Thursday, March 28, 2013

The World of Tracking

I got introduced to tracking (AKC-style) several years ago and thought it might be a great thing for Bourbon. HA! Unfortunately, he'd rather track critters than people so we didn't go very far :).

What? Someone said critters?

But Bourbon's nose has allowed him to be successful in nosework, which is a bit more controlled in terms of environment (in other words, not out in a field full of wildlife!). Sadly, at this time I don't have a dog that I could really excel with at tracking. I find the 'sport' fascinating though and so someday I'm sure I'll stumble across a partner to participate in it with.

This past weekend was the Cyclone Country Kennel Club's (CCKC) annual tracking test. This was actually the first year I was able to participate, which I was excited about. Usually, we have an Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus adoption event on the same weekend, but not this year! So out I went Saturday morning to help lay the tracks for the trial on Sunday.

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off to Work I Go

I'm bringing up the rear carrying the extra flags.
Photo taken by Cheryl Clark for the CCKC club.

Hard at work :)
Photo taken by Cheryl Clark for the CCKC club.

My job was to help carry the flags that would outline (show where the turns where) the tracks to be laid for the trial. I followed the other flag-carriers and also the tracklayer and the judges. Next to the judges, the tracklayers are the most important members of the test. LOL, they are the 'scent' the dog is to follow.

The judges design the track, instruct the tracklayers how to walk the track, prepare charts that accurately depict the track's design, and approve the articles used (we used a bandana and a glove). And obviously, the judges also determine the start time for each dog and evaluate the dog's performance.

The first two people are the judges, then the track layer in the middle, with
the three flag carriers bringing up the rear.
Photo taken by Cheryl Clark for the CCKC club.

Plotting out a track.
Photo taken by Cheryl Clark for the CCKC club.

Check out the CCKC's facebook page for more pictures from the trial or post any tracking questions you might have for our tracking experts :)!

How a Tracking Trial Works

A tracking test is a two-day commitment (for the workers) and continues regardless of the weather (which can be not so fun in Iowa at this time of year!). The actual test is held on Sunday, but the judges and tracklayers (and flag minions!) spend most of Saturday plotting a track for each dog entered. The flags do get removed when the tracklayers walk the track the morning of the test (otherwise it would be a bit easy for the competitors to see the track!).

On the morning of the test, the exhibitors gather for a 'draw' which determines the order the dogs go in. Then the tracks are aged the required time and the exhibitor gets to begin the track. The dog is not allowed off lead at any time! The dog must closely follow the path the tracklayer has walked and find the article(s) dropped along the track. The judges follow the dog and handler to determine if the dog is on or off the track. If the dog is off the track and the judges determine the dog cannot return, one judge will blow the whistle signaling the dog has failed. There is no time limit as long as the dog is working.

There are four titles dogs can earn through tracking (for a description of each title click HERE):
  • Tracking Dog (TD)
  • Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)
  • Variable Surface Tracking (VST)
  • Champion Tracker (CT)
Sounds fun, huh? :) Unlike obedience and agility trials, where dogs respond to the owner's commands, in tracking a dog is completely in charge, for only he knows how to use his nose to find and follow the track. It brings trusting your dog to a whole new level :).

Getting Started in Tracking

Getting started in tracking is pretty easy because your dogs instinctively uses their nose, you are just fine-tuning his natural ability and giving it a focus. And since all dogs have that natural ability to follow a scent, any breed is capable of learning to track. I would recommend finding a tracking class to make sure you start out covering all the foundation work. I'm sure there are some great reference books out there as well; however, I can't recommend any because I haven't studied any! Also, tracking requires very little equipment. You just need a harness, a 20-to-40 food lead, a few flags to mark your track and an open grassy area free of obstacles (such as roads, ditches, or woods).

So, not too daunting!

Dogs need to sniff the ground; it's how they keep abreast of current events. The ground is a giant dog newspaper, containing all kinds of late-breaking dog news items, which, if they are especially urgent, are often continued in the next yard.  ~Dave Barry

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Caption This!

