Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hashtag Training

Critical Thinking is one of my favorite skills to work on in my writing classes. I love to see my students question the things they read, do unprompted research on subjects, notice tiny details in an image, and break down arguments. A lot of times, though, they don't want to read or they don't have the time to really read as closely as they should and they miss the main point of the reading.

For example, I often assign Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," which is a deeply disturbing short story. Knowing that most of the class probably didn't read the story, I always have them listen to an audio version of the story and answer questions as they listen in class. When the last line of the story--which is like a punch in the gut--is read, I love to watch their faces to see which ones didn't read the story the night before and it sinks in that this lottery is not one that involves choosing the correct numbers on your Powerball ticket and it is not one anybody really wants to win.

Thanks to the joys of social media, I've learned that there are a lot of people out there who aren't investing much time in critical reading or thinking outside of the classroom, either. Almost any piece of satire shared on Facebook has countless comments from people who took the article seriously. My most favorite example of this, though, comes about thanks to everybody's favorite punctuation--the hashtag.

It's no secret to long time readers of the blog that training is a big part of my life with Barley and Rye. We've spent countless hours doing reactive dog training, agility training, and basic manners training. I also take a lot of pictures of the pets during these sessions (because really what better way is there to practice a stay than to have to pose while I take 10,000 versions of the same picture). I don't use as many hashtags as most people do on Instagram, but occasionally an agility picture will turn out better than expected or we'll reach a reactive dog training goal and I'll add in #training to the post. Like this one:

A photo posted by Beth (@eedevore) on

One day over the summer, I noticed that I was getting a lot of people with fitness-related handles or profile pictures of people lifting weights or doing kickboxing liking my posts and following my account. I was a little confused because the majority of my Instagram posts are books, beers, a sleeping cat, a sleeping dog, a dog with a toy, a dog with a treat--not necessarily things that suggest I spend a lot of time in the gym. But I know that a lot of fit people love dogs, so I just figured they must have needed a break from fitness posts and searched for dog-related posts.

Then I posted this picture.

Someone commented on it with an invitation to try out a Crossfit gym if I was in Arizona because I would find a lot of people just like me. While I try to reply to every comment, I had no response to that. Crossfit is pretty much the last type of physical activity I want to do, so I'm pretty sure that I would find people I had very little in common with there (although I appreciate the invitation--but if I change my mind, I'll check out the gym in the plaza with our agility gym instead of going to AZ).

After a second of confusion, I realized that #training must be the reason all of these healthy people were following me and liking my pictures. I'm relatively certain that particular Instagram user never looked at the picture and certainly didn't read the caption (because as the caption states I'm almost as far from AZ as you can get). It made me wonder how often this happens to other people. These are real accounts with real posts--not just spammers or scams to get more followers--so I wonder if they realize these #training posts aren't exactly what they thought they'd be seeing when they search through them. Every single time it happens, it makes me chuckle, so I hope that these bodybuilders and soul cyclers keep finding us--but I also hope they genuinely like Barley and Rye and aren't just liking any picture with #training because my girls are definitely worth liking!

Have you ever had surprising accounts find your Instagram posts? (On a semi-related note, recently a former contestant from the Bachelor liked one of my dog pictures--that made me laugh, too!)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Saved by the Pet Treater Box

Somehow, Pet Treater always seems to know exactly when we need it to arrive. After a month at home with the girls, the new semester has started and I've gone back to work. This has been especially hard on Rye, who has only been part of the family for two months, and hadn't really had a chance to learn that sometimes I leave the house without her.

Is that the mail carrier?!

Pet Treater saved the day for my little puppy who was starting to go stir crazy (and her big sister who always enjoys getting mail).

This month's haul was just what we all needed! We got two different toys: a Unstuffies mouse and a Grriggles dragon. The mouse was the perfect fit for Rye. She likes to gnaw on toys and while she doesn't go crazy destuffing things, sometimes stuffing does come out and sometimes those things go down the hatch before I can get to her to throw the bits away. 

He doesn't look like this anymore.

One of the best parts of this mouse is that the squeakers were stitched in! That meant that even when Rye had opened up the mouse's belly, the squeakers weren't easy for her to get out.

