Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March PetTreater Box Reveal

Not long ago, I had a snow day and got to stay home and play with the girls all day. When I opened the front door to go on a walk with Barley, I was surprised to see our March Pet Treater box sitting on the front porch. 

Barley was not happy that I picked up the box, set it inside the door, and then continued on with our walk. She knows when a package is for her and she was pretty sure that she should be diving in immediately.

When we finally got home, I still made her wait to open the box. We've been a little slack on our self-control training lately, so the Pet Treater box was the perfect excuse to reinforce that. 

Holding still is a challenge for Rye.

As soon as the box was open, I knew that we were in for another great box! Inside were two toys, two packages of treats, a cookie, and two surprises for me.

The first package of treats were Dingo Market Cuts--the girls were very interested in these, but I'm pretty picky about what types of treats they get and these are chicken treats, which I avoid giving them, so they've been added to the pile of things I need to drop off at the shelter next time I take donations up there. 

We also got Exclusively Dog Mini Grahams. These are definitely meant to just be treats--there's nothing with nutritional value in these, but in small doses, I'm fine with letting the girls have them. These smell just like real graham crackers, which are one of my favorite snacks. 

Rye is not really repulsed by these--she just can't handle being that close to something and not eating it.

The toys were one of my favorite parts. I mentioned last month that foxes are one of my favorite animals and I was surprised to see another adorable (but different) fox--this time a Knight Pet stech-a-mals toy. He had a crinkly tail that Rye quickly eliminated and a stretchy body that made him fun for tug. My other favorite animal is an owl and there was one of those, too! Barley got the Bow Wow Pet Hoot, Tug 'n Squeak owl toy. He still looks as cute as he did on day one.

The first human object was still dog-related: a Nature's Miracle bag dispenser with flashlight. This is coming to my parents' house with us next time we visit. At home, we don't walk at night, but we often walk after dark with the entire family and it never fails that we have a walk where nobody remembered to bring their phone and we're hunting for poop in the dark. 

The non-dog item for humans was Ear Bags bandless ear warmers. These are super cute little sweaters for your ears. At first, I wasn't sure I was smart enough to figure out how to use them, but sort of like a snap bracelet, you flip the one direction, slide them over your ears and then flip them the other direction to keep them on. I was super excited about these because when my ears get cold I get bad ear aches--and I have trouble keep track of my hats and fleece bands, so having an extra option for keeping my ears warm is always a plus.

Ignore the post-walk dog hair.

I got to test them out later that week. I'd gotten my hair done and even though I had no plans to go anywhere or see anyone, I still wanted to enjoy having my hair actually styled and straightened since I rarely do that myself. It was cold and windy, though, and I knew if I put on a hat, I'd never get it looking decent again. So I put on the ear bags and we headed out! Despite the wind, they stayed in place and kept my ears nice and warm the whole walk and I took a brush to my hair when I got home and it was still nice and shiny and straight!

Barley had an easier time smiling in the wind than I did. 

Pet Treater gave us exactly the right things once again! 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.

Disclaimer: We were given a Pet Treater box in exchange for our honest review. All opinions are our own. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Quality vs. Quantity

Long-time readers of the blog know that for years, Barley and I have been focused on quantity when it comes to our walks. For years, we've set goals to walk 1000+ miles/year. We could focus on quantity because everything Barley and I do together is quality time. Whether we're snuggling on the couch, going to class, or taking a walk, as long as we're doing it together, Barley and I are happy. 

Rye, though, is a whole new story. Patience has never come naturally to me. Barley is eager to please,  so even when we've had training challenges, they don't seem like work. Rye, on the other hand, is much more independent and she has the attention span of a gnat, so patience is essential for working with her. She's ridiculously smart, but if something more interesting than whatever we're working on comes by, she'll walk away from me and go investigate. 

It's taken four months for me to figure out that we need to focus on quality instead of quantity with Rye. Rye's life is much different than Barley's was when I first got her. Barley and I lived in an apartment without a place for her to run; with Barley being reactive, dog parks were out of the question. Long walks were essential for getting her the exercise she needed every day. Rye has a fenced in yard and a sister to play with. There are other ways to exercise her without needing to take long walks.

