Friday, 30 December 2011

Snow play day

Today we packed up the dogs and drove the 1.5 hour trip to Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) for a cross country skiing adventure.  WOP designates approx ten kilometres of it's trails as dog-friendly as well some dog-friendly snowshoe trails.  We opted to ski with the dogs today.  This was Stella's first snow experience and she had a blast.  Riley has lots of experience with skiing and it ranks on the list of his favourite things.  I wasn't sure if Stella would be a fan of the cold snow but the temperature was sitting close to zero and she had a coat on and didn't mind the snow at all.  She even often ventured off the groomed trails to bounce through the deeper snow areas. 

Stella figured out pretty quickly how to stay out of the way of the skiers although she tried to "herd" me on some of the downhill sections until I convinced her that wasn't a very good idea.  I am not a fast skier so the pace is very suitable for the dogs to play and have lots of fun.  I occasionally get up some good speed on the downhill areas and the dogs seem to almost cheer as they escort me along with joyfull bounces and big grins. 

There were lots of other dogs out on the trail so Stella had fun playing with them.  I think Riley was grateful to have her attention diverted for a while although he occasionally joined in with the play.  He is generally happy to greet other dogs for a quick sniff and then moves on to his next item of interest.    Stella is still a puppy so likes to play with other dogs but is always watching us and is happy to leave them to stay with us.  She especially had a great time playing with a Burmese Mountain Dog who's owner was skiing around the same pace as me.   We all had a great afternoon and the dogs were asleep almost before we left the parking lot.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.   Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season. 

This celebrating stuff is exhausting 

Crazy glowing eyes to match the christmas lights 

Stella's first Christmas 

Is that Santa I hear?

Thursday, 22 December 2011


It was brought home to me this week at dog class that my shaping skills suck!  I am a lurer and a lumper and I need to improve.   Stella also showed that she has poor shaping skills and gets easily frustrated which makes sense because I obviously haven't taught her how to work through it.  I have found luring to be easier in my brain and then have just faded the lure as quickly as I could.  Unfortunately lots of times our bodies still unconciously lure even when we think we aren't "helping" anymore.   I'm not really against luring as that has actually been fairly successful for Lucy, Riley and Stella in the past but as I travel farther down the positive training path I understand where shaping is a valuable and necessary learning tool.  Shaping will help Stella learn to think things through herself and also how to work through frustration. 

When I walked into class on monday and saw that our tasks this week were a bunch of shaping challenges it was interesting that I had already been inspired by some recent webinars and had started this week to shape a "bring me" with Stella.  I guess sometimes all the stars align to bring a point home to us :o).  Stella's favourite game is playing keep away with Riley and I want to make sure that game doesn't carry over to playing keep away from me.  It is actually going quite well once we had gotten past a useless first session and I rethought things and broke it down into much easier steps and a less distracting environment.  That tends to be my problem as I struggle with how to start something without luring. 

Anyway it was a good session for us monday night as we worked on shaping three different things and did two of them quite well.  I think things became a lot more clearer for both of us and I plan to work on this quite a bit over the coming weeks.

This is a little video of her retrieving.  I am using a regular toy and a metal canning jar lid and we are gradually upping some distractions.  We started out in a tiny closed room and have now moved to the hallway and we even have a visiting Sam barking in the background.  I need to start videoing more training footage so I can see myself make some of those silly gestures and stop doing them!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Settling In

Stella has now been with us just over four months.  I have loved her from the moment she came into our family and that just continues to grow.  Riley is wonderful with her and I am very happy with how she settled into our home.  I thought things were great so I guess that's why I have been somewhat pleasantly surprised to notice some recent changes.  In the past few weeks Riley has really begun to play with her (see prior blog post play with me).   They had a minor moment this week where Riley disciplined her when she pounced on him while he was sound asleep but after a day of subdued behaviours they are back to where they were and she seems to have learned a little more respect for him.  Riley has really embraced his inner puppy in a lot of ways which totally cracks me up even when that naughtiness sometimes makes me crazy.  The increased play behaviour means I have had to work on a few more "ground rules" for when we just want some peace and quiet. 

