06 February 2017

My Five Favorite Positive Training Tools for Dogs

Tools are an essential part of life and dog training especially when your dog has figured out how to use items as tools. These are some of my favorite positive training tools that serve to keep Mr. N's Pinky and the Brain tendencies in check.

Can you guess who is Pinky and who is The Brain?
I do have a marker word (yes) but the clicker is more precise and sharp so 99 percent of new training starts with a clicker in our house. Clicker training makes clear to the dog when he is right and is especially helpful for behavior chains and more advanced tricks when timing is essential. I favor the Starmark clicker although we have various clickers strewn throughout the house so I usually just use the first one I find.

We were prescribed Dr. Karen Overall's relaxation protocol by Mr. N's veterinary behaviorist for his separation anxiety. It's been an uphill road but he is slowly starting to learn how to relax on cue.  He even fled to his mat to get away from the puppy we were watching. He does have a good off-switch but sometimes I really need him to settle down and the mat is helping with that. Memory foam bath mats are comfortable, easy to wash and stay cleaner due to the backing.

I don't work for free and I don't expect Mr. N to either. His "salary" consists of a rotation of high-value meaty treats or cheese. He would prefer to be paid in live squirrels or the freedom to romp around off-leash all the time but as those things are not always possible, treats it is. Treats affirm that yes, he is a good boy. Yes, he made the right choice. And thank you for stepping away from that dead fish and not rolling on it. String cheese and bits of leftover meat make him happy as does Ziwipeak, Real Meat, and Cloudstar treats from the pet store.

Long line
When I first started training recall, I used a long line. I don't really have a fenced area to work with and if Mr. N didn't come back, I would have a way to catch him. His recall has much improved since then and I hardly use it except for at the beach sometimes but during that initial training stage, it was essential. Biothane lines are great as they are waterproof, less prone to tangle and easy to clean.

Food Puzzle Toys
Puzzle toys for dogs are pretty much the canine version of TV for toddlers. Sometimes they're driving you crazy being like what's for dinner? Can we go for an outing? When you really need to get some work done. That's when you pull out the puzzle toy for some peace and quiet (depending on how boisterous your dog is). The dogs benefit too by exercising their brains. Kongs and the Kong Wobbler are a favorite around here as are Nina Ottosson toys.

What are your favorite training tools?

*If you buy from the Amazon links listed on this blog, we will get a few pennies that go towards running the blog and Mr. N's treat allowance!

Welcome to First Monday's Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little TerrierTravels with Barley and Wag 'n Woof Pets . Say hello to our new co-hosts! Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below.  Our theme for this month is favorite training tools but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin March 6th and continues for a week. 

25 January 2017

The Abominable Snowman Dog

Beware! He is headed your way.

13 January 2017

My Dog Training Inspiration or Ode to Fenzi Dog Sports Academy

I stumbled across Fenzi Dog Sports Academy classes on an online forum. I thought it would be good for Mr. N to take an impulse control class and I couldn't find an in-person class that fit with my schedule, budget and would take him. 

It's amazing how many of the local classes refuse to take reactive dogs in any of their "normal" classes (outside of the classes meant specifically for reactive dogs). I looked at various classes including recall, agility and tricks and he wasn't allowed in any of them. At this point, Mr. N has progressed to where he can go to classes without reacting as long as the other dogs are under control but it was difficult finding classes at the time.

Fenzi is an online dog sports academy that teaches a variety of different classes including agility, obedience, nose work, freestyle, disc and pet manners. They offer different levels (gold, silver, bronze) depending on whether you have a working spot (with feedback) or auditing. 
They also offer scholarships for people who need them. 

The instructors post weekly lectures and the gold students post videos of their dogs doing the assignments and the instructors offer feedback. Gold and silver students can ask questions on the forums. 

Mr. N has taken various classes including nosework, shaping, Bogeyman (dealing with reactivity) and skills for little dogs. All of their classes are taught with positive training methods. What drew me the most to Fenzi was their ethos. 

"We do not believe that “purely positive” exists, so we do not use that term. At the same time, we do not believe that compulsion is needed in either the training or proofing phases of dog sport preparation. All of our courses are taught in a manner that respects the well being and emotional comfort of both halves of the team - not just the handler.  We do not teach pain compliance techniques in our courses."

I've always trained in a positive fashion but the Fenzi philosophy made me really think deeply about Mr. N's emotional comfort as well. Is it fair to him? Is he comfortable? There are always things he will not like but I believe it's important to help him cope with the things that are inevitable (fireworks, the vet) and not put him in situations that he shouldn't have to cope with.

