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! 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Rainy Day Games

Mother Nature has decided that Southern Ontario should be endlessly rainy and unseasonally cold. Maizy and I are no stranger to having adventures in the rain, but even we have to call it quits at some point... Like when there are tree branches blowing past you like tumbleweed at the dog park. Yeah, that happened this weekend.

Soaked after a game of fetch in the rain.
Maizy recently has decided that she is an adult dog now, and is actually much quieter. Something seems to have clicked in her brain over the last month. However, she is still a very active dog and staying inside and snoozing on a rainy day is not her forte. She needs exercise - both mental and physical - regardless of the weather.

So what can you do with your dog when its pouring outside?

Fetch Plus

Fetch is an excellent game for rain days. While you may not have as much space, it will still get your dog moving. Not to mention it's a great way to reinforce behaviours such as 'drop it' and 'bring it here'. But for an extra tired dog, you need to spice things up, hence the "plus" part of this game:

  • Incorporate your 'sits' and 'downs' into the game. Before throwing the ball, ask the dog for a sit or a down, and when they comply reward by throwing the ball. Mix up the commands: Ask for sit three times, down twice, then go back to sit. This will make your dogs responses quicker. For a real brain work out, ask your dog to sit and stay while you throw the ball. Only allow them to chase when you give the 'get it!' command.
  • Ask your dog to fetch up and down the stairs. This one is pretty simple but it's a tough work out for the dog. It will work on their body awareness as the navigate up and down the steps. Make sure you don't over do this one - it gets tiring quickly!
  • Work on fetch with household items. Does Fluffy frequently steal your socks? Grab a sock and play fetch. This reinforces Fluffy giving you the item, so in the future you won't have to chase the dog around trying to retrieve the pair of panties that she decided to parade around the house.


Targeting is a great way to get your dog moving and thinking. It's fairly easy to teach and can be simple or difficult. Basically, the idea is to get your dog to touch a target with his nose. The target can be anything - a sticky note, your hand, a container lid. This is very easy to teach using clicker training, but it's not nessecary to use a clicker. 

I'll go over the steps to train this behavior quickly, but for more in depth information check out this article.

Step 1: Select your target. It can be something like your hand or a container lid. Make sure it's visible to being with. We started with the lid of a sour cream container and are now using a smaller, less visible mason jar lid.
Step 2: Place the target in front of your dog. When your dog touches the target with his nose, reward the dog. If your dog isn't investigating the target, place a treat on top. Repeat until this is easy for your dog.
Step 3: Once your dog had Step 2 down pat, start to add your verbal command. Maizy and I use "touch!"
Step 4: Begin to move the target farther away from the dog.

Here's a video of Maizy practicing targeting. This is quite difficult because she doesn't know where I've placed the target, only the general area, so she has to search for it.


This one requires a fairly large area, so push back those couches and clear a space. Rally-O is a great way to work on obedience. Basically there are a number of "stations" which make up a course. The stations ask for a specifc behavior or group of behaviors. You can download and print out the signs from the Canadian Association of Rally-O as well as learn more about Rally-O.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

This Wasn't The Plan!

Well, you my have noticed that things have been a bit quite on the Fit Dog Blog. We have been busy and unfortunately it isn't a great kind of busy.

In October, 2014 my horse Lilly got a bone infection in her foot. It was a very long winter filled with soaking and wrapping and bandaging and medication. But in January she was looking like she had beat the infection. However, it has returned. Thankfully we caught it early but the x-rays my vet did this morning aren't looking great. :(

In other news, Maizy has been thoroughly enjoying herself. She really loves stealing my medical supplies at the barn and her new favourite thing is rolling in poop. I am working on a post about our favourite grooming products and trust me, they have been getting a lot of use lately!

I'm going to leave you with a picture of Maizy smiling, because I could certainly use a smile right now. Keep your fingers crossed for Lilly!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

5 Reasons to Take Your Dog to School

When I first got Maizy, I didn't expect to take her to puppy classes. I had horses. I knew how to train animals. But then it hit me - I've ridden for nearly 20 years and I still take lessons because there is always something more to learn.

