Using targeting in distance skills


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One area of training Zora and I have been struggling with consistently is when I’m wanting her to turn away from me and then keep moving forward despite limited movement forward from me.  So after a couple of different approaches that clearly weren’t helping, I shelved this for a few weeks, month.  And thought about it.

I brain stormed, I watched some you tube videos of people and dogs running distance courses, I watched their handling and their dog’s response to said handling, I wrote out what I’ve tried before what hasn’t worked, what has and how.  What skills I’ve introduced to Zora, even ones we haven’t used since she was itty bitty.  Everything I could think of.

And in the course of my processing, I thought, “Hmm, when she was a pup I used her targeting to the pause box to introduce the concept of distance to her.  Why did I stop doing that?”

I stopped doing that because a.  the pause box is heavy and therefore harder to move.  b.  it’s set at 12″ tall and she has to take a running leap to get onto it which limits where I can place it.  c.  It’s 3×3 square so that’s a lot of area for her to target to meaning less precision on how she approaches it.  and d.  I only have one, meaning moving it A LOT (see a. once more).

So I thought, ok what other location type target behaviors have I introduced to her before?  And remember years ago now (geeze, how can I say that with her, I want her to still be an itty bitty baby!  Instead she’s gonna be 3 next month!) during her ‘body awareness skills’ training phase we did some work with an upside down rubber feed bucket on her putting her front feet on it (also did just her rear feet, and sitting on it).  And I thought, “Hmm, those are a lot smaller and easier to move.  I have a couple of those lying around let’s try this.”

Yesterday morning, I tossed one out on the grass and cued, “Mark” and somehow my brilliant little short dog who hasn’t heard that cue in over a year remembered.  Happily tail wagging ran up to the bucket and popped her front feet up on it.  Good girl!  Great!  You remember, perfect!  We did a bit of through a hoop, ‘mark’.  Then a bit of directions with a couple of jumps.  She was happy, tail wagging, thrilled the entire time.  I was thrilled!!!  Finally clarity for my dog!  WooHoo!!!!

Here’s a video clip from our training session this morning with agility equipment.  I’d say this is the most success we’ve had with the switch and drive away concept with her being happy, enthusiastic and clearly it making sense to her what I was wanting.  Yay!

Some of the reasons I like the upside down rubber feed buckets as targets are a. they are readily available and fairly inexpensive.  we picked up a couple more buckets at Tractor Supply this weekend and they were less than $5 each.  b.  the buckets last.  I’ve had a some of mine for many years.  They’ve survived freezing cold, rain, snow, heat, dogs, ducks.  Because they are a thick yet flexible rubber, they don’t crack when water freezes in them like other buckets I’ve used in the past.  The flexible thick rubber also gives them better traction for the dog.  c.  They are small and low enough to the ground to not be too obvious to the dog until they are near it.  unlike the pause box which is large and very visible from a far distance, I like that these targets are just visible enough as the dog approaches to give the dog a nice clear focal point but not so visible that the dog can guess where you are directing them to without really paying attention to your cues.  d.  they give the dog a really clear behavior to do with them that is very clear to the handler if done incorrectly.  Unlike say a bit of rug or plastic lid flat on the ground, which can be hard to know far away what the dog is doing, or a target that requires a nose touch meaning it takes more consistent training for the dog to learn to touch and then stay at the target, 2 front feet up on the bucket until verbally released is a really clear response. and e. they are really great for helping dogs learn to collect in early stage training since you teach them to run straight to the target and front feet up, not run past it then return.  I was first introduced to the idea of using rubber feed buckets for such skills by NADAC gu-ru Sharon Nelson, great use for them!

Teaching a dog this type of behavior is also super helpful outside of agility.  Person at the door, send the dog to their target place.  Dog rushes out the door.  Target place, open door, release, cue 2nd target place positioned right outside the now open door.  Dog struggles with no jumping on people for greetings, cue target behavior pet and greet dog as long as their feet stay on the target.  Nice things about place and location targets are the clarity they give for dogs and handlers, makes it a lot easier to be consistent with criteria I find personally.

Have you played around and used location targets with your dog?  Do you find them helpful as well?

Duck Duty


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It’s been an active couple of weeks around here, hence my blogging absence.

