Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Agility Training 101- Weave Poles

If your dog has mastered the jump and the tunnel, you may be looking for a little more of a challenge.  Or perhaps you are just looking to make your dog’s agility routine a little better-rounded.  Whatever the reason, weave poles are a great physical and mental stimulus but they can also be rather difficult to master.  Cynthia Vasques from Anaheim knows first-hand that not all dogs will follow you (or a treat for that matter) in and out of strange poles sticking out of the ground. 
“Max, my 2 year old Boxer, would not have anything to do with the weave poles in our agility course.  He would just stare at me like ‘what are you doing?’ and I would be getting all the exercise to weaving in and out of those poles.” Cynthia decided to try recreating the weave poles at home to see if she could get Max to weave.  “Training your dog to weave in and out of poles can be a little trickier without specific equipment.  My husband had some old wooden stakes in the garage that I used in a dirt area in our yard.” Creativity knows no limits, and as Cynthia did, you can use household items yourself.  You can easily make the poles out of PVC, wooden stakes, or even just marker flags.  Simply stick your pole into the ground outside.  If you don’t have a yard or area that you can stick poles into, you can always attach your poles to a flat plank of wood that is strong enough to support whatever poles you are using. 
Cynthia continues, “The poles were not working how they were set up in class, so my agility course trainer gave me some great starter tips to try with Max at home.”
·         Start with two separate rows of poles, with the poles about 1½ - 2 feet apart from each other.  Place the two rows parallel to each other with enough room in between them to walk through.  Now encourage your dog to walk straight through the two rows with you.  No weaving yet, just walking straight.
·         As your dog becomes more familiar with the walk through the poles, start bringing the poles closer together.  
·         As you pull the poles together, window the poles, giving enough distance to create a loose weave.  Have your dog follow you (or the treats) through the loose weave.
·         As your dog gets better, tighten the weave.  Once your dog has mastered the weave you can combine your two rows into one long row and have your dog just weave through that on his own.
It took a little time and a lot of patience, but Max did learn to weave by the end of the course.  Now it’s your turn.  Can your dog weave?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Agility Training 101- Tunnels

Not all dogs naturally love to run through tunnels.   And if your dog has any “issues” they may hate the tunnel.  But just because your dog isn’t keen on running through every tunnel that he sees, doesn’t mean you can’t train him to be.   
Angie Valdez, from Anaheim, had to take it slow with her two Terrier mixes, Bruiser and Bella. “Bella was a rescue who came from an abusive home,” Angie says.  “She doesn’t like enclosed areas and she can be very skittish.  I only enrolled Bruiser in an agility class because I didn’t know how Bella would react.  I thought I would have no problems with Bruiser until we went up to the tunnel, which he was very reluctant to go through.  So I decided we needed some work at home and I would try to teach these skills to Bella too and hopefully it would give her a little more confidence.”
Preparation:  Angie recalls, “I got my tunnel from Ikea for a very reasonable price (compared to agility equipment or large kids tunnels at toy stores).”  When using a tunnel for practice, it does not by any means have to be a “certified” agility tunnel.   You can find tunnels in the pet stores, or children’s toy section, or online.  You can even make a tunnel out of cardboard boxes or by draping sheets over furniture (like you did as a kid).  There are no rules for your in-home tunnel; a tunnel is a tunnel, so get creative.  Once you have your tunnel be sure to have high value treats or your dog’s favorite toy on hand.
·         Introduce your dog to the tunnel and let him become familiar with it.  If your dog is scared of the tunnel, you may need to leave it out for a day or two, until he doesn’t think anything of it.  He may even be curious enough to go through it on his own while it’s out.
·         There are a couple of ways you can start training your dog to walk through the tunnel.  You can throw a reward into the tunnel and ask your dog to retrieve it.  Once that is no problem, have your dog sit and stay until you reach the other end of the tunnel.  Call your dog to you, encouraging him with treats and praise to go through the tunnel to reach you. You can start with this technique first if your dog is comfortable with the tunnel.  Otherwise, you will have to work up to it.
·         Once he starts going through in the tunnel, you can start using a verbal command that will trigger the activity without you guiding him through.  
·         Continue this exercise until your dog can go through the tunnel without a reward in there, only by command.  Just remember to reward him with his favorite treat and praise once he greets you at the other end of the tunnel.   
 Angie shares her mixed experience training her two dogs to go through the tunnel.  “I opened the tunnel up one day and just left it there for my dogs to sniff and get use to.  About two days later I started playing fetch with Bruiser and I threw his toy into the tunnel.  He was a little hesitant at first but eventually he tiptoed in there and got his toy.  Bella on the other hand doesn’t play fetch so I had to train her with her favorite dog treats.  I started slowly by placing one treat at the very opening of the tunnel.  Once she took that I placed the treats further and further inward.  I continued to do this every day for almost two and a half weeks before Bella finally went through the tunnel with only one treat and my direction.  Bruiser caught on pretty quickly and now he loves to play inside the tunnel and he even sleeps in there when I leave it out.”
*Has your dog mastered the jump and the tunnel? Try combining the two and creating your own little agility course in your home, backyard, or by going to the Carlson Dog Park.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Agility Training 101- Jumping

