Saturday, June 19, 2010

Things we like: Trial stuff and Gear

A golden friend (getting ready for her first trial) asked me about trial gear. What should she get in preparation to trial - what things did I wish I had known and planned for. What an excellent topic! And timely too as we're smack in the middle of summer and when we're out training and trialing we've got to keep our dogs cool, comfortable and SAFE.

First and foremost - silver mesh shade cloths. In the time between April and November I don't go anywhere without them. With a bit of planning, proper packing and thought it is possible to keep dogs safe in their crates inside a car - even on a hot summer day. In order to do so, all windows (and tailgate) need to be open and the entire car covered with reflective silver mesh including the front window (which can be done with a non-breathable reflective tarp instead). Wind and air curculation can pass through the weave, but sun is reflected. These cloths can tear so storage and application need to be cautious. I've secured them a few different ways but have found that it's easiest to open all four doors of my truck (SUV), position the mesh and then close the doors over the cloth.

This allows me to close the windows and run the AC (if I need to) without having to remove the cloth. This method also keeps the cloth in place - even in heavy winds.  I use a second cloth to tent around the tailgate hatch and the dogs, this one secured to the other tarp and closed in the back with alligator clips. Because this mesh has a tendency to snag I have a giant L.L.Bean tote that holds my two 10'x12' mesh shade cloths when they aren't in use...Check out what my setup looks like for most trials - taken this weekend. The ambient temperature was about 85 degrees, moderate humidity - I closed up the car (windows and hatch) and ran the AC a few times to recharge the cool, but both boys were comfortable all weekend - even when the inside of the building was steamy.
Depending on the application and your vehicle specs, have plenty of alligator clips, bungees, and ball bungees - all easy to store and handy to have around. I've found that Pet Edge has the best pricing on shade cloths, though sometimes horse.com runs specials for first time purchasing - and yes, the same product is cheaper from horse.com than dog.com even though they are the same company and share a shopping cart.

Cool Coats: Some of the shorthaired dogs can get some relief from the heat with a cold water rinse - with a breed like goldens however, a soaking rinse might help initially, but as their body warms the water trapped in their coats it can actually make them hotter. Dogs don't sweat on their bodies, only on their feet. However, we can leverage technology to help dogstake advantage of evaporative cooling. These cool coats from Saratoga Horseworks are gems - exactly for that purpose. When they are bone dry they reflect the sun off the backs of our dogs - slide your hand under the coat and the surface of the dog's coat is considerably cooler - the effect is more so for darker dogs. My habit on hot days is to soak the coat in cold (ice) water to get the dog to the ring, we take the coat off to run and then back on to walk back to the car or tent. Some folks carry spray bottles of water and rubbing alcohol and spritz the coats when they put them back on their dogs after a run. When we get back to the car I re-wet/recharge the coat and put a fan on (over) the dog - the evaporation will cool the dogs. You've got to watch the cooling though - it is possible for dogs to get too cold.

GlycoCharge: Does it really help the dogs recover from activity? I don't really think so. Does it help water go down? Yeah. Is it hard sometimes to keep a dog hydrated on the road? With my guys it is. So if it helps keep them hydrated to my satisfaction, than it's worth it. Basically liver flavored water. Yummmm. In a pinch chicken bullion serves the same purpose (or baby food, or over-hydrating their Honest Kitchen, or a bit of Iams gravy topper in a bunch of water, or....).

Tents: I used to pack and setup a tent at every trial. I have a couple of ex-ups (neither are easy to assemble solo) and also a screen house from Mighty-Mite dog gear. I loved this tent - I still do. I was never quite able to set it up by myself - it's way easier with a second person. It's incredibly stable in the wind (when properly secured) and it's comfortable to spend time in - rain, hail, wind, sun or snow flurries (yep - been there done that). When one of the legs broke I emailed both the manufacturer (Pinnacle) and Mighty Mites and bot parties responded right away - Pinnacle sent me a replacement joint and Mighty Mites sent me an entire replacement leg (how cool is that). Wicked good customer service and a good product - hard to beat that. I haven't used it this year though as I'm mostly sticking to indoor trials where I work out of the car or I have my dogs in the building with me. When I do work out of a tent ringside those same mesh tarps are applied to the tent.

Synthetic Chamois: Used mostly to wash cars, these chamois (available at every walmart) are handy to dry dogs off at the motels - but when dipped in cold water help cool the dogs off (over their backs or laying on them). Breed handlers use these on the ground and have their charges stand on them - keeps their feet cool which helps keep the dogs cooler - a cooler dog on a hot day usually shows better than a hot dog on a hot day....

There's more of course - but that's the important stuff for now!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

This is Rena the owner of Mighty Mite Dog Gear. So glad you like your tent. Just wanted to clarify -the manufacturer of our tents is actually MMI-Fed - Leisurelife.

Thank you for the wonderful write-up on our product.