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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tjido's Toys - A review of sorts

As promised many times I wanted to write about Tjido's toys and our experience with different ones. Hopefully you can forget that I haven't updated since june :P
Ok so here below a picture of the main toys we have (excluding the large Nina Ottoson mind games):

So I will start with the left lower corner: Ropes! They look boring but they are great! You can see here 3 different ones.  They are great to play and teach your dog tug games. Tjido also plays constantly with them on his own :)

Going upwards: Kong Braidz. Actually this was a frog... I was very disappointed in this toy. Even though I know that all toys can be destroyed easily, Tjido killed frog when he was a puppy in no time. The squeaky head was fun but it was quickly torn apart along with legs and arms. I guess it's just annoying when toys are not that cheap that they can be so crapy. Now only the middle body is left. 

Then we have the Tricky Treat Ball. This toy was amazing, even though you can see it is chewed up, that was totally our fault (we let Tjido play with it while unsupervised and he took it to his bed to destroy it after the treats were gone). This ball has one hole for the sweets but it is not that easy to get the treats out. The dog can throw it around and it is fun to play with because it is soft, with the only detail that it can be broken if left to the dog alone. 

The orange ball I got as a present, but this type of ball is easy to find. It has two holes to get treats in as well but it is certainly much more sturdy and made to chew on. My friend actually had a pit bull or staffie (don't remember which) and the ball survived his chewing!

The plushy duck! This is great fun! The head is squeaky, the body makes a quack sound and the wings have plastic - what more can you ask for? We have this toy for special occasions because if not his head would be gone. 

Antler for dogs: I believe this small piece of antler has saved our furniture. Through his teething period the ropes and the antler were the best toys for Tjido. I think that at first he didn't get it, but once he started he loved it! He's very slow actually, the piece you see in the picture has been with us since we got him. 

Nina Ottoson's Treat Maze: After the death of the tricky treat ball, and the easiness of the orange ball I decided to buy a more expensive toy - great! It really is a good mental toy. The dog has to learn to wobble it and not bite it. But it is also quite heavy and awkward to bite, so Tjido now knows that treats are the main deal. The holes are quite big enough to put whatever you want, and it has two sides to put treats in. 

I think that I will leave you now with this list. I can say that only the toys that look boring are the best to leave your dog alone with and he will love, like the ropes and antler. But other toys are also great - you just have to remember that sooner or later they will be torn to pieces. And by keeping certain toys away, you make them special :) 

Tjido foto bombed the picture when realizing all his favourite things were on the table... 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sleepy dog = Happy dog

A sleepy dog is a happy dog!!!

I haven't updated yet again in a while... I have decided to make the next post about Tjido's toys and our experiences with different ones. So I hope you enjoy that post :)

I found out I have many pictures of Tjido sleeping haha, of course it is an easy moment to make a snap-shot, but I think it also just makes me smile to see him sleeping. Not only is he cute but I suppose it means that he's had a good time outside or inside with his toys. He also feels comfortable enough to sleep wherever and in all different positions.

And to end this post, the best picture ever, very shameless hahaha:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Doggy Ride - A mode of transport

When you live in a country/city where the main type of transportation is the bike, you have to think differently on how to transport your dog.

As you might have seen in previous posts, when Tjido was a puppy he fitted quite well in a basket in front of the bike. But he's too big and heavy for that now!

So we decided to purchase a kart for behind our bike, and went for the dutch Doggy Ride. You can google it and read all its fabulous attributes ;) We started our training at home: without the wheels, the kart was a nice "house" for Tjido. He went in and out without a second thought, and even slept in it.

Then we went outside, on a quiet place where we could start training, but it just didn't go the right way.  Barking, stress, crying etc. Until we got fed up of our failures and decided to ask for help. Our puppy training teacher came to see us and assess the situation.We got a new training program from her and decided to take advantage of a weekend at Joost parents house who have a garden to train. We did about 2-3 training sessions per day.

We decided to keep the front flaps open this time, since I do think he's not a fan of being in closed-up spaces. And this worked like a charm! Maybe in his mind, he feels he can always step out if necessary? Or he feels more part of the group? I don't know, but it is funny how such a small detail can make a big difference. SO here's the training we did:

Step 1: Go in the kart (attached to the bike), close the back flap, wait, open and command free.

Step 2: Go in the kart, close the back flap, walk with the bike and reward with treats. Open, give command free and play a little (to relieve stress).

Step 3: Go in the kart, close the back flap, bike a few meters and reward with treats. Open, give command free and give grans reward with a game of fetch/tug (to relieve stress).

