Friday, April 29, 2016

Ticked Off

Ticks. Something about that word makes my hair stand on end. I'm not bothered by insects in general, but ticks really get my goat. They bite, feed on you and carry disease. Not much to love there! Having recently found a tick crawling up my hand as I enjoyed a lazy evening in the hammock, I'm reminded that tick season is upon us again. They are especially prevalent in woodsy areas and pastures with long grass. In part because that's where their livelihoods exist (deer, rabbits, mice..) and in part because they desiccate easily and need to be somewhere moist to survive. Not all ticks carry disease, but the ones that do, carry yucky things like Lyme disease

The poodles live to explore the woods and run through the grass. I can't stop them from doing that, nor would I want to. Instead, I have to protect them (and myself) from becoming the host for a pesky tick, or two. Most people take precautions of some kind to prevent fleas, ticks, heart worm etc. and there are a lot of options out there. I'm not going down that controversial path at the moment. Instead, this post is intend to show you how to check your dog for ticks. Even if you use a repellent of some kind, it is still good practice to do a physical check as well.

After a fun day playing outside, hiking in the woods, or walking through the park it is important to check your dog for ticks (during the warmer months between spring and autumn). The act of checking the poodles just seems like snuggle time. Any excuse to love-up my pups is always good! Ticks are most easily felt with your hands as small, hard bumps. You can also use a comb to help part your dog's hair if needed. Go gently, you don't want to break the tick off or squish it. More on how to remove a tick in a moment.

  1. Start from one end or the other. I start with the head. Feel all over the scalp and around the ears. Once I found a tick under Teddy's collar, so check those hidden areas too.
  2. Next, move to 'armpits'. Feel where each leg meets the body. Ticks like areas with thin, soft skin.
  3. Move across the torso and back to the tail and groin region. Again, there's that thin soft skin!
  4. Lastly, check paws, including between toes. I recently read an article about a man who walked his dog one summer evening in Eastern Washington and found 20 ticks just between his pup's toes!

When you find a tick, it is likely that it will have bitten your pup and its head will be inside the skin. The body may be swollen and fat with blood, or it may not, depending on how long it has been there. Some ticks are very small, like a grain of sand, others are larger. Don't dismiss it as nothing just because it is small! Here are some images to show you the variety in sizes.

Ticks can be tiny, like this one I found crawling on my hand.
To remove a tick, you'll need fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up. Try not to twist or break the tick. You don't want to leave any parts behind. If you do, it can lead to infection. If needed, consult your vet. It is a good idea to save the tick for a few weeks (kill it first with some rubbing alcohol). That way, if you or your pup get sick you can send the tick out for testing to see if it carried any disease.

If you're interested about the risk in your state, Web MD has a tick map you can refer to. Or, if you plan to travel this summer, check the risk at your destination beforehand. Don't forget to check your body as well!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

Finding a Good Dog Sitter - An Epic Quest

Every year for the last 4 years I have day dreamed about finding that perfect dog sitter. One I can trust, whom my dogs adore and who treats animals with the same respect that I do. Someone who gets that my poodles aren't 'just dogs', but rather family. A few weeks ago I had occasion where finding this dream dog sitter morphed from dream world into reality. Here are a few things I learned as I scoped out potential pet sitting businesses for one that met my, I'll admit, rather high standards.

  1. Even if just mentally, make a list of what is important to you. Is it that the dog sitter lives close by, or exercises your dog, or practices positive training techniques? What's important to you?
  2. Don't give up! Explore recommendations from friends, as well as browsing the web. I spent quite a while reviewing the near-by pet sitting businesses on the web. The one I eventually went with didn't come up in the first couple of Google pages, but I kept digging!
  3. Expect an opportunity for a meet and greet before the pet sitter is needed. That way you can observe how he/she acts around your dogs and whether both parties are comfortable with each other. If this is in-home pet sitting, then meet and greet at home.
  4. Talk about dogs. Does this person speak about pups in a way that reflects your own priorities? 
  5. Observe what questions they ask you. If you are entrusting your pups with someone while you are away, they should ask questions regarding your pets health, habits, local and emergency vet, dietary needs, training goals, etc. If they don't prompt you for this information, consider whether they are really equipped to deal with the things that may arise while you are away.

Hopefully you already have someone you trust to care for your pups in the case where you are away. If not, plan ahead! You never know when you may need to call on that someone! I can now go away knowing that my boys are being cared for in the best way possible by someone that I trust. What a relief!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Homemade Treat Bag

If you're like me, then you are always looking for ways to reuse something. Call it what you will: up-cycling, recycling, reusing, trash-to-treasure; ultimately reusing something is one of the best things you can do for the earth. We tend to go through jeans fairly quickly in this family. Must be all the time we spend outside playing in the garden and forest, but jeans wear out, so much so that donating them back to the thrift store is not an option. However, just because there is a large, irreparable hole doesn't mean they are useless. Denim is a pretty handy fabric to have around. Here's a quick and easy way to reuse your jean pockets to make a training treat bag.

1.Cut out both of the back pockets off an old pair of jeans. Try to cut right along the stitch line so you don't have any running fabric threads to deal with.

