Every pet owner should have this grooming tool

If you own a dog that sheds a lot you understand my pain. Mara is part Shepard, part Lab so she has the shedding down part from every angle. I can vacuum the entire house and five minutes later watch a tumbleweed of fur go rolling by. It is a never-ending battle that I lose every time.  I’ve ask a lot of groomers about how to help shed her on my own time with a good tool. I’ve seen a million different brushes, some good some bad, but recently a groomer recommended to me the ZoomGroom.

ZoomGroom Pet BrushI used to use a slicker brush, but it always seemed to scare Mara. I found out that it is easy to hurt dogs with them in you go too deep. The brush is metal can scratch their skin and make brushing really unpleasant for them. For fluffier dogs it make be more ideal, but for most dogs I’ve found that it’s really not. Mara just hated it.

The ZoomGroom is made by Kong, and is all rubber, just like the chew toys. They come in various sizes depending on the size of your pet and also make one specifically for cats – same brush but a different shape. Mara is 55 lbs and the large size is perfect for her. One of the great things about this brush is that it can also be used in the tub for shampooing. It works up a great lather and helps pull out the loose undercoat at the same time. I highly recommend brushing your dog outside if possible because it will pull off a lot of fur, probably more than you’d think. This also works great on all types of coats. I’ve talked to other dogs owners who use it on their big fluffy Chows and people who use it on their Boxers, while Mara falls in between. I also find the brush doubles as a doggie massage for Mara. She’ll near fall asleep on me while getting brushed.

The brushes are very reasonably priced between $5 and $10 and well worth the small investment. After a while the brush will start to wear down and become less effective, but it will be quite a while before that happens. When it does, the brush can become a great chew toy and you can get a new one for grooming. Since the toy is all rubber, same as the Kong toys, your dogs can play with the brush without worry. Occasionally Mara will swipe hers and chew on it for a bit. No harm, no foul.

I  have used many different types of brushes on Mara and my boys back home who all have very different coats and enthusiasm for brushings. I highly recommend this over any other brush no matter the coat. If you groom your dog at home or you just want to be able to vacuum a little less, then definitely make the small investment in this brush.

Doggie Academia: Week 6 Recap – Graduation Day

So this week was the last training class. Mara did okay in the beginning but really did awesome at the end. She worked better with me yesterday than she did with Josh. We just reviewed some of the same exercises we learned in the previous classes and the trainer gave us tips on how to perform them better.

We’ve been giving Mara hot dogs for the last 3 classes, but this time the trainer broke out the Kong Aerosol treats in a can. They are meant to fill the Kong toys, but the trainer was just squirting in right into her mouth. Mara got the pepperoni flavored one, which she went nuts over. The other dog in the class got the cheese and bacon flavored one. Mara did get a taste of both and immediately perked up and started listening again knowing she was going to get better treats than the hot dogs. The trainer also gave us some peanut butter which is always a win for her.  I definitely recommend trying the Kong treats for anyone who has a dog that has a little ADD. Josh kept calling it a gateway treat. First is was the kibble, then hot dogs, then cheddar cheese, onto peanut butter and then spray treats in a can. She honestly was running around like a crack addict when she got the spray.

Our friend Pippa with the Cain and Able were there, except mom couldn’t come so dad was filling in. Since dad has never really been to the class and didn’t know what he was doing, he tried to learn quick which meant not paying attention to his rotten kids running around the place. I could see the trainer was getting really, really annoyed, which he admitted to almost throwing them out after the class was over and they left. We were trying to do the sit, stay exercise where you would get your dog into a sit and have someone else approach the dog. As soon as the dog broke the sit the person would walk away. If the person approached and the dog didn’t break until they were told they could they got pets and treats. Of course when I tried to approach Pippa, the kids kept jumping on her while she was sitting so I just stopped trying to help. On several occasions the trainer told the dad that the kids needed to sit. They sort of listened for 5 minutes and then were back to running around. I really should have recommended they go to a child training class instead of a dog class because the dog was 10 times more well behaved than the kids.

At the end of the class the trainer made his recommendations and said that all of the dogs except for one could move on to intermediate, although he said a better recommendation for Mara would be to re-do basic. He said she could handle intermediate but would struggle a bit. The one other dog that was not recommended to move on was Salty, a sweet dog that was just terrified of everything and everyone. The poor thing covered in the corner during every class, but the owners were able to take a lot away to work with him.

