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29/09/2014 / Julie

City dogs – country people

We have moved. We now live in Oslo. The biggest of cities, where Norway is concerned, and we are living on the west-side. The posh side. A bit of a culture clash for me coming from the country where moving outside in sweats and a woolly jumper is quite normal. I’ve realised that not everywhere do people smile or nod to fellow humans on the street, here it’s more of a stone faced “I can’t see you”. In my home town, everyone has time for a chat, even if you’re in a hurry, whilst here, no one has time to chat, unless they’ve set aside time for it.

I live near a park where the municipal has dedicated a section of the park to dogs. The people who come here are this and that, the think they know a lot, some do, but what is the common thread for all of them are very well behaved dogs. Not necessarily well trained, but around other dogs, they are brilliant. I have yet to meet a dog there being aggressive. There are dogs there that are insecure at times, but then the other dogs either help them out or leave them alone, depending on that dogs body language. I’ve been taking Bajnok and Derria there a lot. Derria gets to roam, sometimes she plays with others, sometimes she just jogs around. When there are few dogs she’s much more likely to play with them, when there are more dogs she tends to oversee and police things. But she has never been rude or unfair. She has stepped in if a dog, typically a young dog, has gotten a bit stressed and started to bully another dog. Just a quick growl and stare and they step down. She seems to command a lot of respect around there. She also keeps dogs away from Bajnok.

I keep Bajnok on the lead when we’re there. I don’t trust him not to start something if another male dog comes a bit too close. He has growled and snapped at a coupled when they get close, and typically they react by walking away. His snapping and growling has decreased a lot. It used to be a near temper tantrum, now it’s a low growl if someone gets too close. Of course I always bring plenty of treats. Bajnok has come on in leaps and bounds, and is now much more comfortable around the others. He would probably be more comfortable around them if the dog park wasn’t so stationary, but as it is centered around a couple benches and a table, it makes it hard to get people and dogs moving.

The dogs in the city are brilliant. They know how to act. Their owners on the other hand. I’m not impressed. Would you let your dog off lead near busy roads? Would you let your dog bother another person and their dog for ten minutes while you stare at your phone? Would you refrain from calling back your dog who was obiously bothering people? All these are situations I’ve both observed and been a part of. Just yesterday when we were training agility, a woman walking her dachshund didn’t notice the dog running over towards our training area. So I stopped and put Bajnok on the table, and held his collar. The woman, engrossed in her phone, didn’t hear me when I called to her twice, “could you recall your dog”, as the dog was entering and pretty much 2 meters away from us. This kind of apathy annoys me to pieces. I wish people would leave their phones alone when they walk their dog.

In the country it is seen as the norm to call your dog back when you meet people on a walk. It is also seen as the norm that your dog shouldn’t run off lead around busy main roads. You may think you’re in control, but what if a cat comes running out? What if an ambulance comes thundering down the road? What if something scares your dog? What if… And that “what if” scares me. Maybe it’s because Derria got hit last winter that I feel it more than most, but I still can’t believe people would bike with their dogs off lead near main roads.

I do love where we live though. Even tough the risk of running into off lead dogs is high, the risk of that dog being aggressive is 0. The biggest problem is the dog being persistant, annoying, and disobedient. That’s where Derria comes in. If we meet a dog that won’t leave us alone, and that the owners can’t, or won’t, call back, I usually release Derria. She will then get the other dog away from Bajnok, and me and him make a hasty retreat, whilst Derria occupies the stranger. The park isn’t far, with open spaces, an agility course, and the dog park. The subway (or above way) is a ten minute walk, and then there’s woods as far as the eye can see at the end of the line.

09/03/2014 / Julie

2013 in iPhone pictures – part 1

I got this idea to show my year in iPhone pictures when I was tidying my pictures on the computer. The iPhone gives a different perspective than the camera, and I thought it’d be interesting. I got my iPhone in late February, so strictly speaking it isn’t all of 2013.

25.Feb.: There was ice on Mjøsa last winter. Used it lots. I know it’s sunset, but it’s probably like 5 o’clock.

I used to have a couch in my room. It evolved into a dog couch eventually, but it started as extra seating. After long walks, or when we had lots of visitors, the dogs would retire to their sanctuary – my room and the couch.

