Rack The McNab Superdog Romps in Wilton Manors

He’s a working dog.
Why are you keeping him in a house?
Doesn’t he get out of control?  Tear things up?  Bark like crazy?

Yes, he’s a working dog.  He’s also amazing.  He’s amazing in the house and out of the house.

We have all heard stories about dogs that bark like mad for no reason.  They sometimes go out into The Yard and bark at the skies.  They may bark at a passing airplane.

That’s a sure fire clue that the people in that house do not need a dog, and that the dog is bored.

I’d be willing to bet that the people would also benefit getting out and walking a good solid mile or more, no matter what the breed of dog, no matter what psychological problems the dog has, and no matter where they live.

Otherwise, I stand by my original assessment, they probably should not have a dog.


It is definitely possible to keep an intelligent and active breed dog in a house.  There are people who do it in small Manhattan apartments.

You have to give them a job.  Every breed benefits from having a job, that’s what dogs do, active or not.

That is what I am doing here.  Rack’s job is to burn off energy and act silly.

We call it Doggy Pong.  One of us is one or more houses away on a quiet street from the other.  Then we send Rack back and forth.   It usually takes about three cycles or so of back and forth to get him to tire.

If you think he’s not enjoying this, take a look on his face when he comes back the second time.  The mouth is smiling so broadly that he looks like his head will split open.

The run back and forth is just a flurry of legs going every which direction, feet pounding on pavement, and fur flying in the breezes.  I swear it looks like an old Looney Tunes cartoon where Wile E Coyote is running after that Roadrunner.

Painted railroad bridge and falling boulders omitted.

It’s an all ages video, and in full HD.  If you want to see it outside of this page, hit this link to youtube.

Otherwise, enjoy.  We do this all the time!  Even the neighbors get into the act.  When Rack pauses, mid video, and looks over his shoulders, a potential buyer for the property is laughing at the romp and joins in on the fun.

Doggy Pong!  A Game The Whole Family Can Play!

Lettie’s Gecko Chase Video

I have had this video for years.  It’s only seven seconds.  17 with the lead in and credit frames.

We would walk Lettie around town and every time she saw the lizards here she would react like this.  Too fast to actually catch them, she’d overshoot and go for the next one after she’d bark at them to tell them to get off the sidewalk.

Silly dog I wish I had more video of you.

If I let her out in the yard, she’d ignore the lizards.  One day I even caught her with a lizard on her tail and she was sniffing at it.   I guess it’s that Motion Thing.  Give Chase.  Bring Order to Chaos.

That’s a McNab dog.  Things need to be in their place. They are the Project Managers of the canine world.  She’d send me off to do the work, so things would get done, but she knew that she could do that and someone else would pick up the slack.

Each night at 5pm or so when we’d hit this particular spot she’d take note.  Then she’d strain at the leash as if to say, “Damn it! I have a job to do, get out of my way!”

Bedlam.  Just Bedlam.

A dog of a lifetime, I wouldn’t have anything but a McNab.  All the intelligence of those other breeds you hear about, but the calmness to know what to do about it.

Just don’t tell anyone, ok?  You don’t want a good thing ruined.

Rack the McNab in Get Ready To Play

A tired dog is a happy dog.

No matter what breed it is, whether a lap dog or a greyhound, your dog needs appropriate exercise.

If you intend to keep a Herding Dog or a Working breed in the house, you can tell if you’re giving it enough exercise.   A happy and well exercised dog will be a couch potato indoors.  Comes when called, doesn’t demand a lot of inappropriate attention.

That doesn’t mean that it’s a house plant, you set it in the corner and give it food and water occasionally and it goes and does it’s thing.  A Dog is a living, social creature that deserves interaction and mental stimulation too.

But you can tell.

Those long walks are great, but sometimes a dog will need to break out of their training and “Just Be A Dog”.  This video is one of those times. 

Rack, my McNab Dog, is a bit of a puzzle.  He’s just about perfect indoors.  No hair-trigger when the UPS truck comes by – although he does grumble a bit.  He doesn’t sleep on the couch or the beds because he knows where his bed is and he’s got three of them in a 1200 square foot house.  Take him outside and if his fear is not triggered, he is fine, even off leash.  If there is a storm within earshot, he wants no part of it and heads to the door.

