Thursday, October 23, 2014

Homemade Agility Slip Lead

I love to ogle pretty fleece agility leads online but knowing I have piles of fleece in my sewing room I decided to try to make one myself.  This is what I came up with.  Girly colors for Dot, of course! 
The leash is really short but it works.  Version 2 will have a longer leash and maybe even some of that fun cuddle fleece that's furry!  Of course, the fleece braided leash is totally pointless (besides being pretty) because Dot is NOT interested in tugging on a leash, don't be crazy, that is what bad dogs do!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chair of a VST!

This past spring I was the secretary/chair for our club's Variable Surface Tracking (VST) test. This was my very first experience chairing a dog event and I was a little nervous about all the preparations and paperwork. I think I chose well when I picked the VST because it is SMALL and has limited preparations needed. Our club has a great relationship with the local community college, who lets us use the grounds on the weekend for free so I was set for venue. Judges were already contracted so I didn't have to worry about that. Paperwork wise, I created the premium, then entries started arriving and I kept track of those. Once the test closed, I contacted those that had made it in, those that were alternates and created the program to send to everyone.
This picture shows the judging program and the key fobs I made as the draw item.  Draw items are what are used to determine running order: each entrant draws an item (key fob in this case) and on the back of each one is a number.  That will be the number of the track they get.

The day before a tracking test is plotting day, when all the details of the tracks are figured out by the judges, walked by the judges and tracklayers, placing flags as reminders for the next day. Then everyone goes for a late lunch together once all the tracks are plotted. The big day came, I picked up coffee and doughnuts and got there extra early to greet all the entrants as they arrived. Surprise, one of our tracklayers couldn't make it!   I wasn't planning on being a tracklayer but I was prepared with spare articles and boots on so I laid their track when the proper time came. Then I followed along behind the dog and handler and judges, watching the dog sniff and snorf along the first leg, make the first turn only to struggle after that. That's when my job came in. As a tracklayer, you hope you never need to help but when the dog is no longer on the right track and gets whistled off, the tracklayer assists the team to get back to the right path and complete the entire track to find all the articles.

At the end of the day, we had no passes but that is not abnormal for a VST test.  We all had a fun day together, watching each dog run, talking about training and trying to stay dry on a bit of a drizzly day.  Afterwards, we went to lunch together and I gave the judges their thank you gifts:
This for a judge with Belgian Turvurens.
And a double-sided pillow for a judge with Whippets and Cirneco dell’Etna.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tasty Tuesday - Grandma Lucy makes more than biscuits!

Chewy again let us try out some tasty treats, this time it was Grandma Lucy's Freeze-Dried Tiny Tidbits Meatballs CheeseBurgers Dog Treats.  I am familiar with Grandma Lucy's oven baked treats, you might know them as the teddy bear-shaped dog cookies.  :)  But I didn't know they also make freeze dried treats.
See the adorable painting of Dot at the top?  (Not painted by me but totally captured her adorable pout.)
I used these as rewards for training during classes AND I used them as treats on tracks laid for Dot.  We have re-started tracking from the very beginning so she gets treats on the ground every couple of yards. These seemed to really get her interested, even more so than cheese so they must smell pretty great!

A nice thing about these freeze dried treats is that unlike other freeze dried items, these are ground meat mixed with a few other ingredients which seemed to make them way less crumbly.  They easily broke in half for smaller rewards but didn't turn to powder in my pocket or hand, which was great!




Friday, October 10, 2014

4-H Fun Night Quiz Contest

Here a little quiz for you!  (Answers are at the end of this post.)

1. How many breeds does the AKC currently register?
a. 154
b. 165

c. 178

d. 189



2. What is the name of the first dog listed in the AKC Stud Book?    
 
3. What is another name for ascarid (the most common internal parasite)?  
4. What is the common name for the term coprophagia?    
a. Eating dirt and stones
b. Eating feces
c. Eating plastic
d. Eating paper


5. Which of the following is not a type of vertebrae?
a. 
Cervical
b.
Thoracic
c.  
Lumbar
d.
Sublingual

6. True or False: You must have achieved a qualifying score in order to receive a ribbon in a non-regular obedience class?    
7. The obedience jumps are how wide?
a. 4 feet
b. 5 feet
c. 6 feet
d. anywhere between 4 and 6 feet

________________________________________________________________
Those are just a few of the questions that were included in our Quiz Contest for 4-H Fun Night at the Dog Training Club.  
Labeling the anatomy poster.

