Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tales to Wag About has moved

The blog has moved!
It made more sense to have the blog integrated with Wags' website, rather than blog and website in different locations - so please find the new blog here
Hope to see you there! I've just updated the blog with images from this photo shoot...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Made it to the Top Ten

Every week, Hair of the Dog Blog (a blog for pet photographers) posts a new weekly facebook photo competition. I have been following along for a while, never submitting an image yet - until last week when the theme was "black and white". 

You're allowed to post two images and in my mind, I had narrowed down the two shots I wanted to submit pretty quickly. 

The first image here is the one that made the Top Ten, and I am totally thrilled! 

I like this image personally for a lot of reasons - but maybe mostly because it speaks so strongly to everything I really believe in and work for. The process of training, the by-product of training, the effort and time spent connecting and creating a bond with your dog, Investing into Becoming Their Best Friend, and then having some of those little moments captured as permanent images to treasure. 

That connection and Friendship is a Gift. Never something to be taken for granted, but a true gift when it is present.

There is no prize money or fancy ribbons or awards, but what a great way to spread awareness and get to showcase your work beyond your own readership.

I'm very Grateful for this opportunity to have an image published on a well-read blog; what a great feeling to start off the week with!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finding and bringing: so many uses for these great skills

Just a little while back, I wrote a blog piece with some ideas on how you can make your dog useful in and around the house. Over the last few months, my three children have been on a roll of getting our dogs to help in different ways. It's truly been a fun and joyous journey of many new and fresh ideas and the kids' creativity is very inspiring! They always seem to come up with new ideas about what the dogs might be able to carry and deliver and how, and to whom.

It's very simple stuff, it's not difficult to develop once you have the basis for play and retrieving - but that's really where it needs to start: with a dog who feels safe and good about picking things up. Sometimes we mess this part up right at the beginning with a puppy - being so very concerned about "how do I teach my puppy not to chew on shoes? and how do I teach my puppy what "NO" means? as in: "don't touch - that's mine!" 

Maybe that's the wrong question to ask.

Maybe the question to ask would be something like: "How do I manage my shoes and my valued items; how do I keep them safely away from my puppy so that I can create an environment where Everything my puppy picks up is OK to pick up, because I want to ENCOURAGE a lot of picking up, carrying and bringing to me?"

Sometimes it's just the question that needs a bit of tweaking. 

So, we've played around a lot with getting the dogs to carry this, that and the other. The kids specialize in sending little surprises with the dogs. Today when I hear someone happily encourage "Take this to mommy!" I simply cannot predict what will arrive at my feet..It's amazing how many things they have discovered that can be sent back and forth between family members using a dog's happy cooperation?!

Another thing, besides retrieve that I have played around with a ton over the last 12 months or more, in both private one-on-one training sessions, as well as in classes and at home - is working on Find it! - games...different ways to challenge the dog's amazing scenting ability.
This concept will be taken further in this fall's classes as I continue to see how much joy it brings both handlers and dogs to play and master these games. 

The process is very simple to start with food, and then we can quite quickly go from food, to a toy or really almost any other object...and then the sky's the limit! This summer, after the CSI Course that Wags unlimited hosted, we've played around a bit with cadaver scent - but you can work with any scent that tickles your fancy! Vanilla, Anise, Wintergreen, Pine...the difference is ultimately only in what you'd like to use the Nose Work for.

Dogs are used in law enforcement, at border crossings, for detection work, to locate missing items and people. We've read and heard about hotels hiring dogs to sniff out bed bugs! They can be used to detect disease and cancer. They find drugs, they find weapons. They find tennis balls :-) The list goes on and on - it seems we've only barely started to scratch the surface of how to use our dog's noses! It's fascinating and fun. It's actually quite easy to teach and get going. But best of all , I think: is the PURE JOY I see in dog's and people's faces when the teams "get it". Dogs are straining at their leashes to get going on the scent work! People are smiling - feeling GREAT about their brilliant dogs.

I think it just can't get much better than that - it's yet another way of really connecting people with their dogs - and to me, that's what the training process is really all about. Exploring and mastering things beyond "the sits and the downs" that we can share as a truly enjoyable activity - and making it somehow matter in everyday life.

How about going the next step from Nose Work to finding and retrieving some valuable item of yours? or What if your dear friend lost her keys or ring in the grass? Wouldn't it be amazingly cool to be able to feel confident and say "My dog will find those!"