27.Feb.: Tired twosome.

I am an Apple person, as in the company and products. I’ve grown up with Macintosh computers can’t for the life of understand why people would have Windows. They suck! They’re slow, they’re not user friendly, they wear out in a year, why would you have windows? So when I have to work on them, I’m not a happy camper.

1.Mar.: Starting work with the windows to clear the things I want.

1.Mar.: Finishing up. Glad I never have to own one again.

Romeo is groomed about every third-fourth week, and during winter we let his hair grow. In February/March he usually has a lot of hair. Grooming him takes forever, seriously it can take 5 hours with the bathing, drying, brushing, hair cutting, etc. But he’s a good and patient boy, though.

1.Mar.: Halfway through his haircut

4.Mar.: After the groom. Fit old man, nearly 14 years old.

My fish got a new aquarium Christmas of 2012, and so I needed new fish, bring on the Rummy-nose tetra! I might increase the school size eventually.

6.Mar.: Got five new rummy-nose tetra.

8.Mar.: Bajnok in his favourite spot, watching our street.

There were a couple of early mornings for us in March which meant being able to walk at sunrise.

13.Mar.: My town waking up.

13.Mar.: Sun coming up behind the hill.

Bajnok is a weird dog. He’s got such an expressive face, and a vocabulary that could challenge a toddler.

13.Mar.: “What are you doin’ in there?”

And as spring started to arrive in March, we went for more walks and found places to smell. Well, the dogs anyway.

14.Mar.: Must be interesting that spot.

This year we’ve barely had winter, but last year winter stuck around for a long while. Just how I like it. After the first bout of spring, as Norwegian weather is and always will be Norwegian weather, we had a new bout of winter. Spring came very gradually, as winter wanted to stick around.

15.Mar.: Winter returns!

Came over this creation, hit me right in the funny bone.

15.Mar.: “Cape Horn”

Usually Bajnok starts moving about, whining and pestering me if I just put on a sweater, so when the troublesome dousesome reacted by lying down and staring at me after I’d put on their joring harnesses, I was a little flabbergasted. They came along and had fun, but that was a weird experience.

19.Mar.: “Walk? Now? You’re joking..”

For the entirety of Easter I was home alone with the dogs. Which meant some redecorating, like moving the big dog bed in front of the TV.

24.Mar.

26.Mar.: It started to melt again, and a pool formed in out street.

It was a very nice Easter break with hiking, skiing on Mjøsa, relaxing, cooking, etc.

11.Apr.: There’s a bird on TV!

My nieces are growing up so fast! They’re now 7 and 2 years old, and we see them every now and then. They’re a joy, brilliant, and great around the dogs. Never too young to learn good manners around dogs.

14.Apr.: Marie, at the point of this picture a year and 4 moths. And flashes are a pain.

Spring really arrived in April in 2013. With flowers, water, roads falling apart, floodings, leaves springing. Pretty much spring.

15.Apr.: “Nasty water! Stay still!”

16.Apr.: Romeo’s birthday, and a picture of the coltsfoot.

On the April 27th we went for a 3 hour hike somewhere I’d never been before. We were higher up than where we live, so there was still quite a lot of snow and mud about. The dogs took full advantage of this. I had planned to walk further, but the hike wasn’t as long as I thought, but it was a very nice hike, none the less.

27.Apr.: We started at a ski club. Luckily not so much snow that people were still skiing.

27.Apr.: Bajnok took an icecold bath.

27.Apr.: Beautiful day, beautiful Norway!

27.Apr.:”Mmmm.. Stick!”

27.Apr.: My home! (Sigh of content)

27.Apr.: Waiting for our driver.

As time goes by, Romeo gets dirty and long haired. It’s the ordeal of a poodle owner.

4.May: Wet and miserable.

4.May: After!

My uncle is Romeo’s best cuddle buddy. Whenever he comes around Romeo basically just flops on the floor, and my uncle obliges. He always has a hand for him.

4.May: My Uncle and Romeo

5.May: Relaxing in the May sun.

9.May: Look at that! There are beavers!

12.May: “Gimme!”

14.May: Sunset. The sun moves a lot further around the horizon before setting now.

I don’t have a picture fr the 17th, but the 18th we went to out cabin.

18.May: Our little lovely cabin! Best place ever!

