Friday, 25 May 2012

Posts are coming soon!

I've kind of fallen off the face of the earth this last week. It's our first week of Kamp K9 and I'm sad that I wasn't able to achieve the goals I wanted. That being said we did get out for a two hour walk on Sunday to walk Kobi through some crowds at the Blue Nose Marathon  (which I will post about later) and we also went camping sunday night (also I will post about later).
My fiance's grandfather has been incredibly sick in the hospital which means the pups have been couped up at home most days this week because we've been at the hospital or I've been helping look after my fiance's little sister. Then yesterday and today I'm working a motorcycle training shift (during the summer months I teach people how to drive motorcycles). The shifts are two days from 8am to 5pm and usually I have to bolt straight for my evening job and work from 4ish to about 11pm. So, intensely long days for me with no time to write up posts.
Hopefully I'll find time this weekend as I do have some great things I would love to post about!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Thank you!

I'm writting on a different computer than I usually do so please don't hate me if there ends up being loads of typos.

This morning Kobi and I had our third agility class, and the trend is continuing. Kobi was silent, focused and calm the entire class. I was so elated after class I actually sent the trainers at Sublime Canine a big thank you email. I feel like they are hugely responsible for the progress we have been making. I'm doing all the work and it's a massive amount, but they have been there for me. They have been there to help encourage me on our bad days and to ensure me with the work we're doing that we would get there. They have supported me by allowing me to come in and train independently during other classes and have tolerated a large number of emails with piles of questions. They have shown me the right path to take with our training and how to troubleshoot the problems we run into. I don't think Kobi and I would be where we are today without them.

I have been able to take relaxing walks in our neighbourhood for the last month. I am able to run with Kobi without a single lunge or reaction. I am able to take him to stores and have him remain quiet for about 75% of the time. I really had to take a few steps back in our training at one point but the leaps forward we are making as a result are astounding. Kobi is just over a year and is shaping up to have pretty awesome off leash skills and recall. I'm able to take him to dog class and not have a single reaction. I'm able to keep him focused, get him riled up then settle him back down. Tomorrow I'm planning on walking him through some of the crowds from the Bluenose Marathon, something just a couple of months ago that would have stressed me out and made me disapointed because I would have wanted him to do well but in reality would have been too hard for him.

All the progress we have been making lately w're making thanks to the amazing trainers at Sublime Canine. They care about you and your dog. If you are willing to put in the time and effort needed to correct their behaviours, they are 100% more then willing to be there for you every step of the way.
I was skepticle of their training when I first started almost a year ago, i was a fan of Caesar Millan and his training style and thought clickers and positive reinforcement couldn't work. Boy was I wrong. There were times when I wanted to quit and go back to the dominace style training because I just wasn't getting the results I wanted. They encourged me to stay on course and that it would pay off, and it has. We still have a very long way to go, Kobi is far from being a perfect awesome dog like my older guy Scout, but he has amazing potential. I knew it was there, I like to think that's why i picked him.

In the begging I wanted a dog that was naturally calm who would be a breeze to train, that wasn't what I go. But now, I'm almost happier that it has worked out this way. Kobi and I have a true bond that w continue to grow. We learn together and make progress together. I have learned so much about training because of the work I do with Kobi that I am now able to apply it to the dogs I train the SPCA.

Thank you Kobi for just being you, it was me who needed to learn to love him and accept him for who he is. I had to learn that he is not Scout and will never be Scout, he's Kobi.

And thank you Sublime Canine for guiding me over the last year, I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Nickname Game

I came across the Nick Name Game from Sarge Speaks Out. It is supposed to be a contest where my blog readers vote on what you think the best nickname for my critters are, but I just wanted to use it as an excuse to list their nicknames. I don't think we have the most creative nicknames out there, but I'm always fascinated by nicknames. I'm the type of person that takes time choosing an animals name to make sure it perfectly suits them, which can take weeks sometimes! I always find it funny though how after having them in your life for even just a few days, the nicknames start coming in force. Below are the nicknames that we have for our two dogs and two cats. We also have two geckos but they haven't developed names beyond their names, as cool as geckos are they're geckos.

