Friday, December 11, 2009

Raw diet

My last post was about feeding dehydrated raw. Well, I took the plunge and went completely raw. I've been buying raw meat and adding veggies, and Howie thinks this is the best thing ever! His first dinner was some ground turkey with carrots, apples, and bananas. This morning he had some Deli Fresh because I was able to get some chubs from a local store for free, and tonight he got steak, some pork neck, peas, and apples. Yum! He's also getting a duck neck each afternoon.

Since he was eating the dehydrated raw, I've definitely noticed a difference in him. A friend even mentioned his coat was much softer. I'm hoping that the raw diet helps his alopecia, and more importantly, his allergies.

We'll keep you updated!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dog Food Saga, con't....AGAIN

I never thought I would be in a position as I have been recently. It's like a find a food that works, then something happens, and we're back at square one with him. I had him on Wellness CORE (fish) for awhile, but since that was about $50 for a 20 pound bag, I started looking for something comparable. I found Taste of the Wild, and Howie was doing well enough on that. Then I read about a recall on the food, so we went off of that.

Back to Natural Balance Fish & Sweet Potato, because it seemed pretty comparable. Then the hives came back. So, I called my vet and we had a long conversation about it. After said conversation, and after a conversation with a friend of mine who is starting her Greyhounds on this new food, we decided that switching Howie to a much simpler food would probably be best.

Enter The Honest Kitchen: Keen. I had been wanting to go to a raw food simply because it's so much simpler and I KNOW what he's eating, but hadn't really found one I liked. I didn't want to go straight raw simply because I don't have the fridge and freezer space for it right now - The Honest Kitchen, however, is dehydrated raw, you scoop it into a bowl, add water, any fruits & veggies & supplements you want, and presto: dinner! Even better, it's affordable. A 4 pound box of the dry stuff makes 17 pounds of wet stuff and cost me ~$25.

Tonight was out first meal on it, and Howie thought it was nom! nom! nom! We have a vet appointment set for Thursday to follow up on his alopecia, and the vet & I are going to go over his food more in-depth then.

I'm not recommending the food yet. Give me about a week (or two) and I'll let you know if we like it or not! But, it looks great, convenient, and fairly customizable. Fingers crossed that this is the end of the line for us, and no more food switching!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Dog Food Saga

Howie has allergies. We've been battling them since I got him. For the first five months of his life (or, at least for as long as he was eating solid food) he and his siblings were eating Diamond brand dog food. There were no problems, but I've heard and read that many allergies don't come out until after a year of age.

When I got him, he was on Nutro Ultra Puppy, before switching over to Blue Buffalo. Howie isn't a pickey eater, but I loved Blue Buffalo, and he was doing great on it for about 6 months. Then we switched over to Blue's Wilderness formula, and aside from horrible gas (probably from the 42% protein content) he seemed to do okay on it. The the itchies started. After about 20 minutes after eating, he'd be rolling around on the carpet. So, I switched over to Natural Balance and their Limited Ingredient Diet line - the only one he seemed to be able to handle was the fish & sweet potato formula.

Then, about three weeks ago, the hives showed up. I woke up one Monday morning (which ended up just being a bad Monday morning all together) and my dog was COVERED in hives down his flanks and haunches. And he was rolling all over the carpet.

And before you say, "Oh check your cleaners and detergents," I use mild cleaners, and nothing has changed. I use All Free & Clear for laundry detergent, and never use fabric softener on Howie's things. So, it wasn't that.

So, I loaded him up with Benadryl before I left for work and made a vet appointment for after work. I came home, and the hives were gone. So, maybe it was something outside? The boyfriend thought maybe it was the acorns falling from the trees. I canceled the vet appointment, since they'd probably look at me if I brought in a dog who was perfectly fine, and kept an eye on him. Kept him loaded with Benadryl for a coupel days, then weaned him off of it to see if the hives came back.

After a few days of no Benadryl, the hives did come back, but not nearly as bad, and he wasn't itchy or uncomfortable. He was just covered in bumps. Around this time, it's time to buy a new bag of dog food, so I start looking. I had a couple sample bags of Merrick's Before Grain, which I was mainly using as stuffing for his Tug-A-Jug, and decided to try him on that.

Now, I know it can take up to a full month for the old food to be completely out of the system, but within a couple days of feeding the Before Grain, the hives were gone! So, I went to buy a big bag of it. Not two days later, the paw licking started. So, it was back to the Natural Balance.

Yes, I know it's smart to wean your dog onto a new food, and I always recommend that people switch over slowly, but Howie has never had a problem switching cold turkey - no gas, still has solid poops, and no throwing up. He's always been fine, but I'll usually half-and-half for a couple days.

