Gracie is a young German Shepherd who used to struggle with overarousal issues, especially when people came over to the house. She would jump all over them, mouth and bite at them, and could not settle down. She would also get reactive when she saw people and dogs when out for walks. Some of this reactivity was rooted in fear issues, which also showed up with loud noises and hectic environments. We channeled her drive into games like retrieve and playing tug, and built up her confidence through obedience training. Now Gracie is thriving in her home, and is much easier to manage and a joy to live with.
We see these types of issues quite often in German shepherds. As working dogs, they need a job to channel their energy and drives. If they do not receive a job, German shepherds will seek out a job of their own, and it generally won’t be one you like. By teaching obedience and good manners from an early age, you can help your dog to never even develop bad habits. We were able to eliminate Gracie’s problem behaviors, but it would have been a much simpler process if we could have started working with her as a younger puppy.
You can also avoid some of these issues in the way that you socialize your puppy. Only allow your dog to meet people or dogs that you know will be a good influence. Do not allow your puppy to meet other dogs on leash. Make sure that your puppy understands that you are way more fun than anything else in the environment. Make note of any noises, objects, or environments that make your puppy nervous and discuss these with your trainer.
If your dog is struggling with similar issues, consider one of our board and train programs to achieve the same results.
I’Modoc Des Loups Roccia Nera RATI RATN CGC “Modoc”
Modoc is a Belgian Tervuren who I imported from France when he was 11 weeks old. Mo went to college with me, has traveled all around the country, and has learned how to do a half dozen dog sports. Mo is from mostly French ring lines, and we spent several years doing lots of mondioring training together. He also loves to do agility, barn hunt, dock diving, and disc dog.
Mo is a really valuable employee of the business! He is a very neutral dog with new dogs, which is very important when we are working on sociability for new dogs in our programs. You may also see him in the background of many of our training videos as a distraction dog.
Psycht’s Temper The Wind At WayOut CGC CD BN RN BH “Temper”
Temper is an Australian Cattle Dog who was bred by Ingrid Rosenquist of Psycht ACDs. I co-own her with Rebecca Elder of WayOut Australian Cattle Dogs. Temper is 7 years old, and competes in competition obedience and rally. She earned her AKC Companion Dog, Beginner Novice, and Rally Novice titles as well as her IPO/Schutzhund BH.
Temper is the other half of my neutral dog team. She is great at building confidence for timid puppies, and also helps rowdy dogs learn some manners. You would never know that she was 7 because she has the energy of a much younger dog.
D’Wildcat 16130 IPO1 “Wild”
Wild is a 3 year old Belgian Malinois who came from Todd Dunlap in Hadley, PA. Wild is a wonderful IPO/IGP dog and I am very excited to have started his competition career. He is off to a great start with nice scores on his IPO1, and plans to finish his titles in 2019 before beginning to compete in bigger trials.
You may see Wild in action as a demo dog, particularly is you are interested in pursuing dog sports with your dog.
Excessive barking is one of the most common issues that we get asked about. This behavior is annoying, obnoxious, and can keep you from enjoying your dog. Your neighbors might take issue with the noise level, and you can’t relax in the evening if your dog is alerting at the window. So how do you stop the behavior of dog barking?
Step One: Find Out The Why
Although it might seem like your pet is barking for no reason, there is always a reason behind the noise. Vocalization can be caused by anxiety, excess energy, aggression, hyperactivity, resource guarding, being territorial, or being scared. Genetics play a big role as well. Some breeds, such as hounds or protection breeds, are more likely to have issues related to barking. Hounds were bred to alert their owner to having found game, and a dog who is protecting his home is most often going to announce himself with a booming bark.
A trainer can help you to determine if your dog is barking due to a genetic trait or due to behavioral issues. Quite often we see barking that has been accidentally reinforced and rewarded. For example, if your dog barks at a squirrel, the squirrel runs away and the dog gets excitement from getting the squirrel to move. If your dog dog barks and you pet her to calm her down, she may perceive the petting as you rewarding the barking behavior.
Step 2: Solve the Root Cause
Let’s say that you have determined that your dog barks because of hyperactivity. The barking behavior needs to be corrected, but not before we have tackled the root cause of the issue. If we correct the noise without showing the dog the right way to act, the issues will crop up somewhere else. We can teach the hyperactive dog to do incompatible obedience behaviors, such as place, heel, and stay.
Now we have more tools in our toolbox. When somebody comes to the house, your dog might normally jump and bark at the guest. Now we are going to change the pattern, and assign your dog to a place command on his bed by the front door. If he decided to bark on the place, we can correct him because he did something that isn’t allowed as part of that behavior. We are also giving him a new “job” that allows him to focus his energy better.
