activities & sports
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Build the bond with the newest dog sport
Like most dog people, I do not live on a farm, nor do I have l ivestock, unless you count the chipmunks squatting in our garage. This is one of the great disappointments of my dog Ginger Peach’s life. She’ll herd anything — people, other dogs, Jolly Balls, even the cats. Our friends in law enforcement insist she’s a Dutch Shepherd mix. No doubt she’d love to be out rounding up bad guys.
Short on both sheep and criminals, I eagerly signed us up for a Treibball (pronounced “try ball”) workshop at Wiggles ‘n’ Wags in Lombard, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. A new sport, Treibball is best described as urban herding: from varying distances, you direct your dog to move large exercise balls into a goal, like herding sheep into a pen. All dogs are welcome to play, regardless of breed or age. While the distance skills and verbal cues are similar to those used in agility, Treibball makes almost no physical demands on the handler, and so people of any age and athletic ability can play.
Treibball, also known as drive-ball, originated in Germany six years ago when Dutch dog trainer Jan Nijboer watched his Australian Cattle Dogs push their rubber water dishes around the field after finishing herding lessons. The dogs, who clearly still had energy to spare, had created their own game. He wondered if they would also push large exercise balls, and found that they easily took to the new “sheep.” After Nijboer introduced the game to his herding students, it quickly spread across Europe and then to the United States. In 2007, Sweden hosted the inaugural international Treibball competition.
“As a trainer and behavior consultant, a lot of the behavior problems I’m asked to address stem from the sad effects of dogs who are bored … who are expected to simply lie [around] while their owners watch TV,” says Stearns. “Most dogs are problem solvers. They need an outlet for their intelligence and energy before it gets funneled into destructive chewing, digging, barking and fence running.”
Stearns enjoys the challenge of Treibball with her own four dogs: Terry, a still-feisty 13-year-old Westie; Chance, a nine-year-old Black Lab/German Shorthaired Pointer mix and demo dog extraordinaire; Huerro, a sweet, sixyear- old yellow Lab; and Fin, a one-yearold Border Collie/Aussie mix who, she jokes, is “currently suffering from teenage brain.” (Watch Stearns and Fin in action at youtube.com/americantreibball.)
“Chance and Fin have different approaches to the balls and to the game,” says Stearns. “I’ve had to adapt my training to each of their different learning styles. Because Treibball is a problem-solving game [in which the handler directs] the dog to go after a specific ball depending on where that ball rolls, both handler and dog must continually correct their positioning. It’s been a major problem-solving exercise in creative thinking and teaching.”
That was certainly the case when Ginger Peach (GP) and I followed our Treibball instructor’s directions. Since we have competitive agility and discdog backgrounds, the verbal and physical cues I used were different than those suggested in class. I made some adjustments and decided how to match up cues GP already knew with the various Treibball maneuvers. GP took it all in stride, eager to work on “sends” to her mat from 15 feet away and down on command at varying distances, and to target various objects — even a toy dump truck! — in preparation for our first ball.
We both pouted when we realized we wouldn’t get a ball right away, but like any canine sport, it’s important to master foundation skills first. Also, GP habitually retrieves her Jolly Balls with her mouth, which is frowned upon in Treibball. A dog who bites the ball will be eliminated; driving must be done with the nose only.
Through the ATA, Stearns hopes to offer a solution for high-energy dogs whose owners cannot match their activity level. “Our sedentary lifestyles are often at odds with what our dogs were bred or have evolved to do,” she says. “Most dogs need a job, and a thinking job or game that increases their bond with their owner in a nonaversive manner is a natural.”
The ATA, a young organization, is in the process of training Treibball instructors to increase the number of classes being offered around the country. Members are also drafting official rules for competition, which Stearns says will likely debut in early 2012. And Treibball enthusiasts will soon be able to register their dogs and earn points toward titles.
Ideally, GP’s and my skills will have progressed so that we’ll be ready to compete. Some of our classmates plan to play just for fun. Whether you pursue Treibball competitively or recreationally, suburban and city dogs will enjoy the physical and mental stimulation of tending to their inflatable ball flock.
