Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Don't Multitask Well

A lot has happened since my last post. (I can't believe that was two weeks ago!) First and foremost, an extended family member died unexpectedly. Rocky was my mother's best friend and a part of my life for almost 40 years. She had a quick wit and a sharp tongue, plus the courage to say aloud the things most people just think. She had been through some rough patches lately and was estranged from one of her children when she died. I always thought that there would be time for things would turn around and they'd make amends. Rocky's sudden death has prompted all of us to examine our own mortality. So what does that have to do with this blog?

First off, my mom has decided that now is the time to pass down all those family recipes. She has enlisted me, her sisters and my cousins to write a family cookbook. She even found a great website to help. I've spent the last two weeks combing through all my recipes picking the best ones to pass down to my children and future grandchildren. It's not easy because a lot of the recipes are "add some of this and a bit of that." I've been cooking and baking lately, trying better to accurately measure and write down ingredients. It's tedious, but I can't wait to see the final product.

Jedi and I are in training classes twice a week. We're still doing nose work on Monday nights. And now we're working towards our Canine Good Citizen (CGC) title on Wednesdays. In between classes I'm trying to do several homework/training sessions. Let me tell you, CGC isn't as easy as it looks! At least not with Jedi. But I love this trainer, and she's set up the classes in a way that the dogs (and their frustrated handlers) will succeed. I'll share more of this process as time goes on.

Several weeks ago I lamented over whether or not to continue Jedi's Conformation career or to switch paths. Thank you everyone who chimed in with advice and words of encouragement. And thank you to those who didn't but sent a prayer or happy thought my way. I appreciate it more than I can say. Anyway, Rocky's death has made me realize that tomorrow isn't promised so I should get off my tush and move forward. (Seriously, I can think something to death without ever doing a damn thing!) I'm giving myself 14 months to see if we have what it takes. We'll start up again with the German Shepherd Dog Club of North Florida's specialty shows in April and then reevaluate in a year. Looking back, there are many things I should have done with Jedi in the very beginning (more stacking, better gaiting) and overcoming these at 2 years old might be difficult. I guess we'll just have to find out. Either way, I'll share.

And on that note, I'm entering the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, with the topic of Dog Shows. In April I'm going to share everything I know about dog showing from a Newbie's point of view. I want to write the kind of blog I wanted to read three years ago. I've been researching and sketching out posts for the past few weeks. I hope that those of you who are curious about show dogs (and kooky show dog people) will stop by and check it out. Even more so, I hope that clueless, insecure-but-excited novice fanciers will stop by and learn from my mistakes. I know that a couple of my blogging buddies are experienced, successful dog show people. I hope you will join me in April as well, to both correct my mistakes and add some valuable insight.

So you see, I haven't abandoned this blog and all of you kind enough to read it. But it appears that I can't convert recipes, research and sketch out future posts, train my dog and keep writing new posts all at the same. While working. And (sorta) keep up with housework and laundry. So until I can quit my job and hire a housekeeper, things are going to slow down a bit. Dammit.

Thanks for reading my mindless ramblings. Thank you Ruckus, Bentley and Koda and Crew for hosting Thoughtless Thursday, thus giving me an excuse. ("No I'm not scatterbrained, I was being 'thoughtless' on purpose. It's the theme!") BTW, this is my favorite hop. Click around below and visit some of my not-so-thoughtless colleagues. Lucky for you, all but one of them are more sane than I am. You get to guess who that one is! Luv ya, -- K


Friday, January 16, 2015

How Do You Train a Tiger?

Answer: Very Carefully!

Thanks to my friend for such a great photo. I was too busy gawking to break out the camera.

