Saturday, March 29, 2014

PawsGo HERDING -- We've Got Our Sheep Together

What happens when a dozen city/suburban dogs try their "paws" at herding sheep?  We found out on a cold Sunday this spring when our Australian Shepherd Meet Up group took our pampered pups to Keepstone Farm in Berryville, Virginia for a herding evaluation.

To further illustrate how out of their element our dogs were -- this was a "barkday party" for one of the group.  To put it bluntly, our dogs spend their time herding cats and toddlers -- sheep are something they've only seen in the movie Babe (which by the way they love).

As we gathered around Susan, the owner and trainer, she stated that she would evaluate the dogs for a strong herding instinct and prey drive.  My hand immediately shot up -- "if that prey drive was suddenly awakened, could it be turned on the cats?"  She explained that sheep would be seen as prey -- cats, toddlers etc. are family and therefore part of the pack.  Whew! :)

Three sheep "volunteered" to be herded.  These sheep were, as Susan said, "meat" sheep not "wool" sheep.  These meat sheep had been granted clemency in exchange for being chased by dogs -- seems like a fair trade, although one of them looked like he would have chosen death if given the choice!

By the time Susan had reviewed the rules and stepped in the pen -- instincts kicked in and our dogs knew this was not a movie.  When the barkday dog entered to show her stuff -- her pals were cheering her with a chorus of wimpers and low barks.

Susan kept each dog on a long tether and guided the dog with a variety of voice and movement commands.  She also had "plastic shaky thing on a long stick" that she said she'd use if the dog got out of control -- we didn't have that problem.

As the dogs herded the sheep in all their instinctive glory -- the owner's instincts kicked in as well, we took photos!

The dogs were great.  They clearly loved it.  And we loved seeing how incredibly happy and satisfied they were.  Susan said it was the best group of dogs she had EVER had and that they all passed the evaluation.  We beamed with pride.
Afterwards, the dogs got an additional treat, they were invited to run and romp in a HUGE field.  It was a great way to burn off all that sheep fueled adrenalin.
  On April 12 and 13th, Keepstone Farms will host its annual Dog Days.  A fun opportunity to unleash your dog's inner herder!
Want to show your love of Aussies?  Purchase this great shirt from PawsGo --  Shirts are $20 and half goes directly to Aussie rescue!  Adult sizes.


Monday, March 24, 2014

PawsGo 5,000 Steps Through First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, VA

First Landing got it's name because (wait for it ...) it is the site of the first landing of the English in 1607 before they made their way up the James River and established the Jamestown Colony.  The park has 19 miles of trails that cover some pretty diverse habitats like salt marshes, maritime forests, bay shores, cypress swamps and dunes.

Akira and I decided the walk the part of the Cape Henry trail toward the Narrows.
So here we are at the 1000 steps mark.  With all the forest creatures it's hard to keep focused ...

But we made it to 2000, which is a great spot on Linkhorn Bay with a bench. On warmer days this is a pretty popular beach for Goldens and Labs.


Here we are on the bridge.  I've read that hordes of water snakes live below this bridge, YIKES!!  Once it gets warm we'll find other trails to explore!
The trail continues to hug the coast line and in warmer weather it's a great place to see Osprey.

And we made it to 2500 steps, the half way mark!
A diversion ... come on Akira, we need to make our way home before the UNC game!
4,000 steps, not too much further...

Wendy Johnson & Akira


Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Journey On Expanding My Dog's Diet by Sarah Mahrle-Thomas

If you are like me you are a dog lover that wants to give your dogs the very best you can.  Finding a healthy diet that is cost effective can be quite the task.  Reading ingredients, checking out the site along with keeping up to date with pet food recalls can be very time consuming.  Let’s just say if I was paid for the amount of time I've dedicated to finding the best food for my dogs I would be on vacation rather than living through the coldest winter in Wisconsin!  I don't have all the answers but I'm here to say I completely understand.  I was taught from a young age that you feed your dogs name brand kibble because the dog food companies know how to create a balanced diet that will keep your dog happy and healthy.  Not feeding dog food could result in your dog becoming diseased, obese or dying prematurely.  This teaching was fed to me through other dog lovers, commercials, pet stores and shows about dogs.  Just look at the bag, it shows you all the wonderful things that you are feeding your dogs AND it says it's a balanced diet!  The more money you spend the better the ingredients.  Chicken by product or Duck.  Hmmm...???  Plus when you feed your dog this bag of food they'll bounce around like a puppy and have a beautiful coat.  It's so easy, just open the bag and feed your dog the required amount.  It's how they sell the food.  Images, words and convenience.  Add a smidge of guilt in there since only people that love their dogs feed them the very best.  Kind of makes you feel empty now right?  Yeah, me too. 
Wonderful Rosie

