Monday, May 31, 2010

Obedience Thoughts

We had our private obedience lesson today and it went pretty well. Heffner was getting a little pooped towards the end of his half, but that's kind of to be expected. His heeling was quite good, but that was mostly due to the fact that I held a better pace for him. Our instructor has been trying to get me to hold a faster normal pace for him. He looks adorably animated when I can hold a very brisk pace and is just generally more engaged when I'm moving out more and not so slow that he has time to get bored and look around. I think his sits have gone back to being a bit more crooked like they were to begin with. So I need to go back to working on that. He was getting better about before we left, but two weeks off and wanting to focus on my face so much has him popping that rear out more. The shocker for me were his recalls. He's always had pretty great recalls. It's something that I haven't had to really focus on because he happily comes to front when I call him. For whatever reason, today he just stayed sitting every time that I called him to come front. Sometimes even on the second command. This totally blew me away! Guess that's something to work on! Otherwise, I was pleased with where he was at given the two weeks off.

Bess was so freaking cute and attentive that I could have squeezed her to death! I seriously have a hard time sometimes not fawning over her (he he pun intended!) when she's being so good. She gets this excited and super engaged look on her face like she's really looking forward to whatever I'm going to ask her to do next. I really can't adequately describe it, but I LOVE it! Anyhow, she was popping down with those automatic sits like nobodies business. With her I'm more picky about her being in ideal heel position and I will correct her if she's too far out. We're not going for exact position right now, but I do want her getting a better idea of where she needs to be. With Heffner it's a slower process. She was doing great scooting her little bum in! Her heeling was also pretty good. With the break we've had and how engaged and focused on my face she was, she did tend to swing her butt out a bit while heeling and her sits were a bit more crooked than they usually are. I think that's just mostly due to lack of practice over two weeks and with the exercises still being relatively new, there's just not quite the muscle memory like there would be after a few years of this. Otherwise, she did great on everything else that I've asked her to do!

With Bess we have started toying around with some of the upper level exercises. We've just started the very beginning of some directed jumping. We did a little bit with the broad jump today. And we also started working on her dumb bell retrieve. She's not a big retriever, which consequently may actually be in my favor. I won't have to do any retraining with her and getting her to understand that the retrieving doesn't stop when she's done playing. She actually did pretty well and our instructor was quite pleased with how she did with holding the dumb bell for her first time. She gave us a dumb bell to toy around with and see how Bess likes it before we go out and order one of our own.

And like anything else, whenever I come away from a lesson I have a bunch of things swirling around in my head. I've decided to start keeping a personal log after these lessons of what we worked on with each dog, things that need more focus, any additional ideas for training various things that get thrown out there, and future plans. It really helps me to have a game plan written down. I need something that I can go back to at least once a day to make my training sessions more focused and effective. I thought about recording it in the blog, but it's a little more annoying for me to be constantly leafing through various posts to find what I'm specifically looking for while it's buried in whatever else I'm talking about on that day.

I'm slowly starting to formulate obedience related goals for the dogs. The goals for each are very different based on the individual dog's personality and they're mind set. I'll start with Heffner.

When we got Heffner, I didn't originally get him with the intent of purchasing a performance dane puppy. I knew that I wanted to dabble in performance sports, but since I was such a newbie, I wasn't really sure how far I would go or how much I would stick with. I really should have given myself more credit on this front since I had an Arabian horse growing up that I competed in everything from 4-H to open shows to breed shows in a variety of disciplines. I was as obsessed then as I was now. With the exception that now I have my own money and my own time constraints to work with versus needing my parents to drive me around to competitions and to the barn where my horse was boarded to work her. But I digress!! Like I said, Heffner was not purchased with the primary goal of him being a performance prospect. Add into that some temperament issues that can make competition in some areas difficult and I have a dog for whom I need to focus on things for his well being and not just things that I am the one wanting to do. He's got plenty of heart and wants to work with me and go everywhere with me, but he does have limitations. For obedience, I am uncomfortable with the thought of leaving him alone in the ring with a bunch of random strange dogs for the long sits and downs at the open level. While I realize that's still a ways off, it is also only one level above where we're working at. Knowing this, I don't feel a whole lot of "pressure" to get Heffner perfect or to put too much stress on competing with him for obedience. With that said, he will still get trained right along with Bess and I'll take him as far as I can. I still want to train him for the open and utility levels, it just means that I most likely won't be competing with him at that level. So with him, my goals are fairly lax with regards to obedience. I probably won't put him into an actual obedience trial until after Bess has her CD. Which also means that he needs to be more precise because I'll be in the B class with him. I may enter him in a trial earlier, but mostly likely it won't be until the first half of next year that he will make his novice debut.

For Bess, my hopes are high and our instructor fully agrees with me on this. Bess was purchased with the intent that she be a performance dog. She is not only happy to be out there with me, but she genuinely wants to work and is actively trying to figure out what I'm going to ask of her next. I LOVE seeing that look on her face!! It's that expression that makes heeling my favorite thing right now. I get to spend the whole time just walking all over the place while looking into those excited brown eyes! Just generally I can see more potential in her and I'm really excited about it. When we'll step back into the obedience ring after our previous attempt in May, I'm still not entirely sure of. I would like for things to be more polished with her. I don't want just to get a qualifying score with her. I want to get a very NICE qualifying score with her. With Bess, it's not just about getting the title. I don't want her to just look average. I want her performance to be well worth the qualifying score. That is a challenge that I'm definitely looking forward to! I do have a feeling though that we'll make another try at it towards the end of August. Our obedience club is hosting an obedience and rally trial at that time. I've actually donated a prize for the highest scoring great dane. I'm hoping that will be us, but there are no guarantees!