I went to the zoo last month and happened to be at the tiger exhibit when the zookeeper was working with the tigers. I watched intently, and then afterwards asked a hundred questions. (Yes, I am THAT person.) What I discovered is that training a tiger is very similar to (properly) training a dog. How, you ask?
  • First of all, it's all positive reinforcement. The keeper will ask a tiger to do something. If the tiger does what's asked, he gets a treat. If the tiger doesn't, then no treat. There is no forcing, no manipulating, no physical punishment -- because unlike a dog, if you hit a tiger there's a good chance he'll rip your arm off.
  • Hand signals are taught first, followed by a verbal command once the tigers "get it." Tigers are taught to offer different body parts (feet, teeth, belly) for inspection. Not only is this good mental stimulation, it develops a rapport between the tigers and their keepers. No, the tigers will never curl up on the couch with their keepers, but a trusting relationship will make it easier to medicate a sick tiger.
  • A marker is used. When training Jedi, I use a clicker to mark a correct behavior. The zookeepers use a whistle, much like the dolphin trainers at Sea World. A cue is given (i.e. "up" in the photo) the tiger performs the behavior, the behavior is marked and then a treat is given. Apparently the tigers picked up on it very quickly.
  • High value treats are used -- in this case, raw meat. If you're going to ask a tiger to do something, you need to make it worth his while. I've discovered this with Jedi as well. The harder the trick, the more valuable the treat needs to be. He'll sit and shake (easy tasks) for cheese, but nose work and perch work (more difficult) require hot dogs or chicken. When we're in the show ring (very difficult) he gets steak.
  • There's consistency. All zookeepers use the same verbal/hand cues. The command for presenting a foot is always "paw" -- Not "paw" today, "foot" tomorrow and "hand" the following day. Also, the interaction area is opened up the same time every day. The tigers know when it's training time. (Interestingly though, the tigers have the choice to participate or not. The tigers are also free to leave at anytime.)
I've said before that I'm not the best trainer. In fact, sometimes I'm a horrible trainer (slow to mark, inconsistent, sporadic training) but I'm trying really, really hard to improve. I've noticed that Jedi is doing better -- so maybe I am too. Or maybe he's just really smart and is figuring things out despite his trainer's abilities. He is a German shepherd after all. How about you? Do you have any training insight you'd like to share? Jedi and I would be most appreciative! -- K
 
P.S. Jedi's latest trick: Paws Up. He'll put his front paws on everything now! See:
 
We're using the barrel for pedestal work
A large, plastic bowl is great for perch work
 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Soul Searching

Last month the AKC/Eukanuba Dog Show was held in Orlando. For those who don't know, Eukanuba is like the second largest dog show in the country, just behind Westminster. And I'm fortunate enough to be only two hours away. I wanted to go again this year but things didn't work out. However, it got me thinking about Jedi's dog show career. A lot of things haven't been working out, and I'm wondering if I should continue. I think my three biggest complaints are:
  1. There's a lot more to show and then just running around the ring. It's more complicated and requires more coordination than I had imagined.
  2. It's expensive. The average entry fee is about $28 a day, but once you factor in travel and lodging, it goes up considerably. Very seldom is there a show close enough that I can drive there and back same day -- especially since Jedi gets carsick.
  3. I had hoped to find a mentor. Or even some "show buddies." I wanted camaraderie; instead I found loneliness and confusion. It seems that those in the know know, and those who don't have to ferret out information with all the skill of an archaeologist.
To be honest, I wouldn't mind putting in the time and money if I knew I was on the right track. I didn't plan on winning ribbons right away. I expected I'd have to learn the ropes. Problem is, I don't know what or where the flippin' ropes are! Once upon a time dog clubs -- especially breed-specific clubs -- held classes, seminars and practice matches to promote the fancy. Newbies like myself learned about grooming and reading a pedigree and veteran members gladly explained terminology and paperwork. Dogs were included at the meetings where gaiting and stacking were practiced. I've heard rumors that these kinds of clubs still exist, but I haven't seen one.

Why are these decisions so hard?
So now I'm at a crossroads. I have to accept the fact that this isn't what I had imagined and ask myself if I want to continue with what I've found in its place. If so, how/where am I going to learn what it is I need to know? Am I even having fun? OR do I want to switch courses and look into other things I can do with Jedi? Am I ready to throw away the dreams I've had for 35 years? -- I know, that's some heavy thinking! Sometimes I wish life came with a handbook. And most times I wish I didn't think about things so much. You know the phrase "Don't sweat the small stuff"? Well, the first thing I want to know is "How do you define small?" It's a wonder I don't have ulcers. Or a rubber room. *sigh*

As usual, I'm thinking too much on Thoughtless Thursday. But then again I talk too much on my Wordless Wednesday posts, so what do you expect? Anyway, we're joining Ruckus the Eskie and the gang in this Thoughtless Thursday hop. Click around below to see what others are thinking -- or not thinking -- about today. Surely you'll find something less neurotic than this! TTFN, -- K




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

National Dress Up Your Pet Day

Hey everybody, it's National Dress Up Your Pet Day. (Yeah, that's a thing. Really!) Jedi said he was tired of silly hats so we went with a more dignified scarf today. And since we've been doing some pedestal work lately, I thought I'd have him hop onto a barrel for his photo shoot. Isn't he handsome?