18.May: Romeo agrees.

19.May: Everyone enjoys this place.

30.May: Floods. Everywhere.

30.May: Deciding to enjoy the floods.

30.May: Teamwork! Sort of…

I’ll leave it at that for now. We’ll start at June next time and see how far we get. Now it is bed time for me.

06/03/2014 / Julie

Blogging…

Yes.. Blogging. It’s nagging at me. In the back of my head. Pretty much every day. Every now and then I come across something online, or there’s a situation that makes want to blog, but I lack that last push and motivation. My last post was supposed to be the start of a series of blogposts, and some extra motivation. It isn’t that I didn’t want to write about the Mudi, I did, I just couldn’t get myself to the keyboard.

And that’s the way it’s been the last few months. It seems that my desire to blog is the first thing to go when I’m feeling stuck. I even missed out on the pet blogger challenge, which I always look forward to. But I hate being nagged. Absolutely hate it! Mostly it will make me go a lot slower, or stop all together, and it has felt like the blog is nagging me. This is of course all my fault. Why the hell am I giving this much credence to a blog?! I mean, it’s a blog! A freaking writing platform on the internet that I control. Maybe it’s seeing how much other people write that makes me feel this way? I’m never going to be able to keep up with people that post every day, or three times a week. I don’t want to blog that often unless I have something to blog about. There are also those that always blog after they’ve done something interesting. I might do that, but I’m not going to promise anything, to you or myself. I’ll stop letting the blog run my life and giving me a bad conscience. There are more important things to give me a busy brain, don’t need a blog in there as well.

I think writing is fun, and it eases my mind at the right times, but if I feel I have to it’ll always be looming over me, and that’s never fun.

Let’s see what happens, shall we? The blog is always evolving, as am I (in a minor sense). Might be time for a look overhaul, maybe not. All as I feel like it from now on. No strings attached to the blog. Now that it’s in writing, let’s see if we can put it into action.

14/09/2013 / Julie

The Mudi

The Poodle, the mix, and the Mudi.

Leo of Kenzo the Hovawart started a series of informational blogpost about the breed for new or possible Hovawart owners. This has inspired me.

I have three dogs at this point. One is a mix. Which breed is poking through at every moment, and at most, I can never be sure of, plus I’m not completely sure what breeds she’s composed of. There isn’t much point in writing posts about her breeds. Then there’s the old man, a Standard Poodle now 14 years old. The Standard Poodle isn’t a rare breed any way you try to turn it. Everyone knows the breed, and has an opinion about it. Usually they believe it’s a breed for posh and fancy people, but the Poodle is for everyone. They need their exercise, and will adjust to almost any level of activity. Complete inactivity they’re not good with, though. They are amazing working dogs, and keep healthy long. Romeo has become frailer this last year, but just last year, at 13, he followed on an 8 hour walk. Poodles need grooming and walks. Give them that and they’re happy dogs.

“Ready to be educated?”

Then there’s the third one, Bajnok. Bajnok is a Mudi. The Mudi is a Hungarian working dog traced back to the 1500’s. It is often mistaken for the Pumi and the Puli in name, but in looks they’re quite different. In looks it’s often mistaken for many breeds, even though it doesn’t look like them. The reason for this is its rarity. There are only about 13-14 Mudis in Norway. The biggest Mudi countries in the world are Hungary and Finland, and even in these countries the average person doesn’t know the Mudi. There is a breed that pretty much looks exactly like the Mudi, except for a few details. It is a few centimetres taller, it doesn’t have the ear fringes, and it only comes in black. The breed is the Croatian Sheepdog. This breed is even more uncommon than the Mudi, and I have personally only seen one in real life. It was like seeing a slightly large Mudi.

During these blogposts I will be showing you all the sides of the Mudi. The family dog, the sentry, hunter, and not to forget the herder and working dog. The Mudi is not an easy dog, and there have been plenty of people thinking they’re getting a Border Collie light, that’ve gotten a nasty surprise. I will be as honest as possible, and show you all the wonderful sides of this magnificent breed. To start off you can read Bajnok’s birthday blog.

“Go read other stuff for a while. I’m working.”

Edit @ 14.Sept, 16:37: Added the photos and gone through my grammar.

05/08/2013 / Julie

A want to blog?