And so on..
We also made a change on the security straps. They are normally found attached to the upper side of the Doggy Ride, but Joost changed them to the ground, so Tjido can lie down and sit as well. With the original setting, he couldn't lie down if we didn't want him to jump out.

We then started training close to our home, and trying to bike to a place where he could run loose, as to make the experience much nicer. Short rides, and increasing slowly. We did have a day we went too far, but then we tried to end it in a good note with a mini-ride. We have now achieved 5 minutes of biking, with Tjido "enjoying" the ride :)

Our next goal will be to bike to the forest - 2.5 km - and then I think we can start with real trips!
It has been a good training of our patience and our strong will ;)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Signs of spring!

Finally a post that's not about barking! :P

As promised I'm talking today about spring! That means mainly hair!!

I don't know how spring has arrived in your country, but here, well its takings its time really :S
Finally temperature started to increase beyond the 0 degrees haha and that also means that our furry friend starts loosing his hair!

We started brushing more often with our normal brush, but it was really time to get a serious tool.. too much hair flying around the house! So our local petshop recommend us ARTERO and well it works like a charm! I was a bit scared because in a few minutes I had allot of hair!!! When does this stop? (NO really, when do you know when to stop brushing?)

My dad is coming to visit, so we also gave him a very needed shower! He looks fluffy and white now haha, but looks are deceiving ;)

The heat is also making walks a bit different, Tjido is getting quite thirsty even after a normal walk. So I think we will have to bring water with us in the coming weeks.

We are taking him in bike rides in the afternoon, hoping to build up his condition. He really loves it!!! I hope we can make nicer trips where we can bike and he can follow us loose in a park or forest. But last time we did this, he got caught up with a dog and "lost" us. We were waiting for him, but he wasn't aware of our location, silly dog.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Free Shaping and Uncomfortable Situations

Trying to keep the post updated!

Continuing on the trend from last post.. barking. Our new approach is clicker training. Al  though we have been using clicker training since puppy-hood, we haven't really try to incorporate it in our "barking training". Also, we have used it while luring/helping Tjido into the behavior we want, ie: sitting, lying down etc.

As you know, we do training on saturdays with the animal shelter.  We had asked for help with the 'reactivity on leash' and we got 2 personalized training sessions! Yesterday was our first one :) and we learned about free shaping with clicker. The idea is to get Tjido's attention in walks, as they told us that he basically ignores us to the max outside. This is how it looked like:

Aim: Dog has to touch the tip of target stick.
1. Stand still with treats and target stick - wait for dog to look or make contact with target stick. Do not say anything!
2. Click for wanted behavior. Be patient.
3. Look for 3 repetitions.

Basically Tjido was barking, sniffing.. whatever. He did touch the stick once on the right spot, which we thought it was coincidence.. but after a whole interval again of being a teenager, he did it again and again. The trainer said he knew exactly what he was expected to do, but just couldn't care less.

Exercise 2- Aim: For dog to make eye contact.
1. Stand still, do not say anything.
2. If dog starts finding things to do, move a few steps and stop again.
3. Click for wanted behaviour.

This was of course much more difficult, but he did make eye contact after quite a while.

We have repeated this exercise at home. At home it is easy, outside with little distractions as well. But this will certainly be a looooong process... Next saturday we will do the next step I guess.

After our training we walked our typical loos-leash route through the forest, and while we sat on a bench for Tjido to drink water, a german shepherd approached us, but basically threw Tjido on the floor. He submitted automatically but when wanting to stand up, the dog went at him again. It was actually quite scary, maybe the 1st time he has really been 'attacked'.. Nothing mayor happened but it was certainly a surprise to see a loose dog like that.

Then today, after the doggy park, we saw again a german shepherd and Tjido cowered behind us. I hoped that if they could sniff each other it would be a pleasant encounter, so I didn't think anything when he approached us... oh how I was wrong. Seriously, a big coincidence, but the dog attacked Tjido as well!  The owner couldn't control his dog so he went at it another 2 times and well.. we didn't know what to do but try and stand in between.

So just to add the cherry to the cake, on our final walk, Tjido as always saw a dog and barked at it. The woman stepped out of the way, but then she shouted at us. I couldn't hear what she said because of Tjido's barking, but I understood she was warning us that if our dog would bite her it would cost a fine of 100 euros. I shouted back that our dog only barked, she responded "yeah, but he bites mine as well".  I thought she was being quite rude.

But Joost heard clearly that she was blaming us for a bite dog, and that it had cost her 100 euros... We had NEVER seen that woman or dog in our life, and Tjido has NEVER attacked a dog.

