Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Promises, Promises

I won't be posting anything for a few days since we'll be at a show... but I PROMISE I'll have some good stuff when we get back. Hoping for a win of course, but the main thing I'm looking forward to is Ronnie showing Gus and Teddy in Brace.

This is where you have two dogs with one handler...

Two. happy. young. Great. Danes. with. ONE. handler.
I can't wait (especially since I'M not the handler!!)

Don't worry, I'm taking the new video camera! :-)

In the meantime, bear with me while I show you how cute Kinsey is:

She's not scratching her ears, she just sleeps like that.



"Why did you wake me up?"

But sometimes she is more regal, like when she's on the lounge chair on the deck watching the younger dogs play:

I think her son Teddy does "cute" very well also:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

More photos from the National!

The GDCA National Specialty is over for another year, but for those of you (like me!!) who didn't get to go and who are in a snit sad about that... here is another web site with great photos!

The Heart of Minnesota Great Dane Club web site has a lot of great photos up, and more will be posted over the next several days, thanks to the efforts of a couple of terrific people (Zeli Schulte and Mary Ann Land).

Also, Sandy Hann at Von Shrado Great Danes has several pages of great photos that make you feel like you're there!

Enjoy!

I've got a new toy!

Slowly but surely we (meaning me) are entering the DIGITAL AGE, and I got me a new camcorder! Do I hear collective groans from the audience? Well, you probably should be groaning because...

TAA-DAA!

Here is my first attempt at posting a video:


video

This is Keeper opening our patio door.

Breathtaking video, isn't it? :-)

He learned this trick from his mother Kinsey (or possibly he learned it the same way she did, from watching us open it). But whereas Kinsey gently noses it just far enough open to let her through, Keeper opens it much faster and he usually gives the door a giant push that opens it about halfway. The only reason he's more cautious here is that I'm standing right there, telling him not to come out!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another visitor!

I can't believe I'm posting twice in one day!
This is Aslan, an 11 or 12 week old Dane pup who belongs to a friend of ours. She brought him over today to get some help re-taping his ears. Isn't he a cutie?
You have to admit, those are some ears!!

And here is another view of handsome Aslan:

Isn't he a doll?

Brindle snobs

Have you ever noticed that dogs that look alike, tend to want to hang out together? For example, if you're out with your dog and you meet another dog of the same breed, your dog is likely to be more attracted to that dog than to a dog of another breed. This holds true (in my experience at least) even if you don't have other dogs of that same breed at home. Which has always made me wonder, how do they know? I mean, it's not like they spend a lot of time looking at themselves in the mirror.
With our crew, it goes beyond that into - I'm ashamed to admit - color prejudice. When Gus or Buck (both are fawn colored) are here they play with Teddy all the time:
But when Keeper is here, after a while he and Topper start playing together (they're both brindle) and they leave poor Teddy to his own devices:
Teddy wants to play with them...

"Look guys, I've got a big ball!"


Poor Ted gives up - you can see him behind Keeper chewing on a bully stick.


Leaving Topper and Keeper to play to their hearts' content!


Friday, October 26, 2007

Visitor!

See? I told you, five Danes. Because Keeper is back to visit! He's #4 in the picture (in case you're wondering, #1 is Kinsey, #2 is Aeryn, #3 is Teddy and #5 is Topper).

Everything is fine this time - his owner is out of town for a few days so he's here at Camp Symmetry. We are always glad to see the big goober - and as I've said before, we firmly believe that having frequent visitors is good for our crew. I really think that is one of the reasons they get along with other dogs so well. For example, remember that both Teddy and Keeper are intact males - and although I still think of them as "puppies", they are over two years old so are fully mature sexually. We're careful about introducing them when they haven't seen each other in a while, and we do keep an eye on them to prevent minor incidents from escalating into anything major - but really everything is very peaceful.

Well, "peaceful" in between all the running around:

But you gotta admit, they are having a good time!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The National!! At a distance...

Alas, we weren't able to go to the Great Dane Club of America National Specialty (aka "The National") this year. Last year we had a blast there - and as I wrote in that post, if you like Danes or are even just interested in them and you are ever within visiting distance then for Pete's sake GO!! It's simply awesome - you'll see more wonderful dogs and meet more knowledgeable people than anywhere else on earth.