News: Guest Posts
Enter Greenies’ “Show Us Your Pet’s Healthy Smile” Contest
It’s more than a little obvious that we love smiling dogs here at Bark. From big toothy grins to impish smirks, we can’t get enough of them. So we’re thrilled to be a part of Greenie’s “Show Us Your Pet’s Healthy Smile” Contest, which launches today! The prizes are way cool (more on those in a second) but the message is even more important—increasing awareness of the importance of keeping our pets’ teeth and gums healthy and celebrating the happiness pets bring to their lives.
This year’s contest is open to both dog and cat participants. To enter, just upload the best picture of your dog or cat showing off his or her pearly whites at smile.greenies.com and then encourage your friends and family to vote. A winning dog and cat will be selected from among the top ten vote-getters by a panel of judges, which includes Bark creative director Cameron Woo, veterinary dentist Dr. Jan Bellows and Dorian Wagner, author Your Daily Cute.
The winning dog will be featured on the cover of our January/February 2012 issue, and the big smiler's family will receive a free one-year subscription to Bark along with a year’s worth of free Greenies Canine Dental Chews. Winner of the “cat”-egory will also take home a year’s worth of Feline Greenies Dental Treats and be featured in an eight-page feline insert in The Bark plus a year's free subscription. (We know cats are always very curious about the lives of dogs, even though they won’t admit it.)
The “Show Us Your Pet’s Healthy Smile” contest starts today, August 24, and runs through October 21. For full official contest rules and contest entry visit smile.greenies.com.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A hike turned into an overnight excursion for a couple and their dog
A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine ended up carrying his 50 pound dog for two miles after the poor pup tore the pads on his paws during a trail run. I wondered what I would do in the same situation. Unfortunately, I'd probably be stuck because I don't usually carry first aid supplies and I definitely don't have as much upper body strength as my friend. The ordeal certainly got me thinking.
Even the most well-conditioned dog can become injured on a hike or run, so it's important to have a plan if something should go wrong. This is even more important if you're trekking in a remote area.
A couple in California learned this lesson the hard way while on an afternoon hike at Angeles National Forest last weekend. During the outing, their Labrador mix, Baxter, cut his pads and soon grew too tired to complete the hike. The couple couldn't carry the 80-pound dog, so they were forced to call the police and wait overnight for help to arrive. The next morning a rescue helicopter airlifted the couple and their dog to safety.
I don't run or hike in remote areas, so I usually rely on the fact someone can come get me if there's an emergency. But after hearing this story, and knowing what happened to my friend, I think I'm going to start carrying a few basic supplies with me. Torn pads are fairly common for active dogs, so bringing disinfectant and gauze on our next outing is probably not a bad idea.
What do you bring with you when you run or hike with your dogs?
News: Guest Posts
A little like dock dogs with more laughs and fewer rules
I have found a competition for which my dog is actually qualified. It involves clambering around objects and falling in the water. It’s all about “style and pizzaz,” there are practically no rules and cheating is encouraged. Was this contest created for us?
My only problem is that the unconventional World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials (on August 14) take place all the way across the country in Rockland, Maine, an awfully long way to travel to prove a point. Plus, Bark magazine is a sponsor of the competition, which probably disqualifies us—but then again, cheating is encouraged.
Still, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and for folks who live in the Northeast, the Boatyard Dog Trials sound like a worthy adventure. So, even though we’re stuck far from the action on the West Coast, we want to send some Mainers, New Hampshirites, Vermonters or visitors to the area into the fray. (Feel free to report back!)
► We’re giving away 10 pairs of tickets in a random drawing. Enter here. The ticket giveaway runs through August 10; winners will pick up their tickets at will-call.
► Meanwhile, if you have a photo of your dog in/on/near the water that you think is championship material, submit it to our Water Dogs photo contest.
The trials will take place on Sunday, August 14, during the ninth annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show at Harbor and Buoy parks in Rockland. The winner will be featured in the Boatyard Dog column of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, and has the honor of displaying the “Pup Cup” trophy until next year’s trials. Please note: the field of competitors has been pre-selected, and non-competing dogs are not invited.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
The ABCs for your first runs together
You like to run, your dog likes to run. It seems like a no-brainer: How about the two of you running together? While you might be concerned about your dog’s ability to run a reasonable distance, the most common hindrance to sharing this passion is your dog’s ability to stay at your side.
