Friday, May 31, 2013

Rain Rain Go Away

This past week has been horrible for getting the dogs outside. According to my dogs, this rain is definitely acid rain and they will most certainly die a screaming, painful, horrible death if they even so much as touch a toe outside. So they might be drama queens <rolling eyes here>, but it does call into question - what do you do with your dogs when you can't exercise outside? If you have dogs like mine (heaven help you!!) then they are becoming increasingly annoying with no activity outlet. Never fear, there are tons of things you can do inside to tire them out mentally and get them to chill out.

Let us know when it's safe to go outside again...

Frozen Kongs/Bones/Food Puzzles

Stuff your dog's dinner in a kong with some peanut butter (or wet dog food or babyfood or ... you get the picture) and freeze it. It'll take much longer for your dogs to work out their meal, which burns more mental (and even some physical!) energy. Also, if your dog is a chewer they can work out energy through chewing on toys or bones as well. If your dog has a lot of energy, disregard feeding in bowls altogether and feed from food puzzles. I like to order from Firecracker Dog (we have several of these!!).


With a treadmill you can safely exercise your dog in your home whenever your dog needs it. You can use a regular (aka one made for humans) treadmill or one that is specifically designed for dogs. Dog-specific treadmills can be a bit pricey but seem to be easier for the dog's to learn to use. If you use a regular treadmill, you might want to modify it by putting barriers up on the sides so they can't jump off. Here is some advice from Bad Rap for getting started with a dog-powered (no motor) treadmill.


Hide and seek is a great game to play inside. Have your dog do a sit stay (or throw some treats in a corner to distract them) while you go hide in another room. Then call for your dog and have them find you! You can also play this with treats and toys (hiding them instead of yourself) and having your dog seek them out. Of course, there is always fetch (try to play this on the stairs - if they don't have hip/joint problems) and tug. And don't forget about nosework! We love these classic games!!

Flirt Pole/Chase-It

If you have a dog that loves chasing things, you should check out a flirt pole. You can make these at home or buy a premade one (like this one), either way this is a great toy for burning energy. But there's a catch with this game - your dog must know basic cues (sit, down, drop, wait) for this to be a safe, fun game. Dogs get really excited about this game, but if you ask for a sit or a drop and wait for a moment of calm before continuing, it stops the game from getting too intense and your dog from getting too excited. Before you try it, take a look at this video from Bad Rap.


Teach your dog a new trick! There are tons of books out there full of cute dog trick ideas, so just pick one and start training :). Learning new things is a very good way to mentally work a dog and is a perfect thing to keep you busy during a rainy day.

While choosing what to do with your dogs, please keep in mind that all dogs are individuals and what works for some, will not work for others. All the dogs in my house prefer different things, which keeps life interesting for me!!

What are your favorite methods for keeping your dog busy during rainy weather?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

4H Flashback

Last week was the start of the Story County 4H Dog project and this past Tuesday was the first night of class. Somehow, I got bamboozled into being the Superintendent of the project :). I suppose that's what you get when you say yes, LOL. But now I am in charge of more than 50 kids every Tuesday for an hour and half, and it's a little daunting. Mostly because I want it to be an enjoyable experience for everyone so that they continue to build their relationships with their dogs and want to continue participating in 4H.

Oh the memories...

I started my 4H project when I was ten. I wanted a dog really bad and had been asking for one practically since I could talk :). My parents finally said that if I did the 4H dog project with my grandma's 8 year old Beagle (Julio) and was still committed to taking care of a dog afterwards that I could get my own dog. I persevered...and yes it was persevering with an 8 year old, slightly overweight Beagle during an Iowa summer, teaching him things he never cared to learn :). I showed him at County Fair that year and received a blue ribbon. I was also voted Most Improved in my class, LOL.

Dad and I washing Julio in preparation for the fair.

Showing Julio in Pre-Novice A.

He wasn't my dog but he was a pretty good sport!


Finally, I got my own dog!! I accomplished my year with Julio and my parents couldn't say no anymore :). See what they started - now I have 5 dogs and am right back in the 4H world, LOL. So my mom took me to the Story County Animal Shelter and let me pick out my new companion as a Christmas present. Enter Freedom :).

Finally, my own dog!!

She was a Border Collie/English Springer Spaniel mix. When she was picked up as a stray by animal control, she had puppies with her and had an already healed broken leg (we never fixed it because it would require re-breaking it) which caused her to walk with a permanent limp. She was soo cute and way too smart for her own good. I picked her because she played with her tennis ball in her kennel and I wanted a dog that I would be able to play fetch with. LOL, she tricked me!! After we brought her home, she never picked up a tennis ball again :).

