Dog trains man

Monday, June 26, 2017

Countdown To Zerline, Eight More Days


Atie sent me this photo of Zerline getting acquainted with the transport bag which will bring her from Holland to Denmark. The photo captured a moment which stood out from all the other cute puppy photos I received during the last couple of weeks. The photo captured Zerline making a symbolic first step on her path which will lead to us. It signaled how close we are to having her here. How close we are for everything to become real.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tour de Viva with a Clumsy Casanova

This Tour is for me, now Kenzo is doing good so soon - more about him later - and I would really want to return to the places Viva enjoyed so much on our travels, and remember some of the best memories we have of her.

She was never a fan of driving in a car, but the destinations we chose always made it up to her in tenfold. She loved to dash on the beaches of the North-Sea and dip her toes in the water while harassing Kenzo. She could hike the West-Danish heath fields and the Norwegian tundra's endlessly, while scanning the horizon on the hunt for game, and enjoying the simple fact she was on an adventure, alone with her family. And at the end of the day, enjoy a quiet sunset with us.

We are packing, and leave for a 3-week road-trip in Viva's footsteps. Except Norway, that's too cold this time of the year, even for us. I think it would be great to do now, and not wait, as it still feels like she is with us every moment of our daily life. There is not a walk we have, or a cup of coffee we can drink for that matter, where we not think about, what Viva would have done at that moment. Memories are good, at least for me, I cherish them, and try to write down as many as I can. She still makes me laugh, like she always has.

It is not very well-planned, thought-through, and a spur of the moment thing. But that's me. And now Kenzo is doing so much better, I am allowed to be myself.

Yes, Kenzo. He bounced back remarkably soon, and I can only be happy for that. I like to think that some of the additional things I did might have helped him a lot. One of them was to take him with me everywhere, I haven't left him a minute alone since Viva passed. The other thing was to stake-out the trails of all his former sweethearts.

What can I say, he loved it, and so did the girls. He immediately started to "protect" them as well, in typical Kenzo-style. Sometimes I wonder if the vet actually forgot something while neutering him, or Kenzo hasn't got the memo. Of course, all that showing off and impressing the ladies can backfire, which it also did, when he tripped on a bottle hiding under the leaves in a ditch, underlining his well-deserved nickname of Clumsy Casanova, and finished the trail with a limp.

If Viva would have been with him, she would have never allowed it! Always the clever one.




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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Viva Making New Friends

We took a little risk on our latest visit to the Danish West-coast by bringing a house guest. It was Joska the Viszla, Kenzo's great pal, stayed with us for the whole week. Viva knows Joska of course, but so far, Joska was only tolerated by Viva if he would show her his most polite behavior. And Joska walked the gauntlet the first two days, his every move sharply observed by Viva. Until Viva de-iced, and welcomed him into the group.

She even played with both Kenzo and Joska on the beaches, when both were engaged in their special edition of fetch, and had great fun when she could snatch a ball or a stick right from under their noses. Of course sometimes she had to assert her rule, but we knew she had found a new friend when Joska was allowed a place on the sofa.

We made long hikes and the Danish West-coast again delivered the three things Viva loves so much. Space, space, and space. This time we landed in Blåvand ("Blue Water"), and compared to the places we visited earlier, Hvide Sande, the beaches were even wider, and compared to Romø, even more empty.


View Larger Map

We thought we hit the jackpot this time with the house we stayed in, as it had no view to either neighbors or nearby paths, so we could let the dogs roam free around the house. We kept them under supervision at all times, but there was no need to leash them or keep them inside because of nearby traffic, we figured. That quickly changed though, when we spotted vipers in the area. The many vipers also made hiking through the dunes and heath fields not as relaxing as usual, so we turned more to the beaches this time.

The leash laws forbid dogs off leash on the beaches this time of year. But like I said before, with so much space and knowing how rarely it happens Viva can go off leash undisturbed for hours, I'd be happy to pay the 260 Euro fine if we would ever get caught.

And Kenzo needs his ocean. The ocean was quite calm this time, but it didn't seem to disappoint Kenzo there were no waves to surf. On the other hand it was great for Viva now, who ventured further and further into the surf, and even got her elbows wet.

Our west-coast trips mean so much for Viva, when she doesn't have to worry about other dogs and scary things that happen. She can finally be "just" another dog, enjoying the small things in life. We'll keep coming back for more of that. At least until I have figured out a way to convince the family we really have to pack our bags and move away from the city.

***

There are some more photo's of our trip in this Facebook album.




