Thursday, November 29, 2018

Nostalgic Snacks from

Even though it's been cold and we've already had our first snow of the season, we haven't been quite ready to let go of fall yet. helped us hold on a bit longer with some Grandma Lucy's Organic Pumpkin Oven Baked Dog Treats.

The first thing I noticed is that I didn't love the packaging. I've mentioned in other reviews that I like packaging where I can see the treats before I open the bag. There are a couple pictures of the treats on the packaging--if you look by the word organic, there's a little bear beside it--but since we'd never had these treats before, at first it wasn't clear why that bear was there. 

Once I opened the bag, though, the treats looked almost identical to Teddy Grahams cookies which were some of my favorite snacks growing up (and if I'm honest, I can't turn down a good Teddy Graham now!), so they made me happy to look at them. It felt like I was getting to share one of my favorite snacks with the girls--and made me want to run out to the store to get some little bear treats for myself! 

One thing I was a little surprised by was that pumpkin was the fifth ingredient on the list of ingredients. I assumed it would be a little bit higher up on the list, but there were ingredients like flour, cane sugar, palm oil, and cane sugar syrup before pumpkin showed up. This list was a little different than the ingredients on the packaging in the picture on, which had pumpkin as the seventh ingredient. (I'm not sure if they changed recipes or not, but there were definitely some differences between the packaging we received and the packaging in the images on the website.) I was also surprised by the fat content, which was 16%. After Rye's pancreatitis episode a couple months ago, we've been trying to keep everything below 10% fat content. Usually, it's high value meaty treats with ingredients like duck that are higher than we'd like, so I was surprised that a treat with no meat in it would have 16% fat content.

The packaging also states that the treats are kosher and vegetarian, which aren't really things I look for in teats, but if that's important for your pets, these treats meet those requirements.

Regardless of what the ingredients were, Barley was ready to try them immediately.

Both girls really liked these treats. Barley especially likes them because I'm really limiting how many Rye gets because of the fat, which means Barley got to have a few extras while we took pictures. 

What I like best about these treats is that there are a ton of them inside the package. We use cookie treats for crate treats when I put the girls in their crates before I leave. There are some days when I come home between classes, so the girls get crate treats twice on those days, and usually they get two treats every time they go in. This package has lasted us all month and we still have plenty left. They're also easy to break up, which is what I usually do for Rye so she still thinks she's getting two treats but she's getting less fat. 

The treats are a big hit with the dogs, but because of the fat content, they probably won't become a regular part of our treat rotation. We'll definitely be looking into some of the other Grandma Lucy's flavors, though, in case there are other varieties that have less fat in them. 

Disclaimer: We were given a package of Grandma Lucy's Organic Pumpkin Oven Baked Treats in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program from

Monday, November 26, 2018

Fun and Games from

Since we started going to agility trials, I've wanted a silent tug toy for Rye to use as a reward after our runs. They've had a few at the vendors at some of the trials, but they either have balls that Rye could crush with one bite or rabbit fur that she'd just want to shred. When we had to opportunity to test out the Frisco Plush with Rubber Tug & Fetch No Squeak Dumbbell from, I was thrilled--it was exactly the toy we were looking for. 

Our trainer recently told us that for toy rewards, it's a good idea to choose a toy that isn't self-rewarding. If a dog has a toy that squeaks, they don't need a human to help make the toy fun--they can just squeak away and entertain themselves. With silent toys, the excitement comes from interacting with their human. In trials, you also don't want a toy that makes noise right by the ring because it's not fair to the other dogs that are working. 

We took it to Rye's adoption day trial in the middle of the month. First, I took her outside and tried to get her revved up with the toy. She didn't want anything to do with it. I tossed it in her crate so we didn't lose it. Then we tried again after one of her runs. Still no cigar. No matter what I did to try to engage her, she wanted nothing to do with it. As confident as Rye is on the course, she tends to get spooked easily off of the course and she usually wants to go right back to her crate as soon as she's done. I had hoped that play might help her feel a little braver, but she was just too nervous to be interested in a game of tug.