We've quit several different classes because a trainer would keep picking him up when he clearly did not want to be, he would repeatedly be charged by off-leash dogs in the classroom and was clearly set up for training failure by flooding. Fenzi gave me the conviction and awareness to say no, this is not fair to my dog. This is not fair to me. I'm leaving. 

We dabble in dog sports but I take classes mostly because I want Mr. N to be the best dog he can be. And because we enjoy it. When I ask Mr. N if he wants to train, he eagerly runs to our training spot. Training is one of the highlights of his day. More than any training mechanics (although those too), Fenzi has taught me that relationship is paramount. I'm going to their dog sports camp (Ferretpalooza) this summer and I'm already making up a list of sessions I want to attend. 

Our friends at Dash Kitten told us that when writing their kindness post, they were inspired by Mr. N when it came to writing about dog training. 

"The happy whizzing tail of a pup going at top speed when its owner is kind, and gives praise for a training session that has gone well."

That is what I strive for.

Welcome to First Monday's Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below.  Our theme for this month is training inspiration or training mentor but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin February 6th and continues for a week. 

04 January 2017

In Need of a Friend

Mr. N is desperate for someone to play with! 

19 December 2016

Try Out Raw Pet Food with a Starter Pack from Balanced Blends

If we gathered up all the food that Mr. N has rejected, it would feed a Lab for a month. The same amount would probably feed Mr. N for a year or more. He is a picky, picky pup. And yes, we have tried leaving down food for him and taking it away if he doesn't eat it. Little dog went on a hunger strike. 

The problem with buying raw food for pets online is that you usually have to commit to buying large quantities at a time without being able to try it out. And well if Mr. N won't eat thirty pounds of beef, what are we supposed to do? Toss it out or fry it up for ourselves? Most shelters won't take unopened bags of kibble... I highly doubt I could find one that would take open bags of raw food. And returning it is not an option either.

If you're looking to try out raw food, Balanced Blends (a raw food company that delivers to your door) is now offering a starter pack where new customers can order five pounds of raw food with free shipping ($30 for chicken and $35 for beef) and no minimum order.  There is also a smaller starter pack for cats. This makes it a great option for people who want to try a new brand of raw food or are experimenting with raw food for the first time. 

Like many people, I worry about the safety of Mr. N's food after all the recalls and reports of contaminated pet food. Balanced Blends uses high pressure processing to eliminate food-borne pathogens, has their food tested by a third-party laboratory and does lot tracking so they can keep track of the ingredients that go in each batch. 

To make sure their food has all the nutrients dogs and cats need and is species-appropriate (although Mr. N thinks he's a obligate carnivore and would happily eat just meat all day), the food is formulated by vets and a nutritionist. And they stand behind their food with a satisfaction guarantee. 

We are assiduous label readers over here (for dog food anyway). The beef recipe includes:

Ingredients: Beef, Beef Livers, Beef Hearts, Cabbage, Carrots, Peppers, Bone Meal, Berries, Salmon Oil, Psyllium Husks.
Vitamins: Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, D-Calcium Panthotenate, Biotin, Riboflavin, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12, Pyridoxine HCL, Folic Acid.
Trace Minerals: Salt, Iron Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate. 

Balanced Blends is not only made in the USA but their meat and organic produce is sourced in the USA as well. The chicken is cage-free, antibiotics-free and USDA approved and the beef is grass fed when possible, antibiotics-free and USDA approved.

When I buy Mr. N's food, I always think about if I'd eat it if it came to a pinch and I'd definitely eat Balanced Blends if there was a zombie apocalypse. Provided we still had some way of cooking it. I do like sashimi and beef tartare but I generally prefer my food cooked. 

Balanced Blends strongly believes that pets are family and they're hosting a holiday contest for you to show off your pets engaging in holiday activities. Does your dog (or cat) participate in holiday traditions? Do you have photographic evidence? If so, enter them in the holiday contest for a chance to win a starter pack of Balanced Blends Raw Pet Food. You can submit photos through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Make sure to enter in the widget (link above) afterwards!

This post was sponsored by Balanced BlendsThey are not responsible for the contents of this article. All opinions expressed are our own. We only review dog food or treats that Mr. N will eat.

14 December 2016

Who Wants Gingerbread Houses?

Mr. N thinks that instead of gingerbread, these houses should be made of meat instead.

09 December 2016

The Gift of Positive Training with a Veterinary Behaviorist

There was a little dog. And he had a little curl right in the middle of his forehead. When he was good, he was very, very good. And when he was bad, he was horrid.

Mr. N is very, very good most of the time. It's that one percent that trips him up. His main "bad" fault is that he is leash reactive to other dogs and will bark and pull and lunge out of excitement. He's improved a lot over the years and we can go to trials and classes and shows and pet expos with some careful management.

