Monday, October 8, 2007

How to survive a long car ride

Well, although I have not finished my Mackinac Area tales, I have just been slow to blog because we haven't had a chance to camp in the last few months. We have traveled, most recently to the UP. There was no camping, however I thought talking about how to survive a long car trip was relevant to those that like to camp with their dogs.

Two weeks ago we loaded up the car with the two dogs, two kids, and the two slightly insane parents. I was convinced I would need Valium as the drive would take us 10-11 hours. See, the reason we never leave Michigan when we camp is that I am just not brave enough to last when the kids and the dogs all get whiney. Ask my daughter what rule #1 is, and she'll tell you, "No whining!" That rule actually trumps no hitting. But, our love of the the Keweenaw peninsula is so great that I was determined to take Valium and get over it.

However, since you need a prescription for that, I had to resort to plan B, which was get DVD players for the kids and just stop as often as possible to walk the dogs.

We started out around 9am. We got the kids up earlier than usual in hopes that they would nap on the road. The dogs got walked. My rule was that I kept walking them until I was dragging them.

On the way up we stopped every 2-3 hours, and everyone that was awake had to get out and run. Now, this rule doesn't work the same for all dogs. Since greyhounds are sprinters, it doesn't take them long to wear them out. We walk/run them for 15 minutes and they're good for a while. For higher energy dogs this might actually make things worse (just as their adrenaline is building you stop te exercise and the dog is more high strung than before). These are the dogs that I advise playing a high energy game like Frisbee, until they drop. Of course you can always give them Kongs and other chews too to help keep them busy. My dogs were forced to share a small space which could equate into some resource guarding, so I stayed away from the chews.

We also stopped for lunch, only because it was cool enough to leave the dogs in the car. We parked them right in front of the window so I could keep an eye on the car, to make sure that no one was approaching the car to agitate them... people usually do this with the best of intentions ("Oh, look at the doggy, HI DOGGY!") but again, the less agitation the more peace.

Then we got some french fries and I had my kids slowly feeding those to the dogs (dogs go into carb comas too!). This is only something I would suggest if you know how your dogs digest fries... the one thing worse than a 10 hour car ride is one with lots of dog gas.

Well, we made it up to the Keweenaw (the northern most peninsula of Michgan's Upper Peninsula, we were headed just south of Houghton/Hancock) in better shape than I thought. No one fussed much at all. I was impressed. Maybe it was because I was so well prepared, maybe it was the prayer! In any case I am ready to do it again come spring.

We are headed out for a Halloween Campout this weekend, so stay tuned!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lessons Learned at a Waterfall/ Waterfals for everyone!

Well, I have had waterfalls on my mind, so I wanted to blog on it!

We visited the mother of Michigan Waterfalls, Tahquamenon Falls, in July when we camped in Mackinaw City. Truth be told, we were motivated by the fact that there is a micro brewery in the park, and and micro brewed beer is a bit of a hobby for my husband and me.

But I also had fond childhood memories of visiting the falls, so after dinner and a beer, we decided to walk to the upper falls. It was a beautiful evening to see the falls. It was peaceful and very zen-like. Until we hit the actual falls.

See, there were very odd looking steps that you had to climb down to get to the viewing platform. It is well-known that some retired racers have a hard time with stairs, because, quite simply they have never been exposed to them. In puppy classes we do environmental conditioning (have the dogs go through tunnels, or walk over platforms) so they learn to navigate unusual environments with confidence. But Kharma didn't have this type of exposure as a pup. She was on a training farm for race dogs, where the schedule and environment are typically pretty consistent.

I didn't think it would be an issue... she does the stairs in our house every day and night. But these stairs were grates. They sounded different, looked different and felt different. Her nails weren't getting an traction, and she felt completely insecure.

So the dog I always describe as the "confident one" froze. Sparky, my freak job, didn't even bat an eye lash at the scary death trap. But then of course, he had been through lots of environmental conditioning as a pup. And boy did it show. So he went ahead with dad, while my daughter and I stayed with Kharma

So I tried to coax her down. I knew it was bad when she wouldn't take Spam. She was shaking. And then I was in a dilemma. My 3-year-old had run ahead, and I couldn't see her. My dog was frozen. So I had to make a choice... be a good mom, or be a good dog trainer.

As a trainer I would NEVER pull and yank any dog in a fearful position. This is known as flooding. And to put it in perspective, if you were afraid heights, and I pushed and yanked at you until you were on the edge of the Empire State Buidling, your fear wouldn't be cured... and you wouldn't be loving me much at all.

But Mom trumps dog trainer, and as I was yelling for Lily to stop (which REALLY didn't help Kharma's mental state!). I had no idea how far ahead her father was. I was yanking at Kharma to move, which was doing nothing but creating tension at her neck. So she was REALLY stressed, but I just wanted her to physically move.
Just then a group of ladies were coming up the stairs. One must have had training experience because she told me I needed to stop forcing my dog down the stairs immediately. Of course she was right, but again, I am back to the big choice of being a good dog trainer and a good mom. If I hadn't been panicked, I would have been embarrassed (and would have never told them in a million years that I train dogs for a living).
Luckily, my friend Kathy came up from the falls to let me know that Lily made it to her dad and offered to hold Kharma so I could go down and take a look.

Khara wouldn't budge until I got back to her, and then she ran up the stairs like a pup. Sidenote: these picture were taken after I determined the kid was safe.

So here is a picture of my scared pup, and the big scary stairs. And a tip to anyone that plan to take their dogs to Tahquamenon Falls to find steps to practice on first... make sure they can see through them... perhaps on bleachers. Kharma does our carpeted stairs every day of her life, but the grated stairs were a whole different ball game as far as she was concerned.