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Monday, January 28, 2013

Traveling With A Reactive Dog? 6 Reasons To Visit Norway

If you have a reactive or aggressive dog it can be difficult to find travel destinations. Like it is with our Viva. We can't just travel anywhere and visit any place. Even when a place is labeled "Pet Friendly", it might be the opposite of what a reactive dog like Viva would need.

When you are "reactive pet travelers" like us, you might want to consider a visit to Norway. If you like hiking, it is the perfect country to visit with a reactive dog. Imagine enjoying the beautiful sights of the fjords and mountain sides, the northern lights, the wild-life. All while you know your pet is enjoying it just as much as you do.

Here are 6 reasons why Norway is a "Reactive Pet Friendly" country. And if you indulge me with a totally unrelated subject, I also grasp this opportunity to showcase how Norway positively reinforces responsible pet ownership - in italic text:

***

1. Reactive Friendly Leash laws

Dogs must be leashed from April until August in the whole of Norway, to protect life-stock and wild life. Some areas even require a leash the whole year round. Our experience is those laws are not just window-dressing, we never met an off leash dog on our hikes.

For us reactive pet travelers it is a gift. We don't have to worry about meeting off leash dogs on the trails. And because we use a long leash with a harnass, we still have plenty of room to move and romp about. 

Several signs continously remind you of the leash laws, not by just stating "Forbidden...", but with an explanation why it is necessary, and closing with a friendly "Takk" (Thank you) for being a responsible dog owner. Now that's positive reinforcement ... for dog owners. Clever Norwegians.

2. Please Trespass!


You'll never find a sign "Private property - No trespassing" in Norway.

They do have private property though, you didn't end up in a communist country, but they also have a law called "Allemansret" ("every man's right"), that allows you to hike through - even camp and forage on - private property.

That means you can always frind a trail or a camp spot, where you can enjoy some privacy with your reactive dog, or maybe to avoid the busier trails and find your own path.

Also here you can find these positive reinforcement signs where the property owner asks for some consideration of dog owners for his life-stock, like we met on one of our hikes as you can see on the picture. What a wonderful thing, that someone allowed me to take my dogs through his land with sheep and thanked me ahead for my consideration. 

3. Off Leash Dog Early Warning System

There are of course restricted areas where dogs are allowed off leash. Not just the obvious dog park, but you can also stumble upon them while hiking. We came across a small island which was used for dog training and therefore, dogs could roam free.

No need to worry though that you will just run into them, these places are clearly marked and they are not too big. You can just follow another trail around it. 

I really enjoyed the sign explaining their could be off leash dogs ahead. It even explained for people what to do if they would encounter such an off leash dog. "Do not run. Remain calm and avoid eye contact. Do not pet or talk to the dog." Yes, it can be that simple to act on some bite prevention. Kudos, Norway.

4. Thank You So Much

This is just my observation, but I found Norwegian dog owners very empathic towards us reactive pet travelers when I compare it to Denmark, where we live.

When we meet other - leashed - dogs on the trail I always moved slightly off the trail to let them pass on a distance, so Viva would not get upset. And many times, people thanked me for it! "Takk so mycket" (Thank you so much) they shouted, "my dogs doesn't like other dogs". We gave a smile back "Same over here, you are welcome!".

When we went swimming in a fjord, a woman was approaching with her dog to join the fun. When I warned her Viva is probably not friendly, again I received a big "Takk" and a smile. She then just enjoyed Kenzo and Viva's swimming activities from a distances, while we had a talk about Hovawarts. Compare that to the cold shoulders and shouts we usually receive in Denmark...

This is a positively reinforced Valhalla! It is not only written on signs, the Norwegians practice it too!

5. Spacial Crash Sites

There are a lot of camping sites and cabins for rent. And you won't have to look far for a location where there is enough room between you and the next dog owner.

We really enjoy this room and space. Viva doesn't get upset by barking, or growling, neighbors.

I don't have any numbers on it, but my best guess is that 30% of all facilities have a "Pet allowed" policy. 

No special signs here unfortunately, just the usual scoop your poop! Applying positive reinforcement on poop-scooping might be a bridge too far, even for those inventive Norwegians.

6. Dogs Are Pets

Compared to Southern-European countries, the feral or stray dog is virtually non-existing. Norwegians keep their dogs as pets, and don't let them roam free. Actually there are not that many dogs in Norway at all. Only 0,7% of all dogs in Europe reside in Norway.

The probability of running into a feral or stray dog are therefore the lowest you can get in Europe, and that is good news too for us reactive pet travelers.

