Saturday, January 23, 2016

Safety with Dogs and Livestock

One perk if living out in the country is that every second neighbor has some kind of livestock. In my neighborhood alone there are two alpaca farms, one goat farm, and multiple homes with horses (and those are just the places I know about). There is also land owned by an equestrian club. In the summer, it is great fun to see the droves of people and their horses who show up for competitions. Although some dog breed are considered livestock guardians, and some breeds are considered herders, it doesn't mean that any dog is automatically sensible around livestock. The poodles and I often stop to say hello to the large animals we walk past, but I always keep safety my first priority. Here are my top 3 safety tips with dogs around livestock.

1. Keep leashed and outside the limits. I never unleash the poodles around livestock. Even if I know that 99.9% of the time they can be trusted not to run off or chase anything, it is always better safe than sorry. We stay leashed and on the outside of the fence.

2. Be aware of how the larger animal behaves around your dog. Do they appear anxious, threatened, or wary? If so, move on and don't needlessly stress them. A lot of larger animals communicate emotion using their ears (not unlike dogs). Ears pined back is a clear signal for unhappiness.

3. No barking. If I sense barking is imminent, or has already started, we move on. Barking is stressful for everyone in that situation and often a sign of frustration or over-excitement on the part of the dog.

I apply these same tips when we see deer. This is very common, as they often take up residence right outside the living room window. I allow the poodles to watch them, as long as they don't bark or display prey drive. Typically if barking starts the deer moves on anyway, but if not I redirect the poodles' energy with tricks or games and allow the deer to enjoy my grass, and flowers, and shrubs and...well, that's another problem altogether!
Garden guests, please only eat the weeds.
Do you have any tips to share regarding safety with dogs around livestock?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Getting Rid of Smells Without Smells - A Shampoo Review

The day we adopted D'Art, he had also been taken to the groomers. For the first two weeks of his life in our family I was battling hives. I'm allergic to most scents and perfumes. They give me hives. I was, of course, too pleased to have this new poodle in our family to really care about the offending, itchy, red spots. He smelled pretty and his fur was soft, but my skin did not approve.

Teddy and D'Art meet for the first time. Look how nicely groomed D'Art is!
When we adopted Teddy, he smelled pretty bad but had just been neutered and wasn't allowed to bathe for 2 weeks. That didn't stop me, however, from having a bottle of shampoo at the ready for that fateful day! As soon as he was healed, it was off to the tub! I chose earthbath from day-one because it was readily available, completely scent-free and also free of all those other chemically ingredients that shampoos are known to have (parabens, etc.) So, when approached by earthbath to review some of their products I was comfortable doing so because I already use them. I felt my endorsement would be sincere. Full disclosure though, I was given a bottle of earthbath hypoallergenic shampoo and a bottle of earthbath oatmeal and aloe conditioner in exchange for an honest review. And, my mum is coming to visit soon so it is pretty well timed. A clean poodle makes for better reception with guests.

Bath time with the poodles is fairly uneventful. They're very compliant. I say "get in the tub" and what do they do? They get in the tub. Simple as that. Today, Teddy was the test subject. He got the usual soaking, and then a good application of shampoo. I do find that I need to use a few good-sized 'glops' to get enough coverage with this shampoo, but one bottle still lasts me ages, even with two large dogs. The shampoo lives up to its name and contains no scents. Once washed Teddy just smells like a clean dog, not the Sear's perfume counter. It genuinely cleans; I can attest to that because my bathtub is always dirty after washing the poodles. Additionally, he always feels softer after a bath with this shampoo. Most importantly, my skin (and his for that matter) approves.

Next up is the Oatmeal and Aloe conditioner. This is where the true experiment comes in, as I had never tried this product before. I don't normally use conditioner on the poodles. True to its name it is completely fragrance free. A little went a long way and I needed only one 'glop' to cover his torso and legs. It didn't feel overly greasy and it washed away nicely. The resulting poodle smells just as I would expect - clean. His coat does feel even a bit softer than normal. I look forward to seeing if it will make grooming with the clippers even easier. Although I wouldn't normally go out of my way to buy conditioner for the poodles, this one will most certainly be put to good use. If you seek out unscented, hypoallergenic products, then I would recommend considering earthbath.