This year it's in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the trip just didn't work out for us. But I was going into withdrawals (yes, despite having four five - I'll explain tomorrow - Danes snoring around my feet as I type this, just hush) and really feeling the pain of missing the National this year...

...and then to the rescue come Scot Billings and Ginnie Saunders! With lots and lots and LOTS of wonderful pictures!! Scot has been documenting the National for many, many years - you can see pictures from this year's festivities here, and on the home page for his Rokadane web site you can find links for previous years.

Ginnie's DaDane web site is one of the best all-around Dane web sites anyway - she has written weekly articles for many years about Danes and also has a wonderful and HUGE links directory on her site.

But her photography is breathtaking - go look at her photos and you'll swear you can just reach out and touch the dogs! It absolutely is the next best thing to being there!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Like mother, like son, like mother

I just got back from taking Kinsey for a photo shoot. She's done commercial work before, and so has her son Gus. This is the first "job" she's had in over a year, and it was probably the easiest photo shoot I've ever done*. She just had to pose with a big folding crate, and it took maybe 15 minutes...not counting, of course, the hour or so we waited while they set things up! But she was an angel as always, very patient and sweet. They wanted her to sit half in and half out of the crate, which of course is not a natural position for a dog - normally they're either in or out, they don't usually stop halfway. But she willingly stayed, and if the photographer wanted her angled differently ("Could you shift her rear this way a little?... a little more? Now scoot her rear forward.... Perfect!") I just crawled partway into the crate with her and pushed her around or moved her feet, and she stayed perfectly wherever I placed her. As one of the onlookers - there are always lots of people present at these things, assistants and clients and who know what else - said, "She's very malleable!" :-)

Her picture will be used on the box... so if you see a Pet Mate Giant-sized brand black wire folding crate, with two doors (one in the side as well as the one in the end) and a Great Dane on the box, you'll know who it is!

It's a nice crate by the way - very stable for a folding crate, and wider than most crates that size which makes it more comfortable for a dog to turn around. I was hoping to get one for our payment for the day, but no such luck.

In case you're wondering, these things do not pay well - often not enough to compensate you for taking a half day off work. And there are no royalties. It's different of course if the animal is a professional actor on a sitcom or in a major movie or something, but for this type of thing it's all about vanity - it's just a lot of fun to see your dog in an ad, or on TV!

*I'll tell you later about some other commercials I've done with our dogs that weren't so easy!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Celebrations

Do you do something special for your dog when he/she does something especially good? Or for a birthday or such?

I started thinking about this when I reviewed the post I wrote yesterday about Teddy finishing his RN title. The caption to his picture there (it's a photo of him that doesn't have a thing to do with Rally but it's one I really like) said "give me a cookie" but in truth he got not only several handfuls of treats after we came out of the ring at the show but also got a double cheeseburger on the way home. That's our tradition - on the way home from a show the dogs get a burger if they did well.

Now, I totally understand that this has nothing to do with being a training reward - the dog doesn't associate the burger with whatever they did some time before back at the show site. It's just our way of celebrating. And you have to understand - for a Great Dane, a plain double cheeseburger is just a little snack. Not something big enough or rich enough to upset the dog's stomach!

For their birthdays, I usually bake them some treats. When I have an elderly dog, I make more of a fuss over birthdays and try to make it a special day. Maybe not so many special treats since an older dog's digestion may not handle it well, but we'll take a fun trip to Petsmart or some other place they enjoy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Speaking of Rally...

...Teddy finished his Rally Novice title today!! He was so good! Admittedly, the Novice level in Rally is not terribly difficult... but it does require teamwork between dog and handler, and the ability to perform various basic Obedience exercises and parts of more advanced exercises.
Teddy has the potential to do very well in Obedience and Agility, if his owner (moi) can get busy and work with him more regularly. His attitude is "What do you want me to do?"* - which you have to admit is a great one for a dog to have!
*Unlike his sister Topper, whose attitude is more along the lines of "What have you done for me, lately?"

Teddy says: "Now give me a cookie!"

