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Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Visit from Jeff Morgan; Dog Behaviorist

Jeff gets a lick from Journey

Ryden's got to check him out thoroughly

Aise getting some attention while Rommel remains outside of Jeff's boundary "bubble"

Jeff, Linda and Delayne

Jeff takes a "pack walk" with Irish and Oken

Shortly after our arrival to our new home and kennel in Minnesota's Arrowhead Region, we received some special visitors. Jeff Morgan, visiting from the east coast, had come to the area to provide private training lessons to an up-and-coming dog behaviorist, Delayne Duhaime. Together, they put on a special workshop that I just couldn't miss despite the stacks of boxes I was facing and the general chaotic state of our new home.  Click on this link to learn more about Jeff Morgan.

When he came to the kennel, I was most interested in learning about his "energy" work. Having a dog with major boundary issues, I thought this could come in handy. I was also interested to see how his technique would work on Journey, who has a very cautious temperament, going out of her way to avoid contact with most people.

The dogs loved our guests and made sure to get up and close to get to know them. Rommel did the usual, jump-up-in-your-face greeting despite my never-ending attempts to curb this behavior. He also has a habit of blocking his kennel mate from getting any attention, always going between a person and the other dog. Jeff's energy work seemed to work on our young fella and I was amazed to see him at the other end of the kennel, waiting his turn, while Aise got attention.

Here's my understanding of this technique as it pertains to our boundary issues with the dogs. When exiting each kennel, my command has been "back" and I stomp my feet gently to let them know that if they rush the gate, their feet will likely get stepped on. With the energy work, I am using my body and an imaginary bubble to keep them back. It seems to be much like a stay command, however the dog is allowed to freely move outside of your bubble. Every time the dog enters the bubble, I move myself forward and toward the dog, backing them up with my forward motion and energy. It's working. For those needed a bigger hint, if they get too close, I can also gently scuff the tops of their feet with my shoe as I walk toward them.

In the case of Journey, who goes out of her way to make a huge boundary bubble around most people she doesn't know, the energy is used to STOP the movement. Stopping the movement allows her to create a new mental picture of the situation and she can heal from all previous habits of motion away from people.  Journey began to circle around the kennel, getting as far away from Jeff as possible. I watched Jeff passively and non aggressively block her movement in any direction by just moving toward her as she ran, from one side to the next. At first, I anticipated that this would create more stress for her, possibly making her feel trapped and thus bringing to the surface the fight or flight response. To my surprise, this blocking of her movement actually calmed her down to the point where Jeff was next to her in a corner of the kennel and she reached out to lick him. As I like to do in much of the training with my dogs here at Points Unknown, Jeff allowed the other dogs in the kennel with Journey to help her feel comfortable with this exercise. I do believe other dogs are the very best trainers of dogs.

Now it's my job to remain consistent with this energy training. I feel as though I have just enough information on the topic to be dangerous. Now I need to do more research to try and understand it better so it can be used effectively in a number of other training applications here at Points Unknown.

Many thanks to Jeff and Delayne, for taking time to show us here at Points Unknown, some new tricks!

Sled Dog Play Area Complete!

Sinking our recycled posts

Nylon fencing strung and logs placed at bottom to detour diggers

Fencing attached to wood posts

Final adjustments to the entry gate for both yards

The first dogs are out!

The dogs love it and we do too. Neil and Nick, our friend from the UK, did an awesome job!

The play area is finally complete! We anticipated a week for completion but really underestimated the magnitude of the project. It took three weeks.

The area had to be cleared of trees. The trees then needed to be cut and stacked in various piles. We decided to recycle those trees that were cut and sink them in the ground as fence posts. A chipper was rented for a few days to remove the majority of the brush. It took only a few hours to string the nylon fencing and attach it to the posts.  The fence is 8' high and there is 2' on the ground to act as dig-out material. We placed logs around the perimeter and on the fence to secure it to the ground and to detour potential escapees.

Once complete, we introduced the dogs to the area, one group at a time. Because the fence is nearly invisible, we needed to make certain the dogs were aware of the perimeter. I had thoughts of walking each around the perimeter but then decided that would be too time consuming and came up with a more creative plan. It would be a test of their knowledge of a certain dog mushing command that they have all heard many times before.  "Whoa!"

Klaus, Sweet Pea and Tuloon were first to "christen" the area. As they darted around the area, I watched as each came closer and closer to the fence. When they were within a few feet I shouted "Whoa!". All three obeyed and each avoided hitting the fence but did take note of its location as they then ran along the entire perimeter. Most dogs reacted the same way. There were a few, more head- strong dogs, on the other hand, that received a nice, painless, self-inflicted correction when I shouted "Whoa!" and they did not obey. Zodiak, bounced off the fence, looked perplexed, noted the fence and didn't do it again. Let's see how he reacts to the "Whoa!" command in harness this winter. I have an idea he will remember this time.

After having been out in the area several times in the past few days completely supervised, they're ready to be out in regular play groups throughout the day semi-supervised. This means I can actually get some work done while they play. Because it is nylon fence, they can not be completely trusted and I must visit each group several times during their play time, with treats. They're used to this and come right away when called. There have been a handful of times when dogs have gotten out of a fenced area or off of their camping chains in the winter. They either have come immediately when called or just go directly to the front door and wait to be let in.

