Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why I love my retractable leash

A perfect reason to use a retractable leash!  Do you want
to step into that snow with her so she can explore?
It's making the rounds again. Retractable leashes are dangerous.  People who use retractable leashes don't know how to train their dogs.  They're lazy.  They let their dogs run up to other dogs or out into the road.  They're as bad as [insert aversive tool of choice].  They teach dogs to pull.  They should be banned!!

I hear these things a lot from other dog owners and trainers and while some aspects may have some merit, I tend to disagree with many of the statements. Can retractable leashes be dangerous?  Sure.  There's no denying that.  But knowing how to use it (which is ultimately not very hard) minimizes the potential danger of the leash.  Could dogs run up to other dogs or out into the road?  Sure.  The leashes do usually extend anywhere from 12 to 26 feet.  This gives a fair amount of leeway and if the owner is negligent and not watching their dog or what's going on around them anything could happen.  But that comes down to the owner.  I've had people let their dogs come up to mine when it was on a 6-foot leash and I've seen owners standing near the sidewalk let their dog wander into the road on a 6-foot leash.  And worse, I've seen plenty of folks walking untrained dogs off leash.  Do retractable leashes teach dogs to pull?  Not in my experience.  Are they as bad as choke chains or prong collars?  No.  That's a pretty ridiculous statement.  They are intended to be a means of containment not an aversive way to stop a dog from doing something.

Should they be banned?  Absolutely not.

I do, however, have certain rules for the type of dog I will use a retractable leash with and when/where I will use the leash.

Rules for the Dog

1. The dog must not be able to pull me off my feet if it hits the end of the leash at a full run.  This means I am likely to only use the leash with small to medium sized dogs instead of larger ones.  My dog is 50 pounds.  I use the leash with her.  I'm not sure I'd be comfortable using the leash with a dog who was larger or more muscular.

2. The dog must not be a dedicated puller.  A dog who pulls once in awhile is ok.  But if the dog pulls constantly and is always at the end of the leash then the reason for the leash is pointless.  I will only use a 6-foot leash with such a dog until he/she has learned not to pull.

3. The dog must not be an unpredictable bolter.  In other words, if a dog tends to be a squirrel chaser and gives no warning signs that they've seen the squirrel before giving chase, then a retractable is not the right leash for this dog.  My dog does like to chase squirrels but (a) she gives plenty of warning signs (e.g. she freezes in place and stares first) and (b) I've trained her to only chase when I give her the command so her freezing in place has become more pronounced over time.

4. The dog must be trained and under voice control.  It doesn't have to be perfect voice control, but a dog who is able to respond to "stop" and/or "come" is a good candidate for a retractable leash.  If it breaks (and in over three years I've yet to have one break), I want to be able to control the dog with my voice.

Rules for Me

1. I will pay attention to my dog.  If she is wandering too close to the street, I will reel her in and/or lock the leash.  If there is a dog nearby, I will reel her in and/or lock the leash.  If there is a squirrel she wants to chase I will allow her if it's safe (running with her so she doesn't hit the end of the leash) or I will reel her in and/or lock the leash.

2. I will pay attention to our surroundings.  I will be aware of where cars and other people are.  I will keep an eye out for other dogs.  I will not let her precede me around corners where I cannot see what is coming first.  I will never ever listen to music or talk on the cell phone while out on a walk with her.  What is going on around us is important.

3. I will not choose a knock-off leash made by some unknown company (I use Flexi brand leashes only).  I will not use a corded leash, instead using the "full leash" retractable leashes as they are less dangerous and break less often.  They are sturdier leashes, especially when used with a larger dog.

4. I will make sure I know how to use the leash and will keep it in good repair.  I will keep my thumb hovering over the lock mechanism and will use that mechanism at a moment's notice.

Rules for When to Use the Leash

1. I will not use a retractable in places where the dog must always be kept close at my side.  This includes festivals and walking in the city, among other places.

2. I will not use the retractable in classes or at trials.  Again, she needs to be kept close to me during class.  She also likes to tug on her leash as part of getting excited to go out and "work," and retractable leashes should not be played with in such a way.

