Friday, 30 October 2009

dogs swimming at the beach

Yesterday Penny had her first swim at the beach, with her friend Jabari the GSD. I think Penny had great fun, but it did involve a lot of sea water going down her throat, to judge by the stuff she vomited up occasionally.

The photos aren't very clear, but I only had my phone with me, not a camera - and it was sunny, so I couldn't see the screen of the phone. (Oh, excuses, excuses!)

We thought we'd better get to the beach before the first of November, when dogs aren't allowed on the sand in the main part of the day.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

birds in Darebin Parklands

Yesterday's visit to the Parklands began and ended with birds.

First, as we walked along the creek, in the off-lead area, Penny had to stay on lead because there was a duck with ducklings. (Click on the photo to enlarge it and see the gorgeous little creatures.)

Penny didn't even realise they were there but the mother duck was concerned, so she gathered up her large brood and headed for the opposite bank.

And soon the babies were completely hidden.

After our exercise we made our way up the path and came across a baby crow (actually a species of raven, I think, but I call them crows) sitting quietly in the main entrance. Dogs are supposed to be on lead at that point, but I wasn't confident that everyone would obey the rule, so I called in at the house next door and asked the owner if I could put the baby over the fence into his yard.

He said it had in fact been in his front and back yards during the day, so we presumed it could fly at least a little.

The baby was quite unconcerned about being carried around by a human (wrapped in my jacket).

In the end I decided to put it back in the park, because I'm fairly sure there's a crows' nest in one of the tall trees there. It shook out its wings as I placed it in the tree and observed me calmly as I hurried back to collect Penny from the fence where she was waiting on lead.

I hope I did the right thing. I've checked with a bird-loving friend and she says it's a myth that human handling of a baby bird makes the parents reject it. And I remember one year when a whole nest full of baby crows took turns to tumble onto the ground from their nest in my school, and were subsequently cared for on the ground by the adult birds, over a period of weeks, whilst hundreds of young children played around them.

So I think the parents will come back and care for this fledgling.

Another reason I decided to move it was that two Indian Mynahs were walking around it and I thought maybe they were going to attack it.

swimming in Darebin Parklands

Yesterday Penny and I came across another section of the Darebin Creek where it is fun to swim. She swam for ages, setting out across the little area to collect tennis balls, as I fiddled with my camera and took lots of shots. Penny didn't seem to tire of it for ages.

Here are some of my favorite pictures:

First, the ball landing. (I wish they were sharper!)

Second, Penny going for the ball.

Third, shaking out.

Fourth, Penny concentrates as she waits for some ball-throwing on the grass to dry off.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

dock-diving for dogs comes to australia!

At last, dock diving arrives in Australia!

Penny loves bellywhacking into the water - a couple of times previously I've posted a photo of her doing this - and she learned it on an outing to Kepala Canine Country Club, some years ago. She copied bigtoe7's dog, who was leaping into the pool with joy.

And now I've spotted a recent video upload by bigtoe7 showing her dogs taking part in an official Dockdogs event.

But, alas, it was in New South Wales - nearly a thousand kilometres away. And it seems to have been a one-off event, from what I can see.

Now I'm going to hope it comes to Melbourne!

I notice I'm not the only one who'd like to see it here - there's a discussion and a couple of pictures at Dogzonline.

Monday, 26 October 2009

making a game out of meal times for a dog

Having been reminded by Johann about how important it is to keep a dog's life interesting, I thought we'd make a game of mealtime yesterday morning, so I kept back some of her meal (minced turkey, Omega3 oil and Glyde) and hid small portions in the house and then in the garden.

The last time was the hardest. I'm fairly sure she was hunting by tracking my trail, but probably she was also scenting the food itself. (I don't know how I accidentally duplicated the first part of the video. Sorry about that!)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

flyball at the Nillumbik Pet Expo

At the Nillumbik Pet Expo in Diamond Creek today we had a fun-filled day, with lots of different activities. (Diamond Creek's name reflects its history as a place to fossick for semi-precious stones, but it's misleading to think anyone found diamonds, as far as I know).

When we arrived, I was fascinated by a display of lovely furniture that would look great in anyone's living-room.

They reminded me somewhat of the elegant crates that I posted about almost exactly two years ago, the Hardwood Hideway, in that the standard of construction looked wonderful. I heard the man say that there are no nails in these locally made Lyrebird Pet Furniture products, it's all made with clever joints - tenon joints, I think he said, but I forget the exact name of the joint he mentioned.

