Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Project Battlestar! And so it begins….

Battlestar - looking quite sweet and not at all crazy :) 
So, I have this sheltie and her name is Battlestar. I call her Battle for short which is actually quite appropriate as she is super high energy and crazy - she's actually exactly what I wanted in a sheltie! I guess I'm a little crazy myself :)

Lots of people told me that since I was used to training northern breeds a sheltie would be a piece of cake - they were all so very wrong! Battlestar is pretty motion sensitive and can get startled by weird things (apparently random stumps are evil!) so I'm starting Project Battlestar! Oh - and I'm also going to throw into the project getting myself back into shape. I seriously need more exercise and so does Battlestar. 

So - let Project Battlestar begin! I'll be taking her out to lots of places with me. We took an online class at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy on 'Dealing With the Bogeyman' so I'm going to be using what I learned in there to help deal with her fears. We're going to be going to the playground and dog park to work around those triggers. I'm also getting back into my C25K running program and I plan on taking her along for the runs as long as it isn't too hot for her. 

So far her agility training is going quite well - she's obsessed with agility, it's in her blood - she was born to do it :) Here's a little video from her training this weekend:

Not sure if you can tell in the video but her tail color actually matches my pants! We have some agility training goals as well so I might be posting updates on our progress there. I've done a lot of seminars with Loretta Mueller and I'm so excited that Battlestar and I will be working with Loretta again! This time we are doing an online class with Loretta through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - I can't wait for the class to start next week! Loretta is so much fun and her feedback has been amazing! 

I getting together a plan for Project Battlestar and I'm feeling pretty good about it! I'll be using this blog to periodically post updates on what we're working on and our progress :) 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Car travel - Variocage crates!

From left to right - Alpha, Battlestar, Nari and Starbuck in the Double Large Variocage crate

This is a continuation on my thoughts on car travel with my dogs. For the first post in this series - go HERE for my review of the Sleepypod Clickit car harnesses

This part of my car travel posts focuses on the Variocage. A variety of places online sell them in the US - I purchased mine from 4x4northamerica.com because they were having a 10% off sale. If you want to purchase one, try searching around to see if you can find a site that's offering a deal. Note: I paid for this crate myself (although I wouldn't have minded getting this discounted or for free in exchange for this review :)). For reference, here are my dogs' measurements:

Starbuck (Klee Kai - miniature size)
    Weight: 12 lbs
    Height at withers: 14"
Nari (Klee Kai - miniature size)
    Weight: 12 lbs
    Height at withers: 13.875"
Alpha (Klee Kai - toy size)
    Weight: 9 lbs
    Height at withers: 12.5" 
Battlestar (large Sheltie)
    Weight: 22 lbs
    Height at withers: 16.5"

Car: 2011 Subaru Outback
Variocage size: Double Large

Car crate: Variocage Double Large 

This thing is a beast and it is one glorious beast! This is probably one of my most favorite dog purchases of all times - it is beautiful. I went with the Double Large. The Double XL would have also fit in my Outback but I chose to go with the Double Large as it's 3 inches shorter (I have small dogs) than the Double XL. The crate has been crash tested (although Center for Pet Safety has not tested it yet). It also has it's own crumple zone. Here are the Pros and Cons:
        - Heavy duty (mine weighs around 80 lbs)
        - Each door can lock individually with a key
        - Can use a pad lock/combination lock to lock the doors
        - Doors are amazingly smooth and stay open when you want them to 
        - Adjusts to the length of your car to maximize crate space
        - Has 2 side-by-side compartments 
        - Looks pretty awesome - I've had the guards at work stop me just to check out the crate :) 
        - I can finally crate from my car and not worry about people stealing my dogs!!!
        - The back of the crate is slanted so it fits very nicely with the way the rear seats are angled
        - I was able to offset the crate just enough to be able to fit a folded up wire crate in the back 
        - Once installed you're not going to want to be taking this thing out at all 
        - Blocks your rear view a little but really not bad at all 
        - Alpha's one complaint - the bottom half of the door is solid so has to stand up to look out :)

The 'Double' has two separate compartments - each side has its own door. Since my dogs are small I have 2 ride in each side of the crate. The dogs love the crate and just lay down and sleep pretty much the entire trip. I found memory foam bath mats that fit perfectly so it's nice and comfy in there.

Here are some detailed pictures:

Interior picture showing the 2 crate sections. The doors stay open like that  making it very easy to get dogs in and out.