Since we were confused we walked away, but we now feel in a way guilty and annoyed. I wish we could have talked to her, but with a barking dog, she wouldn't have appreciated me coming close. I assume we will meet her again sometime, but yeah.. I feel bad that he is sometimes regarded as "aggressive" because of his barking, when actually our 2 dog attacks have been by non-barking dogs (which i know has nothing to do with aggressive or non aggressive, but there's an irony).

To end this post in a more positive note, he is starting to shed, so our next post will be all about shed & hair and no barking ;) Oh yeah! And our Icelandic Sheepdog magazine chose our picture! HERE I am looking forward to make more summery pictures of our little fluffy monster!

PS: I hope no GS owners are annoyed by this post. I really believe it was coincidence that it was the same breed twice. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Leash Reactivity and Easy Walk Harness

Ah yes, the dreaded post..

Well as you know, as many Icie owners, barking is one of those issues...
As I have explained before, Tjido is very much reactive on-leash, and since his puberty this has escalated.

It is annoying in the sense that you can't pin the real reason. He is certainly not agressive, since when you close the distance between him and anther dog, he basically goes into "nice to meet you mode". He is not scared or anxious since he really wants to run off to that other dog. So we asume it is just his way of letting out his excitement and being all "HEY YOU! Wanna play?!" or "LOOK AT ME!" shouted at very high pitched levels that really make me want to crawl under a rock.

Our main concern is the fact that he gets in a certain "tunnel vision" that I have also mentioned before. This makes distracting him difficult, and walking away means basically pulling him against his will and makes me feel terrible about it.

Therefore I bought "Fiesty Fido" by Patricia B. Mc Connell. I like her way of explaining things, although the training does assume you can train your dog on a distance from other dogs (sadly on our walks there are ALWAYS dogs). But we have started with the following training method:

1. When we see a dog (that Tjido hasn't), start giving Tjido treats - asking for eyecontact with "look at me".
2. When Tjido tenses up because he sees a dog, distract, ask for "look at me" and shower with treats.
3. Praise enormously when walking past a dog, with full attention of Tjido for treats.

If he goes bananas because we were too late, we don't give treats, and try to teach the command "silent". This works so-so...

We hope that by doing this "dog = treats", that he can clam down. I has been working, but it is a very slow process that gets ruined when dogs suddenly appear out of nowhere, or the neighbour walks him (this happened twice last week because I wasn't home - so we needed help).

I also believe that the "Easy Walk Harness" has helped us allot! It is a harness that clips on the front, which makes pulling annoying for the dog in a very animal-friendly manner. Loose leash walking has become very natural, so we're happy!

Well I hope to write soon! With real Tjido pictures haha!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A few days away from home

Last week Joost left to go hiking with his friends, and while he was gone I decided to visit my aunt. She wanted me to visit her because she also has a dog, a male dog, and thought that maybe if Tjido and Pieter met each other as early as possible they would be ok together.

Sadly I waited until now, when Tjido is 7 months to visit..

I had 2 big fears: (1) that Tjido would bark the whole way to get there and (2) that he would not toelatre sleeping in the kitchen instead of upstairs with me.

Tjido is not scared of the car, but the few time he had been in one he would get fed up or something and started barking and whining.  This time, we put him between my feet at the front. This was great! I think that the fact that he doesn't get distracted by the window makes him calm. So the whole ride was without an incident. He even got a nice Kong to chew on.

The first day was of course without rest. He couldn't keep calm. He was nice to Pieter, but sadly Pieter was bitten not so long ago, so Tjido had the upper hand and became the main man in the house... sigh, I had wanted him to be taught a lesson by a wise older dog.. We had really nice walks, but had to keep an eye on both dogs when they were eating - food snatching became war. We also visited my cousin who has two labradors. Oh it was so much fun!

At night Tjido did make a whole concert about being left behind, but it took just a few minutes before he stopped. I must say that the 5 days I was there I had terrible sleep thinking that Tjido would make all efforts to jump the wooden plank barrier. I have so little faith on my precious icie T_T sorry! But now I understand how people in big houses can teach their dog to be alone in a much easier way.

His recall in the forest was amazing! With a new squeaky toy, I make the sound call him and praise him. He does not get the squeaky toy, but i do play with him with a tug toy. This has been magical! Until now it has been quite fire proof, also against other very very interesting dogs, so  I'm very happy! Our week away was nice, but he and I slept better when we came back home ;)

Next posts will be about: leash reactivity and the easy walk harness.

