Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DIY tugs and toys

DIY toys save me a BUNCH of money. We still have to shell out actual money for Kongs and Bionic toys for everyday chewing but for training toys we mostly get by with homemade.
This picture includes two of Taco's favorites.  The first is what we call the strap.  It's the side of an old leather purse wrapped around strong nylon webbing and sewn down the middle.  It is reinforced with rope (the white you can see) and the webbing is sewn to create a loop handle on either end.

The other toy is simply a tennis ball (which we can get in mass quantities for FREE from the university tennis center, ask around your own area to see if you can too) with a whole drilled in it and a rope threaded through.  This makes it much easier to use for training because you can whip it out of your back pocket with the rope and tug with it without ever letting go.
This is my own version of a mesh treat pouch.  It is just a rectangle pocket of mesh laundry bag material the closes up with velcro.  I attached mine to a fleece braid to make it easier to toss and tug with.  This was made for Dot before we started using a food tube instead.  Note that I bought my "food tube" from Home Depot, not CleanRun.  Same thing, but without the shipping charge.

These are examples of fleece braid toys like the one attached to the treat pouch above.  These are great for tugging and motivation.  The top two are four strand braid (tutorial here) and the bottom one WAS a three strand braided toy with loop handle like these instructions.  Fleece toys don't last long in our house, that's why we make our own!  Fleece is cheap when it's on sale and you can get several toys out of a yard or two.

Do you make your own toys?  Have any unique tips or tutorials?

Friday, September 19, 2014

DIY Agility- Mini Teeter

When we started doing agility, I knew I'd have to make a few pieces of equipment so we could get practice in between weekly classes.  We had tons of jumps already but I knew the contacts would be very different from anything we'd done before so I wanted to have at least small versions here at home.  I am super cheap so when I found a Little Tykes teeter totter at a garage sale for $1 I knew I had the base for a mini teeter of our own!  I started it's transformation by cutting off the handles.
Then I cut a board to fit on top of the teeter.  The shorter board you see is a mini contact trainer that I can set on blocks to create a dog walk effect for teaching two on-two off.  I gave each a base coat with paint I had left over from painting the basement (yellowish orange) and my husband's office (blue).  Then over the wet coat of paint I spread sand.
After that dries, brush off the loose sand and paint over it with another coat of paint.
Ta-da, finished painted and sanded boards.
I attached the board to the base with long lag bolts and weighted one end with a bag of sand stuffed into the seat of the teeter totter.  It's pretty small, but it works for teaching bang it on the end to get them used to the noise and also gets them used to movement under their bodies without investing in a full-sized teeter.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DIY Agility-Our 2x2 weave poles

So, Dot and I are new to agility.  Dot is now in her fourth agility class (our club has 8 levels, so halfway through!).  We have worked weave poles almost exclusively in our basement using homemade 2x2s.  I used this DIY Tutorial from Ammo the Dachshund and it worked like a charm.  Dot can now sail through a set of 6 weaves

You can see the beginning stage of the 2x2 process in this video from January 2014:


And at 25 seconds, you can see her hop-hopping through a set of 6 like a pro, August 2014:


Why did I pick 2x2s?  Our club teaches channels, and uses 2x2s only for entries so they never progress past one set of 2.  I decided I liked the definite progression that 2x2s give you so stuck with it on my own.  I work well with a step-by-step, mini-goal program for training, with very clear signs to move on to the next step.  2x2s gives those concrete goals for moving on so there isn't any gray area. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Utility Scent Article Options

So, you're ready to start training and competing in Utility.  Sure, places like J&J and Max200 offer the standard sets of articles.  You can have your choice of single, double or triple bar.  And triangle or square ends.  But your set will look like everyone else's.  And you'll be paying over $100 for your set that looks like everyone else's.  If you're cheap like me.....or you just want to be different, you do have other options.

AKC does not require any specific type of article, the just need to be similar, numbered and sized appropriately for your dog.  You can make your own and not only be as unique as you want, but also super frugal!