Now that the days are longer, it's easier to get both dogs out for solo walks instead of having to walk both of them together just to get a little walk in. Barley and I are still getting in our nice long walks every day. But Rye and I often don't even walk a full mile together. 

Instead, we're focusing on having successful walks where I don't lose my patience. We've grabbing a stick of string cheese, walking until half of it is gone and then turning and going home while we still have plenty of cheese left. 

Some days, she heels nicely beside me--or at least stops dragging me down the street--and we take a nice long walk. Other days, Rye loses her mind over every squirrel, every barking dog (even if they are inside), and cat we see, so I need a lot more cheese to keep her attention and we only make it to the end of our street before we have to turn around.

This change of mindset is really helping me enjoy walks with Rye. She's starting to spend more time checking in with me. She's having smaller reactions to the yards where we've seen dogs because I'm prepared with the high value treats and get her attention before we even get to those yards--or we don't go by those yards if our string cheese stick looks like it's running too low to walk by a second time on our way back home. 

Every now and then, she walks so nicely and doesn't need the full stick of cheese that we go back home, reload our treat pouch, and get Barley to finish out the walk with us. Barley's enjoying walks a lot more now, too, since Rye isn't tugging me in every direction except the one we're supposed to be going in. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Looking for Luck with

Rye was born on March 13, so technically this is her second St. Patrick's Day, but she was too little to really appreciate her first one. Ever since I moved away from the Savannah area where we got the day off from school since so many people would skip to go to the parade anyway, I haven't thought much about St. Patrick's Day, so Barley hasn't ever experienced it before, either.

The girls decided they should learn a little bit about this holiday. They started their research the good old fashioned way: with a book.

They learned that St. Patrick first entered Ireland as a captive and was forced to serve as a herdsman, but he held onto his faith even though his life was was not easy. After he escaped, he had a dream that he would return to Ireland to Christianize the country. He spent his life setting up monasteries in Ireland until his death on March 17, 461.

The girls thought this history was interesting, but they were more interested in what they'd been hearing about lucky charms and leprechauns, so they turned to more modern research methods.

They learned that leprechauns are little men--only 2 feet tall--who dress in green and make shoes. When the girls read that a leprechaun has to take you to his treasure if you catch him, they devised a plan. With two herding dogs on the job, they should have no problem catching one as long as they worked together. Now, all they needed to do was listen for the sound of the leprechaun's hammer.

They listened and listened--but they didn't hear any hammering. Eventually, they found a little man hiding in the closet. Since dogs see colors differently, they didn't believe me when I told them that he wasn't wearing green, but after thorough questioning, they determined he wasn't a leprechaun and didn't have any treasure.

They tried again with the little man who lives on our front porch, but he also wasn't a leprechaun--although he did threaten to pinch them if they didn't leave him alone.

They decided to focus on looking for lucky charms instead. They thought a four-leaf clover should be easy, but all they found were some normal three-leaf shamrocks in a box in the basement. They didn't seem edible or like much fun to play with, so the girls decided they weren't lucky after all.

They looked for rainbows, but found only grey skies.

They looked for a rabbit and thought they might be able to steal his foot--but the only rabbit they could find didn't have any feet.

Just when they were about to give up on their hunt for luck, the doorbell rang. The girls ran to the front window and watched as the FedEx truck drove away.

It was their lucky day! A box was on the front step!

Inside was something even better than a leprechaun's pot of gold: two bags of Primal freeze-dried Turkey Liver Munchies.

These are high value treats--which made it extremely hard to get any pictures once the Chewy box was opened! 

One reason we love these treats is that they are single ingredient treats that contain know preservatives and are made in the USA. According to Primal's website, they source their proteins from ranchers across the USA who use natural, sustainable agricultural practices. All of that makes them high value and the girls are very excited to work for them--sometimes a little too excited--so they're great for tougher training goals.

The bags contain lots of treats of different sizes, which is always nice. With Rye, it's hard to do anything and break up treats at the same time, so being able to reach into a bag and get a lot of little treats for training. There are also plenty of bigger pieces that are easy to break into smaller pieces when I'm working with Barley or on the rare occasion that Rye has patience.

