Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Snacks Worth Stealing

Peanuts have been a favorite snack in my family for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of making peanut butter in pre-school after we'd gotten a few bushels of peanuts from somewhere. One of Barley's favorite activities when we visit her grandparents is waiting by the pantry for someone to grab a handful of peanuts to see if one or two might make their way into her mouth.

When our friends at Chewy.com sent us a bag of peanut flavored Earthborn Holistic EarthBites, I knew the girls would be excited--I didn't know that they'd be so good that they'd turn my mischievous puppy into a thief.

From the minute I brought the bag out, Rye was focused on them. She was out in the yard playing when Barley and I came out to take some pictures and as soon soon as the bag rustled, she tore across the yard and skidded to a stop at my feet.

Barley hopped right up onto the patio furniture ready to pose with the bag. Rye bounced from couch to chair to table to couch making sure that the bag didn't get away from her.

What makes these treats so appealing? These treats are packed with high-quality ingredients like peanuts, peas, apples, blueberries, carrots, and spinach. They also have some honey and maple syrup to give them a little something extra. They have Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids to help support a healthy coat and skin and for pups that have grain sensitivities, they're grain free. Rye couldn't wait to gobble them up.

While I was trying to take a picture of their size, Rye jumped to the table to gobbled up the treats I'd laid out and then grabbed the open bag from the table and took off into the middle of the yard.

Thankfully, another great benefit of these treats is that they break up into smaller pieces, so I traded Rye several small pieces that I still had in my hand for the rest of the bag. She was more than willing to come back to the porch to finish taking pictures and hopefully get a chance to get a few more treats. Each treat has about 5 calories per treat, but since they're easy to break up, you can get several treats for just a few calories.

Barley loved them, too, but years of self-control practice made her reaction to the treats a little more reserved.

In addition to having ingredients your dogs will love and being easy to break up for training, Earthborn is also committed to taking care of the environment. They have a UPCs for Trees program where you can save your UPCs from Earthborn products and send them in and a tree will be planted somewhere around the world. Four UPCs from treat bags will plant one tree or one UPC from a 28-pound bag of dog food will plant a tree. 

These treats were a big hit with all three of us, so we'll definitely be adding a few bags of these to our next Chewy order (because unlike Rye, I am more than happy to pay for good quality snacks instead of stealing them)! 

Disclaimer: We were provided with one bag of Earthborn EarthBites in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program through Chewy.com. All opinions are our own. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Attack of the Canadian Soldiers

This weekend, we were attacked by Canadian Soldiers--known in the rest of the world as mayflies. These nasty little bugs come out when the lake starts warming up and they swarm for a few days. They are completely harmless. They don't carry diseases. They don't bite. They are indicators of lake health and feed all of the fish in the lake. But they are disgusting.

Mayflies are attracted to light, so they have been swarming around my back door at night when I let the girls out.

The girls fly out of the door when they go out, so usually only a few get in then. Rye, though, takes her sweet time coming back in when I call her and the mayflies took that as an open invitation to come inside. One night, Rye even stood at the bottom of the stairs grabbing mouthfuls of them out of the air while the rest of them made their way inside.

Since mayflies only real job is to reproduce, they have very short lifespans once they reach adulthood. They also need flat surfaces to hang out on, so they spend a lot of time on walls and cars. Our neighborhood also has a lot of spiders--which I'm sure are loving this feast--so my whole yard and car look like props for a haunted house right now.

The worst, though, was the sight I woke up to after a night of Rye insisting she needed to go out several times during the night. 

This is my kitchen ceiling.

Thankfully, they sweep right off with the broom, but that doesn't make it any less disgusting. Rye also has a knack for stirring them up out of long grass and bushes on our walks. I have swallowed more than one. Every time we come back inside, I feel like they are in my hair.

These swarms only last a few days at the beginning of the summer and again in the fall, but it always feels like weeks. We will not be sad to see them start disappearing soon.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Preparing for a Scent Trial, Part 2

Last week, I mentioned that Barley and I recently registered for our first C-WAGS scent trial. Since we're starting at Level 1, we will have to find one scent--either cypress or birch--hidden in one of 8-10 boxes.

It's been a long time since we've worked with boxes. When we started noseworks training, it was all boxes because our trainer was getting us ready for an Odor Recognition Test if we chose to compete in NACSW. Then we made courses in class more difficult by adding extra objects and stacking boxes. Before our classes ended, we moved to hiding scents outside of boxes and doing outdoor searches.

It's hard to work when you've just been tortured with a bath.

Since our classes ended, we have mostly done searches for scents outside of boxes. It's easy to take the scent kit with us if we're traveling--it's not as easy to bring multiple boxes. It's also a lot quicker at home to hide the scent vessel around the house or the yard than to set up a bunch of boxes. Barley seems to have more fun searching outside of boxes, too, so that's what we've been doing for the last few years.

