Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Flyball Weekend

I spent the past weekend at flyball (and the weekend before that was spent at lure coursing as the official photographer). We've been busy, and this upcoming weekend is no exception, as we will be doing demos all day for two days at a local dog event.

Our ball bucket. We need more small balls, I think.

First, let me just say, the dogs did great at the tournament this past weekend. We ran in Multibreed for the first time ever, and both Ptera and Koira earned their first two Multi titles (MBD, MBDX). I've wanted to run multi for so, so long, and it was awesome to finally have it offered at a tournament in our region. A teammate of mine ran Koira in her races, while I ran Ptera on the same team on Saturday. Multi was only offered on one day, so Koira sat out on Sunday.

This is Deebo. He loves flyball, loves balls, and runs like a battering ram.

What was awesome was Sunday afternoon, for the first time ever, my new club was able to run a lineup of all of our own dogs. I handled Stella, while a teammate ran Ptera. The reasons for it are convoluted- basically, I practiced running Stella, and am the only person who has run her other than her handler (who owns another dog who was on the same team), and she isn't an easy dog to run. So when her handler needed to be in running her other dog, I had to run Stella. Which left another teammate to run Ptera, even though she has never run her before, and this was her first tournament at all. But it all came together and turned out awesome. We ran four clean heats, earning 100 points total for that race for each dog. Our best time as a team was 21.9 seconds.


I did figure out something I've been struggling with for a while, which was how to handle treats while handling a dog. I've always preferred running a dog with a tug toy, and both Koira and Pallo ran great for tugs. Ptera will tug, but she prefers treats. I am not very coordinated, so having a bunch of little treats in my pocket doesn't work very well for me, as I tend to drop them like crazy or fail at being able to get them out in a timely fashion. I happened to have some Merrick chicken jerky that we got from (we got it for free in exchange for an honest review, but we weren't compensated in any other way). The Merrick jerky is so much easier to break into pieces than any other kind I've tried. It doesn't crumble or fall apart, but can easily have a piece ripped off. For me, having a big piece that I then rip off small chunks to use for rewarding Ptera worked way better than having a ton of little treats. We went through about half a stick of jerky per race, which means a bag would last us more than a full flyball weekend- except that I had been using the jerky off and on for other stuff already, so we only had enough for a single day, unfortunately. I do plan on getting some more of it, as it worked really, really well for us.


On Sunday, we had run out of the jerky, but I did have along a big bag of Loki, which ended up working pretty well. I like the stick of jerky because it is a single item that I hold onto and then break up. The Loki is freeze dried lamb and is locally made (I purchased it at a local small business that is great, Animal Crackers). A lot of freeze dried treats either crumble or are too hard to break, but the Loki is the best I have found, as a large piece can easily be broken up easily into small treats. I did need to carry more pieces than with the jerky, but it still worked well, and pretty much every dog loves Loki. Stella especially thought it was awesome.


We may be a #ChewyInfluencer but that doesn't mean we don't also love shopping at local businesses for local products. is awesome, but there is something about walking into a locally owned pet store and finding local products that just makes me happy, so I love to support both.

In summary, our weekend was awesome (despite some chaos that I didn't share), new titles were earned, and many treats were enjoyed.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Zignature Canned Food #ChewyInfluencer

We received this product for free in exchange for our honest review. 
Zignature is a brand of dog food that specializes in limited ingredient diets. Their kangaroo flavor food is specifically aimed at dogs who need a specialized diet with proteins they haven't been exposed to previously. None of their foods contain corn, wheat, soy, potatoes, or chicken. They firmly believe that dogs are carnivores, and as such, meat is always the first ingredient in their foods. They have both dry and canned foods in proteins such as kangaroo, pork, duck, whitefish, trout & salmon, turkey, venison, and a few others. Since they come in both dry kibble and canned food, you can feed both while sticking to the same limited ingredient diet, which is great for times such as after dental surgery when a dog may need canned food, but needs to be on a specific diet. Or when you just want to spoil your dog with some canned food.