Hubby is wonderful with all the animals but really we have them because it's what makes me happy.  He likes to quote "Happy wife, happy life :o)".  He loves them but is not nearly the animal crazy nut that I am.   When Stella was new to our home I think he was sometimes a bit overwhelmed but they have developed their own wonderful bond over the last months.   It makes me smile to hear him talking away to her telling her what a good puppy she is or walking by and seeing them snuggled together on the couch.

Fred has been pretty comfortable with Stella for the past few months but Desi has still regarded her with great suspicion.  Desi was a year old and terrified of dogs when we got her.  She has become much more comfortable with dogs but will never be like Fred who has been around dogs since he was a tiny baby.  The past few weeks have shown a big change in Desi's comfort level with Stella.  She is still cautious but has finally come back to hanging out with us on the couch in our family room.  She even is willing to snuggle when Stella is also on the couch  which is a huge step for her. 

My mom visits about once a month for up to a week or so and brings her dog Sam (Riley's littermate).  Sam really was not thrilled with having a puppy around but now has accepted Stella as a family member.  I worried that there would be some jealousy because both dogs want to hang out/play with Riley but the three dogs get along great.  Stella is delighted to have another dog to bound after through the bushes on our walks but knows that Sam isn't as tolerant as Riley and respects his boundaries.

Lastly we have had a few walks recently with a good friend that has a dog-reactive dog.  Her dog has come a long way in the last year and loves Riley.  He has been the only dog in years that she has trusted to be walking off leash with hers.  She was worried her dog would go after Stella and that would prevent us from enjoying our walks together.  I am happy to report that we have now enjoyed two successful walks together where we heavily reinforced her dog's good choices and Stella showed great body language for the situation.   We start each walk with some parallel walking and then her dog stays on leash for the first 2/3 of the trail portion while Riley and Stella are off.  Each time Stella came close or her dog sniffed Stella we rewarded and praised.  The last 1/3 of the trail walk the leash was dropped and all went great and her dog even made some play gestures to Stella. We finished with more parallel walking.  We will continue that pattern for a while until we have a strong history and gradually introduce more managed freedoms.

It's been interesting to see the family "pack" gel together.  I'm sure we have lots more bumps in the road ahead as we move on from puppyhood into the teenage phases but I look forward to many adventures together.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Play with me!

Stella is a typical puppy who loves to play.  These past few weeks there has been a noticable change in the playing level between her and Riley.  Previously Riley has been willing to tug with her (and self handicaps to keep the game fun for her) but they haven't really played hard.  That was mainly about them having two different play styles.  Riley is a body slamming play hard style typical of a lab and Stella is more about zoom, zoom chasing play.  Now they seem to have worked out a happy medium and do lots of mouth sparring, with some wrestling and lots more zooming around.  Their body language is wonderful with lots of play bows, pauses, look-aways etc.  When they are outside they play bow,  Stella zooms,  Riley chases and eventually blocks her, she freezes and sometimes a mini wrestle and then they start back to the beginning.  My yard is looking a little worse for wear but it is fabulous to see them having fun.

Last night was again another learning lesson for Stella.  When she came inside from a pee she proceeded to pounce on Riley while he was soundly sleeping.  He reacted by grabbing her muzzle. It was an appropriate response but she was scared and surpised. Not a mark on her but she avoided him for the rest of the evening and has been very subdued in her approaches to him today.  He has been super tolerant of her grabbing his jowls and bugging him endlessly but I did figure that eventually he might teach her this lesson.  She will work through it and they will be fine but perhaps this will teach her to let sleeping dogs lie and to respect his boundaries a bit more.

Stella also cracks me up by her antics trying to get Fred to play with her.  Fred (cat) has gotten pretty comfortable with having her around so now hangs out with us quite a bit more.  She play bows to him and does lots of other doggie play language but it obvious by the look of disdain on Fred's face that he isn't interested.