And with that jumble of thoughts, I'm heading off to watch some TV with Adam and the pooches! I hope that everyone had a great Memorial Day!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pine Grove Trip

Today I packed up the dogs and we headed out to Pine Grove for some romping and relaxing with my parents. My dad was spending some time working on the little cabin that he's building up there. Heffner decided to "help" him out.;o)

And just our luck, there was an animal skull of some sort near the cabin. Heffner found it and brought it up to us to show it off and apparently try to use it as chew toy.

When he continued chewing on the skull, my dad decided to put it up where he couldn't get to it. I think my dad was going to use it for something. The only place to put it "up" was one of the trees. Heffner wasn't too happy with losing his new toy and tried a few attempts at getting it out of the tree.

Meanwhile, Bess was having a great time digging holes and pruning some bushes. For whatever reason, whenever we go there, she goes crazy digging holes. I caught her in the act with this one!
After hanging out at the cabin for a while we headed out for a little hike. Along the way we came across this little guy!!

Since the weather was a little warm, we popped by a pond to let the dogs get something to drink and cool off a bit.

When we got back to the cabin, Bess made herself a little bed under one of the trees and settled in.
We all had a great time and now we're just hunkering down and relaxing at home, looking forward to sleeping in on the holiday Monday!! We have our obedience lesson tomorrow in the afternoon that I'm looking forward to. I haven't done much training with the dogs since we got back and they obviously had two weeks off. So it should be interesting!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

We're Back!!

Technically we got back late on Thursday night. But with the time difference, spending almost 24 hours awake due to catching various flights, and just being tired, I wasn't really feeling up to posting. And on Friday I drove up to meet Georgia in the Seattle area (she was on her way to a dog show this weekend and I was able to meet her a little further south) to pick up the pooches.:) Seeing as how this weekend is a holiday weekend, everyone and their mom decided it was a great idea to either take the day off or leave work early and clog the highways. That royally sucked. On my way up the drive that normally takes me three hours took three and a half. Not too bad. Especially compared to the drive back. On the way back, it took me nearly 5 and a half hours. Seriously. I was NOT happy. Especially considering the amount of douche bags hanging out in the left lane who thought that it was cool to go under the speed limit. NOT cool!

Anyhow, by the time I got home and go the dogs settled, it was time to start unpacking all of my stuff and I just wasn't really up to blogging until today. The dogs have been pretty pooped from their stay at Gramma G's and have pretty much just been happily lazing about. Bess was a good girl while we were gone. Heffner was not thrilled that there was an intact male on the premises and vocalized his displeasure whenever said boy dog was within sight. I kind of figured that would happen and had warned Georgia ahead of time. I was hoping that he would eventually settle down and adjust to the idea of having an intact male around (it wasn't like they were let out together or really allowed in close proximity to each other), but that was apparently not the case. As such, I have a feeling that Heffner never fully relaxed while he was there. He dropped a bit of weight and I'm increasing his food. He's pretty much been sleeping since he got home unless he's been eating or going to the bathroom. We're going to lay low today so that they can both recuperate. We're heading up to my parents' property in Pine Grove and they'll be able to run amok there, so I want them plenty rested so they can fully enjoy their time being "wild" dogs.:o)

As you may have noticed, I didn't end up posting any pictures or blogging at all while I was gone. I gave up on that idea the first time I tried to upload some trip pictures to Facebook. That didn't go well at all. Our internet connection was slow to start with and I was only able to upload one picture at a time and that uploading process took 5-7 minutes per picture. And since Blogger has always been slower than Facebook to start with, my patience was not going to hold to even see what it would be like to just upload a blog post. With that said, we had a blast while we were on vacation! The weather was hot a humid, which was kind of difficult for me to deal with unless I was near a body of water. Thankfully there were great pools and all sorts of ocean fun to be had! There were too many things that we did and saw to really go into, but I will post a selection of the pictures that we took!:o)

These were taken at our resort (Sandals Halcyon) while we were just walking around checking out the place.

I think that pretty much all the pools at all the resorts either had a swim up bar or a bar very close to them. And the strength of the drink very much depended on the whim's of the bar tender at that time.

Probably the coolest thing about staying at the Sandals resort was that there were two other Sandals resorts that were roughly 15 min. away from our by shuttle. By staying in one Sandals resort you automatically had free access to the other two. If you weren't staying at a Sandals there something like a $100 fee per person to gain access to the grounds and I'm not sure what all that includes. We took advantage of this and visited the other resorts. The first one we hit up was the Grande.
We just happened to pick the perfect night to visit that resort because they were having a special late night chocolate desert extravaganza! There were a few different tables fully of various chocolate yummies like this:
One of the days we did an excursion on a catamaran (hopefully I'm spelling that correctly!).

On the boat trip we made a foray into the volcano. The volcano is still active and venting some of the most gawd awful rotten egg smells! The overwhelming smell combined with the heat and humidity was almost enough to knock you off your feet!

Probably my favorite of the three resorts was the Regency. It was just gorgeous!!

And that was our trip! I am happy to be home and even happier coming home to an automatic three day weekend!! I'm sure that I'll have more dog related things to say tomorrow, but for now I'm going to go snuggle up with my snoozing pooches.:) I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Heading Out!