I put together stations with questions in several categories: Breed identification, Health (disease, parasites, breeding, preventative care, etc.), Anatomy and AKC rules and regulations.  
I was super-proud of my Barbie doll obedience handlers!  They gave examples of hand position for the Novice on-leash heeling.

Groups of two (one 4-Her and one adult Dog club member) revolved around the stations, filling their answer sheets for the questions are each station.  Some of the stations had visual aids, like pictures of different breeds to identify or an anatomy chart to label.  
These two are trying to decide what breeds are shown in the pictures.

These visual aids came from our Dog Learning Lab Kit, a fantastic teaching tool!  At the end, we self-graded our scoresheets as we went over the answers presented on a PowerPoint presentation.  The evening was a lot of fun and there were awards for kids and adults! 

Ok, ready to grade yourself?
1. c. 178 (not including the Foundation Stock Service Breeds in the Misc class)
2.  Adonis (an English Setter)
3. Roundworms
4. b. Eating feces
5. d. Sublingual
6. False
7. b. 5 feet

How did you do?  Do you think you need to get back into 4-H and learn or could you be the teacher?

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Box Game-A Lesson for Handlers

First Monday of the month, it's Positive Pet Training Blog Hop time!  The theme this month is 101 Things to do with a Box and I just happen to have a very recent story all about it!
I just taught a short course at our Dog Training Club called Clicker 101/Tricks.  During the first meeting I covered clicker basics like priming the clicker, timing, body language, adding cues, etc.  Then each class after that we covered a different type of training and how to apply the clicker.  Luring and using a clicker to mark the exact moment the dog is in the correct position.  Capturing behaviors the dog naturally offers with a clicker.  And, of course, shaping.  Teaching shaping, what I would consider the most useful for teaching tricks, was by far the hardest!  And by that I mean it was hardest to teach to the HANDLERS!
I don't have any pictures of the box game so you get pics of the dogs enjoying the outdoors.  This is classic Dot, watching birds and squirrels, ready to run!
The class had all had experience with traditional training, mostly with treats and leash corrections.  So when I introduced free shaping, I tried to explain that you will not start out with the final product but will instead take whatever the dog offers and move on from there to create the final picture that you had in mind.  One trick we introduced was sitting on a Bosu ball.  Instantly they all wanted to give their dog commands to get then into position.  One handler said "if I give her a " paws up" command, I know she'll put her feet on it."  But the class was about learning a new skill, not using old skills to get your dog to do each trick.  Another trick was teaching the dog to flick a light switch.  Handlers were pointing to the switch, putting treats at the switch and giving "go touch" commands instead of simply waiting and letting the dog puzzle it out for themselves.
And classic Taco, sunbathing in the hottest part of the yard.  He is solar-powered and needs to recharge.
FINALLY, I had to admit to myself and the class that I had obviously not explained it well enough.  I broke out the box game!  The rules are simple, concrete, and easy to explain.  NO COMMANDS!  NO LURING, POINTING, OR COACHING!  Just waiting and watching for the slightest inclination of the dog showing interest in the box.  And it took what seemed like a very long time to the handlers, (but was actually less than 5 minutes) for the dogs to start looking at, sniffing, stepping, pawing, licking and otherwise recognizing the box as something to interact with.

And it finally dawned on the handlers that their dogs have minds of their own!  They are smart and capable beings that don't need to be handheld through every step of their lives.  Next time I teach this class, we will start with the box game and the instructions to "Shut up and learn."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

