Conversations with River

 

IMG_1900-2Today, while I was asking my girl River a question for around the 20th time on our ninety minute public outing, I was thinking about how freaking boring our life together would be if we didn’t have an ongoing flow of conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean that I stand in a park and talk to my dog like some crazy dog lady (I would… never do that… ) but we do indeed have a back and forth stream of communication. Here are a few things I posed to her today; in long written word here, but we worked through them with body language and a few single words only:

1. “Would you like to enter this fenced park to go swimming in the lake? There are other dogs off leash there, and I know that can be uncomfortable for you, so I’ll let you decide.”

She chose to take a short walk around the area first so she could take in the environment and then pulled me towards the entrance. Once off leash, she ran to the lake and waited for the toy to be thrown without even glancing at another dog. Remember folks, this is my “extremely dog reactive” cattle dog bitch I’m talking about.

2. “That five month old puppy is approaching you. You know you have to ability to not react, and if you quietly lay down and wait for me to deal with the situation you can get back to the toy throwing sooner. Oof. She just stole your toy… Please stay there and I will get it back for you and be very, very happy with you.”

She did exactly that. A very sweet but slightly foolish Doodle puppy stole River’s toy less than a foot away from her feet not once but TWICE and River let it happen. She has learned over the last several years that I can help her handle these predicaments; she does not have to use her teeth or other scary displays on strange dogs.

Heel position right next to the water's edge: a very difficult thing to ask a swim-obsessed cowdog!

Heel position right next to the water’s edge: a very difficult thing to ask a swim-obsessed cow dog!

3. “I know it’s hard for you to think while swimming, but I would really like to do some Rally-O proofing exercises with you and reward all of your brilliance with toy throws. Can you work with me this close to the water and new strange stimuli and I’ll promise to make my other criteria lower?”

She responded with near excellent fronts, finishes, and short steps of heeling less than ten feet from the water! Rally exercises are still pretty new to her, so I was asking a lot, but she gave me her best.

You’ll notice that I never gave her a traditional command during these exchanges. In fact, during our actual verbal communication I did not give her a single cue word other than our Rally practice cues. Leaving other dogs alone, down stays while I got her stolen toy back, and her focus on me versus the humans and dogs in the park were all given. I let her choose what she wanted to do every step of the way and each action of mine was directly in response to her. If she hadn’t pulled me towards the entrance of the park, I would have kept walking down the trail and waited to visit the swimming area until others had left with their dogs. If she had made a move to react negatively towards that puppy (which, honestly, would have been warranted!), I would have moved us much further away and possibly left the area. If she hadn’t been able to focus on me enough in that environment to practice Rally moves, I would have abandoned the idea of difficult proofing until another time with fewer distractions.

These are just a couple of examples from one day, but the list goes on and on; I try to make me and my dogs’ time together one of mutual enjoyment whenever possible. I try to give them as many choices about their life as I safely and sanely am able to. Life with dogs is just far more interesting and rewarding when you treat them as a thinking being with thoughts and feelings about the world. Three years ago, I never imagined that my “super reactive” cattle dog could swim in a fenced dog park with other dogs around without having a complete fit every five seconds. But she did indeed play for over an hour today, with! other! dogs! around!, and I have the photos to prove it. All of our hard work towards building our relationship, trust, and teamwork is paying off. I haven’t needed to teach her any new cues lately. I have never used punishment based training methods for her dog reactivity, and I have never forced her to do anything around dogs she absolutely did not want to do. I did not flood her, I did not strap an e-collar on, she never wore a pinch or choke chain, I didn’t have to train a ton of commands and throw away all of her choices to follow them, and yet… I have a dog I can take to a public lake off leash without huge reactions. Her recall is pretty stellar, her focus is lovely, and she is a mostly happy (I won’t lie: there is still some level of stress around strange dogs and sometimes she can still get a snark in if it’s needed!) little dog who once tried to bite the face off every single strange fellow canine she came across. We constantly improve together thanks in large part to the talks we have like the ones we had today.

So: next time you’re out for a walk, try having a conversation with your dog. You might be surprised how much you can communicate and learn from them without ever opening your mouth.

Confessions of a Dog Gear Hoarder: Outfox Field Guards

10376853_782290925138023_2839286383840611876_n

In TU member Zak’s last post, she talked about how harmful foxtails can be for your dogs and the costly consquences of getting them embedded. Since I live in the Bay Area of California and we are going through an awful drought right now, foxtail season came early and they are everywhere. Most people here and in similar areas who regularly go out with their dogs in late spring and summer can tell you exactly how many hundreds of dollars they have spent at the vet for foxtail removal; it is not fun! Typically I don’t hike that much during the summer anyway, but foxtails can show up literally anywhere I take my dogs outside. We have encountered these horrible weed monsters in many areas of our daily lives including training fields, trial grounds, and public parks.

If foxtails get into the mouth, eyes, nose, or ears they can wreck a special kind of chaos resulting in pain, injury, and a possible vet trip. Last summer I purchased a pair of Outfox Field Guards for River and Owen. Essentially they are dog-head-shaped mesh covers to catch foxtails before they can make their way to the face. While they do only cover the head, that is also one of the most typical body areas that foxtails embed into without you noticing. Always make sure you do a full body check after walking in a foxtail area; paws are another “popular” body part for trouble.

First time wearing the guards. Not a big deal!

First time wearing the guards. Not a big deal!

Outfox Guards are super simple to put on: just slip the appropriately sized Outfox over the dog’s head, adjust the pull cord snug enough so it cannot slip off, and then velcro both loops to your dog’s collar. Most dogs (most!) don’t care at all that they are wearing one and go about their business as usual; they are able to freely pant, play with toys, and drink while wearing the Outfox. My best advice is to only put them on when you are already at the trailhead or park then go have fun immediately. When first using an Outfox with a new dog, I slip a small handful of treats into the guard every time it’s put on so there is an instant positive association with the equipment.

The pros for this product should be extremely obvious:

  • No more foxtails in your dog’s face! No more late nights freaking out that your dog started sneezing a few hours after your daily walk in the park and could have a foxtail traveling up their nasal cavity.
  • Easy to use and clean. Put on, go have a blast, remove, rinse with the hose and some soap after your dog rolls in the dirt/cow poop/random dead things, done!
  • Most dogs adjust to wearing the Outfox almost immediately. They can do almost all of their normal activities without any changes.
  • The guards are relatively inexpensive to purchase ($38-42) and are quality made to last.
Image from outfoxfordogs.com

Image from outfoxfordogs.com

Some potential cons:17

  • Some dogs, especially little Cattle Dogs that a certain someone lives with, will not like wearing the Outfox because it interferes with her cow poop eating adventures and will try to remove it a few times during a hike. That’s my girl! However, I have tried these on many dogs over the last couple years and it hasn’t been an issue with any of them. Owen doesn’t mind it one bit, and it’s typically only the first couple hikes that River tries to take it off then she is fine.

