Monday, February 23, 2015

Harper's Ferry Winter Hike

This weekend we had a big snow on Saturday, so big that we couldn't really go anywhere in the car. So it was an afternoon to suit up in the jackets and go for a walk in the neighborhood. Fozzie feels about sledders and skiers about the same way he feels about skateboarders, so I decided to put his head halter on to manage him a bit better. 

Which meant that he got the implacable urge to rub his head against something to scratch the head halter itch, which meant that he became a snowplow. 

The good thing was, he couldn't get too demonstrative even when Florian himself took off on the sled, 

which I think upset him even more than watching a stranger move in such an unusual way.

Sunday dawned clear and warmer, a perfect day to go enjoy the snow on some trail a bit farther from home. We ended up at Harper's Ferry, one of my favorite places. 

A very scenic, historic town with beautiful architecture, nestled in the crook at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. 

A bunch of trails converge on Harper's Ferry, 

including the Appalachian Trail, the Maryland Heights Trail--where we went years ago with Fozzie, Lamar, and Sandy--and the C&O Canal Towpath, which you can follow all the way down to Georgetown, DC or up all the way to Pittsburgh.

We crossed a bridge to C & O Canal Trail, for a nice flat hike that would be easier in the snow. 

It was so bright and sunny, and such a relief after the ghastly weather we've been having to enjoy the relative warmth.

The dogs were in high spirits, especially Fozzie who loves the snow and who despite his short pittie fur does not seem very sensitive to the cold. 

There was still a fair amount of snow on the ground and even though it was flat and we weren't out that long, the pups got nice and tired.

I am so grateful to live in a place where dramatic natural beauty is so accessible! And to have canine and human family members who enjoy being out in it as much as I do. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Smart Chips Peanut Butter Chews

Did you know that February is Dental Health Awareness Month? 

I sure didn't, until let me know and offered some dental treats to celebrate. 

We chose Smart Chips Peanut Butter Chews by Smart Bones. 

Since we've been working a lot with freeze-dried treats, which are super high-value and go down quickly, I wondered what it would be like to use a treat that takes longer to chew to work on something challenging like nail clipping. 

Apparently these treats smelled really good, and the dogs were eager to try them. I broke up one chew into smaller pieces and gave those out just in exchange for the dogs looking at the nail clippers. They took these chews off to their respective spots, and it took them a while to get through them. 

That's the good thing about these chews. Like rawhides, they take a while to chew, but unlike rawhides they are 99.2% digestible and made from ingredients like chicken and vegetables. 

So if you like to give your dogs a long-lasting chew, but worry about intestinal blockages, worry no more. 

We got to where the dogs could enjoy the chew with the clippers touching their paws.

I was hoping that with a longer-lasting chew, the dogs would be able to just relax and enjoy the chew while I trimmed their nails, and be so engrossed in that peanut-buttery goodness that they wouldn't even notice that the Grooming Tool of Death was doing unspeakable things to their little footies. 

But I'm afraid it will take some more work. Dahlia made it pretty clear that she's not ready to get close to those things for long. 

So we'll just take our time, and slowly build associations between those ghastly clippers and really, really high-value treats.

And we know where we can always get those! 

Thanks for all your help with making grooming less scary.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dogs on Ice

I have to say, around this time of the winter I start longing for spring flowers, warm breezes, and swimming holes. But the frigid temperatures are no excuse to stay inside, and this season has its joy and beauty if only you seek it out. 

One of those joys is bringing the dogs for a hike along an icy stream, like the Difficult Run trail near Great Falls, 

throwing a stick onto the ice-covered waterway to get both dogs out there,

and watching the fun as they stop short, thinking that stick is right THERE, within their grasp,

and then proceed to slide all over the place,

paws going every which way.

Is it wrong that I find that so enjoyable?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Northwest Naturals Freeze-Dried Dog Treats--An Amazing Tool for Trick Training and Grooming Desensitization!

Recently, Natural Pet Warehouse contacted me and asked if I'd do a product review on some Northwest Naturals Freeze-Dried dog treats

Although Dahlia's evening wackies have abated somewhat, she still has her moments and I love having some high-value treats around to motivate and inspire them to channel that energy into something productive. 

And besides, who can say no to freeze-dried treats?

Brandon with Natural Pet Warehouse generously sent us both the salmon and the chicken liver freeze dried treats. Made from just a single ingredient, these treats are the simplest thing possible.  And dogs just go nuts for them. 

Just whip them out and suddenly everyone is at attention

and offering behaviors all over the place. 

Jumping up on exercise balls, lunging into a simul-down, 

rolling over with abandon, and 
joyfully, simultaneously offering a shake, since when there's a freeze-dried treat to be had there's no time to wait for the other dog to finish with the paw behavior first--gotta get that treat now

I know my dogs have pretty good lives, but sometimes I worry a bit about Fozzie. He's such an anxious dog, and despite all the fun we have together I wonder sometimes if he's overall that happy. 

Times like this, after a session involving freeze dried treats and fun tricks, I'm pretty sure he's happy. 

High-value freeze-dried treats also come in handy when you have a client dog who's not too sure about grooming. 

Kona is a sweet dog who's come a long way since his people first rescued him, when they couldn't even touch him with a brush without him snapping at them.

He still snarls and snarks a bit when he's approached with a tool, but we spent our first few minutes together just showing him the brush, then giving a freeze-dried treat.  

After an interval of this, Kona was much more relaxed

and I was able to brush him pretty much all over.

We were sitting on the porch and just enjoying a rare warm and sunny day, and went slowly and took breaks along the way

This is really my favorite kind of grooming job. Working with a dog who's worried about it, and really taking time to desensitize and change his mind about the whole thing by making it positive--with some really extraordinary treats!

I think Kona's really starting to change his mind about grooming. His parents have done a great job with desensitizing him to touch, handling, and brushing, and I love being a part of his process too!