Friday, 30 September 2011


I really need to take up golf because I would never need to purchase a golf ball ever.  In my garage I have a huge drawer full of golf balls courtesy of Riley.  One of our favourite walks is a trail that goes around the perimeter of a nearby golf course.   There is a forest buffer between the course and our trail and apparently there are a lot of bad golfers because Riley always finds stray golf balls.  His nose is incredible and if there is a golf ball, tennis ball etc or even a very teeny, tiny part of a ball he will come bounding out of the bushes with it in his mouth.

So, what's the big deal?  The thing is he hates to part with his found treasures.  Golf balls are a dangerous size and also not the best thing for his teeth.  Balls win over any other possible reward.  He will turn up his nose at pretty much every food option with the exception of chicken necks that worked one day but those are messy to carry.  I used to carry a regular ball and he would trade for that but the lure of those forbidden golf balls now trumps the regular ball.   Yesterday he found three golf balls.  His record was seven one day :o).  The first out took forever, I basically have to stand with his collar and wait until he gives up.  Stella was bouncing all over us both with wasn't very helpful.  The next two thankfully went faster but sometimes it makes me very weary to have this issue.

I have tried many methods over the years to work on a good out.   He happily gives up most objects but the ball seems to short circuit his brain although he is much better than a few years ago.  I rarely throw the ball for him these days as it puts a lot of stress on his structure.  He runs full tilt and usually over reaches the ball and scrambles to stop and turn.  I occasionally throw the ball easily for him to catch directly or will hold him in a stay until the ball stops rolling.  I will also play with the ball when he swims and then I use two balls and the rule is I have posession of both before one gets thrown otherwise he stuffs both of them in his mouth.

Susan Garrett (famous agility person) advises against using a ball as a toy or reward for dogs because the ball is very self rewarding.  Dogs can make it move, bounce, drop etc. all without any help from us.  That is certainly true with Riley!  I think the use of a ball can be evaluated on an individual dog basis.  Lucy certainly liked the ball but was never as obsessed like Riley is so in her case it would be a good reward.

Stella is shaping up to have a nice out both with her toys and with the tug toy.  This is a priority for me and something I am determined to never let become a bad habit.  It is way easier to fix something before it is an issue than to fix it after the fact.  I'm sure I will make a whole new set of mistakes with her instead, lol.  I'm looking forward to the winter when there is a lot less golfers on the course!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Adventures with the relatives

Over the weekend we met up with some of Stella's relatives.  There was a litter on the island that was born 19 days before Stella from a dog that is a full littermate sister to Stella's mom.  That would make those puppies cousins to Stella. 

On saturday we met one of the pups with her yellow lab brother to swim at a dog therapy pool.  I did not take Riley because he is still on restricted activity and he would have been crazy at the pool jumping and racing the other dogs for the toys.  Stella did very well and seems quite comfortable in the water.  I was in the water with her most of the time as was the owner of the pool and she wore a life jacket to make sure the experience was a positive one for her.  She would chase the ball and then swim back to me and I would pick her up and float her and then throw the ball again .... repeat as needed :o).

                            She had grabbed the lab's toy in this pic and was making a break for it!

                                I was surprised at how much growth difference 19 days made.

On sunday we met up with 11 other vizslas and another labrador for a walk in the rain.  There were four of the pups from the above mentioned litter plus their mom and their sister from a different litter.  Many of the vizslas were related in some way.  The two labs (including Riley) did very well with all those crazy vizslas running around.   Stella hit it off with one of the other pups and had a great time running around with them all.  It was a wonderful socializing opportunity for her.  It is important to not overwhelm young puppies but she seemed to be quite comfortable and checked in frequently with me and also with Riley.

                                            Stella (far left) with the other four puppies.

                                                                   Lots of dogs!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Beach fun

We have wrapped up our visit to Long Beach (Tofino) on the "wet" coast which more than lived up to it's nick name.  We started our time with a few beautiful days of sunshine, had one horrible weather day in the middle and then two normal rainy days.  The dogs were still happy to go for their daily beach adventure although on the really horrible day Stella was quite chilled.  Luckily my friend K had brought a few small dog size coats for us to try for her.  The next rainy days she wore her a dog coat and that seemed to make her much more comfortable.  The labs in our life have rarely needed jackets and Riley especially hates to wear anything (harness, coat, boots etc). 

Rainy days on the beach are still great fun as long as you are dressed for the weather.  There were a lot of surfers out enjoying the big waves which is both inspiring and entertaining to watch.  Today I got quite the surprise on our final walk as we happened upon a dead sea lion.  It was very windy last night so the high tides washed up a bunch of new logs, tons of seaweed etc. and a few icky things. 

Here are a few quick videos of the dogs.

and some more pictures ....

