March 29, 2011


I finally got around to making a YouTube account to share some of our exercises and training experiences. If you want to check out what we have so far, the like to our channel is
We have a video explaining 52 rally signs, a video on training a handstand and a video with some slow motion agility jumping and beginning weaving.
I'm hoping to add videos pretty regularly and will probably post about some related topic with a link here when I do.
Hope you enjoy the videos! :)

March 27, 2011

Hard work pays off

Mya's always loved to pick things up and carry them around so you can't get them. Many times have we had to corner her to get muffin wrappers, shoes, toys and other non-dog items from her mouth. The retrival of the item was also combined with a "drop it now!!!" from the retriever. So, inadvertantly we taught Mya to spit out items in her mouth not when we say "drop it," but when we say "now."
Even so, "now" only worked when she had a low value object and I had a higher value one. This was a problem when she caught shrews, voles, and snakes and grabbed human items she shouldn't have since "leave it" only works on objects not yet in her grasp. Thus began our training of dropping toys and other objects that she grabbed - just for the attention - on the cue "now."
Whenever she actually spit something out of her mouth on cue I acted as though I'd won a million bucks at that moment. We partied and played with toys and she ate treats. Gradually she got better and better, but I still wondered how good the cue really was.
A big test came tonight when we were doing some agility in our backyard. I was taking a break to read over some notes and Mya went off to romp. She ended up finding a half-eaten vole from last year that had recently emerged from under the melting snow and was tossing it around and playing with it. I assumed she had a stick at first and went over her direction but soon realized it was a dead something. I decided to try and test our cue since she had been working on it with tennis balls moments before and low-and-behold the word "now" spoken in a normal voice caused her to spit it out like it was a piece of junk and walk away.
Luckily I had some chicken pieces on me and I grabbed her and gave her some and praised like the dickens. Then I quickly grabbed the vole before she could again and went and tossed it in the woods.
It just goes to show you that hard work in training really pays off, no matter if it seems like you'll never get there at the level you're currently working at. I'm really hoping it wasn't a fluke, but this is the second time she's spit out something I could have never dreamed of her willingly giving up before. I'm so happy we've made it to this milestone and I'm looking forward to the many more in our future.
We may not be OTCH or MACH yet (or ever!) but at the end of the day, what really matters is what you've acomplished as a team with your dog, setting your own goals however big (like competing at high levels) or small (like your dog choosing to look at you instead of the tree).
I have the best dog in the world and I'm glad to share this journey with her, whatever goals we actually meet and dreams for which we just hope. :)

March 15, 2011

Adopt the Internet!

Today is Adopt the Internet day, a day started by Petfinder to spread awareness about adopting pets! Go to for more info. Please check out your local shelter for adoptable pets just waiting for you!

I haven't had the privilege to adopt a pet, but have fostered over 50 cats and kittens in the past 2 years. It is SO rewarding to be searching and searching for a home for your foster pet and then to find them and see them become a part of the family. I encourage anyone who has the ability to foster to do so - it really makes a difference for the animal.
And don't forget to adopt - the animals in foster care need a place to go to! All of us foster parents love you for choosing to give pets in shelters, rescues and foster a chance at a normal life.

January 31, 2011

A Therapy Dog Visit - aka I had to write a narrative for school and wrote it about something dog-related so it could double as a blog post :)

I spent last Saturday morning playing tug, scent games, and other games to tire Mya out without having to go outside, since it was freezing outside. Grabbing the dog backpack that is filled with items I might need or want to have when out and about with my dog, I set to stuffing in my folder that holds all the forms I need for dog activities, string cheese, and some props for tricks. I was taking Mya on a therapy dog visit to Barnes and Noble for their story time.

We arrived early to allow Mya a few minutes to become accustomed to her surroundings and to let the dogs greet each other. Right as we walked in the door we spotted Freya, a Newfoundland, and she and Mya were instantly friends. Back in the kids' section with the stage for story time we found other therapy dogs, including Rowdy the Lab/Catahoula mix, Tunaq the small Poodle mix and Bella the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Soon the rest of the dogs arrived. Gabby and Mr. Dillion the Samoyeds, Abby the German Shepherd Dog, Raynee the Papillon and a Welsh Springer Spaniel were among the other dogs to come that day.

