Tuesday, 19 November 2013

on-leash reactivity

On-leash reactivity was something I learned a lot about in a short period of time when I was fostering Ollie, who was extremely reactive to both dogs and people. I found this video to help a friend who is currently dealing with it in her labrador.


Although neither Piper nor Ace are particularly reactive, I still think about counter-conditioning and keeping them under threshold, and I am more willing to make the space they need. Probably why I rarely have leash-walking problems anymore, since my dogs are certainly not perfect.

Monday, 18 November 2013

canine good neighbour test (CGN)

This past Saturday, I drove out to Barrie to enter both Ace and Piper in CGN tests. The CGN (canine good neighbour) test is intended to be awarded to dogs with good manners; they need to be able to be polite while greeting a stranger, walk through a crowd of dogs and people, and be left with a stranger for 3 minutes, among a few other things. It is run by the CKC, and I felt this was a good designation for both dogs to have under their belts, as it might help convince a future landlord that my dogs are good and I am a responsible dog owner.

Piper was fantastic, she did every station perfectly. Ace did jump a bit when the tester greeted him, but he was so amazing in the out of sight stay, they still passed him.

The test was not until 10:00, and I had arrived before 9:00 in hopes of entering Piper in Rally Novice, and Obedience Pre-Novice for the afternoon trial. Unfortunately I mis-read the rules, which I thought stated all entries must be submitted an hour before the trial. Apparently, the rule is that all entries must be submitted an hour before the start of the FIRST trial. I should have been there before 8:00 in order to enter last minute. Disappointing, but I will just have to look for another trial! Maybe there will be one in January I can get to.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

busy november

Big things happening. As I am approaching the end of my masters degree, it appears I will be jobless for (hopefully) a short period of time. So, I am leaving my amazing apartment which I love, to move into my parent's basement. Temporarily. I hope.

They are less than thrilled with the two cats and two dogs moving with me, but I'm sure we will all manage just fine. Temporarily.

So it is a busy time of year:
- finishing up my thesis (I think I am almost finished writing)
- packing (I move in 3 weeks)
- visiting all my friends before I move, since I don't know when I will be back to this area
- and training my dogs!

Piper and Ace are registered for their Canine Good Neighbour (CGN) tests on November 16th. We have been practicing, and chatting with a few friends who's dogs have passed, and I think we are ready. As long as they each have 10 minutes or so to settle before we go in, I don't expect any problems. I think this test will be great when I (hopefully soon) am looking for another apartment.

Since there are also CKC Rally and Obedience trials occurring at the same time, I am hoping there will be space to enter Piper in one run of Pre-Novice Obedience, and one run of Rally Novice. It looks like there will be space in Rally, but I'm not sure about Obedience.

I also have to purchase a membership with the CKC, which I'm not super thrilled about, as I strongly disagree with the breed standards imposed on many extremely unhealthy breeds, such as pugs. However if I want to trial in Obedience, CKC is the only venue I am aware of.

Have I mentioned moving in my my parents is temporary?
Wish us luck!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

cuddling kitties

Very quiet yahoo moment!

Percy was sleeping in the hooded cat bed when Archie approached and gingerly climbed in. Percy woke up and looked agitated for a minute, but Archie started licking him! So Percy and Archie have spent the last 10 minutes sharing the bed, and grooming each other. I'm so glad, it looks like they will be good company for each other after all, which is what I was hoping for when I adopted Percy.

Now, Archie may or may not be laying across Percy, so I'm not actually sure he CAN get up, but he doesn't look too distressed about it. Maybe my positive reinforcement training is paying off already. What cuties!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

percy's re-adjustment

Meet Morgan... or... ummm... Percy? Yes, Percy.

That's right, Morgan has had a name change. After having him for about 2 months, I decided I didn't like Morgan after all. AndI think Percy is the perfect name for a cat. And since he didn't have any name recognition anyways, I changed it!

He has been quite the annoying little fool recently. Always bugging Archie, and often bugging me. I was getting pretty frustrated my my little kitten.

