Friday, November 28, 2014

Baking - For the Dogs

I used to work at a small natural pet product store and one of the great things about that was I got all my dogs' treats at half price. Before leaving that job I really stocked up but recently I finally ran out of most of the treats I had purchased. I made it 5 months so that is pretty good!

I've been buying some bulk crunchy treats that are affordable, my dogs like, and that work for reinforcing things like coming back inside after a potty break when I call, or going into their crates, but I needed something with wow factor. You know, the meat loaded treats that your dogs go crazy about but that also empty out your wallet when you buy them. So recently I've been trying out some different dog treat recipes. The bonus of making your own is that you know exactly what is going into them, you can adjust recipes for dogs with allergies, and they haven't been sitting on a shelf for months.

Here are a couple of the recipes that I've tried lately:

Muttly Meatballs

If an oatmeal cookie and a Thanksgiving feast had a love child, it would be these meatballs. With the oatmeal, cinnamon and honey, you get the cookie, but then you throw in turkey, parsley and sweet potato.

I was tempted but haven't yet tried one myself. Really! They smell that good. The dogs will do just about anything for these meatballs. I make them as small as I can but they are still pretty big for Rat Terriers so when using them I break them in half or even in 4.

1 lb cooked shredded or ground Turkey
1 Egg
1 Sweet Potato, baked
1 Cup Quick Cook Oats
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Honey
2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley

1. Bake punctured sweet potato in 400° oven for 35
minutes or until soft
2. Remove skin and place soft potato in a bowl
3. Combine parsley and egg and add to sweet potato
4. Add turkey, oats, cinnamon, honey and parsley, mix
with your hands until well combined
5. Roll turkey mixture into balls, slightly smaller than a
golf ball and place on greased cookie sheet

6. Cook at 350°for 15-20 minutes

Crumble-Free Bow-Wow Brownies

This recipe scared me at first. I am very much one to follow recipes exactly as written, so this whole idea of just throwing in whatever you have lying around, and mixing according to texture turned me off. But I took a leap of faith. I mean, if I am honest with myself they could taste like cardboard and my pack of terriers would happily eat it. They are by no means connoisseurs of fine baking - they eat poop and cardboard so I would say they aren't real picky. I've made this recipe twice now - once with salmon and once with canned chicken. Both times it turned out really good. Using the tapioca flour gives the treats the texture of a gummy bear with a crunchy outer layer. They get hard though when left out so I put a days worth in my treat dish and keep extras bagged in the refrigerator or freezer.  These make great treats for Nose Work because they are soft treats but won't mess up your search area with crumbs.

Puree in a food processor:
  • 1 cup raw or cooked protein (see some suggestions below)
  • 1-2 eggs, depending on the moistness of your other ingredients

Put the puree into a bowl and stir in 1 cup tapioca flour, or a mixture of tapioca and other flour. You may need more or less, depending on the water content of your protein sources.
Mix well. It will stay a little sticky, but if it is too sticky to handle, add more flour.  Toss it between your hands to make a patty and plop it into a greased pan or onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350F for about 15-20  minutes. Longer if you used raw ingredients. Cut with pizza cutter while warm.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fall Photo Shoot

In late November each year our Japanese maples drop their leaves in an amazing shower or orange-gold beauty. I hate to rake them up because they are so gorgeous and so they blanket our rock path for a week or so until they start to turn into a gloppy mess.

And because I love them so, I always try to get a photo shoot of the dogs standing in the leaves. The color looks so striking contrasting with their coats, or in Frodo's case, blending with it.

Of course this never goes especially well since the last thing the dogs are interested in when they are outside is sitting still and looking at me, even when I have great treats.

This years session was no different. Chima wanted to hunt under the ferns, Gorky wanted to eat the fern, Sal just wanted to watch the commotion but not look at the camera and Frodo and Tilly just wanted to go inside. "Pleaaaassssse let us go inside."

We did manage a few good shots and a few funny ones. Here are some pictures to document our morning of photographs:

Tilly was the only one who would sit still. Of course, it takes 13 years for a terrier to learn this so the others still have years to go until they master that skill. 