This weekend we had the joy of sitting a couple of ducklings for a good friend of mine!  They are chocolate runner duck babies.  Super sweet, social and cute.  I love their grey coloring.

I had them set up inside in a brooder area in our spare bedroom, but today was such a gorgeous day out that I put them outside for a bit.  They seemed to enjoy it as did Tom and Zora.

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She picked them back up this afternoon, so no more indoor ducks for us for now.

On the topic of ducks, sadly Miss Penelope died.  I felt even worse because I was away in VT and my neighbor was taking care of the quacks for me, she is the one who found her.  So now my flock is down to 5, but knock on wood the remaining 5 are doing quite well.




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This past week has been unusually busy in our house, and apparently Tom had started to feel rather used. As in ‘You only love me when my harness is on and I’m working! You ignore me in the house!  Everyone else gets more attention than I do!  You love them more!’

Yesterday he completely ignored my efforts to make it up to him, trying to invite him on the couch for some special snuggles, and trying to give him special petting, he shunned me completely. He sure knows how to put me on a guilt trip. Nothing worse than him looking at me as I try to make it up to him, and him slowly walking away.  “No!  You don’t deserve my love mum!”  Dog knows how to make me cry.

Last night he even refused to come to his dog bed in the bed room, decided to sleep by himself in the living room on his bed there.

2am I woke up, reached my hand down to where he always is beside the bed, and panicked “Where’s Tom?!”   So, of course, I got up to go find him.  He was still in the living room.  I got down on the floor, petted him a bit.  He woke up and was all, “Don’t talk to me.  Go away.” as he turned his body as far away from me as he could. 

My dog is so upset with me right now.  What am I going to do?!  What any reasonable rational person would do.  I slept on the couch next to him the rest of the night. Now, our couch is comfy but it’s still a couch.  Tossing and turning, curled in a little ball. 

Apparently my efforts paid of.  I woke up to his cute face snuffling in mine wanting to be loved and petted.  Hooray!!  My dog loves me again!  Tom has forgiven me!

All is again right with the world.  My dog loves me again.  And I’m doing my very best to give him the attention he deserves and needs.  Lots of snuggles and pets for the black dog.  He’s back to loving all of it.  Yay!


Happy smiley Tom sitting in the green grass

10 Ways to Exercise Your Dog when You’re Exhausted


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Whether you live with a chronic condition that causes fatigue as I do or you are exhausted after a busy day at work, your dog still needs exercise. Many people think exercise the dog = walk the dog. Well when you’re exhausted and walking the dog means making your tired brain and body move off the couch, yea don’t know about you but not likely.

I spend a lot of my time on the couch, sitting in a chair or leaning against a wall, tree or fence. And have come up with lots of ways to exercise my dogs from those stations.  Now this doesn’t mean I don’t also get my dogs out in the world, I do.  I go for a walk with them nearly every day.  But for many dogs (mine included) that isn’t enough.  And when I have days where I can’t get out, these types of things are my go-to.

So here we go:  10 Ways to exercise your dog when you’re exhausted!

  1.  Hide and seek

Oh how I love hide and seek and all of its near endless variations!

Version 1: If my husband is home or my nieces and nephews are visiting hide and seek means I sit on the couch, they hide.  They call the dog, dog finds them.  I call the dog back to me, the hider hides in a new spot. Over and over.  Until dog is bright happy eyes and panting exhausted.  If the hider gets creative there are lots of ways they can hide even in a small area.  Some favorites are in the bathtub, behind an open door, on the bed, in the closet, and hidden in plain sight by quietly standing up against a wall in a dark room.  Zora especially Loves loves loves this game.  We use praise, treats, and petting to reward her, and practice her staying with the person until the other person calls her, not just racing back and forth.  This waiting until called gives the hider a chance to really hide.

Version 2: if your dog has a favorite toy, instead of hiding a person you can hide their toy.  If your able to get off the couch, hide the toy in various places in your house and send the dog to find them.  Practice your dog doing a sit or down stay while you hide the toy and finding it when you cue “Find It.”  If you can’t get off the couch, hide them in various spots on the couch. Under different cushions and such.