We should also make sure that the hyperactive dog is having his needs met in all areas of life. Make sure that you are balancing physical and mental activity for your dog. You may run with your dog or play fetch a lot, but those activities don’t necessarily do anything for your dog’s mental state. Challenge your dog regularly, and teach obedience skills that allow him to channel his energy in a healthy way.
Step 3: The “Enough” Or ” Quiet” Command
Now we need to teach your dog a command that tells her you want her to be quiet. Dog barking is very reinforcing to your dog, and being quiet usually isn’t. We need to turn the tables and make sure that being quiet is just as much fun to your dog as barking is.
Find a situation where your dog gets excited and is likely to bark, such as when you squeak a favorite toy. Squeak the toy and get your dog interested and wait for her to start to vocalize. Once she starts to bark, say your new quiet command and immediately stop squeaking the toy. Mark the second that your dog stops barking with a “good” or a clicker, and give your dog a treat.
Do several sessions where you repeat this, and then once your dog shuts off quickly, start making it harder. Keep squeaking the ball when your dog is given the command. Increase the level of distraction. Start using the command in other areas where your dog would normally bark.
Step 4: Maintain Your Dog Barking Protocol
Congratulations! You and your dog now have a new skill set to manage barking around the house and out in public. These skills will make your dog much more fun to live with and to take places. It is important that you do not allow these new skills to slip. Most careers require continuing education, which makes sure that you stay on top of your game. It is no different for your dog. Keep up the good work, and establish lifelong habits of good behavior with your pet.
If you need help figuring out why your dog is barking and what protocol would be best in your situation, please do not hesitate to email us with your specific dog’s issues.
Private lessons are a great option for people who want to be a big part of their dog’s evolution into a well trained, well behaved pet. Each lesson lasts for somewhere between 1-1.5 hours, and during that time your trainer will go over goals and progress, review already taught behaviors, teach new behaviors and techniques, help you tackle behavioral issues, and give you some homework for the next week. Your trainer will also be available to answer questions during the week, but for the most part you only have access to them for a little over an hour. There are a few things that you can do to maximize your time with the trainer, and to get the most out of your training package.
Pre-Lesson Helpful Tips
Before a lesson, there are some things that you can do to maximize the amount of work that we are able to do with your dog during the lesson itself. Save half or all of your dog’s breakfast so that your dog is hungry and eager to work for the rest of that breakfast during the lesson. Having the dog highly food motivated during the lesson will allow us to cover more during the lesson. The same is true for dogs who we are using toy rewards with. If you have a lesson scheduled, don’t have a big half hour play session in the morning beforehand. We want to save that energy and toy drive for the training session.
Your trainer is there for you and they want to make sure that you are confident in the training. If you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of the training during a session or during your homework, please let your trainer know. One of the very best things about private lessons is that your trainer will get lots of one on one time with you. Take advantage of that, and ask questions as you go through the program. Sometimes an issue might come up in between lessons. If you are a client of mine and you have any question during the training process, you can always contact me by phone, text, or e-mail and I will get back to you as soon as possible to make sure that you are set up to succeed.
The Written Word
Depending on the type of program your dog is in and the issues we are working on, I may give you handouts or a small packet of information, especially for new puppy owners. These handouts are jam packed with information to help you on your training journey. If I give you a handout or packet during one of your private lessons, please don’t just throw it in the never-going-to-do pile or the recycle bin. Read through them, at least once, and apply the information from the handout to your daily training sessions with your dog. Many of these handouts make great “cheat sheets”, which can be useful for going back to later on in your training program.
Realistic Expectations and Being Honest With Your Trainer
This is a big one. As your trainer, I want you and your dog to be successful. Success with private lessons is made during the week in between sessions when you are practicing and working through things with your dog. If you know that you have a very busy work schedule and you will only be able to devote a certain amount of time, be honest with your trainer so that they can progress with you at a rate that is appropriate. If you end up with lots of different things to work on and you do not have time to do them justice, the results will be frustrating for everyone involved. If you let me know that you are on limited free time, I can set up a training schedule that will fit better with your existing schedule, and that will make training more successful and stress-free.
On a related note, if you find that on one week you just ran out of time and did not get to work on as much obedience as you were assigned, please let me know. We can progress according to how much work the dog has actually had, and prevent the dog from being thrown into something new that he may not be ready for. Being honest with your trainer about the amount of work you have been able to do during the week is in the best interest of your dog and will get you the best results.