We also got two bags of treats. Smart n' tasty Little Duckies, which are these cute little duck-shaped treats, and To Doggy with Love chicken meatballs. The meatballs weren't what I was expecting--they were dry, flat, circular treats, but the girls loved them and they broke easily into little pieces.

The duckies said they were good for training treats, but they're hard and crunchy and while they can be broken into smaller pieces, crunchy snacks always leave crumbs behind when you break them up. We did use them for a little training, but much to Barley and Rye's chagrin, they didn't get to eat all of the treats we used to do a little math homework.

Ducks and meatball bits are great for a math lesson.
There were a lot of treats in both packages, so we could do some "it's your choice" work and wear out both dogs mentally

We also got an undercoat rake, which looks great, but we have a couple similar grooming tools already, so we're donating it to the shelter--and as usual Pet Treater didn't forget about me! I got a bag of Pez Heads Bearz, which are gummy treats. I love gummies--I was a little wary of these because it said some where grape-flavored and I only do grapes in their original form or as wine, but these were tasty!

Pet Treater saved the day once again! We're continually impressed with the quantity, the quality, and the variety of the items in our box.

If you want to give Pet Treater a try, you can use the code FREE-PTBED with any 3, 6, or 12-month subscription to get a free bed with your first box. Or, you can use code PT-BONUSTOY until 2/17/17 with any new subscription to get a free bonus toy in your first box! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Positive Pet Training Inspiration: Barley's Guardian Angel

The theme for this month's Positive Pet Training blog hop is a training mentor or inspiration. When I saw this theme, I was equal parts excited and overwhelmed. We've been working with trainers, who have become mentors and friends, for over 5 years now. To write a post about just one feels like I'm accepting an Oscar and leaving out some of the most important thank yous in my acceptance speech.

We love you all, really, we do.

If you've been following our journey over the past month--from Barley and Rye's first introduction to their recent play sessions--it's pretty obvious our agility trainer, who came to our house to help us out, is one of our biggest mentors. But for this post, we're going to go all the way back to May 19, 2011, which is the day I first emailed the general inquiries email address for our current training center.

I'd had Barley for about 4.5 months by that point, but I can't remember exactly what prompted me to send the email then. I vaguely remember posting something on Facebook along the lines of "why does my dog act like she wants to eat every dog we pass on our walks?!" and a college friend I hadn't seen in years, but who had a dog rescued from a fighting ring making some comment about working with a trainer--but I can't remember if those things happened around the same time or not. All I know is that by that point I'd realized Barley was a lot more than I'd bargained for when we drove away from the APL a few months earlier.

I remember being nervous because I didn't want to tell someone that my dog didn't like other dogs. I'd  never heard of a reactive dog then and it was scary to tell someone that my dog snarled and lunged when we saw other dogs. I remember thinking, "What if they tell me she's too dangerous to keep?" I sent the email early in the morning--way before business hours--because I was scared of what kind of response I might get, so I wanted to be sure I didn't get one immediately.

I inquired about the pricing of private lessons and scheduling and then went on to say: "I adopted a one-year-old border collie mix in January. She behaves beautifully around people; she can sit, shake, and lay down. But now that it's getting warmer and we're spending more time outside, I've noticed that she is very aggressive around other dogs. When we go on walks and she sees another dog, she'll twist and yip and growl.  She's spent a little time with my parents' dog and over time has gotten more comfortable with her, but she can't be left unsupervised with their dog. I've heard this can be improved by working with a trainer, but I'm afraid to enroll her in a group class because I think she'd be a distraction to the rest of the group."

I never dreamed that a year later, she'd have her Canine Good Citizen certificate.

The response I got back later that day gave me so much hope: "My specialty is retraining and rehabilitating shelter and rescue dogs. There are many ways to approach the issues you are dealing with. We use reward based training methods. Private lessons are $30.00 per 1/2 hour. What days and times work best for you?"

That email exchange introduced me to the world of positive reinforcement and reactive dog training and my life hasn't been the same since. While lots of people love my Barley girl, our first trainer is the only person who loves her like I do (and is the only non-family person I will leave Barley with when I travel). She's taught me how to manage Barley's reactivity so that we can live a mostly normal life. These skills also gave me a strong foundation for training Rye to be the best dog she can be.