That doesn't mean that the dumbbell toy was a flop, though. Rye does enjoy a good game of tug at home. Rye has her own ideas of how tug toys should be used, though. She thinks she should get the handle.

I tried to convince her that she should tug on the actual dumbbell part, but she was not buying that at all and I had to be the one to tug on the dumbbell or risk losing a finger when she grabbed at the handle.

Even when we played fetch with the dumbbell, she still thought she should retrieve it by the handle rather than the actual toy part. Part of me thought that the dumbbell part might be a bit big for her to grab with her mouth--it's soft, but it's stuffed full and doesn't have much give. Really, though, I think Rye just likes to tug on the parts I'm holding onto because she usually goes for the handles on tug toys.


I was impressed by how durable this toy is. Even when Rye and I were both tugging on the handle, it stayed attached to the dumbbell. We've had other tug toys where the handle has broken off when we've played this way. That wasn't the case with this toy. 

Rye also likes to gnaw on things and she gave the handle a good gnaw in between games. I didn't let that go on for long because I've seen what happens when she starts sawing her teeth over a thin handle like this. For the few seconds that she was chewing on the handle while I took a picture, though, there were no ill effects. Not even a bit of fraying. 

Rye also likes to gnaw on thick seams like this toy has around the edges. Again, I didn't let that behavior go on for long, but they held up to a brief chewing session. Several of the reviews on said that this toy didn't last long with dogs ripping the handle and pulling out the stuffing, but I found as long as I stayed involved in playing with this toy with Rye, it held up well to a little bit of chewing between tosses and tugs. The toy was also big enough that Rye could get a good grip on it when she wanted to chew on it. 

So far, this toy hasn't quite served it's purpose at our house, but I'm not giving up hope. It's exactly what I wanted out of a silent tug toy, but Rye plays by her own rules. Rye definitely likes it at home where she's comfortable, so we're going to keep playing with it in hopes that one day she'll be comfortable enough to play with it at a trial, too. 

Disclaimer: We were provided one Frisco Plush with Rubber Tug & Fetch No Squeak Dumbbell toy in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program through 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Letter To My Dog's First Family

To My Dog's First Family:

I think of you often. When I fell in love with your puppy, the shelter told me you'd had to surrender her for personal reasons, either financial or health problems. I often wonder if you're ok and if things are better now. I wonder if you miss your puppy or regret your decision. I know that you loved her. That was obvious from the amount of training she'd had. It was clear you'd spent a lot of time working with her and nobody can spend even a tiny amount of time with her without falling in love with her.

I hadn't gone to the shelter to get her, but as soon as I saw her, I switched my application to her. It was love at first sight.

I've often wished I could ask you if she's always loved cats or always been scared of nature.

I've wished I could ask you where her original name came from. (It's now her middle name and gets used when she's her cutest, naughtiest puppy self.)

I've wished I could tell you how much she loves agility.

And scent work.

And barn hunt. (She keeps my calendar full.)

I've often wished I could tell you that she's happy and so very loved--by me and her dog sister and cat brother.

I've wished that I could tell you that she gave me a reason to smile when I was worried the world was falling apart.

I've wished I could tell you thank you.

Two years ago, I went to the shelter to add to my little family and I came home with your puppy. She's changed my world for the better and I'm so very thankful that you made the difficult decision that let her become a part of my life.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Sniffin' Sisters

Last weekend, the girls and I did C-WAGS scent trial. When we did our summer scent league, our friend who owns the training center told us that they were going to have halloween ribbons at the October trial and being a sucker for all things seasonal, I wanted those ribbons!

It was a two-day trial with two runs each day. Barley needed two more qualifying scores after our summer league to earn her Level 2 title, so we entered in all four runs in hopes that we'd qualify in at least two.

This summer, we struggled with communication. Three minutes seems like such a long time when you're out there--but in real life, it seems like a really short amount of time, so I was rushing us many nights and not giving Barley as much time to explore all of the containers. I tried really hard not to rush us this time. On our first run, it seemed like Barley had found it pretty quickly, but we'd only passed two boxes, so I walked her around the whole room before coming back to that side. Eventually, we did find both hides although we had one fault (thankfully, in C-WAGS, you're allowed one fault) and we did qualify. 3 down, 1 to go. 

