Apr 102015





Finding training treats for our puppies and dogs is sometimes difficult.  We try to avoid items produced off shore, we try to avoid treats with sugar and added “stuff” and we look for low calorie for those of our dogs that have a tendency to be chubby.  And..cost is a factor as well. That just doesn’t leave very many to select from.

An easy and very inexpensive alternative to commercial training treats is dehydrated beef liver.  It is extremely inexpensive at the discount grocery store not far from me and comes packaged frozen and neatly sliced so I don’t even have to touch it.  I thaw the meat, open the package, slide the slices over onto a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 200 degrees for 2 1/2-3 hours.  Sometime I turn the liver over midway, sometimes not. Once totally cooled, I use my kitchen scissors to cut into tiny little pieces for storage.  Since my dogs are small and I like to keep it fresh, I usually divide the batch into 3 zip lock bags and freeze 2 of them and leave one in the refrigerator to use within a week or so.

The best part about dehydrating your own treats is you know there are no additives and it is a supplement to your dog’s diet rather than ruining their appetite which many treats do.  Homemade liver treats are inexpensive, very very easy to make and your dogs will jump over the moon for them!  Just in case you want to teach them to jump over the moon 🙂

Oct 092013


57356,1380530546$SS172$One of the most important things we can teach our dogs is a reliable recall.  We practice and practice in our backyard when there are no distractions and it is an easy thing for them to run back to us since they know the territory and have nothing more interesting to distract them.  Then, we take them to the soccer field to play Frisbee or the dog park where there are lots of fun things to see and smell, and they might act like they don’t know who we are when we ask them to return unless we have done some serious practice.  And, I might add, some dogs are easier to teach reliable recall than others!

In teaching recall, one of the things that is super important is that we always make it fun and rewarding for them to come to us.  As puppies, if they don’t come when we call, we must make it a game and run away rather than toward them and act like our closest family member has just come home from Afghanistan when they finally “catch” us.  We should NEVER punish a dog for not coming although I have done it in my distant past and paid the consequences of a dog that became a “runner”.  Letting them drag a long lightweight “clothesline” when they are not quite dependable gives us the edge. We can just step on the end of the line when they start to dart, and reel them back in with lots of “good boys”.

When working on recall, I try to keep a few of the very best “jackpot” treats in my pocket, ones that aren’t used for the usual sit and down and spin.  It has to be something that they can smell from a distance and tastes scrumptious and is only used when what they are asked to do is especially tough.  Since I get samples occasionally from chewy.com, I have decided one they have sent me would be excellent  to use for training recall  or to use a jackpot.  Nature’s Variety Instinct Mini treats are freeze dried raw chicken so nothing but meat and natural ingredients as is typical of this company’s products.  My dogs go crazy when I get out the box and if I have them in my pocket, they sniff and sniff at my side.  I dare say, if I can them to “go out” at all, they will be quick to return if I have these little treats ready to pop in their mouth when they come back to me from a distance.

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Minis are available from chewy.com with free shipping over $49.  I do not receive any money for my reviews, although I do like to share products that I like and this company gives me the opportunity to receive samples for the reviews.

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 Posted by at 3:10 pm
Jun 272013

easy walkOver the years, I have walked many miles with my own dogs on leash and also with others of all sizes and breeds during the years that I owned a pet sitting business.  I found there are no absolutes to easy leash walking but experience has taught me what works best for me and mine.  I want to start with the ones that I found do NOT work well.

Extend leashes have their purpose but that is not for walking a dog for exercise.  I do use them for little puppies in my yard that are learning potty habits with no other dogs around but that is about it.  Extend leashes are dangerous for lots of reasons.  The leverage a dog has when they “hit” the end of the long line amplifies the pressure on their neck for injury to them and the pressure on the person’s shoulder as well as a risk for fall.  Even more dangerous is when the dog catches a finger in the rope and then decides to pull or when they run around another dog or person or your own legs with the rope extended.  A cut is the least that can happen, and a rope around another dogs leg or even neck could be a disaster.  There is also the psychological aspect of the extended leash to the dog who now thinks they are the leader.  How many times have you been for a walk and seen a dog at the end of their extend leash pulling their owner down the street?  Sadly, I’ve even been that person in my early years of owning dogs.

