A Better Way to Treat your Pets.

July 15, 2012

By Michele Wencl – Beggar’s Bakery Chef

Have you seen what’s cookin’ in the kitchen at Leashes and Lead’s Beggar’s Bakery? The bakery is back up and running catering to our 4-legged friends. Stop by and check out all the new goodies rolling out of the oven – Peanut Butter Biscuits, Grrrnola Bites, Orange-Peanut Biscotti – just to name a few!

Why buy treats from Beggar’s Bakery?

Just like people, our dogs need to indulge their sweet tooth in safe and healthy ways – salt and too many sugars are just as harmful to our dogs. In addition, dogs need to avoid foods like grapes and raisins, onion, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, hops, raw yeast dough, avocado, macadamia nuts, alcohol/tobacco and mushrooms as these can cause serious potential reactions. We make sure that treats made in our bakery contain no harmful foods, no preservatives, no added salt, low-fat and reduced sugar ingredients. Our treats are made in small batches to ensure freshness and are approved by our taste tester’s panel before leaving our kitchen.

Did you know. . .

In addition to providing you with only the best handmade treats, our kitchen is licensed by Olmsted County Public Health Services and our kitchen staff are certified in Food Safety Management by the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals – the same as you would see in any people bakery or restaurant. Our treats are also run through a lab for a complete proximate analysis of crude protein, fat, fiber and moisture. You can be assured that all treats in our bakery meet not only regular requirements but that we go above and beyond to see that your loyal companion gets only the best.

A little about the Chef . . .

My love for baking started as a child. My mother was always making cookies, decorating cakes, or whipping up delicious confectioneries. I love pouring through cookbooks and magazines for new recipes to try out on my family and friends. When I got my first beagle puppy, Sport, I soon found out he had many allergies. After spending much time reading dozens of dog food bag ingredients just trying to find something that would work for my dog, I realized how many fillers, preservatives and artificial flavors are in many dog foods. Being health conscious myself, I worried about all these chemicals so I turned to my love of baking. I wanted to produce treats that not only my dog could enjoy without triggering his allergies, but that weren’t loaded with ingredients that had names I couldn’t even pronounce. Now 10 years later and many recipes tried, tested by my own dogs, and approved by my family’s and friend’s dogs, I’ve come to Leashes and Leads to share these delicious treats with others. So stop by the bakery today and say Hi, and let your best friend sample a treat –

Beggar’s Bakery – “What’s your dog beggin for?”

Why your Cat would love a Cat Tree.

July 2, 2012

By  Nathan Kroll, Assistant Country Store Manage

Cat trees generally provide many of the things that a cat in the wild would love all wrapped up in a neat little package.

One of the main features in a cat tree is the height. Cats like high places so they are able to watch whats happening around them. A tree will give your cat a sense of security without having to jump up on the counters or climb the curtains. With multiple platforms, cats are able to jump around, play, and get exercise.

Scratching posts are also a must have. Cat trees with sisal tightly wound around them provide the perfect place for your cat to scratch with out causing damage to expensive furniture or the cat itself. As a cats claws grow the base of each nail is encased in a scaly outer layer or sheath that causes discomfort and scratching is a natural way of removing this.

Last of all the cat tree provides a nice bed. Cats spend roughly 60% of the day sleeping and when the tree is placed in a nice warm area, like in front of a window, it becomes a perfect napping spot. The window also provides an entertaining view especially if you have a bird feeder close by.

With all these options to help improve cats behavior and and the fact that they don’t take up very much space the Cat Tree is the perfect addition for any cat owner.

 New Cat Trees are available now at Leashes & Leads Country Store.

So, You Want to Step Into the Performance Rings?

June 5, 2012

By Jennie Brass, Assistant Resort Manager

“My dog never stops moving, it would be simply awesome to run agility!” Get your running shoes on; and not only that, but your thinking caps as well. Regardless of which performance sport may have caught your eye for the first time (be it Rally, Obedience, Agility, Tracking, Disc Dog, Fly-ball) there is a considerable amount of prep-work to be done. Just because a dog likes to jump doesn’t mean they will excel at agility. After all, the sport is lovingly known as ‘obedience in the fast lane’. It’s important for us as handlers to do our homework and get to know the ins and outs before we approach a trial’s start line for many reasons. Sometimes it can take more than a year to get comfortable enough to compete. The most important reason is to be fair to our dogs, secondly we want to be good sports at the event. How can you make sure you are prepared?

First and foremost, when you become interested in a dog sport is to see what it’s all about. Locate people who actively trial in it and chat with them, find out how they prepared, who they trained with, what you need to know. Attend a few trials to get a feel for it, especially if this is your first performance sport. There is an atmosphere in the air at each event one must be prepared for. Find a training class or club if one is available to work the essential skills you will need, preferably with people who are actively trialing. They will be familiar with the most current ring rules. Then—practice, practice, practice! The best tactic is to be training/running practice runs a full level (or more) above the one you intent to trial at. For example, Ashenpaw did not debut in Rally Novice until we were comfortably working all the Excellent level stations. This helped me out as I had experience in harder stations than we were going to be presented with. It also gave us more time to develop our ring relationship.