A few days ago I decided to change how I dealt with him, in order to bond with him better. Part of this was the name change. The other part is that I have decided to treat him like a dog. No, really.

Good behaviour gets treats. Bad behaviour gets lured into good behaviour, and rewarded. If bad behaviour persists, he gets a time out in the cat crate. And I am making a point to exercise him! Play with the laser pointer several times per day. Rotation of cat toys every few days. Additional interactive play with toys that swing, tinkle, or crinkle. And maybe, just maybe, leash walks outside.

It's time to get this kitten under control!
Percy and Archie sleeping on the table, under the ceiling fan.

Monday, 23 September 2013

training and vacationing

During the summer, I spent most of my dog training time at home. I was all over the place with my research - literally from Ottawa to Bracebridge to Niagara - as well as trying to pick up hours at work, so decided against any classes.

However, Piper and I are back in the saddle! We are currently enrolled in the Jumpworks class at Companion Dog Training, which teaches us common jump combinations and exposes us to different manuvers such as front and rear crosses. Piper just adores it, I think if she could jump all day long, she would!

We also enrolled in a 3 hour workshop at Companion called Games for Obedience that took place last Saturday. We learned a few tricks, and fun things to do while training to keep it fun. Most of it seemed to be to throw in variations when you're teaching things like heeling and jumping, so they don't know what to expect and to teach them to recover if they don't do it quite right the first time. Piper had cut her foot at the cottage a few days before, but seemed to be ok so I took her anyways. She is not quite healed enough to run around off-leash, but I am leash walking her still. Anyways, we very much enjoyed the workshop, and look forward to continue to practice our heeling. I also want to bring out the dumbbell again, and our scent recognition tubes, as we haven't worked with those in a long time.

The next class I would like to take is Attention One, however I am running out of money, so will probably have to wait until I get a full-time job. The jumpworks class was a birthday gift from my parents.

There are however a few meets coming up, including the Monster Match (also at Companion) about a month from now. The run obedience, rally, and agility fun matches - I will probably take both Ace and Piper. My friends have asked me to help them teach their yellow lab some Rally, so maybe I will enter Rogue as well!

As mentioned, we spent a few days at the cottage last week with my sister Rebecca, who flew out to Thailand on Friday afternoon to spend about 6 months teaching English. We had a relaxing few days, and were quite entertained by Ace, Piper, Archie, Morgan, and my parent's dog Toby.

Ace and Piper racing to get the ball in the water. Ace always wins.
Swimming back with the ball.
Piper standing on the beach, waiting for me to throw the ball.
Toby, looking cute!
Piper looking expectantly at the camera. "Can I run yet?"
Ace taking a break from swimming. It does happen! Usually so he can poop.

Monday, 16 September 2013


Greeting Blog Readers!

I would like to introduce Morgan, little annoying kitten extrordinaire!
Morgan, at 9 weeks old.

Morgan was born June 9th, and taken to the Kitchener Humane Society when he was about 5 weeks old. A kind citizen had found him and taken him there. I adopted him on August 10.

Morgan spent his first two weeks in and out of a 42" dog crate, learning to conduct himself among the dogs, and giving him some time for Archie to adjust to his presence. The separation was worth it, Morgan has now fit in almost seamlessly.

Morgan playing with a shoelace on the bed.
He curls up with the Aussies, snoozing and playing with their long fur. He plays with Archie (who I was most worried about), jumping on him and chasing his tail. Archie is a pretty good sport about it, occasionally complaining, but for the most part being very stoic about it. I think a few times Archie has even initiated the play, and I have caught them curled up together a few times.
Morgan curled up with Piper... he loves his Aussies!

Morgan has the loudest purr I've ever heard, he sounds like a regular little motor boat! I was thinking the other day we should have called him Evinrude. He spent most of last night curled up in bed with me.