Anyway, after two days of being on the Natural Balance again, the paw licking stopped. And today, about 4 days back on NB, the hives came back. There were few of them, but they were there. So, it was time to go shopping again.

I decided to go all out and get Wellness CORE. Since grains and chicken seemed to be the big culprit (I thought it was beef in the past, but it might have been the chicken he was sensitive to), I went with their fish formla. It will take a few days to see if he really benefits from it, and since I opened the bag (unlike the larger bag of Before Grain I have to return) we'll give this one the full month to make sure it's working.

We'll keep you posted!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Weight-Pulling Dog

Over the summer, our friend Amanda got us hooked on weight pulling.

Well. Let me back track. Back in February, Amanda got us hooked on weight pulling. But, at the time, Howie was only 9 months old, and thus too young to begin weight pulling. So, we focused on obedience and other fun things before we dove into the weight pulling world.

What is weight pulling? Well, basically, you hook a dog up to cart and gradually add weight to see which dog can pull the most. Dogs are grouped by weight class, and there are three categories: rails, wheels, and snow.

Snow is the hardest, because the metal rails of the sled tend to stick to the packed snow surface, and it's harder for the dogs to get the cart free. I also imagine it's harder to pull a sled than a cart.

UKC Weight Pull Nationals, Feb 2009
Ryker & Amanda

Then wheels. Which, you guessed it, is a cart on wheels.

Image (C)

Rails are the easiest. It's a cart on a rail system, similar to a train track, and once the dog gets the cart free, it's more or less easy sailing.

Image (C) Rock Creek Kennels

You might remember the post about the Bull Breed Splash Bash back in July. Howie pulled for me then, only 336 pounds - and I must correct myself and say I mis-spoke when I said that was enough for him to earn a title.

It wasn't even close.

We tried our hand for real a few weeks after the Splash Bash at an APA event in Warren, MI on July 19th, 2009. Everyone there was super nice and helpful, it was a great place for Howie and I to try our hand at the sport - even though he had very little training and I probably shouldn't have been doing this with him just yet. Why?
  1. He had had no "formal" training before hand, just the one time on the rails track at the Splash Bash, and
  2. He doesn't even have his own harness. We were borrowing Ryker's (see photo above).
Luckily, borrowing harnesses wasn't that big of a deal, because Ryker and Howie were in two separate weight classes. So, Ryker's class pulled, and then Howie's class pulled. So, it worked out fine and that day there were no flub ups or mishaps. Howie pulled beautifully - even if he did pull better for Amanda than he did for me - he weighed in at 61 pounds, pulled a total of 1100 pounds in 5.38 seconds, which was 18.03x his body weight. No titles that day, and since we pulled Novice, we only got one point from the event. But that's okay, my boy did great in his first pull!
Our second pull wasn't as grandiose as the first. August 16th, 2009 was a swelteringly hot day, one that the weather forecasters were claiming to be our hottest day of the year. I almost wasn't going to take him because it was so hot, but Amanda talked me into it, and I decided to take advantage of the fact that many people would be thinking like I was and not bring their dogs. I packed a couple bottles of frozen water, froze some hot dogs the night before so they would stay semi-decent in my cooler, and we were off.

The weather wasn't too bad at 9am for weigh in, and I arrived early to make sure that I could find a spot where I could keep Howie's crate in the shade. Amanda and Bruce arrived, we set up their shade tent, and we waited. The APA group set up a kiddie pool filled with ice so the dogs could keep cool, and the track was covered to try to keep it in the shade.

And it just kept getting hotter.

Luckily, I was right - not many people showed up. We had a total of 15 dogs at this event and we were done by noon. Only this time, sharing a harness wasn't nearly as smooth as it was at the last event. Even though they were still in weight classes, they just ran the dogs in the order they were written down on their records sheet. So, it was quite possible that Ryker would run after Howie. It was messy, until we got our rhythem down.

Luckily, we were done before noon. Ryker took home a 3rd place over-all in his weight division, and Howie just took 2nd place (out of two dogs!) for the day - he weighed in again at 61 pounds, pulled 900# in 8.69 seconds, which was 14.75x his body weight. Nothing exciting, but this is his first year, and we're taking it slow, since I don't have any formal weight pulling training equipment. And even though it wasn't as impressive as his first time out, he had better form, he was more willing to pull, and it nearly 100 degrees that day.

I love that my dog wants to work for me and he puts up with all the crap I put him through.

Our next weight pull is in a couple months at a UKC sanctioned pull. This one will be rails. I'll be sure to update about it!