Time to snuggle up by the fire and dry off.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Go Pet Friendly's Pet Blogger Challenge!

The Pet Blogger Challenge is about building friendships in the pet blogging community! How can I resist that! Here are my answers to the questions....

Q: How long have you been blogging? 
A: I started blogging in May of 2015. My blog is all about my two standard poodles and what it is like to live with them in the countryside. We actually live in the woods, so that factors into a lot of the blog posts (and our name), but I also write about those things that pet guardians encounter every day (health, tricks, outings, etc.)
Q: What is the one thing that you accomplished during 2015, either on your blog or because of it, that made you most proud?
A: Being a part of the blogging community has facilitated a connection with a number of lovely, like-minded people. Although pride might not be the best descriptive word for this, happy and thankful are very fitting.
Q: Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)
A: I am pleased with my three part blog post about introducing dogs to poultry. This can be a challenge, as a lot of dogs would prefer to chase chickens than cohabit with them. Having experienced this myself, I am pleased that I can share what I learned with others. Here's a link to the first of three posts Dogs and Poultry Part 1
Q: A common theme from last year's challenge was that many of us wanted to increase the size of our audiences. Whether or not we intend to monetize our blogs, it seems we’d all like to reach more people. It feels good to know that we’re connecting with others, sharing a laugh or supporting a cause, and it’s motivating to see those numbers grow! What is one thing you’ve done in the past year that has brought more traffic to your blog?
A: This being my first year as a blogger, I can't say I have made many strides to increase traffic. Just writing a weekly post has been enough work for me! I do use Facebook to notify friends of my posts though, and I do believe this helps. Blog hops are fun and definitely increase views!
Q: Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? Why do you think it was so popular? (Please include a link.)
A: My post about positive training with shelter dogs received the most views. This is, in part, due to it being part of a blog hop and in part because the topic of positive training and giving back interests so many animal lovers!
Q: What is one blog that you read religiously – other than your own – and what makes you such a devoted reader? (Please include a link.)
A: I enjoy many blogs, and it is tough to pick just one, but I rarely miss a post from Oh My Dog! It is both informative and entertaining.
Q: What resources do you rely on to enhance your technical, writing, photography, social media, or other skills that improve your blog?
A: I recently acquired a better camera, so my forthcoming posts should have some better photos (but I'm no photographer). Other than that, I take inspiration from others in the pet blogging community but I don't really have a library of resources that I rely on.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you can offer other bloggers?
A: At one point, I put my blog on hold for a month because I was feeling overwhelmed and didn't have time to post multiple times per week (which is what I initially planned). After some time to stand back and think about it, I realized that it was completely do-able, I just had to adjust my goals (and aim for one post per week). So, in summary, don't throw in the towel when things get overwhelming, just readjust your goals.
Q: What is your vision for your blog in 2016? Do you have specific goals?
A: To continue to write about the two poodles who bring me much joy and to widen my online contacts and friend community.
Q: You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there one blogging challenge you’d like help with, or one aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? 
A: I use blogger as my blogging format and like to include videos, but it seems as though the video player used on this interface only works from non-apple products. Any advice on a fix for that so that anyone can watch the videos? Thanks in advance!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Four Ways to Improve Trick Training

It's National Train Your Dog month and it's also time for another positive training blog hop! The timing couldn't be better. With the cooler weather of winter, many of us are grasping at straws for ways to have some fun with our pups while remaining cozy near the fire.

When learning new tricks, the poodles and I have a few recommendations of things to keep in mind to maintain a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

1. Choose your treats wisely. Some tricks don't require anything too fancy, a few kibble will do. However, other, perhaps more challenging, tricks require something a little more high value. For example, recently Teddy learned 'touch' with the aid of clicker and a few kibbles. He picked it up in 5 minutes.The next day we tried 'spin' and he kept wanting to roll-over instead (I've since changed my approach with this to avoid confusion). When he realized he wasn't getting it, he would get bored/frustrated and start to walk off. When I switched to real grilled chicken breast, he was more motivated and focused on the deliciousness in my hand.We're getting there, slowly by surely!

