Say no to Coyotes!


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It’s Vampire Corgi!


Zora standing in a yellow vest with spikes down the back and around the collar

Ok no not really, just Zora in her new CoyoteVest.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard report after report within 20mile radius of small dogs being attacked by coyotes.  One image of a large tomcat in a Coyotes jaws in the middle of a very urban area really scared the crap out of me.  Then about 2wks ago when a client was dropping her dog off for the weekend she mentioned how just days earlier her next door neighbor’s dog was attacked and bit by a coyote in the middle of the day in their BACK YARD!!  And my anxiety went into overdrive.  I’ve seen their neighbor’s dog before, it’s not that small!  It’s a dog about Zora’s size.  And that’s less than 10miles from where I live.  Often if I’m walking early early in the morning, there will be 1-2 coyotes in my across the street neighbor’s cow field.  Yes I live in the middle of suburbia in a town 20 miles outside of Boston and my neighbor has 3 head of cattle, on main street.  It’s lovely.  But my point is I’m not in the rural middle of no where.  This is a fairly densely populated suburban area.

We walk in the woods multiple times a week.  Zora is most often off lead.  While she usually stays within a 50′ or less radius of me, she will go off the trail into the woods to sniff and muck about.  I could keep her on leash, but that would seriously reduce her enjoyment of the walks and it’s all a balancing of factors.  Pros and Cons.

So I finally caved and we got her a Coyote Vest.  If anything to just assuage my anxiety somewhat.  One of my friends who I walk with after she heard the panic in my voice as I called Zora last week, said straight up, “Katrin, get her the vest.  You will be less stressed.  It’s worth it.  Order it today.”  So I took her advice, and Zora is now the rather annoyed wearer of a bright yellow punk rocker meets vampire CoyoteVest.


Zora standing in her yellow spiked Coyote Vest looking rather annoyed

The vest material is supposedly stab resistant Kevlar fabric. The spikes are all attached via velcro. The spikes are rather flexible at their base and not sharp, so I think if a dog bumped into Zora while they were all running around it wouldn’t be injured, but if something went to actually grab her I think the spikes would make it hard to actually grip and bite her.

I figure any coyote in their right mind won’t know what to make of this weird looking creature and stay far far away. Here’s hoping anyway!


walking in the winter


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Black dog Tom standing in the snow with a mound of snow on the tip of his nose

Folks often ask me how I get out in the cold with the dogs so often.  What is my go-to gear.  A few words:  YakTrax, Musher’s Secret, Flip Mittens and Fleece Lined Cap.

4 products that make walking in the cold, ice and snow do-able for the canine crew and me.

I have no vested interest in any of these companies, I just really appreciate their products, have used them for many years and wanted to pass along my field tested experience with them.  Your experience may differ or vary, that’s ok.

YakTrax if you are unfamiliar are sort of like crampons, only less of the impale your dog’s foot with a spike when you accidentally step on them risk.  YakTrax design is a rubber webbing of sorts that fits around your shoes or boots, then the rubber is surrounded by a thin metal coil that grips into the ice increasing your traction.  No spikes.  Just wire.  Safer for dog feet around a klutz like me.

Musher’s Secret is amazing stuff.  Especially when you have a dog with an over anglulated rear who when he walks his rear feet brush his front feet meaning no dog boots ever made will actually stay on his feet.  Trust me I’ve tried.  So many styles, so many times.  It’s a paw wax that I smear on their feet right before we go out, it helps to keep snow balls from forming between their pads and if we happen to cross paths with salted areas, helps to keep the salt from causing ouchy feet.  Over the years I’ve tried the brand name and the off brand ones, I always end up back to the Musher’s Secret, it just seems to work more effectively with less need for reapplication.

Flip Mittens.  Are my best winter friend.  I wear thin fleece gloves under them, then my thick bright orange flip mittens.  When it’s super cold, I switch to down filled mittens over my fleece gloves, but for most of the winter the flip mittens are my go to.

A couple of years ago I came across the fleece lined cap that Duluth Trading makes and it has become my winter go to.  Brimmed hats are a necessity anytime I step outside my door, and most winter hats don’t have a brim, this one does.  I also need the option to not have something over my ears so I can hear the traffic.  Duluth makes a fleece ear thing they call the Shoreman’s Ear Flap that fits around any brimmed cap that I love.  As it’s easy for me to keep 1 or both ears uncovered, or depending on where I am both covered (like in the woods).

Do you have any favorite go-to winter gear that enables you to get out with your dog?