Our second run wasn't as successful. We found one, but had two false alerts, so we didn't qualify. For some reason, Barley didn't even want to go near the second hide--we walked by it several times and she didn't even sniff at it, so I was convinced it wasn't the hide. We had two more shots on Sunday, though. 

Rye also got to come along on Sunday for her very first scent trial. In C-WAGS, you can start in Level 1 or Level 2, but since this was Rye's first time ever sniffing outside of our house, I wanted to start with the most basic level. Since they don't reset the courses between dogs, you can only run one dog in one level anyway, so I couldn't have Rye and Barley in Level 2, which was another good reason to start with Level 1. We practice with Level 2 set ups at home--boxes and other containers, two hides, and birch and cypress hides--so I wasn't worried about Rye having only boxes and only one hide. Barley was not thrilled about having to share the spotlight with Rye, but I was excited to see how things would go for Rye.

I was a little worried that Rye wouldn't know what we were searching for because the trial was at the training center where she does barn hunt. She did want to look for the rats at first--they had the corner of the building with the stairs up to the room where the rats live blocked off, but Rye did run over to the barrier and sniff around it. Then she realized what she was looking for and she took off for the box. She was higher than a kite, so she was zooming around the room. She started to alert on several boxes--her alert is a down at the hide--by bowing in front of them, but since she didn't get her belly down on the ground, I waited for her to give me a clear alert. Eventually, it came and she ran to a box and pounced on the ground in front of it. I called alert and we qualified with no faults--and all of that took place in 12 seconds!

Our second attempt wasn't quite as successful. Rye was so pumped up after her first run that she bounced all over the room. She knew how happy I'd been when she finally laid down at a box in the first run, so she alerted on two boxes that were not the hide and we didn't qualify. She had every laughing with her enthusiasm, though. 

Barley was up next with her third Level 2 search of the weekend. We took our time and had a clean run (something that's only happened twice now) and earned our title. I'd told Barley that I just wanted her to do as well as she did on Saturday and get one qualifying run so we could earn the really fun Halloween ribbon--and she listened to me! 

The training center where the trial was held is a little small, so there isn't really good indoor crating space and dogs are crated in their cars. I had both dogs harnessed in and buckled into the backseat. Barley had been so good about tolerating that on Saturday, but by Sunday, I guess she had had enough. She stayed where she was supposed to during both of Rye's runs and while I did the briefing for her first run, but when I went in to the awards ceremony to get her ribbon, she unbuckled herself and climbed into the front seat. I had 5 bags of different types of treats--and when I got back to the car, I had one handful of treats left in our treat pouch. I'd really hoped that the front seat of our new car would remain dog-hair free for a few weeks, but now I have dog hair, treat crumbs, and I keep finding tiny pieces of treat bags all over the place. Maybe one day Mother Nature will give us a dry day so I can break out the shop vac and make the front of the car look pretty again.

Since that was our first run of the day, we were able to move up to Level 3 for our second run. That meant we had about an hour to kill while they took a break for lunch. I took the girls out for a quick walk at a nearby park. 

We got matching glow-in-the-dark bandanas when we checked into the trial!

We did our first Level 3 run when we got back. Level 3 is even more challenging than Level 2 because all four odors (birch, cypress, clove, and anise) can be used, there are 3 hides, and the hides can be in containers or on objects. We were the last Level 3 dog to go and all of the dogs before us came out saying how difficult the course had been. We found one of the three hides, but had two false alerts and didn't qualify. 

Overall, I was really proud of both of my girls. Barley and I communicated a little better than we did this summer--although we still have plenty of room to grow!--and Rye was her typical spitfire self and threw herself into working from the second we walked through the door onto the course. 