Lisa Scarsi Photographgy

Jumping over an object can be easy for some dogs while seemingly impossible for others.  Like all tricks or new commands, teaching your dog will take time and patience.
Corona resident, Shelly Smith, shares her in-home training techniques she used to get her Brittany Spaniel, D.J., the practice he needed between class.    

·         Go to a place in your home where there is plenty of space for your dog to move around.  You can go in the backyard if you have to but there might be too many distractions. 
·         Find a straight pole, such as a broom stick, a painting extension pole, a pool brush pole, etc.  I used my Swiffer Sweeper.  
·         Lay the pole on the floor in a position like you’ll be playing limbo later.
·         Let your dog sniff the pole and get use to it like it were another piece of furniture.  (Give plenty of positive reinforcement while your dog gets use to the pole.)  
·         Have your dog sit and stay on one side of the pole while you go on the other side.  Call your dog to you and reward him/her for going over the pole.  Repeat this step until you feel your dog is completely comfortable with the pole.  If your dog wants to walk around the pole to get to you, walk over the pole yourself and encourage him follow you to show him what action you are looking for.  Reward him as soon as he steps over the pole.  
·         After your dog masters walking over the pole, raise it a couple of inches.  I started by stacking a couple of books on each end of my Swiffer.  That gives the pole a little bit of height to help the dog understand they need to jump over it and not crawl under it.  I had to walk over it a couple of times and get D.J. to follow me before he did it on his own.  
“As your dog becomes more comfortable with the height of the jump, you can increase it, but you should only increase it a little at the beginning of each session.   My dog graduated from stacked books to the height of a chair seat which helped him tremendously in agility class.” 
The height you can go to depends on the breed and height of your own dog.  Obviously, if you have a Dachshund or Chihuahua you would not ask them to jump over a pole as high as a chair seat.  They would likely hurt themselves.  And if you had a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a chair seat may not reach her full jumping potential.  It is suggested by professionals that the height of the pole should not exceed the ridge between the dog’s shoulder blades (also known as the withers), which is usually the tallest point of your dog’s body.
Once your dog has mastered jumping over a pole you can use these same training steps to teach him to jump through the agility course hoop, using a simple hula-hoop at home.  
Happy jumping!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Agility Training 101- Introduction

