I’ve had a thought for a little while but haven’t said anything yet incase I was wrong, and I don’t like being wrong… But I don’t think I’m wrong.

Lu seems happier. Like, really really happy.

I started having her sleep in her crate at night, initially for my own sanity (you know how in the morning, just before your alarm goes off, you start to stir and roll over and stuff? She’d assume that meant you were awake and therefore needed to be either licked in the eyeball or pounced on for a joyful morning greeting. I didn’t necessarily appreciate this so much when it’s 5.30am on a weekend and I’m trying to tell my body to go back to sleep) but then I had her out one night a bit later and as I was falling asleep I felt her constantly jerk her head up to look around… settle down, look around, settle down, look around, get off the bed to go check to see if the cats were being naughty, pace around, lay down, get up, etc. She was constantly on alert. And I thought about how tired I would be if this was my state of being all night, and thought that surely the same must be true for dogs? You can’t be happy, enthusiastic, energetic, driven, of clear mind and willing to work if you’re just tired from a broken night’s sleep. So I’m crating her because in her crate she SLEEPS. She doesn’t even bark at the cats fighting unless they get particularly rowdy.

So there’s that. There’s all the recallers games we were playing before she wasn’t allowed to run around for a couple of weeks with her iliopsoas. There’s the expectation there that I am the only access to reinforcement in distracting situations… It’s amazing to see her now go: OOO RABBIT…. Ohhh… Ohh.. TREATS!!! Like how cool is that? The other day I tested her on kangaroos in a paddock (they weren’t moving, they were just there) but she lost her mind. Not quite there with the roos yet. But, getting there with soccer kids, and she could SMELL roos nearby (but didn’t see them, they blended in) on a walk the other day, and I had her walking with 100% focus at my side, looking up at me with her beautiful blue eyes, feet prancing along as they do. Gosh it was nice.

You know I used to say that she wasn’t a dog who got excited about things? Let me tell you a few things:

1. My arrival home now means an explosion of wiggling, jumping around, tail going crazy, nips and nibbles and a general tornado of Lumen happiness.

2. I was eating breakfast this morning in bed, and she starts going crazy – chasing her tail, yipping, pouncing around. It wasn’t her normal obnoxious “feed me or I pounce and bark at you” type behaviour, she just felt a bit silly and energetic. Very cute.

3. Before her dinner bowl (when she gets one) I get her to do a short bit of heeling as I figured it wouldn’t hurt her to train up for Rally-O while she couldn’t do agility. I put it up on a shelf but she knows it’s there. And she looses her brain. She barks and jumps around and can’t heel properly and can’t get into heel position and nips at me. And ok, this is all really BAD behaviour but I find it so, so funny, and can’t help but laugh because I’ve gone from a dog who didn’t care that much about food, to one who goes crazy at the prospect.

So I don’t know – maybe it’s a combination of: Lu actually sleeping, Lu being desexed and not having stupid hormones making her moody, and having to compete with Loki for attention (or not being the CENTER of attention, so being more ok to just ‘be’), but something is working, and I really like it. I love seeing her tail wagging and her eyes bright.

fishy business

So, we all know about Lu’s motivational ‘issues’… and how recently she’s been getting more and more keen on food. Well, I’ve still been searching for ‘the ultimate’ treat I can take out walking with me – the one for awesome recalls, for great hand-touches, for agility jackpots. The thing that makes her eyes pop out of her head.

I’ve tried (with a rating out of 10 included for your viewing pleasure):

  • normal kibble (4/10)
  • ‘dog roll’ (cooked meat in a loaf from the supermarket) (5/10)
  • roast chicken (6/10)
  • sausages (7/10)
  • cheese (3/10)
  • raw meat (8/10)
  • liver treats (7/10)
  • these weird ‘lamb temptation’ things (7/10)
  • ‘lamb crumbles’ (I don’t even know, some kind of dehydrated meat) (7/10)
  • anything I happen to be eating (8-9/10)
  • raw fish (2/10)
  • kibble with fish/shark-based joint supplement (1/10)