Harnesses that have a clip on the back of the neck or shoulders also have negatives.  While they protect the dog’s neck from the injury of pulling and are good for puppies, they increase the “need” to pull by creating that negative force which I call the “sled dog” mentality.

Collars are meant to use for identification and are important, but unless fitted properly can slip right over the dog’s head when walking.  I’ve seen many dogs do a little twist about and slide right out of their collar and dash away which was a nightmare in my first year as a pet sitter.

Slip  chains…just too dangerous for the dog.  When the chain tightens, the dog can sustain damage to their neck and esophagus.  These were the standard for a long time and trainers told us to snap the chain to get the dogs attention.  Now we know that may have left permanent damage.  Plus, if a dog pulls, they are literally choking themselves.

Pinch collars have their place and I have in the past used them for dogs that just are too strong for me and refuse not to pull.  Do I like them?  No.  Do I use them any more?  No.  There are other solutions in most cases.  While not nearly as dangerous as a slip chain that tightens as the dog pulls, the negative with a pinch collar is when the dog you are walking sees another dog or person and leans toward the dog he is meeting..he gets a pinch.  In the dog’s mind, the pinch was caused by the otherwise friendly dog and can and often does lead to on leash aggression because of the association.  My German Shepherd who has been gone a few years was a very friendly dog but I walked her using a pinch collar.  Over time, she became very dog aggressive on our walks and I now believe the pinch was part of the cause.

So…what should we use when walking our dog to keep them safe and to help them learn not to pull?  What has worked the very best for me are the Easy Walk Harness and the Gentle Leader Head Halter.  Note here–I find them periodically for a very low price, as low as a third of the regular price, on Amazon under the Used tab but coming directly from Amazon with free shipping.  I’m guessing these are items that have been returned so they cannot advertise them as new.

My trainer leans toward the Gentle Leader and encourages everyone to use them, especially those with medium to larger dogs.  They do work miracles but it takes time because the dogs hate them at first and they have to be fitted properly.  They work much like a halter on a horse and once the dog is acclimated to the little strap over the nose, it’s all good.  I use one on Fancy, my larger mini Aussie because she has notoriously been a puller when excited.  First trip out she was aggravated by the nose strap, but we just kept on walking.  I didn’t acknowledge her pawing at it and by the time we had walked a mile and she had learned to stay with my pace so there was no pressure, she walked perfectly.

My two smaller dogs, Rosie and Swagger, do best on the Easy Walk Harness because their little noses are small.  The harness has the leash clip on their front chest and if they pull, the setup of the harness actually turns their body toward me instead of creating leverage against me.  It works.

Ike, my old male, and Izzy walk just fine with a flat martingale collar.  A martingale collar is a flat collar with an extra loop that stays loose around the dogs neck that only tightens if they pull which those two don’t.  I only use the collar for a dog that never pulls.

It is so much more enjoyable to walk with a dog that isn’t pulling and I think the trick is to evaluate what you are using to lead them and how their doggy minds might be reacting as you walk.  And, of course, be sure you have a 4-6 ft leather leash, with a couple of knots, for the comfort of your hands.  The leather gets soft with time like a comfy shoe 🙂  Have fun, walk more!



May 082013
Dogs in Training

Dinner at Selenas

There are so many ways to train our dogs, some formal and some quite informal.  In fact, every moment we spend with them, we are training in some way because we are constantly sending them signals and they are responding.

I train formally at Almost Home Boarding and Training on Dorsey Lane in Louisville.  Since I have five dogs, it’s difficult for me to decide who gets to go to classes, but Izzy, my little blue merle girl is often chosen.  Just because.  Just because she so loves to work.  Just because she needs to work.  Just because she has a fear factor that I am working hard to resolve with her.

Once a week, a group of five owners and five dogs of all sizes and personalities meet for “class” led by Almost Home owner and APDT certified trainer, Katie Peckenpaugh.  It is an ongoing class unlike most that are limited to a number of sessions.  I have been a member of the group for a few months, but others have been meeting  for much longer.  We have worked on a variety of activities to stimulate the dogs to think and be a partner with us.  On some nights, we practice basic obedience like long sits or stays and recall exercises using both verbal and non verbal signals.  Other times, we are greeted with a Rally or Agility course to run through.  The variety is fun for the dogs and for us.