Have you ever seen a dog fly through an agility course or jump through a hoop with such ease that you thought, “That looks like fun.  I wonder if my dog could do it?”  Or perhaps you have considered enrolling your dog in an agility class but didn’t have the extra money to do it just yet.  Well, lucky for you, agility is a series of well rehearsed tricks that you can easily teach your dog at home.
Agility training benefits dogs in many ways.  It sharpens their minds, and stimulates them by giving them challenges and obstacles to overcome in a positive way.  It gives them plenty of exercise and will get you running and active as well.  Agility also helps build confidence in dogs and a stronger, more obedient relationship between them and the handler (which is best if it is you).  All of these results lead to an overall better behavior and well-balanced dog.
While not all breeds are considered ideal for agility competition, every dog is capable of learning new tricks.  What matters most when preparing to learn a new trick is a good base foundation of obedience.  Mastery of the simple “Sit” and “Stay” commands will make all the difference while you attempt to improve upon a dog’s skill set.
Remember, whenever teaching a dog a new trick or command, you need high value treats.  High value usually means bits of hot dogs or pieces of cheese or a savory treat from the pet store.  If your dog isn’t motivated by food, then a high value reward would be his favorite squeaky toy, or your praise.  Whatever it is, it needs to be something that will continue to reward and therefore motivate your dog to do what you ask.  
I took one agility class with my terrier/dachshund mix, who loves to jump, to get a good introduction to the sport.  From that class I learned different in-home training techniques I could use with my dog to get her ready for next week’s class.  I also asked my classmates what they did for in-home training as well to give you this little pre-introduction instruction to classic agility training.
If you would rather learn from a professional, take an introduction class, or use actual agility equipment to train your dog, here are a few suggestions to help you find the perfect class for you and your pup.
K-9 Companions does boot camp obedience training as well as agility training. They are located at 13703 J J Lane, Perris, CA 92570. For more information on their services and next available classes, you can call (800) 870-5926 or (951) 780-5810.
Dogs Etc. has a regular 6-week class called “Just for Fun Agility” located at 1431 N Daly St., Anaheim, CA 92806. For more information on her next classes, you can contact trainer Cindy Scott at dogsetc@yahoo.com or call (714)393-0432
Carlson Dog Park in Riverside has it’s only agility section where you can train and practice your dog’s agility skills.  Just be aware that it is a part of a dog park so be prepared for lots of distractions.  Carlson Dog Park is located at 4700 Buena Vista Dr and Mission Ave (next to Mt Rubidoux Park) Riverside, CA. You can check out reviews and pictures on Yelp.com and Doggoes.com 
You can easily find dog agility equipment and literature for sale online if you are serious about training your dog.  But these in-home techniques I will give you over the course of the week may be the best starting point to see if your dog has an interest in agility before investing in the equipment.
Stay tuned…

Friday, July 15, 2011

5 easy ways to keep your dog cool this summer

It can be hard to beat the heat in Southern California, especially during the summer months, but here are a few ideas you can do for your dog to help cool him or her off during a hot day.
Walks in the evening- It’s usually pretty warm outside by 10a.m. and it doesn’t get very cool until the sun goes down.  Taking the dog for a walk or visiting the dog park in the smoldering heat will not be pleasant for either of you. Going early in the morning (before 10 a.m.) or later in the day (after 6 p.m.)  would be the best option for you and your dog.  The dog park doesn’t usually close until dusk, and in these summer months the sun isn’t setting until after 8:00 p.m., giving you plenty of time to get Spot some exercise.  Note: If you go to the Butterfield dog park in Corona be aware that parking may be tricky if there are baseball games going on. There is additional parking further down Butterfield (at the last ball field) as well as at the front of the park, off Smith Ave, and you can walk to the dog area from there.  
Misters- Keeping the dogs cool in the backyard can be a challenge.  Other than a good shaded area, you can install misters to help cool them off in the middle of the day.  A misting system is basically a hose that hooks up to your normal outdoor faucet and releases a light mist of water.  Note: Some cities in Riverside County, like Corona, have hard water, causing your misters nozzles to clog with calcium buildup.
Kiddie pools- If you have a dog that loves water, consider getting a hard plastic kiddie pool for them to play in or drink from during the day (especially if they like to play in their water bowl).  Not all dogs like water, but a lot of dogs are ok with water they can stand in, as long as it isn’t too deep.  This is also a safer alternative to a normal pool because there is a very small chance of the dog drowning while unattended.  And for safety reasons, never fill the pool up above half way unless you are supervising their play.  Note: Keep an eye out for hard plastic pools (usually sitting outside of a store front) as more stores are carrying only blow-up pools now, making hard plastic hard to find.
Dog beach- There is something about the dog beach that can turn a water wary dog into a dog that romps through the water like it was never any problem (well, at the beach anyway).  Some dogs may love diving in the ocean waves while others may just get their paws wet, but either way, the dog beach takes all the benefits of a dog park and makes it better by adding water and a cool breeze.  It’s is a great way for the whole family to enjoy a day at the beach with the dog.  Just don’t forget the sunblock and plenty of fresh water for everyone (dogs included).  Note: The closest dog beach to us is on the corner off Goldenwest Street  and PCH in Huntington Beach.  It’s a leash free zone with lots of dogs for your pup to play with, and there is free street parking .  
Blocks of ice- Kool Dogz Ice Treat Maker Dog Toy is a great way to keep your dog hydrated and cool during the day while stimulating his mind.  How the “toy” works is you freeze toys and treats, in water, in the container provided and then place the block of ice on the platter provided that you anchor into the ground outside.  As the block of ice gets licked and melts during the day the toys and treats slowly become available and reward the dog for their hard work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heat Stroke in Dogs (part 2)

