Our first Rally trial: Wish us luck!

Crazy Tails Canine Services is hosting a Canadian Association of Rally Obedience trial later this month in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Milo and I will be in it!  It will be our first trial.

headshot of a black and tan German shepherd with bright amber eyes and a big smile

Hey guys, I’m going to a CARO trial!

It feels like this roller coaster is just about to head down that first breath-taking plunge and Milo, silly boy, is laying at my feet snoring—it’s probably a good thing he doesn’t realize just how exciting this is or he’d be pacing around looking for what’s got me all aflutter.

We have two weeks to get ready and we’ll need it. There are three organizations with sanctioned Rally trials in Canada: the Canadian Kennel Club Rally, the United Kennel Club Rally, and the Canadian Association of Rally Obedience (CARO). The rules and exercises are a little bit different for each organization, and CARO is the one I’m least familiar with. I’ll try to line up a lesson or two before the trial just to make sure that we’re on target.

By the way, Saskatoon is my home town, and there is a good chance that my family will come out and see Milo and I strut our stuff.

If you have any advice for our first trial I’d love to hear it.

 

Training log: Road trip potty breaks as training opportunities?

If you’re new to this blog, you should know that I’m in the midst of a massive road trip with my German Shepherd Dog, Milo. So far this month we’ve put on about 2 000 km.

Black and tan German Shepherd Dog in a green canvas crate in the back of a dirty SUV.

Milo happy in the vehicle.

At times, Milo can be like the Energizer Bunny on Speed, so it is surprising how good he is on these long rides. He’ll whine with excitement if he thinks we’re going swimming, but other than that he settles down pretty quickly for a nap. Every hour and a half or so I pull over, give him a bathroom break, a drink, a quick walk or a game of tug, and off we go again.

It occurred to me that I was missing some pretty good training opportunities with these breaks. After an hour in the truck Milo is a little bored, a little lonely, and super drivey–why not make use of that?

So, breaks are now mini-training sessions. They look like this:

I pull over, pop on his leash, and let him have a quick sniff and a pee. Then, right away, we do a bit of focused heeling and he gets a mighty game of tug. Then we do just a couple of other things–only for about five minutes–with lots of reward play. Once we are both out of breath, I give him a drink, pop him back in his kennel, and we drive for another 150 kms.

Milo seems just as happy after these mini-training breaks as he is after our non-working breaks, maybe happier since he gets to think and I spend the break time paying close attention to him.

Do you see any pluses or minuses with using these breaks for training? Any suggestions?

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park straddles the TransCanada Highway, making it a convenient stopover if your trip takes you between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay. The rugged mixed forest, rocky outcrops, and island dotted lakes of Superior’s North Shore inspired some of my favourite Group of Seven paintings. It’s a beautiful drive. Keep your gas tank on the high side of empty though, there are some long stretches between gas stations.

A black and tan German Shepherd on a long leash clamber over grey rocks

The gorgeous hike along the this park’s namesake falls is difficult. It seems weird to call a hike with a boardwalk difficult, but oh the stairs, it feels like you’re taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been working on gratitude lately, and the walk up these stairs made me grateful for Milo the AwesomeDog’s powerful leash pulling.

Bright green ferns in the foreground of a waterfall cascading over grey rocks.

a bright campfire with sticks positioned at right angles from each other

My firewood appears to be left over from a building project allowing for a geometrically pleasing camp fire.

Milo and I stayed at Whitesand Lake Campground, it was nicely wooded, but the trees were mature and there wasn’t much as much privacy providing understory between my campsite and my neighbours as I would have liked.

Also, this park lacks an off leash dog area and I saw more off leash dogs in the campsite than I’d seen in other parks. I expect some people will give their dogs off leash time whether or not there’s a legal spot to do it–an argument for putting dog exercise areas in more parks. Either that or hiring more park rangers!

 

A lake surrounded by mixed forest and emptying over the top of a waterfall. A big dog nose is poking into the. bottom right corner of the picture.

Milo can’t keep his nose out of my pictures.

The beach at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Oh my heavens, the white sand beach at Pancake Bay Provincial Park goes on and on and on. Since the bay is shallow the water isn’t as cold as you’d expect for Lake Superior. Some folks call it warm. They’re wrong. But, it is less cold. It only took a minute or two for me to catch my breath after jumping in.

a white sand beach between blue water and a pine and spruce forest.

How many dog beaches look like this?

The electrical spots in this campground are packed pretty tight and didn’t appeal to me. If you want a spot that feels more remote, forgo the electricity and get a campsite in the 400’s. Even though that end of the campground is a bit more rustic than the rest of the place, it boasts a modern comfort station with showers and laundry facilities.