When I set up our first search for the cypress scent, it was pretty clear that we need to really work on boxes over the next month. Barley immediately knew what to do, but she was not particularly speedy about it in our first attempt. It took her almost 3 minutes before she found the correct box--in the trial we'll only have 2 minutes and I'm sure she'll be distracted in a new environment, so we need to get much quicker. By her third search, she found the scent in 13 seconds, but we did about 6 searches and that was the only one where she was under a minute and 30 seconds.

We also need to do some searches on leash. Usually, since we're working at home, we do off-leash searches. In class, Barley was always on leash, so we've done on-leash searches before, but it's been a long time. In C-WAGS, the dogs can search on or off leash, but I won't be able to make that decision until I see what the environment is like. I know that other competitors aren't able to watch the searches since that would give away where the scent is hidden, but if there's even a tiny chance that Barley could slip out of the ring and go out to where any other dogs were waiting, we'll be searching on leash. If the ring is secure and there's no way to see other dogs, we might consider searching off-leash. But we need to be prepared for both.

We also need to do some work where I don't know which box the odor is hidden in. That's harder to do since Soth and Rye can't set up courses for us. My parents are coming soon, though, so I'm hoping that they can help with that for the few days they're here. I'm also taking a road trip with my sister and both dogs soon, too, so if we can fit a couple tiny boxes in the car, she can help--and if we can't, she can still hide the odor out of boxes and give me a chance to focus on Barley's body language when she finds something.

Thankfully, we are officially on summer vacation, so we'll be able to do several little practice sessions every day between now and the trial. It's still quite possible that the new environment will be too exciting for Barley to focus well enough to pass both rounds we're entered in, but my fingers are crossed.

And no matter what happens, Barley's having fun doing it, so that's really all that matters.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Jumping into Summer with Pet Treater

Barley is used to being a professor's dog and she knows that for one week each semester she gets to have me home most of the day, but we spend all day sitting and grading papers with just the occasional stroll around the walk (seriously--my sister texted me to make sure I was still alive this week when she saw my FitBit numbers in our challenge). Rye, on the other hand, is still learning how finals week works. This was only her second finals week--and the first one was still during her separation from Barley, so she got lots of play time instead of grading time.

She settled into the routine pretty quickly, but she did not like it. In typical Pet Treater fashion, our box showed up just when we needed it most. 

Can we please open this now? 

The girls couldn't wait to dive into the box.

As usual, there were lots of goodies for all three of us in the box. 

For the first time, most of our products came from two companies. We had three different treat items from Vegalicious. So far, we've only tried one of them: the Popped Snacks Lentil Blend, which were crunch little strips that look a bit like potato chips. Barley will eat pretty much anything, so she ate these but she wasn't as excited to dive into them as she is with peanut butter or meat treats.

Rye ate them, too, but she was not impressed--in fact, when she jumped up and hit my treat pouch and spilled treats all over the road on our walk, she left the lentil snack in the road and ate all of the other snacks. They're healthy treats with only 3 calories per piece, but the girls definitely didn't see them as high value treats. 

The other two Vegalicious treats products are a Healthy Food Enhancer food topper that comes in a container like a pepper grinder where you can grind veggie pellets on top of your dog's food and a Crazy Coconut treat bar. I'm sure the girls will love the coconut bar because they go nuts every time I put hand cream that has coconut oil in it on, but we're saving that for a day they need something new and different.

There was also a cute From: Frank journal for me that matches the notepad from last month. I always love a good journal and one with cute dog and cat pages is even better.

We got two Outward Hound products. One is a monkey bottle toy--and Rye loves to crunch bottles, so I put that away until a day when we really need a good distraction. The other is a car barrier to keep your dog from climbing into the front seat. Both my girls ride in their harnesses, and I like to reach back and pat them every now and then, so we won't use that, but it looks like a great product, so we'll pass it on to the shelter for them to use in one of their fund raisers. 

The biggest hit, though, was a Chomper Gladiator toy, which Rye immediately claimed and has been inseparable from ever since. The tag claims it's the "toughest of the tough" with "3 layers of TUFF-ness." Rye always takes claims like that as a personal challenge. So far, the edges are a little frayed but the toy is hanging in there. 

It makes a great chin rest, too.

One of our favorite things about Pet Treater is that we get to try out new things like the Vegalicious treats. We've never seen those in the store before and since I'm always looking for low-cal treats for Barley, those were a great new thing to try out. Even though we probably wouldn't buy the lentil treats, it was nice to have a chance to try them out and find out they weren't Barley and Rye's favorite before we were stuck with several bags of them (since I always buy several bags when I stock up on treats). 