Version 3: the good old shell game using treats.  Hide a treat under one hand, dog has to indicate which hand has the treat.  Or under a blanket. Or couch cushion.  Or if they’re handy under actual cups.

2. Kibble toss

A fun easy game that can be played at meal times if you feed your dog dry dog food.  Or at other times using a couple of treats.

Version 1: Call the dog to,you praise them then throw a piece of kibble across the room.  After dog chases and eats the treat or kibble you tossed, call them back to you and repeat.  Dog races back and forth across the room and gets tired

Version 2: add some obedience into the game.  Ask dog to sit or down then stay as you toss the kibble.  Then release the dog to go get it.  Or ask the dog to stay, toss the kibble then ask the dog to do another behavior (sit, down, touch, come) before releasing them to go get the food.

3. Fetch with a toy


Zora bringing me a stick

Simple. Take a toy your dog likes and play fetch in the house or outside leaning against the fence. Zora prefers super bouncy chuck it balls for this game. They fly off the walls making for a fun erratic game of fetch. Though be careful you don’t take the tv out if your a bad thrower as I am.  Practice your dog bringing the toy all the way back to you and dropping it in your hand or on your lap so you don’t have to bend your aching body down fighting gravity to pick the toy up.  If you and your dog are up for it, add in some obedience.  Or multiple toys.  Teach your dog to sit or down stay and wait for you to cue ‘Get it’ once you’ve thrown the toy.  Or teach your dog to get the toy you point to, even if you’ve thrown 2 or more, in the order you point to the toy.

4. Tug

If you have the hand and arm strength and a bit of upper body energy play tug from your spot on the couch.  Practicing your drop it and grab it cues.

5. Tricks


One of the silly tricks they learned.  Zora standing as a ‘bridge’ with 2 feet on a box and 2 feet on her bed.  Tom lying beside her on the floor

My dogs and I do so many stupid tricks from the couch. Get creative, make shit up.  Let’s see we play E.T phone home (nose touch to the tip of my finger), we play back up, we play crawl, and lots of targeting games.  They play running from place to place in the house, on your bed, now on the couch, now back to your bed, now in the kitchen, now on the rug!  They practice jumping over my legs. And crawling under my arms. We place shark avoidance (I take the fish toy and sing the JAWS theme, the dogs practice abandoning ship! aka jumping off the couch and “saving” me from the shark aka taking the toy and shaking it.)  And I never have to move.  Tossing treats or toys to reward.

6. Learning toys by name

Where’s your fish? No that’s not the fish, find the fish. Yay! That’s the fish!  Now how about your ball?  Yay!  Now blue ball, where is blue ball?  Close, that’s red ball.

and so on.  My dogs love that game too. And again I never leave the couch.

7. Scatter kibble

An easy one.  Take your dog’s meal and toss it on the floor.  Either in the house or in the back yard.  Let the dog snuffle around finding their dinner kibble by kibble as you rest.

8. Puzzle toys

Make or invest in some puzzle toys.  Some that involve you too and some that your dog can play alone.  There are so many different ones on the market now, it’s awesome.  Lots of styles to choose from.  Get some variety, so you and your dog have different ways to solve the puzzles.

If you’re making puzzle toys cardboard boxes can be your friend (hide treats in different boxes, or within within within boxes or wrapped in paper bags, etc).  As can pvc (drill some holes in a large diameter pvc tube, put some treats in and cap the ends, Dog bangs it around to get the treats to fall out.  Or get some lengths of PVC and different connectors, hide a treat in the maze of twist and turns, dog has to pull the pieces apart at the connectors to find the treat.).  And empty soda bottles. Or muffin tins (take a muffin tin, put some treats in the wells then cover each well with a tennis ball.  Dog has to remove the balls to get the treats).  Basically anything you can create that your dog has to think and puzzle through in order to get their food or toy out of it.

Other ways to make puzzles for your dog can be making mazes or labyrinths out of boxes or couch pillows.

