Monday, May 31, 2010

LEAP AKC Agility Trial

After more than a month off Teller and I were happy to be back out playing. This weekend we were down in Granby, Mass for the LEAP trial. There were some good moments, some bad moments and some UGLY moments! We started with standard on Saturday - no a-frame contact so a big old NQ on that one. Saturday JWW was a lovely trip around Scott Stock's course except I pushed Teller out around the jump after the weaves (R and an NQ). Sunday was better - Teller got all of his contacts (yay) but we had an R when he saw the weaves instead of the rest of the pinwheel. Sunday afternoon we had a good (clean) JWW run for MXJ leg #9 and a few more points. My runs on Monday weren't so good. We got there early to find shade - if you get there after 7:30 you won't have shade past 10am - so I got there earlier than I had to in an attempt to keep the dogs comfy in the car while we waited around. The net result is that our Standard run was at 12:30 in full sun and humidity and our jumpers run was about 1pm. I didn't have a forward dog and neither of us ran very well. Ugg.

I was relieved to run early (ish) on Sunday and not so pleased to run in full sun on Saturday and Monday. I confirmed my decision to stay indoors through the rest of the summer - I'm a weather-wimp - and Teller runs hot anyway, when the ambient temperature is above 85 we just aren't going to do well. Maybe we'll think about going back outside in September or October, but for now we're going for some shade :-)

Runs from the weekend:

Hot spots and hot spot prevention...

Ahhh, tis the season for all sorts of skin irritations: bug bites, hives, allergies and hot spot season. I'm very lucky - we don't tend to get a lot of hot spots around here (knocking on wood) - but I'm also very proactive in hot spot prevention. I do get a lot of questions online and in classes about hot spot prevention and home remedies for hot spot treatments. In particular how do you handle a hot spot without shaving? I'll share what I do and how I manage my own wet hairy dogs (whom I don't shave for skin irritations).

I find that dogs who swim in very clean water (pristine lakes or in pools) tend to be at a lower risk for hot spots that are a result of skin irritation. The few times that we've had swimming related hot spots they've been a result of not properly rinsing the dogs off after swimming in untreated water. I now (in the last 3 years) carry a spray bottle that contains one part listerine to three parts tap water. If I can't get them home for a bath or rinse within an hour post swim I'll apply the Listerine spray liberally and work it down to the skin - this is a must after field training in questionable lakes and ponds. As an added benefit listerine keeps the mosquitoes down too - a liberal application from the spray bottle around our tents at an agility trial keeps the mosquitoes and noseeums at bay for a little while.

Seasonal allergies are another primary contributor to skin problems - be on the lookout for common threads - some dogs have reactions to freshly cut grass, others seem to have problems after walks in the woods. Choose a mild shampoo (biogroom is a great light shampoo), dillute it 1 part to 4 parts water and settle into a bath routine after hikes and runs in high grass (the bath will help wash ticks off too!).

Watch ear cleaners and topical flea/tick treatments. Teller had two hot spots that were caused by ear cleaners - the first was Epi-Otic and the second time was caused MalAcetic Otic. The irritation started in the ear (ouch) and continued down his cheek where the ear cleaner made contact with his skin. I really hoped I wouldn't see another ear cleaner reaction after switching to the MUCH gentler MalAcetic Otic - alas nope - same painful reaction to the MalAcetic Otic, So at this point I don't use ear cleaners or drying agents on the dogs after swimming. I'm careful to wipe their ears out once a day either with a tissue or with a Q-Tip and I also make sure that both boys are dried completely before bed at night. This is even more important when there's a lot of atmospheric humidity - as wet dogs won't ever really dry out at the skin level.

