Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time Out

Endless Winter is getting me down.  Too many cloudy days, too much cold, and far too much ice.  So tired of icy roads, icy sidewalks, icy deck, icy dog yard.  I haven't slipped and gone down yet (knock on wood) but this isn't over yet.   Yesterday I absolutely could not stay at work.  I felt like crap, gloomy, aching, hot & cold.  Ugh.  Coming down with something, or just "down"?

Later in the afternoon I just had to get out and walk in the sunshine.  For the first time I appreciated Daylight Savings Time.  Packed up Argus and Fernly, and headed off to Hidden Falls Park.  Only one other car in the parking lot, so I let both dogs off lead, and we headed down the path, Argus carefully sniffing each tree and snow mound to "see" who had been there before us, and Fern running in joyous circles.  I forgot my boots, but "someone" had come through with equipment of some sort and flattened out a walking path that was not yet slippery.  Hooray!

Off through the woods we went, dogs leading the way.  New dogs up ahead and I called Fern back, but Argus could not be called off as he considers it his job to meet and introduce himself to all new dogs.  Some things never change.  Two friendly Labradoodles and their friendly owner, so we let the dogs play together.  One was a 9-month old pup, so he and Fern had a fantastic time playing dog games in the snow.  The owner and I discussed how lucky we were to have the park to ourselves this time of the year, and how much safer it was than dog parks.   Her older dog had had some bad experiences at dog parks, so I told her about the one we enjoy and feel safest in.

I came home with two tired but happy dogs, and feeling much better.  Thanks guys!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring. Yeah Right

First day of Spring and the thermometer says 5 degrees, and the weatherman says the windchill is much lower than that.  He also notes that this is the coldest first day of Spring since 1965.  I could say,  "Global Warming, where are you when we need you?", but I know this summer will be incredibly hot, and probably also very dry.  Climate Change is upon us, and the weather is messed up everywhere.  A foot of snow due on the East Coast, and we could have another snow storm this weekend.  Other parts of the country are already baking.  We've really messed up this planet, and things will only get worse.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Puppy Classes

Max and I are attending two different puppy classes, not because he needs them, but because I was interested in comparing the two classes, and because it's a way to get him out in the winter.  (That's Max on the way home from class last night, when he pushed open his unlatched crate door and had his way with a roll of paper towels.)

One is a pet store class, taught by a trainer educated in the pet store training methods, just a dog owner who owns pets and works in a pet store, although her sister shows dogs.  She's definitely better than your average pet store dog trainer.

The other class is taught by a dog person, someone who shows in breed, obedience, and agility, and is a member of a national dog trainers group.

The classes both use modern methods, and reward-based training, no corrections, no chain collars, lots of treats, and they have similar goals - a happy pup who can do a Sit, Down, Stand, Recall, Stay for a short period of time, and walk reasonably well on lead.  Both classes include a Puppy Playtime.  Both classes last for 6 weeks, consist of weekly one-hour sessions, and cost approximately $100.00.   That's where the similarity ends.

The pet store class consists of 5 pups, one trainer, and the ring is a portable thing about 10 by 15 feet.  The flooring is the store's regular tile, slippery when pups are playing.  The other class is held in a dog training facility, the class is limited to 15 pups with two trainers (the second trainer is also an experienced dog trainer), and the non-skid flooring is safer for pups.  In the pet store class recalls are limited by the size of the 15 foot ring, and walking on leash is through the store with the distraction of customers, dog treats, birds, ferrets, and food.  The dog school class has the large enclosed ring ring for longer recalls, and lead walking.  The pups are also exposed to tunnels and low jumps, just for fun, to keep the class interesting.

The pet store class is fine for socializing pups as long as there are no aggressive dogs in the class, but is far too small for the Shepherd/Lab mix.  The dogs are learning to sit, down, and stand, but the lack of space makes recalls rather useless.  We sit on chairs for much of the class, and listen to pet care tips, some of which I want to question or challenge, but I don't.  One trainer for 5 dogs works well, and everyone gets plenty of time, but it's tough to work your pup when the dogs on both sides want to sniff him, or engage in a barking match, and there's no way you can get away.

The training school class is more interesting for the dogs, and I find Max pays attention better because we stay busy, and have more space.  Recalls are much easier to work on when you can call your pup from further away, and it's easier to find a place to work your pup without being nudged by another dog.

Four weeks completed in the pet store class, fourth lesson coming up at the training school class.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Not A Cheeseburger Weekend

For the past few years, most of our dog show weekends have required a stop for cheeseburgers on the way home.  Cheeseburgers for all (dogs especially!) to celebrate successful show weekends.  This tradition started when Argus was being campaigned and his "other mother" Ginger suggested the cheeseburgers.  It became a tradition for us, and is now used for show weekends, or when one of Argus's kids or grandkids has a nice win somewhere.  Many dog show friends have picked up the habit, and often post to Facebook about Cheeseburger Weekends.

Because we don't show very often, and generally pick our judges pretty carefully - it's a lot cheaper that way - most of our show weekends have been pretty successful.  This one was not, at least not in terms of wins.  Gemma was Reserve one day, and Fern did nothing.  We tried two elderly judges who we have liked in the past, but one of them had gotten pretty "iffy", so we knew it was risky. BUT the girls needed an outing before the national, and we needed a dog show weekend.  Gemma does not live with us (she's co-owned) so Jess does not have the opportunity to work with her the way she would her own dog.  It also gave us a chance to visit with friends, and be sure that Fern would be a good traveler for DCA.  There's nothing worse than sharing a motel room for a week with a dog that drives you crazy!

Both girls passed with flying colors.  Gemma showed well both days, actually better than she did winning the 5-point major her last outing, and is a perfect traveling companion.   Fern was great in the car, at the place we stayed, and at the dog show.  Not barky, perfect in her crate, and she tried to be as good as a wild 9- month old can be.  Fern and I worked out some gaiting issues, I HOPE, and I know what I have to work on with her before the National.  Because I have not raised and shown a class dog since Argus was a pup, my handling skills have suffered a great deal - showing wild pups is NOT like riding a bicycle.  Handling a dog is all about timing, and anticipating the dog's actions.  I didn't read Fern very well, and screwed her up both days.  I'd say she showed better than I did!

We were also disadvantaged by having dogs that looked "different", which is often the problem at small or moderate sized shows.  Most of the competition was lower on leg, heavier in bone & body, and had handpainted spotting.  Fern & Gemma are high stationed, narrower, shorter backed dogs, and neither is particularly well marked.  At Indy where both girls did well, the entry was much larger, and included other dogs similar in type to Gemma and Fern.  We just looked out of place.  Fern would not have won had she shown perfectly, and Gemma did everything right but was just "wrong" for the competition.  So be it.

We had a wonderful time with our hosts Zack and Maryla, their dogs (two liver Paisley Dals), a Peke, a Himalayan cat, and an incredibly entertaining parrot.  We went to a Barbecue place on Saturday night and had a blast, as well as the best barbecue sauce I have ever eaten.  Fun at the shows with Fernly's "grandmothers", and friends from Oklahoma and Kansas.  Jess and I watched the Groups and Best in Show on Saturday and got our "dog show fix".

Despite the iffy weather reports, traveling was fine, and we got home in record time.  Jess dropped off Gemma, I picked up Max (who was staying with Gemma's family) and there was till time to celebrate St. Paddy's Day with Corned Beef and Cabbage!

Maybe it WAS a Cheeseburger Weekend - it was successful in many ways!