Sunday, 27 March 2016

Happy Easter and an Update!

Happy Easter! And in true spirit of the holiday, here is Maizy as the Easter Bunny:

How freaking cute is this?! She is so tolerant.

So what's with the lack of Fit Dog Blog? Well, I broke my wrist again. Same arm, different bones. I also got a pretty nasty concussion. Horses are just fabulous animals - Pony decided he wanted to go out, I got caught up and dragged, pony left the building and I became close personal friends with the door frame. Ouch!

On the dog training front, things have been going well. In January I volunteered as a trainer for the University of Guelph's annual College Royal Dog Show.  The show was last week and my classes absolutely killed it. They weren't perfect but the dogs showed huge improvement. One "my" dogs and his amazing handler were reserve champion for the whole show.

Maizy has been going a bit bonkers with lack of exercise. Apparently 1.5 - 2 hours is not enough, despite Mummy's broken bones and concussion. Over all she has been excellent. We're working on drop on downs and perfecting our heels and finishes. This year I'm hoping to get her out to a few Rally-O competitions. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Training with Treats: Why it isn't Cheating

I'm back from another unexpected blogging hiatus - this wasn't simple laziness on my part, or a lack of time. Shortly after my last post, a horse ran me over and I broke my wrist, making using the computer painful and frustrating. But the cast is off now and I am so excited to get back into writing!

One of the most common fears is that a dog will come to rely on treats and won't preform behaviors without a bribe. This fear certainly isn't unfounded.

In my humble opinion, dogs deserve a reward 95% of the time when they perform a correct behavior. Your dog really has no desire to practice down stays over and over again, so treats make your weird human desires bearable. Now I'm not saying dogs don't find training fun - mine certainly does - but rather that it's usually not something they'd choose to do on their own.

To put it quite simply: Would you put in a 40 hour work week if you weren't getting paid? Even if you really love your job, most people still expect to get paid for their effort.

I should also note that a dog's "salary" does not have to be entirely comprised of snacks. The reward can be playing with their favorite toy or a scratch in their favourite spot. Maizy works just as well for the promise of a game of fetch as she does for liver treats. 

So how do you get your dog to perform behaviours without treats? It's quite simple, really:
  • Practice, practice, practice. The more often your dog does a behaviour, the more likely the dog is to do that behaviour on "auto-pilot". This is the reason why most dog's are pretty reliable at sitting without a treat. Sit is by far the most practiced behaviour for most dogs.
  • Reward the practice. If your dog gets a treat 90 out of 100 sits, your dog isn't going to remember the ten times it didn't get a treat. 
  • Practice not getting a treat - once your dog is reliable with the behaviour, start reducing the amount of times your dog gets a treat. Give a treat every other time.
The more you train, the more your dog wants to work for you. Dogs love pleasing their owners and they quickly become "addicted" to training. When they do something correctly, you become happy. Dogs love this! The more you work with your dog, the more likely they will be able to preform for you without treats - simply because they like you. How great is that?

It is totally possible to train a dog without using treats, whether that treat is a piece of liver or a game of tug. However, I find that using treats is a) super easy and b) nicer for the dog than other methods. 

For a more scientific look into using treats, check out Dr. Sophia Yin's blog post "Why Cigarettes are More Addicting than Heroin and How It Applies to Dog Training"

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Go Fetch! The best toys for playing fetch.

First off, I really apologize for these gifs I keep using but quite frankly I love them so it's probably gonna keep happen. Sorry not sorry. Now back to your regular scheduled programming...

Does your dog love to fetch? Maizy does. While any dog can learn to fetch breeds like Springer Spaniels, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Poodles tend to be fetching machines. They were quite literally bred for it! While your dog may not be retreiving tonight's dinner, playing fetch is great way to give your dog a "job" and ensure they get enough exercise. It also easy to sneak in some training while you toss a ball around. Plus it's just fun!

Hint: Ask your dog to perform a "trick" like a sit, down or stay before you throw the toy. The chase is the reward for a job well done!