What a sweetheart!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

ASCA trial

On August 5th, Piper and I drove down with her breeder and sister to the only ASCA show in Ontario, held every August. They were running conformation, rally, obedience, agility, and herding on ducks, sheep, and cows. There were tons of Aussie's around, from rangy-looking working herding dogs, to beautifully groomed show dogs. It was pretty neat!

Wendy decided to enter Piper in all three conformation trials that day, under altered. She didn't win anything, however Wendy was pleased with how quickly she picked up what was expected of her, and was happy that the judges spent as much time looking at her as they did. She may borrow Piper again in a few months to show her. 

I entered Piper in two rally trials. In each trial they started with the more advanced levels and worked down towards the novice level. It was an outdoor ring, bordered by the agility ring and the obedience ring, so there were TONS of distractions. One trial was in the morning, the other was in the afternoon.

The first trial had a very difficult run, I actually got lost and had to backtrack to figure out where I was. I thought it was going to be a non-qualifying run, to be honest. There was also one sign that is done differently in ASCA than in any CARO or CKC venue, so we had to learn it right before we went in. I was so nervous! However, we came out with a score of 189 (out of 200), which is pretty good. I was quite pleased. The other two people competing in novice had non-qualifying runs. We were told at the end of our run to watch out for tight leashes, and that we should be using a 6 foot lead (I was using a 3 footer).

Our second trial/run was late in the afternoon, around 4:00. We had been there since 7:30 am, so we were all pretty tired. This was a much easier run, the course flowed better in my opinion. We borrowed a longer leash from Wendy, and I made sure to give Piper more space. We were dinged for only a few tight leashes, and one handler error, and finished the run with a score of 197! Another novice competitor also scored 197, however Piper and I had the faster time.

Piper with her ribbons: High scoring Aussie (left) and High in Trial (right)
We earned High in Trial (HIT) scores in both runs! Meaning that out of all dogs competing in all levels of rally, we had the highest scores. I am so proud of my little girl to accomplish this at only 13 months, and having learned it just with me in our parking lot.

I am already looking forward to our next set of classes, and more trialing in the future!
Piper (left) and Party (right). Pooped after a busy day at the ASCA trial!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

aussie play

I will say this for the Aussies, they keep each other entertained nicely!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

trialing plans

Wow, it has been a busy summer...and it's not over yet!

I haven't had Piper in any classes since she finished level one agility, but we will be enrolling in a jumpworks class for the fall. Last weekend, I took her down to Companion for a fun obedience match. We did one run of pre-novice, and one run of novice. She did well with the pre-novice, only messing up the recall; she broke her stay with the person in the next ring called their dog. She did very poorly in the novice run, obviously we still have a lot of work ahead of us!

I am hoping next weekend we can go to the ASCA show in Niagara, and enter in rally. I am also planning on entering a CARO rally trial in the end of August, to have Piper in Novice and Ace in Advanced.

We have been practicing at home, so hopefully we are prepared!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

puppy visit

About two weeks ago, Josh and I went back to visit Piper and Baron's breeder. They have a new litter of four puppies (half siblings to ours) that we got to cuddle and play with. Puppies are so adorable, I just wanted to take them all home! There are three females and one male. The breeder decided none of the puppies were good enough to keep as a breeding dog, so they will all be going to pet/performance homes. The little black tri male was my favourite, Josh's favourite is the red tri female.

We had also brought along Piper and Baron, who got to come play once the puppies were tired. They played a bit with their sister, Party. They also got to hang out with their mama. Jynx is definitely more of a people dog than a dog dog though, and she and Piper got into a bit of a tiff. But still, it was neat to see her interact with her former babies!

Piper, Jynx, and Baron

Jynx, Piper, and Baron. Everybody's sniffing!

Monday, 27 May 2013

more videos!

Since I learned how to post videos, here are a few more from Piper and I's hike this morning. Piper is now 11 months old, I can't believe how this year has flown! She is the most amazing dog, I just love her to pieces.