Also, Howie is going for his TDI testing on Monday August 31st, 2009. Wish us luck! He may not pass, but at least we'll be able to pinpoint the areas we need to work on.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

HR 3501 - "Companion Bill"

Dear friends who have critters,

I was excited to learn this week of a new bill introduced in Congress that would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow tax deductions of up to $3,500 annually for “qualified pet care expenses.” I know that many of you, like me, shell out thousands annually for food and vet bills for your adopted animals. If this bill passes, we can write off the first $3,500!

The bill is called H.R. 3501 -- please contact your U.S. Representative or Delegate and ask them to sign on as a sponsor, and ask your Senators to introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. The bill has a somewhat silly acronym, but many bills do these days (it's called the Humanity and Pets Partnered through the Years (HAPPY) Act). It's a concise bill with no fine print and nothing sketchy. It simply defines “qualified pet care expenses” as “amounts paid in connection with providing care (including veterinary care) for a qualified pet other than any expense in connection with the acquisition of the qualified pet,” and creates a tax deduction for the first $3,500 of those expenses.

Note that you don't get to deduct acquisition costs, so it won't encourage people to run out and buy $3,500 puppy mill dogs. The bill may also help relieve the strain on animal shelters, because it removes the financial disincentive to spay and neuter pets, and helps people afford to get their pets vaccinated.

The bill also states that the deduction does not apply to animals “used for research or owned or utilized in conjunction with a trade or business.”

Thanks for reading this, and please feel free to pass it along.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"In Greed We Trust"

Found at:

Michael Vick’s NFL comeback odyssey is over as he’s signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Awesome “talented” Vick morphed into a CEO of professional dog fighting, diabolical cruelty and felonious conduct, got kicked out of the NFL, went bankrupt, off to prison, hired by the Eagles, and for the crescendo, he’s now an animal activist. We’re told to expect great things from Mike so in keeping with Mr. Vick’s astonishingly lucky life, it’s feasible that he’s the next tango artist on Dancing with the Stars then elected Governor of Pennsylvania quickly thereafter.

Although Burger King frowns on hiring felons, the NFL is a more forgiving place. The NFL insists the membership represent every facet of society and refuses to discriminate against anyone within the sociopath community. “This is a process of inclusion” remarked Bob Bumbleton, president of PWEP, People Who Enjoy Prison.

I am all about forgiveness therefore, I’m thinking about Vick from the bottom of my pit bull loving heart. I respect the pit bull, I love the breed, I work on their behalf, I admire their loyalty and have never seen one I didn’t like. I’ve spent a great deal of time with these animals and won their trust through kindness, strict rules, exercise and devotion. I had the enviable task of interviewing a former San Jose fighting dog called Willie. We called him Willie for the corniest of reasons - he had a “will” to live despite his battle scars and wild eyed fear of humans. Especially men.

When asked if Michael Vick should play in the NFL, Willie explained:

“Sure. Everybody makes mistakes. How owning and operating a kennel of death for six years is called a mistake, I’ll never understand. A mistake is when you pee on the patio furniture, not when you kill dogs. But, I do think he deserves a chance provided he tells the truth. The truth is, when a pit bull like me calls up his dog friends and organizes a dog fight and gets paid, then you can put us in the newspaper as bad dogs. When a pit bull chains himself to a tree with a tow line and starves himself to stay mean, then call us dangerous. When a pit bull docks his own ears and calls 1-800-PET-MEDS to buy steroids, then say we just want to look tough. Humans don’t need protection from pit bulls. Pit bulls need protection from humans.”

I won’t watch Vick play for the Eagles. His face mortifies me. I do not have the constitution to watch Vick wash dishes never mind play football. His vibe is evil and he sports an irritating smirk. Football is just game. What Vick did was real. I can’t offer Vick any sincere wishes for success or catchy phrases on redemption. I feel sorry for his teammates who may be too close to him when lightening strikes. In his case, lightning should strike twice.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Howie Learns: "Which Hand?"

Trick #16, Level 3 for Kyra Sundace's book Dog Tricks & Training Workbook.
After ~5 minutes! We still need to clean it up, but it's coming!
Once it's more consistent, we'll move on to the "Shell Game," then possibly transfer this into useful tasks.

Pawing-based Tasks as outlines by the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners...
  • Cupboard door - shut it with one paw
  • Dryer door - shut it with one paw
  • Refrigerator & freezer door - one forepaw or both
  • Call 911 on K-9 rescue phone - hit button with one paw
  • Operate light switch on wall - jump up, paw the switch
  • Depress floor pedal device to turn on appliance(s) or lamp
  • Jump up to paw elevator button [steady dog if he tries it on slippery tile floor]
  • Operate push plate on electric commercial doors
  • Close heavy front door, other doors - jump up, use both forepaws

Also remember to Vote for Howie!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Trick Training

I know, I know, I'm behind on blogging - I still need to blog about his first weight pull before I go to his second next weekend, and about our canoe trip a couple weekends ago.