DogVacay Experiences

Almost a year ago, I joined DogVacay.com with the idea that I could easily look after an extra dog now and then in our home.  
This adorable gang of Keeshonds (including two that didn't make it into this picture) are regular customers when their owner is out of town.  I go to their house 3 times per day, feeding, playing and giving medications. (One of them is diabetic and gets insulin injections, the elders get pain, incontinence and arthritis meds.)
That was when we just had Dot, who is so easy going she'll accommodate just about anything, including strange dogs taking up residence in our house.  We did have the cat, who slightly complicates matters, but he is easy enough to partition off in his own section of the house.
Chelle joined us for daycare one day while her family had a party and didn't want her to have all the stress of people coming in and out.
 Then we got Taco and I thought I might never even get to have my first Guest Dog because I wasn't sure he would be as accepting of other dogs as Dot is.  But he LOVES other dogs.  Taco is our resident puppy-wearer-outer!  Our Guest Dogs have an awesome, tiring stay because Taco keeps them busy and engaged.  This helps them sleep well at night and be happy and relaxed, not anxious during their stay.
Taco playing the gracious and outgoing host.
I do about 50% boarding in our house and 50% pet care visits to other people's homes to look after their pets there.  There is another DogVacay host in the area that only boards small dogs, so we find most of our clients are in the medium to large category.  Which is just fine with us!
This is what most days with a large, young, playful guest look like.  A pack of dogs, playing happily and wearing each other out.
We have had, for the most part, great experiences with our DogVacay Guests.  I like that the site provides insurance in case an accident happens and I need to take a Guest to the vet.  I like that it is a national site that directs local traffic to me specifically.  We recently had two dogs from Wisconsin stay in our house for daycare while their owner was attending a conference here in town.  There is no way they would have known about my service without the DogVacay website.
Isn't this little guy a doll?  He was one of our Wisconsin visitors.
The Concierge (as they call their customer service) is always easy to get a hold of, either on the phone or through email.  I always get a polite, helpful response.
Doc is just a baby but still awesome!  He has another Flat Coat brother and a Chocolate Lab brother.  I visit them all in their own home when their owner is away.
Still, I am not completely happy with DogVacay's web services for Hosts.  I wish there was a way to customize my site but they offer zero customization options beyond adding pictures.  For example, the largest button on the site (and the one that people most often click on) is the "Make a Reservation" button which is for overnight reservations at the regular rate.  But almost no one wants that, everyone has special requests, circumstances, situations and questions.  So I'd like the largest button to be the one to contact me and ask questions.  Not an option currently on DogVacay.
Yoli, a repeat guest and queen of the head tilt!
I'd also like to be able to send an attachment when I send someone a message through the site but this is not currently possible.  I have a form for them to fill out including their pet's regular daily schedule, complete contact information and a letter for them to sign for the vet authorizing me to request emergency care for their pet.  I have to print this out and get it to them before their pet's stay so they can fill it out and bring it instead of just attaching it to a message.
Tittle lives with the Keeshonds and needs daily medication rubbed into his ear.



There are some other problems with the host dashboard, issues with Custom Quotes (their way of dealing with special requests/situations like daycare, hourly rates, etc.),  and there is no easy way to view all past Vacays in chronological order or get a list of your customers so you can send out a mass email about availability/specials/etc.  For the 15% they take out of every booking, I feel like the site is not quite as useful as it easily could be.
Taffy is an adorable older lab who could pretty much take care of herself if she had thumbs to open the door.
I have met some really fun pets and their people through DogVacay!  And we've had (mostly) fun with all the pets that have stayed with us or that I have gone to visit.  We have only had two what I would call bad stays.  Smaller dogs that just didn't enjoy being away from home (eg. not sleeping on their owner's bed every night).  They were not bad dogs, they were just uncomfortable.  I made suggestions to the owners on things they could do to get them used to being crated and being away from home and they were very receptive.  Show dogs (agility, obedience, conformation) are the BEST guests because they are used to being crated in numerous different locations.

So where do you dogs stay when you're out of town?  Do you think they good guests?  I'd like to think our dogs, being used to crating and travel and such are good guests.  And I'd hope the friend that we board our dogs with would tell me if they weren't!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DIY tugs and toys

DIY toys save me a BUNCH of money. We still have to shell out actual money for Kongs and Bionic toys for everyday chewing but for training toys we mostly get by with homemade.
This picture includes two of Taco's favorites.  The first is what we call the strap.  It's the side of an old leather purse wrapped around strong nylon webbing and sewn down the middle.  It is reinforced with rope (the white you can see) and the webbing is sewn to create a loop handle on either end.

The other toy is simply a tennis ball (which we can get in mass quantities for FREE from the university tennis center, ask around your own area to see if you can too) with a whole drilled in it and a rope threaded through.  This makes it much easier to use for training because you can whip it out of your back pocket with the rope and tug with it without ever letting go.
This is my own version of a mesh treat pouch.  It is just a rectangle pocket of mesh laundry bag material the closes up with velcro.  I attached mine to a fleece braid to make it easier to toss and tug with.  This was made for Dot before we started using a food tube instead.  Note that I bought my "food tube" from Home Depot, not CleanRun.  Same thing, but without the shipping charge.

These are examples of fleece braid toys like the one attached to the treat pouch above.  These are great for tugging and motivation.  The top two are four strand braid (tutorial here) and the bottom one WAS a three strand braided toy with loop handle like these instructions.  Fleece toys don't last long in our house, that's why we make our own!  Fleece is cheap when it's on sale and you can get several toys out of a yard or two.