A thunderclap 15 miles away that we don’t hear, he does.  At that point he’ll decide that being outside is a big “Nope!” and begin to tow me home.

But every dog has quirks, and Rack is definitely quirky.  He’s working through his fears and he’ll come along to be one of those “Dog of a Lifetime” dogs that you hear about.  Lettie was definitely one, and Rack is on his way.

This is one of the times when everything was perfect.  His routine is after breakfast he wants to go out back and snuffle around the yard.  If I don’t get involved, he will do a perimeter search of the property, empty himself, then amble back to the back door.

If I do get involved, he becomes poetry in frenetic motion.  What I do is either clap my hands or stomp a foot.  When that happens he will Get Ready To Play.

Rack is a sprinter, not a marathon runner.  The longest he’s ever needed to fly around the yard is about 5 minutes.  I do mean Fly, by the way.  He’ll skim past me airborne, all four feet off the ground, poetry in motion in black and white fur.

If you have never seen a dog thoroughly enjoying being a dog, give this video a watch.  It’s safe for all audiences and has very little sound.

So how DO you know when your phone is obsolete?

I have a friend who visits about once a year.  I have a standing request that he brings his “Daily Driver” computer with him when he comes.

He calls it a tune up.  What I generally do is go through the machine, run a virus scan, uninstall spyware, and send him on his way.  It runs much faster because I’ve cleaned out the junk.

He’s also been using that machine for longer than even I have expected.  He’s gotten newer machines, but he keeps coming back to that beast of a 17 inch “laptop” because I’m able to keep it going.

Eventually, he’ll have to stop using it, and then it will have a second life as either a table leveler, something to hold a shelf down in the linen closet, or I’ll put Linux on it and it will be good for another 5 years of use.

I’m leaning toward Linux, but that is because I actually do like using the environment.

Computers have a longer life than the manufacturers want you to believe because they exist to make money by selling you new.  It’s Planned Obsolescence.

With a phone, it appears much more clear cut.  Especially with a smartphone, things have a shelf life.  The vendor puts out a new model, it can do more, but does it really warrant you getting a new one?

Again like with my friends beast of a laptop, to me, it appears that it is software driving the decision.

There are two schools here.  Apple and Android.  Not looking at this as a fanboy of either set up, I have a preference for Android because I can do things with it like use the phone as a multimedia computer much easier than I can with iOS.  I look at it as a use case to form a decision as to which works best for me.

Your Mileage May Vary.

With Apple, there is a clear end of life with their phones.  When you can no longer run their current operating system, it is time to consider moving on.  Apple has always done this with their computers as well.  For a while their PowerPC computers were supposed to be the best thing out there.  Then they came out with Intel based computers that made their old computers look horrible and they stopped supporting them after one more upgrade.

My iPhone is an old 3GS.  It will still make calls, but as a computer, Apple is actively pushing it away.  I have software that ran on it until I updated it, then all the sudden the older software is gone, and the newer one doesn’t work because I don’t have the current operating system.  One after another app is going away and eventually that will be the end of it.

Of course if you have the latest iPhone 6, it’s obsolete when you drop it on the ground on the first day it’s out because you just broke the screen.

Android is a different animal.

Android support varies with the company that made the phone or tablet.  Typically, an Android phone will get updates within the operating system version that it was bought with.  After that you are on your own.

My tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, got updates until the current OS came out.  That doesn’t mean that the tablet is unusable, it merely means that it will get more behind the times as I run into the same problem that my old iPhone had.  Software won’t be written for it.

There is another problem with the older versions of Android.  The browser that shipped with every version of Android except the current one has a rather nasty bug in it.  The short of it is that if you have an older Android device, do not use the default browser.  Disable that browser, and install another.  I did that at the start and I use Firefox which is the suggestion that is made by most security groups.

Why is that a problem?  Because if you don’t have a current device that runs the current Operating System, you aren’t going to get an update and you are on your own.  That means you have just hit the wall with using that phone, it’s now obsolete – if you want to be secure.

It all seems a bit alarmist, but considering how many people use their phones and tablets as their main computing devices these days, it really does pay to be aware of what that device is capable of doing.  It is a computer and they do need to be kept up to date.  But when you can’t do that any more, you have to be aware what not being up to date can mean.