Since the weather is now nicer, the last two meetings have been outdoor adventures with our dogs.  Last week, we all met at a local walking trail and worked on heel exercises, keeping our dogs focused on us while meeting other dogs, people and even children romping and playing.  The treat, however, came last night when one of our members arranged for us to meet at a local restaurant, Selenas, for dinner with our dogs on the patio.  What a pleasure on a nice Spring evening to eat a delicious meal and enjoy visiting with new friends while being accompanied by our fur babies!

Dog training at its best is evaluating our dog and our interactions with our dog and giving them the opportunity to succeed.  Why do I so enjoy this?  Just because.  Just because I love to work with my dog.  Just because I need to work with my dog to build a better relationship.  Just because I also sometimes have factors that I need to resolve which affect how my dog responds and the quality of their life.

Note on picture:  Izzy is in trainer’s lap rather than under the table and one owner is our photographer so not pictured.  The group consists of Izzy, a mini Aussie; Naylan, a Corgi;  Sam, a Collie; Sonny, an Aussie; and Claire, a Doberman.



 Posted by at 9:28 pm
Nov 162012

As with  all of you, life happens, and I have been busy, too busy to do much formal training with my dogs other than puppy classes in the last year or so.  I’ve gotten rusty, and so have they.

Determined to get back into the circuit, I registered Izzy, my prima donna, for an advanced obedience class which started last night.  Izzy has not been in class for a couple of years during which time she has given us two nice litters of puppies.  She has now been spayed so it is time to let her shine once again.  Every household has a dog that is the “straight A” student, and Izzy is ours.  She is so in tune, it is pretty impressive and she LOVES to work.

I have as a goal to ready her to go into the competitive obedience ring at some point. Since we are a partnership, I have to fine tune my skills while she does the same.  I have found that I can obviously practice at home, but the training class setting is important.  Izzy struggles with her confidence around boisterous dogs and animated people and tends to over react to “scare” them away.  Because of that personality trait, the time among the other dogs is very very important for her.  As she works, she zeros in on me and forgets all the chaos around her.

The biggest obstacle to attending class is drive time for me, but I am very happy with the trainers and nice facility at Almost Home Training in Louisville, KY.  I like to understudy those that have had competitive experience because they have an edge over those that have not been in the ring because they haven’t just read the books, they’ve done it themselves.

If you haven’t taken your dogs to training classes, you’ll find it is addictive and the pride you feel when your dog accomplishes a new skill is just plain fun.

 Posted by at 1:41 am
Oct 142012

I am an advocate for training our dogs because it is just plain fun, fun for us, fun for the dog.  A dog trainer friend of mine quietly handed me a new book a couple of weeks ago and now I realize there was a spark in her eye and a hidden smile as she passed it to me.

The name of the book is Reaching the Animal Mind by Karen Pryor.  Ms. Pryor was a pioneer in the use of markers (whistles and clickers) first with dolphins and then zoo animals and later dogs as she did research for her study of behavioral biology.   Because she is a professional, it might seem that the book would be a heavy read.  However, it is very interesting.  Of course there are lots of examples of her dolphin research and zoo animal consultations but it is written in layman’s terms with lots of entertaining stories.

I dug out my clickers , stuck some kibble in my pockets and decided there are some behaviors in my pack that are annoying me so they are my target for the next few days or weeks.  Clicker training is to help dogs learn new “tricks” but also to eradicate bad habits by clicking and treating them to extinction.

Ike, my 7 year old mini male, who I mention in my blog often can be a nervous barker when he feels stressed.  He also spins when excited, sometimes until he makes himself a little frantic.  He has been my first target to click and treat him when he’s in a calm state, and as he practices the basic obedience commands that he already knows. In his excitement, he also likes to jump on us as we come inside or just to get our attention so I’m also clicking and treating him when his all fours are on the floor.  He knows the words or commands but the click does something to the doggy brain that just the words cannot do.  It’s really interesting to see the difference that the clicker makes even over using a marker word like “yes” or “good”.  I am already seeing a change in his demeanor.  He’s a good boy but needs some tweaking.

