Earl the McNab

Earl the McNab
Earl the Mcnab

Friday, September 7, 2018

Best Toys for McNabs

McNabs are unique. They don't necessarily like the same toys Boomer the Labrador or Chloe the Chihuahua enjoys. If you wish, you can just buy one of every available toy on the market (as I sometimes think I've done) or you can try some of the toys I've found our McNabs like the most.

Being working dogs, McNabs like high-octane toys that keep them moving. They aren't content just cuddling up with a stuffed toy or carrying things around like my gentle Labs did. They want to be running, leaping, and chasing. The toys listed below are not in any particular order.

Boomer Ball / Jolly Ball Push-and-Play Ball
Ethan with his much-loved Jolly Pets Push-n-Play Ball

The first Boomer Ball I ever bought was many years ago as a horse toy. At the time I had Dalmatians. One of my Dalmatians went crazy for that original Boomer Ball. To my surprise, she became obsessed with pushing it at speed across the horse pasture, then corralling it with her muzzle and pushing it back, yipping with excitement the entire time.  I still have that original Boomer Ball, which is now over 25 years old. They may not last forever, but then again ... they might.

Once he'd become reasonably mature (over five months old) I introduced Ethan to the Boomer Ball and to my delight, he loved it. I followed up by buying him the Jolly Ball brand equivalent - a 14" Jolly Pets Push-n-Play Ball. Ethan is every bit as obsessed with it as my Dalmatian was. He begins yipping happily as soon as he attacks it, then "herds" it across the property, cuts it off and herds it back. One feature of this type of play is you can use it to teach useful commands that translate to livestock work or other activities.

These balls are hard plastic and can take a beating. They're difficult, if not impossible, for the dogs to chew up as they can't be compressed like vinyl or rubber balls. Take your time introducing the dog to them; show them how to play with it by pushing it back and forth with your own feet like a soccer ball. McNabs learn easily by watching and it won't take long for them to develop confidence with the ball, but at first, until they learn how to maneuver it, they may be intimidated.

You can buy a Jolly Pets Push-n-Play Ball on Amazon here: Push-n-Play Ball(affiliate link). These are terrific for any herding-type dog. (And some horses!) This type of ball can also be filled with water. If you fill them 1/3 or 1/2 way, they'll roll with unpredictable results - which some dogs just love.

Ethan shows how to "herd" the ball.

Three McNabs, one ball, and a human activity director. 

Jolly Ball
Again, my first introduction to the Jolly Ball was via my horses, long ago. I bought a large one for a particularly active colt, who loved to throw the ball - literally - over his arena fence and onto oncoming cars. Ethan, though, is the first of my dogs to love playing with the Jolly Ball, a large, durable (but not hard), rubber ball with a handle. You can buy them through Amazon here:  Jolly Ball (affiliate link) in various sizes and colors. The original Jolly Ball is prone to being chewed. Ethan has gnawed holes near and on the handle on both of his, and I no longer let him bring it in the house. When he's outside, he happily carries it around the property and doesn't destroy it. Because these types of ball don't rely on holding air to hold their shape, they're good in our desert terrain (think: cactus) and don't deflate.

Laser Toy
Yep. McNabs go crazy over the laser toys. From the humble mouse-shaped laser pointer to the grand poobah of all laser toys - the PetSafe Dart - they go bonkers chasing that light around. All three of our McNabs (and all three cats) are in for a good time when the laser game starts, and all six animals play at once. Mass hysteria! If you haven't seen the PetSafe Dart Automatic Rotating laser toy, it's a battery-operated laser projector that rotates, pauses, and otherwise engages the dog (or cat) without your intervention. Ours has stood up to lots of abuse and I've had to reassemble it many times, but it's well worth it. You can buy one through Amazon here: Automated Laser Pet Toy (affiliate link).

Small or Long Plush Toy
Although all three of our McNabs like stuffed toys, their favorites are small, cat-size toys (toys the size of cat toys, not toys the size of cats, that is). Earl, our senior McNab, just loves carrying around plush toys that fit in his mouth. Ethan's favorite stuffed toys are actual plush cat balls (no, not those - the tiny stuffed balls made for cats). Recognize that smaller toys can be a choking hazard, and supervise their play properly. Do McNabs shred plush toys? Sometimes. Ethan does; Earl doesn't. Please use caution with any toys that have battery-operated noisemakers. Those little disk-type batteries can kill animals or humans that ingest them.

When Ethan plays with his tiny plush ball toys, he does so much as the cats do - pouncing on them, tossing them in the air, and retrieving them when I throw them. For some reason he doesn't shred the balls as quickly as he does the squeaky toys; without the noisemaker, there may not be as much incentive to find out what's inside.