Our training center is going to have another trial in January or February, but before that, we'll be trying our hand paws at AKC scentwork in December. I have both dogs entered in the trial, so they'll alternate classes with one dog doing containers and the other doing interior so they'll each get 4 runs with 2 attempts in each class. Both dogs will be in Level 1--or novice--since we've never tried AKC scentwork before, so we can simplify our practice at home for the next few weeks and just focus on the birch odor. We're so looking forward to another weekend of fun--and since Barley will still have to be crated in the car (she had a bit of a meltdown and broke out of her crate at a scent seminar at this location in September), I'll be creating a treat fortress to make sure that we don't have the same sneaky behavior this time around! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Falling for Pumpkin Pour Overs

Since Rye has been battling pancreatitis for the last month or so, we've had to get a lot more selective about the food and snacks that come into the house. Thankfully, our friends at have lots of options to keep Rye from getting bored with her new low-fat diet. This month, we got the chance to try the new Pumpkin Pour Overs from The Honest Kitchen.

The hardest part of reviewing these pour overs was choosing which flavor to try! There are three different categories of pour overs: pumpkin, bone broth and superfood and each of those categories has different flavors like turkey, salmon, chicken, and beef. We chose the Turkey and Pumpkin Stew variety because that seemed like the perfect fall flavor.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from the pour overs before the arrived, but they arrived in a case of 12 5.5-oz boxes of stew. Usually, the packing of Honest Kitchen products has thorough instructions and detailed descriptions, but I was surprised to find that these packages were lacking some information. As usual, they listed all of the great ingredients from turkey and pumpkin to apples and butternut squash, but there weren't really clear instructions on how much to feed your dog. The feeding suggestions say that the box is about 2 servings depending on the size of your dog, but they don't give details about how many servings a dog should have a day or what size dog they had in mind for the serving size. 

The packaging suggests pouring the pour overs over the dog's food. We've used that method several times. There are still a few days when Rye doesn't want to eat and some days she'll wait until I come home at lunch before she shows any interest in eating her breakfast, but most days, if I pour a little of the pour overs on her breakfast, she'll eat it.

The dogs' favorite method, though, is freezing the pour overs so they can have them as a snack while I grade. 

The stew is pretty thin--much runnier than canned pumpkin--so it lives up to its name and is easy to pour over or into anything! There are also some chunks of turkey and apples that are easily visible in the stew, which is one of my favorite parts of any Honest Kitchen product--you always know what your dog is eating.

Because the stew is so thin, though, it's not perfect for all of our snacking needs. Sometimes I like to give the girls a stuffed snack and when they saw that I was pouring some of the pumpkin pour overs into their tuxes to put the in the freezer, they immediately wanted to have some right then and there, so I poured a bit into another one of their feeder toys.

Rye was so excited to get her pumpkin pour over snack that she couldn't even wait for me to hand it to her. She stole it while I was putting the leftovers in the fridge!

In the process, she splashed pour overs all over the kitchen floor and the living room carpet. Thankfully, Rye, Barley, and Soth were happy to help with the clean up and there's no evidence of the mess on the carpet. If you still live in a world where you can have nice things, I wouldn't recommend serving this in a way other than in a bowl or frozen. Thankfully, we departed the planet of nice things years ago, so we were able to laugh about this and decide to try other methods in the future. 

Rye likes the frozen method just as much as the room temperature version.

A lot of Honest Kitchen products say that they're for cats and dogs, but this one just lists dogs on the packaging. That didn't stop Soth from giving it a shot, though, and he loved it. I have never been able to get Soth to eat pumpkin before--and when he was having digestive issues, we tried many times. As soon as I opened the package, Soth was sitting right by the girls begging for a bite. Since the ingredients didn't seem to have anything that a cat couldn't have, I've let him have about a teaspoon or so of the stew every time I've prepared snacks for the girls.

All three pets love this! If I have any complaints, it's that the packaging is a little hard for me to open. You have to lift the side flaps and then tear off the perforated tab to open the package and I've struggled with tearing that piece off every time. Once it's open, though, it's really easy to close the box securely and store it. The leftovers can be refrigerated for up to three days. My pets aren't letting any of it sit around that long, though. The packages are recyclable and even after they've been completely rinsed, Rye is still trying to pull them out of the recycling bin. 