I missed National Puppy Day so here is my Vito's [late] contribution.

What would you caption this?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tasty Tuesday - Peanut Butter and Pumpkin

What dog doesn't love peanut butter? Or pumpkin? Not any that I've ever had the pleasure of feeding :). So I found a recipe that put these two awesome and amazing ingredients together! Recipe found at Design Crush Blog.

Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Treats

When I first looked over this recipe, I have to admit, I got a bit overwhelmed. I'm not a very good baker, I mean HELLO I only bake dog treats because they don't care if they are ugly or don't taste good LOL, so the recipe at first glance was a bit intimidating. So I called Alison and made her come over and make them with me :). For disclosure sake - I did not use a hand mixer or a stand mixer (I don't even have one these!) nor was a paddle attachment (whatever that is) used. We used our hands, I guess they are our human paddle attachments, LOL.


  • 2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 Tbsp peanut butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, use your paddle attachment (see paragraph above, LOL). Mix on low for about a minute or until the dough starts to come together. It won't be one big ball yet, but a bunch of smaller ones.
  3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Work it together into a large ball, then roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness. You can use a cookie cutter for shapes or a knife to cut strips.
  4. Roll out the scraps again and again until there's not enough dough left to work with.
  5. Please the treats on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray (I used parchment paper instead). Also, note they don't expand so you can cram them on there :).
  6. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool completely. Makes 75+ treats (number depends on size of treats you cut).
Treats on the cooling rack! Almost ready!

There is no love sincerer than the love of food. ~George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Noise Reduction

Vito has always been sensitive to noises, but as he's gotten older his sensitivity has increased (argh, I still can't believe he turns 7 this summer!!). The poor dude barks at practically everything and unfortunately we live on a pretty busy street and share a driveway with our neighbor. None of those factors help Vito.

Mom, there are noises outside!!!

Silence Speaks Volumes

One of the things I've done recently is get a white noise machine for Vito (thanks Amy W.!!). White noise is a sound frequency that one hears as a gentle hiss, similar to radio static. It's created by using the entire spectrum of frequencies the human ear can hear so that it filters and masks distracting noises. The gentle, continuous sound promotes a calm mood to help you relax or fall asleep. And just as awesome, it works for pets too :).
This is Vito's handy dandy contraption.
Early evening seems to be the worst for Vito as our neighborhood is full of families - so people coming home from work, people out walking dogs, children out screaming, etc. Noises everywhere basically! The really nice thing about the white noise machine is that it's portable. So if we are on the kitchen in the early evening, I can plug it in where it is most effective. And if I know I am going to be gone, I can plug it in upstairs where his kennel is. That way the white noise can just follow Vito around :). While my neighborhood is noisy in the early evening, it's actually very settled all the other times. So I haven't had to use it all the time, just for those few evening hours when Vito needs it. I'm sure once summer hours hit, the machine will be on more!

Bark If You Hate Noise Pollution

Can't you hear Vito barking?!? :) The other thing I have been doing for Vito, which helps everyone else in the household, is playing relaxing music (Nicholas calls it Death Music because it makes him tired, LOL). I heard about these CDs called Through a Dog's Ear and thought those sounded perfect for Vito. The CDs are produced by Joshua Leeds (an expert in psychoacoustics) and he worked with Susan Wagner (a veterinary neurologist) on researching the effect of sound on dogs in order to create music that could calm nervous canines.
Vito's CD selection so far.
I also play other 'stress-relieving' CDs in order to mix-up the rotation. They might not be geared directly at pets but they still follow the same sound principles. Fast rhythms excite our pulses (as well as our canines); slow rhythms calm us all down. Oh, the things we do for our loved ones :).

Does your dog have a sound sensitivity? What have you done to help them? Vito would appreciate any responses (that way he doesn't feel so alone in his quirkiness!).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Monday Can't Hold Her Licker

Like many people on St. Patrick's Day weekend, Monday has a problem holding her 'licker.'