To give you an idea of what a Rally course is like, here is the map of the course we had today in the Novice class:


The first exercise consisted of the dog & handler weaving in & out of 4 cones. The second exercise requires the dog to drop into a Down next to the handler - the handler gives this command while the team is still moving forward. Next, the handler calls the dog to sit in Front. Then the dog moves around behind the handler and sits in Heel position at the handler's left side.

The 4th sign is for a Left turn. The exercise after that requires the team to make a small circle to their Left. Exercise #6 is a 270 degree turn - it's called a "270 Right Turn" because the team turns to their Right as they make this turn... but it's actually a Left turn.

Exercise #7 requires the handler to call the dog to sit in Front, then move to the handler's Left side to get back into Heel position. But this time, the handler begins moving forward before the dog sits. Exercise #8 is a Spiral Left - meaning the team turns toward their Left, into the dog. Spirals in Rally are a series of concentric ovals - you do the largest one first. Exercise #9 is the Left About Turn - the handler makes a quick Left turn toward the dog, and the dog meanwhile circles behind the handler and winds up back on the Left side. I really enjoy this particular turn, but it can be confusing for some people to learn. It reminds me of a square dancing move! (I'm probably sounding really old here - do they still teach square dancing in elementary schools?? Somehow I think not! But they did when I was there.)

The next exercise calls for a Fast pace - the handler should break into a trot, and the dog should keep up. At the "Normal Pace" sign, the team slows to their normal (should be brisk) walking pace. Exercise #12 is a Right About Turn - the team makes a tight 180 degree turn to the right. The last exercise sign calls for a Slow pace - the handler should noticeably slow down and again, the dog should adjust to stay in position. I tell my students that the Fast should be the sort of quick trot you'd do to catch an elevator. The Slow should be a window-shopping stroll, and the "Normal" pace should be a brisk but comfortable walk. As the team passes the Finish sign, they're done!

Through all the exercises on a Novice course like this, the handler is free to talk to the dog, give multiple commands and/or hand signals, even pat his/her leg or clap hands. The dog is on lead throughout. It's a lot of fun, and like I said above, not too difficult. Hopefully as you are reading this you are thinking that maybe this is something you could do with YOUR dog!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More Rally


As I mentioned in my previous post, Rally Obedience can be a great option for a veteran dog who just can't compete in regular Agility or Obedience any more, but who is still healthy and active and hates to be left at home.

Patience was a perfect example of that. We had competed in regular obedience when she was younger and she finished her UD (Utility Dog title). We also dabbled in Agility but didn't ever compete in that. In 2005 when the AKC made Rally a titling event, Patience was 10 years old - she certainly qualified as a Veteran dog! But she was still very healthy and active and loved to go to shows. In the fall of 2004 she had won the Veteran's Obedience class at the Great Dane National, and did so in fabulous style. So I figured she would probably like Rally.

Boy did she! Starting the first weekend in January, we went to every Rally trial we could find within a reasonable driving distance. It takes 3 qualifying scores to get a Rally Novice title; 3 to get a Rally Advanced title; 3 to get a Rally Excellent title (Novice, Advanced and Excellent are three tiers of competition, with each a little more difficult than the last) and to get a Rally Advanced Excellent title you have to qualify in both the Excellent class and the Advanced class at the same trial for one leg... and it takes 10 of those legs to finish the RAE title! That is a minimum of 29 qualifying scores.

Patience dove right in, and got those 29 qualifying scores in a row - not only never had a non-qualifying score but she had several perfect scores and lots of class placements. She finished the RAE title just 6 months after starting in Rally Novice, and was the first Great Dane in the US to finish the RAE title. In fact, she was the 8th dog of any breed in the whole country to finish it, and the first dog of any breed in Texas.

All for a Dane nearly 11 years old (her birthday was in July). I believe that keeping older dogs active -within reason - helps them live longer and healthier. I do think this return to the show ring really revived Patience. She lived to be nearly 12, and I miss her every day.

Rally On!

