Thursday, July 30

9 Dog Park Tips

9 Dog Park Tips from Menagerie Mayhem

1. Offer a ball to the dog park Gods.

Everyone plays with the balls just laying around at the dog park - but what happens when they're all chewed to pieces, completely mucky, or all gone? Tennis balls are super cheap, and if your dog park is free, it's all the more reason to bring a ball with you and leave it behind when you go, so others can enjoy it too!

2. Pick up after your dog.

This should go without saying, but there are always a few folks that forget. Keep an eye on your dog so you can pick up its waste. Generally dogs go potty in the first five minutes, and they'll usually run clear to the other end of the park to go. Always have a bag handy so you can focus on where your dog is - it's very easy to lose sight of the poop! If your dog digs holes, fill them in immediately, as they are not safe for running dogs, or humans.

3. Leave the choke and pinch collars at home.

Aside from the fact that every dog park I know of does not allow these collars on while in the park, they are hazardous to your dog. Many dogs love to grab their canine pal's neck in play, and they could easily injure a pooch wearing a choke collar. Prong collars have the additional danger of flipping outwards and injuring another dog. You're not going to do any training in the dog park, so leave it off your dog(s) and let them go play safely.

4. Bring water and extra bags.

If it's a dog park that has running water and an endless supply of complimentary poop bags, you probably don't have to worry about this. But some dog parks do not have water, and rely on volunteers to bring it in gallon jugs. Likewise, they may have "bag stations" but again, need folks to keep it well stocked. Even if there aren't bag stations, you should always bring a couple extra to help out that one person who inevitably forgot to bring them.

5. Don't bring aggressive or semi-aggressive dogs.

This should be a no-brainer. If your dog is the type that can't play well with others, then the dog park is not the place for him. If you are trying to train your dog to not attack other dogs on sight, the dog park is still not the place for him. Only dogs with good social manners should enter the parks.

6. Don't go inside until your dog's energy is right, and keep him/her away from the entrance once inside.

One of the biggest causes of dog fights at the dog park is new dogs entering the park. Either a dog will come in obviously overstimulated, and go nuts, lunging at all the dogs around it, or a new dog will come in and be immediately overwhelmed by twenty dog noses poking and prodding him before he's even completely in the gate. The solution is simple - if your dog is barking, salivating, lunging towards the entrance, don't go inside. Keep your dog(s) outside the park until it has calmed down sufficiently. Yes, it may cut into your dog park time. But letting a dog inside when it is overexcited will only make its excitement grow each time, until you really wish you had just left your dog at home. Once the dog(s) is inside the park, move away from the entrance/exit and make sure your dog does too.

7. Watch other dogs' body language.

Just because a dog "seems nice" does not mean the dog plays nicely, or has good doggie manners. I have noticed, particularly when playing with my dogs, that other dogs will come over and become fixated on a certain one of my pack. When this happens, I stop throwing the ball, stick, or whatever I'm doing. You don't need to get nervous or ansy, just let your dogs run around a bit instead of throwing stuff, until the dog is obviously no longer fixated, or has wandered away. You can also tell if a dog is going to play too roughly with your pooch by observing its behavior as well. Even though a lot of dogs give clear signals about how rough they want to play, the other dog may not understand or even care. It is just as important to watch the other dogs at the dog park as it is to watch your own.

8. Always be extra observant and careful around water.

If your park has a pond, you need to be even more vigilant of your dog. When water is involved, everything becomes more hazardous - the play, the surfaces. Make sure your dog is not harassing others and being a good dog park pooch. If the area is too slippery for your pet, or your dog is getting unwanted attention from another dog, it is best to just leave the pond area altogether.

9. Have FUN!

The whole point of dog parks is to have a safe, secure area for your dog(s) to run off leash and play with other dogs. Some use the area to play ball, some to throw frisbees, and some just come for their dog to run around and socialize with other dogs. Whatever you choose

Thursday, July 16

Private Agility Lesson

I had a private lesson in dog agility at Kym Jarvis's Anything Goes for Dogs yesterday morning. I was a bit sore from having a horrible stomach problem the day before (possibly an ulcer?) but I sucked it up and learned a lot!

I took both Popper and Merlin, though when I scheduled the lesson I had really intended it for just Popper. I wanted to work on distance, rear crosses, and general handling. I will tell you right now, the biggest problem for me is handling. I have two left feet and my arms just sort of wave all over the place. I am not a coordinated person and I doubt I ever will be.

It was pretty hot, so it worked out very nicely that I brought two dogs so I could trade them off. Merlin is an extremely green dog, having not trialed yet, so I wanted to give him the opportunity to perform in a different setting. At first, he was heavily distracted by everything, and I couldn't hold his attention for very long at all. But towards the end he started behaving more like the awesome agility dog that I KNOW is lurking inside him! Popper also did marvelously; he was not as distracted as Merlin, but it was too hot for him and I spent a lot of time wetting him down and trying to keep his enthusiasm up.