God created whiskey so the Irish wouldn't conquer the world. :) I think Monday still has a shot!

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Faithful and Forgiving Friday

A Prayer of a Pit Bull

Spirit in the sky, who watches over all animals: It is my prayer and my request that you grant greater understanding, and acceptance to humans; those who love us, and those who hate us.

That they will know how loyal we are, how brave we are, and how loving we are. Help them to accept us as a breed in whole, and not let the few tragedies shine brighter than the many great traits that we have.

And those who would kill me, let them know, I forgive them, even though I don't understand their hatred. And those who would beat me, let them know I still love them, even though it is not the honorable way.

Thank you for all the strong traits that you have given to me, and my breed. Help those to know that I stand for courage, strength, loyalty, and bravery. And as my master already knows, let those who would come against my family know that I would surely die defending them.

And just one last thing that I would ask: Let my master know, that if you should call me away, that I will wait patiently at those pearly gates until the one who chose me, comes home.


(poem found on

Photo taken by Kelly Kesling.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Stinky Dog!

Now that Apollonia has been with me for a couple of weeks and has gotten accustomed to us and the household, I decided to give the stinky girl a bath. P.U.! Boy did she stink :).

I don't like to bathe new dogs coming into the house right away because baths can be a scary thing. If you wait a little bit and build some trust with the dog, they tend to go much easier and are less stressful for everyone involved (including the person who has to clean the bathroom later!!!).

Hmmm, bath tubs aren't so bad... they have peanut butter in them!

 I do bribe my 'patients' with peanut butter while giving a bath. It keeps them in the tub, for starters, and keeps them close enough to the front of the tub for the sprayer to reach their whole body. I've found out (the hard way!) that tethering the dog usually makes it much more stressful for them and can create an aversion to the whole process. Which doesn't make giving them a bath later any easier! The peanut butter bribe usually keeps them coming back for more :).

Toweling off is always a favorite part :)

I'm mostly dry but I want more toweling!!!

Once she was all pretty again and smelling sweet, we put on her new IDR+ collar and tag. Now she can rock the red like all the other fosters, plus it is just a great color on her :). She's not pretty in pink, she's pretty in red!

Those clothes models got nothing on me!

There was soo much hair, dirt, and dead skin that came off this girl! GROSS! I think we could have re-outfitted a chihuahua :).

Most of the aftermath...

If you go long enough without a bath, even the fleas will leave you alone. ~Ernie Pyle

Monday, March 11, 2013

Shell Games

This weekend I decided to try Monday's hand at nosework. She was a natural (of course, what isn't she good at?!?) and thoroughly enjoyed herself. She's such a goofball.

Who? Me? Get outta here...
After my previous post on nosework I had a few people asking me for advice on getting started. So I filmed Monday's foray into the boxes for entertainment educational purposes. The first time I used 7 boxes and some good stinky treats (Bowers Best Buffalo Bites). She naturally searches the boxes because they are the only thing spread out on the floor. When she first comes into the room, I do make a motion with my arms towards the boxes to greater entice her to look into them. At this point she doesn't get 'the game' but she does start to understand that looking into the boxes gets her treats. Also, each time I take the box away from her to 'hide' it again, I am sticking a new stinky treat in it. You can't really see it in the video so I thought I would make it clear - there is food in the food box each time :).

The second time I brought her out I used 9 boxes. She was catching on to the idea that I was moving around the box that had the food in it, so I needed more options to grab at!! You can see she still focuses on me more than the game at this point because she hasn't grasped the full concept. Right now mom is just throwing around boxes :), but it is building her excitement and value in finding the correct box so it's not important that she doesn't really get it yet.

You also want to keep yourself (as much as you can) from standing right next to the box that has the food and staring at it. Your body positioning and focus will give your dog big clues as to which box has the treat. A lot of times you'll see me moving to the opposite side of the box area, away from the treat box, just to encourage Monday to search the whole area. And to keep from accidently helping her find the box! She needs to realize it's her nose that will find the treat, not mom.