I did two years of 4H with her and each year we won my class and got a trophy. I love trophies! Sadly, I stopped participating in 4H when I hit high school :(. Bad Erin.

Freedom and I at fair our second year.

Freedom and I showing Pre-Novice B (our first year).

Freedom during the stand for exam.

Back to the present...

4H was such a great experience for me and I hope to pass on that experience this year (and however many more years I happen to be in charge!). It really started me on my path of dogs, LOL. I've been working with dogs in some way, shape, or form since I was 10. Whew, that's 20 years of experience! 4H helped instill in me the love of training as well. It was fun teaching your dog to do things and feeling the pride of accomplishment when you got to show them off at fair. Hopefully, I can bring that experience and feeling of accomplishment to all the kids participating this year. Wish me luck!

What got you started in your love of canines? What first experiences have molded your life with dogs?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We Interrupt The Regularly Scheduled Post...

By Stopping And Smelling The Roses (ok, ok Lilies!)

We are so ready for summer that we are skipping straight to Lily season (aka JULY!). Enough of this rain :).

Monday's already dreaming about it...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Rookie's Experiment

Rookie has finally started his 'alternative' treatment for the demodex! Wahoo!! We should start seeing an improvement in a few weeks so here's hoping!! Now for the details (not that I know much!!)...

He is such a great car passenger. Baron was in the kennel
in the back so Rookie got shotgun.

The Nitty Gritty

So the first time Rookie had demodex (when he came to me as a foster) we treated the conventional way - oral Ivermectin and Mitaban dips. It took several months for it to clear up but it eventually did. Sadly, when allergy season hit this year Rookie's mange came back - which meant we weren't dealing with the common juvenile demodex that dogs grow out of when their immune systems become fully functional. We are now looking at adult demodex, which is a result of a weakened immune system and is something that he could battle for the rest of his life. Total bummer :(.

This time around I wanted to look at ways to help his immune system instead of just fight the mites. Enter Dr. Farr and Bovine Thymus Extract. Rookie got his first injection of Bovine Thymus Extract on Friday and will get his next one on Wednesday. The treatment plan is 3 injections every week for 5 weeks. At least they only have to go subcutaneous so I can do them at home after the first few. Oh, the things I do for this dog :).

I know there are treats on this counter ladies.
If you're going to poke me, I need a treat!!!

So what is this cow thing?

Thymus extract is a chemical that can be man-made or produced from the glands of a cows. The thymus gland is involved with the immune system through it's hormones and hormone-like factors. So it works by improving or boosting the immune system and is experimentally being used in animals suffering from immune-related conditions. Exactly what Rookie needs!! And so far they haven't found really any side effects, although it is still relatively new. The goal is to get his immune system stronger so this will not be a reoccurring problem, we totally do not want to deal with again!

Um, if you're not going to get them for me....

I'll get them myself....DAMN! They are still out of reach :)

He might look sick, but he's still naughty :). He's actually holding up really well considering how bad his skin looks (although it has looked worse!!). I'm doing a ton of supplements/vitamins and things at home to hopefully help him as well. Seriously, it takes forever to get his food ready because of all the pills I hide in it :).

  1. Ester-C
  2. Vitamin E
  3. B-Complex
  4. Cephalexin
  5. Benedryl
  6. Herb: Cool the Blood
  7. Transfer Factor (immune boosting poweder)
And in addition to all those supplements, he also gets sprayed with Wondercide Skin Tonic Spray three times a day and every night before bedtime he gets rinsed down and I apply Kletochlor leave-on lotion. The main goal is to keep the secondary infection under control as that is what can become life-threatening. So far I am doing a damn good job if I do say so myself :).

Tired on the way home. Obviously the whole vet thing
is just exhausting :)

So think healing thoughts for Mr. Stinkyface! :) Hopefully we are in the home stretch...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dog Bite Prevention Week

This week has been National Bite Prevention Week (happens every third full week of May each year), which focuses on educating people on how to prevent dog bites. Statistics state there are over 70 million dogs in the United States and according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dogs bite over 4.5 million Americans each year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.

So let's take a moment to learn more about dog bite prevention, shall we?