So obviously I have thought long and hard about when and where and with whom to use a retractable leash.  People can call me and my dog whatever acronym they want (the latest annoying one is ROAR: Rover on a Retractable), but it's not going to prevent me from using my retractable leash.  I use it wisely and responsibly and my dog is happy to have the bit of freedom for sniffing that the leash allows her to have.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What a difference a month makes (aka Dahlia's second agility trial!)

Dahlia's first agility trial was a nervewracking experience but in the end we had a lot of fun and brought home one qualifying ribbon.  It was far more than I expected for the first time out and so I was quite pleased.

But I kept watching the video of us at the trial over and over again.  I realized she was slow and hesitated because I hesitated.  Because I was scared she'd blow past an obstacle and I desperately wanted her to take them all.  It finally got through to me that if I just keep running, it's much more likely that she will keep running.  The week after the last trial, we looked like this in class:

We moved so much better together and we're both speeding up!

So I took that to the trial this weekend.  How did Dahlia do?  Well, she blew Standard entirely.  We seem to have a problem that is really surprising me: Despite rocking the A-Frame at class and being pretty comfortable on the dog walk, she completely avoids them in trial situations.  Admittedly, some of the issue the first time out was that I was so focused on the A-Frame (which was obstacle #3 in the run) that I looked away, disconnected from her, and lost her entirely before she even hit the second jump.  So our Standard run, while not a disaster (she hit every jump and tunnel past that beautifully) was not successful.  NQ.

The second two runs we did were Colors and Wildcard, both ones that we NQ'ed on at the previous trial.

Well, I'm happy to report that Dahlia totally nailed both of them.  We got a qualifying score with no faults on Colors (28.07 seconds) and Wildcard (30.43 seconds), which netted us our first (very small) agility title: The CTL1-H, Level 1 Entusiast Handler Games title.

Here's Dahlia sporting her fancy new ribbon and looking quite proud of herself!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

On reactive dogs (and having one!)

I rarely speak of Dahlia's reactivity in public and it's certainly not something I talk about with friends and family. Sometimes I still fight against the stigma, against the way that people view reactive dogs.  




Yet she is none of those and nor has she ever been those.  There are many reasons dogs are reactive, but the two major reasons are:

1. Fear.  Dogs that lack socialization often react to every little noise, every little thing they see.  That tall guy in the hat?  They've never seen something like that before, they get scared, and so lash out.  Barking and lunging will make the scary thing go away!  That dog who is easily twice their size?  They've never met a dog that big, they get scared, and lash out at that.  To the laymen it looks like aggression and while it's a form of aggression, the root cause of it is fear.

2. Frustration.  Some dogs have little frustration tolerance and so when they see something they want to get to but can't (because they're on leash or behind a fence), they lash out in frustration.  I liken it to a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. They lose all control of themselves and bark and lunge.  It looks nearly the same as the fear response, but isn't.

The body language for the two is different, especially in the ear set (back for fear, forward for frustration) and tail set (down much further for a fearful dog).

Dahlia came to me with frustration reactivity.  I had never heard the term before and while I knew a lot about the basics of dog training, I realized I better get off my butt and do a more thorough study.  I read a lot.  I spoke with a lot of trainers and behaviorists.  I watched DVDs and read books on body language.  I started to go out and study dogs and their owners and talking to people to figure out why their dogs were acting the way they were.  What caused the reactivity?

Then I set to helping my dog.  I figured out her triggers (other dogs) and how close those triggers could get before she started to react.  I figured out the little body language signs that meant a reaction was imminent.  And so I started the "Look at that" game.  "Look at that!" I would proclaim when we saw a dog just at the right distance away (close enough to be noticed, but not close enough to elicit and over the top reaction).  Dahlia, of course, was looking already.  And then she'd turn to look at me because of my excited voice.  At that point, she'd get a treat.  Something really delicious.

We did this every single day for months.  Little by little we were able to get closer and closer to the other dogs.  Finally she could walk by a dog who was on the other side of the road without reacting about 90% of the time!  So then we moved it closer, first stepping into the grass on the near side of the sidewalk then just off the sidewalk, always creeping closer and closer but always playing the "Look at that" game.

