Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Off Leash Fun

I am a huge fan of dog parks.  Not because of the interaction my dogs can have with other dogs, but because it gives them a chance to really stretch their legs and run at full speeds.  We have a decent sized back yard, but it is too small for them to really get their motors going.  I'm not sure what we would have done if we didn't run our oldest dog (a border collie, golden retriever cross) off leash.  As a pup, she needed quite a bit of exercise (and still does) and leashed walks around the block just didn't cut it.

I know lots of people are afraid to let their dog off leash and usually their biggest concern is "What if they don't come back when called?"  My dogs do not come back to me EVERY single time I call them.  And they never will.  There will always be something in the world that is more exciting than me (hard to believe I know).  But they come back most of the time and when they do, I make sure I have something to reward them. Their reward can be a ball or treat or just a pat on the head.  How I reward them depends on the dog and the circumstances. If there are other dogs and people around, I tend to reward with yummy treats, but if I just called them to get them to stop sniffing and catch up, I tend to reward with praise, pets and play.

Lethbridge has three dog parks - Scenic Drive (near Martha's Retreat on the southside),  Peenaquim (near the shooting range and ball diamonds on the northside) and Popson (at the end of University Boulevard on the west side).  This is my take on the three different parks....

  1. Scenic Park - This tends to be the most popular park.  It has great views and lots of wildflowers in the summer.  There are lots of trails up and down the coulees.  Your dog (and you!) will definitely get a good workout at this park due to all the hills you'll end up climbing.  This park is quite close to the road so if you are unsure how well your dog is going to listen, I would highly recommend leashing your dog before you get to your vehicle just in case.  Also there is no access to water at this park so be sure to bring some water for you and your dog in the summer.

    Scenic did have some issues with coyotes there this past year.  I'm not sure of all the details (hard to sort out rumour from fact), but be sure to keep your eyes out for wildlife.

  2. Peenaquim Park - This is the second busiest park.  You park at the bottom of the hill so the entire dog park is down in the river valley (no need to hike up and down hills, although you can if you want). There is access to the River if your dog likes to swim and there is a big wide open space for your dog to stretch their legs.  If you stick to the main loop you'll be able to see your dog at all times as the area isn't as big as either Scenic or Popson.  The shooting range is near the park so if you have a sound sensitive dog, this may not be the ideal park as they will be able to hear gunshots.

  3. I would say Popson is the quietest of the dog parks.  As with Peenaquim, you park in the river bottom so you'll be walking on the flat.  There is access to the river, wide open spaces to run and hills to climb if that is what you'd like to do.

    Popson is the only dog park in town that rattlesnakes are found in so be very cautious in the summer.  I've seen a few over the years and every year I get more paranoid and tend to walk elsewhere during the heat of the day to avoid a potential conflict with a snake.

Generally, the dogs at the dog park are well socialized dogs, so if your dog ignores you yelling "Come!" to go visit with a dog, it isn't the end of the world.  That being said, there is ALWAYS a risk of a dog fight. When I see a dog up ahead, I try and keep calling my girls back to me (and I reward them heavily for doing so) until we are close enough to the other dog that I know that I can get in the middle of things quickly if I need to.  It would be a great idea to learn about dog body language too so you can know when you can relax and when you want to be on your toes. In the 6 years I've been going to the dog park, I have had very, very few issues.

Drawing by Lili Chin of
So how do you work up the courage to take your dog off leash?  There are a few things you can do to make your first off leash walk a little less stressful.

  1. Go with other "experienced" people and their dogs.  The dogs will generally stick together so when your friends' dogs come running back, your dog will follow.  
  2. Attach a long line to your dog.  You don't need to be holding on to the end of it, but they can drag it along behind them so you just need to get within 10 feet of your dog to "catch" them.  This works great for those dogs that tend to dart away from you at the last minute.
  3. Pick a day and time when the park won't be very busy - during regular work hours, early in the morning or during horrible weather are usually the quietest times.  Going out in bad weather isn't as fun for me, but the dogs don't mind and I don't need to worry about encountering a lot of people or dogs.

