Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 Pet Blogger Challenge

It's that time again--time to link up with Go Pet Friendly and other other blogging buddies to reflect on last year's blogging and look forward to the future. We hope you'll join us because it's a great learning experience and an even better opportunity to get to know your favorite bloggers and meet new ones.

How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone who is visiting for the first time, please give a quick description of the subject of your blog.
I started the blog in July 2012 as a way to keep track of Barley's training--at the time, we were attempting the TDI test (look back to those early posts for some real Barley mischief!)--as well as all of the great adventures we go on (Barley is my first and favorite hiking buddy). My handsome cat Soth occasionally makes appearances since he's a big part of Barley's life and integrating a dog into our family really affected his life. Every now and then, I talk about what I'm reading because I'm a nerdy English major turned English professor.

And, of course, there's always mischief
What is the one thing that you accomplished during 2015, either on your blog or because of it, that made you most proud?
I'm pretty sure this is similar to last year's response--but we met our goal of walking 1100 miles (and then exceeded it!). Winter 2015 was rough. There were a lot of days when I didn't want to go outside, especially since it was so cold and so icy that we could only go for about a half-mile walk at a time and getting bundled up to walk literally took more time than we could spend outside. But I knew that we needed to check off at least a tiny bit of mileage every day or come December we'd have to tell all of our blogging buddies that we hadn't achieved our goal, so the blog definitely contributed to accomplishing that.
Seriously--we both would have rather been snuggled under the covers. 
Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)
This one is a toss up between Dear Cyclists and Dear Parents in my Neighborhood--they're both on essentially the same topic, keeping people and dogs safe, which is something I'm extra concerned about since I share my life with a reactive dog. Even though I was writing about some pet peeves, I think I was able to incorporate humor and point out the importance of the subject at the same time rather than just coming across as an old curmudgeon. It was also nice to see how many people these ideas resonated with.

What is one thing you've done in the past year that has brought more traffic to your blog?
This is one that I haven't actively tried to do. I mean, of course, I want readers and the more readers the better--but I started this blog really for me so I have a record of many of the fun, funny, and frustrating things Barley and I do together, so I've never actually consciously thought "Oh, let me do this to get more readers." The readership has just kind of grown organically by finding blogs with people with similar concerns about reactive dogs or similar interests in hiking (or both!) and commenting on their blogs and reading the blogs of their other commenters, which lead to them coming over to mine. Probably the biggest accidental move that's brought readership to the blog, though, is occasionally linking up on Pinterest for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge in 2015 for the books I was reading for the challenge.

Even Barley appreciated the MMD Reading Challenge.

Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? Why do you think it was so popular? (Please include a link.)
My Multiple Pet Mania post on feeding multiple pets was the most viewed post (followed closely by some of the reading challenge posts). While I'd like to think it was so popular because of something I did, I think it's really all to the wonderful hosts of Multiple Pet Mania: My GBGV Life, Wag 'n Woof Pets, and Cascadian Nomads. They came up with some great topics for a fun month-long celebration of living with multiple pets, and I was lucky to be a part of that.

What is one blog that you read religiously--other than our own--and what makes you such a devoted reader? (Please include a link.)
Okay, so I have to break the rules here--while I read and love a lot of blogs, especially on FitDog Friday, there are three that I read every single post regardless of the topic, so I have to mention them all. When I see something new from Jan from Wag 'n Woof Pets, I can't wait to read about the antics her four-legged crew has been getting into, especially Luke who sometimes makes me think he's Barley's brother from another mother. I'm also a huge fan of Tenacious Little Terrier--not only is he super photogenic, he goes on great adventures in a part of the country I'd love to visit. Finally, I love ZoePhee for many of the same reasons, but I also appreciate that they're often training through similar issues to those Barley and I are working on, so it's nice to know I'm not alone.

What resources do you rely on to enhance your technical, writing, photography, social media, or other skills that improve your blog?
This is another question I don't really have an answer for. As someone who teaches college writing and has an M.A in creative writing, I don't spend a lot of time actively thinking about ways to improve my own writing. After taking on new responsibilities at work, I have little time to focus on editing photos, so with the exception of a few Instagram filters, I don't spend much time on that. These are all areas that I think "Oh, it would be nice if I did this," but then it comes down to spending time adventuring with my Barley girl or sitting at the computer for longer periods of time to work on making adjustments to the blog. Barley always wins.