Do you make your own toys?  Have any unique tips or tutorials?

Friday, September 19, 2014

DIY Agility- Mini Teeter

When we started doing agility, I knew I'd have to make a few pieces of equipment so we could get practice in between weekly classes.  We had tons of jumps already but I knew the contacts would be very different from anything we'd done before so I wanted to have at least small versions here at home.  I am super cheap so when I found a Little Tykes teeter totter at a garage sale for $1 I knew I had the base for a mini teeter of our own!  I started it's transformation by cutting off the handles.
Then I cut a board to fit on top of the teeter.  The shorter board you see is a mini contact trainer that I can set on blocks to create a dog walk effect for teaching two on-two off.  I gave each a base coat with paint I had left over from painting the basement (yellowish orange) and my husband's office (blue).  Then over the wet coat of paint I spread sand.
After that dries, brush off the loose sand and paint over it with another coat of paint.
Ta-da, finished painted and sanded boards.
I attached the board to the base with long lag bolts and weighted one end with a bag of sand stuffed into the seat of the teeter totter.  It's pretty small, but it works for teaching bang it on the end to get them used to the noise and also gets them used to movement under their bodies without investing in a full-sized teeter.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DIY Agility-Our 2x2 weave poles

So, Dot and I are new to agility.  Dot is now in her fourth agility class (our club has 8 levels, so halfway through!).  We have worked weave poles almost exclusively in our basement using homemade 2x2s.  I used this DIY Tutorial from Ammo the Dachshund and it worked like a charm.  Dot can now sail through a set of 6 weaves

You can see the beginning stage of the 2x2 process in this video from January 2014:


And at 25 seconds, you can see her hop-hopping through a set of 6 like a pro, August 2014:


Why did I pick 2x2s?  Our club teaches channels, and uses 2x2s only for entries so they never progress past one set of 2.  I decided I liked the definite progression that 2x2s give you so stuck with it on my own.  I work well with a step-by-step, mini-goal program for training, with very clear signs to move on to the next step.  2x2s gives those concrete goals for moving on so there isn't any gray area. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Utility Scent Article Options

So, you're ready to start training and competing in Utility.  Sure, places like J&J and Max200 offer the standard sets of articles.  You can have your choice of single, double or triple bar.  And triangle or square ends.  But your set will look like everyone else's.  And you'll be paying over $100 for your set that looks like everyone else's.  If you're cheap like me.....or you just want to be different, you do have other options.

AKC does not require any specific type of article, the just need to be similar, numbered and sized appropriately for your dog.  You can make your own and not only be as unique as you want, but also super frugal!

Metal ideas: metal shoe horns, bent spoons, cabinet/drawer pulls,  lengths of aluminum pipe, small tins/cans (altoid, spam, tomato juice, etc), bottle openers

Leather ideas: small leather ammo pouches/belt loop knife holsters, coin purses, pieces cut from a thick leather belt, braid leather and glue/stitch together to create rings

Baby shoes with vinyl decal numbers. (photo source)
A complete set with baby shoes and canning rings.  It's important to note that your leathers all need to be identical and the metals need to be identical but the leathers and metals can be different objects.  (photo source)

 CloudsandCompany makes sets using leather and metal rings, but this gives you another idea for using canning rings.  (They also make really adorable embroidered article bags!)
If you can sew, you can make your own mesh article bag.  This is a great pattern and calls for vinyl mesh, often called "pet screen" which you can find at fabric stores by the yard.

This free pattern doesn't include the side pockets.  But it's free!

Here's a free tutorial that uses more flexible mesh and has a drawstring.

You can also just stow your articles in a mesh laundry bag or a string backpack that has a mesh panel (I get these often at 5Ks).

Not handy?  Good thing there are others who are!
ObedienceProducts.com has very basic sets in leather, wood and metal and you can buy each separately for a good price.

OtchArticles.com has basic sets, but can do custom vinyl decals to cute-ify them!  And they are also the makers of the wooden carrying case you sometimes see (which can be decorated with wood-burned details!).

Got more money than God and want a super-custom set?  Scents-A-Bell offers colors, colors and more colors!
Or if you're a fan of tooled leather, Pat Scribner creates the most gorgeous custom articles and anything you can dream of can be on your articles!

There you have it!  Be creative with your articles, don't be afraid to buck the traditional dumbbells and make your own unique set of articles or ask Santa for a super-custom set.