Scout's Nicknames:
Scout Man
Big Man
Big Poops
Big Guy
 Kobi's Nicknames:
Snaggle (when he was a puppy and had snaggly teeth)
Premium Pup

 Keiko's Nicknames:
ChubbaChub (one friends name for her)
Fatty Fat Fat (Another friend's name for her)
Keiko is often teased for being such a tiny cat but being so intensely fluffy makes her look huge in comparison to our even tinier kitten.
Ash's Nicknames:
Flopps McGee
No Bones

Do you're critters have fun nicknames?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Kamp K9

So I'm still relatively new to blogger land and still figuring out how it all works, but I came across the K9 Kamp challenge put on by Kol and Kelly.

I have always owned older dogs who weren't the most active. We would try and do some fun activities with them once in a while but sadly by the end they were pooped for the next week. I will admit that when I first adopted Scout, one of his potential names was Obi, short for Obese because he was the fattest dog I had ever laid eyes on. I'm mean there was a whole other dog living around his mid section.
Once we got him home and out on daily walks and structured feeding, he lost all the weight and we discovered that lovely waist line hidden within. Because we worked so hard at getting all the excess dog off Scout, that's why it bothers me so much when people tell me my dog is fat. He is big boned and barrel shaped, yes, but for his age (13 years) he is as slim as he is going to get.
Maybe a year after we adopted him, he still has a lot of weight in this picture.

But that's besides the point. I knew this time when I adopted a dog I wanted a younger one for a few reasons, one being I wanted a dog I could be active with, a dog that would help encourage me to be more active and to explore this wonderful city that I live in.

Within the last year alone I have gone places with Kobi I never knew existed, or just had no motivation to check out. Thanks to Kobi I have even started jogging! Something I hate! With a passion. But Kobi motivates me to get out an run for at least 20 minutes every morning. We started off with me not being able to run a full minutes, but now I can run almost a full 20 min without breaks (aside from some sniff and pee breaks) and at a decent pace! Something I never thought I would be able to do.

I like being fit, but I hate the gym, I've tried working out at home but it's just boring. Why confine myself indoors with other sweaty stinky people when I can get fit with my dog?
Being active with Kobi is helping to not only build my strength and stamina, but his as well. With us starting out in agility if I can have a strong physical foundation for both of us, hopefully it will make running a course easier when we do finally get there.

Now, I would be lying if I said there was no benefit for me. I am a very lucky person in that I have been the same weight since high school (almost 5 years ago now), and have pretty well remained the same shape and weight my entire life with only minor fluctuations. I am frequently scoffed at when I tell people I wouldn't mind losing a tiny bit of weight or just exercising because I want to be more fit. Just because I am lucky to be naturally slim doesn't give me the right to just laze around on the couch all day, I still eat well and I remain active which probably helps me stay the weight I am.

Now, I am getting married in two and half months! And I, like every other bride out there, want to look my best on my wedding day. To me that means losing, one maybe two inches if I'm lucky off my hips. Reason being, I purchased a sample size mermaid style wedding dress that at present has little to no walking room through the thighs. It has room to be let out up to four inches which will make a big difference, but if I can lose at least an inch around my hips that will give me 5 more inches or room to walk and move in my dress. Jogging is helping and eating a fresh diet is also helping, but Kamp K9 will help take me to the next level in ensuring I have goals that I can work towards and keep creative to avoid getting stuck in a rut and losing motivation.

This is my first year participating in K9 Kamp, but hopefully it won't be the last. Too bad today isn't a great starter. It' pouring rain and there is thunder, which even indoors is making Kobi very uneasy. So though I'm not squimish about walking in the rain I won't torture him. Instead  we're working on calm and quiet, we'll do some more training and wait for the thunder to stop.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Building Confidence

Next week in our agility class we are supposed to start working on some rear end awareness and one of the tricks we need to work on is Kobi to back up on command. So I did a quick youtube search and found a video suggesting to make a narrow passage using barricades and placing lower value treats at the back and rewarding them for backing out of the passage with a higher value treat.

 Great idea, except one problem. Kobi is nervous of tight spaces, but I wanted to try anyway. So I started tossing treats in, and he wouldn't go near it. So I lowered my criteria, tossed treats about a foot away and as he got more comfortable I would toss them closer. I took him less then a minute to figure out treats came from inside this place. Once he started taking a step or two in I stopped the session and went to finish cooking dinner. After dinner I just wanted to see what would happen if I tossed a couple more treats in, and what do you know! He went in! No problem.