And today I was cleaning out a cupboard and I found this little ziplock bag of cat treats- little mini dried fish. I gave one to the cats, who turned their noses up and then noticed Lu was all like “Hey, whatcha got there?” And I was like: “Oh, don’t worry Lu, it’s just fish and you’re not really into fish” (see above), and she was all like: “No, seriously. What is that amazing thing you’re holding?” And her eyes were all black and big like I’ve never seen her eyes so big like she wanted to eat this little mini stale fish with her eyeballs because I wasn’t putting it in her mouth fast enough and maybe if she just stares REALLY HARD it’ll fall into her eyeballs and she can savour the sweet sweet fishiness. And so I said: “Ready?” And she was like GIVEMETHEDAMNFISH and then I was like: “GET IT!” and she was like CHOMP and grabbed it from my hands, not in a Loki-take-your-fingers-off-with-his-sharp-little-teeth kind of way but in a more excited way than normal. So then I put a little mini fish on the blue plate that I’ve been using as a kind of target and made her run for it and the first time she was like: Yes, yes, running for food, ho hum. And then the next time she was like YAY I’M RUNNING FOR A MINIFISH!


CHOMP (with less enthusiasm than earlier today)

CHOMP (with less enthusiasm than earlier today)

So I’m hoping that the minifish doesn’t get 10/10 just because it’s new (because Lumen has a tendency to fool me like this, every time because new things are AWESOME , like new toys or a new box to shred or a new kind of treat and then they’re boring because they’re not new any more) but because weirdly she likes the taste of these horrible minifish because I can easily get more minifish for her and put them in her food pouch and she can get them when she does agility and recalls and then I can say she’s also getting omegas (right?)

(edit: just tried her on some minifish again. I’d say the excitement rating is down to an 8.5-9/10)


"This fish is so fishy"

“This fish is so fishy”

Also, I wrote a poem yesterday (I used to write lots of poetry in my angsty teen years) but I don’t know how I feel about putting it out for the world to see. Hmmm.


So I’m doing this play class with Polona Bonac, and at the moment we’re working on food play. One of the things I’m having to do with Lu is for her to become really pushy and rude about food. So she’s being rewarded for poking, biting, clawing my hand with food in it, for climbing on me to get the food, for standing on me for the food. Sometimes I think she’s doing well until I see Loki when he knows I have food and he’s practically performing backflips against my leg to try and get to it. Now THAT’S pushy.

And I’ve had some time to think about this, and what it all means, and I remember reading Silvia’s updates on when Bi was a puppy, and she said:
And when she can’t do anything, when she is in a crate and other dogs get to play, she sure gets MAD! I was really hoping to get stronger, more confident dog as Bu is and well, Bi sure has tons of it! In her “it’s all about me” attitude she really reminds me a lot of La. I just love dogs who care more about how much *they* enjoy what they’re doing over my opinion. As I stated before: I don’t want my dogs to work for me. I want them to work for themselves.

And boy that first line reminds me of Loki. If I’m doing anything with Lu and he’s crated- even if I’m OUTSIDE with Lu and he can’t even see what’s happening, he SCREAMS. You can hear him from outside, screaming the house down. I don’t think he necessarily has an ‘all about me attitude’ entirely, because he does seem to care what I think, a bit, but you can tell that he WANTS the food, he WANTS the toy- for him! Not because it’ll make me happy, or because it’s what he should be doing, but because he wants it.

And that’s the difference with Lu at the moment I think. I think she does her tricks and gets her food because she wants the food, kind of, but also because it’s what we’re doing and it’s her job and it’s what she should do – same with agility. And toys – well, sometimes she plays because it’s fun, like when she brings me toys, but try and get her excited about toys in agility and it’s then what I want to do – what I want her to do, not what she wants.


So making her pushy for food is all about making her WANT that food. To put energy into getting the food without prompting from me. I need to be better about not telling her to “get it!” but let her just mug me. It’s such a weird change- if you follow Susan Garrett she does the ‘its yer choice’ game and all that impulse control stuff (and I did it with Lu, too), and now I have a dog who is very polite, and who would rather just relax about it than try really hard to get it.  Maybe Polona says it better than me:
The desire to do something has to come out of a dog. That might be the single most important thing when we are talking about motivation… I want my dog to be pushy, not the other way around. Pushy behaviors can be annoying sometimes (barking for food, jumping up and down when expecting to go for a walk,…), but remember – once your dog is willing to put energy to get something he wants, we can very easily channel this energy in to productive behaviors.”