While you may think you can throw just about anything (and you can, I've had Maizy fetch crumpled up napkins), the right toy can make your fetching experience that much better. There is a HUGE market for these types of toys - ones that glow in the dark, ones that float, ones that go farther, ones meant for catching... the possibilities are endless. So without further ado, here are some of Maizy's favourite toys to fetch, and some not so good ones.

The Ultra Durable

If you need a toy that will last and last, the Chuckit! Amphibious Bumper Stick is the toy for you. The first day I got this toy, I brought it to the park where two bulldogs preceeded to play tug of war with it for 45 minutes. I was sure that when I got it back it would be destroyed but to my surprise, it didn't have a single tooth mark! Sadly, I ended up losing this toy down a waterfall.

Pros: Very durable, floats for water fetch, the rope allows you to keep your hands somewhat clean, easy to throw
Cons: The price, at $14.99, is a bit steep

Practicing water retrieves with the Chuckit! Bumper. 

The Super Fun

Dogs love this whacky, wiggly, 'S' shaped toy; it's not unusual for somebody to go out and buy one after playing with our toy at the dog park. The Zogoflex Bumi is great for fetch, tug, or just running around with. Dogs love to throw this toy by themselves because the 'S' design causes it to bounce wildly. 

Pros: Durable, floats, made out of a soft plastic-y material that it easy on dog's mouths, and dog's go bonkers for it
Cons: Slippery when wet: I have accidentally chucked this at somebody because the toy gets so slippery. It also really picks up dirt (though it rinses off easily). At $14.99 it is not cheap. 

Playing with the Zogoflex Bumi

The Inexpensive

If you don't want to drop 15 dollars on a dog toy, this is the toy for you. While it's not on the same level of awesome as the two toys above, this is a great every day fetch toy. In fact, this is the toy we use most often! Doggie Dooley, Toss N Clutch is easy to throw, brightly coloured and won't break the bank.

Pros: Only $5.99, brightly coloured, and I can throw it pretty far. It also makes a good tug toy!
Cons: If you have a heavy chewer, this toy is not durable enough. While Maizy has no problems, another dog at the park manged to put a number of holes in the ball.

Looking cute with the Toss N Clutch! 

The Swing and Fling

The Starmark, Swing & Fling Durafoam Fetch Ball was Maizy's very first fetching toy. She actually manged to magically find this toy in the garden and we ended up buying another one. The rope on this toy is really long which is great for throwing and for tug. The ball is soft but robust. However, Maizy has managed to remove the rope from the ball on both of the toys we bought her.

Pros: Long rope, bright coloured, floats
Cons: At 14.99, there are more durable toys for the price tag

Puppy Maizy modelling the Durafoam Fetch Ball.

The Weird

We would rather play with a stick
than the Longshots Launcher
I was tempted to title this 'The Awful' because this toy was no fun at all. The Longshots Duck Launcher is a great idea but poorly executed: I couldn't get the darn duck to launch! If I did manager to "launch" the duck, it went a measly few feet. You are apparently supposed to be able to launch the duck 40 feet but I could not get the toy to work.

Pros: The duck was a nice toy by itself, which Maizy promptly hid somewhere in the garden, never to be seen again
Cons: Hard to use, generally awful. I'm not sure how much this was because it was a gift, but whatever the price, it was not worth it. It was just a weird toy. 

The "Best Toy Ever" According to Maizy

The Kong Tennis Ball Squeaker is perhaps Maizy's favourite toy because, well, it's a squeaky ball. There isn't much to say about them because they are really just a squeaky ball. Maizy goes insane for them. On the other hand, they drive me insane because she will stand there and SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK for ages. We only bring these balls out for a short period before they are banished again because they are super annoying. If she didn't love them so much I would never buy them again. 

Pros: Dogs adore them. Like really, really adore them. Her happiness is worth my ears. You get two balls for $7.49 or cheaper if you go with the smaller size. 
Cons: The squeaking!

Note: Kong does have toys where you can turn the squeaker off, which I think is brilliant and so I bought her two of them. Predictably, she doesn't play with them, even if the squeaker is on. Sigh! 