The above picture was taken by Georgia of the puppers this morning.:o) How sweet of her was that to send me a little picture of my babies enjoying the sunshine?? Needless to say, it made my morning to open up her email and see their little faces. I'm sure they're totally enjoying this nice weather. Many of the dog runs that she has up there are bigger than our back yard. Lots of room for them to cavort with each other and lots of new things for Heffner to mark and leave his "manly" presence on.;o)

We are officially packed up and ready to go. We'll be leaving for the airport in a little while. Now we're just sitting back and relaxing some before our travels begin. I hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Quiet House

Today I dropped the dog's off at the ole Daynakin Ranch. I know that it's completely absurd, but I was honestly a little choked up when I left. They're in the best possible care that they could be and I can go on our trip with my mind at ease. None the less, I'm still really sad not to have them with me up until the moment that I leave. I'm just so used to having them with me every possible minute, that I almost feel naked without them.

As I was driving home, I drove along one of our running routes and I could picture me jogging along the sidewalk with a dog on each side. As I was vacuuming the house tonight, it was so strange not to have Bess in the background and Heffner following on my heels (literally!) waiting for me to get out the hose so that he could attack it. After I got off the treadmill it was so odd to do my stretches without Heffner standing over the top of me or positioning himself just so, so that I could rest my head on his leg. There was no Bess to come racing down the stairs when she realized that Heffner was getting attention that she wasn't. I also didn't have to worry about her stepping on my head in her exuberance. As I was puttering around later on finishing a few things up, there was no Bess to ram her in my butt at an odd moment when I least expected it. And as I sit here typing this, the dogs beds are empty and there are no dogs occasionally getting up to check in with me and get some loves. It's just so quiet and empty around here without them.

And now that I've gone and gotten all depressing on everyone (or at least anyone who is still reading at this point!), I now need to change my focus to beautiful Caribbean beaches, yummy fruity drinks, soaking in all sorts of great things, and LOTS of sunblock (I put the white in white girl)! You can definitely count on me to take lots of pictures and we should have internet access while we're down there. I'm bringing my laptop with me and I'll probably do a few posts while we're down there that won't be necessarily dog related. I have a feeling that no one will really mind.:o)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Magazine of the Month

My pick for Magazine of the Month is Front and Finish!!! This is an obedience focused magazine with tons of great articles. There are individual highlights on different dogs who have accomplished different things. There are tons of training articles. There's coverage of various obedience trials such as the AKC National Obedience Invitational. It's just all things obedience and I've really enjoyed it so far! This is a magazine that I personally have a subscription to. While I haven't seen it sold at general pet stores, I wouldn't be horribly surprised if select training facilities sell it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


CERF stands for the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. As taken from the CERF web site, "CERF is an organization that was founded by a group of concerned, purebred owner/breeders who recognised that the quality of their dogs' lives were being affected by heritable eye disease." The CERF eye exam is the gold standard by which the majority, if not all, breed clubs test the quality of their potential breeding stock against. The CERF eye exam is one of the four health tests necessary for a great dane to get their CHIC certification.

The test is relatively simple, but must be performed by a certified canine ophthamologist. Drops are placed into the dogs eyes approximately 10-15 min. prior to the exam. Then the dog is taken into a room where the ophthamologist has a series of special lenses and other equipment used to look at the dog's eyes while the lights are out in the room. The procedure is really very quick and painless. Both of my dogs have now gone through it. Bess has had it done a couple of times and Heffner got his done for the first time in April. He let the ophthamologist know how he felt about the testing by letting out the biggest and most dramatic sigh while he was getting his eyes looked at.:o) It was pretty funny and got a chuckle from the doctor.

The eye exam will essentially let you know of anything that is wrong with your dog's eyes. Be it an eye lid problem such as entropian or ectropian. Or be it a problem of the eye itself, such as glaucoma. There are many eye problems that are genetic and where it is feasible, you want to rule those genes out in the future. This test gives breeders a way to better assess their potential breeding stock.

Unlike many of the OFA tests, the CERF exam is required annually in order to maintain the dog's certification. When looking up a dog's records on the OFA web site, the latest date of the exam for each test is listed. If the dog is over due, that line is recorded in italics. There is also no age limit for a dog to have a CERF exam.

In addition to be a quick and painless procedure, it's also fairly inexpensive. As always, the cost will vary depending on where you go to get it done. If you make an independent appointment with an ophthamologist to have them look at your dog's eyes, you are looking at a considerably higher cost. However, there are CERF clinics everywhere. The vast majority of all breed shows have a clinic going on at least one of the days. I highly recommend going to one of these clinics if you are interested in getting your dog tested. The cost is generally $25 for the exam. You then mail off the results of the test to CERF itself. The cost of registering your dog the first time is $12. After that it's $8 each time. So at it's most expensive the CERF exam costs a whopping $37.

If you're looking to get a puppy and your screening your breeders, beware the "breeder" who says they don't need to health test their dogs or that the health testing is just too expensive. It's not and that's not a good enough excuse! If it was such a hard test to come by and so costly (which it obviously isn't), then why on earth would I even bother getting my neutered male tested when he will never be part of anyone's breeding program? It's just no excuse. It's better to know what you're getting passed down from your puppy's parents than not to.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book of the Month

I have a pretty varied interest in things that I read whether they’re dog related or not. And when it comes to dog related books, I really do enjoy reading about a variety of different topics. There are soooooo many different dog sports, activities you can do with your dog, and different areas to learn about that the options are really endless. When I actually get around to it, I do enjoy tracking with my dogs. And while I don’t have a specific interest in trying to train for search and rescue with either of my dogs, the discipline still interests and fascinates me.