    Another potential con: if beekeepers scare you... well...

    Another potential con: if beekeepers scare you… well…

  • Outfox Guards make it difficult to quickly and easily deliver treats to your dog. What I typically do is mark the behavior then just shove food under the end so my dogs can lean down and eat it from the guard. Not incredibly speedy, but it works ok. Friends of mine have also cut a very small hole to push treats through and report that that works out fine too.
  • Smaller water bowls won’t work well while wearing the Outfox. Since the dog will need to push their mouth a little further to reach the water due to the guard, tiny bowls for hiking aren’t very useful. This solution is pretty simple; just bring along a larger one!

Overall, I highly recommend the Outfox Field Guards to help keep your dog (and wallet!) safe and pain-free during foxtail season. Visit their website to order one or look for local California stores who carry them.

I Smell a Rat!: Barn Hunt 101

When I first heard about Barn Hunt during its creation, I thought to myself: “Man… that is ridiculous! Why the heck would I ever want my dogs to become BETTER at searching for critters? It would RUIN our competitive nose work! And jeez, it is so cruel for the rats too!” I was positive that it was one sport I would never take part in with my dogs. Then I quit agility and was searching for an additional sport for River to do, because my girl loves her work and a couple jobs is simply not enough. A few months ago, several friends took a local workshop and encouraged me to try Barn Hunt. Ok, fine… just this once…

 

IMG_4100

Flash forward to now. River has her RATN title, Owen has one leg towards his, we go to practice every single week, I am looking into becoming an official judge, and one of the few requirements I have for our new property is that it must be large enough to have a bunch of hay bales in the backyard. I am hooked on this crazy sport and I would love to spread the word about it, as well as clear up the same kind of misconceptions I had before starting my dogs.

Barn Hunt is a sport created by the Barn Hunt Association as a titling event to most closely mimic what farm dogs were originally bred to do: hunt vermin around their homes, farms, and barns. While terriers are naturally the most popular choice for Barn Hunt, ANY breed of dog can play this game as long as they can fit through an 18″ wide tunnel that is as high as a regular hay bale (yes, it’s ok if they crouch). Barn Hunt is a stand alone sport, but the AKC and UKC recognize their titles as well.

11057247_951169391583508_2654380087513002810_n

River’s first trial. Qualified in Novice with a 3rd place.

The titling system is as follows in order of least to most difficult: Barn Hunt Instinct (RATI), Novice Barn Hunt (RATN), Open Barn Hunt (RATO), Senior Barn Hunt (RATS), Master Barn Hunt (RATM), Barn Hunt Champion (RATCH), and Barn Hunt Champion X (RATCHX). The first level, instinct, is an optional class.

10624980_960359733997807_4119013505656138710_n

Second and third trials. Owen earned his first Novice Q with a 2nd place, River finished her Novice title with a 2nd and 4th place.

 

 

 

 

 

At each level, the dog must find the correct number of rats that are hidden in tubes amongst the hay bales, ignore the empty and bedding filled tubes, execute a climb (put all four feet on a hay bale), and go through a tunnel that is straight in the novice level and has turns in the higher levels. If your dog completes all of this within the time limit and you don’t earn an NQ for something like touching your dog while they are hunting (plus many others!), you will receive a qualifying leg. Trust me, it is harder than it sounds and way more fun.

How do you train the dogs to find the rats?

River sniffing the correct tube. She will look at me directly after this.

River sniffing the correct tube, hidden between the bales. She will look at me directly after this.

Well, some people don’t have to do any training at all! Their dogs have so much instinct that they catch on right away and want to find as many rats as possible. For most other dogs, though, it does take practice. During the very first exposure to the rats in tubes, my dogs treated them exactly like a new odor (similar to our Nose Work sport) and I rewarded them with food for interest in the correct tube. Interest included nose touches, pawing and biting the tube, whatever! Once they understood that finding the correct tube was a good thing, our instructor started hiding them in the actual hay bales. Along with “tunnel!” and “up!” cues for the other requirements, that is all that’s needed!

“RAT!”

Since you cannot bring food or toys into the ring during a trial, River is rewarded after each successful hunt with food outside the ring. She does not inherently care about hunting for rats at all (Wait! I know it’s weird! I’ll get to that later) and treats it exactly like any other scent work. Owen’s reward is to simply find his friends, the rats. He bites the tube, scratches it, and starts barking when he finds the rat – it’s basically a super intense party every time for him.

I don’t want the poor rats to get hurt! Are they safe?

Miss Rat saying hello to River, without a care in the world.

Miss Rat saying hello to River, without a care in the world.

Yes! This is a HUGE concern I had, and rightfully so. I think rats are totally cool little guys, and I certainly didn’t want my dogs to hurt or scare them. But rest assured, they are safe in their tubes. The rats used are pets specifically trained to enjoy being in their tubes, and are extremely used to dogs being close to them. At our instructor’s place, she even asks the rats if they want to work that day or not! They get plenty of breaks during trials and are generally well taken care of. There are serious consequences from the Barn Hunt Association if the rats are mishandled, and at every trial and practice I have been to, the rules for proper handling have all been followed.

In a trial, after you call “rat!” and the judge confirms that you are correct, you’re allowed to pet and praise your dog while holding or gently moving the tube – no rough handling either from you or your dog! Once you are done praising for the correct find and if you still have other objective to complete, you must either restrain your dog while a volunteer (designated as the Rat Wrangler) takes the tube away or hand the tube to them yourself while your dog is still restrained. Safety always comes first! This helps to ensure that an overexcited dog doesn’t knock the tube out of the Rat Wrangler’s hands while they carry it to safety outside the ring (and of course, protects anyone’s hands that get between the dog and tube).

My dog already chases squirrels on walks and sniffs for critters during XYZ Dog Sport… Won’t participating in Barn Hunt create a complete monster?

