Friday, March 25, 2016

Fit Friday: Hydration

An essential part of any dog sport or training is making sure that your dog stays well hydrated. Some people are lucky, and have dogs who will readily drink water when offered. Others are not so lucky. Koira, for example, won't drink water when traveling until she is really thirsty, and even then, she doesn't drink much. Obviously this isn't super healthy for her.

Over the years, I've developed a bit of a system to help get Koira to drink. First, at flyball practice, I have trained a cue for drinking water, and reward her with her tug toy when she drinks. Unfortunately she often does fake little drinks in hopes for her toy. But it is better than nothing, and unless it is a really hot day, it isn't the end of the world if she waits until we get home before she really drinks.

At tournaments, or other full day or full weekend dog events, it is a bigger deal. She needs to stay well hydrated to run well and stay healthy, whether she wants to drink water or not. So I put add ins into her water to entice her into drinking. At need, I will use standard treats or kibble, but what works best is dehydrated raw food added to the water. I've used all kinds- if it is dehydrated raw and on the market, chances are I've used some of it for her at some point. I add just a little bit of the raw to the water, just enough to give it an enticing flavor and scent. I figure the little boost of protein during a full active day can't hurt anything either. The powdered ones work best, the ones that will actually mix into the water instead of floating on top or sinking into the bottom.


Honest Kitchen has started making a powdered bone broth that I've been debating trying. Luckily for me, offered me the chance to review it this month.

The Honest Kitchen Bone Broth has just four ingredients- beef bone broth, parsley, pumpkin, and turmeric extract. The powder smells pretty strongly of turmeric when you open it- I didn't think it smelled meaty at all. The instructions say to mix a tablespoon of the powder with a cup of hot water, mix, and then let sit until cool enough to drink.

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Tablespoon of bone broth powder

Well, that was kind of a bummer for me, actually. Because what I would use this most for is to get Koira to drink water at tournaments and trials and events. And I won't have access to warm/boiling water at most of those, and won't want to wait around for it to cool off even if I do, because generally I want her to be drinking the water now, not ten minutes from now. That said, I haven't tried using cold water and just shaking, so it might work. I generally do the dehydrated raw by putting the raw in the bottom of the bowl, then pouring the water over the top out of my water bottle. So I will have to try that with this bone broth and see how it works.

Plus side, both Koira and Ptera seemed to really like this. We did test it at home, so I can't say for sure that it would entice Koira to drink while away from home, but she seemed to really like it, so I think it probably would work.

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Bone broth powder mixed with hot water

I did notice that unfortunately, the turmeric appears to have stained the inside of my silicone bowl with just the one use. That isn't a big deal when talking about a drink for a dog, but it is good to note so that you don't spill this stuff on yourself or use a nice bottle or bowl to put it in.

Overall, I think the dogs enjoyed the bone broth. I don't know that I would give it every day unless I fed out of a bowl and just mixed it in with the kibble/dehydrated raw. But most of the time my dogs are eating out of food puzzles, which makes it not practical to add liquid or a powder to their food.

* provided me with this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions here are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

What do you do to make sure your dogs stay hydrated while traveling, competing, and training?

Bonus- here is a video of Ptera passing with one of the Apupalyptic dogs in training Arlo. Arlo is solid as a rock, but I think Ptera is doing pretty good too!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Full Lap

I'm told that Ptera looks much larger in pictures than in person. This picture of her and Theodore Trex laying in my lap together might give a better idea of her size. Plus, totally adorable.

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And don't forget to enter my giveaway! Ends tonight! You can win a $75 gift card to Vision Bedding, and get pretty much anything you want.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Happy Spring

I hope everyone got a chance to enjoy the first day of spring yesterday. We spent the weekend at a Barn Hunt trial, and while Saturday was gorgeous and sunny, Sunday brought in clouds, heavy rain, and some thunder storms. But it cleared up a bit on my drive home, and some gorgeous daffodils beckoned.

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Ptera is short. Like, really really short.

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Koira is a pro poser. She knows her job.