Maizy with her certificate
from Puppy School
We started with puppy classes which were an absolute blast. These classes are more about human training than dog training. A good class should also allow for lots of puppy socialization. It was amazing watching the puppies go from little monsters to good canine citizens.

After that, I was totally hooked on dog school. We took a bit of a break while Maizy was spayed, and then signed up for additional classes. We completed a manners course, a introduction to Agility and an introduction to Rally-O. Maizy absolutely loves dog school - she can barely contain herself when we pull into the facility!

I signed Maizy up for a repeat of the Manners class. While we are more advanced than the other students, it is an excellent refresher. I've gotten to know the instructors at the school quite well and they know what Maizy is capable of and where she struggles, so we can make the simple exercises more difficult (aka while practising loose leash walking, Maizy and I also worked on perfecting our rally sits).

Without a doubt, I can say that dog school is one of the best things I have done for Maizy. It has definitely made her a happier and more relaxed dog. And now that my long-ish introduction is over, here's why your dog should go to school.

5 Reasons to Take Your Dog to School

  1. A better behaved dog. This one is pretty obvious, but the impact is often undersold. Maizy is a very, very well behaved dog thanks to all her training and it makes dog ownership so much more enjoyable. Heck, I get stressed out when I see other people's dogs running wild and causing chaos, so it's nice to have a dog who listens well. Plus, the amount of of compliments I get on her training are great for my ego.
  2. A stronger bond with your dog. Dogs love to work for their human. Training brings you and your dog closer together, strengthening the human-canine bond. Whether you're simply working on your sit-stays or doing complex agility work, your dog is thrilled to be spending time with you.
  3. A more confident dog. Dog school exposes Fido to a variety of other dogs, people and situations. Your dog will learn problem solving skills and have good experiences that will carry over into your everyday routine. Maizy is happy to take on new, scary experiences because she has had so many positive encounters in the past.
  4. A well trained dog is a safer dog. It's a big world out there and the truth of the matter is that there are lots of things that could potentially hurt your dog. Imagine this: You open your front door, hands full of groceries. Fido comes to greet you but bolts out of the door when he catches sight of a squirrel. He is headed towards the road. "Fido! Come!" you say. Does your dog listen? I have been in this exact situation with Maizy and because of all our training, her recall is excellent. 
  5. It's fun! Seriously, dog school is a blast. You get to see lots of cute dogs (puppy school was seriously amazing), you get to play with your dog and you get to hang out with people who love dogs. You might even learn a little bit in the process. 
Maizy works on targeting, a skill we learned at school!

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for dog school today! 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Resource Guarding in Dogs

Does the above scene look a little too familiar? Is your dog reluctant to give up toys? Or maybe they turn into a jealous green monster when you go to pet other dogs? Or maybe they get a little defensive around meal time. Resource guarding can show up in many different ways and it is important that you recognize the signs early, before it progresses into a real problem. Before we get to the "info" part of this post, I'd like to tell you a little story, which unfortunately does not have a very happy ending.

One of my extended family members had a Springer Spaniel bitch who, sad to say, did not have a very nice personality. She was a great dog is some ways and fit really well into their active lifestyle. Unfortunately, she had some severe resource guarding issues. I remember, as a small child, being told "Don't pet the dog. Don't touch the dog" over and over again. We were absolutely not left in the room with the dog. The dog was also very protective of "her" resources, and would often not allow the husband into the bedroom or onto the bed.

Eventually, the dog's owners decided to start a family and the dog was sent to live on the farm. In this case, it was an actually my grandparent's farm and not the figurative "the dog has been put down" farm. My grandparents were very experienced dog people and were able to manage her nasty tendencies fairly well, but as the dog got older she got worse and worse. The dog was muzzled at family gatherings. She was protective of the bedroom. She was overly attached to my grandfather. She became more and more dangerous. Eventually, when she went after my grandmother for trying to get into "her" truck, she was put down.

Springer Spaniels are prone to resource guarding and this is something I am hyper aware of with Maizy. In fact, many cases of so called "Springer Rage" were likely instances of resource guarding. However, this problem is not limited to Springers - not by a long shot.