Metal ideas: metal shoe horns, bent spoons, cabinet/drawer pulls,  lengths of aluminum pipe, small tins/cans (altoid, spam, tomato juice, etc), bottle openers

Leather ideas: small leather ammo pouches/belt loop knife holsters, coin purses, pieces cut from a thick leather belt, braid leather and glue/stitch together to create rings

Baby shoes with vinyl decal numbers. (photo source)
A complete set with baby shoes and canning rings.  It's important to note that your leathers all need to be identical and the metals need to be identical but the leathers and metals can be different objects.  (photo source)

 CloudsandCompany makes sets using leather and metal rings, but this gives you another idea for using canning rings.  (They also make really adorable embroidered article bags!)
If you can sew, you can make your own mesh article bag.  This is a great pattern and calls for vinyl mesh, often called "pet screen" which you can find at fabric stores by the yard.

This free pattern doesn't include the side pockets.  But it's free!

Here's a free tutorial that uses more flexible mesh and has a drawstring.

You can also just stow your articles in a mesh laundry bag or a string backpack that has a mesh panel (I get these often at 5Ks).

Not handy?  Good thing there are others who are!
ObedienceProducts.com has very basic sets in leather, wood and metal and you can buy each separately for a good price.

OtchArticles.com has basic sets, but can do custom vinyl decals to cute-ify them!  And they are also the makers of the wooden carrying case you sometimes see (which can be decorated with wood-burned details!).

Got more money than God and want a super-custom set?  Scents-A-Bell offers colors, colors and more colors!
Or if you're a fan of tooled leather, Pat Scribner creates the most gorgeous custom articles and anything you can dream of can be on your articles!

There you have it!  Be creative with your articles, don't be afraid to buck the traditional dumbbells and make your own unique set of articles or ask Santa for a super-custom set.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wag Swag

When a friend of mine taught a small group of buddies (including me) to bead, she started us out making zipper pulls. They are easy, quick, fun and a great way to learn the techniques for beading. And I almost immediately knew I wanted to use those simple techniques to make some doggy goodies. I call these Wag Swag (well, my friend Mary named them).  They are a handmade, custom plaque on top that holds beaded dangles for each obedience, agility, rally, etc. title a dog earns!
Sully's red and black themed Wag Swag.
Dot's purple Wag Swag and Taco's blue Wag Swag.  (Not too many on Taco's yet, I still consider him my baby dog.)
Mary's Chesapeake Bay Retrieve Lex's orange and blue sports themed Wag Swag.
Mary's (different Mary) Sheltie Neeco's brown and black themed Wag Swag. 

They can hang on your crate, purse, training bag or just on your bulletin board with your ribbons.  It's fun to add a new dangle on every time you earn a new title!  Do you do something special when your dog earns a title?
Ruckus the American Eskimo Dog Blog

Friday, August 29, 2014

Awesome and Cheap Pet Tags from PetTags4Less (Review)


I have ordered several times now from Pettags4less and each time I was really pleased with the tags I got!  I have ordered tags for my own dogs as well as tags for identifying 4-H equipment and they have all proven to be durable, well-made and very customizable.
Taco and Dot wearing their tags.
I was a little worried the first time I opened a package from Pettags4less.  The aluminum tags felt very lightweight and the custom wording seemed to be painted on.  Bust rest assured, it is NOT painted on!  The information is laser engraved into the aluminum and does not rub off, even after years of everyday wear.  This picture shows a selection of the aluminum tags I've ordered.  The silver one is the first tag I ordered for Taco and it shows that it is pointless to order a silver tag because the laser engraving does NOT show up well.  Learn from my mistake (at least it was a cheap mistake), order a colored tag! 

Watch the tags being engraved in this video:


I have only purchased the aluminum tags and have been very happy with them.  Their aluminum tags are available for as little as $2.29 each and they offer daily deal tags each day for $1.98!  But they also have a ton of other fun tag types, like their Designer Pet Tags (with or without QR code), Nickel and Gold plated tags, and photo tags engraved with your picture.  And they've got blingy tags!  Shipping is always free, no matter the size of your order.  And rescues get a discount, just register for a Wholesale (Rescue) account.

Disclaimer: The links in this post are referral links.  If you click, register and make a purchase, I earn a small amount of credit toward more fun tags!  So thanks for clicking, registering and buying!  I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Games We Play

I LOVE games!  Active games, group games, puzzle games, all kinds of games.  And when teaching dog training, especially to young people,  I like to incorporate games.  (It can be frustratingly hard to try and get ADULTS to have fun and play a game!)  Some are individual games to play on your own because it gives the student something fun to do at home and that motivates them to practice more.  Some are team games that are competitive because competition motivates some (not all) people to put extra effort into an activity.  Some of my games have winners and there are prizes, sometimes it is just for the sake of having fun and there is no clear winner.