I offset the crate so that I could fit in a folded wire crate in the back right next to the Variocage.

The crate surprisingly doesn't take up that much of my view out the rear view mirror. 

All four girls comfortable in their crate - Alpha is barking because she wants to get out and play :)

That's about it for my thoughts on the Variocage. They are simply amazing and definitely worth the money!! Again - I didn't receive any compensation for this - just my my view. Let me know if you have any questions. 

If you want to read about the harnesses I use for car trips - see THIS POST. 

Car travel safety - using a Sleepypod Clickit car harnesses!

Car harnesses: Sleepypod Clickit Utility and Sleepypod Clickit Sport

From left to right: Alpha (Utility), Starbuck (Sport) and Battlestar (Utility) on a 6 hour car ride

I put about 25k+ miles on my car a year and about 90% of the time I'm driving around with at least one dog in the car. Since I spend so much time with my dogs in the car I take car safety pretty seriously. Often times I see people asking for advice on how to travel with their dog so I thought I'd write this post on what I do.

Note - I paid for all of these products myself (although I would have loved getting any of these products discounted or for free in exchange for this review :)). When I first started looking around for travel options I checked out the Center For Pet Safety website (http://centerforpetsafety.org). I love that they are an independent testing facility and have developed a standardized way to crash test products. 

So - how do I travel with my dogs? Pretty much your only two options are to have your dog wear a car harness or ride in a crate. Please, please, please do not drive around with loose dogs in the car as it is dangerous!!! Not only can dogs be a pretty big distraction (even the little ones) but they can get thrown from the car if there is a wreck - posing a danger not only to themselves but to you. 

I use both a car harness and a crate and below you'll find my thoughts on the Sleepypod car harnesses that I use. The crate review will have it's own post. For reference, here are my dogs' measurements:

Starbuck (Klee Kai - miniature size)
    Weight: 12 lbs
    Height at withers: 14"
    Chest: 17"
    Sleepypod Clickit Utility harness size: XS
    Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness size: S 
Nari (Klee Kai - miniature size)
    Weight: 12 lbs
    Height at withers: 13.875"
    Chest: 17"
    Sleepypod Clickit Utility harness size: XS
Alpha (Klee Kai - toy size)
    Weight: 9 lbs
    Height at withers: 12.5"
    Chest: 16"
    Sleepypod Clickit Utility harness size: XS 
Battlestar (large Sheltie)
    Weight: 22 lbs
    Height at withers: 16.5"
    Sleepypod Clickit Utility harness size: XS

Car: 2011 Subaru Outback 

Just a quick overview - this is a 3 point harness. This harness utilizes your car's LATCH system (used for baby car seats) as well as a shoulder seatbelt. I love this harness and much prefer it to the Sleepypod Clickit! Sport. 
        - Excellent construction 
        - Attaches to the LATCH system - prevents the dog from twisting in case of accident
        - Hard to adjust - no way your dog is adjusting this themselves 
        - Only car harness on the market to pass crash tests 
        - My dogs find it comfortable 
        - Great quality materials - extremely strong and durable 
        - My dogs cannot wiggle their way out of it 
        - I can use them in any car - great if you are flying somewhere with a dog and need a rental car
        - Hard to adjust - my dogs each have their own because it's a pain to have to re-adjust this thing
        - It does come with a leash attachment but it's too bulky to use to walk small dogs 
        - Chest piece is a little wider than I would like for small dogs 
        - Takes longer to buckle your dogs in than to put them in a crate 
My dogs absolutely LOVE traveling in the car. They jump onto the seat, let me buckle them in and then either lay down right away or sit for the first couple minutes of the drive and then lay down. They've done 10+ hour car rides wearing these harnesses and take a nap. 

Alpha and Battlestar heading on a 12 hour car ride

Alpha and Battlestar a few minutes into their long car ride - Battlestar is already passed out! 
Here is a video of how to put on the harness and buckle them in the car (Nari is a mini AKK wearing the Sleepypod Clickit Utility in size XS):

If you want to see my large sheltie in the same harness - you can find the video HERE.

Above I mentioned how the Sleepypod Clickit Utility doesn't really work all that well as a walking harness. Here's a video of my toy AKK, mini AKK and large sheltie walking around in the harness.

You can see it's a bit clunky for the Klee Kai but the sheltie has no problem with it and was even racing around in it.

