Play time!

My beloved spaniel Alix loved to play. She was a natural at hide-and-seek, enjoyed a rousing game of tug-of-war, and had a couple of chew toys she’d carry about. Her favorite daily game, though, involved our Silver Tabby Amy and Katie the Calico Cat. We lived in a house with a long hallway and every day Alix would chase those two cats down the hall and into one of the bedrooms at the far end. A minute later we’d hear them galloping back–this time with the cats chasing the dog!

Now that the household once again includes a dog and a cat, I’m hoping they’ll come to enjoy playtime together, too. Although it’s been just three weeks since Sasha came to us, I’m seeing tentative overtures from both of them. Buddy isn’t interested in sharing his ball time (that cat has an impressive collection of both balls and strings, but that’s a story for another day), and Sasha clearly wasn’t accustomed to playtime.

We bought a few toys that we thought she might enjoy: a tug toy with a rope at one end and a tennis ball at the other; a couple of soft squeaky toys; and a small rubber Frisbee. We hid treats at the bottom of the (shallow) toy basket and encouraged her to find them. That was the easy part, but once the treats were gone, so apparently was her interest. Until one morning when I hid one of the squeaky toys behind my back and ran around the house, squeaking the toy as I went. Well, that got her attention! Here’s the result:

 

In addition to our daily obedience training time (in the house, in the backyard, along our quiet street), I’ve added daily play time to our schedule. It might be dancing around to music (she’s a fan of Willie Nelson) or she might grab a toy or nose a ball. We’ve celebrated the few times Sasha and Buddy have run around the backyard together! Really, though, it doesn’t matter what sort of playtime we have, as long as she’s enjoying herself and knows we’re happy to have her in our home.

If you have a dog like Sasha who’s slow to warm up to toys, drop by the Chasing Dog Tales website and read Elaine Bryant’s 10 tips for helping your dog learn how to play. You’ll be glad you did!

5 Fun Ways to Celebrate “Love Your Pet” Day

My Sasha

My Sasha, wearing bling from groomer

For many of us, an official ‘Love Your Pet Day’ might seem a little unnecessary. We love our pets every day! But every year on February 20th, Love Your Pet Day serves as a little reminder to give our beloved pets some special attention.

Read all: 5 Fun Ways to Celebrate “Love Your Pet” Day

Historic FUN Obedience Event at Westminster

Obedience is much on my mind these days, and I’ve been scouring the Internet for stories, strategies, and tips to help Sasha and I learn the fine art of PAYING ATTENTION. I think we’ll both be watching this clip for inspiration! (Find the link at the end of the post.)

Photo: Cathy Sheeter Fine Arts Photos: Cathy Sheeter Fine Arts

cathy2

Never say never. That’s what I learned this week at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The nationally recognized Westminster show takes place every February in New York City. For nearly a week, dog people from across the country descend upon New York and the city is abuzz with everything dog.

For many years, I’ve heard obedience people say, “wouldn’t it be great if some day our sport could be at Westminster to show the public about the benefits of training dogs?” And every time, someone would inevitably respond, “It will never happen.” That’s because Westminster has been a club steeped in tradition and that tradition has always been conformation shows.

But then, there was a change. Westminster Kennel Club decided to add AKC Agility to the show, and this year, everyone cheered at the show (and at home as they watched via television) for this…

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Winter Workouts With Your Dog

Here in the Ozarks, winter weather can be unpredictable. This year, we’ve enjoyed mild weather for the most part with sporadic bouts of bitter cold and some freezing rain. And while this morning’s temperature was in the mid-30s, the rain was cold and edging into icy. I’ll confess I was sorely tempted to exercise Sasha indoors, but then I remembered reading a terrific post on the Chasing Dog Tales website about the benefits of outdoor exercise in winter. And so off we went, with Sasha proudly sporting her red plaid coat. In addition to keeping her warm, the coat kept most of her dry, making both of us happy!

And this Sasha’s very first stand-stay; didn’t she do well?