It took about a year to get to the point that we're at now.  Dahlia is almost completely non-reactive.  She has the occasional episode, especially if we're just leaving the house after she's been alone for a few hours, and we come across a dog who is too close and whose owner is jogging with him (the desire to chase is strong!).  But those happen so rarely that I would call her about 99% non-reactive.

The journey to that was long and a constant up and down struggle.  We'd make good progress, then something would happen that would set us back a bit.  She bounced back quicker and quicker each time, but it still was not a steady upward pace.  I've seen this same unsteady progress from other dogs I've helped out and I've read about it from many friends who have dealt with reactivity too.

Recently, I've been reading some stuff from folks who are harassing a friend of mine.  They gave her a dog who had been locked in a room for most of his young life and has a lot of fear and a lot of reactivity.  A lot more than my dog ever did.  It's been only a few weeks and they are expecting a miraculous recovery.  They're expecting this fear aggressive dog to be fine in the house with the person's other two dogs.  They're expecting her to film him outside while training.  They're expecting daily updates (which anyone with a reactive dog knows is pretty ridiculous due to the aforementioned ups and downs of working with reactivity).  It sure would be nice for this dog to learn to live in the human world, but when a dog lacks early socialization, it's hard and it takes a lot of time.

If you have a reactive dog, take heart!  You can work through it, but it will take time and dedication.  It's all worth it though, isn't it?  The moments when a dog finally walks past another dog, notices him, and then look at you instead?  They make it all worth it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dahlia's first agility trial!

This weekend we went to our very first agility trial.  For the first time, we opted to go with CPE (Canine Performance Events).  Everyone I spoke to, including our instructor, assured us that it was the most relaxed and most newbie-friendly of the venues.  And ultimately, they were right.

We had a fantastic weekend full of some ups and downs.  We did four runs, and NQ'ed on three of them.  Two were a total disaster.  But she got a qualifying score on one run (Jumpers Level 1) and a first place ribbon for it, both of which were nice to go home with.  I didn't expect her to get any Q's this weekend so I was really quite happy with that!

Perhaps the best part about it was how focused she was on me and how hard she tried through each and every run.  The one thing that threw her for a loop and ended up causing the three NQ's was "contact anxiety."  She wouldn't get on the dog walk in one run.  I had been worried about the dog walk from the get go.  She's comfortable with it usually, but this one was different from the others that she's seen.  It had no slats, was not rubberized, and I watched many dogs who hit it hard and nearly slipped off the ramp leading up to it.  It was also a little wobbly. Our instructor flat-out refused to let her dog get on it.  Dahlia was apparently smart enough to refuse it and instead of being a good human, I kept trying to get her on it.  After three times I finally gave up!

She also struggled with the A-Frame, flat out refusing it once and starting up it a second time but then deciding against it.  Like the dog walk it was not rubberized, though it did have slats and was more sturdy than the dog walk.  But I did watch some dogs slipping on the way down and so ultimately she was probably smart for getting off it instead of hurting herself by continuing up and over.  Had she been able to do it, we would have had a qualifying run for the Colors course and might have gotten one for Full House as well.

Overall, though, it was a fantastic experience.  I had my down moments (like when she totally blew the Full House course), but mostly I felt pretty good about what we had accomplished.  And now I know some things that need to be further trained!  I'm hoping to find some fun matches (aka Show 'n' Go's) in the area to get her up onto equipment she hasn't seen before.

But we'll also be going to another trial.  This one is on December 3rd.  We'll be doing three runs (Standard, Colors, and Wildcard) that day.  It should be great fun!

Dahlia was happy enough to model her ribbons.  Doesn't she look proud of herself?


And for anyone interested, here's a video of our second run of the second day.  This was the Colors course where she started up the A-Frame but then turned around and came back down before getting too far.  Unfortunately I forgot to have someone videotape her really good run!  Try not to laugh too hard over how slow she is.  She was faster the day before, but not by much!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I love my dog

Sometimes I'm really struck by how awesome my dog really is.  And not only that, but by how much the training we've done with her has helped her with her confidence level.

