Pet Tips 'n' Tales©
Ruby, A Gem Of a Dog - Athletic Pet Tips

Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"©
"Weekend Warriors" Ashley and her "gem of a dog", Ruby, have fun together, running, swimming, hiking, and then some! Says Ashley, "Ruby understands me more than most people ever will." 

TALES

It is important to find a dog that matches one's lifestyle. Ashley and her husband, Justin, are "weekend warriors" who enjoy boating, biking, cross country skiing etc., and Ruby fits right in. When they "play", she plays; when they "chill out" on the couch, she chills.

Shortly after adopting Ruby, Ashley and her husband, Justin, took Ruby on her first "family" vacation to Ruby Lake, British Columbia. Ruby "puppied" the boat while Ashley and Justin water skied, wake boarded, and sunbathed. She loves sports as much as they do, especially swimming. She exhausts herself swimming in the lake for hours, but after a good night's sleep, she is raring to go again in the next morning.  

"Ruby and I attend weekly obedience classes and practice the skills every day," said Ashley. "Some participants don't practice at home, yet they expect their dogs to be perfectly trained. It doesn't work that way. When obedience class is fun for you and your dog, you both look forward to the challenges and skills it offers. I love it when Ruby and I are training and she looks at me as if to say, 'More, more I want to do more!'

We could not afford to take dog agility classes so I asked for a beginner's agility set for my birthday. Ruby and I practiced the skills daily in our backyard. When we out grew those skills, I took out a library book on dog agility.  The book had great tips to keep Ruby from becoming confused when we have the chance to take agility classes. For example, in competition, dogs are required to enter the weave poles from the right to avoid receiving a penalty.  

After Ruby outgrew our cheap puppy agility course, I found a book which gave instructions/plans on how to build your own agility set by shopping at local hardware stores. We now have a set of weave poles, jumps, a tire jump, a small plank walk; and I'm working on an A-frame. Not to brag, but when we eventually were able to enroll in an agility class, Ruby was 'Top Dog'.

Justin and I let Ruby tag along on our short mountain bike rides, but leave her at home during our long and/or fast rides because dogs will run their hearts out to keep up with their owners, even when exhausted. It is not safe for them to run so fast for such long periods of time.

Ruby has also gone cross-country skiing with me, and loved it! She leapt into the powdered  snow on the trail sides, and bounded through the deep snow like a deer. She quickly learned that it was much easier to maneuver on the groomed trails.

Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise to your pet. I exercise Ruby's brain by hiding items in the house or backyard and 'No peeking, Ruby!'. Keep your dog out of sight of your hiding places so it will learn to work for a 'reward'. I put treats in an empty muffin tin and then place tennis balls over the treats to test Ruby's mental skills. She learned to lift the balls up and out of the tin to get to her treats. Ruby loves playing 'her' games.

Dogs are like people in that they like to feel useful. Ruby's 'job' is to carry the mail back from the mail box and to lead the way with the flashlight when we walk in the dark.

Nobody's perfect, including dogs! On a visit to Justin's parents' house, Ruby went after their cat's food, so they picked the dish up from the floor and put it as far back on the counter as possible and 'turned their backs'. A few minutes later, they discovered Ruby standing on ALL FOURS on the counter, eating the cat food. She had to have jumped up there because there was no chair nearby to use as a step stool. Such is life with an intelligent, athletic dog," laughs Ashley.


TIPS

ďA dog that has never before been in the water won't jump right in to swim especially if the beach belongs to a large body of water. The dog sees only a scary 'nothingness' when it looks out over the water and will not swim into nothingness. I acclimated Ruby to swimming by first carrying her a few feet into the lake, turning her around to face the shore, then slowly lowering her into the water. When she instinctively began to dog paddle, I let go of her. Directing a dog toward the shore is the key as the dog has something to swim to. Patience, kindness, gentleness, and your pet's comfort during training is critical. Mary Ellen and her famous swimming cats can attest to that.
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