Oh, and hey, go enter the giveaway for a $75 gift card to Vision Bedding I posted about last week. Enter. Share. Much awesome.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ptera's First Off Leash Hike

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View of Mary's Peak from the top of Bald Hill

Ptera has officially been here for a week. And she has learned so much in that time! Mostly we have been working on the basics- potty training, crate training, and recall. Well, the weather cleared up yesterday, giving us a chance to take a hike up Bald Hill, and it was a great opportunity to get in some recall practice for Ptera.

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Getting some running in down the trail

I've been spending a lot of time on our walks saying Ptera's name and giving her a treat when she responds- and only saying her name if I m 99% positive she will respond. So for our hike, I put her on a drag line (a 10 foot long lightweight cord with a knot in the end) and practiced off leash recalls from a much greater distance.

Lets just say I am really happy with where we are with her recall right now!

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Both dogs coming back when called

Something else Ptera needs work on, which isn't really a training thing, is building muscle. I don't think she really did much other than hang out in the house at her former home, and her total lack of muscle supports that theory. So I have been working on getting her active and moving with an end goal of building muscle and endurance.

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The adorable seriousness of a recall

Ptera is only 6 months old right now, so I don't want to overdo things with her. At the same time, though, her bones and muscles and tendons need to move and be worked and have her do stuff for them to develop properly. So we have been going on lots of walks. I want to build her endurance without overdoing it- I don't want to build up to where she needs a 10 mile walk to chill out! But I do want her fit to the point where she can run flyball all weekend successfully by the time she is competing (dogs must be 1 year old to compete in flyball, and she likely won't compete right when she hits her birthday, because there really isn't any rush).

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Exploring the woods- I don't think she's ever been on a hike before

Leash walks on local streets, down to the local park, and just around town in general are helping build her leash skills (she wasn't leash trained as of last Friday when I picked her up). They are also helping with building confidence, exposing her to new things in a way that I make sure is positive, and of course, helping build some muscle and fitness.

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Koira and her mini me

But really, I prefer to hike my dogs off leash whenever possible. I feel like they just get so much more out of it if they are able to be off leash, smell the smells, check things out, jump over logs, and generally just explore, so long as they are within sight and listening to me if I call them. For that, recall is absolutely required. But I think we're getting it. I'm not ready to take Ptera's drag line off yet, but for a dog I've only had for a week, I am so beyond pleased with where she is in her recall training right now.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Terrier Invasion

I am happy to introduce Ptera. I lost my mind last week and became one of those crazy Jack Russell Terrier owners. Who knows what I was thinking. But isn't she just adorable?

Those eyes.

Working on that stay

Don't forget to check out yesterday's blog post and enter the giveaway for an awesome $75 gift card to Vision Bedding!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Koira Throw Blanket (and Giveaway!)

If you follow this blog on Facebook, you may have seen a picture of Koira laying on a giant Koira face. Well, that giant Koira face is actually my new throw blanket from Vision Bedding. Vision Bedding gave me a discount code that partially paid for the new throw blanket in exchange for my fully honest review here on the blog. They are also going to provide one lucky reader a $75 gift card code to their website!

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Tiny Koira on huge Koira throw blanket

I've been drooling over custom throw blankets for ages, really wanting one, but not wanting to pay the prices. Blankets to me are all about feel, and I can't feel something on the internet. And in my house, how hair-magnetic a fabric is ends up mattering a lot when it comes to how often something actually gets used.

Well, I've had my new Vision Bedding throw blanket (I chose the Vision Select Photo Blanket 50x60) for a bit over a week now to completely test it out, and I have to say, I pretty much love it. The photo I chose to use was from a hike I took up to Drift Creek Falls on the coast last fall.

