Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year Wishes!

As this year draws to a close and we all look to 2016 for change, renewal and new adventures, the Forest Poodles and I want to wish you all the very best! Thank you for being a part of our 2015!

May we all be the people our dogs think we are in 2016!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Thrifty Fun - Dogs and Bowls

It is a necessity to get creative with ways to stimulate and exhaust our pups during winter. What with dark evenings and cold, wet days we get less outdoor playtime than usual. Although the poodles do have a couple of puzzle ball toys that they enjoy playing with, it is fun to mix it up now and then. Here's a thrifty way to engage your dog in fun, for pretty much just the cost of a treat! If your dog isn't food motivated, consider replacing the treat with their favorite toy.

What you'll need
  • At least one dog (I prefer two).
  • A bowl. Chose the size of bowl based on the size of your dog. I use 4 cup Pyrex bowls for the poodles.
  • A treat (or two).

Let the dog see the treat as you place in in the bowl. Turn the bowl upside down and set it on the floor. Say the magic word, and watch the fun unfold! It is fun to see the various ways they attempt to get the treat out, some being more successful than others. The poodles have figured out that they are most successful when they can brace the bowl against something - such as a wall, chair leg, or one of their paws. Teddy tends to flip the bowl completely over, while D'Art is good at getting the treat out while leaving the bowl upside down. If it gets too easy, increase the size or weight of the bowl. On average I would say it takes the poodles anywhere between 1-5 minutes to get their treat. We often play this game a couple of times in one evening.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Curious Coyote

Despite being a fully-grown adult, I can have the imagination of a 6 year old. It takes mere whiffs of suggestion to get my mind going

When I read Keep The Tail Wagging's excellent post about a coyote run-in with one of her pups and how to prevent it, I had my moment of concern. We see coyote scat on the driveway all the time. They use our driveway as a corridor to travel between the densely wooded land in which we live, into the rural farming areas around us. I saw a young coyote, such a sweet-looking small thing, on our driveway once. Aside from moments of wild imagination, I tend to keep my concerns in check. Until this week. Unprompted, I looked up from my desk and out my office window. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a coyote, sitting right outside my my garden. Just sitting there, like the poodles do when the sun is shining and they want to soak it all up. The difference was, it was raining, and this was no poodle. It was a fully-grown coyote. I reached for my cell phone, but by the time I fumbled with the camera, he had got up and started calming walking away.

Bad photo, but proof of the coyote walking away!
  Well, couple this incident with my vast knowledge of rabies (knowledge gathered primarily from public radio), my imagination has run a little wild this week. I've been very wary of letting the poodles out into the yard unattended.

Of course, since then I haven't seen or heard any coyotes. It was probably a one-off, curious coyote. Like any good 21st century citizen, I've also Googled the whole thing and it sounds very unlikely that a coyote would approach the sounds of an occupied home, never mind challenge a large dog. When I saw the coyote I was working quietly and the dogs were asleep, so as far as the coyote was concerned there were no discernible people sounds to deter it. There are some precautions that can be taken though, to discourage their visiting.
  • Keep garbage well stored - check!
  • Clean up rotting fruit and veg from your garden - check!
  • Don't leave animal feed out - check!
Were I to encounter a coyote that didn't instantly run away, I don't want the poodles to chase it nor should I turn around and run away. I need to make myself large and intimidating. This can be achieved by unzipping my jacket and holding it open above my head while shouting something scary like "go away"! Making startling sounds, like banging or clapping, can help too. Hikers sometimes carry noisemakers to scare coyotes away, similar in concept to the bear bell.

Where the wild things are!
When living in the woods, sometimes wild animals venture closer than we want or expect but they quickly realize we're here and keep their distance. In fact, being so close to the wild is one thing I love about living here. I'll try to be realistic, wise, and careful, while keeping my imagination stored away for another time.

Poodles at Play

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Sound Effects!

What sound effect do you think of when you see this photo? 
Feel free to share in the comments!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Top 3 Reasons Why the Poodles Love the Forest

These poodles of mine are anything but foofy! They love to get dirty and explore the woods just like any other country-loving dog out there.

Here are the top 3 reasons why the poodles love the forest:

#3. Space! We have lots of space to run and play. This is especially good when Teddy gets 'full of beans' and needs to race around like a maniac! The poodles often run through the trees and dash in and out of the yard, chasing each other.

Hey poodles, wait for me!
 #2. Obstacles! The forest, unlike an open field, is full of obstacles. It is Mother Nature's agility course. Fallen trees to traverse, boulders to dodge, bunny holes to jump over and slopes to negotiate. The forest is an ever-changing playground.

No slope too steep for D'Art!
 #1. Smells! This ones tops the list for sure. Poodles are originally hunting dogs. They love to put their nose to the ground and sniff out all the animals, both present and past. They are the first to know when a coyote has passed by, or where that bunny went as he hopped off into the trees. There is always something new to learn, by smell, when we go outside. Teddy has, in the past, even helped me locate a remains of one of my chickens that was taken by a predator. Luckily the need for his detective skills doesn't arise often, but I can always rely on the poodles to know what's going on in the woods before I do - just by smelling it!

I think it went this way....
Of course, the flip side to all this fun and frivolity in the woods is that some of it comes back into the house with the poodles. The biggest offender is sticks, usually stuck on their ears. We also get leaves, pine needles, brambles, pine cones, slugs, beetles, centipedes and, of course, mud! But that's a small price to pay for so much happiness!

Where does your dog like to explore and play?

