Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Back From Christmas Holiday!

I hope everyone had as wonderful and magical a Christmas as we did.  As previously mentioned, we packed all our gifts and trudged off to Maine (via airplane, but still a long trip!).  The dogs stayed home and were kept company by Amber of Hot Diggity Dog Walking and Pet Sitting.  They seem to have enjoyed their pampering, and it was great knowing that they were being so well cared for. 

Timber and Pistol got into one little scuffle (as our bickering boys sometimes do), but it was reported to me quickly and we avoided any repeat conflicts.  Amber even managed to keep my basil plant happy, which is pretty impressive - that plant drinks enough water each day to fill a swimming pool!  We returned home late last night (so late that it was technically this morning!) to a great note filling us in on how everyone was doing.  Thanks for taking such good care of our family, Amber!

While in Maine we enjoyed a wonderful visit with my sister and brother-in-law, my grandmother and my parents.  We awoke Christmas morning to bulging stockings, an obscene pile of gifts under the tree, and one very excited 4-year-old son.  We were also blessed with a beautiful snowstorm, starting Christmas morning and dumping over 4 ideal-for-sledding inches of snow.  Ethan got good use out of new winter boots and snow pants, and we all enjoyed our first snow in nearly two years.

This week will consist of playing with many new toys (mostly Ethan, but I'll admit I'm excited about my gifts too!), a trip to the vet for Timber (who is drinking and peeing enough to indicate a significant problem) and my pre-op appointment with my orthopedic surgeon.  Next week is my hip surgery - January 4th to be exact.  My mother arrives on Sunday to help take care of me and the family.  Someone has to vacuum up all the dog hair around here if I can't get up to do it!

No great dog pictures, but I thought I'd share some of our trip to Maine:

Christmas Snowstorm

Ethan sledding with me

Ethan sledding with Daddy

Ethan sledding with his grandmother, Jane Babbitt

Ethan sledding with his grandfather, Tom Babbitt

Sledding at Harbor Park in Camden, Maine - what goes down must come back up again!

Getting a fast start!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Best Gifts for Your Dog

Christmas is a chaotic time of year for most families.  But throughout all the hustle and bustle your dog is still there for you – for a cuddle, for a walk or just for a moment of quiet.  Many people choose to show their love and appreciation for their dogs by getting them a little something for under the tree.  But what makes the best gift for your dog?  You might be surprised at what they would like.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Client Titles in Rally!

Congratulations to Orso!

This past weekend was a big event for Orso the Cane Corso.  At just under 18 months old, Orso has completed his AKC Rally Novice title!  This means he officially has titles on both ends - a breed championship and his first obedience title.  A Rally title requires 3 qualifying legs.  Orso finished his third leg with an impressive score of 97/100, placing 3rd in a large class of tough competitors.  Huge congratulations go to Orso (International Multi-Champion Mar e Sol Orso di Costa Bel, CGC, TDI, RN ) and his owner, Yvonne Aleman Quevedo of Costa Bel Cane Corso.  It was a pleasure training Orso for his Novice Rally competition, and I'm glad the hard work has paid off with a title.  Keep up the good work Yvonne!

From Left to Right: Owner Yvonne Aleman Quevedo, Orso, and AKC Judge Mr. Robert Withers
(Photo Courtesy of Costa Bel Cane Corso)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Introduction to Treibball Course

Bravo Dog Training Presents…
Introduction to Treibball
An online class with your dog

If you enjoy working with your dog and are looking for something fun and different, Treibball may be for you.  Treibball (pronounced Try-ball) is a new sport that any dog can enjoy. Think of it as herding without the mess, expense and space requirements of sheep! But don’t worry – this isn’t an activity reserved for herding breeds.  Any breed or mix can excel.

·       Prerequisite is minimal obedience training & clicker/marker experience
·       No expensive equipment
·       No huge space requirements – all introductory skills can be taught indoors (great for the winter!)
·       Foundation skills are taught like tricks – tons of fun!
·       You, your dog and your favorite trainer!

Participants will be given bi-weekly written assignments.  Each classmate will submit a video (posted online through YouTube – easy instructions or help available) of the assignment. Classmates can view each other’s videos and the instructor will review and offer feedback and training suggestions individually.

Starting Late January – Reserve Your Spot Now
$110 for the 6 session course (early registration, by Jan 1)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Useful Dog Training: "Stay"

Have you ever been in obedience class and caught yourself thinking, "this is great, but what's the point???"  It's a fair enough question.  In general, anything (positive) you teach your dog is beneficial, because it increases the bond, communication and respect between you and your dog.  But some training may be beneficial in ways that aren't readily apparent.