***

I hope you consider Noway, I am sure you'll love it as much as we did. If you like to read more about our Norway trip you can find it here. And if you do, here is a sentence you might need: "my dog is not friendly" in Norwegian is "hunden min er ikke vanlig", pronounced as "hoenden min r ik venli". And you probably receive a "Takk so mycket!" in return.
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Don Kenzote and Lady Viva

As Viva "told" us during our last visit to the island of Rømø, the Danish West-coast is one of her favorite places. With it's large and open spaces, Viva can spider the horizon for anything approaching. She likes early warning best.

When Lady Viva wants it, she gets it.

This time we touched down further north down the West-coast, on a narrow strip of land, dividing the Northsea from Ringkøbing Fjord. It has beaches and sand dunes as long as the eye can see. And although this area is more crowded in the summer, the weather in September only attracts the all-weather die-hards due to the seasonal storms and rapidly dropping temperatures of the approaching autumn. Which in short, is perfect Hovawart weather.


View Larger Map

The ocean was too rough for some actual swimming. The combination of storm and strong currents was simply too dangerous. It was not necessary though, to convince Kenzo & Viva to adopt a stay-on-all-four tactic when venturing into the roaring surf.

Kenzo, still the water rat of the couple, seemed to show the proper respect instinctively. He has experienced being rolled-over by waves before, and probably learned his lesson the hard way already.

At first it made me reluctant to play with him, afraid to throw a tennis ball too far in the surf. Kenzo's enthusiasm cured that quickly.

Throwing not so far was just as much fun. And in the chase Kenzo charged the waves and hunted the foam hovering about. Like a modern day Hovawart version of Don Quixote.

Don Kenzote.

He loves his ocean, the surf, the roaring of the winds, being in the middle of nature. Don Kenzote was in his element.

That's why we ignored the leash laws - it is required for dogs to be on lead until September 31 on all the West-coast beaches.

As I see it, not letting Don Kenzote enjoy his ocean, is downright cruel and I would have payed the fine with pleasure. If I got one. Thankfully that didn't happen.

Of course, we leashed up again when we could see any people approaching. And I must say, other dog owners did that as well, which was great for Viva, so we could pass by in a calm way - meaning a big circle.

Viva was not the least interested in getting wet, as she likes her swimming water nice and calm. And she found a new game for the occasion, to wait until Kenzo got the ball retrieved from the surf, and then steal it from him. The new big hit.

A few toe dips in the shallows was just fine for the Lady. Not that she could keep it very dry, the weather conditions made sure plenty of water came down from the sky. And when we ended up in a hail storm, we were literally washed off the beach.

I asked for Hovawart weather when we left home: "Let it rain! Let it storm!". We were not disappointed.

Today is our last day before we return to Copenhagen. Not only for the dogs, also for us humans there were a lot of things to see and do, like small fishing villages with nice restaurants, together with a lot of history - the remnants of the Atlantic Wall, the many shipwrecks, museums - and art inspired by the elements. I am sure we keep coming back for more.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pet Friendly Travel Outcasts

There were plenty of dogs in the main walking street of the small fishing town "Hvide Sande" (white sands). The majority of them were German tourists traveling with their pooches, doing some shopping, having lunch or just strolling casually. Pedestrian traffic sometimes came to a sudden halt in a web of flexi-leashes, with dog owners admiring the shop windows at one end and their dogs meeting at the other end.

Two German couples came around the corner, one of them with two dogs. A Great Dane and a St. Bernhard. The dogs immediately reacted to the sight of all those canines in the street. The woman holding their leashes wanted to retreat, but the other couple - their dog remained calm - seemed to insist, pointing at a place further down the road. They continued down the street.

The dogs became more distressed. They started to prance and barked at any dog that came into their sights. A feisty Beagle was the first to respond with a counter bark, and soon other dogs joined in. The woman - using all her force to restrain those two huge dogs - stumbled into the first side street she could find, accompanied by an orchestra of barking dogs, rolling eyes and cold shoulder turns.

In the side street she found a parked car which she used as a cover for the dogs passing by. When some would venture into the side street she was in, she hovered around the car, making sure it was always in between her dogs and the ones that were approaching.

She send her husband back to convince the other couple to leave, and he commuted back and forth with messages for a while. It took a while to convince the other couple, but they finally came over and left the area together. The woman was relieved, and when our eyes met we exchanged a little nod and a smile. From one pet friendly travel outcast to another.

That day I left Kenzo & Viva back at the house we rented, having already learned my outcast lesson. I only take Viva to places where we can avoid other dogs. And in the middle of the day, between hikes, we leave them for a little nap, while we do some sightseeing, and maybe eat a little lunch. I really hope the German couple will also find a routine like this, and that they continue to travel with their dogs. They just need to find a way that works for them.