What is Resource Guarding?

Resource guarding can present itself in many ways. It can be mild or severe. With severe cases, it can often not be "fixed" but with training and management, it can improve greatly. It can be shown by a stiffening of posturing, turning away, growling, biting and other distress signs. Here are some examples:

  • Your dog growls when you approach him when he is eating.
  • Your dog turns his head away when you reach for his bone, and if you persist he moves away.
  • Your dog is protective of the couch
  • Your dog doesn't like it when you pet other dogs - he may lunge, growl, snap or bark at other dogs. Maizy does this, and it is something we are working on.
  • Your dog doesn't like it when other humans approach you.
It is normal for dogs to warn other dogs away with stiffened posture, a stare, a lip curl or even a small growl. This tells the other dog, "Hey, this is my bone, don't try and take it". This, in itself, is not a bad thing.

It becomes a problem when the behaviour is centered around humans, either keeping humans away from "their stuff" or viewing the human as "theirs", or if the behaviour becomes too aggressive towards other dogs. 

How to Handle Resource Guarding

If you believe your dog has a problem, the first step is to contact a dog trainer or animal behaviourist. Blog posts such as this one or even an article written by Caesar Milan (who, for what it's worth, is not very well regarded in most dog training circles) are not ever a substitute for a dog trainer. You may also want to contact your veterinarian for advice.

I also recommend you purchase the book "Mine! A practical guide to resource guarding" by Jean Donaldson. I love this book so much I have multiple copies - one for me and one for others to borrow. Donaldson does a bang up job of explaining resource guarding and outlines the training steps you will need to implement.

An excellent resource for all dog owners.

How I Handle Resource Guarding

I am not a professional dog trainer, but I will share with you what I do with Maizy and you can do what you will with that information.

  • You know the old adage, "Don't touch the dog while it's eating"? I absolutely, 100% do not follow this rule. However, I implemented this since Maizy was 8 week old. When Maizy is eating I reach into her food bowl and take some of her kibble. I then return the kibble and also give her a tasty treat in her bowl. This teaches her that "good things happen when people touch your food". I have lots of people do this with her. As a result, you could play bongos on Maizy's bum while she ate and she wouldn't even bat an eye. Even though Maizy is a year old now, I still do this food exchange a few times a week.
  • The Trading Game. This is a fun activity to do with your dog and Maizy will now try to trade me for high value items - "I brought you my favourite bone, now you give me that bag of chips." Basically you give the dog an item, such as a toy, and then "trade" the dog for yummy snacks like cheese or liver. You can even link a word to the action (such as "trade!" or "swap!"). This teaches the dog that giving you things means they get better things in return. When you start this game, give the dog a very low value item (something your dog likes, but doesn't care too much about) and trade for a very high value item (yummy food!). Slowly work your way up to trading for more high value items, like bones or favourite toys. This article from Whole Dog Journal explains the process in step-by-step detail.
  • Fetch! This is a great way to get your dog giving you items and allows you to work that "Drop it!" command. When we started training this - and for most dogs, you will have to actually train the behaviour - Maizy would give back low value items for me to throw again. Now that she is more solid with this behaviour, she will gladly give up the coveted squeaky Kong ball. This is very similar to the trading game, but the reward here is you throwing the ball after the dog gives you the toy.
As I noted above, Maizy can become a bit - okay, a lot - jealous when other dogs approach my boyfriend, and to some extent when other dogs approach me. While her behaviour doesn't cause any problems at this point, we are working to nip it in the bud before it escalates. For this, we are using positive reinforcement. Maizy sits quietly while another dog approaches? She gets a treat. We are going back to dog school for a refresher, and this is one of the things I will be asking our trainer about.

I'll keep you updated on our progress!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Farm Dog Agility

Maizy did a "Intro to Agility" class when she was about eight months old. She got to go on some low contact obstacles, like the dog walk, jump teeny "jumps", practice her wait on the table and whip through tunnels. She absolutely loved it and I did too. Unfortunately, a lack of money (thanks horses) means Maizy and I are out of luck when it comes to real agility training, at least for now.

