Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sports for Dogs: Barn Hunt

Last weekend, I spent Saturday and Sunday as the official photographer for a Barn Hunt event. Of course, that was followed with a few days of editing photos from the event as well! A number of people have asked me what Barn Hunt is. Since it is a new, but potentially very fun, sport that is open to pretty much all dogs and people, I thought I would share a little bit about it.

Barn Hunt is a young sport, only a few years old. Participation has been growing fast, though, and barn hunt trials are getting easier and easier to find in many places. Here in Oregon, we have trials every few months put on by a few different clubs.

The basic idea of Barn Hunt is simple- dogs use their noses to find rats. Yes, live rats are used, however, they are kept safe from the dogs with PVC pipes. The rats generally are found calmly sleeping in the tubes and enter the tubes voluntarily, so I genuinely believe that they know they are safe and don't mind participating in this sport at all. Barn Hunt has very specific rules about the care and consideration of the rats, which can be read on their website.

You can start in either Instinct or Novice. In Instinct, three tubes are placed on the ground near each other. One tube is completely empty, one has soiled rat bedding, and one tube has a live rat it in. The goal in Instinct is for your dog to find the tube with the rat and indicate it in such a way that you, as the handler, are able to tell the judge which tube holds the live rat. As is suggested by the name, many dogs are naturals and can find the rat with no previous experience, using nothing but natural instinct. Some dogs, though, will benefit from prior exposure to barn hunt through a practice or seminar. Upon passing Instinct, your dog will receive a RATI title.

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This is an actual set up during an Instinct test. The tubes are all in the open and placed near each other.

The RATI (instinct) title is not required to enter your dog in Novice, the beginning level of Barn Hunt. In Novice, the same three tubes as pictured above are used. This time, though, the tubes are hidden in straw or hay bales. The goal is the same. The dog must find the tub that contains the live rat and indicate it in such a way that the handler is able to tell the judge where the rat is located. In addition to finding the rat tube hidden in the course, the dog is required to go through a tunnel made of straw bales and climb on top of at least one straw bale. No breed or size of dog is unable to participate as long as they can do these things- and I have seen Great Danes fit through the tunnels and dachshunds jump up onto a bale of straw.

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This is a doberman in Instinct, sniffing each of the tubes to determine which one has the rat. He passed and gained his RATI title.

After three Novice qualifications, the dog receives a RATN title and advances to Open. In Open, the goal remains the same. However, there are now two tubes with live rats and the dog must find both of them. The tunnel in Open is also longer. Senior comes after the RATO title, where there are four rats to find in a larger course.

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This collie is searching for the hidden rat tubes in the bales of straw.

Master is the highest level of Barn Hunt as is the most difficult. In Master, there are always 10 tubes in the ring, but the number of rats can be 1-5, with the rest of the tubes filled with bedding. The handler must indicate to the judge when their dog finds a rat, but also must tell the judge when the dog has cleared the ring and there are no more rats to be found. This requires not only that your dog has a strong indication when finding the rats, but also requires that the handler have total trust in their dog when they indicate no more rats are there to be found.

For more information about Barn Hunt, or to locate a trial or training group in your area, check out the official Barn Hunt website.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WW: My Beautiful Dogs

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I spent all weekend at a Barn Hunt event in Salem taking photos, and am now sorting through and editing all of the photos from the weekend. And this weekend, I will be doing the same thing for a Coursing Ability Test in Redmond. I am really enjoying this adventure into the world of professional sports photography, but it is most definitely a lot of work!

So, enjoy a few photos of my gorgeous dogs from a couple of weeks ago. 

(Also, these photos go to prove that a photographer's skill has more to do with the outcome of the photo than any fancy equipment. While I did use my Canon 6D to take these photos, the lens I used was a Sigma 90mm that I purchased used for $60. Skill makes a photographer, not equipment.)
Derpy lip

Koira had a bit of a derpy lip as well.

Squirrel watching

And some more squirrel watching.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fit Friday: Special Dogs are Special

At practice last night, I had some teammates set up to video Pallo being special. His stopping and spinning has just not seemed to improve with training no matter what we try, and the vet can't find anything funky about him.

Go figure, then, that he didn't once do his "stupid" at practice last night. I guess all we have to do is set up a video camera to record him and he'll run fine. Weirdo.

In all seriousness, though, I am wondering what the difference was. Yesterday had a high of 82, so the weather was even warmer than it has been. I've always thought he did worse when it was warm. Apparently not. He ran two races of five heats each at practice and ran all of them quickly and well without once balking, stopping, or spinning, or even showing any signs of wanting to balk, stop, or spin.

Thinking about it, he didn't do any of that at the demo last weekend either. He didn't run correctly (he skipped jumps like all the other corgis as his contribution to Corgi Chaos), but he didn't pull his usual thing.

