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Getting a handle on the crate addiction!

November 4, 2009 2 comments
exercisepen4

36" folding fabric expen (mine is camouflage)

If admitting the problem is the first step, then let’s go:

My name is Pat, and I’m addicted to crates.

Two weekends ago I moved my Sun Spot vintage trailer to its winter home in my rented garage. I packed some other things to winter over in the garage – my two larger coolers, a lounge chair from my patio, and crates. Four crates. I have so many crates I no longer need them on a daily or even weekly basis.

Five years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer, I did take stock and gave away many of my ‘extra’ dog things. As my dance with cancer has had its ups and downs, I’ve gotten a good feeling from seeing my former stuff in active use at shows and trials and in the SOTC training building. I had this green Sharpie that truly did have indelible ink – the fading but still readable STEER printed on my former crates always surprises me when I see it in someone else’s setup.

But it’s been five years since I scaled down my dog equipment, and slowly, my crate addiction has resurfaced. Once again I find myself harboring (or maybe it’s hoarding?) extras. I have two english cocker spaniels (easy keepers in 200-size crates) and a pretty large orange tiger cat who fits in a 100-size crate but is much happier in a 200. My oldest functional but damaged crates are the house crates – at this moment that includes a 25-year-old 400 side-door wire, a 10-year-old 200 Deluxe VariKennel (Casey and M.’s houses, respectively), a 200 plastic PetMate (Churro’s ‘cat house’), and a 100 Varikennel and smaller than 100 cat crate which are cat-transports to the vet or kennel. That’s actually a sort of controlled chaos – it’s the car that reminds me, daily, that I may be taking ‘Be Prepared’ a step too far.

Two plastic 200 Varikennels are secured in the car all the time. Stored around them are a medium Guardian Gear soft crate (big enough to hold a gordon setter, it’s now my hotel crate that holds both Casey and M.), a 200-size Noz2Noz soft crate with a strong aluminum framework (for venues where I need crates that stack), three 200-size off-label Petmate soft crates, and my brand new folding 36″ soft ex-pen. That gives me one crate for the car, one crate for the show site and one crate for the hotel for each of the three in my current entourage – and an extra in case space is a problem.

The fabric ex-pen is an upgrade/replacement for my 25+ year-old folding metal 36″ covered ex-pen – how could I *not* want to reduce my weight and load from 25 pounds to 4? You heard me – a 4-pound ex-pen. I love it! Although the website recommends the 36″ size for ‘Shelties and Mini-Schnauzers,’ it’s just fine for larger breeds who respect a soft crate – and the solid bottom and zip-off screened top make it more escape-proof than the average wire ex-pen.

But I have to admit, today was a one-day-at-a-time crate day. The email came in the digest of the SOTC mail-list: MidWest Metal is clearancing its 30″ black-expoxy-coated wire expens for $37 and change with free shipping. I caught my breath, I clicked the link – and then I closed the ad. In the car-port, waiting for their own trip to the garage, are a 300 Deluxe Varikennel, a 300 folding wire, two 200 folding wire crates, and two uniquely sized tall and narrow wire crates that often fit into tight spaces and are no longer manufactured. I need to move them to enclosed storage before winter really hits.

If you’ve been keeping count, I own 20 crates for two medium-sized dogs and a cat. Full disclosure: Casey will turn 15 in a couple weeks – his crating requirements are much lower than when he was actively traveling, showing and going to classes two or three times every week. But once a crate comes into my home, it always stays years after the dog who first lived in it has passed on.

I’ve rented crates to students, and never bothered to get them back. I gave away the partner to my metal expen, and I’ve given away at least as many crates as I currently own.

Okay, my name is Pat, and I’m addicted to crates. But at least I’m always prepared. 😉

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Dog Owner’s Survey

October 1, 2009 1 comment
Slip collar, showing how the chain pulls throu...

Image via Wikipedia

On Twitter, @wholedogcamp has been asking people to complete this 10-question Dog Owners survey: http://bit.ly/yyEko

One note: if you’ve owned multiple dogs, you should complete a new survey for each individual dog. For me, that meant 8 surveys (Taryn, Jazz, Nola, Muni, Bard, Casey, Reuben and Madison) which took me about 15 minutes, total (~2 minutes/dog.) I didn’t fill out surveys for the temporary foster dogs who’ve lived here over the years. My surveys were only for personal dogs who have spent more than a year in my house (15, 14, 10, 10, 14, 14+, 4 and 3 years for the dogs recorded, respectively.)

I do wonder how my eight surveys’ answers – that I regularly use slip, prong and e-collars and a halti if needed – will jive in the survey tabulations with my affirmation in each survey that, in my estimation, my training methods are ‘firmly based in behavior science.’ Using aversives judiciously is firmly based in behavioral science – it’s just not the part of behavioral science that makes people feel warm and fuzzy, and therefore it doesn’t meet with approval in many current (vocal) dog training circles… 😉

@wholedogcamp promises results will be shared, so I’ll post them here when they’re available.

Meanwhile, if you’ve owned and trained a dog, consider completing this free survey. If you use slip, prong, and e-collars and use reinforcement methods based in behavioral science, speak up!

edit: 6 oct 2009 12:55 pm EST – issues with the survey link have been resolved and it’s still available — have you filled out surveys for your dogs yet?

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Backyard agility

September 17, 2009 Comments off
A Border Collie negotiating weave poles.
Image via Wikipedia

M. and I are running in FAST next week at the Wine Country Circuit in Romulus NY. So to our regular practices (we’re also in Rally Advanced A) I’ve been adding some simple backyard agility practices.

I was inspired by a tweet from @agilitynerd who linked to some of his backyard practice sessions.

