Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Card Pictures

Holiday portrait time!  The cat didn't make it into the picture this year since we went to a portrait event at church and it was hard enough to get two dogs to pose for a happy family picture.  In the top picture, Taco is balanced on a wobbly pedestal table, hence his unsure glance.  Dot is thinking "What on earth is going on, why am I on mom's lap?"  Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I collect turkeys year round but they only get to come out during November!  Here is this year's display, spreading the Thanksgiving cheer!

And these two clowns are ready for Christmas season!  I need to get to work on their presents for this year or they will be sad little elves.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tooth Gel Show-Down

Let the games begin!  I have two brands of doggy oral care gel and we'll be using each one every day for 30 days.

First up, PetzLive Oral Care Gel with Wild Salmon Oil.  I bought this gel before I knew Dot was allergic to fish.  This gel helped me figure that out, in a horrible, disgusting way!  For that reason, Taco will be the test dog for this brand.  Note that they make a version without salmon oil but I thought the dogs would prefer the taste of this one.  Despite it having salmon oil high on the ingredient list, it smells strongly of mint and nothing like fish.  And Taco started out hating it with a passion, bucking like a bronco to get away from the highly-minty smell and taste.  But he's over it now, I just catch him in the evening when he's sleepy on my lap and apply it with my finger.

Taco's before picture:
You can see Taco is still young but he is starting to accumulate some tartar.
And the opponent, TropiClean Clean Teeth is allowing me to test out this product free of charge so thanks Chewy!  This gel also smells of mint, but a little less potent than PetzLife.  The bottle of gel also came with a free sample of their Fresh Breath + Plus Pre Biotic Digestive Support Dental Dog Treat which I was truly surprised to see are completely grain free!  Dot doesn't mind this gel at all, after I apply it with my finger she licks her teeth and doesn't act like it is a horrible punishment.

Dot's before picture:
At 6 years old and never having had a cleaning, Dot's teeth are much worse than Taco's.  The tartar is caked and touching her gumline.
 We'll see you back in one month with after pictures.  Will we be able to see a difference?  If not, Dot is certainly due for a dental at the vet!

Disclosure: provided me with one TropiClean Fresh Breath Clean Teeth Gel Kit to review.  I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions are all mine and the dogs'.  :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Last AKC Trial of 2014

Wow, Dot had a rockstar weekend!  DTCCU hosted two trials on Saturday and one on Sunday and she rocked it!
On Saturday she earned her Graduate Novice title with a second place.  Then in Saturday's second trial she got her first Open A leg with another second place!  This was attempt number 8 at Open A but I had a good feeling about her, her attitude has been awesome and only getting better.  She is confident in all the exercises and the last little wrinkle to iron out was her habit of going down on the sit but with some expert positioning she stuck it out like a pro.

On Sunday she did it again and earned her SECOND Open A leg and first place!  So proud of her, one more to go and she'll get that CDX!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Walk

I love a leisurely walk with a canine companion.  I love fresh air and seeing everyone's yard changing from spring to summer to fall.  I love seeing holiday decorations go up and stopping to chat with neighbors and stopping to chat with my own dog sometimes, as we wait for a car to pass.

When we adopted Taco, I had visions of tandem walks.  People would marvel from their cars at how well behaved they both were, how pleasantly I was able to walk two dogs at once.  What a happy family, out for an evening stroll.  Oh my, how far from reality!

I knew Taco would need to be walked separately at first, to learn leash manners on his own.  So we did, and he did and then it was time for two dogs at once.  And it was a disaster.  I hated it, it stressed me out and soon I avoided walks altogether.  I missed being outside, the fresh air, the invigorating pace of a walk with long legged dogs.  But I hated the management it took and for some reason I was devoted to the idea of walking both dogs at once.

Our main issue is that our dogs have VASTLY different ideas of what a walk is about.  They have different goals and those goals directly conflict with each other.

Dot is all about movement.  She wants to trot fast the entire time, her goal is to get to see as MANY trees and squirrels and birds as possible and as soon as she sees one she is on to the next.  She does not want to stop, chat, sniff, or dilly-dally.  She wants to MOVE FORWARD at all times.

Taco wants to stop and sniff and pee on every bush, lamppost and fire hydrant.  He wants to check out who has been there previously, what kind of moss is growing on this tree and what the leaves from that tree taste like.  He is happy to stop and take it all in, then move on at a relatively relaxed pace so he doesn't miss the next opportunity to check things out.

As you can imagine, trying to walk a dog who wants to stop every 30 seconds and a dog that NEVER wants to stop at the same time just isn't in the cards.  And I finally realized this thanks to one of my DogVacay clients.  Chelle is an older girl who can still move like a puppy!
This is the best picture I have of Chelle on a walk because she also likes to move!
When I walk Chelle, it is nothing but pleasant.  It is relaxing and energizing at the same time.  It's like moving meditation and the reason for that is, there is no stress or management or trying or negotiating.  Only walking.  And I realized I could have this experience every day with my own dogs.  One at a time!

