Scent detection has been around for years with detection, search and Schutzhund work but the sport of canine nose work is a fairly recent activity that is sweeping across the canine sport circles like a wildfire. I remember when a friend who was in the PNW had mentioned about it and how fun it was. I was very, very interested since we’d tinkered around with various aspects of scent detection from the inexperienced side around home and the dogs loved it. Sadly, there weren’t too many options open to me here in Michigan that gave us the opportunity to learn this phenomenal activity – until recently.
My friend Missi, one of the co-founders of the phenomenal rescue group Detroit Bully Corps., had mentioned she was going to start taking a nose work class pretty local to her. I, of course, had to know the details because the closest thing I’d found was in Lansing and that was well over an hour away from us and not exactly feasible for extended classes (though I had still contemplated it because I wanted to do the sport pretty badly) so she spilled the details for me.
The Intro to Nosework class was to start on May 2nd through Pawzitively Positive, LLC. The cost was only a hundred dollars for six weeks of fun and learning and a chance to do something I’d wanted to do for quite some time. I was so in and rushed to find out by emailing Terry Jacobus, the instructor/owner, to find out if there were openings in her class to which she gave me the answer I was hoping for – ‘yes!’. The rest is obviously history.
We’re on week two of class right now – well, just finished it last Thursday. It’s been one of the most wonderful classes Ryker and I have done together (since he tends to be my guinea pig for learning new things in regard to dog sports) in a long while. Ryker’s doing incredibly well and absolutely loving every moment – well, I hope so anyway since he practically drags me to the search area every time it’s our turn – and I’m having a pretty good time too since Terry is positively wonderful. (I tend to get REALLY nervous and hate feeling like I’m looking idiotic, even in a class so this is a super good thing!)
This coming Thursday, we will hopefully graduate into closed boxes (no scent other than hot dogs just yet!) since Ryker is zooming through even very hard box placements with the open boxes. Once we do that and get that down, we’ll get to start adding scents like anise, lemongrass, clove, birch, etc. to the menu after that and who knows where we’ll go after that or what games or tasks he can learn after that with ordinary smells, etc. outside of competitions through groups like C-WAGS, K9 Nose Work, possibly even through the UKC as a potential recognized sport (or I’ve at least heard rumors it may be happening there – can anyone confirm?) and many other organizations.
That being said, this activity is a great bonding experience and the Roo and I are having a grand time and I personally look forward to Thursday evenings and training class. (If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Terry and Pawzitively Positive for her force free training methods and she does way more than just nose work too!) The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see where we’ll go as a team and once I get the hang of it would like to start introducing the rest of the pack into this phenomenal sport.
Ryker in week two of class.No comments Comment
I’m sitting at my laptop after a pretty darn successful weekend at the Cinco de Mayo NWDA pulls that were held this weekend locally to me and thinking about how far I’ve come as a handler, a trainer and a dog owner. I brag all the time on Ryker and all of his successes but in reality, he was the easiest dog in the planet. He’s biddable and willing to work. He’d do anything just to do things with me. He and Luna spoiled me on trainability and success. Anything I’ve asked them to do, they’ve done and done it well. Then Lyric came into the picture.
Lyric wasn’t that easy dog I was used to. She was stubborn and incredibly determined to do things her way when she wanted to do them. Sure, she loves me and wants to be with me (well, up my ass would probably be the best definition) but as far as doing something because I asked if it involved not running at warp speed 24/7? Forget it. She’s a true free spirit and she utterly loathes being restricted. (It’s pet peeve numero uno in her book. Seriously! She told me so.)
She loves flirtpoling, lure coursing, agility (when I’ve tinkered with her on obstacles) and things that allow her to do her thing without being hindered by a leash or strict rules – especially if they involve food or a rousing game of tug. Those are fun for her…weight pull, yeah, it definitely wasn’t her thing. At least it wasn’t initially.