I haven’t found the want this late spring and summer. I’ve thought a lot about this blog, but haven’t found the motivation to blog instead of doing something else, and therefore the blog has been silent since early May. To get going again I thought I’d give you some of my favourite photos, that I’ve taken, from this no-blog period. Hope you enjoy some of it. I’ll try to comment on at least some of it, if it needs it.

I came over this bumblebee when we were on a walk on May 5th. It was a long cold this year, and it was struggling, crawling by. I lied down, and I got some close-ups of it, before I walked away and let nature take its course. They are beautiful.

Those wings are incredible engineering.

And now a little series of pictures that I love. They’re not good photos, or have a great motive, but they tell a little story. A story of when the stupid owner threw the toy way too far, and the little workaholic/excitable Mudi (Bajnok) surprised the owner and went to get the toy anyway. Even though he did not know where it was, or had watched as it had been thrown. But he was told to swim and go get it, so he did. Boy, I love that dog! The pictures are from the water we swim and have fun in by our cabin, south in Norway.

It’s 18 meters (apprx 59 ft) across from where we were

Have to find a way out of the water now. Very steep under water there.

And he’s out. Now the toy.

Using his nose to figure out where it is….

And bush dive

Gone

“Lookie what I found!”

Here comes His Awesomeness. Was pretty impressed at this point.

“I’ll take it off your hands. Just come here”

He’s back! Wet and awesome!

I know this is child’s play for a hunting retriever or spaniel, but understand that this is the first time ever that he has done this with water. We have played plenty search games, and trained tracking, and we have had fun in water, but never thought he’d do this without prompting. Fun!!

This is Mjøsa. From somewhere close to Espa. It’s taken from the car as we’re driving.

Then from the end of June I was house/pet sitting for 2 weeks. Little Ari-Ferrari joined our little crew. He was 11-12 weeks old while I watched him. The owners live on the other side of the city, and it gave me a rare view of my hometown and county.

Love this of little Ari. It shows off his stride. He’s a Lagotto Romagnolo.

This. This is just sacrilege.

I’ve been to our cabin twice this year. Once in May, once in July. We had visitors in July. Including a little puppy called Bauntus. We had some lovely days. Dad kept calling it “Retro-summer.” Don’t know if it’ll catch on. We had to go for early walks because of the heat. Came back at noon one day, and it was getting too hot to walk.

Bauntus! 10 wks. Look at those big ass paws.

He’s a Curly Coated Retriever. And about the easiest puppy I have ever encountered.

Nearly completely still sea.

Paradise

Imagine gull cries, your dog/s running around you, no people anywhere nearby. Your dog/s are sniffing, running, playing, checking in. You are watching them unfold and enjoing themselves. They may chase the occasional squirrel or gull, or jump in the safe ponds, or clefts that cut through your path, to cool off. All you have to do is make sure they get don’t get too far ahead, and go the right path to your destination.

I’ll leave you with that. Because that’s my peace of mind. See ya!

02/05/2013 / Julie

Defeat

What do you consider a defeat as an instructor? Is your main

goal to help your clients manage their dog no matter the cost? Would you consider using pain just so the owner can see that there is a calm dog in reach?

I’d consider it a defeat when chokers and kidney ropes (as illustrated here) would have to be used. Which is why I’d ban them in any of my classes. They hurt, and they’re dangerous to the dog’s body. It’s that simple. They do nothing for the relationship between dog and owner, and they are the easy way out. There is nothing wrong with the easy way out, when there are no side effects, or when you can benefit from it. However short term pain leaves ever lasting memories in a dog, and while your arm may be given a rest the dog has now learnt that leashes hurt, moving forwards hurts (which, granted, may be what you are after), and last but not least; people and dogs make it hurt. And that last one is something that can really give you problems later. It can cause serious aggression issues, and if you have learned to deal with pulling through pain, you are likely to pour fuel on the fire.

A short case study of two similar dogs (not as objective as a case study should be)

Dog A, a German Shepherd, about 6 months. He is from working lines, has a ton of energy and his head is always working out what is going on and making connections. He is easily motivated, but has a short attention span. A lot of loud noises, does nothing half way.