What is the best piece of advice you can offer other bloggers?
I'm getting that deja vu feeling again, so this could be what I said last year, too. Stay true to yourself and to your pets, share real life stories. I used to read many more blogs religiously, but this year especially it started to seem like every other post was a product review and I got bored and quit reading--especially when 4 or 5 of the blogs we read are all reviewing similar products. The way I look at it, Barley likes food (and non-food--she eats cat poop after all), so we don't review treats because Barley would never give anything even semi-edible a bad review (and the ones she likes best--like stinky fish treats--are the ones I like least because I end up going to work and grabbing a pair of gloves on my way out the door only to get halfway to the office and realize my gloves smell like salmon jerky). Plus, most of the time, when we see treat reviews on blogs, I've already seen the products in the store and bought a package to try, so we know the benefits already. That doesn't mean I don't like any post that reviews treats--some of our favorite blogs do that all the time, but they always integrate the reviews into stories about training a specific behavior or using them for trail snacks; the posts are never just about the product and I personally like that more personal aspect. I don't mind seeing the occasional review as long as the pet personalities that drew me into the blog in the first place aren't lost in the process--so I guess this was a long way of saying my advice is to not get so caught up in reviews that you lose focus on your pet and the personal aspect of the blog.

What is your vision for the blog in 2016? Do you have specific goals?
It seems like in the last few months the only thing I was really talking about was our progress on meeting our 1100-mile goal. This is probably because work obligations and travel made it hard to post more than once a week and our adventures were limited, so the mileage goal was really the biggest thing happening in our lives. In 2016, I'd like to bring in new topics--still related to training, adventuring, and life with a reactive dog, but just some fresh ideas. A big part of this for the beginning of the year will be training through Barley's new distractions in agility class--and while I'm certainly not asking the universe to continue throwing distractions at us all year long, I do hope to continue talking about some new ideas throughout the entire year.

Barley is ready for adventure in 2016!

Is there one blogging challenge you'd like help with, or one aspect of the blog that you'd like input on?
Asking now might be a little premature, but I'm going to use this space to do it anyway. Right now, all of our pictures are either taken on my phone (or iPad if it's closer) or a little point-and-click digital camera that's easy to toss in our backpack. My car payments are almost over, so I'm thinking that by the time the big 32 rolls around in October, a real camera might be a good birthday present to myself. So many of you take such awesome action shots and portraits of your pups that I'd love some guidance on what type of camera will make Barley's already photogenic face even prettier in pictures.

Taking a family selfie is harder than it should be.
We're looking forward to reading about everyone else's goals and challenges for the coming year as well as expanding our "blogs you read religiously" list! Happy New Year everyone!

22 comments:

  1. Happy New Year to you & Barley as well! Your mileage log really is impressive - way to go!! It's relieving and refreshing to read that you have the same stance toward redundant product reviews. It just gets old and I can't help but feel that the $$$ signs took over some blogs authenticity.

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not alone on that (although you expressed the ideas much more succinctly than I did in your answer to that question!). There are certainly some reviews that I learn things from and find new products to try out, but there's definitely such thing as too much of a good thing.

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  2. Great answers! The question about the camera would be hard to answer because they are so many really good cameras on the market right now. I've had a lot of different cameras and I hate to admit it, but my smaller compact which costs only about $500.00 is the one I choose almost every time because it's small enough to go everywhere with me and it's easy to put in my purse or jacket pocket.

    The digital SLRs are nice when you're at home, but they can be heavy and cumbersome with their detachable lenses and optional flash units when you're out somewhere with your dog. I guess it just depends on what's more important, but I really value the portability of a good quality but smaller camera.

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    1. That's exactly why I love my iPhone--the pocket on my little cross-body backpack is the perfect size for my phone and it stays dry, I don't worry about dropping it or banging it against a rock, and the pictures are usually decent. But we also live about 5 miles from Lake Erie and walk there regularly and we're close enough to home that I don't usually bring a whole pack of stuff with us, so a "real" camera wouldn't be as much of a burden and I'd love to get some better pictures on a leisurely walks there. Especially since Barley has a dark face and dark eyes--her eyes often disappear in pictures, so I'd like the freedom that the manual options in a nicer camera offers (plus, once upon a time, I had a nice film camera and really liked playing with the focus and things like that, too). It's encouraging to know that so many people aren't using insanely expensive to get such awesome pictures, though!

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  3. Barley is so photogenic. I can't believe he hasn't gotten a dog food modeling job yet. :)

    Blogging doesn't always get the respect it deserves. But I'm constantly amazed to see excellent writing. And then I find out, yet again, that the blogger is a professional writer, teacher, or editor. :)

    I was very happy to buy a decent camera this year: a Nikon D3300. Nearly everyone recommended it as the best entry level DSLR camera. And I'm happy that my pics are much clearer than they were with my Canon Point and Shoot.

    But as Elaine mentioned above, they can be so clunky that you forget to take them with you. I find that some of my favorite pics on blogs were actually taken by phones.

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    1. There are so many great examples of excellent writing on blogs--and I definitely count your posts among those examples! I so firmly believe that that one of the texts I assign my students each semester is The Best Food Writing (we have a food theme) anthology because it has magazines and news articles, but also a lot of blogs.