I leave you with a cute video of Tjido and his best buddy!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The teenage dog

Ah readers!

Well sadly while writing this post, Tjido is yet again sick.. not as bad as last time but now the symptoms are: not eating and throwing up occasionally. And just to make it a bit worse, he found a chocolate in my bag and ate a piece of that.. so yeah, you know..

But today I want to tell you about our teenage dog.
Yesterday Tjido became 7 months old! And well, already a few weeks ago we started noticing some "teenage" attitudes.. recall was terrible, his reactivity towards other dogs on-leash has very sharp ups and downs and he has found a "girlfriend" in the neighborhood (sterilized)... we will need to have the talk. 

Good Looking at 6 months!

Especially for recall we bought new amazing treats that he had never tried before and started playing the "hide" game, which is easy because we are two people. So we hide, call his name and he runs to look for us. He really likes this game! We have also been using a squeaky toy to get his attention and allot of praise and awesome treats when he come back. It is a work in progress but he's getting better. Although sometimes he comes reliably, but then runs back again full speed to the dog that is trying to leave the park.

We also started a "teenage-course" at the animal shelter close to our home. The first lesson was a complete disaster. Tjido could not stop barking! So we were sent to the other side of the field, got a more personal trainer and then at the end got the "so.. what traumatic experiences did your dog have as a puppy?"... we were tagged as the problem dog and problem owner! So we explained that we did exercise him, that he wasn't aggressive (this they actually tried out) and that he was just.. reactive. Part of the breed blah blah.

It was certainly annoying. The next week we decided to take a new approach and get there very early walk around and let other dogs get to Tjido first instead of us holding the 'tight' leash. This worked fine, and we have now refined our technique, by letting Tjido trot while we bike, for the last few meters. This extra exercise helps allot- although at the end of the lesson he's just digging holes and not paying any attention.

Slowly Starting to Walk/Bike

To tell you the truth, we have not learnt anything at the lesson. Since we are starting really basic, Tjido has a good background from the puppy course  (I think our teacher still gets surprised that the 'barking-dog' does follow commands). For us our biggest challenge is to:

1. Arrive
2. Be in the group- be part of the circle, keeping Tjido's attention on us and minimizing the barking.
3. Leave

"BORING! this dirt is so much fun!"

When we get back home we all collapse haha. Next post will be about Tjido's doggy friend! And hopefully his stomach ache will be gone by then.

Me wants cuddles.. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dog food: The endless discussion

Not wanting to delay a new post, here it is!

Today I wanted to talk a bit about dog food.

Originally we hadn't thought much about dog food until we visited a dutch breeder, who was a raw food fan. So we (or well, better said Joost) started investigating what was the fuss about.

I guess it is hard to make a post on this subject and be neutral about the "battle" of kibble vs raw food.. But I would like to share with you our process of choosing what we feed Tjido and why :)

First I guess we didn't really like the idea of food full of artificial stuff, I mean I try to avoid those in my daily meals as well. So that's how we decided we should try more natural stuff, and it seemed logical.

We didn't go for raw meat directly, since I thought it was a bit exagerated. Our local pet-shop owner recommended the brand Greenheart-Premiums, which is kibble but made of high quality ingredients. It is baked in an oven and was originally made by a man who had sled pulling huskies and felt that all the commercial food was crappy.

Joost got more excited with the raw food and its good reviews around dog owners: shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth and smaller stool. So after a debate we decided to go half/half. The reason why is because I was scared that if we only give him raw food (which Tjido finds DELICIOUS) he will not eat kibble anymore. And this would be annoying if he has to stay somewhere or we go on vacation. (Today I don't think this is an issue, he is totally food driven, so he'll eat whatever is on his plate) 

Funnily enough, while writing this post Joost randomly found an article in Nature about how dogs, through domestication, were able to digest starch, and therefore do not have to be fed "like wolves". (For those interested: The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a strach-rich diet, Axelsson A. et al., 2013, Nature 11837) And of course the other fact, that raw food just "recently" came to the market, while kibble and other types of food (by this I mean,  before kibble people gave the leftovers to the dog) have been around for a really long time. 

In the end I would say that if you are interested in what you feed your dog, check out different websites and people's experiences. But of course we also benefit of the fact that Icelandic Sheepdogs are a small-medium size dog. Our neighbors have a Bernese Mountain Dog and they can't afford the expensive raw food, this is of course something to take in account. Therefore remember to be realistic about your situation and dont' get pushed by other people/breeders/vets opinion (they tend to be quite pushy at times).