If you want to try out Pet Treater for yourself, you can get a free pet bed (which is awesome!) in your first box for a limited time with code PT-Bed. 

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Preparing for a Scent Trial, Part 1

In our Positive Pet Training Blog Hop post this month, I wrote about how good noseworks has been for Barley's reactivity. I also mentioned that we hadn't competed, but that might be changing. A few days after that post went live, we sent in our registration form for our first Canine Work and Games (C-WAGS) scent trial.

Last week, we also got our second scent kit. The scent kit we got several years ago is for the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) and has birch, anise, and clove oils in it.

Our little tin is looking a little rough.

C-WAGS uses birch and clove, but also lemongrass and cypress, so we needed a few new scents.

Lots of new scent vessels in this kit.

We had planned to attend NACSW events when we first started training, but it was hard to find an Odor Recognition Test (ORT) near us--our trainer had wanted to try to get one organized for our training center, but then she got really sick and that didn't happen. We gave up any plans of competing and just enjoyed doing searches at home. That was fine with us. Our kit has traveled with us. We've used it on rainy days and during injuries that prevented good physical exercise.

I really hadn't thought about competing for a long time. Then last month there were therapy dogs on campus for a health and wellness fair. The dogs are really there for the students, but it's always one of my favorite days of the semester and there's no way I am going to sit in my office and grade papers if I can sit on the floor and pet a dog.

As dog people do, the handlers and I started talking about training. We talked about Barley's therapy dog failures, her agility classes, and her noseworks training. When I told one of the handlers that we'd never competed in noseworks, she told me that her training center--which isn't too far from ours--was holding a C-WAGS scent trial in June and encouraged us to enter. I immediately looked up the trial and the C-WAGS rules. It sounded like this was something Barley would really love, so I read and reread the rules. Then I read and reread them again. Finally, I decided that this could be something fun and different to try.

In C-Wags, you can begin in Level 1 or Level 2, but you have to title in one of them before moving on to Level 3. Level 1 is a search area of 8-12 boxes with one scent (either birch or cypress) hidden in one box and you have two minutes. Level 2 is 8-10 containers (at least 1 box), 3-5 objects, and two scents (birch, cypress, or clove) with three minutes--containers can be stacked in Level 2, too. Barley has done plenty of Level 2 type searches in her training, but I decided we'd go ahead and start at Level 1 since this will be a brand new environment for Barley.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be updated on our training progress. We just introduced the Cypress scent and Barley's caught on pretty quickly--but we'll go into more details in our next noseworks post.

Friday, May 5, 2017

When Lilacs Last in the Arboretum Bloom'd

Last Friday, the Holden Arboretum--Barley's favorite place in the world--was giving away free dogwood seedlings (my favorite trees) for Arbor Day. Barley and I have gone to the Arbor Day festivities for years now and I was looking forward to having a day with my best girl all week. Then I woke up and started getting ready for our adventure and I just couldn't leave Rye behind. (In my mind, Barley was singing the first verse of "Don't Take the Girl" as I packed our bag.) 

I was sure I would regret my decision. Rye still hates nature most of the time. We walk in the same park every week after obedience and her confidence has gone up there, but the arboretum as 20 miles of trails and I was afraid it might be a little overwhelming for her. There were also sure to be a lot of people since it was free admission in addition to free seedlings and Rye is very shy. When Rye is nervous, she pulls like crazy (my Barley walking arm has no muscle definition, my Rye walking arm has a bulging bicep these days) and that's just not the relaxing walk I wanted. I just couldn't bring myself to leave her home, though, so I decided if drove 45 minutes both ways to just get a free seedling and turn right back around that I'd have to be ok with that. 

Suprisingly, Rye did very well. I don't know if she felt more confident because Barley was so excited to be back in her favorite place or if it was just the magic of the arboretum taking hold of her, but she was good. 

The crab apples were still in bloom, so we went to that part of the arboretum first to give Rye a little time to settle in. We spent some time just relaxing and enjoying the flowers while we watched people enjoying the nearby butterfly garden from a safe distance. 

Rye wasn't always willing to pose for pictures, but she seemed to like trotting through the woods. Barley was more than happy to hop on things and pose. 

Every now and then, Rye would humor me, too.

There were a couple moments when she got a little nervous--mostly when we were near the observation tower and canopy walk where there were a lot of people making a lot of noise, but she couldn't quite see where it was coming from. 

By the time we got to the rhododendron garden where there were several large groups and a few other dogs, Rye was a pretty confident pup.