However, in just two weeks we will be heading up to our beloved Keweenaw Peninsula. The house my grandfather built and my mom was raised in is just about our favorite place in the world, and we haven't had a chance to go in almost 3 years! And the best part is we will be doing some great waterfall hunting. My mom recently sent me a link to a site that describes waterfalls throughout the Great Lakes Region.
We can't wait. It has been two month since we have camped (although we won't camp here, we will stay at the family home), and we are itching to get on the road!

Great Link for Dogs Visiting Mackinac

I wanted to post this commet on the front page, because this link is great:

"Hi ya,

There is a great site for everything dog related on Mackinac Island, Mackinac Island Dog & Pony Club. Most shops are fine with canine visitors and there are three pet friendly hotels on the Island too.

Mary & Sally the Mackinac Island Coonhound"

Thanks Mary & Sally!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Q&A on Mackinac Island

I am so sorry that I am really behind on my blog! We have been so busy that we haven't been camping in almost a month!! And I haven't even caught up from our July trips. But I wanted to address a Questions posted on one of my entries.

We are considering going camping with our two older dogs. We went only once before iwth them to a state forest campground. But how do you use ferry and go into shopping district with the dogs. I mean you can't go into the stores with a dog, or the restaurants. "

Great question! Here is my answer:

The ferries allow dogs on, so that isn't a problem.

We went hiking and letterboxing on the island, we weren't much into the shopping or dining. I went into two shops while my DH held the dogs. And we had a picnic lunch.

However, a friend of ours has brought his dog the island several times and just eats at restaurants with outdoor seating. He said they even bring the dog water and treats. Here are the ones listed on as being dog friendly:
  • Cannonball Drive In
  • Euro Garden Cafe
  • Feedbag
  • JL Beanery Coffeehouse
  • Lakeside Marketplace/Freighters Deli

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cool Canine Campground!

No, I didn't fall off the face of the earth. Things have been extra busy! I have also been trying to organize my pictures from Mackinaw City so I can post more stories. If I put all the info in one post, it would be too long and no one would read it.

SOOO.... I promise more will come later. But, I wanted to share a link to a place that I found online and I am in LOVE with this idea. It is a campground that caters to those who camp with their dogs. Four Paws Kingdom is in North Carolina, so I may not ever make it there myself, but what a fabulous idea!! I think I need to own a franchise in the Upper Peninsula! Not only do they have several fenced dog parks and agility courses, you can sign up for a dog walking service if you want to go sightseeing, and plenty of other amenities for our four legged friends.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

More on Vita and water dangers

Since we just returned from a trip where my dogs were in water a lot, this story stuck a chord. This last weekend, my dogs were in the Great Lakes, which is safe from blue-green algae, but I will be studying what danger signs to look out for.

Click here for a story that was published in the Flint Journal about Vita.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mackinaw City, Part 1

Well, it's almost been a week since we have returned home from our five day camping trip, and I am just now starting my updates! But I found lots of great things for families with dogs to do.
Today I will talk about our campground, the Tee Pee in Mackinaw City. It was GREAT. I was a little worried as we were driving up to it, as it was right smack dab in the middle of a row of hotels. I thought there was no way we would feel like we were in the great outdoors. But, I was pleasantly surprised! It was right on the shore of Lake Huron, with a view of the bridge. The sites were nice and big too.
There were a ton of dogs at the campground, but not once were we approached by any that did not have an invitation.
And the dogs were allowed right on the beach. This picture shows Sparky wading in Lake Huron. Beautiful! We took the dogs to the beach to watch the sunset and to watch the kids play. I could have stayed at the campground the whole time, and been happy.
But, in Mackinaw City there is too much to do. The campground is within walking distance to the shopping district, perfect for dog owners. And the ferry lines will come pick you up and bring you to the docks. Dogs are also allowed on the shuttles and ferries.
In the next few days I will talk about all the stuff we did that made my dogs sleep for 3 days straight!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Water Dangers

This is from an e-mail forwarded to me by several people today, and I had never heard of this, so I wanted to alert anyone I could:

"On Monday, June 25, 2007 I took my healthy 9-month-old Border Collie, Vita, swimming at approximately 6:30 p.m. Vita and two other BC's spent about an hour and a half diving off the dock, chasing the Water Kong, and running around. The temperature that day was just over 90 degrees, but none of the dogs looked particularly winded or hot.

Vita emerged from the water and looked as if she was going to vomit. She threw up lake water three times. I wasn't particularly concerned as she took in a lot of water from retrieving and swimming so much and had seen other dogs do that in the past without complications.

After the third time throwing up, she lay down and closed her eyes. Her tongue was hanging out of her mouth and I began to suspect she may have heat stroke. I immediately placed ice on her stomach and checked her gums. They were pink. I took her temperature which was 101.9, still normal. I then called my Vet who said these conditions did not indicate heat stroke and said I needed to get emergency medical attention right away.

Vita was not responsive and when I picked her up to put her in the car she was limp and her eyes were still closed. Her breathing was slow and her heart was racing. I arrived at the emergency clinic only a half hour from the time she showed signs of distress. The ER Vet asked me what sorts of things Vita had been doing all day. I explained that she was crated as I was gone for the latter part of the afternoon and that upon coming home, the only other place she went was to the lake.

Vita's eyes were fixed and dilated and the Vet suggested there was already brain damage. After administering an IV and oxygen, the Vet called me in and said Vita was not responding and that it appeared that she was suffering from some kind of toxic poisoning. Her heart rate was 200. He mentioned that he had recently seen a couple of dogs who died from Blue Green Algae Toxicity. I told him that the lake had what appeared to be algae blooms on the surface of the water. Neither of the other two dogs showed any of the signs that Vita had and that neither dog took in as much water as Vita apparently did. We decided to put her on a ventilator overnight and give her a "chance" to pull through.

When I got home I did a search of "Blue Green Algae Toxicity in Dogs" and found some very disturbing information.