In “Search and Rescue Dogs” you get a really in depth look at just what it takes to be part of a team and unit. There are a whole variety of situations that you can train your dog to work in. Whether you want to train them for a specific type of situation or a general one, there’s a whole lot more involved than I originally thought there was. That’s not to say that I thought the endeavor was easy, but it’s more involved than I had originally thought.

The very beginning of the book gives an introduction to the formation of the American Rescue Dog Association (ARDA). And guess what! They were started right here in the Pacific Northwest!! I found it really interesting how everything got started. This wasn’t just a group of people who got together just because and thought it would be neat to start a search and rescue group. This was a gathering of like minded people who wanted very disciplined dogs who were capable of doing a pretty challenging task under all manner of circumstances.

If you’re really interested in doing search and rescue work, having the right dog is pretty important. The book describes the qualities that you should look for when picking out your puppy. What you should look for in the parents. What aspects it may be okay to forgive a bit on and which you really shouldn’t. You also need to take into consideration the breed of the dog. What type of search and rescue do you want to do? You need to think about the general climates that you will be working in. A short haired breed may not necessarily be appropriate for avalanche work. You should also take into consideration the size. A small breed dog really isn’t appropriate for searching through thick brush where they can lose sight of where they’re going or get frustrated from having such a hard time making forward progress. While larger breeds are more ideal for all conditions, you also need to take into consideration what the dog was bred for. Bloodhounds are great for nose to the ground tracking, but generally they don’t work well off leash and aren’t great for air scenting work.

Being part of a search and rescue team is a pretty demanding endeavor. There is a whole lot of training involved. This is not something that you enter into with the assumption that you and your dog will be raring to go and ready to find your first lost person within the year. There is a lot of foundation work to be laid down and there is a LOT of time put in each week on training. We’re talking training sessions of several hours each, a few times a week. All of this makes sense considering the fact that you will need a searching dog that can stay on the task until the person is found, regardless of how long it takes and what the conditions are.

There are a few chapters that focus specifically on how to lay the foundation work for your dog and how to progress. The training chapters are fairly in depth. Explaining roughly how long each exercise should be, how many exercises per session, how many sessions per week, and what kind of variables you should throw in there. There are a lot of specifics on the types of terrain you should use along with where, the types of people you should use to help you (this is definitely not something that you can do on your own!), and how to assess when your dog is ready to go on to the next training step.

Anyone who has been involved in any sort of canine sport knows that the handler can really make or break the team. Search and rescue is no different, though the necessary handler knowledge goes far beyond just knowing how to work and understand your dog. Being part of a unit doesn’t mean that you just grab your dog, go find the person and you’re done. If you’re the first team to find the missing person and emergency personnel are a goodly distance away, you need to have the knowledge to help this person in case of a medical emergency. It is necessary that the handler have certified first aid training. It’s also necessary the handler be VERY familiar with how to read a topographical map. Along with reading a map come the general orienteering skills of how to combine a topo map with a compass. And since the team will be out searching sometimes for very long hours and/or may have to hunker down and wait for assistance once the victim is found, general survival skills are necessary.

Once the training of the handler and dog are under way, it’s time to form a unit. Again, this is one of those things that I just never even thought about when I heard about search and rescue teams. There’s a lot that goes into forming a unit. Many things that have to be thought about ahead of time before deciding whether or not that unit is ready to become licensed and start performing real searches. The unit also needs to know what the general climate and terrain conditions are for their area, depending on the time of year. Making sure that all members are well trained for all conditions is incredibly important.

When everyone in the unit is trained and knows what their job(s) are, you must continue to train and keep those skills honed. There’s a nice section in the book describing different types of exercises that the unit should do, the conditions to stay prepared for, and skills to focus on.

A general description of the various situations a unit could be called into are then explained. Ideas on how to handle specific situations are also discussed. Things such as how to handle an agency’s request of how to utilize various volunteers that have showed up to help with the search. How to handle media attention on a specific case as well as many other situations.

Once you’ve got the basic search guidelines and situations figured out, you can start training for specific situations. Search training for events such as water rescue or avalanche rescue. I personally find the water rescue work really interesting. Different scenarios each require specific types of training and it’s important to know this if you choose to specialize the type of rescue work you do.

There is a large focus on disaster searching. There’s a lot involved in training a dog to search through disaster sites to find people. First of all, you need to think about whether your dog will be trained to look for survivors or if the dog will be trained to look for the remains of victims. Both require separate and specific training. Once you have that figured out, you need to decide how you are going to train your dog to indicate what they’ve found. Whether it be to lay down at the site, bark, or scratch. If you have a dog who will be trained to work in rubble searches, you need to train them to be confident searching on all different types of substrates and obstacles. Additionally, they need to be able to work with a variety of distractions around them. They need to be able to tune out other dog and handler teams in addition to the various other rescue personnel and all of their varied equipment. The dog must be very focused. The dog must also be trained to follow voice commands in addition to signals. A lot of disaster sites have so much going on around them that often times the dog will not be able to hear the handler’s commands. It is imperative above all else that the dog obey the handler regardless of how far away they are, what obstacles they are climbing on, and regardless of whatever else is going on around them.