The AKC (American Kennel Club) has split all of their recognized dog breeds into seven different groups based on their traits. Understanding the traits that these different groups have can give us insight into what areas we should focus on in training, issues that might arise in training, and how much exercise and stimulation a dog might need. In the last blog entry, we covered three dog breed groups: toy dogs, hounds, and terriers. Today we will cover the herding dogs, working dogs, sporting dogs, and non-sporting dogs.
From the border collie to the Belgian malinois, the herding group is full of brain power! All of the dogs in this group were originally bred to herd livestock. This requires a high level of intelligence, and herding dogs have a reputation for being too smart for their own good. Because they had to work all day, these breeds also tend to have lots of energy and stamina. This high energy level means that they are best suited for active homes. Intelligent, high energy dogs that become bored can start to create “jobs” that are not appropriate for them to have, such as digging and destructive behavior. These breeds also tend to have very high prey drive, which means that care should be taken when introducing them to small animals. Car chasing is another common manifestation of this in herding breeds.
All of our dogs are members of the herding group, and we love having dogs that are always ready to go. Their obedience training as well as their physical energy outlets (agility, mondioring, and other dog sports) allow them to have a happy, fulfilled life.
This group of dogs has quite a bit more variety than the herding group. Newfoundlands for water rescue, Dobermans for protection, Siberian Huskies for sledding, Great Pyrenees for livestock guarding…the working group is quite a diverse bunch! One common trait for all of these breeds is that they need both physical and mental stimulation every day. The energy level that many of these breeds have is relatively high, and they need some type of job to keep their minds busy. This could be anything from daily obedience training to trying out dog sports. Many of the dogs in this group also have very strong instincts that should be taken into consideration when training. Huskies were bred to pull, so they may require some extra time and patience for loose leash walking. Dobermans and Rottweilers were bred to have a strong protection instinct, so socialization is very important.
Another trait that this group shares is that they are all pretty large. While there are some medium sized breeds, such as the Standard Schnauzer and the Portugese Water Dog, this group also contains the largest of all breeds, the Mastiffs and Great Dane. Because these breeds grow so large, it’s even more important to start training at a young age. Jumping up, mouthing, and pulling on the leash can very quickly become major issues when your puppy is 65 pounds and growing, so be sure to teach your puppy manners as soon as he comes home.
This diverse and energetic group of dogs includes the setters, retrievers, and spaniels. Many of the breeds in this group were bred to work long hours in the field, and they tend to have big engines that keep them ready to go long after most dogs would be tired. These breeds often have to work far away from their handlers in the field, and that behavior of moving out and away from the handler can be prevalent in some of these dogs. Other traits that make them excellent bird dogs, such as an eagerness to scent and higher levels of prey drive, will need to be managed in a pet dog. Furthermore, with the retriever breeds, you may notice some overeagerness in the chewing department. They are famous for having a “soft mouth” with birds, but many retrievers have an obsession with having something in their mouth at all times, and this can lead to nuisance chewing if appropriate outlets are not given.
As a general rule, dogs in the sporting group are very social with dogs and people. They were bred to work in environments where they would work around multiple different people and work in teams with other dogs, and this led to the development of dogs that are generally happy to make friends wherever they go. This doesn’t mean that socialization is not important with these breeds! In fact, it may mean that you need to spend a good bit of time teaching your puppy that you are more interesting and important than meeting and greeting every person or dog that they see.
Last but certainly not least are the non-sporting dogs. This is the most diverse of all the breed groups, and it contains all of the dogs that don’t quite fit into the other categories. Being that these dogs have such varied backgrounds, compared to their non-sporting peers as well as the other groups, it’s important to look at the individual history of your breed of choice. Dalmations were bred as coach dogs, and their job was to run underneath a horse drawn coach to help deter stray dogs and highwaymen. This suggests two things: the breed has high energy demands and they may be reserved with strangers. The Shar Pei has history as a fighting breed, so care should be taken with dog introductions and with socializing young Shar Pei puppies.
Some of the dogs in this group had some very unique original jobs. The Tibetan Spaniel, nicknamed the lion dog, is a small breed that was kept by monks in Tibetan monestaries. They were prized companions, but were also watchdogs, and their alerts would let the Tibetan Mastiffs at the monestary know when they should be on the look out for intruders. This means that owners of this firey little breed should be prepared for having a dog that is fairly vocal. Overall, the breeds of the non-sporting group have a pretty epic history, and deciphering their original jobs can give us insight into what traits a breed might have and what challenges we might face in training.
Talk to Your Breeder or Rescue
When you are looking at getting a new dog, ask some good questions of your breeder or rescue organization.
What do they think are the best and worst aspects of the breed?
How would they describe the ideal home for this breed?
What are the most demanding aspects of owning the breed?
