Get a weather eye out for fleas and ticks! Most of the United States had a mild (temperature wise) winter, which means the nasty little parasites didn’t have as much of a die-off as could be hoped. As warmer weather comes back, so will they, and they’ll latch on to your furry friend like… well… ticks. I recommend carrying a tick puller on your keychain, in addition to keeping your dog’s flea and tick medicines up to date (don’t forget, these dog medicines are often toxic to cats – ask your vet what will work best for you and your dog). I check over my dogs every time they come in from field and forest romping – I hate parasites so much! Does anyone have any tried-and-true methods for keeping their dogs vermin free?
Wow! What a good dog! This made me smile today, and I wanted to share the smile with all of you.
Once in a great while, there’s an opportunity for a weekend with nothing planned. I enjoy it for the first, oh… six hours? then I want to have some fun! The most fun I’ve discovered with my dogs (for quiet, stay-at-home weekends with a foot or so of snow on the ground, after a walk) is IQ games! Nova especially adores these – she starts barking when I go to the closet where they’re stored! I get the treats out, and a good time is had by all, and the dogs aren’t bored. After playtime and walk, it’s naptime and a movie.
I also love to bring them out when company comes over – I amused a young visitor for nearly a half an hour by giving them a cup of Nova’s dinner and letting them put the puzzle together for her!
If your dog has an issue running a course – maybe they swing out away from the tunnel, or jump contacts, or don’t wrap their jump tightly enough – take a few minutes to consider the possible causes of these effects. Are your signals too strong? Or maybe you’re not being clear enough. Think of ways you can improve your dog’s performance, based on these observations.
Dogs, like children, crave structure. I’m not talking about becoming your dog’s pack, or even controlling every aspect of your dog’s lives (though both these methods do work for some people and some dogs!). I’m talking about agility. Yes, agility is about fun and running really fast and seeing how well you and your dog work together, but in order to achieve that level, you need structure.
How can you develop structure for agility?
- Be consistent: ask your dog for the performance you want, and keep working with them until you get it. Reward it! Consistently ask for the same performance of the same obstacle. If one day you’ll accept one toe into contacts when previously you wanted a two on two off, your dog will continue to push at their boundaries, and consistency will be lost.
- Be clear: This goes along with consistency. We all do this one! I know I certainly do! I am running with my hand out, pointing where my dog is to go – and my other arm is out like an airplane wing! How is my dog to choose? That’s only one example of how your signals can be unclear – there are more!
- Be concise: most dogs, like most children, have short attention spans. (I know they can spend hours digging, but think about how constantly rewarding that is for them – it’s constantly regaining their attention!) Work within that span and keep practice intense and rewarding both physically (treats) and emotionally (praise and petting).
By structuring your agility practice, you’re setting yourself up for success in your relationship with your dog. You will enjoy it more, because they will be more responsive to you, and they will love knowing exactly how to please you and earn their rewards!