Sunday, 31 May 2009

walking in a dog-friendly park

Penny loves walking in Yarra Bend Park. We had been there before, with our friend Jabari, but usually confined ourselves to the ovals, because we weren't sure of the rules for off-lead walking.

Recently we've discovered other areas and we've heard of a plan to make this park even more dog-friendly. Already it's wonderful, because there are large areas where you can walk a circuit with the dog off-lead, and plenty of places to go on-lead. There are open grassed areas to throw a ball around, and the openness of many parts means that it should be possible to spot snakes in summer before we disturb them.

The rules are spelled out clearly - in many places you only need to stay away from asphalted paths. How wonderful! We can walk on gravel paths without feeling like second-class citizens because we're accompanied by a dog.

So far we've found cyclists to be polite, dinging their bells to let us know they're coming up behind, when we're on-lead and on the bike paths.

Best of all, there's a dog-friendly cafe right there where we park, in the Fairfield campus of the NMIT TAFE College. And, if we go the other way, there's the lovely old surroundings of the Studley Park Boathouse Cafe, where we can enjoy a meal also.

There's a meeting in couple of weeks to discuss the proposed plan to improve the park, so I'm intending to go.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

playing with toys that enhance dog intelligence

Penny played with her Nina Ottosson dog toys tonight. Walks have been shorter than usual lately, for no special reason except that we've been low on energy, so I thought meal time could be extended for some doggy mental stimulation.

I was pleased to hear from Johann The Dog that these toys will soon be available in Australia from VCA World. I wish they were bringing in the wooden ones, but they will only import the plastic ones. However I don't see anything on their site yet.

I've always been interested in activities designed to enhance intelligence in dogs, as I've posted about time and again.

We used the Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado. This game has levels of difficulty, so first we tried it with the simple task to turn the bone and find the treats.

Then we tried it with two plastic 'bones' inserted in the lower levels, which makes the game much harder and requires a lot of persistence by the doggy player. (Penny is very persistent!) She became frustrated because her teeth couldn't get a grip on the slippery 'bones' - I think this is a drawback to the game. So I attached some string to the bones and she was immediately successful. (It's easy to slip a piece of string through the holes in the top of the bones and knot it so it doesn't slip out.)

Saturday, 23 May 2009

food motivation for dog training

Penny always checks out any bags I bring into the house - I think she reckons I'm a wonderful hunter-gatherer, because I so often come in with dog-friendly goodies. Today she was especially interested in the big bag of dog biscuits I had bought at Murphy Brothers in Hawthorn. They were in a sealed plastic bag, but that didn't seem to interfere with the wonderful smell.

When I took a biscuit out, Penny began offering all sorts of behaviours in an attempt to coax me into giving it to her.

It's not like her to be so quick in her behaviours, so we couldn't resist making a short video clip. First she stood up on her hind legs and then she tried some backing, but when I didn't react she figured out she should wait for a hand signal.

I've never seen her so quick! These biscuits must taste wonderful.

Monday, 18 May 2009

doggy dancing in Melbourne

Penny has passed level three of canine freestyle! As I posted when we passed level two, Penny is somewhat (actually, heaps) better at it than I am, but that's okay, because it's all about having fun together.

Last night we set off to Melbourne Canine Freestyle, in Dandenong, in a borrowed car that doesn't smell of petrol fumes, and Penny hopped quite happily into the car.

We had lots of fun, as usual, because the atmosphere is relaxed and non-competitive, and during the session Sue, the teacher, filmed each of us. I hadn't prepared a routine, so the movements were a bit repetitive, but I was pleased at how well Penny did the reverse heeling. Here we are:

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Penny proves she's a guard dog

On Friday evening, as we were sitting quietly at dinner, Penny leapt to her feet and shot out the back through the doggy door. Magnificently loud and ferocious barking echoed back into the house and I raced out to see what was going on.

What I think was happening was that a guy from next door had come over our side fence (or maybe he was up on the fence), looking for a kitten (or maybe a black cat) - are you getting the idea that it was all uproar and confusion in the dark? - and Penny was defending the property (or maybe trying to kill/ play with the cat/kitten or whatever).

Eventually the guy announced, 'We're sorted, sorry...sorry,' and disappeared with the cat/kitten or whatever.