9. Arm chair agility


Zora leaping over a jump while I stand still

Use actual agility obstacles or create them out of things like chairs and pillows. Use treats and toys to encourage your dog up and over while you stay stationary. Note of caution if your dog is not an experienced agility dog, always use a spotter especially with the higher obstacles like the dog walk and teeter totter. And be sure if doing any jumping your dog is on safe surfaces like grass or carpet not concrete or hard wood floors

10.  Arm chair obedience

Practice your dog’s response to cues.  Try just verbal cues such as saying ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stay’, etc.  And just hand signals.  Practices puppy push ups: sit, down, sit, down, down, down, sit.  Add in the cue to stand.  Or stay.  Or come.  Or fetch.  Or touch.  Mix it up.  Practice your dog responding to the cue you give without anticipating what you’re going to ask them to do.

Remember when doing these things with your dog, the goal is fun, happy and tired.  So smile, laugh, and enjoy your time with your dog.  Help your dog engage both their brain and their body.  Playing these games can be super fun with your dog and low energy expenditure for you.  A tired happy dog is so nice to live with.


Tom sleeping on the floor, Zora sleeping on her dog bed.  Tired, happy dogs.


Heat wave


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we’re having a heat wave. Or at least I hope it’s just a wave. Please let this end soon.  I’m not a fan. Last week was highs of 55-60’F overcast and cloudy.  That’s my kind of weather! 90+ and sunny, so not my cup of tea.

Anyway, we’re having a heat wave. And the dogs are blowing their coats.  Tom loves to be brushed anytime, anywhere for as long as I (or anyone else) is willing.  When my little 3 year old niece gets out his brush even he’s in heaven.  She says, “I’m going to brush Tommy.  Tommy loves being brushed!”  And sure enough he does.  (Not to worry, we have conversations on how she can tell Tom loves it, and how to tell when he’s had enough, practicing behavior observation skills, and adult supervision always.  She also only uses his blue kong zoom groom rubber massaging brush so no chance of her poking him too hard with brushes more effective for getting his coat out that I use)

Zora, Zora tolerates brushing as she sees its value.  When she was a little pup she detested it.  thought brushing was a stupid idea thought up by dumb humans just to annoy little corgi dogs like her.  Then she went through her puppy to adult coat transition in the middle of summer.  She was hot, I brushed her and she was less hot.  Cause and effect won her over to the value of a good brushing.

Most times of the year if I’m brushing Tom, Zora leaves us be.  No desire to participate. This time of year is a different story.

This morning I gave Tom a good brushing.  And Zora asked for a turn.  Meaning she must really want it.

Sure enough as I’m brushing her she lies down flopped on her side enjoying the undercoat being pulled out.  One side done, I paused, as often if she’s had enough she’ll decide to walk away.  Instead she flopped the other side.  Relaxed and happy I was helping her shed about a pound of corgi under coat.

Both dogs now sleek and shiny.  Much happier and cooler.

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People often ask me what I used to brush my dogs.  My 2 go to brushes are my good old fashioned Greyhound Comb and Slicker Brush.  For Tom and Zora, with their coat type of thick dense under coats, over 90% of the time I use the greyhound comb.  If they happen to get something sticky in their coat or some burrs in it, then I use the slicker brush.  Tom enjoys being massaged with his Kong Zoom Groom rubber brush as well as I mentioned above.

Because I’m a brushing avoider (it’s not an activity I enjoy.  Increased pain and cramping in my hands is not an activity I enjoy. I do it because its part of responsible caring dog ownership), I keep those 3 brushes right next to the couch on the book case so I have easy access for when the mood to brush the dogs strikes me.  If I had to get up and dig the brushes out of the closet every time I thought the dogs could use a brushing, it would be done a lot less.



What to Feed the Dog


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In follow up to yesterday’s “when to feed the dog” post, I thought I’d give my answers to another frequently asked question I get, “What to feed the dog.”

First off I’m not a vet nor am I certified in canine nutrition.  So, I always encourage clients to do their own research, homework and consult with professionals who have nutrition qualifications.

Then they usually ask, “Ok, but Katrin what do you feed your dogs?”

That I can answer, and really the answer boils down to, “I feed my dogs what works for each individual dog within my resources and budget.”  How’s that?  LOL.

No?  That doesn’t work for you?  Ok so how about, “I feed them ice cream?”  Strawberry ice cream.  From a spoon.

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Tom & Zora enjoying some ice cream to celebrate Tom’s birthday last year

In all seriousness, over the years that means I’ve approached meals with different dogs in different ways.  And I’ve learned there is no one size fits all.