70 million nice dogs...but any dog can bite

So what are some things that people, especially children (as they are more likely to be bitten than adults) can do when interacting with dogs?
  1. Ask permission from the dog's owner before touching or interacting with the dog.
  2. If the dog's owner says yes, then you need to get the dog's consent. Children need to learn to be less invasive when they approach a dog. You should approach slowly and talk quietly, reaching low and in front of the dog (like under the chin on the chest) instead of reaching over their head.
  3. It's a great idea to reward the dog when interacting with new people. Ask the dog's owner if you can give it a treat (making sure that children know the proper way to give a dog a treat).
This chart is pretty awesome :).

People should also learn to read a dog's body language. It's important we understand how they communicate and what they are communicating since we are trying to coexist with them peacefully. If their ears are back, tail tucked under them, cowering, turn their head away or lick their lips, they are stressed and should not be approached.

I love this chart!! :) Informative and fun.

Better safe than sorry

It's so tempting when you see a dog on the street to want to pet them, which is often the worst time for the dog because of all the distractions. Always err on the side of caution to be safe before approaching a dog. Another great link to check out is:

Monday loves attention and cuddles when done appropriately!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Vito Hits The Trail

Vito's been a bit antsy lately and it's been driving us nuts. Boy does that dog have a pair of lungs on him! :) Since the weather has been nice, we decided we would hit the trail out at Peterson Pits with the little man. It was a bit cold for swimming, but we walked the main trail around the Pits.

Vito checking out the lake from a picnic table.

Vito is ready to go!
The South Skunk River water was pretty high, which is a great thing compared to last year!! Vito thought it was a bit too crazy for him to get into :).

He's not so sure that look safe :)

Nope, not going to get in!!

While he didn't get into the river, he did swim for a few minutes in the Pits chasing some sticks. Horrible mom that I am, I totally forgot to make sure we had some tennis balls in the car. Eh, we'll just have come back out soon to swim for tennis balls. He did still have fun running the trail though, so the whole day wasn't ruined for him :).

We obviously don't walk fast enough for Vito :).

Running back to us, he never goes to far ahead.

Where are your dog's favorite places to be active? 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday Training Tip: CGC Test Item 1

Here's the first of my Canine Good Citizen (CGC) series going through each of the CGC exercises and offering tips for practicing in order to successfully pass a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The Evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The Evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The test begins with the dog seated at the handler's side and the dog must show no signs of resentment, aggression, or shyness and must not jump on or lunge forward to greet the Evaluator.

CGC Test 1 being demonstrated (photo borrowed off flickr)

So Your Goal: No Reaction!

Training Tips

The best way to practice for this behavior is to get your dog out in public frequently. Invite friends over to your house often, take walks in your neighborhood, visit your local pet superstores, etc - you'll have plenty of opportunity for practice. For friendly dogs, this is one of the toughest parts of the test (besides sit politely for petting!). You should plan to spend hours greeting people, yes I said hours! This is one of those learning experiences that does not have a shortcut. The more you practice, the better you will understand how to help your dog stay calm while you chat with a stranger.

At home, when people come over, keep your leash handy so you can put it on your dog before your friends arrive. Ask the dog to sit next to you and have the person start to approach. If your dog gets up and gets excited, have the person stop (before they reach you) and take a few steps back. Get your dog refocused and sitting again and then have the person start approaching again. Repeat until the person can come directly up to you.

In public, especially at pet superstores, neighborhood gatherings, or parks, stand a little bit away (like 15 feet) from the 'crowd' and ask for your dog's attention and a sit. If they can sit and remain calm watching all the activity, gradually move forward. If at that initial distance they still can't remain calm, back up until you find a distance they can focus at. At first, I wouldn't worry about having someone actually greet you; I would just concentrate on having your dog remain calm amongst all the activity, it requires the same skill set as the test item :). Then once your dog has the skills to remain calm outside the hustle and bustle, then start interacting with 'strangers'/neighbors and practice the actual test item (as described in previous paragraph). Try to vary the people who approach to greet you so you can make sure your dog has experience with males, females, and children.

Next week we'll discuss CGC Test Item 2, sitting politely for petting. 

Practice cannot be overdone!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Strut Your Pup Week 4

After Baron's adventure last weekend to the Farmer's Market (which counted for Strut Your Pup Week 3, however I failed to label it as such!), Monday decided she wanted a public gathering outing as well. She can get a bit jealous :). Lucky for her, we were signed up for the Angie Anderson Memorial walk hosted by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa on the DMACC campus trail that loops around Lake Future.

