Monday, 29 March 2010

flyball at the Ferntree Gully pet expo

As I said in the previous post, Penny demonstrated flyball at Ferntree Gully yesterday.

She ran well, despite the crowds watching and the excitement of smells and sounds from a variety of animals sharing the day with dogs.

The other animals had a chance to show they too can perform tricks. Here they are lining up for the egg-and-spoon race with their humans.

And another heat...

The sheep and its owner lost their heat and had to watch from the sidelines.

Penny ran clean runs, but she's not competitive. As you can see from her stance here, she's willing, but she's certainly not raring to go.

She would speed down to get the ball - her favorite thing - but not rush herself when coming back to me.

Until I had the brilliant idea of showing her one of the absolutely delicious biscuits we'd bought from a stall called BJ's Organics. She raced back at top speed for the delicious biscuit. I like to reward her with organically produced treat if possible, so this product was a great find on the day.

Penny goes to a pet expo in Ferntree Gully

Yesterday was a fun day. Penny joined a group of dogs from a cross-section of Melbourne flyball clubs to demonstrate the sport to the public at the Ferntree Gully Pet Expo.

While Penny was resting in her crate, I went for a stroll around and watched a demonstration of gentle horse-training techniques by Wrangler Jayne.

Since I've learned about gentle, reward-based training of dogs I've wondered how it applies to other animals, and at last I had the opportunity to see it in action. Wrangler Jayne's horse was exquisitely beautiful, standing free and unafraid in a small enclosure right next to our dogs, unfazed by the people standing around and admiring him.

As she rode him around the area, guiding him with gentle pats and the movement of a long stick, his ears were pricked and you could see he was attending to her with interest and with confidence in her and in himself.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

avoiding guilt about our care of our dogs

Sometimes I think I must be silly to get involved in so many dog activities. Over the last few years Penny and I have done flyball, lure coursing, tracking, agility, tricks, canine freestyle, swimming, and probably best of all, walking together.

I buy her Nina Ottosson toys where she has to figure out how to get her dinner out of the puzzle.

I make puzzles and toys.

I try to challenge her thinking whenever possible. (Yes, dogs do think!)

When is enough enough? As Patricia McConnell asks on her blog, The Other End of the Leash, where do we draw the line on activities designed to keep our dogs interested and happy?

I don't know the answer. I only know I love seeing Penny's eyes sparkle and her tail wag.

I'm a great believer in choice and could never come at the idea that an obedient dog, one that leaps to obey without thought, is the ideal dog. Penny chooses to obey (sometimes after thinking about it longer than I like, actually), rather than acting on a conditioned response. Which, by the way, makes me think of the funny video clip on Noah's blog today.

So I loved reading what Patricia McConnell wrote about the value of choice on brain development.
One the books I’ve been reading on brain plasticity mentioned increased dendritic branching (connections between neurons) when caged rats were allowed to voluntarily exercise. That’s a good thing for the brain, and can lead to all kinds of positive benefits, not only enhanced mental function but also to a better ability to handle stress, for example. But here’s the kicker: there was no effect when the rats were forced against their wheel to exercise, even if it was for the same amount of time. Forced exercise may be good for physiological health, but not necessarily for a healthy brain.
It's a great post, and I suggest you might like to go over there and read it.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

killing dogs to force change on indigenous communities

Dog Blog has a post about a Canadian Inuit commission examining claims by Nunavut Inuit that RCMP officers killed thousands of sled dogs from the 1950s to the 1980s. It says:
Inuit have long alleged that police killed a total of about 20,000 sled dogs from 1950 to 1980 in Nunavut, the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, and the Nunatsiavut region of Labrador.

As a result of losing their dogs, Inuit say their livelihoods were dramatically affected. Many have accused governments of forcing families to move from their traditional settlements into western-style communities.

I recently posted about claims that there may have been a deliberate campaign in Australia to kill domesticated dingoes so as to deprive indigenous people of their valuable help in hunting, and thus force the people to abandon their nomadic life and agree to live in government camps.

The history of dogs and humans is complex and interesting. I believe our relationship with them is deeper and more significant than that of any other animal. (Though the horse changed human history in massive ways, of course.)

a sticky situation for a dog

Penny brought a lovely stick up from Darebin Parklands the other evening.

But it made passing through the baby gates rather difficult.

Perhaps if she were to hold it towards one end...