Once all the dogs and their handlers had arrived, we started the introductions, starting with the smallest (the Papillon) up the the biggest (the Newfoundland). We also talked to the kids about how to stay safe around loose dogs and how to greet friendly dogs. After that we had a "dog parade" around the kids' section with the dogs heeling so the kids could see all of the dogs moving. Then we gathered all the dogs up on the stage so everyone could see the different sizes and colors of all the dogs all at once.

After that, one therapy dog handler read stories. During this I sat with Mya and the rest of the handlers and dogs all around and in with the kids so they could pet and cuddle the dogs while listening to the books being read. After the books were finished we let the kids practice what we had taught them that day about asking before petting dogs and the safe way to pet new dogs. We answered questions about therapy dogs and our dogs. I lost count of how many times people asked me what breed Mya was and were then shocked that she was a Lab/English Springer cross because she looked like a Labrador puppy.

All in all it was a great therapy dog visit! We educated a lot of kids and spread a lot of happiness. I love having a therapy dog! It allows me to spread the cheer I feel around my dog and to give some people who may not have much light in their lives a little bit of happiness that day.

Alex and Mya :)

January 4, 2011

Dog Sitting Max - Through Mya's Eyes

For the past week we've been dog sitting my grandparent's rescue Australian Shepherd, Max. Mya's been having a ball. I'll let her tell you about everything:

Hi! Mya here! Last week a car came and brought people and my best canine friend, Max! The people didn't stay long, but they must've seen that Max and I were ecstatic to see each other since they left him behind for a looooong sleepover play date! We've been having tons of adventures.
First, we barked and play growled and wrestled! That was so much fun. After that we got to go play outside and run in the snow chasing tennis balls. I don't think Max understands that game since while I was being a good dog and fetching the ball, he kept chasing me and cutting me off. I heard the humans saying something about "herding" when ever he did that. Maybe it's the name of the game he invented.
Later we each got scrumptious rawhide treats and we both wanted the one the other had. We kept trading and I heard the people say we we're very good at "sharing." I'm not sure what "sharing" is, but the word good was in there so it must not be bad.
The first night did not follow our usual bedtime pattern. We got to sleep in the living room instead of in Alex's bedroom. We slept with Alex and another person she calls her cousin (what ever that means) on the couches!
Alex and cousin played a lot with us but cousin left the next day. But that was okay since then we got to play with each other.
We've spent a lot of time romping in the snow since you can eat it and bounce in it. Sometimes the snow even zips around in the air! Max is a chicken-dog though and only goes outside for potty breaks without humans if I lead him since I'm brave.
One day when Max and I were playing with our toys we discovered that when the humans got bored of playing tug, we could play with ourselves! Eventually the toys got put away, but the next day we wanted to play tug more so we snuck into my toy stash and got out our favorite tug toy and brought it out to play tug. The people said we were very smart. That must be good since they were laughing when they said it.
Max and I also did tricks together. Max knows how to spin on the same cues I do - imagine that! - so we would do the tricks "sit" and "spin" at the same time and get loads of deliciously wonderful treats. Max and I also took turns doing our own tricks and when one of us was not learning new tricks, we would have to lie down quietly and wait and if we stayed there we would get tossed treats, too. That was fun! Who knew not doing anything could get you food?
At night now we both snuggle together to keep Alex warm. One of us sleeps at the end of the bed and the other sleeps with their head up by the pillow. We take turns so no one feels left out. We're good at that!
The bad thing is that I heard Alex say that Max is leaving today! I'll get to see him again some other time, but I wanted him to stay forever. Alex said that people are coming to pick Max up, so it should be a bittersweet goodbye since I'll miss Max but I'll get to see people!

So there you have it...our adventure of dog sitting Max through the eyes of the dog.
Coming soon to our blog...The Do's and Don't's of Jumping in Agility.