The food itself comes in a pate kind of texture. It looks basically like any other canned dog food. The smell is mild and not unpleasant, though it doesn't smell like something I would like to eat. The beasties here, however, went pretty wild when I popped the can open, so I know the smell must have appealed to them.


Ptera was happy to dig in immediately- and you can see Theodore Trex has a little paw in the upper corner of this photo, just hoping for a chance at some of the food for himself (remember to never feed dog food to your cat- it doesn't include essential ingredients such as taurine that cats need- that said, I will occasionally give Theo a spoonful as a small treat in addition to his normal food).


Overall, I give this food, and this brand as a whole, a big thumbs up. The kangaroo formula we tried is one of the more expensive flavors, and I find it more than what I would pay for my dogs- but only because they don't need specialized diets. I will happily feed any of their formulas to my dogs, and will highly recommend them to any friends who are looking for limited ingredient diets for their dogs. Rare proteins are hard to find in dog food, and Zignature really excels at creating diets that are easy and safe to feed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bald Eagle v Seagull

At the beach last Friday, I saw this bald eagle swooping by overhead. I luckily had a longer lens already on my camera, and was able to get some shots of him.


This seagull was chasing the bald eagle (I don't know enough to tell if they are male or female for sure, but I am pretty sure the seagull is female).


The seagull kept dive bombing the eagle, urging it on, and making it fly away. My best guess is that the eagle was too close to the seagull's nest.


Seeing a bald eagle is pretty awesome by itself, but seeing the seagull bullying it along was amazing.


You can tell that the seagull is in a superior air position the entire time, staying above the eagle and in a position to threaten its wings.


The seagull won in the end, driving the eagle off the beach into a stand of trees.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Busy May

We've been busy so far this month. April was a busy month as well, but in horribly stressful ways. May has been busy, but in completely different ways.


Every day in May, so far, we have been able to get out and do something fun. Our new place has some great trails nearby (just across the road!), and I have been making an effort to make sure we get at least a short hike in every day. We hiked the local trails alone and with friends, on the 1st, 3rd, and 4th. On the 2nd, we had flyball practice and a long day in town that prevented a hike. May 5th was a morning at work followed by a spur of the moment trip to the beach, while the 6th was Pet Day at the local college followed by a long hike. The 7th was flyball practice and (not really dog exercise at the time) picking up a pool, which involved disassembling it and loading it into the van. And today, the 8th, started off with a short hike as well, just under an hour long, before I head to work this afternoon.

Looking adorable with some bleeding heart flowers we found on our hike

Impatient to get going

Beazell Forest May-5545
Pallo and his new mom came with us on our hike on Saturday

Ptera likes checking out the birds, though she never gets too close to them

You can see a storm coming in behind Koira here, it hit hard and fast and dumped a bunch of treasures on the beach


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Positive Pet Training: Dog Sports

I have to admit to being a sporadic participant in the Positive Pet Training blog hop. I don't always have something to say on the topic for the month, though I am always interested in reading the posts others put up. This month's topic, though, is as perfect as a topic could be. Dog sports. I think that is the overwhelming theme of my blog, to be honest.

Me and Koira in the summer of 2013

Training dog sports in non-positive methods doesn't make sense to me. I do dog sports in order to have fun with my dogs in a structured way. Titles achieved are a mark of our progress, and as such, the same title can mean hugely different things for different dogs. Ptera, for example, has her FDCh-G title in flyball, achieved after a mere 6 months of playing flyball. I am absurdly proud of her for this. Koira, on the other hand, earned that same title three and a half years after her debut tournament.

Puppy Love-85
Koira's turn in early 2013. She was enthused about the sport, but I was struggling with training her turn

As proud as I am of Ptera, it doesn't compare to how I felt when Koira earned that title. The journey it took to get that far was a long and winding path. Koira sat out of flyball for months at a time to give her brain a break and because she just didn't seem into it. I loved flyball and continued to play with Pallo in the meantime, bringing Koira back into the sport every so often when I had new ideas of how to get her engaged. I finally seemed to figure out the right combination of training for her, with the help of many, many flyball people, teammates and otherwise.