Monitor your dogs for the beginning of skin irritations. If you can catch an irritation/red spot before the skin is broken you cut your risk of subsequent infection significantly. At first hint of any trouble brewing I start brewing lipton tea. Take two teabags and let them steep in boiling water (about 1 cup of water). When tea bags are cool enough to touch (and handle comfortably) apply them as a wet compress on the irratated skin (or hot spot) - about 10 minutes will do the trick. After the compress I'll load up a syringe with the brewed tea and flush the entire area with the strong tea in the event that I missed a spot. When treating hot spots take care to treat not only the affected area, but along a wide margin as well - once a hot spot gets started they spread like wildfire. After the compress, pat the area dry and repeat the flushing this time with hydrogen peroxide - make sure you have fresh hydrogen peroxide - it's important that it fizzes a little when it comes in contact with skin.

As for the tea...lipton, red rose, etc - plain old non flavored inexpensive tea. I always use lipton - but that's just my preference. Don't use herbal or green teas, the same properties aren't there. So why tea you ask? Brewed tea is full of some pretty cool compounds. Tea is anti-septic, drying and also is also safe to use on dogs, around children and it can be ingested (in small quantities) if your dog licks the residue.

Repeat the tea/hydrogen peroxide flush 2-3 times a day for 3-4 days. If for some reason you can't catch the hot spot in time I'd suggest adding applications of betagen to the routine. Tea, hydrogen peroxide and the topical betagen spray as a finishing dressing.  Betagen is only available from your vet - but it's something I don't ever leave home without...

Last resort is a course of antibiotics if the spot becomes infected - with good skin/coat management you should be able to avoid the anti-biotic route. Too many vets go straight to prednisone (oral or IM) for hot spots and I think that unless the case is dire that's just way too extreme for a simple hot spot.

So dry your dogs well, check them often for ugly bugs and skin irritations - more often if they've been swimming or you've had a run of high humidity and when you discover a bit of skin irritation or notice that your dog is scratching get started on tea bag compresses, flushes and hydrogen peroxide. A matter of hours can make the difference between an itchy spot and a full blown hot spot.

Have a happy summer - let your dogs enjoy the water and the outdoors with a game plan to knock out those  yucky hot spots right from the start!

Games people play...

No - not a gripe. Susan Garret posted this game on her blog the other day (original post here). I have to admit that I've been playing it somewhat obsessively (compulsively?) this weekend after we finished at the dog show and yet I'm still stuck on level three....Go try it!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review: Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

Today I finished up Lisa Grunwald's "Irresistible Henry House"  - I'm not at all sure what drew me to this novel, sometimes those are the best discoveries though.

The year is 1948 and Henry House is an infant on loan from a local orphanage to Wilton college's home economics "practice house". While cruel by current standards, it's possible to imagine a time when it's accepted to have "practice babies" and even desirable to adopt one of these practice babies when they are released from the teaching home at the age of two. State of the art baby-raising and many "mothers" over the course of the semesters Principle characters include Martha - the house mother who has supervised the raising of every previous house baby (Hazel, Henrietta, Harry, etc), Betty  the young woman (and the daughter of the University President) who gave Henry up and then returns briefly as one of that semesters home economics students. It's the dawn of Dr. Benjamin Spock - and Martha's methods of baby raising are challenged - during and after Henry's tenure as a practice baby.

Henry is the first house baby to stay in the practice house past infancy. At the ripe old age of two his place in the nursery is taken over by "Hazel House" and Henry moves upstairs, now living as Martha's child. He's not adopted nor is he available for adoption - enough on the outside yet still possessive of the manipulative charm that will carry him through his young life - not choosing his favorite so that he may continue to have them all. There is a deep sense that he will grow up scarred, tainted, damaged and bitter. There are moments when I thought to myself - "my god, he's going to turn into a serial killer".