Let me know what you think about this subject!

Tip: if you go for the fresh meat, remember to buy a special tupperwear where you always put the meat to defrost in the fridge a night before. And wash the dog's dish as well :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Home Alone: Part 2

Hello hello!

I know I would write the next post about dog food, but I have encountered more people on the Facebook page of icelandic sheepdogs who are having issues leaving their dogs alone. Regarding barking specially. This is why I decided to continue this theme and show our progress (questions regarding anything are welcome, this is in the end a trail-error-amatuer owner approach).

So on the last post we were building up slowly. But after 30min-1 hour we started stretching it more. He only had 2 pee accidents but finally Tjido just slept after he ate his Kong, and judging from the video footage, he played with his toys a bit as well. We have been able to leave him for even 4-6 hours at night without a problem! (Finally being able to go out together on dinners and stuff!!!)

We take him out of course when we get back, but he tends to be very sleepy and just does his business and wants to go back inside.

Then one day we had to leave in the day time for a lunch date. Oh-oh... we did our usual ritual:
- Take him out for a decent walk
- Prepare a Kong
- Get our stuff ready
- Give Kong and leave without a fuss.

But he followed us to the door... and barked at us and whined. So I went for a stronger goodie: dry intestines/stomach (which he loves and it stinks enormously). But Tjido chewed it quickly still keeping an eye on us. So when we left he started barking! Joost considered going back inside, but I told him we had to let it go, we were filming everything so we would know if we went too far.

That day we left for 3 hours and came back. He just woke up :) on the footage it showed us he had barked for about 3 minutes before settling down and eating all his goodies, but this time on the door mat instead of his bed.

Since then he has been great when we leave, no matter at what time, although the kong keeps being essential. I guess it is a way of making a truce: "for your effort you get this amazing treat" and maybe it works as a good cue as well. He now knows we'll come back.

I hope we get more tips on the new "teenage puppies" classes, on how we can improve our method. Also the barking at other dogs outside has come back full-on and it it ANNOYING to no end.. He doesn't snap at dogs or anything but just barks his lungs out. When the other dog is close enough its all "ohhhh you're my best friend everrrr". I will keep you posted!

Picture taken at our local animal shop :) Tjido 5 months

Finally a tip for the day: Home made treat dispenser- milk carton!
Tjido loved it and was busy for quite a while haha! I have some footage of this, so I will make a video soon ;) but I herby post the original idea:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Doggy Sickness...

Hello everyone!

It has taken me a while to update, but I just came back from vacations (actually I'm typing this in the airport waiting for my flight home). Before I left I have meant to post something on dogs being sick.

Half way through december Tjido became ill: quite a heavy diarreah, and it was so bad he couldn't even get off his coushion. I was worried about him but thought that he might just need some rest, until Joost went out the door for some groceries, and our normal barking/excited puppy just whimpered and tried to get up failing miserably.

That was too much for me, so I called the vet and there we went! Our vet initially blamed typical puppy  habits of eating everything from the floor, but when he heard we gave him raw meat once a day his suspicion went more to his diet. In the end he gave him a shot and send him out with some easy-to-digest canned food and antibiotics. To make the story short, he was up and wagging his tail at the end of the day and we gave him plenty of water and his disgusting looking canned food.

But when we left the vet, his secretary asked if we had considered a health insurance for our dog... Since the whole "package" we got wasn't that cheap, to put it in soft words. We had originally looked at some, but thought it would cost us much more in the long run than an isolated accident. Some gave international insurance, other didn't. Some added the real expensive stuff (dental care). Some only covered 50% of costs and others you had to go premium for a full coverage. We haven't decided on anything yet.

So I guess my first question on this post is: Do you have a health insurance for your dog? And why did you (or not) decide to take it?

Tjido became a healthy dog again, but I don't know if I did the right thing by taking him to the vet, Later when taking to other dog owners they gave us more homey recipes to aid a sick dog (feeding him rice and boiled chicken for example). Joost also found out that after antibiotics, his stomach flora had been damaged so we had to give him a diet of 'less' clean meat so his bacteria can go to normal levels again.


There goes my second question of this post:  What do you do when your dog is sick? How far do you let it go before calling a vet?

Tjido is again a happy healthy dog!
I hope you all had a great vacation season and enjoyed quality time with your family :)

Next posts will be on the following subjects: (yeah, 2013 resolutions: more posts!)
- Dog food: Raw food, dry food, costs and what to choose?
- New Puppy Classes: Teenager Dogs
- Home Alone: Continuation of our adventure, now day time alone.