Cascade Comets Tournament-9318
Koira in the early fall of 2013. Something clicked that year.

The first hurdle with Koira was getting her into flyball. She has always enjoyed doing things with me; the trick was to get her to enjoy doing something that involved running away from me. We tried a ton of different tricks, including putting a tunnel in instead of the jumps, working on different toys and treats, and probably a million other things I have long since forgotten. When she just didn't feel like it, we took breaks, sometimes months long, from practice and tournaments. Eventually, Koira started finding the game fun. I found the right combination of motivators for her, and figured out how I needed to interact with her at flyball for it to be fun for her.

Muddy Paws July 2014-3514
Excited and ready to go in 2014

I can actually still remember the moment I felt like it all kind of clicked into place for us. We were in California at a U-Fli tournament, and I believe I had Koira running in Singles while Pallo ran on a team lineup with Gold Coast Flyers. I ended up just running Koira in her warm up and then pulling her from racing because her turn was terrible. A few awesome people offered to help me with her after racing on Saturday because I was despairing of Koira ever being ready to run. At this point, we were over the hurdle of getting Koira to love flyball and enjoy playing. But we still hadn't figured out the right training for her turn to end up safe enough for her to run in tournaments. Generous people brought out dogs to demonstrate a few drills, watched me run those with Koira, corrected me, gave me notes and feedback, and were just all around amazing and helpful. And those people gave me the tools I needed to work with Koira in a way that we could be successful in flyball.

Muddy Paws July 2014-3517
Focused on her tug like a pro in 2014

Koira was pulled from flyball competition for months after that. Instead of running lineups and doing our same old thing, we worked new drills and changed things up. And while Koira will never, ever in her career have the most amazing turn ever, and occasionally still has horrible cringeworthy turns, she did develop a safe turn that even managed to be gorgeous occasionally.

Muddy Paws July 2014-3519
Having fun, 2014

I have had plenty of people ask me why I kept trying to get Koira to play flyball, both when we were working on motivation, and when we were working on her box turn after that. I've had the occasional person say that I am horrible to keep playing this game with a dog who didn't enjoy it (back at the beginning). But it was never that Koira didn't have fun during training, it was that she didn't really find the activity itself rewarding. I could have easily given up, found something else for us to do together, and said that was that. But I knew that if I found the right way to show her it was fun, Koira would love the sport. I was developing as a dog trainer, and Koira was the dog I made all my mistakes with. As a consequence, she taught me more than any other dog I have had the pleasure of working with, and likely more than any other dog ever will (though I fully expect to learn from every dog I work with).

Box turn in 2016. It isn't always this good, but sometimes it is, and I am always amazed and thrilled

The lessons I learned from my journey with Koira aren't all easy to put into words. But the most important ones are easy.

  • Have fun with your dog. If your dog isn't having fun, stop and reassess. Either find a way to make it fun, or stop doing it until you can, whether that means stopping for the day, the month, the year, or for life. 

  • Play with your dog. Play in as many different ways as possible. By making more things fun, and introducing new things in fun, playful ways, you can pretty much talk your dog into loving almost anything. 

  • Develop trust with your dog. Trust that you will keep them safe, of course, but also trust that if you tell them something is awesome, they believe you. Sometimes that means being really careful of how you introduce something new, and of how you use it. 


A deep trust with a history of fun and play is more valuable than just about anything else. You don't need to do dog sports to have this, but you do have to interact with your dog and spend time doing things together consistently and on an ongoing basis. Dog sports help develop this sort of bond, because the amount of time needed for training forces the opportunity to spend time together having fun. And for many people in the dog sport world, earning titles, or Qs, or a Pronounced, or whatever other markers of achievement your sport of choice awards, simply marks the journey you've been on, and shows you how far you've come together. For one person, a Flyball Dog title, the first you earn, is no big deal. For someone else, it may mark the successful achievement of a goal years in the making.