This is Barley's best friend, my sister-dog Maz.

She's also taught me to stand up for my dog. One day, we were in a group class--I can't remember which one, maybe agility for fun or tricks and games? It was one of our first group classes. We did a good job keeping our distance from other classmates, but I hadn't perfected my "I'm Beth and this is Barley and we need space" introduction speech for new classmates yet. One day, one of our less considerate and observant classmates let her dog--something fluffy, but I can't remember what--get close to Barley; there was no contact, but Barley corrected the dog by snapping at her. Our trainer (who is a tiny woman) stopped class, walked up to the woman, put her chest against the other woman's chest, and said do you like this? The woman said no. Our trainer said, "Barley doesn't like that, either. Keep your dog in her own space." The woman was obviously upset--and I don't think she ever came back to class--but I learned how important it is to stand up for my dog regardless of whether that makes people uncomfortable. Someone being embarrassed or uncomfortable is a lot better than putting my dog in a situation where she feels like her only option is to bite someone or something. For someone who doesn't like conflict, that was a hard, but important lesson to learn.

Thanks to our trainer teaching us positive training methods and giving us a strong foundation, Barley has gone on to walk 1000+ miles a year with me for several years now, has taken agility classes for 5+ years, has taken noseworks classes, and has accepted her little sister (for the most part). I can't imagine what our life would be without the support we've gotten from this wonderful woman.

Thanks to our hosts Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days for giving us a chance to give our trainer a shout out as well as read about everyone else's training inspirations and mentors (or general positive training posts). The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop beings the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. Be sure to read all of the other great blogs participating this month!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Putting the Joy in Chores with Joyful Jerky

Vacuuming has never been one of my favorite chores. When we first became a two-pet family, I got one of those robot vacuums. Before long, it had died. Even with daily (and sometimes twice daily) runs, it couldn't keep up with Barley and Soth's fluff. Eventually, I did a lot of research and found a reasonably priced, highly rated pet vacuum that I've been using for several years. With the addition of Rye, though, a person walking into my house might think that I don't own a vacuum at all.

For one thing, she destroys everything, so moments after vacuuming there are bits of rope toys or clumps of stuffing. 

But she's also terrified of the vacuum. If I vacuum while she's free in the house, she hides under an end table and shakes. If I vacuum while she's in her crate, even after the vacuum has been put away for a while, she'll be in a corner of the crate shaking. It's heartbreaking. Combine that with my dislike of vacuuming to begin with, and vacuuming occasionally gets put off longer than it should

When our January review item came, I knew I had to vacuum. We couldn't possibly take good pictures for our review if there were little bits of toys and dog hair everywhere. Rye also wanted to dig into the package as soon as possible--even if the box was a little snow covered, so it needed to happen soon.

I may have retouched the photo to make the carpet look clean.

As soon as I saw the package of The Honest Kitchen Joyful Jerky Filets, I knew it would be great for helping Rye learn that the vacuum isn't awful.

We took a couple pictures in the empty room that didn't need vacuuming first.

Lucky for Bar and Rye, it's for good and naughty dogs!

The Joyful Jerky Filets are made with human-grade ingredients and only include beef, salt, and celery juice powder.  If you're a beef jerky fan, these definitely look like they are good enough to eat yourself! (The package does include a disclaimer on the back that while these are human quality, they are intended for your pets and not you.)

The filets come in a variety of different sizes. There were some that were as big as my hand and others that were short or skinny. Regardless of their starting size, the filets were all easy to break up into tiny pieces, which makes them perfect for training. 

Please quit making me practice going to bed and just let me eat the snacks.

It was obvious that these were high value treats because every time I pulled out the package, the dogs were bouncing around, so I knew that Rye would be willing to come out of hiding for these when the vacuum came out.

First, I took the vacuum out of the closet and set it in the living room. Then Rye and I went into the kitchen, got the package out of the fridge, and started tearing up some little bits to stick in my pocket. As we walked back out to the living room, I tossed a few pieces near the vacuum but not right on top of it to get her more used to being around the vacuum.

