We still have time, but maybe not enough.

You’d think that one of the hardest parts of dog sports is the crushing failures.  When you set out to do something, then promptly crash and burn because you didn’t know enough, or didn’t think through ALL of the possible ramifications, or the variables required for training a behavior.

That’s not it.  It’s seeing your dogs’ peers grow old and pass away. 

Photo by Angel Sallade Pet Photography

Maybe it’s because many Malinois have the beginnings of a white soul patch by the time they hit a year.  Maybe it’s because I’ve seen him almost every day of his 11.5 years…But I don’t look at Copper and think of him as ‘old’. 

The guy still leaps in the air, chases the rabbits (he caught one last year, his first!). I only just retired him from Agility this spring – He was going to kill himself not slowing down for the dog-walk.  He had achieved FIVE Agility Championships.

Copper enters agility retirement after completing his NATCH3 and VNATCH2 (Bernie Doyle Judge)

 

I retired him from Obedience about that time too, but not because he couldn’t do it (though, I’ll admit, at his final trial we used an Exercise Modification to drop the jump height down). 

Copper entering Obedience Retirement after completing his Championship under Sharon Jonas

 

Obedience was always my ‘bag’, and who can blame him since I introduced heeling with old school pop-jerk methods – I shaped every behavior after that with R+!  So, when he got his Obedience Championship, I told him that he never had to ‘Heel’ again.  He’d still love to do it though,  but sadly Obedience requires heeling in ALL the classes.  Maybe one day they’ll come out with a ‘tricks’ only class, that has everything bar heeling.  Until that day…

I know that several of his old Rally buddies have passed away.  Dogs that got us into the sport, which we ended competing neck-to-neck against.  Rally was our first love, our gateway drug to dog sports.   His Obedience career spanned 9 years and overlapped with a lot of his Rally buddies, but some were Obedience only.  When you compete regularly, with the same crowd, sometimes one of the regulars stops coming to a trial, and you can’t help but wonder.

Mary and Herc inspired me to do more. We finished our RAE at the same trial under Donna Darland.

I judge too, so I travel around the Midwest for competitions.  It might be 6 months between seeing dogs and that’s when the aging hits you.  You’ll notice that there’s more grey and maybe they aren’t throwing themselves into it as much as they did six months ago.  Other things will stand out too, the lumps and bumps that most dogs get as they grow older.  Copper even has some too.

This morning I found out that one of his Agility buddies passed away.  In class these two would regularly ramp each other up, so we kept a close watch to avoid an ‘event’ where a bad decision might be made – Agility can be very exciting and can be difficult in a group class.  When you have a herding dog, they generally like organization, and the chaos of other dogs running around, having fun, can sometimes be too much.  We had excellent instructors who knew the issue, were careful and encouraged using R+ methods to work on keeping them calm.  I discovered Control Unleashed which helped me a LOT! 

I’ve been looking after this dog too.  Over the past year, when her mom was out of town, I’d walk her and watch her give the squirrels and bunnies an extra look.  She was fun, sweet and full of character.

It just hits you though.  At any moment you could lose them. 

You also think about your dogs’ litter mates.  To my knowledge, Coppers are all still trundling around the USA, though I know that one of them has ill-health.  I do know that Copper has lost at least one half-brother to cancer – the big ‘C’ that everyone hates in every species.  Copper’s daddy was prolific and pretty popular in his day – A regular stud!  I take comfort knowing that his Mom lived to 15 and his aunt lived to 16.  I remember seeing them when they were about his age and they were pretty spry too. 

All I can say is that every day is special.  Treasure them.  Give them that extra sniff walk they’ve been begging for.

 

Dedicated to Dede

 

“My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”

― Richard Adams, Watership Down

Chipping your pets alone isn’t good enough

My Dad lives in Florida, nowhere near the hurricane’s path, but he has a dog and it got me thinking about all the pets in Hurricane Matthew’s path.  Which, in turn, got me thinking about my own furkids.  I thought about when was the last time I logged into the Home Again website and updated my dog’s information.  It had been a LONG time.  One password reset later and I found that though my info wasn’t grossly outdated (home address and cell were still accurate), some updates WERE needed.