Spring Forth Academy  Basic Dog Manners Certificate of Completion

Mara and I got our certificate of completion and Josh joked that he wasn’t on there because he failed. The trainer said the certificates are written for the dog and the person that actually signed up (me) so that’s why his name wasn’t on there. He did tell Josh that he needs to be patient with Mara and not get so frustrated with her. Mara also got a little bag of treats which she immediately wanted to break into. I am debating on whether or not to take another class, I might just wait until it’s not a class with Cain and Able. Not sure I could handle another 6 weeks with those little brats.

My overall impression of the class

Overall I enjoyed the class. The trainer was very friendly and knowledgeable of how best to help each different type of dog personality. The facility was nice, probably a bit small for any more than 4 dogs at a time. Once one of the 5 dogs moved to private lessons it was easier to perform the exercises. They train with the aid of a clicker, which at first I didn’t like but Mara really responds well to it. Mara learned a lot and Josh and I definitely got some good takeaways that we will continue to work on with her. The cost for the 6 weeks was $160, which works out to about $26 per class. I felt that was pretty fair. I would definitely consider another class with Spring Forth Academy. Of course you never know who will be in a class so you either win or lose with the other people around you. Unfortunately that is not something anyone can really control. If any one is interested in classes with Spring Forth Academy you can check out their website here.

Doggie Academia: Week 5 Recap – She Only Listens to Mom

Dog training

Because dog training is best done in stilettos

When we started classes both Josh and I would switch on and off working with Mara. We realized that wasn’t the best idea so I let Josh work with her during class and I would just hang out and take in the training tips. Since discovering Mara’s doggie ADD we give her the frequent breaks she needs to relax and refocus. We started out with the usual routine and she really just wasn’t having any part of Josh this time. She did not want to listen worth of anything and he was just getting really frustrated. The last straw was when Mara jumped on the kid who kept running to the bathroom past her. Just before Josh hit his breaking point I took over and tried working with her. Clearly she was all about working with mommy today, because she was doing well with me.

Dog training

I’d like to think she was listening to me and not just wanting the hotdogs

Fortunately Cain and Able weren’t both there this week, but even having one of them was still annoying. Dad came and picked up the other little brat, who of course didn’t go without a big temper tantrum. After some kid drama dad left with him to get burritos so we only had to deal with one. During the class he was rolling around on the floor laughing and reading a book, talking over the trainer at the beginning of the class and running past the dogs trying to work. After class I told the trainer that the kids needed to go, but since we only have one week left he said he’s going to let it go. I considered taking the next set of classes at the doggie academy, but I found out that they will be taking them too so I made an about-face on that decision really quick. I’m not going to pay $200 to be annoyed by those damn kids again. The mother is very nice and the dog is great but I’m not taking the chance of having to deal with dad and the kids again.

Dog training

Learning to only come when she’s called.

One of the dogs was sick this time so it was only down to three pups. We moved around the room a lot more this time, training the dogs on some loose leash walking. Mara was having a really tough time with this today so that ended pretty quickly for us. The trainer strongly suggested doing more focus training with her to teach her to focus on us instead of everything else. Hand targets, name games, and find it games he said will be the best way for her to learn. I wish someone gave me treats every time they called my name and I looked at them.

The big one we need to work on is Mara’s stay with Josh specifically. I am able to take a step or two back before she follows, but Josh can’t even move and she’s up. Apparently he is fostering a needy dog. I blame the fact that he is never home so when he tries to leave she gets clingy. I get it, I’m the same way.

The big kicker in all of this is she is a totally different dog at home. She listens so much better and is an angel (most days). Last night Josh and I were putting clean sheets on the bed so we sent her to the crate and didn’t even have to close the door. She sat in there, waited until we were done, got into bed and then she came up when she was invited. I really wish she would act like this during classes. Oh well, she’s a work in progress.

-AB

Doggie Academia: Week 4 Recap – Making Progress

This week we came armed and ready with our hot dogs, clicker and an understanding that Mara’s attention span was minimal. As soon as we got in we got to our spot and started playing the basic games with her that we learned in previous weeks. She was nailing the name game, downs, sits, cookies in the corner, hand targets and all of the other things we learned. We were so excited! I was incredibly impressed that her focus and attention was much better this week. I am not sure if she was getting used to being at this new place and the smells were starting to become familiar, but I’ll take it. We were also down a dog in the class since they were referred to private training lessons. They were an elderly couple who had difficulties following the trainer’s directions and asked so many random questions they ate up all of the class time. It was actually really nice without them this week, as we seemed to have accomplished a lot more. They just needed more one on one attention so it was definitely best for everyone.