Then I wheeled the vacuum as far away from Rye as possible, plugged it in, and started vacuuming on the opposite side of the room. As I vacuumed, I'd toss a piece down to her end of the room periodically. Within a few minutes, she was peeking out from behind the couch to see what I was doing. 

Once I'd finished vacuuming the living room, I set up several bits in a semi-circle around the vacuum and let Rye pick them all up.

I put one on the vacuum, but she wasn't quite comfortable enough to take that one, but when I moved it to just in front of the vacuum she bravely went in for the snack. Hopefully, she'll eventually face the vacuum head-on like her sister does.

I will sit and take a picture with this monster, but I won't get too close.

These are great, high quality treats that the dogs both loved. I also loved that they were high quality, limited ingredient treats.

I only have two complaints. One is that the package recommends refrigerating the package once opened, which is probably a weird complaint. But I am definitely an out of sight, out of mind kind of person, so if the treats aren't in the drawer with all of the others or out on the counter, I'm likely to forget they exist and they won't end up in our treat pouch for class or be the treats I grab for an impromptu training session.

Also, the bag is only 3.25-oz., so with two greedy dogs it didn't last long (of course, if I forget about it in the fridge, it might last a little longer). Since we go through a lot of treats, I try to choose high quality treats that also come in high quantities, so this won't be one that is added to every order. While it won't become part of regular treat rotation, this is one all three of us loved enough that I'll absolutely be purchasing more for special occasions and training situations that require something high value. We highly recommend Joyful Jerky if you have a dog that needs a little something extra special for training or needs a little extra spoiling.

DisclaimerWe were provided with a package of The Honest Kitchen Joyful Jerky Filets from in exchange for our honest review, but all opinions are my own and we only share information we think is relevant and valuable to our readers. is not responsible for the content of this post. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Barley and Rye: Play

If you follow us on Instagram, then you already know our big excitement of the week. On Thursday, exactly one month and one day from our first training session, Barley and Rye played.

I desperately wanted to post about it at that moment, but I also didn't want to skip all of the Week 4 and 5 updates or the walking updates because they were so important to getting us to where we're at now.

Their first play session (which was not recorded in case I had to jump in and break things up) happened very organically. The night before, Barley and I had gone to agility and our trainer had asked how things were going and if they'd been off leash together yet. When I said no, she said she thought it was time, so she'd check with our reactive dog trainer who has a boarding facility with several dog runs to see if we could use her runs. That way they could be loose with a fence between them just to watch body language first and then we'd put them in a small dog yard together.

As I mentioned in Week 3, Rye's crate moved into the bedroom so we are all sleeping in the same room. While we were at my parents, we used the same crate for both dogs for a lot of our feeding sessions--when it was time to swap, someone would come hold Barley while I took Rye out of the crate and then they'd stick Barley in the crate for me. By the time we left, we'd gotten to the point where I could hold Barley myself, open the crate, let Rye out, and send Bar in. Sometimes, Rye would sniff Barley a little bit before she went in the crate and Barley was very tolerant of that as long as I was petting her and holding her collar. We'd keep that to a few seconds to keep Barley from getting overwhelmed and then I'd put her in the crate and we'd go back to the meal.

The day after talking to our trainer, I was getting ready to take Rye outside when we woke up. Barley was loose in the room, so I held her collar and then let Rye out of the crate. I let her sniff Barley for a second and was about to send her out of the room so I could have Barley sit and stay while I shut the door behind us when Barley bowed. I was still holding her collar and I was kind of in shock, so I didn't let go immediately and Barley laid down on the ground. Rye bounced and bowed in front of her. Barley scooted around on the floor a bit, so I let go of her collar.

Mostly, it was like watching a low-budget professional wrestling match. Just like in the video, Barley for the most part stayed on her belly and just scooted around. Rye danced around and they took turns putting their mouths over each other's heads. Sometimes, Barley would stick her head under Rye and flip her or stand up and put a paw on her shoulder when she got tired of being slobbered on. Eventually, I took the video above and emailed it to our trainer. She was thrilled and left a voicemail analyzing all of the positive aspects of Barley's actions. I'm so so proud of my Barley dog.