We outcasts can travel too, and all we need is some additional planning and give it some extra thought. Find out what we can enjoy as a team and what not. And the end result is rewarding for us all, as Amy Burket wrote so eloquently in "Pet Travel: Dogs With Issues", a post written to my heart.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Week Under The Wings of a Guardian Angel

Soon after our Norway trip we unexpectedly found ourselves traveling to Holland and Germany again.

On such short notice we could only rent a tiny cabin in a very busy park with a lot of off-leash dogs. A perfect scenario to totally freak-out Viva, and I didn't want to find myself in a situation where I had to have her locked up in a car and a cabin for a week or more.

Unable to arrange something that would accommodate Viva's reactive needs, only me and Kenzo therefore left for the trip.

I thought that some serious one-on-one time would be excellent, and Kenzo would enjoy my undivided attention. At least in the evenings, during day time he would come with me to the office. Of course, that was not how events unfolded.

When we arrived at the busy park, the tiny cabins were almost build up against each other. Luckily we had the last one in a row giving us a forest view on the rear of the cabin. Our direct neighbor had two dogs that barked continuously. The paths between the cabins, campers and trailers were a myriad of excited kids and the occasional off leash dog - not allowed but nobody seemed to care about that.

Keeping an eye on the path at all times
Normally Kenzo would have marked the cabin as his territory and barked at anything approaching that I could have missed. In stead, he looked curious at his surroundings, kept a good eye on the two barkers next door - which even barked more because of that. In the late afternoon we went on a trip to the beach. While navigating through the park, dodging kid's toys and passing lunging dogs behind fences I was proud of Kenzo. He was on his best behavior, and ignored all the disturbances.

He bullied a couple of off-leash, "in your face", adolescent male dogs, that made a rude attempt for a greet, accompanied by the obligatory "my dog is friendly !" from an owner somewhere. Apart from these instant lessons in dog etiquette, he kept stiff on my side and ignored all the park could throw at him. How differently would it have turned out, I thought, if Viva would have been with us.

When we made it to the beach I started to worry. It seemed he didn't want to play fetch or swim. Which is very odd as he usually goes ballistic when we are on a beach. This time, he didn't seem to seek his high. When I sad down on the beach to look at some kite surfers and waiting for the sun to set, Kenzo laid down as well - picture on top - and kept his place. Again unusual. He didn't seemed depressed, or sick for that matter, at all.

I was puzzled. We done this before. He can handle new places. We just returned from Norway, where he seemed to find so much pleasure in exploring his new environment. Continuing our beach walk, while trying some fetch again, I noticed he did play when the ball was within approximately 5 meters from me. Any longer and I could get it myself. I went for a swim. Kenzo followed.

So those were the new rules. Kenzo, recognizing that the family not being with us was odd, decided to keep me under his wings. Keep an eye out, not to leave my side whatever the temptation, and make sure I was safe. He appointed himself as my guardian angel for the week. And he would keep on doing that until we got home again. Nothing I could do about it. When Kenzo decides - like a Hovawart -, he takes his own decisions in situations like this and is determinant as well. The Born Protector.

Stranded in Germany
Fate was not finished with Kenzo and me. Driving back home after a week in Holland, we stranded with car trouble in Germany - so much for the new Hovie Cruiser but that is another story.

Suddenly my newly self-appointed guardian angel was driving on my lap in a tow-truck with a strange driver next to us. Found himself in a car repair shop with loud noises, visited busy hotel lobbies and stayed in a hotel room with lots of sudden sounds on the hallway and adjacent rooms. Kenzo just got very busy.

I helped him as much as I could, "It's Ok", "Nice person coming". And when he is alert and vigilant, I better make sure to tell him that, or an unavoidable arrest would be carried out - fast and accurate.

So far, Kenzo hadn't barked the whole week. That's a first. Neither did he make an arrest. The "It's Ok" kept him re-assured we had everything under control. But it meant I had to be as alert and vigilant as Kenzo at all times. And that my friends, is wishful thinking.

I crashed together with Kenzo on the outside restaurant of the hotel. A nice couple came in and sat down on the table next to us. They had a Dachshund that barked a couple of times. We don't know of what. Kenzo remained balanced, sniffed a little from a distance, and ignored the Dachshund. We were having a conversation in German and I was so excited with this opportunity to brush off my German I got carried away.