Start with a hands-free set-up such as the Buddy System, or with a regular four- to six-foot leash that you hold while keeping your bent arm at your side in normal running position. You can also use a head halter or a harness with a front connection to help guide your dog. Whatever approach you choose, the leash should be long enough to hang in a U when you’re standing next to him. Have some kibble or small treats and, with your dog sitting at your side, give him several treats in a row until he’s in a stable sit/stay. Then, move forward at a power-walking pace so it’s clear you want him to come with you.
When he’s walking next to you and looking at you, reward him. If his feet get ahead of yours, stop before he gets to the end of the leash. If you’re holding the leash in your hand, be sure to keep your arm glued to your side rather than extending it forward. When he reaches the end of the leash, he’ll likely pull and pull. Stand stock still and wait him out. When he turns to look at you, lure him back into a sit in front of you. Give several treats in a row until he’s focused just on sitting and looking at you. When you’re ready, move forward again at a brisk pace. Repeat this every time he charges ahead, until he understands that getting in front of you causes the walk to stop, and sitting and looking at you causes the walk to resume.
Next, work on about-turns and U-turns to train him to stay by your side. For the about-turn, walk forward in a straight line, turn 180 degrees to your right so your dog is on the outside, then head back on the same line. Do this randomly when he gets even one foot ahead of yours. Make the turns more fun by jogging a few steps and then rewarding him when he catches up and looks at you.
Rules of the road
Keeping your dog hydrated
Knowing when to stop
So, that’s the recipe for creating a great canine running partner: Start with training, maintain good manners, follow the rules of the road, stay alert to your dog’s condition and, when in doubt, take a break. Now, get out there and run!
News: Guest Posts
Picture proof positive that Kilroy, Tank, Buster and Rex were here
Summer travel season is in full air-conditioned swing, and for many of us that means driving to monuments around this fine country, from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to a 13-foot-tall, 9,000-pound Booming Prairie Chicken in Rothsay, Minnesota. We pack, we drive, we stop for ice cream, we keep driving, we arrive, we exclaim and we click. And that click is the all-important proof WE WERE HERE! Often in the frame, keeping it real, is the adorable mug of a dear four-footed co-pilot.
These are photos we want to see and share. Your dog in full canine tourist mode—looking patriotic at the base of the Washington Monument or perhaps performing druidic rites at Carhenge in Alliance, Arkansas (yes, a Stonehenge made of cars).
► We’re so excited to see the evidence of your journeys, we’ve made it a contest. Upload your photo and enter to win a Bark goodie bag full of delectable and co-pilot products. (Contest closes August 5.)
7/18/11 UPDATE: We’ve been asked if National Parks count for this contest. So let’s be clear. We’re pretty wide open about this. While we love a certifiable monument, like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, we want to see pups at all manner of roadside attractions (giant teakettle, anyone?) and memorable spots.
News: Guest Posts
Here’s a guide for you
I live in the Northwest, where we love to grouse about our rainy, gray weather. But as summer warms up (finally!), it’s satisfying to know it won’t heat up so much that I can’t take my dogs hiking—one of our favorite activities. There are only a few days a year along the coast of Oregon and Washington, when mornings and evenings, at least, aren’t cool enough for trekking.
Finding hikes that are good for dogs isn’t always as easy as it sounds so when I break into new terrain, I regularly rely on Mountaineers Books’ Best Hikes with Dogs. (Full disclosure: I’ve written two books for Mountaineers, so I may be a little biased. I’ve seen their dog-passion from the inside, which includes several pups flopping around their Seattle office).
That said, the books in this series do an excellent job of selecting from among many hikes, routes that are a particularly good match for dogs, and that’s what I’m after. What’s a good hike for a dog? It should have ample shade on the trail; streams, rivers or lakes for cooling off; no livestock, packhorses or off-road vehicles; minimal or no poison oak or ivy; trails that are easy on dog paws; few or no treacherous cliffs; few crowds; and, finally, where possible, no leash requirement. I’m happy there are dog-loving hikers who will face the disappointment of a hike gone awry to find trails that meet these criteria.