But in the meantime -- I use trick training as a stress reliever, and these tricks can be molded into tasks when done properly. Even when we're working, it's good take him over to the side and run through a bunch of his fun and most favorite tricks.

Yesterday, on my lunch break, I bought a neat book by Kyra Sundance, who has a Weimariner who cute as a button. The book came complete with 30 flash cards, a DVD, and a workbook which also helps you to mold each trick into a different trick (such as "shake" into "high five"). I'm excited to get started, and will hopefully blog each trick.

But, going through all of these flash cards, there are some Howie already knows (the ones in italics are the ones he doesn't know and we will learn):
  • Sit
  • Paws Up (onto my lap or a chair)
  • Take a Bow (learning)
  • Say Your Prayers
  • Shake Hands
  • Jumping Through a Hoop
  • Jump Through My Arms (he's 60 pounds, we probably won't do this - maybe over my arm?)
  • Wave Goodbye (kind of knows - he'll "high five," which I can mold into waving)
  • Spin Circles (knows both ways!)
  • Sit Pretty/Beg (will have to work on balance)
  • Cover Your Eyes
  • Sing (for him, it's "talk")
  • Speak
  • Play Soccer
  • Crawl (he knows this, but I don't encourage it because he uses it to get out of down-stays)
  • Which Hand Holds the Treat?
  • Shell Game (3 cups, find the treat)
  • Turn Off The Light (Howie knows how to turn it ON)
  • Fetch (he does it, just not on cue)
  • Pull a Wagon
  • Get Your Leash
  • Hide Your Head
  • Ring a Bell to Go Outside
  • Get the Newspaper
  • Leg Weave
  • Balance & Catch (balancing something on the nose, flipping it to catch it)
  • Kennel Up (for us, it's just "crate")
  • Soda from the Fridge
  • Roll Over
  • Tidy Up Your Toys
Difficulty levels: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4

So, we have some work to do! But, notice he can do stuff in each level of difficulty already - some things that might be really difficult to teach!

A couple videos to keep you entertained:

This video was taken 3 days after learning this trick.
I know, my cues are messy :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Training Methods

The good, the bad, and the evil. They're always bound to spark a discussion or a debate, and even known for people to stop being friends over the many ideas out there. Recently, a friend of mine was jumped on for apparently "abusing" her horses because she smacked them to get out of her space and use other not so "happy" and "positive" training methods. I've been to her barn, and every horse was happy and well behaved - not a mark on them and none of the shied away from someone's hand because they thought they were going to get beaten. I can't count how many times I've spoken up in a dog community about what I've done with my dog to get a result - a consistent result - which can hardly be considered abuse, and people jumped all over me with "OMG NEVER DO THAT!"

Those of you who have met Howie can attest to the fact that he is happy and well-behaved for the most part, except when the dreaded puppy-brain takes over. Do I use leash-pops? Yes. Do I stick my toe in his ribs to redirect attention? Yes. I've even been known to swing my leg out in front of him while we walk to remind him to stay in heel position. I use a pinch collar on some occasions and when I can't use the pinch, I have my "choke" collar handy - often, I have to use less correction with these than I do on his flat-buckle collars. Never once has my dog yelped in pain or shied away from me. I can stand there and wave a spatula in his face while he watches me cook, hoping I'll drop something, and he won't budge and will barely flinch.

I also use high-drive treats and lots of praise for things done right. I get all hyped up and happy when he does what I want, but I also use a stern "no" and other various noises for the things I don't want him to do. I am not 100% positive all the time, and my dog knows it. He knows to get out of my kitchen when I growl "out" and he will slink off to his bed if I get mad for him being underfoot all.the.time. I stopped trying to dodge him and started just walking into/on him, and he's learned to scoot out of my way after having a laundry basket dropped on him because he was under my feet where I couldn't see him.

I also cuddle with my dog, he gets high quality food & treats, I use a happy "yes" and lots of pets and scratches for when he does something right, I pet him for no reason at all other than the fact that I love his fat head. We play fetch and go running, and stritch his spot to make his leg go thump. I do not beat or hit my dog out of anger, but rather ignore him until I get over it - which he usually want to cuddle before I'm done being mad at him, and makes it all better. He lets me cry into his nape and lets me harass him until he's so annoyed he gets up and goes over to his pillow.

He lets me torture him by taking him on a canoe and making him sit there for 8 hours on the river.

I am all for positive methods when training your dogs (and horses) to be polite members of society, but they are capable of learning the "I did that one thing and something bad happened, I better not do that again" lesson. I do not approve of "alpha rolling" or beating the dog to get what you want; I do agree with letting your animal know you do not approve of the action they are doing.