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This photo of Koira while we hiked last fall is what I chose for the blanket

I wasn't sure how the photo would turn out printed large on a blanket, especially a fuzzy kind of blanket like fleece. Well, it turned out amazing. The throw blanket has two sides, with the picture on the top and then backed with a different fabric. The top fabric with the picture on it is super soft and kind of smooth like a high quality performance fleece. The photo printed on it great. The colors printed true to life, the picture is just as I submitted it to the company, and I really have no complaints at all about it. The smoothness of the top fabric even means that while of course it can get some dog and cat hair on it, the hair doesn't stick, and it doesn't end up nasty looking even with a white cat sleeping on top of it for a week.

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My original plan to photograph the blanket didn't have Koira laying on it, but she didn't want to move.

I chose burgundy for the backing fabric color. I liked how it played off the earth tones in the photo I chose for the front. I was a little nervous that it would be too red but it turned out really nice. The backing fabric is more plush and less smooth than the top fabric. When I first unwrapped it, my immediate thought was that the backing fabric would attract pet hair like crazy. But I'm happy to say I was wrong. While the hair sticks a little more than to the top fabric, the burgundy backing still isn't a hair magnet, and the hair is easy to shake off or get off with a sticky roller. I do take the precaution of folding the blanket with the picture side out when I'm not using it so if the cats decide to sleep on it, they sleep on the side less likely to get hair stuck to it. This also has the benefit of being able to see at least part of the photo while the blanket is folded up.

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Now, I will say that I had a couple of minor things while ordering the blanket. Vision Bedding just switched to a new online ordering system and I did encounter a few bugs. The main one was that while my house number appeared for ordering, the street number didn't show up in the shipping address even after I went in and changed it (they sent me an email telling me of the issue). When I was contacted again saying the address was faulty, I replied saying I had fixed it in their system. I was told it was likely a bug or glitch with their new system, and they just had me email the full address. The blanket arrived just fine at that point, with pretty fast shipping. While no one enjoys having problems ordering something, I was pleased with how well and quickly it was handled, and I wouldn't hesitate to order with them again. I feel like having that small problem gave me a chance to work with their customer service (who I don't believe were aware I was reviewing this product publicly).

So now, on to the part that you all are waiting for- the giveaway! While I totally love my new throw blanket, the lucky winner can use this $75 gift code towards anything they want on the Vision Bedding website.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 7, 2016


Last week at the park, I was reminded of a time, years ago, when Koira wouldn't come when called. It wasn't that she never came when called, but that she often would simply choose not to, or choose to come most of the way but not close enough to catch.

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I had taken Koira for a walk down to the local park in the morning before heading to work. We were about 1/3 of the way through our walk when I spotted a large black lab standing in the middle of the field we were walking past, with no human in sight. So I went over to see what was going on. Most of the time, in cases like this, the human will pop out of the tree cover or something and I just keep walking. This time, a car pulled into the parking lot and the woman driving rolled down her window and let me know that this was her dog and she just couldn't catch him. She'd tried getting in the car and driving away (just out of sight) to see if she could catch her dog that way. No dice.

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I actually spent the next 45 minutes or an hour or so helping her try to catch her dog. He was smart to all of the classic tricks. No food was going to lure him in. No game of fetch would bring him close enough for a grab. No other dog on a leash would entice him within reach of a human. He was wise to being cornered. Sitting/laying down brought no response. I eventually left and continued on with our walk. I'm not sure how that story ends. I assume that she caught her dog at some point and made it home, but since she had been at the park for two hours already by the time I met her, I am not sure if she made it home before dark 6 hours later or not.

As I talked to her (we tried everything to catch this dog, even walking down to a part of the river that dead ends in an attempt to corner him), she said she really didn't want to use a shock collar on her dog, but didn't know what else to do when he acts like this. I gave her a few suggestions, and a story of personal experience. Because years ago, Koira wasn't much different from this dog.

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We would go down to the park for a walk, have a great time, and when we got back to the parking lot area, I couldn't for the life of me catch Koira. She would stay just out of arm's reach and no treat or toy was enough to lure her in. I often had to have someone else catch her, and I was lucky that she would let other people close to her. But I could see that if it continued, she would start dodging all humans. We easily could have been this owner and her black dog.