In the case of Mountaineers’ recent guide, Best Hikes with Dogs: Oregon, 2nd edition, Ellen Morris Bishop enlisted three canine trail testers to vet 76 hikes around the state. I’ve sampled a few in the book—Sandy River Delta, Forest Park Wildwood Trail, Wahclella Falls and Elk Meadows Trail on Mount Hood—and can attest that they deserve to be included. Bishop is concise and thorough with her directions and advice (there are maps and black and white photos as well) but I love how she manages to see the trail from the dog’s perspective, pointing out where a pup might be bewitched by scat or an ant nest and warning about zippy mountain bikes or children. I have dog-eared (what a perfect word) several pages for hikes we want to tackle next time we’re in the state. I can’t wait.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
AKC titling program acknowledges pups in the community
This week, the American Kennel Club started a new program to acknowledge therapy dogs. Now pups and their handlers can earn their AKC Therapy Dog title by documenting 50 visits to facilities such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. The recognition is open to all AKC registered dogs, both pure and mixed breed.
To be clear, the AKC program doesn't certify therapy dogs, teams must be certified through one of 46 AKC-recognized therapy dog organizations. If you're interested in getting involved with your pup, you can contact one of these groups to find out more information. These therapy organizations screen potential teams and provide liability insurance for facility visits.
I hope that this program will encourage more people to certify their dogs and volunteer. With the AKC's Junior Handler program, there's also the potential for more young people to get involved with therapy work as well. The AKC Therapy Dog title is a great compliment to the STAR Puppy and Canine Good Citizen programs.
When Nemo and I are visiting the hospital or the library, it's so rewarding to see the joy the dogs bring to people's faces. But therapy work is not only beneficial for the recipients. It's been a great way for me to further Nemo's training in different environments and to deepen our relationship as we work together.
Are you planning to work towards the AKC Therapy Dog title?
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Perfect landing for toes & paws
I’m neither an early adopter nor an early adapter, but barefoot running is, after all, 200,000 years old — much older than the domestication of dogs. I don’t care for fads or trends, particularly fitness- related ones. I haven’t read Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run, about Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians who run as much as 50 miles a day barefoot or in crude sandals. What snared me were the myriad magazine articles about the wonders of running sans sneakers (and the skeptical stories in magazines that have a vested interest in running-shoe sales), and the fact that if I didn’t try something different, I’d have to give up running altogether. Which would play hell on Daisy, my dog.
Running is Daisy’s favorite activity. That’s not much of a surprise to active dog owners, but she just turned 14 on Valentine’s Day — the day we chose to celebrate her birthday when we brought her home from the pound. She went through a Frisbee period, then a Chuckit stage, but running is something we’ve always had together. She’s a cow dog, a Kelpie some rancher had abandoned on the Wyoming/Utah border. She came pre-programmed to run and follow some basic voice commands while doing it. I’d start the day off with four miles of carless country roads. Daisy, of course, would put in closer to five or six miles by chasing squirrels and sprinting past me before shooting back and sprinting behind again. Her vet, Dr. Maria, claims she’s the fittest 14-year-old she’s ever seen. It’s the running, I told her. Though Daisy is slowly going blind, she’s farsighted; she routinely bumps into the coffee table, but can still target a squirrel at 100 yards.
Then the saddest thing that could happen to a running dog happened: I turned to cycling with a passion. Bicycles and dogs don’t mix very well; the speeds and distances are too taxing, and routes interface with dangerous traffic. I trained for and rode in a couple of mountain-bike races from Canada to Mexico. They kept me away for a month at a time, and the thousands of training miles were enough to burn me out on bicycling. I hankered for something different, something I could do with Daisy again besides downward dog poses in the living room and walks to the mailbox. Barefoot running seemed custom-fit.
Barefoot aficionados recommend that you start slowly — very slowly. I found out why. I’d run just five minutes and my calves would be sore the next day. After all, I was using muscles and tendons and ligaments that I hadn’t properly utilized since I was a toddler. Daisy didn’t understand why we’d turn back after barely getting warmed up. I added five or 10 minutes at a time and gradually, over some months, built up to five kilometers. My shoes had become vestigial, as useless as Daisy’s dewclaws.