First, let me just say... I love Rally Obedience! Love, love, Love It!
What is Rally, you may ask? (and you may!)
It's an event that has been described as a cross between Agility and regular Obedience. The handler and dog navigate a course (like Agility) but instead of tunnels and weave poles and such, the "obstacles" on the course consist of Obedience exercises. Signs on the course tell the handler what exercise is required. The signs are numbered in the order the handler and dog are to perform them, and (as in Agility) the handler has the opportunity to walk the course before the class starts without the dog, in order to become familiar with the course.

For example, this sign directs the handler to come to a halt with the dog sitting in Heel position. Then the handler directs the dog to lay Down (still in Heel position). The handler tells the dog to Stay, and walks completely around the dog and back to Heel position. Once back in Heel position, the handler pauses to release the dog from the Stay and they proceed to the next exercise.


Also like Agility, throughout the course the handler is permitted to talk to the dog, give hand signals, use body language etc. in order to communicate what the handler wants the dog to do. This is one of the reasons Rally has become so popular, because in regular Obedience the handler is strictly limited in what you can say to the dog during the exercises, or what hand signals you can use.

The ability to talk freely to your dog during a Rally course makes it easier to keep the dog "up" and also is more relaxing for the handler!

I've been teaching Rally classes since the summer of 2004, and in 2005 Rally became an AKC titling event. I love how Rally is at once a great option for novice dogs and handlers just coming out of a basic Beginner obedience class; and at the same time is a fun option and stress reliever for advanced dogs and handlers. Since it is easier than regular obedience - and although some jumping is required at the Advanced and Excellent level, it is minimal - Rally is also a terrific option for a veteran dog who can't compete any longer in regular Obedience or Agility but who is too healthy to be happy just sitting at home.

For more information, go to RallyObedience.com or to the AKC Rally Regulations

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pain control for dogs

Read this:

What the FDA Wants Your Vet to Tell You

It's an article on Pet Connection about pain treatments for dogs. It contains a link to a new brochure from the FDA for dog owners, but the article contains a lot of other great information. Share this with your vet, and other dog owners.

This information could save a lot of dogs' lives, and also help improve the quality of life for many dogs living with painful conditions. There are so many great options available to us now that are safer and more effective than those available in the past. There is no need to let a dog suffer from a chronic ailment like arthritis - or to euthanize such a dog when new pain treatments may really help.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Agility!

Yes, in case you were wondering, Great Danes CAN do Agility. That is the dog event based on equine jumper courses where the dogs run and jump, crawl through tunnels, and climb over various obstacles.
The obstacles are really sized for medium to large dogs, but the Giant sized dogs seem to enjoy it too. You do have to be careful when training Giant breed puppies to do agility. Since they grow so fast and so much, it is possible to injure them.
Some basic rules are:
  1. Keep jump heights low with a young dog. My rule of thumb is ankle height until 6 months of age, then elbow height until at least 18 months old.

  2. Introduce tunnels while the puppy is still short enough to run through the tunnel without crouching, if possible. Once he gets taller than the tunnel, practice having him go through a tunnel only once a month or so until he's mostly grown. Don't overdo the tunnels even with a mature dog - it can be really tiring.

  3. Be careful teaching weave poles. The back & forth movement can put a strain on the dog's shoulders. You can practice these with young Giant breed dogs, but not to excess. 5 or 10 minutes a week is plenty.

There are lots of other great ideas on the ChromaDane web site.

Here are some pictures (courtesy 2MC Designs) of Kinsey from a recent agility trial - there are more on our web site. I finally updated it!



Monday, October 01, 2007

Spots Before My Eyes

This weekend we had a visitor of a different stripe... er, spot. Thatcher, a lovely 9 month old Harlequin boy who belongs to a friend of ours, came to spend a few days for some general socialization and a little extra training to prepare for his first show in another couple of weeks.

Now, don't think that Thatcher isn't already well socialized - he is! But it's a very good idea for puppies to occasionally spend a night or two away from home. Even if you never plan on showing your dog, this will make any future trips to a vet or boarding kennel MUCH less stressful. Dogs are pack animals and will always be most comfortable and most happy at home - but they do need to learn that they will still be safe and loved and OK in other places, and with other people.

Everyone enjoying their bully sticks

Note that the other dogs have moved around, but not Thatcher!


This photo cracks me up - that's a bully stick sticking out of the side of his mouth!
What a cutie!