Are you done with the photos yet?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Positive Training - Volunteering with Shelter Dogs

Positive training and patient interactions are an everyday part of life here in the home of the Forest Poodles. We almost take it for granted. However, in my experience, the ones who need it the most are dogs in shelters. Every dog there has one thing in common - they're waiting. They are waiting to leave and this comes with all sorts of additional stresses. Some take a permanent post by the door so that they can enthusiastically greet every human who walks by. Some sit in their rooms and cry, others just stare blankly ahead.


Taking the time to interact positively with shelter dogs is akin to giving a starving person a meal. They need it to help them get through the waiting process. Sure, people come and go all day - cleaning, feeding, etc. But in the rush of life, these comings and goings don't always equal valued attention.  

I'm not necessarily talking about trick training either. Some shelter dogs are terrified to walk across the parking lot, let alone sit nicely for a treat. So you work on walking a few paces, together.

Some need general maintenance, but simply haven't had it up to now. Take Pip, for example. He desperately needed a bath, but was afraid of the tub. With patience, gentle words and positive reinforcement, he pulled through enough to stand nicely in the tub while I soaped him up. Then, the reward was a snuggle.

Some dogs love the attention and are raring to go. They don't display a debilitating fear of their surroundings. These are the ones who need the challenge. Daisy and I practiced our 'sit' command during a walk. It worked.

But only for a moment.

In that moment she was interested and happy and lapped up the attention and praise. It helps to always have treats in my pocket too.

Once upon a time the poodles were waiting for a home, just like Pip and Daisy. Now they don't have to wait anymore. They know where they belong. Wouldn't it be nice if every dog could know where they belong? Until that day, I'm lucky enough to spend some time with others who desperately need a break from the waiting. They need to feel loved, even if only for a moment.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Paw Friendly Christmas Craft - Carpet Powder

Alright, I'm just going to say it. I hate carpet. Too bad my house is lined with the stuff. Believe you me, it's on the to-do list to put in wood floors, but meanwhile the carpet and I do daily battle. We battle each other, the weather, the muddy poodle paws, the wet boots, you know the deal. 

While cooking dinner the other night, I glanced over at an empty parmesan bottle and a light went off in my head (figuratively speaking). The lowly parmesan bottle makes the perfect carpet powder container, and thus a craft was born!

I enjoy crafts. I also enjoy finding ways to save money while keeping my house as chemical-free and 'green' as possible. Baking soda is a stand-by for me. It really does help with bad odors. It's the main ingredient in commercial carpet powders. Here's my low-cost, easy carpet powder recipe/craft. You could even make this a gift for a pet loving friend who may own a house infested with carpet, or even just a rug. After all, 'tis the season of giving and what true pet lover doesn't appreciate a gift that imparts pleasant smells and helps with messes?!


Step 1: Assemble the goods! You will need:
  1. A clean, empty parmesan bottle. A large spice bottle would probably work too.
  2. Baking soda, just buy the big box - trust me, it's worth it.
  3. Your favorite essential oils.
  4. Glue, markers, ribbon and paper.
Step 2: Fill your bottle half-way with baking soda. At this point, stop and put in your essential oils. If you are a fan of unscented products, leave this step out. Since it's Christmas, and I love the smell of apple cinnamon, I am using cloves and cinnamon. I put 6 drops of each. I also recommend a citrus like grapefruit oil, or a floral like rose or lavender. Be sure to buy a good quality oil. Most natural food stores carry a good selection.

Step 3: Fill the remainder of the bottle with baking soda. Leave about 1.5 inches of head space. Add another dose of essential oils and replace the lid. Time to shake it up! The oil will mix around, mingling its aroma with the soda.

Step 4: Pretty up the bottle. You can do as much or as little as you want. I went middle of the road with some basic labeling and a small piece of ribbon. Voila! Your carpet powder is ready for use.

If you've never used carpet powder before, I recommend shaking it over the carpet of your choosing and then leaving it for a few hours, at minimum. Up to a day is OK too. Thereafter, just vacuum it up! It won't remove stains from your carpet, but it will make it smell fresher. It's the only reason the carpet and I are still on speaking terms (albeit tense ones).

D'Art approves of our Christmas carpet powder and I hope you do too!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A New Leash on Walks

Prior to spending all of the Thanksgiving weekend sick with the flu, Teddy and I got a chance to try out his new leash a couple of times. I first encountered the ROK Straps leash when volunteering at a local shelter. I was immediately drawn to how beefy it is! I liked the fact that it has some elasticity and a nice, soft, but still strong, handle. I promptly ordered one for myself from Amazon. Of the two poodles, Teddy is the one who struggles with walking at my pace. He wants to RUN! So we continue to work on his heeling skills, and granted he has improved, but he still loves it when I start to jog. Because of this, I thought he would be the perfect candidate for this strong and stretchy leash.

And I was right. He may not have noticed it was different, but I sure did. At about a foot shorter than his previous 6' leash, I like the fact that I don't have to wad up all the extra leash around my hand. Its extra weight really gives me confidence in its durability. Although the idea behind heeling is to not pull on the leash, when he does pull, the elasticity makes it less of a jolt on me (which when walking a combined weight of 140lbs of dog, with Teddy and D'Art together, is a good thing.)

Perhaps it was the new leash, perhaps it was the one-on-one time we had together, or perhaps it was practicing clicker training (shout-out to Oh My Dog! blog for this awesome clicker!), but he heeled very nicely for most of the walk. I'm hoping in a day or two walking will be back on the post-flu agenda and we can get out and about with our new leash again.