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The little bone shaped treats, with the bag in the background.

I am, of course, hoping that this means he is magically cured. Maybe it was a training thing and we finally got past it. Maybe it was a physical thing and it finally healed. The only solid difference I can put a finger on is that I started him on a new joint supplement. I actually started both him and Koira on new supplements, though different ones. Pallo is trying out Pet Naturals of Vermont's Hip + Joint supplement. And while I can't say for sure that it is what has made the difference in his flyball performance, and certainly can't rule out random chance or the juju of a video camera poised to capture his moves, I will certainly be keeping him on the joint supplement just in case.

It helps that he absolutely loves these. They are little bone shaped treats and are tasty enough that he acts like they are treats, not pills. Even the cats come and beg for them when I open up the bag. I've been using them as Pallo's treat when I put him in his kennel before leaving the house. He is supposed to get two per day, based on his body weight, so it works out well if I give him one when I leave for work and when I crate him for something else, like running to the grocery store. The dogs are spending more time at home now that the weather is warmer and they can't come along on car rides as much, which means they spend more time in their crates. They don't seem to mind, though, as long as they get treats when they go kennel up.

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Theodore Trex invited himself to take part in this photoshoot in hopes of getting a cookie.

Koira has tried them a few times and likes them as well. I just have her trying out a different supplement right now, which we got samples of at BlogPaws, that has slightly different ingredients, hopefully to help her neck stay healed and her joints healthy.

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Pallo refused to balance the treat on his nose, so Koira kindly stepped in, with the treat as payment.

In any case, I am rather over the moon with Pallo's perfect performance last night at practice. If it is the supplements, that is awesome, and I plan to keep him on them anyway. If it is some other magic juju, that is fine with me too, as long as it continues!

If you want to try out the Pet Naturals of Vermont Hip + Joint, follow this link for a free bag (first 100 people) or a coupon to try out the product.

Pet Naturals did send me the Hip + Joint supplement to try on my dogs for free in exchange for posting truthfully about our experience with it. As always, all opinions in this post are 100% ours and are simply our experience when we tried out the product. For what it is worth, I didn't honestly expect a huge difference in my dogs, since they have both been on joint supplements and glucosamine supplements for years. But this does have some other ingredients in it, and is much easier to give than a refrigerated liquid (like we've used in the past), and I was very pleasantly surprised at Pallo's performance in flyball.

Pet Naturals did also send us an additional product to try out, their Flea + Tick wipes for dogs and cats. These are a super simple, easy to use wipe that come in a dispenser. You just use the wipe to easily apply the product to your dog or cat, working it down to their skin if at all possible. On Koira, this was easy to do and required just one wipe. Pallo took 2-3 wipes, depending on how much he squirmed, and the cats each took one wipe. None of the animals were thrilled with this, and the cats object quite a bit. I like the smell, which is kind of herby and citrusy.

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The container of wipes. Easy to keep by the door or toss in the car for quick application.

I am still finding fleas on all of my animals, though. For what it is worth, it is a very bad flea season here and even the Frontline topical that we normally use has failed, so I don't know if this product would be more effective in a year with fewer fleas.

As for ticks, I have not found a single one on any of my animals. We do have ticks in this area, but I honestly rarely get them on my dogs, and normally find them before they have a chance to attach. But using these wipes (or the spray with the same ingredients) before going on hikes or out into tall grass seems like a simple step to help keep the ticks at bay. After all, ticks can carry some really nasty diseases, so I don't see the downside on taking a simple step like this to help deter them in the first place.

As with the Hip + Joint, there is a chance for a free bottle of Flea + Tick spray for the first 100 people, or a coupon for anyone, by following this simple link. I was sent the Flea + Tick for free in exchange for posting about the product, but the experiences related here are 100% true and my genuine experience with the product.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

WillaMutt Strut Video

There is a video from the WillaMutt Strut (see this weekend's post for full details of the demo) that manages to have both of my dogs in it! The full video shows a lot of the activity from the entire event. The flyball portion starts at 4:18.

First up in the flyball part of the video is our team captain, Patty, with her dog Neena, talking a little about flyball. In the main frame while this is happening is some Corgi Chaos racing. My dog manages to look good because they caught his best heat on tape and played that back.

After the Corgi Chaos is a quick clip from another lineup, with Koira running first in the near lane. Unfortunately, it is a clip where she fumbles the ball, but still, you get to see her in action a little bit.