Walks in close proximity and the dogs in our complex are still a challenge. We manage encounters as best as we can but occasionally corners or other things will trip us up. But it's mostly just embarrassing. Because people look at him like he's a yappy little untrained dog. And me as an irresponsible owner. And you want to proclaim that you have put hours and hours of training into that dog and he has titles and ribbons even if he has trouble walking past another dog calmly.

The other issue is separation anxiety. That is definitely rooted in fear. He spent the first few years of his life locked up in a crate almost non-stop so I don't blame him. And I wish there was a way to tell him that I will come back to him. That I will always come back. But fear of abandonment always lurks in his little doggy brain.

He's progressed from barking almost non-stop while I'm gone to intermittent barking in between watching the window and napping. I don't think anything will make him happy about me leaving. But it would be nice if he was at least tolerant of the prospect.

So for this Christmas (and possibly the next three Christmases considering the cost), he's getting a very intangible present. I'm going to take him to a veterinary behaviorist in the new year. Veterinary behaviorists are veterinarians who specialize in treating behavior. They have to do additional training (through a residency or mentorship), write case reports, pass an exam and author a research project. In addition to behavioral modification, they also have the ability to prescribe medication. Kind of like dog psychiatrists (they do treat other animals like cats, birds, horses etc).

I've been debating doing it for quite a while. I would have done it sooner but it is not a cheap commitment. Also Mr. N's behavioral issues are not severe. He's not living in his life in utter terror and fear or biting anyone or destroying the roof over his head. In which case, we would have found a way to take him in sooner.

But in the end, I do think it will improve his quality of life and hopefully speed up the rate at which he's improving. Helping him become more comfortable staying home alone would be a boon. And I'm hopeful that one day, we'll be able to walk past the neighbors' dogs without him throwing a fit. I don't think he's going to be excited about his gift but I hope it will be worth it.

Don't forget to enter to win a positive dog training package (puzzle toys, treats, trick book)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Welcome to First Monday's Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below.  Our theme for this month is my the gift of positive training but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin January 2nd and continues for a week. 

07 December 2016

Does the Best Dry Food for Dogs and Vacuums Make Good Gifts for the Holidays?

Most of us want to give that magical holiday present that will wow the gift recipient. Including our pets. A yummy chew will make our dogs' eyes go wide and bark in glee but it will last a few minutes or a few hours if you're lucky.

Instead consider giving them a gift that will keep giving all year. One of the best things we can do for our dogs is to provide them with healthy food that will keep their bodies strong and power their brains. Wag.com offers vast selection of delicious dry dog food and delivery to your door so you'll never run out of food. Dog food is not shiny and bright (shouldn't be anyway) but it will be well used and liked for a long, long time. And if they don't like it, Wag.com offers variety to choose from

Research tells us that gift givers focus on the gift giving moment and gift recipients are more concerned about the practicality of the gift.

“We are seeing a mismatch between the thought processes and motivations of gift givers and recipients," Jeff Galek, co-author of the study said. "Put another way, there may be times when the vacuum cleaner, a gift that is unlikely to wow most recipients when they open it on Christmas day, really ought to be at the top of the shopping list as it will be well used and liked for a long time.”

Seeing as the vast majority of dogs would not be pleased with a vacuum as a holiday present, what other practical presents would benefit their lives? 

Clothes are a boon for the dogs that need them. Mr. N was not built for cold weather, he has little body fat and no insulation (hair instead of fur). But equipped with a good raincoat and cozy fleeces, he's ready to brave the soggy Portland weather. Consider getting your dog a warm coat as a holiday gift. 

Insurance is possibly the least exciting gift of all. Is anyone excited to see it under the tree? But it comes in handy and you'll be grateful your dog is insured when you're at the emergency vet. Peace of mind is priceless. 

Everyone who lives in your house (including your dog) enjoys being flea-free. Keep it that way with appropriate flea protection. They'll thank you later. 

And experience gifts are never to be spurned. The Wrapsit is a crate cover that goes on your camping chair and creates a soft crate for your small dog or cat. Your pet will adore tagging along on camping trips and to the beach and to outdoor movies and concerts.

Are you getting your dog any practical presents for the holidays? Wag.com is offering our readers a chance to win a $50 gift card for a shopping spree!

This post was sponsored by NakturnalThey are not responsible for the contents of this article. All opinions expressed are our own. 

29 November 2016

Who am I? Dog DNA Testing with Embark Veterinary

What better birthday gift could there be than the gift of knowing who you are? Not that I think Mr. N spends much (or any) of his time pondering his identity but the humans always want to know. Mr. N knows he is a terrier and would like some tasty rodents to chase please for his eighth birthday today.

A company new to the market, Embark Veterinary sent us a dog DNA test to try out. At the time of his adoption, we were told that Mr. N was a Yorkie/Maltese mix. And from his mannerisms and looks that seemed plausible although I always thought that his Yorkie side is predominant.