My dogs have different goals, so walks with each of them are different.  Walking Dot is like walking with someone who has to get downtown to a meeting in 5 minutes, but they are happy to chat with you as long as you walk and talk.  She is a power-walker (not a power puller, just happiest going at a nice fast pace), she's going places and you can come too if you can keep up!

Walking Taco is all about noticing the little things.  What's that bug on the sidewalk?  Who's across the street?  Can we go check out that bush?  And that one?  And that one?  There is some trash here in the gutter!  Taco is a master of schmoozing with passersby and gets the most compliments.

They both have their merits and now that I have given up my unnecessary obsession with walking them at the same time, instead of dreading walks and getting out less and less, I can enjoy each of them separately and make it out for a walk each and every day!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Litterbox Solution for Dog and Cat Households

So, we not only have two dogs, but we also have a cat.  Stewart is an awesome cat, here is a picture of him being completely enthralled and outraged at the new water fountain I got for the animals.
But those who have cats AND dogs know the inevitable dog in the catbox problem.  Our catbox at our old house was in the basement where no dogs were allowed.  But our basement in this house has a store that is always shut.  Our prvious cat would use a covered catbox so we just put it in the laundry room but Stewart is a little more picky about his toilet habits and wouldn't go in the covered box.  So what was my solution?
I created a dog-proof cat bathroom.  In our laundry room, we have cabinets which have a countertop on top.  When we first looked at the house, I thought this area would make an awesome desk area, for sketching up garden plans and making phone calls.  But no, it was instead to become our cat's bathroom.  Two tension rods hold up a panel of welded wire fencing.  The door opening is just big enough for a cat to enter and exit.  The tape around all four edges was a later addition after Stewart got a long cut on his neck from getting caught on a sharp edge.

Now, I imagine you could probably make this a more solid panel if you didn't want to look at cat poop everyday.  But I wanted it to have good ventilation and Stewart, as I said, is picky and likes to be able to see out while he does his business.  You could also use something a little more classy than pipe cleaners to hold your fence to the tension rods but that's what I used to test it out years ago and I never got around to making it more appealing.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Positive Training Blog Hop-Training scent articles

The topic for the Positive Training Hop may be rear-end awareness but after spending months perfecting Taco's platform pivots producing lovely left turns, I'm over it!  I've moved on!  So you get to see what the dogs have been delving into down in the basement recently.

Scent articles discrimination is one of the most mystifying obedience exercises.  We have no idea what goes on inside the dog's head or what exactly they are smelling to decide which one is "right".  How on earth are we supposed to train it?  Certainly a positive-only method makes sense because we can only guess what the dog smells.  He may be completely right (as you'll see in the video of Dot working  when Dot is positive that #2 is correct, keeps going for it and only gets hits on the "right" one by accident.  Perhaps I had touched that article and didn't realize it.  Perhaps it had residue from chicken or cheese on it and that's why she was so sure she wanted that one?) but we can never know since I can't smell what the dog smells.

I have been working both dogs through Connie Cleveland's cookie tin method (originally published in Front and Finish magazine).  This methods works first with metal cookie tins (with holes punched in them to let scent out) and then with a tie-down board.  The progression is (very simplified):

Step 1-The cookie tins are first empty except for the scented tin which has a treat inside.  First the tins are open, then they are closed.  When you close them, you are looking for a persistent indication from the dog, not simply a quick sniff.  You can see Taco's indication is digging at the tin

and Dot's is stepping a foot (or two) onto it.

Step 2-Then you add unscented metal and leather articles to the unscented tins and a scented leather and metal to your scented tin. 

Step 3- THEN you add food to ALL the tins along with the articles (tricky!) to verify that the dog is detecting the scent, not the food.

Step 4- Next you move to a tie-down board with ALL articles tied down including the scented one.  Again you are looking for persistent indication but not messing with a retrieve yet.  Both of my dogs are comfortable retrieving dumbbell shaped objects so both switched to an indication of mouthing.

You continue to add articles and make the arrangement for complex until you have a full pile.  And voila, your dog is doing scent discrimination!  Just teach a retrieve separately, add it on to the end and you've got it.

I like this method because there is no correction at all.  The dog works on the problem until they hit on the right one which they get rewarded for.  Once you move to the tie-down board, instead of using it traditionally where the tie-down is the correction for picking up the wrong one, ALL the articles are tied down so they can't go around "shopping" for the right one until they find the one that's loose. 

The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop occurs on the first Monday of every month. November’s theme is Rear End Awareness but any positive reinforcement training posts are always welcome.