The only downside to these treats is that we can't use them in agility or obedience class because they crumble--as all freeze-dried meat treats do. Our training center requests that we don't use crumbly treats because they get ground down into the flooring and dogs will try to eat the expensive flooring. Even if crumbly treats were allowed, it's not fair to our classmates to be leaving little crumb trails of really desirable treats all over the floor when they're supposed to be doing their best to focus on class. 

The girls don't see that as a problem at all. Their only complaint is that the packaging says they are for dogs and cats. Usually, the girls don't have to share their snacks with their brother, so they were not happy to see that there's no excuse for not sharing.

I, on the other hand, think that this is great! When I call the girls back inside, they always get a treat when they get in and sit, and Soth is often sitting by them, too. It always breaks my heart a little bit when he doesn't get something, too, so now he can get a little bite to eat with his sisters. 

Overall, the girls think these treats are much more useful than any of the St. Patrick's Day objects they read about. They'll take a box over a pot of gold or a shamrock any day!

Disclaimer: We were sent two bags of Primal freeze-dried Turkey Liver Munchies from in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program. All opinions are our own.

Monday, March 13, 2017

To My Youngest On Her First Birthday

Dear Rye,

You were not the dog I went to the shelter to meet (this seems to be a recurring theme in my life). But I knew from the moment I saw you in your crate in the shelter lobby that you were mine. It was love at first sight.

I had planned on a much younger dog. A more laid-back dog. A goofy dog. A dog that would balance out your sister's intensity. But you have fit into our family better than I ever dreamed you could.

I love the weird positions I find you sleeping in. It never fails to bring a smile to my face when I see you sprawled out or hiding under the bed in the crate. And I especially love when you curl up under the covers.

I love the weird faces you make when I pull out the camera. I hope you never lose your awkwardness. 

And I love the way your ears flip inside out all. the. time. 

I love how eager you are to learn new things. You're always excited when it's time to train--whether we're going over jumps, working on obedience, or working with your sister, you're always willing to work with me.

I love watching you gain confidence. I still don't totally understand why you hate nature or why you're scared of some for sale signs, particularly the ones for the realtor who sold me our house, and not others, but every time I see you start to relax in a new environment or look to me for a treat when you see something that scares you, it makes my heart happy. 

I know I've made mistakes in the 4 months you've been here. I haven't always been the patient trainer that you need. I don't always know how to communicate with you. At times, I've had unrealistic expectations for you and my heart has broken when I've seen you shut down because I've gotten frustrated. Thank you for always forgiving me. I'm trying to be better for you.

Your sister taught me that I knew nothing about dogs. You're teaching me that I still have a lot to learn. 

I love you, my tiny terror. I can't wait to see how our relationship grows. Happy birthday!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Decoding your Dog with Dognition

A couple Christmases ago, my brother and sister-in-law got Barley and me a Dognition assessment. Through a series of different games, we discovered different elements to create a personality profile for Barley. The assessment is put together by scientists, trainers, and behaviorists, including Dr. Brian Hare, the director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center. After you complete 20 different games, you'll get a profile report that discusses the way your dog bonds, communicates, and problem solves among other things. 

Doing the games with Barley was fun, but I don't know that I learned a lot of new information with her because I'd learned so much training with her for years before taking it, but I did learn that she prefers to work with me as a team rather than making choices independently. Rye and I are still learning about each other and it has not taken long to figure out that she is a very different dog from Barley. Winter has returned--with cold rain and wind--so I decided it was the perfect time to spend some of that forced indoor time learning about Rye and I purchased a Dognition assessment for her, too. 

The first set of games is empathy. When Barley and did the assessment, our empathy results said, "Barley's empathy scores were off the charts. . . . If most dogs are bonded to their owners, Barley absolutely adores you." This was no surprise. I'm not sure I believe in soulmates, but if they do exist, Barley is mine. 

#NortheastOhioRocks #MyMuttRocks

Completing the empathy games with Rye was a very different experience with very different results. 

I've often said that I'm not always sure that Rye likes me. She is far more independent than Barley is. She doesn't have to be close to me and doesn't seem to enjoy snuggling (except first thing in the morning). It was reassuring to read that her independence doesn't mean she doesn't love me. I've seen her solve problems herself--like when I first brought her home an we had to keep her quarantined for the kennel cough; I'd take her in the front yard on a long line attached to a tree. She'd get tangled up between all of the trees and the light post out front and just as quickly she'd untangle herself, unlike Barley who just stands and waits for me to help if she gets stuck. 