What do I do if he is having a heat stroke?
If you think your dog is having a heat stroke, you can try cooling him immediately by putting a wet washcloth on the back of his neck or on his groin and place a bag of frozen peas on top of the wash cloth.  You can also wet the flaps of his ears and his feet pads to further cool him off quickly.  While cooling, take his temperature.  If his temperature is 104˚F - 106˚F then it is considered moderate heat stroke and given immediate attention most dogs recover within 2 – 3 hours.  Temperatures of 106˚F - 107˚F are severe and you should wrap the dog in a wet towel and get him to a vet right away.  Temperatures over 107˚F are considered critical and your dog may die before you can reach a hospital.  Heat stroke breaks down the kidneys, lungs, and liver first, so any dog who has suffered from severe heat stroke may have permanent damage of these organs.  If you believe your dog has suffered a heat stroke you should always take him to the vet.
How to avoid heat stroke
Most often, cases of heat stroke happen when a dog is confined in a car, crate, or kennel.  But a dog can suffer from heat stroke by being left in the yard with no shade to hide under and not enough water.  To avoid giving your dog heat stroke, make sure there is a nice shaded area in the yard for his to escape to on those hot Californian days.  Especially if your dog stays in an outdoor kennel, remember that the sun moves throughout the day.  At 7 a.m. there may be a great spot under the tree in the backyard, but at 4 p.m. is that shade still there or is it in the neighbor’s yard now?  And be sure your dog has plenty of water for the entire time you are gone.   The hotter the weather the more water he will drink, so you may have to consider a different water bowl if you find his bone dry every day you get home.  Or you might just put the bowl under an outdoor water faucet that can drip continuously into the bowl throughout the day.  For larger water loving dogs that like to play in their water bowl, you may want to consider a small plastic pool to fill up instead (fill up only a quarter of the way to prevent drowning).      
Your dog will do the best he can to keep himself healthy, but he really relies on you to give him the care he needs and to keep his best interest at heart.  Think twice the next time you have a quick errand to run with your dog in the car. Is it something that can wait? Is it a sunny or humid day?  Please remember his life is in your hands.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Heat Stroke in Dogs

Just a couple of weeks ago there was a story in the KTLA news about a 19-year-old woman from China shopping at the local Ontario Mills mall.  She locked her 1-year-old golden retriever in the car while she went shopping, and it is believed the dog was stuck in the car for 3 hours.  The outdoor temperature was in the 90’s that day and security found the car with the windows rolled up and foggy.  They got the dog out and rushed him to the vet where he had to be euthanized because there was too much brain damage.
This story shocked me and made me sad that someone could be so irresponsible with another life.  Whether or not this was an accident (a visitor un-aware of local temperatures norms) we see dogs waiting in cars all the time.  Hopefully everyone at least puts the windows down enough to bring in fresh air.  But ask yourself, how many times have you just run into the store “real quick” and ended up taking longer than you planned?  You never know when a 5 minute milk dash will turn into a 20 minute cash register dilemma.  So let’s learn a little bit about heat stroke in dogs….
Not so fun fact: If the temperature is 84˚F outside, the inside of a car reaches 98˚F- with all four windows cracked.  If the temperature is 90˚F outside, the inside of a car reaches 108˚F- with all four windows cracks.  Now imagine sitting in the car with a ski jacket on.
What is Heat Stroke?
A dog’s body temperature ranges between 100.4˚F - 102.5˚F. Heat stroke happens when a dog can no longer keep his normal body temperature (and the thicker the coat, the more quickly his temperature will rise).   Dogs don’t sweat like humans.  They pant to regulate their body temperature by releasing heat through their tongue and “sweat” out of their nose and foot pads.
What are some symptoms of heat stroke?
If your dog is experiencing heat stroke he may show signs of heavy panting, gasping, bright read or suddenly bluish gums, vomiting, disorientation, foam around the mouth (or thick saliva), increased heart rate, inability to drink and he may collapse, become unconscious, or even die.  
Check out Part 2 for more information on what to do if your dog is experiencing a heat stroke and how to avoid one entirely.