The one issue I did have this week was with the one lady who brings her young children. Usually her husband takes the youngest one and leaves at the start of class, but this time all four of them decided to stay. The older one, who is 7 years old, can sort of behave when it is just him and his mother. He fidgets a bit but isn’t disruptive. This time he has a partner in crime, who I would suspect to be about 5 years old, so they were climbing all over the chairs like a jungle gym, running to the bathroom every five minutes, talking while the instructor was trying to talk, running out onto the floor interfering with other dogs and just being pains in the asses. Of course we were right next to the bathroom so keeping Mara’s attention to start is a chore, but having a kid running by to the bathroom every five minutes made it more difficult. The point of her training is to learn to listen around big distractions such as this but the trainer said we need to minimize them in the beginning to give her the basic understanding of what he needs to do. Slowly adding in the distractions will be next steps. Given her issues focusing already, he said she has a lot of work to do before adding in anything else so having the kids disrupting us was getting tiresome. The new place and other dogs was more than enough for her to handle without them. Since this was also dad’s first week he kept walking their dog too close to Mara, into our space and the trainer kept having to make him move back. I could see the trainer was even getting irritated.

Despite the family being a nuisance, Mara was still doing really well. I am also really proud of Josh and how much he has also learned from all of this. The new exercises we learned this time were to help with impulse control. We would hold out a hand of treats and as soon as she stopped trying to take them out of our hand it would be a click and a treat. She actually did really well with this considering she likes to steal the ice cubes from my water on the end table as soon as I walk into the other room. Once she got the handle on the hand, we moved to leaving the treats on the floor. She did even better with that.

Once she started checking out the trainer brought her some water and told us to give her a break. Stop the commands. He compared an hour of training for a dog to a three hour advanced calculus class for a human. Eventually your brain is just fried and you check out. Dogs best learn when training for only a few minutes at a time and then breaking. The trainer said a good idea is to train during a commercial break while watching TV. This is especially true for Mara.  We worked a little more on the loose leash walking and she did much better than she did last week. She is better understanding what she needs to do. A couple of times during that she stopped to check in with the other dogs and inventory her surroundings, but otherwise she did really well. She is my little social butterfly so any chance to play she will take it.

We sat out the sit/stay exercises since we needed a long break, so she entertained the other dog parents by laying in our laps on her back getting belly rubs. She is such a spoiled little dog and a total cuddle bug. We love her to the moon and back.

Overall this was an extremely positive session and Mara rocked it. We celebrated with a doggie ice cream at home and some snuggles in bed. For the first time, I am actually looking forward to next class to see how much more progress she can make.

-AB

Doggie Academia: Week 3 Recap – My Dog Has ADD

Spring Forth Academy Trainer

Trainer Charles with Pippa and her human

I didn’t go into week three expecting much from Mara, and good thing because I wasn’t disappointed. Like last week she had a real tough time keeping focus. When we walk in all she seems to want to do is smell the mats. I get it, there’s a lot to smell. We were able pull her focus in and she would do a couple of the commands, then go back to sniffing. Once the other dogs started coming in though, that’s when we really lost her. She is just a total nosy-body and needs to see what everyone else is doing instead of doing what we tell her to do.

As the instructor assigned us new tricks and commands to try he could easily see us struggling with her. Each time he came over to us she would go bananas and jump all over him. Usually we swat her down and tell her no, but he said to try and ignore her instead. Reward the good and ignore the bad. It seemed to work pretty well, so at least we learned something useful this time.

Mara and Josh

Mara actually listening to Josh

We kept trying the different exercises with her but she would just stare across the room at the other dogs. If we were able to draw her attention back in she would just immediately get drawn away after one or two attempts. The last exercise of the night was to help train the dogs on loose leash walking. We were to have the dog by our side, talk a step and treat, take a step and treat. The trainer himself tried to do this with Mara and when she failed miserably he blamed our treats. Instead of the kibble we brought last week, this week we had soft blueberry treats and mozzarella cheese. We thought that was high value enough. The trainer told us it clearly wasn’t and said she needed higher value, like meat. He thought he would show us up and break out the hot dogs. Well, guess what? She made a fool of him. She could have cared less about the hot dogs. He still recommended more pungent treats for next week, like cheddar cheese and hot dogs. We shall try and see if it helps.

Mara and Josh

Mara not listening two seconds later

I’ve come to the conclusion that Mara just has a bad case of doggie ADD. We can’t hold her attention for more than one or two tricks before she checks out. I understand that the distractions in the room can be really bad at times but the other dogs seem to do pretty well for the most part. The trainer had us go back to square one and just play the name game. Call her name, she looks, she gets a treat. My dog is so bad that we are in week 2 of training and we were left back in week one. I know it may be a little too early to say this but I have come to terms with being a doggie obedience school failure. Josh would love for her to do better than Rosie, the show off Labradoodle, but he knows that won’t happen. No matter what, I still love her and we will try our best to work with her, but I understand she will probably never be the perfect, well trained dog I’ve always wanted.

