Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Capturing Summer with Crunchy Treats from Nutro

When I think about summer, one thing that always comes to mind is parfaits. Growing up, we used to walk down to TCBY and I loved getting frozen yogurt parfaits. I also tend to think about blueberries when I think about summer, even though I don't actually like them. We used to spend a lot of time picking blueberries when I was little and I always hated that I didn't even get the added benefit of getting to pop a few in my mouth while we worked!

Thankfully, anytime I end up with a salad that has blueberries in it or a bowl of mixed berries, Barley has been more than happy to gobble them up so I don't have to waste them. Every now and then, I even make the pups their own parfaits with a little yogurt, whipped cream, and some berries so they can get a special summer snack.

But a girl can't eat a parfait every day and still make it over an agility jump gracefully, so what's a pup to do when she's craving berries and nobody will make her a parfait?

Our friends at Chewy.com had just the answer for us: Nutro Crunchy Treats in mixed berry. These are smallish, triangular treats that break apart very easily into even smaller crunchy bites. 

Barley has had Nutro treats on many occasions, but since I usually don't buy many crunchy treats--and when I do, it tends to be holiday-themed treats--Rye has never had them and both dogs were excited to test these out.

The mixed berry treats are blueberry, cranberry, and cherry flavored. The first thing I noticed about these treats is how good they smell. I used to buy the banana ones and they smell just like banana laffy taffy (full disclosure: I once tried them because they smelled so good and they do not taste like banana laffy taffy--I learned from that mistake and just enjoyed the scent of the mixed berry ones!). These mixed berry ones smell just like blueberries.

These treats have about 5 calories/treat, so I don't have to feel guilty about giving the girls two each when I put them in their crates, which is what we use crunchy treats for around here. Since they also break up easily, I can stretch the bag out for a long time by breaking each one in half and letting the girls think they're getting two treats. They also made the perfect topper for Barley and Rye's mixed berry parfaits!

I was a little surprised to see that chicken meal comes before any berries in the list of ingredients, but from the research I've done on chicken meal, I'm not bothered by that being an ingredient in their treats and there are no weird by-products in the ingredients list. 

The girls love these snacks and I'm thrilled to have a snack that smells like summer instead of the stinky fish treats we usually have! 

Disclaimer: We were given a package of Nutro Crunchy Treats in Mixed Berry in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Memorial Day Getaway

Last year, the dogs and I rented a house in Pennsylvania for my cousin's wedding. I immediately fell in love with the house and never wanted to leave. So, when two of my cousins had babies within a couple days of each other and my grandparents and aunts planned a road trip to meet the babies, it seemed like the perfect time to go back.

While we waited for all of the family to be in the same place, my mom, my sister, my aunt and uncle, and one cousin and her baby took a trip to Valley Forge (y'all, the southern girl in me has to work really hard not to type Pigeon Forge every time--and I can promise you, Dolly Parton was not there). 

Valley Forge was not at all what I expected. The dogs and I have been to plenty of historical sites and we've never had to spend much time dealing with crowds. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, there were swarms of people. We've done enough training that the dogs are pretty good in crowds as long as we keep moving. But with 6 adults, one little bit, and 2 dogs, moving wasn't really happening.

Valley Forge was also a lot bigger than I expected. The original plan was for my sister, my cousin and her baby, and the pups and I to walk while the rest of the group looked at the historical stuff. The trail to the different sites my mom, my aunt, and my uncle wanted to see was going to be 5 miles one way. The dogs and I could probably do a 10-mile hike, but not when we started in mid-afternoon and hadn't planned for that. After much back and forth, we finally decided to all drive to the various sites and then the dogs, my sister, my cousin and her baby, and I would walk while the others looked at all of the different things.

Once we got moving, things were a better. I couldn't tell you what any of the things in our pictures are, but it was a really pretty place with lots of stone buildings and rolling hills.

The day was perfect temperature, too, which was good because there wasn't a lot of shade in the areas we were exploring. 

I don't think the dogs cared all that much about walking where George Washington had walked, but they were excited to stretch their legs after being in the car the day before.

