changes in order to obtain the crucial permit. When asked what she felt were her business’s strengths she confided that it was her persistence, her endless pursuit to learn and improve the business, and ultimately her ability to communicate with her clients and their canine companions. Additionally, “Walks and Wags” had its perfect niche, filling an often overlooked need within the community.
In addition to her regular business Cindie fosters dogs from local shelters that have socialization problems and helps find them homes; assists senior citizens in walking and exercising their dogs; and helps re-home shelter dogs and dogs that belong to the elderly who are no longer capable of taking care of them. Cindie’s generosity stems from a strong belief in giving back to the community that provides the life blood for her business. Beyond her work Cindie also volunteers at ARF and SPCA, among others.
So what’s next for “Walks and Wags?” Cindie has plans to obtain an enclosed building for the dogs to play in regardless of Mobile’s temperamental weather conditions. The building could also be used for additional space for boarding dogs, allowing them to double their capacity and revenue while generating more jobs within the business. On top of that when Cindie completes the expansion her business will have the city’s first enclosed facility for dogs. With the extra space Cindie could even expand “Walks and Wags” services to training clubs and educational classes. Cindie will continue to research ways to offer more services to her canine clients and in doing so will continue to strive to “Enrich the lives of dogs and their companions, one dog at a time.”
Photo by Pete Bellis
The dog turns to you (and away from distractions in the environment) the moment he hears his name. We are teaching the dog’s name to mean “look at me.” With practice, the dog’s response to his name will become an automatic, conditioned response.
The Name Game is one of the most useful tools in training because it taught your dog to listen to you. If you don’t have your dog’s attention, it’s hard to get anything else from your dog.
How to Teach it
Start practicing the Name Game at home, in a non-distracting environment. Have a clicker in one hand and treats in another.
Say your dog’s name, then click and treat. Click the moment he looks at you, and then deliver your food reward. So, there are three steps:
- Say your dog’s name
- Click when he turns and then
- Give him the treat
Tips for Success
1. When you practice, put both hands (with the clicker and treats) behind your back and then say the dog’s name. The reason for this is you don’t want to move your hand to deliver the treat until the dog responds to his name by turning his head to you. Otherwise, your dog will focus on your arm and hand movements rather than your verbal cue (his name).
With both hands behind your back, click the moment your dog turns his head towards you (away from his environment) or looks at you.
Quickly give him a treat after you click. But, don’t click at the same time you’re moving your hand to deliver the treat. Make sure you deliver the treat right after you click.
After you get the mechanics of saying the name, then clicking, then moving your hand to deliver a treat, you won’t need your hands behind your back.
2. Practice a minimum of seven times a day
3. Practice in each room of the house
4. Work when your dog is hungry
5. Use good treats—the mushier and smellier the better! Inside you should be able to use your dog’s kibble. In fact, have him earn part of his breakfast and dinner through training. Outdoors, use a variety of high value treats such as chicken, liver, or roast beef.
6. Do not reward your dog if he doesn’t respond to his name, and do NOT repeat the name. If you repeat his name, he will learn not to listen to you!
7. Reward each time your dog is successful, since we are building and instilling a behavior.
8. You can use activity rewards such as throwing a ball or proceeding out the front door for a walk.
9. Try not to use your dog’s name during the day outside of training. Otherwise, it could become background noise to your dog.
Photo by Mike Baird
Giving kisses on command is a favorite dog trick for many people, especially children. It also happens to be one of the easiest tricks to train a dog to do.
What You Need
Some yummy treats are all that you need to train a dog to give kisses. Peanut butter or cream cheese works well because it’s easy to smear a small bit on your cheek or hand.
Here’s How to Do It
- Take a little peanut butter or cream cheese and place a dab on your cheek (or wherever you would like your dog to kiss).
- Give the command “give kisses.”
- Lean towards your dog, and let him do the rest. He should be eager to lick the treat from your cheek.
- Practice this dog trick for a few minutes several times a day. It won’t be long before your dog comes over to give you a big kiss every time you give the command!
Does your Fido or Fifi have bad breath? Don’t ignore it but pay attention. That odor might signify a serious health risk, with the potential to damage not only your pet’s teeth and gums but its internal organs as well.
Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian for early signs of problems and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Have your dog’s teeth checked sooner if you observe any of the following problems: bad breath, broken or loose teeth, extra teeth or retained baby teeth, teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar, abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth, reduced appetite or refusal to eat, and pain or swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth.
What can you do at home to help with dental health?
Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings. This may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible and brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing but patience and training are important.
There are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, but not all of them are effective. Talk with your veterinarian about any dental products, treats, or dental-specific diets you’re considering for your pet, or ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.
While February is National Pet Dental Health Month, dental health should be a daily ritual for pet owners all year long.
Start by commanding your dog to sit, and reward him with a treat.
Next, hold a treat in front of him but slightly out of reach.
Repeat the command “high five” while gently tapping one of his feet. Most dogs will raise their foot to paw at the treat in your other hand.
As he raises his foot, catch it with your free hand. As soon as you make contact, give your dog the treat and lots of praise.
Keep repeating these steps until your dog raises his foot automatically every time you give the command.
If your dog needs a little encouragement to lift his foot off the ground, gently tap the inside of his knee with your finger until he bends his leg. As soon as his paw is off the ground, gently tickle the bottom of his foot to encourage him to raise it higher.
Continue to say the command slowly and firmly as you repeat the steps.
Walks & Wags
Weekday Hours for Daycare
Monday – Friday
Drop-off: 7:30 – 9:30 am
Pick-up: 2:30 – 6 pm
Closed daily: 12 – 2 pm
Saturday: 8am – 12pm
Sunday: 2pm – 6pm
We accept Cash, Checks, and Credit Cards.