  • Blooms can occur at any time, but most often occur in late summer or early fall. They can occur in marine, estuarine, and fresh waters, but the blooms of greatest concern are the ones that occur in fresh water, such as drinking water reservoirs or recreational waters.
  • Some cyanobacterial blooms can look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of fresh water lakes and ponds. The blooms can be blue, bright green, brown, or red and may look like paint floating on the water. Some blooms may not affect the appearance of the water. As algae in a cyanobacterial bloom die, the water may smell bad.
  • Some cyanobacteria that can form CyanoHABs (Harmful Algal Blooms) produce toxins that are among the most powerful natural poisons known. These toxins have no known antidotes.
  • Swallowing water that has cyanobacterial toxins in it can cause acute, severe gastroenteritis (including diarrhea and vomiting).
  • Liver toxicity (i.e., increased serum levels of liver enzymes). Symptoms of liver poisoning may takes hours or days to show up in people or animals. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Kidney toxicity.
  • Neurotoxicity. These symptoms can appear within 15 to 20 minutes after exposure. In dogs, the neurotoxins can cause salivation and other neurologic symptoms, including weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and death. People may have numb lips, tingling fingers and toes, or they may feel dizzy.

Vita had indeed exhibited salivation and signs of weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing and vomiting.

At 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 I called the Vet and was told that they took Vita off the ventilator a couple of times during the night and that she was not breathing on her own. I told him to discontinue the procedure and to let her go.

I called the DNR here in Michigan and was told that Blue Green Algae didn't usually appear this time of year and I told the agent that the conditions were that of late summer in Michigan, very hot for the last two days and reminded him that Blue Green Algae can appear at any time. He told me not to panic or to alarm other people. I told him that had someone else panicked, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

Later that morning I found out from a neighbor that her two young boys had vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps last week and her Doctor suggested she bring in a water sample. I do not know if she did or not.

I also talked to a woman from a neighboring county whose neighbor's dog ingested a lot of water from a pond and died suddenly a couple weeks ago.

As of this writing, Wednesday, June 27th, I have not heard anything from Michigan State where I took Vita for a necropsy and toxicological panel.

For the time being, I would strongly suggest you watch your dogs when swimming in small lakes and ponds as the potential threat of toxic poisoning from Blue Green Algae is prevalent. Had I known that algae of any kind was toxic, you can be sure my dogs wouldn't be swimming anywhere and that Vita, whose name quite ironically meant "life" in Latin, would be alive today.Missing you more than you can imagine.

May you rest in peace, Red Top Vita09/05/06 - 06/26/07

Bob Tatus
Fenton, Michigan


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tired Hounds...

are good hounds.

We just got back from our five days in Mackinaw City. I have much to tell, but look for that later this week. But suffice it to say the dogs probably won't get off the couch for a few days!

And we returned to 8 voice mails and over 300 e-mails... makes me want to high tail it up to the north again!!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Worst Part About Camping...

... is coming home. Someday I want to do at least one week of camping and see if I get sick of it then. I doubt it.

Sparky, however, loves to come home. Don't get me wrong, he likes to camp. He gets lots of attention and scrap food. He gets to sleep in my bed (he doesn't get to do this at home). However, he doesn't like to defecate outside of our yard. He used to when he went to daycare every day, but now he waits it out. So I don't know what he's going to do on our extended trips!

We went to Jellystone in Holly. It really is a great little park! I didn't expect to like it as much as I do. They always have reservations, and this weekend it was empty and quiet. I had told some camping friends of ours - that don't have kids - that I would probably only recommend it to other families with children. But after this weekend I changed my mind. Even if an adult group was looking for a quick get away, you could request to be away from the other campers and playgrounds and have a nice, serene area.

We went with our friends Kathy & Scott and their kids, and we did a lot more activities this time. There were hayrides, crafts, candy bar bingo and swimming. One of us would always stay back with the dogs and the baby, but that is beauty of going with friends. There was always some adult or kids willing to join you for whatever activity you wanted to do.

The dogs and I also found a great little network of trails around the campground, and spent some time exploring that.

And we also did more campfire cooking. Here's my "live and learn" tip from this camping trip: When cooking on the fire, the dogs should be in their ex-pen, as the smells of food outweigh the heat from the fire. They wanted to help themselves to the Dutch Oven and it's contents. Sparky DID get some apple pie fill that we were using for campers pie.

We are headed up to Mackinaw City for four nights this weekend! I am already trying to pack and prep the food. I found this great site called Chuckwagon Diner and I already have a few things in mind. I want to try:

Beef Beer & Ginger Ale - I can prep this one Friday morning and pack it and use it Friday or Saturday.

Grog Cakes - Interesting, and something the dogs & kids would both like too!

Yummmmm. Sorry off topic a bit, but who doesn't love to eat!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pets in our National Parks

This is courtesy of ...The pet travel resource on the internet. Featuring 39,000+ pet friendly places to stay and free pet travel guides and newsletter. I get their e-mailed newsletter, and liked this article:

Pets in our National Parks

In general, pets are permitted but must be restrained either on a leash not exceeding 6 feet in length, caged or crated at all times. Park Superintendents and Managers have the discretion to further restrict areas open to pets (i.e., trails, buildings, campgrounds may be off limits).

Restrictions on pets in parks are as much to protect your pet as to protect park resources. Following are some of the reasons parks give for regulating the presence of pets:
  • When a loose pet chases a squirrel or raccoon, the wild animal's ability to survive is threatened, and when it is threatened, it may react aggressively.
  • There is a strong possibility in parks such as Yellowstone that your pet could become prey for bear, coyote, owl, or other predators.
  • There is a possibility of exchange of diseases between domestic animals and wildlife.
  • Dogs, the most common traveling companion, are natural predators that may harass or even kill native wildlife that is protected within the park's boundaries.
  • The "scent of a predator" that dogs leave behind can disrupt or alter the behavior of native animals.
  • Pets may be hard to control, even on a leash, within confines of often narrow park trails and may trample or dig up fragile vegetation.
  • Dog and cat feces add excessive nutrients and bacterial pollution to water, which decreases water quality and can also cause human health problems.
  • Finally, lost domestic animals sometimes turn to preying on park wildlife and must be destroyed.