Friday, July 8, 2011

No losers here, only wieners!

Ever seen a wiener race? Also known as a Dachshund race?  Whether you’ve seen one before or still waiting for that first opportunity, you are in luck this weekend because there are TWO different races going on.
Start your weekend off just right with the grand prix of dachshund races, the 16th Annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals at the Los Alamitos race track.  On Saturday, July 9th, ninety-eight dachshunds compete in thirteen races for the title of “Fastest Wiener in the West.”  While the race track opens at 9:30 a.m., the first dachshund race is set to start at 6:15 p.m. and the championship race is scheduled for approximately 9:15 p.m.  Tickets are only $3, and as always, you will want to come a little early to get a good seat.
Throw on your lederhosen and continue your weekend with another dachshund race on Sunday, July 10th at the Old World Village in Huntington.  They will be celebrating German Heritage Day from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. with free food for the first 500 people.  The wiener races are set to begin at 3:00p.m. but you’ll want to be sure to get there early for a good seat (it’s recommended that you get there by 2:00 p.m.).  Tickets are only $1 and parking is free.
This is a low cost way to have some good ol’ family fun this weekend.  So have fun, stay cool and show support for those hardworking pups!
Los Alamitos Race Track
4961 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, Ca
For more information call 714-820-2800 or check out the Los Alamitos website 

Old World Village
7561 Center Ave., Huntington Beach, Ca 92647
For more information call 714-898-5111 or check out the Old World website

Friday, July 1, 2011

4th of July with your dog

Fourth of July falls on a Monday this year, which means a 3-day weekend for many people.  What are you planning to do this weekend? Go for a road trip? Go to the river? Go out to the desert or down to the beach?  Long weekends are usually a time for families to be outdoors which presents a great opportunity to include the dog in your outdoor activities.
If you’re staying in town on Monday, and would like something festive to do with your pup, Corona will be holding their annual parade down Main Street.  At 10 a.m. the parade will start at Main and Ontario Street and end at Olive, so be sure to get there early with your pup for the best seat on the street.  And while Riverside will not be having a parade, Redlands, Menifee, Ontario, Fontana, San Jacinto, and Temecula will be having a one.  Not to mention, several other cities will be having picnics and additional entertainment for families before their fireworks show.  Check out InlandEmpire.US for more information on the celebrations taking place on your end of town.  
FIREWORKS ALERT! Before you leave for the night to enjoy fireworks, make sure your dog is taken care of.  Most, if not all dogs, hate loud and startling noises; and fireworks are at the top of that list.  Fireworks can make the perfect dog turn into the most neurotic dog you’ve ever seen.  To help keep your dog’s sanity and your property in tack I suggest the following:  
1.       Make sure your dog is inside the house before leaving for the night.  If you have an outside dog, then put them in the garage (after the sun goes down so they don’t suffer a heat stoke).  If your dog is allowed inside the house, put them in a room furthest from where you think the firework noise will be coming from (for example, if the fireworks show is at a local school just east of your house then put your dog in the furthest room to the west).
2.       Turn on soothing music.  Classical music is best in my opinion, but anything will do as long as it isn’t angry or harsh music that would cause your dog further anxiety. (FYI: the classical FM station is 91.5). You don’t want to turn the volume all the way up, making your dog deaf or causing more anxiety, but make it loud enough to distract them from outside noises.
No matter what you decide to do this holiday weekend, please keep your dog’s health, happiness, and safety in mind.  Don’t become a statistic.  If you take them to the river, please remember that life jacket while on the water.  If you take them on a road trip, please remember that seat belt harness.  Lots of water, shade, and sun block will keep your dog happy and healthy as well.  Enjoy your Independence Day with your whole family, four-legged family members included!