Dog B, a Dalmation, about 15 months. A calmer dog, but also a lot of energy. Easily motivated, but he has some fears which leads to him needing to control his environment. He has a hard time to focus with dogs around. When he gets face to face he stiffens.

A working GSD. Pic from http://www.gramanns.se

Dog A came to the training area bursting with energy and ready to go. He came screaming out of the car, with and owner haning some yards behind. The owner had brought very good treats, and she was working well. They had been to a class somewhere else before. There they had been told to stand a little to the side, but not what to do there. They weren’t happy with that treatment, which I can understand.

Here they got to stand on the line with the rest, they got to work with the rest. It was a hassle. Dog A was, for the first two and a half nights, howling and singing in excitement and frustration. They got some good work in, though. He was learning sit and stay, heel, recall (on a long line). To mention some. A few times the instructor went over to dog A and tried to help the owner out by showing her how she could get control over her dog by standing in front of him, giving more of herself vocally and physically (moving the treat more, making it more interesting). And they worked, but he had a short attention span, he was only 6 months old. Working for half an hour + straight is too much to ask, and he would consequently loose focus and start making noise again. He did calm down a lot in the few first class nights, but he was still screaming in frustration and excitement.

A few times the instructor also took the dog a little away in an effort to calm A, when he didn’t listen she grabbed his collar and held it tight under his jaw. He snapped back, made louder noises. Instructor said he was fighting back because of the “drive” in him and that he was throwing temper tantrums because she was telling him to calm down. What I saw was a scared, frustrated dog that didn’t know what was expected of him.

On the fourth night the instructor brought out a choker, not a chain choker but a rope choker, and put it on him in conjunction with a kidney rope. There was no active yanking from the instructor, she just stood there, but the dog was moving around, and this was clearly uncomfortable. Dog A stopped moving around as much, but his focus was still outward, and not on the owner.

Dog B, the Dalmatian, he came with much the same problem as dog A. He did have a longer attention span, and was a calmer dog all in all, but he also had a lot of noise the first few nights. However it was dealt with differently. The owner was told that she should be calm with him, reward him for making contact, make a fuss of him, and not yell at him for staring at other dogs, but call him away. She should keep an eye on his tail as well. It was a very good indicator of whether he was being curious or tense. The owner used a clicker as well, but mainly as a marker, not as a principle.

Dog B made steady progress. He got steady rewards, he got to work below threshold and always got a reward. He still had an outward focus at times, mainly because he got tired by the long sessions. He learnt what he needed to and worked hard, because he liked it. On night 4 we found out that he really loves to play, and that made him even easier to reward. He was a darling that night, and completely exhausted at the end of the evening.

Night 5 with a city walk

Dog A showed up with the same amount of noise as usual when in the car. As the owner got him out she put on the kidney rope (no choker), and the dog changed. There was not as much noise anymore, and the noise heard was different. It had changed from whiny, frustrated howls to sharp, short, high pitched barks with teeth whenever another dog came within 6 yards, or it was quiet for too long. Whenever he did this the owner told him “no” in a sharp tone. If he didn’t listen she performed the same little dance with him as the instructor had on previous nights. Grabbing his collar, pulling it tight under his jaw, and holding on until he was quiet. He responded by fighting back. It was painful and scary, and he wanted out.

His body language was no longer a continuos bounce with ears forward, relaxed mouth and happy tail. The ears were more often back, he was licking his lips, pacing and the tail was hanging. All in the name of calm in a 6 month old working GSD. On the outside he seemed calmer. He did very well on the walk. He found out that gnawing on treats next to mum’s hip is preferable to having your kidneys squeezed, and he walked nicely for much of the walk.

Dog B did excellent on the standing still and working part. He worked well, was motivated, and didn’t care a lot about the other dogs around him. The owner was the coolest thing. He did react when one of the puppies had to throw some warning barks at people with hoodies passing by in the shade, but apart from that he did very well. It was clear dog B was having fun. When they started the walk his biggest weakness became clear, he couldn’t walk on the lead. So the instructor put the kidney lead on him. “To show him what “no” means”. And sure it worked ok. He walked calmly through the town. When the walk was done he was no longer as upbeat as he had been. His head was low, his extremely expressive eyes gave the impression of being defeated, and he didn’t initiate contact with his owner.