Towards the end of the book is a recount of some of what the search and rescue teams went through during the aftermath of 9-11. It’s chilling to hear what all those teams went through to search for survivors during the time immediately following the attacks. It’s even more amazing to hear about the heroics of the dogs and what they endured in the search for survivors.

Following the descriptions of some of the big disasters that canine search and rescue teams have helped out on is a description of basic first aid for the dog. While a lot of basic human first aid information can be applied to dogs, there are specifics that apply only to the dog. A general description of these procedures is given.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Blogger Tuesday

My pick for Blog of the Week is Zane's Wobbly Journey! This blog is the chronicle of a great dane named Zane who was diagnosed with Wobblers in 2007. I think that it's always helpful for people to share their experiences when their dogs are going through/have gone through a trying medical procedure and/or experience. There's so much to learn from everyone's individual experiences. Other's stories can often help to temper the anxiety felt by those going through something for the first time. It can be helpful to know about the ups and downs. And on a public forum such as a blog, it's also nice to give people reassurances when you can when they're in a down spot. So head on over and check it out!

Monday, May 10, 2010

One of Those Days.....

I know it's only Monday, but I can already tell it's going to be one of those weeks. "Thankfully" it's work related stuff that's got me wanting to bang my head against a wall. Just when it seems like enough things have gone wrong, MORE crap rolls down the hill. It's this kind of crap that seriously makes me want to quit my job and figure out how to do the dog thing full time. However, I'm not naive to the fact that "the dog thing" takes a whole heck of a lot of work and time in order to make a living at. And that's time not spent with my own dogs. And really, that kind of life change would have all sorts of stresses associated with it at least initially. So I'm back to just sucking it up and waiting for the next thing to go wrong, as they seem to inevitably do over the past few months.

It's days like these though, that I appreciate my dogs so much more! We had our private obedience lesson today and as always it was so much fun and I came away with my head ready to burst from all the information. Thankfully in a good way.;o) The dogs did really well, though I have to admit that Bess did REALLY well. I'm so happy with her heeling, her automatic sits, and how she's really figured out what I mean when I say "get in" while getting her to scoot her butt in on a crooked sit. Heffner was Mr. Happy Heeler, which is always cute! Just generally one of those sessions where you wish that it could be like this all the time. Why can't I just spend my days training my dogs and maybe a few others?:)

Maybe this week just seems harder because we're going to be leaving for a vacation on Sunday. We're leaving for two glorious weeks to go to St. Lucia for the wedding of some friends of ours. Sadly, the dogs will not be going with us (unfortunately we don't have our own private jet!). They will be staying up at Bess' breeder Georgia's though. This is the first time that both Adam and I are going to be gone for a lengthy bit of time that we couldn't have a family member staying at the house 24-7. We've been quite lucky in the past. However, I'm really happy with this arrangement. Georgia has her property nicely fenced off into large chunks of separate dog runs. Heffner and Bess will be able to hang out and still play together, without some idiot at a doggy day care trying to throw Heffner into an overcrowded day care session and wondering why it doesn't work so well. Plus, Georgia obviously has a dane savvy vet close by that she can run either dog off to should something happen. Mostly it comes down to peace of mind knowing that someone who REALLY knows what they're talking about and won't put my dogs into uncomfortable situations, will be looking after them while we're gone. I'm still going to miss them dreadfully though!

So yes, we're going to be out of the country for a couple of weeks (family will be watching the house and taking care of the cats). Hence why I've spent the majority of this month's posts hammering out my monthly goals! I decided to take a bit of a break today and just meander on the blog. I will be back to regularly scheduled posts tomorrow.;o)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Happy Mothers Day everyone!! I took some time this week to get some better footage of the dogs doing their side sit-ups/side bends on the air mattress. I was going to record an exercise for this month's conditioning post anyway and I'm just anal enough about this stuff that I wanted a better example of the dogs doing what I was originally talking about from last month. So here it is!

The exercise that I focused on for this month involves the pill shaped ball. This particular ball I picked up at Fred Meyer for somewhere between $19.99 and 24.99; I just can't remember. I'll post the video clip first and then explain afterwards.

What I'm trying to accomplish with this exercise is to get the dog to stay in a sitting position and slowly take one step forward. To do this, the dog has to work all their various muscles and really engage those core muscles to keep the back legs on the ball, but also move the ball with them and not have it go flying out. I do keep my back foot against the ball so that there aren't any instances of this happening otherwise.

I chose the pill shaped ball for this exercise because it's pretty ideal for it. It's meant to roll mostly in two directions and not all directions like a circular ball. I'm sure that any generally oval shaped ball would do, but the egg ball that I have is too tall for what I want. The dogs would have their rears higher than their front ends (or at least Bess would) if I were to use it. Plus, I think that when you're first trying out this exercise, it's helpful to get the dog realizing what you're doing with a shorter pill ball so that it builds confidence and also lets you as the handler figure out where your arms and legs need to be without any danger of the dog getting injured.

To start things out, I have the dogs slowly walk over the pill ball. You can see they've some great balancing skills and will actually put all four feet on the ball before walking over it. You want to keep that motion slow and controlled. Otherwise you have a dog that's just hopping and flailing around and most likely going to injure themselves, you, or both of you. Control is good!