It is always best to check with the park(s) you are planning to visit for specific information and restrictions for pets.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

First Aid for Pets

No Camping for me this weekend :-(

But I had a good reason! I attended a First Aid Seminar for Pets. I did this because I am a dog trainer, but as I was taking notes I realized how important it was to know Pet First Aid when you take your dog camping.

This course covered a wide range of topics,such as rescue breathing and CPR. But we also learned how to care for our dogs when they experience things such as heatstroke, snake bites, fractures. This is ESPECIALLY important when you are in an area where it would take a while to get to a vet.

I would recommend a course like this one to ALL dog (and cat) owners. If you live in Metro-Detroit visit First Aid 4 Paws. They taught the course I took and it was very in-depth. I hope to take thier longer course this fall.

If you live elsewhere, check this site for a referral to a PetTech instructor in your state:

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mackinac Island, here we come!

I just made reservations to stay at the Tee Pee Campground in Mackinaw City next month. This will be the farthest and longest camping trip ever for our family. So if anyone reading this has been there with their dogs, I would love to hear your tips and/or stories. Just click on the comments button at the bottom of this entry and add your thoughts.

Please, someone tell me that they allow dogs at the Mystery Spot in St. Ignace. I don't think Sparky or Kharma would ever forgive me if I DIDN'T take them!

So far I have a list of places from that allow dogs. The list includes: ferries to Mackinac Island, outdoor cafes on the island and even the carriage rides!

We will also take a day trip to Tahquamenon Falls.

I am excited!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

101 Kids and a few dogs

We had rain Friday through Sunday but we were all still very sad to leave the campground on Monday. It was our first time at a Jellystone, and it was great for the kids!

So all-and-all a great weekend. Since it rained a lot so we stayed in our friends' camper for breakfasts and to play board games. The dogs stayed very well alone in ours (which was right next door), we just kept a constant ear out to make sure they didn't start barking.

101 Kids
The presence of tons of kids made me a little nervous about having Sparky along. I always get worried that some kid is going to run up behind him and pull his irresistible long tail (I have to admit, it looks like it NEEDS to be pulled, since it is so long and has a cute little curl at the end) and freak him out. He is especially sensitive about said tail. I have worked really hard to build his confidence around a lot of people, I don't want to backtrack now.

BUT, the kids were GREAT. Not one child tried to pet him without asking first. So when I thought he might be a little overwhelmed I would ask kids not to pet them, and not one tried to anyways.

It seemed all the kids present had been taught how to stay safe around dogs. Coincidentally it was also the end of Dog Bite Prevention Week. So, in honor of that I will post tips from the ASPCA regarding kids and dog bites. These tips are all especially important for kids to live by at campgrounds:

"According to a survey conducted by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually, with 800,000 individuals—half of them children—requiring medical treatment.
  • Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog who is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  • Children should not pet unfamiliar dogs without asking permission from the dog's guardian first. If the guardian says it is okay, the child should first let the dog sniff his closed hand.
  • If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, he should tell an adult immediately.
  • If a loose dog comes near a child, she should not run or scream. Instead, she should avoid eye contact with the animal and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away."

A Few Dogs
We got rushed on twice by two dogs off lead. Luckily things went ok, although Sparky was on high alert.

However, when were sitting near our campfire we saw a beautiful dog running loose with four kids chasing after him. They thought they were trying to capture him. He thought they were playing tag, and was determined NOT to be it. I looked at Mark and said, "Do you think I should help them?" But by the time I got up they had tackled the dog, and we didn't see him off leash again!

Now, I am not saying that I am the perfect dog mom. My dogs have gotten out a time or two. But I am ULTRA careful (really to the point of paranoia) when camping. Especially at this campground which was right on I-75 (there were fences up, but a resourceful dog wouldn't be hindered by this). Also, if dogs get loose, I am not sending the kids after him. I am grabbing the nearest steak and bribing them if their recall doesn't work (but because I take my dogs lots of places I have trained an extensive "come" and rarely does it not work).

So the moral to this story is, if your dog camps, work that recall (coming when called). And not just at home. Bring them to parks and practice with heavy rewards. Bring them to friends houses. Bring them hiking and practice, practice, practice.

Practice Tip
One of my favorite ways to practice the recall is to bring your dogs hiking on a long line (mine is 30 feet). Duck behind a tree and call them. Call them just once and make little noises (I clap and make kissing noises) to help them find me. Throw a party when they find you. This is a fun game that helps them want to find me, and it also helps them learn to keep their focus on me. When I am camping near woods I like to play this game when we first get to our campground to reinforce good "come" response.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Finally.... Memorial Day Plans

Note to self.... next year make Memorial Day reservations at least three months in advance!

Actually, we had reservations at one of the private campgrounds that we belong to but they gave us the run-around about bringing friends. First they told us that they couldn't reserve a non-member spot until the week of the holiday, so we waited. Then when we called yesterday they said they changed their mind, no non-members on holiday weekends. Pickles!!

The beauty of a world online is we had access to hundreds of listings of campgrounds. It turns out that sites in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula were easy to find. There is nothing we love more than a little Northern Michigan (I come from Yooper Stock). However, with gas prices so high we wanted to stay as close to home as possible. Apparently, the rest of the state feels the same way, because I have never seen the areas close to Mackinac so available over a holiday.

So I was calling campgrounds within 2 hours of Detroit and getting laughed at... understandably so, but I figured it didn't hurt to ask. So when the staff at the Holly Jellystone told me that had two spots side-by-side I didn't believe them. Once I realized I wasn't hallucinating, I grabbed the spots and we will be camping within an hour of home.