Lola is wearing a long line as a precaution.  I just need to get within 30 feet of her in order to catch her.
If you haven't tried off leash walks but have a high energy dog, you will be amazed at the difference one can make and giving your dog lots of exercise can go a long way in helping behavior problems.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Look deep into Gus' eyes and he'll have you under his spell in no time!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Summer Employment

We are looking to hire someone part time for the summer!

We can guarantee whoever gets the job will have fun, get dirty, get bruised, laugh a lot, have to pick up endless piles of poop and mop up vomit, get lots of doggy kisses, and have Chewy riding around on their shoulders to just name a few things.

Even picking up poop can be fun apparently
If you know of someone with experience with dogs, who also wants a part time summer job, please send them to our website and get them to apply!


Sully was pretty hard to spot out in the snow last week. Good thing he was wearing the red and blue collar!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Slowing Us Down

The end of day is a busy time for us.  One of us is busy cleaning while the other one is taking dogs out to their owners.  By the time we start cleaning the dogs have had a good play and are starting to settle down for the most part.  Most of them find a quiet spot to curl up in and wait for their parents, others follow Jo around while she cleans and some give us "Pick me up and cuddle please" looks. They are tired and want to sleep, but they want to sleep on our laps or in our arms.

Lemmy is a master of the look.
Krank and Lemmy have mastered the look.

Krank knows how to turn on the charm.
We weren't getting much done between snuggles and kisses with these two around! We were butter in their paws. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Juno is always up for a game of Frisbee!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Snow Faces





Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oozing Cuteness

Well the weather may not be acting like it is Spring but all the puppies at work are reminding us that spring is here.

Darby is an adorable little beagle baby.  If you've been a long time follower of the blog, you'll know that I'm a sucker for beagles.

But really, can you blame me?

Just look at her!  She just oozes cuteness.

PS - These were taken last week back when we had wind, and not snow.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Play Seminar

We thought some of you might be interested in an upcoming seminar on using play to help train your dog.  It hosted by the Lethbridge and District Kennel Club but is open to mixed breeds as well as purebreds.  You can find more information on the poster below!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hidden Treasures

Jo discovered this Zisc when the snow began to melt.  The dogs have been thrilled with her discovery.

Chinga and Keely start a game of tug.
Krank gets in on the game
Krank and Keely are not willing to give in.
Charlie comes in to try and break the tie.

Charlie broke the tie but the game didn't end and it was Chinga who hopped in to test her strength against Krank.

Now we are back to the three of them with Jemma in the background trying to figure out how to get involved.

Krank is actually standing under Keely (or it might be Jemma) and is still unwilling to let go.
Charlie once again steps in to make it two against one.
But Krank was determined and eventually made off with the prize!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St.Patricks Day. :)

We had some fun this morning!
Not everyone wanted to wear the silly hat- even with the promise of Fame and Fortune (or a cookie..)

Windy Enough?

Rocky and Sawyer don't seem to mind the wind.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Taking Better Photos

Now that the price of Digital SLR cameras are becoming quite reasonable, I know a lot of you out there have one.  And is there anything better out there to photograph than your pet? Alright, maybe your kids, but your pet has to be a close second at the very least.

I created a slideshow last week for the Lethbridge Photography Club's Photofusion event.  I don't think I really realized just how different my photography style is from people who do more traditional photography (landscapes, travel photography, etc.) until that night.  I was surprised by the questions that I received from some pretty seasoned photographers.

So while I'm hardly an expert, I thought some of you might benefit from hearing what I do.  As far as I am concerned there is no right or wrong way, just different ways.

While my advice isn't necessarily catered to those with a digital SLR camera, I find "point and shoot" cameras don't capture action very well (and that is what I am usually trying to capture) due to their lag time and slower focusing speeds.

Tip 1: Get down on the ground.  While I take the occasional photo from a standing position, most of the time I am sitting or laying on the ground.  If you are taking the photo from the dog's level you will be more likely to capture them looking directly at the camera while still keeping their head at a natural angle.  This winter I went out and bought snow pants so that I could still comfortably sit on the ground.  They were the best purchase I made all year!