So, to those of you who want to baby your animals and worry that they don't like the crate or can't figure out why they step on you and don't respect your space, please re-evaluate your training methods. I'm of the frame of mind that a mostly-positive routine works best, and of course, each dog is different, so you will have to take what works and throw away what doesn't for each particular animal.

Just be open to other ideas. Not everyone who isn't 100% positive is out there abusing their animals. What they do might actually be working, while you're sitting there with your toes stomped by a horse or a dog dragging you down the street.

On a happier note, I have photos from the weight pull and a The Story About the Canoe to post. It's going to be a busy blogging week!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Pit Bull at the Softball Game

This past Thursday my office participated in an inter-office softball game. This is a yearly event, with the Northville office competing against the Plymouth office in game that's all in good fun.

Howie and I attended as cheerleaders, and a couple of my co-workers brought their children. Be prepared to die from cute...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Dog Does Stuff

Tricks, to be exact. Among other things.

I teach my dog tricks because they're fun. People like a dog who does tricks, and they're a nice break from all of the heeling, sitting, downing, finishing, and staying we do; not to mention the backing up, get out of my kitchen, and leave-its that are thrown in there for good measure and well-rounded manners. My dog has a rather large repertoire of tricks up his sleeve, all of which he's learned in a handful of 5-minute training sessions - this fact I am very proud of. Not for myself, but of him.

He can roll over, spin (a rather exuberant nose-to-tail, sometimes with a bit of a bounce), speak (the ferocious pit bull bark, which he never uses on a regular basis), talk (a little "rooo"/growl noise which is oh so cute), and crawl. We don't encourage crawl, though, because he uses that to get out of his down-stays...

It's rather amusing when he gets excited, because he'll go through his whole routine of tricks before actually doing the one thing I asked him to do for his treat. Last week, he learned to jump on command. This was pretty cool!

Today, we learned "touch." Why am I super excited about this? Because I have been trying to teach him this for forever, and we just haven't been able to get it. It just never clicked. Today, it did. And someone else taught it to him, and I'm not one bit jealous. I'm just glad that he got it!

We walked up into downtown Ferndale today for Fido Does Ferndale, where the streets were lined with dogs with their people, dog-themed pavilions and vendors, and rescue groups with adoptable dogs. It was fun and great for a walk, and we met lots of fun people. One of the pavilions was some of his friends from the place where I take him for boarding and daycare. He loves everyone there, and was so excitied to see them! His tail and tongue were uncontrollable!

Howie used to have a bad habit of jumping up on everyone - it's a habit many dogs have, and we've been working on breaking it. Howie was bad, though. He thought he was boxer, and even earned the nickname of Mike Tyson (not for his ear-biting abilities) at daycare, because he'd take you out his paws. No joke. I was telling one of the kennel workers that I had taught him to jump on command and was amazed at how this has cut down on his jumping - but he still does it.

"Have you tried to teach 'touch?'" she asked.
"No. Well, yes. I've tried, but we just can't seem to get it."

She grabbed lots of smelly treats and began working with him, right there in the middle of the sidewalk. And within 5 minutes, he got it. He as doing it. My heart overflowed with pride for my smart pit bull.

We came home, and I fixed myself a sandwich, I pulled out some cheese and tried it myself. He got it! He did it with me! Even bouncing up to touch my hand.

He's a pretty smart cookie, my pit bull.

Our First Show

I was going to write a blog about "baby steps," but then I remembered that I forgot to post about our first show!

Last weekend I took the plunge and decided to enter our first show - the 4th of July weekend, no less. My parents had left that Thursday to for a bit of a road trip to Wisconsin, so Howie and I headed over there to stay the night, "house sit," and take a bit of a "vacation" ourselves. We awoke in the wee hours of the morning to get the car pack up and head out to Ann Arbor, MI. I got there with plenty of time to set up my crate, enter the show, and sit.

And sit.

And sit.

And get nervous.

I had chosen a C-WAGS show because they focus on just having fun with your dog and I thought the environment would be inviting - and it so was! We entered both "level 1" obedience classes offered, and while we NQ'd out of both classes (you either qualify or not qualify, and then placing out of the qualifying scores), but everyone was so helpful and inviting, and I loved the environment!

During our first trial, I was very nervous and you could tell; Howie could tell. It was a mess, and I was so nervous that I think I blacked out and just did the exercises the judge was telling me to do. Howie knew EVERYTHING that was asked of him, but he could sense my own apprehensiveness about the situation and just said, "Something must be wrong, so I should watch EVERYTHING else going on...just in case." The judge was very helpful and let us know where we messed up and where I should have done what.

