Friday, July 29, 2011

Backpacking and a Blog Hop

On Saturday, I took off with the dogs early and headed to the East side of the mountains. For those of us from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, anything east of the mountains is Eastern Oregon, no matter what people from over there say. We headed to the Mill Creek Wilderness outside of Prineville, with the goal of doing the Twin Pillars hike as a 3 day backpacking trip.

(Pallo in front of Steins Pillar)

The trail follows along Mill Creek most of the way, crossing over many times. Like, a ton of times. I gave up on trying to keep my feet dry after the second crossing and just sloshed through in my shoes.

Pallo managed to break his pack after the first 40 minutes of hiking, and had a chance to romp around in the water with no pack while I got out my knife, some extra twine, and did a jerry-rigged strap to salvage the pack. (This is why you should never plan on doing serious backpacking with a cheapo pack from PetCo.) Since he is a strange shape, I already had to alter the pack to fit him before we left for the trip, so while it got a little less glamorous, luckily his pack stayed functional the whole time.

Koira's pack I believe is an older style Granite Gear pack I bought off of Craigslist. Somehow I ended up with two very strangely shaped dogs, and the super adjustability of this pack was really the only thing I was interested in. By cinching in most of the straps all the way and letting out a few of them, I was able to get a much better fit for Koira than any other brand or style pack we've come across.

We hiked in about 4 miles before making our base camp down a little side trail that led no where. Then me and Koira ditched out packs and Pallo carried water for all of us as we did some additional hiking. He had the most energy, didn't seem bothered by his pack at all, and Koira was limping a little bit, having scraped a paw at some point on the trail.

The two shorter hikes we took that evening went up away from Mill Creek. It was super hot, and we hit a burn area where there was very little shade. Instead of pushing on all the way to the base of Twin Pillars, I decided we would try it again in the morning while it was still cooler out.

We headed back to base camp and spent an uncomfortable night on the hard ground. This is kind of one of the unavoidable things about backpacking, which I try to forget about, since the rest of it is so fun.

In the morning, the dogs got a breakfast of Honest Kitchen dehydrated raw (way lighter to carry than their normal whole raw meat), then we geared up and set out. Koira was limping pretty bad though, and I discovered a blister under her front leg. Instead of taking the day hike up to the pillars, I decided we would just go ahead and hike out, and I strapped Koira's pack onto mine, so as not to irritate her sore.

We hiked out a lot faster than the in hike, getting back to the car by 10am. It was starting to get pretty toasty by then, so we hung out by the creek for a little while before taking off for home. We stopped in at one of our favorite swimming holes on the South Santiam river back on the West side of the mountains. Koira loves swimming, especially in the river, and it didn't seem to hurt her sore much. Unfortunately by the time we got home I was running a low grade fever, which ended up spiking the next day and spent a few days hovering between 100 and 102. I guess its a good thing we hiked out when we did, because it would have been way less than fun to do the out hike while sick.

A bit of a note about packs. For humans, I personally prefer internal frame packs. I find them more comfortable to wear than external frame packs. Make sure the straps fit snug down on your shoulders (most packs have adjustable back sizes to get this right). Mess around with all the straps to adjust the load to the most comfortable point. You want the majority of the weight to be on the waist strap, with the shoulder and chest pieces simply there to help balance the load more than carry it. And, pack light!

For dogs, the most important thing is a good fit. The weight of the pack should be as far forward over their shoulders as possible. A lot of high-profile companies make packs that sit in the middle of a dog's back, which puts major pressure on the spine. It would be similar to you carrying your pack without the waist strap- not safe or comfortable, and likely to cause injury. That said, the next most important thing is to get a pack that fits your dog well. The pack should not shift a lot or rub. Many have an extra strap or two that go around the entire pack and dog to help secure the load, and these are great (I plan on adding one to Koira's pack next time I have a sewing day). Dogs can carry up to 30% of their body weight, but should be started out much lighter until they get used to carrying a pack, then slowly increase the weight. I never pack food on my dogs (human or dog food) because of the risk of bears, cougars, or coyotes smelling it and going after them. I can ditch my pack, my dogs can't. Normally the dogs carry water, water bowls, extra leashes, and a first aid kit.

Now enjoy the Saturday Blog Hop:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sick in the summer

Well, as many guessed, we took off for the weekend and went backpacking. But, on arriving home, I got super sick, complete with fever, sore throat, chills, and aches, though I am not sure the aches are from the fever or from the backpacking! Fever finally broke this morning, but I'm not feeling anywhere close to up to par. So, I'll just have to share a couple pictures from going swimming on our trip, and share the rest of the story after I am feeling better.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lure coursing (and some Words for Wednesday)

Well, Wordless Wednesday prompted a lot of questions, so I will try to answer some of them!