Henry's entire life is patterned on his early exposure to multiple mothers and his focus as the center of their attention - he learns early to manipulate them according to his whims. As much as Henry manipulates others he too is manipulated and lied to by the adults who raise him. Some of these lies are unforgivable and will force him down one path that he might not otherwise travel. Martha maintains guardianship of Henry on the whim of Henry's grandfather - with no legal grounds to his custody. Martha is at the same time smothering and cold and distant - overprotective and reckless. In many ways she becomes the stereotypical unmarried aging woman of the 1950s - and Miss Grunwald seems content to invite the reader to that conclusion.

The plot is slow to unfold. The details of Henry's childhood offer more historical information than is really necessary. Henry himself becomes vastly more interesting as he moves toward adulthood and begins to feel out his place in the world. First as a mute and then as a teenager living on his own, then into his professional life and first real taste of love. At the half-way point of the audio book I was convinced that it was just a pleasant story and it was going to be a long slow journey to the end - but I found the last 4-5 hours to be quite compelling. There is a bit of a "Forrest Gump" quality to the storytelling: Henry as an infant, Henry as a young boy, Henry as a teenager, Henry as a young adult, Henry evolving into a mature adult. Those who orbit around Henry grow and change along with him (I picture Sally Field as Martha Gaines), some women he uses - some women use him. Henry is cunning and disarming - at once both charming and arrogant.

Overall, if you can work (listen) past the slow start (birth through age ten) there is more depth to Henry's character than might first suspect. The premise is promising and Miss Grunwald really does get "there", but the reader (listener) has to be patient. And it's worth waiting for...

Irresistible Henry House is narrated by Oliver Wyman - who just so happens to sound an awful lot like NBC's Chris Hanson (Dateline). Mr Wyman's narration is wry and honest. His Henry character (especially the young adult Henry) is exactly what I'd expect Henry to sound like - though I was VERY pleased when Henry outgrew Mr Wyman's childhood voice - there's something a little grating listening to a grown man express himself in toddler voice. To Mr. Wyman's credit, he manages several female voices without the typical (insulting) man voicing as a woman effect. I also thought Mr Wyman offered his listeners a very convincing 1960's British accent as well.

Irresistible Henry House was written by Lisa Grunwald and narrated by Oliver Wyman. The audiobook version of Irresistable Henry House was published by Audible, Inc. Irresistable Henry House has a run-time of 15 hours and 5 minutes and was released on April 20th, 2010. Irresistible Henry House is available from Amazon and from

Agility Skills Class - May 27th, 2010

The Thursday night gang had me for class tonight - I setup an abbreviated standard course.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday Agility Skills Class - May 26th, 2010

Whew! Hazy hot and humid out there tonight. Then while I was out teaching a massive storm rolled in and over - one of the "best" light shows I've seen in a while. When I arrived home however, I noticed that the entire village was without power. In all of the years I've lived here, I don't recall any outage longer than 30 minutes or so, so when power was still out an hour later (and then two hours) the novelty had most definitely worn off! Now that power is back on I can post the sequence from tonight's agility skills class - it was a fun set of obstacles with lots of challenges for everyone!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer Sequencing: May 25th, 2010

It WAS going to be nested JWW courses tonight - one masters/excellent level with some really fun challenges and one novice/beginners course, however it's currently 90 degrees with 40% humidity - too hot to work the dogs (or the people) tonight - but here's what I planned to setup tonight.



Monday, May 24, 2010

Four Jumps - Backyard sequences Part Seven

My goal with the four-jump series of sequences is to give you some ideas on what you can work on in your own (perhaps smaller) spaces with a limited amount of equipment. This week we're back to a pure set of four jump sequences - it's a really quick setup.

Sequence One (left): Try running 1-6 with the dog on your right. Front-cross (and pull through) between #6 and #7 and another front-cross after #7 and thread the needle to #8.

Sequence Two (right): Start with the dog on your left, front cross at #3, call to #5. Front Cross at #6 to support the send to #7 and the wrap to #8.

Sequence Three (left):  Try a lead out past 3/5 and support the line to #2. Numbers 3-4-5 can be handled with the dog on your left. Try a front cross before #6 and handle 7-8 with the dog on your right.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The rules of the pool....