What temperment do the dog’s parents have?
How can you set yourself up for success when you take a puppy of this breed home?
Educate yourself as much as you can on your breed of choice. Reputable breeders and rescues will want you to be well informed, as getting a new dog is a 10-15 year commitment. They want both you and your new dog to have a very happy, healthy decade or two as a team. Some good resources also include the local or national chapter of the breed club, local owners of the breed, and trainers who are familiar with the breed and their needs.
Does it really matter what breed of dog you get? How much influence does the breed of your dog have on his trainability?
Lots of dog breeds come with some pretty big stereotypes. Chihuahuas are yappy and Great Danes are gentle giants, while the German Shepherd is a powerful protector and the Poodle is a primadonna. How true are these generalizations? In this article, we will explore different AKC breed groups of dogs, what their main traits are, and how that can influence training.
The first of the groups that we will look at is the toy group. These dogs were originally bred to be companions in the home, and that is still where they thrive today. This is the only group of breeds where the majority of the dogs are still fulfilling the roles that they were originally intended for. With a few exceptions, all of the dogs in these breeds will mature at under 20 pounds. This small size leads to a few issues with training. The first potential issue is that a small size means a small stomach, and training treats can fill toy breed dogs up very quickly. We can combat this by using very small pieces of food when we train toy dogs, or by using their daily meals as training rewards. Another size related issue has to do with potty training. These breeds tend to have bladders that are on the smaller side, and they can take longer to reach a point where they can hold it for extended periods of time.
Another big characteristic of this group of dogs is that then generally have very nice temperaments. Having been bred as companion dogs, they generally love spending time with people and just being a part of the family. However, that doesn’t mean that they do not need socialization. Dogs of any breed should be socialized when they are young to build their confidence. It’s important with toy breeds not to constantly have them in your arms or in a carrier when you are doing socialization, and the puppy should have a chance to learn about new environments with all 4 feet on the ground. (Ask us about puppy socialization.)
The hounds are quite a crew! All hounds were originally bred to help in the hunt for various types of game. Hounds fall into two different categories, the sighthounds and the scent hounds. Just like it sounds, sighthounds were bred to hunt by sight. Breeds in this category, such as greyhounds and whippets, are usually very fast and have high prey drive. These traits allowed them to be extremely successful as rabbit hunters, but can also make recalls a problem. It is very important to start recalls early with these breeds, to reinforce them heavily, and to always be aware of the environment when you are working with them in uncontrolled settings. Another interesting tidbit about the sighthounds is that their heads are often more narrow than their necks, so regular buckle collars can slide off with ease. Martingale collars, which are a limited slip collar, are an excellent tool to negate this issue.
Scent hounds were bred to track their prey, some for very long distances. These type of dogs, such as beagles and basset hounds, often have some pretty severe cases of “selective hearing” when they catch a scent. It’s very important with scent hound puppies that they learn engagement on the handler from an early age, so as to limit their potential to get distracted by new scents. You can also provide an outlet for this instinctual desire to follow scent by trying sports such as tracking and nose work. Barking and baying can also be an issue with these breeds, as many were bred to alert the handler when they discovered game. These chatterboxes can be curbed by teaching when barking is appropriate, and by teaching a quiet command to use when barking isn’t appropriate.
Terriers are some of the most tenacious dogs around. The word terrier comes from the Latin terre, meaning Earth, which is what these little guys end up digging into when they discover their prey. These breeds were originally bred to hunt and kill small vermin, ranging in size from Yorkies bred to kill rats, all the way up to Airedales bred to kill badgers. It takes a very tough, spirited animal to hunt rats and badgers that could be their size or even larger. As such, even though many of these breeds are smaller, it is very important to teach them rules and boundaries from a young age. Socialization is also very important with these breeds, as aggression towards small animals and other dogs can be prevalent.
With dogs of this level of prey drive, recalls are extremely important. Good outlets for exercise, both physical and mental, are also extremely important, because when combined with boredom, that terrier prey drive can manifest as tire chasing and similar behaviors. Another aspect of the terrier’s history is that they were supposed to chase vermin “to ground”, and digging is still part of the make-up of many terriers. You can catch this behavior early with puppies to prevent it from becoming a major issue.
Catch us for Part 2, where we will cover the other 4 AKC breed groups!