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Reflections on a soggy day

It is pouring rain here today in Tofino.  It is the kind of "movie rain" that makes you glad you are snuggled up safe and dry somewhere.  We will be adventuring out soon for a walk because two dogs in a small trailer without a walk all day will make for a very long evening :o).  My very good friend K is visiting with us and yesterday we all had a glorious walk on the beach.  We have been friends since grade 7 and her dog Mozart (beagle) was the first dog our Lucy met outside of her own litter.  Lucy obviously figured that the friend thing was a good gig and thought of Mozart as her best buddy.  Mozart pre-deceased Lucy by a few years and one day we were discussing what she would do with the ashes.  We almost at the same time commented how we would like to spread our dogs on Long Beach (Tofino).  We decided then that she would wait until Lucy passed and then we would set the two friends together at the beach.  I wasn't ready yet this time last year as Lucy had only been gone for a month but had prettty much decided that we would do it this year. 

West Coast beaches were some of the places where Lucy was happiest in the world.   Our vacations in her later years were always planned for those beaches because it brought her so much joy.  The combination of the soft sand, cool water and ocean breezes dropped years off of her each time.   There is also something about this place that is peaceful and soothing to a human soul.

Unfortunately as we were boarding the ferry I realized that I had forgotten to bring Lucy.  This caused several moments of anguish but in the end perhaps it was because we really aren't ready to say goodbye.  Currently her ashes sit on my desk in an urn in a box and I frequently say hello to her.  This might sound a tad strange but it is a comfort to have her there and also to see her pictures scroll through on my screen saver.  Most of the tears have long since been replaced with happy memories and I am moving towards the final goodbye but she will always hold a very special place in my heart.   I plan to keep some of her ashes and will plant a rose bush (any roses named Lucy out there?) next spring with the ashes before returning here again next year.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Beaches and bath time

We had an absolutely stunning west coast day on the beach yesterday.  The dogs had lots of fun and we learned that Stella is gonna be one of those "roll on gross things" dogs.  Lucy was that way especially in her younger years but it has not been something that Riley has really enjoyed.  That is probably due to his fixation on the ball or frisbee.  Stella however was gleefully rolling in the sand and we were smiling like doting parents before it dawned on us that she might be doing something more then just enjoying the warm sand.  She was rolling on a dead animal carcass ... likely a seal.  The carcass was mainly just fur but it was enough to make her smell pretty bad. 

That adventure landed Stella her first bath when we returned back to the trailer.  That was the fastest bath I have ever given a dog.  With labradors there is a double coat and you must work to get the water all the way through to the skin and then lather and rinse.  Stella's coat was soooooo much easier so she was in and out in less than five minutes.  She was not thrilled and we had to wrap her up after to keep warm but she definately smelled much better!

Here are some pictures from our beach walking adventure.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Travelling Dogs

Our dogs go almost everywhere with us.  The majority of any time away includes them.  These trips provide fabulous socialization and as a result our dogs have learned to be comforable in most situations.  We camp in our travel trailer in the summer and in the winter we rent dog-friendly accomodations for any ski time or other visits.  This week marks the final camping trip of the year.  Our trailer "winters" on Vancouver Island with family who have a much larger area to park it so we generally wind up the season with a trip to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  

Stella is already a seasoned car traveller.  Both dogs wear seatbelts in our vehicle which keeps all of us safe and she has already learned to travel quietly.  She does however sometimes get bored and has a few minutes with a "pawwwwty for one" which involves her making all sorts of strange noises, pawing at the seat and bouncing as much as she is able.  She then settles down to regular travel mode.  Considering she is only a 15 week puppy she does very well!

We spent last night with family and she slept very well in her collapsible crate.  This is a good step for her to learn to be crated in unfamiliar environments which will be great when we get to dog competitions later on.

So we are here in Tofino and managed to squeek in a shorter beach walk this afternoon when we arrived.   Stella was thrilled with so many things to pick up on the beach that I was willing to trade cookies to have her drop :o).  Riley just loves everything about the beach so he is in doggy heaven here.

Lots more beach adventures will follow this week.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Battle of the Bed

The rule in our house is that dogs are not allowed on the couch.  It is not that I have any great objection to the dogs being on the couch but Riley is just way to big and when Lucy was a pup we were told how bad it was to have your dog on the couch.  I now know that isn't true but the couch is also the cat's domain where they are able to cuddle with us so it doesn't really seem fair to have the new puppy hogging the prime lap positions. 

The first night Stella was home she came over to where I was sitting on the couch and put her feet up.  I then reached over to scratch her head and she pushed back on my hand for leverage and had climbed onto the couch so fast I didn't even figure out what she was doing until she was on my lap.  Since then the best way to buy a respite from puppy craziness was to allow her onto the couch where she would promptly snuggle down and go to sleep.  Now she has successfully managed to bounce her way unassisted a few times onto the couch so I decided it was time to addresss the issue. 