Be early, watch the ring stewards at the board so you will be there in time for your scheduled run.

Once you are ready to trial use those sources you have developed to help you find a local event and give you a hand the first time you register. Some of those forms can be tricky the first couple of times! Be aware that you will need to send in registration for a trail well ahead of the actual date. The club organizing the event needs time to get the line-ups in order and notify exhibitors of the schedule. Sometimes the schedule does not run as planned, this is only one reason to be early to a trial site. Arriving early allows you time to find your ring, set up your things, and find out about anything that may have changed. Make sure you have everything you need! The proper length leash, the correct type of collar, end of run reward treats, etc.

If you and your dog are not used a trial site situation, it can take some time to acclimate. Some dogs get overly stimulated with all the sights, sounds, and smells. They need time to take it all in before they can perform. Every dog is different. Also keep in mind you are responsible for your dog’s actions. Keep an eye on them at all times, make sure they are not invading another dog’s space! Some exhibitors may need time to take a few deep breaths as well. Do not under-estimate how much your own nerves effect your four-pawed companion! It goes straight down the leash. I get excited at a trial, I have learned to shield my dog from that overly-abundant energy after seeing Ash burn out from that spill-over before a Rally run even began. A good tactic is to keep a dog in their crate until just shortly before their run. Trust me, you will have enough going on as it is!

 

Some events include a Judge’s briefing for exhibitors. Sometimes you can ask polite questions.

Take advantage of a judge’s briefing, if available. Sometimes you can ask a question about a station; not how it is done, but perhaps on a detail such as how the judge prefers something be completed. This is not available in all performance sports. When allowed to do a walk-thru on course take full advantage of the time to get used to the course and figure out any tactics or angles you may need. In some cases having other trusted classmates or mentors walking with you (if in the same class) can help you plan your strategy or answer questions. Just remember, they are planning their own run so be considerate of their time! When the time runs out, leave the ring as quickly as possible. Then comes the waiting game.

 

Can you tell someone is happy to be here?

While it is good to be ready on time, take care in not taking your dog out too early. Around the ring the atmosphere is crackling with excitement for your dog to feed on. Not to mention there are dogs coming and going. Remember that bit about being responsible for what’s on your leash? Yup, this is a part where you need to know how your dog is doing. Generally, it’s best to pull your dog from their resting crate with several runs to go before yours. A little warm-up may be needed. Keep your dog happy, and connected with you. That connection can be tricky to maintain, make sure you get it and keep it before you enter the ring!

 

Can feel that anticipation as I watch the dog before us running!

When the ring steward calls your name, let them know you are there. Stand politely out of the way and in running order with the other dogs. Wait far enough back from the ring gate so as not to disrupt the dog running in the ring. After all, you wouldn’t want that distraction during your run. When the steward tells you to enter, go in and prepare for your run. Agility is always off lead—however the dog MUST enter and exit the ring on lead. Do not make the mistake of exiting without this detail in check. Rally Novice is on-leash, however Advanced and Excellent are off-leash. Remember to reattach the leash before leaving the ring. In some sports, such as Rally, you can be judged for the degree of control you have over the dog as you approach the start line. Make sure you have your dog’s attention before you even set foot in the ring. I cannot stress this enough after seeing dogs immediately get the zoomies and dash right out of the ring.

Listen for the cue to begin. Each ring will differ. From here you begin your performance. All that hard work and commitment is playing out there. When that connection is dead on a performance can be stunning! Even when a performance isn’t perfect (and they rarely are) a lot can be gained from it. Did you remember to have a good time with your dog? Where did things go well and why? Where were the hiccups? What caused those? The majority of the time the answer here is ‘handler error’. Don’t fret, we all have to learn to overcome our own stumbling blocks. If possible, record your runs so you can watch them. You will be amazed! Both at identifying where you handled things superbly, and picking out stray motions that created the problem. Then in training sessions you can work on improving those points. If you feel a judging error occurred, be polite about it when you inquire. Don’t make a scene. Most judges are willing to explain the reason for a call if approached with consideration. Learn from these situations, these points can help us understand what a judge is looking for.

Keep in mind, some days a run will go completely downhill. This happens to everyone. We are human, they are dogs. Both of us can send and receive mixed messages. The important thing here is keep cool, and still try to have a good time. Look at your dog. Is the heart in the performance even if the head isn’t? Well… we can fix training issues in sessions, we can’t easily put the heart back into the dog. So if that tail is still wagging, don’t get too upset. Yes, we all want to succeed. We always go out with the hopes of a perfect run. But the bottom line is that this is supposed to be fun for both of us. The best handlers out there keep it in perspective and aren’t overly serious. Never melt down on your dog if a run goes bad. Things happen. Don’t lump the blame on your dog at the site or they might learn to dread or hate the ring—or the YOU in that ring!