A key aspect in not just dog training, but in dog ownership, is giving your dog sufficient exercise. The physical and mental health of your dog can be negatively impacted if they do not have the chance to get moving and loosen up their muscles. That having been said, the exercise needs of individual dogs will range considerably. A typical Shih Tzu does not need nearly the same amount as a typical German Shepherd, and a Border Collie or German Shorthaired Pointer may have even higher needs. Breeds that have low activity demands are often perfectly happy with a walk once or twice a day, and maybe a game of fetch. Very high energy breeds may need longer walks or runs, longer games of fetch or frisbee, and maybe even other activities, like swimming or a dog sport. Maintaining this appropriate level of activity for your dog can help prevent behavioral issues from developing, and will also make your dog more pleasant to live with. Furthermore, canine obesity is a rapidly growing epidemic, and lack of exercise is one of the key reasons why this issue is becoming increasingly problematic.
What Exercise Can’t Do
While exercise is very important for the life of every dog, and it can be a great complement to an obedience training program, it will not be enough to make your dog the perfect pet. Lack of exercise is a key contributor in behavioral problems, but immersing the dog in a higher level of activity is not enough to fix the issue. There is a growing number of people who think that exercise is the key to making your dog well behaved, and there is something to that idea. A dog who is exhausted is not going to be expending energy on chewing your shoes or raiding the trash, but that does not prevent them from performing those behaviors when they are fresh and full of energy. In addition, dogs will gradually build up stamina with high levels of activity, and it becomes harder and harder to get them to the state of exhaustion that is required to prevent existing behavior habits.
Obedience and behavioral modification training have to be a component of the program when trying to eliminate behavioral issues. The same dog who used to have to go on a 5 mile run in order to be tired enough not to eat your shoes, could far more easily be taught that your shoes are off limits and he should not chew on them. He should still get a walk or run every day for his mental and physical wellbeing, but that walk will also be more pleasant if you have taught the dog a solid heel command. If the dog knows his rules and expectations around the household, you won’t have to worry about him on the day that you got held up at work and didn’t have time for his evening walk. When you get a few days of bad storms, your dog will not rip up all of your trash just because he did not get a chance to play fetch for an hour every day.
After a nice romp in the water, the dogs will be in a healthier frame of mind than they would if they were cooped up in the house all day.
Exercise Considerations with Puppies
This balance between activity and obedience is even more critical with young puppies. A dog’s growth plates do not fully close until 10-18 months of age, depending on the size of the dog. Until these growth plates are fully closed, puppies are susceptible to joint and limb injuries. Common reasons that these injuries occur is from over-exercising puppies, especially with heavy pounding on hard surfaces such as concrete. This means that the time when your dog is most energetic is the time when your ability to safely exercise them is most limited. Mental stimulation and obedience training is therefore even more important with a young puppy than it is with an adult dog.
Good options for exercising your puppy including short walks, especially on more forgiving surfaces. You can walk along the grass rather than on the sidewalk, which will also protect soft puppy paw pads. Another fantastic option for puppies is to learn the game of fetch. Sessions should be kept short, but this is one of the best things that you can do with your puppy. This game is a good way to tire your puppy out, challenge his brain, and build a good relationship for the two of you. Playing with other dogs can also be a productive way to exercise your puppy, with two reservations. Large dogs can overpower a puppy, even accidentally, and injure them by stepping on them or bowling them over. It is also important that puppies maintain a stronger relationship with their owner than with other dogs, so that is something to keep in mind. Lastly, swimming is a great low-impact exercise, provided that the puppy is confident and comfortable in the water.
Puppies benefit from “free exercise”, where they have the choice to rest when needed.
Combining Exercise and Mental Stimulation
The best way to go is to provide your dog with balance. Exercise your dog as is appropriate for their breed and your lifestyle. Balance out high stimulation activities, like retrieve and swimming, with obedience sessions to make sure that your dog is practicing impulse control at the same time. These activities should also be fun for you, and if your dog is pulling you down the road when you try to run with him, spend the time to teach him reliable loose leash walking, which will benefit you both. Maintaing this kind of balance in your dog’s daily routine will lead to a well rounded, happy dog that is a pleasure to live with.
If you need help creating an exercise program for your dog, contact us to schedule an evaluation.
Coco is a 6 month old Catahoula/Pit bull mix who came for a standard board and train. One of the complaints that her owners had was that she would growl and nip if you tried to trim her nails. We did lots of work with Coco to desensitize her to her nails being trimmed, and she is now very relaxed and calm for nail trims.
Why Dogs Develop a Hatred of Nail Trims
Coco’s response to nail trims was not uncommon. Many dogs have an aversion to them, ranging anywhere from pulling their feet away to behaving aggressively. As young puppies, many dogs only get their feet handled for nail trims or other procedures that are less than fun. When the puppy gets squirmy or wants to pull their feet away, many people get frustrated and will correct the puppy or forcibly hold the foot until the puppy stops trying to pull away. This leads to the puppy developing concern with having their feet handled, and by extension, having their nails trimmed.