It will be so nice to get them back out in an area where they can really stretch their legs every day. We've been relying on a much smaller play area since our arrival and although it did get us through, I could tell that the dogs really wanted more activity. I was worried that anything we were able to create here at our new place wouldn't be nearly as diverse in topography and interest points as the play area at our Watertown location.  Watching them run, sniff, socialize and play in this area that is even bigger than they have had previously, I can say that I really think it will keep their interest for years to come and that makes me very happy.

2014 Points Unknown Dog Sledding Adventures

Heading across "the burn".

We're happy to announce the 2014 Points Unknown Dog Sledding Adventures! Click on the link and you'll find them at the bottom of the page. Would love to see you this winter!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tuloon Turns 9 Today!

Tuloon, the matriarch of the Points Unknown Kennel, turns nine years old today! It's been a tad wet out there today but now she's all snuggled into her dog bed watching the National Geographic Channel.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Irish/Ilo Puppies; 6 mos old!

Kamotz - 6lbs, B'Zhoo - 58lbs, Akai - 55lbs (Misquah in lower left and Phoenix in upper left)

Wyakin at 6 mos old - 60lbs

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Get more "Quick" Updates

Temporary play area is in!

You can get more quick updates on Points Unknown and our Irish Creek Homestead by following us on facebook! Here's our link - Points Unknown Facebook Page

Wicked Welcome-to-the-Northland Storm!

Last Friday, May 31st, the day we closed on the sale of our property in Watertown, I was driving to our new home in Minnesota's Arrowhead Region. As I entered Grand Marais, I thought to myself, as I looked out over Lake Superior, "Hmm, that's a very interesting sky. I might just need to stop and take a photo." The feeling passed as I drove through Grand Marais and was distracted by the hustle and bustle.  As I continued several miles northeast of Grand Marais, this apocalyptic sky appeared and it was now necessary to stop. WOW!  I panned the sky from left to right and saw the most magnificent clouds. It was nothing like I had ever seen before.

As the massive ominous cloud/fog structure in the lowest photo approached, I thought it best to get in my car and continue driving home. The storm hit the shore and it was as if the Gods and Goddesses of the Big lake were hurling fistfuls of marbles against the right side of my truck. The dime-sized hail soon ended but the wind was severe and the rain so intense I had to stop several times because I couldn't see through the windshield. The scent of balsam that had been shredded from the hail wafted from the woods abutting Lake Superior and through my truck windows. I was in complete sensory overload.

Knowing that Neil and my dogs were several miles north and potentially out of the range of the storm didn't seem to lessen the angst. I was sending as much positive energy up the hill as I could muster, hoping that the storm would dissipate before reaching them.

Arriving home, I found no damage, only wet ground and remnants of tiny bits of hail left by the storm. Relief!

The storm was a reminder from the Northland not to take nature and this wild new place we have chosen to live, for granted.

Point taken!

New Scent from Nature Labels

You'll see our new Scent from Nature labels on the shelves soon. What's new? We've been approved to display the FSC logo (Forest Stewardship Council) promoting our recycled packaging. Our new Sun Power logo was designed just for us and we added text about the fact that our candles are now handcrafted using power from the SUN! Last but not least, we've moved and added our new location in Hovland, MN.

You may continue to see the old location on many of our candles until we run our of those labels and packaging but know that you can easily reach us by going to the website.

Thanks so much for your support of our Calm, Clean and Green product!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sold and Closed!

Dog houses are IN!

Well, we made it through the month of May, closed on the Watertown sale yesterday and have officially become residents of Hovland, Minnesota. We now live on our Irish Creek Homestead which is our little slice of Minnesota's Arrowhead region.

We are somewhat settled in to our cozy shell of a house, but more importantly, the dogs finally have their own houses instead of the temporary travel crates. You wouldn't believe the joy in the kennel to be able to jump up on a dog house today! I have to say, I was just as happy. The travel crates served their purpose for a few days while Neil went down for the dog houses. Next on the list is a temporary play area so they can get out and stretch their legs. It's been too warm to run them in harness.

So, I no longer look out the window at the vastness of Oake Lake with all of the entertainment created by the passing water fowl. I can say, however, that I am no longer in mourning over this loss. Living on Oake Lake was a cherished chapter in our lives that has now passed. Our new chapter comes with the thick and magical forests of the north woods, the heavenly aroma of balsam fir trees and the mighty presence of Lake Superior, just down the road and right alongside us on our 19 mile "commute" to Grand Marais down Highway 61. Out my window I do not see the vastness of a lake but I see the living forest and the ever-changing sky above our clearing. I watch the dogs rest and play right outside my office picture window. Very different scenery and just as good for the soul.

In the early 90s I dreamed a dream similar to this one I am now living. I'm here, on a journey that doesn't end with the realization of a dream but is just the beginning of one new wild-ride chapter in my life.

What's your dream? Life is just too short not to live it.

Journey Turns Six Yesterday

Journey is on the right with Zala next to her. We can't believe that Journey has turned six years old already! She's a super sled dog and an irreplaceable member of our furry family. Happy Birthday to Journey!