I pushed her in weight pull. I figured if I worked her like I did Ryker and Luna, I could convince her that it wasn’t so bad. I used the same methodology, the same training, the same everything and I did it so incredibly wrong with her. I seriously almost ruined her for weight pull (and many other sports too!) by forcing her to do something she wasn’t comfortable with and when she wasn’t ready in a manner that wasn’t conducive to her learning. Yeah, she got her United Weight Puller in UKC but she wasn’t happy while she was doing it (and I have the photographs of the looks of death I got for it as a reminder too!) and it bothered the living daylights out of me because I detest doing something that upsets the bond I have with my dogs. They’re my buddies and their happiness and wellbeing is paramount in my book.
I put her in pseudo retirement from weight pull after she earned her basic weight pull title in UKC. I told myself that she’d never make a weight pull dog. It wasn’t her “thing” and we’d find something else that she loved to do or keep doing things she loved – like showing. (Seriously, this dog has a thing for flaunting her little terrorist self in a “look at me” fashion and it helped in finishing with a Best of Opposite in ADBA to earn her Championship!)
Unfortunately, Mother Nature nixed our show career in ADBA when she developed pyometra. It sucked immensely. All the hopes and dreams of getting her Grand Championship in ADBA went poof since they don’t offer altered classes like they do in UKC. I seriously had to sit down and ask myself what we were going to do to keep her zero to warp speed brain mentally stimulated and allow her to shine when she couldn’t do the one thing that she loved more than the flirtpole or fighting me on a tug. I had a LOT of time to think since she had to heal from her emergency spay.
After months of healing (and driving me batty!), I decided to go back and give weight pull a try. I figured it wouldn’t hurt and we could do some light drag work once she was into it to keep her in good physical shape and tire her out a little so she wasn’t so bounce-off-the-walls-and-drive-mom-nuts kinda crazy. We went back to the beginning.
I came to realize that this was where the real start to our problems had happened. It was the part where I, as a handler and trainer, had failed her. I had compared her to my two super stars and their distinct “Throw another at me!” fashion. I realized then that I had to go slower with her or I’d mess up again and likely do irrevocable damage to her as a sporting dog. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t let myself fail her again and so we quite literally started from the puppy basics – the introduction and positive association with the harness.
It’s been a slow couple of years. We’ve been doing drag weights and a few competitive pulls here and there but nothing really big. We’d pull one weight and handler withdraw and then work her through one more just for practice. I never let her fail. The second she started to get frustrated, I had them push the cart. I never wanted her to think she couldn’t do it. I had to let her think she was free and the almighty queen of the track. It worked. I couldn’t believe it, but it worked. Lyric had finally decided weight pull wasn’t the bane of all things and she stopped looking like she was a poster child for the ASPCA commercials.
This weekend she proved it to me again that she was still the little hellcat that could. That she was willing and ready to do things if I showed her that they were pretty darn awesome and that she was pretty darn awesome for doing them. She’s worked past all the hang ups I’ve had and she keeps improving each and every time I put her on the track and the best part? She wags her tail the WHOLE time. Today was no exception when she broke her personal best not once but twice – first in the morning with 1,374 pounds for 35.23 times her body weight of 39 pounds (and taking a 2nd place with four dogs in the class!) and then once again in the afternoon by pulling the next increment up of 1,442 pounds for 36.97 times her body weight and another second place! (We’re a LONG way from being competition for the first place dog – Team Puggle – in that class, so it was a good spot!)
I’m still in shock, honestly. Had I been asked if I thought she’d come this far years ago I would have A) looked at you like you were crazy and B) told you it would never happen in a million years. I was dead wrong and it took a lesson in humility, a life changing situation and a phenomenally wonderful dog to show me that sometimes change is the best thing to happen and that starting over isn’t so bad. It also reminded me, once more, that you don’t get the dog you necessarily always want but you always get the dog you need.
Thank you for proving me wrong, Lyric. I am so unbelievably proud of how far you’ve come and so excited to see how far we’ll go.
Lyric at a previous NWDA weight pull with her tail waggin’.
It’s hard to believe I’ve not take a dog event road trip in a little over a year. I’ve stayed local for the most part because of work and personal obligations but finally had a chance to take some much deserve time off and go to a faraway place known as Waynesville, North Carolina for the Palmetto State APBT Club show with my buddy, Ryker. It was three days of fun with one of my best buddies doing what we do best – working together and having a good time.