We have had some gorgeous sunny cold weather this past week and have enjoyed some wonderful walks.  Here are a few pics from yesterday.  Stella looks so serious in her pictures which is odd to me because that doesn't really reflect her personality.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Training Cooperation

The dogs survived our trip away very well and obviously were loved by the dog sitter.  When I came home I looked at Stella and I'm sure she grew while I was away.  She has also had a few days where she stretched a lot when she woke up so I'm thinking she is having a growth spurt.  She still only weighs in just over 33 pounds and her brother Bodi just weighed in close to 44 pounds so I'm beginning to think she will end up on the smaller side of things.  However Riley continued to grow until he was almost three so who knows what will happen!

One of the things we have been training recently is having one dog hold a quiet position while I work the other dog.  I do very short (1-2 minute) sessions before switching to the other dog and also treat the other dog in the holding spot when possible.  Riley stays on the dog bed and I have Stella sitting on a chair.  The chair gives much clearer boundaries then the dog bed so is easier criteria for her to maintain.   I hope to transfer that later to having her sit in a camping chair that I will use at trials or other adventures.  I have been pleased with how both dogs are doing with this. 

Today I took that one step further and took a tug toy on our walk.  Riley is totally nuts for tugging and when he starts tugging Stella tends to want in on the action.   I tugged some with Riley and then held his collar while we walked along and did a bit of tugging with Stella.  I then asked him to hold his sit stay and after one false start he held position beautifully so I was thrilled.  His reward was lots more turns at tugging.  We will obviously need to work up to higher levels of arousal and longer sessions but this shows very good progress.

Here are a few pics of the dogs from our frosty monday before mom & Sam headed home.  I love that the three dogs together have settled into a wonderful combination that gets along great.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Dog sitting and snow

Stella is six months old today.   Any big celebrations are going to have to wait a few days as I kissed both dogs and cats goodbye today and headed out with hubby on an annual ski trip.  This trip is taken with approx 85 members of our cross-country ski club so unfortunately there is no place for the dogs to accompany us. 

This is one of the few times in a year that the dogs do not travel with us on our holidays.  In prior years my mom has looked after the dogs but last year I hired a friend as a dog sitter.  Mom is very capable of looking after the dogs (Riley plus her dog Sam) except for being able to give them the exercise that they need.  The two boys together are just to much dog for my 70+ mom to handle walking.  Last year worked out very well with hiring my friend.  She is a total animal lover so was very understanding of the three pages of instruction I prepared for her regarding looking after the animals.  She also faithfully emailed me an update each night so I would know she got home from her work and all was well at the house.

This year we planned to have my friend sit again but I was worried that Stella was to young to spend a full day crated while she was at work.  I considered a few options including sending Stella to stay somewhere else while Riley stayed at home. Luckily my mom and my friend agreed to stay at my house together so friend could walk the dogs etc but Stella wouldn't need to be crated all day.  It is best for everyone even if it is a wee bit difficult on my wallet!

I know that all my animals are receiving excellent care and lots of love but that doesn't stop me from missing them and worrying about them just a little.   The first few nights of sleeping in a bed without a cat plastered against me or dogs snoring, shifting, licking etc. seem blissful but it doesn't take long until I want my familiar routine.   In february we will be skiing again but this time the dogs will join us in our snowshoe and ski adventures.   Hopefully Stella will have grown into her warm coat by then :o).

These pics are from a snowshoe adventure with Riley last year.  He LOVES snow and constantly sticks his face in snowbanks and runs blindly along with his head under the snow.   Silly dog!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Glimpse of Teenager

Stella will be six months old at the end of this month and I have noticed a few episodes of "I don't hear you" happening.   The world is quite interesting to her at the moment and she is asserting some independance.  Riley is much more playful with her these days so this is also an attraction for her.  Currently her favourite game on a walk is to try to steal something Riley wants and get him to chase her for it.  She is already faster than he is at the tight turns etc. but he still wins (for now) in a full out sprint.  Yesterday at puppy class she had moments where she worked very well for me but there were also more moments (when compared to past classes) when she was more interested in other happenings then she was in working.