"Stay" is a great example of a useful command.  Maybe when you started training you had grand expectations of being able to tell your dog "stay" and then parade around the house doing chores, walk down the street to the mailbox, return home and do some yoga, all while your obedient dog remained frozen in place where you left him.  And maybe you now think that "stay" is a useless command - after all, how many chores can you get done when you are stuck at the end of a 6-foot leash praising and reminding your dog that he should stay put?

In reality, if you don't teach your dog how to "stay" beyond what is learned in a 15-minute lesson at basic obedience class, then no, you probably won't get much use out of the command.  However, turning "stay" into a really useful command isn't that difficult and it probably isn't far out of reach.

The key to turning "stay" into a command you can be proud of is working on 3 things:


Gradually work on improving each one, making sure you go at your dog's pace.  If he's not successful 90% (or more) of the time then you're moving too fast.  Also, try to work on one skill at a time.  Want to work on increasing the distractions your dog can tolerate without breaking his stay?  Don't ask him to ignore temptations for 5 minutes in a row, even if he can hold the stay for 5 minutes without a lot of distractions (consider releasing him after only a minute instead).

So what do you get for all your hard work?  Lots of things!  "Stay" can keep your dog in the bathtub while you grab the towels you accidentally left on the counter.  It can be used in an emergency if you drop a glass and need to prevent cut paws while you clean the mess.  And my favorite this month, "stay" can help you get some great holiday photos.  How many uses can you think of?  Over the next week think about how many opportunities you would have to use the command "stay" if only your dog could do it.  Then give your dog the gift of some time spent training.  You'll enjoy the journey and the destination!

Merry Christmas from Pistol

 Yes, he got a cookie for tolerating the photo shoot!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Amber from Hot Diggity

We have met our pet sitter - Amber from Hot Diggity! Dog Walking and Pet Sitting will be staying with Pistol, Apple and Timber over Christmas.  She came by for the initial visit, a chance to meet the dogs, see the house and go over the routine. 

Of course Apple adored her, but Apple would go home with a jewel thief.  Pistol and Timber took a shining to her too though, so it's a done deal.  Amber will be here to feed the dogs, let them outside, wipe off any muddy paws, rub any needy bellies and perform some other essential tasks, like feeding the fish, turning on and off lights, getting the mail and watering the plants (including the orchids from Florida which are blooming prolifically here in Oregon - someone forgot to tell them it's not sunny, hot and humid!).

I feel confident that the dogs will be well cared for over Christmas.  And from experience, the most important thing in leaving your dogs, whether it is at a boarding kennel, for training or with a pet sitter, is that you are comfortable enough to not worry while you are gone. 

Thanks Amber, we look forward to having you stay with our dogs!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

To Raw or Not to Raw

Proper nutrition is essential to a happy, healthy pet.  But how do we provide the best nutrition possible?  There is still debate on that - likely there always will be.  While some things are fairly certain (grocery brands are usually inferior quality, corn is bad, red dye is bad, etc.), the benefit from feeding a raw diet is still unclear. 

Raw food is just what it sounds like - feeding your dog a mixture of raw meats, bones, eggs, vegetables and other ingredients that amount to a nutritionally sound meal.  Feeding raw diets used to be a cumbersome, expensive and even gruesome process as the dog owner had to buy ingredients and chop, grind and blend them into something their dog could eat.  It was an easy excuse not to feed a raw diet!

Today raw food is available in many pet stores and can be purchased in pre-packaged easy-to-feed nuggets or patties.  All you need to do is thaw a few days worth of food in your fridge, then dole it out at meal time.  Your dog gets a nutritious (and well enjoyed!) dinner.

But what about the expense, and what if you are traveling or just can't prepare a raw meal one night?  Although raw food has come down in price, it is still an expensive option.  However, raw food is highly digestible (as compared to some of that nasty grocery store food that is mostly cheap filler ingredients like corn - not that I'm biased or anything).  And the more food your dog digests, the less of your money gets, well, pooped out in the back yard!