Of course now I am worried that there is a reasons this campground has opening. Having never been to this, or any other Jellystone, I don't know what to expect. So if any of you have personal experience, please share in the comments section. I hear that it is really geared toward kids. Since there will be four kids with us that will be great (wear 'em out and put them to bed!). Hopefully this won't mean tons of kids rushing up to the dogs. But if need be I will keep them in the camper more. They're actually pretty good with kids, but I still monitor to make sure they're not beyond their limit.

Happy Camping!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How to Get Started

This is an article I wrote for the Tip of the Week we send out at WOOFology. Each week we send a dog behavior article or Q&A to our e-list, and I figured this would be a good topic so close to Memorial Day! You can find other tips on dog behavior on the WOOFology Tips page.

Camping With Dogs
By Devene Godau, CPDT, CBC

Have you always wanted to take your dogs camping, but were worried about how they would act? With the proper preparation, camping with your dogs can be tons of fun for both of you. Here are some tips to get you started.

Learn or Brush up on Obedience Skills
Even if your dog responds to all your cues at home, how sure are you that they will respond in an area with tons of distractions (the great outdoors, other campers in close proximity, the smells wafting off the grills, just to name a few). Take them to a class where they learn to work in the presence of other dogs and people. Take them to parks and work with them. If you can't get their attention at the campground, you will spend a lot of time being irritated.

Here are cues that I use all of the time at the campground:

  • Down-stay. If something in the environment is getting them riled up, I redirect their focus on me and put them in a down to help calm them down.
  • Leave it. There are about a thousand reasons to teach this. Like if they want to help themselves to the food on the grill, or if they are trying to approach another animal or person at the park. When you are camping, your whole family unit (including your dogs!) will be in closer quarters, so that means temptations are so much closer, making
    them even more tempting.
  • Controlled walking. All camping parks have rules about keeping dogs on leash. So make sure your dog walks well on a leash without pulling your arm off at the first site of a squirrel.

Know Your Dog's Social Limits and Respect the Social Limits of Other Dogs You Meet
y dogs gets extremely nervous when rushed by other animals. So when we are on walks, if I see someone else walking toward us with a dog, I simply move away to give my dog some space. I don't expect too much out of him. And by giving him his space, he has become a lot less reactive to other dogs.

Last summer, there was a family a few sites down from us that kept their dog off lead. I was unprepared for this, so when the dog came running over, I retreated as fast as possible, pulling my shy dog behind me and using my more tolerant dog to block. Of course the dog's owner simply yelled, "don't worry, she's friendly." I put my dogs in the camper and walked the visiting dog back to her site. I told them that that the park has a leash rule and that not ALL other
dogs that his friendly dog may meet are friendly and I would hate to see her run into a problem because of it. He said that if my dog was aggressive, I shouldn't bring him camping. I said that I MANAGE my dog and he does just fine, why should we have to pay the price if other people won't do the same?

By the way, my "aggressive" dog has never bitten anyone (man or beast) but I manage him and reinforce him all the time anyway, because I want to keep it that way.

So my key points are as follows:

  • Don't push your dog to be social with dogs (or people) beyond their comfort zone. They are already in a strange place, so their tolerance threshold will be reduced. Most people will understand if you ask them to back off from your dog.
  • If your dog loves all other dogs and people, don't use that as a license to let your dog run up to all other dogs and people. Not only could it scare them, but if your dog runs across the wrong dog (or person for that matter) it could make of a very traumatic experience
    for everyone involved.

Home Away From Home
What are you planning on camping in? A tent, a pop-up, a trailer or a motor home? Whichever you choose, make sure your dog gets used to it before you hit the campground. Think of all the new sights, smells and sounds that your dog will be expected to tolerate at the campground. The more you can get him used to beforehand, the more relaxed he will be. We put up our pop-up a few weeks before we take it out and just hang out in there. We will eat dinner in there, and
we leave the door open so they dogs can go in and out. Whenever they choose to relax in the camper, we reward them with treats so they start to pair relaxing in the camper with great stuff!

The same can be done with a tent. Put it up in your yard on a weekend and hang out in there. Feed your dogs in there too.

Also bring favorite dog beds or blankets to make your dog feel even more at home.

Have Barking Under Control
If you spend time at any campground, it is not unusual to hear dogs barking. And no one seems to mind a little bit here and there. But camping is supposed to be about peace and relaxation, so excessive barking will be a buzz kill for both you and your neighbors.

If your dog is a barker, be ready to manage it. Also, determine why your dog is barking. Is he barking because he is under socialized, so the dogs that walk by over stimulate or scare him? If that is the case, invest in some Trainers Academy, LLC Daycare, which will help him become more relaxed in the presence of novel dogs. Is he barking because he is bored? Bring a steady supply of chew treats and toys to keep him busy. Also make sure he has ample exercise. Is he barking to get your attention? Start training him now that barking does not get him attention, but quiet calm behavior does. If you need help with any of this, consult a trainer. Especially if barking is a fear response, it is very important that a qualified behavior counselor work with you to insure that the fear does not grow.

Friday, May 11, 2007

New Canine Camper!!

No, we didn't adopt another dog (yet! LOL!!). But our good friends that took us letterboxing last weekend (see the post below) were reminded how much fun camping is when they visited us and have bought a camper! And we will help them break it in, hopefully over Memorial Day Weekend.

They have two dogs: Sophie - the Golden Retriever and Chloe - the Chocolate Labrador. They're a little nervous about taking them out, not knowing how they will do. But I am excited to share their stories as new canine campers!!

And of course we are also excited to camp with the whole family. So look for stories about our combined adventures soon!

Monday, May 7, 2007

A Tired Dog is a Good Dog!