The thing is, for Kenzo a waiter has always been a little like a mailman. They come straight at us, he barks, and they go away. At least he thinks. Who can resist such a reinforcer? I knew that of course, so the first times the waiter came at us, "It's Ok" had the expected effect. After a couple of times he accepted the waiter. Talking with the couple, I let my guard down. Kenzo barked, and came forward about 1 meter, although I had him leashed. The volume of the Hovawart bark silenced the whole restaurant and I noticed from the corner of my eye, another waitress with my appetizer's was standing behind me, now shaking and looking very worried. Kenzo seemed to have a proud smear on his face like he was saying: "There is one you missed dad!".

Doing my best impression of a responsible owner, I took Kenzo to our room and returned to the restaurant without him. Made a couple of jokes to the persons with the most worried faces, to diffuse the situation, and made an apology to the waitress - plus she got a huge tip, that instantly returned a big smile for the rest of the evening. The waitress took it good, "He takes good care of you". She was spot on, and described my week in a nutshell.

That was the only time he barked that week. Still amazingly well done. Especially for a Kenzo on high alert. For me it was a whole new experience to see Kenzo so focused on his task. It is kinda nice as well, to be appointed the center of the universe, by your dog. Albeit for a week. We closed the week off with a reunion coming home. It was heart-warming to see how Kenzo and Viva greeted each other with excited squeals and ear-nibbles, and first when they were done, they said hello to my wife and me.

I wonder how that would have made Kenzo feel of himself. Not wanting to give him human feelings and reasoning, I do think he must have been pretty proud of himself. Bringing dad home and reuniting the family. The first thing we did, was play some fetch, and indeed, the 5 meter barrier was broken.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kenzo & Viva On Walkabout

We've been Walkabout. That means, according to the alternative - of the alternative - definition: "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian Aborigine Hovawart as an occasional interruption of regular work".

Our first adventure together. A long way up, all the way above the tree-line, on the tundra of the "Hallingskarvet" National Park in Norway - this link has a 360o panoramic view of the "Hallingskarvet" area.

From the tundra, seeing those white patches of snow on the moutain ridges, it was hard to resist knowing Kenzo's birthday was coming up, to get even higher and get a taste of winter wonderland. After all, we are on a Hovawart Walkabout and it was Mr. K's B-day.

So we did. And in the midst of summer, Kenzo re-united with his best-friend-forever. They cuddled and hugged like there was no tomorrow.

Trying to reassure him this was what they called eternal snow so he shouldn't worry it to melt any time soon, possibly only made it worse. Kenzo was not leaving.

I think it was only the thought of missing out on actually swimming in water that was not frozen, that lured Kenzo down towards the valley with us again.

Crossing those wide plains with sights that seemed to never end, I couldn't have wished for better partners. Although I was equipped with a map and a compass, as a regular human with a goal, Kenzo & Viva showed me it was much easier to just let go and follow their lead.

They were home. They tracked the trails. They spidered for prey and what was alive around us. They found the fresh water creeks where we could enjoy a break. The masters of the walkabout. I would only need the map and compass to find our way back to the cabin - glad to have at least some of the responsibility delegated back to me again.

They didn't found a lot of obstacles on their way. Where I needed help of improvised bridges to cross the wildest of waters, they just swam across.

Kenzo surprised me even more when he guided the way through a rocky river bed, jumping from stone to stone. Was this the same dog for which the obstacle course in our tracking class was his weak spot?

I wondered if I had created Walkabout monsters? Would it ever be possible to return to the dullness of living under a roof again?

They balanced those two life-styles very well. Every day, like real Sofawarts, they crashed on the sofa of our rented cabin. Renewing their energy for the new day to come.

We had a tent with us, but I think it was good for us to rent a cabin where we could spent the night, so we they could relax and regain energy.

Viva did so well. She never got issues with the spondylosis in her back, and she could keep up with our pace easily.

I kept Viva on a 3 meter leash at all times - dogs must be leashed in Norway during summer anyway - to prevent her from running or jumping. She did excellent. Nothing could keep her down and she walked for miles and as long as there were hours in a day.

I just made one terrible mistake that will always be remembered and never forgiven. Soon after we came home they got a good ... bath.

Not the ending they expected. A whole week of rolling in fox-poo and other fine odors, going literally down the drain. Thanks dad. We demand another Walkabout.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hovawart Travel Upgrade: We're Cruisin' !

Bye bye Hovie mobile, and welcome Hovi Cruiser! Kenzo & Viva are the happy new owners of a genuine Hovi Cruiser. Finally they have some wheels that match their size and all their travel needs.

We did quite some remodeling with the former Hovi mobile, but knew it was only temporarily. We needed something else to really travel comfy and safe.