Today I took her out to the park for a Halloween photo shoot.  I had big plans for this one, much more than just a costume.  I was inspired by the purchase of a pair of Doggles (goggles for dogs, if you're wondering what they are) and the video of Weird Al Yankovic's Dare to be Stupid (which you can see here).

The idea required that Dahlia stand up with her paws on a keyboard while wearing a yellow t-shirt with the atomic symbol on it and a pair of Doggles.   Yikes!

I worked my way up to it in the following way:

1. Standing with her feet on a park bench.
2. Standing with her feet on the keyboard which was sitting on the park bench.
3. Doing #2 while wearing the t-shirt.
4. Doing #2 while wearing the t-shirt and the Doggles.

For each one I also worked on getting her to hold the position long enough for me to take photos.

In the end, this was what I ended up with*.

dare to be stupid 

All of this was accomplished in less than a half an hour!  She's such an amazing dog!

*Green screen edited in after the fact.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New toys are fun (aka accessorizing your DSLR gets expensive!)

Recently in a community I belong to someone was asking about purchasing a less expensive DSLR camera so she could take better pictures.  While typing up my response about my camera and how little it cost me, I came to a realization: The camera itself might not have cost me too much, but my purchases for it did not end there.  I bought my new camera in April of this year.  Here's the run-down of what it has cost so far:

Sony Alpha A230 with kit lens (18-55mm), refurbished by Sony: $285
Tamron 75-300mm lens: $125 (this was a gift from my wonderful partner)
Minolta 35-80mm lens, used: $30 (eBay)
Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens, used: $100 (eBay)
Minolta 70-210mm lens, used: FREE (a lucky thing; the guy who sold me the 50mm screwed up and sent me the wrong lens; to make up for it he sent me this free!)
Puffer flash diffuser: $20
External bounce flash: $50
Flash diffuser for bounce flash: $10
Backpack to carry all this stuff in: $30
Extra battery: $20

Total: $670 (if I didn't get the one lens for free that would have been upped to around $800)

So what am I saying?  Even "cheap" DSLRs are not cheap.  The camera and all but one of the lenses were refurbished or used, which was the only way I could afford that many things for it.  All told, it's cost me a lot more money than I had contemplated spending, but it's all well worth it.

What else am I saying here?  I love my new bounce flash.  It was a really cheap one as I didn't want to spend $300+ more on a flash right now, but I think it's great!  Here are a few photos I've taken with it.




Thursday, August 11, 2011

How I get my photos

One thing I've learned about canine photography is that it's messy.  I get wet and muddy and that's not always because the dogs are excited and jumping on me.  One of the major keys to getting a nice photo of a dog is getting down on their level.  For many people this probably means just squatting down a bit.  For me, it means, well, crawling around in the grass and dirt to get just the right angle.

Take this photo, for instance, of my friend's dog Nellie.


I absolutely adore this photo.  It's crisp, the colors are beautiful, and it really shows off Nellie's lovely face, eyes, and her awesome personality.

So what did I look like while this photo was being taken?  Well, Nellie's owner was nice enough to snap this photo.

M & ridiculous Nellie

So there ya go.  Me crawling around on the (rather wet) grass to get photos of dogs.  I think it was well worth it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not good enough

Recently I was reading a fantastic blog post by Nathan Winograd called Good Homes Need Not Apply.  If you haven't read it, you really should.

The basic gist is that there are many good homes for adoptable pets and that good homes come in all shapes and sizes.  But the problem comes in when rescues have rigid and often ridiculous requirements for adopting one of their pets.  All over the internet, when this problem gets brought up you get people posting about how they were refused by a rescue due to X really ridiculous reason.

Common rigid requirements are:

1. Must have a fenced in yard.  This excludes anyone who lives in an apartment, a housing association that will not allow fences, people with yards too big to be able to afford a fence, and people who just really do not want a fence in their yard.  Drive around any neighborhood in the USA and you will find very few yards with any sort of fencing.  All of those people who don't have one?  They can't even apply to adopt a dog.  Forget that they might take the dog out for several walks a day.  If there's no fence, don't even bother.