Another set of games relates to a dog's memory. These games involved showing Rye a treat, putting it under a cup, having another cup a few feet away, and seeing if she could remember where it was. Some games were done right away, others involved a delay of anywhere from 30 seconds to 2.5 minutes.

In one game, we also tested memory vs. communication. I'd hide a treat under a cup and point at the other one that didn't have a treat to see if Rye would rely on her memory or on my communication. Every. single. time. Rye chose the cup with the treat and ignored my communication. After the game, the score pointed out, "This shows an independent thinker: you should be aware that in other situations Rye might not listen to you if she thinks you are wrong."

After we finished the memory games, our scores pointed out that "For Rye, out of sight is definitely not out of mind." This rang very true--in fact, minutes after completing this assessment, she ran to the closet where I'd stashed Barley's agility bag because Rye kept stealing chapstick and bags of treats out of the bag; Rye slid the closet door open and took some chapstick out. She also does this when I hide toys that need to be stitched up before she can play with them again. She also remembers every. single. house. where she's seen a dog on a walk and loses her mind regardless of whether the dog is actually outside when we walk bye. 

Once all of the games were completed, we got our personality profile, which was a 16-page PDF file. Rye was a match with the Renaissance Dog profile. She's good at a little bit of everything--she has good social skills and good independent thinking skills. 

This was a big contrast from Barley's reports. Where Rye's good at a little bit of everything, Barley excels at working as a team.

I've gotten so used to working with a dog that excels at team work that Rye and I have struggled with some of our training. Games have been easy--she loves mat work and our self-control games--but some obedience training hasn't been as easy for us. She's struggled with things like loose-leash walking and extended stays. There's always something more exciting than what we're working on when it comes to those types of activities. She doesn't think twice about getting out of a stay and going to find a toy or seeking out Soth.

The Dognition results have given me more information to be a better trainer for Rye. With her crazy good memory, I've learned that if I don't want her to lose her mind when we have to walk by a yard where she's seen a dog before, I need to have a full treat pouch and start dishing out the treats long before we get to that yard so she can keep her focus on me instead of that yard. With our empathy results, the profile said that playing with Rye is a great way to make us feel more bonded--that's a big deal for us because Barley isn't a huge playful dog, so play hasn't been a regular part of our relationship; Barley and I bond by being together and gazing lovingly into each other's eyes--Rye and I are going to have to find a new way to build our relationship.

This is a really eye opening experience and I'm glad I decided to repeat the assessment with Rye. We had fun playing the games and I learned a lot about her. When we signed up, we were given an invitation link to give our friends 20% off their own purchase. Regularly, assessments are $19 per dog or $79 for an assessment + a year of extra games to play with more expert feedback in tailored training tips plus 50% off additional dog assessments, so the code takes 20% off of those different prices. If you want to do your own Dognition assessment, feel free to use our invitation to get a discount--I think if two people sign up, we get a free dog ID tag or something, but we're covered on those, so we really just wanted to share a discount with our friends!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Making Time for Positive Training

March is always a busy month for me. Midterm grades for my students are due at the beginning of the month, so there are always 5 classes of papers to grade, panicked emails to answer, and numbers to crunch. Then at the end of the month, I have 300+ middle schoolers coming to campus for an English festival that requires hours of preparation before hand. On top of all of that, we LOSE an hour! Finding time for training can be difficult--and with my patience already stretched thin, keeping that training positive can be even more difficult. This month our Positive Pet Training Blog Hop theme is time management for training.

Over the years, we've learned some techniques for fitting training into our schedule that keeps me from getting too stressed and taking the fun and positivity out of the training for the pups.

Reinforce Old Behaviors on Walks
Long-time readers of the blog know that Barley and I have always used our adventures as opportunities to practice the things we're working on in class: I send her to stumps using the command we use for tables in agility, she walks on logs using the command for the teeter, she practices stay while I take a thousand different photos of the same pose. 

Rye is starting to get similar walks now that she's gotten more solid stays in areas with fewer distractions. Walks are such an easy way to work in a little training on non-walk-related behaviors because walks are already built into our regular schedules.