Swagger, my little boy learned when he was a baby that his shrill little barks got him picked up, got him on and off the couch, got him out of his crate, etc.  In other words his cuteness and a little noise got him whatever he pleased.  Well, it’s overdue to extinguish the woofs and replace with other more acceptable behaviors to indicate what he wants or needs.  I can’t blame him because dogs do whatever we reinforce and what works…like our children!!

You get the idea!  Training is ongoing and requires short spurts of time each day to work best.  When we get lazy, our dogs get lazy as well or into habits that we don’t like.  Smart dogs need to be challenged to be at the top of their game.

This book is available on Amazon and I recommend it for your collection.  It’s probably one that I’ll read more than once.  Thanks, Leslie, for sneaking it in without a sermon 🙂

 Posted by at 1:30 am
Oct 062012

Phoebe 6 months oldAddie Catching Frisbee

Phoebe is relaxing with her nose in mommy’s shoe and Addie is putting the move on the flying disc.  Both are 6 months old and showing that little Aussies love to play, but also know how to chill when the time is right.

These two pictures are of the girls from Izzy’s April 2012 litter.  I have discussed the “puppy uglies” where the babies lose their fat little faces and tummies and puppy fur and grow long legs and out of proportion bodies.  At about 6 months old, everything starts to catch up.  Adult fur comes in along with those last canine teeth and bodies start to fill out with some bulk, catching up to the appendages. Those of us that have hidden our adolescent dogs away for a couple of months or tried to explain to gawkers why they are  scraggly can now start to take pictures and show them off again.  It only gets better from here! Puppies continue to develop past their first birthday although smaller dogs get their growth sooner than large breeds.

If you are interested in Addie’s ability to fly high and catch the Frisbee, post a comment or question and her owner can explain his methodology to get her to this point so young.

 Posted by at 8:39 pm
Aug 192012

Blue skies, puffy white clouds, temperatures only approaching 80 degrees on a Sunday afternoon–perfect day to take a dog for a walk, which is exactly what I did.  I had to draw straws, and since Ike, my older male, seems to be the last one chosen, he got the walk today!  Nice music with a good beat in my earphones, breeze in my hair, dog nose to the wind, bliss!

All said to review a product that is one of my favorites, The Buddy System Hands Free Leash, available on Amazon or perhaps a store near you.  It’s a nice adjustable and comfortable fit around my waist and the dog’s part of the leash attaches very easily to my part with a strong clip.  Of course, it depends on your dog, but Ike has a very nice heel so I keep the length of the leash where he’s right beside my left knee and AWAYYYYYYY we go!  With the Hands Free leash, I have a hand to adjust my music on my phone and another to hold my Tervis Water Bottle, a gift from my husband for my birthday 🙂

 Posted by at 10:44 pm
Jul 162012

None of us will argue that dogs have different intelligence levels just as people do.  Some are focused and tuned into their owners and some are just “out there” with a mind of their own doing what they please.  In my half century of living, I’ve had dogs in both categories and have settled on a breed and bloodlines that are of the “tuned in” variety.  No dumb dogs in my house!

I’m getting lots of feedback from Izzy’s last litter of puppies and there is no doubt that her intelligence has passed to her prodgeny. Plus, Swagger was a keeper to stay with me so I have some first hand experience.   I have to admit that I’m being shamed by some of the puppies’ new owners with their dedication to training and there have been video and pictorial evidence that these very young dogs can learn lots of tricks with repetition and positive reinforcement.  The more a puppy learns, the more she wants to learn and the more she becomes capable of learning because of those connections being made early in the brain development.

Do I have any preschool teachers out there in the audience?  Isn’t it proven that early  childhood  experiences lead to the development of what we consider intelligence and the lack of stimulation can thwart later learning, even though the capability was inherent in the child.  This concept is the same with our fur children as with our skin babies.  Learning is fun and leads to the inquisitiveness to learn more.

I stand by the notion that early puppy training, particularly in an intelligent breed like Miniature Australian Shepherds ie Miniature American Shepherds leads to increased ability to learn.  The key is starting with small behaviors that please us and marking them  with a clicker or a verbal marker and using a treat to reward.  Then, we must watch closely and continue to reward the actions we like, and ignore or redirect the actions that we are discouraging.

The question, “is it necessary for a dog to have intelligence to be trained”?  Yes. But, it is just as important for the owner to take the lead and teach the puppy “to learn”.   Smart dog? or Smart owner?