2. No children under X age.  X is often an arbitrary number like 6 or 7, but I've seen rescues who won't adopt out to people with children under 10.  Now look around you.  How many families do you know with children under 10?  Under 6 or 7?  While I can understand the reasoning that children get bitten more often than adults and that very young children don't always know how to interact with dogs properly, shouldn't you be considering the parents in all of this?  Meet the family, see how the parents interact with the children and how they work with the kids and the dog together?  We had dogs in my family from when my brother and I were pretty young (certainly younger than 6 or 7!) and my parents taught us how to interact with dogs.  I cannot imagine not having the joy of growing up with dogs around!

3. Cannot be away from the home for more than X hours.  X is often something like 4 hours.  This eliminates people (or even couples) who work normal 9 to 5 type jobs.  While some couples might have overlapping schedules that allow for someone to be home with the dog much of the time, many work pretty standard hours and are gone for the same part of the day.  Forget being single and wanting a dog if you have to work full time!  As has been pointed out, this limits rescues to adopting to people who either work from home or are millionaires.  Forget about parents who stay home with their kids.  See #2 above.  That won't work either.

Just today I was glancing through Petfinder at a couple puppies I found adorable and have a hard time believing aren't adopted yet.  I went over to check out the website for the rescue to see if I could figure out why.  One lists this: If you rent, we will not approve your application. If you live near a busy road or within city limits, a fenced in area is required.  In today's economy many people are choosing to rent and live for years in their rented place.  Many people do not want a house.  Recently I read an article that stated many people are opting to rent when they could buy.  Does that make those people less stable than those who buy a house they might someday have to foreclose on?  And I'm not sure how many cities these folks have been in, but in our fair city, there's often not enough yard to fence in.  People who live in the city walk their dogs (as we do).  The dogs are healthier, happier, and better socialized for it.

Rigid requirements are not doing anyone any favors.  The dogs that languish in foster homes for months, sometimes even years are not being helped.  They're in limbo and should never be in limbo for years on end.  The dogs dying in shelters because the rescues cannot pull them out because they're "full" are not being helped.  Because a rescue cannot find that perfect home (large home, large fenced in yard, someone home all day, couple is married, but has no young children and is also not "too old" to have a dog), they would rather allow shelters to kill other dogs that they could have saved if only they had looked at each person as an individual instead of as meeting or not meeting (much more likely in many cases) a certain set of rigid requirements.

I'm very thankful that Bare Bones Rescue (a sadly now defunct rescue) was willing to look at us as individuals.  After all, we're an unmarried couple living in a rented duplex with no yard and therefore no fenced-in-yard.  Other rescues would have turned their nose up at us.  But this one was happy to place a dog with us and, as anyone who has followed Dahlia's story knows, she is anything but unhappy.  She gets several walks a day, is fed good food, goes to the vet as scheduled and when anything comes up that we think merits a vet visit, gets plenty of attention from us, and goes to agility classes once or twice a week.

But hey, rescues who have rigid requirements, I guess we still just wouldn't be "good enough" for you.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shaking off!

Inspired a bit by this post, when Dahlia was wet and shaking off this weekend I decided to try to get some photos of it.  Now, clearly, I don't have quite the camera Ms. Davidson does.  Nor do I have an awesome studio space to take wonderful photos in.

But despite that, I think the photos are hilarious enough to share.



I think this last one is my favourite.  Her head had basically finished the shaking, but the shake had continued down the rest of her body.  She looks like a big black sheep.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

The bad news and the good news

I didn't mention in my post about the new lens that what I had actually ordered was a 50mm f/1.7 lens.  Somehow the person I bought it from sent me the wrong lens, a much more expensive lens.  Alas, it had to go onto its rightful owner and I was sent the proper 50mm f/1.7.

So there's the bad news.  The good news?  The new lens is almost as good and it's hard to tell the photos apart.




