Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Art of Opening Your Christmas Presents

Oak was so excited the other day. He got an early Christmas present! Yah! It was in a gift bag, so I set it on the floor for him to open by himself. He did a wonderful job! Took the paper out and grabbed the first toy he found.



Ohhhh! A stuffy, he loves stuffies!



They only last about 5 or 10 minutes, but those are the very BEST 5 or 10 minutes of the day :) He started running around and playing with the stuffy, then he lay down to tear it to pieces(yes, that is his favourite use for a stuffie).



I had to point out to him that there was another toy in the bag. Finally, he figured he's check it out and stuck his head in the bag to try and reach the toy and the bag got stuck on his head!





What a sight :) When he finally shook the bag off his head, he had the toy. Good job, Oak. Opening the present was almost as much fun as playing with the toys!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa Pictures

The Humane Society of Durham Region have held Pet Pics with Santa every year for the past 15/16 years and we have gone every year. At the beginning we used to take cats, hamsters, rats, but now we just take dogs. (the cats are very happy with this arrangement!). This is Fluff and Tigger:



Don't they look impressed? :)

This is: Lite, Oak, Zanara and Jewels on Santa's lap



They look like they are sitting wonderfully for the camera, but in reality there is someone sitting behind Santa's chair holding on to Lite and Oak's leashes!

And this is Oak by himself.



He really doesn't want to be sitting there. He was scared of Santa :(

This was his picture with Santa last year:



He sure grew alot in 2009!

Merry Christmas to Everyone and your Pets! We hope you enjoy a Fabulous Holiday Season and a Prosperous New Year

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dog Plus Snow Equals Fun!

We had our first real snowfall yesterday, so of course we had to go to the park for a nice long walk!



The snowflakes were huge and very wet, so I had to sneak the camera out of the plastic bag and stand down wind to try to take pictures. It was quite the adventure.



Oak absolutely loved it a the park, he ran in circles, tried to find out what those delicious smells under the snow were, chased sticks and tried to jump into the partially frozen stream! Happily he listened when I told him NO! The first snowfall is always so pretty so I thought I'd try to take a portrait of Oak sitting happily among the glittering snow covered fields. He didn't think sitting still was a great idea at all. Why should he sit there, when there was all this fun stuff to do? Silly Mommy! In this shot his head is swinging around like a bobble head.



Then I finally got him to sit still long enough to get a quick shot!



Oak was very disappointed to be leaving, but I was freezing and soaked, so we will have to come back another day when I'm dry!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Class Clown :)

We had our very last obedience class last night. The school we have been going to for 14 years ( 4 dogs ) is closing because the trainer has decided to retire. Oak made sure his last performance was very memorable! I'll just let the video speak for itself :)


video


I hope all our American friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. I am very thankful for my goofy buddy :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Practicing in the Park

Yamei our trainer was over yesterday for our private lesson and Oak did a fabulous job! He was very focused and even stayed in front of me not moving while Yamei was walking back and forth. He did move when she tried to run past, but considering what an excited little guy he is, I think he did wonderful!

So, today we decided to up the distraction level a bit. I took him to the park to practice his Relaxation Protocol.

First we went for a walk through the park and played fetch to expend a bit of energy.



Then straight onto the tasks at hand. We have moved up to Day 2 of the Protocol for Relaxation so everything is new, different and a wee bit harder. I had him sit in front of me and stay still for 10 sec.



Yeah! He passed with flying colours! Then I stepped back 3 steps. He still stayed. Yeah!

He was doing such a fabulous job. There are even a few other people and dogs in park. He looked around a few times, but mostly he just sat in a nice relaxed position and stared at me.



The next few steps were a little more active, I had to walk around beside him, then come back, walk to the side while clapping, then return. I think he's more relaxed when I move then when I just stand in front of him. After the moving tasks, he had to sit still for 10 sec. again and he got up and left. He went to grab the stick, obviously he was getting bored with all the sitting and staying, so I let him play for a bit again. He is supposed to be learning to relax and I didn't think he would be if he was bored and I had to try to force him to do the protocol. After we played a little longer, we went back to the lessons again. He was so relaxed this time around, that he decided to lay down, not just sit.



I'm going to have to ask if this is ok, since it does say "sit" on the sheet, not lay down. But from everything I've been reading about the Protocol for Relaxation, they did mention it is NOT an obedience lesson, so I figure that means if he's more relaxed laying down, then he should be allowed to do that. We never actually finished the entire list of tasks, but I'm still really happy with the progress.

Yeah Oak!! Great Job Buddy!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Trainer

We are trying out a new trainer who positive reinforcement training. She came last week for an initial consultation. I was really impressed with her methods, thoughts, and questions. She was here for almost 2 hours and had a full questionnaire that needed to be filled out. After she asked the questions, she did a little demonstration with Oak and a clicker. I hadn't really thought that a clicker worked that well but she had him touching her hand on command within minutes. It was all very interesting to watch.