Where are we going? What are we doing?
Are we there yet? I am ready to go!!!!
Saturday dawned with extremely nice weather and Monday and I were excited for the walk. We had a few altercations early on (like in the first 10 minutes) that had me thinking about leaving before the walk even started, but once we were registered and out of the 'crowd' things settled down. I know it's a typical rant, but I still just can't believe how many people don't pay attention to what their dogs are doing in public! End of topic :).

They had a few vendors set-up for some quick shopping :).

We mostly hung out behind the vendors at the end so
we were away from the crowd and rude dogs ;).

The trail around Lake Future is 1.182 miles long and Monday was ready to go! I made her wait until most of the dogs had already started though, that way there would be fewer dogs to contend with and less people walking on our heels. It was such a great day for a walk - warm and semi-cloudy. Not too hot and not too cold :). Monday certainly enjoyed herself and we walked with a friend I don't catch-up with often, so it was a great walk for me too!

Is it time to walk yet Mom? I'm ready to do something...

Let's get this walk started!

Our friend Porsche was the Grand Marshal this year and lead the walk. It was quite the honor :). We had originally planned to walk in front with her, but there were just too many dogs and too many people letting their dogs be rude, so we ended up staying towards the back. But we didn't let it ruin our day and we got to catch-up with them after the walk :).

Lisa and Charlie with Porsche. 

Monday and I  :).
Monday was pooped for a little while once we headed home. She never stays down long! I'm not sure why all my dogs are energizer bunnies? :) She had a nice snooze in the car on the way home and then about an hour nap at home. After that, she was ready to go again. I wish I had energy like that!!

Heading home! Proof she does have a momentary 'off' switch! :)

Her nap at home in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Where else could she be more 'in-the-way'!?!

Meanwhile, I am ready for my nap...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Confessions of a Dog Trainer - 2

It's another issue of people not using something properly - TIE-OUTS. I support anti-tethering laws and routinely question people about their tie-out habits because there is so a thing as too much, BUT I regularly use a tie-out with Bourbon and Baron.

Our tie-out is mainly utilized for potty breaks (because Bourbon can't walk down the street without screaming his fool head off at birds, squirrels, rabbits, neighborhood dogs, etc. the whole way) and as a way to keep them contained in a specific area if we are outside doing something.

Like when we don't want Baron in the pond (which happens any time he is free in the backyard)...

...we give him a small baby pool on the tie-out to enjoy instead. I know, I know, not quite the same :)

Bourbon's favorite time to be on it is over my lunch hour. I go home for lunch almost every day so the dogs have a nice break and can have a chance to potty. Bourbon likes to utilize this time on the tie-out sunbathing.

Any time the dogs are on the tie-out I am still keeping an eye on them, either through the kitchen window or outside with them. They are never on the tie-out unattended and never for more than an hour (which only applies in Bourbon's case as Baron only likes to be on it for no more than 15 or so minutes, while Bourbon would spend hours on it).

The Bad

Dogs that are left on tie-outs for the majority of their days 'accidentally' learn several annoying behaviors. These dogs watch the world pass by and never get a chance to interact with it, which produces a lot of stimulation frustration. Dogs express this by becoming extremely excited at sights and sounds, frenzied barking, and aggressive behavior (biting at a person holding him or biting/snapping at the thing/person that's making him excited). They are left in situations with little to no mental stimulation other than what they can see or hear or smell from the tie-out, which allows for overexcitement when confronted with other stimulus.

Another thing to consider - restraint itself produces excitement. Police dog handlers and protection dog trainers always use restraint techniques (hold the dog back from someone/something 'teasing' the dog) to increase drive and excitement to get the dog to bite better and harder. The restraint itself heightens any excited reaction the dog is going to have.

The Take-Away

Tie-out's do have their uses, as long as they are not abused - we are back again to COMMON SENSE. A dog should be safely tethered in a situation where he has NO access to anything he could become entangled with, and be on line strong enough for his body weight. We have ours wrapped around a tree about 6 feet or so up the trunk. Your dog should also be supervised as well :).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why a Canine Good Citizen?

I know my dogs look intimidating to some people. That's part of what comes along with the breeds that I choose to share my life with, I totally get it. I might not agree with it :), but I can understand it. It's not fair, but nothing in life is ever fair. I think that's the first life lesson everyone learns!!