Some other dogs develop an issue with nail trims because they have been “quicked” during a prior nail trim. Dogs have a cluster of blood vessels running through a portion of their nail, and this “quick” is very sensitive and will bleed and cause pain if it is nicked. Every now and then you may trim to close and accidentally nick this area, which for some dogs is not a big deal. Other dogs can be more dramatic about it, and may develop a phobia of having their nails trimmed. This can be especially true if the nail trim is happening somewhere that the dog already is stressed, such as at a groomer or veterinarian’s office.
Other dogs start to cause problems for nail trims simply because they do not want to be held still and do not want the procedure done. Dogs are pretty clever when it comes to avoiding things they don’t want, and some dogs learn that pulling their feet away or playing keep away when you get the trimmers out will postpone their pedicure. Other dogs may try to mouth you during a nail trim, which can be as an avoidance behavior or as a more playful behavior. Either way, they can very quickly discover that mouthing or vocalizing will get you to let go of their foot and stop messing with their feet. This behavior can escalate from there.
Teaching Your Dog To Love Nail Trims
Fortunately, it is very easy to avoid this type of behavior. Creating a positive association with nail trims and handling of feet can begin the very first day that you bring home your puppy or dog. Take your dog’s normal rations or some of his favorite treats, and set out a comfortable dog bed. Sit on the floor with him and lead him onto the bed. Pick up each of his feet, gradually increasing the time that you hold them. Reward your dog with some food whenever he is calm and allows you to examine his foot. Once your dog will let you hold his feet for 10 seconds at a time and will allow you to touch all of his pads and nails, you are ready to add in the nail clippers or Dremel.
Bring out the clippers or Dremel and have them on the bed next to the dog while you are working on your handling. If you are using the Dremel, practice the same thing once or twice with the Dremel on so that the dog can hear the sound. If your dog shows curiosity to the clippers, allow them to investigate and sniff them. Once your dog is comfortable with the clippers being around, start by trimming or filing one nail at a time. Do it gradually so that you do not accidentally nick the quick. Reward as frequently as needed to keep your dog comfortable and happy. If your dog starts to wiggle or squirm when you pick up their foot, just hold it calmly, wait for them to stop, and then verbally praise them when they relax. Hold the foot for a few more seconds, and then reward. Then you can reattempt to trim the nail.
If you are interested in doing this work with your dog to make nail trims a more pleasant experience, check out the two videos below that detail the process, and show some individual cases of dogs that have been conditioned in this manner.
Have you been wanting to spend a weekend fully immersed in everything dog? Did you just rewatch Best in Show for the 5th time? Is your dog in desperate need of a shopping spree?
If you answered “Yes!” to any of these, you will probably want to attend one of the two big cluster shows held annually in central Kentucky. These dog shows feature a variety of competitive activities for registered dogs, including conformation, obedience, rally, agility, dock diving, and barn hunt. If you are a competitor in any of these events, both shows are well run and fun to attend. If you are just getting started in dog sports, these shows can be a great way to get a feel for the sports, meet some seasoned exhibitors, and learn about how to get started with your own dog.
These shows can also be a great place for you to find your next canine companion. Many different breeds of dog will be in attendance, and many of these dogs are accompanied by either their breeder or an owner who has a true passion for their breed of choice. If you are still deciding which breed of dog would be best for you, you will get a chance to see individuals of a multitude of breeds at a dog show. When you see a dog that you would like to talk to the owner about, be sure to ask them (during the dog’s down time) about their experience with the breed and how they would describe life with that dog.
Another big draw is that these events have quite a bit of vendors! Anything that you could possibly want for your dog will be on display at these shows. Food, supplements, toys, treats, leashes, coats, beds, treadmills…the list goes on and on. These events are a great way to stock up on supplies that you may need throughout the year. Other vendors at the shows are service based businesses, such as pet photographers, massage therapists, and even a pet psychic. The shows also sometimes have health clinics set up, where you can register your dog for testing for genetic health concerns that are specific to their breed. If you are interested in seeing which vendors and health clinics will be available at each show, you can check on their websites.
The Kentuckiana Cluster of Dog Shows in Louisville, KY
The oldest show catalog on record in the American Kennel Club library comes from a show in Louisville, KY that was held in 1894. The long and storied tradition of dog shows in the city continues to this day with the annual Kentuckiana Cluster. This show is typically held in mid-March at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. This is a four day event that attracts competitors from all over the country, and it isn’t uncommon to see some top dogs fly in to strut their stuff. Conformation is done on all four days, and this show is part of the AKC National Owner-Handler Series. Several specialty shows and supported entries take place over the course of the weekend. Agility, obedience, and rally are also part of the show on all four days. Dock diving and barn hunt are more recent additions to the roster, but these events are heavily supported and are great entry level sports for first time dog exhibitors.
