Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dogs and Snow

Watching dogs in freshly fallen snow is pure pleasure. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dog Shows: more than just showing.....

Melissa and I have been busy this month, we were at dog shows for 3 of the November weekends. This was Melissa's first time to be at indoor all-breed shows. Her last show was the Borzoi National last May in Kentucky.....indoors but it was a show just for Borzoi. These 3 weekends exposed her to many different breeds she had never seen along with loudspeakers, crowds, LOTS of children, LOTS of strollers and dogs running agility.

I always check the surroundings of a new venue and try to imagine what my dogs will take in: sights, sounds and the surface they will be walking on. I arrived early at each show so Melissa had time to look around. I want Melissa to feel comfortable in every venue she is exposed to in her lifetime. Shows with 2000 plus dogs entered and with just as many people walking around is a lot for a young dog to absorb. I allowed her to look, and sniff. At first I didn't cue her to do anything, but I did have my clicker and a pocket full of treats. When she began to offer 'check-ins', just looking in my direction, I began to click and treat. As Melissa became more focused on me and less interested in the environment, I asked her for some behaviors she had on verbal cue. Take a bow, sit, shake, and target to my hand. We stayed a distance from the crowds at first. When she was eagerly following each cue at a distance from the crowds, we moved closer to the distractions. Melissa was learning how to focus on me in some very distracting situations.

We took time for walks with friends and their dogs during show hours. She got reacquainted with her litter brother who now lives in Canada. At first she was a bit cautious, I let her slowly get acquainted, and before long Melissa was leaping, spinning and rolling on the grass with him. Inside the building where agility was being judged, she met an 11 month old Collie named Artemis. His owner Martha was also exposing him to the sounds and sights of the agility venue. Each of us gave our dogs permission to play. Artemis and Melissa rolled on the ground engrossed in each other and oblivious to what was going on in the building. This is part of Melissa's training. She was making a nice association of being in a building that echoed each time the loudspeaker came on, dogs barking while they ran the agility course, and dogs tugging off to the side. If she can be relaxed in that environment, she will be ready to focus on me.

This past Sunday about an hour before Melissa had to go into the breed ring to be shown, she saw her best hiking buddy Tate from across the parking field. I cued Melissa to first target her nose to the palm of my hand and then released her to go play with Tate. They rolled and played. Our two young dogs were able to associate a new venue with some good feelings.

I didn't worry that Melissa got dust on her coat from the agility building which had dirt rings, I didn't care that she might get grass stains from rolling in the grass. To me, dog shows are more then showing my dogs in competition. I want my dogs to enjoy being at each and every venue. It can be overwhelming for a dog new to the show scene, no need to be serious and make it stressful for Melissa. I cleaned Melissa's coat and no one was the wiser that she had been rolling on dirt flooring and on the grass, and had had some dog saliva on her. She needed to be comfortable in her surroundings, inside and outside the ring. Playing and visiting with two and four footed friends got her in a relaxed and happy state of mind.

I will admit that at one of the shows while she was being judged, the herding group was being held in the ring adjacent to ours. I let Melissa look over to see what all the commotion was about. She didn't move exactly in a straight line and it may have caused her movement to be off a bit...but she had never heard such clapping and cheering....she needed to see what all the noise was about. In time she will take no notice, it will be just part of the show scene and she will be mentally relaxed and ready to compete. But for now, I will continue to let her look at anything new and different. Focus in distracting situations will come. I was pleased that Melissa was able to hand target ringside and also in the ring.

It was an extra bonus to have my friends Sue and Debi ringside on Sunday. I let Melissa hang her head over the ring gates to visit. Melissa was able to bring her focus back onto me when cued to do so. She was in a relaxed state of mind, she was ready to be my teammate.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More Outdoor Fun!

The sun may be setting earlier, but we have had some gorgeous fall days. The dogs played outdoors all afternoon. I rotated toys every hour or so to keep their peak interest.

They tugged......and tugged.....

...and tugged so hard on the Wubba that it's head fell out

Buster, our weekend guest, was quick to grab the Wubba's 'head', a large white ball.

They played 3 way tug with the pink snake

The blue octopus was a favorite

Time for a new Frisbee

And finally they were tired.........

Except for Lucy who has boundless energy and needed a few more laps around the woods.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dogs Having Fun

Just their mere presence makes us smile

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sad days......

We returned home after a Long Island wedding followed by a two week vacation in Egypt. The dogs were home from the Animal Inn at Sky Run, everyone was settling into their routines, I had a few days to catch up on phone calls and e-mails for the business. An e-mail from Sergey who owns Melissa's brother Rimfrost caught my eye. Lure coursing about 40 minutes from home! I quickly downloaded the information, Melissa and I were going lure coursing. She had never been, but it didn't matter if she chased the lure, it would be fun to spend a day with friends watching hounds run. Life was good!!

And it was great, a bit chilly, but perfect weather for the hounds. I was in my element being outdoors on a gorgeous fall day surrounded by hounds and watching them do what they were bred to do. I called home to let Paul know how Melissa did and that I would be staying a bit longer, I couldn't just leave, I was captivated by each and every run. Paul said Catera, our 13 yr old Borzoi was not doing well. From the sound of his voice I could tell something was very wrong. He ended the conversation saying 'I think this may be the end'. I was on my way home.

How could this be? She had eaten two big meals the day before, had frolicked around the yard. She did seem a bit slow that morning before I left, but that was not unusual at her age. She had fast days, she had slow days, she ate some days better then others. When I left the house early in the morning she had been lying contently on her dog bed in the dining room.