Off-leash time together is still very, very limited and very, very supervised. Rye doesn't know when to stop and when Barley gives her an "okay, I'm done signal" a lot of times, Rye stops for half a second and then she's coming back for more, so I try to end every session with a sit or a down and then everyone goes to their separate spaces. We've had a few of these sessions every day since the first playtime.

I'm done playing. Please just let me sleep on this cat quilt.

I'm hoping that now that Rye has started obedience, her self-control around other dogs will be stronger and we'll have times when both dogs can just relax off-leash, but so far relaxing is still a foreign idea to Rye.

puppy with Kong ball
Girls just want to have fun, right?

It's too bad the summer-like weather we had in Alabama didn't follow us home because some warmer weather might also help with the cabin fever that everyone--especially Rye--is feeling this week. A few more walks and longer play times in the yard combined with training sessions could be the key to wearing her out a bit. Keep your fingers crossed that Mother Nature has mercy on us soon.

We'll keep you posted on the progress we make with living life off-leash, but I think our weekly updates have officially come to an end. For now, we're still hand feeding meals when there's time--although we've moved to occasionally doing it with both dogs out of the crate/on the same side of the gate--to continue to build value for being around each other and being calm around each other. We'll also continue to walk together when the weather permits. When there's progress worth reporting, I'll post updates and I'm sure there will be plenty of Instagram posts about day-to-day progress, so be sure to follow along there!

Thank you all for all of the kind words of encouragement throughout this process so far!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Barley and Rye: Walking

In Week 4, my parents were a huge help with walking the dogs together so that there were enough hands to hold leashes and dish out regular treats. They also provided great backup when I first tried walking Barley and Rye together myself. 

When we got home, though, it was time to try a joint walk with just the three of us. Since Tuesday was Barley's special day and the forecast was weather in the 50s, I had planned to go on a nice walk at the State Park with her and Rye. We rarely see other people there between October and April, so it seemed like a better place to start than in our neighborhood where we'd at the very least see cars and maybe also other people and dogs.  

We woke up to a rainy day with temperatures in the high 40s instead, so I thought our walking would be postponed. After a trip to the grocery store to restock my fridge, though, there was a break in the rain, so I quickly threw everything into the ridge and then tossed the dogs in the car.

We chose the closest parking lot instead of the more remote one I was planning on, just to save a little time in case the rain started again soon. One of the parts of the walk I was most worried about was how I was going to get both dogs out of the car. Getting them in was easy since I could leave Bar in the house while I stuck Rye in the crate. Thankfully, both girls cooperated. 

Of course, one of the first things we saw when we got on the trail were two joggers coming up behind us. As I mentioned yesterday, Rye is very reactive to joggers. Luckily, they were far enough behind us and we were beside a large grassy area along the lake that I was able to pull both girls off the trail, have them sit, and pull out a handful of treats. When the joggers got close, Rye did rear up and even put her front paws on Barley's shoulder--and Barley didn't react.

Rye's modeling skills need a bit of work.

I was also worried about how I'd pick up poop with both dogs and that was a situation I had to encounter early on the walk, too. Rye takes a lot of cues from Barley and when Barley sat and waited, Rye sat and waited.

Loose leash walking was not really happening. Barley would walk nicely beside me if I asked her to, but Rye was going 100 miles per hour. She'd occasionally come back and check in with me and I'd try to treat her when she'd stay with me a few steps, but it's really hard to hold two leashes and get treats out of a pouch!

The joggers were the only signs of life we saw along the trail. They passed us again and Rye did an even better job although she was still a bit bouncy.

We had a lot of opportunity to practice sit-stays and get a few pictures in.

But while Rye's stay is pretty good at home (in a room with no cat and no toys), she was pretty distracted on our walk--especially by the end. Barley got very annoyed and as soon as I noticed her ears were back, we stopped with the photoshoots and finished our walk. 

Barley thinks Rye's lack of modeling skills is annoying.

Pretty soon, they were back to sniffing alongside each other.

The skies opened up and our last mile of the walk was pretty wet, so we walked as fast as we could back to the car. We made it a full three miles without Barley trying to eat her sister, so I'd call it a successful first outing. When we got home, the dogs were both pretty worn out.