It isn't something I am worried about but it is information that I need to notice and adjust for in training.  In all fairness to her an hour long training class is a long time for a puppy to concentrate.  I make sure to break up the training with some fun tugging or chase games but it is still a long time.  When we are out on walks and she is interested in something I need to make sure that I don't set her up for "failure" by asking for a recall that she won't want to do.  Instead I need to make sure I increase the reinforcement for good choices by using better treats and fun actions like chasing, tug etc.  which will increase her value for working with me.  I need to make sure I work short fun sessions in lots of different habitats so she understands that she needs to pay attention in all sorts of places. 

Riley also needs to get more work than I have been giving him these days as he has a tendancy to revert back to bratty teenage ways.  Working two dogs is a whole new set of challenges for me.  I did have Lucy with Riley but she was ten when he was a pup and easily satisfied with a few extra treats.  Riley would prefer to work so I need some creative ways to work that to my advantage.  More on that topic to come later.

Outgrowing her jacket but not quite big enough for the next sizes I have available.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


I started reading Susan Garrett's blog a few years ago and quite enjoyed her philosophy of dog training.  She posted a blog about dogs having a good recall that started a huge conversation and then that eventually flowed into her offering her first "5 minute formula for a brilliant recall" online course which I enrolled in.  That was just before we said our goodbye to Lucy so I really enjoyed having some focus to work with Riley even if I didn't quite complete all the exercises.

She offered the course again this past spring and generously rewarded past particiants so once again we enjoyed it.  The daily "games" are about building a great recall but even more than that they are a wonderful way to have training fun with your dog.  I regularly use some of the games we learned to keep focus with Riley when training and Stella has also learned some of the basics.  Just the other day I had made a mental note to myself to keep up the "fun" for Stella in her recalls.  She has a very good recall and I need to not take that for granted especially as we move through the remains of her first year.

Susan Garrett is once again gearing up to offer the course and is running a contest for previous participants to make a video about their experiences.   This is my contribution and I encourage anyone to participate.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What's in a Name?

All of my animals have lots of nicknames as I am sure most other people also do with their animals.  The most commonly used nicknames in our home are as follows:

Desi (cat) - Princess, Snotty Girl
Fred (cat) - Frederick, Handsome Boy, Monster Cat
Riley - RyRy, Riles, Monkey, Buddy
Stella - Stella Bella, Little Miss, Missy Bean, Bean

Yes, I did just write Bean.  It developed from her little mexican jumping bean thing she does to Riley.  She bounces up at his face and graps jowls or tries to stuff whatever she is carrying in his mouth so that he will tug with her.  He is remarkably tolerant of this behaviour but eventually tells her enough which shuts her down for at least a few minutes.  Anyway "Bean" has stuck as a nickname for her. 

Why are nicknames important?  They are mostly terms of affection but they also serve the purpose of being good ways to communicate with our pets when we expect a more casual response from them.   Okay, really that does not apply to the cats because they will do what they want whenever they want.   However, with the dogs I would rarely use a nickname when asking for an obedience behaviour but I would use them around the house all the time when just rambling on to my pet or asking them for a living type behaviour (ie. want to go outside Monkey, Bean quit bugging Ry etc.).    We all want the "whiplash" head turn when we call our dog's name so the theory is that the more they hear a word the more that word loses meaning.  That theory doesn't apply when the word has a strong history of reinforcement but I am realistic to know that a name gets thrown out a lot in our daily language without meaning to the dog.  I know that I still use her name in lots of circumstances where perhaps I shouldn't and  I understand that there are lots of other steps to having a great recall but it is a little something to consider. 

It's also a good excuse to give our animals wacky names :o).  For the record Stella's CKC registered name is Varazs Kedvesem Final Dance and Riley is just Riley.

Pic from September that shows a bit of the "bean" action

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Lending a Paw

I was asked this week if I would help my dog trainer by allowing Stella to have a "play date" with a client of hers that has a five month old puppy with problems.  The poor pup is already on his second home but lucky for him seems to have landed an owner who is willing to work hard to help him overcome his issues.  He is overwhelmed with the world and has no dog skills.  My trainer had hoped that having the pup meet a female pup the same age and size would make the pup comfortable enough to possible want to play a bit.  Unfortunately it turned out that the pup wasn't quite ready for that step so instead the trainer worked doing some BAT (behaviour adjustment training) which involves rewarding calm choices by the dog with distance from the stressful situation.