So there you have it folks, our favourite and least favourite fetching toys. Now get out there and play with your dog!  

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Fit Dog, Fat Human

The first step is admitting you have a problem and I have a problem: I really, really love junk food. Chocolates, cookies, chips, candies, all of it. I also love sitting around on my butt. This has lead to me getting a bit too squishy. I'm not fat, but I'm on my way there.

Maizy on the other hand is trim and slim. She gets lots of exercise following horses on trail rides, playing fetch, hunting feral cats, and swimming.

Girl look at that body - I work out! 

So something had to change on my end. I could either stop eating the food (HA!) or get off my butt and burn some calories. I really, really hate "traditional" exercising. You will not find me in a gym, ever. My body is (currently) too beat up for running. Sit-ups, push-ups and planks are, I'm quite sure, torture methods. Really, if there's not an animal involved I'm not going to participate.

So that leaves me with few options but thankfully one of those options is A) fairly painless, B) you can do it pretty much anywhere and, C) I can bring the dog. You've guessed it: Walking! 

I do already take Maizy on walks of course, but those are more "hurry up and poop" walks. These shorter, more ambling walks will still be happening but the plan is to add one, large, heart rate upping walk 6 times a week. I'm starting off at at least 30 minutes, with plans to increase to an hour over the next few weeks. Hopefully this should keep the fat gaining at bay and maybe I'll even lose a few pounds. At the very least, Maizy will enjoy it and that is what's really important.

I'm hoping to head to a hiking trail tomorrow morning so my next post should have some cute Maizy pictures.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Guess Who's Back, Back Again... Maizy's Back, Tell a Friend

Okay, early 2000's pop culture references aside, FitDogBlog is back! I totally have that song stuck in my head now.

But I digress! August through October was kind of chaos. Namely, my horses relocated not once but twice, which is incredibly stressful and time consuming. They're now settled in their brand new home and we are absolutely loving it. Maizy is in barn dog heaven: there's a large lesson program which means tons of kids to snuggle and there are TWO ponds to swim in. Seriously, she hasn't come home dry once in the last month. There's also tons of room to run, play and get covered in dirt.

There are lots of new friends to give belly rubs! 
When we aren't at the barn - which quite frankly, is never - lots of other things have been going on. Maizy did another round of agility classes and we have been helping out with one of my friend's training classes. Maizy has become the "go to" dog for introducing reactive dogs to other canines. Her calm nature is perfect for ensuring that other dogs have a positive experience. We have also been working on some new tricks and will hopefully be attending a trick training class in the new future. Busy busy busy!

Unfortunately, Maizy has also developed a bit of spay incontinence, which means she pees while she sleeps and dribbles urine. Thankfully infection has been ruled out, so it's just a matter of management at this point. There will be a blog post on this in the near future.

So that's really been it! I'm excited to get back into writing. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

I'm Turning Into A Werehorse: A bit about bites.

Yes, that's right, I've been bitten and now I'm turning into a werehorse.

If you google werehorse, you get this AWESOME photo.

Seriously though, yesterday my rock solid, ridden by three year olds, totally and utterly reliable and well behaved mare Lilly decided to bite me. I was doing up her girth, which she hates, and she turned and caught me in the arm hard enough to draw blood. I promptly scolded her, then got on with what I was doing and we had a brilliant ride (her third ride back after her second bone infection!). While it was a bit surprising that A) Lilly actually bit me and B) I let my gaurd down enough to get bit, it was kind of a none event. While this is the first time a horse has actually connected with me hard enough do some damage, it certainly isn't the first time a horse has tried to bite me and certainly not the first time I have been injured by a horse.

It's not a very bad wound, but my arm is a bit sore.

Now I know what you are thinking. Isn't this a dog blog? Yes, it is and I promise we will get there. This horse bite got me thinking about the relationship humans have with horses and the relationship humans have with dogs. As a person who rides and handles horses on a regular basis, getting injured is simply a fact of being around horses. I've had this drilled into me since I started riding nearly 20 years ago - while you do everything you can to prevent injuries, at some point you WILL get hurt. It's accepted pretty much across the board that horses are animals and they are therefore unpredictable.

