Einstein Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Tonk!

It’s time for me to be honest, friends. I have a problem. It started out innocently enough, but it is something that has been worsening over the past 5+ years, and I can’t seem to get it under control. It has become an obsession of inappropriate proportions. When I’m not in close proximity to it, I talk about it, and when I’m not talking about it, I’m thinking about it. It can be incredibly embarrassing, and is interfering with some of my relationships. Most of you probably know what I’m talking about…

I’m obsessed with my dog.

Seriously though. I think Tonka is the bomb-dot-com, and I’m not afraid to let everyone know all the reasons why! Forget the ‘My child is an honors student’ bumper stickers… my dog is WAY smarter than your honors student! But whereas my bragging has always been very much subjective (or so I’m told…) I have finally found a verified tactic to support all of my obnoxious claims: that’s where Dognition comes in!

Dognition is a website designed by specialized canine scientists to evaluate your dog’s personality and intelligence. By putting your pup through his paces in the form of interactive games, Dognition intends to give you further insight into the intricacies of your dog’s preferences and learning style. More than that, the results of these games can be graphically compared to other Dognition dogs, as a whole or based on specifics such as gender, breed, or size. Dognition claims that this is a fun way to learn more about your pet while increasing your bond and relationship. Even more importantly, they believe what sets them apart is their example of ‘citizen science’ – their research can be conducted by everyone, not just people with Ph.D.s! This allows collaboration with dogs and owners all around the world, achieving a much quicker, broader (not to mention more natural and humane) understanding about dogs than what researchers would be able to do on their own.

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Of course, I couldn’t wait to get started with Tonka… After inputting his various physical statistics, as well as uploading a picture, we were ready to get started with their basic survey. This included questions about Tonka’s typical behavior and preferences. Some of the questions were pretty straightforward and logical as to their purpose (Does your dog typically get along with other dogs?) whereas others were a little more curious (Does your dog typically tangle his leash on your walks?) I was expecting that the completion of this survey would result in an initial baseline evaluation, but it did not.

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Nevertheless, the next step was to begin the series of games! They were broken up into 5 categories with various time estimates: Empathy, Communication, Cunning, Memory, and Reasoning.

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Each section suggested using a quiet room, free from distractions and other pets, as well as treats and a (human) partner. While it was fun to complete this with J, I would say that for a dog as perfect as Tonka (I told you, addiction is a disease. I can’t help it!) it probably isn’t necessary to have extra help. Some of the games also required miscellaneous household items, such as cups or sticky notes.

We only had time to complete the first three sections, and we had mixed reviews. It was fun to give Tonka some dedicated focus, and I can guarantee that he relished the one-on-one time. It was also nice to be able to see just how awesome he is (there I go again)… but seriously, I think any dog owner would be proud while watching their pup navigate their way through the games. The results seem to attempt to put a positive spin on any behavior, in order to help owners see the best in their pups.

My only frustration mostly resulted in the fact that there really wasn’t much feedback after each section was completed. While it was nice to see what Tonka’s results were, there wasn’t much explanation as to how the statistical data we reported resulted in their evaluations or why they came to those conclusions. The first two sections were very straight forward: for Empathy, Tonka scored high on the side of bonded, as opposed to individualistic, and for Communication, he scored high on the side of collaborative as opposed to self-reliant.

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Then we came to the Cunning portion. Essentially, the dogs were required, through a various set of circumstances, to stay in a sit while in the presence of a tasty treat. They were NOT to take the treat, even when we looked away or turned our backs or did a number of other designated behaviors, until they were given a release. Tonka, of course (guys, I seriously can’t control it) aced it every time… not ONCE did he go for the treat without my consent. However, even after I input this information, they told me that on a scale from trustworthy to wily, he scored directly in the middle. I still can’t figure out how with his perfect score, they came to that conclusion! I trust him more than I trust my husband KIDDING… but seriously.

My few concerns were answered willingly and warmly by a Dognition representative. She acknowledged that the team at Dognition works daily to make improvements as they receive new feedback from satisfied and interested customers. One of the things at the top of their priority list is just what I mentioned: giving additional feedback following each section of the assessment. If Dognition is this awesome as a start-up, just imagine what it will become as it grows and develops in the future!