In the meantime, we do what I call "Farm Dog Agility". This is a great example of using your environment to your advantage - you don't need all the fancy gimmicks when training your dog, though they are sometimes nice to have! I am lucky that I have access to a full set of equine jumps, which gives me a bit of an advantage. However, Maizy and I also do "City Dog Agility" which involves jumping over low walls, balancing on benches, weaving through trees, ect. We have even found tunnels to practice with in local parks!

Maizy's 5 Rules for Farm Dog Agility

So, you want to get into Farm Dog Agility? Here are the "rules" as described by Maizy:

1. Your human's directions are, at best, a suggestion. You may find that your time may be better spent doing the "Squirrel Chase" movement instead of the "Jump Over Things" movement. Trust your dog instincts: you know what you need to work on most. Ignore your human's yells of "GET OVER HERE" whenever possible.

Did you say "Come!?" JK I don't care.

2. You get extra points for getting super dirty. The dirtier and wetter the better.

You get extra points for being really wet and dirty.

3. The swimming phase of Farm Dog Agility should only be done in dirty water. Again, the dirtier, the better. Help your human get in on the fun by shaking off all over them - they will scream with delight.

The bigger the splash the better.

4. Jump all the things! This part is the most fun, though you do have to listen to your human for direction here. However, be sure to keep them humble by occasionally pointedly ignoring them: "Sit? I have no idea what that means. Never heard that word before in my life." If you are a Springer, be sure to excitedly bite your human after a jump, they love it. 

Don't I look adorable? 

5. The "cross country" phase also great fun. Here you get to run and jump over natural obstacles. Additional points for carrying a stick while you do it. 

Going down a bank is a traditional obstacle.

Finally, this is not a rule but rather a piece of advice. Do not let mean corgis steal your sticks. I am posting this horrifying photo so you are all aware of the danger:

Watch out for thieving corgis. That stick was mine! 

When you have completed your Farm Dog Agility course, it is important to hydrate and have a snack. Preferably your human will take to Tim Hortons for a well deserved TimBit. 

Those are the basics of Farm Dog Agility. Remember these 5 rules and you are sure to succeed.

Love and Dog Kisses,


Monday, 8 June 2015

Weekend Recap: I Have the Best Animals

I made a last minute decision to take one of my horses cross country schooling Saturday. If you're not a horse person, cross country is basically jumping over obstacles you would naturally find out and about - ditches, banks, logs, ect. But before I could go to the barn, Maizy needed her morning exercise. We headed over to the dog park bright and early. There was one other dog there, who we know quite well, and to my surprise Maizy was actually interested in wrestling with him. These days she normally just wants to play fetch. Unfortunately Maizy couldn't come cross country schooling with me, as we were trailering into a private venue. She stayed home to snuggle in bed with my boyfriend and I hit the road.

My mare, Lilly, and I are pretty out of shape so the goal for the day was to have fun and build confidence. We had an absolute blast and I could not have asked for a better horse - she was listening, willing and an absolute jumping machine. It was her first time schooling cross country so I was very, very proud of her. I've nicknamed Lilly the "Honey Badger" because she doesn't give a shit. If you don't get that reference, take a look at this classic viral video.

My other horse, Calla, can be a bit of a difficult ride and my confidence definitely took a blow during my time riding her. I've been a bit freaked out about jumping lately, but Lilly and I quickly got back into the groove. The amount of trust I have in her is off the charts. Here are some of the better pictures of the day:

Heading out to the jumps - the weather was gorgeous!

Our first fence of the day, a little log pile.

Popping over a coop - I had some problems with
Calla over this fence last year, but Lilly rocked it.
Lilly's first time over a ditch. This type of jump is
pretty scary for horses but she could not have cared less.
A small down bank. Again, Lilly was perfect.
Having a small argument about pace. Lilly loves to jump
and gallop, the bigger and the faster the better.

Our only refusal of the day was at this fence.
Second time is the charm!

Such a good pony.
Could not have been happier with her and she loved it.

After getting Lilly settled in back at the farm, I headed back to Hamilton and took Maizy for a walk. At this point I was exhausted so we spent the rest of the day napping!