 So I pulled out the camera and filmed the rest. I wish I filmed the first part to show that his total training on this was maybe three minutes with a break in between. But you can see from the video he eventually was just hanging out waiting for his next treat and even stretches towards the end. In the first session he back out as soon as he got the treat!
Once I stopped the session he actually went in on his own a couple of times to check and see if any treats magically appeared!

I'm hoping agility will help boost his confidence, and with that he will become less reactive because he won't beso scared of things any more.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Freeze Dried Liver Treats

Treats can be expensive, especially liver based treats, which is why I started making my own. A few months ago I listed a recipe for how to make dehydrated liver treats. These treats are great, except they take a lot of prep time and the smell that permeates the house when baking the treats is vile. So I decided to start making freeze dried liver treats.

These treats are quick and easy to make, and are also a great summer treat for hot pooches.
I've found that Calf Liver seems to work better for these treats, but if you can't find calf liver that's alright just make sure the liver is fully cooked.

  • Boil the liver until fully cooked, about 45minutes if using a full piece, 20 minutes if cut into chunks.
  • Drain, cool and cut. Cut the treats into thin pieces, the thicker the cut the longer it will take for the treats to dry out. I also personally like long thing pieces that are easy to break up.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the treats out.
  • Place in your freezer. The cooler the freezer the better the results. Leave the treats for at least one week, longer may be needed for thicker pieces.
  • As they dry they will take on a white freezer burnt colour.
  • To check that they are ready pull a couple out and let them thaw, if they are squishy they are not fully dried.

Leave them in the freezer until ready to use them. Use as a cool tasty treat or as training treats.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Whopper Dropper

This weekend I was invited to tag along on a hike to the Whopper Dropper, aptly named because it's located behind a Burger King and is a mountain bike trail with lots of drops!

 I had always known about the little road the went up into the woods behind the Burger King in Bayers Lake but had never gone exploring thinking it was a little sketchy, and admittedly walking up and getting into the trails it is, especially when met but old couches and beds and garbage. But a few more meters in and it was stunning. I could not believe that Halifax had such an amazing trail system hidden away behind a regular old business park.

This was a heavily wooded area with large open granite slabs. What I found to be the coolest thing was all the mountain bike equipment built into the trails, there were bridges and ramps and risers and everything you could possibly imagine! Kobi epically failed at crossing the first of the bridges, attempting to run full tilt across and not paying attention to the spacing of his paws, so he stumbled and got stuck in the bridge and got very scared of them.

 We came across a few more, some he could avoid and did, others he had no choice but to cross them. He did eventually figure it out which was a huge confidence booster for him! At one point we came across a large boulder with ramps leading up either side, all the other dogs climbed up without issue, Kobi took a lot of convincing to come up, but he did!!

I sadly was stupid and forgot to put my memory card back in my camera so I didn't get very good shots, just whatever I could get on my phone. That being said though the pace that we walked made it impossible to pull my camera out so I would love to go back another time for a more leisurely hike to get some better shots, and possibly even take a swim at one of the many lakes hidden away inside.

As a side note, this is a pretty intense trail system. If you're looking for maintained walking paths and smooth surfaces, this is not the place to go. Also if you have a terrible sense of direction, bring a GPS. I have a pretty good sense of direction and if I wasn't with people who knew the trails I would have very easily gotten lost because all the trails look the same after a while.

 If you're into hiking and have a couple of hours to explore, this is an awesome spot.  Also note that their is wildlife in the area, the other dogs all had bells on their collars to scare off any wildlife they might encounter and the darker coloured dogs wore fluorescent scarves or shirts to avoid blending into the scenery.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Hard Work Pays off!

I have been taking Kobi to Point Pleasant Park on Sunday mornings since he was about 4 months old last year. We let him off leash in the off leash areas and walk our way down to the off leash field area near the water. Walking down to the off leash area is still a bit of a challenge where it's usually first thing in the morning, there are lots of other dogs and Kobi is very excited.

I like to try to get Kobi to work on a stay while I unclip his leash and walk away, but I also try to make it fair. If there are lots of other dogs running around  and I know it's too hard then I don't bother.

Every 10 minutes or so we call Kobi to Come. We stand in place and wait for him to come and sit. Because we've spent so long working on this Kobi now has a pretty reliable recall, and the fact that we trained it in the dog park has made it all the stronger. We always make sure to have yummy high reward treats with us though.
I always reward Kobi for choosing to walk calmly beside me off leash. This has taken more work because everything else is so exciting. But by consistently rewarding him beside me then sending him away again, he more often chooses to stay by my side.
Check out the focus!!
Walking loosely  on leash on our way out of the park. Leaving is always so much easier then walking in.