We went down hoping to try and get those last 18 points we need to finish Ryker’s ADBA conformation Championship. (Because the last points are a PAIN to chase down – especially if one has a brindle dog. They do NOT show conditioning well at ALL!) We managed to eek out three with a third place under honorable judge Frank Rocca out of a class of ELEVEN(!!!!!!) 5 and Over Males. It was insane. I was constantly trying to move Ryker so he had the best vantage since he was more preoccupied on being a brat. It was insane.
Quite honestly, I almost died and went to heaven when the judge came over with the 3rd place ribbon. To be picked among so many nice older boys still vying for the same thing we were. It truly was an honor and I’m pleased to have placed in the top three and believe many of those dogs deserved the honors of being in the top three as well.
Photo Credit: Laurie Jane
We also puttered around in weight pull that weekend for Saturday and squeaked another 3rd place there before pulling him out to go show in the first show. He pulled 1,300# that weekend on a very hard track with the top pulling dog (who weighed 82#) pulling just about 3,400# and six dogs in his class (45-55# males). I was pleased with what we did. Should I have kept him in longer and forfeited my conformation entries? Maybe but I didn’t really feel like pushing for much more beyond that. We’ll get our Ace in due time. He’s still a young man after all. It’s not like he’s turning seven years in July. (Which he actually is, but try telling him that!)
Overall, I had a good time. It was nice to return to the ADBA circuit. It gave me a chance to see old friends and meet some new ones. I got to spend time with my Ryker-man and work that bond that we’ve been so blessed to have for all of these years. The break did us good. It gave me a new perspective and reminded that at the end of the day, I still have my wonderful boy and win or lose, he’s still #1 with me and we will just have to put the work in to show everyone else how awesome I already know he is. Now…to get those last darn points!No comments Comment
With spring finally starting to actually happen, the world is starting to blossom and the urge to get out and do things is finally starting to creep in and set fast. Winter is always a tough season for me (and the dogs) because I have to drag myself out to do things because I hate the extreme colds it produces. Yeah, we weight pulls in the winter months but it was indoors but that was pretty much the extent of it. (No snow pulls this year for us! Brr!)
My husband and I have been looking into doing other things with the dogs outside of competing. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my competitive “We can do this!” spirit with the dogs but I’m settling down a bit and just want to spend time with the dogs and do things in time. That is what brought us to finally biting the bullet and looking into joining K9 Explorers. It’s a really awesome group of people who get together just to DO things with their dogs and even help the community with different projects too. I’d been following them for a couple of years but it really never kicked that it was something I wanted to do seriously until this year when I got the guts to as the founder, Heather, if I could tag along on one of the hikes.
We had a blast. The dogs were tired. We were tired. We got to hang out with like-minded people who thoroughly enjoyed their dogs and their company. These were people who enjoyed doing things with their dogs for the heck of it. Sure, there were a few dog sport competitors in the group like Abby and Therese from Team Puggle (seriously awesome team, by the way!) but for the most part it these were folks who just genuinely loved their pets. It was such a wonderful treat that we were hooked.
We’ve decided to make the plunge to join and enjoy ourselves and help out in the club to make sure things run smoothly. It’s going to be a blast earning badges like we could have in Dog Scouts of America since they wouldn’t accept a couple of our dogs for not being particularly doggie friendly, helping the community and enjoying doing things with the dogs outside of the normal competitive setting and I highly recommend the group for anyone in the Metro Detroit area too! (If you’re interested, you can find out more about them here.)
Ryker playing on some of the agility equipment at the first meeting of the year.No comments Comment
Ryker at Michigan Renaissance Festival 2012
The topic of breed specific legislation and bully breeds is an incredibly hot button topic and it has a vast array of thought processes from the overzealous “can do no wrong” breed advocates to those who are more realistic about the history and temperament on this breed. My friend Liz recently wrote an article titled “Advocacy As I See It” on her blog after having another breed advocate accuse her of supporting breed specific legislation because she is incredibly realistic about the breed – especially since she shares it with one very special dog named Inara who has had some ups and downs becoming a model doggie citizen in a state that was known for its horrendous BSL (that was recently repealed! Yay!).