We've also walked in our neighborhood on some of the less enjoyable days, too. This has been a little more challenging because there are so many more distractions, so Rye is even more all of the place and once I stepped on her and made her squeal. She limped for a minute, but as soon as we turned around to go home, she was perfectly fine, so we were able to continue on our walk (of course, she continued to swerve around, so I ended up tiptoeing around her).

Who knows how this ended up on my phone.

We've had a lot of wind--including 45 mph wind gusts--so it wasn't easy to get any pictures of them in our usual spot by the lake. 

The waves were too much for them.
Another worry I had was how we'd get in and out of the house if we weren't going in the car. While my neighborhood is pretty safe, I still wouldn't want to walk without locking the door and I wasn't sure that I could accomplish that (or getting back in!) with both dogs in tow, so I was afraid I'd have to stick somebody in the car to do that. Luckily, Rye continued to follow Barley's lead and she sat and waited while I locked and unlocked the door.

Rye still needs some work on walking in general and Barley and I still need our one-on-one time, so we won't always be walking together, but it's nice to know that I can get them both out for short walks together--especially on these bitter cold days when I don't even really want to go out for one walk! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 Pet Blogger Challenge

Normally, I don't double up on posts, but there's been so much progress on training Barley and Rye that if I don't do two posts today, I might never get everyone updated on the things we've been working on! is hosting the annual Pet Blogger Challenge, which is always a good way to reflect on the past year, especially in a year that seemed so exceptionally long.

When did you start your blog and, for anyone who is just seeing it for first time, please provide a description of your site. Would you say your blog focuses more on sharing stories with your readers, or providing a resource for your audience? I started our blog in July 2012 when I was training my dog Barley for the therapy dog test (spoiler: we didn't pass) to keep track of our training progress and our hikes. The focus is still mostly stories about our adventures or about training with a few reviews here and there.

What was your proudest blogging moment of 2016? I don't know if I can pick a proudest moment. This year felt like one of those years where we were just trying to get through. One of my proudest moments--though not entirely blog related--was getting foster pup Sal adopted, though. I was so happy to be able to share his happy ending with everyone who had followed our fostering experience.

Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.) I have a couple I really love. One of my very favorites was one of the earliest posts of 2016--our friend Emma had made a comment on another post that inspired "It Must Be Frustrating," a post about what it's like to live with a reactive dog and I think it was probably the best job I've ever done at expressing that. I always also love the posts I write on adoption days and birthdays for Barley (here and here) and Soth (here and here) because I get all mushy and I think they're the most real posts I write all year.

Year after year, one goal that we all seem to share is that we want to reach more people. What one tool did you use or action did you take this year that had the most impact on increasing traffic to your blog? This actually isn't a big goal for me, so I haven't actively done anything to increase traffic to the blog. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to see big numbers of views on posts, but for me, this blog is a way to record moments I don't want to forget and a way to connect with other people because it can be lonely to live with a reactive dog when you don't get to hang out with other dogs and their owners in real life. So, if that connection is with 1000s of people, that's incredible, but it's also ok with me if it's only with one or two people or just my mom (love you!).

Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? (Please include a link.) The one with the most traffic was our recent giveaway, which isn't surprising. The second most popular, though, was "Rediscovering the Geneva State Park"--I'm not really sure what drove the traffic to this one because it's not noticeably different from any of our other posts about visiting parks, but it's one of our favorite places to visit, so I'm glad we were able to share it with so many people.

Have you noticed any themes across your most popular posts? Over the last few months, the most popular posts--not just with a lot of views, but that people have spent the most time viewing--are the ones in the series of training Barley and Rye (here, here, here, here, here, and here). I think stories about reactive dogs really resonate with people now--when I first got Barley, I didn't know that there were so many other people going through similar struggles. It's comforting and reassuring to know that there are other people who have reactive dogs with full lives, so think stories like these draw people in and they're very engaged in the posts and write the most thoughtful, heartfelt comments.