Of the larger plush toys, the crinkly ones are Ethan's favorite. He loves to shake them violently. This is his choice: Stuffing-free plush toy (affiliate link).

Earl's choice is the Migrator Duck plush toy: Earl's favorite Migrator Toys (affiliate link).

Cheap Rubber Balls: Earl's favorite toys include plain ol' cheap vinyl balls, the kind you pick up by the half-dozen at PetsMart. He's picky, though: he doesn't like tennis balls, hard-rubber balls, or more expensive types. He likes the kind that don't pick up dirt, squish properly in his mouth, and make a little bit of a squeak when he squeezes them. Here's an affiliate link for Earl's choice: Inexpensive squeaky balls. Earl often carries these around while he's chasing the cows. Also, the cows will eat them, because, cows.

Antlers: Although not technically a toy, I'm listing these here as they are by far the best "durable" variety of chew toy our McNabs like. Not all dogs enjoy them, but if your dogs do, they're a high-quality product that is, in my opinion, quite safe. They don't splinter, they last for a long time, and they do a fantastic job cleaning the teeth. There's no strong or offensive odor, either. I buy them by the pound; before you invest in that many, though, consider buying a single antler for your dog (here's an affiliate link: Single antler. If your dog doesn't take to it right away, you can dip it in peanut butter or even beef broth to get them started. Here's an affiliate link for the one-pound pack: Antlers galore

You can buy antlers in either solid chunks or cross-cut so the yummy inner core is exposed. Our dogs - including the Papillon - will chew these to the point they are completely hollowed out. Here's an affiliate link for the cross-cut variety: Split antler dog chew.

Feather Wands / Cat Teaser Toys: Perhaps I've corrupted my McNabs by raising them among cats. Our cats act like dogs and our dogs often act like cats. Our McNabs are wild about playing "the game" with feather teasers. Just like with the laser toys, they play alongside the cats when the teaser comes off the top of the refrigerator (where the thieving McNabs can't get to it). I buy the teaser toys monthly, as they don't last long. Ours like the retractable type the best, and even when the Papillon has snatched the feathers from the end, the McNabs still love bouncing around when we wave the featherless wand. Here's an affiliate link: McNab feather teaser.

I also bought the McNabs a special teaser toy just for dogs, and they love it - but it's quick and easy to just grab the ol' feather teaser. For more aggressive play and a very durable product, check out this affiliate link for the amazing Squishy Face dog teaser: Dog Teaser Wand. This is the brand I bought, and it's a fantastic way to give your McNab a workout. Also, what a great name ... "Squishy Face."

A Caution About Tug Toys:  Earl and Molly both adore tug toys. However, I no longer encourage them to play tug of war, and I actively try to prevent it. Unlike some dogs, they never did get into actual serious fights, but they played tug so aggressively that Molly, in trying to get a better grip on the toy, injured Earl several times - on two occasions requiring trips to the veterinarian, and one of those trips involving sutures, drains, and costly bills. If you have one tugger in the house, go for it. If your dog is aggressive, though, tug toys aren't recommended. Use your discretion.

Copyright (c) 2018 by MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reproduced without express permission of the author, including photos, but links to this page may be freely shared and are greatly appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, emailing, Tweeting, and using carrier pigeon to help grow my readership * Most of all, thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Rattlesnakes and Shaker Cans

It's the trifecta of perfect conditions for seeing a lot of rattlesnakes here on the ranch: hot weather, sustained drought, and moisture around our trees and container plants. Rattlesnakes don't usually rattle me, and they're fine when they stay in the desert, but there are occasions when you don't have time to catch them and you have to eliminate the threat. The last two to visit us were within inches of the cat exercise pen outside - while the cats were in it - and all of our dogs were milling about. 

In my experience, McNabs are innately snake smart. When Earl was but a pup, several months old at the time, I had left him in the courtyard while feeding the horses. As soon as I heard his "rolling bark" I knew there was a snake in the yard. He wasn't just barking in one place; he was moving as he barked, and McNabs have beautifully communicative barks. I can tell from their barks whether the cows are loose, or if there's a coyote passing by, or if there's a visitor they don't recognize. Earl was giving his best snake bark.  Sure enough, when I breathlessly made it back to the yard, he was about five feet away from the rattler. It was his first exposure to a rattlesnake and he knew to give it space but alert me to the danger.

Since then I've reinforced that snake awareness with all my dogs using a shaker can and an available dead rattlesnake.  McNabs are so easy to train this has worked well. Certainly I don't discourage anyone from having their dogs professionally snake trained, but I'm personally hesitant to have others handle my dogs , and this method has worked adequately for me so far. My greatest concern now with the McNabs and rattlers is that they accidentally step on one while focusing on something else. Ethan, most of all, loves to leap over walls, rocks, and anything else in his path, and he is always climbing onto haystacks and then flying from them. Ethan does his own stunts, and it is glorious.

