Learning to Enjoy New Shoes

Let's be honest, there are to types of shoe owners in this world.  Those of you like this guy, who sing and dance at the thought of putting your new shoes on:

And then there are people like myself that cringe at the idea of even shopping for new shoes....because really, the crack down the middle of your trusty Chacos isn't all the way to the surface yet!  Why not wear them for another few months until they really break?! After all, these Chacos have seen me through the loss of close family, meeting new friends, trialing in new sports, and the list goes on and on.

Now you and I know this can apply to our well known dog partners.  And yes, I did indeed just compare your closest companion to shoes (trust me, I truly mean it as the highest compliment.)  The dogs that have been to hell and back again with us.  Trialed in new venues, taught us a ton, and give us comfort when we step to the line.  I think there is nothing more difficult in our lives with dogs than allowing a retired dog to step back so the up and coming dog can start to step up.  

It really isn't that our new to us dogs are bad, wear us down, or even the extra training.  Rather, I think there is grief that goes along with this process.  Change can be really hard.  And learning to work with a new partner in a sport or in life can be challenging.  It's OK to struggle with this and acknowledge it.  No dog will ever be like the dog before them, or the dog we had built up in our head (talking to you new puppy owners!)

However, with the acknowledgement of this change, we need to step up too.  Then we can see the lovely dimensions our new to us dogs bring. These dogs will teach us brand new ways to learn together.  These dogs will improve our handling and teaching skills.  


Poe has taught me this in a very big way over the last year.  He is full to the brim of talent, speed, agility, and enthusiam for work.  However, he's different.  He's new to me and he is showing some gaps I've had in my prior teaching.  This is OK but not a comfortable process.  I will fully own that I've held myself back quite a bit this year out of sheer discomfort.  It's hard to adapt to a new dog, no matter how awesome they are!  Plus, we humans do tend to compare our newer dogs style to the dogs before them.  But, thankfully it is getting easier and easier to step into my new role as partner with him.  The more we play, the better we are together.  

So do grieve the loss of your comfort zone dog but do not dwell on that forever.  Instead, start to embrace the new relationship before you.  Get ready to start singing and dancing together.  Embrace those new shoes, because you don't know where they may take you!

12 Things I Learned From My Dogs

My dogs have taught me many things, but here are the top 12.  I know there are probably hundreds more than that, but it's a good starting point. As I write articles about these the links will be active.

12. Management can be a better solution than training at times.

11. Raw Food is a PITA, but worth every minute, and penny.

10. Vaccination is controversial, but you should know what to vaccinate for, when to vaccinate, and what questions to ask your vet.

9. Know your essential dog stuff: things I always have around to help me, my dogs, and my family enjoy life together.

8. My dog doesn't have to love your dog.  Why would I expect them to?

7.  Having a positive relationship with my dog is more important than a perfect sit.

6. There is always something new to learn.  A new book, a new dvd, a new class, a new workshop, a new sport. 

5. Our dogs aren't always made for the sports we choose.

4. If you don't put the training time in, you won't get the desired behaviors out.  Having a training plan and setting time aside for training is essential.

3. Process Goals vs Performance Goals: sometimes the best goals are not achieving xyz title by this date or taking 1st place at nationals.  The best goals are often small, very achievable, and a great way to find success.

2. Nature vs Nurture Matters.  If you don't have a good building block with genetics, you get what you get.  Know your dogs lines, know your breeder, know your chosen breed.

1. You don't always get the dog you want, but you always get the dog you need.  There aren't perfect dogs in this world, but with the right attitude, you get the perfect dog for you!

So here's to more understanding, thought, and learning for all of us!

Summertime Space

Ah Summertime! Sun, lakes, trails, biking, hiking, playing, and getting out!  Summer is when even the most introverted of people get out and get more active.  This also means that many dogs are out and about too, some which don't like people, kids, dogs, wheels, or other things.

A common theme I've head this Summer is, "my dog is aggressive towards other dogs."  While there are aggressive dogs, typically the underlying issue is a lack of space and understanding on the handlers part.  Most dogs do well with other dogs, if they have the proper space and their handler understands their dog's body language.  Giving your dog space on walks, seeking the side of the trail as others pass, taking a longer route to avoid the barking dogs in a yard, and keeping your dog on leash at the lake isn't cruel.  It also doesn't make you a bad handler.  It's actually setting them up for success. 

No one loves every person they meet and dogs are no different.  Expecting a dog that instantly snaps at others, growls, or avoids dogs all together to be a social butterfly isn't fair.  So rather than wishing you had a socialite, respect the dog you have and be realistic in your expectations.  Dogs that need space aren't bad dogs and as handlers the best thing we can do is honor our dogs needs when we're out and about. 

The next time you take your dog out, just pause. Assess whether the environment is one they'll be comfortable in.  If you answer yes, plan extra time to take the space you need for success.  This small but important thought process will save you and others a lot of headaches.

Marathon Walks - And Why You Don't Need 'Em!

So physical exercise like walks and hiking are AWESOME for your dog!  But let's be honest.  We don't have 2-3 hours every day to march around the neighborhood with our dogs.  No one enjoys taking a revved up dog for a 1-2 hour walk (or drag in most cases. Which is why you should always play or train your dog BEFORE a walk.)  So learn to use your time wisely!  

Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise for a balanced dog.  If you took 15 minutes in the morning, 15 at lunch, 15 when you get home, and 15 in the evening you would give your dog a full hour of mental exercise.  If you were to combine this with ever other day walks you would have one happy dog. 

So what the heck is mental exercise for a dog anyways?  Well this can run a gamut of things from tricks, treibball, rally, rally free, musical freestyle (heelwork to music), and agility.  All of these things help your dog learn new things and save you from marathon walks every day.  If you aren't sure where to start when it comes to these sports, take a class!  Or challenge yourself to teach a new trick to your dog every week.  YouTube is always a great source of inspiration!  Take the music video below, there are a ton of different tricks to teach.

Some food for thought about the video above...it took them SEVENTY TWO takes to get this one.  So when you start looking for perfection and instant success, just remember that it all takes time, ok?  Patience, persistence, and partying are the keys to fun trick sessions!

A great book to start with is 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance.  She also has a Trick Dog Title Program.  Another great trick title option is offered by Paws and People.  Check out both of these great programs to teach your dog something new!  You'll be amazed at how quickly 15 minutes of trick work tires out an active mind.