Now, I’ve been involved in the breed on a major level after my husband and I brought home our very first dog as a budding young couple in 2003. My first taste of hatred actually came from my own mother who told me to take my 4 ½ week old “baby killer” out of her house and get rid of her. (Guess what didn’t happen?) I was shocked and furious. How dare she talk about my baby girl like that?! It didn’t take long for her to change her tune and now she brags about her “grand dog” to anyone who will listen.
Unfortunately, though, she’s not the only one who has thought like that. Some have changed their mind through persistent education from an unemotional friend who would rather facts be there and not phobia but others still have fear and loathing for the American Pit Bull Terrier. Let’s face it, these dogs have a history because of a propensity to be dog/animal reactive or aggressive and are incredibly powerful. In the wrong hands, they can be a walking disaster and the numerous media accounts that happen almost weekly are proof testament to that very real problem in this breed.
The unfortunate problem for this breed though isn’t so much the ignorance of the owners (though that’s a major portion), but the caliber of those who advocate for the breed. To realistically sit there and deny the history of the breed and what it was bred for in its infant stages is to deny the very reason we have such a human stable (or at least they should be!), biddable, wonderful companion who is so versatile they can do just about any task you set in front of them does this breed an incredible disservice. Or as Liz put it, “Blowing smoke up people’s behinds to make them sound like magical little bunny-hugging unicorns in a compact, muscular body doesn’t do anybody any good. Especially the dog.” And it’s true!
Unfortunately, those who would love to think that they are supporting this breed in its entirety are actually harming it by spreading false propaganda about these dogs. Phrases like, “Pit bulls were nanny dogs!” (Which isn’t correct! Staffordshire Bull Terriers hold that title.) and “Pit bulls were bred as herding dogs.” only serve to get those who would prefer to see these dogs demolished more fuel for their fire. These dogs don’t need lies to pump up the fact that they have a strong and loyal following of responsible owners that they can prove their worth on their own.
For this breed, those responsible owners are actually becoming a minority because we choose to realize that our breed was bred for a purpose. While that purpose is no longer legal, it doesn’t mean that the breed doesn’t still have the genetic traits that were sought after for that original purpose. (Genetics are quite funny, one change could tip the balance and screw things up royally – take a look at the Extreme American Bullies for example.) The ability and willingness of a pit bull to be reactive toward another dog (or animal) is still something that is incredibly prevalent in these dogs. It’s one of the key reasons many pit bull advocates chant the mantra “Never trust your dog not to fight.” They may not start it. They may not engage fully. They may only snap and snarl at another dog but they most certainly will be blamed for it.
Now, this is not to say that every single pit bull is going to be reactive, aggressive or even selective toward another dog but the genetics behind it are there. They are, after all, bull and terrier-type dogs and both types of dog are known for those exact traits and it’s something that needs a special owner who is willing to put time and dedication into training, socialization and maintenance of their four-legged friend.
These dogs aren’t meant for every Tom, Dick and Harry after all. They are a LOT of dog and unfortunately the “Save Them All” faction tend to down play that and make people feel sorry for a dog that would not be a good fit in every household. No one breed of dog is right for everyone be it a poodle, Shih Tzu, German Shepherd, or Great Dane and until people start to realize that, even if it sucks having to admit that (even to yourself!) then the breed will suffer at the hands of its own advocates because they would rather bury reality into a fluffy, rainbow-colored package that barks lullabies and poos glitter logs.
Being an advocate isn’t always pretty but we have to do it for our dogs. We have to protect our breed from the ignorance, the over-caring and the unkind. We have to make sure they are not set up for failure or we will eventually lose this wonderful breed to the government bodies that would seek to regulate these dogs out of existence.