Currently Tom and Zora eat kibble as their primary.  With training rewards (which are often left overs from our human dinner) throughout the day for training sessions.  (and yes the yearly ice cream treat for their respective birthdays.)  I’ve found for them, if I rotate kibbles they enjoy the change and their bodies seem to do well on it.  So one month I’ll feed one brand’s formula, the next month another.  I’ve found about 4 formulas from varying brands that they do well on, maintain their weight on, their coats feel and look good on, and that fit within my budget.  Every so often I’ll try something new, sometimes it works well and is added to the rotation, sometimes it doesn’t and we don’t try it again or maybe do a year or so later.

I’ve learned that bodies change over time.  So my dog might do well on a food at one point in their life, but over time stop doing as well on it.  Or might not do well on a food at one time, but a few years later it might be a great fit.

Past dogs of mine I’ve had have done best on raw diet, some on home cooked diet, some on kibble, some on grain free, some on high carb, some on high protein, each dog’s body has different needs.  And I do what I can to best meet those nutritional needs in the way their body tells me.  I’ve had dogs who could literally eat garbage and never be sick a day in their life (Monty!), I’ve had dogs with severe food allergies who if one bite of chicken crossed their lips would be in itchy inflamed hell for the following 2 weeks (Niche), and dogs in between (Regal, Obi, James, Tom, Zora).  Each dog has different nutritional needs to stay as happy and healthy as I am able to provide.

A couple of key markers I look for when I assess if the food choices are doing well with my dog are:

Weight: is my dog maintaining a good healthy weight, or am I having to really closely monitor how much I’m feeding of this food in order to prevent unwanted weight gain or loss?  An easy to maintain weight gives a check in the ‘food is working’ column.

Coat:  Is my dog’s coat feeling healthy, am I getting comments on how glossy their coat is, is shedding to a minimum?  Or is their coat feeling dry and brittle?  Are they shedding a ton, or am I getting comments on how dull their coat looks?  A healthy, glossy, low shedding coat gets a check in the ‘food is working’ column.

Skin:  Are they really itchy or having dandruff?  Are they scratching a lot or chewing at their feet?  An itchy dandruff filled coat gets a check in the ‘food probably isn’t working’ column.

Staining:  Are my dog’s eyes really tearing and causing staining down their face?  Are they getting brown staining around the mouth?  Are their feet and nail beds red or brown?  If so, a check goes into the ‘food probably isn’t working’ column.

Muscle Tone:  Is my dog seeming to loose or gain muscle tone even though our exercise routine is the same?  If the dog is losing muscle, a check goes into the ‘food probably isn’t working’ column

Infections/Medical Concerns:  Is my dog getting a number of eye, ear or other infections?  Am I needing to clean their ears constantly?  Is the vet finding yeast in their ears, skin, nail beds, or other places?  Are they getting UTIs, or having other medical concerns?  Has my dog been diagnosed with cancer?  If so, I research how food can impact the medical concerns found, and work to adjust their nutrition accordingly working with my vet.

Behavioral:  Am I noticing any unwanted behavioral changes that I can’t ascribe to other causes?  Is my dog seeming unusually hungry, guarding their food when they normally wouldn’t, seeming more agitated, anxious, or less tolerant?  Are they more grabby about treats?  Is my dog avoiding eating this food?  Are they seeming hesitant or slow to chew it?  Am I seeing any adverse changes around meal times?  If so, a check probably goes into the ‘food probably isn’t working’ column.

And an important consideration: Can I afford to feed this?  With Niche, who was my allergy dog from hell, sure his body preferred a raw or home cooked diet, but with the proteins and carbs his body did best on and in the quantities his incredible metabolism needed to maintain weight, I would have been paying $400 per month to feed him.  Which wasn’t sustainable on the budget I lived on.  So I worked hard to research other food options, and found a couple of pre packaged foods that his body did well with and that I could afford to feed him and that compromise worked.  He was as happy and healthy as he could be and I could pay the mortgage.