So early on I decided that I would do everything I could to at least portray my dogs in a positive light in public. I decided the first would be to obtain a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification with each of them. And all of my dogs have them (not counting Rookie because he was literally just added), except for Vito. Oh, that poor little dude - he is just not quite confident enough to pass. Part of the process of bonding with your dog is knowing what you can expect of their behavior in any given environment. Well, Vito's behavior tells me that he would rather just disappear and teleport back home so I don't force the issue.

The Test

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Certification was established in 1989 by the American Kennel Club (AKC) to promote responsible dog ownership and to encourage the training of well-mannered dogs. It's one way to evaluate you and your dog's ability to communicate and show good behavior both at home and in public. There are ten objectives and all ten must be completed satisfactorily to pass.
  1. Accepting a friendly stranger
  2. Sitting politely for petting
  3. Allowing basic grooming procedures
  4. Walking on a loose leash
  5. Walking through a crowd
  6. Sitting and laying down on command and staying in place
  7. Coming when called
  8. Reacting appropriately to another dog
  9. Reacting appropriately to distractions
  10. Calming enduring supervised separation from the owner
Dogs who pass receive a CGC certificate and an AKC title (if your dog is registered with any of the AKC registries). Even if you decide you don't want to take the test, just working on the ten items is a winning formula for you and your dog. You deepen your relationship with your dog, learn about dog behavior (especially your dog's behavior!), and learn about yourself all at the same time.

Bourbon's certificate from 2008. He had to take the test
4 times to pass :)

Where to Start?

I would recommend finding an obedience class in your area that focuses on positive reinforcement methods. Ask if you can come and watch a few classes before you sign up. Talk with the instructors about your goals and ask them if their dogs have their CGC certifications. Do your own research about the Canine Good Citizen evaluation so that you get the big picture of what this means.

Starting next week, I'll also go through each of the ten parts of the test in individual blog posts, touching on things I've learned that can be useful in training for, and passing, each section. If you have questions along the way, feel free to ask away :). If you think it might be too much to take on? Stick around, I'll show you that it's not as hard as you may think it is!

Feel free to share your CGC stories as well in the comments below! Together we can all learn from each other and have fun with our dogs :).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Baron's Farmer's Market Adventure

This weekend was the opening for the Ames Farmer's Market. It was originally supposed to be last weekend but was postponed due to the snow. Silly Iowa weather. But since I finally had a FREE day Saturday - seriously, I had nothing scheduled, it was soo amazing - I decided to walk Baron up so we could sample the wares.

I also decided that since I was taking Baron, he would have to make himself useful and carry all my stuff. It's time to start earning your keep dogs!! :) So I outfitted him in Bourbon's old back pack (that he has never worn because he can no longer go on nature hikes due to avid screaming at all things living and moving - talk about embarrassing!) and off we went.

Waiting to cross the street.
I only live about 9 blocks away from Main Street where the Farmer's Market festivities are held, so it gave me a quick chance to work on Baron's leash manners before we arrived 'in public'. Baron is actually great on  leash and out in crowds, however he really only came as a two-speed model: trot and run. So I have to continually remind him to walk at my pace, which he does not enjoy. And the taunting squirrels and flirting rabbits along the way did not help. They always seem to know exactly how close they can get before it gets dangerous.

I see a RABBIT mom....
Once we got up to the Farmer's Market, we quickly found our friend's stand so I could buy some salad before it was all gone. Baron obligingly carried it :). Baron also bummed some tulip-flavored water and some asparagus-flavored water. Pretty soon I'm sure he'll be demanding flavored water home :).

Yum, this taste soo much better than water at home...
It was very windy Saturday morning and the vendors at the Farmer's Market were having a bit of trouble keeping things from flying away. One of the canopies even took flight down the street! Luckily, Baron just looked at it like that happened every day. What a goof. Many people stopped to pet him and comment on how 'useful' he was being with the pack. He, of course, soaked up the adoring attention like a King and then promptly got pouty when other people ignored him. I had to tell him that he wasn't one of the 'attractions', LOL.

Where are my adoring fans?
Everybody loves me today! What a great day :)
We even got a chance to educate some women on why we didn't like Cesar Milan and if they HAD to get their dog training tips from TV (don't even get me started on that actual topic!) then they should be watching Victoria Stillwell's show It's Me or the Dog. All in all, it was a great day and a great adventure for Baron. He might just have to become a regular (well whenever I can make it!).

Licking up food crumbs. Doing his part to fight litter, LOL.
Mom, are you done taking my picture yet? I want to explore!

Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts will follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization. ~ Daniel Webster