We strolled back through the woods to the display garden to take one more loop around the lilacs that were gorgeous and smelled incredible. The end of the walk was a little bittersweet--it was also the 5-year anniversary of my grandma's death and she loved all things purple, so being surrounded by so many pretty purple flowers. Our lilac moment wasn't as sad as when Whitman saw them blooming the dooryard, though. We had a great day helping Rye learn that the world isn't always a scary place. I'm sad my grandma never got to meet Rye because she would have loved my tiny terror, but being surrounded by purple all morning made it feel like she was there.

Even Barley seemed to have made peace with the fact that Rye came with us. I still owe her a solo arboretum trip, though.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Focusing my Reactive Dog with Noseworks

This month for the Positive Pet Training blog hop we along with our co-hosts Tenacious Little Terrier and Wag 'n Woof Pets chose the theme of dog sports, whether for fun or competition. This is a theme that is near and dear to our hearts and we could have gone in many different directions with this topic.

When Barley and I first started working with a trainer, she told me that Barley and I were an amazing team and suggested we try agility. Our lives haven't been the same since. Our communication has improved (of course, as the video shows, it's not always perfect) and we've had so much fun learning to connect in a new way.

A few years later, Barley and I found ourselves in a reactive dog class after a run-in with a neighbor dog. When we finished that class, our trainer suggested we take the second class in their reactive dog sequence: noseworks. This has been the most practical training for our everyday life, so for today, we're focusing on this sport.

Our trainer told us that sniffing is a self-soothing behavior for dogs that will help them relax in stressful situations. Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz has a whole chapter on the inner workings of a dog's nose and how sniffing helps dogs understand their world. Barley sometimes forgets to interact with her world through smell and works herself into a tizzy by constantly scanning the world around her with her eyes. Our trainer thought that teaching her to use her nose might help her be more relaxed.

While we haven't competed in noseworks--although that might be changing soon--it has helped Barley immensely with learning to focus on things other than other dogs.

Long time readers know that Barley has struggled with adjusting to living next door to dino dogs. We've made some small progress with training, but Barley still hates them. We had a huge celebration on Easter, though.

Being the neighborhood's crazy dog lady, I set up an egg hunt in the backyard. Barley, Rye, and I filled 20 eggs in the kitchen and then I went out to set up half of them for Barley to find with plans to set up the other 10 for Rye to look for afterwards.

When I went out to hide the eggs, I saw that the dino dogs were outside and I thought about waiting until later, but Barley had seen me stuff the eggs and she was ready to hunt for them immediately. I could see her dancing around on the other side of the storm door just barely containing herself until it was time to start her search. I knew the dino dogs were out before Barley did, so I had a better chance of keeping her focused than if she'd spotted them first, so I went ahead with setting up the eggs.

Since Barely's been sniffing out snacks for a long time, I put the 10 eggs all over the yard--some out in the open and others under plants and other things in the yard from one end of the yard to the other. Then it was time to let Barley get to work.

Since I knew the dino dogs were out, I could keep her attention on the way out the door with some lamb lung treats. As soon as her feet hit the patio, I told her to find it and she went to work. At the same time, the dino dogs came charging up to the fence. I was so proud of Barley--she started to go over to the fence and let out a bark, but as soon as she heard me remind her to find it, she went right back to work. (Ignore Rye's incessant barking--she was unhappy about being left inside.)

After Barley found her first egg, she was completely focused on finding the rest of them and didn't worry about the dino dogs again--even when she moved on to the eggs that were closer to that side of the yard. 

When we first started noseworks training, we started by building value for the command we were going to use--in our case, find it. To do that, we tossed a treat on the floor and said find it. The dogs started to learn to look for treats when we said find it. Eventually we added in boxes and after they got used to that the dogs didn't see the treats being placed in and near boxes. We continued building by adding in odors with the treats and then just using the odors. When we're out on walks and Barley gets excited about something, I refocus her by going all the way back to the beginning. 

By tossing a treat out in front of her and telling her to find it, she gets a quick reminder to quit scanning with her eyes and start sniffing with her nose. This is one of the ways we've been getting back on track after encounters with our new nemesis. It's amazing how quickly Barley connects back to me when we do this.

Rye is starting to work in similar ways as well. She gets very nervous when we're in new places, so by tossing a treat and telling her to find it, her focus shifts to our new game instead of whatever is worrying her. Usually, after we've done this 5 or 6 times, she's able to walk in a more relaxed way instead of scurrying around with her tail between her legs.

Noseworks training has helped me build my dogs' focus and confidence. With two border collie mixes, I have dogs that need jobs and searching for treats and odors is a job that's really fun for both of them. 

We hope you'll join us for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, which begins on the first Monday of the month and goes all week. This month our theme is dog sports, but we welcome any positive training posts. Be sure to check out all of the other bloggers linking up with us to see how they're incorporating positive training into their lives, too!