I'm a mother of 4 young children.  My husband and I also have 3 dogs.  Zeus - 13 year old Australian Shepherd, Rosie - 13 year old Labrador Retriever and Bruce - 11 month old Boxer/Mt. Cur mix.  Our Rosie-girl was recently diagnosed with chronic renal failure.  It wasn't a surprise because we noticed she has really shown her age in the past year and having had cats with renal failure I knew the increased water intake was not a great sign.  There is no cure and the only thing a vet can recommend is that we put her on a vet prescribed diet.  I'm not going to knock that advice.  That's what they have in their tool box and they read the packaging that says this is a specifically balanced diet to feed dogs with this certain conditions.  Can you tell I'm a tad cynical when it comes to advertising?  It must be all my years in sales.  ;)  I get it though, this is a product they can offer the average person to feed their pet that is ill.  I let the vet know that I appreciate the offer but I would not be going the route of prescribed diet. 

My sister has fed raw for some time.  I honestly used to listen to the meals she was preparing for her dog and be totally grossed out.  Plus, how realistic is it to prepare these meals when you have a house full of kids?  She didn't even have one child at that time.  Since then she's had a child and even added another dog to her group and she's still feeding raw.  After getting the news about my Rosie-girl I needed to find out more on what kind of diet I need to feed her.  I had a support system, my sister.  I had a way of researching the diet, the internet and books.  Now I had to implement the change. 


I feed what I call an enhanced diet.  Basically I still feed kibble, just in smaller amounts.  Then I enhance it with dog friendly foods.  I use the term raw feeding because I don't cook most of the food they eat.  It's also a term most people immediately recognize.  Whereas if I said I feed my dogs a natural diet there would be some question as to what I meant.  I don't doubt that I will feed entirely raw at some point but for now this is what works for my family.   Since I have senior dogs I don't feed raw bones because I don't want any potentially cracked teeth.  Also I have to be very aware of the protein intake for Rosie because of her renal failure.  Since I do feed partial kibble I don't really have to add much protein at all.  Raw beef liver diced up is a favorite in my house.  Rosie also like plain greek yogurt as a midday snack.  Mostly the enhancements that I add are:  boiled rice, diced baked potatoes (sweet potatoes are awesome), shredded lettuce (skip the iceberg), diced apples, sliced bananas, steamed veggies (broccoli, green beans, carrots, etc.), strawberries, pumpkin puree (not pie filling), blueberries.  I use a lot of frozen veggies because I can buy those in bulk and it's more cost effective.
Really just keep it fun.  Familiarize yourself with foods that are dangerous for your dogs to eat so you avoid them all together.  I keep those types of lists handy on my smartphone and laptop.  Incorporate the family.  My kids often ask me for some of the foods like apples, carrots and berries when they see me getting them ready for the dogs.  I much rather my kids be interested in these things than grabbing a pop tart.  Plus my kids get to help pick out these foods when we go to the store.  Make shopping an adventure.  Next time there's a farmers market bring your dog along to go pick out some locally grown fresh produce. 


Feeding raw can be a scary thing for people.  Plus even my husband can agree that it's gross to watch someone prepare raw meat for future feedings.  You do have to do some work preparing things so the convenience factor is out.  I make it easier for our household by taking some time every few days to prepare the foods and put them in separate containers to keep them in the fridge.  That way each time I go to feed them I take out the containers and scoop out the servings.  Apples or bananas I dice fresh any time I feed them.  The key is remembering that when you feed raw it's balance over time.  It's fun to diversify my dog’s diets and they absolutely love it.  I think that is the thing that really made me stick with it.  They are so happy and loving their food.  They eat all of it and then come over for some hand licking as I pat them.  Even my seniors have great looking coats and are still very active.

I'm not knocking people that feed kibble and I'm not saying I'm a dietician.  I just wanted to share my experience with raw feeding.  It seems people either are raw or not.  I just would like to encourage people to learn about raw feeding and how cool it is.  If you need recipes to start from there's plenty available online.  Plus if you want to start small you can even find dog friendly treat recipes too.  Or if you are having a banana and can't quite finish it, don't hesitate to share it with your dog.  :) 
Sarah Mahrle-Thomas lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with her husband, four children and three well-fed and happy dogs.  Do you have a blog entry you'd like to share with pawsgo? Email us at, like us on facebook @pawsgo, send us a tweet @mypawsgo, or leave us a comment here!  We'd love to hear from you!