I called my good friend Lessa to help, and let our vet know we would be coming in. My happy elated feelings had taken a 180 degree turn, I was now filled with a strange feeling that Catera was in trouble. Paul had sounded very worried, and ....sad. And I to was filled with sadness, I was crying as I drove home. The inevitable day that we all put in the back of your minds for our elderly dogs or our friends and family dealing with a long-term sickness might be here for Catera. But she hadn't been sick. Elderly and slowing down, but not sick, maybe she was just having an off day. But she was indeed in trouble. It happened quickly. I won't go into the details, those will remain with Paul, Lessa and myself. Suffice to say, she began to bleed, perhaps a clot or tumor burst from within. I held her, stroked her, and talked to her as she took her final breath. I felt her heart beat those last few beats....she died in my van as we reached the vets.

We are all sort of dazed. Puff our 7 yr old Borzoi is having a tough time. He and Catera were close, they always seemed to look out for each other. Lying next to each other, taking walks around the barn and through the woods together. He didn't eat for a day. Lessa and I took him for a walk around a lake on Sunday, just to give him something different to do. He is wandering the yard, he keeps walking around my car, he is sleeping a lot.

Last winter while playing my new camera I took this photo of Puff and Catera...together as they always were. Catera has snow on the tip of her nose, she loved burrowing her muzzle under the snow.

I will write about lure coursing at another time, right now I'm going to take the dogs out for a walk. We'll sit in the woods on the newly fallen snow and just enjoy the moments of being together.


June 23 1997 -- November 6 2010 My favorite photo of Catera taken by Tom Kosawski

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Halloween Safety Tips

Witches, Ghosts and Goblins can be scary looking to a dog. Consider leaving him home while you take the children out trick or treating. If your dog spends much time outdoors, consider bringing him inside to keep him safe. He may bolt over or through the fence should he get frightened.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs.

Xylitol, the artificial sweetener found in many candies, is poisonous to dogs.

Ingesting any candy, cake, or wrappers can cause intestinal upset.

Open Doors: mean more chance of your dog slipping out. Place him in a crate with a stuffed Kong or bone to work on. If he is not crated trained or has not learned enough manners to remain behind a closed door of a bedroom either tether him or keep him on lead with you in attendance.

Jack-O-Lanterns: While fun to carve and have burning brightly, keep all knives safely out of reach of your dog. If you are using a candle, be cautious; your dog could easily knock it over.

Costumes: You may enjoy dressing up, but your dog may not appreciate it. A festive bandana around his neck, an interactive toy, a quiet place to relax and your pet will be safe for the night.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Old Dogs, Young Dogs

A year ago, our Borzoi Catera at age 12 was a perfect match for 8 week old puppy Melissa. Catera is gentle, she is very careful where she puts her feet, she has always been very much aware of where she places her body. I could let Catera run with Melissa and knew that Melissa would be safe.

Safe from what? From being stepped on, from being body slammed, or from a harsh reprimand. Reprimands are not bad, but some dogs are not comfortable being around other dogs, especially puppies, and may reprimand a bit too harshly. A young puppy may not heed a well deserved growl if he uses his puppy teeth too hard while playing and the reprimand may escalate. Puppies learn by interacting with appropriate playmates whether they are pups of the same size and age, or a stable adult who has good skills interacting with young pups. I certainly did not want Melissa playing with an adult dog who may have a rough style in playing when she was just a tiny pup. I protected her from being physically hurt. I chose her playmates accordingly.

Dogs have different play styles. Some play rough and body slam. Some like to play chase but have little body contact, some like to roll on the ground and mouth each other for hours. Melissa and Lucy continue to play for hours, gently mouthing each other. Lucy always comes back for more if Melissa stops, a sure sign the dog at the bottom is having fun.

Catera allowed a few nibbles from puppy Melissa but moved away to stop the game when Melissa mouthed too hard. Melissa lost her playmate. The game stopped, she learned to use her mouth softly on Catera.

Fast forward a year. Catera is now a teenager, although still maintaining her weight at 72 pounds she is not as strong as she was when Melissa first arrived. Catera no longer goes on long hikes. Melissa is 85# she is strong and powerful and still developing muscle. Melissa no longer runs with Catera, she could easily knock Catera over, purely by accident. Catera still frolics in the yard, but her pace is slower. She is not as quick to turn, she prefers to walk the property boundaries rather then run long distances. Catera prefers to play with little body contact, where as Melissa enjoys body contact. Some senior dogs continue playing rough and tumble games as if they were youngsters but it is up to us to keep active puppies and strong adolescents from doing any physical damage to our older dogs. Senior dogs still enjoy socializing with pups, we just need to monitor that the pup does not overdo things.

Sara, a black Labrador had wonderful manners with all dogs, she was a good choice for Melissa to socialize with. But we watched carefully that puppy Melissa did not walk on teenager Sara, or that she did not overstay her welcome.

* Senior dogs may tire more easily.
* Seniors may be frail and may not be steady on their feet. Protect them from injury from a boisterous active puppy.
* A lifting of a lip and a show of teeth from the older dog may be necessary to tell the pup that the game has gone too far with those needle sharp puppy teeth. This is all part of canine body language. Of course if bodily harm is going to happen to either senior or pup, you must intervene. If you are not sure what your dog is saying, have a professional dog trainer who uses humane methods help you learn how to read your dog.
* Some adult dogs prefer not to play with very young puppies, but enjoy playing with adult dogs and older pups. Maybe a few weeks of management is necessary before your senior is comfortable with your new pup.
* Make sure to spend quality time with your senior, they may walk slower, and need to sleep more, but they still enjoy our company.

* Give your senior a play that is off limits from an active pup/adolescent, they will appreciate the time alone to rest. Catera certainly enjoys her quiet time.