Smiling prettily might be a skill that can't be taught.

We can work in a lot of training if we have time for a long walk, like the 2-hour adventure in the woods Barley and I did last weekend, or we can add in just a little bit if we only have time for a quick loop around the neighborhood. We can practice a 15-second stay or a 1-minute stay when we get to the park in our neighborhood without adding a lot of extra time into our walk.

We've also been using walks to reinforce the idea that if I stop, the dogs stop. When I walk Barley solo, I usually walk on the side of the street with a continuous sidewalk and no intersections, but with Rye, I walk on the side with lots of intersections and we stop at each one. She's learned very quickly that when I stop at an intersection, she stops and sits and waits until I tell her we're going again. This is a behavior we use all the time--when Barley and I stop to chat with a neighbor, when I stop to pick up poop, when I stop because there's a dog in a yard in the distance and we need to cross the street but there's traffic--so it's an important one for Rye to learn, too.

And after a few months of walking in the cold and not seeing neighbors to chat with or other dogs that force us to cross the street, Barley's been getting a refresher on this as well. Just like the non-walk-related behaviors, this takes next to no time to work in on our walks. I don't use any commands for this one because I want the dogs to choose to relax on their own, so I stop and wait. The first few times Rye would go to the end of her leash (so I always stop a couple feet from the end of the sidewalk), but from obedience class she's learned that the only way to get going again if she's pulling is to sit and stop pulling, so she'd sit and wait for me to walk up beside her--that maybe added an extra 20 seconds to our walk. Now, she's learned that when I slow down, she should look at me instead of charging ahead and when I stop, she stops nicely beside me almost immediately.

It took Barley a little while to remember this is what we do.

Incorporate Training Into Chores
We also use my chores as a time to practice different skills. Last month, I mentioned that we keep a mat right in front of the fridge. We practice mat work during all of our kitchen chores. I keep treats all over the place, so before I start unloading or loading the dishwasher, I put a few on the counter and send the dogs to the mat and when I finish all of the silverware, they get a treat if they stayed on the mat and we repeat with the plates and the coffee cups until the whole thing is done. When I cook, I make sure there are a few veggies set aside so that I can give the girls a couple bites throughout the cooking process. We do similar things in the laundry room while I fold laundry.

We also incorporate sit-stays, watch, and reaction to distraction when we go shopping. In obedience class, we sometimes play a game where our trainer sets up several chairs in a line. On the first chair, there are shopping bags, the second is a few feet away and has a variety of grocery items (empty brownie boxes, egg cartons, etc.), and the final chair has a box or reusable shopping bag. Each person takes a turn walking up and grabbing a bag from the first stop, then getting a grocery item and putting it in the bag, and then putting that in the box/bag at the end. At each stop, the dog is supposed to sit calmly and wait and between the stops the dogs have to walk on a loose leash. Rye and I practice this in real life at the store as I try to decide which cat food flavors Soth isn't going to reject. Just like with walking and household chores, it adds less than a minute to the activity to praise Rye while I fill the basket and occasionally stop to give her a treat.

Rye hates nature, but she loves shopping.

Set a Specific Time Each Day for Training (and keep it short)
There are some behaviors, especially new ones, that are harder to work on during other activities. For example, Rye's working on staying at a distance and in class that involves using a long line. The first time we did this in class, she wasn't really sure what was happening when I clipped the long line onto her and walked away and she didn't want to stay even though we'd practiced at a distance before, just without a leash. So, we needed to work on mastering this at home so she could handle it with the distractions of class. We try to set aside 10-15 minutes before bed to work on those behaviors. Wearing Rye's mind out before bed helps her sleep through the night. Once we've done this for awhile, it becomes just as much a part of our routine as taking a walk or doing the dishes.

Training doesn't have to take a huge chunk of your day. If you make it a part of the activities you already see as routine, training begins to fit in seamlessly. 

Be sure to check out all of the other great blogs participating to see how every one else makes time for training in their busy schedules. Our theme this month is Time Management for Training, but we welcome any positive training posts. Thank you to our co-hosts Tenacious Little Terrier and Wag 'n Woof Pets for another great month of positive training posts!