Some games are winners, and we play them over and over or at least every year.  Some games are losers, they get tried out, fail and we never play them again.  Here are some of the games we play!

Winners

Giant Tic Tac Toe- This one has been a favorite.  Draw a really big tic tac toe grid with chalk.  There are many variations but we play an easy version in teams of 3 or 4.  Teams take turns sending out one dog and handler to the game board.  If the player gets their dog to perform the correct position (sit, down or stand) inside a square on ONE COMMAND, they get to put a marker for their team in the square.  We use big fun foam shapes for markers.  Because only one dog is out on the board at one time it is also a good version for any dogs with dog issues.

A harder version is to use dogs as the Xs (downs) and Os (sits), leaving them there in a stay.  If a dog moves, it is removed from the board. This version only works if you have enough dogs to fill the board, of course!  Otherwise, the marker version works well if your class is small.

52 Card Pickup-  Spread an entire deck of cards out on the floor.  Then the group heels around, halting on each card they come to.  If at least one hair of their dog is touching the card, they get to pick it up.  You can call out stand or down and the next halt they do must be in that position.  Once all the cards are picked up, each handler counts their cards and the most cards wins. 

Dog on a String- This is basically a precision heeling game.  Tie a piece of thread to each dog's collar, this will function as the leash.  Call out increasingly difficult commands (as in Command, Break and Out if you've ever done this class as a horse show) and any dog not performing the commands correctly or anyone with a broken thread is out and comes to the middle of the ring to keep an eye on those who are still in the game.  Last one left with a thread and able to complete the last command wins.

Mind Your Ps and Cues (from this website)- This game was FUN.  The students had a blast rearranging their cards into a mini-performance for the rest of the class.  Those that got the "your choice" cards had fun thinking up something creative to put in that spot.  And we all had fun watching and clapping for each one.  This is a great game to break the class out of their routine and get them interacting with (and rooting for) each other.  That said, it can take up a LOT of class time so don't schedule it for when you need to get to an important lesson.  And picking a winner is pretty much impossible to have a LOT of small prizes so you can give everyone something!

Losers (for us, at least)

Add-A-Cue (from this website)- I don't know if our club is just way too smart or has elephant memory but this game went on WAY too long because they were way too good at it!  They thought up some really fun and creative things to do besides the usual sit-down-stand and everyone had fun trying each new variation and trying to remember the whole sequence.  But the trouble was, they DID remember!

Simon Says/Red Light Green Light- These are two standards to I tried to play several times but they are just way too easy.  You can try and make them harder with increasing difficulty of commands but Simon Says is only fun if people mess up and do it when they aren't supposed to and our group has been WELL TRAINED to listen to the judge's orders and they almost never mess up in that way.  Red Light Green Light has the same problem along with it being about getting to the other side quickly which I don't find terribly compatible with dog training goals so we stopped playing it.

It's the Pits- I can't find the website I got this game from but it basically consists of each dog and handler doing a recall individually.  The trick is that the handler has a penny under each arm and they must recall their dog without moving their arms and letting the pennies drop.  This was way too easy for our advanced group and our beginner group (sadly) hardly has time for games during their class as they have a LOT of get through.  I keep this in my back pocket for when I have someone who can't seem to keep their hands at their sides but as a group game it was a huge fail, not fun.

Links for game ideas:
http://www.dogobediencegames.com/games/2
http://pawsabilities.net/dogOlympicGames/
http://blog.seattlepi.com/caninevoice/2009/05/25/cool-group-games-for-dogs-and-their-people/
http://www.oes.org/page2/25072~fun_ideas_for_obedience_class.html

Monday, August 18, 2014

August Chewy.com Review

This month, Chewy sent us a big bag of Merrick Kitchen Bites Brauts-n-Tots Grain-Free Biscuits Dog Treats to try out!  I have tried (well, Sully had tried) Merrick's canned food offerings before and they sure have unique flavors!  These flavors from their dry and canned food lines are recreated in their biscuits.  