  • Updated Copper’s photo
  • Added Penny’s photo
  • Added Penny’s breed
  • Updated Vet info for Penny (still showing breeder from 7 years ago – oops!)
  • Updated Penny’s spay status
  • Updated husband’s cell number

If your dog isn’t chipped, then I recommend that you make it a priority and do it as soon as possible.  There is no logical reason to not have your pet chipped, unless there is a serious medical issue preventing it.  The security that I feel, knowing that my dogs are chipped, is significant.  We’ve had several tornado events in Central Illinois over the past years.  I remember hearing about all the missing pets after the Washington tornado.

If your dog is chipped, log into the website and get the information updated today.  Remember that the Washington tornado occurred in mid-November, so just because we’re going into fall it doesn’t mean that we’re out of the crazy-weather-woods yet.

 

Registration Open: March 2016 Class Session

As the demand continues to grow for scent games, we are thrilled to announced our next class series beginning in March 2016!

If you’re just getting started with the Scent games series both our Continuing Scent Games and Intro to Odor classes might be perfect for your team! Learn more about these two classes over on our class information page and find specific class information and registration!

Our Competition Scent Games classes will begin on March 25th and we’re featuring a daylight optimizer in order to have all teams have the opportunity to work with some daylight. Please check out the Competition Scent Games class page for specific information and contact us if you have questions!

When registering — don’t forget to fill out the full form, hit submit AND click on “Buy Now” button to complete your registration. We have gotten many payments without registration forms and we have a hard time tracking you down without that information!

Happy Training!

Register Now! Scent Games Vehicles Specialty Class

Penny nose workOur next series of Scent Games classes will begin on April 27th. The vehicles specialty class is designed to further refine your dogs skills. Ultimately the goal is to tap into his natural “hunting” skill. Learn more about this upcoming class and register by heading on over to our class page!

Questions? Comment below or send us a message via our contact form

How getting in shape is like dog training. Part 1

You’re probably thinking “Seriously?  That’s a stretch!”  But it’s true.  Let me tell you how.

The last time I was in good physical shape was probably about 20 years ago.  When I was in school!  There have been a couple of times since then when I’ve been at an appropriate weight.  One of those times  I was even doing a lot of walking, so I guess I was in pretty decent shape, that was in 1999.  Then I moved to the US and my whole lifestyle changed, and not in a good way.

I’m not old, (unless you happen to be 16 and reading this, then I’m positively ancient!) but the big 4-0 is hanging out there, not too far off, and being female, I’m feeling a little sensitive towards it.  All of those self-doubts that plague us start digging in and you wonder “What have I done with my life?”.  The concept of being fat and forty was NOT something I wanted to consider, and we all know that the older you are, the harder it is to get those extra pounds off.  Over the years the pounds had started to add up, and when you have sweet tooth as strong as mine you generally end up with big hips.  I know I can blame about 10lbs on the Denny’s Cinnamon Swirl Slam they were serving back then.  A further 15-20lb on a long course of steroids I was on a couple of years ago.  I should probably give credit where credit is due and give a nod to The Chocolatier in downtown Bloomington too.

I don’t think I would have really thought much of it but last year I had a life changing event.  I broke my leg.  Six months after the break we found that the leg had never healed properly so I had to go in and have a steel plate installed.  My entire 2012 was pretty much wiped out.  It sucked.  It sucked having to lug my fat body around on one leg.  My upper body strength was nil, my abdominal muscles lay unused for years were suddenly being abused.

During the several months of rehab after the initial break, before we found out that it hadn’t healed properly, a good friend had recommended working with a personal trainer to get the last 2-3% of mobility back.  Initially all I cared about was being able to walk down stairs without having to shuffle, but strangely I started to enjoy the warped abuse that this hard task master heaped on me 2-3 times a week.

Exercise? Nope, not me.  I’m a lazy bum.  I’m just doing this to fix my leg.  I want to be able to walk down stairs, that’s all.  Really!

Premack Principle anyone?  Premack’s Principle suggests that if a person wants to perform a given activity, the person will perform a less desirable activity to get at the more desirable activity.

Hmmm.  Early evidence suggests that there may be correlations between getting in shape and dog training.

Copper and I do agility.  He’s a very fast dog, over the years we’ve worked on a deal.  He holds a short duration sit stay (long enough for me to get out ahead of him) and then he can start jumping and the real fun begins.  He’d much rather be running and jumping, but he has learned that breaking his stay will not lead to sustained running and jumping.  It will only lead to us leaving.  So he waits until I release him from the start line.

Premack’s Principle suggests that if a person wants to perform a given activity, the person will perform a less desirable activity to get at the more desirable activity.

Yep.  Definitely a correlation.