Drop on Recall Game


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1 cup kibble, 3 dogs, 12 minutes


With the yard a mess of icy snow and it a chilly 20’F outside, the dogs and I decided to play inside this morning instead of out.  Bloody foot prints from the icy snow wasn’t something I was keen on dealing with first off today.  Basically when it’s so cold the ducks don’t even want to come out of their pen, yea, time to play inside!

So we played a fun drop on recall game.

The game is really fairly simple:

  1. Toss treats in the room one at a time so the dogs get running around
  2. Randomly throw in a ‘down’ cue
  3. Reward dog for responding to the ‘down’ cue
  4. Toss more treats in the room one at a time so the dogs get running around
  5. Smile, praise, laugh and be happy
  6. End with panting, tired, smiley dogs

Duck Update



I realized the other day I haven’t written about the Quacks lately.  They are still though a prominent fixture in my daily life.


5 black and white magpie ducks flapping in the snow through the yard

Let them in, let them out, change their water, clean their pen, feed them Duck Kibbles, collect the eggs.

Winterizing their pens involve setting up the heated dog water buckets so their water doesn’t freeze.  Coordinating the purchase and pickup of straw bales.  Strategically placing tarps around their pen to prevent snow, rain and wind from freezing them out.  The basics.


2 ducks wandering through the snowy yard

They are good ducky quack quacks. Easy and routine.

Rally Run Thrus


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A few weeks ago I learned that a local dog training center offered rally and obedience run thrus twice a month.  As I entered Zora and I in our first rally competition in just a few short weeks, I figured it might behoove me to actually show her a rally course before you know showing up at a trial.  So my ever patient and supportive spouse gave up his afternoon of Sunday football to take us.  Such a sweetie.  He even videoed.

Zora has been to this training center once before, last year sometime.  Our agility club had a meeting there that we attended.

Going into it I wanted to

  1. Get a chance to review the signs more clearly and gain feedback on the execution of the rally signs from others more experienced.
  2. Observe how our at-home obedience practice transfers to a fairly novel environment.
  3. Observe how Zora handled having a “judge” with us in the ring, as obedience/rally judging presence is much more involved than agility judging presence in the ring.
  4. Introduce Zora to the idea of ‘signs are not obstacles to be performed’ as I anticipated her viewing the signs as something to actively do, since all of her prior ring experience has been agility where the stuff in the ring is something actively to do.
  5. Find as many holes in our skills as possible.

We did 2 run thrus and I gained a lot of very valuable feedback

  1.  Zora did awesome.  It’s so nice to have a dog that generalizes skills so well and fairly effortlessly.  I mean I did a lot when she was a pup to support that, but reality is she naturally is a dog that generalizes rather well.  It definitely is a nice trait.
  2. I need to really practice clarifying for her that when we are doing formal heeling it is always a sit at halt, as she tends to offer a down 50% of the time.  Which is not surprising prior to a month ago, I almost always reinforced a down.
  3. I struggle to walk in straight lines.  Shocking, I know.  It’s a known problem for me, though better since I went through OT a few years ago.  I waffle to the left and to the right, cutting into her or moving erratically away from her.  I need to remember to pick a focal point ahead and move toward it, don’t look away from my focal point.  I’m getting much better about this with general heeling, but apparently when there are signs in rally I forget.  Something to practice!
  4. It is always a good idea to introduce moves to my dog ahead of time.  *cough*  left about turns *cough cough*
  5. 6′ leashes are royal PITA!  Too much leash!  But a requirement for Novice Rally so I’ve got to review my 6′ leash handling skills and get better!
  6. Zora struggles at being bored.  Sitting around waiting her turn without her crate, yea a challenge.  Next time I either need to bring her crate in, plan to keep her entertained (which I did this time, we practiced a lot of dumbbell hold skills), or better yet practice her down stays and doing nothing for extended periods of time skills.  Training stays has not been my forte.  Gee, I wonder why?  clue- holding static positions isn’t something I personally do well myself.  Holding the same position for more than 30sec is just plain painful!  I shift a lot.

Overall a great experience. I’m feeling much more confident about the upcoming trial now. And we have things to continue to improve upon! Yay!

Level 1 & 1+ PASS!


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Yay!  I’m tickled pink!  Zora and I passed our Fenzi TEAM Training Level 1 and Level 1+ evaluations!

Level 1 and 1+ are the same exercises, but must be done in 2 different environments.  Level 1 we did in my basement training room, Level 1+ in our tiny living room.  Yay Zora!