 

Awesome rewards at the end of the ring trip!

After the run don’t forget to reward your dog, even if the run wasn’t qualifying! It is a mistake to simply put your dog in their crate and forget about them. Have a little party. This helps them want to continue working with you, to anticipate the next opportunity to run. Recently I started packing a small container of crunchy peanut butter just for Ash to lap up after he’s done. We exit the ring, have our little hug session, and out comes the peanut butter. This lets him know I appreciated his efforts out there. Yes, he even gets this for a Non-Qualifying run.

One of the ways I help runs be successful is by setting mini-goals. Of course, the ideal is the Q (Qualifying Run), but by setting mini-goals I help remind myself what we need to work on to achieve that Q. In agility it may be keeping the bars up on all the jumps—this helps remind me to patiently set the line for him and not to rush. Or to stick all his weave poles. This reminds me to be careful not to pull him out! These mini-goals can easily turn a series of NQ runs into a bright spot be seeing improvements towards consistently smoother handling. All training and competing is a journey, don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

 

What a ham!

Performance rings are a lot of fun to be in. They bring fitness to the owner, a deeper bond through time spent together, and create a stabler dog over all. Even though it is a lot of work, this is time well spent. The dog gains some awesome skills and tricks, while the owner is able to take advantage of a dog that is more willing to listen. There is even a community feeling to getting more comfortable around the rings, a sense of comradeship with other exhibitors as you chat with them before and after runs. The world is full of amusing stories from people running all sorts of dogs in all sorts of situations, both success and botches. Share, laugh, and love!

Always remember, while those pretty ribbons are nice to bring home and decorate your wall with. Your dog has no clue nor care about them. The real reward isn’t in those strips of fabric…

…it’s the joy of bonding with your dog!

Ashenpaw Agility Standard Excellent A Preferred Video:


The Surprising Qualities of the Double Coat

April 9, 2012

By Jennie Brass, Assistant Resort Manager

The temps are heating up, and we all wanna be cool. After all this is the season where style is so important as we all get out from our yearly dose of cabin fever. Many dog owners will make an appointment to have their dog shaved for the season. But is it really the best choice? It depends entirely on the dogs coat. You might be amazed to find out that some breeds benefit from their long coat being left intact year round. Let’s look at the amazing properties of the double coat!

Yeah, I’m cool. So what?” Ash’s coat demonstrates weatherproofing

Double coated dogs have two distinctive layers to their coat: a longer, outer layer frequently comprised of guard hairs; and a shorter, softer layer close to the skin. Throughout my life I have taken care of double coated dogs and am rather familiar with the dual coats. I grew up with a Shetland Sheepdog, the first dog I actually owned myself was also a Shetland Sheepdog, then a Border Collie, followed by two Rough Collies. Every one of these breeds possess the dense inner coat with the longer guard hairs, and they all rolled their coat. This means they shed out dead hairs that required regular brushing to remove.

Meet Calypso, my first dog

The shedding double coat possesses some truly amazing qualities. The outer guard hairs weather proof the coat against moisture; catching precipitation from all seasons and holding it away from the body. The guard hairs also work to hold cold and heat away from the body. Meanwhile, a well-maintained inner coat provides a layer that buffers the air aiding in temp regulation. This works in both cold and warm weather, commonly people think it only works in the winter. The thick coats also work as a natural sunblock, protecting the dog from sunburn which can result in skin cancer.

Ah! This is the life! Sunbathing on a nice summer day!

Oh, but the coat is so long! It must be too warm for them! If you wish to test this, find someone with a double coater on a warm sunny day and ask if you can go for the plunge. Stick your hand down into the inner coat and you will be surprised. The inside will be significantly cooler than the outer guard hairs are. The effect is rather pronounced on a black coated dog, like my Tri-color Collie Parker. All this magic occurs due to the difference in the length of each part of the coat. If the coat is shaved the hairs are all the same length which can entirely negate the effects until it has time to completely grow back; that can take over a year depending on the coat. Thus, leaving the coat intact helps keep them comfortable. Shave them down, and the wick effect of the insulation is gone allowing the sun more ready contact to the body core. Now, this does not mean the dog can be out in any temps period and not be at risk. There is a limit to the cooling abilities. Heat advisories still need to be followed. If proper care is taken, a double coated dog like a Golden Retriever should be just fine sporting his coat unshaven all year round.