Making Lemonade at 5 AM with the Dog

I’m not really sure why at this stage in my life, my body has decided that 5 in the morning is an appropriate time to wake up.  It just has.  I tried detoxing from caffeine with no effect.

May as well live with it and do things that will improve my life and those around me.

There are some definite benefits to being up well before the rest of the city.  Dad would have said that I’m “Up with the cows”.  I don’t know why because he was a steel worker from Easton, PA, but hey you never completely figure out your folks.

I get up, get ready, top off Rack’s water bowl, and we go for our walk.

It gives me the opportunity to do things with him that I wouldn’t do with other people around.  In Wilton Manors, FL, at 5 AM, there are really only a few groups of people up and most of them are easy to avoid.

Dog Walkers are easy to spot, and we’re all trying to keep a respectful distance.  After all, we’re all in the same boat!

The Police, early workers, and other delivery folk couldn’t care a bit about me and my dog.  They’re doing their job.  Wave hello to them and go on.

As always, there are the leftovers from the night before.  You know, the people who forgot that the bars closed three hours ago and are sleeping it off.  Easy to spot, easy to avoid.  They don’t move too fast.

Walking with Rack has gone from a tuggy job to a much more pleasurable experience at this time of day.  We’re really not supposed to be off leash at this time of day.  He has his leash.  Its not always attached To Me.

On that very early walk, we are having a Bonding Experience.   I learned when Rack tugged one too many times one day what happens when he is off leash.   He circles back immediately.  As in gets about 2 dog lengths ahead, turns around and plasters himself to my legs to stop me from going anywhere until I pick up the leash.

“Confused look” Good Dog!

That’s all it takes.

He does get more than a leash away when we’re walking, and I stop that by stepping on the end of the leash and verbally correcting him.

Trucks still scare him, and since Wilton Drive is where the dreaded 50 bus goes through along with them, I watch very closely.  When he starts to show fear, I stop.  He comes back to me and we wait for it all to pass.

After all this walking and bonding and conversation, we finally get close to the house.

I can tell he wants to go home, he’s getting further away from me and needing more correction.  I don’t want him  to cross the last Avenue before the house alone.  He usually stops but since it isn’t always I make sure to stop him before we cross.

This is all off leash, and it is training him to be better on the leash.  When I walk off leash with a second person he walks right by me, on my left, exactly how I like it.

Crossing the last Avenue, I have learned I can give him instructions and he will follow them.  There’s a video about a Border Collie in the English Borderlands that was able to be taken to the fields and do his work with the sheep completely independently of any instruction.  As in All Day Alone.

I simply expect Rack to have that level of intelligence.  Getting past his normal fear is what will get in the way, but it is getting much better.   I tell him to “Go home and lets wash your feet”.

He’s still a “Yellow Footed Collie with bad aim”.  I still have the Foot Wash station on the porch to at least clean him up before we go in.  He walks the last bit at his own speed to the yard, turns up the drive, walks up to the porch and waits for me to amble up to the hose to wash him off.   Independently.

It’s still well before 6AM and I haven’t had my coffee yet, so of course I’m walking slower than him.

After his foot wash we have a routine.  We walk him through the grass and around the car, back to the front door.   It gives the water time to run off his legs and brush off any crud that has gathered on his toes.

He now does that Independently too.

How about that?  He walks around the car, comes back to the front door, and waits for me to unharness him and let him in.

Small victory compared to that English Border Collie, but my own Rack was completely shut down when we got him.

We’re making lemonade out of those lemons.  Turning a weakness into a strength.  It always takes a different mindset when you have a fearful dog.  Things are done on THEIR terms, and at THEIR speed.   Not on yours.

I am learning too.   My little guy is teaching me patience.  I’m excellent at setting goals, rules, boundaries, and limitations.  Plans are laid out, and he’s great at following them.  In his own time.

I’m finding out also that his own time can be much faster now than it was.  Fear can fade, but you have to allow it to.

Just have a little lemonade while you’re waiting.  It’s quite tasty at 6 AM.

Happy Fourth of July and Fireworks can be Scary

Having borrowed this picture from Facebook, I wanted to credit the organization I borrowed it from.

