Monday, May 27, 2019

Snuffle What?

I was scrolling through a FB group the other day and kept seeing snuffle mats mentioned. These mats are like extreme samples of 70's shag carpet. The object is to hide tiny bits of food inside so dogs have to root around to get the tidbits. It engages a dog's nose and brain by mimicking hunting for food in the wild. Apparently dogs really enjoy it.

I was intrigued. And I wanted one. Like any other American girl, I searched "snuffle mat" on Amazon. They averaged $30-40 each. Uh, no. Then I Googled "DIY Snuffle Mat" and found step-by-step instructions from The Honest Kitchen. Much better! I was able to make my own snuffle mat for $10. I ordered the sink mats from Amazon (two for $8) and bought 1.5 yards of cheap fleece from Walmart.

Trooper was happy with the results. If you want to make your own, print out the instructions from the link above. But first, here are a few tips from me:
  • Get the thin fleece. Your running four strips per hole. It gets tight! My finger tips still hurt from all the shoving and pulling.
  • Tight knots will give you more room in the little holes.
  • Go with one color/pattern of fabric. I had plans of making a fun pattern using 3 different fabrics. You can't tell, and I spent way too much time on it.
  • Get a rotary cutter! I lost count of how many strips I cut, but it was well over 600 for a small, 11" X 12.5" mat.

Canine Enrichment is the fancy smanchy term for "working your dog's brain so he doesn't get bored and destroy your stuff." In the past few years it's become a thing. There are books, videos, online classes and Facebook Groups dedicated to this. It's a good time to be a dog.

I've been doing -- and sharing -- enrichment activities for years.(What can I say? I like my stuff unchewed.) I recently gathered some of my favorite posts and made an enrichment page for the blog. Click on the tab above to see 20+ different fun and cheap enrichment activities. Enjoy! -- K

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Stand Still

Trooper has decided that he would rather not stand for exam. J-lyn and I have been running our hands all over him since birth. He doesn't even notice when I touch his testicles. However, when the judge tries to touch him during the exam he sits down. What's a girl to do?

More training classes would help. Unfortunately, I've been swamped lately and haven't been able to make it out to a class. And even though Trooper comes to work with me, there's nobody I feel comfortable enough to ask "Will you grope my dog?"

So you can imagine my excitement when I got an email from the Fenzi Dog Academy about an upcoming workshop entitled Confident Stand for Exams. The course description read:
In this workshop we will work on your dog understanding that exams are not about being petted! This will take the pressure off your shy dog and your over greater will have less conflict about wanting to say "Hi."
My reaction was something like this:

I've watched the workshop video/lecture several times. I'm hopeful and frustrated at the same time. I think I can train Trooper to willingly and comfortably stand for exam. However, it's probably going to take patience and baby steps -- neither are a strong point for me. This is our plan of action:
  1. Teach Trooper to put his chin in my hand when asked. This is a consent behavior.
  2. Add the cue "chin." Increase duration before moving on.
  3. While in position, move my empty hand around him, rewarding him for ignoring the movement. Increase duration before moving on.
  4. While in position, touch him much like a judge's exam. Reward him for ignoring the touch. Increase duration before moving on.
  5. While in position, have person he knows well walk by. Reward him for ignoring the movement. Increase duration before moving on.
  6. While in position, have person he knows well touch him much like a judge's exam. Reward him for ignoring the touch. Increase duration before moving on.
  7. While in position, have helper/stranger walk by. Reward him for ignoring the movement. Increase duration before moving on.
  8. While in position, have helper/stranger touch him much like a judge's exam. Reward him for ignoring the touch.
We're still working on step one, but he's picked it up really fast. The ultimate goal is to teach Trooper that the exam just is, and he's not required to interact with the judge (or veterinarian). If he could learn to trust that I'll protect him, then even better.

Consent is a new, emerging thought in dog training. I'll share more later, but the gist is that:
  • Some dogs (like people) are extremely sensitive to emotional pressure and can shut down completely when stressed. Sound like Trooper to you?
  • Dogs (like people) are more likely to work harder and more cheerfully if they feel their wishes are respected.
This is going to be a challenge for us. Trooper is the most sensitive dog I've ever owned. He picks up on my frustration and takes it personally -- even if it has nothing to do with him. I am going to have to be cognizant of my mood and body language. Wish us luck! -- K

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tractor Trooper

Who needs Bob the Builder? I have Tractor Trooper!

So . . .

     It was another slow day.

          Trooper and I were bored.

               The tractor was unlocked.

                      And frankly, I couldn't resist.

All silliness aside, these funny photo shoots are good training opportunities.
  • Trooper is learning to trust me. My requests may be kooky, but I'll keep him safe.
  • Trooper builds confidence climbing into strange vehicles.
  • Trooper has to figure out how to negotiate unfamiliar spaces. This is great for rear end awareness.
  • Trooper is practicing long stays from a distance while I take the picture.
See, enrichment. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

If you want to take crazy pics of your pups (and who wouldn't?) don't go for the big rig right away. Start small and work your way up. Among other things, Trooper was in a police car, an ATV and a smaller tractor before this.