These pour overs have been great fall snacks that all three of my loves, even the pickiest of them, can't get enough of. Once again, the Honest Kitchen has given us a great product that I feel good about feeding my pets and the pets feel very good about gobbling up. 

Disclaimer: We were given one case of Honest Kitchen Pumpkin Pour Overs in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

An Excellent Dog

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Rye and I had been trapped in purgatory--or the second level of AKC agility, Open.

Two weekends ago, we partially escaped our purgatory. We earned our Open Standard Title on our first Standard run of the weekend.

I was a little nervous going into our run because Rye had had a meltdown when I took her out of her crate. The trial was in a wellness center where the staff does a great job keeping the floors clean by running large brooms over the floor several times throughout the day. Rye has seen this happening without any reactions, so I didn't think anything of it when I went to take her out of her crate for our run and there was a man sweeping in the corner near our crate.

Rye definitely thought something of it, though. Usually, I take her out of her crate, let her stretch, and then grab our treats so that we've got snacks while we wait for our turn and have the really good rewards waiting on the bleachers by the exit gate. When I did that this time, Rye lost her mind. Her hair raised and she bounced and barked and wanted to chase that man out of our corner. He, of course, was oblivious to her distress and kept going over the area again and again.

The only way to calm Rye down was to pick her up and carry her away. We went several feet away and talked to one of our former classmates while keeping our fingers crossed that the man would move on in time for us to grab Rye's chicken.

Rye was still agitated while we waited for our turn at the gate, but we played some focus games and it seemed like she was going to be willing to work with me. Then we had the prettiest run we've ever had--minus a table fault when Rye bounced off of the table for a second.

The only effect the broom guy seemed to have on Rye was making her suspicious of the judge. Rye can be weird with men and once she got on the table, she kept looking at the judge and then looking back at me and barking. But our table fault was the only fault we got, so we got our third Standard Q for our Open Standard title and were able to move up to the next level, Excellent.

The next day was bonkers after we moved up. Our first run was our first Open FAST course. I've mentioned before that I love fast because it's a good warm up for Rye. Her first run is always a little wild, so having one where there are only 2-3 obstacles that you have to do in sequence is always nice. She can get a little energy out and I can predict more of what she'll need from me in future runs that day. 

For this course, we had to go over a jump and then send to the far side of a tunnel without me crossing the line on the floor. We'd watched several of the Masters and Excellent level dogs miss the correct side of the tunnel, but I felt really confident in my plan. I knew what line I needed to set for Rye to go to that side of the tunnel and I stuck to my plan. We missed a couple jumps that I'd planned because I didn't set clear lines, so I knew to pay attention to that later in the day. We also had the same judge we'd had for the Standard run the day before and at the end, he was a bit in the way when Rye came out of the send challenge and she was not happy to see him. I was actually a little nervous that she might nip him! But she did a great job coming back to me and we just went straight to the finish line before she had a chance to get distracted again. We ended up with 72 points and only needed 55, so we got our first Open FAST Q.

About an hour later, we were running our first Excellent Standard course. Once you move to Excellent, you're only allowed time faults (which I can't imagine ever being an issue for my speed demon!). The second obstacle was the weaves and this was a day Rye was not feeling the weaves. She missed the entrance on our first try, which meant we got a refusal and already hadn't Q'd by the second obstacle. That meant we could go into training mode. We missed a couple other obstacles, but she got her contacts and stayed on the table. I'd watched the areas that had given the taller dogs problems and come up with a plan to help Rye in those spots and I couldn't be more proud of our first Excellent run.

We were the fifth 16-inch dog to run Excellent Standard and as soon as we crossed the finish line, the briefing for the Open Jumpers course was starting in the other ring! I ran back to our crate and got to the ring just as the briefing was ending and the walk-thru was starting. The course was big and flowy--exactly the kind of course Rye loves--but I set terrible lines from the very beginning (I'm blaming the lack of oxygen to my brain after all of that running!) and Rye took the wrong end of a tunnel twice and we didn't Q on that course, either. She did do exactly what I asked her to do, though, and she did the weaves like a champ, so this one was all on me.