But as I was looking at this display, Penny tucked her tail between her legs, crouched low to the ground and headed back to the car, dragging me. I can't believe how strong she is when she's determined. I couldn't figure out what was scaring her so badly, and didn't know whether it was a sound or a smell, so I picked her up and carried her to the marquee where our flyball club was set up, hoping she would settle.

I thought it might have been the smell of the ferrets.

Or something about the reptiles.

Or the farm animals.

There were also rats, so I thought perhaps it was them. Anyway, she settled enough to have fun racing, though she stopped in the middle of her run to stare in the direction of the scary thing, before finishing her turn. (Lucky it was only a flyball disply, not a race.)

Then we headed off to have a turn at her all-time favorite thing, lure coursing.

And the scary thing was right there, so that she had to bark loudly to scare it away, and head off, tail between her legs and belly to the ground once more. I haven't got a photo, because I was too busy convincing her she still wanted a turn at the lure coursing.

And the terrifying thing?

Teensy tiny ponies! (Big compared to Penny, of course)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

renovations to the pond in Darebin Parklands

Well, after more than a year of arguments, meetings, discussions, demonstrations, rallies, it has finally started - the redevelopment that will ban Penny and her mates from the traditional dog swimming pond in Darebin Parklands. As far as I know, the pond was originally edged with giant rocks so dogs wouldn't destroy the banks as they went into the lovely deep water.

Here are a couple of shots of Penny enjoying her favorite swimming hole.

Usually the water was just at a good height for jumping in, but on one occasion there was a flood and even the rocky bank was under the swirling waves.

It made me feel sad to see the machines moving in and the non-native trees being removed.

And those lovely rocks, on which we've had so much fun, dug out.

Let's hope the sacrifice is worth it, and that the creek's water quality is improved by the works that are taking place. Water is the land's life blood, as we remember every summer - we have to value anything that improves the ability of our waterways to stay healthy.

Time will tell...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

the dog crate comes in handy for the urinating visitor

Today I was excited to think of a use for the large crate I wrote about on 24th September - the over-large one I bought by mistake and couldn't return because we broke one of the handles struggling to open it.

Scruffy, the timid dog who lost his best mate a while ago, has taken to urinating inside our house whenever he visits, so we decided he would have to stay outside unless he was under our watchful eye. But today was quite hot and we were worried about him, as he has a thick coat.

And then I had an inspiration! I lugged in the crate and tried to entice him in it with a couple of treats, but he was too wary to enter. So I lifted him in, fed him some liver treats - and he settled down.

At first he wasn't too sure about it.

Then he seemed to settle, though from the look of his ears he wasn't quite happy. (But he tends to be on edge a fair bit of the time, I must admit.)

Penny wondered what a visitor was doing, sitting in her nice crate and being fed treats (especially as she wasn't getting the treats, due to the question of whether she is overweight).

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

washing a dog after a swim in a polluted creek

Penny had a bath immediately after we arrived home from Darebin Parklands this evening, because she had jumped into the creek. The creek looked and smelled awful!

Only yesterday I'd been delighted to see it was crystal clear and inviting. But today...

We walked downstream to see whether the water would be clearer after rushing over the series of rapids that have been designed into this section of the creek.

But the water quality was terrible all the way along.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

practising for flyball

When the dog is returning over the jumps in flyball, bringing back the ball they've fetched from the box at the end, you want them to run as fast as they can, so most people encourage them by waving a tug toy.

Penny likes playing tug, but I thought we'd better try to make it even more exciting, so we've been racing around the house with the tug toy today. Penny won the last round (I let her) and here she is keeping a paw firmly on her prize.

She's practising even in her sleep!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Penny is now a flyball dog

Well, our first real flyball event was an eye-opener to the human part of the team!

Who would have thought there would be so many rules?

Who would have thought that the team has to provide stewards, who have to sit by the side of races and make sure those rules are obeyed? And that everyone, no matter how new, has to take a turn?

Above all, who would have thought you get into big trouble if your dog wees or poos in the ring? (Penny didn't, but I was on tenterhooks all day, and I don't think I've ever spent so much time convincing her she wants to wee - before we went in each time.)