I was super pleased with Stella's behavior during all of these exercises.  She exhibited very appropriate greeting style and offered lots of calming behaviours to the other pup.  I felt that she was always quite comfortable and looked to me for direction when the other pup reacted towards her.   I am also very pleased with her interactions when meeting other dogs, she is happy to play but also just as quick to abandon her playmate and come back to me when requested.  It makes me so sad about this other poor puppy.  His true history is unknown but I think it's safe to say that a little bit of work from the breeder and a proper first home that was aware of socializing would have made a difference in this puppy's life.  

This episode reminds me of how I met a very good friend.  I frequently attend an outdoor drop in class with Riley that lets us work basic obedience in a group of dogs and a distracting environment.  We started back when he was in his @ss phase at around two years old.  That trainer works with a lot of reactive dogs so there are often some in the class.  One day a year and half ago a woman in the class was having a particularly hard day with her dog and was in tears.  I offered to go walking with her if she wanted and luckily for both of us she took me up on my offer.  Since that time we have developed a great friendship and her dog has improved tremendously.

Riley had the right set of skills to work with this dog (S).  Sometimes when a dog makes a "friend" that is the start of the journey to realize that not all other dogs are bad.  S will likely never be a dog that you would trust unsupervised or loose in a dog park but she is a dog that can ignore others and walk by them without freaking out.  Riley ignored her for quite a while and then as they grew more comfortable with each other he slowly became more social and has even on occassion offered true play behaviours now.  S has a huge crush on Riley and we all enjoy the walks we get to take together.  I was quite horrified to hear the comments and reactions people have had in the past to her based on her dog's reactivity.  Some people are just downright cruel and at a time when someone is already feeling overwhelmed can destroy all confidence and hope.  Based on that I try to offer a kind word or smile when I see someone having problems with their dog.  Perhaps that little bit of encouragment will help make the difference for someone to want to not give up on their dog and work through the situation.   Pay it forward because we never know when we will need help from someone in the future and maybe you also will be lucky enough to gain a good friend like I did.

Here is a picture of Riley and his "girlfriend" S last summer after a fun session swimming at the river and a nice long walk.  Riley was wearing booties because he kept ripping open a sore on his paw on the river rocks.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Heel Work

I injured a finger on my left hand last week requiring surgery to repair the nerves and stitches so I haven't being doing very much training.  Today on our walk I decided to do a bit of heel work with Stella.  Susan Garrett is a famous agility competitor who stresses the importance of having a good "reinforcement zone" which is the area next to the handler where the dog wants to hang out because really good stuff happens there.  I have worked this concept with Stella since we brought her home with some fun games and good rewards.  This video is basically just another game working on her choosing to be in heel position and enjoying being there.  She has caught on quite well and thinks this is a pretty fun game.  

We also had a great time crashing through all the fall leaves.  I have wonderful memories of being a teenager riding my horse through trails full of fallen leaves and it always makes me happy to walk the trails in fall.

Bugging Riley as per usual

Plotting to ambush Riley

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Happy "Howl"oween

Little miss pumpkin

Stella .....Roar, does my costume look scary Riley?       Riley ...... ah no!

In case you are wondering Riley HATES to wear any clothing so dressing him up is not an option.  He does have a special halloween collar that I need to dig out before the trick or treaters show up tomorrow night.  I didn't plan for a costume for Stella but I walked by a 75% off sign and was hooked.

Halloween is also Stella's five month birthday.  She weighs in at 29.6 pounds today and the poor girl is deep in the process of teething.  Below see a pic of her current double set of some puppy teeth alongside the adult teeth.

and here is a flashback pic from our breeder which shows the little miss when she just past five weeks old.  What a cutie pie!

and just because I love him here is a blurry pic of Riley at around the age of five weeks.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Stella's Adventures

I am continuing to work with Stella on obstacles while we are out and about.  My hope is that this will help develop her rear end awareness as she continues to grow.  Additionally she will be comfortable with being in strange positions and have confidence about attempting new obstacles which should help us with dog sports later in her life.  Plus we have fun!

