Family cabin featured in Star Tribune

blog startribune east twin

Upon the recommendation of  Dennis Anderson, Outdoors Columnist & Editor of the Star Tribune, I submitted a piece to the “Cabin Country” feature for the inaugural issue of their Outdoors Weekend. The section premiered on June 28, 2013.

Like many Minnesotans, my family, including siblings, parents, cousins and an aunt and uncle, spent every summer at a simple cabin on a lake my grandparents owned. The place resonated with me and, to this day, I’ve always felt most at home in a small, rustic structure in a very private setting that’s close to water.

http://www.startribune.com/sports/outdoors/213539551.html

Interestingly, Kim Ode, also a writer for the Star Tribune, contacted me last summer after reading an essay I posted on my Dazzle Gardens blog. Her piece is titled, Cabin culture: A place at the lake and was published on July 8, 2012.

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/161500695.html

Pigeons and nutrition

In their nesting bowl, a newly hatched young bird and an unopened egg sit under the watchful eye of a female homer.

In their nesting bowl, a newly hatched pigeon and an unopened egg sit under the watchful eye of a female homer.

Even with pigeons, nutrition matters.

Since Jerry was a kid of 10, he has raised pigeons. Back then, in addition to common homing pigeons, he had show pigeons, fantails, tipplers and rollers.

In the world of bird dog training, homers are used extensively for staunchness and steadiness training, especially when the use of game birds is impractical. So Jerry switched to raising homing pigeons exclusively when he got his first pointing dog in 1987. Due primarily to a tight wallet but also a bit to a busy schedule, Jerry fed whole corn and granite grit. He had the occasional reproduction problem—fewer eggs laid, eggs that didn’t hatch and, sadly, baby pigeons that died in the nest.

When Dan began working with us, Jerry’s schedule opened up and, as he had long suspected, the pigeons were in need of better care. Jerry researched feeding and health issues and even had a stool sample evaluated by veterinarian/bird specialist.

Soon things changed. The pigeons are now fed a commercially prepared, nutritionally balanced mix of whole corn, wheat and milo. A new grit product that contains essential minerals and vitamins is part of their diet. Too, the pigeons are on a strict regimen of preventative treatments for common diseases and worms.

The outcome? The pigeons look better and fly stronger. And they now successfully lay eggs and raise plenty of young pigeons.

What we’re reading: The Genius of Dogs

blog wir genius of dogs

This book was published in February 2013 by the married couple Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. Hare is an associate professor in Evolutionary Anthropology and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University. Woods works there as a research scientist. Both are both dog lovers.

The authors set out to scientifically prove the intelligence of dogs and to find where this intelligence originated. They define intelligence in animals by how successfully a species has managed to survive and reproduce in as many places as possible.  By this definition, it’s easy to argue that dogs are the most successful mammals on the planet.

The book is divided into three parts. The essence of Part One is that dogs are inherently able to read human gestures and signals to solve various intelligence tests. In addition, dogs have communicative skills that are amazingly similar to human infants. They traveled the world studying wolves, silver foxes, New Guinea singing dogs and bonobos, a species of chimpanzee.

They concluded that dogs domesticated themselves by becoming friendlier to humans and learned how to communicate and work with us.

Part Two discusses how dogs communicate with humans. Hare and Woods prove scientifically that dogs are pack animals and that “dogs are best in a social network.”

In Part Three they compare breeds to determine intelligence levels. Ultimately (and intriguingly), Hare and Woods concluded that it can’t be proven scientifically that one particular breed is smarter than any other. One significant finding was that working breeds are better at reading human gestures than non-working breeds.

Here, the questions of how to train a cognitive dog is posed. They never really answer it but they do discuss Pavlov’s classical conditioning and B. F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. In doing so they resolve that neither completely addresses the best way to train a cognitive dog.

Hare and Woods also “prove” several things:
•    Strictly using reward-based training is not a good, long-term training solution as rewards lose their effect unless frequently increased.
•    Dogs learn better and faster in short sessions spaced over a period of time than in long, frequently repeated sessions.
•    Dogs can learn by watching others of their own species and other species.
•    Dogs know when you are paying attention to what they’re doing.
•    Petting a dog, especially gentle strokes in a smooth, calm matter, has a positive effect.

All in all, the book spends a lot of time trying to scientifically prove many aspects about dogs that have been anecdotally known and used by astute trainers for many, many years.  While dogs can be trained to react to various stimuli and respond accordingly, there is much more than that to dog training.  Being able to read the dog, communicate with it and adjust the training on the fly are just a few pieces of the “art” of dog training.

Hare and Woods write, “Hopefully, we can transform the art of dog training into a science.” I say:  Good luck.

Bottom line:  Nothing in this book is new and I don’t recommend it.  A much better book is The Dog’s Mind by Bruce Fogle.

Happy tails (includes short video)

The nine puppies out of CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen are now six weeks old. They eat dry food and we’ve started weaning them off Vixen. The puppies seem extremely coordinated for their age and easily scramble in and out of their dog door.

Jerry shot some video of the puppies last week. As you can see, they are very friendly and have lots of energy.

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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