Monday, June 29, 2015

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Both Teddy and D'Art were adopted as adult dogs. Teddy was 4 and D'Art was 8. They came from different places, and were adopted about 3/4 year apart. That said, they already had one thing in common...neither had any toys and neither knew what to do with most toys presented to them. Teddy has always loved balls, so I know he had some exposure to them prior to joining the family but he didn't know how to fetch (he knows now). D'Art came to us with some belongings, but none of which were toys. He did have a pillow, however, that he loved. D'Art's idea of fun was grabbing a mouth full of grass and running away with it in an attempt to entice someone to chase him.

Well, I'm happy to say that both Poodles now have a basket full of toys (to share) and they know what to do with them! But it took some teaching...

Neither knew anything about tug-of-war, but now it is one of D'Art's favorite games. Sometimes the two will even play tug-of-war together. Teddy LOVES his planet dog ball. It stands up to his need to chew and it bounces off the ground when thrown. Both Poodles have a variety of stuffies that they like, but each has unique tastes. D'Art is still drawn to larger, fluffy toys (that resemble pillows) so any time I see pillow pets in the thrift store without hard eyes I nab them for him. He knows each by name and makes them last a very long time. "Bee" and "Gorilla" are amongst his favorites.

Teddy, on the other hand, likes to de-stuff things and his preferred stuffies are small and soft. He loves "Chickie" and "Bun-buns" the best. Both Poodles know the names of their stuffies. If you ask them to get one by name, they (almost) always will! Once, I asked Teddy to go find Bun-buns and he ignored me to chew on a nyla bone, so D'Art when and got it out and left it in front of Teddy!

Not only are toys cute, but I believe they are essential to stimulating, as Poirot would say, "the little grey cells". Toys keep dogs minds active, engaged and interested.

What is your dog's favorite toy?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Country Road Take Me Home

Perhaps you are planning a few jaunts out to the countryside or mountainous regions this summer. Both provide great opportunities to explore new walks! Here are a few tips about walking with dogs in the country that I learned when I moved here 3 years ago.

You know the song that goes "this land is my land, this land is your land..." well, that's not really true in a lot of rural areas. We have to walk almost a mile on gravel until we get to a chip-sealed road. 

 It is over a mile after that until we see anything paved. In my community, the gravel parts are private roads. The county doesn't maintain them and this is because they are technically just easements through someone's property. 

I'm no lawyer, but an easement is usually there for property owners and their guests to have legal ingress and egress to their land. What does this mean for you? Well, it means that when you're strolling down a country lane there is a chance you are walking on a private road that is actually just someone's property. Unlike a public road, maintained by the county or city, it is probably maintained by the property owners and they probably consider it 'their road'. You may see signs along the road that indicate private property, or you may not. 

Shortly after moving here, I made the mistake of stopping to pick blackberries along the side of a private road and was quickly informed by the owner of that property that I was stealing her berries! Not a great way to meet the neighbors! I'm not trying to discourage you, but it is important to know for the following reasons:
  1. Just because you are out in the country does not mean you can get away with leaving dog poop - no matter how tall the grass is! This may be someone's personal property and just like people in the city or suburbs, most people don't like encountering a stranger's dog poop on their property.
  2. Keep your dog leashed and on the road. Again, this ties back to the fact that a lot of these roads can be private and therefore it could be awkward and potentially even dangerous to let your dog wander. Stay on the road and all should be well.
  3. Another reason to keep your precious pup leashed is that it is not uncommon for dogs to be left to freely wander the countryside all day long. The other day, I encountered 4 off-leash dogs just wandering the gravel roads (together). Although you can't prevent stray dogs from approaching you, if you keep your dog leashed you can change course more quickly and prevent your dog from approaching the furry friends (some of whom aren't friendly) that seem to have free reign.
There are a lot of great reasons to get out and explore the back roads of the countryside. The scenery is great, you encounter different flora and fauna, you see all sorts of neat wild animals and you can enjoy the peace of relatively quiet roads. I hope you get out and enjoy some summer adventures! Do you have any tips for walking with your dog in the country? If so, please share!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Dogs and Poultry Part 3 - Friends with Benefits

Part 1 of this series discussed introducing your dog to your chickens; perhaps they even became friends! Part 2 addressed keeping everyone healthy. That just leaves the final part of this series - the benefits of keeping poultry when you have dogs!