I fixed Koira's recall problem in the same way that I recommended to this exasperated dog owner. First, the dog doesn't get to be off leash for a while. A long line is invaluable, and can be made super cheap with lightweight cord and a leash clip. Knots tied every few feet down the cord give you something to grip by stepping on the long line if needed. The long line temporarily prevents the dog from performing the undesired behavior while giving you a chance to do something about it. Long lines aren't training, though, and can be annoying to use long term.

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While using a long line on a walk or while playing fetch, I often stopped and grabbed Koira's collar, gave her a treat, and then continued our walk or our game. The idea was to stop her from thinking that every time I touched her the fun would end. Since Koira's issue was specifically at the parking lot area of the park, I made a point of changing out walk route so that we walked past that area multiple times, so she would learn that not every time we were in that place did the fun end. Throughout the walks, treats were given for voluntarily checking in, and for coming when asked to.

When she was reliably doing this on a long line, I took the long line off and did the same thing. Instead of just doing a collar grab while giving a treat, I started clipping her leash on for a second, giving a treat, and then taking the leash off again and letting the fun continue. Sometimes I would keep her on leash for a little while, sometimes I would take it off immediately after snapping it on. Putting on a leash does not equal the end of the fun. This whole time, I made sure we walked back and forth past our problem area (the parking lot) over and over. Sometimes we would walk straight past with no leash clip. Sometimes she would get called over and get a treat and then we would keep walking. Or clip the leash on, keep walking, treat, and then back off leash to play. And when it was time to leave, I didn't always wait until we were near the parking lot to leash back up. I would make the last 5-10 minutes of our walk be on leash sometimes, so that she knew that being on leash didn't mean the fun was over.

I was lucky in a few ways. Koira is naturally interested in working with me, and she is easy to convince that a game is fun. That worked in my favor. I got good advice on how to fix the problem from the start, so even though I let the problem behavior happen for too long before starting training for it, I knew what to do to fix it. And I had a lot of free time. I worked a ton of part time jobs, but they were mostly flexible, evening, or part days, so I could afford to go to the park for a few hours almost every day. Being able to spend plenty of time there made the training go much faster than if we only went to the park once a week. And I suppose our park is a big benefit too- it isn't fenced, but it does allow dogs to be off leash on the trails year-round, and in the sport fields in the winter. So while that initially caused the problem, it also allowed me to work through it.

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Today, Koira has a great recall, and a natural inclination to check in. Since working through this problem thoroughly all those years ago, she has never tried to dodge when I want to catch her. I haven't had to ask anyone else to catch my dog. And I haven't had to be that person at the park with the totally untrained dog. But I was there. I can't judge anyone else in that position, because I was there. I was that person. I just have to hope that because I was there, and managed to get through it, and now have a dog who is often complimented at the park for her great recall and attention to me, that I can help the other owners who are suffering through it now.

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I don't know if the black lab's owner will take my advice. Along with giving her basically the same advice I wrote here, I gave her the name of a great local dog training place that actually has a class that is specifically for training a reliable recall. I have no idea if she will take any of my advice, or if she will decide to take the easiest-for-right-now method of using the shock collar she is reluctant to use. I hope she decides to go with positive methods. Her dog will be happier, she will be happier, and she will be able to develop a great relationship with her dog through the training that will last for years to come. I hope that next time I see them at the park, her dog will be happy to be caught, or will be on a long line working through it.


And I hope that, because I was friendly and helpful, that she will think of positive training methods in a positive light. I know too many people who, at the first mention of a shock collar, would have started talking down to this dog owner, or verbally attacking her, or telling her all the ways she is wrong. And I know that, had I started out that way, no other advice or help I tried to give would be likely to be well received. No, I don't approve of using shock collars. I think there are much better methods for training something like a recall, and that these better methods create a dog who is happy to be with you. So while I hope that this specific owner does decide to take the time to train a happy, eager recall, I also hope that if you are in the same situation, where you see an owner struggling and they mention using an aversive (shock collar, prong collar, or whatever), you don't attack them. Most of the time, they are at the end of their patience and they don't know what other options are available to them. Don't turn them off from positive methods by giving them a negative experience.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fit Friday: Limpy Gimpy

Last week I mentioned that Koira ended up a bit limpy after our first day of playing disc in the nice weather, and I thought today I would write about how I react to a limping dog. I want to be clear from the start though- I am not a vet. This is just my personal experience dealing with my own dogs. I am not telling you what to do with your dog. If you are worried about your dog, take them to a vet.