We have finally had some success in Open Jumpers, though. Earlier this month, we got our first Open Jumpers Q! Once again, Rye did such a good job of listening. For some reason even though I don't even take Rye's leash off until I see that the dog before us has its leash clipped on, the dog before us was still on the course after we went over the 4th jump. Rye wasn't entirely sure what to think about that and thought about going to check it out, but she came back when I called her and even though we missed the weave entrance, she got right back on track and finished the course strong.

This weekend, we got our second Open Jumpers Q when we went to another new location.

Rye didn't know what to think of this large cat in the lobby of the trial site!

Of course, we didn't ask anyone to video us since our normal group of classmates and friends weren't at this trial, so we didn't get it on film, but she was such a good little girl! This judge had some challenging courses with lots of opportunities for off-course jumps and Rye sometimes thinks the judges make the courses too short and wants to add on to them. We usually do best on wide open flowy courses, and this course made us change directions almost every 2 obstacles, so I had to be really clear with my cues and let Rye know where we were going in plenty of time.

We're really starting to feel like a team. Every weekend we go to a trial, Rye pays more attention to me and I'm learning more of how to communicate with her. Running courses with Rye is some of the most fun I've ever had--even when things don't turn out perfectly. It's hard to believe she's only been doing this for seven months! We're taking the next month off from trials--mostly because our usual locations don't have any, but also because Barley's entered in a C-WAGS scent trial one weekend and I just need a some time at home to do laundry and deep clean the carpets and sit on the couch. Our next trial will be our first time doing all three days of a trial because it will be Rye's adoption weekend and I couldn't think of any better way to celebrate two years together than by spending all weekend doing what Rye loves best. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Soth Tests the OurPets Alpine Climb Cat Scratcher from

Soth has been left out of the #ChewyInfluencer reviewer since he's been put on a strict diet after last year's bladder surgery. Since most of the review items are food items, there aren't many options for him to test out. Until our friends at gave us the opportunity to test out the OurPets Alpine Climb Cat Scratcher.

Rye thinks #ChewyInfluencer reviews are more fun when she gets to do them.

I'd always wanted to try one of these scratchers, but when Soth was sick, he would often pee on cardboard instead of in his litter box, so it seemed like a silly purchase. Now that Soth is healthy again, we could finally try one out.

OurPets offers a few different styles of scratchers, but Soth likes to scratch at an angle, so we went with the Alpine Climb version. The first thing I noticed is that it is some assembly required.

The back of the packaging gave clear instructions and even if it hadn't, the assembly was really easy: open the box, fold in some flaps, and close it like a shoe box. Rye thought that I needed supervision anyway.

Once the base was assembled, all that was left was peeling off the double-sided table, sticking the scratcher to it, and sprinkling some of the catnip that came with it on top.

Soth was skeptical at first. 

And to be honest, so was I. I don't know what I expected, but I wasn't expecting a seemingly flimsy base. Soth is a chunky monkey, so I was not sure that this was going to hold him.

Since Soth wasn't too excited about climbing onto the scratcher, I decided we'd test out the little hole in the bottom. I tossed a hair tie inside and that did the trick. Soth was sold on the scratcher.

It wasn't long before he was jumping on it and tossing hair ties on it and in it all by himself.

The one thing I haven't seen Soth do much of is actually scratch on this. We've had this out for the last week and he's regularly lounging on it.

I've only caught him in action once, but from the look of the scratching pad, he's been using it quite a bit.

Now that he's had a few days to get used to the scratcher, Soth really seems to like this product. There's really only one complaint that I have--if I don't have it pushed up against the wall where it butts up against the air vent, it slides across the floor. That's a small thing, though, compared to how much time Soth spends relaxing on the scratcher.

Another feature I really like is that the scratcher part is reversible, so you can take it out and switch it to a brand new side. Since Soth only seems to be scratching at the top, I think I could probably take it out, switch the top side around so the unused bottom part is at the top and we'll get lots of use out of the scratcher. These scratchers are reasonably priced, too, so when the whole scratcher gets used up, it will be easy to replace. We might even try one of the other styles, too!