While I made silly noises and jumped up and down to catch their attention, the girls had other interests.

Chima had caught the scent of some critter who had wandered under the fern the night before. 

Of course, everyone had to check it out as I called their names and waved a treat bag in the air.

 I finally got this great shot of Gorky. He was standing still for once.

 Why was he standing still? Because he was busy chewing on one of my ferns.

 Gorky says "sword ferns are delicious".

I took about 15 shots of Sal in this pose, hoping in just one of them she would look up at me to see why I was making the weird noises and give me one of her adorable floppy eared head tilts. Nope.

After all critter trails in the yard had been inspected thoroughly, Chima humored me and let me take a couple pictures of her.

And Frodo finally looked my direction, probably in hopes that it would shut me up and get me to finally put my camera away.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and takes the time to get their dogs out for a stroll through the autumn leaves!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gorky Chills

I'm not going to lie to you. Gorky is a busy boy who likes to go, go, GO! He regularly has us laughing as he tears around, chasing after a ball he has thrown for himself or bugging one of the dogs to play with him.

But after he's played, and played and then played a little more, he does choose to hang out and snooze on a lap or just the couch if there is no lap to grab. Here are some photos as proof that this silly boy does slow down. 

A lot of Gorky's initial energy that we were seeing was nerves and the stress of getting used to a new environment but the more he settles in, the less busy he is, making him better able to enjoy moments of "chill" such as the ones pictured in this post. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Leash Learning

I don't think that Gorky has ever been walked on a leash and he probably hasn't spent much time outside of a backyard so another thing we've been working on is putting a harness on and taking it off, and also walking around while leashed.

Heading out on his first "walk"

Because so much of the noises, sights and smells of our suburban neighborhood are new, I'm not starting out actually attempting to just "go for a walk". I want this to be a positive thing for him so to begin with I attached a treat bag to my belt, harnessed and leashed him up, and then I let him sniff around our front yard and practiced walking on the sidewalk in front of our house and the neighbor's house.
Gorky set the pace and we walked around the yard while he carefully sniffed each shrub and plant. 

For the most part he didn't do a lot of pulling and stayed close so loose leash walking shouldn't be too tough to teach

Gorky was a little nervous but he is starting to understand that this is safe and fun and before we know it we'll be working on longer walks. For now we end our walks with a fun off leash romp in the back yard which is something that he loves to do. You always want things to end of a good note so that next time the leash comes out they are going to associate it with fun, and not something negative.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gorky and the Grab

I had mentioned that Gorky has learned in his previous home that to be safe it's best to stay just out of reach of human hands if they are trying to reach for you.

This is the first thing we are working on which I'm working on in a bit of a round about way.

First off, I'm teaching Gorky that I am a wild and crazy treat dispensing machine. I want him to get a bundle of experience that when people are around great things happen. Remember, a dog often has a long history that has created a certain behavior, in this case avoiding a collar grab. Our job is to teach them that something else is a better option. The better option I'm giving Gorky is that when he hangs out near people, treats rain down from above and toys are offered.

Some dogs are too worried to approach people so you have to start out by tossing treats. Happily Gorky is willing to take treats from my hand already before he darts away. Remember that a training plan is always a unique plan, based on the dog you are working with. There is no such thing as one size fits all training. Your dog decides where the "starting line" is and with what speed the plan proceeds.

The other thing that I'm working on with Gorky is that looking at me is rewarding. I want to build up our relationship so he knows that checking in with me and paying attention when I call his name makes great things happen.

So now I have a dog who is paying more attention to me, and wants to come when he's called because it means his person might give him something tasty.

Now I sit down and wait for him to tentatively approach for pets. He gets love and attention and during this I gently hold his collar, still laying on the charm, and then I release the collar, give him a treat and lots of praise and maybe throw a toy. The key is to practice this a lot so that he doesn't learn that collar grab = end of fun time. Coming to his person should always be positive.