Well, we made it back from our first camping trip of the season and it was a huge success. Everyone did so well, that none of us wanted to leave yesterday.

The trick for the dogs: Keeping them busy! I bought a variety of chew treats to keep them chewing and of course we walked them as much as possible.

Of course there are certain places they are not allowed to go inside the campground: the inside pool, the mini golf course (as you can see we were really roughing it! In our defense we don't use these feature... but probably only because the dogs can't come with us).

But we were able to do something really fun, that we could take the dog's with us.... Letterboxing!

What is letterboxing? Think of it as a worldwide scavenger hunt! You can find "clues" online to thousands of letterboxes throughout North America. So you pinpoint where you will be and you print out clues that then take you to a variety of locales and you follow clues like, "Park facing the big tree with three branches, take 40 steps north, turn to your right and head toward the tree that looks like a giraffe. Look up to find your treasure." The treasure is typically a waterproofed box that holds a stamp, stamp pad and a notebook. The participant, in turn also has a notebook and their own stamp.

Once you find the letterbox you stamp in the box's journal, writing who you are and when you found the letterbox. Be sure to thumb through the journal to see who else has visited. Also be sure to write in your dogs' names! More and more dog owners are participating in Letterboxing because it is a great way to get you and your dog out of the house. This movement is thanks, in part, to the Dog Scouts of America a group of people who encourage owners to get their dogs out to do stuff. Dog Scout members can also earn badges in Letterboxing.

But I digress, once you have stamped your stamp (or doggy language marked your spot saying "I was here.") you take the stamp you have found in the letterbox and stamp in your own journal. It creates a wonderful keepsake that you can look back at for years to come.

Now, I first heard about Letterboxing via the Dog Scouts. It sounded intriguing, but we never tried it. Last summer, my friend Kathy and her sister started taking their kids. And they loved it! So we went with them one day and I was so excited at how excited the kids were at finding the boxes (or "treasure" as my daughter calls it).

This weekend was the first time I took Mark or the dogs (the picture is at the site of our first "family" letterbox find). Our friends Kathy & Scott and their son Kyle came with us for guidance, as they are letterbox pros.

For more info, or to find letterboxes located in North America, visit this site.

Also, if you go letterboxing don't forget to bring water for you and the dogs, and bags for cleaning up.

When we got back to the campsite the dogs were so tired they settled in on their beds with some chew treats and we didn't hear a peep out of them all night!

Ahh, the great outdoors, tired kids and dogs... and the campfire. It doesn't get any better!

PS - In Letterboxing, most people carve their own stamp. We are not this talented. Mark wants a stamp of a greyhound holding a light sabre (unfortunately I am not kidding!). So if anyone knows someone who could create one, please let me know!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Packing List

Well, I was hoping by now we would be all packed up, and the camper collapsed, but as is Godau Family tradition, we have not.

Here are the things I need to pack tomorrow for the dogs:

X-Pens (picture #1): Think of this like a dog run in a box. You use stakes to keep it secure. This is so we don't have to keep the dogs on lead all of the time. I link two Exercise Pens together, since I have two 70# dogs. For a dog that has not been in one before, they may find it frustrating that they can see all around them but not get to anything. So I set this up in the yard of my house and put them in it for meals and for short periods of time, so they can get used to it at home, where it is easier for them to relax. Since my dogs can be whiners, I would put them in and click/treat when they were calm.

Dog Hammock (picture #2):
Last year, after spending the day sleeping on the hard, cool ground, Kharma got a little grumpy. We had dog beds down, but it was still hard on her joints. In the evening, she got growly whenever someone would touch her hips. She is a 9-year-old retired racing greyhound after all... most get arthritis as they get older. And don't tell her (she still acts like a pup) but the vet chart I saw today has her listed as a senior! So to make things more comfy for her, I got a dog hammock (also called a cot). She loves it. Actually they both do, so this year I will get another. This is also great when it is damp outside, as it does not hold the moisture like the ground. It gets two paws up!

Dog Food I put each meal in an individual plastic bag (we recycle the bags our newspapers come in) so we don't have to fumble around with any measuring cups.

Water Yes, I bring water from home. Most campgrounds have well water. My dogs are used to the tap water from home. Just like you shouldn't change foods to quickly, the same goes for water. Once I forgot to bring their water, and didn't think it would be THAT big a deal... and then Sparky had the runs for three days. So now if I forget we get jugs of water from the store.

Chew Treats I bring a ton of chew treats to keep the dogs busy. Chewing also relaxes a dog. So I brig a wide variety.

Coats This does not apply to all breeds. however, greyhounds have thin coats and thin skin. So sudden weather changes are hard on them, so I bring their coats. I learned my lesson on our very first trip with the dogs (which was in an April, two years ago). We were kept up all night with the sound of Kharma's teeth chattering.

Canopy Keep in mind that especially when purchasing a canopy, you get what you pay for!! A few years ago we were placed on a site with no shade. So Mark went to Kmart and got a cheap canopy so the dogs could have some shade. But it kept falling over, the stakes would come out, the canopy fell on the dogs a few times.... they were terrified! So that went in the garbage and we went out and spent a little more money for a much better canopy. After that one scary experience it took some conditioning to get the dogs to ignore that scary piece of material that hovered over them.

Baggies If everyone cleaned up after their dogs, dogs would be allowed in more places. So I aim to be part of the solution by always keeping a steady supply of bags. You can also recycle the bags you brig the food in as clean up baggies.

Clicker and treats It's how I train. And because Sparky has a screw loose I reinforce him whenever he is calm and confident around people. Today we were at the vets office and he actually approached people, something that would never have happened 3 years ago. he would have sat there and barked like a mad dog. I never waste an opportunity to teach my scardy dog that the world is safe, fun and yummy.

Shot Records I went to the vet today to make sure they were up to date on their vaccinations. The campgrounds we use check them each time.