Teddy doing 'touch'.
 2. Stop before you both get frustrated. Sometimes these things take time. If you find yourself starting to feel frustrated, switch gears and do a few tricks that your dog does successfully. Dogs can get 'frustrated' too and lose focus, so don't push it to this point. Walk away and come back later. Leave the training session on a positive note, not a negative one.

3. Try a clicker. If you aren't already familiar with clickers, I encourage you to read-up on them. They help to reinforce the correct behavior, as we are able to click at exactly the correct timing to indicate reward. When used in conjunction with treats, it helps your dog to know they're on the right track. Clickers aren't expensive, but if you want to save a few pennies you can use a jar lid instead.

Try a clicker!
4. Chose tricks that meet your dog's needs. This one is especially relevant if you have a special needs, or senior dog. D'Art, for example, is good with tricks that require sitting, standing or lying down. I wouldn't ask him to turn off a light switch (what we call "hit the light"), because he wouldn't be able to stand on his hind legs comfortably (he is 11 after all!) Teddy, on the other hand, is full of bouncy energy and will happily jump through hoops or stand on his hind legs.

D'Art doing 'shake'.
Have fun trying a few new tricks with your dog! You'll be amazed at how satisfied you both feel, even after a brief 5 minute training session.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Non-Verbal Communication

The poodles have a lot of different sounding barks, whines and other verbal noises, but they also have a lot of ways to communicate with me non-verbally. Cross-species communication is fascinating, but it takes work. I can't just listen, to know what they want to say, I also have to look.

Here are a few ways that the poodles communicate with me, non-verbally. I'm sure there are more, and perhaps even some that I don't consciously recognize.

  • A tap on my arm or leg with his paw means, "Hello, I am here and I want some attention!"
  • Long, deep stare into my eyes means, "I love you, you are my world." His stares are so 'deep' I sometimes feel like he knows me better than I do!
  • Mouth silently opening and closing (like a cow chewing cud) means "I am hungry and what you are eating looks good!"
  • Small, happy jumps means "What you just suggested sounds great, let's do it!" (Normal response for the suggestion of a walk or car ride.)
  • Fast and 'fluttering' tail wags means "Oh look, it's you and I'm so happy to see you!"
  • Licking. D'Art licks to show he loves me, especially when he is cuddly and relaxed.
  • Kisses (licks on the face). D'Art will kiss when he is really excited to see me. Usually after I've been away for a few days.
Remembering warm weather!
  • Nudges his head under my arm means "Hello, I am here and I want some attention!"
  • Nudges his nose against the back of my legs as I walk down the hall (as if to propel me faster) "Let's go get dinner, I really want dinner!"
  • Swift nudges with his nose, anywhere he can reach "Let's play!"
  • Brief, needy looks into my eyes means, "I love you and am just checking you are still here and know that I am here too."
  • Offering his paw to me so we can 'hold paws'. He does this to connect in a quiet and loving way.
  • Large, happy jumps means "What you just suggested sounds great, let's do it!"
  • Slower, pendulum-like tail wags means "I'm glad you're here with me; I'm happy."
  • A silent and serious sit, directly in front of me. "Can I...." (e.g. Can I get up on the couch and snuggle with you? Can I have a bit of what you are eating?...etc.) 
  • Licking. Teddy licks to show he cares about me and is concerned. He tends to do it in a 'nurse-like' way when I am sick, melancholy or anxious.
  • Nose kisses. If Teddy presses his nose against my lips or cheeks, this is his form of a kiss. He rarely licks to kiss, and just like D'Art he 'kisses' when he is really excited to see me.
Dreaming of the floral seasons!
What about your dog?  How does he/she communicate to you non-verbally?