Back when I was a little kid - before I got hooked on horses, I used to ride my bike over to the community pool every day in the summer to meet up with my friends and play in the water. There are two things I remember vividly: The first is the FREEZING cold water for the 8am session of swimming lessons - the first session started the Monday after school got out - approximately June 15th. {{BRRRR}}. The second is the hourly ritual of public swim. Kids and Adults were allowed to swim from the top of the hour for 40 minutes. The last 20 minutes were "adult swim" and all the kids had to get out of the pool. I'd imagine there were several purposes to this - get kids out of the pool to use the restrooms, prevent children from really over-doing it and tiring out/drowning and it gave the adults time to use the pool without children screaming and splashing around them.

There's a similar policy in the dog pool - after about 45 minutes of swimming the boys have to take a break. It's not a long break - but for 5-10 minutes get out of the pool and take a rest (particularly necessary for Murphy who can get a little overstimulated when he's fatigued).

Is it over yet? Can I go back in?

Murphy is equally patient.

How about now? Please?

Things we like: Pool Toy Edition

Now that summer pool time is in full swing for the boys (2-3 hours a day of swimming most days) I was amused to discover that last year's favorites were still their favorites - and that both dogs are so different in their preferences. As you can see, over the past few years they have accumulated quite the poolside collection!

The Stick by Ruff Dawg
Murphy will reliably fetch an object once - maybe twice if the throw is greater than 20 feet (not enough work) but less than 50 feet (too much work)...Murphy is not so into retrieving for retrieving sake. I call him my "un-retriever". However, put him in the pool with the right object and he will happily swim back and forth for an hour (with a potty break or two) retrieving his favorite objects. What is Murphy's favorite object you ask? A stick. But not a real normal stick (eww dirty says Murphy) - a rubber stick. That's right - a rubber stick. Made by Ruff Dawg it's called "The Stick", for the mighty-mites out there Ruff Dawg also makes a product called "The Twig" which is a smaller version of the stick. I bought one "Stick" for Kasei (many moons ago) and he hated it - didn't play with it - the novelty was purely mine. Murphy never cared for it "on land" either - I thought it was a total bust. Last summer I discovered that The Stick floated and suddenly "The Stick" became Murphy's favorite pool toy of all. "The Sticks" have held up to chlorine, summer sun and teeth for two seasons now. My only complaint is that when thrown into the pool, are swum over or hit by current from the pool pump they tend to sink - while they eventually resurface I would not use these out in open water as they would get lost quite easily. I think the sinking quality of The Stick is part of the appeal for Murphy - he'll swim out to where the stick went into the water and then swim in circles waiting for it to resurface. The net result is that Teller often completes three retrieves for Murphy's one. Murphy gives "The Stick" two paws up.

Amphibious Bumper by ChuckIt!
Teller's favorite pool toy! Not just for pools and other bodies of water, the ChuckIt Bumper is great for retrieves on land too - we always have one of these in the car to play with when we're on the road. I like that the ChuckIt Bumper floats relatively high in the water - as such I have no concerns throwing this one into ponds, lakes or streams. With the attached rope I can get good distance on a throw. Teller seems to prefer the size (or shape) of the ChuckIt Bumper over other similar bumpers. As for durability, both the bumper in car and the poolside bumpers have held up to almost daily abuse all summer and heavy use in the winter. Chlorine and direct sunlight have not impacted the look or feel other than a slight bit of fading on the older poolside toys. Teller gives ChuckIt's Bumper two very enthusiastic barks.