Double coats will of course require regular bathing and brushing as the coat’s effects are impacted by matting and an abundance of dead hairs left in the coat. A clean, well brushed coat will allow proper airflow, and brushing increases the release of oils from the skin that help to keep the fur properly weatherproofed and healthy. Not to mention most dogs learn to love the massaging effect of a nice brush out. My dogs all gather in a semi-circle around me waiting their turn to be brushed.

Ion’s sable colored coat highlights his black guard hairs. See the outer layer?

Another reason to be sure a coat is well brushed out is a condition called a Hot Spot. There are many reasons for these annoying things to occur, but one easily prevented trigger is ensuring there are no mats to trap moisture close to the skin. Hot Spots are a sore that develops rather rapidly when bacteria creates a local infection in the skin. The spot quickly expands into a shallow sore that must be shaved down so it can dry out. If an area on a dog has trapped moisture it creates the ideal environment to grow bacteria. This condition can happen to any type of coated dog, and can even occur in a well-maintained coat. However, frequent brushing means looking at skin more often decreasing the chance that one of these will slip notice. Hot Spots seem to be more frequent in the warmer months, though it does not mean they cannot occur in the winter!

Not all double coated dogs are the same, breeds that do not shed (like the Bichon Frise and Shih Tzu, for example) require regular trim downs or shave downs as the hairs continuously grow and do not fall out. These types of breeds benefit greatly from the styling of a groomer. If you are unsure of the proper coat care for your dog, consult a groomer for the best plan.

Ash and Ion chillin’ out in the yard

We all want the best for our beloved companions, right? Take a moment to consider your dog’s comfort this year. To shave down, or not to shave down… the coat type holds the answer!

Crate, Sweet Crate

March 5, 2012

By Jennie Brass, Assistant Resort Manager

Everybody needs a space to call their own, a refuge for a little peace of mind, a place to just relax and unwind. This isn’t just a human concept, it also applies to our canine companions as well. One of the simplest solutions for this need is also amazingly versatile in its uses. Ah, the power of crate training!

Ash and Parker relaxing at work between activities—the flash disrupted their naps.

Most dogs thoroughly enjoy being in a snug space where they can be curled up and feel secure. Crates establish an area that can be their own, where they can nap with less intrusion. Many dogs who grow up with crate training will pad right into the open door unbidden and be discovered happily snoozing away the afternoon. The key is introducing this tool properly.

Though they can be introduced at any age, the easiest stage is puppyhood where an owner can utilize the many benefits to start establishing good household manners. Keep in mind: the best way to avoid troublesome habits is to not allow them to begin in the first place. A crated puppy has no access to chewable items, can’t make a huge mess around the house, and if the crate is used properly can help with housebreaking. This does not mean closing the puppy in the crate for lengthy periods of time. Frequent potty breaks and play sessions will still be needed. But a properly sized crate can serve as a safe zone when the owner cannot keep their eyes glued on a mischievous bundle of fur. If crating at night and when not home continues past those troublesome destructive stages while training continues many common pitfalls can be avoided altogether. But remember, the crate is never a punishment zone!

Right away as a pup Ion relaxed in his crate.

For puppies the crate needs to have a pleasant association, it should feel secure and homey. Offer treats inside the crate with the door open, speaking in an encouraging voice. Have the crate in a relatively quiet room, out of the way of main traffic, and not in your bedroom! Puppies will tend to fuss when getting used to being left in their new place. Place a blanket or towel over the crate to decrees visual stimulation and let them fuss. They will soon learn that crying will get them no attention. Only let them out of the crate when they are quiet, yes this is hard but if you give in the puppy learns to train you. Obviously, young pups will need to overnight outings, try to anticipate this and let them out before they make a mess in their crate. At first avoid fluffy beds and blankets in the crate as they will be hard to wash. As potty training gains success you can add the nice comfy bedding. If you are introducing a puppy to a household with pre-established pets the crate can also serve as a tool in acclimatizing them to the new arrival. It will take some time for a bond to form, you can utilize the crate be allowing a safe sniffing barrier between pets and also to allow some time for you and the older pets without the intrusion of the puppy.

Ion in our wire sided crate at a local dog show.

Adult dogs can be introduced to crates through a similar method of placing treats inside the open crate and letting them build a positive association with it. Meals can even be fed inside the crate to build that homey feeling if the dog needs extra encouragement. When the dog is relaxed and happily munching a good treat you can close the door for a moment, drop more treats in to keep it pleasant, then reopen the door before the dog stresses. Always try to keep below the stress zone. Most dogs will acclimate in no time without issue provided the crate is the right size. Even if you are introducing an older adopted dog to your household with another pet you can use the crate to allow acclimation as suggested above. Remember that your first pets will need time to get used to the new arrangement, space and time will lead to bonding.

