Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crafting

I have declared 2015 the year of consistent quilting!  I plan on doing two different Block of the Month blocks each month to keep me steadily working toward quilts this year!  Over my winter break, I got my aqua and red quilt top (from a swap 2009!) quilted!
 This is January's block from Quiet Play's Zoo Animals BOM.
The other BOM has not started yet but it is also paper piecing and is "Wild West" themed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fenzi Academy Introduction to Nosework Class Review

This winter, I took NW101: Introduction to Nosework with Dot at the Bronze Level.  This class was taught by Margaret Simek and introduced the very beginning foundations of Nosework, a fun activity to play with your dogs that involves teaching them certain odors to recognize and alert to.

I like that this class required NO previous experience and assumed NO prior knowledge of scent from the dogs.  The equipment needed is minimal, you will not use all the items on the supply list in this first course but you will need them if you continue on through the series. I purchased my essential oils on amazon separately much cheaper than buying a complete kit.  The other items I was able to find around my house and at dollar stores.

If you would like to see an actual lecture with videos for this class, it is the sample course available to view for free.  You can watch Margaret's lecture on handling odor and creating hides as well as see the first two games in the progression!

I very much appreciated that the method Margaret uses does NOT first have the dog searching for food.  In teaching Utility scent discrimination, I find this cheeze whiz method to be cumbersome.  The removal and fading of food adds an unnecessary step that can be hard for some dogs to overcome.  Using the method in this course you can utilize a clicker or not.  I chose not to as I think it draws the dog toward me when what we want is for them to stay at the odor.

At the end of the course, Dot was successfully passing up distractions (some of the containers have smelly leather gardening gloves, cat toys, socks and treats in them and my movement around her is a distraction that she had to learn to ignore), indicating odor and staying at it.


Margaret explains proper technique for handling odors (how to avoid contamination and possible alerts without reward).  She also explains a bit about how scent travels and how environment can affect the path and movement of scent.  I will admit that this was not a terribly thrilling topic for me, but I appreciate that the course included what I considered to be just enough of the topic to hold my attention and not overwhelm me.

The class progresses through a series of fun games to play with your dog, each adding a different element of challenge for the dog.  I enjoyed the video lectures.  While I don't think I would be able to learn by videos alone, watching the video and then reading the instructions gave me a very good idea of each lecture.

As in other classes I've taken at Bronze, I was able to benefit greatly from the Gold students videos and Margaret's discussions with them.  Any question or problem I had eventually came up for someone else.  There were a few dogs that were working at nearly the same pace and style as Dot, so we followed those dogs closely and took note of the comments made on their performances.

Excellent value at $65 for Bronze Level.  If you had an exceptional dog, 6 weeks could get you nearly ready for your ORT (Odor Recognition Test) in Birch!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tooth Gel Showdown Results

Way back in November I began a Tooth Gel showdown, with each dog using a different brand of tooth care gel.  I will admit that the dogs did not get tooth gel applied every day for 30 days.  We kept up with 5-6 days per week for a month and have since been consistently applying it at least a couple of times each week.  It's time for the after pictures!

Taco was using PetzLive Oral Care Gel with Wild Salmon Oil.  He got used to the taste and didn't mind having it applied but after each application he would rub his snout on the carpet or blankets like the mint was just too powerful for him!
Taco before
Taco after
Dot used TropiClean Clean Teeth Gel.  She didn't mind this as much as Taco minded his gel at first, she pretty much just put up with it.  After it was applied, she would lick her lips and teeth but didn't act like it tasted terrible, just that it was odd.
Dot before
 Dot after
 Dot before
 Dot after
In my opinion, the tooth gel made very little, if any, difference.  There might be a tiny reduction in the amount of inflammation around Dot's teeth but the tartar is still there.  So Dot has an appointment for a dental next month.  And Taco will get one when he needs it next.  After the teeth are clean, I will continue to brush/apply tooth gel in the hopes that it will prevent or at least stall new plaque and tartar from forming but I don't think we'll be able to skip the vet visits for professional cleanings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review-Dogswell Vitality Jerky Bars Chicken & Veggies Dog Treats


This month, Chewy.com kindly provided us with a package of Dogswell Vitality Jerky Bars Chicken & Veggies Dog Treats to test out and review.  I liked that the ingredients list was short and included things that sounded wholesome and would not cause Dot any allergy issues (no grains, no fish).

Ingredients:
Chicken, Tomatoes, Cranberries, Flaxseed, Cane Molasses, Peas, Carrots, Spinach, Apples, Salt, Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract, Zinc Propionate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate

When I opened the package, my first impression was that they smelled a bit burnt or smoky.   The bars are roughly 1 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches, which is larger then I like to give our dogs so I chopped a few up into 6 sections each using a kitchen knife.  The bars were a little dry in places and had a bit of snap to them, like a dehydrated treat. The texture was inconsistent, some spots were pliable, others were hard.  Maybe this is due to the veggie chunks and the meat cooking differently within the same bar.
I used these treats for a few training sessions with each dog.  They liked them well enough.  They were not as crazy about them as a moist treat such as Happy Howie or a piece of cooked chicken breast but they were more excited about them than kibble.  They were a little crumbly in my pocket, veggie bits and crumbs broke off but this is mostly my fault for breaking them up.  Left as a whole bar, they are not crumbly or messy at all.  But that would be a pretty big jackpot!

After a couple of days, Taco had terrible gas and both dogs were belching more than usual.  For dogs their size, the package suggested feeding 2-5 bars per day and I certainly wasn't going over 4 bars per dog.  I'm not sure if it was the cooking process (which left them slightly burnt) or a specific ingredient the produced the gas.

I wanted to like these treats.  I liked that they didn't have any fillers or artificial ingredients, no glycerin or soybean meal or corn flour or wheat middlings.  But something about them didn't agree with either dog.

Disclosure: Chewy.com provided me with one package of treats to review.  I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions are all mine and the dogs'.  :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

AKC Rally Nationals


Taco with his collection of rally ribbons so far.  As you can see, he is very much a newbie.
Last year, in the process of getting his Rally Novice title, Taco also qualified for AKC Rally Nationals in March.  I wasn't sure we would go but finally I made my mind up and decided it would make a fun road trip!  Is he still super green?  Yes.  Do I have any aspirations for a top ten placement?  No.  Will we have fun visiting, trialing in a new environment and shopping?  YES!

I sent in my entry the very first day and got my confirmation back a couple of days later.  We are in, for sure!  We will compete in Rally Novice twice in one day and the combination of the scores from both runs will be our score for the day.

While I will try not to stress and turn into a crazy-stressed handler, I am sure to be a little keyed up.  in order to combat some of this, we have started a series of prep field trips to acclimate Taco to working in distracting environments.  Trips to the hardware store, Gander Mountain, Rural King, Petsmart, etc. where we simply enter the odd place, click and treat for attention, click and treat for fronts, set-ups in heel position and spins or leg-weaves, what Denise Fenzi calls three-second behaviors.  These are going well.  He can handle three second behaviors.  Will he be able to handle an entire rally course with attention in a new environment in just two months?  We'll see.  If he's not, I will need to be brave and provide him the support he needs in the ring to be successful even if it means a low score.

I teach a Competition Rally class on Wednesday nights so he's also getting a bit of practice on courses in a busy building.  Last night that did not go so well, there were lots of stutter-steps to restart when he got distracted, plenty of pocket hand and treat-reminding to get head position back.  But there were moments of fluid, engaged heeling!  And that is a great feeling!