On the agenda for tomorrow: wear the dogs out before we go. A tired dog is a good dog. The more they want to sleep the easier our road trip will be. We have to load four people and two large dogs into a Jeep Cherokee. Even though we're only driving an hour away, I want that hour to be peaceful.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Meet the Hounds, Part 2

No, I didn't abandon my blog. It's just been a hectic week. We are prepping to camp this weekend too! But before I talk about that I want to introduce you to Sparky.

After we had Kharma for about a year, we started talking about adding a puppy. We would have been happy with another retired racer, but I felt if I was going to teach puppy classes, I should at least have first-hand experience with one. So I started to research breeds. Here's the thing.... Mark is allergic to dogs, so we couldn't just go to a shelter an pick out a pup. We wanted to research breeds, pinpoint ones that we liked, meet them in person and then we would find a rescue group that works with the chosen breed (trust me, every breed in existence has a rescue group dedicated to them, just check out Petfinder) and then we would foster. That way we could find out if Mark could handle living with the breed before making a lifetime commitment.

While we were researching, my vet traveled to Spain to help with the plight of the Spanish Greyhound (known as the Galgo). I knew little about these dogs, in fact, I just assumed they were greyhounds that lived in Spain. So when I caught word that she was bringing back a pregnant galgo, I contacted Michiga ReGAP (they were handling the adoption of these dogs) and asked if I could adopt a puppy. They were actually pretty relieved, as sighthound puppies are known to be hell on paws!

So we secured our pup before Gordi, the pregnant mama, was even loaded on the plane.

On Halloween night in 2001, I got word that Gordi had given birth to 6 pups on the flight from Spain to Detroit. Two more were born at Serenity Animal Hospital in Sterling Heights.

As soon as we were able, we visited with the pups and picked out our fawn and white boy. I wish I could tell you there was a great story behind picking him, but it boiled down to the fact that I wanted a male, and I liked his coloring.

Lisa, my boss and friend, came with me when we picked the puppy up, and she was immediately concerned because Gordi was so standoffish and stressed . She told me I needed to make sure to cover all of y bases with socialization. But Sparky was the perfect puppy. He went to work with me and was in daycare every day. I took him to three puppy classes so he could be socialized in different locations. And he was smart as a whip. He learned so quickly! I thought he was going to be the champion of all dogs someday.

But then around 7-months of age things started to change. He started showing a lot of fear. He started barking whenever people would come into the house and was terrified of most men. We had taken a class with one of our male instructors at Trainers Academy and Sparky was fine with him as a pup... but when this same instructor saw him at 7-months Sparky was terrified.

In addition he became extremely irritated when dogs would approach to quickly. He will growl and air snap. When we are in a public setting, I would keep him away from other dogs. Of course there are many owners out there that will still allow there dogs to run up on him (despite me moving away and trying to block him... jeesh, get a clue!). When they ask me if he is a "mean" dog, I inform them that he doesn't like to be rushed up on by strangers, just like me.

So my dreams of a normal dog went down the drain. And it was a good thing he was so darn cute! I had to work to build his confidence. I decided to take him to learn some Canine Musical Freestyle. This is the sport where you dance with your dog (I am not kidding... and it is a blast!). We have a fantastic group here in Michigan called the Freestyle Fanatics that hold many freestyle workshops and it really helped Sparky. He was able to work one-on-one with me, he didn't have to approach anyone he didn't want to, and since they all knew his issues and were dog savvy, when he did approach them they would feed him.

From there we have just managed him a lot. I will never allow kids to just run up on him (I am the mean lady that lectures kids about ASKING before petting a dog). And I am constantly rewarding him when he makes the right choices. And you know what....he has come a long way in the last few years.

But, camping presents other issues. I am always aware about where he is and who is around us. But with the management and training he has become so much more comfortable than he was before. So, he promises to deliver some amusing camping stories.

So, join me this week as I share how we prep for camping, the tools we use, and the biggest drama of all: will we actually be packed before Friday?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Meet the Hounds, part 1.

Well, it is time to meet our four-legged campers, and by birth rite, I will start with our oldest, Kharma. She is a 9-year-old retired racing Greyhound.

First, bear with me as I share a bit of history as to how we came to adopt Kharma, which in turn, lead to my career as a dog trainer. I share this with you not just because I like to talk about my dogs (who doesn't?) but because the first step taking your dogs anywhere (the park, camping, grandma's house) is to know them, and to respect their perks and quirks.

In the Beginning...
When Mark (the Very Tolerant Husband) and I were engaged, we started talking about what types of dogs we might add to our family. I was (still am) dog obsessed. I had always been around dogs, and in high school I had worked at a kennel (my mom had hoped that working around 40 barking dogs would squelch my desire to bring home more... nice theory, but it didn't work). Mark had never had a dog. So, being the generous Significant Other that I was, I told him that he could pick whatever type of dog he wanted as long as we did the research together.

You want a what?
We started our research at the Detroit Kennel Club's annual dog show. We talked to breeders and met dogs. And then I spotted a co-worker at the Michigan Retired Greyhounds As Pets (Michigan ReGAP) booth, so I went over to say hi. I chatted with her a bit as Mark was petting her dogs. I knew she had greyhounds, and while I had always thought it was sad that there are more retired greyhounds than there are adoptive homes (I had even done a features article on the subject in Journalism School), I knew the greyhound was not the breed for me. Truth be told, I thought they were a little odd looking.

But as we looked at the Sporting Breeds, Mark wanted to go back to the REGAP booth. We talked to a Australian Shepherd Breeder, he was looking over his shoulder at a passing greyhound. We watched the Agility Matches... he wanted to go back to ask my co-worker with the hounds some question. Hmmm... either he had a crush on my co-worker or he wanted a greyhound. I am not sure which I would have preferred at that point, but as you have probably predicted, it was the latter.

And a promise is a promise. So we set out to adopt a greyhound.