First and foremost we needed more space. And something that could bring us to exciting off-road tracking places despite weather and terrain. Also something that could keep those big bodies cool at all times, while they are patiently awaiting arrival in the rear.

The best of the old from the former Hovi mobile and our wish list have now all come together in the new - used - Hovi Cruiser. As you can see above, plenty of space to turn and especially above their heads there is enough room. No more bumping into the roof. They have their own windows that can also be opened. Nothing like some fresh air while you're cruisin'.

They love a flow of fresh air. Especially Viva. And so do we. Farewell odor of two dogs that have just returned from a walk with ample opportunity for a swim and rolling around in fox poo. 

And if it would get really hot, they also got their own AC. It can be regulated separately from the rest of the climate in the Cruiser. Keeping them cool is now guaranteed.

You might wonder why we would need this in cold Scandinavia? True, 99 times out of a 100 we don't. But there was that one time where I freaked out when we got stuck in a traffic jam on a very hot day. And no matter how much I turned the AC down, the rear of the car was still like an oven. You could simply feel the hot air coming in from their two damping bodies.

I did some really stupid and dangerous things to get us out of there. And driving safe, also means having a calm driver. Now that they have their own AC in place, I can keep the temperature, as well as my temper, at the desired level.

We also have all the features from before in the Hovi mobile: A steel safety grill, a steel compartment divider - not in the picture - , rear windows from tainted glass, a load compartment mat in plastic, etc. Maybe you noticed that our doors are missing? They were too small! Thankfully we found a place that can custom build it for our Cruiser and the doors will soon be re-introduced.

On the picture you'll see all the stuff we stripped out of the old Hovi mobile. We did travel good and safe in it and we will miss it. So do we have nothing more to wish for?

Well, how it usually goes with these things, there is always something left to wish for. First of all, after this disappointing news not all seat belts can be trusted, we are on the lookout for some that are up to the task.

The Hovi Cruiser also has a higher step and seeing Viva jump in and out, it would be better if we could get a ramp for her ... so I am afraid it kinda seems our travel posts are a never-ending story. But in the meantime, we're cruisin'!
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Friday, June 1, 2012

A Perfect Moment

Start rubbing your eyes because .... this is Viva swimming in the ocean, not Kenzo:


When you have seen our video Postcard from Kijkduin, it seemed like Kenzo was having all the beach fun, rumping around with his pals.

See how Viva is taking the opportunity to pretend she has no issues with her back, and it is merely a matter of re-discovering the "on" switch for full-throttle:


What is it that makes a beach magic for a Hovie, or any dog for that matter? Between runs, Viva found ample opportunity to harass wrestle a little with Kenzo in the freezing cool water:


We played a lot of fetch with her fav toy. Kenzo wouldn't dare to swim for that toy, it's Viva's:


And we had breaks, so Viva wouldn't overdo it, and have a sore-back-hangover the next day - which we unfortunately couldn't prevent completely:


Usually we don't take Viva with us to the beach due to all the off leash dogs. But I have to rectify the postcard. As evenings were getting longer while at the same time it was still cold, the beach was almost empty just before sundown at 9:30 pm. And since Viva is starting to behave better around dogs, I worry less if she will only meet one or two.

So there I sat. With both my wet Hovies on the beach at sundown. Their joy is contagious. What a pair they make. It made me glad Viva could join Kenzo's beach trips. It made me even more glad she joined in the way she did. A perfect moment.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Postcard from Kijkduin


We are back at the beach in Kijkduin, Holland. Kenzo is having a blast. Jumping waves, swimming, fetching, taking muddy baths and enjoying his pal Joska. Viva is not on the video - too many dogs for her on the beach - but she is doing great too. Lots of walks, and she behaves well with the occasional dog she meets. Greetings from Holland!
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Friday, May 4, 2012

How Many Hovawarts Fit In a Car?

No, not three, that would be too easy. The trailing picture of the video is misleading. Have a look, and let's acknowledge that is one fearless toddler opening the hatch.



I have to hide this video very carefully, as it spoils my whole argument for the need of a bigger car for Kenzo & Viva.
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's The Environment Stupid

We rented a small house close-by last week's dog show. Honestly, how interesting can a 3½ hour drive and a dog show be for a dog? So the idea was to give Kenzo and Viva a little bit of extra quality time.

The show was in "Skærbæk". See the right of the map below. And we found a nice place on a small Danish island nearby, "Rømø". A 15 minute drive. We never visited Rømø before, and we did a lot of planning on how to make this work for Viva.