I took the time between our first class and our second class to relax, walk around, and watch the other exhibitors. I met some great people, and got to a "post" for the figure-8 exercises in the Level 2 class. Again, meeting more great people and learning so much.

Our second class was easier, I think, because I now knew many of the people I was competing with, and I was no longer in front of an audience of strangers. These people weren't judging me, they were comrades. I was still nervous, though. Just, not as much. We still NQ'd, but it was a much better go-around than our first - which is all I can ask of my dog, who tried so hard to please me that day.

There are no "omg" stories, or "you'll never believe what I heard" tales. It was a rather boring day. Which, I think is what I would prefer - no big problems or horrible outcomes, just a bunch of dog lovers having fun with our dogs.

Out photographer for the weekend was Ray Dutton, and he caught some great shots. I have not purchased any photos from him, although there is one I do want to purchase because I love it. If you visit Ray's website, keep an eye out for the girl wearing a blue polo & khakis, working with her tan & white pit bull.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bully Breed Splash Bash

This post is late, because I was hoping a friend would upload the photos she had taken from the day, however, she's lagging on the uptake on that...

On June 28th, Currey's Family Pet Care in Romulus, MI was the host for the 2009 Bully Splash Bash. All of the proceeds from this day chock full of fun activities when to Recycl-A-Bullz (a pit bull rescue) and the Dearborn Animal Shelter (more information can be found here). There were a ton of fun activities and games throughout the day, and from what I saw, it wasa HUGE success!

Howie and I got there a tad late, but we still got to join in on a lot of activities. We had joined in the "Most Kisses in 10 Seconds" contest, but Howie was more interested in meeting and playing with the other dogs to kiss my face. We got some in, but a little puppy around 6 months old was the winner of that one. We were too busy doing other stuff for the rest of the day that we didn't get to join in any other contests - but we had so much fun all the same.

We even got to try our hand at weight pulling, which is something I wanted to do with Howie, but didn't want to start him until he was over a year old. He pulled a couple times for practice, then we decided to join in their "fun match." Howie pulled 3 times, with a total of 336# (if I am remembering correctly), which was the cart plus 5 cinder blocks which is approximately and 5.6x his body weight. According to the American Pulling Alliance, this would earn him his "Excellent" title in weight pulling. He pulled because I asked him to, and we stopped before he stopped working for me. I was so incredibly proud of him. (At left, Howie with his weight pull medal!)

We will definitely be aiming for some weight pulling events! Next APA event is in Warren, MI on July 18th & 19th.

Afterward, we took a dip in the dock diving pool. He was getting so excited watching the other dogs, I thought he would dive right off the deck. He didn't, but he got right into the pool when he could just walk into it.

He was also the "neutral" dog for CGC tests.

We both came home very exhausted and a bit sun burned, but over-all, the day was very fun. Much thanks to Currey's Family Pet Care, Dearborn Animal Shelter, and Recycl-A-Bullz for putting on such an awesome event!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why we're not ready for Rally-O...

...But we're probably going to try a competition next weekend, anyway.

Last month Howie & I graduated from our 6-week obedience class with a local training group. This group is oldest-standing AKC affiliated obedience group in Michigan, and they offer affordable training. They offer everything from puppy classes, to obedience classes, to rally, agility, and even therapy dog classes - they're a really great group, and all of their training is by the AKC rules. Howie was the star of the beginner class we attended and quickly learned everything that was taught to us (we still have to work on long stays, but that's another story). I was really proud of him, over-all, and have been with our training since graduation. I knew we still had things to work on, but without some kind of "run through," I didn't know just much.

Last week, I found a dog training facility in Ann Arbor which ran fun meets in Rally-O and Obedience, and this is the same facility which will be holding a C-WAGS and APDT Rally-O and Obedience shows on the weekend of July 4th (which we are aiming for). I got excited, signed up for a Rally run-though (or so I thought) and con another friend into driving out there with me. The site advertised $5 run-throughs - what better way to see how ready we were?

On Wednesday I drive out to Ann Arbor, excited and nervous, but telling myself this is all just for fun. I get out there and set up my crate space, talk to some people, and begin to warm Howie up - putting him through all his paces, working on a few things, and watching other people run through obedience classes. Howie was nowhere near the class that these other dogs were in, but it was fun to watch them. Then, it slowly began to sink in there was no Rally course set up...

So, I asked someone, "What time does the Rally start?"
She seemed confused. "I didn't think we had Rally tonight...

I was told to go check out another building where it might be set up, but the building was empty. I truck back over to the other building, and inquire again. Nothing, no one knew a thing. I was both sad and upset - the website had advertised it, I was certain, otherwise I wouldn't have signed up! Luckily, the owner of the facility was willing to set up a Rally course for us to run through, although our time was limited because there was a puppy class coming in that evening.