Crates come in many sizes and types. It is important to consider this when selecting a model. A dog should be able to stand up and turn around comfortably inside the crate. When potty training a pup try to find a crate system that will allow the accessible size to grow as your pup does. A few wire models do this effectively. The reason for this is that dogs do not like to be filthy, if they don’t have enough room to avoid the mess they are less likely to do it. Crates come in the traditional hard sided (plastic), wire crates, and soft sided (fabric). Hard sided crates are essential if you intend to travel on a plane with your dog. These are also best for dogs who tend to dig at things or are hard on their belongings. Because they are solidly constructed they are more durable, however they do not collapse for easy transport between places. Wire crates frequently fold up into a flat package that is heavy but easy to swing into a trunk or move from room to room. These crates are great for dogs who might occasionally push or dig at the door. Soft sided crates are light and portable, however it should be noted that dogs can break out of them by digging through the fabric or unzipping the zipper door. You should evaluate where you will be using the crate and how your dog behaves in it.

Soft sided crates make it lighter to show multiple dogs, but only if they can be trusted to not try to escape.

There are many reasons beyond simple housebreaking that makes crates wonderful for a dog to be used to. Dog shows, like the ones I attend with my performance dogs, would be impossible without the ability to crate my dogs. While I walk the courses and get familiar with things they are chilling in their crates happily awaiting their turn to run. They also come to work with me on a daily basis, without crate training this would not be possible. Groomers and vets often need to place dogs inside crate like environments for periods of time. If a dog is already used to a similar situation they will be less stressed. Some injuries and illnesses require mandatory rest… ever tried to keep your dog quiet when they don’t want to be? A doctor may be able to explain to a human patient about bed rest, but a vet can’t explain to your dog why he can’t play fetch for the next week. A crate will help to restrict activity in a critical situation.

The boys on the way home after a show.

Crates are a versatile tool in dog training and just plain dog ownership. When introduced properly, dogs love the security they feel in them. In some cases they even can open a wider world by allowing your dog to travel more with you in comfort and security.

Rally

February 9, 2012

By Jennie Brass

 

Been through obedience class, now what? Dogs simply love to understand what we are asking of them. They adore knowing they are doing a good job, and pleasing us. One of the ways we can exercise this is by participating events with our canine companions. Participating in sports helps to strengthen that bond and deepen our relationships with our dogs. A great venue to start with is Rally.

Sometimes known as Rally-O, or Rally Obedience, this sport was recently added to AKC shows and has grown in popularity. It is similar to full Obedience in that the team, consisting of a handler and dog, complete a course of predetermined exercises and are judged on how cleanly they execute them. The differences lie in the use of signs for Rally which allows participants to walk the course before their run, participants run the course at their own speed, and teams are encouraged to actively communicate and give multiple commands. There is no requirement for hand position for heeling. The structure of the event allows for a more relaxed and fun environment while getting both dogs and handlers comfortable with being in a ring. This is an excellent event for first time handlers interested in performance.

 

Novice level is performed with the dog on lead, the stations included allow for a bit of challenge, but mainly focus on handler and dog remaining connected. Advanced level progresses to the dog being off leash, this means that the handler and dog must maintain the teamwork cooperation throughout the entire run without a ‘safety line’. This level adds exercises to the novice which brings up the challenge level accordingly, it also includes jumping. Excellent level adds yet a few more stations and increases the difficulty accordingly to some stations that require a fair bit of practice to be able to do reliably. The behaviors asked for can be a touch unnatural for a dog, like holding a heeling pattern backwards (Backwards 3 Steps). When a team performs with precision it can look completely amazing! And no words can describe what it feels like to have your dog at your side eagerly performing with you.

Any fit dog can participate, they need only be registered with AKC which includes PAL/ILP (can be used for rescues/adopted dogs of known breed but unknown lines) or the Canine Partners registration for mixed breeds. Yes, this means anyone’s talented dog can participate! Handlers do not need to run for long distances which means the sport is well suited for all types of human fitness, too.

 

Interested in learning the ins and outs of Rally? Join one of our six-week classes on Tuesday nights and we’ll help you learn how to talk Rally with your dog. We offer both Novice and Advanced level courses which when combined cover all current AKC stations. Our instructors don’t just teach, we also compete! Come on by and let us infuse with Rally Fever too!

 

Want to see what Rally looks like at a trial? Below is video of a run with my Border Collie Ashenpaw, who started learning this sport at 5 years old (you CAN teach an older dog new tricks). This is a perfect 100pt run at Excellent level.

 Ashenpaw: Excellent Run Video

As Healthy As They Eat

January 25, 2012

By Jennie Brass, Assistant Resort Manager

We’ve all heard the words ‘you are what you eat’. After all, nutrients are the building blocks of the body. Whether your dog is a loving couch potato or an active athlete they will still benefit from good nutrition in the proper amounts. Additionally many common conditions can be managed by diet, or a properly adjusted diet can at least help to decrease the amount of medications or supplements needed. There are a wide variety of foods out there to choose from, so how does one know what to feed? After all, we’re looking to have our companions with us for as long as possible.