Once the dogs are comfortably in a sitting position, I use a treat to lure them to take a step forward. I don't want them walking off of the ball, but I do want them to take one step and roll the ball with them. Once they get the treat and I pull my arm back to get another one, they take a step backwards, which also requires control and engagement of various muscle groups. It's essentially a back and forth motion. And as you'll notice, the dogs generally crane their heads around to see when the treats coming. Because they're always bending in that one direction when facing that way, I also do this same exercise with them facing the opposite direction so that they don't build up any muscle imbalances. I didn't have the tripod set up correctly to capture them doing this exercise in the other direction (and I also didn't have it set up to record quite high enough, but it works).

It's a pretty simple exercise. Once they're comfortable with the ball it should be pretty simple. At some point in the future I will probably buy an egg ball that is slightly larger than the pill ball for this exercise and others that spring from it. Just to make things a little more difficult.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

YouTube of the Month

Isn't that a cute commercial??? I saw it a while back and sort of forgot about it. That's my YouTube pick for the month of May.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Web Site of the Month

I know that plenty of people already know about this web site, but just in case you are one of the few left (I was for a while!) who doesn't already know about Loldogs, you REALLY need to go check it out! It's basically a conglomeration of pictures that people submit involving dogs and then they add some random entertaining captions to it. It just cracks me up! There were some from a few Halloweens ago that seriously almost made me pee my pants! While not every single picture is a winner, just keep scrolling through and you'll find some laugh out loud ones!:o)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Product of the Month

My pick for Product of the Month is the GoGo 10 Panel Exercise Pens w/Door. Having an x-pen for each dog is incredibly convenient in many circumstances. Dog shows, camping, trials, and just travelling in general. Having a couple of x-pens in many of these situations just makes things a lot easier for me. For one, the x-pens are sturdier than a soft crate, which is what I usually bring along for travel with the dogs. While it's not really a big deal with Bess, Mr. Paws-a-lot isn't 100% reliable in the soft crate just yet. The x-pens are also a lot larger, allowing me to put a full size dog bed in there while still giving the dogs room to stretch and an area to put a water bucket without worrying that it'll drench something if it gets knocked over.

The only other thing that I was worried about was price. I didn't want to pay a small fortune for them since I was going to need the tallest height (48") and I was going to need two of them. These GoGo X-Pens are only $85.99! That's really a great price. Granted you'll pay a little bit for the shipping, but it was well worth it for me in the long run.

While I will admit that I wasn't thrilled about the doors on them initially, I actually kind of like them now. It does make getting objects in and out of the area a little annoying when you have to stoop down to get through the door, but it's a minor annoyance. I like having a door that will "lock" shut without me having to worry about bringing along clips and what not.

The only other thing that I was potentially worried about with these x-pens was that they originally appeared as though they were all of one piece. I preferred pens that I could open up and connect together to make one more giant enclosed area. It turns out that these ones just have a rod that you pull out and they open up, allowing you to connect more than one. Perfect!

So far I'm really happy with them! They also fold down nice and small.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Collar of the Month

My pick for Collar of the Month is the decorative hemp line by Earth Dog!! The collars are afford ably priced, durable, and hold up well when washed multiple times. I know that it seems kind of trendy-ish or whatever, but I just thought it would be fun to have hemp collars for the dogs.:o) What can I say, I'm a gimmick shopper! But overall I like these collars. The green one is for Heffner.
And Bess got the blue.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blogger Tuesday

My pick for Blog of the Week is Fanny's Clicker Dog Blog!! Lots of pictures (a definite must!), tips, and fun things to try out. As I've said before, I have really wanted to get more into clicker training and getting my dogs to think for themselves and try things out to decipher what I would like them to do. I think that this blog helps give some ideas. And it's just a fun read! So go on over and check it out!

Today I've been having one of those blah days after returning to work. I didn't really have time to check my work email while I was down in Lodi and I just sort of put it off yesterday even though I was home and technically had time to do it. Needless to say, I had a mountain of emails to get through when I got in. It wasn't as bad as I was afraid it would be, but it still took a chunk of time. There was one relatively minor crisis while I was gone, but thankfully we have an awesome group of people who took care of everything and got it all tidied up so that I really didn't have anything to worry about when I got in. However, it's just been a little more difficult for me to change gears. I so enjoy these weekends away at dog shows! Just being surrounded by a bunch of awesome people who love the same breed that you do, love the showing whether it be conformation or performance, and just generally talking constantly about dogs and not getting those looks like I talk about my dogs and the whole dog thing too much. It's so hard to come back to reality where great danes and showing are not constantly on other people's minds! In a day or two I will be fully assimilated back into "normal" society, but I'm just wistful today.:o)

Tonight was our weekly agility class. I know I haven't mentioned a whole lot about agility. We haven't trialed since October (holy freaking cow it's been long!) and I am finally getting to a point where conformation is going to take the back seat (at least until we get around to that dane puppy) to performance. I'm planning on entering two trials in June (yes Kennedy, we are FINALLY getting back into it!LOL) and it will be really nice to get back into the rhythm of that. Heffner was pretty awesome tonight and I'm REALLY hoping that we can transfer the attitude and work ability both dogs have into the competition ring. That's been a bit of a hurdle in the past and I'm hoping that just having more time under our belt will help with that. We'll see!

I would also like to thank you guys for your kind words about our weekend!:o) You guys totally rock and I can't tell you how much appreciate the support!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up!

I honestly meant to do some blogging while I was down in California, but was busier than I had thought and finding time to sit down and do the blogging thing just wasn't going to happen. But we did have a whole lot of fun! I'm going to try and do a day by by recap. I didn't take a ton of pictures because I was running around pottying, holding, and prepping the dogs that Bess' breeder brought down with her, or taking care of my two. It didn't leave for much in the way of idle hands when dog hand offs had to be carefully timed!