What blog do you find most inspirational and how has it influenced your blog? (Please include a link.) I don't know that inspirational is the best word for how I view any blogs (inspirational might be too sentimental for me)--but the ones I gravitate the most towards are ones that share regular stories about their lives with their pets, such as Wag 'N Woof Pets and 2 Brown Dawgs. Reviews are fine--I've found some great products to try through them--and lists can be fun and informative (and I've done both on my blog), but for me, the blogs that I come back to over and over again are the ones that tell a good story, a story where I feel like I was there for the experience and that I know their pets. When I first starting blogging, it seems like that's what most bloggers were doing and I miss that. Blogs like that remind me that there's still a place for quirky stories about what my menagerie does throughout the year.

What is one thing your readers don’t know about you or your pets that would surprise them? This is a tough one--I feel like I'm pretty much an open book. One thing I might not have mentioned is that it wasn't love at first sight when I met Barley. I walked by her kennel several times before she really caught my attention. There was a 6-month-old purebred golden retriever named Feather a few kennels down from Barley that I was in love with but she was listed as unavailable on the info on her tag (maybe as part of the 72-hr. stray hold? maybe because she'd just been spayed?)--as I walked up to the front desk to pay for Barley, they took off the unavailable sign on Feather's kennel. If that had happened 15 minutes earlier, my life might look very different today.

What is something you’ve learned this year that could help other bloggers? As I said earlier, this year was just one that I felt like I was getting through, so I don't know that I have any real words of wisdom to pass on this time.

What would you like to accomplish on your blog in 2017? This isn't exactly blog specific, but I want to get back to more adventures. I want to visit new places with my girls and write about that. The months that I struggled with writing were the months when the days all seemed to run together, so I want to spice things up again and find more of that desire to write.

Expect a lot more of this in 2017.

Now it’s your turn! You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there a question you’d like answered, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? I guess the biggest thing I'd like input on is the content: are there topics you'd like to see more of? What are you favorite types of posts that show up here?

Join the Pet Blogger Challenge Jan 7th, 8th and 9th

Be sure to stop by all of the other blogs participating in the challenge to see what people accomplished in 2016 and what goals they're setting for this year! You never know, you might just find your new favorite read! 

Barley and Rye: Weeks 4 and 5

After a busy two weeks in Alabama, Barley, Rye, Soth, and I are all happy to be back home and into somewhat of a normal routine. Since we missed our Week 4 update with the holidays, we're combining it with Week 5 today!

Even over the break, we kept up our training with handfeeding (almost) every meal together. Since my parents' house is much more open than ours, there aren't good spots for gates, so all of our meals happened with the crates, but that was probably for the best. 

With 6 people, 5 dogs, and 2 cats under one roof, Rye's attention span was even more limited than usual. Thankfully, our family was good about giving us time with the other dogs outside or in a separate room so that we could do our meals, but when it was Rye's turn out of the crate, she was still sure she should be looking for her new friends. I had to leash her a couple times so she'd stay and finish eating, but by the end of the visit, she was doing much better with focusing and eating.

What do you mean it's meal time? I want to play with my cousin.
One night, I was watching a movie with my parents in the living room. Rye disappeared for a few minutes and when I went to find her, I found her playing with a cat toy while Barley was sleeping in the crate not far away. 

The biggest change in Weeks 4 and 5 was that the girls were able to start walking together. My parents were wonderful training assistants and walked Barley while I walked Rye on several occasions. 

My dad, who never carries treats on walks, took a baggie of treats for Barley on every walk with just a little bit of grumbling. At first, I'd have to tell Barley what a good girl she was being to prompt my dad to give her a treat, but by the end of the visit, he was catching good behavior and rewarding it without any prompting from me. 

The girls did very well walking. It was obvious Barley wasn't thrilled that she wasn't walking with me--her ears were almost always perked up and she was always aware of where I was, so it wasn't her usual relaxed walking, but she was very tolerant of Rye's behavior. After a few walks, we walked closer together and a couple times Rye nudged up against Barley (and once left a big long line of slobber across Barley's side) and Barley never reacted. She got lots of treats for being tolerant of a pesty little sister.