I booked a site in the 400’s because it was close to the pet exercise area and the dog beach, both of which are fabulous. The pet exercise area is a green meadow sprinkled with daisies and plenty big for Milo to enjoy a good game of Frisbee.

The dog beach is continuous with, and just as nice as, the other beaches in the campground. The sand is soft and the water clear.

a German shepherd leaping forward on a white sand beach

I’m always impressed by Milo’s intensity when he’s chasing a ball.

A German shepherd splashing though blue water.

I enjoyed a nice swim with Milo (one of my favorite things), and Milo chased his ball into the water (one of his favourite things). Our afternoon at this beach was lovely.

a black and tan German shepherd dog sitting on a white beach under a blue sky.

Pancake Bay is a great place to enjoy a couple of restful days with your dog.

Mississagi Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada: Here be dragons

My navigation system expressed some concern about Mississagi. On the way to our campsite it warned me that we were entering an area of “incomplete map data,” and told me to “proceed with caution.” In my perfect world, it would have said, “here be dragons.” I was so pleased–this was the sort of camping I feared I’d lost when I bought a travel trailer.

My last stop was at Grundy Lake Provincial Park—a large professionally run park with programing and staff in pressed uniforms. A tousled teenager in a red T-shirt staffed the gate at Mississagi. The park only has 60 campsites, and I saw a total of six people during my stay. There was no cell service.

path from campsiteMy campsite had a path down to a tiny rocky beach and Milo and I spent most of our time sitting by the water’s edge. Every once in a while, I’d trundle up to the camper to get a snack and refresh my insect repellent. One afternoon a couple canoed by. That is all.

silhouette of a German shepherd dog at the edge of a blue lake surrounded by a pine forest.

This place is perfect, and I’ll be back.

Swan Lake Trail

During our stay at Grundy Lake Provincial Park Milo and I went on a guided hike along the Swan Lake Trail. I’ve found the Ontario Parks websites informative and easy to navigate. Here is how the Grundy website describes this hike:

Swan Lake Trail – 1.5 km loop (1 hour) moderate to difficult. 
Wind through a special area in the park which is protected as a nature reserve. This short hike crosses rocky ridges and lookouts as well as a variety of interesting wetlands. The centerpiece of the trail includes a boardwalk, where wetland plants and animals can be studied. While there, be sure to watch for the Great Blue Heron, beaver, waterfowl, bitterns and other varieties of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, deer, moose and carnivorous plants.

dark green coniferous trees reflected in a body of water.

Swan Lake

Three crisply uniformed Park staff members lead this hike.

Close up of pine needles on a branch

I learned that White Pines look fluffy and have five needles in a bunch. ‘White,’ has five letters: five needles–I won’t forget this!

From their new boots and notepads, I assume two of them were trainees. They showed us where the rocks were scratched by glaciers, identified carnivorous plants in the nutrient-poor lake water, and even pointed out a pine tree where a black-backed woodpecker nested the previous season. Our questions received full, interesting answers.

As we were getting ready to set out I asked the hike leader if I could bring my dog. She said, “Absolutely, as long as he is on a leash.” Hurray. Milo flirted outrageously with the other hikers. When we stopped to look at something I put him in a down-stay to keep him out of the way, but he was so besotted with the hike leader that he’d belly crawl up to her, all the while staying ‘down.’ Not obedience competition winning behaviour, but he made the crowd smile.

This hike was beautiful and fun, and I am grateful I could share it with Milo.

German Shepherd laying on a grey rock.

Milo taking a little break from the Swan Lake hike.

Grundy Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada–great for dogs!

Grundy Lake Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada is a good place to camp with your dog. Except for the beaches, you can take your leashed dog everywhere in the park, and there is a waterfront leash-free pet exercise area. The pet area, adjacent to a parking lot and boat launch, is not the prettiest part of the park, but it does offer a lovely view across the lake, and Milo didn’t seem to notice the aesthetic drawbacks.

grundy dog beach 1

Pet exercise area at Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

Probably due to the convenient parking, this pet exercise area gets used. Every time Milo the AwesomeDog and I showed up we met one or two other dogs. Since people tended to keep a close eye on their dogs I felt comfortable letting Milo enjoy this swimming spot.

German shepherd running along the shore of a lake.

Just a dog and his ball at the beach.

Although when one woman did show up with five kids and two big dogs, Milo and I beat a quick retreat. That just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. Overall though, Milo spent enough time swimming to tucker him out, which is really the point.

German shepherd trotting along the shore of a lake.

Milo enjoying Grundy Lake.