View Larger Map

Traveling with Viva is not easy. Her fear of new places and dogs in particular demands some additional planning. Like to make sure the view of the place we stay doesn't have a whole lot of people and dogs go by. Or to find places for walks that are equally undisturbed.

All our worries turned out to be in vain. The island was beautiful and you could walk and see in all directions without meeting people or dogs. And it quickly showed from the first minute we spent outside, how much Viva just loved this place.

The first thing we noticed her do, was her interest to spider the horizon. You could see miles away and it must have comfort her she could scout the country-side ahead and make sure we were as good as all alone.


When we were on the move, she was ahead of us all the time and made her own decisions as to what direction we should go. Yes, this is the same Viva that is always on my side. Or rear. As manipulative humans, we of course took advantage of the situation and let her walk up and down the sand dunes. A great work-out for Viva to strengthen her muscles in the fight against spondylosis.



Even when we had been hiking for more than 2 hours, she kept on going. Independent. And ahead of us at all times. And sometimes she hit the jackpot. A fresh pile of fox poo to role around in! Sorry there is no video of that, although I am glad I could retrace the spot where I dropped the camera every time she did that.


I have never seen Viva take to a new place like this before. As a matter of fact, she even liked it better than the places we usually have our walks. She told me loud and clear: "It's the environment, stupid!".
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Traveling Safe with Gates instead of Crates

Viva desensitizing her Gate
When you - like us - cannot travel with your dogs in crates because your dogs are too big or your car too small, you are going to love this product. A doggie gate. The gate has two separate doors. As if we didn’t re-model the car enough last time. But we felt this was really missing.

The separate doors allow us to get them safe in and out the car, one by one. No more risk of being floored by two stampeding Hovawarts wanting to leave as soon as the hatch opens - which actually did happen once, to the amusement of the travelers on the road stop place and some scratches and bruises for me and my wife.

Another advantage is when we park the car in the shadow in mildly warm weather we can still leave the dogs in the car with the hatch open. The doors can be locked with a key.

Inside look, how it was before
The seatbelt system inside their area did not work very well and they would either get entangled or felt restrained. Not restraining them would give the risk they could walk out in traffic in case of an accident. The gate solves this. Without the seat belts they now move as freely as possible.

The doors are universal and fit in most cars. You can easy assemble it yourself – which I did. We got the "Variogate", manufactured by the Swedish company "mim". As I wanted to see the product before I bought it we made a trip to Sweden to have a look although you can buy it on the web.

When we landed in Sweden our first address left us empty handed – despite calling them upfront and asking "do you really have it on stock? So we can SEE the product?". Luckily the salesmen at the third store helped us and called around to other competing (!) stores until he found one that did actually had one on stock. Swedish people are so nice and helpful !

Hatch open! Cooling down on the ferry
We had a great trip to Holland with our new gate. Especially Viva loved it. When we made stops she could quickly make a pit-stop and went back into her "crate". From there she safely observed the rest of us, while I was exploring the place more with Kenzo. Which made him happy as well.

With warm weather it is difficult to keep them cool on the ferry from Denmark to Germany. We are not allowed to walk on the car deck, but I can also not take two huge dogs into the public area as it is overcrowded with people. This time I just left the hatch open and returned to two very cool dogs, see the picture above.
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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Travel concerns

Does this looks like vacation to you?
Kenzo is alright with traveling. He endures being on the road as long as we end up somewhere close to a beach. The reward of the destination outweighs the temporary discomfort from being confined inside a car. With Viva it is another story. Viva is nervous about change. Traveling a long time by car, exploring new places, and the possibility to meet new dogs is just a bridge too far.

We always take extra good care of Viva and make sure she is as comfortable as possible. Yet, a typical 600 mile trip by car would look like this:
  • The first hour of the trip she is sitting up-right and pants mildly trying to make up her mind what is happening
  • On a break, she has to decide between to evils. Stay in the car? Or go out into this new scary place I don't know?
  • Toilet-breaks for her human company adds to the anxiety as she suspects we might not return
  • She whines over the mere sight of another dog
  • The last hours of the trip she spends sitting up-right, panting nervously

Is traveling with Viva a good idea? Leaving her home in good care without her family seems not a valid alternative due to her separation anxiety. We could cut down on our vacation trips, but we have to travel for our business. There seems no way around it.

Could D.A.P. help?

Trying to find ways to deal with this, medication is an option. But I have been avoiding it, weary about anything that has to do with drugs. Then Jana from dawgbusiness - who else - recommended Dog Appeasing Pheromone, or D.A.P., as an option. The scent of pheromone is used by a dog mother to calm her litter of puppies. I asked around on Twitter and the feedback was mixed. But I thought it was worth giving it a try, although I didn't had my hopes up.