Disclaimer: We received one OurPets Alpine Climb Cat Scratcher from as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Does my Dog Really Need to go for Walks?

When Barley and I first started our reactive dog training, the first thing our trainer told us was that we shouldn't go for a walk for two weeks. I was skeptical. I had a 1.5-year-old border collie mix living in an apartment. We didn't have a fenced in yard where we could play and burn off energy. We were not going to survive two weeks without a walk.

Our trainer told me to trust the process and give it a chance. She wanted Barley to learn to focus on me and to start learning to relax instead of always being on high alert. She explained that those goals would take much longer to achieve if I was exposing Barley to distractions on walks before she had a strong foundation in low-stress environments. She assured me that if I was working Barley's brain, she wouldn't miss the physical exercise as much. I decided to believe her, and I'm so glad that I did.

We immediately got started on mental exercise. We spent most of our time working on the It's Your Choice Game and seeing just how many treats we could get stacked on Barley's front legs. We also spent a lot of time on the one-hour down game. We didn't go for a single walk and the apartment didn't come crashing down around us.

Barley's too smart for her own good, so she caught on to these games really quickly, but our trainer told us to start playing them in areas with more distractions instead of going on walks before the two-week period was up. We played in the backyard where there were neighbors, squirrels, and traffic going by. I was on summer vacation, so we were able to do many short training sessions every single day.

When our two weeks were up, we went back to our trainer and she was impressed with all of the progress we'd made. At our first session, we'd spent a long time waiting for Barley to choose to lie down and she'd never really turned her hips to put herself into a relaxed position. She was ready to pop up and go at any moment. In our next session, Barley settled immediately and by the end of the lesson she was relaxing on the floor while I chatted with our trainer.

We were told that we could start going for short walks. At that point, I wasn't tracking our mileage and assumed we were walking many miles every day--but our longest walking route at that point was probably 1.5 miles and all of our walks immediately after starting training were shorter than that. We wanted to make sure that Barley had success on her walks, so we limited the amount of time she spent being exposed to distractions. We introduced the "What's That?" command to help Barley learn to look at her triggers and then look back at me without having a meltdown. The goal of our walks wasn't to get great physical exercise; instead, we were trying to get more mental exercise by upping the level of distractions Barley was exposed to.

Because she already had a strong foundation in focusing on me and staying relaxed at home and in the yard, Barley did great on our walks. When I said, "What's that," she immediately turned to look for me because I'd built so much value for paying attention to me during our two-week training period. I doubt she would have caught on to that command as quickly if we wouldn't have put in so much work to build a strong foundation before introducing bigger distractions.

Because of that strong foundation, I feel confident taking Barley anywhere that I know there won't be loose dogs running around as long as she can be on a leash at my side. When Barley's on her leash, she knows she's working and she pays close attention to me for cues on what we're doing next. She's perfectly content to settle in next to the table at a brewery. She's capable of walking in a city where there's a lot of traffic, cyclists, walkers, and other distractions. She can stay focused on me if deer bound across a trail a few feet ahead of us. She's unfazed by horses coming down the trail or kids riding bikes and skateboards. She knows that if she sees something weird or concerning, she needs to look at me for direction.

Walking is such an integral part of daily lives now--we average 3.3 miles a day--that it's hard to imagine not walking with my dogs. But my early months with Barley taught me that walking isn't necessary. Mental exercise wore Barley out more than physical exercise ever has. When I can combine the two, life is even better--but the best thing I've ever done for Barley's training was trusting our trainer and taking that time off from walking. With National Walk Your Dog Week occurring this month, there are lots of great reasons to walk your dog--but there are plenty of reasons not to walk your dog, too, so make the choice that's best for your dog's physical and mental health. Sometimes that means staying home.

This month, our theme for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop is Training and Exercise, but we welcome all positive training posts. Be sure to check out our co-hosts Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier as well as all of the other great blogs joining us this week. 

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