Greyhounds CAN Sit asked about the bottle feeding picture. Mama was feeding the babies just fine, but a couple of them weren't gaining weight as fast as they should, so they received some supplemental feedings for a while.

Of Pitbulls and Patience asked a few questions. So, in answer: A friend of mine's litter. Tibetan Terriers. And because these adorable little babies are about to celebrate their first birthday at the beginning of August, so while still adorable, they have grown out of the puppy breath and super melting adorableness.

Sofie, please see above answer, relating to the age of said puppies at this point in time. I doubt they would all be able to fit anywhere near your lap at this point.

Now really, you should just be amazed that I was able to sit on these puppy pictures for almost a year before posting them.

But on to our lure coursing fun from Wednesday. No pictures of Koira or Pallo running, but they both did really well. Pallo is flattening out instead of bounding after the lure, and did his zigzag course really well. Koira tried out a zigzag and had to yell at that bag for taking off in the wrong direction! She cornered really well with it though. Everyone at the practice was of the opinion that both of my dogs would be able to pass the CAT (Coursing Ability Test) with no problems.

I did get a few pictures of some of the other dogs coursing. The sighthounds, for the most part, are just plain too fast for my camera to get anything other than a blur.

This Borzoi is the best sighthound picture from the day:

This little mini Aussie pup was adorable, and very into the whole idea.

We even had a French Bulldog try it out. She ran with the "squawker" on, basically a raccoon looking tail that makes noise as it bounces across the ground. It is a great way to get a dog interested in chasing the lure.

This Malinois is on the start line, just taking off. At practices, to signal that the handler and dog are ready, the handler raises an arm, and the lure operator starts the lure moving.

As you can probably tell in some of these pictures, there are miniature horses on the property as well. None of the dogs seemed to notice them in the least, so they weren't the distraction they may appear to have been.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Da Vinci Days

Every year in July my town hosts the Da Vinci Days Festival. The focus is on science and technology, with an emphasis on the sustainable, human powered, and slightly eccentric. Saturdays mornings always have a disc dog competition, with free entry, so I headed down there this morning with Pallo and Koira. Koira has competed before, but not Pallo. Neither of them placed, and in fact, Pallo came in dead last with a score of 0, but we had a ton of fun watching the other dogs competing.

After the competition is the Da Vinci Parade. The parade always focuses on Kinetic Sculptures, basically, eccentrically strange human-powered vehicles.

Koira was a little weirded out by some of the sounds and strange movements, and Pallo did a "leap-back" when one of them made some super strange noises, but they seemed pretty interested in all the sculptures going by.

There were also a few alternatively powered vehicles that went by, including this totally electric car.

My personal favorite though is powered by a single man, kicking an oblong wheel behind him. He always does the parade every year.

Hope everyone else is having a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

Taking an idea from Sweet Tea Serendipity, I thought I would post a list of ten things. And, I think my list is going be to dog breeds that I really wish I had, or want to have in the future. I always look at a variety of breeds and think, man, I want one of those next. But I really can't decide.

So, in the order that strikes me today, but possibly not tomorrow and probably not what I would have picked yesterday, the dog breeds I really want to have:

1. Silken Windhound. These dogs are medium sized sight hounds with an amazing silky coat. I keep seeing a puppy around town from a Silken breeder up in the Portland area, and I so so want one. There is one Silken listed in the NAFA database for flyball titles.

2. Border Collie. I think everyone who has ever done flyball seriously has wanted a Border at some point. Luckily for me, I can go out and visit Possum, who is staying with my mom while her owner searches for a dog friendly place to live down in California.
Border Collies also have the benefit of being a breed that Koira loves to death, and will put up with almost anything from. She can be a little testy with dominant female dogs in her house normally, but Possum (and every other Border Collie out there) get away with anything.

3. Swedish Vallhund. These dogs are kind of like corgis, with the short legs and history of being a herding dog. They are a bit longer in the leg and shorter in the back, and from what I know about them, they seem to fit my personality preference in a dog much more than corgis. And, I have to believe they would be awesome height dogs for flyball.
Picture from the Wikipedia article about Swedish Vallhunds:

4. Greyhound. Because they are gorgeous, relaxed, amazing dogs. They look super noble. And, because greyhounds have not, for whatever reason, achieved any of the higher titles in flyball yet. I know they can, and think that with the right hound, they would be amazing with it. Plus, all these blog friends of mine with greyhounds are just feeding my desire for one of my own.

5. Belgian Malinois. The power these dogs have, the drive, the energy, the focus, all makes me really want one of my own. On our trip to California in January for the flyball tournament, there was a team with a ton of Malinois, and I just loved going and watching them compete. In fact, there was one at the Salem tournament this past weekend even.

