Comparisons

Remember not so long ago when I shared this video of Alma and Moses and how they each make use of off-leash time?

To me, the video is a great illustration of one of the big differences between Moses and Alma.

Sure, they have a lot in common: they’re both black Newfoundlands, they’re both respectful of the cats, they both are happy to just sleep at our feet when we’re at home, and together they create a symphony of snores.

But they are pretty different, too (in more than just size), and I think the video shows a good example of how Alma really capitalizes on a good energy burst.  When Moses discovers the effort it would require to play chase with Alma, he lets inertia take over and has a seat, while she gallops around like a lunatic in the background.

Now, that’s not to say they don’t play; they often do.  But Moses has never been one to entertain a game of chase for more than a few strides – the games can come to him.

Similarly, I recently took this photo which I also think illustrates what the two of them do and do not have in common with one another:

Moses and Alma

If I had to get all sentimental and pick adjectives that generalise each of them, I’d describe Moses as calm and pensive and Alma as inquisitive and merry.

But then I looked a bit closer at that picture and noticed another major difference:  Moses is filthy!

Seriously.  Especially compared to Alma, whose shorter coat and smaller jowls keep regular grooming much easier to stay on top of.

Alma and some grubby dog who couldn't possibly be Moses.

How on earth did I not notice that before?  It really took a more objective – and shocked – examination of a photo of my own dog to realise he looked like some neglected homeless mutt.

Well, someone* sure has been neglecting grooming duties.  And in spring of all seasons!  For shame!

So out came the rake, comb, and pin brush, as well as the spray-in conditioner (a must!), and after some quality grooming time, Moses is once again ready for public appearances.

Much better!

At least until the next time he goes outside.  Or eats.  Or drools.

And there it is.

Well, at least I tried.

 

*It’s me.  I admit it.

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Moses’ Fourth Birthday

Moses’ last year was a busy one with a couple big events.

Looking back: Moses on his third birthday

First, there was the whole business of major surgery to remove a cyst on his spinal cord and the long recovery that ensued.

Moses stands again for the first time. Happily, all that fur has grown back.

Then, we adopted him a sibling.

Moses & Alma at play

Here’s hoping the big guy’s next year is much less eventful.

Happy Birthday, Moses.

Crate As Training

Depending on who you ask, crates are a hot topic, so let me start off by saying I am pro-crate.

I think crates are a great way to provide safe supervision and prevent destruction when you’re not present. I know there’s a common argument about confining dogs to a small space, but provided the crate is properly sized (so the dog has room get up and to turn around), there’s nothing wrong with having them spend time in a crate while you’re away or asleep.  Likely all they’re doing while you’re away is sleeping anyway, so in my opinion there’s no harm in just changing up exactly where they sleep. Not to mention, once they’re comfortable in the crate, it’s a great thing to bring while travelling that will feel safe and familiar for them.

So, even though we’ve never used a crate with Moses, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t, and also means – as I mentioned recently – we’re employing the crate with Alma as a firm barrier between her and… say… brown sugar.

Alma in her crate. For those curious, it's the Kong Double-Door crate in the biggest possible size: 49"L x 30.5"W x 32.25"H

But I find it kind of a misnomer when people talk about “crate training”.

What is “crate training”, anyway?

I mean, we’re using the crate to help control Alma’s anxiety-based destructive habits.  For Alma, the challenge ensues when we’ve left the house, and she’s left completely unsupervised – even more so in the instances when we take Moses out and she’s left completely alone.  Even when we’re asleep she’s fine and trustworthy in the house, so it’s clear separation anxiety that is channeled into mischievous behaviours.

But putting her in the crate doesn’t actually teach her anything about not counter-surfing or not taking her stressful energy out on the box of Kleenex.

In fact, in reality, a crate is more like an avoidance technique.

It’s just like how walking a dog super early in the morning or super late to avoid other neighbourhood dogs may result in calmer, easier dog walks, but really doesn’t teach them anything about on-leash manners when passing other dogs.  You need exposure to your challenges in order to provide training opportunities and work through them.

So if “crate training” isn’t providing any lessons to curb destructive habits, then what is it?

Well, it’s just training your dog to get used to spending time in the crate.

In order to do this, we had Alma inspect the crate and spend time in it with the doors open before having her closed in it while we were gone.  Then we begin every crate experience with positive associations: making sure she goes in by choice (not by force) and then giving her treats and a toy at the outset.  When we come home, we always wait for her to be calm and sitting down before letting her out, so she associates the crate ritual with relaxed and positive experiences.