So it’s sort of a change of mindset, though a very obvious one, I suppose. Just not something I’d thought about in great detail before. It’s funny, doing these exercises and games, I’m already noticing that she’s getting ruder when it comes to having food around. Which is GOOD! It means that when I come to wanting her to DO something for the food, she’ll actually WANT the food and work for it! Just in the meantime I have to laugh while she noses her way in as I’m eating something while driving.

food love & sniffy things

Noticing an interesting thing when playing shaping with the Lokidog – if he gets a jackpot, he is inherently more interested in searching for more food than playing with a toy that’s being dragged around. This worries me a little cos he’s already choosing something else over the play, and look, I know he doesn’t associate play with a reward maybe, it’s just a fun thing that happens after he does something sometimes… and I know, he’s a baby, but we all know that I like to see problems and fix them. It’s what I do.

Today I just held out, kept dragging that toy around until he came and played and we had a big party. I suppose in Susan Garrett world this was like a “don’t wanna, don’t haveta” moment, or whatever she calls it. Thoughts? Opinions?

I need to remember to set a timer when doing that stuff, too. He can keep going, and does, but I need to remember he should only train for probably 3 minutes at a time right now.
Also, I set up a super wobbly board with this rectangular soft board thing on top of a paw pod, and he was riding around on that thing without a care in the world. Super confident (about that sort of thing, at least. He wasn’t sure about a child’s bike that he saw yesterday)

Here’s a video:




And there’s even more of this now without toys, more wrestly-bitey style play is starting to happen. I think Lu is gonna like having a little bother.

what Mal ate

Mallei - March 2013

Mallei – March 2013

So down at the park, I’ve had a lot of people surprised by the fact that Mallei is 9 years old. I’m surprised by the fact that he’s 9. He doesn’t act 9, he doesn’t get sore joints yet, though he sometimes grumbles when he lays down – he’s been doing that for years. He’s still a happy, jolly fellow who looks great, and, according to the vet, has absolutely no sign of arthritis in his joints, and has amazing teeth. Now, look, I know that 9 isn’t in the throws of death for an Aussie, but I got a letter last year from our old vet telling me Mallei was a senior dog now.

This is what we did to that piece of mail…

All that aside, I figure, Mal is in pretty darn good condition for an old fellow- even though we make fun of him being old, he’s really holding it all together pretty well. Someone at the park said today: “9?!?! We need some of what he’s got!” gesturing to an old and slow Labrador.

So, here’s what I think has largely helped Mal stay in such good health.

Raw meat and bones.

More specifically – chicken frames.

I brought Mal up, as a puppy, on a shocking diet. I’m talking Pedigree Pal- I was 18, you just buy whatever’s in the supermarket, right? At some point I wised up, tried to do better. And at some point, later down the line, I figured- hey, dogs are like… wolves… wolves eat meat… why would my dog be eating cooked biscuits. And so, most accessibly, he got chicken. Frames. One frame a day.

This seemed perfect for him – he rarely put on or lost weight, and he has excellent teeth now and is ageing gracefully. Look, I know, it’s not the most ‘balanced’ diet, and I supplemented with red meat bones here and there, but really, we’ve never had an issue. These days, we don’t leave near a good chicken shop like we used to, so he gets a cup of kibble every other week for a few nights, sometimes a roo tail when we’re out for a long day, but I really do think that meat and bones are the best thing for dogs. They’re meant to eat meat and bones.
At the moment Lumen is getting mostly kibble – every now and then a drumstick, or some raw meat with her dinner, but because we do so much training and shaping, I kind of need to be able to feed her kibble or else she’ll put on weight, fast. All her training food is her regular food. So I don’t know how to rectify that because I’d ideally like to be giving her more bones- I think her teeth will naturally get all gross (some are already yellow-y, what?!) and so bones will help tremendously with that.

So, look, I’m not a vet, and I haven’t trained in dog nutrition (though, honestly, a lot of people who approach you in pet-stores claiming to know everything there is to know about nutrition are being paid to sell a brand of dog food, so let’s just keep that in mind- I don’t represent any ‘chicken frame’ company), and I did read a lot of websites that were probably biased toward my point of view, but I have a young, sprightly, arthritis-free, clean-teeth’ed ‘senior’ dog who, for years, had very little other than raw meat and bones as his diet.