Sunday was very low key as well. We went to the dog park for a total of about three hours and boy was it ever a good time. The weather was really nice, some of our favourite dogs were there and I had some great conversations. I'm slowly becoming one of the "dog park ladies", which is a group of great women with some really nice dogs. Nothing better than having a cup of tea, chatting and watching dogs play!

There was one guy who let his dog into the park and then proceeded to go clean his car while poochy caused trouble. The dog wasn't a bad dog, but just very excited and not very well mannered. The other dogs were not impressed and after we yelled at the guy he finally sent his girlfriend in to watch the dog. But other than that, all the other dogs and owners were excellent company. 

All in all, a very good weekend. I'm working on a post about resource guarding in dogs, so stay tuned for that. 

Friday, 5 June 2015

100 Followers, 100 Bones!

Fit Dog Blog's twitter account reached 100 followers yesterday. We are so excited! Maizy did a special trick in celebration. Watch the video to see! 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Splish, Splash, Maizy Won't Take a Bath

Springer Spaniels are known for the love of water. Keeping these dogs out of ponds, lakes and puddles is near impossible. Maizy is no exception to this rule. She absolutely loves to swim and play in the water. 

Maizy and one of the barn dogs, another Springer, make a splash.
Last night was no exception. Maizy and four other dogs, including another Springer, all went swimming in the stream at the barn. It was absolute chaos - wet dogs everywhere, barking, stick throwing. I ended up very wet as well.

So what I don't understand is how my water loving dog absolutely despises taking a bath. Freezing cold water? That's fine with Maizy. A tiny mud puddle? Perfect to lay in. Birds in the water? Jump in after them.

But a clean, warm bath tub? Oh hell no. And of course, because Maizy loves pond swimming, she gets lots of torture baths.

I have tried hosing her down. This causes her to scream like you are cutting off her ears. I've tried having her shower with me, which ends with a wet dog trying to climb into my arms. The bath tub and a container to pour water over her is the best method, but you have to be on guard because she will attempt to escape. The best method is to get her REALLY tired so she has no energy to fight.

Because Maizy loves swimming, but hate baths, I figured a kiddy pool would be a nice compromise. She could lounge in the water on hot days and at least get some of the post-swim nastiness rinsed off before coming in the house. But of course, she absolutely hates that too. So much for that idea!

So it looks like I am stuck wrestling her into a bath tub while she kicks and whines (literally). Sigh!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Maizy the Party Animal

On Saturday, we hosted a large baby shower and pig roast for my sister-in-law and my brother. With friends, family and kids there were about 50 people in the house. We have a good sized backyard, perfect for this type of event. However, Saturday's forecast was rain. Lots and lots of rain.

Maizy got groomed on Friday so she could look
stunning for the party.

I was a bit worried about how Maizy would handle the whole thing. I'm not a huge fan of kids so while I do try to social her with people of all types and ages, she doesn't usually spend more than a few minutes with kids. I was absolutely not worried about her biting or anything of the sort, but she is a very... enthusiastic dog and I was worried that she would be a bit too much for the kids to handle.

I was also nervous that she would get overwhelmed. 50 people is a lot of people for one dog to handle and with the rain that meant everyone would be inside.

However, I could not have asked for a better party dog. She was even better behaved than usual and even the 3 year old who was a bit afraid of her at first was yelling "Maizy! Maizy" after not too long. She didn't jump on people, she didn't hand out too many kisses, she did not even think about stealing food. One 2 year old boy was absolutely in love with her and stuffed her full of snacks, all of which she gently took. He even fed her cake off a fork! I made sure she only got a bit of "junk food" in the grand scheme of things, so there were no tummy upsets.

The weather did clear up and the kids were able to go play outside. Maizy had a great time supervising when they were in the sprinkler. I got lots of great pictures, but as they have kids in them, I am loathe to post them. However, here is one shot of Maizy playing with the boy mentioned about, which I will share as his face is covered:

Maizy was stellar with the kids.

I could not have asked for a better dog. She took everything in stride and loved it. Once the last guests were gone, she promptly passed out - entertaining is hard work!