But, horror of horrors, we were late for our first ever race! I was nervously hanging around the enormously complicated-looking list of events, trying to work out when we had to go over to the start, when I heard the nightmarish announcement that our club's team would have to start with only three dogs. I thought, 'Oh, please, don't let this be my event!'

And then our captain came running, shouting, 'Where's Penny? Where's Penny?"

Thank goodness I had her out of her crate and ready to go. We ran full pelt into the ring, just in time to run in third position in the team. No explanation to Penny about where the ball was, just shove her in the general direction of the box. Of course she ran in circles and our team lost the heat.

And this is where our captain showed me what a great club I've joined. No recriminations. Just 'Settle down, it's okay, that's past history, forget about it.' In the rest of that group of heats (best of five) we ran with the team and all went well.

Not one person told me off. No-one blamed me for the loss.

What a great team spirit.

The rest of the day was tiring but enormous fun - I think, for Penny as well as myself. She got lots of runs and also lots of nice pats from junior humans in our club.

And now Penny has letters after her name. She is Penny, FDX. (Hmm... I'm such a beginner I don't even know what it means. But it sure sounds good.)

Here's a shot of another dog going over the jumps, just to give an idea of the day. (It's taken with my phone, so it's not very clear.)

Friday, 9 October 2009

when your dog is overweight

I took Penny to a local physiotherapist who deals with dogs, because I suspected she was limping - just before our first-ever big day at a flyball event next Sunday! (The races at the Royal Melbourne Show recently were just a 'taster' for us, as there were only teams from our own club.)

I'm ashamed to say the physio said the main problem is that Penny is overweight.

I asked how much, and he said TWO KILOS. When you only weight 16 kilos, that's 12.5% of your weight, and I calculate she's about 14% overweight. I'm feeling really bad.

But of course we can't just start massively dieting. A friend advised me to cut her food gradually.

So, today is the beginning of the fitness and dieting programmme!

Penny, fortunately, doesn't know the bad news..

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

when sick owners can't take care of their pets

In Victoria the wonderful Royal District Nursing Service has entered into partnership with the Lort Smith Animal Hospital, another great organisation.

Lort Smith, subject to availability, will provide emergency pet boarding service for up to six weeks for the pets of RDNS clients who are temporarily unable to take care of them, due to having to be away from home.

Not only does this give sick people the security of knowing their pets are cared for, but it's free. Lort Smith will transport the animals, and also provide food, upkeep and veterinary care.

As the newsletter of the RDNS says, pets positively affect people's helth, 'at a time when it is needed most'.

I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

using food as rewards in training

I've just read a very useful summary of the pros and cons of using food as the reward in training dogs. I followed a link that Honey the Great Dane sent me. (Well, her human, Hsin-Yi actually sent it to me, but I'm sure Honey was behind it all.)

It's one of the best summaries of the issue I've ever seen.

What I particularly liked was the point that the human has to follow up with the teaching throughout the dog's life. So, if you like jerking on a chain and releasing it, you'll be doing it right through the dog's life. (Definitely not my choice.)

Or, if you reward with food, you are committed to doing that indefinitely. Not all the time, but indefinitely.

And you have to remember that the more treats you give, the less food there will be at mealtimes, or you'll end up with an overfed dog.

Monday, 5 October 2009

sometimes dogs should stay away from birds

After my last post about the avian fruit-thief, I thought I should even up by putting a link to this story about another Australian bird, a link that a friend emailed to me today.

By the way, I love birds. Especially the ones that are nearly as clever as dogs!

It's one of the loveliest stories I've read, and it's about a member of the cockatoo family, a long-lived bird species that should not be caged, in my opinion.

Don't forget to click on the 'next' links to read the whole story.

Friday, 2 October 2009

dogs guarding fruit crops...not!

Where was Penny when this cheeky thief arrived to steal our cherry blossom?

Lucky for him, she wasn't here while he was stripping the cherry blossoms from our trees! I'm sure she would have seen him off in quick-smart time, because he was sitting quite low in the trees and she would have stretched up high and really, really scared him. Or tried to...

Hmmm...but he was rather tame.

Even when I threw firewood at him (and yes, I was trying to get close!) he just moved away for a few minutes until I went inside, and then sauntered back to continue his thievery. (Can birds saunter? I think this one could.)

All those beautiful blossoms, gone in an instant!

I did convince him to fly off, but there were only a few blossoms left.