Piper is still learning how to swim. She has no problem going in after a ball, but she still doesn't like it when her feet leave the bottom. I think she'll get over this once it's warm enough we can swim together!

She was so adorable leaping through the tall grass, and she was having so much fun! Pictures weren't capturing it, but I think the video did a pretty good job.

Friday, 24 May 2013

positive vs negative

The last year or so I've been following a blog written by Patricia McConnell, a well-known animal behaviourist and trainer. Most of her posts I find interesting, and every once in a while a subject comes up and I say "yes, finally somebody is talking about this!"

One such topic was about mounting, an ongoing issue for Ace. It was refreshing to hear from all the people who deal with this in their dogs, and learning how they deal with it.

Last week's topic was called Confrontational Techniques Elicit Aggression. You can read it here:
Reviewing a recently completed study, Trisha wrote:
"The most confrontational, and I would argue, aggressive, behaviors on the part of the owners resulted in the highest levels of aggressive responses from the dogs. 43% of dogs responded with aggression to being hit or kicked, 38% to having an owner grab their mouth and take out an object forcefully, 36% to having a muzzle put on (or attempted?), 29% to a “dominance down,” 26% to a jowl or scruff shake. You get the idea. Of course, these are all dogs who were seen by veterinary behaviorists for aggression-related problems, but it makes the data even more important. Violence begets violence, aggression begets aggression."

As someone who does use leash corrections, and occasional scruff shakes, I found this interesting. There is such a divide between people who use corrections and people who don't, and I feel a lot of personal pressure to be 100% positive all of the time, despite feeling that it is not in my personality to do so. I just don't have the patience, and honestly, I feel like many dogs will continue to be pushy until they're told they are not allowed to do that.

After 73 comments on this specific post (and I read pretty much all of them!), Trisha wrote:
"I go back to believing that we need to be thoughtful about over simplifying what we mean by good training; that it is essential to be as benevolent and positive as possible, which doesn’t always mean being “100% positive,” that corrections can be used on occasion without harming a dog, but need to be used sparingly and carefully, and that, most importantly, every dog needs us to be its coach and teacher, which means understanding the dog as an individual, and understanding the principles of learning in general."

This I think is the most important idea to come out of this whole thing. Corrections are ok, if used in appropriate context, and as long as the dog understands what it is being corrected for! Don't use corrections to teach, use them to reinforce what the dog already knows; use corrections only when necessary, not as a matter of routine. More important perhaps, it is imperative to understand your dog, know their thresholds, and make sure training brings them joy and an improved bond with you!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

almost swimming

Piper looks like she is almost ready to go swimming! She really wants to catch up to her friend, Jazsy.

Monday, 13 May 2013

herding instinct test

This past Saturday, Josh and I took Piper and Baron out to Alliston so they could be tested for herding instinct. It was a pretty stressful morning, figuring out what we needed to bring (not much) and how to time the drive. I really dislike driving to new places - we weren't sure exactly how to get there, or how long it was going to take. But we arrived safe and sound, after an hour and a half of driving.

Once there, we hopped out of the car and went to find someone in charge! The farm was very small, and we quickly found the correct person. It was very informal, which was nice, as we were all quite nervous. Even I hadn't seen sheep so close before!

We walked the dogs around a bit, trying to relax them. There were a number of dogs around, and of course the strange sights and smells of the farm animals. Piper took about 10 minutes to settle, Baron was quite worked up and took a little longer. Josh ended up leaving him in the car so he could watch (and take pictures of) Piper's session.

When they were ready for us, we went into a small gated area and put a long line on Piper, it was probably a horse lead. There were three sheep waiting for us in a larger pen attached to the one we were in. I took Piper through the gate, and the sheep started moving away. The tester had us follow the sheep, to see how Piper was reacting to them. After a few minutes she asked me to drop the lead, and Piper was off chasing sheep!

Piper chasing down a rogue sheep.