 

Mmm! It’s breakfast time!

There are many wonderful dog foods out there, however there is no one single food that works for every dog out there. So, the trick is finding a good quality food that works for your own dog’s unique situation. My crew (as shown above happily eating their Fromm Salmon A La Veg) have actually been through a number of different brands in the past. They have been on Solid Gold Barking at the Moon, Taste of the Wild Salmon formula, and two varieties of Canidae. All these foods were excellent choices and let me break down why.

As an example I will use my crew. When looking for a food I considered my dogs’ lifestyle. All are active in training and performance. Parker, my Tri Collie, does Rally demos with me as well as training. Ash, my Border Collie is middle age approaching senior and he competes in agility. Ion, my young Sable Collie, is competing in Rally and preparing for agility. For all these dogs proper muscle tone is critical: critical for Ash so he can maintain the sport he adores, for Ion so he can start out with the proper muscle conditioning. This means for them they need a high protein food with a good calorie content. They also all have deep double coats, and Ash has allergies with occasional dry skin. One of the best things known to support good skin and coats is fish oil, specifically salmon. While this can be supplemented via pills, having the main protein base of the food be salmon supports the need right from the dinner bowl. To date I have noted less allergies from Ash during his peak season while on the salmon based food and he has needed less Benadryl to get through. An absolute benefit right there. Over the course of time I watch a number of things to ensure the food is the right one for them. These include holding proper weight and muscle tone, skin and coat condition, are their stools formed (if not, the food may not be right for their digestive system), also how much are they pooping (large volumes mean there’s too much waste in the food and thus they are not getting as much from it). And of course they have to like it. As you can see from the photo, clearly they enjoy the food.

Having an idea of what you are looking for (or not looking for) means being able to recognize the signs of a great food. You should see a specific meat source or meat meal right up there in the top ingredients, preferably the first ingredient listed. There are many different meat bases out there: chicken, duck, pheasant, lamb, bison, beef, fish, venison, rabbit, some even come with multiple protein sources combined. The species should be identified. There are even grain-free foods which concentrate more of the nutrition towards the proteins. You should not see a number of grains in the first ingredients on a food. One of the worst to see listed first is corn. While it can be part of the food, it should not make up the bulk of it as dogs get very little if anything from corn. These two points will easily help in choosing a better food. If the food has some whole grains this is good as long as they are whole and not fractions. Actual rice, oats, barley, etc can add to the nutritional value. It is preferable not to have sugars or sweeteners added nor salts. Just like with us, too much of each of these is a bad thing. If you see Omega fatty acids in good quantities: Omega6 (at least 2.2%) and Omega3 (at least 0.3%) this is a good sign. The same if you see vitamins C, E, and K from natural sources. These support a number of critical functions in your companion. However, you want to avoid preservatives like BHA (butylated hydroxynisole) , BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone, ethoxyquin, or sodium metabisulfite. These are known or suspected to accumulate or cause illnesses in dogs, and there are safer alternatives. This is just the basics, one can get even deeper into nutrition, there is a lot of information out there. The bottom line is that the better food though it costs more per bag you will need to feed less, it’s more cost-effective in the long run.

Once you have chosen your food the other part is making sure to obtain a proper healthy weight. Excess weight puts stress on not only the joints, but also demands extra from the circulatory system as well since fat contains loads of blood vessels. Help your dog live a long happy life by feeding to condition, not the instructions on the dog food bag. Those instructions are simply guidelines, and ever dog is different with varying metabolic needs. Some dogs won’t even eat half the recommended amount while others might eat twice that to maintain a healthy weight. My dogs actually vary throughout the year and I adjust their meals accordingly. When I notice they are starting to put on weight I pull back their food by about ¼ cup and watch. If they start to lose weight beyond their ideal I add ¼ on for a while. It depends what they are doing.

Different breeds and mixes have different shapes, but in general the rule of thumb is that a dog should have a slight tummy tuck from the side view and an hour-glass figure when looking down from above. Ion is a fuzzy dog, but it still shows in the photos provided below. I tried my other Collie, Parker, but he was fluffy his tucks didn’t really show.

 

Sloping underbelly, tucks gently right after ribs

Waistline tucks gently after ribcage, comes back out at hips

Generally, you should be able to feel your dogs ribs rather like feeling something through polar fleece. The spine, hips, and shoulders should also able to be felt similarly. If you can’t feel the bones or have to push hard to do it your dog has too much padding (unless the breed calls for it, for example a Bull Dog). The vast majority of dogs should have a waist line. Sadly, many dog owners have become so accustomed to the sight of overweight dogs they identify a healthy weight as underweight or even a ‘starved dog’. Too thin would be ribs, spine, and hip bones visible (unless the breed calls for it, commonly Grey Hounds will display this at a healthy weight.) The idea is that the dog does not needlessly carry around excess weight, that their nutritional intake matches their needs.