Interact. Have fun. Make sure you are both having fun.

At the end of the day, dog sports are a way for us to have fun with our dogs. They give us ways to challenge ourselves, an excuse to spend time working with our dogs, and often a great feeling of achievement when goals are met. And our dogs should enjoy the process as much as we do.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

WW: Cuddlebugs

They still cuddle together on my lap

And this is my new car decal, which I am loving.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tylee's Part 3, Final Thoughts #chewyinfluencer

Ptera has been eating Tylee's, the new exclusive human grade cooked food for the past month. I've shared our thoughts a couple of time since we started (see Part 1 and Part 2), but wanted to make one more post with our final thoughts.

We were provided with Tylee's for a month in exchange for our honest review. We were not compensated in any other way, and all thoughts expressed are entirely our own.


After a month, Ptera was still excited for her food every meal time. She ate eagerly at every meal, and she cleaned her bowl completely. While I could see some picker dogs potentially picking out or eating around some of the vegetable pieces, Ptera didn't do that at all. If your dog is picky in a way you think that might happen, I would recommend making sure the food is really thawed all the way, as it gets a bit mushier, so would be harder for a dog to pick out the vegetables.


I wanted to share a couple short videos of Ptera eating the Tylee's, so you can see that I am being entirely truthful both about her enthusiasm for the food and in that she doesn't pick through it.

Since this is a frozen cooked food, it took me a little while to figure out the best way to serve it. I started out just dishing up a meal's worth frozen and letting it thaw (sometimes being lazy and not letting it thaw all the way). Then I moved the whole bag to the refrigerator instead of the freezer. That worked, but I found that the food was mushier when fully thawed out. That made it both harder and grosser to scoop food out of the bag, especially as I got to the bottom and had to reach my whole hand in. The food is human grade, and all that, but I still didn't want my hand smeared with it just from serving my dog breakfast. So I ended up deciding that the best method for me was to put a few days worth of food in a glass bowl with a lid and put that in the fridge to serve out of. It was easier for me than remembering to put a single bowl of food in to thaw twice a day, and worked out really well. We also traveled while feeding Tylee's, and found that it was easier than traveling with raw food. Since this is meant to be thawed out, it lasted just fine in a cooler as long as there was ice in there, and lasts longer at fridge temps than raw does (and that is a really good thing if you have ever traveled with frozen raw food only to have it go bad in the cooler!).


As for how Ptera has done on the food overall, I would say she did great. I did have to feed her about a cup and a half of thawed Tylee's to maintain her weight (she weighs 10 lbs), but she pretty much always eats a good deal more than the recommended amount for her size, so I wasn't surprised. She went through three bags of Tylee's for the month, though Koira did get it as a topper on her food quite a bit as well. At $34.99 (or $31.99 on autoship) per bag, feeding Tylee's is more expensive than a high quality kibble, but pretty close to on par with prepared raw foods and cheaper than many of them. I likely won't continue feeding Tylee's regularly, but I think it is going to be my go to food if I ever need to start doing home cooked diets for my dogs. Tylee's is basically a home cooked diet without the hassle and worry of doing it at home, since you just have to thaw and feed and don't have to worry about balancing nutrients.


Ptera's skin and coat have been non-itchy and super soft. Her eyes haven't gotten gunky or teary like they often do when changing foods or on certain foods- so if tears and tear stains are a huge problem for your dog, I would highly recommend trying out Tylee's. At no point while eating Tylee's did Ptera have digestive issues. Her stools were formed and regular.


Overall, I really liked this food. Delivery was always timely; the food was always frozen solid when it arrived. Ptera loved it as a meal, and Koira loved it as an occasional topper. Neither dog had any negative effects from eating this food.

Right now, is still having a Buy One, Get One Free sale on Tylee's, so if you want to try it, now is the time!