A couple of things I personally prefer to avoid when feeding my dogs are foods with added sugar, and with dyes.  I personally tend to avoid foods with corn as well as I’ve yet to have a dog who does well on a food high in corn.  I also have to tolerate the smell of the food myself (sensory stuff), so if I gag every time I open the food bin, it’s a no go.  I tend not to feed canned food routinely unless the dog has a medical condition that requires it, but when I do I tend to gravitate to the 1 or 2 ingredient cans.  Like the ones that are some named meat (lamb, beef, salmon, whatever) and water.

With my 2 current dogs.  Zora, if I have her on too high a protein and low carb food, she’s insanely ravenous.  So middle of the road protein to carb ratios is the way to go with her at this stage of her life.  Tom, if I feed him a food with chicken, turkey or sweet potatoes in it he gets disgusting gunky ears, so I avoid foods with those ingredients.  Zora food high in peas makes her fur begin to stain, so I work to avoid foods with peas high on their ingredients list.  Tom seems to really enjoy eating lamb and beef based foods, so because he likes them and his body seems to as well, I often have some of those in our rotation.  Zora seems to really like some of the fish based foods, so I try to keep some of those in our rotation.  One of the foods Tom really loves, I’d say it’s is favorite, is incredibly expensive, so it doesn’t come on the rotation very often.  I try to get it for him at least once to twice a year because he likes it so much, but feeding it more regularly on a cost benefit ratio doesn’t add up for us.

So like I said above, there is no one size fits all.  I’m a firm believer in listening to my dog and their body, and being willing to experiment until we find something that works.  And yup, sometimes that has meant I get a number of types of food and we run food trials at my house.  Testing each food out over a period of days or weeks, noticing how the dog responds, and from there figuring out what to keep, what to discard, and what to try next.  Life’s a work in progress.  Finding the right food for each of my dogs is too.


Tom says, “Mmm birthday ice cream is the best!!”

When to Feed the Dog


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I’ve been pondering about this for the past couple of months.  I’ve heard so many people over the years, “My dog starts wanting their dinner at 2pm!  (or other time)  But no I’m not feeding dinner until 5pm!  This is getting ridiculous.”  And the years of hearing such has gotten me to wondering, “So why not listen to your dog and try feeding him at 2pm?”

Over the past decades I’ve had a range of dogs.  From those who obsess about food and meals to those who appreciate food but take it when it’s offered and trust the next meal will come when it comes.


Niche age 10 retrieving a ball.  he was a retriever through and through

Monty was my resource guarder, but Niche was my meal obsesser.  He was an anxious dog to begin with who needed (NEEDED!!!!) routine and structure.  At a time when my life wasn’t very consistently structured.  So Niche fixated on meal times as a way to try to create consistent structure every day in his own brain.  He fixated on trying to figure out environmental cues that would mean meal time.  Such as if I happened to come home 2 days in a row and immediately feed the dogs (because when I happened to come home coincide with 5pm) for the next 2 weeks anytime I came home (even if it was at 10am) he assumed it was now dinner time.  Or if I happened to take a shower right before feeding the dogs, for the next 2 weeks regardless of the time of day I took a shower he’d think it was time for a meal.  It could be any little thing he’d try to create a pattern and causation from.  Niche had such a need for structure and routine that if we were home and I didn’t feed him in his crate out of a metal dish he would be convinced I hadn’t fed him dinner.  Such as if I fed him out of a puzzle toy, or fed him out of a dish but it was in the kitchen, then in his head the meal had not actually occurred.  If I simply tossed a handful of food into his dish in his crate, then wa-la all was now good. (when we traveled he was more relaxed on his ‘rules’ for what constituted a meal, thankfully).

I tried a number of ways to manage it over the years and ways to convince him that his bugging me had no impact on when he’d be fed.  But over the years, I realized, “you know what, it’s ok.  If he wants dinner at 2pm, let him have dinner at 2pm.  If he then starts to obsess about dinner again at 5pm, well give him a ‘pretend meal’ (ie a small hand full of food) and call it good.  There are worse things in life.  And if it makes his life less stressful, then let him eat dinner whenever he thinks it’s meal time.”

And sure enough it did make life less stressful.  Instead of living with a dog obsessing over his next meal for hours, I lived with a dog content to snooze on the couch after I fed him dinner whenever he started thinking about it.  It worked.  Really well.  And yup it some days meant he got 2 or 3 ‘dinners’ (1 main dinner and a couple of ‘pretend’ dinners), but it also meant his anxiety decreased vastly and he stressed less about changes in routine and structure.  And it meant I didn’t have a dog bouncing off the walls asking me constantly ‘Are you going to feed me now?  how about now?  Now?  What about now?  It’s dinner time, so now?  Now?  Now?’