In case I sound extremely naive about all this, I do think it was actually a neighbour looking for a kitten, because I think I heard 'puss, puss, puss' before all the uproar started.

Penny was a magnificent guard dog!

Friday, 15 May 2009

when a dog's sense of smell is telling us something

Penny has been refusing to get into the car for the last few months. I've tried giving her treats, urging her into the car, getting in before her and having someone bring her to the car - all to no avail. She just doesn't like the car any more.

I've had lots of suggestions as to what the problem might be - she suddenly hates the car harness; the beeps from the overhead gantries on the tollway are hurting her ears: too many long trips; you name it, we've thought of everything.

But have we? What about her sense of smell?

I took the car to the auto mechanic today to complain about the petrol smell in the interior and he said, 'Well, just don't light up a cigarette while you're driving.'

I said, 'Why not?'

'Because the car will probably explode.'

Wow!! the car's sitting up there so he can fix the leak in the petrol tank.

I wonder if Penny will be happier to travel in it in the future?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

making provision for our pets when we die

The terrible effects of the Victorian bushfires, on humans and animals, prompted some anxious discussion in our household about what would happen to Penny in the event of our deaths.

I was relieved to hear from Cindy, at K9 Training, that Coldstream Animal Aid has a program through which people can will their pets to the shelter in the knowledge that the pet will always be owned by the shelter and looked after by a foster carer for its entire life. The shelter will visit each half-year to make sure the pet is happy and well-cared for. It's arranged through a bequest.

I read in The Age today that Lort Smith Animal Hospital has a similar scheme.

The article features an 86-year-old woman who wants to make sure her lifetime companion, Michael the cockatoo, is well looked after if he outlives her - which seems likely, seeing these birds can live more than a hundred years. (And I mustn't let myself think of the agony of any of these long-lived birds trapped in a tiny cage for an eternity.) Michael was to go to the Gumbuya Sanctuary, but he is too domesticated for that, so one of the sanctuary workers has guaranteed Michael a home. They are organising this through the Lort Smith scheme, which is called "Heart and Home".

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

skateboarding dog

Penny has been inspired by this ad we saw posted on It's a Dog's World. The skateboarding dog looks great.

Our last inspiration came from a dog skateboarding down a set of steps, as I wrote about in December 2007.

Since then we've practised it a bit, but it hasn't been top of the agenda.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

meatloaf recipe for dogs

I've cooked the first recipe from the beautiful nibble munch chomp pet-feeding book I bought recently. It's published by Jojo Publishing, a local company I hadn't heard of previously.

This is a beautiful book, with gorgeous photos that make it a pleasure to look at as well as to use.

Here's our first product, raw and then cooked.

Now, here's the thing...
I reckon it must taste wonderful, because in an instant Penny learned a trick we've been working on for ages with less tasty treats - the reverse heel position.

I held a little portion of meatloaf in my hand and lured Penny to a position beside my right hip, and stepped back. It was as if she were glued to my side!

Almost immediately I faded the lure (I didn't actually hold food in that hand), but seeing it's a newly learned behaviour, I did still reward her. The command is 'hip' for heeling beside my right hip. We'll be moving onto 'hop' for the left hip, when this behaviour is established.

Apologies for the terrible quality of the video clip. I was too impatient to wait for daylight - I wanted to film it tonight.

Friday, 1 May 2009

dogs deserve heaven too.

I read this joke today in About Seniors.

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead.
He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.
After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.

When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as He got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.
When he was close enough, he called out, ‘Excuse me, where are we?’
‘This is Heaven, sir,’ the man answered.
‘Wow! Would you happen to have some water?’ the man asked.
‘Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.’
The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

‘Can my friend,’ gesturing toward his dog, ‘come in, too?’ the traveller asked.
‘I’m sorry; sir, but we don’t accept pets.’
The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence.
As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.
‘Excuse me!’ he called to the man. ‘Do you have any water?’
‘Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in.’
‘How about my friend here?’ the traveller gestured to the dog.
‘There should be a bowl by the pump.’

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.
The traveller filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, and then he gave some to the dog.
When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.

‘What do you call this place?’ the traveller asked.
‘This is Heaven,’ he answered.

‘Well, that’s confusing,’ the traveller said. ‘The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.’
‘Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s hell.’
‘Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?’

‘No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.’