We also attend classes two days per week with her and am very pleased with her focus and ability to work/play with me in distracting environments.  She has gained a lot of confidence when meeting other dogs and plays very nicely.  All in all I just love this puppy! 

Here is a video of some of our recent adventures.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

How many is too many?

For me two is perfect and apparently three is a bit too much.  Lucy was an only dog for ten years until we got Riley.  We basically got Riley because my mom got his littermate Sam.  My dad had passed the year earlier and she wanted some companionship in her home plus it made all us kids feel better to have a dog in the house with her alone.  The two puppies did not live together but have spent a lot of time together over the years and have a close relationship.  Sam is usually here about one week per month and at times we have had him for extended periods.

The two boys always did very well with Lucy and have a great relationship themselves.  The only thing that I dislike is that the two are very competitive with each other and feed off each others energy levels.  I love Sam but there are a lot of times that the two dogs together make me crazy.  Sam lacked a bit when socialized as a pup plus he lacks a lot of self control as my mom has never worked extensively with him.  I've worked a bit with him over the years and he has the basics but he should have more regular work and handling as he is very excitable.  I find it very frustrating when he gets all hyped up because that causes Riley to switch to that same sort of brain state and the two of them together bring out the worst in each other.  Riley doesn't have that reaction to any other dog.  He is happy to play with Stella and was great buddies with Lucy but the "pack" (for lack of a better word) dynamic with Sam is different and something I watch closely on our walks to make sure the two of them never gang up on another dog.   The flip side is that they also have so much darn fun together that it makes the other stuff worth while most of the time.   I also find it interesting that when we add more dogs to the mix (family gatherings etc) that it actually relaxes all the dogs more so maybe the answer is more dogs not less :o). 

When we said goodbye to Lucy I missed the dynamic of having two dogs in our home.  We now have Stella and Riley has been amazing with her.  Sam is a little less thrilled but is also doing very well with her.  Sam did snark at Stella once and Riley stepped in to defend her.   There was a wee bit of noise but no contact and we have not had any issues since.  Sam is now much more comfortable with her and has even played a bit with her. Walking the three dogs together on leash is a bit of a gong show for the first five minutes until everyone settles but off leash everyone is very well mannered and attentive to my commands.  I really am very glad when Sam visits but also very glad to see him go home.  Three dogs with the level of energy that these ones have is just to much for our every day lifestyle.   My hat is off to all of you who manage multiple dogs!

Here are some pictures of the lovely fall hike on nearby trails that we took yesterday.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Like a Cat

I currently have two cats in my house and have owned one other as well as had a number of cats while growing up.  My first cat (Bud) was a siamese cat who was Mr. Personality.  He would walk on leash, loved car rides and never met a lap he didn't love.  One of my current cats (Fred) is a Maine Coone mix and is very dog like.  He lines up for dog cookies, comes when he is called and is very comfortable with the dogs.  The other cat (Desi) is a female tortie and she is all "cat" but very lovable in her own way.  

The dogs is my life have been Labrador Retrievers which has also been the favourite breed in my family.  Family Christmas a few years ago had a total of six dogs and five of those were labradors.  When Lucy passed and it was time to add another dog back to our home I researched the Vizsla breed before deciding to add one to our home.  I have met quite a number of them over the past few years in our dog classes and around the city.  I am very much in love with a lot of things about this breed and especially my puppy.  What has surprised me is how many feline personality quirks are present in my new vizsla puppy.  

Stella's "cat like" behaviours include sun worshipping, sleeping curled up, play behaviour that involves using her front legs to box and masterful levels of cuddling.  She also doesn't like getting her paws wet but that is changing as she gets more used to living life on the west coast.  Lucy was never much of a snuggler but Riley is quite fond of a good cuddle especially if it is on my bed.  Stella takes that a few steps further and plasters up against me in bed and even heads down under the covers if she thinks it isn't warm enough.   She has resigned herself to sleeping mainly in her dog bed in our tv room (see entry - Battle of the Bed) but when I invite her up for a couch cuddle I swear I can almost hear her purring :o).  My cats usually sleep the night cuddled against me (one on each side and the territories never change).   Stella is crated overnight but in the morning when I open her crate she bounds over to the bed and wants up for a good long snuggle and possibly some more sleeping. 