Agility Nerd’s blog is one of my favorite practice resources. For M., I broke the practices into two sections: 1) left-side weaves to threadle to right-side weaves, and 2)
selected jumps to alternate sides of the tunnel. Then I had her run the full practice as left-side weaves / jump / near-tunnel entrance / circle round to jump / threadle / right-side weaves.

She’s nailing her entrances, so fingers crossed…and more practice…for a successful pair of FAST runs.

Backyard agility doesn’t need a lot of equipment. My tunnel and some of my jumps are from Pac ‘n Go and I supplement them with jumps and cavalletti from Max200. My weave poles are plain electric fence post rods from Tractor Supply Co. My entire setup fits into a low deck box, and can be assembled and taken down in five minutes.

Train on!

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From the training bag…

September 7, 2009 Comments off

I don’t usually write about products when I write about dogs (although a day at February 2009’s Global Pet Expo certainly gave me lots of material!) But today, I’m in my training bag, and I thought I’d share a little happiness and a little dismay.

First, the dismay — I noticed yesterday and confirmed today that the last of my old-style Flexi(R) 3-5 leashes is beginning to lose its zing when called on to retract. The spring inside is finally wearing out after 10 years of longeing various breeds from 80-lb. Gordon Setters to 22-lb. English Cockers. Well, just go buy another! you say. Ah, would that I could.

A Flexi(R) 3-5 is from the old med-heavy duty group of leads that Flexi(R) made in the mid-80s. The 3-5 is 16 feet long, a combination of 18″ of ‘belt’ attached to approximately 15 feet of retractable cord, and was rated (like its cousin the 3-8) for dogs about 77 lbs. In truth, it was probably not quite enough leash for Reuben at 80 lbs., but it did work fine for him when he was on his Halti(R). And that size served me very well for Taryn (mix, 32 lbs.); the English Springer Spaniels Jazz (45 lbs.), Muni (40 lbs.) and Nola (35 lbs.); my first Gordon Bard (65 lbs. soaking wet); and of course 32 lb. Casey and 22 lb. M. the English Cockers. The 16-footer was less bulky and easier to carry on walks than its 26-ft. cousin the 3-8, but I had a few of them, too.

Unfortunately, and likely due to issues where the leash was overworked or used inappropriately, Flexi(R) no longer makes the combination belt/cord series of leashes rated for anything over 44 lbs. (their Comfort and Classic 1 and 2 series leashes.) These leashes look small, they look like you really shouldn’t put them on a big or even a medium-sized dog. I have a Classic 2-5 (16 ft.) and a Classic 2-8 (26 ft.) While they work okay for one small dog that doesn’t get over-exuberant, they don’t work for my favorite Flexi(R) lead application — walking two dogs with one handle. I’ve tried. The Classic 2-5 felt over-matched, even when the load was trained Casey on the retractable end, and more-or-less trained M. on the static 10 ft. slip leash attached to the handle with a climbing carabiner.

So today, I’m off to a local pet supply store to examine this new, improved, all-tape Classic 3-5 up close. I don’t like the idea of a retractable ‘tape’ instead of a cord…it looks heavier and bulkier than the mostly-cord 3-5s of the 80s and 90s. But maybe it’s worth a look. We shall see how it performs after my product testers Casey and M. have a few morning romps in wet grass. More on this leash ‘improvement’ later…

And meanwhile, I’d like to give a shout-out to the folks who thought up and produced SwheatScoop Natural Wheat Litter, which is scoopable and now comes in a multi-cat version. I needed cat litter this week, and had a coupon I’d picked up at the NY State Fair, so I decided to give SwheatScoop a try in Churro’s litter box.

Churro is a formerly outdoors-living used-to-be barn cat who moved in with me last November. He is a little species-challenged — he acts a LOT like a dog. He lives, as all my new and rescue cats do, in a crate, but unlike the others he hasn’t made a lot of progress at being un-crated and unsupervised (he still thinks vertical blinds are fun to climb.) So when I’m not home, he spends the day in a former dog crate, and he’s got a litter box inside. He comes to his name and to my whistle, does hand-touches and head bumps on commands, goes into his crate on command. He travels with me to dog shows and goes camping right along with the dogs. But a cat litter box in a small condo or my 5×10 ft. Sunspot, a vintage tiny trailer, can be really overpowering.

On the first day I converted the litter box to two-thirds SwheatScoop(R), one-third scoopable clay litter, I noticed an immediate reduction in litter box odor. Since I scoop once a day and change his box completely every three or four days, he was in a completely SwheatScoop(R) litter box within four days, and has now been on SwheatScoop(R) for over a week.

After more than a week, litter box odor is almost non-existent. Or, at least, I don’t notice that I have a litter box the second I open my front door. The litter clumps nicely and doesn’t track much (or any more than clumping clay litter). When Churro decides to play with his stuffed toys and litter ends up all over his crate, it doesn’t melt into any moisture and stick relentlessly to the crate floor — I can sweep up the scattered litter with a small dustpan/broom. Sometimes Churro gets bored and decides to play in his water dish; the SwheatScoop(R) absorbs the water and doesn’t melt into a gluey blob like the clay stuff does. I’m a convert; it’s a couple bucks more than the store-brand clumping clay litters, but the odor control and ease of clean-up make it totally worth the price.

A couple cautions:

  1. Do not flush this litter. Cat feces can contain parasites that shouldn’t go into water supplies.
  2. Keep your SwheatScoop(R) in tamper-proof containers. English cockers have little to no discrimination about what is food and what isn’t; Casey went after the box and tried to eat it. Rodents will also try to eat it, drawn to the clean wheat smell. I transferred mine to an old (plastic) clumping clay litter container.

Now, I’m going out for a second box.

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