That is exactly what I thought too! But the answer, for most dogs, is no. Training in Barn Hunt won’t make your dog go insane with rat blood lust. You probably won’t ruin your recalls, or your agility contact behaviors due to hunting for critters. Dogs are masters at recognizing context and adjusting to it accordingly. In Barn Hunt, there are always hay bales and tubes present. I use a separate cue word and stance when they are hunting that is different from any other training we do, and they run naked in an enclosed ring during trials. Having a dog with a high prey drive isn’t even necessarily a plus with Barn Hunt; as I said above, River doesn’t care about the actual rats AT ALL. She will not bite or scratch the tube more than is needed for me to call the alert, “rat!” This is a working-bred dog with extremely high prey drive otherwise, but because she does not actually get to kill or chase down the rats, the context remains that of just another sport.

"My food is just outside the gate... Now let me hurry up and find this darn rat!"

“My food is just outside the gate… Now let me hurry up and find this darn rat!”

Now that said, my boy Owen is in prey drive during Barn Hunt and sure does act like it. But again, context is your friend. Once we leave the ring and the hay bales behind, he goes back to regular goofy Owen who routinely recalls off of deer and will happily walk next to ducks instead of chasing them. If your dog thinks they are out to find rats during every day of their life after trying the game, you have a typical training problem, not a Barn Hunt problem. Keep your cues and contexts clear; you won’t have any issues.

Can my dog reactive dog compete in Barn Hunt?

Ahh, yes. My girl River is dog reactive, but we still compete! The only potential problem we have at a trial is in the blind, which is where you and your dog plus 4 other teams wait for your turn in the ring. This is typically a 10×10 area that is enclosed on 2-3 sides so you are unable to see the ring and find out the correct tube locations. If you are imagining a 10×10 area plus my bitchy Cattle Dog and 4 other dogs… well, yes. It can get interesting!

Luckily you are allowed to bring treats into the blind while waiting as distraction (and rewarding calm behavior), and I make sure to tell people to give us as much space as possible. River can be snarky, but she is not dangerous and she only uses her lovely voice to tell dogs to back off. I am not able to say if your personal dog reactive dog can compete or not. Some can handle that level of closeness, others cannot. If you think your dog will harm another dog if they get too close on leash, use common sense and don’t trial them!

Where do I find out about trials, workshops, and fun tests?

Go to www.barnhunt.com and look at the event calendar listed on the site. I highly suggest starting out with a workshop if one is available so you can do some training before entering an official ring. Barn Hunt clubs are popping up all over the place, so go look for one and have a blast!

IMG_3986

Don’t be a Dull Walking Partner!

photo(2)A common complaint that I hear from friends and clients alike is, “leash walks are SO boring!” Mostly what follows after this exclamation is that they want their dog to have a perfect recall so they can only be exercised off leash and magically have all the fun in the world. Well… ok then! Don’t get me wrong: excellent recalls are vital to living a happy and safe life with your dog, and personally I hike off leash with my guys at least 2-3 times every week. I understand wanting to have the wild adventure of off leash play, but just like anything else in dog training, leashed walks are only as boring as you make them be. So here’s an idea: HAVE FUN!

The first, and I should hope the most obvious, advice I can give is to be engaging. Bring yourself to every walk 100%. Don’t you dare use dog walking time to chat on your cell phone or daydream about how many errands you need to run after this mundane neighborhood stroll. Your dog deserves better than that. Even if you are just on the other end of the leash to toss a few cookies to Fido for maintaining a nice loose leash or smile at him when he checks in with you, that is already a step up. While taking solo walks with each of my dogs, I also use this time to tell them how freaking awesome and beautiful they are. Really. Try it!

photo(1)

Client dog Delilah pauses her training walk for a game of tug.

Leashed walks are also an excellent time to practice heeling and obedience behaviors, as well as your dog’s repertoire of super cool tricks. I frequently take breaks during a walk to do a little heeling pattern or two then bust out a few spins and core challenging tricks. Bring along a tug toy to reward with and get crazy! Break out of that “living room training session” mindset and practice everything while on the go. While working their brain much more than a normal walk, Fido will also get the double benefit of proofing his training and focus on you in a variety of locations with distractions.

 

Another absolute favorite pastime on walks that I share with my dogs is GETTING ON STUFF! Some people call it urban agility, but I just call it being really darn cool with my dogs. See a park bench? Ask your dog to get on it. Tree stump? Hop up! Fire hydrant? First place the front paws on for an easier trick, then balance all four for an impressive balancing stunt. Encouraging your dog to use their body to jump up or balance on something is an easy peasy way to increase confidence on a huge variety of surfaces, and it makes for great photos as well (general public: please stop taking photos of your dog with the camera pointing straight down at their head. Really. It makes your dog look like a bobble head. Think their eye level or lower!). I proof my dogs’ stays very frequently using the “jump up and pose!” method. They absolutely love it and we have such a great time together figuring out what they can jump on during our walks. Many dogs find jumping self rewarding, and it is another entertaining way to change up a typical walk, but start off slow if your dog is ever unsure.

Owen and friend Marti practice their stays and position changes after jumping up on a picnic table.

Owen and friend Marti practice their stays, release by name, and position changes after jumping up on a picnic table.

Teaching a front paw targeting cue is a great place to start until you can work on getting Fido to jump confidently up onto something. I also always have my dogs wear body harnesses on leashed walks so I can help them jump off of something that might be a bit high off the ground; they are taught to automatically stay on whatever they jump on until released or helped.

Go new places! Don’t stick to the same neighborhood route over and over again. Change it up, choose a different path, or simply take a short drive to somewhere else in town. My dogs often ride along with me to lessons and classes in different cities, so I can easily stop to take a walk in a new places on the way home. You might need to have more planning for that option, but it is well worth it. Novel smells and sights are always stimulating to dogs, and can also help to break you out of the boring leashed walk rut. Many people take their young puppies out to new areas often for socialization and training, then forget about it when their dogs grow up. That IS boring! So go somewhere new this week for a walk, even if it is only a few streets over from your own.

photo

“If you always give you will always have… friendship.” (River agrees… and would like you to give her that flock of ducks over there.)

No matter what kind of fun and games you choose to do on walks with your dog(s), do them often! Don’t fall into the rut of making leashed walks out to be a chore when they can provide the best bonding and training time that you and your best buddy have all day. So get out and be creative, engaging, and most of all: have fun on those walks!