 Posted by at 7:21 pm
Jun 082012

Since the puppies are with their new owners, except Swagger, it’s time for us to get my other dogs back into their exercise routine.  Exercise is so important for a happy and healthy dog and for a healthy and happy human.

It’s easy to do passive exercise with Izzy and Fancy, because they are disc dogs and will play until they can run no more.  However, there’s more to exercise than running after a disc in the back yard.

We have a 4 mile walking/running/biking trail just down the street from us and as of this week, I promised myself and especially Ike, Fancy and Rosie that we would be there once a day.  Besides burning calories for myself, the benefits to walking on a trail are numerous.

First, dogs need to walk on a loose leash beside you and that takes practice.  In my younger life, I thought an extend leash was the way to go and wondered why my dogs pulled until they choked themselves on a walk.  Now I know they had not learned that we were partners in the walk rather than them being the head honcho and me the underling. Some dogs learn this much more easily than others, but I’ve found that a pocket full of super yummy treats to pop in their mouth when they’re doing it right soon teaches them the reward of staying with me.  Loose leash is not “heeling” as we do in obedience competition, but does mean they walk at our side in a relaxed fashion.

Second, our dogs have to learn to make way for the other walkers with wheels: bicycles, little children on their trikes, and skaters.  Herding dogs like to herd, of course, so they have to practice ignoring those folks that buzz by us at top speed.  You remembered…a pocket full of treats, and add a clicker on your wrist if you think to bring it along.  Bike passing, say pup’s name, they look at you instead of the bike, click and pop a treat.  It won’t take long, until they are begging for bikes to come by.

And, of course, walkers with other dogs.  That one is not so easy because some of those “other” dogs aren’t as well behaved as ours.  If I’m out with more than one dog, I don’t typically do any greeting on the trail, it just turns into a mishmash of dog tails and is too risky.  It doesn’t always work, but I keep my dogs by my side as much as I can, do lots of singsong talking, pop treats and keep walking.  If you hear me singing Happy Birthday to my dogs, it doesn’t mean they have a cake with candles waiting at home.  It is a happy song after all, and gets their attention and gives me a more relaxed feeling so I don’t panic when I see a 120 pound Mastiff walking my way on the trail straining against the owner’s leash, and of course, the owner has on earphones and is not noticing their dog’s body language.  Happy birthday to you….pop a treat…happy birthday to you…pop a treat.  You get the idea.

Izzy got her dose of Frisbee tonight with Swagger running along behind her (so darn cute) and the other dogs got their walk on the trail.  They are relaxed and I’m relaxed.  What a good way to spend a cool Spring evening!

 Posted by at 3:30 am
Jun 032012

  Black Tri Miniature Australian Shepherd Puppy

Alangus Adda Daddy’s Girl is going to be a hit in her new modeling career since her new skin daddy is an accomplished photographer.  Addie, as we know her, is not just beautiful, but also quite intelligent as I hear reports of her having mastered “sit”, “down”, “shake”, and of course, “get the ball” after only 3 days in her new home!

Although this is written with a smile on my face, you just can’t underestimate the intelligence of a miniature Australian shepherd puppy nor the adult they will become.  They love to work and work needs to be both mental and physical.  Training is so easy and so enjoyable, I can’t imagine skipping that part.  You can almost see Aussies grasp new vocabulary and at our house, we have to spell F R I S B E E or a frenzy ensues.

Way to go Addie, we’ll be watching for your next glossy! Perhaps we can enlist K to give us some hints on pet photography as a blog post!

 Posted by at 11:46 pm
Jan 292012

Okay, I’m crying Uncle on using peepads with this litter. They are absolutely having a blast turning them into giblets even when they are in a holder. And, of course, when I find them sleeping so contentedly and ask “who” all I get are innocent little puppy smiles.

So now I’m trying something different and actually it’s not too bad. I ordered some small pooch pads (otherwise named whelping pads) for other uses, but they fit in the peepad holders quite nicely. I have read reviews from other folks that using them instead of disposable is a viable option and so far I’m liking the outcome.