The more we can support their needs with their food, the less additional steps we will need to take to supplement for their needs. Don’t be fooled by gimmicks on commercials, pictures of cute dogs on the bag, or even fancy packages: the proof is in the fine print writing on the bag. By utilizing this we can limit the normal wear and tear of time and lessen or even prevent altogether some unnecessary vet bills. In the long run, being knowledgeable enough to choose the best food for your canine companion will pay out in dividends! More run time for your best friend with you on this Earth!

The Training Journey: Pathways to a Successful Dog

November 23, 2011

By Jennie Brass, Assistant Resort Manager

You have taken a life into your hands, willingly. Your new four pawed fur-ball is completely dependent upon you for everything from daily care to learning how to behave in our very strange world. Oh, the potential! The excitement is hardly containable! But how can one navigate this education process, how does one lay down the groundwork for a successful dog to allow them to achieve their full potential? The journey is long, the reality is training is a life long process. How do I know this? Let me share my story, it begins with a shoestring.

In fall of 2010 I was invited to help socialize and photograph a litter of puppies. Amy Gau and I had become friends when she retired a Collie named Parker from the show rings into my home. I was intrigued by the idea of seeing very young puppies. At this point their eyes were not even opened up. I learned from Amy a lot of what goes into whelping a litter while holding the pups that were not much more than a handful. Breeding was considerable more work to do it right than I had ever known. I came out to her place a second time when the puppies were six weeks old and rather mobile. This time the photos were a little harder to line up as they never stopped moving! It didn’t take me long to notice that one pup in particular was taking an interest in my shoestrings. This darling little male was soon seeking me out and engaging me in play. A short time span later, Amy brought the litter out to Leashes and Leads to assess them and decide what types of homes would be best for each puppy. I could not resist observing.

In that room once more every time I turned around there was that little male puppy. After being brought before the mirror and weighing in his general attitude Amy knew he would be best suited for a performance home. I had previously had hopes of when one came along adding a pup to my household to train specifically for performance, especially agility. This little charmer fit that bill perfectly. Before she left I offered to take him on if there wasn’t someone else already calling for him. October 17th, 2010 Rosepoint Chain Lightning, or Ion for short, came to my home.

At 8 weeks of age Ion wasn’t quite a blank slate. He had already developed a foundation personality. The young Collie had an outgoing bold nature, loved to follow motion, and simply adored carrying things in his mouth. These traits were something I would have to work with. Fortunately, they were things I was looking for to aid in training. Now that he was mine I had decisions to make, after all, I wanted to created a successful dog not a little devil.

Ion learned to love his crate, a space he went to each night and during the day whenever I could not keep a close eye on him! This structure would remain in his life until he was old enough to start earning his free roaming of the house room by room. His area would be defined by baby gates as he learned how to behave inside the house.

We waited for Puppy Classes with Alice Howe at Leashes and Leads to start. In the meantime, he also came to work with me each day. On my lunch breaks we spent a little time training. These sessions included short spurts of learning and exploring intermingled with some fun games. When the first class began Ion tore out into the group and instantly began to engage with the other puppies. He was eager to chase, wrestle, and bat paws with the other students. His outgoing nature earning him many friends and experiences. After puppy social time we got down to some training in class. Lesson after lesson Ion was attentive and eager to work with me. I reinforced with him through lots of praise, fun, and treats how rewarding it was to listen; fostering that essential relationship. By the time we got through Puppy II Ion’s bold nature was showing that indeed he was cut out for agility! There was virtually no piece of equipment he would not try. He relished every moment of training.

Rear End Awareness lesson

Our lunchtime sessions gradually became more focused and longer, building higher skills of more variety. I used a wobble board to teach him balance and confidence when objects shifted beneath him. Knowing he was going into agility I started work on teaching him to go between jump uprights with the bars on the ground. We started to build many of the skills he would need intermingled with skills for the Rally ring. He had also started playing in Doggy Daycare with many other dogs where he socially bloomed. The daily play sessions allowing him to burn energy as well as be exposed to many different types and sizes of dogs. This daily exposure taught him that changes in his environment could be fun and interesting, as well as getting him used to major stimulation.

The Brass Pack: Ion, Ashenpaw, and Parker

In the Spring of 2011 we attended Obedience class with Paul Howe, the next step in line, to work with distractions. Even though I had done this training before with other dogs (Ashenpaw the Border Collie and Parker the Collie in the above photo), and I was training heeling positions, sits, downs, and stands on my own there is no replacing the environment of a class where the dog is constantly distracted by other activities. Focus in such a setting is critical for any performance dog. Ion was right there walking through his paces and eager to please! The working relationship we had started rooting in Puppy Class was deepening. The other dogs out there in the room became less and less of interest as the consistent commands grew more relevant in his memory. By the end of Obedience class there was a well timed opportunity for us to test our skills: Canine Good Citizens test.