I suppose that these behaviours aren't really "cat" but they are different from my rough and tumble labs and very similar to my cats.  She really is a very fun and happy puppy and I look forward to learning even more about this new breed in my life!

 Stella worshipping the sun in August

Bud never met a warm source he didn't love, even a light bulb!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Growing Up

Stella weighed in yesterday at 27 pounds at just over 19 weeks old.  She is losing teeth at a rapid rate with her adult teeth coming in nicely.  Tonight I was playing some tug with her and she stopped for a second, spit out a tooth and then came back for some more play.  We finished one set of puppy classes this week and I am very pleased with her behaviours.  Potty training is pretty much complete unless we are idiots.  She had one mistake last week during a rambunctious play session with Riley which was totally our fault as she had been sleeping quite a while and we hadn't taken her out.  I think that one surprised her as well as us and has been her only mistake in quite a long time.

Riley is getting much more interested in playing with her now.  Unfortunately for Stella that sometimes means he gets the zoomies with her and he isn't very careful and has run her over a few times.  Riley currently weighs in at 107 pounds so there is an 80 pound difference between them.  She is quickly learning to stay out of his way when he gets crazy :o).  They will work out a good play style that works for both of them over time.  I love to watch them tug because he could easily whip the toy from her but instead he self handicaps to keep the game going.  I think he will be in trouble in the future because she is getting faster every day and will be way more agile then he is.

Here are some pictures from this week.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Mani Pedi Time

I love a good spa day with a nice manicure and pedicure.  Unfortunately the dogs do not share my opinion with regards to having their nails trimmed.   I never really had a problem with Lucy because she was easily bought with treats.  She wasn't happy but tolerated it.  Riley has big thick black nails and he barely tolerated his nails being clipped.  A few years ago I switched to using the dremel and he is way more comfortable with that.  I combine the dremel with tasty treats and more importantly short tug games in between feet.  That really seems to work with him as it lets him reduce the stress before it causes him to resist. 

The first time I tried to clip Stella's nails she screamed bloody murder.  This was before I even got near the first nail!  She didn't even particularly like to have her feet touched.  Over the next few weeks we worked on touching her feet and rewarding and also tried randomly clip a toe but there was little improvement.  I then decided to switch to using the dremel and set about desensitizing her to the sound and vibrations.  We also began to work on her tolerating mild restraint with lots of rewards.  She was quite comfortable with both until I tried to move on to grinding her nails where she once again pitched a major fit.  Once I determined that she really wasn't scared (she would willingly take treats, would not hide etc.) I set about quietly waiting out the struggle (without letting her win) and rewarding when she became calm and then doing a short touch to the nail with the grinder before releasing.  I continued to do this every few days or so for the past few weeks and finally we are having good success this past week.  YEAH!!!!  The position that works best for us is to have Stella laying on hubby's legs on her back while he rubs her belly and feeds treats while I grind the nails.  Now when we finish she doesn't want to leave the position lol.  She still has a way to go before she will be one of those dogs that will sleep through a nail grinding session but I am super pleased with our progress.  We will continue to do this 2-3 times per week for now until she is indifferent to having it done.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


This is the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend so today I thought I would blog about things I am thankful for with regards to the furry members of my home.  I should probably start with the fact that I am thankful for a loving husband that indulges my love for all the animals :o).