I walk the course, trying to remember all that I had read - do the course without your dog, and make sure to do the movement before the sign. This should be easy, I thought, I've been riding dressage my whole horseback riding career, memorizing this course should be a piece of cake! Not so much...Once I went back to get Howie, it was a disaster. I was doing the movements behind the signs, doing right turns instead of lefts, and confusing the hell out of my dog. He was a saint, trying his best to do what I asked, despite the 90-degree day and sweltering humidity. A few times, I asked him to sit-stay, and ran through a sign on my own before trying it with him. Amanda didn't have a much better go at it, and she's an obedience trainer (mostly family/manners).

We left, knowing what we have to work on, and knowing that we're probably not completely ready for the APDT/C-WAGS show on July 3rd/4th, but we'll probably go anyway. The experience will be good, and we'll get to see how it's really done! So, my homework for the next week is work through the exercises we'll see in Level 1. Wish us luck! We'll need it!

(Next post: 2009 Bully Breed Summer Splash Bash - as soon as I get pictures back from Amanda!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A near-disaster, and traveling

After my post about the foster bunnies, I had a bit of a scare the other day. The same day as the post, actually.

I came home talking to my aunt on my cell phone. I opened the door, and the alarm is going off. Over all this noise in my ears, I hear Howie's exciting whining - this is nothing new, he's normally excited for me to come home. I turn off the alarm, and his whining is louder. I open the door into the kitchen, and a happy pit bull is greeting me at the door.

I had locked him in his crate before I left for work that morning. I remember double-checking all latches (there are 4 because he has a crate with a side door in addition to the front door). Yet, here he was, so happy to have me home. I almost tip-toed through the house, "What did you destroy?" The house looked fine. All the pillows were on the couch, nothing was torn to shreds. "I don't see any poops..." Next, I had to walk into the guest room. I half expected bunny blood to be everywhere.

Howie is not aggressive, like I've mentioned. But he also wants to play with these bunnies so badly, and I am not exactly sure how strong his prey-drive is because I haven't seen this "in action." I do know that he gets far too rambunctious with dogs smaller than he is, and his eagerness to "play" with the rabbits tells me to never leave them alone together and to supervise him when the door to the guest bedroom is open.

So, I tip-toe into the guest bedroom, all the while talking to Howie and my Aunt is on the other end of the line. There was no blood. In fact, there was hardly a mess. Howie had tipped over Panda's cage, thus spilling her bedding, but other than that...nothing. Nothing was torn apart, everything was in his place.

This from the dog with such bad separation anxiety that he's destroyed the plastic venitian blinds in the kitchen (the window with the view to the driveway, next to the door we leave out of), who has shredded Very Important Paperwork from off the dining room table, and left couch pillows strewn about the living room.

I hung up with my Aunt, and got to cleaning the mess Howie had made. Then we headed over to my Aunt's house so we could ride with her to my mother's house for a visit. Which brings me to my next story.

Howie is a good traveling dog. He's not much of a fan of sticking his face out of the window for some air time, though he does like to stick his head out to look around when we're at a stop light. Usually, he's crashed out in the back seat, whichever side of the car has the most sun. In fact, during the whole 5-hour drive from Detroit to Pittsburgh in March, he was sleeping 5 minutes into our trip - we hadn't even left the city limits of Detroit, and he was snoring!

We rode with my Aunt to my parent's house, and she had laid the seats down flat in her Jeep Compass so that Howie had the WHOLE BACK to himself. He thought this was the bees knees! He hunkered right down and stretched out about as long as he could make himself. He did the same during the ride home. I love that I have a great traveling dog!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pit Bull & Bunnies

In addition to raising and training my dog, I am also dabbling in fostering small animals. I currently am fostering the meanest gerbil in the world (TM), and just got in two rabbits to foster while they recover from their spays. "Panda" and "Vanilla" are very sweet and love to cuddle, as long as the big mean dog isn't around.

Howie, on the other hand, thinks these guys should be his new playmates. The bunnies are housed in our guest bedroom where his crate is kept, and we do leave the door open and he is kept in his crate when we are not home - so cohabiting with these rabbits is not much of a problem. Still, when we are home and supervising his free time, he will often wander over to the guest bedroom door, careful not to step over the threshold into the room, and do a bit of whine - either wanting to play with this bunnies as if they were smaller dogs, or eat them. My mind likes to think it's the previous, but I know it's probably the latter, since pit bulls are known to have rather strong prey-drives. They are terriers, after all.