This was a fun way to spend an evening with two of my favorite guys, and I think that Dognition is on to something great. One of my favorite things about Dognition as a company are their philanthropic efforts toward shelter animals. The Dognition Shelter Program aims to spotlight dogs who may be more commonly overlooked, perhaps due to special restrictions or other ‘less-desirable’ qualities. By quantitatively evaluating and recognizing these dogs for their other unique and appealing traits, the DSP has demonstrated incredible success in finding homes for them. What a great way to give the dogs some fun attention and enrichment, while providing an individualized resume for prospective adopters!

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Dognition has various options of enrollment, including a one-time fee ($19), monthly charges, or a yearly membership. If you are interested (and who wouldn’t be?!) Dognition has generously offered our readers 25% off of the yearly membership. All you have to do is enter this code: Tonka20

Let me know what you think! Have you tried, or even heard of Dognition before? If so, where do your dogs stand against the rest of the pack?

Game Face

If this name sounds familiar, it might be because you took part in our giveaway at the beginning of this year. We featured some amazing SquishyFace Studio products, and talked a little bit about some of the reasons that this company and its founders are so near and dear to our hearts.

Unfortunately, until now we were not able to add any of their toys to the toy-treasure-chest in our home, and I had placed them on the dogs’ Christmas Lists as something we may be able to order at the end of this year. However, luck was smiling down on me because I happened to win an awesome giveaway from SquishyFace just a few weeks ago! I wasted little time and used the generous gift certificate to order a toy bundle, which contains a flirt pole and super tug.

Photo courtesy of SquishyFace Studio

Photo courtesy of SquishyFace Studio

We have our mail delivered to the local post office, and when J. picked up our mail, he said that our friend who works behind the counter was very curious as to what was inside this package. I’m not really sure that I want to know what her guesses may have been!

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As you can see, the dogs were equally as inquisitive. How is it that our dogs always seem to know when something is designated for them?!

DSC_0070 DSC_0071 DSC_0073This is when the fun really began. I have to be honest and say that one reason I’m such a fan of SquishyFace toys, is because TONKA seemed to be enthralled by them. Of course, both girls loved them as well, but they love anything that we get them excited about. Tonka loves to play, but is also the most mature of our group, so he sometimes doesn’t get as worked up for things. However, he could not have been more pumped about these toys. He would. not. stop. playing with them, and even after I put them away, my always-obedient boy climbed up on the counter to get them down. He then slunk over to me, toy in his mouth, with a tiny wag of his tail, like ‘I know I’m not supposed to do that, but can we please keep playing?’ If you can resist his ways, you are a meaner stronger person than I!

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I think I will just let most of the pictures speak for themselves. Except to say, you should really, really add some of these toys to your home! We just love how they not only work your pup’s mind & body, but they also encourage owners to get out and play with their pets, instead of just watching from the sidelines.

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Life is a Highway

You guys. Have you ever known me to be speechless? I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I’m seriously close. Some of you may remember (smarties!) that I am currently in the scenic, rolling hills of New York attending the Animal Farm Foundation Language and Advocacy Internship! The trip has only just begun, and it is already vastly exceeding my lofty expectations. I’m seriously in my own version of heaven. My schedule is jam-packed with amazing dog-related seminars, lectures, and activities the next few days, and I promise I am collecting lots of information and photos to share with all of you! That is, if I ever decide to return (that is to be determined… if someone could deliver my dogs to me, there might not be any question! Oh, and that ol’ ball & chain of mine, too! I kid, I kid.) The scenery on my way here was so drop dead gorgeous that I almost teared up at the good fortune and serendipity that has led me to such an amazing opportunity. I am so blessed.

Ok sorry but this one upload took 10 minutes... so you'll have to wait in anticipation for the rest upon my return!

Ok sorry but this one upload took 10 minutes… so you’ll have to wait in anticipation for the rest upon my return!

(Please note, I risked my life on the side of back roads and blind turns to obtain these pictures for my loyal readers. You’re welcome.)

On my travels, I was able to stop in and visit some of the amazing women behind our rescue, LCPO (soon to undergo a name change). Those of you out there that are geography wizards might have picked up on the fact that we are located about 4 hours from the rescue with which we volunteer. The whole story behind that is one for another day, but because of that, I don’t often get to interact with the other leaders face-to-face as often as I’d like. I took this trip as an opportunity to do just that! Some of you may know that our rescue recently pulled a mom and 8 pups from a shelter in the south, and so I couldn’t resist stopping in to do some puppy snuggling!

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Baby Marshmellow!

Baby Marshmellow!