So what's next? I don't know. You'll have to stick around to find out. TTFN, -- K

Monday, May 13, 2019

Pouting Pup

A bored German shepherd is never a good thing. GSDs are smart. Sometimes too smart. If you don't keep them mentally stimulated, they will find something to do -- and you probably won't like it. Do I need to remind you about Trooper and the remote? We try to give the dogs various enrichment activities (training, food toys, puzzles, etc.) to keep them occupied. As a bonus, it also keeps them from being underfoot.

The other night Hubby shoved a large Milk Bone into the JW Hol-ee Ball. The ball is pliable and Jedi could have compressed it to either break the biscuit or pull it out. Instead, he carried it around the house for hours, whining the entire time. He couldn't figure out how to remove the biscuit -- and he surely wasn't going to let Trooper try!

I laughed at him and had to take a picture of him pouting. Big baby. Eventually, Hubby removed the treat and let Jedi have it. The next day, Hubby shoved a Milk Bone into the ball again before going to work. Jedi must have figured it out because the ball was empty when I got home.

So, what do you do to entertain your dogs? Seriously, we're running out of ideas! -- K

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Making a Difference for K-9s

Race shirt artwork
Back in November I told you about a bill being proposed here in Florida to increase the penalties for intentionally killing a police K-9s. The bill, named the "Fang Memorial Bill” in honor of a local police K-9 (a German Shepherd) killed last year, was signed by the Governor a couple weeks ago. The bill triples the maximum penalties from five years in a state prison to 15 and raises the fine from $5,000 to $15,000 and includes fire dogs, search & rescue dogs and horses used for mounted units. Go Florida! Only two other states -- Utah and South Carolina -- have similar laws in effect to protect our K-9 heroes.

Before Fang, another local K-9 was killed in the line of duty. K-9 Baron (also a GSD) was killed in St. Johns County in 2014. That shook the community. In response, K9s United was formed. This group raises money to provide training, first aid and needed equipment for police K-9s nationwide. When there are budgetary constraints, animals often get the short end of the stick. (Ask any animal control officer/municipal shelter for examples!) K9s United has vowed to stand in the gap.

One popular fundraiser is a race for awareness. K9s United held a 5K/9K/1-mile fun run here in Jacksonville, also in honor of Fang. Eight brave GSD club members formed a walking team. Our ages range from 44 to 69. We may not have been the youngest, fastest or biggest team walking, but nobody could beat our love of dogs. We even stood in a looooong line to have our picture taking with a Police K-9 (the GSD, of course).

Club members pose with K9 Erin and her handler, Sgt. Gillick
The race opened with our Senator, Aaron Bean, and Fang's handler, Officer Herrera, sharing how the bill was passed. There were cheers and tears. The race followed by K9 demonstrations of obedience, odor detection, officer protection and the crowd's favorite -- bad guy apprehension. K9 officers from all over the state came to the event.

I'm sore and tired, but my soul is happy. Today, I helped make a difference. Later, -- K

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Satin Balls

Skinny pup!
I'm having a hard time keeping weight on Trooper. I'm not worried. He's young and active. When Jedi was younger, he also went through periods where he'd burn more calories than he could take in with his regular kibble. Looking back, it was usually this time of year. (Now that Jedi's an old fart and we're trying to take weight off.) Maybe Trooper is headed toward another growth spurt. Ugh. I guess it's time to make a batch of Satin Balls!

Say what?! Satin Balls are nutrient-rich, high calorie treats used in the dog show community to improve coats and put weight on a skinny dog, quickly. There are many recipe variations are on the internet, but this is the one that I like best. The dog rescue community also uses Satin Balls to put weight on underweight dogs.

Satin Balls
  • 5 pounds ground chuck or high fat ground beef
  • 1/2 large box of Whole Grain Total (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 large box quick-cooking oats (about 7 1/2 cups)
  • 5-6 eggs, with crushed shells (rinse eggs to remove any chemicals on shell)
  • 1/2 jar of wheat germ (about 2 cups)
  • 5 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Pinch of sea salt
Mix all ingredients in a giant bowl or a clean 5 gallon bucket. You'll need to use your hands for this! I divide the mixture in to 1/4 cup patties, putting six each into Ziplock freezer bags. I get about 90 patties. Store in the freezer until ready to use. I'll pop two in the microwave for 30 seconds and serve them warm over a little bit of kibble.

About the Ingredients

Obviously this isn't an exact recipe, but here is the reasoning be the ingredients:
  • Beef: If the goal is to improve the coat, use leaner ground beef. If the goal is to put weight on quickly, use ground beef with higher fat content. Ground turkey can be used as well.
  • Whole Grain Total: The cereal provides vitamins A, C, D, E, B6 and B12, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. Some recipes discourage the use of Total cereal due to its sugar content.
  • Oats: This is a good source of fiber and other nutrients.
  • Eggs: Eggs are also one of the most complete sources of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. They also provide vitamins A and B12, riboflavin, folate, iron, selenium and fatty acids. The shells add calcium.
  • Wheat germ: This provides vitamin E, folic acid, phosphorus, thiamin, zinc and magnesium.
  • Gelatin: This helps the ball hold their shape. It also adds collagen and nitrogen.
  • Molasses: This provides manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and selenium. (It also makes them smell really good when you heat them up -- but don't eat them!) 
Yum yum! I'm headed to the grocery store now. Catch you later, -- K

Monday, May 6, 2019

The After-Match

It was a long weekend for Trooper
The Match is in the books. Whoopie. If you remember, my German Shepherd Dog Club agreed to hold an AKC Sanctioned GSD Specialty B Match in conjunction with a breeder's annual BBQ.