The washable pads soak up the peepee nicely and it doesn’t soak through. It is also easy to use a baby wipe to pick up the poo and just put it in a ziplock to throw away in the garbage. By the way, using a large ziploc saves smell in the garbage and can be filled up before discarding. At the end of the day or when it’s really messy, I just throw the pad in the washer like a cloth diaper and put in a fresh one.  It does feel good to know I’m not putting more garbage in the landfill and I’m hoping using the holders is teaching the puppies the “acceptable” place since they have to step up onto it. Now all this said, I’m an advocate of training dogs to go outside but at 6 weeks old or overnight during training that just isn’t doable.  

 Posted by at 8:33 pm
Dec 172011

I should have bought stock in Amazon a few years back as much business as I give them. Now that I have the App on my IPhone, it’s even worse.  Amazon plus the fact that I’m an avid reader of books about dogs means my bookshelves are full and my husband seems to think I have a relationship with the UPS driver since he stops at our house daily.

To the topic, I have on my shelves a few books that I highly recommend for the person planning to purchase a puppy or that has just brought one home. My very favorite even though it is not a new edition is “Before and After You Get Your Puppy”.  This particular author especially emphasizes things to look for in a breeder as well as giving very practical advice that we probably should think of on our own, but probably haven’t.  Another title that I like is “How to Raise A Puppy You Can Live With”. This is also an older book in its 4th Edition, but again is an easy read with helpful hints even for those of us that are not new to dog training and ownership. 

The window of opportunity to socialize and prepare your puppy for a happy lifetime is so short, it is important to do a little homework by reading some good books.  

 Posted by at 4:45 am
Mar 102010

We have worked inside on obedience all winter and are so ready to get back onto the outdoor agility course for additional training.

While Izzy is still working hard on her more advanced obedience work, Ike will be starting back into agility.  Last summer was his first time to work agility and he was a happy happy dog.  Since I’m a novice, I have to build my confidence so he doesn’t get the wrong signals from me.  Once that’s accomplished, he, no doubt, is going to perform well because he loves to jump and dash and does not fear the obstacles.

Fancy is growing and maturing so nicely.  She is doing well on her potty training (except when I mess up) and plays until she’s totally tuckered out.  She is in her puppy obedience class with about 15 other young ‘uns of all shapes and sizes and it’s a hoot to watch them.  Although young, she is very focused and very obedient.  Could be because she LOVES to eat!!

I’m happy to announce that Izzy had her OFA Prelim and PennHip x-rays this week and the vet gave me the indication that all looks good.

I’m excited about the ASDR show in Missouri in May.  This will be my first show to participate and it will be fun to meet everyone.

Ah Spring is in the air in Kentucky!!

 Posted by at 7:51 pm

Snow in the Bluegrass

 Training for Dogs, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Snow in the Bluegrass
Feb 162010

The last couple of weeks have been busy scooping snow in Kentucky and also working hard with the pups on their training.  Fancy is learning quickly from the other dogs and will be starting her puppy obedience class in another week or two.  I have continued to take her to play at the training center to meet new people and we’ve been practicing her stack and walking on lead.  So far, she goes with the flow and still has a puppy smile on her face.

At 12 weeks, Fancy’s potty training is right on schedule.  She seldom makes a mistake and when she does, I take the full responsibility for not taking her out on time.  She has gained weight and her fur is only getting fluffier is that’s possible.  With the agility equipment set up in the basement, she’s found hide and seek in the tunnel to be a really fun game and prances along the little dog walk like she’s done it forever.

Izzy is now in an advanced obedience class.  There were several new dogs in the last session so she was a little nervous since some of them were off leash at times and rambunctious.  The dynamics always change for a couple of classes with new dogs so hopefully this week she’ll be back at her confident self.  It made me a little off key too, so I’m sure she picked up on it because she’s super sensitive to my emotions.  I don’t like it when people let their dogs run up w/out proper introductions…not polite of them.

If it’s possible for a dog to shrug, my male is rolling his eyes with a shrug.  He seems to be thinking…oh no another puppy to train, and a girl at that.  He’s been super tolerant of the little razor teeth but quick to let Fancy know what is acceptable just as he did Izzy at that age.  He is such a good dog and happy as long as he’s near my side.

Paperwork is in for the ASDR event in May!!  I’m excited about learning the ropes and seeing how Fancy does.  I wish I could get Izzy ready for obedience competition, but not sure I can.

 Posted by at 2:24 am