However, they were excited to get to the rental cottage after our walk. 

Taking in all of those good farm smells.

The cottage was even better than I'd remembered. The inside has so much character and everything outside was in bloom (which was a huge contrast to our rainy early April visit last year).

Since there's a trail on the property, I let Rye have her first long-line walk. Barley prefers to walk right beside me, but Rye's little hound nose lives for adventure and I thought if she had a little more freedom, she might not be inclined to take a solo adventure like last time.

Rye loved being on a long line. 

She got to splash in the stream and follow her nose without being held back by me and Barley. Barley also seemed to enjoy having a little space from Rye, who is usually darting after a scent and clotheslining Barley with her leash when they're both on regular leashes. Rye never once checked back with us without prompting, though, so she won't be getting that much freedom in other places.


The thing Rye didn't love was seeing cows in the pasture across the street from our driveway! The first time we walked down and saw them, she poofed herself up as big as she could get and barked like a maniac. 

After seeing them a couple times, she eventually calmed down, but didn't want to turn her back on them. A few treats helped to convince her that she should pose for a picture with cows in the background.

The dogs and I were so happy to just escape for a couple nights. While we spent most of our time at my aunt and uncle's house with the rest of the extended family and the babies, it was nice to be back in the farm house and enjoy having our own woods to walk in. 

We love our house and neighborhood, but if we won the lottery, I'd happily move into this house any day. We can't wait for another excuse to go back!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Our First Two-Ring Trial and an AKC Title

This weekend, Rye and I entered our third AKC agility trial. Even though the same training club that organized our first two trials organized this one, there were a few differences. For the summer, they decided to host trials at a new venue that's well air conditioned and has enough space for two different rings.

I was a little nervous about entering a two-ring trial. The idea of a two-ring trial just seemed really big. They accept more entries for two-ring trials, which means more people and more dogs and I just couldn't wrap my head around that.

The day started a little bit rough. I'd put off making my lunch until the morning. Then I had to reload the car with our chair, floor covering, and crate that I'd taken out during our recent traveling. We ended up leaving about 15 minutes later than I'd planned and then got stopped by every red light in town--even though I was the only car on the road--and then we got stopped by the lift bridge in the harbor.

At least it was a pretty delay.

Despite the chaos of the morning, we were still one of the first people to arrive at the trial. I got our crate set up and then grabbed one of the measuring forms to fill out before collecting Rye rom the car. At our first AKC trial, we had our first official measurement with a Volunteer Measuring Official (VMO), so we had to get our second official measurement at this trial. Rye gets very nervous about being measured, but I was armed with some meatballs and she was a very brave puppy. She measured in at 17 and 5/8 inches, so she's solidly in the 16-inch jump height and she doesn't need to be measured again.

Then it was time to start the day and this day became one of our very favorites.

I'm quickly learning that the trial site can really make all the difference in how the day goes. This is the third location we've been to and it was fantastic. There was a nice shady city park across the street from the building, so we had a space to walk and connect between runs.

The crating area was huge, so we could be near our trainer and classmates and still have plenty of extra room around us instead of having strange dogs right next to us.

I even fell in love with the two-ring format. At our second AKC trial, we had a lot of waiting around. It was mid-afternoon before we ever got started that day. At a two-ring trial, they have two courses set up so that two dogs can be running at once. In one ring, they had the more advanced dogs running their standard courses and the novice dogs started their jumpers courses in the other.

We were the 8th dog to run, so our day got started very quickly. And what a start it was! Rye and I were really in sync except for the entrance to the weaves. She really struggles with sending to the weaves in trials and I'm not entirely sure why. I think some of it is just the excitement of being at a trial. She's a dog who is always ready to go, so having any downtime really gets her wound up. Even though we started pretty early in the day, we'd still had almost two hours at the trial site before our first run. We'd stayed pretty busy with getting measured and walking around, but she'd still had about twenty minutes of doing nothing while I went to the briefing and walked the course, so slowing down enough to enter the weaves was not at the top of her priority list. I tried to collect her before the weaves--slowing her down seems to be the most effective way of getting her into the weaves--but it wasn't very effective this time. Luckily, in novice courses, you get three attempts at the weaves with no penalty and she finally did them. My favorite part of the video is the very beginning. As I'm setting her up and getting her slip lead off, her tail is wagging like crazy, but as soon as that lead is off, she's all business and ready to go. I just love that about Rye.