The test itself is pretty simple. You swab your dog's cheek with the provided swab and send it off in a pre-paid mailer and register online. Then you wait 6-8 weeks and voila!

The results came back as: 50 percent Yorkshire Terrier, 17 percent Pomeranian, 17 percent Shih Tzu, 11 percent Maltese and 5 percent Supermutt. No big surprises except for the Pomeranian part. I definitely don't see any Pom in him. His paternal side is all Yorkie. All the breed mixing happens on the maternal side. Embark makes the results shareable and you can view Mr. N's results here.

His weight prediction came in at 17 pounds which seemed a little high. They advise you to email if you feel like the weight results are off which I did. We'll see what they say.

They also test for 160+ genetic diseases including Multidrug Sensitivity (MDR1), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), exercise-induced collapse (DNM1) and more. Mr. N's results came back as negative for everything thankfully.

The test can also look for coyote, wolf or village dog ancestry. Not that Mr. N has any of those. He is a very domesticated wee beastie with test results to prove it (his wolfiness score came back as 0).

Embark partners with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and tests over 200,000 genetic markers to build your dog's breed profile. You can opt in to have your dog's DNA results included in studies in canine health and science (which I did).

The test does take longer than its competitors (6-8 weeks compared to 2-3 weeks) so if you're in a rush, this is not the test for you. The big stickler is the price ($199). Embark is the most expensive test out there on the market. It's also the most comprehensive test on the market providing the most data (you also have access to the raw data if you're curious) and health testing and free updates (new info is added to your panel when new research is done).

I found their customer service to be helpful and responsive. I accidentally touched the swab while putting it in the tube and they reassured me that they could most likely sort out the human DNA from the dog DNA and if not, they would send me a new kit.

It's worth the splurge to try it if you are curious about your dog's health or breed identity. Also Christmas is coming up and this would make a nice addition to a wishlist.

Embark has also generously offered to give one of our readers a dog DNA test. Enter below!

This post was sponsored by EmbarkThey are not responsible for the contents of this article. All opinions expressed are our own. 

23 November 2016

In the Lap of Luxury

Mr. N thinks the best bed is on top of a pile of 65 inch Smart TVs. Little dog knows luxury when he sees it.

16 November 2016

I Am Art

Our photographer friend included this photo of Mr. N in her art display at Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital in Portland. Photo by Kolu Photography. 

11 November 2016

Indoor Activities and Games for Dogs

When the weather outside is frightful and you (or your dog) don't want to venture outdoors but they're still looking at you expectantly, what do you do? It's going to be a long winter if you leave them to their own devices. And shorter days mean fewer good walking hours. Luckily, there's plenty of ways to stimulate their brains and bodies indoors.
  • Nosework games. You can scatter food around the house for your dog to find or work on finding various odors. There are nosework kits for sale online or you could work with scents you have at home like essential oils (preferably ones you don't use often as to not confuse the dog). 
  • Impulse control. Work on a good leave it around food. Train your dog to run to a mat or their crate when guests come over. Have them do a sit stay and wait for a release before throwing a toy.
  • Tricks. Tricks are a great way to exercise your dog's brain. If you want to get fancy, you could work on behavior chains where your dog learns how to string together a series of cues into one big trick (cleaning up toys for example). 
  • Refine old tricks. Work on duration, distance or distractions. Can your dog perform roll over while bacon is frying? 
  • Indoor fetch. This works best if you have small or gentle dogs who won't go running into furniture and knocking things over. I recommend using soft toys or balls for this purpose.
  • Help with the chores. They can turn on/off light switches, close doors, put laundry in the machine or throw trash away in the trash can. And if your dog is brave in the face of temptation, you can have them fetch you a beer after your house is sparkling clean.
  • Work on a behavioral issue. Practice loose leash walking in the house or staying out of the kitchen or staying calm while you leave (for dogs with separation anxiety). 
  • Puzzle Games. There are now a score of different puzzle games on the market. Or you can make simple puzzles at home using a plastic bottle and putting food in it or using a muffin tin and tennis balls. 
  • Compete for a title. These days, you can earn a virtual title in almost every dog sport (rally, obedience, parkour, agility, freestyle, disc etc). 
  • Relax and Settle. Games are all good and fun but at the end of the day, your dog has to know how to settle. You can't play with them 24/7! Dr. Karen Overall has a good protocol for teaching relaxation to dogs
Which indoor games and activities do you enjoy with your dog?

08 November 2016

Brother from Another Mother

02 November 2016

Ballet Dreams

26 October 2016

Ritual Sacrifice

Mr. N wanders into the wrong part of the beach...