So, what did your pet wear for National Dress Up Your Pet Day? Take a picture and link it to Blog Paws' Wordless Wednesday hop below. Can't wait to see it! -- K

 
 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pet Blogger Challenge

OMG, it's that time of year again! For the fifth year in a row, Go Pet Friendly (one of my favorite blogs) is hosting the Pet Blogger Challenge. This hop is a fun way for pet bloggers worldwide to share their thoughts on blogging -- What works? What doesn't? What would you like to do better? This is my favorite hop of the year! With the answers to just a few questions I learn so much about blogging, other bloggers and sometimes I even learn something about myself. *gasp* I'll comb through all the posts over the next month. (Yes, it'll probably take that long -- last year there were 82 participants!) I'll share anything exciting I find and will hopefully incorporate some cool, new stuff into my blog. Without any further ado, here are the questions and my answers. Enjoy!

1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

I started blogging in 2012 after I lost my heart dog, Logan. It was pretty morose, so read at your own risk! Then I got a new puppy, Jedi. I've wanted to show dogs since the 1970's (I know!) and since this pup was probably my only chance to do so, I thought the blog would be a great way to chronicle our adventures. Unfortunately, I am disorganized and somehow the blog became Kelley's weird dog-related blog. Honestly, I never expected anybody to read it other than my mother. Surprise! Apparently people find my sarcastic, slightly neurotic, and sometimes homicidal thoughts amusing. And my tales-of-a-pissed-off-animal-control-officer make others feel normal.
 
2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.

I made a bunch of resolutions on New Year's Eve 2013. Most of them went unresolved. However, I did say that I wanted to post at least 15 times a month for the year. I fell short a couple times, but still posted 196 times in 2014.
 
3. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own blogs?

Don't forget to step away from the computer. I'm ashamed to say that there were times I was too busy blogging about Jedi to actually spend time with Jedi. That's not going to happen again. I love my readers -- my blogging buddies! -- but I love my dog more. He deserves my undivided attention on a regular basis.
 
4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

I get a lot of traffic through Google+. Sometimes I'll link a blog post to my Facebook, but I usually keep my blog and FB accounts separate. I found blog hops to be a great way to expose my blog to new people as well as to find blogs that I hadn't known about before. There are a lot of great blogs out there and it's easy to get lost in them.

5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?

According to Blogger my most popular post was Jedi Plays Spin the Bottle. I saw a video on Facebook and asked a friend of mine if he could make a similar toys for Jedi. He did and the dogs had fun with it. However, I don't have much faith in Blogger's statistics. My most popular post of all time is about Roxy taking a dump in Petsmart. Surely there's got to be a spam factor involved.
 
6. What was your favorite blog post to write this year?

I had fun with my crazy work stories this year. Instead of getting frustrated with the idiots I deal with on a regular basis, I decided to look at them humorously. And I think everybody enjoyed it. I giggled the entire time I was writing Freaks on the Beach. The most meaningful post -- and the most difficult to write -- was 25 Years, 47 Dead, and 1 Personal Miracle. It's also the only non-animal post on my blog.
 
7. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?

Short answer: no. Long answer: I wouldn't be opposed to giveaways. Seriously, who doesn't like free stuff? Unfortunately, rafflecopter looks confusing and I haven't found anything I just HAD to share. Any reviews I do are my own personal opinion. Typical me, I say what I want, filter not included. I am beholden to no one; if I tell you I like something, I really mean it. And if I tell you it's crap, then it's crap. I don't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings.
 
8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?
  • Keep clutter to a minimum. Not only does it make the page load a lot slower, it's distracting, making the blog harder to read.
  • Proofread! I make typos too, trust me, but they do stand out and distract from what you're trying to say. Stepping away from the post and proofing the next day catches a lot.
  • Make it easy to comment. I WANT to interact, but I don't want to spend 10 minutes trying to figure out how to leave a reply. And my 40+ year old eyes have a hard time reading those "type the numbers above to prove you're human" codes.
9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?

I want to be less scatterbrained. I'd like to focus more on dog showing and dog sports. I'm contemplating doing the A to Z Challenge on dog shows. (Come back in April and see if it all pans out!) I'd also like to take better pictures. My photography skills suck.
 
10. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

Social media. What the heck is Twitter? I tried to look into it and found it very confusing. Is it really something that is worth learning? Same goes for Pinterest. I would not be offended if someone sent me a "No-Brainer Tutorial for People over 40" link.
 
So there you go! Comments, questions and constructive criticisms are welcome. And I look forward to spending time with you in 2015. But for now I'm off to see what others have written. Later, -- K

P.S. This is a blog hop. Take a look at the blogs below and discover some pretty cool things!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

De-Stinking in Sepia

The weather has been odd for the past couple months. On the days I work -- Sunday through Wednesday -- it has been warm and sunny, often hitting the mid to high 70s. (Northern readers can quit hating any time now!) On my days off -- Thursday through Saturday -- it's been wet and dreary, not even making it to the low 60s. This has really affected bath time and the dogs have gotten a bit stinky. Today things are different. The sun is out and it's warm enough for a canine wash and fluff. Yippie!

Hubby asks Jedi "Do you know what today is? It's Bath Day!"
 
Jedi says "NOOOOOOO!"
Just kidding. Actually Jedi is very good about bathing. He'll jump on and off the grooming table when I ask and stands nicely when I wash him. Sometimes he'll fuss when the cool water touches his belly, but he doesn't jump off the table. He'll even stand still so I can blow him dry. At 90 pounds, he's the easiest dog I've ever had to bathe. 65 pound Roxy, however, is a pain to bathe. It takes at least two people to hold her still, and everybody ends up soaked. Roxy won't go near the table, so we use a back-killing kiddie pool. And she won't go near the dryer either. It takes hours for her to air dry.
 
Anyway, I'm glad that we were able to destink Jedi before our Find the Odor class on resumes Monday. The dogs should be looking for Sweet Birch oil, not Ripe Jedi.
 
 
It's Sepia Saturday! Hop around and see what others are sharing today. -- K
 
 
 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Nose Work Supplies & Silly Games

It's been cold and yucky outside lately (by Florida standards anyway). I've been trying to keep Jedi entertained. He's a pain in the butt when he's bored. Our Find the Odor class resumes on Monday. I am so excited! Jedi and I were practicing regularly until Christmas Eve. That's when I knocked the glass jar contained all the Sweet Birch scented Q-Tips off the counter. The jar shattered into hundreds of teeny tiny pieces. I was afraid to save the Q-Tips, worried there were glass fragments embedded in them. This left me in a quandary. My instructor gave me the Q-Tips for practice. I didn't have the oil myself, and you can't exactly buy Sweet Birch oil at Winn Dixie!

Our new nose work kit!
I searched the internet. I found Sweet Birch oil on Amazon (seriously, you can buy pretty much anything on Amazon) but I was worried it wasn't right. And how would I store it? Then I found K9 NW Source. They had premade nose work kits for reasonable prices. I ordered the Deluxe Starter Kit on December 27th and it arrived 6 days later -- even with a Sunday and a holiday in between. This kit is great! It's smaller than I had thought -- not much bigger than an International Coffee tin -- but it's packed full of goodies. This air-tight box contains oil, pre-scented Q-Tips (in both black and white), tins and tubes for hiding, and tweezers to keep my fingers from smelling like Wint-O-Green Lifesavers all day. Trust me, that scent gets annoying pretty quickly.

The Muffin Tin game
In the meantime we've been playing silly nose games. I'll hide toys and treats in and under the couch, then asked Jedi to find them. Sometimes he really has to dig to get them. Other times I'll hide somewhere in the house and have Jedi come find me. We have a lot of fun with the Muffin Tin game too. Have you played this one? It's really easy. Better yet, it's cheap budget friendly! Grab an old muffin tin and a bunch of tennis balls. (Dollar Tree sells balls two for a dollar. They're not all that great for fetching or chewing, but they're perfect for this.) Hide treats in the tin, cover them with balls, and then tell your dog to get the treats. For Jedi I only hide treats under 3-4 of the balls to make it a bit more challenging. Sometimes Jedi will paw at the balls, sometimes he tries to nose them out of the way and sometimes he'll just pick them up with his mouth and drop them to the side. The Muffin Tin game is a fun, easy thing to do with your dog when you can't get outside. So, what do you do to keep your dog from driving you nuts when the weather is bad? We're always looking for ideas! -- K

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Want To Try Something New?