I was a handler on a racing sled-dog team, and one of my jobs was to outfit the huskies with little red pack-cloth racing booties. The dogs hated them and kept kicking them off. The dogs craved the feeling of the trail and I did, too, though at first I felt the trail too much. The blisters on my soles wouldn’t heal. Daisy and I wanted to run longer, but my feet wouldn’t let us. While I was padding along, defying logic, the tarmac heated to egg-frying temps. I found myself on a firewalk with no choice but to hotfoot it back to the trailhead. “You need some shoes,” remarked an old lady with a Schnauzer. My feet, heat- and friction-blistered, resembled jerkied buffalo tongue for three days. Then, I bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, the glovelike minimalist footies with separate toe compartments that make human feet look like gorilla feet. I haven’t looked back.
Barefoot running, like wine, is all about terroir. You feel the earth, even when it’s paved, in a different way. Like a dog’s, your feet and legs are your highly advanced suspension system, and with each step, the ground sends signals through your limbs to your brain for processing. You, in turn, finetune your footfalls to meet the ground; there is no padded, canted running shoe between you and the experience.
Ankle-deep mud. My family and I were visiting my parents in rural southeastern Iowa over Christmas vacation. There’s a 1,600-acre refuge nearby, Geode State Park, that is seldom visited, especially in bad weather — we had all seven miles of muddy trail to ourselves. A mile down the trail and the dry creek bed that we usually cross in two strides was running five feet deep with snowmelt. A hard rain pelted down on us.
Daisy had tangled with a wild turkey hen the last time we were here (the turkey, protecting her nest, won) and dog paddled across the creek to seek a rematch, allowing for current and playing the angle like a Labrador Retriever — I’d catch up to her when I got across. I began bushwhacking upstream through multif lora rose to find a way to cross without subjecting myself to a hypothermic ford. I found an 18-inch oak log stripped of bark but coated with fine moss, slick as snot on a doorknob. The oak bridged the ad hoc river five feet above its surface — if I fell, there were limbs to hit before I found myself in the drink. I inched gangplank-style to test the log, adjusting my trim with arms outstretched like wings. My feet contoured to the tree like an ape’s. But it was taking longer than I expected. Halfway through the tightrope act, I remembered Daisy, and called to remind her that we were out here together and not to get too attached to tracking the turkey.
Nothing. Just the “whoosh” sound of the swift creek.
I crept out a little farther and tried not to look at the coffee-colored torrent below. “Daisy!” No dog. Then I felt something, a different kind of wet, on the back of my calf. Daisy’s nose. My half-blind running buddy had circled back, recrossed the creek, followed my scent upstream and followed me onto the slick log. Now I worried more about her — if she fell, her 69-in-human-years body would hit a lot of wood before landing in the fast water, and there was a possibility she’d get tangled in the brush being carried along by the current.
She couldn’t turn around. At least, I didn’t think she should. But her claws gave her the advantage of all-paw-drive. Could she trace the log without close-range eyesight? She had to — I couldn’t step over her. We were both committed to the log walk. I don’t like these situations, am not fond of sketchy heights. But there was nothing to do but inch onward. Daisy followed, and we made it to the muddy bank.
We went back the next day and did it again. Then the day after that. The water had receded, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was that I’d found serious joy in running again. With my favorite running partner. And Daisy’s hardly missed a step in her old age, or maybe it just seems she hasn’t since I’ve gone barefoot.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Get some exercise with your pup in tow
As gas prices continue to rise, many more people are discovering the joys of riding a bike. It's a green form of transportation and great exercise. So it's only natural that people would want to include their dogs on rides.
This Sunday, New York City's Direct Action Environmental Organization Time's Up! is hosting their fourth annual Doggie Pedal Parade in Manhattan's Washington Square Park. The ride will highlight bicycles adapted to transport pets. There will be music, refreshments, and dogs for adoption.
On Thursday, they'll holding a free Pup Your Ride Workshop and Bike Decorating where Time's Up! volunteer mechanics will be on-hand to assist participants in attaching baskets and carriers.
I always feel guilty when I go for a bike ride and leave my dogs at home. Now that it's getting warmer, I'm planning on training Nemo to come along with me on short rides.
The ASPCA recommends that you train your dog not to pull when you're on the bike and to use a Springer, a coil spring designed to absorb and reduce the force of sudden tugs. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dog since it's easy for them to get over-exerted since they're running and you're on wheels.
Do you bike with your pups?
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