Here are some pictures to give you a better idea of what it looks like on (all the dogs are wearing XS size):

Alpha - toy AKK
Nari - mini AKK
Battlestar - large sheltie

This harness just requires a shoulder belt. It's less expensive than the Utility and doesn't require the LATCH system. Personally, the only reason I have this harness is so that I can travel with 3 dogs in the back seat. When traveling with 3 in harnesses, the ones in the driver and passenger sides in the back seat wear the Utility while the dog in the middle seat wears the Sport. If you need to travel with 3 dogs then the Sport works well. If you are going to travel with just 1 or 2 dogs then definitely go with the Utility. My dogs find the Utility more comfortable then the Sport.

Here is Starbuck demonstrating how to put on the Sleepypod Clickit Sport:

Here are a couple of pictures of Starbuck (mini AKK) in the Sport:

That's about it for my thoughts on the Sleepypod car harnesses. They are awesome and the only ones I feel confident in using. Again - I didn't receive any compensation for this - just my my view. Let me know if you have any questions! 

If you want to read about the crate I use for car trips - see THIS POST


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Getting back into shape!

Since Nari and I were so 'off' in our teamwork we've been trying to cram in some training before our next big trial! Here she is getting back into the game: 

She's pushy and doing her own thing when I give a poor cue - and I absolutely love it!! She's got a lot of confidence which makes off-courses more likely when I slack on my handling so that's why we really need to cram in a lot of training. Hopefully we can pull it together enough to do well at our next trial. 

We have some big plans for this weekend - I purchased some agility flooring in the basement since Battlestar was slipping on the kids' play mat flooring. We're going to be putting some drywall up and installing a door so we can close off that room to protect the flooring and equipment. 

So very slowly our house is going to the dogs! Right now we have 3 bedrooms - the master bedroom with the only furniture being 2 night stands, a bed frame (we don't even have a headboard yet because I simply HATE shopping for furniture so my solution is to just not have furniture :)), a storage bench and many dog beds. The second bedroom is now where the Klee Kai have their giant crate and it has their workout gear (lots of FitPaws stuff and other random workout gear), a TV with DVD player and foam matting for flooring. The 3rd bedroom is Battlestar's bedroom - that one also has a human bed in it for when guests visit. And now the dogs will have a 20'x30' agility room in the basement…. :) 

Friday, May 8, 2015

And so it begins….

Well - after being out of agility (practice and competition) for over a year, Nari has had 2 trials and a couple of practices in the past month. It's been an eye opening experience. Now that she's starting to get back into running I'm realizing that she hadn't been running at her full potential since Perry Regionals back in June 2013 - that's nearly 2 years!!! 

Back then she was a very consistent team dog - she was typically the one who held the team together :) But…. this weekend we were a hot mess! Although it was very frustrating at the time, it's actually quite exciting to see how much better she's feeling - she's like a puppy again! She ended up getting an E in team jumpers - actually blew me off to run into the wrong end of the tunnel. She either won a class or bombed it! Most people would be mad at that but actually it was nice to see that she's feeling well enough to blow me off :) Just means that we actually need to practice to get back to being a team again :) 

I know I'm being greedy now by trying to get her qualified for Cynosports as I should just be content with her running again but I think she has a chance. Even with being rusty and not fully conditioned yet she's managed to pick up 2 Steeplechase Q's (in both tournaments she won both rounds 1 and 2) and a Grand Prix win with a Regional voucher. We totally bombed our team Q this weekend but I guess I really needed that to kick my butt and teach me a lesson that I can't just rely on how she was performing a year ago - we actually need to practice :) 

Okay - so I know I went on and on about Nari up there but Starbuck and Alpha were awesome this weekended!! Starbuck was a rockstar - taking a couple of 1st place finishes and I don't think she even E'd in team. Her team picked up a 3rd place and team Q. Alpha was so so super cute - I think she's becoming everyone's favorite AKK :) She finished her PII Snooker title and even picked up a PIII Snooker Q. I honestly can't remember how she placed/finished her other runs but she had a killer PII Gamblers. I didn't think she could do the 15 foot send to the teeter and jumps so I wasn't a bunch of time getting to the line once the buzzer went off. But she pulled off that gamble - just over time.

Well - now the race is on to get Nari qualified for Cynosports and she has 3 trials to do it in - of course they are all Regionals because I like to make things hard :) It'd be awesome if she can qualify but if not, I have Super Buck to run and she's becoming an amazing agility girl - have you seen her super fast rockstar weaves? :)