To help Niche in the mornings (it took until he was 7 years old before he choose to sleep past 4am.  The word people used to describe Niche most was “Intense.”  They weren’t joking.), I made sure I was incredibly consistent with my morning alarm.  Regardless if it was a weekday or weekend, I set an alarm.  It was a consistent cue Niche could use to realize unless the morning alarm has sounded, you won’t be fed.  Not at 4am, not at 5am, not at 6am, not if I happen to get out of bed before the alarm, not if I’ve taken you outside then gone back to bed.  Only after the alarm goes off will breakfast happen.  This made my life each morning saner.  Meant he had a consistent cue to work from (and one I had control over so I could vary when the alarm actually went off) and not try to convince me I should get up and feed him at 4am.  Instead if he woke up at 4am he learned to do his own thing quietly until I happened to wake up.

Niche has been gone for a couple of years now (though I still miss him near daily.  He was such a special BrownDog.  An awesome dog.  Intense, awesome dog.).  And until recently Tom and Zora have been content to eat their meals whenever.  But a couple of months ago I noticed Tom began asking for dinner, sometimes at odd times.  I heard myself saying to him, “No, it’s 3, I’m not feeding you till after 5.” a couple of times.  Then asked myself, “Why?  If he wants to eat at 3 he probably has a good reason for it.”

So now, if Tom politely asks me to feed him dinner at 3, I feed him dinner at 3.  If he doesn’t ask me at all, then dinner is the usual sometime after 4:30.  And so far that’s working.  Sometimes he asks me before 4:30, and all things being equal (ie I don’t have any pressing reason to not feed him dinner when he asks), I feed the dogs dinner then.  Often he doesn’t and they eat when I prompt “You guys want supper?”

My dogs trust me to help them meet their needs.  Who am I to try to tell them they’re wrong when they work so hard to clearly communicate to me?  If he’s asking for dinner at 3, he probably has a good reason for it.  Let go the desire to control and trust the dog knows what he needs.


Happy Niche lounging in the sun one summer day.  I think he was about 9yrs old in this photo

Fingers Crossed


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I think we maybe got the bonus!!!

In NADAC, when you think you’ve met the criteria for a bonus run you have to submit a video of the run for review to NADAC.  Then after they review it, you are notified if and how many bonus points your run earned.

Fingers crossed!!!!  In any case, if we don’t get the bonus points, I am so so so so so thrilled with our run.  This is the first time we’ve been able to complete the entire run staying on course without me leaving the box!!!  It was so thrilling!!  Especially as it was our first run of the day/weekend.  I was incredibly happy that the switch out to the right practice we have been doing is finally starting to pay off!!

The remainder of our day continued to go well.  We did attempt the bonus in tunnelers rd 2 as well, and were almost there.  Apparently a dog before us had toileted on course just at the exit of the 3rd to last tunnel.  Zora came zipping out of the tunnel and stopped dead to sniff.  I left the box to remind her to get moving!  After we ran, they cleaned the area more thoroughly.  Which we all appreciated from there on.  No biggie.  It was still a gorgeous run.

Barrelers was 2 qualifiers.  And a lot of fun.  It was a tough course to remember!!  I was out there the entire 5 min they gave us for walk through trying to get it correctly in my head.

Regular I was thrilled with.  As I gave myself a bonus box (there wasn’t one offered, so I made my own one up to practice).  And BOTH runs we were able to complete the entire course from the box I imagined for myself.  So happy with that!!!

Jumpers was hard.  I tried from the box, which I knew was going to be really hard for us based on where the bonus box was and the set up of the course.  Driving through a box of obstacles especially early on in the course with me restricted to a small area is still a challenge for us.  More to continue to practice. So we worked and trained round 1. Then I ran with her on round 2 to keep her speed and confidence up to end the day on.

An excellent fun day of agility was had by all. Yay!