One of the things that I enjoy doing while on road trips is taking pictures of the pretty scenery while we're driving. I usually wait to do this on straight stretches when steering doesn't require both of my hands. Don't worry, I play it safe. After all, it is my two dogs in the back of the truck that I'm driving! The weather through Oregon was off and on raining. Sometimes raining buckets! But the scenery was quite lovely along I-5.

Going over the pass we encountered something that I really thought our weather had been too warm for, snow!
Thankfully we made it through there without any problems. In winter, this pass often gets shut down completely and even when it's open things can be dicey. Unfortunately, one of the other Oregon people that came through a little while after us didn't fare too well. They hit a nasty bit of road after some more recent snow fall and slid into a semi. The vehicle was still drive able and everyone in the vehicle was okay, but there were some pretty good dents to show for it.

Since I was following Bess' breeder and we had a total of six dogs between us, we decided to stop in Yreka and spend the night instead of pushing on through to Lodi. The dogs all needed to be pottied, fed, and pottied again before calling it a night. Heffner and Bess thoroughly enjoyed getting to hang out in the motel room with mom and take over the bed!

If you'll notice, the dogs took up the ENTIRE bed. Where exactly I was supposed to sleep was hard to decipher. I had to rouse them from their languid slumbers to get them to give me a little sliver of bed. P.S. Bess twitches a LOT in her sleep!

Once everyone was pottied in the morning and given their breakfasts, it was time to hit the road and head out to Lodi! On the way we went through some more lovely countryside.

Once in Lodi, we dropped our non-essentials off at the hotel and then headed out to the show site to get our stuff set up for the weekend. The show was being held at this amazing commercial boarding kennel, Sycamore Lane Kennels! The place was just gorgeous! And we had it all to ourselves!! No all breed show going on, just lots and lots of danes!!

I was excited because I got to break out my new x-pens! I was really happy with them and the dogs were definitely more pleased to have the added room instead of being stuck in a soft crate three days in a row. Bess was her usual well behaved self. Heffner, however, didn't appreciate any dog passing by his pen. I ended up putting up a couple of visual barriers around our pens. It helped. He got less barky as the days went on, but he still really had a hard time with any intact males around his pen.

The Friday before the show starts there's a conformation fun match. Georgia had three of her four dogs entered in that in addition to another puppy from that same litter who came with her owners. All of them are half siblings to Bess. Same dam, but different sire. So that was pretty neat! Once things got going, there was a whole lot of juggling dogs in classes and figuring out who was going to handle who. I had the pleasure of taking a couple of the dogs in and got quite the work out! It's a lot different to work with puppies with limited show experience who have been stuck in crates and then x-pens for the better part of 24 hours while travelling.;o) And it just so happened that two of the puppies entered took the honors that day. One of the boy puppies went Best Puppy in Match and the girl puppy went Best of Opposite! If you want to see pictures from the match as well as the rest of the show, there was a club person taking pictures and you can check them out here. There were a lot of pictures taken, so it will take a while for the entire weekend's worth to get uploaded. I'm in there a few times.:)

After the match, a bunch of us went out for a little dinner and then back to the hotel to get unpacked and ready for Saturday. Once again, my dogs were more than happy to take over the bed. While the bed in Lodi was bigger than the one in Yreka, my two still tend to be bed hogs!!

Saturday was an early morning for us. As I mentioned before, this is one of the few specialties outside of the national that offers obedience and rally! And since I whole heartedly support any specialty that will go through the expense of putting this on, I entered both dogs in both events. I also mentioned previously that we were NOT ready for obedience, but I was going to enter anyhow to gain the experience and to support the club for putting this on. I did no end up videoing any of our runs. And probably for the better.

Neither dog was performing up to par. Part of this I'm sure had to do with all the time in the truck and being at an outdoor ring. I also wasn't able to work with my dogs as much as I normally would have if they were the sole dogs that I was taking care of. I definitely think that came into play. I expected Heffner to be at least somewhat distracted, but was hoping that I could warm him up out of it. Bess, I assumed, would be my little rock and put in the types of performances that made me so proud during practice and at matches with little to no warm up. I was a bit disappointed in the results, but I have some ideas on things to work on and different warm ups to try for the next time we're entered. Oh yeah, and I will be going back to only entering one dog per day per event, which will help as well.

First up was rally. I had both dogs entered in novice A and both only needed one more leg to get their RNs. I had planned this on purpose. I knew that I was going to be entering the Lodi specialty and I thought it would be really great for them to both get their titles at this show, so I pushed with both of them and got their first two legs. The first run went to Heffner. Oy! It started off rough with him being pretty distracted and looking around a fair bit, but he generally stayed with me. He can do a lot better, but we just need more work and practice. When we were TWO stations from the end of the run and that final RN leg, he starts sniffing a station sign and then lifts his leg and PEES ON IT!!! OMG!!! I could NOT believe that he did that! ARG!! In case your wondering what the significance is of a dog relieving themselves in the ring during a performance event, it's an automatic disqualification. That's right. We only needed one more leg, and were just about done with our run when he peed. That boy!! And to top it off, he peed three times prior to going into the ring. With plenty of intact males around, there were plenty of things to mark. So it wasn't like he had a full bladder or anything. Ug! Here's a picture taken by Kate Jackson, who was taking the club pictures that are posted on the page that I linked to, right after he peed.