One of the things I’m appreciating about this program is the judges comments and critiques.  Lots of really nice feedback.  But my favorite comment came this morning on the email notifying me of our 1+ pass, the judge’s comments ended with,

“Your relationship with Zora is such a happy, respectful one. Your terms of endearment made me smile. Making observers smile is a good external measurement of what you are experiencing on the inside. Nice job, and CONGRATULATIONS!”


Now to continue working on our level 2 skills!  Standing on cue, that’s our focus at the moment.

It’s Snowing!


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Tom is less than thrilled.

“Why are we out here?  It’s cold.  I can’t believe you’re making me sit here.  Can’t we go in yet?”

Zora, on the other hand, over the moon about it!  It’s SNOWING!!!!!!!


Zora sitting so close in front of me her front feet are on my shoes.  Tail wagging, she’s super excited!

By tomorrow morning we are anticipating 6-8″ of the white stuff.  First snow of the season.

Dog Training Math


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Dog training is my happy place.  Lately one of the few times I feel happy, so I’ve been doing it a lot.  Few minutes here and there throughout the day can add up quickly.  I just did a loose addition of the short (less than 10min, most more like 2-3min) sessions the dogs and I have had today and not including the time we were out on a walk, we’ve trained a total of closing in on 2 hours already today.

Waiting for the timer to tell me my lunch has cooked, we practice position changes.

Take the dogs out to toilet, and we end up practicing heeling games.

I need to use the restroom, I first to ask the dogs to hold a sit stay until I return.

Waiting for the plumber to arrive, we practice pivots.

Here and there I grab a handful of cookies and we play some training game.  Fronts, finishes, dumbbell holds, stays, sits, stands, downs, pivots, recalls, go outs, targets.

The dogs rarely tell me they’d rather not.  We’re all training junkies, the dogs and I.

2 minutes here.  10 cookies there.  5 minutes over there.

The moments add up.

Hmm, on further examination, maybe this explains my unplanned 3hr nap yesterday afternoon…


Zora sound asleep belly up in the red duvet cover



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For the past few weeks for an hour each week I’ve been teaching a group of friends and their dogs.  They all came into the group with varying yet similar goals and have made awesome strides over the weeks.  And I’ve been having great fun with them all!

One of the goals many of them had was to work with improving their dog’s skill and comfort with body handling, everything from nail trimming and grooming to being petted.  And through various exercises including targeting, stays, engagement and such they’ve been improving immensely.  Last night building on the various successes they’d been having, we did a really fun Pawtraits exercise.  We were all laughing, it was great fun!

What are Pawtraits?  Simple really- traced outlines of your dog’s paws or other body parts.


Traced dog feet & other body parts in purple & green magic marker

So in order to trace your dog’s body part on a piece of paper 2 things have to occur- the body part has to make it onto the paper, and has to stay on the paper long enough for it to be traced.

For those 2 things to occur a dog has to-

  • Be willing to have a piece of paper under their body part
  • Be willing to stay still
  • Be willing to stay still as a person reaches to their body part with a writing implement
  • Be willing to stay still as a person traces around their body part with said writing implement

Those things are really really hard for many many dogs!

Ideally we want to do this exercise with the dog as relaxed, comfortable and willing as possible.  And there are loads of ways to approach that.

I was super impressed and proud of my students.  It was awesome to see how much the work they’ve been doing with their dogs over the past weeks made Pawtraits doable and super fun.  We ended up with outlines of front feet, back feet, tails, ears, legs and more.

Hearing people recognize for their dogs-

“You’re right, this marker is really smelly, here let me change to a different one to make this easier for you.”   (ie recognizing their dog was uncomfortable and problem solving why, then changing to make it more successful)

“Hmm, let me think about how to get your ear traced…” (ie developing a plan before attempting)

“I think a down stay will make tracing your rear feet easier, let’s try that…” (ie thinking about skills they and their dog had in their toolbox and experimenting which ones would be most successful)

Made my face hurt I was smiling so much!


Webster Duck


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Webster Duck has been a part of our family for years.  He was actually Niche’s favorite toy.  So been in the mouths of many a canine over the years.


Zora and the yellow duck toy on the couch

About a month ago Webster Duck was finally de-stuffed.

Now a shell of a duck.


Zora staring as I hold the de-stuffed yellow duck toy up in the air

He is still a well loved yellow Webster Duck.


Zora lying with her head on Webster Duck ‘Mine, he’s all mine!’ she says

Does your dog have a toy that has lasted for years?