So sleepy


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this week always catches me off guard.  I anticipate it to happen 2 weeks later than it does nearly every year.  The week when the phone starts ringing off the hook, when life suddenly gets very very busy, when Client’s come out of the wood work.  It’s just been a very busy and chaotic week.

Ted the little poofy dog I’ve written about before is spending a couple of overnights here this week. And this morning he is so sleepy as yesterday and Tuesday none of us had any time for our usual pile on the couch and rest.  To be honest I’m so sleepy as well, I’ve been borrowing from tomorrow’s all week

As I came back inside this morning after dealing with 2 egg bound ducks (fingers crossed they are going to be ok now.  Hoping for the best) and giving their overnight pen a cleaning overhaul, Ted sat at my feet barely able to keep his eyes open and practically falling over he was so tired.

He clearly wanted to sleep but only with me too. So we are now on the couch together and teds snoozing dreaming his little poofy dog dreams.  He’s so cute when he’s tired and sleeping all snuggled up.  And yes he does like to have a soft comfy blanket all around him when he’s napping, who doesn’t?


Little brown and white fluffy teddy head poking out from under a green blanket

Lemon Ginger Cake


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I can’t be the only one who experiments on a whim with baking and cooking.  Today’s creation came out rather good so thought I’d pass it along.  Some of the measurements are rather loose, sorry I rarely bake or cook as an exact science.

This mash up of ingredients was not what I thought I was going to make.  I started out attempting to separate eggs.  The universe wasn’t cooperating.  Sure, I’ll blame it on the universe, not my shaking hands, the universe can take the fall for this one today ;-).  First egg separated fine, white into 1 bowl, yolk in another.  2nd egg, the yolk split and about a tsp got into the whites, ok, I fished it out.  3rd egg, white into 1 bowl and then I in one fell swoop threw the yolk into the trash not the 2nd bowl, oops.  4th egg, split and yolk all over the whites.  So I threw in the towel and changed plans.  I thought I was going to experiment with a cake type thing where I beat the whites stiff then added other stuff in, maybe using the yolks, maybe not.  Yea, that didn’t happen.

Instead this is what happened:


Lemon ginger cake right out of the oven

Lemon Ginger Gluten Free Cake

  • 4 duck eggs (or x large chicken eggs)
  • 1 tsp gluten free vanilla
  • couple of turns on the salt grinder (I use Himalayan sea salt, the pink stuff)

Into a large bowl and beat on high with the mixer for a couple of minutes.  They were frothy and over double in size when I stopped the beaters.

then grate into that about 3/4 of the rind of one medium size lemon, think that was maybe a little over a teaspoon?   And grate in somewhere between 1-2 tablespoons of fresh ginger.  then add the juice of that lemon you grated the rind of off.  beat in until mixed.  (note the cake is rather lemony, which I like, but if you would rather a more subtle lemon flavor I would cut back the amount of lemon rind, maybe grate in the rind of only 1/2 or even 1/3 of the lemon?)

then slowly beat in 1 1/4 c sugar (if you were using a meyer lemon you could use less sugar, I know the lemons I had on had were rather sour from using them in another dish so wanted to try to hedge my bets on balancing that with the sugar).

in another small bowl mix together

  • 1.5 c brown rice flour
  • .5 c tapioca starch/flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • couple more turns of the salt grinder

then slowly beat that into the egg mixture

once combined, beat in 1/3c olive oil, 1/3c grape seed oil (or you can sub in your preferred fat of choice), and 1/4c agave nectar (you could probably skip the agave, again I knew how sour my lemon was and was trying to balance that out, which it worked, the cake is not too sweet and not sour).  As you beat it will be rather thick and trying to climb the beaters.

pour into a greased baking dish.  the one I used is 6″x10″ by 2″ deep.  I sprinkled a small amount of turbinado sugar on the top to help it brown and crisp.

bake for approx 40min (or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean) in a 325’F oven  (ours is a convection oven, so on a standard oven I might bake it at 350’F, or 325′ for a bit longer).

This cake came out much better than I anticipated.  I wasn’t sure if it was going to be too dense, but the beating of the eggs so much to start I think really helped this to be light and airy.  I am really enjoying it!  Hope you have as much success as I have if you try it yourself.


cake cooling on a rake with a piece cut out for me to eat!  Yum!