Tuesday, October 25, 2016

First AKC Herding Trial!

We attended and helped host our first ever AKC herding trial over the weekend, and it was a LOT of work! The trial had both sheep and geese to herd, and was held at a local park that has horse arenas. We had to build the holding pens for the animals, sheep-proof the arenas, and practically terraform the place on Friday. Then on Sunday we had to take it all down again. Various bumps in the road on the way to success included the person making our awards bailing two weeks before the trial, poisonous castor bean plants growing on one of the competition fields, and finding a baby rattlesnake hanging out in a sheep pen on Saturday morning.
working Australian cattle dog
This is an old picture, I didn't have time to get pics at the actual trial.
Photo by Candy Lidstrom

Oh yes, and Godzilla and Zip and I actually competed in this trial! I was so busy helping that actually participating felt like an afterthought. The girls did great though! They were both entered in Started A, the most beginning of the big kid herding classes. There were more than 20 other dogs in the same class, many of them handled by herding instructors and people with a whole lot more experience than I have. Amazingly, Zip and I won third place on Saturday! We scored 93 out of 100, which is pretty amazing given that scores over 90 are considered very, very good. Godzilla and I got a qualifying score of 71, I'm more proud of that than Zip's placement. Moving sheep nicely is so, so hard or Sis!

Sunday didn't go quite as well. Zip and I got a qualifying score of 94, better than Saturday but no placement because everyone else did amazingly well too. Godzilla was seriously under exercised by the time her turn arrived, and we were dismissed from the ring for too much sheep biting. I laughed, told my dog she was wonderful, and paraded out of the ring like we had completed a perfect run. I know my dog will always do her very best for me, and I want her to feel like a million bucks every time we walk into a show ring of any type.

So Zip now has two legs towards her first AKC herding title. Godzilla has one leg, and I know how we can do better next time. The trial is over, and we are spending the week resting. And putting stuff away. So much stuff. Only three months till the next trial!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Paw5 Enriched Life Challenge: Day 5

Yesterday was the fifth and final day of Paw5's Enriched Life Challenge! Paw5 has challenged dog owners to make their pets' lives even better, through several different types of enrichment. We've spent the last five days taking trips, visiting friends, and trying new toys and games. I have included my cats in the challenge because I think indoor cats could really use some thoughtful enrichment activities.

environmental enrichmentYesterday was super busy, as I spent the day helping set up for a herding trial, but we still managed to fit in some enrichment. I took James and Solstice out to explore the yard on a harness and leash. I found that an XXS Ruffwear Webmaster harness works very nicely for my cats. Taking indoor cats outside requires some planning and foresight, they don't tend to want to follow you like dogs. Getting outside to nibble the grass and explore the yard provides the Hellions with a ton of sensory and environmental enrichment.

Ru stayed home with my mother while I was out setting up for the trial. She has music students on Fridays, so he got to listen to some piano and clarinet duets. Fridays at home provide some sensory and social enrichment for Ru.

Godzilla and Zip went with me to set up for the herding trial. They got to run around and explore at the park, and see lots of our good dog and human friends. Zip even got to see three of her litter sisters! They also got to watch the geese that will be herded in the trial. There were fifty of them. That's a lot of geese! It was a day filled with sensory, social, and environmental enrichment for the girls.

The dogs and I have had a lot of fun with the Paw5 Enriched Life Challenge. It has inspired me to think more about enrichment for Ru and the cats, and made me appreciate how much Godzilla and Zip get out of our daily routines. We still haven't tried DogTV yet though, I will have to report back when we have the chance.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Paw5 Enriched Life Challenge: Day 4

This is our fourth day of the Paw5 Enriched Life Challenge. Paw5 has challenged dog owners to make their pets' lives even better, through enrichment of all sorts! The company has provided tons of suggestions for activities and projects to keep dogs busy throughout the day. Paw5 makes the Wooly Snuffle Mat, and the Rock N Bowl, two really neat puzzle feeders, but the Enriched Life Challenge focuses on homemade puzzles and DIY toys. I've included my cats in the challenge, because indoor kitties can definitely use enrichment!
Hand feeding dinner


Ru the chihuahua usually stays home while Godzilla, Zip and I go to work. He often hangs out with my mother, and today he got some extra social enrichment when my niece and nephew came to visit. The kids don't have dogs at home, and aren't confident with dogs that are big, loud, or fast. Ru is just their speed, he is tiny, mellow, and respectful of personal space. 

Ru went for a walk around the block with the kids, and my seven-year-old niece had the big responsibility of holding his leash the whole way. When they got home, my four-year-old nephew played tug and fetch with him. It sounds like it was a big day of environmental, sensory, and social enrichment for everyone!
Food container puzzle toy


Godzilla worked on her disc catching skills today. She also showed Zip how to run through two poles as a foundation for learning weave poles in agility. I made her a food puzzle out of a takeout container, and it was a totally different shape than any of our store-bought toy! She has been having some back pain recently, so Godzilla also got a nice relaxing massage today.

Upside Down Muffin Tin DinnerZip

Zip isn't very familiar with food puzzles yet, so she was fascinated with kibble poured on an upside down muffin tin. It's food! And it's not in a bowl!

Zip and I also worked more on running through a pair of poles as a foundation for weave pole training. She's not terribly food motivated, so teaching her the early foundations for tricks and agility requires som creativity on my part. 

The Hellions

Kitty garden
My cats, James and Solstice, love to eat houseplants. They are eight-year-old littermates, and for the last eight years I have referred to plants as "cat salads" and only successfully grown them inside terrariums. However, a post on the Chirpy Cats blog got my thinking that they could use a little kitty garden of their own. We're pretty tight on space right now, but I decided to start off with a hanging spider plant in the hopes that they would just devour the dangly bits and let the rest of it live.

Placement of things for the cats requires some consideration around here. There's not a lot of floor space, so most cat-specific things are elevated. I'd love to get them some potted plants, but anything in a plastic pot is likely to get knocked down, and anything in a breakable pot is most certainly going to get broken. We can't have nice things. It looks like hanging and wall-mounted plants are going to be our best bet. So far the hanging spider plant seems to be a success, as there was still some plant in reach when they eventually stopped eating it.