Kym showed me a way to start making Popper deal with rear crosses into tunnels. A horrible thing about having a separation anxiety dog, when you're doing agility, is that they don't want to let you out of their sight. Popper was particularly freaked out with me rear crossing him into a tunnel, and then being on the side he didn't expect me on. He'd go 1/3 of the way in, and pop back out to see where I was. Front crosses were fine - rear crosses were evil. Well, we worked on it, and he's improved 200%! He even seems to really like tunnels now - he started getting "sucked" into them whenever he was walking by one. :)

Overall, it was a great lesson and I'm glad I took it. I feel better prepared for the upcoming Flash Point trial, and I understand what I need to do to correct some issues we've been having.

Monday, July 13

Walking, Walking, Walking!

I've been walking so much the past week or so that my poor feet are blistered and hurty, not to mention my shin splints are screaming bloody murder. I've re-embarked (for the third time) on daily dog walks. This time with a twist - I get up an extra 45 minutes early, so we can get our walk in before the day gets too hot. So far it's worked pretty well - particularly considering that I'm by no means eager to start the day or hop out of my nice, comfortable bed.

I've been trying to take only one dog at a time. Each dog, by itself, is a rather pleasant walking experience. But when I start adding them together... well, that's when the stress comes in and it's no longer enjoyable. There are exceptions. For instance, my two larger dogs walk fairly well together, and the two little boys do decently as well. Not great - but usually tolerable. I try to do at least two miles each morning. And now my fiance has told me he'd like to start walking with me in the evenings as well! So it looks like the dogs will be plenty well exercised without me feeling guilty all the time.

The other day, I took the boys over to the middle school, where there are acres of fields to play in, far away from anyone, and set them free inside a baseball diamond. Normally, Popper is quite good off leash, but Merlin totally schooled him in obedience! Merlin could be 300ft away, I'd call him, and he'd come tearing across the field to me (and get a cookie). Popper just didn't care. In his defense, he is half beagle, and I'm pretty sure all sorts of wildlife crawls over that area. He was tracking the entire time, and a hound on a mission - they tend to have selective hearing to the extreme. I've never encountered such a blatant disregard to my calls before with Popper, and I hope I won't ever again. But it's yet another lesson, I suppose, in owning a hound. Even half a hound.

I need to get new insoles for my sneakers (or new shoes altogether) to walk this much. I'm already feeling the shin splint pain intensify, and I have an agility trial coming up that I would be VERY disappointed if I couldn't do!

Tuesday, July 7

I Can't Find Scruffy

I haven't seen Scruffy since last Thursday. I haven't see her body in the road, so I can only assume she's terrorizing somebody else now. I'm pretty sad, I was intent on catching the little beastie. :(

Not a day goes by that I don't see a dog in my neighborhood, running loose. And 9 times out of 10, it's a dog wearing a collar but NO TAGS! What's the point? In this county, it is illegal to have a dog that's not wearing a dog license. Besides that, how am I supposed to return your dog to you? It's all well and good if you have your pet microchipped, but think about it - most pet owners don't have a scanner to detect them. I certainly don't. Put your phone number at the very least on a dog tag, so I can call you to let you know I've got your pooch safe and sound in my backyard.

Merlin's being amazing with our agility training. So far, he's doing *some* work in the backyard. He'll do weave poles, and he'll teeter, and he'll do a jump or two. It's a HUGE improvement from where we were a few weeks ago, when he refused to do anything but the teeter. We even made it through a very boomy fourth of July weekend. He's doing straight-up weave poles consistently, without any problems. I started adding a jump before the poles, since that's a problem I STILL have with Popper, and he's doing marvelously. Now, how he'll perform in class is another issue entirely....

Wednesday, July 1

New Flu Vaccination for Dogs

Apparently, there's a doggie flu going around, and it kills about 5% of the dogs it infects. The dogs most at risk are the brachycephalic breeds, like pugs, pekingese, and anything else with a mashed up nose.

There's now a vaccination for it!

Read more at the New York Times.

Scruffy has a friend

Every morning on the way to work, my SO sees Scruffy playing with a yellow lab that's let into their front yard early in the day. He's spotted him three days in a row, and that's about where I look for the dog every day.

Today I packed up my leather gloves, a noose leash, and some stinky bologna. I hunted all over the neighborhood in all his usual haunts - no Scruffy. It's pretty dark out and going to rain, I can only assume he's bunkered down somewhere waiting it out. So I came home empty-handed and a little bit wet, but I did get a nice walk in before I even started work. I imagine I made my neighbors nervous, walking around wearing work gloves, carrying rope, and anxious scanning every house I passed, LOL!

Tomorrow I'm going to get up and leave the house at the same time the SO does, to see if I can catch Scruffy while he's playing with the yellow lab. And of course, I'll do my afternoon scan of the neighborhood to see if I can spot him. I'm thinking of using the corgi as bait, because Scruffy loves to come tearing out of wherever to bark at passing dogs.