Generally she did very well, rounding them up pretty quickly. When they would separate she would chase one down, but often on the wrong side. It took her a little while to figure out what would work. Once the sheep were grouped she would just stand there watching them, and actually started to ignore them - sniffing the ground and going to visit Josh at the fence. Once they started moving again she went right back to work. The tester quite liked her, and said she shows great potential, but she needs some encouragement, and to learn what is expected of her. Not too bad for having never seen sheep before!
Trying to get another sheep back in line, this time correctly running on the outside!

Piper being told to "back off" by the tester.

Piper very properly moving the sheep around the pen.

Piper after the test...tired and happy!

I put Piper back in the car and Josh pulled out Baron. He settled much quicker without Piper around, and was fairly relaxed by the time they went into the ring. Once he saw those sheep, boy oh boy there was no stopping him! He pretty much had the sheep on the run the whole time he was in the pen. He knew his job and he did it! Baron's only problem was that he was a little too keen - he was pretty rough with the sheep, biting at their tails and such. He even came away with a big hunk of wool one time. Oops. The tester said he did very well, and scored him a bit higher than Piper. She also said he would be more difficult to train in herding, since he needs to broken of the biting before much else can happen.
Baron's on the move! Very efficiently moving the sheep.

Continuing to move the sheep in a circle...they were probably getting dizzy.

Baron chasing down a rogue sheep.

Great action shot, although poor judgement on Baron's behalf...this time separating a sheep out.

Baron being told to "back off" by the tester... in no uncertain terms!

Overall a very successful day, and now both puppies can add the title HIC (herding instinct certificate) to their names!

We are hoping to take them to herding lessons sometime in the near future, maybe in the fall. It was a joy to watch them do what they were bred for, they really are amazing animals.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

puppy cuddles

Ace and Piper rarely cuddle. But here is one such occasion. Generally the situation goes something like this: "Hey, you're lying there, and I'm lying beside you, so its just convenient to rest my head on you!"

Oh well, I'll take what I can get!

Monday, 11 March 2013

flipping dogs

This is a very cool link I came across, about how to teach a dog to flip for a frisbee. Maybe Piper can learn how to do it this summer!


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

family playdate

Last week Piper and I drove down to visit her breeder, Wendy at NoRulz Australian Shepherds. It was very snowy and she had lots of fun playing with her sister, Party, also a red merle. Party is a little obnoxious, more than Piper even, and definitely more of a barker. But still they had fun.

Party and Piper in the backyard
Piper are Party wrestling! Teeth bared, most of their feet off the ground.

Stare-down between Piper and Party

Piper leaping like a deer! Party trying to chase her down.

After a while Wendy put her back inside and brought out Tawny, her 11 year old female. Tawny is also a red merle, although with less white and no tan markings. Her spots are also more uniform, so her colouring altogether looks quite different from the younger sisters. Tawny is a great-great aunt to Piper and Party. She had surgery on the same day as Piper's spay (January 25) to have a few lumps and teeth removed, so I couldn't believe how energetic and enthusiastic she was! She was more than happy to run around and play with her 8-month old relative. Must be good genes :)

Tawny leaping for Piper, legs tucked up in the front. Piper trying to run through all the snow, can't go fast enough!

Tawny also does this hilarious butt-scratch thing. I wish a had a video. She stands between your legs so you scratch her bum, wiggles like crazy and kicks her back feet out in a little dance. I think she might be the most endearing Aussie I've ever met!

Piper and Tawny on the deck

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

dog faming

Since I am friends with many dog people, and am generally known as a crazy dog person, I get quite a few emails with pictures of "dog-shaming". Some of them are cute, or funny, but to be honest most of them I find sad. Most of the dogs in these photos are poorly trained, or improperly managed.

Working in a pet store, I meet a variety of people. Sometimes they are crazy dog people like me, sometimes not. Whenever I ring a customer through, I always ask what kind of dog they have, how many dogs, how old are they, that sort of thing. Most people love to talk about their dogs, sometimes I even get to see pictures, or will go out to meet them in the car is the person isn't able to bring them into the store.

