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 :)