Keep working at it and it will pay off! I always find it amazing how one day things just seem to click for dogs. You struglle for so long then suddenly they just get it and are able to do it.

Monday, 7 May 2012

May6 th Point Pleasant

Here are some picture from Point Pleasant on Sunday morning. We often visit the off leash play area on the weekends to give Kobi and Scout some much needed social time. It also gives me a chance to practice my pet photography.
Taking photos at the dog park is a challenge, there are dogs running everywhere, people are standing everywhere and often get in your shot. I usually try to get down to the dogs level by kneeling but that usually invites many to come visit me. Lastly, I have to try to keep an eye on my dogs as well! I have lots of pictures from over the year, I might try to post some from earlier, but all are on my website.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

1st Agility Class

So I feel like today is two post worthy because I'm so pleased with our class this morning.

I sort of had an idea of what to expect because I had been going to my friends agility class and I was sent the homework sheet about 3 weeks ago and have been working on it diligently. When we arrived for the first time I was not the first person there, so I took in Kobi's bed and supplies so I could grab a quiet spot for him then went back to the car to get him once everyone was inside and at their beds. We got in without issue, got him settled in and just worked on getting him calm. Which mind you is not easy for a year old puppy who is thrown in with a bunch of new dogs  but he stayed calmly on his bed!

He had two barking fits the entire time! I mean I would rather no barking at all but this was not easy for him, it was an intense and exciting class, the trainer was moving and excited and the other dogs where whining or yipping and moving and he stayed calm.

I loved that the skills we worked on gotten broken down into minute chunks, then we would get the dogs back on their beds and settle them down again. This is fantastic for Kobi to prevent him for getting over aroused, but also awesome to work on having him settle down after being so excited.

His passive attention when standing needs more work, but is nose touches and toy drives and gives were epic.

I really think agility is going to be great for us. Kobi may never be a Therapy Dog at least until he's older, but in the meantime agility will give him a job and something to work towards. And it's fun! I found I was much less stressed. It was about me and Kobi and that was it. I want us to have fun, yes I want him to learn to be calm, but I'm coming to understand him more. He's young, he's excited and he wants to talk. Any amount of silence from him when things are going on is huge progress!

I'm incredibly excited for next week!

Advanced Life Skills

As most of you may know Kobi and I had been taking Advanced Life Skills with Sublime Canine for the last little while, well last Sunday was graduation night!

I'm glad we took the class because I feel like I learned some great information about how to deal with Kobi and how to take our training to the next level, however, I'm not sure if I'm totally content with the class. The class is yes called Advanced Life Skills, but is described as a prep class for the canine good neighbour test. I'm not sure if I will ever take Kobi through the canine good neighbour, but I know there are similar elements to the Therapy Dog evaluation so I wanted to be able to work on some of those skills with Kobi in a controlled environment.

The exercises we worked on were lots of stays, walking loosely and being able to sit the moment you stop, being able to down while walking, coming when called and a tiny amount of meeting other dogs.

I really liked the class at first, but as the weeks went on I felt we were covering the same thing over and over. Kobi got awesome at working on his stay, but I felt like we had practiced the skills a lot and we were ready to move onto other things and we never did. What I feel Kobi really needed and still needs work with is getting to meet other dogs politely. We never even got the chance because we had to work in a separate area of the room to try to prevent his barking, so no meeting dogs which is a huge component of the test. Kobi also needs work on greeting people calmly. Again this is something he struggles with and there wasn't nearly enough attention given to achieving that goal. Lastly you have to leave your dog with a stranger while you go out of sight, this is something that was never even done.

So, am I glad I took the class, yes, I am. We learned lots of great tips and got to do a lot of work on Kobi's stay improving its reliability. Am I totally happy with the class, no. I really feel a little let down. We didn't accomplish any of the goals I had in mind and because of that I know for a fact that Kobi is not even close to being able to take the test. The other thing I was a little disappointed about was we never did a mock test. I really was expecting to have the chance to go through a mock test to see where we needed work (which I think I know) but also just to see how it works to alleviate some of the stress when people decide to actually go and take the test.