I keep a "shaker can" handy for snake training. If you're unfamiliar with shaker cans, they're just aluminum cans with pebbles inside. Don't fill the can; just add enough that the pebbles make some noise and have enough weight you can toss the can. This morning I sacrificed a Fat Tire to make a new can up. Fat Tire is too hoppy, anyhow. If you wish, you can buy a shaker trainer here: Dog Shake Trainer (affiliate link). 

Every time we must neutralize a snake, I behead it and safely dispose of the head. Remember that rattlesnakes can bite you or others after the head has been severed. Once you've distanced the head from the snake, grab your shaker can and let your dog out so he'll "find" the snake. It's best to work with one dog at a time.

I don't recommend leading the dog to the snake. You want this to be as holistic as possible: let the dog "find" the snake and try to avoid having your dog associate you with the snake or the correction. As the dog approaches, wait for the moment he targets the snake - you'll see a sudden focus on the snake - and as his nose dips down toward it, toss that shaker can hard next to the dog's feet. Make it count. Refrain from yelling or vocalizing until the dog has backed off from the snake, then - if your dog knows the "get back" command - direct him to "get back" and promptly praise him when he does so.  

McNabs are noise sensitive and the shaker can, when properly used, can be highly effective. Do not overuse the shaker! It'll still be an effective training method but it's stressful to the dog and you can easily create neuroses without intending to do so. I do not use the shaker for any purpose except rattlesnake training. 

This morning, I had the opportunity to snake train Ethan. The rattler was coiled in the planter immediately beside the cat play pen. My husband promptly dispatched it, likely just minutes before a cat (or dog) tragedy would occur. As I prepared for snake training it was, of course, our little Papillon Amazon Warrior Mattie-K8 who first spotted it and darted toward it. I launched the shaker can at her and all three McNabs bolted. We then moved the snake onto the front steps - where we've found several rattlers in the past - and I let Ethan out again. One more toss of the can and he headed to the barn, where he hung out until I did chores. When he did come back in the house, he avoided the front steps entirely and came around the side. That's how quick McNabs are to associate the noise with the snake. It's also a dramatic reminder of how easy it would be to misuse or overuse the shaker can. Papillons, on the other hand, were bred to kill vermin. A Papillon or a terrier is going to be more stubborn and persistent about snake training, so recognize breed distinctions when doing your training. 

Place your snake in an area your dog will discover it.

Every time we must kill a rattler, I use the opportunity to reinforce the training session. If nothing else, it gives me a sense of whether or not the previous lesson "stuck." If your dog is leery and cautious as he catches sight or smell of the snake, you've already made an impact. If he immediately runs up to it and sticks his nose into biting distance, you know you still have work to do.

Shortly after our morning rattlesnake moment, I reached down to shut off a hose and saw the fellow pictured below curled up around it, basking in the cool water. He's one of our many beloved bull snakes-in-residence. Bull snakes do kill rattlesnakes, in addition to eating lots of delectable and destructive rodents. I do not snake train the dogs in any way around bull snakes unless the dogs begin to harass the snakes.

Similarly, we have a great number of Sonoran Desert Toads (also known as "Colorado River Toads") here. They're not venomous but they are poisonous - meaning, they will not inject their venom into you by biting or stinging, but they are toxic if eaten or licked. I'm happy to have the toads around but must train the dogs to stay away from them. Ethan, particularly, tries to play with his toad friends, but he has so far learned not to bite them or pick them up. Another joy of McNabs is they're not predatory creatures; they don't want to kill every small creature they see, and they're easy to discourage from doing so (although they do tend to want to play with or herd every small creature they see). Even Mattie-K8 the Papillon has learned not to kill or harass the toads.

There are a variety of methods to train snake avoidance. You know your dogs better than anyone, and you should choose the method that best suits you, your dog, and your situation. 

Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reprinted without the express permission of the author * Links,  however, may be freely shared * Thanks for linking, liking, tweeting, posting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for stopping by and sharing my love of McNab dogs!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Further Adventures of Ethan the McNab Puppy

Ethan meets snow.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Oh, Ethan, you're growing up so fast. You're not yet five months old but you've already had a brief introduction to snow. You've ridden horseback - on the horse, that is, and you've gone on day trips with me to explore some Arizona back roads.

Ethan and I enjoying a horseback ride.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You've gone hiking, and visiting Mom in the care home, and you've charmed the folks at Ace Hardware and Tractor Supply. 

Ethan the ranch dog.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You're a big help when I do the morning chores. By "help" I mean grabbing the flakes of hay and playing tug of war with them when I feed ... leaping on and off the hay bales ... playing with the hay twine ... and grabbing the rim of the bucket when I carry grain. A big help. 