So why is it that we hold dogs to a ridiculous standard of perfection? I honestly can't think of another animal that we expect to be so perfect. It's generally accepted that when compared to humans, dogs are about as smart as a 2 or 3 year old. Toddlers bite people All. The. Time. and nobody rallies to put them down. But once puppies cross the 6 month-ish threshold, we expect them to be totally perfect canine citizens. They are to inherently know that biting is reserved only for people who would attack their owners and break into their homes. Any other reason? Fido should be quarantined, put on the dangerous dogs list and perhaps even put down. Astonishingly, many dogs live up to this task! 

It's a good thing those big, shiny teeth are attached to such a derp.

I have only been "bitten" by a dog once and never hard enough to do damage. I was likely about 8 year old and I surprised our sheltie by grabbing her from behind. And she bit me in the face. Not hard enough to do damage, that wasn't her intent, but enough to be a bit of a shock and to hurt for just a moment. So I marched myself inside and told my parents the dog bit me, to which they replied "Well what were you doing to her?"

And that was the appropriate response. This was a good family dog and I was the first and last person she ever "bit", if you could even call it that. That was the end of the matter.

Today we so many cases of dogs biting people - kids or adults - and the dog being put down. I am positive that the situation I outlined above is still a common occurence, but I think people are holding dogs to a higher and higher standard. An unrealistic standard. 

Cyanide and Happiness is amazing.

I'm not here to trivialize dog bites. Dogs, all dogs, have the potential to be a dangerous animal. I look at Maizy, sleeping at my feet, and it runs through my head "Man, she could tear my face off if she wanted to".

I go into every interaction with my horses with the understanding that I could get seriously hurt or even killed. Every single time. Now I don't live in perpetual fear of my horses by any means and I am extremely relaxed (overly so) around Lilly especially. I have been bitten, kicked, run over, stomped on, squished against walls, thrown purposefully (not to be confused with simply falling off). The majority of my interactions with horses don't result in injury and I have horses go out of their way to avoid injuring me. They are very compassionate animals and most of them don't want to hurt you.

Here I am with my face directly behind Lilly's hoof,
injecting hydrogen peroxide into her abscess. This is
exceptionally dangerous.  Please never show any of my
past or present riding instructors this photo.

Maizy is a very mouthy dog and I consider this a good thing. She knows how to put her teeth on people without injuring them. This is much less dangerous than a dog who never bites and only knows how to bite HARD. 

I can't count the number of times I have been injured by horses. I've been scratched by cats a fair number of times too. Even my rabbits have bitten people. Sheep people get injured. Cattle people get injured. Ever been attacked by a turkey? I have. 

People find this hilarious. Would they if it was a dog?

So why do we think dogs should never, ever bite? Heck, we don't even want them to growl, their most obvious warning for "hey, I'm not comfortable, I may bite!" (As an aside, discouraging your dog from growling is a good way to get a dog that bites.) What a bizzare expection to place on an animal who has the intelligence of a toddler and doesn't speak our language.

The moral of the story? Humans are weird. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Treat Talk: 5 Doggy Snacks in Review

As the slave, er... owner, of a very spoiled dog, I buy a lot of treats. We've tried tons of different brands, which have had varying results. Some treats Maizy will jump the moon for. Others have led to some literally shitty situations. (Note: Cheese treats need to be introduced slowly, lest you want to clean up runny poop for days.) Like with Maizy's dog food, I'm pretty obsessed with find her the "best" treats - the freshest, healthiest ingredients madfe by the most reputable of companies. However, I do give a little bit of leeway when it comes to treats. Dogs, like humans, can handle a bit of "junk food" in moderation.