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I may not have time to squeeze in a post tomorrow, but please know that while I will of course have lots to share with you from this exciting trip, we also have a busy weekend jam packed with some fun dog adventures. We will be crossing some things off of our Summer Dog Bowl List! So next week will be full of fun posts and awesome pictures. Be sure to check in with us!

Safety First

We feel right in tune with our friends at Doggerel, because they wrote a great post last week that has been on our minds for a while. We want to know… how did you train your dogs to have a solid recall? Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us? And what do you think contributes to a dog having a really solid or easy acquired recall?

Tonka has the most consistent recall of our group, and was also the easiest to train. He is a dog that doesn’t need much in the way of treats during a training session… he is happiest and most focused when his reward is just attention and praise. He is the dog that can be in hot pursuit of a rabbit, and still turn on a dime to come running if he hears his name being called. On top of that, he’d really rather never be out of sight range from his mama, so I never have to worry about our boy. Have I mentioned lately just how awesome he is? If not, let me remind you… we shared a photo last week of a water excursion.

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What we did not share was that we encountered a black snake in the water! Never in my 23 years of existence has this happened. Not only that, but it happened again this past weekend on our own farm! Both times, Tonka was within a few feet of the snake. Scary, right? Thanks to his strong recall, we were able to call him quickly to safety.

What scares me, is if it had been either of the other girls, the results may not have been so positive. I’m not sure if it’s because they were added to the pack later on (both later in their lives, and later as far as our multi-dog pack), or if it is because they are females, but they just really can’t seem to get the recall thing down. It doesn’t matter what treats we use, how excited we pretend to be, or how often we work on it… recall just isn’t their thing, even if they are both food-motivated! We feel like we have tried it all (the games, the treats, the works!) While Gaige is the more consistent of the two, sometimes her disobedience is just that… a nah-nah-na-booboo sass that she doesn’t wanna listen! As for Georgia, there’s no attitude, but I swear some days it’s like the girl just doesn’t hear us!  IMG_1459 IMG_1460 IMG_1461 IMG_1462 IMG_1463

So we wanna know… do you have a Top Secret training tip or idea that we could try? Maybe something that isn’t the run of the mill sit-stay-come-treat? We have faith in our readers! While we are responsible owners that leash our dogs when out in public or on public trails, we’d rather our girls not be relegated to on-leash living for the rest of their lives, or worse yet, experience a safety issue while roaming free. Because of that, we are open to any and all advice!

Two Dogs, One Bone… or something like that

Like any good dog-owning household, we have been long time proponents of durable chew toy options including bully sticks and antlers. However, as much as we wanted to maintain these toys in our weekly rotation, we just couldn’t get around the high prices at which most of these toys are offered.

You may remember our post last week, where we wrote about the outdoor festival we attended while visiting family in Virginia. Dogs and their owners were one of the most common customers at this event, and so it should come as no surprise that there were a hand full of canine-centered vendors in attendance. The most notable of these was a booth for Best Bully Sticks.

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At the Dominion Riverrock event

When we walked up to the booth, we were greeted by friendly and knowledgeable dog lovers, standing behind deep buckets full of every array of natural, safe, and durable dog treat, toy, and chew that you could imagine! We made our selections (three EXTRA LARGE elk antlers, a giant braided bully stick, a kangaroo tendon, and a stuffed gullet, as well as a few small all-natural dog treats) and were astounded when they told us the price… $36! We have seen elk antlers of similar size go for $20 EACH, so we were so pleased to receive so much value for our money.

Frog legs... the go-to pose in our home for optimal elk antler destruction.

Frog legs… the go-to pose in our home for optimal elk antler destruction.

The dogs were so pleased with our selections, and we were so happy with the minimal effect on our wallets, that we went back the next day for more!

This is about the best view we can get of the antlers, as the dogs hate to give them up!

This is about the best view we can get of the antlers, as the dogs hate to give them up!

"You're not gonna tryen take this, right?"

“Yur not gonna tryen take this, wight?”

The more time I spend researching the company, the more pleased I am, and the more I want to support what they do. They take every effort to make sure that their products are going to earn and retain your loyalty… by only selling the kinds of items that they would happily offer to their own pets! They set themselves apart from the competition by pledging that their products are never chemically-treated, and therefore remain genuinely all-natural… they are even FDA/USDA approved. They also take their reputation a step further by offering financial support to a variety of animal charities.