Tip 2: Get nice and close.  If what you are trying to capture is the dog's expression then make sure you zoom in or get nice and close to the dog.  If you aren't interested in the surroundings, don't include them in the photo. The more the dog fills the frame, the more details you'll be able to make out.

Tip 3: Try different angles.  Try putting the camera under the dog, behind the dog, over the dog, to the side of the dog.  Don't be afraid to try something new or different.  Some times you'll be surprised at what you'll get. If it doesn't work, oh well, it didn't cost you anything other than a little time.

If getting the camera under the dog sounds uncomfortable and a little impossible, just remember you don't actually have to be looking through the view finder to take the photo.  Digital photos are free.  You can take as many as you want.  I often point the camera in the general direction of what I want and hope for the best.  Some times I get nothing useful, other times I get something magical.  Some of my favourite photos were taken without looking through the viewfinder.

Tip 4: Take LOTS of photos.  As I mentioned above, take lots of photos.  I keep my camera on burst mode all the time.  When you are trying to take a picture of your dog running, there are lots of variables that can make it attractive or unattractive - what part of their stride are they in, are their eyes open or closed, are their ears going in wild and crazy directions (sometimes a good thing, sometimes not!).  And most importantly is the photo in focus.  Sometimes you camera or lens can't always focus fast enough to keep up with your speedy dog so you are really taking a chance if you only take one photo that all the variables will be perfect.

If you are trying to get a picture of your dog catching a toy mid air, you might need to try more than once or twice.  Here it helps to have a fetch obsessed dog that doesn't mind repeating their performance 5, 10, or even a 100 times so that you can get it just right.

Tip 5: Be aware of your surroundings.  I hate taking photographs in my backyard.  The clutter of the rain barrel, the deck and the ugly fence drive me crazy.  It doesn't help that I don't have beautiful landscaping, if I did, it would be a different story.  So if you don't have beautiful surroundings in your backyard, go somewhere else.  The wonderful thing about the prairies is that there is no clutter in your backgrounds - you can just focus on your subjects.

Tip 6: Don't be afraid to crop off part of your dog.  Your photos don't need to include every inch of your dog to be "right".  Don't worry about zooming in so tight you cut off part of their feet, or their tail.  Sometimes it is more interesting to just focus on part of them.

Tip 7: Focus on their eyes.  If nothing else is in focus other than their eyes, you can still have a beautiful image, but if their eyes are out of focus, the photo looks weird.  Don't ask why, I don't know.

Tip 8: Practice, practice, practice.  The more you practice and try things the more often you get "aha" moments.  Once you get something that you like, try and figure out what you did to get it again.  That is when the learning really happens.

I can't take a decent landscape photo to save my life and that is because I never practice doing it!  So to start, I'd suggest you pick a subject you are passionate about (whether that be your pets, your kids, beautiful landscapes, wildlife or the local architecture) and focus your efforts on that.  Once you've mastered that subject and want to branch out, go for it. It will be a lot easier to learn just one skill set at a time. Trust me, they are all very different.  And besides, all different types of photography require different types of equipment and if you are on any kind of budget you aren't going to want to be buying everything you need at once.

Tip 9: Take a course.  I took a few courses from a local photographer - Henriette Plas and it literally changed my photography overnight.  When you understand how your camera works, you can better figure out how to get what you want.  I'm sure there are other photographers that offer good courses, but I know for sure Henriette does!

Tip 10:  Know your subject.  The more you know your subject, the more you'll be able to capture them acting naturally.

Tip 11: Have Fun!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Perfect Model

I just asked Alyera to jump up in the chair and she instantly laid down and struck a pose!

Monday, March 14, 2011

All the Angles

A few weeks back I took these pictures of Cooper.  I think it was near the end of the week and it was definitely near the end of the day. No matter how close I got or what I did, he just laid there with his head nicely supported in the castle - too tired to move.  And that is Bailey the beagle catching a few Z's beside him too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Charlie quite enjoys playing tug.

Don't let his small size fool you.  He is pretty tough!

He was not going to let go if he could help it.

The Bumi from West Paw Design is many of the dogs' favourite toy, hence the chewed off ends.  But it is still doing strong!