Sunday we were both pretty exhausted from the party. Mother Nature decided that the temperature should drop to about 8 degrees (from high 20's) and that it should rain and rain and rain and rain. When we did venture outside, we didn't stay out for long!

Soaked the bone after a very cold and wet game of fetch.
It was a busy but good weekend - Maizy and I will probably be taking the next few days to recover from the party! 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A tale of tails: Is docking tails bad?

Tail docking is a pretty controversial subject and I realise my views may not sit well with everyone. However, I feel a lot of people say "tail docking is bad!" without getting the other side of the story. I will try to keep this as subjective as possible and I would love to hear your comments, whether you agree with me or not!

Clearly, Maizy has a docked tail. She doesn't seem to mind.

Maizy's tail is docked. It is traditional for her breed and let me tell you, am I ever glad it is docked! I'll explain why in a moment, but before we begin I'd like to say that when I say "research" I am not talking about reading somebody's opinion on the internet, though I certainly take that into account too. I am referring to peer reviewed scientific papers.

What is tail docking? 

The definition of docking is, according to the Almighty Google: 

Docking is the intentional removal of part of an animal's tail or, sometimes, ears. The term cropping is more commonly used in reference to the cropping of ears, while docking more commonly—but not exclusively—refers to the tail.
 Many types of animals have their tail docked, including horses and sheep. Tail docking began as a way to help prevent injury to the animal: a draft horse's long tail might get caught up in machinery, or a hunting dog may have its tail ripped to shreds by thorns, or a sheep with a long tail may get fly strike. When tail docking began, it was used to protect the animal against very real threats. Today, we thankfully have lessened, but not eliminated, these threats.

In dogs, tail docking should occur when the pup is no older that 5 days. This is done by either the vet or the breeder, and is most commonly done by "banding" the tail. Banding involves placing a special orthodontic band over the tail, which then cuts off blood supply to the end of tail. It can also be done using surgical scissors and the end of the tail is simply cut off.

Sounds painful, right? Wrong. Pups at this point do not have their nervous system fully developed. If a tail is docked properly, the pup will often not even notice. The puppy should not cry out, whine, or show any signs of distress. At this point, there is no evidence (or at least, I have not been able to find it in my research) to show this has any negative impact on the puppy.

After 5 days old, tail docking should only be done by a vet while the puppy is under anaesthesia, preferably after the pup is eight months old. To be clear, I do not condone the docking of tails after the pup is 5 days old - this has the potential to cause trauma to the dog.

The longer you wait to dock a tail, the more painful it becomes. While tail docking is a "non-event" for very young puppies, it is a very painful process for older dogs. At this point it is no longer considered docking, but rather an amputation. Docking an older dogs tail should ONLY be done by a vet for medical reasons.

Why dock tails?

Okay, so we've establish what tail docking is, a brief history of why it was done, and how it is done. But why bother?

Breed History: Many people dock tails because it is traditional. The American Kennel Club says, "The American Kennel Club recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving the breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided."

Personally, I think "preserving the breed character" is a pretty dumb reason to dock a tail. This is basically along the lines of 'we have always done this, so we are going to keep doing it'. Really, this comes down to fashion. While I don't agree with this reason for tail docking, if done properly, I don't believe it is an issue.

Injury Prevention: This is why I like docked tails. Maizy is a breed of hunting dog and we spend a lot of time in the woods. That means going through all sorts of plant matter, climbing up rocks, belly crawling through thick , swimming and more. We don't just wander along well groomed trails, we get out there and adventure.

This spaniel recieved a tail injury while out in the field.
Note the amount of blood.

Working dogs and dogs that spend a lot of time "in the field" are at risk damaging their tails. Docking was invented to prevent such injuries. In this case, the old saying a "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" rings true. Tail injuries can be very nasty business and if the dog requires amputation it will cause a considerable amount of suffering to the dog.

