Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life

June 9, 2013

How to, Miscellaneous Comment, Opinion

Comments Off on Training Dogs, Particularly Australian Cattle Dogs, aka Blue Heelers (Gray and White Coat) and Red Heelers (Red Coat)

First, I must make a confession. My wife is our chief dog trainer. My goal is to help her and not screw things up too much when I am with the dog. This is all very strange, because we both observe that the dog seems to have more affinity to me than her.

Our ACD is about 26 months old. He has taught me the following:

1. All dogs must learn the basics. These are sit, stay, down, come, heel, and no. They must, of course, be house-trained. Some training is needed for fun or to further their skills such as bird hunting for retrievers. A formal game of fetch comes to mind. Our ACD is not a natural at fetch, but he did learn it and does a good job. He can sit and wait while we throw. He retrieves the ball, returns it and drops it in our hand. Very good.

2. If you are training your dog and making no progress, do not assess what the dog is doing wrong. First look at what you, the trainer might be doing that is sub-optimum or, worse, simply wrong.

3. Be consistent and make your dog practice his training to make your lives (his and yours) easier. For example, our dog is always commanded to wait before entering the house and before jumping into my truck. We tell him to move off the trail when hiking and to sit and stay when we are about to encounter other hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. This usually works, despite never formally training him to move off the trail. The point here is to command the dog for behavior that is logical and prudent in the situation. He will begin to associate the needed behavior with your command.

4. Reward your dog a lot when he is learning a new trick. Our dog is big on food. Indeed, we already have to watch his weight. So, we do not always treat with food, and when he does get treats they are small and low calorie. Obviously, we want and seem to be getting a dog that likes praise and finds that to be adequately rewarding for doing the right thing as time progresses.

5. Never punish your dog after he obeys the “come here” command. Even if you use the command in a stern, punitive voice, always praise your dog for coming to you.

6. ACD’s really do try to herd their owners by biting our heels. This is how they herd cattle. These natural behaviors are hard to break, but a little firmness here that works is better than a problem that is punished less firmly over many months. Any dog with biting, barking, or other problems that tend to hurt others and get the owner sued must be dealt with in a planned and firm manner by the owner.

7. If you are desperately struggling with barking, biting, herding (yes, our neighbors have cows), you might consider a shock collar. We did. When our dog goes into the neighbors cow pasture, he gets one call. If his excitement at herding overwhelms his obedience training, he gets a shock and then another call. And he comes and is rewarded for doing so. This punishes the bad behavior, herding the cattle of neighbors, while rewarding good behavior, coming to us. We do not have to do this much anymore. He is a smart dog, and when I used to get him from the field, I always told him not to visit the neighbor. Now when he goes in that direction, I say the same thing and the dog turns to look at me and pauses. It all works together.

8. Most of us want a dog that has basic obedience skills. Use as much positive reinforcement as possible, and as little punishment as necessary. Punishment has negative consequences, such as breaking the spirit of the animal, and can contribute to other manifestations of bad behavior. Today our dog disobeyed me. Instead of dragging him to his kennel, as I did  before when he disobeyed, I simply told him to enter the kennel. He did. He knew he had been bad. But because he entered under his own will, I released him in only a few minutes. He got the message.

9. A good dog is a great companion. He is a dog that generally obeys, but has moments of fun and exuberance that define his unique character. This is his spirit and personality, and is absolutely fine for pet dogs, even if a little annoying at times. This combination of traits defines our dog. He is what people call a good dog, and that is right.



June 11, 2011

How to

Comments Off on Security for a Manual Residential Garage Door


Locks for non-automatic garage doors can simply be inadequate on a modern house, as mine was. It had numerous shortcomings:

  • It had a low security key, indicating the lock could be picked easily.
  • Removing two Philips screws and turning the tee handle and the flange together allowed entry without a key.
  • The old snap latch became smooth with use allowing the door to be opened when the latch slid over the catch even when you thought the door was locked.
  • The snap latch was sharp and the shaft of the tee handle protruded on the inside, snagging skin and clothing.
  • I wanted a higher security key, one that matched my other five locks on the house, cabin and pump house.

My goals in security are few and simple:

  • If someone is at home, an intruder must spend enough time and make enough noise prior to entry so that the occupant can be armed and ready to stop the intruder.
  • If no one is at home, there must to be visible damage to the house so the owner can understand the method of entry and, preferably, know something is wrong before entering.

The instructions for the new lock only included replacement installations, not those for a new installation. Based on the instructions and the lack of seeing the system I installed on newer homes, I suspect many homes without automatic garage door openers have low security garage door locks similar to the one I replaced. The new lock and handle remind me of how the garage doors worked in the houses of my youth, houses built in the forties through the sixties.

There are several feature that are convenient with the new installation:

  • You can see whether the door is locked or not from a distance. This is convenient for the owner, but a bit of a risk if a potential burglar knows the door is unlocked from afar.
  • There is no obvious way to defeat the lock without damaging the door.
  • You can re-key the lock to match your other house locks.
  • You can close the door without having the door latch each time. Closing the door and locking it are two separate actions.

The installation is a bit tricky. Install the new tee handle first. It is retained with a spring washer. Then install the sheet metal cam that has the notch for the bolt. Use washers for a tight fit, then install the inner handle and the pin to lock the inner handle in place.

Then mount the interior lock bolt assembly. Make sure the bolt fits in the cam slot well and that the cam clears the interior bolt assembly through its range of motion when the bolt is within the assembly. Remove the bolt assembly, draw a line on the garage door that connects the centers of the two top holes and mark the center of the line. Measure from this center point on the lock bolt assembly to the center of the lock operator, where the cylinder bar will enter the bolt assembly. Mark this spot on the door. Do not drill the cylinder hole at this point. The bar is not at the center of the cylinder. Measure the offset of the bar from the center of the cylinder, and transfer this measurement to the door. The new mark will be above the lock operator mark. This will be the center of the cylinder. Double check all measurements and visualize the relationship of the cylinder with the bolt assembly. Use a punch to dent the door to receive your hole saw drill bit. An error on drilling the hole for the cylinder will require installation of repair plates, not a pretty outcome. Measure twice and cut once. Doors that are thin will require a firm backer piece for the handle, cylinder and lock.  A good piece of hardwood will stay in place if secured by the tee handle and fastened to the door with two carriage bolts with the nuts on the inside for security.

I found the parts on line, but had to call the outfit to get what I needed – the website was light on detail and parts information. The long bars come in sizes for 8 and 9 ft. doors, assuming a center handle mounting. Mine is a double wide garage door, so I just used one bar. I used the other hole on the disk or cam for the spring. If you use two bars, attach the spring to one of them. Stretch the spring slightly when the door is unlocked, so that the door becomes unlocked smartly with spring force when the locking bolt is withdrawn. Do not forget to order the spring; they are made for this application and you may not find one at your local home center. Also, ask for the pins that connects the long bar with the disks or cam. The vendor forgot to include those in my order.

March 7, 2011

How to

Comments Off on Cleaning Gold Plating on Wood Stove

I am a little short on time, so today’s post is short and sweet.

My discovery today is that mag wheel polish removes the thin carbon deposits that attach so well to my gold-plated wood stove door after a protective glove or other fabric contacts the  hot surface and burns on. The only other remedy, which does not work as well, is soaking the door in cold water and, after a few hours, scrubbing with soap and water.

Mag wheel polish on a moist rag is all that is required. Other common polishes either do not work or will scratch the gold.

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