Confessions of a Dog Gear Hoarder: Ruffwear’s Front Range harness

OK, I admit it. I am a dog gear hoarder. It’s true. If anyone looked in my garage they would see enough canine related supplies to stock an entire boutique. And I don’t mean the cheap big box store stuff, either. I shop for quality made gear that will put up with all the hiking, swimming, off leash running, sports, and general madness that we participate in every week. I am also a sucker for good looking equipment; yes, all my dogs have color coordinating stuff! Every time a new and potentially interesting product comes out from one of my favorite companies, I will probably buy it for at least one of the dogs.

I’ve been a fan of dog gear company, Ruffwear, for years now due in large part to their outdoorsy gear that is also stylish. Since I always walk my dogs in harnesses for their well being, I’ve always been a little bummed that Ruffwear hasn’t made a lightweight everyday harness that I could quickly throw on my guys for neighborhood walks and park outings. I also like having a front clip option for River, who is a strong dog reactive dog that sometimes forgets how to walk politely. However, I will not use any products that restrict proper shoulder movement, which unfortunately happen to be most front clip brands on the market. My three dogs have had several harnesses each but none of them are even close to perfect.

photo
Enter the brand new Front Range harness from none other than Ruffwear! This thing seriously has it all: back AND front clip options, comfortable but lightweight padding, non-restrictive design, fully adjustable, and even two places for identification. (Also, it looks damn good on my dogs.)

Ruffwear_id

 

 

 

 

I love the ID pocket on top of the harness. It’s just a little velcro pouch to keep a tag in, but it’s a feature I’ve never seen before and I think it is brilliant! Now I don’t have to worry about my dog’s more expensive “tagline” tags getting lost on hikes, and they also don’t need to wear collars. On the inside of the chest plate padding, there is also a spot to write their name and phone number. Do note though that my 32-36lb dogs are both a size small; Ruffwear caters to typical outdoorsy medium-large dogs for the most part, unlike so many other companies. Just make sure you measure your dog before ordering!

Riv_harnessIf your dog is going to wear a harness while doing any actual exercise, it is most commonly recommended by sports vets to fit them in a product that will not restrict their natural strides. The Front Range has a large shoulder opening and fits high enough up on the neck that wearing the harness while running should not restrict any of their movements. Since my dogs often go off leash running and hiking while wearing their gear, this is extremely important to me!

Owen_harnessWhile the front hook attachment isn’t metal like most harnesses, it is still quite sturdy and works well. I have had the best results with using a double clip leash when I want the “no-pull” effects, rather than just attaching to the front. This makes the chest piece slide back and forth a bit less while offering excellent control when needed.

I also love that Ruffwear made it a point not to have the nylon straps touching any potentially sensitive areas on the dog. The neckline and arm pit areas are both covered so there shouldn’t be any rubbing even on short coated dogs. I also really like that it’s easy to take on and off due to the double clips on the top of the harness. The buckles are also stationary, so you don’t have to worry about adjusting the harness to fit your dog then having one of the buckles awkwardly sitting underneath a leg or something.

Owen_harness2All in all, I adore the new Front Range harnesses and have been using them almost daily since I received my order. The product hits all the right notes of functional yet still stylish and I’m sure will hold up well to all of River and Owen’s adventures. This dog gear hoarder is very happy – at least until the next cool product comes along!

 

 

 

 

The typical disclaimer: Ruffwear didn’t pay me to write this, I just really like their stuff! I did receive a discount on these harnesses as a professional dog trainer, but the opinions above are completely my own.

 

 

Fit Dog Fun: Basic Equipment for Body Awareness and Balance

Whether you have a highly competitive sports schedule or just prefer a few weekend outings, all dogs should have a good sense of balance and a strong body to remain healthy and avoid injuries. There are several inexpensive pieces of equipment that you can use at home to get your dog in shape. Not only do these exercises build muscle and body awareness, but they are fun to practice with and also help to raise confidence as well.

Having a fit Corgi is a sure fire way to confuse the general public.

Having a fit Corgi is a sure fire way to confuse the general public. (Photo by SunRunner Photography)

As with anything fitness related, it’s a good idea to consult with your trusted vet or physical therapist before starting a conditioning program. Proper body alignment is very important too. Try to avoid your dog scrunching up their body – keep their neck and spine in straight alignment when doing these moves, and start off slow so they do not become sore.

1. Wobble Board

The wobble board is a great introduction to moving platforms under a dog’s feet. They are most commonly used in agility foundation training but are a fantastic way to increase body awareness and muscle tone for all dogs.

The basic idea of a wobble board is a non-slip surface (usually round or square) that is big enough for the dog to comfortably stand on with all 4 feet and move around on. An easy way to build one at home is to find some sort of wood surface (pre-cut small table tops at the hardware store work well for this) and cut a 2 inch diameter circular hole in the middle. Then all you need to do to have an adjustable height wobble board is to put a tennis ball under the board. You can use different sizes to make the wobble board easier or more difficult (small to large). River’s favorite is a small traffic cone filled with cement – that results in a fairly tall wobble board. If your dog is at all unsure about moving surfaces, start small and work your way up.

Puppy's first introduction to a wobble board. If you have a very young dog, make sure the wobble board is used sparingly as the repeated motions can be hard on their joints. (Super cute photo by TU's Michelle)

Puppy’s first introduction to a wobble board. If you have a very young dog, make sure the wobble board is used sparingly as the repeated motions can be hard on their joints. (Super cute photo by TU’s Michelle)

When first introducing the wobble board, give your dog lots of treats for just checking it out and putting one or two feet on it. Always give them an “escape route” and do not hold them by collar or leash to stay on the board; if they want to get off that’s perfectly OK, just try again. Once they are putting all four feet on the board and looking comfortable with doing so, start asking them for different behaviors like position changes, spins, and hand touches. Ask them to run off the board for a cookie and then back on. If they like to tug, play while having them stand on the board. You can put your foot underneath the side of the board to move it gently up and down as well – only do this if your dog is very confident, otherwise it can be a little scary for them to suddenly lose control of its movement.

2. Ladder / Cavaletti

Ladder work is extremely beneficial for hind end awareness. Most dogs, if they have never learned otherwise, have NO idea what’s going on back there! Using a simple ladder or Cavaletti poles is an easy way to make your dog think about where their feet are going. This in turn will help them move around easier in daily life and in any sports they do.

For this, you can use any regular sized ladder you have hanging around, a specially made ladder found at agility websites such as cleanrun.com, or just large diameter PVC pipes that are laid on the ground and spaced apart. To get a decent amount of extension when the dog is trotting through the poles, measure from their elbow to the ground and double that – place the poles that distance apart. Start with about 6 poles and work your way up to 12 or even more.