-AB

Doggie Academia: Week 2 Recap – C’s Get Degrees

So after week one I thought Mara was going to easily be valedictorian. After week two I realized I am the proud doggie mama of a C student.

Mara didn’t do as well as Josh and I thought she would. We trained with her during the week with the clicker doing basic things and she seemed to be doing pretty well. I was excited to let her show off in class this week. We were first there so we picked our spot on the floor and immediately we realized she was going to be a handful. Once the first dog walked in that was it. Any chance of her paying attention went right out the window. Our other 3 classmates were a little late but once everyone was there Mara got worse. Her lack of attention was getting more and more aggravating as the class went on. Josh looked over at me and acknowledged that this was going to be a long class.

We went through a few different drills and she would do things a couple of times and then immediately stop to watch all of the other dogs. As soon as the trainer saw us struggling he would come over and she would do everything perfectly for him. Our aggravation grew. We did a name drill, hand targets, sit drill and lay down drill. The trainer said she wasn’t doing well because we were not giving her high value treats. We were using her kibble thinking they were the perfect size, plus at home she loves it. He explained that home had a lot less distractions so the less valuable treats would work. With more distractions she needed better treats. He gave us a few pieces of hotdog to try and she liked it, but still didn’t care too much. Next week we are going to try some soft blueberry treats and hopefully they will keep her attention better.

By the end of the class we were frustrated ad annoyed. Mara still just wanted to play with the other dogs. We left on a low but I am hoping next week with better treats we will do better. I got home, polished off the rest of my Moscato and broke out the Swedish Fish. Fortunately I have an amazing boyfriend and he made me a homemade calzone and a big bowl of ice cream for dessert.

I guess we will see how next week goes.

-AB

Doggie Academia: Week 1 Recap

Just got back from Week 1 of doggie manners class. Most of the things they talked about we knew, whether we were actually doing it or not, but there were a couple of things I learned.

All of the students in the class introduced themselves and talked about their dogs. We heard a lot of the same issues from other pet parents, so we all shared a few laughs and some “I’ve Been There” nods.

One of the things I learned is that there is no such thing as an “alpha dog.” The original study on which the theory was formed was built on a faulty premise that wolves live in randomly assembled packs. In actuality, the wolves live in nuclear families and, much like humans, the children naturally follow the mother and father. Based on that, dogs should not be training using dominance, but rather using positive reinforcement when they perform the desired behavior.

This class uses the clickers as a means to train. When a dog performs the requested behavior you click and immediately give the dog a treat. Josh and I practiced with Mara a little bit after class and she seems to respond pretty well and has picked up the routine pretty quickly.

I am excited for next week where we actually get to bring Mara.

-AB

Doggie Academia

So for those of you who don’t know me, my boyfriend and I have a sweet 8 month old puppy named Mara.

Mara German Shepherd Lab Mix

She is mommy’s little snuggle bug and daddy’s little hell raiser. She knows most of her basic commands, but can afford some more training beyond Josh and I’s expertise. I signed her up for doggie manners classes which starts tonight. They run weekly for 6 weeks, and by the end are promising a more well behaved pup.

I have grown up with dogs my whole life, but Josh has mostly grown up with cats. I’d like to think that the classes are actually for the two of them. Mara usually listens to me pretty well, but Josh…well…not so much. She will listen on occasion but prefers to see him as a squeaky toy. Since he likes to wrestle her and play rough she doesn’t quite see him as an authority figure. It is obvious that mommy is the alpha dog in the house (duh!) and daddy is optional to listen too unless he has treats. Her biggest issues are the playful nipping and jumping on people. She is a total mush and loves everyone, so aggression is never an issue, she just doesn’t know when enough is enough and that nipping and jumpping are not acceptable.

If you didn’t already know, I am the local coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a organization that helps our service members with their pets. I take Mara to a lot of events as a representative of DoD. She is usually always well behaved and enjoys the attention more than anything. She already receives a lot of compliments for how well behaved she is for such a young pup, but I would like her to be even better. Seeing as how I attend a lot of pet events I often find myself in the company of other dogs. This is where 90% of her obedience goes out the window and she no longer listens. He is very excited and just wants to play.

Tonight’s class will be an orientation for the pet owners, so humans only. Next week will be Mara’s first class. It should be pretty interesting to see how well she learns with all of the distractions of other dogs. I’ll be sure to post an update later on how it goes.

-AB