Next up was Bess. She's a really solid dog and I wasn't worried about her doing anything in the ring like Heffner. We warmed up a little bit before going in, but probably not as much as I should have warmed her up. Once we started, she just wasn't quite herself. Her movements were sluggish and she was prone to lagging throughout. She otherwise did a decent job, but it just wasn't what I'm used to with her. However, we did get a qualifying score (I think it was a 91 or a 92) and first place!! Bessy got her RN!!! She is now Daynakin's Penelope RN.:o) Naturally, we got a picture taken with the judge (this is the unofficial picture with the judge).
After our lackluster performance in rally, I decided to pull Heffner from obedience. This is one of the few times that I will not be upset about spending the money on an entry when I have a pretty good feeling that I won't actually go through with showing the dog. Heffner was just too distracted and there was just no way that I thought we were going to make it through the obedience exercises. I didn't want to end on a sour note, even though our rally run was fairly poor, so I pulled him. Elizabeth, who owns Bess' sire and half sister, was nice enough to hang out hold Heffner ring side for me while I took Bess into the ring. Again, Bess was just generally lack luster and pretty much gave me the impression that she would rather be anywhere but there. I was hoping that our rally run would sort of wake her up and she'd be back to performing like her usual self for obedience. That wasn't quite the case.

Our on lead heeling wasn't totally awful. She shocked the heck out of me by pretty much not doing any of her automatic sits. Normally she loves plopping that butt down nice and fast and I've had many people comment on how quickly she does that and how surprised they were that she was that quick for her size. She lagged a fair amount, but that was the crux of it. For our figure 8, I was pretty much dragging her behind me when she was on the outside. That's also a new one. While she does have a tendency to lag some on that spot, it's not usually that pronounced. Then we had the off leash heeling pattern. Oh boy! Something that our obedience instructor has said to me before was very prominent in my mind at that point. It was something along the lines of "until you've heeled around the ring without your dog, you're not fully educated in all the aspects of obedience." Well, I can pretty much check that one off the list now! I had Bess in a sit, and when I said heel, she continued to sit as I walked off towards the corner of the ring. When I was about to do a left turn the judge told me to give her another command. She did come jogging up to me at that point, but it was all over the place after that. At one point, she got distracted on an about turn and when she came back to me, she was on my right side. So that was pretty bad. Her stand for exam was perfect though! The judge even commented on that (probably to help boost me up a bit). For the recall, I had to give her a second command to get her to come to front. This has happened before, but we've been practicing it a lot lately and she hasn't done it for a couple of weeks. She's been catching on more to the left finish that the right with just a signal, so I opted for that. I had to do a second signal for that one. She at least did sort of try to finish correctly, so that at least tells me that she gets the general idea. It just needs work. Needless to say, we NQed. The judge said that she was trying really hard to give it to us, but she just couldn't. And that I totally understand. Our performance most certainly did NOT warrant it! Oh well. We've got much to work on and get fine tuned over the summer.

Here are some of the other pictures from the performance section of Saturday that are also posted on the link I gave.

After our performance stuff was over, the dogs got to go back to their x-pens to chill. The puppy sweepstakes was going on at roughly the same time that rally and obedience were and that was still going on when we got there. Things were starting to heat up a bit and we had to be mindful of the dogs and make sure that they were all in shade. I chose to have Bess' breeder show her because she can get more out of her and I wanted her at her best for this show. My expectations were low, but it's the principle of it. There were only four bitches entered in the American Bred class that I had entered her in. She ended up going fourth out of four. Oh well.

There were well over 100 danes entered in just the conformation part on Saturday and Sunday, which made for a longish day. Saturday's judge was in no hurry during the judging and took a little bit of time. There was a planned dinner at the grounds that night and since judging didn't get over until after the time that it was supposed to start, we just hung out there. The dinner was good and just hanging out with everyone and taking a break from running dogs around was really nice. It totally felt like a middle of the summer evening. At least for us Oregonians it would have been! Then it was back to the hotel to rinse and repeat for Sunday's judging.

There were no performance events on Sunday, just conformation. And the judging started a little earlier. Which was nice for those of us who had a bit of driving to do Sunday evening. Sunday's judge was cooking along with her picks and keeping a good pace. There was still a lot of dogs to juggle, but it worked out. There was also a heck of a lot of wind that day. Many easy ups had to get taken down or else they were going to get blown over all together if not broken. Thankfully, none of the dogs really seemed at all purturbed by all the flapping and wipping about of the various tents. Bess was entered in conformation again and this time she won her class of four. She didn't do anything in the Winners Bitch ring, but that's okay.

Once judging was completed for the day, it was amazing how quickly everyone was breaking their stuff down and heading out. The temperature at that point was about 85 F. Definitely warmer than we are used to this time of year. I kept the truck in the shade and the windows open. I was more concerned about Heffner getting too hot. He tends to feel it a lot more and quicker than Bess does.

I decided to push on through for home from Lodi. Originally I was going to stop with Georgia in Yreka again and stay the night. But I felt really alert and that I could push through and make it home not too late. I took today off as a day to get things in order after the trip, and I didn't want to spend the majority of the day on the road. Everything worked out great and we pulled into the driveway at a little past 1am. Not bad!

Today has just been spent getting the truck unpacked and getting things put away. And now I'm all caught up! I hope that everyone had a great weekend!!