At the end of the consult she gave us a small bit of homework and then was going to come up with a plan of attack for the next 4 weeks of training. Oak's main problem is jumping up when guests in the door. He just goes nuts, and doesn't listen to anything I have to say. I've tried telling people to ignore him, I've tried to get him to sit and stay by me, I've even tried treats. None of these things worked, he just wanted see the new person at his door. The only thing that does work, is to lock him in the basement while I answer the door, and if the guest is staying, I end up putting him on a leash to control him for the first 30-45 minutes until he calms down! The beginning step to help with this problem, was to get him to sit and stay for a few seconds. Each time he did, I released and gave him a treat(cheeiros are working really well!) We slowly started increasing the time he had to stay before being released.
When she came back this week, we showed off his new skill. She was really impressed that he stayed for 15 sec without moving.
She came with a plan of attack and we went through all the lessons we have to practice. We are back to concentrating on the basics. Teaching him to focus, leave it, sit and stay for short periods of time and an Orienting exercise. We are also expanding our skill at the door too. He sits and stays, while I walk over to the door and open it! He's catching on to them all quite nicely. A thousand more times and he'll be perfect :)
And to top it all off we are following a Protocol for Relaxation by Dr Karen Overall. It's a 14 step program to help calm and relax over excitable canines like my little Oak.



Like Julie says, by the end of the lessons and practicing he'll be Super Oak, ready to leap small buildings in a single bound, or at least calmly meet guests at the door :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Walk Down Memory Lane

It was a beautiful day on thursday, so we decided to take the dogs for a walk at the conservation area. They were all very excited and running about like crazy puppies :)



There were trails to run down, fields to search, fabulous smells to investigate!



Oak, Lite, Dougal and even Zanara ran, played, ran some more, found sticks to play with, then ran some more. They were having an exceptional time! Then to top it all off, there was a river to swim in. Yeah! Now that he know how, I think Swimming is Oak's favourite past time. He is really going to miss it when the water all ices up!



About 4 or 5 years ago, we went on a similar walk down these same trails. At that time we had Finn, Phoenix, Zanara and Ebony with us. We stopped at a small hill to take a candid shot of them all sitting with each other. This is the picture, Finn is on the end(right side), then Phoenix, then Zanara and Ebony is laying down in front. Since that day all those years ago (actually in the past year) Finn, Phoenix and Ebony all died of cancer.



When Finn died, his owners (he was a client's golden) rescued Dougal. When Phoenix died I got Oak, and when Ebony died my daughter Mandy and her family got Lite. So we wanted to take another picture in the same spot as the older one. We took this shot of Oak(on the right), Zanara, Dougal and Lite is laying down.



They had difficulties sitting still that long, but I think we ended up with a nice picture in the end. And another happy memory of a special day spent with our best friends :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Reiki

In my search for alternative healing methods for Oak and his bad hips, I discovered the science of Reiki. It is a holistic hands on technique that uses energy to assist the body's natural ability to heal itself.
The first step was to take First Degree Reiki healing. Which we did from a great lady who owns Cedar Cove Wellness in Baltimore. I found it very interesting and informative and I learned facinating things about the world around me. The next step was the Animal Reiki Workshop. Finally, I got to learn how reiki could help the animals around me. We studied colour, crystals and animal chakra's. I learned other ways of using reiki energy for animals by energizing their food, water, homeopathic remedies, beds etc. Then it was time to practice on the animals. Our teacher took us to the Primrose Donkey Sanctuary to help out the pets there and encourage us to use our new found skills.

This is me giving Tabby some reiki energy. He just loved it! There was a couple of times I thought he was going to go to sleep!



At first, the other donkeys didn't want to have anything to do with us. So we let the energy flow to them from a distance. This is Charlie Brown enjoying the feel of the energy.



After about 10 to 15 minutes of our circle of healing, something amazing happened, the donkeys started flocking over towards us. They felt the energy Charlie was receiving and wanted some too!



Miranda was especially attentive. She was really enjoying the energy healing. She kept moving so we could place our hands on her hips. Obviously, she felt this was the spot that needed the reiki the most.



We had a marvelous day helping out all the donkeys, cats and even a pot belly pig and a couple of sheep.





By the end of the afternoon, the donkeys were feeling frisky and playful. This is Charlie Brown and Joey. Charlie Brown recieved alot of positive energy today and it showed!



This is Patsy kicking up her heels(or scratching her back, but I think the former sounds more exciting!)



I feel like this is the beginning of a great new adventure for Oak and I!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Howloweenie!

Halloween is just around the corner! The kids are all excited, everyone is decorating their houses and carving pumpkins.



There are some things Oak is enjoying about this time of year, and some things he's not. Our daily walks, although still fun and enjoyable are also scary. He doesn't understand what those unmoving figures (scarecrows)on that guys lawn are. They probably shouldn't be there, so he barks, and backs away from them and looks nervously around for the next 5 minutes just in case they are going to follow us! Then there are those big white heads with the dark eyes(skulls), they definitely shouldn't be in that garden. Walks have gotten so dangerous!
Then on top of that, the funny costumes come out of hiding. This is his friend Jewels, her Mommy dressed her up as a Bumble Bee!