We had ten regular entries and three in junior showmanship. We also offered a 4-6 month puppy (non-regular) class. Only one person entered that competition, making the class a waste of time and money. The trophy, rosette and ribbons cost more than the single entry fee we took in. I wouldn’t recommend offering it next time. (Live and learn, right?)

Participants and spectators seemed to have had a good time. I have mixed feelings about how things went. I'd like to share what worked, what didn't and what could be done differently -- just in case any of you ever think of doing this!

Know your audience -- I assumed that the match participants would be people new to the sport and/or with new dogs. I overestimated the group! Most of the match participants were absolutely clueless about dog shows. They didn't know what class to enter their dogs in -- they didn't even know what classes were! We were sharing leads and collars, reminding people to keep dogs on the left and explaining what a stack was from the ringside. A couple people showed up in flip-flops and ended up running around the ring barefoot.

Our entry form asked for email addresses. After the show I sent an email to all entrants. It included links to a few AKC resources to help make their next dog show experience even more enjoyable. I referred them to Info Dog to find shows, saying that nearby Ocala has several every month. I also emailed some information about the German Shepherd Dog Club of North Florida with links to our website and FB page.

Ribbons, trophies and baskets, oh my!
Know your location -- I wasn't able to visit the property beforehand. As such, decisions made based on photos were changed during set up. The area used for the ring was in a corner of a field surrounded by large trees to keep it shaded during the morning. We used the existing fence for most of the ring. The BBQ festivities were being held at the other end of the property so we decided not to put up our large, labor-intensive canopies. In hindsight, it would have been better to just grab a few necessary items and transport those instead of towing the entire club trailer. The trailer hadn't been reorganized since the Specialty shows. Overloaded and off balance, it would sway every time we went over 55 MPH. This added an extra hour to our drive and put too much stress on my husband our truck.

Know your budget -- We only took entries the day of the match. This made paperwork and money handling easier. It probably brought in a few last minute entries too. However, it made things hard to shop for. We ordered 1st through 4th place ribbons for every class offered. It's customary to give toys to each match entrant. Having no idea how many people would be coming, I bought 30 just in case. Even being frugal, they add up. Sure, we can use the leftover toys another time, but the cost is still added to this event's bottom line. I'm hoping that we broke even, as our club doesn't have much in the way of disposable income.

Know your expectations -- I expected the match to be a practice show with new but semi-knowledgeable people handling their own dogs ... like every other match I've ever attended. Apparently, the breeder and her people did not. 90% of them used the same two teenagers to run their dogs around the ring and they had no clue as to what was taking place. 

Our club was told that hosting the match would be a great way for the northeastern Florida GSD community to meet the central Florida GSD community, "a source of potential new members." Unfortunately, hosting the match as a way to promote the German Shepherd Dog Club of North Florida was a bust. Only one person at the BBQ expressed any interest in the club. It's been a week since my email went out and nobody has responded.

Best in Match was Trooper's brother! See the resemblance?
Know your limitations -- This endeavor was too much for me and Hubby to shoulder alone. Several of the people we thought were going to help pulled out at the last minute for various reasons. Others showed up late or left early because they had double-booked for the weekend. And honestly, the distance from Jacksonville to Dunnellon was longer than most club members wanted to drive.

Finally, I’m a little miffed that nobody from the German Shepherd Dog Club of Orlando or the Tampa Bay German Shepherd Dog Club showed up – especially since we had to jump through hoops to get permission from both of them to even hold the match. Will I do this again? No. If asked, I would suggest one of the following options:
  • Find another host. The breeder should reach out to the German Shepherd Dog Club of Orlando or the Tampa Bay German Shepherd Dog Club. They are closer and would have an easier time getting club members to help out. They are also more likely to local members. Being that the AKC claims Dunnellon is in those territories, they wouldn't have to petition for the permissions that we did to hold the match.

  • DIY Fun Match. Since the breeder isn't an AKC sanctioned club, she isn't bound by the rules that we are. My GSD club couldn't hold a fun match because we were opening up to non-members. Because we held a B Match, we had to use AKC's rules of judging. This upset a bunch of people with neutered dogs who wanted to enter. (These people obviously don't understand the intent of conformation dog shows in the first place -- but that's a post for another day.) The breeder, however, can just set up a ring and do whatever she wants. Judging by the skill and interest levels of breeder's clientele, I doubt the would mind -- or notice -- that it wasn't a "real" match.
So there you go -- the good, the bad and the ugly of my first time as Match Chair. If you ever take on that role, please learn from my mistakes. Be better than me. And send me an invitation to the match! See you around the ring, -- K