On May 2nd Ion was nine months old when he took his CGC and passed with flying colors. Cool as a cucumber he navigated the test without even so much as a flinch. By this time he had seen enough of the world that very little phased him.

At this time I decided to try something. I assist in teaching the Rally Class with Lynn Grovdahl, Kate Thornton, and Denise Wedel; after taking Ion through a few runs for demonstrations I decided it might be time to just see what he would do at a show site. I entered him into the Key City show I had been at before with my other boys, Ash and Parker. This was the Rally Novice class where he would still be on leash and the main idea is to get the dog comfortable and enjoying the experience. The pressure is less. Ion had a blast. He got out there and showed me he was more than happy to go the distance, and this was nine months of age. It was not a flawless run, but my goal was to get out there to show him the ropes and let him see what it was like. The show site didn’t stress him out at all. Once more, this was on account of how much of the world I had shown him. Ion is now one of the dogs we regularly use at Leashes and Leads to demonstrate Rally to new students in the classes.

Rally Demonstration Dog

Around this time a new Therapy Dog class had started with Amy Lawson, and Don and Stephanie Vaughan; I had recently lost my father to a lengthy illness and a therapy dog brought great comfort during that process to my whole family. Ion looked to be a good candidate for this good cause, and here I opted to tread another path. We already had Rally and Agility skills building. Taking the class as a student, Ion was the youngest dog in the room the rest were over a year old. At this point Ion was still nine months old. The six week class exposed us to many distractions and new things including medical equipment. He was a perfect nearly unflappable candidate. When he was unsure a simple look up at me for guidance and the relationship we had built meant he could trust me. If I was not worried, he was not worried. He would relax and stride right along. By the end of the class we had our date set for the assessment, but it would have to wait for November. This would give us time to practice.

The local dog show came in September and I entered Ion both days in Rally. If he succeeded in both runs we would have his Rally Novice title. There he was, ready and willing both days. And each day got better. The score improving which demonstrated a better cohesiveness between us. On September 18th he earned his first title at the age of 13 months.

Rochester Kennel Club Dog Show, Rally warm up

Now, all this time the regular regime had continued at lunchtime. Short ten minute training sessions where I was working on building his skills in all areas, including agility. By this time I had been able to string together quite a few obstacles using the skills I had learned from training Ash. The foundation work I had done this whole time meant Ion and I were making great strides towards building this sport which takes a large investment of time and upkeep to be able to run successfully. Finally being able to enroll into an actual class, we are enjoying the challenge of running with distractions and getting the feedback we need to climb to the next levels. We have a long way to go before we are ready to enter that ring. But progress is visible, the year I spent painstakingly laying his foundations shows in his ability to focus and desire to work with me! I look down into those shining eyes and they ask “What next?”

In October his breeder invited me to bring him to the Collie Club’s Herding Instinct Testing where Ion dove right into the task showing that he has retained the natural instinct to herd sheep. The test only showed raw potential, but the skills were there and could be tapped in the future. Once more, he showed success with me at his side, his confidence never faltering. I begin to think there is nothing he would not do if given the chance.

Finally the day of Ion’s Therapy dog assessment came. We had been practicing, meeting people and working our skills the whole time. He was fifteen months old, young for such an intensive evaluation. But I was determined we would get through it as a team. I looked down into those shining eyes once more and saw that desire I had fostered. I remembered that puppy focused on me before he even had his name. We would do this, because I knew we could, together. Station by station Ion confidently moved through the evaluation and promptly stole the hearts of the team. This boy was showing maturity many many months beyond his true age. By the end of the test he had passed every station without a hesitation, something I could not have accomplished at this rate without all the prepwork adding up. Ion and I are now a Certified Therapy dog team through TDI and looking forward to our visits.

Our journey is not over, the road is just beginning! Because of our firm foundation the path choices are wide open for us to continue to branch into new directions. By utilizing the classes and investing time to lay the groundwork for him it has allowed us to reach goals early and with relative ease. After all, it is easier to learn when one is younger. By keeping his training fun and engaging he has learned to stay more connected and focused making him more trustworthy as an everyday dog. He is already successful, and I am very proud of him and his accomplishments. The relationship we have grows deeper with each new step we take thanks to the language we have forged together.

Dog training is not a spectator sport, it is a team process. We must learn to send the right signals and they must come to learn what those mean. It is the development of a language and no one can do that for you, that part of the process directly involves you. Once that language has a firm foundation the relationship deepens and grows… and the sky becomes the limit! What are your training goals and how will you reach them?

 

Coming Soon…

November 17, 2011

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