"They" say we always get the dog we need not always the dog we want and that has been true with Riley.  He is our second dog and we got him when Lucy was ten.  Riley was a very mellow pup especially when compared to Lucy who was a crazy puppy.   Lucy had a few issues over the years so we were determined to do things better this time around.  We did puppy classes, socializing like crazy, obedience classes etc.  All of those went very well but still at about 1.5 years of age Riley entered the dreaded teenager horrible phase where he seem to realize how big he was and he started to be agressive with other dogs plus ignoring all he had learned.  Like many other people I lived in a state of denial for a while, then had a total meltdown one bad weekend when he was a total jerk while visiting friends.  I then decided to put on my "big girl panties" and began to research dog training and behaviour and also began working with a trainer.   It didn't take very long for things to change and Riley reverted back to the lovable, goofy boy we loved.  Today the only time we really have to watch for any issues with other dogs is if he is in a over-excited state which is easy to manage.  All those events ignited a love for dog training and dog sports that have improved my relationship with Riley and given me a new hobby.  I am thankful for this wonderful, goofy, intense dog that makes me laugh most days but never lets me forget that he needs to work to be a "good" dog.

Riley and I at Lake Louise this summer

Stella is our new addition and I am thankful for her happy puppy enthusiasm.   She is a smart little girl who loves to learn and I am having so much fun putting to use some of the lessons learned in the past few years with Riley.  She cracks me up constantly with her zooms and sound effects.  She has a much different personality than Riley.  She is way "softer" but still has wonderful confidence.  I am thankful for the chance to help shape her personality and grow together in future dog endeavours.

Stella approx 12 weeks

We also have two cats.  Desi is a true "cat" personality and Fred thinks he is more like a dog.   A house really isn't a home without cats and I am thankful to have these wonderful creatures love me and be partof our home.

Animals enrich our lives in many ways and I am thankful for the opportunity and ability to be able to provide appropriate care for the animals in my life in the best way I can.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Dog Agility

I've become very interested in dog sports over the last few years.  They are wonderful things to do with your dog that help to set training goals and build our relationship.  I have done obedience, rally and tracking with Riley and would love to do agility.  Unfortunately he would probably be to big to fit through the tunnels and he has poor structure so this would put a lot of strain on his body.  Riley runs mother nature's agility course almost every day  through the forest and that suits him just fine.

One of reasons I was interested in the Vizsla breed is their athletic ability.  I plan to do dog sports with Stella including agility.  Her breeder introduced her to a few pieces of equipment but unfortunately I do not own any. I also have never done the sport so I am a total rookie on things I should be training.  Puppy class has introduced us to a puppy size version of a dog walk, tunnel and a jump and I am also using local park equipment to work things resembling equipment.   These obstacles will help Stella learn body awareness.  She also gets to run through the bushes, around, over and under trees after Riley which will also help with that and promotes balance.

Here is a short video of some of our fun.

Sunday, 2 October 2011


Stella was four months old at the end of September (born May 31).  The "experts" state that this means she is at the end of the key socializing period.  That does not mean that we stop socializing the pup and expect the lessons learned to date will last the lifetime of the dog if they never leave their backyard again.  In my opinion is is important to build on the socializing to date by continuing to meet lots of people and dogs as well as ask for the pup to work in new and different areas. 

I live in a big city but am lucky enough to live near the mountains with access to lots of great hiking trails.  There is also a popular off-leash walking area close to our local river.  What I really like about this area is that we meet lots of different kinds of dogs but most people are always walking.  This is a great place for pups to learn how to do a quick polite great and then move on.  It means that dogs rarely develop the "gang" mentality and intimidate other dogs which can happen at many dog parks where everyone is just hanging around.  Some dogs hit it off right away and in that case most people stop for a quick play session.  Stella really had some fun today with a weimeraner pup, a springer spaniel and a few other dogs.

We walked both dogs in that area this weekend to give Stella lots of experience.  She can be somewhat timid upon first meeting new dogs which is very appropriate puppy behaviour for her age.  I want her to be comfortable with greeting (or ignoring other dogs if appropriate) and being around all sorts and sizes of dogs.  I also don't want a dog that always wants to continuously play with other dogs which can be hard in the future when we want to compete in obedience or agility.   She had a great time on the walks and gained a lot of confidence. 

Here are a few pics of today's outing.

                 Trying to keep her butt on the ground in her sit but something is tempting her :o). 

A very poor attempt at stacking on an uneven rock but her face looks pretty here. 
 Heh Riley, why do you like this cold water so much?

A much better self stack by Stella plus smiling Riley's happy face.

 Tired puppy in her seatbelt cuddled up to Riley on way home.