The N.O.A.H Animal Adoption Spay and Neuter Center – or Northwest Organization for Animal Help (NOAH) “is dedicated to stopping the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable and treatable homeless dogs and cats in  Washington State. We are committed to high quality spay and neuter programs available for low income residents, family friendly pet adoptions,  humane education, and volunteer programs through our state-of-the-art facilities and Spay/Neuter Center.”

They are based in Stanwood, Washington so if you are thinking about a pet you can check out their furry friends that are available or check out their photo tour.

The picture got me thinking.  We have had a very wet week here in South Florida.  It has thunderstormed every day for the last week.  When it thunders here, it’s epic.  There was a lightning strike within a block that made all the lights in the house surge brilliant for a bit.   That happens each time there’s a storm.

The problem with that is while I like watching the pyrotechnics, it has made my own dog, Rack, very

gun-shy.  He’s not the bravest of creatures, in fact I’d say that he’s probably the most fearful dog I have ever known.  Each time the storms would approach, he would hide.  By approach, I mean within 10 miles. Since the storms have had a habit of hovering off shore and approaching from any direction, it has been a terrifying time for my young friend.

Last night was a worst case scenerio.  Since it is getting close to the July 4th holiday, there are neighbors that are celebrating.  Fireworks are readily available in South Florida, whether legal or not.  I saw them in Publix last night when we went for some last minute supplies.  There are displays at the gas station, and there just is no way to avoid them.

We went out for a walk a little early to avoid an approaching storm.  The tropical wave that became Hurricane Arthur just gathered enough strength to send a feeder band of Thunderstorms our way.  I spotted it early and we were outside.  While the atmospherics were going on, someone decided they’d add to the fun and send off some rockets.

It was a very unproductive walk.

My right arm was being wrenched from my dog trying to get back home, and had I dropped the leash for any reason I have no doubt he would have run home like a shot.

Weather makes it tough to manage your dog.  Fireworks can make it even more difficult.  Add the two together and we’re in trouble.

Many people allow their dogs free run of their yards.  This kind of noise would make a Jumper out of just about any dog, and in that case you have a terrified animal running for cover in an unfamiliar place.

With a dog like that, the best thing to do is what I used to call “Make Storm Time Play Time”.  Lettie loved tennis balls, so I would play fetch with her during the storms.  She liked it so much that any time the weather started up, I came out with the ball and she stopped being fearful.  Positive reinforcement.

With Rack, it is much more difficult.  He loves other dogs, but there isn’t one handy.  With a dog who loves other dogs, putting him in that social setting would be perfect since the dog he would be with would be a more mellow dog with better confidence.  That isn’t available, so we’re going to have to just let him in his own space.

His own Secure Space.

You don’t want to let a fearful dog, or even one that seems to be comfortable with the experience.  With “amateur displays” a piece of fireworks could go awry and end up closer than anyone would want.  In some “distressed areas” someone thinks it would be a great idea to fire guns up into the air.  Why they don’t remember that that bullet will come down again is beyond me.

You’re both safer indoors.  Once you hear the booms, whether fireworks, guns, or weather, your best bet is to go inside.

Or … Duck and Cover.

How Not To Train A Dog – or 1980s Training Rears Its Head

I really didn’t have to try hard.  I had just stepped out of my house.  Late morning too, I had actually slept this particular morning to Normal o’Clock, or 6:15 in layman’s terms.

Rack was in his usual bouncy self, and really beyond cuddly.  He slowed me down even more getting out of

the house.  I got him dressed with harness, collar, and leash, and thought “Every Time I am Late, Weirdness Happens” and stepped out into the great South Florida Morning.

It was even cool this morning, which is truly strange for Almost July.  Invigorating coolness hit my skin, all of 78 degrees.

There’s a reason why Crockett and Tubbs dressed the way they did on Miami Vice.  It’s bloody warm down here all year round, and when I say, truthfully, to me that 78F/25C is cool, you know I have adapted.

Only Rack had his fur coat on.  I had a T Shirt and Cargo Pants.  Mosquitoes are everywhere.

We left the block, and I asked my faithful sidekick to “show me walk”, and he did.  It is a much better walk when he chooses the route, and since my scared little boy is terrified of noise, it was not a shock when he chose to avoid Wilton Drive.