Benefit #1 - Food! I used to keep birds for meat, and just yesterday the Poodles enjoyed a semi-frozen turkey neck treat from a previous turkey harvest. Since downsizing my flock I now just keep chickens for their eggs (and sweet personalities). I eat their eggs almost daily, and I sell some when I can, but don't worry the Poodles don't get left out! They get the occasional cooked egg with breakfast and they LOVE it! I don't have to worry about them consuming something filled with growth hormones and other chemicals because I know what my birds eat and I know they produce wholesome, healthy eggs.

Benefit #2 - Natural gardening. Poultry poop, when composted, makes great fertilizer. This negates the need for buying chemical fertilizes which can harm our beloved canine friends. Having chickens, turkeys, etc. gives you a free and natural source for dog-safe garden compost/fertilizer. What's more, chickens make amazing weed and pest eaters! If you leave them for too long in one spot they will eat everything that is green and leave nothing but a barren wasteland. However, if you move them around your garden they can eat pests and weeds, lessening your need for chemical treatments that once again are bad for our furry friends. A greener garden is a safer environment for our dogs to romp and play in!

Those are the top two benefits that I think directly affect my dogs. Of course, from a human point of view, I also enjoy my chickens for their personalities and beauty. Each one has a name and each will eat right out of my hand. (Just in case you are wondering, those that I raised for meat did not have names.) Poultry is a fun addition to a home and I hope that if you venture into this world that you find yourself reaping the rewards. Or perhaps you already have poultry, in which case I would love to hear your thoughts on the benefits of keeping poultry when you have dogs!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dogs and Poultry Part 2 - Biosecurity!

Biosecurity is the protection of your farm animals from infection. With the current concerns about bird flu (which can spread from some wild birds to domesticated poultry), amongst other things, this is an important concept to keep in mind when keeping poultry and dogs. We may not think about this, but part of biosecurity is being conscious of not spreading disease via your footwear.  Some flocks develop immunity to some things, but they still carry the infection and thus can spread it to other birds. If your dogs visits somewhere with poultry or water fowl and then returns home to romp and play on the same ground shared with your own flock, you take the risk of spreading disease to your flock.

Just as with yourself, keep your dogs paws clean and this will greatly decrease your chances of spreading disease! I recommend using something that doesn't dry out the skin of your dog's paws. Obviously harsh chemicals are a no-no, as is anything the dog can't safely lick off. Soap and water would probably do if you are thorough.

Another part of biosecurity between dogs and chickens is keeping your dog healthy! There are a handful of diseases that spread between livestock, poultry and dogs. A lot of times these diseases spread via faecal matter. I recently read someone describing the fact that their dogs thinks of their chickens as a waddling candy dispenser! This is not uncommon! Dogs are known for finding a certain joy from eating chicken poop, but if possible it is good practice to discourage it. They can get sick from a variety of viral, bacterial and fungal sources found in poultry droppings. For example if you birds carry Cryptococcal disease, you dogs can suffer from lung issues, shortness of breath, fever, etc. Other diseases transferable between poultry and dogs cause digestion issues such as diarrhoea and weight loss. Basically, just say no to bird poop treats!

The final part of this series, next Friday, will examine the how keeping poultry benefits your dog.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Staying Cool - Puddle Dog Style

The name poodle originated from the German word pudel, or puddle in English. Poodles were originally bred as water dogs and were often used for hunting water fowl. Although society associates their stereotypical haircuts with a certain foofy 'je ne sais quoi', the style actually originated from much more practical origins. Poodles hair was cut short in some areas, allowing the them to easily swim and dry off, while leaving the hair longer on parts of their bodies that needed extra protection from the cold (such as head, chest and kidneys). It wasn't until later that poodles became associated with posh french ladies who decided it should be a status symbol to own one. At the core of their genetics poodles, or puddle dogs, are water dogs - born and bred for hunting and swimming.

As such, Teddy and D'Art enjoy a lot of water based activities including boating on the lake and splashing around at the beach. One of their favorite ways to cool off on a hot day is a romp in the sprinkler! The fun just can't be beat! With the hot weather we've been having already this year we've made use of sprinkler play sessions many times over and I don't expect that to let up anytime soon! I even get in on the action sometimes, if it is really warm out.

How do your pups keep cool on a hot summer's day?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Dogs and Poultry Part 1 - Dog Meets Chicken

I've kept chickens for 4 years and, up until recently, also kept turkeys. These days I have a small flock of 8 chickens. The following shares my experiences with introducing your dog to poultry. If you are raising poultry from eggs or chicks and haven't yet established how trustworthy your dog is around young poultry, I recommend keeping the brooder in a room that your dog does not have access to. Young poultry smell amazing, are small, fluffy and make peeping/squeaking sounds that closely resemble a lot of dog toys. For the first time anyway, I recommend making the introduction once the birds are big enough to be outside in the coop.