2. With either a sewing machine, or by hand, sew the two pockets together, leaving the top open.


3. Next, find an old belt, some fabric webbing or even use another scrap of the denim to create a loop. Sew this loop onto the back of the treat bag (whichever side of the pocket you want to call the back).
4. Next, select a way to attach this loop to your person. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Slide the treat bag over your belt.
  • Use a carabiner to hook onto your pant's belt-loop.
  • Use webbing and a plastic buckle to snap on and off of your belt or belt-loop. (I have some spare webbing and buckles handy, so that is the option I selected.)

I recommend lining your treat bag with a zip-top sandwich bag. That way the treat bag doesn't need washing as often and you can close the treats up when they aren't needed.

Pair this with a clicker or a few good positive words and you're ready to go!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Relaxing

The art of relaxation is mastered by the poodle. 
I am but a novice with a lot to learn!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Positive Training Blog Hop - Hands-on Emergency First Aid

I threw the ball the same way as I always did. The bouncy, light green orb flew through the air and hopped to the edge of the woods. On this occasion the ball was slightly faster than Teddy could manage, but he eagerly trailed close behind and shortly thereafter managed its capture in and among the ferns. He trotted back to me looking ridiculously happy, although limping slightly. Teddy is not a fussy dog, but I knew better than to throw that ball again before giving him a once-over. Low and behold there was his carpal pad, sliced clean open. It wasn't bleeding too profusely, but the shiny glistening of the usually well-hidden tissue indicated to me that this was no 'kiss it better' boo-boo. He must have cut himself open on a stick or branch that protruded at just the right angle to slice him as he threw himself after the ball.

I have an amazing vet, who was happy to see me right away, but my vet is a 20 minutes drive away and when needed, the emergency vet is an hour away. On account of this, we have a fairly robust doggie first-aid kit to help us get by. I wrapped his pad in a non-stick gauze and then an adhesive wrap bandage on top of that and off we went to the vet.

After a brief examination the vet determined that four carefully placed staples would do the trick. It was at this point that I was very glad that Teddy is so sweet and tolerant in these situations. He did his "show me your belly" trick, laying on his back with all four paws in the air and then I steadied him as our vet extraordinaire quickly stapled the wound closed. It broke my heart when my otherwise jovial dog let out a little sad whimper as a staple went in, but he was a trooper and knew we were taking care of him.

We don't think about it much until the time comes, but training our pups to be relaxed and tolerant of strangers touching their paws or other sensitive spots is pretty vital to addressing an emergency situation with ease. I had thrown that same ball in that same manner for years, but this one time Teddy injured himself. As a result, his ability to be touched and handled while in pain was tested and he passed with flying colors! I will often 'hold paws' with the poodles during a relaxing time. The more opportunity we take to make our pups feel comfortable with us, and others, touching them, the better they will tolerate that same stimulation in an emergency. D'Art doesn't particularly like holding paws, but we do it anyway during a relaxing time (like while I rub his belly) so that he becomes more comfortable with the sensation. It makes trimming nails easier too!

Teddy sleeps off his injury. He got a cute bandage with tractors on it!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Silly Things We Say

I talk to the poodles all the time. They are amazing listeners and would easily have a future career in counseling if they want to pursue that path. Joking aside, even if they don't understand every word, they get the gist of my mood from my tone of voice and body language (although, let's be honest they're pretty smart and probably understand more than I give them credit for). I'll be the first to admit, however, that I say silly sounding things, that perhaps no human would understand. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, right?! Don't we all share a secret language of sorts with our pets?

For example, "zupe, zupe" means "get out of the way". "A-bah" means "all done" or "there is no more". This one was derived from the fact that my husband, all those years ago in babyhood, used to say "a-bah" to indicate he was "all done" and I thought it was cute so it's now in the poodle vocabulary.

We also engage in very logical sounding conversations, whereby I ask Teddy to give something to my husband, or suggest D'Art goes and picks up a very specific toy (they know their toys by name). If I ask Teddy if he likes pork he responds very enthusiastically!

On the flip side, the poodles also understand negative words and emotions. D'Art knows that a certain word that starts with "F" and ends with "uck" means that his person is in a bad mood or distressed. It makes him very concerned and extra attentive. Teddy knows that tears mean sadness and extra licks are probably in order. Luckily, neither of these scenarios happen all too often. Who could be unhappy with these two around?!

On a lighter note, I also have a bunch of nicknames for the poodles, including (although I am sure this isn't a comprehensive list):
  • Sweets
  • Handsome Boy
  • Gas Powered Poodle (that's what I call D'Art when he farts as he walks up the stairs)
  • Teddy Bear
  • D'Arty Bear
  • D'Artagnan (this is his actual name, but gets used very rarely, mostly when he's in trouble)
  • Buddy
  • Mister
  • Bunny Legs (Teddy)
I'm sure any non-dog lover would overhear me and think I've lost my marbles, but I don't mind one bit! If I do lose my marbles, I'll just say "zupe, zupe" and carry on my way and at least the poodles will know what I mean!

What about you? What special words do you share with your dogs?