Yesterday we traveled 600 miles by car from Copenhagen (Denmark) to The Hague (Holland) for a one week business trip. This time we used D.A.P. I sprayed the rear-area of the car several times during the trip. It worked. It just did. Viva laid down after 10 minutes. She has never done that before. She has only been sporadically sitting up-right, and when she did, her panting was not as nervous as before. The last hours of the trip she remained in a laid down position. There was no change in her reluctance to leave the car and explore a new place. And she still whined when another dog was in sight. But D.A.P. made her time spend inside the car a lot more comfortable.

Should we travel at all?

There was an excellent discussion last week on Edie Jarolim's blog "Do Our Pets Really Want to Travel With Us" asking the question if traveling with our pets makes sense at all. Do we do it for ourselves? Wouldn't it be better for our pets to leave them in their well-known environments? This got me thinking. I spent a night away from home the other week on a business trip for the first time since we have Viva. The anticipated state of panic didn't happen. Of course my wife takes excellent care of her. But both of us expected a different turn-out.

This leaves me with lots of things to think about. We travel regularly for our business. And I take the whole family with me as I think they would benefit more from being together, then from being apart. But I find myself changing my mind on this. At least with D.A.P. car travel became a little more pleasant. And bought me some time to give this more thought.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Travelling by car with two Hovawarts

One of the challenges we faced with Viva joining the family as our second Hovawart was how to travel safely by car with two 90 lb dogs.

I did some research on blogs and resources on-line and also got some great advise from Rod Burket from GoPetFriendly.com, by commenting on his guest post Show Some (Car) Restraint! on Edie Jarolim's blog Will My Dog Hate Me?.

Rod advised in our case to go for the crate solution. Mainly because of the size of our dogs. And I agreed with Rod on that. But things turned out easier said then done.

You can't always get what you want

The crating solution gave us some short term challenges, as the crates we would need for our Hovawarts are the XX-large kind. And they don't fit into our current car. We went looking for a car that matches the size of the crates, but buying a bigger car in Denmark is not something you do lightly. Just a hint: you pay 180% tax on cars in Denmark. I will leave the rest to your imagination.

But something needed to be done. When we only had Kenzo we used a harness and seat belt system. Just putting Viva next to him in her own harness seat belt system made me worry that they could hurt each other by smashing into each other, would an accident occur. Like the big dogs they are, the chances of them hitting the side of the car or the front seats on impact seemed too high. The seat belts would protect us from them becoming a projectile in the car, but I felt their own safety was at risk.

Putting Kenzo restrained on the rear seats and Viva restrained in the back of the car would not leave enough room for much else. We tried that once and it didn't work.

Down to the car repair shop

What could we do to improve our current car while waiting (and saving) for the final solution? This is what we came up with:



We let the car repair shop rebuild the back of the car into a dog safe area. A steel safety grill has been set up between the back and the front of the car which will prevent them from becoming a projectile in the car. A steel compartment divider splits the back in two so they will not smash into each other with an accident. There a sun screens for all the windows protecting them from direct sunlight. And finally, a load compartment mat in plastic, resistant of any dirt their paws may bring in and a smooth surface like Hovawarts prefer. There is a harness for both dogs which we will attach with a long leash to a belt system in the back. The only function this will have is to prevent them from walking out in traffic, would an accident occur.

Test driving

Viva ready for a test drive
It might look like a lot of space on the picture but it is not for our Hovawarts. They are able to just turn around in each of their space. They can sit, stand up or lay down in reasonable comfort. When we make enough stops they should be alright. We are going to do some test drives to see if they can enjoy the ride and if there is enough space. One of the great things with this solution is that I can re-arrange the steel compartment divider in the middle to the left or right and create more space for one of the dogs. The other can then move to the rear seats in our good old harness and seat belt system. So we would still be able to do some fine tuning down the line.

Roof box

To create some more space and not to have all the luggage laying around in the rest of the car, we also bought a roof box. Which should be able to contain most of our luggage if we would travel light (hope my spouse is reading this too). Whats wrong with buying some new clothes and dining out a lot on your destination? We are on vacation!

For the moment this is as good as we can do, to travel safely with Kenzo and Viva. But we are looking forward to the crates, and the car that would fit them.

***

Here are some great resources with information on safe travelling by car:
GoPetFriendly.com
Dog Jaunt
Dog Cars, see also the car review section by make and model

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