Does she even like us?
We first met Kharma at her foster mom's home, and she wanted nothing to do with us. She wouldn't even acknowledge that we were there. Her foster mom said she was super shy. Growing up we had always had puppies that were rowdy and interactive, so I wasn't quite sure how to handle this aloofness. As we got up to leave though, Kharma threw herself in front of the door. She saw what I couldn't... that she was supposed to come home with us. She literally had to be dragged from the door. And that sealed the deal. She came to live with us a few weeks later.

Kharma still didn't interact with us a whole lot. She basically ate, slept and went outside. We took her to the vet who pointed out that her teeth had been worn to nubs, it looked like she had been chewing on her crate for years. Pretty good guess, as we soon saw for ourselves the panic Kharma would go into in the crate. She peed in the crate, she chewed on the crate, and the neighbors reported that she howled all day. Luckily for us, they were also very tolerant.

Since we were forcing her in her crate (something I would never do now), her panic escalated. She would poop in her crate, and chew through her paws. A few times I came home to what looked like a scene out of the movie Carrie. At that point, everyone kept telling us she had Separation Anxiety. Separation Anxiety? From us? I wasn't even sure she liked us.

But we had to help her, or re-home her with someone who could. She was not a happy hound. What was the point of rescuing a dog if she was miserable?

So, I took her to obedience class, which in itself did not address the issues (although it did help build confidence, which I believe was a part of the big puzzle), but it did introduce us to people who could help her. I became a volunteer trainer at Trainers Academy so I could learn, and tapped into the knowledge of the behavioral staff there. I decided I wanted to learn more, so I *gulp* quit my full-time, well-paying job to work in the office at Trainers. It was a HUGE pay cut, but Mark and I reasoned that if I studied and worked hard, by the time we had kids, I could stay at home with them, and teach training classes at night. This would not only allow me to be with our kids, but cut out daycare expenses. But the bottom line for me was that I had wanted to work with dogs my whole life, and I had a chance to live my dream. How many people get that opportunity? As a bonus, I could take Kharma to work with me, so I could gradually work with her issues without exposing her to the 'triggers' that sent her into her fits of anxiety. I was told that this was a vital part of a successful training program.

Long Story Short
I was lucky enough to immerse myself in dog training. I apprenticed under several of our seasoned instructors. And one of them, Lisa (who is now President of Trainers Academy), really helped me work Karma through her issues. One of the trainers I used to work with always told me, "you never learn anything from the easy dogs," and boy was she right. I sincerely believe that if Kharma had been normal, I would not know half of the things I now know about dogs. I would probably not even be doing what I am doing.

Oh, and in the process I fell completely in love with Kharma, and greyhounds in general. If someone tells me greyhounds are "funny looking" I immediately wonder if they were dropped on their head as a child. In fact, Kharma inspired me to start a class for Greyhounds that addresses the specific issues common in ex-racers.

Will someone shut that dog up?
And Kharma is no longer shy. Not even a little. Ask anyone that has ever taken my Greyhound-Only Class and they will tell you she is the comic relief. Clicker training, and understanding what was actually going on with her helped her become a new dog. She had more of a confinement issue with a dash of separation stress. I have worked her to the point that she can go into a crate at home, but she still gets stressed in crates outside of the house. And she is fine being left alone at home now, but when we go to new locations, she can get a bit stressed if left alone. So these are all things we have to take into account when we camp.

So we have had to do specific exercises to make sure that our home away from home really feels like home. But more about that later.

Thanks for reading about my girl!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Have Dogs, Will Travel

Finally, by popular demand (really, people have asked for my tips!) I am starting my blog about camping with dogs.

So why the heck should you listen to me? Well, for those of you that don't know me, here's a bit of info about me:

Dog experience: I am a dog trainer and behavior counselor. I teach Classes at Trainers Academy, LLC in Metro-Detroit. As a matter of fact, I am a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (that means someone other than just my boss thinks I know a thing or two about dogs!). I also own an ex-racing greyhound and a galgo (Spanish Greyhound, which is similar, yet different, to our racing dogs here in the US). Prior to having children I fostered dogs as well. My last foster was a whippet that was placed a year ago and he also camped with us quite a bit.

Camper: I was a die-hard tent camper until almost three years ago. I thought campers and even air mattresses were for sissies. But then I realized I wanted to take my dogs absolutely everywhere I possibly could (I have literally been away from my dogs a total of 7 nights except for when I gave birth to my babies)... so I started looking for a "rolling crate". I wanted a pop-up, yet I was worried if my dogs got stressed that they would push out the sides (I have indeed seen this happen). Mark (my very tolerant husband) remembered that Apache made a hard-sided pop-up in the 70s, so we then went on a virtual treasure hunt for a hard-sided pop-up. Luckily for us, the Apache is like the Air Stream of the pop-up world... people are die-hard fans (check out Also lucky for us, the Apache was manufactured in Michigan so we were able to locate a few in very good shape. The Apache Ramada we bought is in excellent shape... with interior decorating inspired by the Brady Bunch (but anyone who knows us, knows that this is a good thing). As our family grows we will eventually upgrade to a travel trailer, but we will never sell our Apache (pictured in this post)

How often do we camp? Every chance we get. We are pretty irritated that we weren't able to make it out in April. We are scheduled for the first weekend in May! Yay!

Where do we camp? We haven't made it out of Michigan yet, however Michigan itself is a huge range of seasons and temperatures.

And the number one reason you might listen to my advice? I have camped with my husband, two kids (ages 3 and 1) and two 70+ pound dogs (plus one little foster on occasion) in our little pop-up and lived to tell the tale. We have ALL lived to tell about it.

In the next few days I will introduce my dogs, telling you about their quirks (they all have 'em!) and share with you the equipment I love to take camping. Please feel free to leave comments with your tips too!

Thanks for reading!