We have a large foam bed (can fit three dogs)and also a crate in this room but based on her desire to snuggle into something when she is sleeping I decided to buy a new bed.  The new bed is more of a basket style with sides.  She really wasn't all that interested in the bed for the first few days so I added an extra snuggly baby quilt and the bed is placed right next to where she normally would ask to come on the couch.  There was another dog bed there before that I did often treat her when she was sitting or sleeping on it so there is a small history of reinforcement for that area.  When she asks to come up onto the couch I would ignore her and look directly at her bed.  She kept trying but eventually she followed my gaze and went to her bed and lay down.  I heavily treated this behaviour. 

It has only been a few days but she has now mostly adopted her new bed as her "spot" and has only asked to come on the couch a few times today.  I continue to randomly reward her when she is on her bed. Both cats are pleased with this development and have made quick cuddle appearances this evening.

Our bed however is a full on cuddle zone for all animals.  The rule is if two humans are in bed then no dogs but once a side is vacated it is fair game.   That really is more a function of limited space as we often have two cats all night long.  Hubby works early in the morning and Riley generally hops up as soon as he gets up to shower.  Stella loves to have a morning snuggle (or lazy weekend afternoon snuggles) and when released from her crate she goes straight over to the side of the bed waiting to be lifted up.  Once on the bed she snuggles in for as long as I am willing to stay.  I laughed today when Riley was on the bed later in the day and Stella was jumping up at him and trying to get on the bed (it will be a while yet for that one).  Riley growled at her just like when he was a puppy and Lucy growled at him.  Lucy wouldn't let him choose to jump on the bed with her until he was about eight months old.  If I invite the pup then no problem but apparently dog house rules are that those special sharing priviledges need to be earned by puppies!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Mud Puppy

Stella's count for today .... damage one phone, kill one coaster, one mud puddle up to her neck and the award for best recall at puppy class.  It was a busy day for a puppy :o).

This morning she was sleeping so soundly I didn't bother to crate her while I ran upstairs and did a few things.  I came back downstairs to find the phone missing a portion of the antenna plastic and a coaster missing a few chunks.  Lesson learned, never count on a sleeping puppy to stay sleeping.

On our walk today Riley went through a big mud ditch and Stella watched from the sidelines.  He later got cleaned up in a stream and on the way back I put him on leash to prevent a repeat performance.  Stella obviously thought that she needed to try his adventure and did a cannonball leap from the trail (drop about 1.5 feet) into the mud.  I think she was pretty surprised that she ended up in mud up to her neck.  We then all had to turn around and head back to the stream where I managed to get enough mud off to let her back into the car.

Tonight was puppy class.  We are enrolled in two different puppy classes as I have some scheduling conflicts and will miss a bunch of our monday puppy classes this month.  I work with both these instructors with Riley and they both have great things to offer.  Tonight was our second class in our wednesday sessions.  The puppies (eight) got to socialize with each other with lots of happy recalls out of the group.  We also worked on a sphinx down, wait and got to do a mini dog walk (agility).  Stella did very well.  She has lots of focus and is quite comfortable in that group setting.  We had a competition at the end of class for the fastest restrained recall and she won!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Cast of Characters

Hello.  I figured the first post should be a bit of an introduction to who you could be hearing about.  I am a 40 something self employed accountant married to a wonderful man who is very understanding about my love for animals.  We currently have two dogs and two cats in our home.

Dog #1 is Riley.  Riley is a five year old size extra large black labrador.  He is a wonderful goofy dog that also has a super intense competitive side that thankfully we have trained to be mostly in control.  He was a laid back easy going puppy that turned into a barking, lunging hard to handle teenage dog at about a year and a half.  "They" say we always get the dog we need and in our case it is very true.  It opened up a world of dog training and new friends that was the project I needed in my life at that time.  I continue to learn every day and am proud to say that we have achieved our Rally Advanced Title this spring and Riley is considered an example and often asked to walk with reactive dogs in our dog classes.

Dog #2 is our new vizsla puppy Stella (Varazs Kedvesem Final Dance).  She was born May 31 and came home to us at the age of ten weeks on August 10.  She has fit into our home wonderfully with her crazy puppy antics and happy personality.   I am training her with positive methods and hope to eventually do competition obedience and agility with her and possible tracking.

We also have two cats in our home.  Fred is a nine year old Maine Coone mix that is more dog than cat.  Desi is a eleven year old tortie that is pure cat.  Life is under her terms :o).  Both cats are adapting to a new puppy.  Fred is doing quite well until the pup starts racing around and Desi is keeping her distance unless the puppy is sleeping.  We went through the same thing when Riley was a pup so I am confident that all will work out well.



and last but definately not least was Lucy.  Lucy was our 14.5 year old yellow labrador that we said goodbye to last summer.  She is forever in our hearts.