So, please, if you want to be a breed advocate know your breed – the pros AND the cons. Be realistic about your dog no matter how much you love them and realize that those same breed traits you may want to suppress into you subconscious are still there and because of your unwillingness to embrace (even if you abhor) those traits could set your dog up to fail and your advocacy to crumble.4 comments Comment
It’s been rather quiet here over at Work-A-Bull for a few weeks now. I’ve unfortunately had some personal thinking, rationalizing and soul searching to do involving my beautiful senior cat, Mindi. Those thoughts lead me to the realization that being selfish and not helping her cross the bridge was for selfish reasons when it was apparent that she was ready to join her brother, Teddy, who left us last year. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life to let my childhood best friend, confidant and companion go. I know it won’t get any easier when I have to let any of my beloved companions go but at least I was able to enjoy her company until she took her last breath in my arms.
Mindi (and her “brother”, Teddy) joined our family in June 1997. This darling little ball of tortishell-colored fur who would growl and snarl at the sight of our Shih Tzu and grow seemingly into this furious cat beast was one of the most loving and sweetest cats I have been blessed with knowing in all of my years. She and I were best friends throughout my high school years. She got me through a lot of high school break ups, late night cram sessions for midterms and finals and my awkward struggling as an adolescent odd ball (and don’t get me wrong, I’m still odd but not quite so awkward!). I truly don’t know what I would have done without her then or up until her passing. I’m honestly still lost deep in the threshold of my mind. I’m functioning outwardly but inwardly I’m still losing it.
The day after her passing, I went to a dog show. I put on my bravest face and I kept myself surrounded by one of my passions – three of my beautiful dogs. I lost it a few times and had to compose myself but I made it through the day. A few people who knew what had happened probably thought I was nuts for going (even I questioned myself!) but I knew that if I didn’t get out and do something, I would be useless and lost in my grief. Many people shared their condolences, passed on hugs of sympathy and let me know they knew how I felt. It was good to be surrounded by so many caring individuals – especially the one who coaxed me to get out and make something of the day in honor of Mindi’s memory. It was one of the most mentally painful things I’ve done in a long time but it was the right decision and has allowed me to realize that my best friend wouldn’t have wanted me moping around the house crying over her loss. That isn’t how she lived and I doubt it’s how she’d want to be remembered.
Mindi will live forever in my mind and always hold a piece of my heart. Her spirit may be gone and her physical body left behind but she is with me. Her ever patient, soul-searching gaze and the gentle rumbling of her purr are something I see deep within my subconscious every night before I finally fall asleep. One day we will be reunited but until then, I know I have a little feline guardian angel watching over me and mine.
I miss you, sweet girl, in more ways than you could ever imagine.
Play hard at the Rainbow Bridge. I’ll see you again one day.
April 1, 1997 – March 9, 2013
Every time I’m on Facebook, I see hundreds of faces that look scared, alone and in need of some kind soul to open up their heart and their home. Each of these posts shatters my heart and rips me apart to the very soul – especially when the photos also show the abuse and neglect that these innocent creatures have undergone at the hands of man in his darker form.
Rover, Animal ID# A0894033, is available at the Brooklyn NY
Animal Care and Control and is labeled as URGENT.
The reasons for these animals ending up in the shelter system all vary from animal to animal but the reality of the matter is the problem has become a national concern for all animal lovers young and old. We, as a nation, are responsible for the problems in our shelter system. Now, I’m not saying that this is the case for every single shelter or rescue organization across the nation but the vast majority needs some serious overhauling in terms of education, training, advertisement, etc. to reduce the number of animals that are euthanized across the country daily when a plethora of homes are available, waiting and WANTING these animals to be part of their loving homes.
I’ve personally been involved in rescue for many years, even with my involvement in purebred dog ownership, and my home is called home by one very special, goofy pit bull mix boy that would have otherwise been euthanized due to his extreme dog-on-dog aggression. He is not the only one of his kind that lands in shelters and rescue groups on a daily basis. Most of these groups, however, are ill-equipped to handle high drive, reactive dogs that may have some personal baggage attached to them from genetics, upbringing or personality and they traditionally end up paying the ultimate price – their lives.
The evolution of the shelter and rescuing system is the first step that needs to be addressed. The systematic euthanization of animals on the basis of space or treatable ailments with a simple course of antibiotic in many of the city and county run shelters and animal control agencies is a major concern and one of the sole reasons that so many private organizations exist in today’s world. That being said, private organizations may not be a much better alternative for many homeless animals if their intentions are far from pure.