6. Whippet. Because they are like a smaller version of the greyhound. I like having a dog I can pick up if needed (I have had to carry Koira about 1/2 mile back to the car after she cut her foot open really bad). And, aside from any greyhound connection, whippets are spunky little speed demons, and when trained right, they are doing some amazing things in flyball.
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7. Staffordshire Bull Terrier. An actual Staffy, not a APBT labeled as one. These dogs are small, tough, driven, and great flyball height dogs. They have energy that can be easily funneled into desired activities, and have an off switch. They are big cuddlers, and love people.

8. Border-Jack. Not that I actually think I would every bring one of these home, but I see them at flyball tournaments all the time, and whenever I see them running, thats when I really want one of my own. The Jack energy is just a bit much for me. I like my dogs with an off switch.

9. Border-Staffy. The world record holding flyball team's fastest line-up is made up of these wicked fast little mixes. They can be a combination of the best of two worlds between the Border Collie and the Staffy. But, again, I don't actually see myself ever getting one of these in the future. Though with these, rather than a lack of an off switch, it is more my objection to sports breeding dogs than anything else. I just can't see myself buying a sports bred dog when there are so many rescues out there who can excel at flyball.

10. Border-Whippet. Another sports mix bred for flyball, the Border-Whippet is appearing to be the new big thing in the sport. They have the speed and muscles of the whippets combined with the drive and trainability of the Border Collie. My objection to one of these is the same as to the Border-staffy above, the difference being that a border-whippet is a mix I might find in a shelter some day.

Well, that is my list of ten for Tuesday. Thank you to Delaney over at Sweet Tea Serendipity for the idea.

I'll hopefully be pulling my videos of the tournament onto the computer soon, and post them up in the next couple days.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What a wonderful weekend!

Friday, I arrived early at the tournament site to set up crates and get the dogs walked before Friday Night Racing started at 5:00. There ended up being a handler and dog stuck in traffic who couldn't make their spot, so Pallo ran as well as Koira.

Koira ran awesome. I was very, very proud of her. We ran in singles, which meant I had to try to start my dogs. The best start I got was a -.006 (we weren't rerunning false starts in singles). The worst I got was 1. something seconds. Safe to say I probably shouldn't be running the start dog at any tournaments in the near future. Koira and Pallo both ran awesome, and each had a best time (line to line time) of 4.9 and change.

Saturday went pretty good. Pallo was running with our Omegas team, and had four races for the day. Unfortunately, I am still trying to get him to potty regularly outside while at tournaments, and he had to repeat the last year's debacle of pooping in the ring. It seems like no matter how long I walk this dog outside before a race, it just doesn't matter. Other than that, though, he ran really well. He did drop his ball early a handful of times, but mostly just in the race where he ended up soiling in the ring. Can't hold in it from both ends at the same time, I guess.

Koira and Pallo both were running on Sunday. Pallo had four races again, and Koira was scheduled for two races. Pallo had a bit more of a problem with dropping on Sunday, but thankfully did much better with the pottying outside. I made a bad mistake of losing track of time while outside walking him and ended up late for our first race back after lunch. We got there just in time for racing, but made the team panic a good bit before we got there. So, not a great weekend in terms of mistakes, with one big one each day. But, we had fun, and I think everyone on our team had a good time as well.

Koira was a little rock star. Her division was running 4 of 4s (means 4 heats per race, for those non-flyball people out there). She did a good warm up run back and full run, then in the first heat fumbled the ball at the box. But, she did a great rerun. And, the other three races were awesome. Our whole team was doing amazing, and we pulled in three under-24 second times in a row. Koira's second race (halfway through the day) went really good as well, but the dogs were all getting tired with the second half of the second day of racing, so our times weren't quite as stellar. Then, in the last race of the day, one of our dogs got very tired, and Koira went in for the last two heats to help out. She ran great in the first one, especially with having no warm up and running in the other lane from her earlier two races. Her second run wasn't so great, however, with a fumble on the box leading to playing slip-and-slide off the matting on the concrete floor not only once, but on her rerun as well.

Overall, the weekend was great. We had an amazing food spread brought by our whole team, we achieved a lot with all of our inexperienced dogs running awesome, and our experienced dogs getting right on down to business. We had a couple of really close races each day, which always gets the heart pounding as you watch the two anchor dogs racing for the finish line. Our newest team members did an awesome job with their first tournament, helping out with running dogs, calling passes, ball hopping, taking stats, and jumping in anywhere they felt they could help.

And, you may have noticed. Koira has letters behind her name! I have to wait for the host club to finish scoring and send everything in to NAFA for it to be official, but I believe Koira earned not only her Flyball Dog (FD) title, but I think she got her Flyball Dog Excellent (FDX) as well. Whatever points my dogs came home with, I am very proud of both of them for an awesome weekend!

