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!