There are far too many private organizations out there who take in cute, cuddly puppies to turn a quick dollar (making themselves no better than your average puppy peddler), those who go in with a bang to put the spotlight on themselves and what good they’re doing and those who get so overwhelmed that they eventually get deemed under the dreaded term of hoarder because they didn’t know or couldn’t say no to a pleading face.
Now, I am not faulting these organizations for doing what they feel is best for the animal, the overcrowding issue, etc. but there has to be another way. Over time, I have spoken with many people involved in animal rescue from all perspectives from simple pet owners to diehard rescue people and even responsible breeders. The consensus is the same when it comes to the surrender or abandonment of pets across the nation – better resources for spay/neuter and education.
Now, you’re probably all going “Didn’t you write that article on spaying and neutering a little bit ago?” Why yes, I did (if you missed it, click here). While I wanted to give each and every single dog owner a chance to analyze what worked best for their home and their pet with no judgmental attitude on the pros and cons on both sides of the fence, the majority of people (and their pets!) would benefit from altering their animal simply on the sake of convenience because dealing with an intact dog or bitch can be an absolutely massive pain in the fanny because neither are fun to deal with on an aggravating hormonal tirade.
This problem, however, is what leads to the need for more low cost and free spay/neuter programs that could be available to the general public. Let’s face the facts that more people are willing to have it done if they don’t have to shell out a ton of cash to get that fuzzy feeling of being a good pet owner. Most veterinary clinics for your average spay or neuter run anywhere from $100 on up and for many people, that kind of money is a lot to drop on a dog in the economic times many pet owners are facing today. These same people still want to do ‘the right thing’ and have their pet fixed. This is where those clinics come in. If you own a bully breed, like I do, free and low cost clinics abound for our type of dog but John Q. Public who owns a golden, a lab or any other non-bully breed dog is out of luck for not having one of the chosen canine pariahs of the world as their companion animal.
While breed specific clinics are helpful in urban areas they can still do harm to the average pet owner who doesn’t want to own a bully breed and the simple fact of the matter is more NON-breed specific clinics need to happen. Luckily, we have a few here in the metro-Detroit area like All About Animals that don’t care what type of dog you have, you can have him or her spayed or neutered for a fairly reasonable amount of money.
Education is the key for pet owners out there who are surrendering their animals. Sadly, many of these individuals don’t care in the end but the resources of low cost training, behavioral analysis and veterinary services offered at a reasonable rate. Sadly, many dogs are turned in when they hit that snot-nosed teenager stage where they enjoy testing the limits and being utter brats. It’s not a fun stage to live through but it is livable. The key point at this stage is for rescues, trainers, breed advocates, etc. is to reach out to pet owners who are considering rehoming their pet because of these behaviors and assisting them and providing a support system to make it through the “terrible twos”. Thankfully, the Internet has afforded an avenue for much of these problems but the rescues and shelter systems would do well to develop programs to pet owners that enable them to at least attempt to work through the situation before they make the hardcore decision to give up their pet.
In the same token, the rescue and shelter system needs to be aware of the adoptable dogs personality quirks and breed traits and place in a home appropriately. For example, a high drive and ball crazy border collie would be an inappropriate fit for an elderly couple who lives in an apartment. The same could be said for a sedate mixed breed dog that would likely to just sleep all day going into the home of someone who likes to jog, hike and generally be very active. There are many questions that need to be taken into account when it comes to appropriate placement of dogs in the right home and a group doesn’t need to be over zealous or nitpicky in their placement but does need to make sure that the dog will be a right fit and to stand behind the dog if things don’t work out (which many don’t).
Ultimately, the entire animal loving community needs to come together with standards, ethics and practices that will help every walk of life – especially those who are voiceless. Education, teamwork and ethics must ultimately come into play to bring animal rescue into the next level and provide our homeless companion animals the best possible outcomes and place them in loving forever homes without bias and with the animal’s best interests at heart. The “perfect” home may be one with imperfect owners who would go to the ends of the earth for their fuzzy buddy.No comments Comment