Thursday, June 30, 2011

On wonderful new lenses and all that...

Sorry folks, I'm on a bit of a photography kick right now.

Recently I ordered a new lens: a Minolta 50mm f/1.4.  I've been pretty pleased with my new camera, as anyone who reads this blog knows, but this new lens?  Wow!  I tossed it on the camera yesterday when I got home from work and took a few photos and what came out of my camera even blew me away.



Both of these were taken with the f-stop at 1.4 because hey, it's a new lens and I might as well try that aspect out.  They look so beautiful and naturally colored, so crisp and the bokeh is just amazing.  I'm in love with my new lens!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Even good photos can be edited

Here's another photo I took this past weekend.


Now, I love this photo.  I think it says a lot about the relationship between Dahlia and her Daddy (whose hand you see in the photo).  The earnest look on her face, the angle of her body and leg leading to joining with her Daddy's hand.  I just really like this photo.

But in looking at it, I wondered what it would look like in sepia tone and with a softer focus.  Would it take some of the eye away from the contrast of black fur against green grass?  Would it give more of a focus on the joining of canine paw and human hand?  So I took to the editing programs to see what I could do.  I altered the photo to be in a fairly low-key sepia, softened the focus, and added a bit of vignetting.  I also photoshopped out that annoying little piece of grass hanging off her foot and the tags hanging from her collar.

This is what I ended up with.


And again, I like it quite a bit.  So moral of the story: Play with your photos and see if you can make something else of them!

Monday, June 27, 2011

How to make a bad photo better (aka not every photo comes out good!)

On Sunday I took a large group of photos.  Some came out great.  Some came out horrible.  And then there were ones you looked at and thought Wow that would have been a great photo if only...

This was one of them.

It's easy to see what is wrong with this photo, but let me give you a short rundown:

1. It's washed out.
2. The colors are all wrong (too blue).
3. The highlights are blown out.

How did this happen?  It was a cloudy day and I was not quite aware of which direction the sun was coming from when I squatted down to get this photo.  As soon as I took it, I realized the mistake and moved to keep the light behind me.  But I didn't get another shot quite like this.

In attempts to edit it, I ultimately ended up with this as a photo.

This is somewhat better.  She's not quite as faded.  The colors are somewhat better though her face is still blue and washed out funny.  The background is still blown out a bit.  And after editing it, another flaw was brought to light: there's something hanging out in the top lefthand corner of the photo.  What was it?  A treat bag that had floated into the photo.

At this point, I was ready to give up, but I had one more thing to try.  I got into Adobe Lightroom and turned the photo B&W, which immediately improved it.  I lowered the exposure quite a bit (-1.24), increased the blacks (17), and also increased the contrast (+9).  Then I edited out the baggy by using the cloning tool in Adobe Photoshop.  And voila!  This photo.


I'm really quite pleased with it.

So basically, what I'm trying to say is: Don't give up on a photo just because it didn't come out good right from the camera!

Friday, June 24, 2011

I have a problem

See...once long ago when I first got Dahlia, I thought it would be funny to dress her up as a prisoner for Halloween. Alas, the costume was too big and the hat? Well, she looked like THIS.

bad dog

Basically, she looked horrified. And yet OH SO CUTE with those big eyes. I swore up and down that I wouldn't put anything else on her because she looked so UNDIGNIFIED and clearly thought I was a big fat meanie for doing it.

But then there was this.


Which was a photo that was 100% accidental. There was no intention to put anything on her, but then suddenly the hat was tossed on her and she looked so HAPPY that I snapped a photo. She became Ferocious D and I swore I would find a way to photoshop gold chains onto her. Alas, my photoshop skillz are still somewhat lacking, though a friends are not.

There was also this...graduation from obedience class at Petsmart! How dignified does she look here?


Ok so she might look somewhat horrified there too.

And here...also horrified.


Imma cut you bitch.

So I decided all I was going to do was collars. And a ridiculously silly rubberband thing that a groomer put in her hair.


She was obviously very proud of that look, even if she did look like she had some sort of Christmas mohawk.

Pity da fool!