      I'll have to look into that camera--my parents and brother both have Nikons, too. I'd probably be just like Elaine and rarely take the nice camera out, but I did enjoy the manual options back when I was using my nice film camera regularly. I'd also like to be able to get even better pictures of Barley with snow on her nose when we play in the yard--silly reason to spend a chunk of money on a camera, I know!

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  4. Congratulations on walking 1100 miles! That's amazing. The dogs and I have been pushing our FitBit over time since the holidays ended. We have a Canon Rebel T4i and it works well, but if I had a do over I think I'd go with a smaller camera. I've found that portability is very important to me. Best of luck to you in 2016!

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    1. We've been trying to get as much walking in as possible since the holidays ended, too! Then today the really cold weather rolled in and I just couldn't bring myself to walk 3 full miles in 16 degree weather, so here's hoping we don't settle into hibernation mode too quickly!

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  5. I sold my camera in 2015, because I wasn't using it anymore. I have a Samsung camera that is awesome, but it also has a limited memory so I haven't used it in a while. I prefer my camera phone and I mostly use a Samsung Note 5 - I love it, because it's fast to share images to social media, I can upload images to DropBox to be used on future blog posts, and my phone automatically backs up images to Google.

    Oh and no editing required :) - yes, I'm uber lazy.

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    1. I'm pretty lazy when it comes to editing, too! I love that my iPhone automatically backs up images to my computer--my friends and family probably wish it wasn't so easy to upload to social media, but I love that feature, too :) Mostly, wanting a new camera is less about the blog and more about me just enjoying photography back in the good old film camera days and wanting to have the freedom to do more manual stuff than my phone allows.

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  6. 1100 miles is amazing! I had hoped to hike 250 miles with Gretel last year but we didn't make it.

    As for a camera, honestly, most of my photos are taken with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. It's one of the best cell phone cameras out there. The photos do still need a bit of editing sometimes so I do that on my computer using PicMonkey. If you are looking for a great camera to take action shots, you want something with a fast shutter speed and something that can take multiple photos in one burst. My skills at taking action shots suck but my camera is more than capable. I have a Nikon D7100.

    Happy to have found your blog!

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    1. Thanks for the recommendations! Sometimes I use PicMonkey, too, but usually I just use the limited options in iPhoto on my computer. I'm a pretty lazy photo editor, but I do like being able to play with focus and things like that--and I'd love to be able to take pictures of Barley where her eyes actually show up!

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  7. Oh wow! Thanks for mentioning us! <3 Great post!

    I really like my Nikon dslr (d5200)and I have both kit lenses. I'm really hoping to add a prime lens soon. I think it's a great entry level dslr.

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    1. You are one of the ones I was hoping would have camera feedback--your photos are always great! I never get tired of seeing pictures of the girls!

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  8. Congratulations on the miles walked! That is a great accomplishment seeing as you live in Ohio weather!

    I have a Nikkon D3000 and I think it was about $500. It's a basic DSLR and I still use it all the time! It was definitely one of my best and cheapest investments! I'm looking forward to reading Barley's adventures this year and hopefully meeting for a beer one day! I heard on the news this morning that there's a new craft bar at Crocker Park!

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    1. Our miles definitely start out slow, but by May we're usually able to get in some nice long walks to make up for all the silly short ones in January and February :)

      That camera definitely sounds worth looking into--I want something that won't break the bank but will take better pictures of the Abominable Snow Pup than my phone does and since I have seen how yours does with snowy dog pictures, it sounds perfect! :)

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  9. Thanks for stopping by to visit our blog! We love meeting new bloggers, and the pet blogger challenge has been a great way to get to know so many new people!

    You asked about cameras. The recommendation for the Nikon D3300 DSLR above is a good one for an entry level camera. I bought a D5300 to take photos for the blog, and then my husband would say "So I'm going to take your camera with me on my motorcycle camping trip..." and he would trail off when he saw the pained expression on my face. We bought the D3300 as the "going out" camera, and I think I get brighter photos in mediocre light with it than I do the more expensive model.

    P.S. LOVE the family selfie!

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    1. I'm excited to have found your blog! The challenge has been great for finding some new blogs to add to my reading list :)

      Thank you for the camera recommendation! A "going out" camera that's better than my phone is exactly what I am looking for.

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  10. Great post! Enjoyed reading your challenge. Have a great 2016!

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    1. Thank you! I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 has in store for your crew!

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  11. It means so much to me that you chose us to mention, and to know that you never miss a post. The feeling is definitely mutual. I love that you brought up how Luke and Barley are alike in so many ways..they really are! The other two blogs you mentioned are also favorites of mine.
    I love my new Nikon D5500. Like you, I wanted something that I could use manually. That one is a bit more pricey, but I have a brother-in-law who is a photographer and he egged me on to spend more money. :) I am still learning all the great things it can do, I just need more time to play with it.

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    1. I love your blog! I don't always have time to comment on it, but I definitely read every post! It seems like lots of people are using Nikons, so I'll have to compare the different models and see which one looks the most Barley-friendly :)

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