Ski…what? Skijor!

Kali and I recently joined a Skijoring/Kicksledding course and I am going to be writing a few blogs about our experiences. We are taking the course in Winnipeg, Manitoba at Training Loyal Companions with the amazing Diane and Skijor master Kev Roberts from Skijor OxfordDogs. Make sure to click on those links to check out more about them! Kev has tons of great info on gear, Skijoring, Kicksledding and dog information in general.

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First I should explain what Skijoring and Kicksledding are. Skijoring is a winter sport where a person is pulled on skis by a horse, dog, or motor vehicle. When Skijoring with dogs, the skier is skiing and pushing with poles, while the dog assists. The dog and skier both have special harnesses so you aren’t putting any pressure on the wrong places of the human’s or dog’s body. Kicksledding is the same idea but on a fancy sled rather than skis. The dogs are still assisting, you are helping move along by kicking the ground to keep the sled moving. If you want to learn more about these sports click here for some book recommendations and reviews.

We started a few weeks ago, but there wasn’t any snow you say! Well, you can’t run before you can walk, in most cases. We started all of our training on foot to really teach the cues and keep them focused. Especially with Kali and Nanu….We would have been visiting rabbits all over the street! The first class we talked about the sport in general, some safety stuff, and our dogs got fitted for gear. You will see Kali wearing the Second Skin Harness. For more information on gear click here.

The second class we really started to get into it. We talked about stretching our dogs before and after, I didn’t even think of this! So important and a great way to bond with your dog. We discussed getting our dogs comfortable with us touching their feet to apply paw wax and remove any snow build up between the toes. We then began to work on “LINE OUT” where the dogs pull the line taught and wait for you to get yourself, or the other dogs ready. I am telling you, this one was tough. It takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. It can take a year to get your dog to have a solid line out, especially since with obedience training you are always training your dog to come back and look at you.

Our third class, we went on a group walk to Assiniboine Forest. We took turns passing, worked on our “LEAVE IT” or “ON BY” and did some hill work (getting your dog super excited and running really fast up a hill). We also started adding in the cues for left “HAW” and right “GEE”. While practicing at home, Kali still wasn’t quite getting the whole “LINE OUT” and she was fairly distracted, but on this walk she really surprised me and did so amazing. I couldn’t have been more proud. It also gave me the motivation I needed to brush off the old skis, take them in to get hot waxed, and buy some new boots.

In the video above, Kali is practicing some of her Skijoring commands before we start on skis. Her “LINE OUT” is really coming along, as is her “GEE” (turn right) and “HAW” (turn left). I called for the “GEE” command a bit late but did get to see that she is starting to understand what it means. Once we started moving she did a great job keeping the line taught and didn’t get distracted by some people who were walking down the street towards us. All in all I am super impressed with how well she is doing.

Our next class will be trying out a kicksled now that we have some snow. Kali and I are just so excited. Make sure to stay tuned to learn about our first experience with equipment. I am hoping to get some video of Kali and I in action.

Oh, did I mention what my favorite part of this class is? That it is all trained using Positive Reinforcement. Last winter, I took a one time workshop and was fairly disappointed in how my dog was treated, and the class in general. I was pretty discouraged until I heard about the OxfordDogs course and now I am just waiting for that snow to fall!

Have you ever tried Skijoring or Kicksledding with your dog? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Collars, Collars, Collars Part 2

Hello!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article entitled “Collars, Collars, Collars,” which touched on the negative effects that certain types of abrasive collars can have on your dog physically and psychologically. This week I will be talking about a few positive tools that you can use to train your dog.

Everyday Collars

Buckle Collar

CollarThis is the most common collar worn by dogs. My dog’s always wear collars that hold their rabies tag, city tag, and name tag with our phone numbers on it. This way, if they do get lost they are easily returned back to me. Remember to fit your dog’s collar properly. If it is too tight it will be very uncomfortable, and if it is too loose, it can slip off or get caught on something. When the collar is fitted properly, you should easily be able to slide two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck.

 Martingale Collar

Martingale Collar copyThis is another common collar choice which both of my dogs use. When the dog tries to pull their head out of the collar, the tension on the leash pulls the small loop taut, which makes the large loop smaller and tighter on the neck– preventing them from slipping it off. When adjusted properly the dog is never choked, but the collar stays snug around the dog’s neck (just behind the ears) until the pressure is released. For more information on this collar click here.

Harness

I always recommend that all of my clients walk their dogs on some kind of harness. As mentioned in my previous article, dogs have sensitive necks and one wrong pull, something very serious can be damaged. Dog’s also have an opposition reflex, this means that if they feel something pulling against their neck, they will automatically want to pull away from it.