And we’ll continuously make sure the crate is never used as a punishment or “time out” location, and that any whining there may be will just be ignored.

The most perceptive reader may notice a crate next to Alma's in the picture above. That belongs to Jasper, the Duck Tolling Retriever, who is also crate trained and spending a few days with us.

Only a couple weeks in and I’m happy to report the crate training is going famously, and she’s quite content to spend time in there while we’re at work.

And you know how I know this?

Because technology is awesome.  And really, so is the Husband, because it was all his idea.

We’ve downloaded a webcam app on our MacBooks and iPhones, so now we can put Alma in her crate, set up the laptop so she’s on camera, and we can login on our phones and check the live footage.

And looking at the  various camera feeds available, we’re by far not the only folks out there using this system to spy on our pets (don’t judge – we all know you’d peek on the other feeds too).

It’s a great way to check and ensure Alma’s calm and relaxed while we’re gone.  For example, I took Moses out for a solo walk yesterday, and it was great to check the camera and see how long it took her to relax and lay down before we headed back to the house (for the record, it was about 20 minutes).

So, yeah, there really is an app for that.

What Moses does when left home alone.

Monday Mischief 4: A Tale of Two Newfs

It was a beautiful weekend to spend some time outside.  So that’s exactly what we did.

I took the pups out for some off-leash time at our nearest complete 360° enclosure – and brought the camera for some blog fodder.

The Newfs found a ring I assume someone else used for fetch and subsequently lost and left behind. You can tell who is clearly working harder in this picture.

Reviewing some of the footage, I found this clip that could not more perfectly illustrate the difference between Moses and Alma.

Though, I should note, at home there’s a lot more wrestling, since Alma caters to Moses’ play style much more in our yard (and in the house).

She started it.

Of course, after our off leash fun, it turned out all three of us were up to some mischief when I saw a sign similar to the following on our way out:

Whoops.

Rest assured all poop was scooped and no ball games were hindered.

This post is part of the Monday Mischief Blog Hop – check it out by clicking here!

Dam it, Hoover! / Damn it, Alma!

Last week, I went here (together with a couple other locations also closer to the equator than the frigid hellscape I call “home”):

Name that landmark.

While I was away – and while the Husband also away working – the dogs got shipped out for some sleepovers.

Moses got to hang out with his First Wife, Juniper.

Moses & Juniper

And Alma spent some time with her pal, Dion, as well as had a one-night stay at a super awesome local boarding/walking/daycare facility.

Alma & Dion: Christmas Wine Sentinels

Unfortunately, Alma was not on her best behaviour and was not the greatest houseguest during her stay at Dion’s.

"Who me?"

“What ever could she have done?” you ask.

Well… she ate – not one – TWO loaves of bread.

And – yes, there’s an “and” – AN ENTIRE BAG OF BROWN SUGAR.

Yeah, that's only like 3,500 calories. No biggie.

To the best of my knowledge, she didn’t get sick from it, and I’m surprised they didn’t kill her themselves, considering to top it off, she had the audacity to enjoy her snack ON THEIR COUCH.

To say the least, we were pretty shocked by her behaviour.  And will be paying to have some furniture dry-cleaned.

I mean, that’s not to say a few items of our own haven’t met the wrath of Alma.

For example, she and Emma, the kitten, have formed an Alliance and occasionally wage war on the paper products of the household.

  

Alma's successful hit: Kleenex.

Emma's successful hit: Cottonelle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s got to be something to the theory that female pets are more troublesome.

So even though counter-surfing has not been a training focus in our house (nothing gets left out; the cats will likely get to it before either of the dogs even acknowledge the opportunity), we have come home to the evisceration of too many items, regardless of their worth.  And, needless to say, the house-sitting experience was the last straw.

We need a way to prevent Alma’s destructive habit (which definitely escalates when she is stressed and/or left alone), and they almost exclusively happen when the humans have left the house.

Enter:  the crate.

Alma and her new house.

We never did crate train Moses.  Our crate-free house training method (a doggy door with constant access to the outside during the summer) worked famously.  Despite the odd shoe or two when he was a puppy, he’s never really destroyed things, and I’ve written previously about how he keeps his toys is pretty good condition.

But I think we’re doing okay so far with Alma, ensuring she associates time in the crate with good things like food and toys, and her time in there is limited to the workday when no one is home.

Most importantly, it ensures the next time she’s got to go for a sleepover, her crate can accompany her and she’s comfortable spending time in it.  And there’s a firm barrier between her and the brown sugar.

Alma's not the only one comfortable with the crate.