Here's a story from a cocker owner:
Our cocker spaniel bitch Lucy was 14 months old and enjoying the experience of her first working season when the problem with her tail started in December 1996. Approximately two inches at the tip of her tail broke open leaving raw, bleeding skin. This was treated by the vet with cream and we tried our best to protect it (not easy!) for the next two months. Lucy was in obvious pain during this time and the tail would always break out whenever she was working and often when she was being exercised.
Eventually the vet recommended we have the tail amputated, which was done on 12th February 1997. This caused Lucy much distress over the next few days. She cried a lot with pain, was very reluctant to even walk and generally changed completely from the happy confident dog we knew. Eight days later she was back at the vet because the stitches were infected. The end of the tail was in such a mess, the stitches had to be removed early and she was back on antibiotics. The tail had to be bandaged for three weeks but eventually scarred over approximately one month after the operation.
Another member of our shooting syndicate had to have their springer spaniels tail amputated last year. Needless to say, I am no longer open-minded about this issue, believing now that it is cruel not to dock.
You can read more stories like this at the Council of Docked Breeds website. Please remember that Council of Docked Breeds is a highly biased source, so read with a grain of salt.

Spaniels, for whatever reason, seem to be at a higher risk. I am glad Maizy's tail is docked - it is one less thing I have to worry about. I compare tail docking to vaccination: The risk of Maizy contracting Lyme disease is not very high, but I vaccinate her against it anyway, just in case. Similarly, the risk of a dog injuring its tail is not very high, but docking prevents any possible injury.

Happy Tail Syndrome: While this sounds like a good thing, it isn't. Have you ever met one of thsoe dogs that just wags its tail constantly? You wake up in the morning to the "thump, thump, thump" of a dog eager to start the say. Your drink goes flying as Fluffy walks past the table wagging his tail. You get bruises on your legs from constantly being smacked by an enthusiastic dog.

Believe it or not, dogs can wag their tail so much that it leads to injury.

The result of Happy Tail Syndrome:
A cone of shame and a sore tail.
Gayle Hickman from PetAdvisor, describes Happy Tail very well, so I'm going to quote her on this matter:
Happy tail, sometimes known as kennel tail, is actually an injury caused when a dog wags his tail (maybe from happiness) so hard that the tail hits against hard objects, such as walls or floors. This can cause the tail to break open and bleed — very painful.
Sometimes dogs may even wag so hard that the skin and blood vessels at the tip of the tail will rupture. Wagging tails with blood slinging all over the place are enough to scare any pet owner, but thankfully the amount of blood lost is actually very little. The bad news is that even when you do get the tail bandaged and finally healed, the dog very well might start wagging all over again and re-injure himself, time and time again... As a general rule, happy tail injuries in a dog require a veterinarian’s attention, especially if bleeding cannot be controlled. Antibiotics will be needed to prevent infection. The worst-case scenario if you can’t stop constant injuries from recurring is that up to two-thirds of the tail may be removed through amputation.
As you can see, Happy Tail is not very happy at all! You can read the rest of what Gayle has to say here.

What are the cons of tail docking?

So now that we've discussed why you might want to dock a dog's tail, let's talk about the reasons why people are against tail docking.

They think tail docking is cruel: A large number of people think tail docking is cruel, but I wonder how much research they have done into the subject. Certainly, tail docking has the potential to be cruel, but if done properly between the age of 2 to 5 days, the puppy should not suffer any ill effects.

They think tail docking is unnatural: It is unnatural. Everything we do with dogs is unnatural, really. Walking on a leash? Unnatural. Eating kibble? Unnatural. Vet care? Unnatural.

They think tail docking affects how dogs communicate: I am not a vet or researcher, so I can only comment on my experiences. And in my experience, this is a load of crap. All the dogs I know with docked tails also have no issues. Maizy certainly has no trouble communicating with other dogs, despite her docked tail. In fact, her ears pose way more of a problem for her with other dogs (aka, they pull the shit out of them).

They think tail docking affects a dog's balance: I have yet to see any evidence of this, either through my research or in person. 

In conclusion...

I think tail docking has a place and it is a valuable tail. Should every dog have its tail docked? Absolute not. But some dogs may benefit from this procedure. I have yet to find any evidence showing that tail docking negatively impacts a dog.  

Maizy's docked tail keeps her safe from injury while out in the brush.
It's also pretty damn cute.