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.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wag Swag

When a friend of mine taught a small group of buddies (including me) to bead, she started us out making zipper pulls. They are easy, quick, fun and a great way to learn the techniques for beading. And I almost immediately knew I wanted to use those simple techniques to make some doggy goodies. I call these Wag Swag (well, my friend Mary named them).  They are a handmade, custom plaque on top that holds beaded dangles for each obedience, agility, rally, etc. title a dog earns!
Sully's red and black themed Wag Swag.
Dot's purple Wag Swag and Taco's blue Wag Swag.  (Not too many on Taco's yet, I still consider him my baby dog.)
Mary's Chesapeake Bay Retrieve Lex's orange and blue sports themed Wag Swag.
Mary's (different Mary) Sheltie Neeco's brown and black themed Wag Swag. 

They can hang on your crate, purse, training bag or just on your bulletin board with your ribbons.  It's fun to add a new dangle on every time you earn a new title!  Do you do something special when your dog earns a title?
Ruckus the American Eskimo Dog Blog