To do the cavaletti exercise, just slowly walk next to the poles and reward your dog for walking over them. If they are extra clumsy (like Owen as a puppy!), start with only two or three poles and walk slowly until they are carefully stepping over instead of just dashing through. Once they understand that concept, add a bit of speed and more poles until they are going through the entire line without hitting any of the poles with their feet. Reward and play at each end!

Do the same thing with ladders – start slow and reward for careful placement of the foot. Try not to reward “bunny hopping” through the poles because that doesn’t help them gain a better idea of their hind end; you want your dog to place each foot with thought.

photo 3

River has cues for “back feet on stuff” and “front feet on stuff,” which is very helpful for balance exercises!

 

3. Balance Discs

Balance discs are one of my absolute favorite pieces of balance equipment. They are fairly inexpensive so you can buy several and really have fun with it! Work on having your dog be comfortable with placing their front feet on the disc, one at a time at first, and rewarding heavily for staying on. If the disc is large enough, try having them put all 4 feet on or only their back feet if you have a smaller version. Placing two a short distance apart, so your dog can place their front feet on one and their back feet on the other, is also an excellent way to work their entire body.

photo 5

Position changes – standing and laying down while still balanced on both disks.

 

This is such a great muscle toning tool – even just standing with two front feet on the disc really makes your dog work. Since River and Owen both tend to do activities that place weight forward onto their shoulders, I use the balance discs a lot for shoulder stretches and strengthening the front end to remove stress from the area.

 

4. Peanut Ball

I cannot take my dogs’ peanut ball out of its hiding spot without them wanting to jump on it IMMEDIATELY. This piece of equipment is extremely versatile and can be used with dogs who are just starting out on the road to fitness as well as your most seasoned canine athlete. We use ours several times a week to work on areas of weakness (like Frankie’s bad knees), general whole body toning, stretching, and balance work.

While you can certainly use a regular exercise ball for body awareness work, I highly recommend putting in the extra cash for a peanut ball. Purchase one that is large enough so your dog can comfortably stand on with a straight spine in order to avoid that “crunching” we talked about earlier. Make sure you steady the peanut against something so your pup doesn’t go flying off – leaning the ball against a couch, wall, or your legs works very well. You might also want your dog to wear a body harness so you can help to keep them steady until they gain enough strength to keep their balance while standing.

Combining two pieces of equipment can made a simple stationary exercise slightly more challenging. Frank LOVES his peanut time!

Combining two pieces of equipment can made a simple stationary exercise slightly more challenging. Frank LOVES his peanut time!

Similar to the balance discs, simple exercises like position changes are an easy and quick way to get a good work out on the peanut. Even just standing still on the ball engages their core muscles, and you can help to challenge their balance by carefully swaying the ball back and forth so they have to work harder.

 

A fit dog is a happy and injury free dog, so go out there and get started on some body awareness and balance work! These are just beginning ideas; you can take all of this equipment and do tons of different/challenging exercises. Making an appointment with a knowledgable physical therapist who can tailor a fitness program to your dog’s specific needs is an excellent idea. Custom conditioning lessons can sometimes even be done online with professionals. These exercises are also a great bonding time with your best friend, so have fun with it!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiking with Fido

The Bay Area of California boasts some amazing hiking spots, and we frequently take advantage of them by hiking with the dogs. There is nothing I love more than seeing my three buddies chase each other up and down hills, explore every inch of gorgeous shaded redwood forests, and wade through cool creeks on our weekly adventures. It is something our little family holds dear, but hiking with dogs comes with a few added concerns and takes some extra planning to ensure your outing is a successful one. Here is my quick guide of do’s and don’ts to keep both you and your dog happy and safe in the great outdoors!

First rule of dog hiking? Take as many cute photos as possible.

First rule of dog hiking? Take as many cute photos as possible.

Do respect leash laws.  

Don’t be that person who makes all responsible dog people look bad to outsiders; leash your dogs where posted and mandated by law. I hike my own guys almost entirely off leash, but only where it is legal to do so. Check the park’s website and read all the available signs if you have any doubt!

Even if the trails are legally off leash: it is ALWAYS a good idea to keep your dogs on leash in parking lots and when first entering a trail entrance. The last thing I want to happen when I’m getting ready to get my dogs out of their car crates is to have another dog come trotting over to us, and I especially don’t want to nearly hit them while trying to enter or exit the lot as well.

 

Don’t overestimate your dog’s recall skills.

Found an awesome off leash legal hiking trail? Great! But make sure your dog’s recall is top-notch before you unclip that leash. If you have any doubts about whether or not Max will come back to you when called, use a long line instead and work to improve his recall before going completely off leash first.

These dogs all have excellent recalls. The puppy who is not reliable yet is on a long line.

These dogs all have excellent recalls. The puppy who is not reliable yet is on a long line.

While out hiking there are a million and five things to attract your dog’s attention, and unless they have a solid recall foundation complete with plenty of well reinforced proofing, coming back to you immediately may not be included in their hiking agenda! Off leash hiking is a privilege for trained dogs, not a right. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean your dog is ready for that kind of freedom. This is essential for their safety and also for the well being of any wildlife and other dogs/people you may encounter.

 

On that note… Do leave wildlife and any other animals alone!

Never allow your dog to approach another dog unless the other handler gives their verbal permission. Assume all other dogs are unfriendly (or just normal dogs who don’t want Lucky bounding into their personal space bubbles) and take appropriate steps to ensure your dog ignores them. Trust me, as the person who has two reactive dogs that love to go hiking, the person you are passing on the trail with a death grip on their dog’s leash will appreciate plenty of space and respect. Don’t think your dog will recall off another? Return to the previous point, please. Typically I step well off the trail and put my (now leashed) dogs into down stays until the other dog passes, rewarding all the while. It’s easy, it is a good distraction training exercise, and no one has to do the awkward “my dog isn’t friendly!” dance.

No, I promise, those grazing cattle really don’t appreciate your dogs running up to them and trying to give chase. Horseback riders also really hate to have your dogs harass them while trail riding. Be polite to all other animals, humans included! No one likes a nasty creek soaked dog jumping all over them, and some people don’t appreciate dogs approaching them at all (I know that is unthinkable, but just go with it, ok?) My dogs and I practice their “leave it” constantly while hiking and I keep them at heel position while passing anyone else; it is an excellent time to polish up those particular skills.

 

Don’t be ignorant of environmental risks!