Gorky has proven to be a very smart guy and even after just a few days he's spending more time approaching me and asking for attention and less time worried that someone is going to grab him and do something unpleasant. Good job, Gorky!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wrestlemania - Rat Terrier Version

Usually it takes a few weeks before Chima is able to relax enough with a new dog to play without getting too intense but I guess that Gorky can handle her because they are wrestling already!

It happens multiple times throughout the day but it seems like as soon as my camera or phone comes out they both stop and stare at me. Here they are refusing to wrestle after my phone came out:

I finally caught some wrestling on video though so enjoy these "vicious predators" in action.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Toy boy

Some dogs actually have to be taught that toys can be fun but Gorky is not that dog. After a few days of skittering around nervously, Gorky discovered that we have a doggy toy basket and he spent the morning getting each of them out, one at a time, tossing them around a bit and then returning to the basket to try out the next one.

It was very cute and I'm glad that he's able to entertain himself since most of my dogs aren't big on playing. He chewed on Nylabones, chased after rubber balls, and threw a few toys for himself to run after.

He even tried playing with Chima a few times and while Chima was interested she doesn't quite know him well enough to play yet but I'm sure that will come.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Getting to Know Gorky

With every new foster dog there is a time after they first arrive that I think "oh my gawd, what have I gotten myself into." Sometimes this faze lasts for weeks, sometime just for a day or less. Happily Gorky falls into the latter category.

When we get these young 9 month to 2 years of age dogs from the shelters it is almost always a case of someone getting a cute dog, doing absolutely no training and then blaming the dog for not magically figuring out how to live up to our expectations of how a pet should behave in our world. It's sad because these are smart, active dogs who are getting blamed for what is essentially their human's laziness.

It's not that these dogs haven't learned things. They've learned what a frustrated human looks and sounds like and that they are best avoided. They learn to not come when called because something bad could happen if they do. They learn that digging holes, climbing fences, barking at anything that moves is fun when you're by yourself in a back yard with nothing better to do and no company.

Happily, Gorky doesn't seem to be interested in hole digging or escaping fences but he is an energetic guy who has learned that humans can be unpredictable in their reactions. The result is that while he loves attention, he will stay just out of reach and finds grabby hands unsettling. We're working on this though.

He was super hyper when he first arrived - stressed out from his long journey and ending up in a house full of people and dogs he didn't know. A lot of people would have called his activity level and bounciness as being a happy dog. It was obvious from his body language though that he was overwhelmed - panting, unable to sit still, tight muscles in the face, stiff wagging of the tail and rigid postures as he hopped around ...

Now a couple of days later he is still a busy boy but it's a happy busy. I don't think he's ever lived inside a house so all the new textures and sounds and expectations are new. He's catching on quickly though and has settled right into the routine. He loves to play with other dogs so I have a feeling that before too long he and Chima will be having fun wrestling and chasing.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Introducing Gorky!

We had planned to have a little break between foster dogs but in rescue plans tend to change frequently and last minute we learned that our new foster boy, Gorky, will be arriving late tonight instead of next week.

Gorky is a big, short tank of a boy who has a handsome blue tuxedo tricolor coat and is always ready for adventure. He's about a year old and weighs around 20 pounds and has ears that just might be longer than his legs!  We can't wait to meet this silly guy.

Gorky is named for the Armenian-American Abstract Expressionist painter, Arshile Gorky. Gorky fled the Armenian genocide and immigrated to Russia first, then America where he enrolled in art school. His paintings and drawings hang in every major art museum in the United States including the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Arshile Gorky

Mesa Paisaje

Organizaci II

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adopted: Tuttle Heads Home

We've had Tuttle a couple months now and he has proven to be a loveable, furry little imp - a rascal of the first degree! Always ready for fun and adventure and ready to make his own fun if you aren't quick enough. He has kept us laughing and I'm sure will have his new family laughing as well.

Tuttle's new family is a wonderful fit for him. He'll have a 6 year old boy to tear around with and a mom at home most of the time to keep him company. He'll get regular visits to nearby parks with his family and plenty of play time - just how he likes it.

So have a great life, Tuttle! We are very happy for you, sweet boy.