The most important thing to realize of course is that dogs limp for a variety of reasons, just like humans. Injury, discomfort, soreness, stiffness, or something sharp on the bottom of the foot tend to be the big ones.

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A greyhound at last weekend's show. You can see the triangles formed front and back as they should be in the trot. In motion, you would see that the right side would be mirrored by the left side in a second with the next step, back and forth, evenly.

First, you have to be able to tell if your dog is limping. Sometimes it is obvious, such as when the dog is no longer weight bearing on a certain leg- that gives you an obvious indication of which leg is the problem. If the limp is more minor, though, the easiest way to pinpoint which leg is the problem is to watch the dog from the side while they trot past you. The trot is a gait that should be completely even. A dog with a good build will form matching triangles with their front and rear while at the trot. If a dog is limping, trotting will show the injury the most clearly because one of the legs will not be quite in sync with the rest. Depending on the severity of the limp, the dog may also bob their head while trotting as a means of compensating for the leg they don't want to/can't use fully. All of this is much easier to see from the side than from above, so if possible, have someone else gait your dog while you watch from the side.

You can see in this video how hard it is to see the dog's gait when you are looking from above. If you don't have anyone available to trot your dog for you, try to get directly behind them and watch for even movement of the hips and shoulders at the trot.

Once you determine if your dog is, in fact, limping, you can decide what to do. And that depends on a number of things. First, when did your dog start limping?

If you were walking along on a path and your dog suddenly starts having a dramatic limp, my experience shows that it is most likely a thorn or something in the foot. I will stop and carefully check over the toes, bottom of the foot pads, and in between the footpads, and remove any thorns that I can see. If I can't see anything, I will check everything over again, rubbing my finger across the foot pads and between the pads. Generally, that fixes the problem. If it doesn't, I will walk a few feet, because sometimes the dog will limp in anticipation of the foot hurting and it takes a few strides for them to stop limping.

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If you are in the middle of playing an active game like fetch and your dog suddenly stops and comes back limping, it is time to end the game regardless for the reason for the limp. Most of the time, it seems to be a pulled muscle (which is more likely to happen in a dog who is tired because they are misstepping and misjudging). However, a sudden onset limp during exercise can be a more serious injury like a torn CCL (the tendon in the dog's knee). My first order of business if this situation occurs is to stop the game and see if I can determine exactly what the problem is. I will check feet to eliminate a cut or a thorn, then go up the leg gently bending each joint. If the dog reacts by pulling away, flinching, or the joint doesn't easily bend as far as normal, I know where the injury is. If the leg that appears to be limping doesn't have an obvious reaction from the dog, I will carefully feel along the spine from neck to base of tail, as a neck or spine issue can cause limping. I don't spend a super long time doing this, it is more of a quick field assessment to gain information on what to do next. If the dog is willing and able to walk, I will use the walk back to the car to carefully watch the dog- is the limp getting worse or better during the walk? Sometimes a short walk back to the car is enough to clear up the limp completely, in which case I assume that the dog tweaked something or stubbed a toe in such a way that it hurt really bad at first, but fades to feeling just fine pretty quickly.

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Yelling at the camera

Different from the abrupt stop during strenuous exercise is the small limp that becomes evident only afterwards. I will check over the dog in the same way, but generally, this type of limp seems to be from doing too much. The dog gets tired, and the weakest point starts hurting. We never had this happen, actually, until Koira got older. Once she had a few more serious injuries in the past, I started seeing the limp-after-exercise occur, always on the same leg where she has previous shoulder and elbow injuries. Doing too much makes those old injuries flare up a little causing a limp. If my general check over doesn't reveal anything other than the old injury being a bit sore, we will end the game and head home, but I don't tend to be super worried about it. I have old injuries that get irritated when I do too much too.