And this is Katie, she doesn't look to thrilled to be a pirate... Ahoy Matey!!



Last year Oak had to try on a few costumes (they were Jewels' and he was tiny, so he still fit in them).
Which was better, Oak as a witch!



Or, Oak as a clown :)



I'm pretty sure I have a cowboy costume in the closet that I used to dress Phoenix up in, hmmm, where did I out it:)
He'll be so much happier when Halloween is over and Christmas is coming. Snow and presents, his two favourite things!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Pet Postcard Project



The Pet Postcard Project is a really neat idea created by Nikki Moustaki. For every handmade pet postcard they receive, a shelter will get 1 pound of dog food. The site does not make any money from the project. It's all about raising food and awareness for shelter animals. Not only that, the postcards are entered in monthly contests to win prizes. You just can't beat it! You have fun creating a card, when your card is sent in to the Pet Postcard Project a shelter receives one pound of food, and to top it all off, you can win prizes! There are different categories to enter your cards in: your pet can be giving advice, confessions, wishes, excuses or "you know you love your pet when..."
So, I made my postcards, sent them in, and won three prizes! These are my winning postcards:







Now, since I'm in Canada and the sponsors are in the US, I was afraid I wouldn't actually get my prizes, but I did receive 2 out of 3, so that's not bad.
I won a Springer from Springer America. It is a device you can attach to your bicycle, then attach your dog to it, and he can run along beside your bike. It's already too cold for biking here, so the test run will have to wait until spring.

We also won a Puppy Pinata. This is Lulu:



Isn't she cute? She came filled with treats and the dog is supposed find the secret pocket, open it and remove the treats. Now Oak can be very destructive when it comes to stuffies, so I didn't figure Lulu would last too long in his paws. For this reason, I took her picture before I gave her to Oak.

This is Oak playing with Lulu.



This is Oak, trying to tear Lulu to shreds(he already has the treats out!).



This is the end of poor little Lulu :(



All I can say is Oak really enjoyed playing with Lulu while she lasted, and I really enjoyed making the postcards and winning prizes. Has anyone else sent postcards to the Pet Postcard Project? If you haven't, you really should. The shelter animals need the food and it's an enjoying way to pass an evening!

As a quick side note: Please use caution if you are not from the USA. I had assumed I would be asked if I wanted to pay customs and shipping any the prizes before they were sent. One company did phone and ask, I said thanks, but no thanks. Springer America on the other hand sent the item without asking first and today (Nov 19) I received a surprising bill for $25.82. Not a happy way to celebrate winning a contest :(

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dog Training 101 - From a Layman's Point of View

As many of you may, or may not know, Oak and I have been in training since he was about 3 months old. We, as a family, have always (for the last 15 years) taken our dogs to the same school for training. I’ve used the same methods, followed the same rules, and came away with a well behaved dog. These methods don’t seem to be consistently working this time. Oak has some commands he will complete automatically, with no thought involved. And other commands he completely ignores. I didn’t want him jumping up and trying to steal his food from my hand before I was able to put the dish down, so from a young age I taught him to wait until I say “alright”. No matter how hungry he is, he sits and waits. One time, I accidently said “Hello” instead of “Alright” (which is our release word) and he looked at me like I was crazy, but he didn’t start eating his food. If I could just figure out the best method to get him to obey the rest of the commands everything would be perfect! So I decided to investigate other methods of training. Maybe they know something new that our trainer didn't know about. What I discovered is that although different trainers may have different methods, they still all follow eight basic rules:

Rule #1:
You are the alpha and you must make sure your dog believes it to be true. This of course is the most important rule and the basis of all other training.

Rule #2:
Training should be fun. A happy and excited dog is more likely to pay attention and learn.

Rule#3
You must first guide the dog through the exercise. It is easier for a dog to learn a command if they understand what you are trying to get them to do.

Rule#4:
A correction is needed if the command is not followed. The correction should not be harsh, but should catch the dog's attention and encourage him to listen.

Rule#5
A reward is needed for following the command. Whether is be food, praise, petting or to play.

Rule#6
Repetition! I have read some books that say you need to repeat a lesson a few thousand times before response becomes conditioned and automatic.

Rule#7
Consistency. You must be consistent with the body language, commands, corrections and even praise that you use.

Rule #8
You need to have a release word to tell your dog he may move.

Any training method you choose should work, if you follow these basic rules.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Calendar Contest Winners

Our photo contest winners are in! We had lots of great entries and it was really hard to choose, but here are a few of the winners.
The next step is to make a 2010 calendar with all these pictures, then to get it printed and finally to make some money for the Humane Society of Durham Region when we sell them. This is our 4th year selling calendars for the humane society and hopefully it will be the best year yet!

Want to see some of our winners? Here they are:



This is Finn, isn't he handsome?



Fred is ready for dinner!



Run Rufus Run!



Harvey and Murphy enjoying the sun.



Sleepy Frankie :)

And that's just a few. Thanks everyone for the fabulous photos. The calendar is going to turn out amazing this year!