Be aware of the temperature, any additional elevation that your dog may not be used to, poisonous plants, ticks (we love neem oil spray around here!), and other grasses and weeds that can get caught in your dog’s mouth or nose. Foxtail season is REAL around here and can include many expensive vet visits if you are not careful. Make smart decisions about which trail you choose. The single track that is bordered with poison oak and ends in a field of burrs is probably not your best choice if you know your dog wants to off road it.

We always try taking swim breaks if the location allows it. River says she wasn't trying to drown her brother, only to help... keep him cool, of course!

Swim breaks are excellent for warmer days, if the location allows. River says she wasn’t trying to drown her brother, only to help keep him cool, of course!

Hiking at 7am on a summer morning is probably a much better idea than trying to brave a 95 degree trail at 2pm. Heat exhaustion happens quickly and can be deadly, so know the signs and keep your buddy cool. Dogs, like people, can be very affected by high elevation. Go for short walks until they get used to it and make sure they drink even more water than usual. Owen didn’t seem to mind last year when we hiked in Colorado during our nose work camp, but some of his friends were exhausted easily; it varies by the individual. Know what normal for your dog is and be able to watch for signs that they aren’t feeling up to a big hike.

 

Do work your way up to very long hikes.

A well conditioned and healthy dog can hike much longer than a pudge-y Pug can, so be realistic about your own dog’s limits. They can get muscle soreness and strains too, so take it easy on them until they’re used to long outings. Old dogs, young puppies, and out of shape individuals should only go on hikes with caution – shorter hikes are best for these guys.

River's very first hike at 13 weeks old.

River’s very first hike at 13 weeks old.

This should go without saying, but plenty of water and a decent first aid kit are both essentials while out in the wild. Be prepared! Dog backpacks are growing in popularity as well, and I do use them myself. However, this is again something that needs to be conditioned. Start with an empty pack and slowly work up to a maximum of 30% of your dog’s body weight. Sloooowly, I mean it. Make sure your pack fits well and isn’t putting excess weight on the spine; this is really where “you get what you pay for” comes into play. Products like cool coats for warmer days and booties for paws to protect against things like sharp rocks and thorns can be helpful additions to your hiking gear.

 

Got all that? Good!

Seasoned trail dog.

Your dog can be a seasoned trail master like Owen in no time!

Hiking with dogs can add some additional planning and thought to your trip, but it is an excellent source of mental and physical stimulation for your best friend. Be safe out there and have fun!

 

Supplements for Anxiety and Reactivity

wayward

When I first discovered that Frankie’s behavioral issues were as bad as… well, you could possibly IMAGINE, I jumped full on into training. We did tons of counter conditioning, Control Unleashed exercises, nose work (which was truly the biggest help), and BAT. Those are all fantastic protocols and they work wonders for many, many dogs – I use all of them with clients and see excellent results. Slowly but surely, Frankie progressed! His reactions became slightly less intense while fewer and further in between. However, the poor guy just needed some extra help. He was anxious nearly all the time, looking for a possible trigger out on walks or even in our home and yard. Being in public with him was awful; a dog who is terrified of humans living in suburbia is a dog who is going to be afraid A LOT. I was doing the best I possibly could and yet that was not enough. I knew I needed more help, and it certainly wasn’t in the form of different training methods. Enter: supplements for anxiety.

I admit, I was skeptical at first. How are a bunch of flower essences and hippie plants going to help my dog keep his cool around people who he is convinced might murder him? But I am thrilled to say, they do! Using supplements specifically for Frankie’s fear has been a huge help over the past few years to facilitate his coping skills in a world he isn’t entirely comfortable with. Don’t get me wrong: this is not a cure. While a single supplement or two isn’t going to magically obliterate generalized anxiety or specific reactivity, it sure does help take the edge off. I am going to list my top three favorite brands of supplements here that are safe to use for dogs as well as the benefits that I have found with Frankie and other dogs I have worked with. Keep in mind that natural aids vary for each dog who takes them as they are an individual; while one works perfectly for Frankie, the other might not help River or Owen at all. I found that experimenting with different supplements one at a time gave me a clear picture of which were best to use for each dog.

This should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: please check with your vet before adding anything new to your dog’s daily supplement routine. If your vet happens to be unfamiliar with the supplement you want to try out, suggest they look into it or feel free to seek other opinions! The first vet I mentioned this stuff to looked at me like I had three heads. I believe they said something along the lines of, “why would your dog need that!?” My response was not entirely professional, I have to say, as Frankie was huddled in the furthest corner away from the scary man trying to touch him. I soon found a new vet who is more appropriately versed in behavioral concerns and fully supports (and understands, most importantly) the use of aids for fear and reactivity.

mmt_4335-copy

Let’s first bust a common myth: supplements should not and do not make your dog drowsy or cause them to act like a zombie. Here’s River two hours after taking a high dosage of calming supplements.

 

Rescue Remedy by Bach Flower Remedies
Rescue Remedy was my first foray into the world of supplements for fear and anxiety. This all natural liquid is a blend made from the essences of flowers distilled in a carrier substance.

Bach Flower Remedies state that their products “… gently restore the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions, such as, fear, worry, hatred and indecision which interfere with the equilibrium of the being as a whole. The Bach Flower Remedies allow peace and happiness to return to the sufferer so that the body is free to heal itself.”

I know, I know: you are thinking what I thought four years ago! Hippie stuff… how will this help my fearful dog? But stay with me here!

I have had success using Rescue Remedy in a variety of dogs, the first of course being Frankie. While there is little change at home when he is dosed with RR; I have found that there is a positive difference in his situational anxieties when on Rescue Remedy in public. He is less likely to lash out while passing other dogs, and his tolerance goes up several degrees. Vet visits are much easier; he generally can recover quickly and take treats during an exam if given Rescue Remedy at least 30 minutes before our appointment. Typically if he goes to the vet without that “extra help,” physical exams of any kind are nearly impossible to do.

Taken in combination with other medication, Rescue Remedy improves Owen’s noise sensitivity to fireworks and thunder. I have also used it with dogs in group classes who are overwhelmed in new environments and have trouble relaxing. When I worked at a dog daycare and boarding facility, I would sometimes dose the dogs who whined continously in their kennels late at night. Overall the effect I have seen on most dogs that I use Rescue Remedy with is that they are able to relax easier in unfamiliar situations and have a better recovery time from stressful events than usual. Typically this event lasts a few hours.