We got our third Q in jumpers--and you need three to move on to the next level, so we got our Novice Agility Jumpers title (NAJ) with this course. My little sweet potato ran the course is 26.01 seconds. Only 4 out of 14 novice dogs qualified on this course, so I was pretty proud of her! Unfortunately, they were out of the new title ribbons, so we have to wait until the July trial to get the pretty, fancy ribbon.

We didn't run our second course for another 5.5 hours, but it didn't seem like such a long wait. One of our classmates has been trialing for several years and she was in the Excellent/Masters classes, so I got to watch her run her two courses. We also spent some time walking around the park and working on our focus during that time. We ate lunch and just relaxed for a little while.

When you Q, you get to pick your own toy even if your mom thinks it's ridiculous.

The novice standard course was the last course of the day to start. We were the 10th dog to run that course. I wasn't feeling particularly confident about this course. For Jumpers, I had a clear plan before we walked the course and I knew it was going to work as long as Rye was focused. For Standard, I studied the map several times and couldn't figure out how I'd handle several spots on the course. Even when I walked the course, I didn't feel as confident. There were several spots where Rye might be far enough ahead of me that she'd choose her own course. Rye had also had a bit of a meltdown when some of the facility employees came by on a cart to empty trashcans while we waited for our turn. She recovered quickly, but every time she saw them again, she'd howl. I worried for nothing, though, and we had another clean run. She did talk back to me when I told her to go to the weaves, but I eventually got her back under control (you can hear our trainer sending me some telepathic messages during that part of the course as she recorded our run for us) and we got our second Q of the day.

Only 2 out of 16 dogs qualified on this course, so this course was extra special for us! I can only imagine how good this little dog is going to be after she grows up a little more. It's hard to believe that it's only been a year since her very first agility class.

Now that we have our NAJ title, we'll be moving up to the Open class for Jumpers for the next trial. There are different rules about off-courses, refusals, and attempts for the weaves in that level and we'll have 12 weave poles, which might also help Rye since we do 12 weaves in class and that might seem more familiar to her.

We have 2 of the 3 legs we need for our Standard title, so we'll still be in the Novice class for that course at the next trial.

This little dog is so much fun to work with. We're really having a good time together and I can't wait to see how we'll develop as our communication gets stronger and Rye gets more experience.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Training for Travel Checklist

The girls and I spend a lot of time in the car. We travel to classes. We travel to trails and to trials. We travel just to travel. But when I sat down to think about what to write about for our theme of Transportation for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, I had trouble thinking of something to write about.

Last month, I briefly mentioned how the it's your choice game helps keep the dogs from jumping out of the car when we travel and keeps them safe when we're entering doors at class, but I didn't really have a full post worth of information to add to that. We have things we need to work on like putting on their car harnesses without me having to chase the dogs around the house trying to get them on, but I haven't had it in me to tackle that challenge yet.

Then I remembered how I wrote about the importance of having a plan early last year. When I travel-with the pets or by myself, I love to have a plan. I don't mind being spontaneous at times, but I like to know what to expect when I travel, especially when I have the dogs in tow. When I know what to expect, I can tailor our training to the environment we'll be in. Here's the list of questions I use to help all of us prepare for safe, happy travels.
  • What's the setting like? I like to get as much information about the setting as possible. If it's a training facility, I want to know where we'll be between turns, where we can take potty breaks, and how much room we'll have between our space and other dogs. If it's a restaurant, I want to know how big the dog-friendly area is and if there's shade. If we're spending the night in a hotel/motel, I want to know if our door will be on the outside wall facing the parking lot or if we'll have a hallway outside our door and then I want to know what kind of noises I can expect the dogs to hear in the middle of the night when I'm sound asleep. If we're renting a cottage, I want to know if the pets are allowed on the furniture so we can brush up on our off command if we need it. On trails, I want to know whether there are good side trails we can take if we need to change direction to avoid another dog, whether off-leash dogs are allowed, how wide the trails are, what kind of wildlife we might encounter. When Barley and I went to our first noseworks trial, I had a lot of anxiety because all I knew was that Barley wouldn't be able to see the other dogs while we were working--but I didn't know what the crate room set up would be like or where we'd park or how many people and dogs would be there. When we went back for the second trial, I was much more relaxed and we had a lot more fun. 