Ethan tends the tomatoes.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You're also quite the gardener. You inspect the tomato plants with me, and you climbed all the way into the empty compost tumbler to ensure I scraped it out properly before starting a fresh load. 

Ethan's yogurt halo
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You also help with the kitchen chores. The Greek yogurt on your forehead is the perfect halo for such an angelic pup.

Ethan and I visited the historic Winkelman bridge over the Gila.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

You've already visited some historic bridges that most people in Arizona never get to see. You walked across the old Daniel Luten bridge in Riverside (Arizona), and the Luten bridge in Winkelman, and you've helped me photograph the abandoned bridge at Ray Junction. You met strangers along the way who pulled over to admire you. Yes, you're irresistible.

Ethan's darker side.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

But they do not know the pirate that lies beneath that sweet puppyish exterior.  They don't know that you are the stealer of gloves and socks and eyeglasses. They don't know that we call you "Thiefin' Ethan" or that you're a book-chewy face-licky teaser of cats and shredder of toilet paper. They don't know you are the destroyer of lily pads and that you emptied out the rice heat pack I use for my sore neck so I had a kajillion half-burnt grains of rice scattered in my bed and it was like sleeping on sand. I'm still finding them, Ethan. Still.

Froggy lays down some paw law on Ethan.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

And then, suddenly, there's the day you realize you're no longer the baby in the family. My heart ached for you. You looked so betrayed.

Ethan meets the new filly.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

But as you grow, you discover the benefits of becoming a young man. You are maturing into a handsome boy.  The ladies love you, Ethan. You are growing from an irresistible puppy into a badass chick magnet. And you're still my baby, now and always.

Ethan the Ladykiller
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Copyright (c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be used without the express permission of the author, including photographs * I appreciate your links, shares, tweets, +1s, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for visiting and sharing my love of McNab dogs!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Meet Ethan

(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Several years ago, a cowboy friend in a pick-up truck with a puppy box in back pulled up at our place to say hello. Forty-five minutes later,  he left one puppy lighter than when he'd arrived. That was our first introduction to the McNab Collie breed - and to our beloved pup Earl.

McNabs get under your skin. Their sensitive nature, their loyalty, their intuitive way of learning, and their almost unbelievable intelligence will win the right owner over for life. You can't have just one, even if you only have one at a time. You just can't quit 'em.  

It seemed only fitting Earl would soon be joined by Molly, a prick-eared McNab from Garcin McNab Collies in California, and the two McNabs were joined six months later by Mattie-K8, a Papillon.  Earl's muzzle has long since greyed, largely due to the addition of our first kittens; kittens intimidate Earl, although he doesn't hesitate to chase large bobcats off the property.

When Russ mentioned he wanted to get a "red boy" McNab, I played it cool despite being inwardly giddy. He asked Teri Garcin to let us know when she had a good pup for us. 

Early Sunday morning, we ventured west, puppy crate in car, to pick up Ethan. A thousand miles of road and nearly 18 hours later, we brought one sweet, snuggly pup in to meet the pack.

Molly and Ethan, McNab Collie dogs
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Ethan is ten weeks old and a solid, sturdy pup with greenish eyes that may lighten to an intense amber. McNabs are generally easy to housebreak, and this little guy is no exception. He's already figured out how to ask to go out. Although the crate is set up in the living room, he's not confined when I'm home and he sleeps in my arms. He keeps up with the morning chores, staying at my side when feeding the livestock. 

The other dogs happily welcomed Ethan. The cats ... not so much. Froggy was first to approach him and lay down some paw-law; this isn't her first puppy rodeo. Hank was, for the first time in his life, frightened - but has since approached for a nose-bump or two, although he's keeping his distance for the most part.  Little kitty waif Lucy, though, is petrified. She's keeping to a tactical advantage from high ground and growls when Ethan ambles into view. Lucy was unfamiliar with dogs when we adopted her from the Humane Society, but has adapted, and with time and patience she will adapt to Ethan as well.  

Mattie-K8 and Ethan
(c) 2018 MJ Miller
Ethan is a quiet pup. His play-growl came out this morning during a pounce-and-run session, but he's yet to bark. He watches and learns by doing so, as McNabs do. Their learning style is visual and independent. Walking up the hill from the barn to the house, I was amused to watch him figure out a solution. He struggled trying to navigate the terrain beside the footpath. You could see his forehead furrow as he watched me and concluded I was having an easier go of it, and he promptly hopped over the rocks and back onto the path. I recall Earl having similar insights as a young dog.

Ethan the explorer
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

And so our puppy journey begins anew. Life's adventures are best with a good dog (or three or four) at your side. We're well equipped with the McNabs and their Papillon mascot!

Copyright (c) 2018 by Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * Thank you for linking, liking, forwarding, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for stopping by and sharing our love of the McNab dog.