One way to bring down the price is to feed a mixture of raw and kibble.  That's what I do, for many reasons, including expense and convenience.  For example, Apple eats 2/3 a cup of dry kibble mixed with two nuggets of Primal Canine Chicken Formula (you guessed it, raw is also available for kitties!).  It doesn't cost me as much as feeding exclusively raw, and if there's a night where I just can't manage to feed raw, she can eat kibble without any issues.  And Apple loves her meals - there's never a scrap left behind!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas is Coming...

From a very talented group of European dog owners.  It's a great video, every time I see it:

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Dogsitter for Christmas

This Christmas we have the good fortune to be returning "home" to Maine.  We will have a chance to visit my sister and her husband, my parents and, especially exciting, my 92-year-old grandmother.  This leaves the dogs to fend for themselves.  I'm working on teaching Pistol to scoop the right amount of dog food for meals each night, but he is having trouble reaching the tap on the kitchen sink to fill up the water bowl.

Okay, we won't really leave the dogs to fend for themselves.  But it does bring up a great doggy-dilemma.  How do you travel when you have pets?  Previously I've always had so many wonderful connections "in the business" that I've been able to have someone look after the dogs without too much trouble.  But we're new to Oregon, so that puts us in the same boat as many people: what do we do with the dogs?

There are limited options, and the right solution is different for each family.  Boarding is one possibility, but that takes our dogs out of their comfortable, familiar environment, and honestly, with three dogs it costs a fortune.  Of course if one were looking to get the great benefit of training while boarding, a board & train program can be a great option (okay, shameless plug admitted and done with).  For us the best option is a pet sitter, a professional who stays at our house and takes care of the dogs (not to mention the fish, the house plants, the mail, etc.).

But the question I always get is "How do you find a pet sitter??!!"  Referrals are a great way to find any service provider - ask your veterinarian, the groomer, or, yeah, the dog trainer.  But there is another way.  Pet Sitters International certifies pet sitters across the country who commit to education, bonding and insuring and more.  It's nice to have a resource, a searchable site, where you can find pet sitters committed to their profession.  Of course, like anything, do your due diligence.  Like dog trainers, certified doesn't mean a professional is good.  But it's a nice place to start.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Snuggly Mornings

We allow the dogs on the bed.  Yes, it's true, the dog trainer said it.  We let our dogs sleep on the bed.  I think the theory that a dog who sleeps on the bed will "think they are dominant over you" is rubbish.  That said, only one of our dogs really enjoys spending the night on the bed with us.  I think the other two probably complain that we move around, toss and turn, and take up too much space. 

If you've ever met the dogs, you can likely guess which one adores sleeping with Mom and Dad.  It is the little princess.  Our bowling ball with legs.  Little Apple.  And if she sees the slightest gap in the covers she quickly worms her way in and goes from dog sleeping on the bed to dog sleeping under the covers! 

As piggy as she can be, it's a wonderful sensation to wake up in the morning with a doggy friend curled up in the arc of my back.  Apple is happy to get some attention before getting up for the day - a nice belly rub, some ear scratches and a good body massage.  She's soft and warm and cuddly.  And that's what having a dog is all about.

Tips: Loose Leash Walking

Pulling on the leash is one of the most frustrating behaviors for many owners.  Sadly it can make the difference between a dog getting walked regularly and a dog who is only turned out into the backyard.  But it's not a surprise to me.  Teaching a dog to walk on a loose leash isn't easy.  I wish I could say that it is, but it's not.  Sit, easy.  Down, easy.  Even teaching a dog to heel can be easy compared to loose leash walking (and yes, I consider them two separate behaviors).  However, please note, I am NOT saying it's impossible!  It just takes a little time and consistency.  And we can all manage that for our best friends, right?

So, here are some tips:
  • Clicker train your dog.  Using clicker training will make the process faster, easier and clearer for your dog.
  • Consider some special equipment.  There are plenty of tools available, such as a front clip harness, to make walks more enjoyable (for you!) while your dog is still learning not to pull.  Have a trainer help you pick the right one for you and your dog.
  • Click for slack in the leash.  When you start out, click & treat frequently whenever your dog is not pulling.  This might mean you go through a lot of treats - consider using his breakfast if he'll work for kibble.
  • If he pulls, STOP.  If he pulls on the leash and gets to go smell the grass, pee on a bush, or meet another dog, you can bet he'll think that pulling brings great rewards.
  • Start slowly.  If your dog is just getting used to walking without pulling in your neighborhood, or early in the morning when there aren't many people out, don't expect him to be just as successful in front of the dog park or near that pond with all the ducks!

Apple and Ethan (age 3) walking with a nice loose leash.