As I mentioned over the weekend, this event was a fundraiser for the Willamette Humane Society based in Salem, OR. So while this post doesn't specifically feature a dog up for adoption, I am linking up to the Tuesday Tails blog hop, which is focused on featuring shelter pets. If you can't adopt, foster, if you can't foster, volunteer, if you can't volunteer, donate. And going to fundraisers like the WillaMutt Strut is a great way to help support your local shelters and rescues, donate some money, and have a great time.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

WillaMutt Strut

Today, my flyball team was invited to take part in a flyball demo along with Muddy Paws Flyball team. Both of our teams are based in Salem, Oregon, so we all headed down to the riverfront park in Salem to help draw crowds to the Willamette Humane Society fundraiser the WillaMutt Strut.

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Animal House, the lineup Koira wasn't in. The dogs, right to left: Neena, Chester, Ruben, and Zip

Overall, there was a great turn out. The flyball demos were a really big draw and people seemed to really enjoy watching the dogs.

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Koira was a bit derpy, but very happy to play!

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I did mention the derpy-ness, right?

We did I think four demos total. Koira ran in full lineups three times, with five heats each. Pallo ran just once, in a special all-corgi lineup. Since Animal House has a corgi and a corgi mix, and Muddy Paws has two corgis, we did a two-on-two corgi matchup. It was basically total corgi chaos, with no dog actually doing anything right pretty much the entire time. But the crowd loved it.

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Pallo had a ton of fun, even if his participation was more the equivalent of the clown act at the circus than a serious demonstration of our sport.

Overall, the dogs had fun, the people had fun, the spectators had fun, and the humane society raised some much needed money to help continue to feed, house, and find homes for the dogs and cats in need in our area. And we have long ago accepted the fact that at demonstrations, even the best trained flyball dog tends to crash and burn. Instead of being upset, we just embrace it. After all, the crowd loves watching the dogs mess up!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Season Begins

While I try to stay active with my dogs throughout the year, summer is really the time of a million activities. If we aren't dock diving or lure coursing or playing flyball, we are at the park walking, playing fetch, or swimming at the river.

On Saturday, we had to choose between lure coursing or dock diving. Lure coursing was closer and cheaper, so it won. A number of my flyball friends came down to practice as well, which was fun. I like my lure coursing friends, of course, but I love seeing people get their dogs involved in something new, and I like visiting with my flyball people outside of flyball.

One of my friends was even awesome enough to release my dogs for me, so I could stand off to the side and get some pictures of them.

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Digging in right after being released, trying to get up to speed

This particular practice we use a reversing lure. The dog runs straight out away from the handler, then the lure reverses and they run straight back to the handler again.

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In full flight headed away after the lure

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My little cannonball of muscle

This method makes it easy to catch the dogs at the end of their run. Reversing the lure also helps correct dogs who "cheat" by running far off to the side of the lure or who anticipate and cut corners. The lure gets reversed as soon as the dog veers away from it, drawing them back and forcing them to run more honestly.

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On her way back, head a bit farther up as the lure slows down at the end

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Bounding to the stationary lure at the end of the course

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Caught the bunny.

At our practices, each dog gets to run twice, with a nice long break in between to cool off between runs. Using the reversing lure makes the practices run really quickly as well, since there is no need to spend time resetting the lure by hand like we have to when using a drag lure.

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Pallo's most graceful coursing shot. He isn't super graceful when running, but is very powerful and absurdly fast for his short little legs.

The first run with each of my dogs, I released them myself, then crouched down to get some photos of them heading away and heading back to me. That's how I got the photo from yesterday's BW Sunday post of Pallo in full flight headed away from me. 

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Here is the headed away shot in color
This gives you a good idea of what the practice is like. First the dog heads straight out after the lure. Then the lure reverses at the far end of the field, and then the dog chases it back to the starting point again.

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But he returned with the same enthusiasm he left with
Koira is fast enough that I wasn't able to get crouched down and focused fast enough to get a good picture of her heading away from me, but I did get a couple of her coming back. I like the straight on lure coursing photos, but not as much as the side views.

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Koira headed straight back to me as well

Has anyone else been ramping up their summer activities? Do you keep having to choose what kind of awesome adventure will come each day?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Xtreme Vertical

Saturday was spent with the dogs at our local dock diving practice venue. Pallo continued to hop off the dock after his ball (still so proud of him!). He still comes to a stop and hesitates at the end of the dock before jumping, but it is still great progress for him.

Koira thinks dock diving is the best thing ever. She had a blast doing her xtreme air practice (which is simply a long distance jump with a running start). This time, we also started practicing XV, xtreme vertical, as well. The goal is for the dog to jump off the dock up and out and grab a stationary bumper before dropping down into the pool. XV is a separate competition from XA, but I think a dog learning XV can help them jump farther in XA, since it can teach them to follow their thrown toy up and out instead of straight out. And if they get a higher arc in their jump, they get more air time, and hence, more distance.

Koira is probably never going to be a rockstar with XV, but she had a lot of fun and was doing really well with her baby dog version (where we had the bumper both lower and closer to the dock than the lowest competition setting).