I will post videos later, after I get a chance to recover some and go through them. And, hopefully, a few more pictures as well once I get in contact with the people who had cameras at the event.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Last practice

We had our last practice before the tournament tonight. Most of the dogs and people weren't there, but we had enough to run a full lineup a couple times.

Pallo is running last in this line up:

And Koira is running second in this lineup:

I know. She has a terrible turn. But, at over a year and a half since her last race, I made the decision to run her with the turn she has instead of spending forever trying to fix it. Normally, in practice, she runs with a box jump in place, which gives her a much nicer turn. Since we won't be able to use props at the tournament, I wanted to see what Koira would do without them. She does a smash-and-grab, apparently. I'll be working with her box work a bit more after this tournament, to see if I can improve it any.

And, at the risk of repeating myself (probably for the billionth time), I am super excited for the tournament this weekend. It feels like its been forever, even for Pallo, who raced a few months ago.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Do you stretch your dog?

I know a lot of my readers are dog owners, and a good number of those dog owners participate in dog sports, including flyball, agility, obedience, and freestyle. So, my question to you is: What, if any, stretches and/or activities make up your warm up routine?

So far, my warm up routine for my dogs includes:
Walk, for 2-5 minutes (doubles as a chance to potty before going in the ring)
Trot, circles around me, both directions, about 30 seconds each direction
Stretch up- Dog puts front legs up on me and stretches (partly on command, partly assisted by me)
Rear leg stretch- I sit down, have the dog stand in front of me, facing away from me, and gently, slowly stretch out first one, then the other, then both back legs, paying attention to any stiffness in the dog, reluctance to stretch, or tightness

That is my normal warm up routine with Pallo, which I try to complete before every race. Sometimes races sneak up on me though. We do at least try to get some walk/trot in before every race, even when time is short.

Our in-the-ring warm up (flyball has a one minute warm up time for the team) is a restrained recall over jumps, making sure Pallo's proper jump height is set (9"). If we have the time, we will sometimes run the full line up of dogs, or do a second warm up recall over jumps, depending both on the team, the time, and what amount/type of warm up the other dogs need.

After a race, I immediately take Pallo outside for a post-race potty walk, which gives him another chance to potty as well as giving his muscles a chance to cool down with a walk before he goes back into his crate to rest and wait for the next race.

Koira hasn't raced in a long time, but I plan to follow the same warm-up routine with her as I do with Pallo. Back when she first raced, it was my first time at a performance event running my own dog, so we never had anything more than a warm-up potty walk with her.

So, I ask again, what is your warm-up and/or cool-down routine? Does it change based on what sport you are doing, flooring, or weather? Do you or did you use a book to learn or remind you of what stretches to do or how to do them best?

Checking on Amazon, I was thinking of ordering one of these books to help learn a better warm up routine for my dogs. First up, The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog: A Physical Therapy Approach. It has decent reviews, but doesn't appear to be geared towards performance dogs. The second book is Stretch Your Dog Healthy: A Hands-On Approach to Natural Canine Care which is supposed to have good pictures, but again, not specifically geared toward canine athletes, and has a review suggesting that some of the stretches in the book may not be safe.

Then there are two more all-purpose books I am interested in getting and reading, which I believe include warm-up and cool-down stretches and routines. Both are written by Christine Zink, Peak Performance: Coaching the Canine Athlete and Jumping from A to Z: Teach Your Dog to Soar. Both of these are written specifically for canine athletes, but I don't know how much stretching is in these.

So, anyone read any of these books, and have a recommendation for or against them? Have a different book you think would fit the bill perfectly that you want to recommend?

I was going to attend a seminar about stretching and conditioning canine athletes, but due to lack of interest it was rescheduled for later in the year. I'm hoping I'll still be able to go then, and that it actually gets held this time!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Fourth Everyone

Koira and Pallo wish everyone a happy Fourth tomorrow.

Koira is super excited. (But only because I got her a new tug toy, since she doesn't really like fireworks.)

Pallo doesn't really care about fireworks at all.

But he does love the new red white and blue tuggie

I worked with both of the dogs last year leading up to the Fourth. I purchased those small white poppers, and did a pop, treat, pop, treat method of desensitization. Then, as fireworks went off in increasing amounts around the neighbor hood each night, I went and sat outside, with the dogs, calmly reading a book or similar. Somehow, this all worked, and Koira, scared though she is of buses and garbage trucks, is now only mildly worried about fireworks, and then only the super loud ones.

Koira is enjoying the hot weather, and showing off her famous smile

And I can't put up a post without a picture of Pallo's paws, apparently

Enjoy the Fourth!

If you get the chance, head on over to Never Say Never Greyhounds. They posted an amazingly moving video of a horse hero named Reckless.