Wellness Wellbites

This excellent photo is from
"Her Dog Blog". Read their
review  of this treat here.
These are known around the house as "dog crack", which pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Maizy goes bonkers for these soft and very smelly treats. They come in 1" squares which are easily ripped into smaller pieces for training. However, because these treats are SO AMAZING (Maizy said that needed to be in capitals), Maizy has a hard time focusing on training. Her brain goes "Oh my god food food food food" and she proceeds to rush through all the tricks she knows in hopes of getting a treat. I also think these treats are a bit expensive. If you get the salmon ones be prepared for your hands to smell like fish forever. 

Price: 10.99 for 8oz at Ren's Pet Depot
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars. These treats are too perfect, if that's possible - Maizy loves them too much to concentrate. 

Milkbones (Minis)

Milkbones: the standard, grocery store, run-of-the-mill treat. Some people won't feed these to their dogs because they are definitely not the healthiest treat on the market. Take a look at the first 5 ingredients: "Wheat Flour, Wheat Bran, Meat and Bone Meal, Milk, Wheat Germ". Not the best, right? These are the dog equivalent of potato chips and that's okay, as long as they are fed in moderation. We use the mini size (5 calories per treat) and these bite size treats are great for training. Plus they're cheap - with the amount of treats Maizy goes through, cheap is good!

Price: 3.19 for 1lb (200+ treats) at PetSmart
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars. Good size, great price, but definitely doggy "junk food".

Old Mother Hubbard Classic Minis

These are my favourite "biscuit" dog treat and Maizy loves them too. The first 5 ingredients are "Whole Wheat Flour, Oatmeal, Wheat Bran, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), and Chicken", which is somewhat better than the Milkbones. The additional ingredients, however, are much better than the Milkbones. We love the Mini size for training and they are easy to break apart into even smaller pieces. These are my "go to" treat and we always have a cookie jar full of these on the counter. 

Price: 12.49 for 3lb at Ren's Pet Depot (we buy the big bag, clearly!)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars. Our favourite dog biscuit - could only get a higher rating if the ingredients were a bit better, but the "bad" ingredidents are needed for biscuit making and certainly don't hurt in moderation! 

Balancing Old Mother Hubbard Minis.
She hates this trick (can you tell?).

Zuke's Mini Naturals

I originally looked into Zuke's because it had a lot of good reviews and the "Mini Naturals" were an ideal size for training. The company is very reputable and the ingredients are great. I really, really wanted to like these treats, but Maizy had other ideas. We tried the chicken flavour. We tried peanut butter. We tried duck. But Maizy just doesn't really care for them, she'll eat a few and then lose interest. 

Price: 5.99 for 6oz at Ren's Pet Depot
Rating: 2.5 / 5 Stars. Good ingredients, good size, but Maizy could take or leave them. I do know lots of dogs who love these, so it's just a Maizy thing. 

Crumps Freeze Dried Beef Liver Bites

We have a winner! 
This is a treat we started using recently and it has quickly become my favourite. Maizy absolutely loves it too! They are pricey but so worth the cost. One of these is easily equal to 5 MilkBones, in Maizy's mind. She loves these treats but is still able to concentrate on the task at hand - our training has improved leaps and bounds since we started using these treats! I have tried other freeze dried treat brand but these are my favourite becuase they come in bite sized cubes, perfect for training. The only ingredient is beef liver, making these super healthy. 

While the Old Mother Hubbard treats live on the counter, the bag of Crumps lives at our back door. The only time Maizy refuses to recall is when we ask her to come into the house. Now, with Crumps, that's no longer an issue. 

Price: 19.99 for 20oz at Ren's Pet Depot
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars. You couldn't ask for a better treat! 

Vegetables and Fruits

Okay, I know I said "5 Doggy Snacks" but I wanted to include this as well. We also use vegetables and fruits as training treats - cucumbers, carrots, strawberries, blueberries ect. These need to be fed in moderation (especially the super sugary fruit) but are a great, healthy snack. However, some fruits and veggies (garlic, grapes and raisins, fruits with pits, and onions, to name a few) are toxic to dogs. Be sure to do your research before mixing a salad up for your dog.

What are your favourite treats? Tell us in the comments or send us a tweet! We'd love to hear from you. 

Happy snacking!