Part 1 - Dog Meets Chicken

Introducing your dog to your chickens (or other poultry) can be a peaceful, or nail-biting event. I've had one of each. When Teddy joined the family, I'd already kept chickens for a year. I completely lucked out - he had no interest in them whatsoever! As a result, the chickens wandered freely around the property in tandem with Teddy. As far as he was concerned they were boring and wanted nothing to do with them. 

Then D'Art joined the family and it was the first time I'd ever seen a dog 'point' in real life (not just in a photo of a British country living magazine). By this time, the birds had a dedicated poultry yard (I got fed up of them pooping on the deck), so no intermingling occurred. Nevertheless D'Art wanted to spend his waking hours pointing through the fence, drool dripping down his jowls. It was very clear what would happen if the two were to cross paths!

This leads me to the first suggestion - introduce your dog to poultry with the dog on a leash and the poultry behind a secure fence. Do this a few times, even if the dog shows no interest on the first go. Sometimes the dog shows no interest but as soon as a chicken runs/squawks/flies, the dog changes its tune. Practice introducing with leash and fence a few times before letting the dog outside unobserved around the poultry. If, like D'Art, your dog displays prey drive, then you'll have a bit more work to do.
Because D'Art displayed prey drive, he and I 'introduced' him to the poultry many, many times while he was on leash. I wouldn't let him outside unobserved, because he would just stand at the fence and undo any positive training we had worked on prior. 

The training basically consisted of two goals:
#1. Get the dog to refocus his energy on the human, rather than the poultry.
#2. Teach the dog that the poultry are a resource that belongs to the human, not the dog.

Addressing goal#1 consisted of rewarding D'Art for giving me his attention, even when we were standing right beside a delicious looking chicken. Every time he would look at me, or complete a command I asked of him, he was rewarded. Over time, I got all his attention and the chickens got none. Eventually, I let the poultry out of their yard, keeping D'Art on leash and allowing him in closer proximity while continuing the training exercises. The last step, once I was really confident that he'd behave himself, was to let everyone intermingle unleashed/unfenced (but not unobserved).

Meanwhile....addressing goal #2 consisted of me demonstrating that the chickens were my resource. I would hold a chicken and hand feed her in front of D'Art. If he advanced towards her, I would use a verbal command to indicate that the chicken was mine and not his, similar to how you would train a dog not to help himself to your breakfast. In tandem with this I demonstrated that I cared for the chicken, the chicken was a "good girl" and seemingly part of the family.

We worked religiously on this for a few months and I'm happy to say he can now be trusted to leave them alone, even when they escape their yard and I'm not outside to watch over everyone.

Of course, I feel obligated to add that if your dog never really gets over his/her prey drive and cannot be completely trusted around poultry then don't take any chances. Having your chicken killed by your dog is an upsetting experience on multiple levels and should be prevented if at all possible. If this is the case, then I recommend keeping your birds well away from the dog's territory so he/she doesn't spend all day stalking them through the fence.

How about you? Do you have any tips for introducing dogs to poultry?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Happy Poodle Party Day!

Today is a day of celebration - Poodle Party Day! It marks the start of Teddy's 7th year and D'Art's 11th. Over the last few years these two dogs have brought me such immense joy; part of the celebration is reflecting on how special they are and how thankful I am to have them in my life. 

But enough of the sappy stuff and on with the fun stuff - a birthday edition of the game 'Hide and Go Treat!'

Inside each brown bag hid one of their favorite treats - a pig's ear! Both boys sat ever so sweetly wearing their party hats, patiently waiting for a chance to get their paws on the contents of the bags in front of them. This year, I decided to mix it up a bit by hiding the bags outside in the garden. They sat very nicely, hats hanging on by a thread, while I hid the bags. Once the cue was given they were off and so were the hats! 

D'Art found his bag very quickly - he's known for his exceptionally good sniffer! Teddy took a bit longer but he found it eventually and promptly ripped into the bag.

D'Art took his pig's ear off to the edge of the chicken yard and the chickens stood watching him with interest through the fence. Teddy sat in the lawn and enjoyed every morsel, being sure to rip the bag into tiny shreds just to ensure all the goodness was found and ingested (he didn't eat any of the paper bag though).

The hats didn't stay on for any of this fun, but instead ended up slightly squished on the lawn. After which, the humans took over and wore them for a while. After all, it was a party!

Happy Birthday Teddy and D'Art; thank you for brightening my life on a daily basis!

Next post...check back Friday for the first part of a multi-part series on keeping poultry and dogs in harmony.