If you are attending as a spectator, here are some things to know. -Food vendors are on site, and there are several restaurants located nearby. -Pets that are not entered are not permitted inside of the show grounds. -Meet the Breeds will be done on Saturday and Sunday. This is a great event if you are on the lookout for your next puppy or dog. -Louisville Metro Police Department will be doing K9 demos Fri-Sun. -There will be a special dog show on Saturday for kids under 5 years of age and their stuffed dogs.
If you are interested in attending, please check out the Kentuckiana Cluster website for more information and a schedule of events.
Wild hanging out in the obedience area at the Kentuckiana Cluster.
The Bluegrass Classic in Lexington, KY
Located at the picturesque Kentucky Horse Park, the Bluegrass Classic is a 5 day show that takes place over Labor Day weekend. The Alltech Arena is transformed from an equestrian venue to a dog facility, and over 1,400 dogs will take over the site. This show features conformation, obedience, and rally in the main building, with the latter two events being held off to one side. Barn hunt, lure coursing, and dock diving are also offered at this show. Vendors can be found on both the ground level and the upstairs section of the arena, and food is available on site. For those wishing to maximize their trip, the Kentucky Horse Park is in operation during the show and is a great place to explore
If you are planning on attending this show… -You will not have to pay for parking at the main gate, but you will when you reach the Alltech Arena. -No un-entered dogs are allowed on the show grounds. -Food is available on-site, and downtown Lexington is only a short drive away. For more information, please visit the Bluegrass Classic website.
Temper competing in rally at the Bluegrass Classic in 2015.
Tips for Attending Your First Dog Show
If you are heading to your first dog event and are not sure on the etiquette you should be following, here are a few tips on how to make the most of your dog show experience.
Arriving early will ensure you get to see all of the action; just make sure you are not blocking exhibitors who are trying to unload vehicles or get dogs ready to head to the ring.
Most shows do not allow people to bring their pets onto the show grounds, so double check the rules before you bring Fido along.
Most handlers are more than happy to talk to people about their dogs and let you meet their dogs. Common courtesy if you would like to meet a dog is to always ask first, and to try and avoid approaching handlers when they are getting ready to head into the ring. Some of these dogs have spent hours being groomed, and petting a dog without permission before he enters the ring could disrupt his focus or mess up his grooming job.
Food is often available on site at shows, but be aware of where you are standing while you are eating your lunch. It can be hard for a dog to focus on his handler when a decadent hamburger is calling from just outside the ring!
Bring along your wallet for some awesome shopping! Dog show vendors carry a wide array of great products, and they make for a great splurge in the dog department.
Ask questions! People who are at these shows with their dogs are people who are truly passionate about their dogs and their breed. There is no better place to find out information about your favorite breed, or to explore options for your next furry family member.
Whichever dog show you choose to attend, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a good time. You may even find yourself catching the dog show bug and join in the fun next year with your own dog.
When it comes to adding a new dog to your family, you have several different options. You can find a rescue organization, drive down to your local shelter, get a dog from a family friend, or find a breeder to purchase a puppy from. The latter option is one that has a bit of a bad reputation. We’ve all seen the “Adopt, Don’t Shop” bumper stickers, and that mentality is pervasive in some areas of the dog community. But not all breeders are the bad guys. There are many people out there who are breeding dogs due to their passion for the breed, who care very much about every dog that they produce, and who actually contribute a great deal to rescues that work with their breed of choice.
There are several reasons why you might choose a breeder over getting a dog from a rescue situation. When you get a purebred puppy, you have a relatively good idea about what they are going to turn out like. You know what they will look like, how big they will get, what their grooming needs will be, what temperament traits to expect, and how much exercise they will need. This is much harder to ascertain with a Heinz 57 from the local humane society.
Health is another concern, and a common strike against purebred dogs is that they have a higher incidence of genetic health concerns. Health is certainly a valid concern, but reputable breeder will health test their breedings dogs and will know a thorough history of all the dogs in a litter’s pedigree so that they can work to eliminate such issues from the breed. Your shelter dog may be extremely healthy, or he may have a condition lurking under the surface that will come as a total surprise to you. Another huge perk to buying a dog from a breeder is that you will receive abundant support for the lifetime of your dog, whether for a training concern or for nutrition information, all the way down to what brushes to use for grooming. Shelters have limited resources as it is, and may not be able to provide you with the same support.
If you find yourself in the category of people that like the pros of going with a breeder, here are some things to look for when you begin doing your research.