That's the goal and intent for our Nose Work and Fun Games classes this fall and winter. We will develop both of those skills (finding and separately also picking up) and start to look for ways to really make our dogs useful around the house! I hope you'll join on this fun journey.

The fall class schedule is being created as we speak and should be up shortly. A newsletter will be sent out with all the details very soon. If you aren't a subscriber (yet) - you can change that by going to this link to add yourself!

The photos that accompany this post are from one of our Drop-in classes this summer where we snuck in some fun Scent Games. I was happy to have at least my phone with me to be able to snap a few momentos of this Amazingly Fun activity! The dogs here had only tried these games once or twice but all showed great enthusiasm for these fun opportunities to use their noses.

You can see it: they're all intent on the boxes: There's something there somewhere in one of them. Where is it? I'm gonna Find it!

It's simple, will be very useful and So much Fun - so let's do it! Let's work on some Scent Games this fall and winter?!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Piper the Standard Poodle

The email started with "Annette - you don't have a black Standard Poodle in your portfolio!"

The rest is now history as I'm happy to say I'll be uploading some black Standard Poodle images to my web gallery today as well as sharing a small collection here. 

Meet Piper - a 6 year old Gorgeous and Lovely girl. 

It's always fun to photograph dogs - but add to that: it's really fun to photograph dogs that I've met/ had as students or otherwise somehow gotten to know.

With this girl - Our paths have crossed multiple times at trials as Piper and my boy Maggio seemed to be training and trialling through the same levels of Obedience and Rally'O for quite some time. While Maggio and myself had to put trialling on the backburner because of lameless and issues with his body for a while - Piper continued along her obedience journey and has now put many more additional titles behind her name.

What a treat to photograph such a well trained dog - and one of the most well-kept and well groomed poodles I've ever met. She always looks stunning!
Thanks Catherine for coming out - how fun to see you and her again!

We started with some shots in the studio and then did a few shots outdoors. It had rained overnight and the grass, bushes and ground were soaked and still dripping of water. The final shot (at the very bottom here) tells a subtle tale of dog hair in contact with moisture.

The wet grass made for a very cool and artistic out-of-focus backdrop as all the water drops and moisture on leaves and grass sparkled like little sequins in the morning sun. It was really quite delightful, despite getting shoes, pants and dog completely soaked :-)

So; Hope you Enjoy - a few more shots of Piper...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Making use of the dogs ability to Help around the house :-)

Both Maggio and Pinot are wickedly amazing retrievers. As far as Maggio goes - a Flat Coated Retriever from working lines: he came to us that way. There has never been a day of needing to "teach him" to retrieve. More so, with him: it was a matter of putting some impulse control around retrieving and quite quickly starting to use it as a "reward" for performing other behaviours first..
But with Pinot, like with many of my students' dogs, it was a different story. It was a long journey to develop play. There were days of feeling quite desperate and frustrated - wondering if I would have to resort to simply just using food in training because play didn't seem to rank very high for her. 

Thankfully, I wasn't about to give up and also had great help from people like my dear trainer friend Catherine Thomas and with her very experienced set of eyes, she was able to give us some very helpful advise early on - and a long journey of many months of "just playing" paid off. 
The end result is beautiful and Pinot is as keen to retrieve as her brother "bird dog" - and along the way, I learned many great lessons.

On a recent camping trip that I wrote about before, the kids got incredibly creative with how to use the dogs' retrieving skills many times per day. What a blast it was! We have continued the trend since returning home, and it's amazing how useful it is to have a retrieving dog.

How do you use your dogs retrieving ability around the house?

Well...for starters...we always seem to run out of toilet paper in one bathroom or another. Have you ever thought to get the dog to bring up a roll of toilet paper when you're sitting on the toilet, realizing there's no more paper on the roll nor in that bathroom cupboard?

What about getting the dog to bring a rolled up plastic bag when you need to empty out a garbage can but have no baggie to empty into?

And of course letters and mail need to be delivered to the right addressee after bringing home the mail. AND then there's the daily newspaper that gets thrown on our front porch. It needs to be brought to whoever is awake and having their morning coffee.

How about using the dog to send a note to one of the kids with a message "Dinner is ready!!"
...and being prepared that the note will moments later be returned by the dog with a new message that says "Thanks - I'll be there in a few minutes - please send up a roll of toilet paper!"