The ingredients in these biscuits are really simple:

Deboned Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Peas, Organic Cane Molasses, Canola Oil, Carrots, Apples, Flaxseed, Cumin, Gelatin, Mixed Tocopherols (a preservative), Rosemary

No grains, no fish, so they are Dot-safe!  I have been using them as a little goodie when the dogs come running in from the back yard and also as a little bedtime snack when they go in their crates.  Broken in half, they also made a great toenail time snack (the dogs get a treat every so often while I'm dremeling their nails.)  They like them a lot.  In our dog's scale of tasty dry biscuits, I would say they rank above Hill's Ideal Balance Oven-Baked Naturals with Lamb & Apricots Dog Treats but below EVO Wild Cravings Red Meat Formula Dog Treats.  I'm not sure anything can top the Wild Cravings line, but both dogs agree these Merrick biscuits are darn tasty and worth buying!

Disclosure: Chewy.com provided me with one package of treats to review.  I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions are all mine and the dogs.

We are participating in Sugar and Kol's Tasty Tuesday Blog Hop!
 
 

Friday, August 15, 2014

More Innovations in Pet Products

Continuing our coverage of new products this year, Dog Products also won awards in several other categories at Global Pet Expo 2014.


Second Place in the Boutique Category
Wobble Ball Enrichment Dog Toy
 It's a Kong Wobbler.  But with more pieces.  This is cute, way too cute (and fragile) to be a dog toy.  I am not a fan of hard plastic toys for dogs.  Noisy, scratch easily and you won't be able to see the dog and his pumpkin inside for all the slobber, floor dirt and boogers.








Best In Show in the Natural Pet Category
Carob Chip Cookie Mix by Puppy Cake



Cake and cookie mixes for dogs!  Love the idea, convenient and makes it easy to have a dog party without a trip to the specialty bakery.  But once you look at the ingredients, you will agree that $6.99 is a little steep.  This mix makes 18 dog cookies!!  That's almost 40 cents per 2-inch cookie.




















Winners in the Point-Of-Sale category for their in-store displays were:


Best In Show
4pets ProLine

A competitor of the Variocage









 

















Anyone seen this in stores?  It looks like a really fun, interactive display, for the humans at least!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More Innovations in Pet Products

The 2014 Global Pet Expo gave out awards for new products in several different categories.  In the Dog category, the winner were:



Best In Show
DOGSFOOD 
You buy a bag of DogForDog DOGSFOOD and they donate an equal product to various animal shelters and rescue groups.  DogForDog, the company that also brings you BOGSBUTTER, $10 per jar peanut butter.  For dogs.  There are several other companies that do this, BogoBowl seems to be quite popular. 









Second Place
iFetch
You've seen the videos of the dachshund playing fetch by himself with the homemade sling-shot machine.  Well this is the $99.95 version spawned from a Kickstarter campaign.


Third Place
K-9 Kannon Mini 
 Another ball-throwing device?  Yes.  And poor reviews say this one does not launch the ball as far as a chuck-it.  I thought perhaps there was a market for this with people with mobility limitations but it still requires quite a bit of arm use.

BOUTIQUE
Best In Show
biOrb AIR Terrarium
Reef One
Booth 1243 
Second PlaceWobble Ball Enrichment Dog Toy
P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You)
Booth 727 
Third PlaceAstoria Cat Scratcher
Architect Pets
Booth 4344
- See more at: http://globalpetexpo.org/press/pressrelease_detail.asp?id=134#sthash.qkBuLpqW.dpuf
BOUTIQUE
Best In Show
biOrb AIR Terrarium
Reef One
Booth 1243 
Second PlaceWobble Ball Enrichment Dog Toy
P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You)
Booth 727 
Third PlaceAstoria Cat Scratcher
Architect Pets
Booth 4344
- See more at: http://globalpetexpo.org/press/pressrelease_detail.asp?id=134#sthash.qkBuLpqW.dpufV
BOUTIQUE
Best In Show
biOrb AIR Terrarium
Reef One
Booth 1243 
Second PlaceWobble Ball Enrichment Dog Toy
P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You)
Booth 727 
Third PlaceAstoria Cat Scratcher
Architect Pets
Booth 4344
- See more at: http://globalpetexpo.org/press/pressrelease_detail.asp?id=134#sthash.qkBuLpqW.dpuf
New Products Showcase Winners