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Taking a break from disc to do some core work with a sit pretty at the park

The other limp we have seen more recently is a limp at the very beginning of our walk. It might start out kind of bad, but movement makes it more minor, and with continued walking, the limp goes away. This is basically stiffness that needs to be worked out. It might be from arthritis and joints that don't want to start moving, or it might be soreness from doing a lot the day before and all the muscles are complaining, but nothing is actually injured. I feel like this after a day of serious hiking, and even though I feel like all I want to do is lay in bed, I know that the way to feel better is to get up, move around, and limber up. If Koira has a limp that she didn't have the day before, I will stay close to home while we walk a little more. If the limp seems to be getting better rather than worse or staying the same, I assume it is stiffness/soreness, rather than an actual injury.

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Tired dogs are happy dogs, as long as they aren't run into the ground. Over exercising can cause injuries. Use a combination of physical exercise and mental stimulation to tire out your dog to prevent injury.

So what do I do with each of these situations? In the first, removing the thorn tends to fix the problem. If Koira still has a bit of a limp when we get home, I will check paws again and apply antibacterial ointment with pain killer, since some thorns can hurt for a long time even after they are removed. In the second, I head home and restrict the dog to leash walking. If the limp doesn't seem to be getting better after 2-3 days of restricted activity, or if it seems to be getting worse, I will contact the vet. Or, if the limp is severe to begin with, I may contact the vet right away. It depends on how bad it looks. The limping-after-exercise situation I will again restrict the dog to leash walks only. I may give some Vetprofen as well, which our vet has prescribed specifically for days and weekends when Koira has a lot of activity. It is much the same as me taking some Ibuprofen before and after heavy activity. And the last situation, with a soreness/stiffness limp, I will lower the activity level a little for a few days, but make sure to stay active with plenty of leash walks to help stay limber. Again, I might give some Vetprofen to reduce inflammation. In any one of these situations if the limp persists or gets worse, I will talk to my vet. Sometimes we will make an appointment to have a chiropractic adjustment done, or to have a massage done.

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To be prepared, you should make sure that your dog is okay with being handled. Go over them regularly as if you are checking for a limp, gently flexing at the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hock, and knee. You need to be familiar with handling your dog so you know what the various parts of your dog feel like. Koira has less range of motion in her right shoulder and elbow, for example, so I know that just because the rom is lower there doesn't mean that that is where she is hurting. Also, you want to know that if your dog resists the movement or tries to pull away, it is because of pain, not because they are unused to being handled. But, as always, you can and should go to the vet if you are unsure. That is what they are for. My vet likely thinks I am paranoid because my dog has gone in so many times for limps that only I can see (Koira gets excited there, which often causes limps to disappear while there). But as long as my dog is healthy, I'm okay with it.

The best way to prevent injury is to make sure your dog is in shape. They shouldn't be overweight. They should be well conditioned. You should keep an eye on and know how conditioned your dog is (is it winter, and you've been less active, or summer, and you've had all season to condition) and make sure to restrict activity to a point that your dog can do safely. It can be hard when the sun comes out in the winter to not go hog wild to enjoy every bit of sun. Regular activity and slowly introducing new activities is essential to keeping dogs healthy. As dogs age, joint supplements can be great for helping keep them limber (Koira is on Glycoflex Plus). If your dog is older, ask your vet about keeping a medication like Vetprofen on hand for as-needed inflammation reduction. Check out your area and see if there are classes taught by certified FitPaws Master Trainers or Certified Canine Fitness Trainers, as they can help pinpoint the areas your dog needs improvement in and show you how to make those improvements. A canine chiropractor or massage therapist might be a great resource to have as well, since active dogs often benefit from those treatments even if they aren't showing any pain. Above all, know your dog.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Early Spring

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Blue skies and sun out, we're making sure to soak up any bit of sun that comes our way.