My Sasha

My Sasha, ready for a winter’s morning walk

Sasha enjoyed the outing so much I wanted to share the original post. Here it is, reblogged in its entirety courtesy of Elaine Bryant. (Thanks, Elaine!) That website is a wonderful resource, by the way, and I hope you’ll check it out.

do-you-hate-walking-your-dog-in-the-winter

By Elaine Bryant

It’s okay, I’ll be the first one to answer that question. Yes! Sometimes I do hate going for walks with Haley when it’s bitterly cold and miserable outside. When the weather’s really nasty, we find other ways to exercise like some of the ideas I wrote about in my article, 12 Easy Ways to Exercise Your Dog in the Winter. The problem is, it’s all too easy to get into the habit of skipping the walk and relying more on indoor exercise, rather than braving the elements.

I have to admit, I feel a little guilty when we opt for indoor exercise because I know Haley would much rather go for a walk outdoors where she can get more of a workout and have the joy of relishing all the sights, sounds and smells along the way. If you hate walking your dog in the winter too, check out these solutions to the most common complaints and excuses we use to stay inside on cold winter days.

7 Complaints About Walking Your Dog in the Winter (and the Solutions!)

1. I’m just not motivated.

Cold weather can put a damper on your motivation to go outside. Use your dog’s excitement about going for a walk to help you get into the spirit or focus on how rejuvenated you feel when you return home from an invigorating walk. Instead of taking the same boring walk around the block, go for a hike in the woods or explore a new area of town. You already have one walking buddy, why not recruit a few more. Ask a friend, family member or neighbor to join you on daily walks.

2. It’s too cold.

Yep, I can’t deny it feels warmer sitting on the couch inside your home, but with the right clothes and accessories you can stay comfortable on your wintertime walk. Invest in a good pair of boots, some wool socks, insulted gloves, a hat and how about a colorful scarf too? Layer your clothing to retain body heat and you’ll be all set to head outside for some fun with your pup. On days when it’s dangerously cold outside, use common sense and stay safe and warm indoors.

3. It’s too cold for my dog.

Most dogs are fine when walking outside in the wintertime but you’ll want to limit the amount of time for puppies, senior dogs and dogs with illnesses. There are several types of dogs that can benefit from wearing a sweater or jacket when it’s cold outside. Read Do Dogs Need Sweaters in the Winter? to find out if your dog would benefit from the extra insulation. Keep an eye on your pup for warning signs that they might be cold or uncomfortable. If your dog’s shivering, whining, looking anxious, picking up their feet or they hesitant to keep walking, it’s time to head back indoors.

4. My dog’s paws get cold or form ice balls.

Snow can cling to the hair between your dog’s toes and form painful ice balls. Prevent the ice balls from forming by trimming the hair between your dog’s paw pads. Also consider using booties or applying a wax such as Musher’s Secret to your dog’s paws before your walk. If your dog doesn’t wear booties, be sure to wipe their paws with a wet washcloth when you arrive back home to remove any residue from salt or chemical de-icers which may be dangerous if ingested.
Dog on Ice Puddle

5. It’s slippery outside and my dog pulls on the leash.

Ice and a pulling dog usually results with you ending up on your butt or worse. Here are a couple of things that will help keep you on your feet. First, buy a pair of ice cleats that fit over your boots, such as the Yaktrax Walk, to give you better traction. Next, prevent your dog from pulling by using a front clipping harness combined with a non-retractable leash for more control. Remember, every walk is also an opportunity to train your dog not to pull on the leash.

6. It’s hard to hold the leash and pick up poop while wearing gloves.

Besides juggling a leash and poop bags, you’re probably also dealing with treats, a cellphone and maybe even tissues for a runny nose. Don’t bother with gloves or mittens that you have to take off over and over again. Instead, buy a pair of fingerless gloves with an attached mitten flap that easily pulls over your exposed fingers. I have a pair of gloves similar to these that I absolutely love.

7. I don’t like walking in the dark.

The shorter days of winter mean some people might not be able to walk their dogs during daylight hours. A couple of items can help keep you and your pup safe. A headlamp rather than a flashlight will leave your hands free to manage the leash and other things and an LED collar or clip-on collar light will help make your pup visible in the dark.