Rescue Remedy can be given in a variety of different ways: a few drops in the dog’s water bottle, rubbed onto the inside of their ears (not into the ear canal!) and/or nose, or folded into a piece of food and given orally. I find that it works best when given orally. Make sure you buy the pet version as the carrier liquid is vegetable glycerin, not alcohol.

Pet Naturals of Vermont – Calming Support
Hands down, this is my favorite easy to find product for those times when you just need your fearful and reactive dog to calm down for a few hours. More often than not, I have at least a bag or two of these in my car to give to Frankie or River before walks or outings where I know we will run into their triggers.

The Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming Support comes in the form of a chicken flavored treat. My dogs all agree that they are tasty, so no worries about them being spit out due to an icky flavor. I do want to point out that if your dog has very severe food allergies, be sure to read the label carefully for the inactive ingredients list. I haven’t had a problem with the small amount of chicken liver flavoring, but your mileage may vary.

Active ingredients in this calming treat are: Thiamine (otherwise known as Vitamin B1), L-Theanine, and Colostrum Calming Complex. Together these support anxiety reduction without addiction or drowiness. Vitamin B1 helps to control the adrenal gland, which is responsible for releasing stress hormones into the body. Colostrum Calming Complex is sourced from the pre-milk fluids of bovines and among various uses, has been linked to supporting the body’s nervous system while helping to elevate mood and responsiveness to learning. (Here’s a link to an interesting research abstract on colostrum in newborn lambs.) We will get to L-Theanine in a minute.

I use this calming treat for basically any event that may be stressful: trial environments, vet visits, visitors to the house, and group walks or classes with my reactive dogs. Most often I will give these chews as soon as we get into the car to drive to a hiking trail. This is a common situation where their triggers (dogs, people, horses) may appear suddenly (thanks to busy Bay Area trails!) and any extra help to support their emotional responses is appreciated. Every time River meets a new dog she is given one or two of these treats and her tolerance goes way up. Just this week she went on a group hike with three new dogs. I had given her two of these treats an hour before we arrived at the meeting spot. After ten minutes of walking, she was relaxed and happy enough to go greet her new buddies, and during the entire hike she was much calmer when passing other dogs on the other side of the trail (naturally, we still kept our distance from strange dogs and played LAT games). Typically that kind of friendly behavior can take up to 2 hours of parallel walking and training exercises if no supplements were given to her. Fantastic.

L-Theanine

This fantastic supplement is an animo acid derived from green tea. Generally L-Theanine is used on humans to increase cognitive abilities, improve mood, and reduce stress, but our canine buddies can also use it! L-Theanine increases dopamine levels in the brain and can greatly boost relaxation levels without causing drowsiness. I won’t bore you with all the research details, but there have been a fair number of experiments done on the effects of this supplement both in humans and animals. The findings reported that L-Theanine increased alpha waves in the brain, which promotes a feeling of calm.

Common dosage for humans is 200mg, while I stick with 50mg for dog’s under 20 pounds and 100mg for dogs over 30 pounds. Dosages can safely be increased without harmful side effects, just make sure to check with your trusty vet first. I have found the easiest way to administer is to purchase pure powder, available online and in some speciality stores, and just add it to my dog’s meals. If you have a very large dog, pills are fine too, just make sure they do not contain any harmful additives like Xylitol. And of course, dog specific brands are available but too tend to cost more than products intended for humans.

I’ve used L-Theanine on quite a few dogs in the past two years, all of which showed positive change after taking the supplement. Before ultimately putting Frankie on Fluoxetine, he took daily L-Theanine for a number of months. His ability to relax in our home environment greatly improved and he was much less hyper vigilant out on walks.

River takes L-Theanine nearly every day and I have noticed an improvement in her reactivity when she is dosed in the morning versus nothing at all. Her big blow ups towards other dogs are less intense and she is much easier to distract away from reacting at all. I would say that this supplement in particular gives her a better shot at thinking through a possible trigger rather than just going straight over her threshold. It does not decrease her drive for training and interaction in the slightest, so don’t worry about your dog turning into a drooling zombie with this stuff.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 10.10.34 PM

How Riv feels after taking her daily L-Theanine.

 

These three supplements are just possible starting points and certainly not the only natural help you can give your dog, but they are a good place to start. If you are like I was back in the early days with Frankie, wondering what more could I do, please don’t hesitate to start exploring other options. As a professional dog trainer, I suggest behavior modification and training 100% of the time for dogs who are anxious and reactive, but that is not the only step needed for many dogs. Anxiety does not have to be a way of life for your best friend!

 

 

 

 

My Dogs Smell Better than Yours: an Introduction to K9 Nose Work

kylaquad2

About three years ago I sat in an uncomfortable plastic lawn chair on a semi-dark outdoor dog training field and watched my very first nose work class. Eight dogs, many of whom had never been given the freedom to do anything without their person’s guidance, were introduced to the notion that finding food in cardboard boxes was a THING they could do. Food! In boxes! On the ground! Who would have thought?

That night I told the instructors, “I have to do this! When can I put Frankie into a class? And how can I teach it!?”

Flash forward to now. I have received my certification as an instructor from the National Association of Canine Scent Work, two of my dogs have earned titles (and the third will kick some major butt when she is old enough), trialed at the highest level with a friend’s dog, watched hundreds of dogs search, taught many sessions of group classes, and currently instruct an average of 20 dog-handler teams per week. To say that I have become addicted to this sport would be a gigantic understatement. Nose work is the most fun I have ever had working with dogs. I think you should try it immediately.

Here are some points for anyone interested in K9 Nose Work®:

See that black object? Owen found that single container (filled with 2 half cotton swabs of odor) in a huge school courtyard.

See that black object? Owen found that single container (filled with 2 half cotton swabs of odor) in a huge school courtyard. Cool, huh?