Still, he is practicing amazing self-control, which is a bonus to me. When cuddling on the couch, he will listed to my voice commands of "leave it" or "back," both of which he knows well. Even though we're not always training, manners are expected of my dog, and this has been the ultimate test of his self-control!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Doggy Playtimes

I find it baffling how many people think that they can just bring their dog to the dog park and magically believe that their dog is going to know how to act, and that all the training you have ever given them will magically carry over in this massive, playing group of dogs. The dog park is the one place I don't expect my dog to behave (save for attacking another dog or playing just a little too rough for a 60-pound pit bull vs. 10-pound Boston Terrier wrestling match), simply because he gets too excited and looses his brain. If your dog doesn't loose his brain at a dog park, I commend you for your training and your dog's attention, or I will scoff at you for bringing in a dog far too timid for the dog park. Dog park rules carry over to any situation where you have multiple dogs playing in a confined area.

Yesterday, Howie and I decided to hit up our local Big-Name-Pet-Store for their "Doggie Social." There weren't many dog there - Howie, a sweetheart of an older yellow Labrador named Amy, and a chocolate Labrador puppy named Lincoln. Howie is still young, and forgets how big he is, and so Amy decided Howie was too rambunctious for her, but Lincoln had an attitude I had never seen on a puppy. He was very in-you-face, and aggressive about it, too.

Our "ref" for the session brought out a few balls for the dog to play with, and Howie was content to run around, trying to fit all three tennis balls in his mouth. When he couldn't do that, he'd hold one with his paw while trying to fit in two. Amy was your stereotypical Lab, and would bring the ball over to anyone who would throw it for her. Lincoln, on the other hand, wanted any ball that he didn't have, and would get in either dog's face to get that ball. Several times he snapped at Howie, and a few times got a fold of skin in his mouth.

Howie had finally had a enough of this rambunctious little puppy and pinned him. There were no teeth involved, but the way this puppy was squealing, you would have thought that Howie had him by the throat. A closer look revealed Howie had his paw on Lincoln's chest and his muzzel buried into his neck - but not a tooth touched the dog. Lincoln's owner scooped him up and coddled the dog, baby-talk and all. I removed my pit bull from the situation and we went to sit on the sidelines. Howie was visibly confused about the whole sequence of events. The rest of Howie's play session with these dog was on-leash, since a couple of Westies had joined the group, so I wanted to be able to control his playing with the smaller dogs. At this point there was only about 10 minutes left of playtime.

After everyone had left, the "ref" and I marvelled at the agressive behavior on this tiny puppy. "Like I said," she reiterrated from a previous conversation, "All chocolate Labs are crazy."

Afterwards, Howie and I made the trek to our regular dog park (which we rarely frequent as it is), where the dogs are little more grown and a little more seasoned, but not without it's "stupid pet owners."

Having a pit bull, I realize that he is apt to want to be in the middle of everything. He isn't aggressive, he just wants to be in the middle of it. At one point, a German Shepard attacked another dog, and while the other dog owners stood around and simply watched what was happening, my dog (along with a few others) was booking it from the other side of the dog park to investigate. Luckily, said German Shepard owner knew enough to remove his dog from the park and the other dog left the incident unscathed.

Otherwise, it was an uneventful day at the dog park. My dog running around with the other dogs simply because they were running, and we met several nice people with equally nice dogs. It's also nice to meet people who understand that dogs can get a little rambunctious, and my pit bull is not out to eat your smaller dog - let me remove him and redirect his attention to the Pointer mix running around with a stick rather than coming over to scream at my dog, which will do nothing.

I understand that taking a pit bull to a dog park is risky and we will meet those people with wrong impressions about the breed, but being responsible is a prerequisite for taking your dog to the dog park in the first place. If he were aggressive, I would not even think to take him to the dog park; if an incident happens, I remove my dog immediately. Like I said, a dog is likely to "lose their brain" at the dog park, and so it is the sole responsibility of the owner to realize when to coddle you dog and when to remove or restrain your dog.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Beginning

I neither clever or witty. I am, however, painfully blunt and truthful, and so this blog will chronicle the adventures of Howie the American Pit Bull Terrier and his stereotypical Midwestern partner person in Obedience and Rally.

The Pit Bull
LO How Bizaare "Howie" was born on May 8, 2008 and lived the first 5 months of his life on farm in Lansing, MI. He is a purebred American Pit Bull Terrier, and while both of his parents have full pedigrees, he does not. He has his limited privilege registrations with the UKC, AKC (as an American Staffordshire Terrier), AADR, and the APDT. He does not fit the true breed standards for the UKC or AKC for either breed, and without his papers, he was neutered at the age of about 5 months old. This has resulted in a very, very cuddly, very smart, and very attentive obedience dog.

In addition to Rally & Obedience trials, Howie and I plan to get his Therapy Dog Certification as well as being in training as a Service Dog, on top of summer events and breed advocacy. Summer 2009 will be filled with many adventures!