Those are some of the most common complaints about walking your dog in the winter but there are plenty of benefits and reasons to love those wintertime walks too. Here are just a few!

Reasons to Love Walking Your Dog in the Winter

  • There’s something very special about a quiet walk through fresh fallen snow.
  • Winter walks are more peaceful because fewer people are outside. This is especially nice if you have a reactive dog.
  • Fresh air and a chance to absorb a little sunlight does wonders for your attitude during the winter months.
  • You and your pup will stay in great shape and avoid winter weight gain.
  • The mental stimulation and exercise of a walk will help prevent destructive dog behavior caused by boredom.
  • You won’t feel guilty. :)

Snow Hike with Dog

While I’m on the topic of winter walks, I want to throw in a couple of safety tips.
Always use a leash if you’re walking or hiking near frozen ponds or lakes. It’s not worth taking the risk of your dog falling through a partially frozen body of water.
Be careful about letting your dog walk in snow that has an icy crust over the top of it. Haley once ripped her dew claw because it got snagged on the ice as her paw broke through the crusted over snow.

Since January is National Walk Your Dog Month, I’m going to challenge myself to maintain the same walking schedule as we have during the warm summer months. If you hate walking your dog in the winter too, why not join me in the challenge and use the tips here to make cold weather walking more enjoyable. For you hardcore winter walkers, I’d love to hear your tips on how you make winter walks more comfortable and fun!

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My thanks to Elaine for allowing me to reblog this post and share her excellent advice. If you’d like more information about helping your dog stay healthy and happy, be sure to check out Chasing Dog Tales

Have more tips and suggestions to help us all enjoy the winter? Leave a comment here!

An Unexpected Gift

Seventeen years have passed since I lost my beloved spaniel Alix, who lives on in my heart and in my series as the inspiration for Sweet Pea. For seventeen years I didn’t believe I had enough heart left to offer another dog.  Until now.

First came this photo, taken at the time she was surrendered to a rural county sheriff’s office:

Sasha Shelty

I looked at that sweet face and felt a little tingle. And I wondered…

I put everything on hold to make the trek over the hills and across the prairie plains region, where I took one look into those eyes and lost my heart all over again.  I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Sasha here at dogmysteries.com:

She’s a young Sheltie, likely less than two years old. She charmed everyone at the vet clinic and didn’t fuss at all about the exam, the blood tests, or even the inevitable medications needed to combat various minor maladies. She was a bit less sanguine about PetSmart, where I quickly realized she doesn’t like noise, probably hasn’t been socialized to men, and apparently didn’t want the bed I chose—although that might be revenge since I won’t allow her on my own bed, which is the domain of Buddy the Cat. Her coat is too thin in places and she’s in serious need of a groomer far more professional than I could ever be, but overall she’s in reasonably good health.

So far I’ve figured out that she knows sit, shake hands, speak, and has a passing familiarity with down, although that tends to have her springing straight up a few seconds later.  She can manage stay for almost a minute. Plus, she can sneeze on command.  (Really.)

She’s vocal (and then some!) when she sees another dog, which makes neighborhood walks a noisy adventure. She’s also clueless about walking on a leash,  but in our two days together she’s already realized that heel is not an invitation to gallop! This gives me hope she’ll make quick progress in obedience class, which is a “must have” for us before we can even think about the Canine Good Citizen test.

Never having had a Sheltie before, and being the total research geek that I am, I’ve ordered the breed guide and training book Shetland Sheepdog by award-winning author Sheila Webster Boneham and have turned to Sheltie owners, dog experts, and fellow dog writers for advice. I already owe special thanks to Susan Conant and Susan J. Kroupa (both award-winner authors and dog lovers) for their wonderful support and guidance.

After 17 years I feel like a novice again, and am grateful for all comments, suggestions, and recommendations.  (To share in the comments, you can either click on the word “comments” at the bottom of this post, or click on the post title and scroll down.) You’ll be seeing more of Sasha in future posts as I document our merry adventures in training. And count on seeing a Sheltie in a Waterside Kennels mystery sometime soon!