Why Are They Breeding?
One of the main things to find out is why someone is breeding dogs in the first place. Are they looking to make a quick buck or are then genuinely invested in breeding a better generation of a breed they are passionate about? Ask your breeder how long they have been involved with their breed, and what got them interested in the breed in the first place. Find out how many breeds they are involved in and how many litters they breed a year. Involvement in multiple breeds or breeding a few litters a year are not necessarily red flags, but if you see that someone is breeding 5 different types of dogs and is having frequent litters, you may be looking at a puppy mill situation.
When you talk to your breeder about their dogs, they should be very familiar with their lines and readily be able to tell you the ins and outs of the breed and their individual dogs. They should also be involved in activities that demonstrate the temperament of their dogs. For a Shih Tzu, that might be as simple as the breeder taking the dog to nursing homes to visit and do therapy work. If you are looking for more of a working type dog, you will want to work with a breeder who is active in the same activities that you would like to do with your new puppy. Your breeder should also demonstrate commitment to every dog they breed, whether it stays with them or goes into a new home. A reputable breeder will always take back a dog that they bred rather than see it enter the shelter system, and many breeders also give back by helping with breed rescue and trying to put even more dogs into excellent homes.
You also want to verify how the breeding dogs and puppies are cared for. Some breeders house their dogs in their home and others house them in a kennel environment, but all should be in good physical and mental condition. The breeder should be feeding a high quality food, providing quality vet care, supplying a clean and comfortable environment, and the dogs should all receive plenty of physical and mental stimulation. If your research uncovers that a breeder’s dogs are not well kept, that person may be breeding dogs for the wrong reasons.
The breeder’s dogs should appear healthy and well taken care of.
There are two areas of veterinary care that a reputable breeder should take care of: quality health care for both dogs and puppies and health testing for diseases common to their breed. The first item is pretty straightforward, and is one that you should follow up with once your puppy comes home. Breeders should be providing veterinary care to all of their dogs, and their litters should be getting examined by a veterinarian. Each litter should be vaccinated and dewormed as is deemed appropriate, and the puppies should be fed a quality diet and be in good body condition.
The next area varies quite a bit by breed. Some breeds are more prone to genetic diseases than others, so the testing that breeding stock should receive will vary quite a bit. Von Willebrand’s testing is very important in a Doberman, but not at all for a Border Collie. You can check the OFA website for the tests that are recommended for your breed, and you should research the conditions on the list so that you can be educated when searching for a healthy litter.
Bringing Up Baby
Another key aspect when choosing a breeder is looking at how the breeder raises their litters. Your breeder should be able to tell you the steps that they take while the puppies are still young to build their confidence and social skills. If the puppies are raised in the home, they should be getting exposed to all kinds of sights and sounds that they will likely encounter with you, such as a television or vacuum cleaner. Dogs raised in a kennel environment also need exposure to different environmental stimuli. Your puppy should also have started socialization with people and dogs, though within reason, as they still need to be protected from diseases at this stage in their life. Your breeder should be interacting with the puppies quite a bit, and they should be able to tell you about your puppy’s personality and why that puppy is a good fit for you.
Puppies should be receiving plenty of age appropriate physical and mental stimulation.
Making You Work For It
Just as you are interviewing and researching your breeder, they should be doing the same for you. A good breeder will be very careful about the homes that they sell puppies to, and they should ask you lots of questions about your lifestyle and your goals for the puppy. They should find out if their are children in the home, how many other pets you have, whether you life in an apartment or own a house, and what you would do if you had to give up your puppy for any reason. If the breeder seems very nonchalant about your information and how it pertains to their puppy, you should probably look elsewhere.
We All Have to Get Along
Another thing to look for is how well you mesh with the breeder whenever you talk to them. You are about to get a dog from this person that will hopefully be part of your life for the next 12-15 years. Over the course of those years, this is the person that you should be able to send cute pictures of your puppy, seek advice from on how to trim nails, and they should be available as a shoulder to cry on when those years of companionship come to an end. If you do not feel that you will be capable of having a harmonious relationship with a given breeder, they are probably not the best person for you to work with. Be patient, and find someone who you love to talk to about their dogs, and who is thrilled to have you as an owner of one of their puppies.
The Right One is Out There
You will come across many different breeders in your quest to find your new puppy. Some will not be the perfect fit, but you will know when you find the one that is. Be sure to ask lots of questions, get familiar with a breeder’s program, and make sure that they know enough about you and your goals to provide you with a wonderful dog that will mesh well with your lifestyle. Finding a good breeder can take some work and some patience, but the rewards are well worth it.