Amphibious Flying Ring by ChuckIt!
I picked up one of these ChuckIt Rings when they were on sale at Pet Food Warehouse - thinking that both dogs would like it. The ring is made of the same material as the bumper - with a rubber edge and the squishy bolster ring inside. The ring is easy to throw and also sits pretty high in the water (though not as high as the ChuckIt bumper or boomerang). As it turns out the ring is the least favorite pool toy around here with my guys. They'll retrieve it when asked - or if it's the only object in the pool, but if I throw ten toys in the pool the ring will be the last one they retrieve. As you can see in the demo picture on the left I asked for the ring - I got the ring plus a stick. We rate the Flying Ring an "ehhh....." - in other words leave it on the shelf.

Amphibious Boomerang by ChuckIt!
A new product from the folks at ChuckIt we bought a ChuckIt Boomerang off the sale rack at Pet Food Warehouse. I knew how much Teller liked his ChuckIt Bumper and also that they really aren't into their ChuckIt Ring - so with the Boomerang it could go either way. As it turns out, the Boomerang has more of a bumper feel and function than the ring. Like the Flying fish (below), the Boomerang when thrown properly (and it's easy to throw it properly) bounced (or skimmed) off the surface of the water and while not the most aerodynamic of the current stock of pool toys, I was able to send it about 50' on one land throw. ChuckIt's Amphibious Boomerang rating is "one paw up" from Murphy and a "Roo" from Teller.

Ring Float and Dumbbell by Kyjen
We received a couple of these as gifts one summer - I found that they really didn't hold up. The seams fell apart with limited normal use and our ring float disintegrated in a matter of two weeks without any real use or abuse other than direct sunlight - and remember we live in Vermont - we don't get THAT much sun around here even in the summer. Another "ehhh" and a recommendation to save your money and leave it on the shelf.

Flying Fish by Ruff Dawg
Here's a surprise favorite. The "Flying Fish" was on sale at Pet Food Warehouse this past weekend (25% off is cool) and is made by the same folks who brought us Murphy's "The Stick". The flying fish is made from 100% rubber - it is heavy for its size and as advertised, it does float (belly up actually).  The Flying Fish like The Stick floats low in the water and I wouldn't use it in larger bodies of water because the dogs really can't see it until they're right on it. Teller has pretty good marks when he's doing his water retrieves and can find it easily - Murphy is more of a "go out there and find it" kind of  dog and I think that if he was in open water he'd spend way too much time trying to find a Flying Fish than I'd feel comfortable watching him circle around and around looking for it. The fun (for me) part of the Flying Fish is that if thrown like a slipping rock the Flying Fish will skim and skip over the surface of the water. Both dogs loved the real fishy action of the "Flying Fish". Murphy gives the Flying Fish two paws up and Teller ads his own "Rooo-Roooo" endorsement.

Air Kong Tennis Toys by Kong
We have a few of the Air Kong toys. Some with rope and some without. I've been disappointed with this line of Kong toys. While the classic bell shape kong is a go-to for eager puppies who need something to do, the Air Kong line just isn't durable or particularly exciting for the dogs. Even brand new out of the wrapper these toys will take on water and eventually sink. A pool toy that sinks to the bottom of the pool is not a fun pool toy. The rope on the Air Dog Fetch Stick frays when exposed to chlorine and sunlight and the bits of nylon actually go through the skimmer basket and into the filter. I've stopped using these toys in the pool. It's just not worth picking bits of nylon rope out of my filters or fetching (me) the skimmer wand to retrieve the toys off the bottom of the pool. I've been equally unimpressed with these toys as land toys as well - If you (or your dog) are hooked on felted rubber "tennis toys" it's easier (and cheaper) to just buy regular disposable tennis balls - or (my preference) some of the ChuckIt rubber balls. - We particularly like the blue ChuckIt Whistler balls for our land retrieves. As for the Air Kong line we're putting these squarely into our "don't even bother" column with a cavet that the Air Kong Squeaky balls are fun for the five minutes they last before they break and don't squeak anymore. I don't know about you, but I don't have extra dough to buy squeaky tennis balls that have a lifespan of 5-10 minutes - even if they are "BIG FUN" for those 10 minutes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rally Class - May 22nd, 2010

Today's rally course - There was a special new sign if the birthday-girl had come to class today {{GRIN}.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Four Jumps - Backyard sequences Part Six

Are you ready for another set of four-jump sequences? This week we're going to work handling and weave entries, as such this series uses four jumps and a set of 12 weave poles. In the case of not enough space (or room to pack agility gear) feel free to substitute 6 weaves instead of a full set. Mix up your handling so that you're working the weaves on both sides. There's also lots of opportunity to throw in some rear crosses heading into the weaves and front crosses after the weaves.