If it had been my decision, dog B’s expression and dog A’s body language and new found reactivity would have been felt as a defeat. I would have taken it personally that the dogs have lost their joy. It takes a toll on me to be around people that believe that putting demands to a dog means telling it what’s not allowed, and saying “no” when it stands from a stay or a sit, or is pulling toward something. When I want my dogs to give me more for a reward I withhold the reward, and task them to try harder. I want them to figure out what I want by using their brain and taking responsibility of training. If they aren’t paying attention, we take a break and reconfigure our settings, so to speak. What do we need for the dog to get it right? Higher reward frequency? Lower demands? Let him get it wrong until he gets it right, and then a huge jackpot? More help? Better reward? Different suroundings? Shorter sessions?

I’m pretty sure dog A would have been a star pupil if the owner had on the first night given space, increased reward frequency and taken more breaks. He is a demanding dog, but he is only 6 months and full of energy. More than most puppies. He is a working dog, and the owner will most likely have issues with reactivity if she keeps up the punishment.

Dog B’s biggest issue is lead walking, and as most of us know with dogs with lead walking issues; it is one the most frustrating problems there is. It takes time, patience and consistency. You want a quick fix, but there rarely are any quick fixes that work in the long run. Apart from owner getting frustration out. Go kick a tree instead. But he got a quick fix with the kidney rope. It worked there around familiar dogs and people.

I’ve found that if you keep trying there is always a different way, and there is always a better way than pain. Just keep trying, ask for help, and think. Brainstorm at night before you go to sleep. That’s my most productive time, anyway.

A and B feel like defeats to me. It’s in no way my resposibility how they end up, but I feel defeated by the outcome. Hopefully they meet some smart people that will make them change their minds about chokers and kidney ropes.

15/04/2013 / Julie

Leash law’s in session!

The last hurrah on March 31st!

With spring comes the leash law up here. It started on April 1st and ends on September 1st.

The leash law is there to protect the animals that are producing little animals this time of year, and of course live stock let out to grace in the mountains and some woods. Most people respect it, and leash up their dogs. Some places are less restrictive than others, the places where you are more likely to meet off leash dogs. If you meet the police with an off lead dog you’ll get a pretty hefty fine.

Biking’s a good way to build stamina.

The mountains are a pretty safe bet as to where you can go and never meet an off lead dog. Especially if you keep to the tourist tracks. There may be sheep or musk ox, or maybe reindeer, and people keep their dogs leashed on these trails. If you’re off the beaten track you’re most likely so alone that meeting other people is unlikely up there. On the other hand, if you do meet other people, chances are the dogs will either be leashed, ignore you or well behaved. People don’t hike without being experienced and trained. This goes for their dogs as well.

It is a good idea to leash up your dog if you’re walking a place you’ve never been before in Norway. You never know when you may bump into cattle. If there’s no cattle grid anywhere, there probably aren’t any cattle, though there may be roe deer, moose and other wildlife everywhere.  Derria is rarely let off lead these days. She’s got too much of a hunting instict. Romeo and Bajnok on the other hand I let off lead when it’s ok. Romeo can run off lead almost everywhere. He doesn’t chase, he doesn’t bother people, and he comes when called. Bajnok is let off lead if I can control the surroundings, and I know there aren’t any people close by.

I can’t trust Derria, that’s the problem. We’re working on it. But you don’t need to let the dog run off lead for them to get their ya-ya’s off. Ask any hunting dog owner around here. I bet you they rarely let their dogs off lead this time of year. There are of course well trained exceptions. They find other ways of tiring their dogs. Not like we have plenty of fenced in dog parks around (there’s one, but not in walking distance, and it’s not well known). They train. Bike, jog, obedience, hike. They train hunting. Some diversify and try agility and other stuff. There’s no need to get your knicker’s in twist over having to put your dog on lead, just be responsible. Some years we even have an “extra ordinary leash law” implemented in witner if the snow is extra deep. Again to protect wildlife. Then we have to figure something else in winter as well.

On the more positive side we have what is known as “the every man’s right” in this country. This means that by law you can walk where ever you want as long as you aren’t in somebody’s back yard (or sown fields). You never have to worry about walking on private property in Norway. It’s our right to use nature for ourself, as long as we tidy after ourselves. You should leave nature as you found it.

All dogs love to run!

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