Friday, November 28, 2008

Yes, I am the Marking Man..the Marking Man...

So I still don't know what all this fuss is about. We went to visit Jenn's mom and dad for that holiday with all the food. We arrived and when I walked through the house, it smelled like their little poodle Bailey. I had to fix that right away, so I went through every room (while Jenn and Eric were unpacking the car) and I left my mark. Boy, then everybody got upset. Jenn's mom started finding my marks all over her house and Jenn kept saying "You've got to be kidding" and she and her mom cleaned up each spot with Nature's Miracle cleaner. That stuff takes my scent away, which defeats the purpose of my marking entirely. Everyone watched me like a hawk the rest of the time. No fun. Don't they understand that marking is part of my job? My body and my brain tell me to do it. It's nature after all. I even squeezed into Bailey's little dog bed so I could have that as well. Jenn said that is was time for some changes when we get home. Whatever that means...

Want to learn more about canine urine marking? Click here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Review of the Dog Brick

This is me posing with the "Dog Brick". The Brick is one of several new puzzles created by Nina Ottosson. She calls them dog activating toys but they are used with cats, pocket pets, birds, pot bellied pigs and zoo animals. Jenn thought they would be a great mental toy for me, so she got the Brick and another puzzle the "Dog Tornado" at the APDT conference for me to try out. These toys are designed for dogs and people to play together. It is not a toy that you would leave your dog alone with. I will now commence my review of the Brick.The brick has sliding black blocks and small chambers under the blocks where treats hide. I must slide the block with my nose or foot to reveal the treats. Jenn helps me at first, teaching me to move the blocks myself. This is a learning process and it takes some time for me to understand. But the treats keep me interested that's for sure.
Soon, here I am sliding the black block with my foot uncovering the treat. Cool. This is something that really makes me think and I so want to understand it. We only play a few minutes at a time at first, so I'm always wanting to do more. Jenn says the main drawback of the Brick is the cost (about $50 retail plus shipping). Woof! All the dog activating toys are very well made and solid wood, much like handmade Swedish children's toys. The very good news is that there are plastic versions soon to be available that will be much less expensive. So my overall opinion of the Brick is a Paws Up and a higher Paws Up for the less expensive plastic versions.

Click here to read more about Nina Ottosson and her dog activating toys.

Watch a video of a dog working with the plastic Brick on YouTube.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Play Everyday!

Jenn and I started a new class at the APS called "Having Fun With Obedience". I love this class! It's all about playing different games to improve communication between dogs and their people. I love games. The instructor is Jenn's friend Chris. One of the games is using clickers to get us dogs thinking and experimenting with new behaviors called "freeshaping". The click means I've done something good and I'll get a treat. Jenn can use the click to mark the exact second of my behavior. In this picture, Jenn is using the clicker to help me learn to play the piano with my feet. First she clicked me for looking at the piano, then for touching the piano with my nose or feet, then only with my feet, and then only the keys with my feet. This photo is courtesy of my girlfriend Niamh's person Barbara.

The clicker is just a little plastic box that makes the click sound. Jenn says you can also use a word like "YES" to mark a behavior in the same way. Some dogs are a little scared of the click sound at first so you can put the clicker in your pocket and click to muffle the sound.

What to learn more about clicker training? Click here (ha!)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Digging in the Dirt!

I love to dig! What fun it is to plow through the soft ground with my feet and shove my face into the cool dirt. Check out my brown feet and brown tongue! Sometimes I dig because I'm trying to get to something, like a mole. Other times, I dig to just lay in the cool place. Lots of puppies like to dig for various reasons, but their people don't think that it is so great. Especially if we dig up the flowers or special plants or make holes all over the yard.

Jenn and Eric know how much I like to dig and they didn't want me to dig up the whole yard, so they let me have my own magic dig pit. This is a special place just for me where there are hidden treats and toys. I go to dig there and voila, there is buried treasure like a toy or a bone. Why would I need to dig in any other area of the yard? I never find anything interesting there. My magic dig pit always has the best stuff.

Excessive digging can be caused by lack of exercise and boredom. If a puppy has nothing to do in his yard, digging is a creative way to burn off energy and frustration. Make sure your puppy is getting enough exercise.

If you want to manage your dog's digging habit, check this DogStarDaily article out.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Check out my videos from TTouch...

Here are some video clips taken by Karin, a TTouch practitioner and class assistant during this weeks training. The TTouch instructor is Kathy Cascade, who was very kind and patient with me. Jenn is there too, to reassure me that everything is AOK. In this exercise, Kathy helps me move around the poles on the floor slowly, without pulling, and to stop with my body balanced on all four feet. So much harder than I thought! This exercise really made me think and I did get a little anxious about it. So I did my "ort, ort" bark. I'm glad I was able to do this exercise to help folks new to TTouch to learn the importance of slow, thoughtful movements. This can help a dog to think, coordinate their bodies, and develop confidence.

My Day at TTouch with Kathy Cascade

I got to spend a day with Jenn at TTouch training at the APS. Jenn organizes these training several times a year with her friend Laura (my special girlfriend Mona's person). Many people come to learn about TTouch and how they can share it with their animal friends. The Tellington TTouch method is a way of interacting with your companion animal that reduces stress, builds confidence, and reduces pain. There are touches that are calming and quieting and movement exercises that engage a dog's attention. The instructor was Kathy Cascade and she showed me how to do this movement exercise where I have to stand quietly then move with her slowly. It's so hard to move slowly! I just want to go, go, go and I get anxious when I can't. Jenn said I did a great job and she's going to help me do all the exercises with confidence.

Jenn says that she's going to offer a workshop for local people that want to learn more about TTouch. If you are interested, just sign up for the Blue Dog newsletter.

To learn more about the TTouch Method, check here.