I did 4 sessions of 4 finds each with Monday. In between the sessions, she went out to the car while another dog did her nosework finds. The breaks in the car allow the dog to think about what they just did and to anticipate doing it again. When practicing with your dogs, make sure you keep your sessions short and fun and intersperse them with breaks. The goal is make the hide easy at first, building the dog's confidence and enjoyment of the hunt.

This was Monday after nosework. She worked herself into tired :).

Don't forget - REWARD AT THE BOX!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ode to Majestic

Our First family portrait.

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. ~Dr. Seuss

Today would have been Majestic's 13th birthday. For the past four years every time this day rolls around I feel slightly sad. But then I think about everything that has happened to me because Majestic shared my life and it ultimately makes me smile. Every time. For such a little dog she sure packed a powerful punch on my life.

This is in celebration of Majestic, enjoy!

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them. Filling an emptiness we don't even know we have. ~Thom Jones

The three amigos.

My Ode to Majestic

My cute little pocket pittie
Is as funny as can be
Pretending to be a contortionist
To catch a few zees

She loved her cuddle sessions
To be tucked into bed at night
Covered with warm blankies
Burrowing in with such delight

She wouldn't lie on the floor
Not comfortable enough you see
Seems she had a different idea
Of how to use a dog bed than me

While she had perfected sleeping
That wasn't all she loved to do
In her many active moments
She was like a swimming kangaroo

She brightened up each day
With a wag, kiss, or smile
Whenever you needed a friend 
She would go the extra mile

She made our family whole
For the short time she was here
And even though she's gone
In our hearts she'll always be near

Death ends a life, not a relationship. ~Jack Lemmon

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another One Bites The...


Geez, we just can't win at my house. The weekend before it was Monday eating the rug from a bout of separation anxiety. This past weekend it was Rookie tearing apart the dog bed and the sofa cushion in an extreme play session. Is there a full moon? Seriously, my dogs have gone crazy!!

Who? Me? I'm not crazy...

The Destruction

This happened in a matter of minutes...talented little bastard isn't he?

The sofa cushion. It's certainly seen better days...

The dog bed :(

The Aftermath

Rookie luckily didn't ingest anything from the sofa cushion - all parts were accounted for! However, it was a different story with the dog bed. Friday night is when the demolition happened, but I didn't immediately realize he had eaten any stuffing (it's hard to tell if any is missing from these kinds of things!).

But Saturday morning, I knew something had gone amiss. He ate breakfast as usual and then promptly puked it back up 30 minutes later. Lo and behold there was fuzz in his puke. GROSS! So I cleaned it up and hoped that was all that he had swallowed. I had scheduled a few hours of volunteering on the adoption floor of the ARL so I left and hoped for the best while I was gone.

Alas, Rookie had other plans for the rest of my day. Nicholas was at home sleeping (because he works overnights) and woke up to Rookie puking in his kennel. He called me and I canceled my plans and came back home to survey the damage. Poor Rookie was not feeling so hot :(. He ended up puking 5 times on Saturday and was just a woeful mess.

He wasn't feeling too good.

The Resolution

Sunday morning dawned bright and early and I took Rookie up to my vet clinic to do some X-rays to make sure things were moving. Before we left he did manage to have a bowel movement and of course it was full of fuzz! So at least we knew it was making its way all the way through him, icky.

He's posing for X-rays.
Everything seemed to be fine from the X-ray, so now it's just a watch and see approach. I did feed him dinner on Sunday night and he held that down so that was a step in the right direction. Since then he has bounced back and is his old, playful self once again. His poop still has fuzz in it, but at least it's moving through his system! Here's hoping it continues to move, LOL!

He's ready to play!

I don't stop eating when I'm full. The meal isn't over when I'm full. It's over when I hate myself. ~Louis C. K.     (I think Rookie hated himself for a moment!)