Wandering around the neighborhood I was almost knocked over by a low flying Muscovy Duck that was in

a great hurry to get away from something that must have moved a mile away.  Feeling the wing tip wash past my face I shook my head and thought “Daffy Duck is confused today” and kept moving.

Sniffing the air, listening to the crickets, and generally enjoying the sunrise, we slowed near the little M.E. DePalma Park.  It gets me thinking of food every time I walk past since it smells of Oregano due to the plantings of wild and native species there.

As a result, later when I got home, I made a giant table leveler of food including Sausage Flavored Potato Chips, Home Fries, Two Egg Onion Omelette, all served with a griddle toasted buttered English Muffin.  The Bread Machine is busily churning away an experimental Ginger Bread Loaf for later, and I have my eyes on a Stollen Recipe if I can find candied fruits, six months out of season.

Menu aside, Rack alerted.  He started wagging his tail which meant I was approaching another dog.  I had my flashlight out since it contains a taser.  I won’t go without it since the last time I did, we got attacked by a pitbull.  Some people need to be put down and the dog retrained – or the other way around… Either way is fine by me.

Rounding the corner I saw a beautiful German Shepard Dog.  Past his puppy stage, it was full sized.  The dog was aware of us, and gently wagged its tail.  It’s owner, someone who I had seen occasionally and only when we were out past our usual Stupid o’Clock, was picking up after her dog.

Rack was veering toward the dog and wagging his tail vigorously.

The German Shepard took a step forward while the owner was bent double picking up what the dog had left there.

Remember Barbara Woodhouse?  The dog trainer from Britain who advocated a stern pull on the choke chain when the dog got out of hand for any minor infraction?  This woman clearly did.  She yanked the dog back so firmly that it stumbled to get its bearings.

When it recovered it seemed to say with its eyes “Get me away from this insane woman, please?”.

I looked down at my own Rack and said “Rack… Show me Walk” in a conversational tone.

He simply stopped looking at the other dog, and moved on his way.

Some people are out of control but can be retrained.  I wasn’t getting involved since I hadn’t had my coffee yet and the cook-a-thon was an hour or three in my future.

I’m a strong believer of gentle commands, but reserving the option to get louder as the situation demands it.  Some dogs are so excitable, that you simply can’t even conceive of letting them off leash.  Rack is that way now, if he sees a Friend Dog, or a Friend Human, he begins to jump as he gets excited.  When a McNab Dog Jumps, we’re talking 45 plus pounds in the air, shoulder high.

He’s learning.  He used to be a 12 on the 10 point scale, he’s now an 8 or a 9 and even better when there are no interruptions around.  I now have him so that when we’re walking, simply saying his name in a conversational tone will have him circle back and plaster himself against my legs for a little praise.  Admittedly, I have work to do.

Remember, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

This poor German Shepard was reacting at about a 3 or a 4.  Certainly didn’t need to be yelled at and yanked off its feet.

It was as if you were in a conversation with someone and you asked them where the main street was and immediately they began to scream at you.  We all know once you raise your voice, you lost the conversation.

Or your mind, you choose.

Every neighborhood seems to be chock full of dogs.  Not every dog has a partner, some unfortunately, merely have owners.  Some of those owners, sadly, simply have no clue.

Training a dog is nothing more than a conversation.  Some dog breeds are known not to be trainable, such as an Afghan.  They’re good at whatever that breed was good at.  That just may not be what you expect in a companion.  Each breed is more than a collection of fur, length of leg, shortness of muzzle, and other random attributes.  A Breed of Dog is also a collection of abilities and capabilities.  Some are hunters and will do poorly in a house with plenty of squirrels on the back porch.  Others are simply too big and lumbering to do much else than lounge on your couch and good luck training them not to go on the bed.

The hardest thing about training a dog is the human – convincing them that the dog that they are planning to own will fit them.  If you have a dog breed that is know to be highly athletic, don’t be surprised if when you come home from work you won’t be able to live that sedentary life because the couch sitting under the window is torn to shreds because 4 hours ago there was a critter running in view.  The dog won’t even remember why it’s like that so don’t bother scolding them.

It’s a conversation, and you don’t know the language.  But you can learn, and your dog will do its best to teach you.