A new park opened up in my parents' town and there were very few people using it over the break, so we used that to try our first walk where I held both dogs. My parents were there for backup and walked Rye for a few minutes until we got to the outer trail where there weren't shore birds (which Rye thought would be great toys) so I didn't end up in the lake. Then they handed off the leash to me. Barley didn't even notice that I was walking two dogs. A couple times, I had to hand one dog off to Mom or Dad when we saw a jogger because Rye is very reactive to joggers, but we got in a nice walk together. We were able to repeat this on another trail, too, and we got to practice more reaction to distraction with lots of bikes. Rye did pretty well watching how Barley sat calmly along the trail while bikers passed, but there were still a few times she was more interested in bouncing around instead of sitting nicely.

We survived the road trip back home in our little clown car and jumped right back into training after sleeping in the next day. Since we've been home, we've gone on walks with all three of us and no backup. Check back in tomorrow to see how that adventure has gone. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Resolution Update

Without the FitDog Friday posts to keep us posting about our walking regularly, our updates on our mileage towards our yearly goal sort of disappeared. There were several times I thought about doing an update, but this was a tougher year of walking and it wasn't inspiring me to write about it, so July was the last time I gave an update!

We've set a mileage goal for the last four years--starting in 2013 with a goal to walk more miles each month than we did the month before--then 1000 miles total in 2014, 1100 in 2015, and another 1100 in 2016. The last two years, we met our goal in early December and exceeded it (by 59+ miles last year!). 

This year, we left for our holiday travels on Dec. 18 still needing 52 miles to meet our goals. For the first time, I was thinking that we might not meet our goal.

Thankfully, my parents and their dog Maz took a lot of strolls with us. Barley and I got in several walks on our own as well.

There were several days that I had 6+ miles of walking myself between walking Barley, walking Rye, and walking them together. On Dec. 30, Barley and I went with part of the family to the new park in my parents' town and finished our last 2.78 miles (plus a little extra) to meet our goal.

There's no one else I'd rather walk with.

It was a windy day, but the sky was beautiful and there weren't too many other people at the park,  so we had a peaceful walk.

We celebrated by trotting up the big dirt mound in the middle of the park. From the bottom where my mom was standing, you couldn't see the mountains behind the mound, but we had a great view of them from up high. 

I'm happy we met our goal, but I am a little disappointed we didn't get more miles in this year. Between moving, weather, travel, fostering Sal, adopting Rye, there just weren't enough hours in the day to get in all of the extra miles we usually do and that bums me out a bit.

For 2017, we've gone back to the 1000 mile goal we had a few years ago. While I suspect Rye will walk with us for a lot of those miles, I also want to be sure that both dogs get walks on their own, too,  since that's a big part of how we work on our training for reactivity, stays, and loose leash walking. Plus, walking Rye is about as far from relaxing as you can get, so I want to be sure Barley and I get in some nice, peaceful solo walks and Rye gets in the walks she needs to get some of the crazy out. 

That goal averages out to about 2.74 miles a day. As you can see, we're already a little behind on that. Between days of heavy rain and extreme cold, we've had shorter and fewer walks so far. At this point of the year, though, we just try to get out as much as possible and we'll worry about making up for it when spring gets here.

Last year, we didn't try out too many new parks or revisit too many we hadn't been to in a while, so this year, I'm also making a point to pick out a few of the trails in Doggin' Cleveland (side note: do not accidentally Google Dogging Cleveland instead--it does not bring up good trails to visit with dogs). There are a few that are close-ish that we haven't visited because they don't have too many miles worth of trails, but a change of scenery will be nice, especially with a slightly lower mileage goal to take off some of the pressure of needing to do long adventures every outing.

What are your goals or resolutions with your pet(s) this year?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Day My Life Changed Forever

A new year always brings the expectation of some changes. Adding a new pet to the family also always brings change. But six years ago, when I walked into the APL and saw a border collie mix named Maria, my life changed in unimaginable ways.

My home decor changed a lot, too.
There's not much to say today that I haven't already said before (like here and here), but letting the day pass without acknowledgement just wouldn't do.

It's hard to remember life before Barley. Like Miley Cyrus, she came in like a wrecking ball and there are very few parts of my previous life that are still standing--and my world is better for it.

I love you, my Barley girl. Here's to many more years of adventure.