Nope, that didn't seem to be working...

Oh, forget it...

She decided to keep the stick in the kitchen for later chewing.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

dog-walking in Darebin Parklands at sunset

As I said in my previous post, tonight we took Penny for an evening walk to Darebin Parklands. It was a warm day. It was also a smoky one. I think there must be lots of burning-off going on around Melbourne, in preparation for next year's bushfire season. Thank goodness this summer was virtually free of bushfires!

It's great that the authorities are preparing early for next summer. Of course, there's only a small window of opportunity to burn off, as it needs to be still, cool and dry. Once winter sets in it might be too wet.

As we walked with Penny along the clifftop above Darebin Parklands, the sunset was lovely, an effect of the smoky air. The city skyline was a blur on the horizon

and the sun set through a red haze.

As we went down the hill into the parklands, the sun set.

how lovely is the evening in Darebin Parklands

This morning Penny stayed at home while I went down to help with maintenance of the exquisite little gem that is the Hidden Valley in Darebin Parklands. Penny doesn't go there often, as it is in the on-lead area and I can't see the point in making her walk on lead when there are lovely areas on the other side of the creek where she can run free.

We worked with one of the rangers, who showed us how to weed by hand around the indigenous plants. She explained that we don't need to hand weed everywhere, because she can use specific sprays to target broadleaved weeds near grasses.

This evening, we went with Penny to the on-lead side of the creek to look at the grasses and lomandra that we planted in August of 2008. The broad-leaved spray has been used there. Here's a picture from my blog post at the time of the baby plants.

And look at them now!

Here's a shot of the effect of the broad-leaved weedkiller. The weed has died but the lovely grasses are unaffected.

Isn't it a beautiful spot? The next photo's blurry because it was after sunset and taken on a long exposure. Of course, a human and a dog having fun are never still enough for the photographer...

Monday, 22 March 2010

does tapestry weaving benefit from a dog's assistance?

Penny's been busy helping one of her humans with tapestry weaving recently. She thinks it's going quite well but she can't understand why humans spend so much time on something that can't be eaten.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Penny goes to a fun activities class

After attending classes for five years in Lilydale with Cindy, as part of K9 Kompany, and loving every minute, I was disappointed when that company closed down. But, at last, Cindy has set up her own classes!

Last Tuesday we arrived at the new location. It is just near the old place, but in the open and on grass, under lights. And Cindy had organised lovely new equipment. I could only get a few photos, because it was under artificial lighting and the flash on my little digital camera didn't reach far.

I took some video clips with the little digital camera because I was so thrilled about the sessions beginning, but it was nighttime and the camera didn't really cope with the artificial light.

Here is one clip, dark and blurry, but I'd love to share my excitement, so please forgive me for the terrible standard of videos.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Sunset magic in Darebin Parklands

We headed down to our favorite place, Darebin Parklands, this evening, to see how the plants have responded to the welcome rains we've had over the last week.

First a few stretches to loosen the muscles:

Then a bit of ball chasing in the magic of the sunset:

Next, a surprise! A lovely new seat where the humans could rest after the strenuous business of standing around while Penny chased a ball:

And a swim in the clay-streaked water of the creek for Penny:

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

here we are again, dog and human trying to dance together

Excited about the imminent arrival of Richard Curtis in Australia, - well, next April feels pretty imminent - Penny and I have re-enrolled in canine freestyle lessons with Sue Cordwell of Melbourne Canine Freestyle.

For our homework we were set the task of putting together eight different moves, not including forward heeling. Here's our first try at recording our attempt. It went pear-shaped fairly quickly, lol, due to the clumsiness of the human part of the team.

Here's our second try. Penny's attentive and interested. The human looks a bit like a lumbering rhinoceros, but I guess if I'm going to persevere with this hobby - that Penny loves - I'll just have to stop being self-conscious and try to relax a bit.

It's great fun!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

dingoes as pets in the Western Desert in the sixties

I've just watched a fascinating documentary - Contact - about a group of nomadic women and children who lived in the Western Desert in Australia in the 1960s and had never seen white people.

When this section of desert was chosen as the possible landing point of rockets in 1964, government officers contacted the nomads to convince them to move away from the area.