OR while camping - the thing that started it all: getting the dogs to carry the firewood from the van to the fire-pit when ready to get our evening fire going - one piece of wood at a time...

Here are some photos of what happened. What a riot - and WHAT great use of the dogs!
They felt so important, too - as can definitely be seen in some of the photos. There was some debate over who would get to carry the newspapers for starting the fire, too...although quite quickly resolved. Enjoy!


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Help the Handler, Help the Dog

We have decided to extend the Early Bird deadline for Suzanne Clothier's upcoming November seminar!

This is one you won;t want to miss. With topics covering a wide range; there's bound to be a specific gem in here for everyone!
Not to worry: even if you've been away for vacation at the old cottage and missed the Early Bird --- not to worry: it's been extended! You have all of August to get your registration in -- WITH Early Bird Fees! 

The seminar will run over the whole Remembrance Day weekend: November 9-11, 2013 and will be held at Sit Happens! Companion Dog Training in Calgary, AB. 

So, what will Suzanne cover in November?

Starting with The Elemental Questions (TM)

...if you attended her seminar in Calgary just months ago in April, you know what profound meaning one of the questions bear; asking the dog: "How is this for you?" Well, this time, she'll delve even further as she will continue and teach us more of these, six in total, Elemental Questions.

Help the Handler, Help the Dog 

will do a dive into how handlers help or hinder dogs with body language, posture, breathing, muscle tension, expression, stance and use of space. I know I personally hear many people know and comment on the fact that "it's not the dog that needs to be trained - it's me!" - well, here is an amazing opportunity to learn about how you, as a person may be able to sharpen up your communication by understanding how you influence your dog with your body and your being.

You had me at Sniff is a whole day on the very hot topic of dog-to-dog interactions. 

When putting two or more dogs together: are we being too cautious? Too careless? Do we just "let them work it out"? or try to orchestrate pleasant encounters? What is play and what is not play? How do you recognize a suitable playmate? etc etc...

Herder, Helper, Hunter, Hugger

promises to be a Very Fascinating seminar-topic, dissecting the different myths and realities about different breeds, and breed specific behaviours and preferences that have been affected by human selection in our dogs. Guarding and territorial behaviour, low dog-dog aggression breeds, toy breeds, understanding the working dog, controlling space: the herding breeds, why and why not? the "hard to train" dogs...

The Relationship Puzzle: Cooperation, Conflict and Compatibility

"Relationship" is a popular concept these days, but what does it really mean? How do you know if there is a match or a mis-match? Can you recognize the patterns of interaction that tell the tale? How do you identify the foundation issues that may be underlying conflict and training problems? 

So: to wrap up: You can sign up with Early Bird Rates all the way through the month of August. Please help and share the word about this seminar. Suzanne Clothier is an AMAZING teacher and we truly believe each and every person learning from her will benefit the dog world as a whole. 

Registration info is available here.
Please take note of Scholarships available: if you know of a dog enthusiast TEENAGER - get them in touch with Annette to find out requirements to apply. 
Also available: SAR/ Search and Rescue dog- scholarships.

Wags has hosted Suzanne twice in past - What have past participants said about Suzanne? 

"Loved it all!! Especially impressed with pacing: Powerpoint, dog examples, questions, interactive…using leashes together. Nice variety. Suzanne is amazingly informative, knowledgeable, entertaining and made the information clear!"

"My favourite part of the whole weekend was "How is this for you?" Dogs don't lie!"

"The Information overall was Fantastic. Very helpful organizers and staff."

"Favourite part was the Observation Skills taught: Learning to ask the Questions, and to listen to the dog's answers!"

"Suzanne is incredible knowledgeable. And she's got a great way to share her information - great analogies and humour - and great patience :-)"

Finally - check out Sit Happens! - our venue as well as Mungo's Books - our favourite source for dog books .Mungo's will again be present and looking after everyone's shopping needs and desires before start each day and during breaks and lunches.

Please just ask/ email or comment below if you have questions. Hope to hear from you and see you in November!!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Who do you see in the mirror?

Have to share one more image right now from the modeling shoot I did just the other week. 

This is such a sweet little conversation, a fleeting moment in time: a dog and a person mirroring each other in beautiful symmetry - a photo impossible to "stage" - only possible to capture.