Shown at about half its original size... the coveted elk antler

Shown at about half its original size… the coveted elk antler

Check out Best Bully Sticks on their website, where your order is eligible for a 5% discount if you like their facebook page. You and your pups will both be glad that you did!

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I received no compensation for this post, and wrote it of my own volition as a happy BBS customer!

 

Let’s Play a Game…

It’s called; What’s in My Hand?

It’s no secret that being a pet photographer (like, a legitimate one. Not like what we try to do on here!) is no easy task. You can’t exactly just request that the animal look patiently into the camera with devotion! That’s why most of us who have a passion for pets and an interest in photography, have to have some tricks up our sleeves. We learn what elicits adorable expression from our pets, and we use it to our advantage!

We’ve talked on here a bit about what our dogs Favorite Things are. Our most devoted readers might know that each of our dogs is MOST motivated by a specific type of item, which is different for each of them!

So, in this series of pictures, we want you to guess, based on the pups’ expressions, what is in the hand of the photographer! (That would be me) Items used include food, toys, or just plain, old-fashioned attention.

There might be something special in it for you 😉 Bonus points if you can tell the black dogs apart!

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Hey, Get Outta My Way!

From a reader: “I would like some suggestions with our having a dog that herds me down the hall or is always right under my feet. I am always telling her , “I can’t walk when you are walking on my shoes”. Thanks!”

This is a great topic! I think it is so important for our dogs to respect our space, as much for their safety as for our own! Remember, we want to approach issues with our pups by asking “What behavior do I want to see?” as opposed to “How do I make him stop doing this?” There are two commands that I think work really well for these types of issues.

Go Lay Down

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This is a cue that we use any time our dogs are under feet or being little pests (who, them? never!) and also if they are begging. It works especially well when I am cooking or cleaning, and need to do something without the dogs ‘helping’ me every step of the way. We have dog beds in many of the rooms they frequent (our bedroom, the living room, and the basement). We began by simply rewarding the pups with treats and praise anytime they chose to lay on their beds themselves. “Good lay down!” Then, we would start at short distances. Say that we were sitting on the couch, and the dogs wanted to join us, but we wanted some human-only cuddle time… we would point to their beds and say “Go lay down!” If they didn’t quite grasp it right away, we would lead them to their beds, and put them into a ‘down’. Of course, they would receive treats for responding appropriately. Then we worked on their stay. If the dogs tried to get up before we released them, we would repeat the process all over, and ask them to ‘stay’. Of course, this cue works best if your dogs have already mastered some other basic commands, but I think that even if they don’t specifically know ‘stay’ they can still figure this out pretty quickly. We slowly but surely would increase the distance from where they were underfoot, to where we wanted them (the bed), always being sure to praise and reward them for understanding our requests.

Back up!

"Am I doing it right, Mom?"

“Am I doing it right, Mom?”

This is one of my favorite ‘tricks’ our dogs know… first, because it is adorable, and second, because it is also incredibly useful! We ask our dogs to back up when they are underfoot in the kitchen, but also for example, if we need to get in or out of the car, move safely through a doorway, or if we are throwing a toy and don’t want them jumping up at us. I am always surprised that more people don’t teach this trick, because it comes in so handy in a variety of circumstances.

To start, you can have your dog sitting, standing, or laying down, but they should be focused and facing you. Walk directly towards them, into their space, and say ‘back up’. You should also use a hand signal, such as pointing over their heads, or waving your hands towards them, palms up. (Note: You should not be scaring or startling them to move, but you want to invade their space just enough so that their natural inclination is to scoot backwards.) Once they take even a few steps straight backward (not turning around or to the side) give them a treat. Clicker-training works really well in an instance such as this, because you can instantly reward them so that they associate the specific behavior with the praise. Repeat this successfully three times, so that each time you say ‘back up,’ step into their space and signal, they are moving backwards. Once they seem to understand your request, you should start making the verbal and hand signal without moving your feet. It may take a few minutes, but try to refrain from moving your feet… give your pup a chance to use their brain to figure out what they have to do to earn that treat! As always, use their body language to determine how quickly you proceed… every dog learns at their own pace, so if your pup requires a little bit more assistance, that’s ok! Just try to get to the point where they are offering behaviors on their own, rather than needing you to walk them through each and every step.

Tonka is the master of this command… while laying down, he will scoot backward, then crawl forward, scoot backward, etc etc. It is a crowd-pleaser 😉