But then St. Patrick's Day rolled around and I couldn't resist. This time I got hot dogs out and VOILA! Dog with ears up!


Such a dignified old man, she is.

Still, she had her moments of absolute resignation.


I will kill you in your not doubt it...ever...


Mom, frisbees are NOT hats.

And then I went whole hog for Christmas! LOOK AT THAT DOGGEH!!


And one cannot forget the reindeer antlers.


I CHASE deer Mom. I am not ONE of them.

I was at Petsmart one day and I could not resist...DOGGLES. Those had to go on her too!


I dare to be stupid...

And then there was Pirate Dahlia...



So what I'm trying to say is I bought a baseball cap for Dahlia to wear to the Chiefs game next week. Yeah...I have a problem.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sometimes it's the little things

Here's Dahlia in 2008 during a thunderstorm
Sometimes it's the little things that impress you the most.  Because I wasn't paying enough attention to the weather, Dahlia and I walked outside tonight to discover there was lightning in the air.  At first I thought maybe I was seeing things as Dahlia didn't really react to the flashes of light.  I no longer can hear thunder in the distance thanks to my hearing problems, but I can only assume she could.  Then there was a flash of chain lightning and that was enough for Dahlia.  She immediately bolted straight for the house and concerned about her stress level, I let her.

But then I had a second thought.  Dahlia needed to go out.  And she's gained so much confidence in the past year that I had a "what if" moment.  As in "what if I pull out some high value treats and my omg so excited voice..."  Would she go back outside and find a spot to do her business?

I decided to try it.  It was still lightning off in the distance (as I discovered, the storm is somewhat to our north and is not going to hit us right now) and Dahlia had a couple moments of nervousness, but I kept my happy voice going and I kept offering her hotdogs for continuing.  She did so.  And then she started to sniff around to find a spot to do her business.  Despite the presence of lightning she found a spot and then we celebrated with a lot of praise and a huge jackpot of treats and a quick racing back to the house.

This is huge for Dahlia.  Right now there is lightning and thunder still around and she just finished her Dogster ice cream and is relaxed and asleep on the ground.  A dog who used to shut down and panic over lightning and thunder has now gone outside with it in the area with only minimal stress.

I am so very impressed with my girl.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy Gotcha Day Dahlia!

My gosh, where has the time gone? Three years ago today we woke up in the morning knowing that our lives would change that day. Later in the afternoon, we picked up a Cocker Spaniel named Coeby and transported him an hour and a half away from here, where we met up with the rescue that had Dahlia (and who were taking Coeby in). I still remember walking Coeby around waiting for Trish to show up with Dahlia, turning and seeing this woman walk by with this gorgeous black dog with this huge tail. And then suddenly it dawned on me. That was our gorgeous black dog with the huge tail. I really could not have imagined then how much this dog would come to mean to us. She's just the best and the past three years have been awesome.

What I have learned this year
by Dahlia F. Beast

1. To stop and sniff the flowers instead of peeing on them.

2. That no matter how wet you get, you must always always keep the tail dry.

3. That lily pads are almost worth swimming for.
(Please note that my tail is still not wet)

4. That Mommy comes up with the best photo shoots.

5. That stealing Mommy's chair is great fun.

6. That being kicked out of Mommy's chair is no fun!

7. That even though they protect my feet in the winter, I will get the utmost sympathy if I give the woe face and refuse to move off the couch when Mommy puts the booties on me.

8. That there is definitely a point when it becomes too much snow.

9. That climbing mountains is fun, especially in the winter!

10. That goats are great fun to herd, even if they don't get what I'm trying to do.

11. That D means dog! And also Dahlia...

12. To stop being so serious all the time.

13. To fly, even without a jetpack.

14. That tug is the BEST GAME EVER.

15. That Mommy dressing you in ridiculous things means hot dogs.

16. That belly rubs are the best.

17. Ok I'm lying. I knew that a long time ago. (See # 11 above)

18. That laying in the grass is the best way to spend a lazy afternoon.

19. That things learned in agility class apply to real life!

20. That I'm too sexy for these Doggles.