And sometimes you show up to a new place and the setting is perfect.

  • Who will be there? Traveling to class is my favorite because most of the time, I know exactly who will be there, but every six weeks, we start a new session and there's always a chance that we'll have a new classmate. At trials, I have a pretty good idea that there will be a lot of people and a lot of dogs, but not many kids and there are clear rules that people tend to follow to keep their dogs safe. On trails, we'll probably see other people, other dogs, bikers, runners, maybe people with fishing poles, probably a few kids, maybe people on rollerblades or skateboards. Living right by the lake, I know that from May-September we'll see lots of people enjoying the trails, which helps me decide what time of day to walk, whether I should take both dogs along, how many treats I need, whether we'll be able to stop for photoshoots or just plan to walk. 

Sometimes you can see that there's not another soul around and can handle a third dog.

  • What supplies do I need? When I assess the place we'll be, I can figure out what I need to manage the dogs. If we're going to a familiar park, I know that we can get away with some medium value treats. If we're walking in our neighborhood or a new park, we might need some string cheese. If Rye's going to have to be measured by a judge at a trial, then I stay up late making her meatballs even though I gag when I eat meatballs. Some places require crates and covers for the crates to keep the dogs safe and calm. We might need Kongs and peanut butter if the dogs need to entertain themselves for a little while. If we're staying somewhere for a while, we need toys and maybe beds to make the dogs feel more at home. If pets aren't allowed on the furniture, we need blankets and sheets to cover any furniture they might get on when I turn my back.

The weather isn't always consistent in our area, so it never hurts to bring winter gear along.

  • What will I do if something unexpected happens? With two reactive dogs, something unexpected can always be expected. Sometimes Rye sees something and loses her mind and no amount of treats will get her attention again. She can't take her focus off of the object even when we change directions. So, we need to have a plan. Usually, with Rye, that's just to pick her up and remove her from the situation. For example, a couple weeks ago, two kittens were playing in a yard a quarter of a mile away from us, but Rye saw them and wanted to go play with them (because she thinks she is a cat) and she planted her feet and started barking. I couldn't get her attention with treats. I couldn't get her to turn around or to sit or to lay down so I could regain her attention, so I just scooped her up and carried her until we had turned the corner and she couldn't see the cats anymore. Rye doesn't mind being carried, so that solution worked well for us. 

It's so hard to see a cat and not get to say hi.

  • Can my dogs handle that? This is probably the most important question I ask myself when we travel. I don't mind challenging my dogs a bit. Being in new places is hard for Rye. Being near other dogs is hard for Barley. Traveling to new places means that I'll be pushing the dogs a little bit. But when I have all of the other information, I can help them deal with those challenges and that's how they grow and learn and become more comfortable in those situations. Sometimes, the answer is no, though. Barley wouldn't be able to handle being in a crate in a room full of strange dogs if I had to walk away even for just a second, so she doesn't go to agility trials. We've turned around and left breweries before even entering the door because we saw off-leash dogs roaming the tasting room. And I try really hard to avoid having to spend the night in hotels/motels with Rye who wakes up and barks every single time there's a noise outside of our room. 

Between the three of us, we're not missing a thing.

Traveling with pets can be stressful, but when you gather as much information about your destination as possible, some of the stress can be eliminated. When I'm not worrying about the pets as much, we can all have a lot more fun together. 

This month, the theme for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop is Transportation: how do you prepare for traveling with your pet? Be sure to check out our co-hosts Tenacious Little Terrier and Wag 'n Woof Pets and all of the other great blogs linking up with us this month.  

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