Regular Harness

HarnessIf your dog is already trained to walk on a loose leash, I recommend a regular harness. If your dog is a puller, you may want to start with a positive walking tool first, and graduate to one of these in the future.

Easy Walk Harness

Easywalk2The Easy Walk harness is a tool used to discourage your dog from pulling. The leash attaches to the front of the chest, therefore putting the tension on the body steering your dog to the side making it easy to redirect their attention to you. I have had great success with this type of harness and recommend it to all of my clients who have dogs with leash issues.  For more information on this type of harness click here.

Other Training Tools

Halti

HaltiA Halti, similar to the Easy Walk, is a great tool if your dog is a puller on the leash and/or has a hard time focusing on you. When they move forward with tension on the leash, the halti gently turns their head breaking their focus so you can change their attention to be on you. REMEMBER these training tools are just aids. You need to put in the time to work with your dog so you don’t have to use these aids forever.

Backpack

Many dogs enjoy having a job to do during a walk. If you find that your dog doesn’t easily focus on you and is very excitable while walking, try a backpack. Another plus to this is that they can carry water and snacks, for the both of you!

Remember, when using any kind of new “hardware” on your dog, there will be a transition period. Never force your dog to wear something they don’t want to or they will have a bad association with the tool. Train your dog that wearing these things is fun and good things happen when he does.

  • Start small, every time your dog looks at the harness, give him a treat. If he takes a step towards the harness, treat. When he smells the harness, treat.
  • Pick up the harness, treat your dog, and put it down. Do this exercise a few times and when he is comfortable move onto the next step.
  • Put the harness around his body but don’t do it up. Treat, take it off and do it again.
  • Now you are ready to get walking! Put the harness on, give some treats, and off you go!
  • REMEMBER, if your dog ever gets uncomfortable during any of these steps, back up to the previous step and go through the motions at a slower page.

When preparing for a walk, get yourself completely ready to go, then get the harness on so you are out the door as soon as it is on. You don’t want to give your dog anytime to dwell or think about the tool making them uncomfortable. In my experience, the dogs will try to get it off for the first few minutes of the walk and then adjust and realize that they are doing something fun whether they are wearing a harness or not.

What do you use when training your dog to walk on a loose leash? Let me know in the comments below!

Project 48: 48 Dogs in 48 Hours

As most of you probably already know, I am DREAM‘s Spay/Neuter Program Coordinator. We were approached by Sagkeeng Spay Neuter Initiative Program (SSNIP) at the beginning of September asking us to partner with them on running the largest mobile spay/neuter clinic in Manitoba and we jumped on the opportunity. The two most important initiatives of DREAM are spay/neuter programs to help control the animal overpopulation problem, and education programs in schools in Winnipeg as well as the remote communities.

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Project 48 is happening this coming weekend, September 28/29, 2013. We are “fixing” 48 dogs in 48 hours and vaccinating and deworming as many as we can.  Vetting services will be provided by Dr. Keri Rydell’s Mobile Clinic and we will be bringing a group of dedicated volunteers to help out with the recovery and rounding up of stray dogs in the community. Many of the dogs we will be altering will be owned dogs, however we will also be spaying and neutering as many strays as we can coordinate rescue spots for.

Why is heartworm important?
Parasites or worms, live in a dog’s stomach and intestines. They will cause a dog to lose weight and have a bloated belly. Your dog will eat a lot of food, and never gain enough weight if she has worms. Deworming medication is inexpensive and will get rid of the parasites in your dog, saving you lots of money on dog food.

Why is vaccinating important?
Vaccines are something we give our dogs with a needle to keep them from getting sick with diseases like Parvovirus (like a very bad stomach flu that kills most puppies that get it). Vaccines are not expensive, but treating your dog for the diseases will prevent treating them at a vet, which is very costly.

Why is spay/neuter so important?
Spaying your female will help her live a much longer, happier life because she will not be constantly caring for puppies and needing lots of extra food to keep them healthy. It will also prevent big groups of male dogs from coming around your home when your female is in heat, which can be dangerous for your family.
Neutering your male dog will keep him from siring puppies. It will also make him less likely to wander away from home, and he may be less aggressive or territorial. He will not get into as many fights with other male dogs and will not chase females in heat anymore. In Manitoba, the majority of dog bites are from intact males.

If you are interested in learning more about this project please go to http://dreamrescue.ca/project48/. If you would like to donate please go to http://www.spaynneuterinitiativeprogram.com/donations.html.

Have you helped out at any spay/neuter clinics? Let me know your experiences in the comments below!