Want to do something new with your dog in 2015? Here are 15 different dog sports you can try. I've provided links for more information if you find anything interesting.
  • Agility – A dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off-leash with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler can touch neither dog nor obstacles. See the United States Dog Agility Association for more information.
  • Barn Hunt – A growing sport honoring the traditional role of dogs in ridding barns, homes, and properties of vermin. Dogs hunt for rats hidden in a straw bale maze. It's a timed event, with levels of difficulty from Novice to Master. More information can be found at the Barn Hunt Association.
  • Conformation – A "dog show" (i.e. Westminster) where a dog is evaluated on its build, looks, movement, temperament, and many other things that "make it what it is". Dogs are compared against a set standard for the particular breed. AKC (American Kennel Club) conformation info here, however, there are other organizations that host conformation competitions as well.
  • Dock Diving – A dog sport in which dogs compete in jumping for distance or height from a dock into a body of water. Ultimate Air Dogs has some great information about dock diving.
  • Flyball – A dog sport in which teams of dogs race against each other from a start/finish line, over a line of hurdles, to a box that releases a tennis ball to be caught when the dog presses the spring-loaded pad, then back to their handlers while carrying the ball.Check out the North American Flyball Association for more details.
  • Freestyle – A modern dog sport that is a mixture of obedience training, tricks, and dance. It's a lot of fun to watch. I have a friend who does this. Apparently there are several freestyle organizations including the Canine Freestyle Federation and the Musical Dog Sport Association.
  • Herding – A sport in which a dog must be able to move livestock around a preset course. The livestock normally seen is sheep, but ducks and cattle can also be used. There are multiple organizations for herding as well. Here is a link to the American Herding Breed Association. The AKC offers herding titles, as does several of the herding breed associations.
  • Lure Coursing – A sport where dogs chase an artificial lure across a field, following a pattern that is meant to simulate live coursing and is perfect for sight hounds. Here a link to the AKC's Getting Started in Lure Coursing page.
  • Nose Work – The fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs and people. This is what Jedi and I have been doing lately and we love it. Visit the National Association of Canine Scent Work if you want to do it as an official sport. If you want to just have fun, check out the Sniff School posts at Donna and the Dogs.
  • Obedience – A dog sport in which a dog-handler team must execute a predefined set of tasks. Training for obedience trials can provide much needed mental stimulation and physical activity for a bored house pet. It's amazing to watch. AKC Obedience can be found here.
  • Rally – Another obedience trial, but in Rally the competitors proceed around a course of designated stations with the dog in heel position. The course consists of 10 to 20 signs that instruct the team what to do. Unlike traditional obedience, handlers are allowed to encourage their dogs during the course. World Cynosport Rally has some great information about Rally.
  • Schutzhund – German for “protection dog,” schutzhund was developed in Germany in the early 1900s as a breed suitability test for the German Shepherd Dog. Modern schutzhund consists of three phases: tracking, obedience, and protection. A dog must pass all three phases in one trial to be awarded a schutzhund title. Want more info about schutzhund? Start by visiting the United Schutzhund Clubs of America.
  • Tracking – An event to encourage dogs to make use of their strongest facility, the ability to follow a scent trail. The competition emulates the finding of a lost person or article. The AKC offers tracking trials and titles. See here for more info.
  • Treibball – A new canine sport combining herding, chasing,agility and soccer. Dogs push large Pilates-type exercise balls into a goal, working at a distance from the handler. Go to the American Treibball Association for pictures and a better explanation
  • Trick Dog Performance Title – Sponsored by Kyra Sundance and Do More With Your Dog, dogs complete a series of tricks to earn various titles. This looks like lots of fun. Don't tell Jedi, but I'm seriously considering doing this!
Most of these sports are open to all dogs including mixed breeds, spayed/neutered dogs and handicapped dogs. In fact, K-9 Obedience Club of Jacksonville has a member with a 3-legged dog who has excelled -- and titled! -- in Nose Work.

Remember: A tired dog is a happy dog. Whether you decide to check out one of the activities above or not, just do something. And please let me know, because Jedi and I are always looking for something fun.

It's Thoughtless Thursday (thanks Ruckus!) and, as usual, I've given you too much to think about. Sorry! Anyway, hop around and see what others are thinking about today. And now it's time for us to head to the park. TTFN -- K