Today Kobi and I start agility so hopefully that yields greater results.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Private Lesson

This last week has been tough, and I haven't been doing a very good job at creating new posts or updating things. I'll try to correct the back log of things I've been wanting to write about over the last couple of days.

I'll start with the private lesson I had for Kobi and I on Wednesday morning. Originally we were supposed to have J come out on a walk with us but I decided to start off the meeting by getting her to come up into our apartment and go over the difficulties I have with having Kobi greet people at the door. I find this a challenge not because I don't know "in theory" how to train what I want, but because of the layout of our entrance way. We live in a second story flat with a stairwell leading down to the front door. There is also a door at the top of the stairs leading into the apartment.

Doorbell rings, dogs bark (I'm okay with barking at the doorbell, I just need him to stop barking on command, still working on that), dogs rush to the door, I squeeze through and run down the stairs hoping the people haven't gone away yet thinking I'm not home, answer door, dogs hear voices and start barking again. If it's a guest they come up the stairs, I open the top door and have to push through two dogs trying to rush into the opening, person comes through and Kobi jumps on them in my dash to get treats for not jumping on them.

The new plan of action. I can't change the layout of my house, so it's time to get creative.  I need to spend more time creating high value for Kobi's bed. He should want to be in that bed all the time because it's awesome and has lots of food. Once the bed has good value, he should be able to be sent to his bed and stay there while I go answer the door. This is the hard part. Because I'm so far away and out of sight, I can't properly reinforce Kobi for choosing god behaviors. So she recommended I look into getting a Manners Minder. My trainer at Sublime Canine often uses one for her dog when she comes to class. It's a food dispensing device that dispenses treats via a remote control. I think it's smart and pretty cool, but for $150 plus shipping? not so sure. I'm looking into finding one at a lower cost or how to possibly rig up a DIY one.
So that's how to solve the door issue, but it'll take time.

The second issue is Kobi's random barking around the house. Sometimes he barks for good reason, like the door randomly opening downstairs (usually my fiance coming home), or for loud booms and bangs. But he also barks purely for attention, or at things that aren't worthy of barking at, some of which we can hear (like a car door being slammed) and others we can't hear. It was recommended we get a crate and use this to help control his crate. Kobi needs a consequence for barking when it is unwanted, and all it needs to be is something he doesn't like, such as being forced to go lie down and stay there until he is quiet. This is hard for Kobi because he would much rather wander around and investigate. We've been doing this with him bed in the meantime, but the crate would have the advantage of being sent to his crate for a "time out" but we can move around and do things without worrying about him wandering off without us noticing then having to correct for it. It makes sense to me. And I have been thinking about getting one because if we end up competing in agility it is inevitable that we will need one at some point. I will admit though that I hate crates, I don't like the look of them and they're bulky. But I'll give it a shot. Now to find a cheap second hand crate!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Nancy Marshall

I realize I've disappeared over the last week and probably will continue to for a few more days. Over the weekend a very close friend of mine passed away due to breast cancer. She was the director of my high schools musicals, but working with her as stage manager I spent enormous amounts of time with her and became her friend. Nancy Marshall was a true inspiration. She believed in me, but in so many others as well. She impacted every person she met. She taught many of us about professionalism and how to believe in ourselves and chase after our dreams. Nancy was a huge influence on my life and I feel like without her I wouldn't be the person I am today. I learned to be confident, fun but professional, serious but goofy and above all, to believe. Nancy is the first person to have passed away in my adult life. I know it never gets easier, but having only lost grandparents when I was very young, finding out that she was passing away last weekend felt like I had been hit by a truck. I have never experienced grief before, I have never experienced such true sadness. I cry at sad parts in movies, but this was the first time it was real life, something that didn't end when the movie was finished. I cried spontaneously for days. I'd be walking the dog, think of her and start to cry. My therapy was turning her into a piece of art. Drawing allows me to come to an inner calm, to accept and understand things I couldn't otherwise. I have never been an emotional artist, feeling paint at canvas to express my feelings. Instead for me the tranquility and stillness I achieve when I'm focused on a piece of art is more like a meditative state, allowing me to accept and understand my emotions. I have truly been able to come to peace with her passing, but I know she will be with me forever. She is never gone, she lives on in all of us. She lived the most incredible life and I can only hope that my life is just as amazing as hers.

Rest in Peace Nancy Marshall, Love is always stronger than Death and you will always be in my thoughts and therefore with me. I love you.