One day I rang through a customer who told me he and his wife adopted a large-breed dog from the humane society half a year earlier. She was very timid, and comfortable with the man when they were alone together, but anytime his wife was present the dog would be terrified of him. He would speak in a whisper on a regular basis so the dog would be comfortable. This alone I find an interesting behavioral problem (what is the association with the couple as opposed to the individual?). Anyways, when they first adopted her they were told that she had been found roaming the streets with a sign safety pinned to her chest, saying "I am a bad dog".

Can you imagine?

I can't look at a dog-shaming photo without thinking about this poor dog.

So this afternoon I was snooping around the internet and heard about a reversal of the dog-shaming revolution... DOG-FAMING!

First on this blog:

Then this one:

Why are we focusing on a dog's faults and lack of training when we could be celebrating the amazing things they do every day! I think this is an amazing idea, and I'm looking forward to posting some dog-faming photos of my own!

Sunday, 13 January 2013


According to my program timeline, all student research and write an original thesis from September to April in the third and final year of the program. For as long as I've been a student at Guelph, my plan has been to write about some aspect of ecological restoration. It's a topic I am interested in, and something with employment potential. However, recently that has changed.

Before Christmas I had a meeting with my professor Nate, and his wife Tina. While Nate is a prof in Landscape Architecture, Tina is a prof in the Animal Science department and specializes in animal behavior and welfare. They are looking to have research done to look at the need for and design of outdoor components of humane societies.

Starting now (so I can hopefully meet some of the deadlines to get research grants), I will be researching the design of dog parks, training areas and walking areas for dogs at humane societies. Part of this will look at the need or use of such areas by the dogs, and another aspect will be their use by humane society employees and volunteers.

It is an interesting research project, but never something I had ever considered doing before! This will be the first time I have combined my love of dogs with academics. Hopefully I'll be posting a bit more about the project as it progresses.

Friday, 11 January 2013

training classes

When Piper was little (as in, three months old), we did a puppy class at Elite Dog Training, located in Kitchener. It was good to get Piper out around all the other puppies at such an early age.

We worked on sit, down, name recognition, etc., and the last 15 minutes of every class was playtime! However, there were 16 puppies in the class, so for many of the puppies it was just too overwhelming. Personally I think the attendees should have been capped at ten, 16 was just way too many.

I also didn't like the way she handled puppies that were fearful or snappy. Her method was to hold the screaming puppy until it stopped screaming. Even for puppies who didn't want their mouths touched, she would hold the puppy's mouth open until it stopped struggling and screaming. I'm so glad Piper was pretty good at everything, because I would not have allowed that to happen to my puppy.

I learned from trying to force Willow to sit still so I could trim her nails, that force does not work in dealing with an issue where fear or resistance is involved. A much better way is to use treats to make the experience positive, and gradually work up to being able to complete the task.

Piper growing up! This week she weighed just 38lbs, at around 6 1/2 months. She only put on three lbs in the last month, so she will definitely be a small little girl! Just what I wanted :)
In November we started the Competition Puppy 1 class at Companion Dog Training. I've done probably three classes there with Ace and always enjoyed them, although I sometimes found that I just didn't understand what they were trying to accomplish. Starting with Piper from the beginning has made all the difference! I understand the basics much better, and am actually looking forward to taking more obedience-style classes.

In the Competition Puppy class, we started by learning competition-style sits and downs. Piper and I are still working on the down! Lots of other things as well, like set-up, get-in, front, around, over, wait, recall, and trot. Thinks I'd never done before as well, like how to properly play tug and use it as a reward, fetch work with a dumbbell, and beginning scent discrimination. I very much enjoyed it!

We were signed up for Competition Puppy 2, but there were not enough people so the instructor had to cancel the class. I've already paid, so I'm hoping there will be another class running in March. We may have to switch into the Attention 1, but that would be ok. It's all practice anyways! And now we have two months to fix all the things we didn't have time to perfect in the class.