Sequence Number One (left): Starting with a deep serpentine. Make sure you are in a position to push the dog out to the #6 jump - which is WAY out there. Then again to support the #9 jump.

Sequence Number Two (right):  On this sequence watch for the incredibly tempting off-course into the weaves after jump #2

Sequence Number Three (left): A couple of mini-threadles between #2-#3 and #9-#10. Another push out from the weaves at #5 and #12.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Product Review: Sirius of Vermont's Ain't No Flies on Me

Well it's that time of year again; on most nights after work, training, teaching and/or hitting the soccer fields for some playtime we're out relaxing by the pool at dusk. The dogs are busy swimming around retrieving their bumpers and I'm either floating around the pool or sitting on the deck throwing the bumpers - one after another. It's that moment (moments) of the day when  my time is my own and I can process my day while somewhat mindlessly (sorry boys) tossing the bumpers over and over again.

The birds are still fluttering around in gathering mode and then suddenly I'm pulled from my reverie by miserable blood-sucking, head-swarming, buzzing, bitey mosquitoes, noseeums and black flies. Uggg!  As this was our first week in the pool this season I have to admit that I wasn't really prepared for the onslaught of the buggers tonight.  I don't like using the heavy duty commercial products like "Off"  - and while I vividly remember my grandfather carrying around a stick of "Cutter" - which smelled awful, but worked better than any commercial product I've found to date. I'm pretty sure that Cutter of the late 1970s and early 1980s was probably made of pure DEET!

I've never been comfortable with commercial mosquito products. Yes, they're effective but I worry about the safety of them. I wash them off as soon as I can - usually to find that I still got bitten in any spots I inadvertently missed with the chemical fogging. It's this constant battle to keep the bugs at bay - more than the annoyance factor there's encephalitis, west nile - not to mention all the nasty things that come along with ticks and chiggers. I'm basically terrified of ticks by the way - just the thought of them makes me shudder!

Last summer I discovered Sirius of Vermont's bug spray - it's pleasant smelling, without all of the chemicals and by golly it really works! Last year I had two bottles of the stuff - one in the car for roadtrips (and I'm nearly always in the same place as my car) and one next to the toy box for the dog's swim toys. So as I'm swatting, grabbing at the air to get the ones around my head, imagine my surprise when faced with that darn swarm of mosquitoes, to lean over and find last year's familiar blue bottle still next to the toy box. Even better to discover that the product was still effective (and still smelled nice) after wintering outside over the brutal Vermont winter..

Within moments of lightly spritzing my arms, legs and my head with "No Flies" the mosquitoes were gone and my slice of peace had once again settled over  my evening. Bliss!

On the dogs it seems to be equally effective - even without uniform coverage over a large surface area. I tend to apply it very lightly down their backs one or two spritzes, another on their bibs, one on their bellies and then apply it to my hands to wipe it gently around their muzzles and ears. The dogs haven't been inclined to lick it - and it's safe and non-toxic if they were so compelled. I just reordered my summer 2010 supply.

From the Sirius Website:

Sirius Aint No Flies On Me for Dogs
Living in Vermont we need a safe and effective repellant for the many wee beasties that sting, suck, and bite.  Our product uses the finest organic catnip as the repellant-far more effective than Deet-and far, far safer.  It smells wonderful.  Good for people too.