On the clock for 15 years…

Copper, our busy senior Malinois, was not an easy puppy.  Few Malinois are.  If you’re a first-time puppy owner and for some reason think that it’s a good idea to get a Malinois, go and get yourself checked in.  Few people are qualified to take on this kind of level of responsibility.  I have LITERALLY been on the clock for over 15 years.  15 years of training, 15 years of preventing boredom and the inevitable destruction that follows the boredom.  Every Day.  Don’t get me wrong, he has an off switch and as he’s gotten older we’ve been able to relax our guard little by little, but still, at the age of 15 years old, he has the capacity to get bored and get ‘into stuff’.

At a little over a year and a half, we started competing.  He had shown that he was starting to understand complex concepts in locations that were unfamiliar to him – he had learned to generalize. 

At about three and a half years old, I was finally at a stage where I genuinely liked him.  Don’t get me wrong, I have loved him since the moment he fell asleep in my arms at the tender age of 4 weeks at the breeder’s house but liking him is a different matter.  At three and a half I was able to let my guard down a bit and really trust him to not make crap decisions constantly. 

Photo by Pupart

Somewhere at about eight years old he really wowed me.  This boy had come into his own and we seemed to have this near telepathic connection.  We seemed to know instinctively what we each needed.  It’s not that we didn’t have plenty of miscommunication in the ring, but the emotional support that we each required was crystal clear. I understood him and he understood me, and there was this connection that I can’t explain except that it was akin to finishing each other’s sentences.

At ten years old I sat him down and asked why he couldn’t have been this dog for the past ten years.  He explained to me: “I was cookie dough. I wasn’t not done baking. I wasn’t finished becoming whoever the hell it is I was gonna turn out to be.”.  I asked him why he was quoting Buffy?  He told me to throw the damn ball.

Photo by Caprise Adams Photography

At 12 years old, I could start to see the body was telling him he wasn’t four anymore.  His mind called BS on his body and he kept on pushing.  His mortality starting weighing on my mind as I had already seen some of his peers pass away.  He injured his iliopsoas and I was grateful that I’d already retired him from agility and obedience.  My planning for his future seemed almost prescient, as that injury is generally considered career ending.  I was just grateful that I’d started his nose work journey a couple of years earlier.

He’s 15 years old now and he’s probably the last man standing.  He is still completely capable of getting ‘into stuff’ and I am still ‘On the Clock’.  If you leave a plastic bottle at dog height, it had better be empty because he will steal it and use it as a toy. If you leave a bag on the couch, he will rummage around in it until he finds a suitable toy (aka something that is clearly NOT a toy). If his ball ends up under the entertainment center, he will annoy the crap out of you until you rescue it and then he will immediately punt it back under the entertainment center.  He will still chase a groundhog/rabbit/squirrel out of the yard.  He will still bark at cars/bikes/trucks and other offensive vehicles on his roadway.  However, he can still find the 8ft hide or the deep inaccessible one, or the hide that’s 4ft from another hide.  He can still jump on the bed, leap into the car and other crazy Malinois crap that his Vet and Chiropractor cringe over.

He’s 15 years old and I wouldn’t give up a single one of the grey hairs he caused for the world.

 

Letting go of the guilt

Brain in the Game

Mental Management training is as much a part of everyday life, as it is sports.

Some local K9 Nose Work folks have recently gotten into Mental Management training, and I can see why — in all other dog sports, you can normally see the mistakes as they’re happening; however, in the upper levels of K9 Nose Work, you’ll spend the entire day agonizing over whether you or your dog screwed up in some way (btw, the dog never screws up). Often, you’ll know — you’ll hear the dreaded “No”, from the Judge, signaling that you won’t title (and get your shiny ribbon); but, sometimes you don’t know if something was missed, so you sweat A LOT.

Unfortunately, with my busy schedule, I haven’t had a chance to fit in one of Nancy Reyes’ (our local guru in Chicago) seminars, so I’ve largely been on my own. I did download this book and listen to it on Audible:  The Art of Mental Training by DC Gonzalez

While it’s certainly no replacement to a day or two with Nancy, it has helped give me some insight that I’ve been able to apply, immediately, to all of my clients (whether a “Nose Work” team, or an “At Home” pet).

Letting go of the guilt

One of the reasons I got into dog training was because of bad advice — some trainers thought that dogs “needed a heavier hand”.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s all their fault — we didn’t sufficiently socialize our dog, which led to some problems (he’ll always be territorial of our house, but we have a crate for that).  If we had regular visitors, then I might be able to work on that; but, we don’t — so, it’s not a big issue.  With age, and long term exposure, a certain amount of mellowness has come.  He’s more forgiving of ‘stuff’ than he’s ever been.

For a long time, I was hung up on how we had failed our dogs, in one sense or another. There’s always a better way to train a behavior, or handle a situation.  The problem is that when you’re “in the thick of it”, you don’t always make the best decisions.  Things will spiral out of control — and, the next thing you know, you’ve got a ‘situation’ on your hands.

This is where the book helped me.

I realized that guilt was hampering my forward motion: I would often get stuck in it, and the assorted nasty mental states that come with it.  We’ve all made mistakes, but the best we can do for ourselves (and, more importantly, our dogs) is to learn, and MOVE ON!

Yes, we screw up. We’re human!

Though the book was very much about “staying in the moment”, and “keeping a positive mental outlook”, it also talked about how to deal with events when they go wrong — we will frequently get sucked into the awful vortex of utter crappiness, and NO GOOD can come, from that!

I’m not talking about forgetting that the events ever occurred, but resolving to do better next time. I can honestly tell you that every mistake that we made with our next dog was a completely different mistake (I know, “not a great testimonial”, but it’s true)!

I continue to learn, grow and expand my knowledge base, so that I can help my students and the people who call me, distraught, over the events that somehow unfolded without / beyond their control.

To you, all of you, I’m telling you to “let go of the guilt”.

You’ll be able to move forward.

I’m not promising that it will instantly be better (it may get worse before it gets better) — but, you’ll grow through it, and LEARN!

K9 Nose Work Supplies – What to buy and where to buy it?

Since we’ve been teaching K9 Nose Work classes, we’ve had a lot of students ask us what equipment they need. Well, we mentioned in an earlier blog post, we’re big fans of having a specific Nose Work harness or collar.  This doesn’t have to be a particular brand or manufacturer – it just needs to be a piece of clothing that your dog only wears when they are doing Nose Work searches.

Here are some examples of harnesses to check out – A quick Google search should pull them right up:

Copper doing K9 Nose Work on an RV

Copper doing K9 Nose Work on an RV

Brilliant K9

Julius K9

Comfort Flex

Balance Harness

Kong Harness

Shop around, and ask questions (of other classmates, or staff) – find the harness that is the easiest for you to use and the best fit for your dog!

When we introduce ‘Odor’, you’re going to need an Odor Kit. In our classes we use the scents used by NACSW as the target odor:

Birch (“Sweet Birch” aka Betula Lenta)

Anise (“Aniseed” aka Pimpinella Anisum variety – NOT Star Anise, Illicium Verum)

Clove (“Clove Bud” aka Eugenia Caryophylatta or Syzgium Aromaticum)

Be VERY CAREFUL, when shopping, to make sure you get the right kind of scent!

For convenience sake, you may just want to purchase an ‘Odor Kit’. There are a number of places that you can buy your odor kits from, but here are a few for you to check out:

www.allgooddogs.biz

www.thek9nose.com

www.k9nwsource.com

www.paws4fun.net

Keep in mind – read the descriptions of the product, to make sure odor is included (unless you WANT to buy your odor, separately!)

Happy sniffing!