The film is mostly narrated by Yuwali, a 62-year-old gifted storyteller. She was 17 when the officials arrived in trucks she thought were rocks come alive. It's amazing to see the film that was shot at the time, but what struck me as a dog-owner was Yuwali's sadness when she viewed footage of her pet dingo, which she was forced to leave behind in the desert when she was taken with her family to live elsewhere.

It was sad to see the dingo following the truck as long as it could and then fading into the desert. At the time Yuwali begged to be allowed to take her pet with her, but this was refused.

We tend to think of dingoes as wild animals, but a transcript of The Science Show reports the work of Laurie Corbett, who has studied the history of the dingo and related it to the dogs of Asia. He believes the dingo came to Australia as a domesticated dog and points to its role as a companion animal for Aboriginal people in the past.

Dr. Eve Fesl, indigenous academic, suggests that in some areas there was a deliberate campaign to kill domesticated dingoes so as to deprive indigenous people of their valuable help in hunting, and thus force the people to abandon their nomadic life and agree to live in government camps.

The transcript of the show makes very interesting reading for anyone interested in the history of the dog.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

overflow from dog baths can damage our gardens

I've been shampooing Penny with Malaseb recently, in a successful attempt to resolve the problem of her licking her paws.

Now, because of the drought - or is it permanent climate change? - we run most of our grey water onto the garden. I began to wonder whether a product that is promoted as an antifungal with potent activity against fungi and yeast might be bad for the garden, so I rang the company and receivedthe answer that it was not good to run this greywater onto a garden. If I understood the reply correctly, it was because some of the constituents in it might last a long time in the soil.

Here's are photos of two ivy geraniums in our garden - both plants are in basically the same position regarding shade, sunlight, soil composition, etc. They are about two metres apart. (I pruned them massively recently.)

Here's the first one, that does NOT get the run-off from the dog bathing.

Here's the one that DOES get the run-off from Malaseb.

Monday, 1 March 2010

More about dogs walking on scary surfaces

As I said in my previous post, Penny seems wary when we walk along the O'Shannassy Aqueduct Trail near Warburton.

Another, new issue is the entrance to the walk. There's a lovely new gravelled carpark and entrance to the walk, where previously it was an unbotrusive gate on a hilside. And the entrance crosses an open metal grate that scared Penny at first. She made her way carefully over it when we arrived, her eagerness to start walking overcoming her timidity.

But when we returned, she remembered that it had been no fun crossing it, and sat down to think about it.

We didn't rush her and after a couple of minutes she headed across, but her tail position gives a pretty good idea of the fact that she was concentrating hard on not putting her paws between the thin metal rails.

Thanks, Berni, for all the lovely photos in this post and in the previous one! If anyone would like to see more of Berni's photography, or perhaps obtain copies of some, here is her RebdBubble website.

dog walking on the O'Shannassy Aqueduct Trail

Yesterday Penny walked along the lovely O'Shannassy Aqueduct Trail above Warburton. As it says on the Upper Yarra Valley website,
Nestled above the floor of the Upper Yarra Valley, O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail follows the historic open channelled O’Shannassy Aqueduct, meandering through pristine forest which has been protected for nearly 100 years for water harvesting. The trail, stretching 30km in its entirety, passes mature fern gullies, creeks and plantations and offers spectacular views of the valley below.
Needless to say, we didn't walk 30 kilometres. It's a flat, easy walk, because it runs alongside an open channel that presumably had to slope only slightly so it could deliver water to Melbourne in the past.

We've decided the best thing to do next time is to park a car at two access points so we don't have to retrace our steps.

It's an on-lead walk, unfortunately, but we took Penny off-lead so we could take this shot of what the walk looks like.

I've done a lot of travelling in my time, but I have to say this walk, right on my doorstep, is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.

One thing that puzzles me, however, is that Penny will often be quite reluctant to walk along this trail. She lags behind until I turn back and then leads the way to the car, jumping in readily to head down the mountain. I've speculated that there is something scary about the surface she's walking on, though to the human eye it seems okay. I've wondered sometimes whether this is a land-slip area and Penny feels vibrations I'm not aware of. The landslip report says
Landslips are a fact of life in the Shire of Yarra Ranges and have occurred for thousands of years.

The types of landslips that occur in the Shire included falling boulders, debris flows, slow long term earth movements, small landslips up to the size of a residential block and large landslips involving whole hillsides. Some landslips move relatively frequently whereas others have not moved for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
Let's hope the ground stays steady underfoot for at least the next century!