  • Dog reactive dogs are welcomed. Since each dog works one at a time in both classes and trials, it’s perfectly okay if Fluffy isn’t thrilled with dogs in his face. We use a warning system of either the handler or dog wearing a red bandana to let other handlers know that that dog would like a little extra space.
  • Dogs who are deaf, blind, missing a limb, in a wheelchair, old, young, etc. are also welcomed. If your dog can sniff, your dog can do nose work.
  • It is a fantastic way to boost confidence in shy and fearful dogs. Giving a fearful dog the choice in how they work without constant human intervention is an incredibly powerful tool. Suddenly the dog understands that they can control their environment to some degree and that there are rules while playing the game. For instance, my human reactive boy Frankie knows that no one will squeal “cute dog!” and try to pet him while he is searching. Having that level of emotional safety is a big deal for him, and he thrives in nose work because of it. Besides Frank, I have seen and heard of amazing progress in all areas of a reactive/fearful dog’s life after doing just a few weeks of classes.
  • Nose work is a great mental and physical energy burner. Solving increasingly difficult scent problems can be exhausting even if your dog isn’t running laps in a search area. As someone who lives with three medium to very very high energy dogs… this is one of my favorite bullet points!
  • It can be done anywhere. All you need in the later stages is a cheap odor kit, your dog, a long leash, and their rewards. That’s it. No super special equipment to buy, and unlike other sports, you can practice basically anywhere your dog is allowed.
  • Sorry, but no, a couple of nose work classes will not get your dog ready to sniff out drugs for your local police department or find missing persons for SAR. While sharing many similarities in training, nose work is purely a sport and activity to have fun with your dog.
  •  Yes, it is in fact largely based on professional detection work, still… even if your Chihuahua is the world champion nose work dog, no one will hire him as an explosives detection dog. I promise. (You wouldn’t believe how many calls I get a month about this!)
  • Dogs start out searching for food or toys in order to give them an immediate incentive to play the game and help to build upon their natural hunt drive. Eventually the dogs will learn to recognize and alert to three different target odors. These include birch, anise, and clove.
Your car stinks, dude.

Frankie during a vehicle search at a mock trial. Photo by Gadabout Photography.

 

  • There are four elements to a K9 Nose Work® trial: exterior search, interior search, container search, and vehicle search. These four elements vary greatly between the levels: NW1, NW2, and NW3. But don’t worry, dogs only search the outside of the vehicles, they are not allowed to get inside of the car like the pros can!

 

Want to try the game out for yourself? Okay, let’s go!

Cardboard boxes are the main way we introduce dogs to nose work, since they help to contain the scent of the food and give a context for the game (dog sees a bunch of boxes: “Yay! We are playing that hunting game!”). Make sure your dog can easily access the inside of the box. If you have a teeny tiny dog, use a short box at first. If your dog doesn’t like sticking his head into a box with flaps, use a box without them for now. My garage is full of them, but you really only need 5-10 boxes. Just use the same one each time for the food to start with.

riv_headinbox

River has no problem with getting into boxes and sticking her head into them. Obviously.

 

Your dog should search for their absolute highest value food possible. A couple of items I have in my rotation include: cooked liver, steak, chicken, cheese, and hot dogs; feel free to use anything else that is equally awesome. You want your dog to choose searching for food over anything else in the environment, so make it worth their while. I can assure you that while Oscar may like his regular kibble well enough for meals, he will go nuts over chicken and give you much more enthusiasm. The majority of the canine population will choose high value food over toys, but if yours loves his tennis ball above all else, use that!

If you have multiple dogs, put the others away in a separate area while one dog is working. On a side note, this is a great way to work on crate manners with the other dogs while brother or sister is playing. My puppy River will throw herself into any nearby crate after her turn; she knows that’s the only way I will restart a different search!

Start the search indoors when first introducing nose work. Your backyard or the local park may have more space, but it also has way too many distractions for most green dogs. A large area isn’t needed for beginning box searches: I use my living room with the coffee table pushed against a wall all the time!

There aren’t too many rules for nose work, but the number one is ZERO OBEDIENCE. Really. No “leave its,” no “come!”, no “no!”, none of that silly stuff here. The reason for that is because we are building on the dog’s natural responses and instincts. By giving them cues and directions, you are putting the human stuff back into the equation. Have some patience and give your dog the time to show you their world. A big difference with nose work compared to other sports is that you truly are not going to teach your dog anything new; you are the one who needs to learn how scent works and the best way to refine their already incredible skills. So, as the popular saying goes, trust your dog! This is especially important if you would like to compete at some point, when you will have no clue where the odor is placed.

Alright. You have your curious dog, cardboard boxes, and boiled liver ready to go. Put a couple of treats in one of the boxes (henceforth known to you as the stinky food box) and let your dog eat them. Put a few more in and then “hide” the box while your dog is watching but restrained. Release them. When they go to get their food and start to eat, drop a few more pieces into the box one by one – this reinforces the find and allows the dog to stay at the box a little longer. Pick up the now empty and slobbery box, then either have someone hold onto your dog, put them into a crate, or into another room before their second turn. Rearrange the boxes and dispense more food into the stinky food box. Release your dog. Once they find the correct box, hooray! More food! Pick up the box and repeat the process. Working with your dog off leash is optimal; that way they are free to move as quickly as they want and you aren’t getting in the way like a silly human.

riv_boxes_two

River checks out the white box because I touched it with greasy hot dog hands – this is one of the reasons why we use only one stinky food box to start out with. My girl isn’t confused though; she catches the odor in the short box soon after.

Here is another rule: don’t be stingy! Give lots of food rewards each time your dog finds the correct box and throw a party (if they like that sort of thing). When your dog starts to figure out the game and is madly excited to search, begin to make it a little more challenging. Examples of how to do this include: putting an empty box on top of the food box so your dog has to push off the empty box to reward themselves, placing boxes in a big pile with the food box somewhere underneath, stacking the food box on another box so it’s slightly elevated, hiding the food box in a bigger box on it’s side, the possibilities are endless!

frank_pile

Pile O’ Boxes! The odor is place on the side of the dark blue box that Frank is pushing up.

 

A simple box search by itself is an awesome rainy day activity for any dog and can be played over and over again with just searching for food or toys. However, classes are a ton of fun and the best way to learn how to really get into nose work. You can find a directory of instructors in your area through the association at www.NACSW.net, just click on “certified instructors” towards the top. Workshops are also a fantastic way to get the sport started in areas without CNWIs yet, so watch out for those. This sport is pretty new to the scene, but it’s growing fast!

And just for giggles, here is a glimpse of what a more advanced search looks like:

Have fun and happy sniffing!

Scratching Posts: they aren’t just for cats anymore!

Frankie is my Issue Dog. He lived a hard knock life on the streets (or something to that effect) until he was 5 months old and came to me a completely shell-shocked little dude. Three and a half years later, strange people are still scary. Most other dogs are still awful. The world is just a scary place for a dog who never learned how to cope with society early in life. Thankfully, Frankie and I have found a nice system of management for his intense behavior setbacks and he adores me. I am usually the most awesome person in his life… until I try to clip his nails.

Continue reading